This week represents a climax to a tragic American narrative decades in the making. It’s a story overrun by a ‘War on Drugs’ run wild, mass incarceration and economic inequality. African-American communities under attack from the police have seen so many die in recent years. Eric Garner, Mike Brown, and now Alston Sterling and Philando Castile are all dead as a result of police force gone too far. From bullets to chokeholds, black America lays battered at the feet of America’s justice system looking for answers.While we mourn the police officers shot in Dallas and offer our condolences to their families, black America will also stay focused and continue to march for our freedoms.
In his speech yesterday, President Obama responded with a whisper rather than a scream against law enforcement’s rampant misuse of power that we have experienced during his term in office. In response to these heinous shootings, the nation’s first black president took on a measured tone of neutrality when race was clearly the biggest issue in the room. This is not a time to teach America why blacks are mad, it is a time to fix the issues that have led to black mistreatment in the criminal justice system and beyond.
By stating “This is not just a black issue… This is an American issue. All fair minded people should be concerned”, President Obama missed the moment to recognize it is blacks who are suffering under this brutal treatment, not all of America. Unlike the Governor of Minnesota Mark Dayton — who spoke frankly about his belief that this wouldn’t have happened if Castile “were white” — President Obama largely sidestepped the issue of race being the motivation for the unnecessary killings by these officers. Mr. President, this is not the moment to do anything other than call it as you see it. Black people are dying at the hands of police in ways that make us feel that the clock has turned back on us 60 years.
This is not the moment for President Obama to see America, it is rather a time to look into a mirror and recognize that if a young Barack Obama was in Philando Castile’s position, it would be his lifeless body now being prepped for a funeral. The president famously stated that if he had a son “he’d look like Trayvon Martin.” Well, these men are your brothers, Mr. President. It is time to understand that blacks do not simply feel we “are not being treated the same” as you stated; it’s much more urgent than that. We feel like we are being hunted and shot down.
Let’s be frank, much of the anger that is seeping out of America is based out of hundreds of years of racial oppression, brought to a head by Obama being elected twice to be this nation’s commander-in-chief. The extreme right’s vitriolic reaction to Obama’s presidency has given rise to hate groups, racist Tea Partiers, Birthers, and Donald Trump. Retaliation — be it subconscious or intentional — is being taken out against the men who look like President Obama all across this country.
It is truly a time to deal with a war on black lives that makes us recall Jim Crow lynchings and slavery. From Freddie Gray to Tamir Rice, each investigation has come up with rulings justifying the officer’s actions. When is it time to recognize the lives those officers’ actions took away far too early?
As stated by Beyonce yesterday, “It is up to us to take a stand and demand that they “STOP KILLING US”. Black lives matter and it is our obligation that all political offices, including the one occupied by the first African-American president recognize that fact. Martin Luther King forecasted this so many years ago, two America’s will not survive. This racial tension is creating a tear in the very fabric of America.
We the people demand President Obama move beyond the racially neutral speeches, and start the action of correcting the racial failures of America.
Antonio Moore, an attorney based in Los Angeles, is one of the producers of the documentary Freeway: Crack in the System. He has contributed pieces to the Grio, Huffington Post, and Inequality.org on the topics of race, mass incarceration, and economics. Follow on Youtube Channel Tonetalks