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Obama pours beer over race row
White House "Beer Summit" follows media storm over arrest of black professor.
Last Modified: 31 Jul 2009 06:05 GMT
Crowley, left, said that there were no apologies at
the meeting in the White House garden [AFP]

Barack Obama, the US president, has hosted a black professor and white police officer in an attempt to defuse a simmering race row that  erupted when Henry Louis Gates Jr was arrested by Sergeant James Crowley.   

The meeting at the White House - dubbed the "Beer Summit" - lasted just 40 minutes, but all three men agreed that something positive had come out of the incident, which had become a sensation in the US media.

"I have always believed that what brings us together is stronger than what pulls us apart," Obama, the first African-American president, said after the chat on Thursday.

"I am confident that has happened here tonight, and I am hopeful that all of us are able to draw this positive lesson from this episode."

Gates, a Harvard professor who is arguably the foremost scholar on African-American affairs, was arrested for disorderly conduct on July 16 after Crowley was called to his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts to investigate reports of a burglary.

As it turned out, Gates was merely attempting to enter his own home when the door jammed, but Gates was detained after exchanging heated words with Crowley, who the professor accused of racial profiling.

Moving forward

"We agreed to move forward," Crowley said when asked if anything had been resolved in the meeting.

"...we've learned that we can have our differences without demonising one another"

Henry Louis Gates Jr,
Harvard professor

"I think what you had today was two gentlemen agreeing to disagree on a particular issue. I don't think that we spent too much time dwelling on the past. We spent a lot of time discussing the future."

Gates said the arguments and the subsequent White House meeting have provided an opportunity "to foster greater sympathy among the American public for the daily perils of policing on the one hand, and for the genuine fears of racial profiling on the other hand."

"The national conversation over the past week about my arrest has been rowdy, not to say tumultuous and unruly," he said in a statement.

"But we've learned that we can have our differences without demonising one another."

Obama had become emboiled in the matter after he accused the police of "acting stupidly" when they arrested Gates.

'Opportunity to listen'

Earlier, the president had downplayed the significance of the meeting, saying he was "fascinated with the fascination about this evening".

"I noticed this has been called the beer summit. It's a clever term, but this is not a summit, guys. This is three folks having a drink at the end of the day and hopefully giving people an opportunity to listen to each other. And that's really all it is," he told reporters.

However, the media was kept at bay, allowed only a 30-second photo opportunity on the edge of the Rose Garden and stopped from asking questions or listening to the conversation.

According to the White House, Obama drank Bud Light, Gates was served Sam Adams Light, and Crowley drank Blue Moon. Joe Biden, the US vice-president, also joined that party and apparently drank a low-alcohol Buckler beer.

Source:
Agencies
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