Chicago/Atlanta (US), July 24 (ANI): Most African Americans have said that what happened with Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., Harvard's prominent scholar of African-American history last week, was a common, if unacknowledged, reality for many people of color.
They also said that beyond race, the ego of the police officer probably played a role.
But more deeply, many said the incident was a disappointing reminder that for all the racial progress the country seemed to have made with the election of President Obama, little has changed in the everyday lives of most people in terms of race relations.
"No matter how much education you have as a person of color, you still can't escape institutional racism," the New York Times quoted Keith E. Horton, a sports and entertainment lawyer in Chicago who is black, as saying.
Ralph Medley, a retired professor of philosophy and English who is black, remembers the day he was arrested on his own property, a rental building here in Hyde Park where he was doing some repair work for tenants.
A concerned neighbor called in the police to report a suspicious character.
It was not the first time Medley had been wrongly apprehended.
Medley remembers placing a call to 911 several years ago about a burglary, but ended up being frisked.
"But I'm the one who called you!" he remembers pleading with the officers.
Professor Gates was arrested for disorderly conduct on July 16 at his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts, as the police investigated a report of a possible break-in there.
The charge was later dropped, and the Cambridge Police Department said the incident was "regrettable and unfortunate."
People have faulted Gates' response to the arresting officer, Sergeant James Crowley, who said he was simply fulfilling his duty in investigating the report of a burglary in progress.
The police and Professor Gates offered differing accounts of what happened after officers arrived.
The police said Professor Gates initially refused to show identification and repeatedly shouted at officers. Professor Gates said that he had shown photo identification to Sergeant Crowley but that the sergeant had not appeared to believe that he lived there. He also said he had brought up race during the confrontation but was not disorderly.
Many comments posted online suggested that Gates, 58, had made a tricky situation worse by not cooperating. Even some blacks acknowledged that he did not help himself by refusing to show deference to a police officer.
"It is unwise for anyone of any race to raise their voice to a law enforcement officer," said Al Vivian, a diversity consultant in Atlanta who is black.
"But the result at the end of the day is this was a man who violated no law, was in his own house, who is the top academic star at the top academic school in the nation, and he was still taken away and arrested."
At a news conference on Wednesday night, President Obama said he thought the Cambridge police had "acted stupidly" in the arrest of Professor Gates.
"I think it's worse than stupid. I think it was mean-spirited and ill-intended," the NYT quoted 65-year-old Medley, as saying.
In most of the interviews, blacks and whites of various ages and experiences with law enforcement have given the benefit of the doubt to Professor Gates over the police. (ANI)