Photo: Pete Souza/White House
The photo above is from The White House blog and it shows President Barack Obama leading the way to the rose garden for the so-called beer summit last Thursday. Behind the president, Cambridge, Massachusetts Police Sergeant James Crowley helps Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. navigate the White House steps. A polite gesture that says a lot about how far the relationship between the two men has come in two weeks.
On July 16, Sgt. Crowley answered a call of a suspected burglary at a Cambridge residence. Professor Gates, a highly regarded African American scholar, was trying to deal with a jammed lock at his front door when he was confronted by Crowley. Gates reportedly identified himself as the homeowner, however, the exchange ended with the professor being arrested for disorderly conduct, a charge that was later dropped. The arrest sparked a national debate on racial profiling by police and whether Gates had been arrested merely because he is black.
President Obama said the police “acted stupidly” when asked about the incident. That set off another round of heated debate. Later, the president acknowledged he should have chosen his words more carefully. In order to turn the situation into what Obama calls a “teachable moment” the beer summit was arranged. Vice-President Joe Biden joined the summit and was the only one to hoist a nonalcoholic beer.
There were no apologies but in a news conference shortly after the summit ended, Sgt. Crowley said the “… two gentlemen had agreed to disagree on a particular issue.” They reportedly made plans to do lunch soon. Sgt. Crowley may not admit it, but I think he has learned something from this situation. I believe in the future, Crowley will make sure that he is on firm legal ground before he arrests another elderly black man. And that’s a good lesson to be learned for a cop.