Saturday, July 25, 2009

President Obama's beer bust with Gates and Crowley: a beer poll

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What started as a calamity threatening to divide America has seemingly ended in a planned beer bust at the White House, courtesy of President Barack Obama himself. The ill-advised (in my opinion) arrest of Harvard Professor Henry Lewis Gates by Cambridge Police Officer Sgt. James Crowley four days ago caught the attention of the nation, but it was President Obama's comment that the Cambridge Police "acted stupidly" and the rather terrible response by the Cambridge Police Union at its press conference , which created a much-needed national conversation about race, law enforcement, and American culture.

Regardless of where you stand on this issue, there's no doubt that it has been the political talk of the day, even if much of it was disjointed, nasty, and ignorant, especially online. My first video blog, which asserts that Professor Gates was arrested for being an "uppity black man", has drawn over 355 comments on alone within one day, pushing it to over 2,700 views and the 14th most commented on video in the "News and Politics" section of the giant video-sharing site as of this writing. While demographic data is not yet complete, I can say just by combing through all of the comments that the viewers were overwhelmingly male, and about 80 percent white and 20 percent "of color" at first, then on the second day more people identifying themselves as black (who really knows in the comment section, right?) pushing the result to about 60 percent white to 40 percent of color.

Some of the comments were nasty and some were excellent, but the one I liked best of all was not on YouTube, but on Facebook and made by my long-time friend and Oakland, Bret Harte Junior High School classmate Lars Frkyman (who stared with my other long-time Oakland friend from the same school and from Skyine High School, Bill Boyd, in my "Star Trek Review" vlog), who wrote (and I reprint this with his permission):

You keep fighting that good fight against prejudices. As a white guy growing up in Oakland I was beaten several times cause of the color of my skin by a bunch of ignorant angry...fill in the blank.Later in life I've been hassled by white cops because of the length of my hair and my unshaved face. I think it must be human nature to exert power over anything, whether it be pit bulls, gray hounds, the homeless, gays, women, men you name it, humans will abuse it. I guess the sad fact is there's a bully in every crowd. We've come a long way but we sure do got a long way to go eh?
ps Obama's right..stupid cop! No apology necessarry

Lars is right. The Crowley / Gates incident was one of institutional racism on the part of Crowley, versus classism on the part of Gates. Crowley keeps saying "I went by the book" which opens the door to the kind of racial profiling African Americans and others are just plain tired of. "Going by the book" just means that Crowley didn't use his own judgment in the matter, plus he let his ego get in the way when he realized this "black man" was yelling at him and not following his orders. Gates' was angry that Crowley entered his house (without a search warrant) and from his point of view did not show him his police ID or look at the professor's identification, and so was going to "inform Crowley of who he was".

Two yaks ramming heads. Only one of the yaks, Gates, represented a group of people who'd had it. Racial profiling has been the bane of the African American existence for too long, and Obama's comment that the "Cambridge Police acted stupidly", even if his words may have been poorly selected, was right on and struck a cord from sea to shining sea.  For Crowley to behave with the proper judgment in this case, many agree, would have been to make no arrest at all. But some officers are hard-wired to feel (not think) they have to make an arrest if the person's black, at least that's the perception of most African American (especially in the wake of the Oscar Grant shooting) and many whites too, like this commenter on my first YouTube video on this issue:

ALL of you are blaming everyone but whos responsible. First the media was the first person to play the race card to be exact it was CNN. Why because it will sell they know it why dont you? I am irish and white my family came to america in the 1910's we where hated by EVERYONE but my family overcame and if you want to blame someone blame the press they are the ones who plaster black men on the news every damn day and now you wonder why people are scared of blacks. All of us need to put this down.

Or just have a good, ice-cold beer or two! In fact, that's what President Obama, Sgt. Crowley, and Professor Gates plan to do at The White House. According to Obama, it was Crowley's idea, and Gates accepted the invitation. In a statement provided to "The Root" , a website covering news from a black perspective where Gates is editor-in-chief, he wrote:

"..if we can all use this to diminish racial profiling and to enhance fairness and equity in the criminal justice system for poor people and for people of color...After all, I first proposed that Sgt. Crowley and I meet as early as last Monday. If my experience leads to the lessening of the occurrence of racial profiling, then I would find that enormously gratifying. Because, in the end, this is not about me at all; it is about the creation of a society in which 'equal justice before law' is a lived reality."

Ok, fine, now what beer should they drink?

The Beer Poll

Having gotten past the arguments, we can watch Obama, Gates, and Crowley have a beer, but what brand? You can pick the beer in my poll below:

create fun quizzes & tests on

As of this writing, Budweiser has the lead over Pabst Blue Ribbon by 12.5 percent. No one picked Miller, while my favorite, Japan's Sapporo beer is even with Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, and 12.5 percent picked "Other" beers. In the interest of real diversity, pick Sapporo! But that written, the day Obama, Gates, and Crowley meet for a beer should be called "National Raise a Glass for Diversity Day."


I think it should be a day that people of different stripes deliberately get together to just get along, get to know each other, and have fun. Considering how far America's come in being a true melting pot, it's not hard to do at all.  But the rule should be to have a beer with someone who's of another background and race from your own.  That would be huge!