Statement of Henry Louis Gates, Jr. after meeting with Sergeant James Crowley at the White HouseHistorians in the News
Sergeant Crowley and I, through an accident of time and place, have been cast together, inextricably, as characters – as metaphors, really – in a thousand narratives about race over which he and I have absolutely no control. Narratives about race are as old as the founding of this great Republic itself, but these new ones have unfolded precisely when Americans signaled to the world our country’s great progress by overcoming centuries of habit and fear, and electing an African American as President. It is incumbent upon Sergeant Crowley and me to utilize the great opportunity that fate has given us to foster greater sympathy among the American public for the daily perils of policing on the one hand, and for the genuine fears of racial profiling on the other hand.
Let me say that I thank God that (sic) live in a country in which police officers put their lives at risk to protect us every day, and, more than ever, I’ve come to understand and appreciate their daily sacrifices on our behalf. I’m also grateful that we live in a country where freedom of speech is a sacrosanct value and I hope that one day we can get to know each other better, as we began to do at the White House this afternoon over beers with President Obama.
Thank God we live in a country where speech is protected, a country which guarantees and defends my right to speak out when I believe my rights have been violated; a country that protects us from arrest when we do express our views, no matter how unpopular.
And thank God that we have a President who can rise above the fray, bridge age-old differences and transform events such as this into a moment in the evolution of our society’s attitudes about race and difference. President Obama is a man who understands tolerance and forgiveness, and our country is blessed to have such a leader.
The national conversation over the past week about my arrest has been rowdy, not to say tumultuous and unruly. But we’ve learned that we can have our differences without demonizing one another. There’s reason to hope that many people have emerged with greater sympathy for the daily perils of policing, on the one hand, and for the genuine fears about racial profiling, on the other hand.
Having spent my academic career trying to bridge differences and promote understanding among Americans, I can report that it is far more comfortable being the commentator than being commented upon. At this point, I am hopeful that we can all move on, and that this experience will prove an occasion for education, not recrimination. I know that Sergeant Crowley shares this goal. Both of us are eager to go back to work tomorrow. And it turns out that the President just might have a few other things on his plate as well.
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vaughn davis bornet - 8/10/2009
I am late in getting to read the text of the Gates remarks after the White House meeting.
The essay strikes me very favorably; it shows creative thought and some editing--indicating that the author gave careful thought to what he said--after the fact, that is.
There is one thing I want to say, and that relates to the huge difference between Crowley and Gates in the consumption and the subsequent use of both Sociology and Psychology.
Somehow, I don't seem to know how many years of higher education the police officer received; that Gates "went all the way" as the saying goes is totally evident.
So on the one side are maybe scores of courses on the nature of humankind; on the other, nothing like that at all (it appears). Strange this disparity has not been a matter for observation....
From those who get, much is expected. Crowley the instructor (occasional indoctrination of recruits) has been equated with Gates a national authority based on both educational intake and outflow.
Isn't this vast disparity
at all relevant when weighing and assessing both men in this troublesome episode?
In the Navy long ago we used to remark something about "He did the best he could with what he had."
From far away, I have to say that Crowley is pretty much in the clear on this test. I have trouble giving Professor Gates a similar passing grade.
Vaughn Davis Bornet Ashland, Oregon
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