Research Handbooks in Law and Economics series
Edited by Cynthia L. Estlund and Michael L. Wachter
Chapter 9: Bias and the law of the workplace
Shortly after noon on July 16, 2009, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., a well-known African- American professor at Harvard University, was arrested at his home after a verbal confrontation with a Cambridge police officer who was investigating a call about a possible burglary. Gates returned home from a trip to China to find the front door to his home jammed. With help from his driver, Gates forced the door open and entered the house. After neighbor Lucia Whalen called the Cambridge police to report that two men may have been breaking into the house, Sergeant James Crowley and several other Cambridge police officers arrived on the scene. The key details of what occurred next differ between Crowley and Gates. Crowley reported that Gates was aggressive, yelling very loudly, threatening Crowley repeatedly, and refusing to follow Crowley’s instruction that Gates step outside. Gates’s account of the incident indicated that Crowley repeatedly refused to provide his name and badge number upon Gates’s request (Olopade 2009). What is certain is that the incident ended with the arrest of the fifty-eight-year-old professor for disorderly conduct. Would a hypothetical fifty-eight-year-old white man in Gates’s situation have been asked to step outside upon the police’s arrival at the house?
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