Two Black Americas
THE SOURCE: “Black and White No Longer” by Richard Thompson Ford, in The American Interest, Sept.–Oct. 2012.
In July 2009, Henry Louis Gates Jr., a Harvard professor and a black man, broke into his own home when he couldn’t unlock the door. Neighbors reported a burglary, and when a Cambridge police sergeant arrived, Gates shouted abuse at him and was soon arrested for disorderly conduct. Many held up the incident as a case of racial profiling, and an example of how little race relations have progressed. In truth, it bore little resemblance to the harsh stop-and-frisk tactics practiced in American cities—last year, New York City police stopped nearly 700,000 people, 84 percent of them black or Latino. (Only 12 percent of those encounters resulted in arrests.) The Gates brouhaha, Stanford Law professor Richard Thompson Ford argues, illustrates a very different problem: “Increasingly desperate attempts to cling to outdated ideas of racial identity and solidarity have bred a fundamentally dishonest racial conversation that warps individual psychological development and confounds cross-racial understanding.”
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