President Barack Obama, the Department of Justice, the liberal media punditry and a number of civil rights activists appear hell-bent to continue stoking the fire of American racial tension following the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. But as the DOJ mulls a civil rights case against Zimmerman, one of the Nation’s leading civil rights guardians has come forward to ask officials to stop the race baiting and take a real initiative to improve American minorities’ problems.
President Barack Obama, who inserted himself into the case even before Zimmerman’s trial saying that his son would look like Martin, seized upon disquiet over Zimmerman’s acquittal Friday. The President, in more words, said that anger over the jury’s decision is justified because racial profiling is a real problem in America.
From the President’s remarks:
You know, when Trayvon Martin was first shot I said that this could have been my son. Another way of saying that is Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago. And when you think about why, in the African American community at least, there’s a lot of pain around what happened here, I think it’s important to recognize that the African American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that doesn’t go away.
There are very few African American men in this country who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store. That includes me. There are very few African American men who haven’t had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That happens to me — at least before I was a senator. There are very few African Americans who haven’t had the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she had a chance to get off. That happens often.
And I don’t want to exaggerate this, but those sets of experiences inform how the African American community interprets what happened one night in Florida. And it’s inescapable for people to bring those experiences to bear. The African American community is also knowledgeable that there is a history of racial disparities in the application of our criminal laws — everything from the death penalty to enforcement of our drug laws. And that ends up having an impact in terms of how people interpret the case.
The President went on to say that Attorney General Eric Holder is currently considering whether the DOJ has grounds to launch a civil rights case against Zimmerman, but acknowledged that the agency really has little right to do so as the case has properly run the local and State criminal justice course.
That acknowledgment is likely made necessary by the fact that even the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has portrayed the possibility of a DOJ case against Zimmerman as shameless race baiting.
In a letter to Holder, ACLU officials implored the Federal government to move on from the Zimmerman case, instead taking real steps to end racial profiling by law enforcement agencies.
We are writing to clearly state the ACLU’s position on whether or not the Department of Justice (DOJ) should consider bringing federal civil rights or hate crimes charges as a result of the state court acquittal in the George Zimmerman case. Even though the Supreme Court permits a federal prosecution following a state prosecution, the ACLU believes the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Constitution protects someone from being prosecuted in another court for charges arising from the same transaction. A jury found Zimmerman not guilty, and that should be the end of the criminal case.
However, there are still actions the federal government can take to help communities like Sanford, Florida to ensure tragedies similar to Trayvon Martin’s untimely death do not happen again, including preventing widespread racial profiling. Although the George Zimmerman case did not involve a law enforcement officer, many other shootings of unarmed Black men around the country have. In 1999, 22 year old Guinea immigrant Amadou Ahmed Diallo was fatally shot 41 times by white New York police officers. Sean Bell was a 23-year-old African American who was shot 50 times and killed by New York City police when leaving his bachelor party in 2003. In 2005, New Orleans police officers shot six unarmed civilians, two of whom died, near the Danziger Bridge in the days after Hurricane Katrina. More recently, 22-year-old Oscar Grant, an African American, was shot in the back and killed by Oakland transit police on New Year’s morning in 2009 after getting off the BART train. These cases are painful illustrations of the need for the Department to prioritize issuing strengthened guidance to law enforcement on racial profiling and excessive force.
The President is right; there is a race problem in the United States. But contrary to what many of the Nation’s firebrand race pundits want the American public to believe, it does not involve white-on-black hatred reminiscent of the Jim Crow South.
Instead, the problem is a government which profits in varying degrees from drug prohibition, welfare proliferation, rampant incarceration and permits unConstitutional abuses of basic human liberties. These policies affect all Americans, but most harshly impact the lives of the Nation’s poorest citizens. And government will never fix the problem — the challenge is not further empowering racial minorities in the United States, it is taking power from government.