As the New York Times explains, “President Obama did something Friday that he hardly ever does — and no other president could ever have done.”
He addressed the racial fault lines in the country by laying bare his personal anguish and experience in an effort to help white Americans understand why African-Americans reacted with frustration and anger to the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting of Trayvon Martin.
Many have responded to the President’s heartfelt, and deeply personal, words with empathy and admiration. The black experience in America both exists and needs to be recognized.
“Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago,” Mr. Obama said, adding that “it’s important to recognize that the African-American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that doesn’t go away.”
He said there are “very few African-American men in this country who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store” or “the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she had a chance to get off.”
“That,” he said, “includes me.”
Touching. True. And revealing of the fundamental failure of this President, the nation’s first African-American president, to scratch the surface of his promise, no less fulfill it. How dare he tell this story.
These words come from the mouth of the President of the United States of America, the man whose Justice Department, whose armed agents, whose judicial selections, whose bully pulpit, have directly perpetuated every problem of which he complains. It’s not merely that he hasn’t done anything to help the problem, but that his administration has done everything possible to exacerbate it.
You are damned straight that the perception of blacks as criminals, as a race to be stereotypically feared, continues in this country. And it’s held by the people under your direction. And it’s used by them to destroy tens of thousand of lives. And it’s perpetuated by your people, your actions and your inactions.
You are the President. Do something about it.
Mr. Obama called on the Justice Department to work with local and state law enforcement to reduce mistrust in the policing system, including ending racial profiling. He also called for an examination of state and local laws to see whether they “are designed in such a way that they may encourage the kinds of altercations and confrontations and tragedies that we saw in the Florida case.”
Nearly midway through your second term and this is the best you can do? Did it not dawn on you that being black in America was a problem when you were first elected? Is the “mistrust in the policing system” a PR problem, or is it destroying lives of young black men daily, hourly. You know, men like you?
While others praise the honesty of your feelings, I call bullshit. This is tepid crap, trying not to harsh the love of law enforcement that you apparently feel compelled to court at the expense of African-Americans. Nice how you wove your way through the thicket of not calling cops violent, racist haters who deem every black kid a criminal, one way or another. How sweet that there is nobody on your payroll to blame for having prisons full of black faces.
Sure, there is the tried and true excuse that the nation would reject you as their beloved leader if you favored your own kind, used the power of your office to take care of your own. It would feed those who cried that a black man should never be president because, well, for the reasons Earl Butz said.
Guess what? This term you’re a lame duck. Last term, you were just lame. You can’t run for re-election and have nobody to fool anymore. Put on your big-president pants and stand up for principle. You want to impact racial prejudice, then do something about it. And start at home.
There are a litany of failings of the Obama administration when it comes to the lives of black Americans, from your shocking failure to exercise the pardon power to your opposition to gay marriage (oh right, you changed your mind when the wind blew), to your failure to tell your Attorney General and Justice Department to stop locking up every black kid with a joint in their “stop & frisked” pocket.
Yes, you could have been that black kid too, the one who smoked a little weed because that is how life is lived on the mean streets. But then, you didn’t get caught, so you got to be President instead. And you’ve squandered it.
It’s not too late. Cut the tepid “call on the justice department” nonsense and make something real happen. You won’t be president much longer, and you’ve already blown almost all of your time and clout on trying to convince people you aren’t some radical. Get radical. Get something.
If you can’t put the clout of your office behind changing your own people’s perception of blacks as criminals, as the enemy to be feared, then your presidency will amount to a racial footnote. Will some hate you if you stand up for hard, actual principle? Sure, but plenty hate you already and would hate you no matter what you do. Get over it.
When your time is up, and it will be soon enough, do you want to look back at a nation as racist as you left the White House as when you entered? Will that be the Obama legacy?
So some lawyers understand why people are so angry. Is it just CDLs?
CDLs may see more of it than people doing other stuff, but I doubt it’s either just CDLs or all CDLs. I suspect a lot more people see it, but just don’t have any reason to give it much thought as it doesn’t affect their lives. People tend not to waste too many brain cells thinking or caring about stuff if it doesn’t touch them.
So you don’t think the idea of appointing Ray Kelly to a cabinet post is a good indication of how serious Obama is about the problem?
I considered mentioning Ray Kelly in the post, but since it’s speculative at the moment, decided to just include a jab at stop & frisk for now. But then, if he appoints Kelly at DHS, well…
It is not just CDL’s. I do nothing but transactional work and I see President Obama’s failure to rein in DoJ in the drug war (especially with respect to marihuana in states that have decriminalized it) as a complete betrayal of those who believed him when he said he would curtail enforcement in those circumstances. Worse, since his reelection he has not used his clemency powers at all: are there no injustices in the federal penal system? I am not even sure what DoJ is supposed to be for anymore, but it damn sure is not being used to secure the rights of ordinary Americans against encroachment.
To be fair, I was once a clerk at the Public Defender’s office locally, still have an interest in criminal law and procedure and my best friend is a CDL, but this stuff makes me mad too.
[Scott: the directions for posting say that the HTML tag for links is okay to use. You may want to revise the instructional text to be consistent with your link policy.]
Good idea about the HTML tags. Thanks.
A countdown clock that’s the ticket. Like the one you posted in honor of our last lame duck. One frying pan after another though, it seems like. Nothing gets better.
Of all the things I didn’t anticipate from an Obama win, it was that he would be worse than Bush. It’s been a monumental disappointment, and suggests to me that there may be no coming back from the abyss.
Worse than Bush? Hardly. But while I was unsure about hope and change I do know I never once hoped he’d change into Richard Nixon.
I agree. Change. Hope, not much.
Otherwise — besides his lack of leadership concerning how law enforcement perceives young black men — you’re ok with Obama’s comments?
Is there another language that you would like the post translated into that you would find more comprehensible?
That’s not an answer to my question. And I don’t mind being called stupid — you’ve done it before, and perhaps at that time I was “stupid,” though, really, that is not on the list of top five complaints against me.
My question wasn’t stupid. And since you’re not stupid I’m not going to insult you by “explaining” what I meant. You didn’t like my question; you believe your prose, which is of course widely admired, should speak for itself with respect to all comers; you’re sick of me; whatever.
But my English is pretty good, Scott.
My point was I already answered your question in the post to the extent it related to the issues. I could write a book about problems I have with pretty much any administration, so if you expected a fully-blown all-encompassing answer to your one line question, beyond what I already wrote in the post, you were asking far too much of me. I’m not here to write 10,000 words to satisfy your off-hand (and utterly irrelevant) curiosity about my general feelings toward Obama.
For future reference, these are called “comments,” not “questions,” for a reason. See, when you write “that’s not an answer to my question,” do you think I am obliged to answer your question? Are you entitled to my answer upon your demand? I don’t think so.
And as for your assumption that I thought your question was stupid (which was not what I said, but apparently should have given your reaction), I’m sorry you have self-esteem issues that cause you to assume people think you’re stupid, but they aren’t my fault.
Well if SHG won’t say it, I will. Your question was stupid. Your reaction was even stupider. You have problems. Seek help.
Be nice. He may be a bit wacky and inappropriate, but Ron is still a friend.
“Whacky”? Oops, sorry, that had a question mark!
Hey, there’s no criticizing typos on a blog. It’s poor manners. Plus, I can correct it because I know the secret handshake.
It took me a few hours to figure this out. No — I was not calling you out for a typo. For Heaven’s sake, I’m a blogger, and a damned sloppy one at that. No; I actually thought this was a neologism I’d missed out on, some sort of combination of “wacky” and “whack.”
Cause, you know, wacky I am absolutely cool with.
Nah. I’m not that smart.
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No, our country is not racist. We simply place things in the category of “racist” to avoid having to think too deeply about them. Most of the people in prison have “black” faces? It’s because a disproportionate percentage of crime is committed by black men (against other black victims). Now, are there socio-economic reasons for that, owing to the vestiges of discrimination in this country? Sure. But don’t tell me that “nothing has changed” when we have a black president, a black person in charge of the justice system, and a black justice on the Supreme Court. (I can’t even count the number of times that my white liberal friends would tell me how the country would “never” elect a black president; we were such a racist society after all). The problem with calling things “racist” is that the word becomes meaningless because it is never defined. Being “racist” used to mean thinking that blacks were actually inferior. Since no one thinks that anymore (aside from perhaps a tiny percentage of crazy people), the term “racist” is used to describe things that you don’t agree with. Don’t like “stop and frisk”? It’s racist. Want to do away with the war on drugs? Call it racist. Don’t like a particular verdict? Must be racist. Indeed, I’m surprised at this post, given the umbrage CDLs have taken at the criticism of the Zimmerman verdict. You guys say you don’t understand how people can ignore the trial testimony and think that Zimmerman should be found guilty and imprisoned despite the lack of evidence. Well, that’s what happens when you encourage people to stop using their brains and emotionally respond to any bad result against a black person as “racist.” You’re telling them over and over again that the justice system is rife with racism; how could they trust any verdict?
I don’t know which is worse, that you’re utterly incomprehensible or that you’re utterly insane. Either way, nice tin foil hat you got there.