It's Some Black Guy

This Henry Louis Gates arrest story has just preempted my Michael Vick post, but I guess Vick can wait, seeing as he isn't likely to be doing a whole lot just yet after getting his ankle bracelet off yesterday.

I read the Gates arrest police report earlier, but after chairing a grand jury last year, I figured I might want to wait until more information came out. I went to The Root right away, because you might as well call it "The Blog Skip Gates Built", but nothing was there - my man The Field Negro must have popped over there right when they were finally posting a statement from the Good Post Hole Digger's people.

So we've got two stories. And you know how these "he said, he said" deals work.


...about three months ago, when the kitchen sink stopped up one evening, I walked over to the neighbor's house to my right in that dusky hour before it got completely dark and knocked on their front door. My neighbors on both sides each have fully stocked professional tool chests, which I have come to see as a sort of tool "library" if you will, places where I could check out specialized tools, like the pipe wrench I was looking for that evening to loosen a too tight coupling underneath our sink.

I knocked once on the door of the house on the right, waited a few seconds, then knocked again. I stood there in front of the full length glass panels that flanked their solid wood door until I figured they must not have been home. The other neighbor answered right away, probably to escape for a few seconds the crying child I'd heard wailing when I knocked on their door, and produced the massive wrench I was looking for in seconds.

I was underneath the sink in the kitchen five minutes later, about to unscrew the u-shaped joint under the sink, when the doorbell rang. S. was doing something that made me the closest one to the door, so I got up, dried my hands, and trudged reluctantly to the front door.

The woman of the house to my right stood there, her feline Puerto Rican eyes flashing concern. "Is everything alright?"

"No," I said. "The damn sink is stopped up."

She turned and yelled to her husband, a white, Seattle bred tree hugger who is nonetheless a pretty nice guy, "they're okay."

Now I was confused. As the husband walked up to the door, the wife explained. "I saw someone at the door earlier. When my husband asked me who it was, I said 'its some black guy.' It didn't come to me that it might be you until after you'd left. Then we wondered why you would be knocking on our door - we wondered if it was an emergency - so we came over."

The husband laughed sheepishly. "I sent my wife to the door. I stood back just in case someone needed to run for help."

I've lived next door to these people since 2006. We don't have as intimate a relationship as we had with our last set of neighbors, who could give us a running account of who was at our house, how long they stayed, and what kind of car they drove, even if it was in the middle of the night. But I make small talk with these people - with the husband at least twice a week while he's outside, and with the wife whenever I run into her, which is a few times a month.

Yet I was "some black guy", just like that.

I guess Dr. Gates has even less of a relationship with his neighbors than I do with mine if one of them can not only mistake him for a burgular, but sustain this belief long enough to call the police, and THEN refuse to intervene when it becomes obvious that the black man in question is the actual owner of the house.

If I was Dr. Gates, I'd save my indignance for her trifling ass.

Gates is probably never home. Probably has a gardener to do his yard, a handyman to do the little things that need doing around a house. Probably gets his car washed at a local detailer. His neighbor may have had a better chance to get to know him through his TV specials than by speaking to him across the hydrangea bush.

But unless she moved there in the last month or two, it's mighty mighty hard to believe that she had NO IDEA what he looked like. Mighty, mighty damn hard.


I trim our hedges, tackle a few of the things that need to be done outside (so long as they aren't too high off the ground) and wash the cars myself, often while smoking a cigar. Actually, most of the stuff I do outside is while smoking a cigar.

So my neighbors, like it or not, see me and smell my stogie while they are walking the dog, going out to dinner, or welcoming guests into their homes.

My neighbors really had no excuse, even if it was approaching dark, to claim that they had mistaken me for someone else, not with the large, distinctive head shape I've got.

I believe there is something ugly going on between Gates and his neighbor, possibly something that he may not even be aware of.

I'll start the bidding at "she hates his highly educated, often celebrated Afro American guts, and wishes with a blazing fervor that he would just carry his black ass back to West Virginia, or whatever African country his DNA says his ancestors came from."

And Doc, the next time the cops show up, SHOW THEM YOUR I.D. OFF THE RIP!

We've got a long way to go, not only here in America, but around the world, to get to where we actually start living those ivory tower ideals you like to talk about when you are on PBS.

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williedynamite said...

Your neighbors are real assholes. Sucks what happened to Gates. Black president or no we really have a long time to go.

ch555x said...

This reeks more of Reno-911 on Comedy Central than Gangland on the History Channel...

A.Smith said...

You very eloquently (and with your own experience back up) what I was saying when this story first broke.

I really don't care about the police. To be fair, someone called and said a man is breaking in across the street. They came to do their job and check on it. I won't go into whether or not Mr. Gates was wrong for no just showing his ID (because I can understand the indignation, even if it would've been easier that way..)

My issue all along has been who was this woman across the street who didn't recognize him and, as you point out, couldn't even verify that he lived there. Clearly she makes it a habit to look out her window (she was the across the street neighbor, yes?) at his house -- I'm sure she's seen him come and go enough times to have been able to verify that it was indeed him once the police showed up.

Meanwhile, the story of your neighbors sort of pisses me off -- especially that they told you as much "some black guy..." (and we'll go on to finish the sentence "who will probably rape and pillage the house if we open the door...")

Studies show that individuals of another race tend to look alike to a person (so to black folks, for example, all Asians look alike just as, it seems, to white people all black folks look alike) however, if you've seen an individual a handful of times (as I'm sure both Mr. Gates' neighbor and your neighbors had) then that is no longer an acceptable excuse.

dave crockett said...

I lived in the Boston area 2000-2002 before moving to S. Carolina. I can tell you from my experience that white people just don't *see* black people. I am talking Ralph Ellison-style invisibility. Down here in the South, white people look at you long enough to stereotype. The neighbor genuinely not recognizing Gates was the most believable part of that story to me. People make it their business to not see you. It's a finely honed skill.

As for the cops... I rolled through a stop sign one morning rushing to work -- cop sitting right behind me. He hit his lights. However, the street I was on had cars parked on both sides back-to-back. I couldn't pull over without being literally in the middle of the street, blind to oncoming traffic. I hit my hazards and drive cautiously to the end of the street where I pulled over into a lot -- literally across the street from Harvard Business School. I never topped 10mph and the cop was directly behind me.

I pulled over, killed the engine, and waited in the car with hands on the steering wheel for 5 minutes while the cop ran my tags. Out of my side mirror I see brother get out of the car draw his weapon and point it at my head. I slowly raise my hands so he could see. He saw me look at him and holstered his weapon.

He came over and yelled at me about not pulling over. Never wrote a ticket; just mad that I had undermined his authority.

Anonymous said...

Many are overlooking the valuable lesson that Gates taught us. If you have the resources, always have your lawyer's numbers, all of them including his wife's, mother's and favrite stipper's, on speed dial. Have him meet you at the jail before the cops get there with you.

Anonymous said...


I say bullshit, the neighbor was out to get the professor. You all realize that he is handicapped right? You do realize that the neighbor called the cops on a handicapped man trying to "break into" a handicapped man's house?

As for the police officer, he needs to shut his stupid racist pie hole. Oh, it may be that he isn't a racist, but arresting a crippled man in his own home for being indignant has got to be some sort of warning sign for "ignorant asshole on a power trip"?

The nation is fine, this idiot is just that, an idiot with a badge. Hopefully people are working out a way to strip him of it before he does some real harm.

As for the neighbor, I will gladly donate a few rolls of toilet paper in order to help flush that piece of rich white trash.

Rick Beagle

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