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?