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World Opinion: On the arrest of Henry Louis Gates Jr.:

An excerpt from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States:

The Associated Press

On the arrest of Henry Louis Gates Jr.:

In an incident that raised eyebrows from coast to coast, Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., a prominent scholar and author, was arrested by the Cambridge Police De-partment after officers responded to reports that black men were breaking into his house. Gates had just arrived home from China and was trying to force open his jammed front door with the help of his hired driver when a neighbor called the police.

Exactly what happened after that isn't clear. News reports quoting the police say that Gates, the head of Harvard's W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, was uncooperative and "disorderly" while an officer was investigating a possible burglary. That's nonsense, Gates maintains. The real problem is that his color trumped everything else, includ-ing his prominence, his familiarity with the house and his identification showing that he lived there. It demoted him from citizen to suspect.

Even after seeing his Harvard ID and Massachusetts driver's license, Gates told the Washing-ton Post, the officer's questions continued. Gates asked questions too, insisting that the officer divulge his name and badge number. That request, he maintains, led to a back and forth be-tween them, ending in his arrest. ...

The police say Gates asked if the officer knew "who he was." That may sound arrogant, but many a black man in the same position has asked a similar question. It means: "Can you see who I am, not just what I am?" Because regardless of their achievements, wealth or status, they are vulnerable to the universal black male experience -- finding themselves in handcuffs first and charges dropped later. ...

In his 1994 book, "Colored People: A Memoir," Gates wrote that although being black is no disgrace, it can be inconvenient: "When I walk into a room, people still see my blackness, more than my Gates-ness, or my literary-ness." Even when the room is in his own home.

-- Los Angeles Times

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