Earlier this week, a Cambridge, Massachusetts resident called the police to report that two men were breaking into a neighbor’s home. When a police officer responded to investigate, the man who broke into this home berated, browbeat, and made racist statements to the police officer in front of numerous observers and fellow police officers. Because the man refused to get himself under control, the police officer eventually arrested him for disorderly conduct.

In a typical instance, a man with no previous criminal convictions would have (at worst) been released on his own recognizance, given a suspended sentence, ordered to do community service and pay court costs, and come back later to have everything dismissed provided that no further infractions occurred.

The arresting officer, Sgt. James Crowley, was appointed by a black officer to teach a class to police cadets on racial profiling, and he’s taught it for 5 years. He was the man who performed CPR on Celtics star Reggie Lewis when he collapsed. He was immediately joined by African-American and Hispanic police officers on the scene at the home. He has the backing of his follow police officers, including by those of African or Hispanic decent.

The man who was later arrested due to his disorderly conduct was actually breaking into the home. But it was his own home. What typically happens in these sorts of instances is that the police officer will arrive and ask the persons on premise to identify themselves and provide ID. Understanding that people frequently do break into their homes, the officer, having verified that everything was OK, would say goodnight and move on. Most homeowners would be grateful for the protection provided by the local police and would feel bad for wasting police resources — though police officers will always be more grateful than otherwise when something turns out not to have been a crime.

In this case, the man arrested for disorderly conduct was Henry Louis Gates, Jr. He is a Harvard professor. He is the principle academic theorist on American racial grievances. He is friends with the African American mayor of Cambridge, the African American governor of Massachusetts, and the African American president of the United States. Henry Louis Gates, Jr gets statements from all three that condemn the police officer’s actions either obliquely or directly. Henry Louis Gates, Jr gets his charges dropped immediately. Henry Louis Gates, Jr is given a platform on mainstream media outlets to criticize the arresting police officer as “racist.” Henry Louis Gates, Jr gets headlines inaccurately describing how an African American Harvard professor was arrested in his own home by a police officer investigating a break in. (Though here in liberal Massachusetts, the local news reports have tended to side strongly with the police officer, which is to say that they report the story accurately.)

I’m personally grateful to neighbors who reported a brake-in wherein burglars stole property belonging to me that approached 6 figures in value. Due to the call of this neighbor (in an upscale neighborhood in Northern Virginia), the burglars were caught and prosecuted, and most of the stolen items (all but about $20K worth) were recovered. In this case, the burglars were white.

If someone reports a burglary at my home, I want the cops to investigate — vigorously. If I broke into my own home and a police officer arrived to investigate, I’d be grateful to the police officer for coming, apologetic for having wasted his time, and a bit embarrassed for my negligence.

When Mel Gibson lashed out at a Jewish police officer, nobody blamed the arresting officer. How are the actions of Henry Louis Gates, Jr any different from the alleged actions of the privileged whites that he criticizes?