On the whole affair concerning Professor Henry Louis Gates: There is a lot of murkiness here, but I tend to lean towards this being a racist act.
I don't immediate jump to seeing every situation as racist- as the saying goes, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. One the one hand, it doesn't make sense to me why Dr. Gates had a hard time getting into his own house. That said, one has to wonder why the neighbors didn't notice that this was Dr. Gates.
But it really all boils down to this to me: the police should have simply asked for his ID to confirm that he lived there and left. I can understand checking out a place in case there is a robbery, but the Cambridge police went overboard.
As a black man, I know that for some odd reason, I can be percieved as a threat by people. I remember being 13 and going with my Mom to a credit union. While she did her business, I just kind of stood around. Unbeknownst to me, I was being watched and Mom found out and was upset. I was just surprised that people would consider me a threat- if they knew me, they knew I wouldn't hurt a fly.
Which is why I tend to side with Dr. Gates here. If he were white, I doubt this would have been an issue. But there is something that makes the larger society feel uneasy around black men. Especially, where you are a stocky and tall black man.
It's a sad tale, but not a shocking one. Race is becoming less of a factor in America, thank goodness, but less doesn't mean none.