The President “Recalibrates” and Gates to have “beer” with cop who arrested him

Shall we all hold hands? Should we sing “Kumbya?”

If my experience leads to the lessening of the occurrence of racial profiling, then I would find that enormously gratifying. Because, in the end, this is not about me at all; it is about the creation of a society in which ‘equal justice before law’ is a lived reality. (Henry Louis Gates, The Root)

On Friday, President Barack Obama surprised the Washington Press Corps with an impromptu jacking of the daily press briefing to “clarify” his comments on the arrest of scholar Henry Louis Gates.

More after the jump.

As some of you may recall, Obama told Chicago reporter Lynn Sweet that he was a friend of Gates, therefore biased, didn’t know all the facts, but thought the actions of the Cambridge Police Department in arresting Gates was “stupid.” This comment got a lot of “right ons” in the black blogosphere, including some “damn straights” in the Snob household.

Well, politics-schmolitics. The president “recalibrated” his statements after some caterwauling from … ahem … everywhere. He called the arresting officer a good cop. He wanted to take back the “stupid” comment and reassure everyone that he had no idea his little statement would obscure his health care initiative.

Personally, I think the president was speaking from his gut at the conference. Why anyone would be shocked that a black man who once supported legislation against racial profiling would side with his friend, another black man of stature who’d been arrested at his own home, is beyond me. He was basically standing up for another individual from his particular racial/class/income tax bracket.

(T)here are a class of black people, who like other highly accomplished people, have higher expectations, for how the police treat all people, but specifically for how cops treat them. I think it’s important to remember, when you hear Barack Obama doubling down on this, exactly what world of black people he’s rolling with. It’s worth understanding, specifically, the world of Valarie Jarrett. It’s worth understanding that Harold Ford isn’t just a black guy, he’s the scion of a southern political dynasty. This isn’t Good Times. Or the Coates family. (Though we are on our way up, Negroes. Hide your debutantes, and guard your grill.)

There’s a way of doing this analysis as a criticism–i.e. they only care because it’s Gates. Surely class plays a role, but I think seeing it that way is as reductive as a strict race analysis. (Ta-Nehisi Coates)

The black elite having each others’ back and what not. But Obama’s the president, not Cornel West, so … let the backtracking commence.

“This has been ratcheting up, and I obviously helped to contribute ratcheting it up,” Obama said of the racial controversy. “I want to make clear that in my choice of words, I think I unfortunately gave an impression that I was maligning the Cambridge Police Department and Sgt. Crowley specifically. And I could’ve calibrated those words differently.” (AP)

The officer, Sgt. James Crowley spoke with the president for five minutes over the phone and suggested that he and Gates should “have a beer” and in the name of Post-Racial America, Gates agreed.

“It was very kind of the President to phone me today. Vernon Jordan is absolutely correct: my unfortunate experience will only have a larger meaning if we can all use this to diminish racial profiling and to enhance fairness and equity in the criminal justice system for poor people and for people of color.

And to that end, I look forward to studying the history of racial profiling in a new documentary for PBS. I told the President that my principal regret was that all of the attention paid to his deeply supportive remarks during his press conference had distracted attention from his health care initiative. I am pleased that he, too, is eager to use my experience as a teaching moment, and if meeting Sgt. [James] Crowley for a beer with the President will further that end, then I would be happy to oblige.

Is it over? Can I come out now? This has been the most frustrating of boondoogles as the Gates-Crowley affair soon became a racial Rashomon-Rorschach Test for the nation. How you viewed it and who you believed often depended on who you were. If you were Harold Ford Jr., you suddenly wanted to put a foot in someone’s ass. If you were Mike Barnicle you were wondering why all these Richie Rich black folk were so darn angry. I mean. You have money and prestige! Why the long faces? The cop was just doing his job!

Then there were the folks who felt Gates was in the wrong because he got mad. I have a news flash for those folks, people get livid on cops all the time. It doesn’t always lead to immediate arrest, if arrest at all. Living in Bakersfield, Calif. I don’t know how many horror stories I hear from my landlord the “Chippy” (California Highway Patrol officer) who had all sorts of fancy pants white folk (and well-to-do Mexican-Americans) go crazy on her when they were in the wrong.

She didn’t arrest these people, she just marveled at how the same folk who were all for her going nuts on one group of people (the poors) hated the police when it came to them and their lives. There’s a certain since of entitlement, a “I can’t BELIEVE you are doing this to ME” that comes across, especially when it was the officer who made the error like in the Gates case. So he went nuts. Again, I repeat, unless he went Hong Kong Fooey on Crowley with his cane, seriously, where was the threat other than the threat of Gates annoying him? Crowley had the badge, the gun and the power to take away someone’s freedom and Gates had … his mouth. That’s not exactly a fair fight.

But not that we’ve entered the shangri-la phase of this saga that will hopefully end with beer photo-ops at the White House, we can put a Rodney King-esque “Can’t We All Just Get Along” tag on the end of this debacle. What have we learned from this, kiddies? Can’t we all just get along? Apparently not yet. We’re not quite at “Kumbya” in so-called Post-Racial America.

33 thoughts on “The President “Recalibrates” and Gates to have “beer” with cop who arrested him

  1. Sounds to me like all black men, including the president, have been put back in their places at the end of the day. Dang I wish he had not retracted his statement…but then again I guess it really wasn’t stupid if you know you can get away with it when all’s said and done.

  2. This article reminded me that I look forward to the day when we are truly a classless society, black or white. When we pay special attention to a person’s socio-economic background or breeding, we’ll continue to experience inequality and divisions based on race and class. Highlighting and glorifying our economic, political and family connections only separates us. Just say no to Snobbery! Hee, hee

  3. he shouldn’t have retracted his statement, especially after the non apology from the arresting officer, are we all living in a police ? Do we not allowed to speak freely in our own homes without a cop abusing his authority. Are arrest meant to punish people for having a bad attitude?

  4. What have we learned? We’ve learned anew the depths to which the grossly irresponsible news media will go to mine for humanity’s darker impulses and sleazily exploit them for cheap ratings. The first day this story broke, I distinctly remember there wasn’t much fuss. But then it got cranked up to full volume the next day, turning this into yet another, as you say, national Racial Rorschach test.I’m white and I pretty much see both sides of this. I think Gates was a damn idiot for shooting his mouth off, and I think Crowley was a damn idiot for ARRESTING him. Both should have known better. What were they thinking? As Obama said, anyone in Gates’ situation would have been hopping mad. But Gates knew what forces he was messing with by losing his cool. (I got written up for some nonsense recently by a jerkass cop on a power trip. I was SEETHING, but I kept my mouth shut, hard as it was.)But in Crowley’s case, what the hell did he think he was accomplishing by arresting someone who, after all, was only yelling at him? And as someone who was handpicked by coach anti-profiling classes—you can’t buy this kind of irony!!!—he of all people should have known he was playing with fire. Ridiculous. As someone who sees both sides of this, I bristle the same amount when I hear blacks dismissively condemn the cop as a racist pig, as when I hear idiots like Sean Hannity whine "Gates should have been GRATEFUL!" (WTF?)

  5. When are we going to stop engaging in our own oppression? We can’t continually complain about how horrible "white people" treat "us" and how "racist" they can be when we give them positive feedback for acting in such a manner.. On a side note.. I would like add that Police officers in the US are generally out of control. This is more than just a straight up race issue…

  6. Jeanette, I agree. 100 percent. Another case in which black people need to stop accusing every white man of racism.

  7. he should have. it’s dumb to comment on something without all of the facts. we don’t know what happened after ID was presented nor do we know what gates side to berate him. but we all need to be cognizant that cops can arrest you for whatever they feel like. mouthing off and being belligerent to a cop isn’t smart.

  8. I agree that Obama shouldn’t have retracted his statement but if he hadn’t that would have been something for people to gripe on for a very long time. Also, I think it was definitely wrong for him to call Sgt. Crowley and Crowley’s "Let’s get a beer" statement/non-apology was demeaning to the President’s office.

  9. Let’s be honest here. The president was in a catch 22 situation when he was asked the infamous question about Gates and the Cambridge’s policeman actions. The president could have either commented honestly, commented dishonestly, or not commented at all. He chose the former. If he had dodged the question or lied about how he felt, he would have been ostracized by the black community and the news media. Instead, he chose to comment honestly–but in doing so, he made a personal statement that became political. He used the word "stupidly" to discribe the policeman’s actions and the news media later used his words to inflame the situation. The Cambridge fraternal order of the police got involved and made it worse.On Friday, President Obama did not retract his statement, he merely "clarified" it to cool the flames that were getting out of hand–significantly due to how the media used his words and put a spin on his original comments. I don’t view his decision to clarify his words as giving in; he did NOT take back that he felt the police were wrong for arresting Gates in his own house; he did NOT take back what he said about racial profiling, in general. In coming out the next day to clarify his own words (rather than use his press secretary), I think the president showed courage in trying to calm a situation that was getting out of hand. I didn’t hear the president say let’s stop talking about race. Instead, he seemed to be saying maybe we can use this situation as a "teachable moment" to discuss the issue(s) without all of the yelling or closed-mindedness. Let’s look at it this way: Crowley and the Cambridge police might be smiling on the outside, but they are surely thinking about what happened on the inside. Isn’t that what we want–law enforcement officers who think about their actions before they respond?BTW. Where were the black activists, advocates and critics on Wednesday night and later Thursday to help provide some "moral" support for president who was getting bashed by the news media 24/7 for speaking from his his gut with honesty and forcefullness–calling out the Cambridge police and re-emphasizing the importance of addressing the racial profiling of blacks and hispanics? It’s funny how we want to to criticize the president now and say he caved, but did we really support him and let him, the media, and the world know that we Did in fact like how he handled the situation initially? Were we on TV making the claim equally as forceful as the Cambrdige police to counter what the news media were saying? Were we writing letters to the editor or blogging in support of the president? No, we could barely be heard. Now we have the nerve to get made at him for trying to calm a situation that clearly was headed in the wrong direction.

  10. Isn’t it odd that Obama comments on the Skip Gates scandal, but damn near mute on Sean Bell case?I’m just sayin’

  11. Thank you NEW CENTURY WOMAN!! BLACK BLOGGER’S are all over the place saying the PRESIDENT ( SOLD OUT, HE DID NOT!! how can you have a BLOG and not report accurate information!! The President did not move from his original opinion! he chose to use different word’s! and it was CROWLEY who wanted to come to the WHITE HOUSE for a beer! and to take this further, CROWLEY look’s as if he is mixed!! he has some black in him somewhere!!!Do some of you people want a RACE WAR? or what? have you heard RUSH LIMBAUGH lately? this is as good as he want’s! and some of you (NOT PAYING ATTENTION FOLK’S ) want this Black President to be GANGSTER TWENTY FOUR SEVEN!! well thank GOD he is not!! you can tell the DEPTH of a person from the word’s they write! and some of you people need to PAY ATTENTION!The shame is that, BLACK MEN came on TV the next day and CONDEMNED the President for defending their BLACK TAIL"S! what a bunch of PITIFUL BLACK MEN!!! did they have the President’s back? NO!! and some of you people say he should have stuck to his gun’s! PLEASE give me a BREAK!!!! what he should have did was come back out the next day and tell BLACK MEN, that they BETRAYED him! they threw him under the BUS BIG TIME!!ROWLAND MARTIN and AL SHARPTON was on their job as usual, and the rest of those SHAKY so called (FIELD NEGRO’S) were on TV acting like CERTIFIED COON’S!!!!!!! so the next time the President is asked to comment on a BLACK MAN being mistreated, his comment should be ( no comment, I don’t get involved in RACIAL matter’s)!!!

  12. There are alot of cases that don’t make the news, Monica. Perhaps when the Cops are right they media will blast the news over and over again, but when they’re wrong they get that stuff out of the media quicklly. It just hurts that the cops are not held accountable when it comes to Black people and the media and the rest of America (white, Asian, and Latina) really don’t care. Just want this bull crap to go away, I get tired of Black people only fighting when something happens to them. But we need to keep the fight going against the bad police who abuse their authority and the institutionalized racsim that exists within these police departments. If Obama apolpogized to Isreal, in another country, for making a fair speech, it ain’t nothing for him to retract anything he says here in America. I’ll be impressed when Skip Gates and Bill Cosby and them join the fight against police abuse and their practices of institutionalized racism, until then this is just some media non-sense. They got a President apologizing to a white cop, please?!

  13. Mattie, I was with you until you started making the "coons" comments. Why don’t you take that scare-tactic rhetoric back to Oncervative Talk radio and televsion. I thought this was the "Black Snob", I didn’t know it was just for white people to spew their hatred. I ddin’t read no one on here saying anything out of line , until I read your post. White women are the most racist creatures on the planet. It just never discussed.

  14. Um, can someone get Mattie some Rescue Remedy or something before an aneurysm gets blown?Hey Snob, your piece was spot on…and I like your use of quotation marks around the word ‘clarify’…heehee. Folks, listen up. NewCenturyWoman is correct. Mr. President made no such retraction. What he had said on Friday was: I regret that my heartfelt, possibly poorly chosen words, which I shall not retract, pissed some people off. Oh well. Maybe we can all have a beer, or something…

  15. Black Prophet,As a white woman I can honestly tell you that I have never heard any of MY white female friends ever use the term "C##N", the "N" word, or even the term "Negro". Mattie – I sincerely hope you are black just to prove Prophet wrong.

  16. I don’t feel that he made a retraction either. I found it amazing that the same Black men who usually stand up for the Republicans because they are Republican could sit on screen and say that the President should not have been involved. How do they look themselves in the mirror. To hell with Republican/Democrat/independent crap in a situation like this. And to my surprise, the first person who was upset with the "stupidly" was Whoopi Goldberg on TheView. I sat there with my mouth open to hear her dissaproval of just that word, which to me, was a mere word given what had happened. Oh well, My President didn’t back down and I am Proud of him.

  17. I agree that Rush Limbaugh and the rest of the mainstream Klan are loving this situation, and so is the so-called "liberal" media that they love to decry, because they’d do anything to get ratings. Think of all the times a "journalist" and their media outlets have sold out our fighting men and women just to prove that they had the inside scoop on whatever war was raging at the time. Like the Bible says, "The love of money is the root all evil."Only two things bother me about the President’s "retraction," as the media calls it: The first, is that it was seen as a retraction and not just clearing up what he said, because he made the statement before he had all the details. And I agree that not all cops are bad, and it wasn’t fair to make a statement that might paint those who serve in Cambridge with the same broad brush. The second, is that certain White people (you know the "race card" variety) might take it as a sanction of their racist behavior and attitudes. Being White does not make you right. If only someone would BEAT that into Rush Limbaugh’s fat, druggie head. And, yes, I do mean that literally. Lol. I’m just glad sweeps is a long way off, because the media would be working overtime fanning the flames otherwise. Hopefully, the drama will die down soon and the President’s health care plan will get the support it needs… Hopefully.

  18. Black PROPHET, this is MATTIE, and I am AFRICAN AMERICAN!!!! and I don’t hold back!!! I am a PROPHETESS! called of God and not of MAN! and it matter’s not to me if you agree with me or not!First of all I take HEED! do you? now I may get intense, but, that has to do with my CALL! as you know, the OFFICE of a PROPHET is to REBUKE! I took heed to the reaction of BLACK MEN after the President stood in their DEFENSE! and I will not take back any word’s I wrote! now I will REPENT to GOD but, not to you!!Black Prophet, this nation is in TURMOIL, so when the President decide’s to come forth and speak in behalf of INJUSTICE, he is in ORDER! and the one’s that REBUKE him are out of order with GOD!

  19. @ Mattie, et alI totally don’t mind you commenting, but could you help keep the discourse polite? Everyone’s views are to be respected here at The Black Snob. We’re attacking arguments, but never each other. Let’s try to keep that in mind.Thank you.

  20. Monie said: Isn’t it odd that Obama comments on the Skip Gates scandal, but damn near mute on Sean Bell case?Obama’s comment re: the acquittals of those 3 cops was one of the reasons I almost did not vote for him: when he said, "we are a nation of laws…", as if to say don’t yall Black nyc folks start rioting now. Just forget that this young unarmed Black man was shot a gazillion times on his wedding day by a bunch of guys who did not id themselves as cops, and these cops are going to walk, just remember we are a nation of laws…Granted he was still campaigning, but now as the President this would have been a prime example for him to address this issue. But what does he do, call the pissed off White cop and apologize for a comment many people agreed with, often because they experienced it themselves.A few months back there was a White female journalist at the White House that Obama inadvertently called dear, or miss, can’t remember which. Of course a big deal was made of him not respecting her role as a professional (gag), so what did he do? He called her and apologized. Wonder if he will apologize to the Black people who are pissed off that he once again molly coddled White conservatives in this country (remember the apology for the guns and religion comment), but I’m not holding my breath.

  21. Obama should apologize. He admitted he knew nothing of the facts but then went on to judge the cop’s actions. All he had to do was say that he didn’t know enough about what happened to comment but he took the reporters bait and stuck his foot in his mouth. I’d hate to think he made the comment on purpose to appease black folks but I have to wonder b/c I generally give him credit for being a bit more savvy.

  22. If the latest news on this subject is true, then the Cambridge police are willing to release the audio captured from their mics soon. I get the feeling a lot more people are going to be "recalibrating" once we get to finally hear what happened for ourselves.

  23. I never thought I would say this, but sometime I wish Obama were more like Bush. In the sense that Bush didn’t give a damn who he pissed off and of all the stupid incohherent things he said I don’t recall Bush every rediricting or changing a statment, he certainly never took any of the crazy things he said back. Bush and company had some of the worst ideas in the world, but Bush didn’t care…he used the majorities that the repubs had in the congress for almost 6 years to push whatever he wanted through. Including an illegal war, unlimited defense contracts for Cheney and Rumsfiled’s cronies and the Patriot Act. Obama on the other hand seems scared of something. Right now the dems have solid majorities in both the House and Senate…the country is ready for REAL CHANGE…but Obama and his people seem to be giving more of the same stuff. For instance on healthcare…Obama is having to scape and beg for a public option…but it seems to me with the majorities and public mandate that he has the discussion should be about single payer or universal insurance…not begging and scratching for one public option. Make the whole damn thing public.

  24. It seems to me there was no safe response to the Gates situation. If Obama said he wanted to focus on healthcare, he’d be condemed for avoiding the question. If he’d have agreed with what the cops did, he’d be crucified. I think he gave an honest answer and admitted that he didn’t have all of the facts and that Gates is a friend. I really feel sorry for our president. He not only has the task of cleaning up the mess of the last 8 years but he’s also got to set the racial tone in America. He did not call the policeman stupid. He called the behavior stupid – I think he said "reacted stupidly." Of course, him being who he is, he could’ve said something different. I personally think it’s ridiculous that they’re all going to have a beer together. I think it’s ridiculous that the policeman had to pull out his "I love black people" card. I’m not saying that this was or wasn’t racially motivated, but am open to the possibility that the policeman was just a jerk and would’ve arrested anyone in this situation. I’m also open to the idea that Gates could’ve provoked this situation. If there is an audio of this arrest, I’d love to hear it.

  25. Just keep this whole meme up on how Gates is defendable.Gates was screaming on the porch of his home at a police officer that drew a crowd of people. Gates behavior could cause a riot putting peoples lives in jeopardy. He was arrested because of that likelihood. Is that so difficult to understand?

  26. Brandi:Obama said the cops acted stupidly in arresting Gates. Since only one cop made the arrest I can only assume that Obama was speaking about the one officer that made the arrest even though he used the plural But then again, since he had already admitted he didn’t know all the facts, maybe he thought there was more than one cop arresting Gates.I too hope the police release all the tapes but even if they do I doubt that some people will change their mind about the incident.

  27. Obama’s machiavellian instincts – if he’s really got any – should’ve told him to keep his mouth shut since he wasn’t there and the accounts given by the parties involved do not give a clear picture. If he didn’t consider it worth his while to take a stand on the Sean Bell case – which ended in the young father’s death – then why stick his nose in Gates’ arrest? Sounds like uppity, self-congratulatory you-know-whats (with one foot in the establishment) looking after their ilk whilst not being too keen to speak up those more marginalised than themselves.

  28. i’m over this story…what i am curious about is where was skippy gates when that young lady was not allowed to graduate from harvard this past may just for being the roommate of the girlfriend whose boyfriend shot a drug dealer…that same girlfriend of the drug dealer was allowed to graduate….

  29. Snob, can we add a line of code that recognizes "mattie" and applies an ALL CAPS to lower case function to anything they write? Please.

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