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Signify On This: Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Arrested for Disorderly Conduct

The New York Times reports that Henry Louis Gates Jr. was arrested for disorderly conduct outside his own home.

Judging from the copy of the AP report, I’m guessing that the police responded to Gates’s indignation with calculated stupidity.

An officer ordered the man to identify himself, and Gates refused, according to the report. Gates began calling the officer a racist and said repeatedly, ''This is what happens to black men in America.''

Officers said they tried to calm down the 58-year-old academic, who responded, ''You don't know who you're messing with,'' according to the police report.

Gates was arrested on a disorderly conduct charge after police said he ''exhibited loud and tumultuous behavior.''

When I say calculated stupidity I mean that the arresting officer very likely understood that Gates was, in fact, who he said he was and believed that Gates did own the home in question after Gates presented his credentials. In my reading, the officer arrested the loud and tumultuous Doctor of Philosohpy to put him in his place, to show Gates what happens when a black man, world-renowned Harvard Professor or otherwise, gets uppity with an officer of the law.

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