Of all the ridiculous statements made in the news coverage of Gates-Gate, perhaps the most ridiculous is what Henry Louis Gates Jr. himself said to the Associated Press this past weekend.
"In the end, this is not about me at all," Gates told the AP. No disrespect, Professor Gates, but this has been entirely about you. And that's exactly the way the news media wanted it.
Across the media spectrum, Gates' journey from his house to the Big House has turned into a Chinstroker Full Employment Act. It opened the floodgates for umpteen legal experts, academics, political pundits and furrow-browed news anchors to go around the maypole over the implications, ramifications, and teaching moment-ications of what all agree was "a regrettable incident."
But that's not what's really regrettable, according to a New York Times op-ed piece by Brown University professor Glenn Loury about the news coverage of the Gates story.
"The ubiquity of this narrative shows that we are incapable of talking straight with one another about race," Loury wrote. "And this much-publicized incident," he added, "is emblematic of precisely nothing at all."
The real talking point, Loury wrote, should be "the plight of the millions of black men on society's margins who bear the brunt of police scrutiny and government-sanctioned coercion."
And the first topic of discussion should be: Is that true? Do millions of black men bear the brunt of police scrutiny and government-sanctioned coercion? Discuss among yourselves, please, at length and in detail.
Instead it's been Gatesapalooza festooning the front pages for the past two weeks. By now, thankfully, the chin-strokerati are down to seeds and stems. Last Sunday's Times actually failed to run a Gates update on Page 1, although a thumbsucker on the story did sit atop the Week in Review's front page.
Can't we all just agree that at this point, it's "Katie, bar the Gates."
This program aired on July 28, 2009.