A Little Friendly Advice for the Good Professor

Prominent black Americans on where Gates went wrong and what he should do the next time he's stopped by the police.

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The arrest of Henry Louis Gates sparked a national debate so emotional that even a president known to avoid drama said things he later regretted. In the past day, though, two prominent black Americans have formed a more cautious corner, offering advice to the Harvard professor on what he could have done to avoid escalating the conflict.

Last night, Colin Powell told Larry King that Professor Gates "should have reflected on whether or not this was the time to make that big a deal." But Powell also said that he had been racially profiled many times. "There is no African American in the country who has not been exposed to this kind of situation. Do you get angry? Yes."

At The Root, a digital magazine for African Americans, Karen Grigsby Bates said Professor Gates — and maybe minorities everywhere — could benefit from a refresher course on how to deal with the police. Bates, who co-authored a book called, Basic Black: Home Training For Modern Times, offered guidelines like these:

"If you're stopped while driving, wait for the officer to approach you. DON'T get out of the car."

"When he asks for license and registration, tell him where they are BEFORE you reach for them, and ask if he wants you to do it, of he'd rather: "I keep my wallet in the glove box; do you want me to get it now?"

And a final word of warning from the author:

"Screaming confrontations with a guy who is allowed to carry a gun and a taser cannot end well for the person who isn't equally equipped. Far too many black males don't make it home to dinner because they've made a policeman angry or--worse--afraid."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.