The Danger Of Combining Beer With Race (Or Anything)

An honest conversation about race, after a round of beers.

Are you kidding?

I grew up in New York City, where one takes the subway if you want to get anywhere. I distinctly remember being on the A train on countless late nights, and many St. Patrick's Days, where folks who have had one too many were not shy about expressing their views about race. It was not pretty. I'm not sure if today's "beer summit" — involving President Obama, Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, and Cambridge Sgt. James Crowley — is the way to go.

Beer makes people do strange things. I clearly recall getting home after a night of beers with some pals and then calling every ex-girlfriend I ever had — or imagined I had. Many of them hadn't heard from me since the third grade and were appalled to be hearing from me, decades later, at 2 in the morning. A big mistake. I can only imagine what weird things President Obama might do after an evening of beers. Bowling, for example.

There may have been summits in the past where beer might have made sense. Take Khrushchev and Kennedy in 1961. I don't know if JFK was old enough to drink back then, but Nikita K. certainly was. Historians note that Khruschev pretty much bullied the new president at their Vienna summit, but a sloshed Khrushchev might have been a different story.

Fast forward to the Iran-Contra scandal. Many people have misinterpreted President Reagan's words during that 1986 brouhaha, where the U.S. planned to sell arms to Iran, violating an embargo, in return for the freedom of American hostages, and use the money to illegally fund the Nicaraguan contras, who were battling the leftist government there.

When Reagan called out, "Bud, McFarlane," he wasn't necessarily blaming his national security adviser, Robert "Bud" McFarlane, for the scandal. He was simply asking McFarlane to bring him a beer. Iran-Contra sullied Reagan's reputation at the time, but had the facts been known, Congress would no doubt have repealed the 22nd Amendment and Reagan would have run for a third term.

This backs up my argument that there were many moments in history where the introduction of beer might have made a difference. I'm not making this up. You can look it up in the Guinness Book of Records.

But tossing back a couple of cold ones and then talking about race? Very risky.

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