Governor Deval Patrick this afternoon empathized with Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., recalling his own experiences with racial profiling and "feeling powerless" when he was a black teenager at Milton Academy.
Governor Deval Patrick
ďIn some ways this is every black manís nightmare and a reality for many black men," Patrick told a crush of reporters at an impromptu press conference in a hallway at the State House. "And as you understand the sequence of events -- if I understand the sequence of events because, remember I wasnít there and the only understanding I have is from what Iíve read -- I guess I would say you ought to be able to raise your voice in your own house without risk of arrest.Ē
Patrick spoke in a somber tone as he offered his strongest comments in the week since Gates's arrest for disorderly conduct inside his home near Harvard Square. The governor declined, however, to discuss President Obama's comment Wednesday night during a nationally televised press conference that Cambridge police "acted stupidly." Patrick said the president was "quite capable of speaking for himself.Ē
The governor told reporters that he had left a phone message for Gates but had not spoken to him. From what he had read in the media and the police report, Patrick said he understood how Gates felt.
ďHave I ever had the experience of feeling powerless in a situation like that? Sure I have," Patrick said. "When I was a student at Milton Academy, I remember -- a new student fresh from Chicago, a teenager taking walks to the local convenience store -- being stopped for no reason than just being on the sidewalk."
Earlier today in a chat with readers on Boston.com, Patrick said it was "upsetting to me that an individual cannot raise his voice in his own home without risking arrest."
"For me the aftermath of this incident shows something I have noticed over the years about our discourse on race," Patrick said in the chat. "I feel in this country that we struggle to find a way to balance the extraordinary progress we have made on the path of racial justice with an acknowledgment of the work that remains. Some want to act as if the struggle is over and the issues are gone. Others act as if nothing has changed in the last hundred years. Neither perspective is quite right, in my view and experience."
During the hourlong chat, Patrick also answered questions about cutting government and raising taxes; federal stimulus money; municipal health insurance costs; new teachers; and budgets cuts at Zoo New England. To read a full transcript of the chat, click here.
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