of us African-American residents of Cambridge are surprised or shocked
by the humiliation and harassment Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr.,
58, of Harvard University encountered at the hands of Cambridge
partner, Dr.Thea James, an Emergency Room physician who would drive
from home to work was stopped all the time for “driving while black.”
And when the Cambridge cops realized she’s a woman, and a lesbian
one at that, their unbridled homophobia surfaces. Thea now takes
girlfriend’s kids and their friends hang out at the Cambridge’s
Galleria Mall like kids do. The Cambridge police in the mall stop
my girlfriend’s kids and their friends; one white and two Asians
are not, because “shopping while black” is always mistaken as shoplifting.
constant shakedowns of us have been deliberately on the down low
to the public because Cambridge, proudly dubbed as “The People’s
Republic of Cambridge, is ranked as one of the most liberal cities
in America. And with two of the country’s premier institutions of
higher learning - Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology-
that draw students and scholars from around the world, Cambridge’s
showcase of diversity and multiculturalism rivals that of the U.N.
is also proudly known for a lot of firsts in this country. For example,
it was the first city in Massachusetts to issue a legal application
for same-sex marriage. It’s the first major city in the country
to elect an African American openly gay mayor - Ken Reeves. And
Cambridge elected its first African American openly lesbian mayor
in the country this year with E. Denise Simmons. Deval Patrick is
the first African American governor of Massachusetts.
is no doubt a progressive city. However, when you scratch below
Cambridge’s surface there is also a liberal racism that is as pernicious,
vile, and intolerant as Southern racism. But unlike Southern racism
that sees race and tries to keep blacks in their place, liberal
racism claims it does not. Ironically, however, Cambridge’s liberal
ruling class maintains its racial boundaries not by designated “colored”
water fountains, toilets or restaurants, but rather by its zip codes,
major street intersections known
as squares, like the renown Harvard Square; and residential border areas
that are designated numbers,
like the notorious Area 4, a predominately black poor and working-class
did not matter that the call to police by a white woman, who doesn’t
live on the block let alone the area, stating that two African-American
men were breaking and entering into one of the expensive homes on
a tree-lined street was not only false but actually Gates’s home.
The woman’s call was her civic duty in preserving the neighborhood’s
integrity. because after, all this was happening in the zip code
area of 02138, which is Harvard Square.
it did not matter that once Gates validated his residency to the
cop with a legitimate Harvard I.D., that the whole incident should
have, at that very moment, ended. But instead, the arresting officer
called the Harvard University police to once again verify Gates
occupancy in his own home.
it did not matter that the suspected robber is a Harvard professor,
public intellectual and recipient of the MacArthur Foundation “genius”
award. (Some say this incident serves as a cautionary tale to those
who want to now define America as being post-racial with the election
was of great concern for both the white woman who called the police
and the arresting officer who eventually had to handcuff Gates?
Was it the shock and perhaps outrage they experienced seeing this
unknown black man in this well-known, high income, and professional
area of Cambridge, breaking and entering into someone home’s and
not in the city’s known and expected troubled spot - Area 4?
in this city is not only along race lines but also class. And poor
working-class whites and white immigrants do not experience the
fullness their white skin privilege would abundantly afford them
if they, too, were part of Cambridge’s professional and/or moneyed
4 has been labeled a troubled area of Cambridge, an area plagued
with all the problems of urban blight and very little resources
to ameliorate them. As a densely populated area, its average household
income was $34,306 according the 2005 city census. Harvard Square,
on the other hand, in the same year its average household income
4 use to house the city’s police station. And white Cambridge police
officers assigned to this area unabashedly target and harassingly
patrol neighborhood blocks and activities of black male residents
- young and old. And their reasons for doing so can easily be attributed
to the Cambridge Police Department’s lack of funds in its budget
to do cultural sensitivity trainings. But their reason is just as
much about this country’s horrific racial legacy between the two
groups as it is also about Cambridge’s liberal ruling elite exploiting
these tension by their claims to not see race, until of course,
an unknown black man appears in their neighborhood.
tension escalated between Gates and Sgt. James Crowley when Gates
flipped the script on him. As the person-in-question, Gates exercised
his legal right to also question:
this happening because you’re a white cop and I’m a black man?
Is this why this interaction is still taking place?”
charges against Gates have been dropped. But many white Cantabrigians
chiming in on this incident felt that Gates was being uppity, feeling
entitled, and exploiting the race card.
who would know better about this than them.
Editorial Board member, the Rev. Irene Monroe, is a religion columnist,
theologian, and public speaker. A native of Brooklyn, Rev. Monroe
is a graduate from Wellesley College and Union Theological Seminary
at Columbia University, and served as a pastor at an African-American
church before coming to Harvard Divinity School for her doctorate
as a Ford Fellow. Reverend Monroe is the author of Let Your Light Shine Like a Rainbow Always: Meditations on Bible
Prayers for Not-So-Everyday Moments. As an African American
feminist theologian, she speaks for a sector of society that is
frequently invisible. Her website is irenemonroe.com.
to contact the Rev. Monroe.