Skip Gates Speaks

The Root's Editor-in-Chief Henry Louis Gates Jr. talks about his arrest and the outrage of racial profiling in America.

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The Root: We’ve all seen the police and media reports around your arrest last Thursday in Cambridge, Mass., Charles Ogletree issued a statement to The Root that included a synopsis of the incident. But what have you been going through since Thursday?

Henry Louis Gates Jr.: I’m outraged. I can’t believe that an individual policeman on the Cambridge police force would treat any African-American male this way, and I am astonished that this happened to me; and more importantly I’m astonished that it could happen to any citizen of the United States, no matter what their race. And I’m deeply resolved to do and say the right things so that this cannot happen again.

Of course, it will happen again, but … I want to do what I can so that every police officer will think twice before engaging in this kind of behavior.

TR: Can you describe, in your own words, what went on in and outside of your home? When did you suspect you were the victim of racial profiling?

HLG: I just finished making my new documentary series for PBS called “Faces of America.” It was a glorious week in Shanghai and Ningbo and Beijing, and on my trip, I took my daughter along. After we finished working in Ningbo we went to Beijing and had three glorious days as tourists. It was great fun.

We flew back on a direct flight from Beijing to Newark. We arrived on Wednesday, and on Thursday I flew back to Cambridge. I was using my regular driver and my regular car service. And went to my home arriving at about 12:30 in the afternoon. My driver and I carried several bags up to the porch, and we fiddled with the door and it was jammed. I thought, well, maybe the door’s latched. So I walked back to the kitchen porch, unlocked the door and came into the house. And I unlatched the door, but it was still jammed.

My driver is a large black man. But from afar you and I would not have seen he was black. He has black hair and was dressed in a two-piece black suit, and I was dressed in a navy blue blazer with gray trousers and, you know, my shoes. And I love that the 911 report said that two big black men were trying to break in with backpacks on. Now that is the worst racial profiling I’ve ever heard of in my life. (Laughs.) I’m not exactly a big black man. I thought that was hilarious when I found that out, which was yesterday.

It looked like someone’s footprint was there. So it’s possible that the door had been jimmied, that someone had tried to get in while I was in China. But for whatever reason, the lock was damaged. My driver hit the door with his shoulder and the door popped open. But the lock was permanently disfigured. My home is owned by Harvard University, and so any kind of repair work that’s needed, Harvard will come and do it. I called this person, and she was, in fact, on the line while all of this was going on.  

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