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Editorial: Race, and beer

President Barack Obama, right, and Vice President Joe Biden, left, have a beer with Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr., second from left, and Cambridge, Mass., police Sgt. James Crowley in the Rose Garden of The White House in Washington Thursday, July 30, 2009.(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Maybe what Worthington needs is a large-scale "beer summit."

That's what media reports deemed Thursday's meeting between President Obama, Cambridge, Mass., police Sgt. James Crowley and Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. Obama invited Crowley and Gates to the White House for beer in an attempt to tone down racial controversy following the president's remark that police "acted stupidly" in arresting Gates. Crowley is white, Gates is black.

Meanwhile, there was no beer on tap Wednesday at Minnesota West Community and Technical College's Worthington campus, where a panel discussion on diversity took place. Instead, participants watched a documentary on racism and shared their insights.

Of course, the events at the White House and Minnesota West are different in other ways than the presence of alcohol. For starters, one is by all means more about political spin for Obama than a constructive dialogue about race.

We would like to think, however, there is some common ground between what Obama coordinated Thursday at the White House and what transpired Wednesday in Worthington. Crowley, Gates and the president got in the same room to presumably share their perspectives on the same incident. In Worthington, people expressed their personal thoughts to one another after all watching a film on race together.

At Minnesota West Wednesday, District 518 translator Herminio Nuñez Lopez said: "We need to move on and see ourselves as more than skin color." We agree wholeheartedly. To move on, though, events like Wednesday's discussion in Worthington and Thursday's get-together in Washington need to continue to happen, and people need to strive to understand one another's viewpoints and life experiences instead of reacting reflexively to them.

And if it takes a beer or two to make that happen sometimes, so be it.