The race toward a post-racial society just lost a few runners. Among them is none other than its torch-bearer, President Barack Obama. What he offered to the masses in his impromptu news conference response to a question about the arrest of his buddy Henry Louis Gates by Cambridge Sgt. James Crowley was more than a notion. It was a hurdle of epic proportions causing Obama to stumble in a way he won’t easily recover from (notwithstanding the “beer diplomacy” distraction.) The question – aside from what kind of beer the three men intend to drink tomorrow – is what will be accomplished in the long run? A question both right and left leaning media have yet to hone in on, as they’re too preoccupied with things like the picnic table the men will sit on. Embarrassing.
This hastily planned sideshow to sidestep Obama’s verbal gaffe, is no laughing matter. It is not even mildly comedic in my view (and I’m quite sure Sgt. Crowley finds no amusement in being characterized as a racist.) As much as we all “talk” about repairing racial wounds, having “real conversations” about race and illuminating the “very real” issue of racial profiling – news anchors, TV hosts and the president still seem to trivialize a moment that can actually turn the page on how we view race relations in America. If only the parties preaching unity were held to account – starting with the leader of the pack. With the facts glaringly on the side of Sgt. Crowley, here are a few recommended questions the White House press corps might consider asking our leader:
- • Will President Obama acknowledge that Sgt. Crowley was racially profiled by Professor Gates? (Much the same way Gates assumed he was being racially profiled, he profiled the white officer as a racist.)
- • Will President Obama actually apologize (as in “I’m sorry) to Sgt. Crowley for calling him stupid in front of a national television audience?
- • Will Obama acknowledge and thank Sgt. Crowley for the extensive work he has committed to in training officers against racial profiling? (Training which no doubt came about as a result of the first ever federal racial profiling ban for all law enforcement submitted and signed by President Bush in 2003.)
- • Will Prof. Gates admit he overreacted?
- • And what the hell is a “teachable moment “anyway? Who will be taught what? And who’s going to be schooling whom?
- • Where will they go afterward? Will there be a consensus as to what (actions, words, et al) the government considers racist (as opposed to prejudice or discrimination)?
- • Can blacks, not just whites be racist? Is one more justified than the other?
- • What laws, beyond what is on the books will address this “issue of racial profiling” that the president is up in arms about?
- • Does he still consider the incident a racial profiling incident (as he still seems to allude to)?
Some of these are very real, hard tough questions that of course no one person in one setting can answer but if the conversation on race is to ever gain any traction or go beyond what the president at one time said we spend far too much time simply “talking about,” it should begin with addressing the substantive concerns coming from both sides of the rainbow. Knee jerk reactions and throw away terms that go virtually unchallenged by the press won’t cut it.
The whole ordeal not only sucked up all the air from the president’s planned topic at hand but shone a spotlight on “race relations” in a way even Obama didn’t want exposed – his own racial hypocrisy. If he’s sorry for anything, it’s that he exposed himself. Nothing else. And Gates, no doubt, is sorry for nothing. Neither is Crowley – and of the three he shouldn’t be. It appears he is the only one who acted the most professionally and responsibly.
Beers and banter aside, time will tell whether the meeting proves more than a mere a photo-op or results in substantive discussion and policy initiatives that propel the debate forward.
In no way do I want to diminish the fact that profiling and discrimination and racism exists on many levels in America and when the law is broken action should be taken – but in contrast – none of the aforementioned seems to have kept people like Gates from aspiring to the elite academic position that provides for his lavish Massachusetts lifestyle and affords him friends in high places.
-Tara Wall is a news anchor and political analyst at The Washington Times and editor of TheConservatives.com.