So much has been said lately about the arrest of Professor Gates in his own home. I don't and haven't felt like I've had much to contribute on the subject. I read the police report, listened to Sgt. Crowley, and read many responses on my favorite race blogs, such as Racialicious and Racism Review, and basically came to the conclusion that while I think both parties escalated the conflict, Sgt. Crowley, who I do not think is a racist, clearly demonstrated that just because you may think that you're not racist, doesn't mean that you don't act in ways that reinforce racism in America.
If anything, for me, Sgt. Crowley is a good example of how all of us, especially those who are in the business of helping others (police, social workers, politicians, healthcare workers), need to actively seek out our own deep-seated unquestioned biases. Whether it's latent racism, xenophobia, homophobia, etc., we all have deep ugly parts that, if unquestioned, can and will hurt the very people we are trying to help. I think this is an example where a pretty good man (Sgt. Crowley) was put in a situation where some of his unquestioned biases surfaced to bad effect.
Anyway, last week, I was both heartened and annoyed at Obama for his comments on the issue. Heartened because he commented, stood up for Gates, and bravely asserted that race relations are still a sensitive issue within our supposedly "Obama post-racial era." Annoyed because he so blatantly did NOT have all the facts on the situation and yet made a judgment call which then escalated the entire conflict.
Today he apologized. Said he was sorry he'd spoken without the full amount of information needed to comment on the subject. Talked to both Gates and Crowley and tried to smooth over things on both sides. Defended his decision to comment on the situation and still stuck with his original defense of Gates, which I thought was commendable. He is the world's most powerful man and he is a black man. I'm glad he's involved in conversations about race. His is a needed voice.
He said sorry. Why do I love politicians that know how to say sorry? And not just over big, youcaughtme sorts of things, but over something seemingly small that he didn't have to take on? Because it means that he is still listening. And a president who is still listening to anyone outside his advisers is a better president BY FAR than any we've had in recent years.
He didn't lie when he said he was big on communication. And I love him for it, even if I don't always agree with him.
*Update: This is a crucial blog for anyone who has any interest in the concept of implicit racism.