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July 31st, 2009
11:16 AM ET

What I saw at the beer summit

Sgt. James Crowley and professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. sit down with the president and vice president Thursday.

Sgt. James Crowley and professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. sit down with the president and vice president Thursday.

Elizabeth Gates
The Daily Beast

In a world in which the conversation on race has traditionally taken a back seat to both logic and reason, it’s no wonder that yesterday’s so-called “Beer Summit” at the White House seemed to make little sense at all. It wasn’t because the President was wrong in offering up a few cold ones to my father, Henry Louis Gates, and the now infamous Sergeant James Crowley in an attempt to tame the media blitz around my father’s arrest—it was because like most issues that make their way to TMZ, the reference point had shifted.

The debate over Red Stripe and Blue Moon had somehow overshadowed the fact that this story began with a black Harvard professor and a white cop from Natick, Mass—and as CNN’s countdown clock to the event taunted viewers like a time bomb, it was clear that this day wasn’t going to be the beginning of a serious discussion on human relations but rather a circus-like ending of a misunderstanding between a couple of very decent men.

I can’t say that I was shocked.

Keep reading...

soundoff (27 Responses)
  1. RLWellman

    I can't believe the President and professor did not apologize. I guess this shows what kind of men they really are!

    August 1, 2009 at 8:16 pm |
  2. MV - Los Angeles

    Inspired by the cordial atmosphere surrounding the Beer Summit., the
    President and his White House staff are busy on plans for another one.
    Invitations are underway for Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas to toss a couple back with hosts President Obama and VP Joe
    Biden.

    Better order at least a keg for this one, though.

    August 1, 2009 at 9:26 am |
  3. Maxwell

    This is unprofessional the president is showing children that drinking beer is cool. He should be focused with other important things affecting this country but not every egg that got broken in the kitchen.

    August 1, 2009 at 8:51 am |
  4. Annie Kate

    If the beer summit was suppose to make Obama look less foolish then it didn't work – he looks even more foolish because he did this for a minor event instead of keeping the work going on the larger issues we have facing us. I'm not saying that racism isn't an important issue but I don't think this situation was that – it seems more like a clash of egos.

    July 31, 2009 at 7:03 pm |
  5. lori

    Three P's and a Vp having a beer together. Professor-black american. Policeman-white american. President- bi-racial american. Vice President-white american. I prefer: four Americans having a beer.

    July 31, 2009 at 5:38 pm |
  6. JB

    I think the comments here speak for themselves. I am white, and I am still shocked at how angry people get when the issue of race comes up. It hurts me when a respected man like Prof. Gates is vilified for being "elitist". He is the elite in this country! He fought to get to where he is, worked hard to make a name for himself, and is considered to be one of the top scholars in the country. Read his bio – he is more accomplished than most people will ever be in their lifetimes. Don't get angry or jealous – it's petty and transparent and just highlights your own insecurities and shortcomings. I'm from Massachusetts and based on Massachusetts law, Prof. Gates was not exhibiting conduct worthy of an arrest. I don't think Officer Crowley is a bad guy or a bad cop (he's actually a very good cop), he just made a bad choice – it happens all the time. Yet, this got blown out of proportion. The President is simply trying to bring everyone back to reality and smooth over the situation – everyone can relate to having a beer and talking it out. Stop the hate talk! Neither Professor Gates nor Officer Crowley spewed anything as horrible and disturbing as some of the comments I've seen on recent blogs and articles and neither one of them are racists. They would both be ashamed to have their names associated with this type of commentary.

    July 31, 2009 at 4:23 pm |
  7. Filipino-American

    I don’t know what’s worse: racism or elitism. The beer summit had both.
    It was a meeting of the elite to discuss the age-old, stagnant, black-white race issue. The meeting disregarded the progress this nation has made in black-white relations over the decades and the blacks and the whites once again took the woe-is-me spotlight to point out how difficult it is to be a misunderstood American. However, seemingly unbeknownst to them, they all highlighted the real victim of racism in this country today: Filipino-Americans.
    President of the Philippines, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was on a state visit to the White House during the so-called beer summit. President Obama, during the press portion of their meeting actively gave most of his attention questions about the “ beer summit.”
    CNN only aired the beer Q&A portion of the meeting with the Filipino president.
    At least in the form of hatred and heated debate one can see that the other cares. Showing indifference toward a race of people in the U.S. population is an unforgivable act of racism.
    The Philippines is an important ally with the U.S. They have a long history of fighting with the U.S side by side. They also have severe problems that they need our help with: terrorists look to the southern part of the Philippines as a safe place to hide and plan; most Filipinos are poor beyond imagination; and they can use our help to clean up a corrupt government.
    Does CNN, the President, the VP, the cop, the professor really care so little about the fact that some terrorist cell in Mindanao is plotting to kill Americans? Did CNN truly have no questions for the visiting president on how another terrorist attack on U.S. soil can be stopped in her country? Was President Obama truly powerless to re-focus attention on how he plans to work with President Arroyo to protect against another terrorist massacre?
    So an important message was sent to Filipino-Americans over the past two days: You don’t matter.

    July 31, 2009 at 4:16 pm |
  8. Brennis

    Sometimes I wish we as a nation did not discuss race because so many white people aren't willing to admit that it exists. Is it so wrong to believe that white people (not all but most) live in a unrealistic and eogtistical world that only acknowledges a few "problems" that black, native americans, lationos, chicanos, and asians have encountered due to the difference in character from white people.

    I guess they figure since minorities were LABELED with new, poilitically correct names and don't forget white people did vote for Obama that race issues simply don't exist and never have. LOL....I can't stand race discussions because they always bring out the blindness, surprise, and disbelief of whites. Not the empathy, understanding, and acknowledgement that it really needs to have. PAY attention would yu white people to the Black In America series, Lation in America series, and hopefully Asian in America series...they are present for your education and enlightenment....there are too many of you that are ignorant or pretend to be.

    Brennis- San Diego, CA.....and I prefer Blue Moon...

    July 31, 2009 at 4:08 pm |
  9. The Progen

    Should be 'say' instead of 'saw' in my earlier post. Oops.

    July 31, 2009 at 4:04 pm |
  10. The Progen

    This issue reeks badly of animal waste. I saw let the past and parties involved be and no one else, INCLUDING the media, comment.

    July 31, 2009 at 4:03 pm |
  11. Jayne Freeman-Washington

    I am a proud, professional African-American woman and I believe that Mr. Gates IS the racist, in this scenario. My idol was Dr. Martin Luther King, who must be turning over in his grave! Mr. Gates has accomplished nothing through his demeanor, temperament and verbal accusations, but to set race relations BACK 50 years. Merely by virtue of fate and circumstance, Sergeant Crowley and Mr. Gates were placed at the same place and moment in time. Because Sergeant Crowley was doing his job ("to serve and protect" is the phrase, I believe) Gates' accuses him of racism. Can you, Mr. Gates, not accept the fact that you are not above the law? I'm sorry to inform you, but you are a mere mortal like the rest of us! If the Cambridge Police Department failed to respond to the 911 call, would you, again, have claimed "racism" if your home had been burglarized?
    I have never been made to feel anything but equal with my caucasian peers and associates. Mr. Gates needs to learn that you don't DEMAND respect – you EARN it!

    July 31, 2009 at 3:47 pm |
  12. Rick

    I am English and live in Norway. When Obama was running for office, I, like most of Europe hoped he would win and make some changes to how Bush was running the country. Lets be honest, he did not have to accomplish much to do that. But; since this rubbish with the cop and the professor, his popularity here has dropped alarmingly. He is seen as a President that supports racism because of the way he jumped right in to support one of his own without listening to the facts. We get much more detailed info. over here, and its obvious the professor is an arrogant man and overwhelmed by his own self importance. People like the professor and like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton do more damage to the black community than a cop just doing his job, and you can now add Obama to the list.

    July 31, 2009 at 3:38 pm |
  13. Donna Wood, Lil' Tennessee

    Yes! I agree with you, Cheryl. At least the issue was being addressed. I know the premise for doing so may seem a bit sophomoric to some, but, frankly, I applaud President Obama for trying. Bravo!

    Donna Wood
    Lexington, Tennessee

    July 31, 2009 at 3:34 pm |
  14. Joe

    Professor Gates may have been rude and uncooperative with the police officer. But he had good reason to be. The arrest and intrusion occurred in Gates' own home. The home is one of the most respected of all American spaces, and the Constitution goes to great lengths to protect the home from unreasonable intrusion.

    An American citizen has no obligation to identify himself or let the police into his own home without probable cause. And there was certainly no probable cause that any crime had been committed. Sure, the cop was doing his job by responding to the dispatch. But any suspicion the cop had should have been dispelled when he arrived on the scene.

    The fact that the officer subsequently referred to Gates as a "jungle monkey" in subsequent emails only furthers the inference that the cop's conduct was influenced illegally by race. Imagine if the only reason you were seized and arrested in your own home was because you were a black man resisting the inquisition of a police officer asking questions as to why you were even in this nice affluent house and neighborhood in the first place.

    I don't think Gates overreacted at all.

    July 31, 2009 at 2:51 pm |
  15. Bonnie Martin

    I think Al Sharpton and Jessie Jackson are the ones with a real problem with race. You only see them appear when it has something to do with a black person they feel have been wronged never a white person.

    July 31, 2009 at 2:48 pm |
  16. Ed McLaughlin

    I think that the learning moment that the President is looking for, he found the moment that he spoke without knowing what he was talking about. The National lesson is to get the facts before you speak, especially when the issue is divisive or sensational.

    July 31, 2009 at 2:27 pm |
  17. Ed McLaughlin

    Please do not assume that there is ANYTHING like a routine Police Radio call! Especially calls for a possible crime in progress!

    July 31, 2009 at 2:09 pm |
  18. Marjorie Hiltner

    There was something amiss about the "Beer Summit". From where I sit, I view a completely different picture. This meeting should have been Obama and Gates meeting with the Cambridge Police Department; Obama apologizing for putting his foot in his mouth and Sir Walter Raleigh Gates apologizing for thinking he is above the law. Had SWR Gates been a white professor, this scenario would be a zero!

    Further, Obama talks about a "teaching moment". Well, he is really giving all of us a lot of those right now! He needs to point his finger back to himself. I hope this teaches him a lesson – not us, now Crowley, but Obama. As for Gates, he is one of those don't ask and don't tell. If SWR Gates actually gets robbed anytime soon, he will surely have "egg on his face"!

    This entire matter was not racial, at least not until Obama made it so. He should be mighty proud of himself! He's got 3 1/2 years left to make our country communistic, so hold on folks and block every move he is trying to make.

    Also, a late note...did you notice Obama and Biden were eating pretzels and nuts. Did they not want to show themselves swigging a beer! The "nuts" I understand.

    July 31, 2009 at 2:06 pm |
  19. mrt

    To Cheryl Gross .. You're absolutely right .. The entired incident speaks alot about the president .. He only interested in looking after his "brothers" ... If I were the president, I would not even comment about the entire deal in the first place ..

    July 31, 2009 at 1:53 pm |
  20. M Torres

    Saw a segment where people were sending you alternate names for the Beer Summit. How about White House Brew HaHa?

    July 31, 2009 at 1:53 pm |
  21. National

    Its seems like since Mr. Gates is an elite Harvard Prof. that he doesn't have to abide by an officer's demand. He acts as if he was above the law. It doesn't matter if your rich or poor, or any type of race, we have to follow the orders until their is an understanding between the parties involved. This type of thing happens everyday all over the country ut when it happens to a Harvard Professor, then its a different story – that the opposite race is against him because of his race.

    Get a grip!!

    July 31, 2009 at 1:39 pm |
  22. Margaret Hughes

    I was amazed at the disrespect the N.Y. Times showed in their article "Over Beers, No Apologies, but Plans to Have Lunch," July 30, 2009, about the "Beer Summit at the White House". The article refers to President Obama with the title president only twice, in the caption of the photo and in the first paragraph where they name all four participants. The same applies to Vice-President Biden and their use of his title of vice-president. They refer to Sergeant Crowley and Professor Gates with these titles throughout the article. President Obama and Vice-President Biden are referred to using the title Mr. throughout the article. I find this unprofessional and disrespectful for any newspaper and especially a top newspaper like the N.Y. Times.

    July 31, 2009 at 1:37 pm |
  23. Cheryl Gross

    I think it speaks alot about President Obama. He invited these two men to the White House to talk about the incident. That does not happen everyday.

    July 31, 2009 at 1:27 pm |
  24. JC- Los Angeles

    With countless qualified Americans jettisoned from their jobs each day, it's harrowing to see yet another hard working, ethical person doing his job correctly and then having to defend his actions.

    The only thing worse is having yet another misinformed president passing along unsubstantiated drivel and looking like a fool.

    July 31, 2009 at 1:17 pm |
  25. c,ca

    ...."my father, Henry Louis Gates, and the NOW INFAMOUS Sgt. James Crowley" .... What????

    Do Gates and his daughter have any concept of a world outside of their own? This woman sounds like a dumb, spoiled, version of Paris Hilton.

    – we're trying to get health care resolved (I'm sure they have excellent insurance through Harvard)
    – the situation in Iraq has been ignored by the media (all we've heard about is MJ and Gates for a month)
    – the economy is still a mess ( if you work at Harvard, you probably aren't hurting for money)
    – young kids are being sent over to fight in Afghanistan ( is Elizabeth planning to enlist anytime soon?),
    – Iran – N. Korea – etc, etc.

    The entire world is a mess, but let's put everything on hold and worry about Gates' bruised ego. Let it go, lady.

    July 31, 2009 at 12:19 pm |
  26. jonathan Dohrmann

    Beer summit what a joke the leader of the free world using his time to coddel a supposed black schlor.When you cant follow the simpest requests from law enforcment then verbally insuslt that cop yes your going to get arrested,How about a summit to end the biggest race slaps in the face. The numerous all black collegs the all black magazines the miss black America contest and of course black entertainment televison.If this was even suggested by the white community the blacks would burn our cities to the grond.

    July 31, 2009 at 11:41 am |
  27. mrt

    I am asian .. Should I go find a white policeman and make a deal with him to create a national case on white vs asian to see if Obama will interfere and then invite us to the White House for a tsingtao ?

    July 31, 2009 at 11:22 am |