The storm of controversy around the arrest of Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates shows a divide in this country, and it is not just racial. Since Wednesday evening, the storm has been around whether President Obama should have expressed an opinion on the matter, especially as his opinion was that the Cambridge Police acted stupidly.

So one of the divides here is around whether the President of the United States is ‘allowed’ to say that a particular police action was “stupid” when he believes that to be the case. And why not? Aren’t any of allowed to say something like that, or was Freedom of Speech repealed when I wasn’t looking?

And if it turns out that a particular police action was, in fact, stupid, it should be called out so that it may be avoided in the future. Are there those that do not believe police can make mistakes or act stupidly or worse? Have we all forgotten the events of the 1950′s and ’60s when there were many cases of intolerable police behavior in attempts to suppress the drive for racial justice and equality?

Those that sit comfortably watching their TVs and thinking that the police must always be right have never had the experience of being wrongly arrested and are probably quite sure they never would be. They’ve certainly never had the experience of having the police come busting into the house in the early morning hours, ransacking everything and shooting the family dog, in a drug raid where they (oops, sorry) got the address wrong.

And those that believe it can’t happen to them are almost certainly not black or Hispanic.

True, another President might not have made that comment. But now we have an African-American President, and so he did say it because that’s how he saw it. It was important that he say it because of all the profiling incidents that have happened in the past and, because they did not happen to a prominent citizen, got no attention and were swept under the rug.

Ironic that the Cambridge police sergeant involved in this incident teaches police classes on racial profiling and so knows all that is in the police handbook on the issue. Maybe his actions in this event were not influenced by race. Maybe he would have done exactly the same thing if Gates had been white rather than black. If so, it would still have been stupid and a cause for review.

Yes, the President said he did not have all the facts, but how many more facts do you need? It is not disputed that Gates was in his own house and had presented valid IDs. It is also undisputed that he was upset with the conduct of the officer by that point and asked — demanded — his name and badge number. Since when is that not allowed? Rather than defuse the situation in a professional way, the officer arrests Gates on a “disorderly conduct” charge. I mean, would any of us not get angry if that happened to a friend?  Would we remain silent or speak up in support of our friend?

No doubt the police department would much prefer to investigate and resolve the matter internally and quietly, so it was really inconvenient for them to be called out by the President in a national news conference. Sometimes, however, we should not and must not remain silent. As Martin Luther King said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”