For a brief shining moment in the afterglow of Barack Obama’s 2008 election, citizens hoped that the United States had entered a “post-racial” period of history. That there would be “reset” regarding African-American attitudes given that the unthinkable had now become a reality. That the idealistic multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-gender campaign team would be reflected in an administration that would build infrastructure rather than burn bridges.
To put it politely, such as not proved to be the case.
To be sure, all disappointments cannot be attributed to Obama’s failures or shortcomings. Five years of a sputtering economy has constrained politico-social spending options. An intensely divided political spectrum prevents more than minimalistic legislative action. Foreign affairs have been a wasteland epitomized by vast planning and execution with enemies acting … like enemies, and friends often not amused at U.S. action such as massive electronic intercept operations.
And perhaps we expected too much of Obama. He was the least-prepared man to become president in modern times. His ignorance was more than occasionally risible: He believed Canada had a president and elected senators; he twice pronounced Marine Corps as “corpse.” His 20-year association with the racist Reverend Wright retrospectively appears indicative rather than idiosyncratic. His relaxed, pot-smoking upbringing in Hawaii after formative youth living in Indonesia weren’t good preparation for 20th-21st century urban America.
Consequently, for Obama to offer a description of himself feeling demeaned as a black man for having been followed in a department store, hearing car door locks click shut, and seeing people cross the street to avoid encounters make one wonder if he is calculatedly disingenuous or terminally naïve. Indeed, one recalls Jesse Jackson wryly confessing that he crossed the street to avoid black teen-gangs. Today’s world is not a tabula rasa; people take actions for rational reasons — and the criminal profile of African-Americans is daunting, even terrifying.
Using 2007 FBI statistics, blacks committed 433,934 crimes against whites, eight times the 55,685 crimes whites committed against blacks. There were 14,000 black on white sexual assaults — but not a single white sexual assault on a black female. And blacks are outnumbered five to one by whites. More specifically, in New York City — where the laments about racial profiling are rampant — between January-June 2008, 83 percent of all gun assailants were black (although blacks represented only 24 per cent of the population).
Anyone not taking cognizance of these realities is accepting risks that flaunt reality.
Trayvon Martin was no choirboy. He liked to fight and was beating Zimmerman when he was killed. He made the fatal mistake of bringing his fists to a gunfight.
But the post-Zimmerman African-American reaction seems to conclude that crime statistics are the consequence of “slavery” (when there hasn’t been a slave held in the United States for 150 years), “racism,” or other circumstances for which they are faultless. And specifically for the Zimmerman case, 87 per cent believe the shooting was unjustified; 86 per cent disapprove of the not guilty verdict; and 81 per cent believe that Zimmerman should face federal charges for violating Martin’s civil rights. Incidentally, lawyers almost universally believe that it would be impossible to convict Zimmerman on such a civil rights violation charge (and irresponsible to attempt to do so). But what do lawyers know when politicians are in the driver’s seat?
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One is virtually forced to the conclusion that there are no circumstances where the African-American community would support a “not guilty” verdict when a non-African-American killed an African-American. In contrast, when African-American O.J. Simpson was tried for the murder of his white wife and a friend in 1995, Simpson’s acquittal was regarded then (and subsequently) by the white community as a miscarriage of justice, but African-Americans were exultant.
Unfortunately, while the Obama presidency seems to have given African-Americans greater pride, it doesn’t appear to have decreased their belief that prejudice/racism is the driving force behind their economic/societal problems. Even more unfortunately, the rising Hispanic segment of the U.S. community, which now outnumbers African-Americans, exacerbates these tensions. Zimmerman’s identification as a Hispanic provides further hostile focus.
Consequently, perhaps too cynically, one wonders whether the orchestrated anti-Hispanic rallies throughout the United States (with Zimmerman as the bête noir rationale) are calculated power politics to galvanize the African-American community and marginalize Hispanics. At a point, when Hispanics are fighting to secure congressional sanction for a legal pathway to legalize 11 million illegals, African-Americans may sense an adroit mechanism to derail sympathetic congressional action and push back Hispanic prospects for enhanced political power.
David T. Jones is a retired State Department Senior Foreign Service Career Officer and a frequent contributor to American Diplomacy. During a career that spanned over 30 years, he concentrated on politico-military issues, serving for the Army Chief of Staff. He is co-author of Uneasy Neighbor(u)rs, a study of American-Canadian bilateral concerns and has published several hundred articles, columns, and reviews on U.S. - Canadian bilateral issues and general foreign policy.