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Jul 30 2009

Beers at the White House

Jamie Barrows

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So today President Obama and the two people involved in the unfortunate arrest of the Harvard University Professor (Gates and Crowley) are going to sit down and have a beer together. The idea being that if they can spend a little time getting to know each other, they can put the whole incident behind them.

Now I’m not a huge supporter of our President, and I didn’t vote for him. The truth is, that I think many of his plans for our country are disasters in the making. And I haven’t seen a lot of the promised transparency that he promised during his campaign. But in this case, I think his plan is a really good idea. And I have to give him credit for it.

In my experience, a lot of the racial problems that people have are not caused by hate or true racism. Most of the time they are caused by a lack of knowledge about a person who is different. By a stereotyping of an entire group of people, because the person has limited or no contact with that people group. That isn’t to say that there are not true racists who are going hate no matter what. Those people exist and are a serious concern. But a lot of people have generally good intentions about others. And when they are confronted with the reality of their prejudices (in a real person rather than just on paper or by being told by others), will usually change their outlook and beliefs about that people group.

It was clear from the start, that the whole incident was a big mistake. A mistake caused by prejudices and resulting anger on both sides that quickly escalated. Which resulted in the poor actions on the part of the police officer. Both sides colored the confrontation with their own prejudices and expectations. The police officer saw a belligerent black man who refused to follow simple instructions during an investigation. And the professor saw a white overbearing police officer who was flaunting his authority and making demands of the professor in his own home. Both sides were wrong (though I tend to side a little more with the professor on this one). And yet neither side had bad intentions. The officer was investigating a possible break in, and the professor was just trying to enter his home.

And because of their good intentions, I think that Obama’s plan of getting them to sit down together will actually work. Not sure that beer was the best choice of drinks (alcohol and good judgement don’t usually mix), but the concept is still good. When they can both see and interact with each other in a casual atmosphere, then they can both realize that this whole thing was just a mistake that got out of hand. And maybe they will even become friends.