The Rev. Jesse Jackson says he doesn't want the controversy over the arrest of Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. to be a missed opportunity for a national teachable moment.
The "beer summit" at the White House last week cooled the dispute between Gates and Cambridge police Sergeant James Crowley, who handcuffed Gates in his own home while responding to a reported break-in.
But Jackson told the Globe today that the incident needs to lead to more national attention on red-lining by housing lenders, disparities in medical care, and other issues that go beyond "classic racial profiling" by police.
"Someone needs to have a bigger view," declared the longtime civil rights leader.
And that someone, Jackson said, could be President Obama, who increased the furor by saying that Cambridge police had "acted stupidly," then invited Gates and Crowley to have the beer.
While Jackson said he hasn't been in contact with the White House, he said the administration could direct Attorney General Eric Holder, the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, and housing regulators to get more involved in rooting out discrimination.
"I think it can happen," Jackson said. "The president has the will and vision to make it happen."
He also said that such issues are not black versus white. "When we enforce the law, we all win, when we don't enforce the law we all lose," Jackson said from San Diego, where he plans to bring a similar message today to the National Bar Association, the country's oldest group of African-American lawyers and judges.
Jackson expounds on his views in an opinion piece in today's Chicago Sun-Times, writing that the "president had it right the first time. The Gates-Crowley incident was a teachable moment."
"But a staged photo op of four guys being served beer by a waiter in the White House garden won't get that done. We need a national inquest about where we are, what changes must be made to move us forward," Jackson writes.
"The teachable moment was never about Gates and Crowley alone. It was about something society has to be very serious about: systemic racial profiling and the need to overcome it."
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.