Obama modeling a new way to talk about race in America

President  Obama was pitch perfect with his comeback to the reactions to his  remark that the Cambridge cops acted “stupidly” in the arrest of Harvard scholar Skip Gates.

The cop in question  did. But apparently  so did  Gates.

It has provided Obama with a nice set-up to position himself as the grown up and to model a new way to talk about race in America.

I’m still surprised how Obama blew up his health care press  conference in the first place by even mentioning  the Gates arrest, and then responding as casually as he did with the “acting stupidly” comment.

But Friday, Obama was back to being the winning politico. Normally, Obama addresses race by not addressing it. Race is an obvious part of who he is. Race is subliminal.  But as president  he has other business.   I’ve dubbed him a “race-avoider.”  The tactic has served him well.

During the campaign, all the baiting by the right, and then from Rev. Wright, never rattled Obama. In fact, the speech he gave during the Wright situation, elevated him to a point in the race that Clinton could never recover from.

Now with the Gates situation, Obama acknowledged his poor diction,  but comes back to position himself as our  consoling leader, the grown-up,  inviting the two parties to talk. Beer at Camp David, a summit on race?

It’s the perfect way to defuse this particular hot button  issue, partially because of the two parties involved. We  have Gates, the Harvard professor and Sgt.  James Crowley, who actually teaches cadets on racial profiling.

To get to a better place on race, you need rational people talking, and working things through.  You don’t get that if people are angry, stand-offish, scared to address each other

A typical race incident is normally an emotion filled event full of violence and rage.That’s the thing that gets people out on the street in vigils and protest.

Yet the Gates story  didn’t inspire race riots or public demonstrations.  He was a member of the intelligentsia, the elite. When things happen to them, they don’t riot, they talk in court. Or they just talk.

The whole things has the potentially to inspire something this country really needs.  A talk with the president and Crowley is one thing. Could it inspire a national teach-in on things like the history of racism,  or the Kerner Report?   People under 40 weren’t even born for that.

A teach-in? Beer-optional? A new America seeking a better way to talk about race, may be in need of just that.