Black On Campus
Higher Education and the African American Experience

President Obama Weighs in on the Gates Arrest

July 22nd, 2009 by Ajuan Mance

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President Obama supports responsible policing, but today’s statement on racial profiling makes clear that good policing must include equal treatment for all people, regardless of race.

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During the question and answer period after today’s presidential address, Obama was asked to weigh in on the arrest of African American Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Here’s what the President had to say:

“I don’t know – not having been there and not seeing all the facts – what role race played in that, but I think it’s fair to say number one any of us would be pretty angry, number two that he Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home,” Obama said in response to a question from the Chicago Sun-Times’s Lynn Sweet.

Gates, Obama allowed, “is a friend, so I may be a little biased here. I don’t know all the facts.”

However Gates, he continued, jimmied his way to get into [his own] house.”

“There was a report called into the police station that there might be a burglary taking place – so far so good,” Obama said, reflecting that he’d hope the police were called if he were seen breaking into his own house, then pausing.

“I guess this is my house now,” he remarked. “Here I’d get shot.”

Undergirding the long digression, though, was Obama’s place as a new symbol of racial reconciliation, and his long past in the trenches of the politics of race and discrimination in the Illinois State Senate.

“Separate and apart from this incident is that there’s along history in this country of African-American and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately,” the president said, eagerly engaging the issue of racial profiling, a concern earlier in his career that has seen little White House attention to date.

“That’s just a fact,” Obama said of profiling. “That doesn’t lessen the incredibly progress that has been made.”

Obama’s comments make the current administration’s opposition to racial profiling absolutely clear. The support for Gates expressed by the President provides powerful assurance that this issue is “on the radar” of the executive branch, and that the President cares about how civilians of color are treated by law enforcement.

Posted by Ajuan Mance

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Posted in African Americans, Barack Obama, Current Events, Henry Louis Gates, Higher Education, race

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