Program Note: In CNN's Black in America 2, Soledad O'Brien reports on the innovative and unexpected ways people are transforming the black experience by confronting the most difficult issues facing their community. Tune in on Wednesday, July 22 at 9 p.m. and Thursday, July 23 at 8 p.m..
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/US/07/22/gates.arrest.reaction/art.gates.demotix.jpg caption="Henry Louis Gates Jr. was arrested last week on a charge of disorderly conduct."]
Michael Eric Dyson
Special to CNN
Last Thursday, President Obama, in his fiery speech before the NAACP Convention, admitted that "an African-American child is roughly five times as likely as a white child to see the inside of a prison."
But he surely couldn't have imagined that only a couple of hours before his oration, one of America's most prominent scholars - and a distinguished professor at Obama's alma mater, Harvard University - would breathe cruel and ironic life into that sad statistic.
Henry Louis "Skip" Gates Jr. is simply the most powerful and influential black scholar in our nation's history.
He received a doctorate at Cambridge University long before the culture wars became au courant; he was among the first group of figures to receive a MacArthur "Genius Award" Fellowship; he wrote the finest work of literary criticism in a generation with "Signifying Monkey"; he was named by Time magazine as one of the "25 Most Influential Americans"; he has a boatload of honorary degrees; and he has been a ubiquitous media presence and thoughtful interpreter of race and culture for a quarter-century.
But none of that made a bit of difference when Gates returned from a research trip to China to find the front door to his Harvard-owned house jammed and enlisted the assistance of his driver to muscle the door loose.
Filed under: Black in America
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