The Arrest of Dr. Gates: A Teachable Moment?



It’s been a little over a week since the news first broke about prestigious Harvard professor, Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr., being arrested at his home in Cambridge for “disorderly conduct”, charges that have since been dropped. However, the incident has again sparked a national discourse in the media regarding race relations. Retired General and former Secretary of State, Colin Powell, weighed in on the issue yesterday during his appearance on Larry King Live. The same is true for Bill Maher earlier this week on The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer and even President Obama was asked for his opinionduring a White House briefing on health care. Additionally, a variety of opinions have been circulating throughout the blogosphere and several news media outlets ranging from support of Dr. Gates and disdain for the Police Officer to accusations of racism. In an attempt to put the controversy to rest, President Obama has invited both Dr. Gates and the arresting officer, Sgt. James Crowley to the White House tomorrow to discuss the incident informally over a beer. What’s interesting about this situation is that we will only ever have two sides of the story, Dr. Gates’ side and Sgt. Crowley’s side. There are no witnesses to substantiate the claims or help identify the “truth”. Yet and still, it hasn’t stopped people from “taking sides”. In the absence of “truth”, is it responsible to “take sides” when the deciding factor is our inferences and biases drawn through our own personal “life experience” filters? Moreover, since it is true that racial profiling of African Americans and Latinos exists, is it fair to assume that this was an incident of racism or could it have been a clash of egos? Regardless of the answer, what is clear is that this was an unfortunate and unnecessary situation. President Obama, Dr. Gates and others have suggested that this could be a teachable moment for our country. So Vyne readers…what has this moment taught you?


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