Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Cambridge Police Sgt. Jim Crowley didn’t appear to come to any understanding or reconciliation this evening – but they agreed to keep talking.
“We have all agreed that it is important to look forward rather than backward,” Crowley said at a news conference at the AFL-CIO's national headquarters two blocks north of the White House.
The Cambridge policeman told reporters he still couldn’t believe all this was happening. But he said he had a "cordial and productive discussion" with Gates, President Obama and Vice President Biden. There were no apologies, he said, but there was also no tension.
“Professor Gates and I bring different perspectives to these issues and have agreed that both perspectives should be addressed in an effort to provide a constructive outcome to the events of the past month,” he said. “I’d like to not only discuss but also like to listen to Professor Gates’ perspective and certainly he has the credentials to enlighten me a little bit.”
Before their beers in the Rose Garden, Gates approached Crowley as their two families were being given separate tours of the West Wing of the White House, the policeman recounted. Gates approached Crowley, and their two families continued their tours together.
In a blog posting on The Root.com, the Web site for which he serves as editor-in-chief, Gates wrote that “Sergeant Crowley and I, through an accident of time and place, have been cast together, inextricably, as characters – as metaphors, really – in a thousand narratives about race over which he and I have absolutely no control.“
Gates said it is “incumbent upon Sergeant Crowley and me to utilize the great opportunity that fate has given us 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.” He said, “there’s reason to hope that many people have emerged” from this event with that happening.
Him, for one.
“Let me say that I thank God that live in a country in which police officers put their lives at risk to protect us every day, and, more than ever, I’ve come to understand and appreciate their daily sacrifices on our behalf,” Gates wrote. “I’m also grateful that we live in a country where freedom of speech is a sacrosanct value and I hope that one day we can get to know each other better, as we began to do at the White House this afternoon over beers with President Obama.”
Crowley said he and Gates will talk in the next few days about another meeting – one away from the klieg lights of the media. He joked they would next chat over Kool-Aid or iced tea, as meeting over yet more beer probably would send "the wrong message."
Both men praised the president. Crowley said that in addition to providing the beers, Obama“really wanted to bring two people together to try to solve not only a local issue in Cambridge but also what has become a national issue.“
Gates wrote that he’s more comfortable being a commentator than being commented on.
“I am hopeful that we can all move on, and that this experience will prove an occasion for education, not recrimination,” he said. “I know that Sergeant Crowley shares this goal. Both of us are eager to go back to work tomorrow. And it turns out that the president just might have a few other things on his plate as well.”
Crowley was asked if the controversy was a “teachable moment” for the sergeant, as President Obama said he’d hoped this would become?
He said it was.
And the lesson?
"The media can find you, no matter where you live,” he said.