Last night's teachable moment was a bust for me. My grandiose expectations in the days leading up to what was supposed to be a conciliatory meeting were steadily deflated. The meeting, which some viewed as a grown-up way of dealing with a tense issue that was blown out of proportion, was trivialized by many others. Commentators referred to the gathering as a "beer fest", the "beer summit" and asked foolish questions about the types of ale the men would be drinking. These dis-missives were only the beginning.
Was it just me or was the actual meeting anti-climactic? The only stirring action was learning that Sergeant Crowley appeared at the White House with his attorney and his union representative. After it was all over, I wondered if I was watching the same press conference as Chris Matthews, who seemed to think that Crowley walked on air after the press conference. Seeing a different story than my brethren in White media has been my experience throughout Crowley-gate.
Most likely, if you are White you sided with Crowley. Even if you believed that Crowley may have gone too far, you wanted to see him survive. The will to see Crowley vindicated was clearly drawn down racial lines in the press I followed--your New York Times', MSNBCs, and CNNs. With the exception of Lawrence O'Donnell, every white commentator who admitted to empathizing with Professor Gates and acknowledged how race plays a significant part in the criminal justice system, couldn't wait to deride the President for talking out of turn on such a local issue. Some even called for him to apologize. Many didn't talk about how the 911 recording (which didn't mention race) turned Crowley's race-riddled police report into fiction. Let's face it, no one wants to look bad, and that's exactly what officer Crowley did for many liberal White Americans.
So, after Crowley closed the book on this ugly chapter of his life with a lackluster press conference, his supporters -- many of whom shared his race -- were eagerly awaiting with three cheers. He was a natural! He could be a spokesperson for Blue Moon Beer! He may even have a career in politics!
Meanwhile, many in the Black community wanted more out of last night. From the outset, many sided with Professor Gates based on their reality of encountering overzealous police officers. Many cheered Obama for saying that Sgt. Crowley acted stupidly. They wanted more public dialogues on race. Instead, last night they saw a white guy get over again. Many saw Crowley, a man who abused the power of his badge, get a pretty cool reward--a beer with President Obama.
The only teachable moment for me was that even in "post-racial," America where you sit as a race is probably where you will stand on an issue. Crowley and Gates were not the only two to walk away from last night's event agreeing to disagree. The rest of America, polarized by race, dug its heels into the positions and sides they took on this issue, and as usual, our communities will continue to agree to disagree.
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