The Professor, The Cop, and The President
Recently, Harvard professor Henry Louis "Skip" Gates was locked out of his home in Cambridge, Mass., and forced his way in. A neighbor, seeing a black man break into a home, caught fright, and dialed 911. The officer, Sgt. James Crowley, arrived on the scene and asked for Skip's identification. Tempers (and egos) flared between Gates and Crowley, with reports that Gates might have mentioned Crowley's "mama."
Here's what's wrong with what is being dubbed by this blog as Henry Louis Gates-Gate. First off, a man got arrested in his own home. That shouldn't happen. Secondly, Gates shouldn't bring up a cop's mama. That's just dumb. But it wasn't just any black guy put in cuffs. It's Skip Gates. The guy is one of the most prominent voices on race relations in America. So naturally the cop was portrayed as racist by the court of public opinion, and as stupid.... by the President of the United States.... on national TV.
Sgt. Crowley's job is to diffuse situations like these, not take part in them. He should have put his ego aside and sought out the facts, rather than hauling off a 60-year-old Harvard professor to jail. But he's not a racist. In fact, he teaches racial sensitivity courses to the Cambridge Police Department. Boston, and her police force, have a checkered past when it comes to race relations. But not Sgt. Crowley.
So the leader of the free world, Barry Barack Obama, realizing the error of his ways (and words), did what most adults should do in these types of situations. He called Crowley up, expressed regret over his choice of words and invited the guy, along with Gates, to the White House to discuss it over a beer. That's pretty cool. Obama came right down into the fray of Henry Louis Gates Gate, and settled it like a leader should. He said let's talk.
And hey, look. That's cool, Barack. You're aiming to squash this. But why in the hell is the tempest in a teacup even on your agenda? Isn't there still health care, the economy, the environment, Pakistan's nuclear weapons falling into the hands of al-qaeda to worry about? Isn't your dance card already a little full, Barack? I can't imagine you would have much free time to settle, let alone even get involved, in such a minor incident. But, if you've got the time, cheers, my man.