Yesterday President Obama delivered extended observations on the Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman case to reporters, on a seemingly impromptu basis. Obama’s comments were widely praised, and Paul gave them a characteristically generous assessment here yesterday. My own view of Obama’s comments is more negative, and I also think it is important to put Obama’s often high-sounding statements about race in the context of his administration’s deliberate promotion of racial division to advance political ends.
Yesterday, Obama began:
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.
As many have pointed out, Obama could have been Martin only if he had committed an unprovoked aggravated assault. As far as I know, the Choom Gang was non-violent.
There are very few African American men who haven’t had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That happens to me — at least before I was a senator. 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.
It sure does. Why? Because everyone knows that African-American men commit ridiculous numbers of crimes, especially violent crimes. Obama, of course, knows this is true, and more or less acknowledges the facts:
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’re 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. They 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.
No, actually, it can’t be. Slavery is now 150 years in the past, and legal segregation 50 years. Yet the social pathologies exhibited by the African-American community, especially black men, have gotten worse, not better, as these dark eras have receded into the past. Until the 1960s, for example, black labor force participation was higher than white participation. How bad are the facts here? Heather MacDonald provides some details:
In fact, if a black parent wants to radically reduce his son’s chance of getting shot, he should live in a white neighborhood. New York’s crime profile is typical of urban-crime disparities across the country. The per capita shooting rate in predominantly black Brownsville, Brooklyn, is 81 times higher than that of predominantly white and Asian Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, according to the New York Police Department. Blacks in 2012 committed about 75 percent of all shootings in New York, and whites a little over 2 percent, though blacks are 23 percent of the city’s population and whites 35 percent. Blacks are 60 percent of the city’s homicide victims. Their killers? They aren’t white.
The picture is the same nationally. Black males between the ages of 14 and 24 committed homicide at ten times the rate of white and Hispanic males combined in the same age category in 2008, resulting in a homicide victimization rate nearly as disproportionate. As for interracial crime, black homicide offenders in 2010 had nearly three times the absolute number of white and Hispanic victims as there were black victims of white and Hispanic homicide offenders, despite blacks’ much lower population numbers.
Crime perpetrated by African-American males is an enormous problem, and one from which blacks, for the most part, suffer. Skating around the issue as Obama did, and as liberals always do, is unhelpful at best. Obama continued:
I think the African American community is also not naive in understanding that, statistically, somebody like Trayvon Martin was statistically more likely to be shot by a peer than he was by somebody else. 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 and that context is being denied. 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.
I don’t see how the outcome would have been different: does Obama seriously think that if it was a white man who jumped Zimmerman, knocked him to the ground, pounded on him and beat his head into the pavement while threatening to kill him, that Zimmerman would have thought, “It’s OK, he’s white?” On the other hand, the aftermath certainly would have been different. We have heard of Trayvon Martin only because he was black. If he had been white or Asian, he would have remained anonymous like so many other victims of violent African-American criminals.
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….
This has become a common theme on the Left: stand your ground had nothing to do with the Zimmerman case, but let’s talk about it anyway.
[F]or those who resist that idea that we should think about something like these “stand your ground” laws, I’d 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? And if the answer to that question is at least ambiguous, then it seems to me that we might want to examine those kinds of laws.
Obama is rumored to have been a lawyer at one time, but there is little evidence of that fact. “Stand your ground” laws don’t say that you can open fire on someone because you “feel threatened.” The Florida jury instruction is typical:
If George Zimmerman was not engaged in an unlawful activity and was attacked in any place where he had a right to be, he had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he reasonably believed that it was necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.
As is so often the case, Obama uses the “bully pulpit” of the presidency to spread misinformation. But what was most striking to me was his conclusion:
And so we have to be vigilant and we have to work on these issues. And those of us in authority should be doing everything we can to encourage the better angels of our nature, as opposed to using these episodes to heighten divisions.
Here Obama employs the reasonable-sounding tone that has always been his greatest asset. And no one would disagree with the sentiment he expresses: that “those of us in authority” should not try to “heighten divisions,” but should “encourage the better angels of our nature.” That would be a good description of, say, the George W. Bush administration. But does Barack Obama practice what he preaches?
No. On the contrary, the Obama administration and the Democratic Party consistently seek to aggravate racial divisions in order to advance their political agenda. We saw this when Democratic Congressmen falsely accused Tea Party demonstrators of using racial epithets. We see it on almost a daily basis when the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee accuses Republicans of being motivated by racism whenever they try to advance conservative principles. We have seen it, to an outrageous degree, in the wake of the Zimmerman case.
This morning, Andy McCarthy wrote an article in National Review titled “The Obama Administration’s Race-Baiting Campaign.”
The attorney general of the United States is engaged in a shocking extrajudicial publicity campaign. Eric Holder is prosecuting George Zimmerman in the court of public opinion because he knows he wouldn’t have a prayer of convicting him in a court of law. Worse, in doing so, Holder is quite deliberately stoking resentment and tension — under the guise of leading a “national conversation” about race.
At precisely the same time, the United States secretary of health and human services has loathsomely injected race into the debate over Obamacare. Toward the conclusion of this week’s NAACP grievance fest, Kathleen Sebelius took the podium to demagogue Obamacare opponents. The fight against them, she inveighed, is reminiscent of “the fight against lynching and the fight for desegregation.” She made these inflammatory remarks just as violence was erupting over Zimmerman’s acquittal in the Trayvon Martin shooting, no small thanks to Holder’s accomplice, Al Sharpton.
Andy could have compiled countless more examples of race-baiting by the Obama administration and Obama’s party. Why do they do it?
[R]ace-baiting is the last resort of scoundrels whose insipid policy claims cannot survive collision with real-world conditions. The incitements that transform policy debates into an us-versus-them rumble are not about race per se. They are about advancing a hard-left agenda through the community organizer’s crude bag of tricks — the extortion that Alinskyites euphemistically call “direct action.” It is what happens when social-justice prescriptions turn out to be unjust and unworkable.
Sebelius is not agitating because she actually believes there is some faint connection between Jim Crow and opposition to socialized medicine.
That’s right. The Democrats know that their accusations are lies, and that their behavior is contemptible. That conduct–stirring up racial antagonism for political gain–starts at the top, with Barack Obama.