Posted on July 31, 2009

Obama Hosts White Cop, Black Scholar

Ben Feller, AP, July 30, 2009

With mugs of beer and calming words, President Barack Obama and the professor and policeman engulfed in a national uproar over race pledged Thursday to move on and try to pull country with them.

There was no acrimony–nor apology–from any of the three: black Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., white Cambridge, Mass., police Sgt. James Crowley who had arrested him for disorderly conduct, and Obama who declared on national TV that the police had “acted stupidly.” But neither Gates nor Crowley backtracked either, agreeing they still had differences.

Said Obama after the highly anticipated, 40-minute chat at a picnic table on the White House South Lawn: “I have always believed that what brings us together is stronger than what pulls us apart.”

“I am confident that has happened here tonight, and I am hopeful that all of us are able to draw this positive lesson from this episode,” said the nation’s first black president.

Under the canopy of a magnolia tree in the early evening, Obama joined the other players in a story that had knocked the White House off stride. Vice President Joe Biden joined them for drinks and snacks.

The policeman and the professor both expressed respect for each other after their dispute had unleashed a furor over racial profiling in America.


Thursday’s meeting did not include Lucia Whalen, the woman who called 911 to report the potential break-in. {snip}

“We agreed to move forward,” Crowley said Thursday night when asked if anything was solved in the meeting. “I think what you had today was two gentlemen agreeing to disagree on a particular issue. I don’t think that we spent too much time dwelling on the past. We spent a lot of time discussing the future.”

For his part, Gates said he and Crowley had been caught up as characters in a much larger narrative about race over which they had no control.

“It is incumbent upon Sgt. Crowley and me to utilize the great opportunity that fate has given us,” Gates said in a statement. He said their task must be to foster sympathy among Americans about “the daily perils of policing on the one hand, and for the genuine fears of racial profiling on the other hand.”


In Massachusetts, meanwhile, a black sergeant who was with Crowley at Gates’ home said he’s been maligned as an “Uncle Tom” for supporting the actions of his white colleague, according to an e-mail that CNN said it received from the sergeant.

The officer, Leon Lashley, said he “spoke the truth” about the arrest, and he said Gates should consider whether he “may have caused grave and potentially irreparable harm to the struggle for racial harmony.”