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Obama’s Safe, Overrated and Airy Comments on the Trayvon Martin Affair

The president's remarks gave us context to the episode, but not a single opinion on the issues that brought us here.
 
 
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When people hold their breadth for your imminent words, isn’t it exasperating when you open your mouth, but don’t say much?

Finally the president has spoken about George Zimmerman’s acquittal. Even as the country waited for his singular response – the nation’s leader and a law professor who once looked like Trayvon Martin – the president danced around the issues. And what a dramatic anti-climax, listening to the president refuse to say anything insightful or profound about the acquittal. In signature professorial style, the president gave us the “context” to the episode and to black people’s “pain.” But he didn’t offer a meaningful opinion on the episode’s hot molten core: racial profiling, vigilantism, and “Stand Your Ground” laws.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Eric Holder delivered trenchant thoughts on the acquittal, demanding action. Before an audience of supporters, Holder recently called for a full investigation of Martin’s death after Zimmerman’s acquittal. Holder vowed that the Justice Department will act “in a manner that is consistent with the facts and the law. We will not be afraid.”

“We must stand our ground,” he told supporters.

Some of us have an Inner Child. Others have an Inner Nigger. Is Holder the president’s conscience? Or his Inner Nigger?

Is Holder the president’s aggressive internal mind and voice — willing to speak truth to power, but unbothered with appearing like an angry black man?

In 2007, when candidate Obama gave that infamous speech in Philadelphia, distancing himself from Reverend Jeremiah Wright, the nation and media responded with enthralled appreciation. It was, indeed, a heartwarming speech. When Holder gave his NAACP speech this past Tuesday, much of corporate-owned cable media —FOX, CNN, and MSNBC—aborted any speech coverage, in favor of their own cranky commentary.

Apparently, Holder wasn’t giving America the race speech it wants to hear.

From guns to gays, here is a man always ready to speak truth to power. (Well, except to the NSA). Little wonder the right has been actively trying to drive him from office, even more so than it does Obama.

From a tactical standpoint, it’s wise for the president to avoid discussing race and Trayvon Martin. Many white Americans don’t want that discussion. Many whites avoid that discussion due to their sincere ethical desire to wash the stain of racial differentiation from our nation; they see themselves as Reverend King’s color- blind disciples. Still others avoid the topic because they suffer from racial fatigue. They feel harassed and hectored by so-called race hustlers. Enough with that: They want to focus on the technical and legal aspects of Zimmerman’s acquittal.

Where Trayvon Martin is concerned, the president is also wise to sweep a racial discussion under the rug, because that discussion tarnishes his political capital. Politically, he seeks to run-up his party’s Latino support, by burnishing his reputation for historic inclusion and racial reconciliation. In discouraging too much diversity talk or racial gripe, the president’s image management promotes him as a racial icon with no racial agenda. His image management shrewdly polishes his racial identity even as it downplays it.

Then there’s Obama’s Dark Doppelganger. Don’t you remember? Holder’s first speech in office as Attorney General set headlines afire because he branded America “a nation of cowards” for skirting frank conversations about race. Holder’s remarks piqued white Americans who lauded their own forward thinking in voting for Obama, only to be called “coward” by Obama’s chief lawyer. (So much for racial catharsis!)

In that 2009 speech, Holder scolded America for “retreating to our race protected cocoons, where much is comfortable and where progress is not really made.” He darkly warned that if Americans continue to avoid meaningful racial debate, “the coming diversity that could be such a powerful, positive force will, instead, become a reason for stagnation and polarization.” His 2009 insight seems painfully prescient to Zimmerman’s acquittal and our present confusion.

 
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