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Is America is Regressing on Race Relations? Obama’s Beer Summit

July 31, 2009

It’s just gets better, now that President Obama has had his beer summit with Sergeant James Crowley and Professor Henry Gates this afternoon at the White House. Enter, stage left, Leon Lashley, a Black police sergeant who was at Henry Gates’ house when he was arrested. Sergeant Lashley wrote to Sergeant Crowley before the beer summit to convey to President Obama his concerns over the Gates incident and some of the fall-out. Lashley has been labeled an ‘Uncle Tom’ and referred to as the ‘black sergeant’ as a result of his supporting his white colleague, Crowley. Lashley’s concluding comment in his letter is that the drive for racial harmony in the United States, and for that matter the world, has been set back as a result of the public uproar over Henry Gates arrest. His life has been turned upside down.

Lou Dobbs read the letter at the end of his broadcast this evening, following a live public statement by Sergeant Crowley, who I might add handled himself with extraordinary professionalism and courtesy towards the reporters who were firing questions at him. When asked if he had shared Lashley’s letter with the President he replied that he had not. We now have a second victim in the storyline – Sergeant Lashley, with the other being Lucia Whalen, the 911 caller. But the fall-out continues, with reports that police officers are being reprimanded for speaking out.

One irony emerging from this meeting is that the President’s ‘teachable moment’ may become lost, due to the cloak of silence that is surrounding what the three men discussed, along with a surprise visit by VP Joe Biden. It’s understandable that discretion be used about what was said, especially since Gates and Crowley plan to have further conversations in the near future. But given the massive uproar over this event, the teachable moment should not be restricted to just a handful of men. Let’s share not just with Americans but with the world.

Sadly, when a country can divert so much energy towards such micro-level, local events, at the expense of addressing its monumental debt problem, competitiveness with emerging economies, the growing haves and haves-not divide in the U.S., or healthcare deficiencies with respect to Americans without coverage, then it appears to have lost its way, forgetting the hard work its founding fathers expended to create a great democracy. And what of the president, whose popularity is sliding and whose energy is being diluted as he attempts to address too many issues and controversies simultaneously. Americans – and Canadians – should be concerned.

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