Bob Franken

Obama, Gates and Crowley–The Picnic That’s No Picnic

Never underestimate the pundits’ ability to trivialize. So let’s ponder one more time the president’s promise of a Rose Garden to the professor and the cop.

We’ve all had great fun with the buildup up to what we’re now calling the “Beer Summit.” The White House started going along with the fun once cooler heads there realized they could turn the president’s embarrassment over speaking stupidly into a picnic.

There they’ll be: Harvard Professor Henry Louis “Skip” Gates, the African-American; Cambridge Police Sgt. James Crowley, the white one; and President Barack Obama, the one in the middle, literally.

It would probably be useful to invite Sonia Sotomayor for the “Wise Latina Woman” perspective, but she’s not coming.

That’s actually a shame, because studies show that Hispanics suffer the same racial profiling that is at the heart of this discussion. How sad it is that anyone has to move through society resigned to the probability he or she will arouse suspicions, and maybe roust up the police, simply for being a person of color.

Obama, always one to try and make the best of a situation, is calling this a “teachable moment.” Perhaps it is. Unfortunately the problem of racial alienation in this country is still so deeply ingrained that it will take more than a moment to address it. Still, it’s a start.

Maybe. At least the three of them can begin with what they have in common. They do share one grievance: They are sick and tired of the annoying treatment by the media, which have turned this serious issue into something that will have its moment of theater outside the Oval Office, and then slip out of our memories.

After they’ve struck the set, we can move on to the next important problem. We can also treat this one as a mindless distraction, to be used up and then discarded, like so many paper plates and plastic beer glasses.

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