Henry Louis Gates Is Quite the Grown-Up About That Whole Racist Arrest Thing

Henry Louis Gates has given a couple interviews about his arrest at his home in Cambridge last week, and though he's still mad, he seems fairly magnanimous about the whole affair: "I'm glad that this lady called 911."

Gates granted an interview to his daughter Elizabeth in the Daily Beast (which—between contributors Meghan McCain and Luke Parker Bowles—is rapidly becoming the outlet of choice for the blood kin of the contemporary aristocracy).

His take on his own tour through the criminal justice system is tempered by his role as an educator, which makes him laudably reasonable about something that justifiably pissed him of royally. While some observers—well, OK, this observer—were quick to accuse the white Harvard employee who called the cops after seeing Gates and his driver trying to enter his home of racism, Gates disagrees:

We depend on the police-I'm glad that this lady called 911. I hope right now if someone is breaking into my house she's calling 911 and the police will come! I just don't want to be arrested for being black at home! I think this was a bit of an extreme reaction.

And he doesn't even accuse the cop who hauled him off to jail of being a racist so much as an angry and vindictive man who looked viewed the incident through a racial lens:

If I had been white this incident never would have happened. He would have asked at the door, "Excuse me, are you okay? Because there are two black men around here try'na rob you [laughter] and I think he also violated the rules by not giving his name and badge number, and I think he would have given that to one of my white colleagues or one of my white neighbors. So race definitely played a role. Whether he's an individual racist? I don't know-I don't know him. But I think he stereotyped me.

And since Harvard academics already narrate their lives to themselves as an ongoing PBS documentary, Gates figures he might as well turn his arrest into a real one. He told the Root, of which he is the founder:

As a college professor, I want to make this a teaching experience. I am going to devote my considerable resources, intellectual and otherwise, to making sure this doesn't happen again. I'm thinking about making a documentary film about racial profiling, and I'm in talks with PBS about that.

He similarly told the Boston Globe:

If he apologizes sincerely, I am willing to forgive him. And if he admits his error, I am willing to educate him about the history of racism in America and the issue of racial profiling … That's what I do for a living.

One weird thing: Gates repeatedly disputed the allegation in the police report that he was behaving in a "loud and tumultuous" manner, claiming that a respiratory infection he'd contracted on a visit to China prevented him from yelling. He told the Root that the claim was "a joke...because I have a severe bronchial infection...for which I was treated and have a doctor's report from the Peninsula hotel in Beijing," and made the same claim to the Globe. We're not sure, but this photograph looks a lot like a very angry man yelling at a bunch of cops.

Henry Louis Gates Is Quite the Grown-Up About That Whole Racist Arrest Thing