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(CNN) -- Last Thursday, President Obama, in his fiery speech before the NAACP Convention, admitted that "an African-American child is roughly five times as likely as a white child to see the inside of a prison." But he surely couldn't have imagined that only a couple of hours before his oration, one of America's most prominent scholars -- and a distinguished professor at Obama's alma mater, Harvard University -- would breathe cruel and ironic life into that sad statistic.
Several features of the story scream the presence of lingering bias and racism. A black man in a tony neighborhood simply seems out of place, even to his neighbors.
Had Gates been a white professor trying to get inside his home, and called on his driver to help him jar his door open, he probably wouldn't have as readily aroused the suspicion of neighbors. And when police arrived to check out the premises, they probably wouldn't have been nearly as ready to believe the worst about the occupant of a home who clearly wasn't engaged in a criminal act.
Whatever one believes about what happened, Gates clearly wasn't the beneficiary of the benefit of the doubt, a reasonable expectation since he posed no visible threat.
It is also striking that Gates seems to be the victim of a police mentality that chafes at a challenge of its implicit authority. While that may be true for folk of all races, it seems especially galling to cops to be questioned by a person of color.
Gates' crime appears to be a new one in the litany of crimes that black folk commit by virtue of their very existence -- in this case, HWB, or housing while black. If a famous and affluent black man in his own home can be accosted, arrested and humiliated, then all black folk can reasonably expect the same treatment.
they probably wouldn't have been nearly as ready to believe the worst about the occupant of a home who clearly wasn't engaged in a criminal act