"Now, I don't know, not having been there and not seeing all the facts, what role race played in that. But I think it's fair to say, number one, any of us would be pretty angry; number two, that the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home; and, number three, what I think we know separate and apart from this incident is that there's a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately. That's just a fact," Obama said.
"That doesn't lessen the incredible progress that has been made," he added. "I am standing here as testimony to the progress that's been made. And yet the fact of the matter is, is that, you know, this still haunts us. And even when there are honest misunderstandings, the fact that blacks and Hispanics are picked up more frequently and often time for no cause casts suspicion even when there is good cause. And that's why I think the more that we're working with local law enforcement to improve policing techniques so that we're eliminating potential bias, the safer everybody is going to be."
Those were the words President Barack Obama spoke at his press conference Wednesday when he was asked about the incident involving Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates and a Cambridge police officer. As you can see, they are measured, they are calm and the try to provide a fair assessment of what happened. Nobody is called a racist and police officers are not arbitrarily condemned. Yet, Obama manages to convey a simple truth about life in America for black people and Latinos.
Now, I would encourage those of you with strong stomachs and minds to check out the comments section on this article to get a sense for how the president's comments were received by some people.
Those of you brave enough to follow that link saw that despite Obama's attempts at fairness, it wasn't enough. The vitriolic comments left at Boston.com made it clear that many folks believe that anybody who mentions "race" or "discrimination" isn't worth listening to, particularly when that person is a big-eared, purple-lipped Negro pretending to be this country's lawful president.
I long ago learned not to assume that comment sections represent the thoughts of the "masses," so I'll just assume that those comments represent the feelings of a vocal minority. Either way, they are disturbing.
I touched on this theme in this blog back during the presidential campaign. As you can see, it discusses the phenomenon of the "Good Negro" and even provides some helpful rules for those of you seeking to adopt that mantle.
In truth, Obama has shown himself to be quite skillful in navigating the murky racial waters of America. He follows the "Good Negro" rules most of the time, and rarely manages to let his mask fall. Yet, often it seems like with certain folks, he still can't win. No matter what he says, not matter what any black person says, they just don't care.
If you're talking about race, you might as well shut up.
Like many black folks, I've grown cynical about racial discussions. They seem to be the ultimate no-win situations. People don't listen, they get angry, and ultimately, they blame you. Often, it seems like the only reason to engage anyone with a dissenting opinion on race is if you have hankering for a good argument.
Responses like those the president receive only confirm my view. Though Obama tried his best to speak from a middle ground that everyone should be able to agree with at least partially, to many folks it was as if he was a raving black lunatic calling up the hounds of Hades on all good white folks.
Even the police officer got in on the act, telling the world he was disappointed that Obama commented on his actions without all the facts. How ironic coming from a man who readily accosted a crippled old man in his home on a vague tip that turned out to be ridiculously false. How often do you think Officer Hurt Feelings has called a suspect a scumbag, or assumed guilt, without "all the facts?"
This whole race thing has become a farce. It's damn near pointless to discuss it with people because most folks have no interest in looking at the world from a different point of view. When comments as bland and unassuming as Obama's can be twisted into Black Power rhetoric, it's obvious that there is a real problem. It appears that most Americans, particularly those with a lack of melanin, are running around with their fingers in their ears remarking on how quiet things are in the world.
And I have no idea how to fix things.