Friday, July 31, 2009

White House hosts so-called Beer Summit

The visage of four men--President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and Cambridge [Mass.] police officer James Crowley--having a beer on the White House lawn is arguably surreal (or even absurd) depending upon whom you ask. The New York Times even live-blogged the much-anticipated meeting, but its implications almost certainly go far beyond the type of beer each man drank.

The facts that lead up to this meeting are all too known. Crowley arrested Gates outside his Cambridge home earlier this month after a woman reported a possible burglary. Authorities initially charged Gates with disorderly conduct, but the charges were subsequently dropped. And Obama sparked controversy with his assertion at a White House press conference on health care he felt the Cambridge Police Department acted stupidly by arresting Gates.

During what is traditionally a slow news cycle, this story simply keeps on giving. The subsequent brouhaha over the president's comments--and the arrest itself, however, clearly indicate the majority of Americans remain woefully reluctant to have any substantive discussion on race that does not extend beyond inflammatory sound bites or a steady stream talking heads from all political persuasions who want to add their two cents. This country has clearly made significant strides on this issue over the last decades, but Obama's election last November alone was not the long-awaited panacea that miraculously solved the continued scourge of racial injustice. And four men having a beer on the White House lawn alone will not eradicate it either.

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