The Professor and the Cop

I feel uniquely qualified to comment on the recent incident in Cambridge, Massachusetts, being one of the few people around who have ties to both of the worlds that collided that morning.  I am a graduate of Harvard and former instructor there, but I also spent four years teaching in the public schools of Cambridge, which for all its phalanxes of professors is still in many ways a blue-collar city.  (And no, with very few exceptions most professors' kids do not attend the Cambridge schools.)

But rather than write an editorial here, I refer you to this excellent piece by Boston Globe writer Joan Venocchi.  They should not have given it the title they did, because it is not about "machismo," it is about prominent, entitled people venting their frustrations on police -- and two of the examples she gives are of women.  Her point is that race may be part of the mix, but in places like Cambridge, class and town-gown divisions are just as important and sometimes more so.

Gates.jpgAs for Professor Gates and his reaction to Officer Crowley, we can all relate.  The flight from China to Boston is agonizingly long, and when you get home and your front door is jammed, the last thing you need is a cop asking you to show him your ID.
It seems to me obvious that Gates lost it -- I might have, too.  But as everyone (including the average white person) knows, it is not wise to mouth off at a police officer.

Unless, of course, you're a Harvard professor.  Then you get to climb on your high horse and refuse to get off.  But as Venocchi points out, that high horse is the real issue.

The best comment I've seen so far -- much better than President Obama's -- came from William Carter, the neighbor who snapped the photo posted here.  "I know he [Gates] was tired and upset, but someone of his stature and education should be a little more understanding."


And, uh ... don't ask about the Man Who Wasn't There -- the black cop in the foreground of the photo, keeping his cool while the professor loses his.  All cops are white racists by definition, right?  
July 23, 2009 10:24 AM |



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This page contains a single entry by Martha Bayles published on July 23, 2009 10:24 AM.

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