The Teachable Moment that Wasn’t

31 07 2009

With so much that has been shouted and so little that’s been said during this “teachable moment,” I am glad that the photo-op and the platitudes that accompanied the Gates-Crowley affair has  been now put to rest over a few brewskis. We have not learned anything new about racial profiling, or had an honest conversation about racial prejudice, or matured as a nation in any way since the story broke.

Instead, we were fascinated by the fact that these two strangers of different hues are in fact very distantly related, that St. Crowley tried to resuscitate to the late Boston Celtics star Reggie Lewis, that we should not call the get together a Beer Summit, that Vice President Joe Biden does not drink at all, and that the conservatives think that our part white and part black president somehow hates white people.

But most of all we learned that the best way to not talk about race is to trivialize the issue by reducing it to the isolated prejudices of others not as a living and mutating phenomenon that may influence our split second impressions of one another.

We did not learn, however, that even if we are racist ourselves its still possible that racial prejudice may still be a factor in how we treat one another. We also did not learn about what leads to racial profiling. We did not learn why many people of color and whites sees these kind of controversies so differently.

To be sure, this incident could not have come at a worse time for the president and I certainly recognize that. He really does not have time or the interest in playing racial healer, especially when he is trying to convince the American public and even members of his own party, even with commanding  majorities in both chambers, of the merits of his health care plan.

By the same token, I cannot help but lament the fact that this was the “teachable moment” that wasn’t.




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