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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.


4 Responses to “Beers at the White House”

  • Darrell Says:

    But in this case, I think his plan is a really good idea. And I have to give him credit for it.

    I disagree. I believe that in general the idea of getting together of a drink to discuss the race issue is a grand one. We can’t ever have too much communication between the various parties.

    But I object to the President getting involved in a local police matter a as well as the idea of the White House being used as a the backdrop for ‘having a beer and talking about it.’

    The federal government simply should not have an interest in mediating a dispute that goes on on a local level. Perhaps the mayor of the town should be having these guys over for a beer, not the POTUS.

    I believe that Barack Obama still believes that he is a national community organizer who can take the time to do this sort of publicity stunt while matters of much greater moment deserve his attention. He needs to get his priorities straight.

    • Jamie Barrows Says:

      Darrell,
      I agree that it isn’t really the President’s job to mediate these kinds of disputes, but I don’t think it is something he is forbidden to do either. And to be clear, he didn’t overstep his legal authority by ordering the actions of the Mayor or the Police department.
      In this case, the extreme media coverage, of what was really a misunderstanding and a minor abuse of police power, was turning the event into a serious race relations issue. By getting the two sides talking and by publicizing that event, the President defused it rather well. Are there other people who could have done it? Maybe, but since it had become a national issue, the President was going to become involved (if only through his opinion) either way.

  • Darrell Says:

    since it had become a national issue, the President was going to become involved

    I would opine that it did not really become a national issue until the President weighed in on what should have remained a local police matter.

    Simply getting national press does not make something a national issue. My federalist leanings reject the notion that the national government should even be interested in such a case — much less that the President should intervene personally. I believe that this is merely political posturing on his part.

    Color me cynical.

    • Alexander Says:

      It was not only in your national press, even in Europe the media reported for several days about this case.
      Isn’t racism a nationwide problem (not only) in the USA?
      Taken this special case as an example, it seems to me like a very nice gesture, a symbol, what your President initiated.
      People all over the nation can take it as a good example how to handle such conflicts and misunderstandings.
      (Though probably your gun-lobby won’t like this so much ;-) :-D )

      I do like Jamie’s post very much, he is analyzing the special case and the basic problem very good!
      Thank you.

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