The arrest of renowned African American Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates at his own home caused a swell of outrage, with President Barack Obama weighing in on the controversy during a news conference, saying that the Cambridge police acted "stupidly."
Professor Gates returned from an overseas trip last week and was trying to open his jammed door when a neighbor reported that someone was trying to break into the house. After police responded to the call, Gates was arrested on charges of "disorderly conduct" but the professor insists that they charged him because he was black.
NewsHour correspondent Ray Suarez looks at how the Gates arrest has again raised the issue of unequal treatment for whites and blacks to the national discourse.
"Number one, any of us would be pretty angry; number two, that the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home; and, number three, what I think we know separate and apart from this incident is that there is a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately. That's just a fact." - President Obama
"I think that we should all be handling encounters with the police by following exactly what the police say. At the same time, I think that racial profiling is a rampant problem and that we need to very much be focused on making sure that racial profiling i.e., the criminal suspicion of people based on race there's a psychological impact that I think that we need to be concerned about and that that this is actually broader than a law enforcement problem." - Antwi Akom, San Francisco State University
"This is not the country that we knew or we had 10 years ago. The demographics have drastically changed. We must change how we approach people and how we deal with people and be cognizant of those types of issues when we are out enforcing the law or doing what we do as police officers." - Joseph Thomas Jr., chief, Southfield Police Department
1. What is racial profiling?
2. Name some circumstances in which racial profiling can occur.
1. There are differing accounts as to what took place inside Gates's home. From what we know, do you feel that it was just a misunderstanding or that race played a part in the incident?
2. What do you think of President Barack Obama’s statement that the Cambridge Police acted "stupidly"?
3. Can you relate to what happened to Professor Gates? How would you react in his circumstances?
4. Do you think blacks and whites see this incident differently? What about a person’s background might make them identify with the Professor Gates or the police officer?