First, the totally obvious joke: "loud and tumultuous" - you mean the cops bust in on one of Skip's classes? I don't mean to make light of Henry Louis Gates Jr.'s recent arrest - it still perplexes me. But the charges seem especially absurd if you have ever taken a class with the man or seen him speak in public. He only knows how to command a space, whether it is a classroom or, one would assume, his own home. How would someone with his swagger not react in a "loud and tumultuous" fashion?
Even the most unflattering version of Gates' story casts the Cambridge P.D. (and his neighbor) in questionable light. The time of day, the way Gates and the driver were dressed, the fact that they weren't trying to conceal their actions, the manner in which he generally carries himself: wouldn't common sense applied earlier than later have suggested that this was all a misunderstanding?
What next? Gates is clever, shrewd, a master showman and, above all else, genuinely brilliant. Is this the kind of thing that will radicalize him? Will the most famous black scholar in American history (probably) assume a more overtly politicized stance in his public profile?
If you read Skip's interview over at The Root, a few statements stand out:
I would sooner have believed the sky was going to fall from the heavens than I would have believed this could happen to me. It shouldn't have happened to me, and it shouldn't happen to anyone. As a college professor, I want to make this a teaching experience. I am going to devote my considerable resources, intellectual and otherwise, to making sure this doesn't happen again.
I thought the whole idea that America was post-racial and post-black was laughable from the beginning. [...] There haven't been fundamental structural changes in America. There's been a very important symbolic change and that is the election of Barack Obama. But the only black people who truly live in a post-racial world in America all live in a very nice house on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Bizarre statements, to be sure: Why would he assume something like this wouldn't happen to him? Why should he be any different? And how can he say that the Obamas live in a post-racial world, when he barely subscribes to the idea himself?