From our own David Swerdlick, originally published in the NY Daily News:
Obama put those beers on his tab so he could get right with voters after saying that the police acted “stupidly.” And it did the job . . . for him. It was stupid for Crowley to arrest Gates for back-talk in his own home, and it was also stupid for a black President to think he could call a white cop stupid without facing a backlash.
So the President – who’s young, black and eloquent, but not everyone’s idea of a regular guy – had to crack open a beer, when he might have preferred a single malt scotch, so he could get Gates and Crowley to belly up to the bar of reconciliation and make it seem like a couple of average Joes hugging it out.
If you and I want some of that cool refreshment – and some of that racial reckoning we crave – we’ll have to buy a round ourselves.
Some say Obama’s remarks have tarnished his “post-racial” presidency. But the President never promised us a post-racial America, and clearly we don’t have one. He gave his famous “More Perfect Union” speech last year and laid out some basic ground rules, but the rest is up to us.
Gates and Crowley did us all a favor by making clear how things really are – though Obama’s election was a giant step forward for Americans, electing a black President didn’t mean we crossed the race relations finish line.
That healing “national conversation on race” you’ve been waiting around for? This is it. Obama’s not supposed to lead it. If people really want to understand each other’s views, it will have to happen in barbershops, workplaces, and, yes, bars – all of which are often still pretty segregated.