Ever since that whole Travon Martin case made international headlines, I promised I would not blog about it, since almost every other blogger, political pundit and commentator would be doing the same thing. Furthermore, I felt the case had been over hyped (thanks in part to the MSM), and making some kind of blog entry would only add more credibility to something that was being marketed as some kind of groundbreaking civil rights case and a gauge on race relations in the U.S.
But when President Obama gave an impromptu speech about his personal experience as a man of color in the United States and the racial profiling and discrimination that black Americans endure throughout much of their lives, I felt I had to say something.
In his speech, Obama conveyed the illusion of sincerity as he addressed the attitudes towards people of color from many white Americans.
“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. 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.”
The President was also quick to point out the government’s historical and present role in oppressing black people.
“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.
“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.”
Now, it would be one thing if these words had come from Barack Obama, Chicago community organizer or Barack Obama, U.S. Senator from Illinois. But they came from the mouth of Barack Obama, President of the United States. He is literally the head of state, the commander-in-chief, the top government official in the nation. If he really wanted to change the way American blacks, and other people of color for that matter, are treated by government and society as a whole, he has the power to do that. If he has the will and authority to authorize military action in any country he wants without requiring an official declaration of war from Congress, then he most certainly has the power to change the way government treats black people.
Let’s take for example the War on Drugs, which has done more to oppress black people than slavery, Jim Crow and the Ku Klux Klan combined. Most drug offenders come from the black and brown communities, despite the claims that whites are reportedly the largest consumers of illicit narcotics. Many state and local proponents of the Drug War refuse to relax the often harsh punishments for selling and distributing illegal drugs, repeating the claim that the federal government has set the precedent for American drug policy.
Testimony offered by the New York Civil Liberties Union before a hearing regarding the state’s drug policy stated the following:
“…nationwide, blacks are 38% of those arrested on drug charges, 59% of those convicted on drug charges, and a stunning 74% of those sentenced to prison for a drug offense. In New York State in 1996, 18% of the population was black but 68% of the drug admissions to prison were black. In New York, African-Americans and Latinos comprise over 94% of the drug offenders in New York State prisons. At each stage of the law enforcement and criminal justice systems, blacks are disproportionately subjected to the harsher consequences of drug laws.”
Because blacks are disproportionately involved in the trafficking and distribution of illegal drugs, police use racial profiling as a means of searching for potential drug offenders. Young black men are often stopped and searched and even temporarily detained by the police on the suspicion that they may somehow be involved in the possession or sales of illicit narcotics. Blacks will continue to be racially profiled as long as the War on Drugs exists. The NYCLU testimony addresses racial profiling as well.
“increasingly stark revelations of racial profiling on New Jersey’s highways have been splashed all over the headlines. New Jersey officials have responded that it is the federal government that wrote the textbook on singling out minority drivers and that they have taught that tactic to police departments across the country. In New York, the Attorney General’s report on the NYPD’s notorious “stop and frisk” practices indicates that 45% of those stopped on suspicion of drug charges were black, 36% Hispanic and only 16% white. Yet most drug users are white.
“…innocent black citizens are subjected to stop and frisks by the police and other racial profiling. This has led to the devastating and dangerous deterioration in trust between the police and the minority communities they are sworn to serve and protect. Patrick Dorismond was an innocent victim of the drug wars. When the police approached him, they were looking for a drug arrest.”
Another gruesome aspect of the War on Drugs involves federal grants to local police departments with the purpose of financing the arrest and prosecution of drug offenders. Police departments specifically apply for this grant money on the terms that the recipients must use the funds to arrest, prosecute and incarcerate drug offenders.
Speaking of federal funding, former President George W. Bush tweaked the eligibility standards for federal aid (which includes student loans) for college to deny any applicant with a drug-related conviction. This of course, affects black and brown youth disproportionately, as these two groups are specifically targeted by drug laws and often lack the resources for legal counsel that could get the charges dropped.
If Obama really cared about black people, he would call off the Drug War, citing it as unconstitutional since the U.S. Constitution does not even mention drugs. He would end all federal grants to local law enforcement that requires them to racially profile black people, arrest them and prosecute them disproportionately. He would reverse the financial college aid regulation imposed by his predecessor, so that young black men who have been convicted of drug offenses in the past can have a chance at a future that may not involve breaking the law as a source of income. That is, if he really cared about black people.
Another plague that terrorizes the black community in the U.S. is restrictive gun laws. Many black Americans live in urban areas like New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles, most of which have their own local firearm restrictions in states with already strict gun laws. Add that many blacks may be convicted felons thanks to the Drug War, and even more black people are denied the right to adequate self-defense. Obama’s adopted home state of Illinois, for example, does not provide a concealed carry weapons permit, effectively making carrying a firearm illegal since open carry is basically illegal in any large city. The end result is that only police and criminals carry firearms in Illinois, and once a criminal determines a potential victim is neither a cop nor a fellow thug, that law-abiding citizen is considered fair game. The result is that Chicago has quickly become one of the easiest places to be murdered.
Fueled by the War on Drugs, the illicit status of certain drugs increase the profits seen by the black criminal organizations/gangs involved in its distribution, allowing them to lure black youth with promises of easy money, buy illegal firearms, and literally kill their competitors, who in almost every case, is also black. In Chicago, being a law-abiding citizen (with the exception of police) means being an unarmed citizen, practically a potential death sentence for law-abiding people living in Chicago’s black neighborhoods (spoiler alert: the residents of these neighborhoods are predominantly black), not to mention the scores of black children who grow up witnessing rampant violence and murder firsthand and the psychological scarring that stays with them the rest of their lives.
While Chicago is experiencing a less murderous year so far compared to 2012, the homicide rate is still disturbing. While allowing more people to have legal access to firearms resulting in fewer incidents of gun violence may sound counter intuitive, the reason armed criminals in Chicago feel safe to commit acts of violence is because they are confident that their victims (once determined the victim is neither a cop nor a crook) are unarmed. Illinois recently became the last state in the nation to adopt a concealed carry permit law, but don’t hold your breath, since even state legislators admit permits will not be issued to civilians until 2014. So until then, law-abiding black folks in Chi-town will just have to sit back and drop dead.
If Obama cared about black people, he would outlaw all local gun control measures as unconstitutional, as it violates the Second Amendment. Gun violence in black communities would decrease, as violent thugs would have to think twice before attacking a civilian who may or may not be carrying a concealed weapon. Black people in large urban areas would have the right to defend their property, their community and most importantly, their own lives.
That is, if he cared about black people.
Obama’s speech was spoken from the perspective of someone who does not have the power to change or influence domestic policy. Words that mimicked the sentiments of many Americans of color, the lot of whom are not in any kind of position of power to strike down institutional racism and the societal attitudes that are a reflection of that institutional racism. But Obama is in a position of power to do all those things. What’s more, not only is he in a position of power, but he is effectively in the highest position in the most powerful government in the world. The fact that he whines about institutional injustice yet does nothing to actually address it is proof that he does not care.