Epstein on "The Power of Protocol"

The Power Of Protocol
Richard A. Epstein
Forbes.com
July 28, 2009

The now infamous Cambridge, Mass., incident that started when Sgt. James Crowley investigated a report of a possible break-in at the home of Henry Louis Gates, the well-known African-American Harvard professor, has dominated this past week's news. The confrontation led to a war of words that eventually resulted in Gates' arrest on charges of disorderly conduct, which were dropped shortly thereafter.

To many people, the ferocious back-and-forth that followed reflects the irreducible chasm between the worldview of blacks and whites, which time has not dimmed. One case is said to demonstrate anew that race relations in the U.S. have a long way to go, if only because a huge psychological gulf between the races precludes any objective resolution of this nasty dispute. But the issue is not intractable due to one neglected, but critical, fact: Sgt. Crowley followed department protocol.