The President, the Professor, and the Policeman

          Four follow ups to the President’s call for a teachable moment:

          First, while Professor Gates may have been rude (and who knows how any of us might have reacted in the same situation), he should not have been arrested. Free speech protects all of us, even when we are arrogant. 

          Second, when I lived in Washington, DC, a number of African-American students described what it’s like to be pulled over in their cars by police. “DWB” was the charge of choice, as in “Driving While Black.” (One former student told me that, after dealing with a number of police pull overs, his parents refused to let him drive their BMW.) It’s understandable, then, why some individuals might be especially irritated when it comes to dealing with the police.

          Third, George Will observed that in a city with a black mayor, in a a state with a black governor, and in a country with a black president, Professor Gates, a distinguished professor from the wealthiest university in the world, has managed to portray himself as a victim. No small accomplishment that!

          Finally, my friend, Ted, an Irish-American from Boston,  surprised me when he said he had been offended by President Obama’s offer to have a beer with the two participants.

          “At first blush it sounded like a nice gesture. But think about it. Crowley is an Irish cop from Cambridge, so the President just assumes that beer is what’s appropriate for the occasion.  Imagine a white president trying to socialize with a black policeman. Could you ever imagine his saying, ‘We’ll sit down over some fried chicken and talk through all of this through’? Never! He’d be up on charges! Talk about racial profiling! And wasn’t that what the president was doing right from the start?  He had a highly educated Harvard professor disagreeing with a public servant. Whom do you think is going to be called ‘stupid’ in that scenario?”


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