Some Journalists Uninterested In Those Better Angels
Analyzing President Obama's statement (transcript here, from The Huffington Post) Friday about you-know-what, Slate's John Dickerson recognizes
The moment was carefully orchestrated, which is also signature Obama. The Friday afternoon surprise appearance put this weekend’s marches in context, but it also downplayed the pomp of the moment. This was not a Presidential Speech on Race. The president was not trying to lecture anyone. He was trying to explain, maybe even nudge. Everything—his words, the forum, his manner—were designed to take the air out of the supercharged moment. For a president whose leadership and powers are constantly questioned, he was doing what he had come to office promising to do: help one part of America relate to another part of America.
This middle-of-the-road President is dramatically different than the community organizer who served in the Illinois State Senate, the U.S. Senate, and campaigned for president against Hillary Clinton. But he always has taken pains not to divide Americans, and his remarks last week ought to become a classic.
Dickerson noted that "context"- mentioned four times- and balance are two of the favorite themes of this President and wrote
In an attempt to keep the message balanced, he also testified to the truth that African-American men are disproportionately linked to the criminal justice system and also "somebody like Trayvon Martin was probably, statistically, more likely to be shot by a peer than he was by somebody else." As he called for "soul-searching" from all of us, he told African Americans that they needed to deal with the violence in their own communities.
It is fashionable for conservatives and even some moderates and liberals to point to "black-on-black" crime. It is not fashionable, and is at best barely acceptable, to point out, as Obama did, "African American young men are disproportionately involved in the criminal justice system; that they’re disproportionately both victims and perpetrators of violence."
Perhaps only a black President is able to mention that, which would say a whole lot about race in America. But if liberals particularly are loathe to acknowledge the truth about crime rates in the U.S.A., conservatives never have acknowledged
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.
In recent years, even most liberals- with apologies to Cornel West and Tavis Smiley- say little about the impact of poverty and dysfunction in the black community. It might make their corporate benefactors uneasy and allow the mainstream media to brand them big-spending liberals. Can't have that.
Nearing the end of his statement, the President recommended "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. "
One can only hope that his message of unity and encouragement of "the better angels of our nature" will have an effect upon some of his strongest supporters, including Washington Post correspondent Jonathan Capeheart, who on Friday wrote
a young man named Alex Fraser took to Facebook a few hours after the verdict was read to pen a most extraordinary open letter to the killer of Trayvon Martin. I first heard about it this morning when Steve Harvey read it on his radio show. It is short, but its power lies in the ironic twist of fate for Zimmerman that Fraser highlights.
Dear George Zimmerman,
For the rest of your life you are now going to feel what its like to be a black man in America.
You will feel people stare at you. Judging you for what you think are unfair reasons. You will lose out on getting jobs for something you feel is outside of your control. You will believe yourself to be an upstanding citizen and wonder why people choose to not see that.
People will cross the street when they see you coming. They will call you hurtful names. It will drive you so insane some days that you'll want to scream at the top of your lungs. But you will have to wake up the next day, put on firm look and push through life.
I bet you never thought that by shooting a black male you'd end up inheriting all of his struggles.
Enjoy your "freedom."
A black male who could've been Trayvon Martin
Yes, because spitefulness is such a positive emotion, one sure to bring people together. It is, further, a heck of a way to convince authorities that Zimmerman's permit to carry a concealed weapon be revoked. And if it has any power, it's the power of someone rebuking a president who, for all his faults, really does want this to be one nation, indivisible.