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racial, gender, and sexual-orientation microaggressions

officers who arrived at the scene. When he was asked to step out of the house, Gates is reported to not have initially complied. When he finally did, Gates was arrested, handcuffed, and taken to jail. The charges, however, were subsequently dropped.

Within a short period of time, the incident made national headlines as an example of police profiling of Black men, and news programs and talk shows debated whether race had anything to do with the outcome. During a news conference held by President Obama, he described the arrest of Gates as “stupid,” and his remark brought on a huge outcry from primarily White citizens who came to the defense of the police. The outcry resulted in the President expressing regret at not “calibrating” his words more carefully. He subsequently called both Gates and Crowley to invite them to the White House to bridge misunderstandings over a glass of beer.

The Henry Louis Gates, Jr., incident is a prime example of the central thesis of this book, microaggressions (racial, in this case).

  • First, reports that Sergeant Crowley was a sensitive White officer, level- headed, a role model to younger officers, and a man who devoted time to training others on diversity and how not to racially profile are docu- mented by fellow officers. Gates is well known at Harvard and nationally as someone who has worked for improved race relations, is good at putting people at ease, cool and calm under fire, and devoted to social justice. In other words, both men could be described as good, moral, and decent human beings who believed in equality between the races. Yet, as our future chapters indicate, no one is immune from inheriting the racial biases of their forebears. While I cannot definitively conclude that Crowley engaged in a series of microaggressions outside his level of awareness, the arrest of Gates clearly reveals insensitivity to what it must be like for a Black man (the resident of the home he was suspected of breaking into) to be confronted with police officers. Even when he showed pieces of identification that confirmed he was the legal resident of the home, Crowley persisted in asking him to step out of the house and onto the porch.

  • This brings us to the second point. Both men are operating from differ- ent racial realities. For Gates, his life has probably been filled with many incidents of racial microaggressions (suspected of being a criminal, less trustworthy, likely to be dangerous, etc.) that have been continuous and cumulative. To be considered a criminal in his own home was the


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