Monday, August 10, 2009

Obama and Racism

The arrest of Henry Louis Gates by a white police office would not have been a national issue but for President Obama's assertion that the police “acted stupidly.” The officer, responding to a call that a burglary was in progress, arrested Gates when he was uncooperative, refused to show ID and harangued the officer. Gates claimed he was a victim of police racism.

Obama received fully 96 percent of the black vote, but he needed a lot of white votes to be elected president. Obviously millions of white voters did not think he would bring a racial bias to the office. In fact, his election was widely viewed as evidence that this nation had overcome racism. Obama was to be the new post-racial model, despite his twenty-year relationship with Rev. Jeremiah Wright, known for his racist rants.

Much debate ensued over the president's “acted stupidly” remark, but his accompanying claim that it is a “fact” that police have a history of stopping African-Americans and Latinos “disproportionately” went largely unchallenged. Here was the president—who admitted not knowing the facts in this case, and who we know was prepped beforehand about the question—reflexively blaming the incident on racial profiling. This, mind you, despite the fact that the city where this happened has a black mayor, the state has a black governor, and the country a black president. This does not seem a likely place for black racial profiling, and certainly one should not jump to that conclusion while admitting ignorance of facts about the case.

Katherine Kersten, a Star Tribune columnist, has a better explanation than Obama's racial stereotyping: “To keep our communities safe, police must engage 'disproportionately' with those who commit crime. And the tragic fact is that black Americans commit far more crime than other groups.

“Take Boston, which borders on Cambridge, the tony suburb where Gates lives. In 2007, 58 percent of those arrested for violent crimes were black, though blacks make up only about 23 percent of the city's population.

“The situation is similar in New York City....In the first three months of 2009, 52 percent of people stopped for questioning by the police there were black, though blacks make up only about 26 percent of the population. But blacks commit about 68 percent of violent crime in the city, including 82 percent of shootings and 72 percent of robberies...

“Here in Minneapolis, 64 percent of those arrested in 2008 for serious crimes such as murder and robbery were black, though blacks are only about 18 percent of the population.

“This disproportionate pattern is nationwide, and has existed for years. From 1976 to 2005, for example, 52 percent of homicide offenders were black, according to the U.S. Justice Department. Yet blacks make up only about 13 percent of the population.

“The group most likely to commit homicide—black males 18 to 24—is only 1 percent of the population. These young men are almost five times more likely to engage in homicide than black males 25 or older....

“Obama's perpetuation of this stereotype is irresponsible. It especially harms minority communities, whose members are mostly law-abiding citizens who want safe streets. In 2005, blacks were six times more likely than whites to be homicide victims. From 1976 to 2005, 94 percent of black victims were murdered by blacks, according to the Justice Department.”

Victor David Hanson, writing in National Review, says the public thought they were getting an updated version of Martin Luther King but are learning it may be a more eloquent version of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. He says the public is becoming aware of two things: “One, Obama's first impulse when speaking out on race is his most genuine and most disturbing; and two, his statesmanlike disavowals always come not out of genuine embarrassment over his initial remark (such as praising the racist Wright), but out of real concern that he is going to be hurt politically without such 'correction'.”

Hanson concludes: “At some point, even the media is going to start tallying up these teachable moments, like “typical white person”...and see that the post-racial president is one or two such “gaffes” away from being the most racially polarizing figure in recent memory, as a majority of African-Americans seem to respond with approval to his racial-identity politicking that so terribly disturbs most others.”

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