It’s Friday. A local trial didn’t go the way that the D.C. crowd wanted. So now the African-American who won two presidential elections can take another round denouncing America as a racist country and demanding that it put itself through the bias wringer.
This is the second time that Obama delivered an extensive set of remarks about the Trayvon Martin case. It probably won’t be the last.
Obama said he and his deputies were considering a few concrete policy options in the wake of the Zimmerman verdict, such as trying to train state and local law enforcement officials how to better deal with issues of racial bias, and exploring whether state laws such as “Stand Your Ground” might “encourage the kinds of altercations and confrontations” rather than defuse them
So Obama Inc. will be targeting Stand Your Ground laws and harassing local law enforcement on behalf of criminals… more than before.
It is important, Obama said, for individual Americans to “do some soul-searching” about their own inherent racial biases, and ask, “Am I wringing as much bias out of myself as I can?”
“That would, I think, be an important exercise in the wake of this tragedy,” he said.
So does that include him?
If so, perhaps Obama could turn on the laundry wringer, put in some of his best shirts and ask himself why he keeps monopolizing public time and resources on divisive issues.
And maybe he can ask himself whether there might be some bias in his pursuit of a Latino homeowner who shot in self-defense when he was being beaten by a 17-year-old thug?
Or is the bias wringer just for other people?
You know, when Trayvon Martin was first shot, I said that this could have been my son. Another way of saying that is Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago.
Isn’t this the essence of bias? If you’re going to take the big job, shouldn’t you look at 17 year olds who get shot equally, not based on whether they match your skin color?
There are very few African-Americans who haven’t had 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 happens often.
These days they clutch their purses and wallets every time Obama gives a speech. And with good reason.
Now, this isn’t to say that the African-American community is naive about the fact that African-American young men are disproportionately involved in the criminal justice system, that they are disproportionately both victims and perpetrators of violence. It’s not to make excuses for that fact, although black folks do interpret the reasons for that in a historical context.
We understand that some of the violence that takes place in poor black neighborhoods around the country is born out of a very violent past in this country, and that the poverty and dysfunction that we see in those communities can be traced to a very difficult history.
And so the fact that sometimes that’s unacknowledged adds to the frustration. And the fact that a lot of African-American boys are painted with a broad brush and the excuse is given, well, there are these statistics out there that show that African-American boys are more violent — using that as an excuse to then see sons treated differently causes pain.
I think the African-American community is also not naive in understanding that statistically somebody like Trayvon Martin was probably statistically more likely to be shot by a peer than he was by somebody else.
So — so folks understand the challenges that exist for African- American boys, but they get frustrated, I think, if they feel that there’s no context for it or — and that context is being denied. And — and that all contributes, I think, to a sense that if a white male teen was involved in the same kind of scenario, that, from top to bottom, both the outcome and the aftermath might have been different.
But hasn’t Obama just admitted that a white male teen would have been less likely to have been involved in such a scenario?
I’ll give Obama credit for saying the normally ‘unsayable’ here and essentially admitting that we’re up against an irresolvable problem, but all he’s really doing beyond that is acknowledging emotions. What is this accomplishing besides setting everyone’s nerves on edge one more time.
We all know the statistics. We all know that we all know the statistics. We all know that the black community isn’t happy about the reality. We’re not happy about it either.
So having gone through this, Obama delivers a plan that fails to address the actual crime rates, but instead scapegoats homeowners and law enforcement.
That doesn’t mean, though, that as a nation, we can’t do some things that I think would be productive. So let me just give a couple of specifics that I’m still bouncing around with my staff so we’re not rolling out some five-point plan, but some areas where I think all of us could potentially focus.
So number 1. Target law enforcement for being racist… even though Obama just admitted the facts.
Number one, precisely because law enforcement is often determined at the state and local level, I think it’d be productive for the Justice Department — governors, mayors to work with law enforcement about training at the state and local levels in order to reduce the kind of mistrust in the system that sometimes currently exists.
Number 2. Target homeowners.
Along the same lines, I think it would be useful for us to examine some state and local laws to see if it — if 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, rather than diffuse potential altercations.
I know that there’s been commentary about the fact that the stand your ground laws in Florida were not used as a defense in the case.
On the other hand, if we’re sending a message as a society in our communities that someone who is armed potentially has the right to use those firearms even if there’s a way for them to exit from a situation, is that really going to be contributing to the kind of peace and security and order that we’d like to see?
Obama is admitting that Stand Your Ground isn’t the issue, but he’s going after it anyway to discourage vigilantism. And intimidate people who might want to defend their property.
And for those who resist that idea that we should think about something like these “stand your ground” laws, I just ask people to consider if Trayvon Martin was of age and armed, could he have stood his ground on that sidewalk? And do we actually think that he would have been justified in shooting Mr. Zimmerman, who had followed him in a car, because he felt threatened?
If Zimmerman had been beating his head against the sidewalk?
Number three — and this is a long-term project: We need to spend some time in thinking about how do we bolster and reinforce our African-American boys?
Notice that this is the only part of the plan that addresses the real issue but also lacks any detail. When it comes to cracking down on cops and homeowners, Obama has all the answers. But not when it comes to black male crime rates.
And then finally, I think it’s going to be important for all of us to do some soul-searching… and at least you ask yourself your own questions about, am I wringing as much bias out of myself as I can; am I judging people, as much as I can, based on not the color of their skin but the content of their character? That would, I think, be an appropriate exercise in the wake of this tragedy.
Thanks everybody, you’ve been a great audience. Now wring out all your souls and their biases. Good night and enjoy the weekend.