There are two stereotypes at work in the story of the arrest of Professor Gates by Sgt. Crowley.

One is the older black American who is too quick to play the race card, is too blinded by ideology to just let the police officer do his job, and cannot let go of the urgency of “the struggle” as he experienced it in his formative years.

The other is the American police officer, too jaded by too many crimes, too lost in the habit of profiling of the citizenry, too quick to judge the black man in the nice neighborhood.

We have such a long history validating both stereotypes. As a result, it is far too easy to imagine both at play in this story. The police report is carefully written to avoid any hint of racial impropreity. So much so, I can practically see the department’s lawyer whispering into the officer’s ear as he wrote it. Likewise, the photos that have been released certainly suggest Prof. Gates was indeed out of control. The fact that Gates is, in the words of the New York Times, “a prominent… scholar of African-American history” in Harvard’s W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research is distinctly ivory tower, and, dare I say it, evokes a faintly archaic, anti-white, bellicose stereotype.

So sad, indeed, when a lifetime of living in America leaves me with little capacity to fully trust either one of them.

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