If you have any doubts about how central the issue of race remains in America, consider this. The Google News front page lists the major news stories of the day. Robert Gates is in Iraq.
There are 750 stories flagged about that.
Seven men were busted on terror conspiracy charges in North Carolina. There are 1166 articles about that. The health care debate warrants 733 articles. The continuing controversy over Henry Louis Gates, Barack Obama, and Sgt. James Crowley of the Cambridge police? 2722 articles. Everyone, and I mean everyone is weighing in on both sides of the racial fault line.
Some dwell on President Obama’s “acted stupidly” comment. While truth might be an absolute defense under normal circumstances, the screaming and hollering that followed kept the story alive, and insured an Obama retraction, or “modification”, or however you want to describe it. Then the president, not “acting stupidly”, invites both Henry Louis Gates and James Crowley to the White House to share that most working class of liquid concoctions, a beer.
Hopefully, some common ground can be found here. Like maybe Crowley’s actions weren’t smart, and neither were Gates’. Do they balance each other out? That largely depends on how you look at things. If you support the police, the scales are obviously on the side of Sgt. Crowley, a cop trying to do his job who was unfairly berated first by Gates, then by the President of the United States. If you’ve ever been the victim of racial profiling, or understand how prevalent a law enforcement tool it’s been, then Skip Gates’ anger is entirely justified, as is his belief that he was treated differently because of his race.
So what does it all boil down to? Is it, as ABC News reports, a question of what beer Obama chooses for this monumental event? Is it who speaks first, who says sorry, and whether or not they shake hands?
Trust me, that’s what you’ll get as “analysis” from even the most “reputable” media. Never mind the health care quagmire, that can wait. Robert Gates (no relation to Skip) in Iraq? Big deal. Better to spend time and effort on Skip Gates, Sarah Palin, the “birthers” movement, and God knows what else. Will somebody focus on what Obama wears to this meeting? Will Gates and Crowley come dressed casual or in suits and ties?
You get the picture. Race matters. A lot. There are those who believe that the election of Barack Obama signaled a turn toward the nation’s post-racial future. Not so fast. There’s real work to do.
What do you think? Is the media overplaying the Gates controversy?