Many people hoped that the election of a black President of the United States would mark our entering a "post-racial" era, when we could finally put some ugly aspects of our history behind us.
That is quite understandable. But it takes two to tango. Those of us who want to see racism on its way out need to realize that others benefit greatly from crying racism. They benefit politically, financially, and socially.
Barack Obama has been allied with such people for decades. He found it expedient to appeal to a wider electorate as a post-racial candidate, just as he has found it expedient to say a lot of other popular things-- about campaign finance, about transparency in government, about not rushing legislation through Congress without having it first posted on the Internet long enough to be studied-- all of which turned to be the direct opposite of what he actually did after getting elected.
Those who were shocked at President Obama's cheap shot at the Cambridge police for being "stupid" in arresting Henry Louis Gates must have been among those who let their wishes prevail over the obvious implications of Obama's 20 years of association with the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Anyone who can believe that Obama did not understand what the racist rants of Jeremiah Wright meant can believe anything.
With race-- as with campaign finance, transparency and the rest-- Barack Obama knows what the public wants to hear and that is what he has said. But his policies as president have been the opposite of his rhetoric, with race as with other issues.
As a state senator in Illinois, Obama pushed the "racial profiling" issue, so it is hardly surprising that he jumped to the conclusion that a policeman was racial profiling when in fact the cop was investigating a report received from a neighbor that someone seemed to be breaking into the house that Professor Gates was renting in Cambridge.
For those who are interested in facts-- and these obviously do not include President Obama-- there has been a serious study of racial profiling in a book titled "Are Cops Racist?" by Heather Mac Donald. Her analysis of the data shows how this issue has long been distorted beyond recognition by politics.
The racial profiling issue is a great vote-getter. And if it polarizes the society, that is a price that politicians are willing to pay in order to get votes. Academics who run black studies departments, as Professor Henry Louis Gates does, likewise have a vested interest in racial paranoia.