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July 2009 - Posts

A Teachable Moment

That's what the President called his meeting between Officer Crowley and Professor Gates. "A teachable moment."

I can only interpret this, having come from his lips, as an opportunity for him to teach us. So what did he teach? From everything I've seen, the only thing he has concentrated on is that, in his mind at least, racism is still alive and well in the United States. The white man is still oppressing the black man. Quite a statement since he hosted these two people at his picinc table in the White House lawn. Yes Mr. Obama, this is a teachable moment, but not the kind that you think. In the end, though, I did learn something.

But before what I actually learned, what might have been learned if a wise man had been in charge? Well, a number of things. First and foremost what he might have used this opportunity to 'teach' is that racism in the United States, as a systemic, institutionalized problem is in fact dead. If Mr. Obama's election isn't proof enough, this event proves it yet again because in fact, nothing happened. No one was hurt. No one was lynched. While Mr. Gates may have made an ass of himself, and Mr. Crowley might have popped off emotionally, the system recognized that an error had been made and dismissed the charges. What a wonderful process! Police work is a dangerous, anxiety filled job. Mr. Gates spends his days studying racism. Drop sodium into water and it will explode.

Another thing he might have used this moment to teach is that even leaders screw up. Injecting himself into the middle of this was the height, the summit, the very pinnacle of unprofessionalism. Especially after admitting that he didn't have all the facts. This is a Joe Biden-level, foot-in-the-mouth screw up. If Mr. Obama had any sense of accountability he'd have accepted the blame for the entire scenario being blown out of proportion and met these two men to apologize for criticizing an event he didn't know a damn thing about, which he admitted up front.

But I think the most important principle he might have used this unfortunate mole-hill-made-into-mountain to do, is to point out the difference between racism and a racist. Racism is a systematic process, usually supported either directly or through inaction by a government, of discrimination against a particular set of people because of their ethnicity. Like the Arabs against the Africans in Darfur, where hundreds of thousands have been killed, maimed, and raped, and millions displaced. That is racism. Or like the Nazis against the Jews, where six million were murdered. Or the Russians against the Ukranians. Or the Tutsis against the Hutus. Or the white South Africans against the black South Africans. Or the blacks in Zimbabwe against the whites in Zimbabwe. Or the Turks against the Armenians. Or the white Americans against the Native Americans. Or the white Americans against the black Americans up until the second half of the last century. That is racism, and as a systematic government policy, or even as a broad socially accepted practice is, in the United States, dead. Not a nervous cop who arrests an unrully man and the charges later dismissed.

On the other hand, there is nothing you can do about a racist. There will always be people who dislike those of a different ethnicity. Whether it is a white Mississippi redneck who hates blacks because the South lost the Civil War, or a black Detroit thug who hates whites because he blames them for his plight, or a North Korean stooge who hates Americans because he thinks we want to kill him, or an Austrian skinhead who hates Jews because he thinks they manipulate the world monetary system, or an Arab who hates Americans because he thinks we're keeping them down, or whatever, we will never get rid of these idiots. But this isn't racism, and in fact, neither of the men involved in this recently blown-out-of-proportion-event fit the profile of racists. Racists are people who want to blame others for their problems. Instead of getting off their asses and trying to better their lives, they sit and moan, and share hate-filled stories of how much better their lives would be if only so-and-so hadn't done such-and-such to their great-great-grandfathers.

Unfortunately, instead of teaching us these principles and exalting the way America has by and large eliminated systemic racism, Mr. Obama did what all politicians do. He pandered to his base. He talked about racism in vague terms but not so vague as to veil his belief that it was white on black - afterall that is the only form of racism. Then he rambled something about a teachable moment. In short he did what he always does, woo the masses with his voice of honey while providing nothing substantive.

In the end however, it was a teachable moment. He taught me alot about himself.

Futbol Guru,