I believe President Obama crossed the line when he most recently commented for the second time on the George Zimmerman verdict.
In doing so, he called into question the verdict of the jury in the Zimmerman case, and the validity and objectivity of America’s legal and judicial system.
By politicizing the legal procedures, in an apparent effort to potentially obtain a different result, the President runs the risk of perverting America’s objective and impartial legal and judicial system.
Ironically, the long-term impact of such presidential intervention may be detrimental to the very same African American community to which the President is trying to appeal.
Let me elaborate.
Immediately after the verdict in the Gordon Zimmerman case, in which a jury acquitted Gordon Zimmerman of the death of Trayvon Martin, President Obamaissued the following appropriate written statement, in which he stated:
“The death of Trayvon Martin was a tragedy. Not just for his family, or for any one community, but for America. I know this case has elicited strong passions. And in the wake of the verdict, I know those passions may be running even higher. But we are a nation of laws, and a jury has spoken. I now ask every American to respect the call for calm reflection from two parents who lost their young son.”
President Obama then concluded his statement with the following thoughtful words,
“We should ask ourselves, as individuals and as a society, how we can prevent future tragedies like this. As citizens, that’s a job for all of us. That’s the way to honor Trayvon Martin.”
President Obama should have stopped there. His comments were presidential, appropriate and sensitive to the parents of Tryvon Martin and the African American community in general.
But apparently, the decisive and unanimous verdict and President Obama’s statement were not sufficient to placate many members of the African American community and many other American citizens.
Notwithstanding the above remarks, the Obama administration and the Justice Department faced pressure from several American groups to pursue a civil rights case against Zimmerman.
More than 400,000 people signed a petition from the NAACP which urged Attorney General Eric Holder to act and open a civil rights case against Zimmerman.
It is very interesting to note that the NAACP petition states therein about:
“…growing a movement to hold accountable a criminal justice system that fails Black Americans every day and ending the senseless violence perpetrated by unaccountable vigilantes and police due to racial profiling.”
Also Reverend Al Sharpton organized demonstrations in dozens of American cities for the weekend, calling for the Obama Administration to launch a civil rights action against Zimmerman for the alleged murder of Martin and to protest the practice of racial profiling, which many view was the cause of his death.
As a result of these factors, and I am sure, other pressures, President Obama felt the necessity to publicly comment once again on the Zimmerman verdict.
“The second thing I want to say is to reiterate what I said on Sunday, which is there’s going to be a lot of arguments about the legal issues in the case — I’ll let all the legal analysts and talking heads address those issues. The judge conducted the trial in a professional manner. The prosecution and the defense made their arguments. The juries were properly instructed that in a case such as this reasonable doubt was relevant, and they rendered a verdict. And once the jury has spoken, that’s how our system works. But I did want to just talk a little bit about context and how people have responded to it and how people are feeling.”
This time around, Obama’s view of the Zimmerman judicial proceedings was not as definitive. Note in the above first comments, Obama stated, “We are a nation of laws and the jury has spoken.” In other words, that is the end of the judicial proceedings. Justice was done. Let us move on.
But in these latter comments, Obama was less definitive and supportive of the system.
He stated, “The juries were properly instructed that in a case such as this reasonable doubt was relevant, and they rendered a verdict. And once the jury has spoken, that’s how our system works.”
Obama seems to suggest that is how our current system works, but there may be something missing. And that something is context. As Obama adds, “But I did want to just talk a little bit about context and how people have responded to it and how people are feeling.”
Then Obama strongly states just about all African American men, including himself, prior to being a senator, has experienced being treated differently by the white population, in terms of the white population being threatened or wary or treating black American men as potential criminals. In other words, being racially profiled as being potentially harmful.
And as Obama succinctly points out:
“And 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. 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.”
Obama further argued referring to American black males:
“…that they’re 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. 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.”
“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.
“I think the African American community is also not naïve in understanding that, statistically, somebody like Trayvon Martin was statistically more likely to be shot by a peer than he was by somebody else. So folks understand the challenges that exist for African American boys. But they get frustrated, I think, if they feel that there’s no context for it and that context is being denied.”
What Obama is suggesting is that the Martin/Zimmerman legal and judicial proceedings may have been defective from the African American community’s standpoint, because the case was not considered or decided in the context of: (1) America’s systematic racial profiling of American black men, (arising from white America’s distrust of American black males); (2) America’s racially-charged application and enforcement of laws; and (3) America’s historically violent treatment of the American black community.
Obama is implying that if these factors had been introduced, the result may have been different. In other words, Zimmerman may have been found guilty of murdering Trayvon Martin, along racial lines.
Conversely, if these factors were introduced in the event of Trayvon Martin shooting a white guy, Martin may have a better chance of being found not guilty on the basis of self-defence, as opposed to being presumed guilty on the basis of his race.
So is Obama suggesting that whenever there is a criminal case in which a non-black person shoots and kills a black person, these above factors should be brought into play?
Sort of like affirmative action for deceased black victims.
Or conversely, when a black guy shoots and kills a white guy, the same factors could be used to support the defence of self-defence, and rebut the presumption of guilt due to color.
Frankly, Obama, was right the first time, in his initial comments. America is a nation of laws. The law, its application and enforcement and justice, should be color-blind, objective, impartial and fair.
Politics and race criteria should not be injected into the American legal and judicial system. That would pervert the system.
Because some day, the American black community will not have a sympathetic black President or black Attorney General in its corner.
And when that day comes, the American black community does not want to be subject to a legal and judicial system, distorted by politics and race criteria anathema to the American black community.
According to Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, New Testament:
“Judge not, that ye be not judged. For what with judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” (Matthew 7:1-2)
Now that’s what I call a teachable lesson. Which even the great President Barack Obama may heed.