Friday, 31 July 2009
President Obama shares beer with Henry Louis Gates Jr., Sgt. James Crowley & VP Biden
The NYDaily News reports:
The Audacity of Hops meeting at the White House demonstrated something most of us knew: Presidential power and charm can temporarily smooth the still-rough edges of race in America.
That's especially true when you have three men - Prof. Henry Louis Gates, Sgt. James Crowley and President Obama - who all radiate dignity, duty and fierce love of our country and its possibilities.
All three, burned by the same misunderstanding, were determined not to compound the error with ill-chosen words.
One teachable moment I'm waiting for is the day some inspired playwright scripts the confusion of that odd Cambridge afternoon using the technique pioneered by the late Japanese filmmaker, Akiro Kurasawa, in the 1950 classic movie, "Rashomon."
The film tells and re-tells a crime story through the eyes of four witnesses who see incompatible versions of the same event.
Some writer - I nominate Pulitzer-Prize winner Lynn Nottage of Brooklyn - could have a ball demonstrating how Gates, Crowley and Lucia Whelan, the woman who called the cops about a suspected break-in, all turned out to be right, wrong and mistaken at the same time.
Outside the scripted bonhomie of the White House, it's unclear if race relations have changed for the better.
A Boston cop and National Guardsman named Justin Barrett has been suspended from the force and the Guard after e-mailing a rambling note to a Boston Globe columnist.
"If I was the officer he verbally assaulted like a banana-eating jungle monkey, I would have sprayed him in the face with [pepper spray]," he wrote.
Barrett was promptly stripped of his gun and badge; a hearing to dismiss him from the force is pending.
"These racist opinions and feelings have no place in this department or in our society and will not be tolerated," Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis said. Good for him.
Now that is what I call a teachable moment.
Some senior official at Fox News ought to say the same about right-wing talking head Glenn Beck, who went on national TV to throw reckless verbal slime.
"This President has exposed himself as a guy over and over and over again who has a deep-seated hatred for white people," Beck said. "This guy is, I believe, a racist."
The outburst has earned Beck a national campaign demanding that companies advertising on his show cancel their sponsorship.
Another teachable moment.
This isn't the polite, scholarly national conversation on race that some hoped for - but it's way better than nothing at all.