In a rambling preemption of the daily press briefing by Jay Carney, President Obama came to the podium and reopened the wound, so to speak, of the Trayvon Martin case.
He was remarkably patronizing and preachy. At times he was downright contradictory as well as repetitive. Strikes me he’s doing this on a Friday afternoon to offer grist and breast beating aplenty for the Sunday talk shows.
First he “sends his and Michelle’s thoughts and prayers to the Martin family who showed incredible grace and dignity in the way they’ve dealt with the whole situation. It’s remarkable how they’ve handled it.”
Obama went on to say that he’d leave the decision’s merits up to the legal analysts and talking heads to discuss (so why is he out there?) and that once a jury has spoken and rendered a verdict, that’s how are system works. Except it doesn’t seem like the president has accepted it and moved on or he wouldn’t be at the podium!
He said “I want to talk about context. “I said this could have been my son. Another way to put it is Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago.” Obama said he wanted to explain “why there is pain in the African American community. It is important to recognize that the African American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and history that doesn’t go away.” One would be tempted to say because people like him and others are always reminding us.
“There are very few African American men who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store. That includes me. African American men walking across the street and hearing the locks click on doors across. It happened to me. There are 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.
“Annnd I don’t want to exaggerate this, but those sets of experiences inform how the African American Community interprets what happened one night in Florida. And it’s inescapable for people to bring those experiences to bear.
The African American community is also knowledgeable that there is a history of racial disparities in the application of our criminal laws. Everything from the death penalty to the enforcement of our drug laws and that ends up having an impact on how people interpret the case.”
Having slathered up a big spread of white guilt, Obama then changed course.
“It’s not to say that the African American community isn’t naive about the fact that African American young men are disproportionately involved in the criminal justice system… 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…the poverty, dysfunction that we see in those communities can be traced to a very difficult history.”
He rambled on. “A lot of African American boys are painted with a broad brush…using that as an excuse to see sons treated differently causes pain. Statistically someone like Trayvon Martin was more likely to be shot by a peer than somebody else.” Isn’t he making a case for Zimmerman’s fear here?
Now came more of the race card: “And that all contributes to the sense that if a white male teen was involved in the same kind of scenario, from top to bottom both the outcome and the aftermath might have been different.” Yes and the coverage from the media and the Justice Department would have been different, too, I think.
“The question to me at least is where do we take this? We need to learn some lessons and move in a positive direction.” Obama then brushed aside the attacks and violence that have happened since. He says it is “understandable that there have been demonstrations, protests, vigils. “If i see any violence I will remind folks that that dishonors what happened to Trayvon Martin and his family.” Maybe he should have before now because there have been attacks and unless he has functioned without reports, he knows there have been.
Like a professor, Obama then gave some abstract ideas of what should be done. Seeming to contradict himself, Obama said this is traditionally a state and local affair. He then went on to talk about “it doesn’t mean though as a nation we can’t do some things that are productive.” You know he’s itching to get more control of local governing.
He reeled off three. They were all vague but opening the door for more Justice Department involvement. Number 1 started, for instance, with the “Justice Department, governors and mayors working with local law enforcement to work to reduce the mistrust that currently exists.” He then segued into some legislation he didn’t detail that he was responsible for in Illinois regarding racial profiling. I am surprised he had any legislative initiatives in Illinois because he shied away from any vote that might haunt him nationally.
“Number 2: reexamine state and local laws that might encourage what we saw in the Florida case rather than diffuse it.” He was referring to the Stand Your Ground Law. “I just ask people to consider if Trayvon Martin was of age and armed, could he have stood his ground on that sidewalk? Do we think he would have been justified in shooting Mr. Zimmerman because he felt threatened? If the answer is ambiguous we might want to reexamine those.”
Studies since the trial have shown that more blacks benefit from Stand your ground laws than whites. Besides, why deal in fantasy scenarios? If Zimmerman had been the aggressor as the jury thought Trayvon was, there probably wouldn’t have been the uproar. This looks like the Executive Branch itching to get in local laws and become the state legislature.
Third, “is long term – spend time thinking about how we bolster and reinforce African American boys. It’s something Michelle and I talk a lot about. A lot of kids out there need help…the more we can do to give them the sense that their country cares about them and values them and is willing to invest in them. I’m not naive about the prospects about some brand new federal program, but I do recognize as president I have some convening powers.” He wants to make use of clergy, celebrities, athletes to be involved and “help boys feel they’re a full part of the society and that they have pathways and avenues to succeed. I think that would be a pretty good outcomes to a tragic situation.”
Maybe some of the clergy, celebrities and athletes contributed to the mess. Men like Rev. Wright who are preaching revenge, drug taking celebrities and athletes who commit crimes are a big part of that contingent.
“Finally time for us to do some soul searching.” He eschewed any political event saying talk among families and work places are more relaxed venues. Obama wants us to ask “Am I wringing all the bias outside of myself that I can? Am I judging people on the color of their skin rather than the content of their character?”
His final thought was “as difficult and challenging as this episode has been for a lot of people, I don’t want us to lose sight that things are getting better. Each succeeding generation is better.” That reeked of CYA didn’t it?
It is obvious that the Obama administration doesn’t want to bury this case. They want to keep using it as a lever to shape American psyches and rights.