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July 30th, 2009
09:50 PM ET

'An Accident of Time and Place'

Scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. had a confrontation with a Cambridge, Massachusetts, police sergeant.

Scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. had a confrontation with a Cambridge, Massachusetts, police sergeant.

Henry Louis Gates Jr.
The Root

I would like to applaud President Obama for bringing Sergeant Crowley, me and our families together. I would also like to thank the President for welcoming my father, Henry Louis Gates, Sr., who for most of his life has been a Republican!

My dad turned 96 this past June, and the fact that he worked two jobs every day is the reason that my brother, Dr. Paul Gates, and I were able to receive such splendid educations. I am honored that he chose to join me at the White House, along with my fiancée, my daughters, and my brother.

Sergeant Crowley and I, through an accident of time and place, have been cast together, inextricably, as characters – as metaphors, really – in a thousand narratives about race over which he and I have absolutely no control.

Narratives about race are as old as the founding of this great Republic itself, but these new ones have unfolded precisely when Americans signaled to the world our country’s great progress by overcoming centuries of habit and fear, and electing an African American as President.

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soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. dina

    Very eloquent. Claps.

    July 31, 2009 at 4:41 pm |
  2. lampe

    Gates father was a Republican. I wonder why this year of all years, he decided to change parties. What do you think could have possibly changed his mind?

    July 31, 2009 at 10:39 am |
  3. Melissa, Los Angeles

    "Sergeant Crowley and I, through an accident of time and place, have been cast together, inextricably, as characters – as metaphors, really – in a thousand narratives about race over which he and I have absolutely no control."

    Uh Mr. Gates – you did have control but you pulled the race card when Crowley asked for your ID. If you're seriously that concerned about the black race, why have you not had the same amount if not more concern for the black 8 year old girl that was raped by 4 black boys between the ages of 9-14? As a matter of fact, why hasn't the media brought more coverage on that issue instead of your petty one at being offended? Where is Obama?

    July 31, 2009 at 10:35 am |
  4. Jayne Freeman-Washington

    I am a proud, professional African-American woman and I believe that Mr. Gates IS the racist, in this scenario. My idol was Dr. Martin Luther King, who must be turning over in his grave! Mr. Gates has accomplished nothing through his demeanor, temperament and verbal accusations, but to set race relations BACK 50 years. Merely by virtue of fate and circumstance, Sergeant Crowley and Mr. Gates were placed at the same place and moment in time. Because Sergeant Crowley was doing his job ("to serve and protect" is the phrase, I believe) Gates' accuses him of racism. Can you not accept the fact that you are not above the law? If the Cambridge Police Department failed to respond to the 911 call, would you, again, have claimed "racism" if your home had been burglarized?
    I have never – once – been made to feel anything but equal with my caucasian peers and associates. Mr. Gates needs to learn that you don't DEMAND respect – you EARN it!

    July 31, 2009 at 9:53 am |
  5. Joanne R. Pacicca

    Well said. If only all issues involving perhaps less stereotypical persons could be resolved by understanding and dialogue, this incident may indeed act as a model for change.

    July 31, 2009 at 9:30 am |
  6. Linda

    I'm tired of hearing about racial insensitivities! Everyone can be offended by the language of others towards them. American Indians, Orientals, Hispanics, Jewish, Mormons, just about anyone is a target of somebody's insensitivity – even the elderly just because they're OLD!

    Racial bias is not new and won't ever end. It's one of the results of the world we live in, instant communications, instant media coverage, lack of teaching morality in schools, lack of good parenting, and bias that's passed on from generation to generation.

    I live in NC and there's plenty of bias here towards people of all kinds, including Mexicans, since there are a lot of illegal aliens working here. Where is the President offering them a beer when the police pick them up and call them racial slurs?

    We need to stop the media frenzy over racial issues and realize that educating people to ignore demeaning WORDS, except for parents demeaning their children. This is the ONLY time a big fuss should be made over WORDS said.

    Racial bias will never go away. Teach children to ignore bias and be the best persons they can be.

    July 31, 2009 at 9:28 am |
  7. Alex

    We all have bad moments when we behave out of character and say things that stem from a long term anger. Though I don't condone Dr. Gates' conduct and not thrilled to Sgt Crowley's response with an arrest, perhaps this incident was just what our country needed to further better relations between our varying cultures and ethnicities. I applaud both Dr. Gates's and Sgt Crowley comments following their meeting at the White House. After 62 years on this planet, I'm about sick and tired of this idiotic and senseless division between people because of the color of their skin. It's time to realize that we are all AMERICANs and it really isn't that tough to live together.

    July 31, 2009 at 8:19 am |
  8. David Miller

    Beer Schmere... A nice gesture, but isn't Obama 1/2 white too? I don't understand why this country still has issues with black vs. white. We should be darn happy that we are Americans: African, Irish, German, English, Mexican, Asian, etc. The fact that a mixed race man was elected to the White House should send a message to all blacks and whites that we have overcome much racism, yet more to go perhaps? Maybe Obama should use his position to clarify and be proud of his mixed race heritage to promote equality and become the People's President we all elected. Black, White, or Blue.

    July 31, 2009 at 7:25 am |
  9. Kashmir Rhem

    Hey Kool Aid...So did officer crowley,prof. gates learn anything? When asked what next?, off crow replies, "maybe a second meeting at another bar for a beer, then I guess not wanting to sound like a drunk, he changed it up... (OC)"or get some KOOL-AID or iced tea!" Who the "f" just says kool-aid as their number one choice of drinks? They probably cut out the part where he said fried chicken gizzards and greens,right before gates flipped the table over, pimp slapped crowley and moonwalked out (lol just a joke America). When we are ready to seriousy talk about race,or why teachers like me don't get paid,let me know, cuz all of this is whack)!! Somebody should have been tryna lock Joe Biden's hair up, sitting there looking tough (his hair that is)! Obama, yeah, thas me and Michelle's booh! He jus stay with her!

    July 31, 2009 at 7:07 am |
  10. SandraWI

    Thank you for sharing Mr. Gates.

    July 31, 2009 at 2:31 am |
  11. Ama

    Excuse me, Anderson, I just saw you introduce the guest in question in the replay. I was inaccurate – His name is Professor Boyce Watkins from Syracuse University not from Princeton. His exact quote that was objecitonable to me was: "I know about the goodness of Black American people. I mean we're Christian people.... Not every cop is a bad person. Not every cop is corrupt...." Please inform Professor Watkins, and your viewers, that not every African American is a Christian. Thank you again, Ama

    July 31, 2009 at 2:16 am |
  12. Kimberly S. Bracy

    No wrong is ever right in the eyes of the victim.To rise above, by considering the entirety of circumstances that led to both fates (the predator and the victim), is one possesing ability to forgive and overcome.KSB

    July 31, 2009 at 2:02 am |
  13. Ama

    One of your guests featured about 20 minutes ago in a follow-up interview concerning the Professor Gates, Officer Crowley incident was an African American professor from Princeton. While he was trying to make some valid points, he also made an extremely inaccurate statement that could be quite perturbing for many of your vieweres. The professor said, "All African Americans are forgiving, we are all Christians". In point of fact, many of us are not Christian and we are very committed to other faiths instead. Some of us are Muslims, Jewish, Buddhist, etc. We are not all members of one faith, just as European Americans reflect a wide range of religious convictions and denominations. If we're really going to have a conversation about race relations and diversity in the U.S., let's try to stick to accurate facts. Please! From a viewer who has been a devout Sunni Muslim since 1976. For journalistic accuracy, I ask you to please correct the professor's misinformation. Thank you.

    July 31, 2009 at 1:50 am |