Black Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. on Sunday joked about his arrest by a white police officer, but also described receiving death threats and dreaming about being arrested at the White House.
In his first public appearance since sharing a beer at the White House on Thursday with the officer and President Barack Obama, Gates said the national debate over racial profiling sparked by his arrest shows that issues of class and race still run “profoundly deep” in the United States.
“They have not been resolved at all,” he said, speaking to a crowd of more than 150 who came to see him at the Martha’s Vineyard Book Festival.
Gates was mostly light-hearted during his speech and even poked fun at himself after a man in the crowd told him he admired his sense of humor.
“I should have been funnier in the kitchen of my house on July 16,” he said.
But Gates also described how the incident and the subsequent national debate affected him personally. He said he had to shut down his public e-mail and change his cell phone number after receiving numerous death and bomb threats, including one that read, “You should die; you’re a racist.”