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When race become an executive issue

President Obama has publicly stated that police in Cambridge, Massachusetts, “acted stupidly” in arresting a prominent black Harvard professor last week after a confrontation at the man’s home. ”I don’t know, not having been there and not seeing all the facts, what role race played,” Obama said Wednesday night while taking questions after a White House news conference. Cambridge authorities dropped disorderly conduct charges against Henry Louis Gates Jr. on Tuesday. Obama defended Gates on Wednesday night, while admitting that he may be “a little biased,” because Gates is a friend. ”But I think it’s fair to say, No. 1, any of us would be pretty angry; No. 2, that the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home; and, No. 3 … that there’s a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately.” The Cambridge police report states that Gates, an African-American professor at Harvard refused to step outside to speak with police and when an Officer Crowley told Gates that he was investigating a possible break-in, Gates opened the front door and exclaimed, “Why, because I’m a black man in America?” the report said. The report said Gates initially refused to show the officer identification, but eventually produced a Harvard identification card, prompting Crowley to radio for Harvard University Police. ”While I was led to believe that Gates was lawfully in the residence, I was quite surprised and confused with the behavior he exhibited toward me,” Crowley said, according to the report. Gates was arrested for “loud and tumultuous behavior in a public space” and was released from police custody after spending four hours at the police station. So many questions stem from this. Do police show disproportionate behavior towards minority groups? Did the Cambridge police act carelessly? Was Prof. Gates warranted in his “Why, because I’m a black man in America?” outburst? Was the president warranted in his mention of this incident? Is racism still alive and well in all factions of American society?

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