I don’t know if anyone is calling Sgt. James Crowley a racist after his arrest of Professor Henry Louis Gates in Cambridge, Mass. I am not. I don’t think the officer should lose his job. I don’t believe either one of these men should be bearing all the weight for the wrongness of the situation. But there is wrongness, and while each of them bears some responsibility for the wrongness, it goes beyond them—to us.
Last year candidate Obama bravely (and perhaps expediently) challenged Americans to a national dialogue on race. This time he is calling for a teachable moment and inviting both men for a friendly sit-down and the White House. But every day that the first African American President is in office is a reminder of his race challenge. I know that this will aggravate many people I know: I truly believe that much (not ALL) of the criticism of the President (stuff like: he’s not an American, he’s a Muslim, he’s a socialist, he’s a slimy liar, he’s the worst President ever) is born of our failure to address feelings about having an African American President.
But the challenge is not for a national argument or a national battle. A dialogue doesn’t have to have winners and losers. Raising race as an issue doesn’t have to declare bad people and good people. It is in that spirit that I posted my own story a few days ago. I’m thrilled that many of my friends understood the spirit, and responded accordingly.
Now, in the same spirit, I am prepared to address the actual situation in Cambridge. I do so again desiring no pity, no guilt, no winners or losers—just mutual understanding and perhaps further racial progress. In the post to come, just imagine…