When our President, Barack Obama, was elected in November of 2008, I hadn't voted for him. But I took some solace in the thought that at least some of our national racial tension would now be eased. No longer could we say that a black man had less of a chance in this country, when the most powerful man in the world and leader of this nation was a black man. Then he was re-elected. Well, now surely the cries of racial injustice would be... well, not silenced, but quelled, somewhat.
Man, am I a sucker.
I'm not going to make this a blog about Zimmerman and Martin, except to note that I want to live in a country where, if the state cannot eliminate reasonable doubt, the accused goes free. Yeah, that means that O.J. walks. Yeah, that means that we miss jailing some really despicable persons. But if we can't eliminate reasonable doubt to a jury, then what business do we have taking a person's liberty?
I have long held that the most racist people in our country are the most outspoken activists against it. I have never seen the Reverend Jesse Jackson nor Reverend Al Sharpton leap to the defense of an accused white person. Yet they immediately offer damning condemnations of whites, and furious defense of blacks, in controversial cases involving mixed race crime. Given their histories, I wonder why they're considered relevant.*
But I'll admit to actually being shocked that our President is one of those people, who become instant and amazing criminal analysts based upon the race of the accused and of the victim.
Maybe I should have known better, after our President, with less than half a year in office, declared that Cambridge Police had "acted stupidly" in their arrest of black activist Henry Louis Gates. Later, our President, often declared one of the most articulate and well-spoken men ever to hold office, gave the non-apology:
"I want to make clear that in my choice of words I think I unfortunately gave an impression that I was maligning the Cambridge Police Department or Sergeant Crowley specifically — and I could have calibrated those words differently."In other words, "I'm sorry that I'm catching flack over this."**
But I thought, well, he's too smart to do that again. Barry's a lot of things, but he's not dumb.
This Spring, our President said: "If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon." Some took this to mean that he was siding with the Martin family's account of how the case went. But I thought, "Hey, maybe he's trying to remind us that there are other sides to the story, and that we should all remember the other person's point of view." Look, I make a point of trying to see the other side of things.
But today***, our President said "Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago."
Again, I don't think so. 35 years ago, Barrack Obama was a privileged kid graduating high school in Hawaii. He was a smart kid on a mission. I'm beginning to wonder if he wasn't a little smarter at that time than he is now. Because this Nobel Peace Prize recipient isn't bridging very well; he's dividing. I don't actually believe that he means to.
*Full disclosure: In early 1988, I shook Jesse Jackson's hand, following a speech that he gave at a local college while he ran for the Democratic nomination for President. (I had cut class to see the guy.) The man was a dynamic speaker. He was optimistic. He stirred that crowd up. I was impressed, and not a little shaken, by his ability to whip up several thousand people into a chant. I was at the time reminded of an After-School Movie called The Wave, in which a group of students get caught up in a fervor during an experiment about cults. I wasn't sure what he was, but I knew a force to be reckoned with when I saw one.
**Wikipedia says, "An opinion poll released by Pew Research found that 41 percent disapproved of Obama's "handling of the situation", while only 29 percent approved, and support from white voters dropped from 53 percent to 46 percent."
***On which lawmakers are trying to overturn aspects of the 1965 Voters' Rights Act, to give states more freedom to change voting regulation without the federal oversight that was found necessary for some states 46 years ago: