WASHINGTON - Former secretary of state Colin Powell was mildly critical yesterday of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., whose angry response to a Cambridge, Mass., police officer touched off a national debate involving President Obama.
Powell, interviewed by CNN’s Larry King, criticized how Gates dealt with Sergeant James Crowley, a white officer who responded to reports of a possible break-in by arresting the black professor at his home on a charge of disorderly conduct. The charge was soon dropped.
Gates “might have waited a while, come outside, talked to the officer, and that might have been the end of it,’’ said Powell, one of the nation’s most prominent African-Americans.
“I think he should have reflected on whether or not this was the time to make that big a deal,’’ he said.
But Powell pointed out that Gates was just home from China and New York and “all he wanted to do was get to bed.’’
When asked about the incident at a press conference, Obama said police had acted stupidly.
Powell said that he was the target of racial profiling many times and that he sometimes got angry. On one such occasion, he tried to meet someone at Reagan National Airport “and nobody thought I could be the national security adviser to the president,’’ Powell said. “I was just a black guy.’’
Asked how he dealt with the situation, Powell said: “You just suck it up. . . .
“There is no African American in this country who has not been exposed to this kind of situation,’’ Powell said.
But, he said, “when you are faced with an officer trying to do his job and get to the bottom of something, this is not the time to get in an argument with him. I was taught that as a child.’’