Monday, August 3, 2009

Thoughts on Beerestroika



Maybe the biggest news event last week was the beer summit between Henry Louis Gates, President Obama, Joe Biden, and Sergeant Crowley, following the arrest. There are a couple of questions from the summit:

1. Will this help President Obama?

Obama originally bungled this whole affair by saying the police acted “stupidly.” A Pew poll found that 41% of Americans disapprove of his handling of the affair, while 29% approve. As I noted in a previous post, I think this is partially responsible for Obama’s recent ratings decline.

Before, Obama could have been accused of automatically taking the black man’s side and not listening to the white man’s side of the story. But with this summit, Obama is seen listening to Crowley and working to transcend race, which was a central promise of his candidacy. The photo op could help Obama maintain that image. What would be really awesome in 2012 would be to have Crowley, who did not vote for Obama in 2008 to campaign for him in 2012.

2. Will this improve race relations?

Even hours ago, I was skeptical of that. I thought this was a silly photo-op. But I think there is promise. Gates and Crowley have decided to meet again. Seeing a rapprochement between these two would show that Americans really are capable of overcoming racial divides.

This has been referred to as a “teachable moment.” I think one of the most important things to remember here is that all involved are good people. The police officer seems like a good man, as does Gates, and the woman who called the police. What this means is that even good people can become embroiled in racial misunderstandings.

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