The promise of ushering in a post-racial era of good feeling now joins the other shattered dreams and unfulfilled goals of the Obama presidency. A Bloomberg poll reveals that 45% of Americans say race relations have gotten worse since the election of Obama, while 15% say they’ve gotten better.
And they are about to turn markedly worse, judging from a “candid interview” the president gave last December on Black Entertainment Television. An article at the Washington Post summarizing the interview speaks not of a post-racial era but a “post-Staten Island” era, the reference being to the New York City borough where Eric Garner, poster child for claims of race-driven police brutality, lived and died:
He has set up a post-Staten Island approach to race that will define the next two years of his presidency and his legacy. Whatever comes next will likely look and sound very different than what came pre-Staten Island.
The man who once declared without actually knowing the facts of the altercation that the Cambridge, Mass., police acted stupidly in their dealings with his buddy Skip Gates was less nuanced(!) in his assertions last night.
At the 3:30 mark in the video that follows, he says:
It used to be folks would say, well, maybe blacks are exaggerating, maybe some of these situations aren’t what they describe. But we’ve now seen on television for everybody to see — gives us an opportunity, I think, to finally have the kind of conversation that’s been a long time coming.
But some of these situations aren’t what folks describe. The earliest eyewitness accounts of what went down in Ferguson on Aug. 9 — that Michael Brown raised his hands in submission and that officer Darren Wilson shot him in cold blood — were disproved by the forensic evidence. Similarly Obama’s claim about what “we’ve now seen on television,” presumably referring to the botched Eric Garner arrest, seems to suggest this is an open-and-shut case of police brutalizing a victim purely on racial grounds. In fact, no such assumption can be made based on the video. Obama as an attorney should be aware of this.
The overall sense of the interview suggests a dangerous new course for a president who has failed mightily and believes he has nothing to lose by stoking racial animus during his remaining two years in office. It is safe to say that no one elected him for that purpose. If he proceeds in the direction of a post-Staten Island presidency, he may finally come to feel the full weight of the law he is so ready to defy.
This post with minor modification was originally published Dec. 9, 2014.