A routine police burglary call triggered racial friction between a black professor and a white police officer in Massachusetts two weeks ago.
Henry Louis Gates Jr. was returning from a trip abroad when he had difficulty opening the front door to his home.
With his driver, also an African American, Gates forced his way in. Once alone in the house, the police came and although he showed identification showing he lived at the address Gates was handcuffed and arrested.
The racial spat has spiralled out controversy after Barack Obama, the US president, made a comment about the affair at a press conference.
Now the scholar and the policeman involved in the row have been invited to the White House to discuss the incident.
Obama's election was seen as a huge step forward in the fight for equality. But some African Americans claim that his victory could undermine the civil rights movement.
Why did a routine police burglary call in Cambridge heat up racial friction between a black professor and a white police officer? Is the race issue finally open to discussion publically in the US? Should Obama have ventured into the matter or has he stumbled into a role he was destined to play?
Inside Story presenter Nick Clark is joined by Paul Butler, a former federal prosecutor and an associate dean and professor of law at George Washington University, Lorie Fridell, an associate professor of criminology at the University of South Florida who consults with police departments and provides command-level training on racial profiling, and Glen Ford, executive director of Black Agenda Report.
This episode of Inside Story aired from Thursday, July 30, 2009.
Source: Al Jazeera