Monday, August 3, 2009
CHILMARK, Mass., Aug. 2 -- Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. on Sunday joked about his arrest by a white police officer, but also described receiving death threats and dreaming about being arrested at the White House.
In his first public appearance since sharing a beer at the White House on Thursday with the officer, Sgt. James Crowley, and President Obama, the noted African American scholar said the national debate over racial profiling sparked by his arrest shows that issues of class and race still run "profoundly deep" in the United States.
"They have not been resolved at all," Gates said, speaking to more than 150 who came to see him at the Martha's Vineyard Book Festival. He was promoting his recent book, "In Search of Our Roots: How 19 Extraordinary African Americans Reclaimed Their Past."
Gates was mostly lighthearted during his speech, and even poked fun at himself after a man in the crowd said he admired Gates's sense of humor. "I should have been funnier in the kitchen of my house on July 16," he said.
But Gates also described how the incident and the subsequent national debate affected him personally. He said he shut down his public e-mail and changed his cellphone number after receiving numerous death and bomb threats.
Gates was arrested on a disorderly conduct charge at his Cambridge, Mass., home after police responded to a 911 call about a possible burglary. Crowley said Gates became belligerent and called him a racist after he asked for identification. Gates accused police of racial profiling and called Crowley a "rogue cop." The charge was dropped.
Obama stepped into the fray during a White House news conference when he said Cambridge police had "acted stupidly." He later said he should have chosen his words more carefully and invited the men to the White House.