As Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates and Cambridge police Sgt. James Crowley prepare for beers with President Obama, some hope the toasting at the White House will be just the start of new, long-needed conversations about race in this country.
"There's no reason to sweep it under the rug. For too long in our history we have just not wanted to have this conversation," Democratic strategist Donna Brazile said today on ABC News' "This Week With George Stephanopoulos."
"We can have a very constructive face-to-face conversation -- pull the resentment, the fear -- so that people can come to a point of tolerance and acceptance," she said.
Crowley arrested Gates at the Harvard professor's home in Cambridge, Mass., earlier this month on a charge of disorderly conduct. Gates allegedly argued with Crowley, who was at the home to investigate a report of a possible break-in. Gates later said he and his driver were trying to open a broken lock on his home.
White House Press Secretary Gibbs said on "Fox News Sunday" that the meeting over beers could happen soon.
"Sgt. Crowley told the president he was game, and I read that professor Gates is the same way, so hopefully we can get that done in the next several days," he said.
But that meeting may only be the start of the healing.
Cambridge Mayor E. Denise Simmons told ABC News today that the city will host a forum on race later this summer.
"What this has provided us is an opportunity to look at an unfortunate situation and look at what we can bring out of that to make our city better," Simmons said.
"It's about having community dialogue, giving people a constructive opportunity to talk about what's on their mind," she said.
"We don't live in a color-blind society, and Cambridge is no different than the rest of the country," Simmons said.
Georgetown professor Michael Eric Dyson, a sociologist and an Obama biographer, told CBS' "Face the Nation" that Gates' behavior toward the police officer at the time of his arrest was unusual. Gates was said to have yelled at Crowley and called him a racist, according to the police report.
"Most black men would never say what professor Gates allegedly said, according to Sgt. Crowley," Dyson said. "We are too scared."
Dyson remembered being ordered to take a sobriety test at a 3 a.m. traffic stop in New Jersey while a Ph.D. candidate at Princeton University. When he told the police officer he was a teacher and a Baptist priest, Dyson said the officer replied, "Yes, and I'm the ... president of the United States."
"Racial profiling is real," he said.
On "This Week," Brazile recalled how her parents warned her brothers to stay quiet and keeping their heads down when being confronted by police.
"There remains in this country a history -- a painful, shameful history -- of racial profiling," she said. "And it's not that black people walk around waiting to be called victims, it's because it is a dreadful fear."
Gates and Crowley are expected to head to the White House soon after being invited by President Obama to meet with him over beers.
"I think the president sees this as an opportunity to get dialogue going on an issue that has had historic -- that has been historically troubling and one he has worked on and they both seem very eager to move forward," White House adviser David Axelrod said today on CBS' "Face the Nation."