Black On Campus
Higher Education and the African American Experience

The Quotable Black Scholar: Houston Baker on the Gates Arrest

August 17th, 2009 by Ajuan Mance


Houston A. Baker, Jr. (b. 1943)


Ironically, no black public intellectual in the US has been more complicit in publicizing the myth of “post racialism” as an American reality than Professor Gates. The police spokeswoman from Cambridge said something like: “It is our position that the incident had nothing to do with race.” All I could hear were whisper tones of QVC: “And when you all buy into the Gates/Cambridge ‘race had nothing to do with it,’ we have some fine swamp land in Florida at a great discount. Or, maybe you’d like a bridge?”

— Houston Baker, writing for, the official blog of Columbia University Press


Biographical Notes: Born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1943, Houston A. Baker, Jr. holds a B.A. from Howard University (English), where he was inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa honor society. He earned his M.A. and Ph.D. (also in English) from the University of California — Los Angeles (UCLA). Baker is a Distinguished University Professor at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. He has also taught at Yale, the University of Virginia, the University of Pennsylvania, and Duke University.

Baker is the author of several books, including: Turning South Again: Re-Thinking Modernism, Re-Reading Booker T; I Don’t Hate the South: Reflections on Faulkner, Family, and the South; Betrayal: How Black Intellectuals Have Abandoned the Ideals of the Civil Rights Era;
Afro-American Poetics: Revisions of Harlem and the Black Aesthetic; Black Studies, Rap, and the Academy, Blues, Ideology, and African American Literature: A Vernacular Theory; Modernism and the Harlem Renaissance, and others. An accomplished poet, Baker’s most recent collection is titled Passing Over.

Posted by Ajuan Mance

Posted in Academia, African Americans, Current Events, Higher Education, race

2 Responses

  1. Ms. GLAM

    This whole situation is very sticky and it’s saddening. “Post racialism” as Baker calls it ,is very much NOT a myth…

  2. David

    It’s too bad that after Prof. Baker’s rather shameful actions concerning the 2006 Duke lacrosse case–including calling the mother of one of the innocent team members the “mother of a farm animal”– he really has no credibility to speak about racism.

    As far as the Gates case goes, there is another interpretation that is equally plausible: someone was seen messing with the lock at a home, when the police came to investigate, instead of cooperating, Gates began his long-held tactic of accusing the police of racism, going so far as to follow the officer out onto the porch to continue to berate him.