A Beer Bromance at the White House?
Can Obama's beer fest do anything to improve the relationship between black people and the cops who arrest them? Or does it waste valuable presidential time?
As a mother I know this: You shouldn't reward bad behavior with attention. That's why it bugs me to consider that either Professor Gates or Sgt. Crowley will be rewarded for losing their respective cools with a visit to the White House and a long tall one with the president. But as a mother I also know that sometimes it is best to ignore the small stuff and get to the more important lesson. Let's face it—either man could have been the bigger man that day and wasn't. But now both men have become proxies—and they know it—whether they want to be or not. Professor Gates has become a proxy for every black man who has ever been demeaned by a rude and possibly racist cop. But also (and I'm sure he doesn't love this) he's become a proxy for every black man with a serious chip on his shoulder. Officer Crowley has become a proxy for people he probably doesn't like very much either: thickheaded, bully cops who don't get it and pissed-off white guys who blame minorities for everything they don't have and are mad because they don't run the world.
What they both wanted that day and didn't get was respect: for themselves as individuals, as people trying to do a job and get through the day. And they both lost it. Which is what President Obama saw and why I assume he decided that he would be the bigger man and offer up the beer. So of course, Professor Gates should go—and if he doesn't want to, I do (even though I don't drink beer). What both Professor Gates and Sgt. Crowley want is what we all want: to be seen for what each believes himself to be. And the best way to do that is to be that man: face to face. Then maybe they can help the rest of us start figuring out how to there, too.