"Gatesgate" Is Over. John McWhorter Asks, "Now What?" : Blog Of The Nation Now that "Gatesgate" is over, John McWhorter wonders what we've learned from the "teachable moment." Anything?
NPR logo "Gatesgate" Is Over. John McWhorter Asks, "Now What?"

"Gatesgate" Is Over. John McWhorter Asks, "Now What?"

The White House "Beer Summit," last week. Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Last week, at many of our morning meetings, we talked about James Crowley and Henry Louis Gates, "teachable moments," and the so-called "Beer Summit." Inevitably, our executive producer would ask, "Who do you want to hear on this? Whose opinion do you think would be particularly interesting?"

John McWhorter's name came up a couple of times. Although we didn't get him on our air, McWhorter has weighed in on what Frank Rich, of The New York Times, called "Gatesgate," in a post on The New Republic's website, called "And We Have Learned -- What? The Real Lesson After The Beer."

"Any lesson we were supposed to learn from Gates-gate directly is, at this point, too thin to register meaningfully as details have come out," McWhorter writes.

The only evidence that remains of what many were hoping we would learn from all of this is that just maybe Crowley would not have arrested a white man who made as much noise as Gates did. But we can't know that -- it's just a speculation, a beery sort of one. Crowley would never admit it -- or more probably, could not be consciously aware of that bias even if he had it.

He continues, looking to the future:

And in the wake of it, it's hard to see how something like what happened to him won't happen again, beer or not. Sensitivity training, of the sort Crowley knows well, can help a bit. But in the heat of moments, Stuff will happen, impulse will take over, and subtle biases may well help determine them. Crowleys will overreact to being dissed -- as most of us would. Gateses will overreact out of contextualizing what happens to them as part of something larger -- as most black men will understand.

Blog Of The Nation