What the Gates-Crowley “Teachable Moment” Really Teaches

Dennis Prager
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Posted: Aug 04, 2009 12:01 AM
What the Gates-Crowley “Teachable Moment” Really Teaches

Readers on the left will be shocked, if not incredulous, to learn that neither I nor any conservative I know realized why the president asked Vice President Joseph Biden to join him, Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., and Cambridge police Sgt. James Crowley for their fabled “beer summit” at the White House.

I had simply assumed that the president invited Biden in order to lessen any tension by having someone with no connection to the case join the meeting. Likewise, another conservative, the producer of my radio show, Allen Estrin, assumed that the vice president was in the area and was spontaneously invited to join the trio. My engineer, Sean McConnell, just wondered why the vice president was there.

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We were all blindsided by the reason that liberals apparently instinctively understood: to provide racial balance, as it wouldn’t look right if Sgt. Crowley were outnumbered two to one by blacks. In the words of the New York Times coverage of the event: “to add balance to the photo op that the White House presented: two black guys, two white guys, sitting around a table.”

This is highly instructive.

The fact that Crowley was outnumbered three to one by liberals meant little or nothing to most Americans on the left, because they deem race far more significant than values. Most conservatives, on the other hand, saw the president, the vice-president, the Harvard professor and the police officer, not two blacks and two whites. Indeed, such a calculation would have struck most conservatives as absurd: Was Sgt. Crowley supposed to think, “Hey, great, another white is at the table; now I feel secure”?

In order to deflect attention from the president’s gaffe in declaring that the Cambridge police “acted stupidly” right after acknowledging both that he was a personal friend of Louis Gates and that he did not have all the facts, the president and his liberal supporters have told us that the Crowley-Gates incident would be a great teachable moment for al Americans.

It has indeed turned out to be, but not at all in the way the president has meant it to be.

All it has taught, indeed reconfirmed, is how much more race-conscious the left is.

And it has taught us once again us that no matter how little anti-black racism actually exists in America, most blacks and nearly all of the left deny this. That the vast majority of non-blacks are either proud of the fact or could not care less that a black man is president of the United States apparently means next to nothing to most blacks and most liberals of all colors. Too many blacks and liberals continue to see whites as racist and therefore to see black-white interactions as race-centered even when they are not.

In my 27 years of broadcasting I have taken a many calls on air from black listeners some of whom have told me that I do not what I am talking about when I speak about how little white racism there is in America. I am not a black, they argue, and therefore cannot possibly know how bad it is. These callers tell me that they experience racism every day as a black person.

My response has always been to ask, “OK. What was the racist incident you experienced today?”

In every instance, the response was something along the lines of, “Well, not today.”

To which I have always responded with another question: “OK, what was the racist incident you experienced yesterday?”

And, again, nothing was ever cited.

I don’t give up. I then ask the caller when the last time was that he or she experienced racism. Answers to that are usually unclear.

My point is not that there is no anti-black racism in America. It is that there is much less than most blacks and liberals think. Even when one assumes that ill treatment was due to racism, it is often difficult to know for certain.

I then provide my listeners with this example: Years ago driving home from synagogue, both my sons and I were wearing yarmulkes, or skull caps. A convertible car filled with young boys sped past me and yelled into the car “F--- you” and called my wife a “b---ch.”

I then said to my family, “I have finally experienced anti-Semitism in America.”

I decided to follow the car and, to my shock, they screamed the same obscenities at other cars, none of whose occupants were discernibly Jewish.

It turned out that the event was not what I was certain, and had every reason to believe, was an example of anti-Semitism, but just an example of young thugs acting thuggish.

So here’s the teachable moment: Harvard historian Louis Gates talked back to a police officer because he was treated as a suspect when he felt he should not be, given his fame as a Harvard professor. The professor was certain that the only possible explanation for such treatment was that he, Gates, was a black and the officer just another racist white policeman. The professor was wrong. The president was wrong. The press is wrong. Liberals are wrong. Even most blacks are wrong.

Many American non-blacks -- even those who did not vote for Barack Obama -- were hopeful that the election of a black as president of the United States would mean the end or at least the beginning of the end of the black and liberal view of America as racist.

And here’s the other teachable moment: We were quite naïve. As far as most liberals and blacks are concerned, nothing has changed.

Too bad.