On September 27, President Obama spoke in front of the annual Congressional Black Caucus award dinner and made reference to the Ferguson, Missouri police shooting. By implication, he basically convicted the officer, Darren Wilson, and indicted law enforcement in general of being guilty of racial profiling. The entire text of the speech can be found here.
At this point, we still don’t know exactly what happened on that day when Officer Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown. There are two competing versions of the incident and Wilson did, indeed, suffer facial fractures around his orbital area. The President should not be fanning the flames of this case, flames that have already been fanned enough. Just this week, a Ferguson police officer has been shot.
In reading Obama’s words, it sounds like he is describing American police of 40 years ago. No thoughtful person would argue that African-Americans have not suffered various injustices at the hands of police in the past. When I was growing up in Los Angeles, no black person could drive through Beverly Hills without being stopped and asked what business he or she had in the area. Today, there are plenty of safeguards in place to prevent that. Yet today, in high crime inner cities, police-citizen encounters are still frequent for many sound reasons. It is the responsibility of the police to treat people professionally and with dignity while still ensuring their own safety. In areas where crime and violence are common, that is not always an easy task.
When I was a DEA agent working in Pittsburgh in the late 1980s, we had occasion to make a vehicle stop and arrest of a black suspect in a black neighborhood as he was driving off with a kilo of cocaine. He was absolutely guilty and later convicted on this drug transaction, but in the confusion of the moment, another black motorist driving in front of him was also stopped and detained. As it turned out, this second person was not involved. We quickly sorted it out and released him with profound apologies. His response was that it was alright, and that he was glad law enforcement was in the area. On another occasion in Los Angeles, years earlier when I worked with US Customs, we arrested a totally innocent person when a group of (guilty) suspects fled from a house during a bust. This one person was simply at the wrong place at the wrong time and was stopped on the street in the middle of the fleeing culprits. He actually spent the night in jail until the next day when we determined he was not involved. He was very gracious about the whole thing, though he had every right not to be. By the way, he was white.
As for President Obama (and his attorney general, Eric Holder), once again a certain bias against police has been revealed. Both assume the worst in Ferguson, just as the President assumed the worst about the police when his friend, Professor Henry Louis Gates, was arrested in Cambridge, Massachusetts in an encounter with the police at his home. Naturally, they find a receptive audience in the highly partisan Congressional Black Caucus, a body filled with politicians who engage in racial politics. It should also be noted that Michael Brown’s parents were present in the audience. This should send a chilling message to Officer Wilson.
Eric Holder’s tenure as attorney general has made it clear that he has turned the Department of Justice, a department that I served with pride for over twenty years, into an entity of leftist and racial activism. He apparently believes that America is still a racist country where African-Americans are still being downtrodden by white America, a problem, in his eyes, that he must fix. Holder was also present in the audience and was singled out by Obama for a salute on the announcement of his leaving DOJ. It is fitting that the President would honor Holder. Once again, by the words in his speech, Obama has shown that he agrees with Holder’s racial views. That’s why he appointed him in the first place.
But what kind of message did Obama send to a young black male in some inner city who is traveling down the wrong path? The message was that it is those racist white cops who are hassling you because you are black. How constructive a message is that?
President Obama came into office as the “post-racial president“, a man who was going to bridge the divide between white and black. In contrast, he, along with the assistance of Holder, has done the exact opposite.
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