"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Fisking the President's Speech on George Zimmerman and Trayvon Marting, Part 2

PRESIDENT OBAMA (cont.): There are very few African-American men in this country who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store. That includes me.

I don't believe the President here.   I just don't.   I think this is more borrowed street cred, more "nostalgie de la boue."

And 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.

At Columbia University?   At Harvard?   At an elite law firm in Chicago?   At the University of Chicago?   In Hyde Park?   In all those ultra-liberal, ultra-high-educated environments, we're expected to believe that Barack Obama, whom his own Vice-President, Joe Biden, once lauded as "clean," was subjected to hostile stares and locked doors and women clutching their purses?   Again, I just don't buy this.   He's borrowing experiences to enhance his own credibility as a black man, just as he did in his memoirs.   You've heard of the "composite girlfriend"?   This is the "composite black man."

And you know, 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.

But it's not "inescapable."   This episode, which was a local law enforcement matter, was ratcheted up into a national cause celebre by relentless propaganda from the professional Left and the professional Civil Rights agitators, which portrayed Zimmerman as a small-town white racist Southern conservative, when he was really a Hispanic liberal Democrat living in a multi-racial suburb of Orlando.   Absent the propaganda, which Obama participated in, it wouldn't have been "inescapable" for people to jump to the conclusion that this was an example of racial profiling run amok.

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 enforcement of our drug laws. And that ends up having an impact in terms of how people interpret the case.

Some of this is true.   Historically the death penalty has been imposed more readily on black men than whites, and it's also true that the "war on drugs" has incarcerated more blacks as a proportion of population than whites.   If it were up to me, I'd get rid of the death penalty, because I'm unconvinced that it has a deterrent effect, and the cost of litigating death penalty appeals is too high.   I'd also make most recreational drugs legal, on the theory that people who want to ruin their lives shouldn't also ruin their communities by incentivizing criminality.   Make cocaine legal and stigmatize it just like we stigmatize smoking and alcoholism.   Marijuana is already de facto legal and I don't see that it's done much harm to society writ large.   All that being said, however, I don't know what this has to do with the narrow question of how people reacted to the Zimmerman verdict.   Black Americans didn't seem to distrust the "system" of criminal justice when OJ Simpson was found not guilty.  

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 are 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.

We 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.

This is typical, very tricky rhetoric from Obama.   He admits the "fact" that young black men are disproportionally the perpetrators of violence in America, says he is not offering "excuses for that fact," but then goes on to essentially excuse it on the grounds of "historical context," "a very violent past in this country," and a "very difficult history" in poor black communities.

And so the fact that sometimes that’s unacknowledged adds to the frustration. And the fact that a lot of African-American boys are painted with a broad brush and the excuse is given, well, there are these statistics out there that show that African-American boys are more violent — using that as an excuse to then see sons treated differently causes pain.

Obama is speaking generally, and of course it is painful for, say, a black kid who plays sports and gets decent grades and stays out of trouble and is a good guy (like a lot of kids I've coached over the years) to be looked at differently in a department store.   But that general pop-culture view of racial profiling isn't what happened here.   The Zimmerman/Martin encounter resulted from the fact that Zimmerman's complex had suffered a number of burglaries in recent months where the descriptions of the burglars all were of young black males.   He wasn't "profiling" in the sense of using a generalized view of the types of people who should be suspected of potential wrongdoing, he was acting on relevant information about specific wrongdoers.  

More to come...

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