Black On Campus
Higher Education and the African American Experience

The Quotable Black Scholar: Melissa Harris-Lacewell on the Gates Arrest

August 18th, 2009 by Ajuan Mance


Melissa Harris-Lacewell


Many are portraying [Henry Louis Gates, Jr.] as a radical who easily and inappropriately appeals to race as an excuse and explanation. This image of Gates is inaccurate. In fact, more than any other black intellectual in the country Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. was an apolitical figure. This is neither a criticism nor an accolade, simply an observation.

Gates is the director of the nation’s preeminent institute for African American studies, but he is no race warrior seeking to right the racial injustices of the world. He is more a collector of black talent, intellect, art, and achievement. In this sense Gates embodies a kind of post-racialism: he celebrates and studies blackness, but does not attach a specific political agenda to race. For those who yearn for a post-racial America where all groups are equal recognized for their achievements, but where all people are free to be distinct individuals, there are few better models than Professor Gates.

— Melissa Harris-Lacewell, from “Skip Gates and the Post-Racial Project,” published on


Biographical Notes: Melissa Harris-Lacewell is Associate Professor of Politics and African American Studies at Princeton University and the author of Barbershops, Bibles, and BET: Everyday Talk and Black Political Thought. She is also the co-author of The Kitchen Table blog (with Dr. Yolanda Pierce, the Elmer G. Homrighausen Associate Professor of African American Religion and Literature at Princeton Theological Seminary). Alas, The Kitchen Table ceased operations on July 7, 2009. You can, however, read earlier posts from this outstanding blog at this link.

Posted by Ajuan Mance

Posted in African Americans, Higher Education

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