One detail in the “famous Harvard professor whom even non-academics may have seen on that TV special with Oprah looked like scary intruder to neighbor” story that did not make sense was that part where the neighbor — the lady who called the cops was a neighbor — did not recognize the famous Harvard professor trying to get into his own house. Well, now we have our answer: sounds like the scary intruder she spotted may have been his cab driver.
Professor Gates, who has taught at Harvard for nearly two decades, arrived home on Thursday from a trip to China to find his front door jammed, said Charles J. Ogletree, a law professor at Harvard who is representing him.
He forced the door open with the help of his cab driver, Professor Ogletree said, and had been inside for a few minutes when Sgt. James Crowley of the Cambridge Police Department appeared at his door and asked him to step outside.
So, maybe the “good Samaritan” who put in the call to the police just thought, “Professor Gates is out of the country and there is some strange man trying to open his door!” Which is plausible, although you’d think the presence of the TAXI CAB might have given her a clue that the strange man was legit? Unless it wasn’t a cab at all, and was some sort of an unmarked car service? Who knows. The point is, you have to feel pretty bad for this woman who probably feels pretty bad herself about setting off this whole awful incident. Because really, you do not want to be the person who dropped a dime on the charming and treasured Harvard professor who rides his adorable red tricycle around Martha’s Vineyard and hangs out with Oprah.
(For that matter, you do not want to be the person in the Cambridge Police Department who decided, “yes, let’s book this famous black academic instead of just letting him go, so that way we have a mug shot that’s public record, and we can release this humiliating photograph to the press. This will win us many fans!”)
Anyway, of course, accounts between Professor Gates and the arresting officer differ regarding what actually happened when the police came to Gates’ house.
Harvard Professor Jailed; Officer Is Accused of Bias [New York Times]