Monday, September 21, 2009

Presidents, nuts and acorns

Contrast two recent cases that received national media focus: the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and video tape of ACORN employees giving advice to individuals posing as operators of an under-aged prostitution business.

In the first case, the President declares that law enforcement officers in the Gates case, "acted stupidly" then he hosts an awkward reconciliation meeting over beers on the White House lawn. 

In the second case, the President demurs when asked to share his opinion about the ACORN workers and Congressional action to stop federal funding for their organization. President Obama did mention actions he viewed on the ACORN videotape were "inappropriate" and deserved to be investigated (could he have said any less?) but then Mr. Obama added...

"This is not the biggest issue facing the country. It is not something I'm paying a lot of attention to."

Nor should he have paid much attention to a civil disturbance involving one man in Cambridge, Massachusetts...but he did.  Mr. Gates, for his part, could have had the last laugh and made buffoons of the Cambridge police, by maintaining his cool. Instead, while being questioned, he ranted as though he had been eternally robbed of his dignity and got himself arrested.  That was the whole "news" story.

Back to the President.  At the time he uttered the "acted stupidly" remark, I had the feeling he was reacting as a man who had felt the sting of racism -- a human reaction, possibly conjured by painful episodes from his past.

I'm playing amateur Psychologist, but let's say 25 years ago, the President attracted the suspicions of some uniformed person, for no other reason than he was black and in the wrong place at the wrong time. It's completely unfair, but it happens and I bet it hurts like hell and leaves you really angry.  I get it, but candidate Obama ran his campaign as the "post-racial" choice.  Many people who've grown weary of bitter and seemingly endless racial debates are attracted to a person of color that espouses a color-blind agenda.   My point?  Living with complete indifference to race, is much easier said than done and the President would have been well-advised to say as little about the Gates matter as he said about ACORN.

To be fair, Mr. Obama wisely distanced himself from the race mongering recently exhibited by former President Jimmy Carter.  Sometimes, even racism, or reverse racism -- is colorblind.