President Barack Obama has received worldwide recognition for his oratory skills. He has also made public statements regarding the importance of word choice. Everyone remembers his famous comments on the campaign trail back in 2008 when he responded to then opponent Hillary Clinton’s comments that “Smooth speeches do not amount to solutions to the nation’s problems” by saying “Don’t tell me words don’t matter”. However, despite his understanding of the power of language, he has made repeated verbal faux pas especially with regard to race relations. He has notably used the megaphone of the President’s office to make polarizing race baiting comments and antipolice rhetoric. He colossally mismanaged his official communications regarding the Michael Brown and Eric Garner lawful arrest cases. For it is his personal involvement in these two cases which ultimately led to the execution style murder of two New York City police officers at the hands of a “lone wolf” killer. On December 20, twenty-eight year old Ismaaiyl Brinsley shot and wounded his ex-girlfriend in Baltimore and then boarded a bus to New York City where he murdered two New York City police officers execution style while they were sitting in a patrol car in Brooklyn. Brinsley who took his own life later that day was black. His victims Officer Wenjian Liu and Officer Rafael Ramos were respectfully Asian and Hispanic. Shortly before committing this heinous act, Brinsley made an Instagram post where he threatened to “put wings on pigs” to avenge the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown.
As the whole world knows by now, Michael Brown was an eighteen year old black man who robbed a convenience store in Ferguson, Missouri and was fatally shot by Officer Darren Wilson, a white man, while resisting arrest. Instead of letting the local police and local government officials handle the investigation, President Obama sent Attorney General Eric Holder to Ferguson. Both President Obama and Attorney General Holder injected themselves personally into the situations by making public statements about how they as black men did not trust the police. In other words, they made a conscientious decision to present themselves as black men not as the President and Attorney General of the United States. It is this failure to act in their official capacity which turned Ferguson into a circus. And to make matters worse, they involved the notorious race merchant Al Sharpton. Without the involvement of this triumvirate, Michael Brown’s death would have been nothing more than the death of a local thug which occurred while resisting arrest. It would never have become an international story of the police wrongfully profiling and bullying a member of the black community. And there never would have been riots and looting in Ferguson following the verdict to not indict Officer Wilson. And without the Ferguson case, the Eric Garner case, where a black man in Staten Island suffered a fatal heart attack while resisting arrest at the hands of a white police officer for selling loose cigarettes, would never have become another international story of racial unrest. But instead, the no-indictment verdicts for the white police officers in both the Brown and Garner cases which occurred within days of each other turned our country upside down with violent riots taking place not only in Ferguson and New York, but also in other major cities across the country.
And in New York City, more fuel was added to the fire when Mayor Bill De Blasio, who is white, also injected himself personally into the situation by referencing his bi-racial son and his concerns for how he would be treated at the hands of the police. Mayor De Blasio failed in his leadership as Mayor when he practically turned a blind eye when protesters were shouting in the streets “We want death to cops. When do we want it, we want it now.” De Blasio further exacerbated an already sizzling cauldron by failing to call a violent incident against a police offer violence. Instead he called it “alleged” violence. And then to add insult to injury, at the press conference following the shootings of Officer Wenjian Liu and Officer Rafael Ramos, De Blasio blamed the media for stirring up the antipolice dialogue.
So if President Barack Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, and Mayor Bill De Blasio had spoken as leaders, instead of “rabble rousers”, we wouldn’t have had this senseless tragedy where two police office were gunned down for no reason other than their wearing of the police uniform. De Blasio has dismissed Brinsley as a troubled unstable lone wolf attacker as a way of disconnecting Brinsley’s hateful tweets from his own careless remarks. Normal people do not respond to propaganda with murder. Leaders need to think more about the fringe members of society when making controversial public statements. President Obama needs to apologize and he needs to take responsibility for his role in perpetuating this polarizing race baiting, anti-authority rhetoric. Mayor De Blasio also needs to apologize. As many are calling for his resignation, De Blasio claims that he “wants to move forward”. We cannot move forward until our leaders act like leaders and publicly accept culpability for their past actions. Only then can the real healing begin.
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