The Brett Kimberlin Saga:

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Saturday, March 24, 2012

New York Times: Hey, Isn’t It Great the Way Obama Brought his Race Into the Trayvon Martin Case?

Earlier today I talked about this statement by Obama:

Update: That video is not loading, so here's a substitute.

And among other things, I had this to say about it:

[H]ere is the absolute worst part of what Obama said:

“My main message is to the parents of Trayvon Martin. You know, if I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon,” Obama said. “All of us as Americans are going to take this with the seriousness it deserves.”

At the beginning of the statements Obama notes that as head of the executive branch that might very well prosecute George Zimmerman for a crime, he is limited in what he can say.  He rightly recognizes that if he makes statements indicating any kind of prejudice in the case he could harm the ability of the government to prosecute it.  And please note when I say “prejudice” I don’t mean merely if he expresses any bias based on race, sex, etc. but any pre-judgment, any kind of judgment before the facts are in.

But ironically that very statement exposed himself to charges of prejudice—the kind of prejudice you think of first when you think of the word, bias based on race.  He just implied that because of racial affinity he feels particularly bad about the Trayvon killing.  So then since a hypothetical son of Barrack and Michelle Obama would not look like George Zimmerman, does that mean he feels less sympathy for him?

And indeed Trayvon does not look particularly much like Barrack or Michelle Obama.  The only way you could say that Obama’s hypothetical son would look like Trayvon is if you think all black people look alike, and gee, I thought that was a racist point of view?

One does have to wonder how this will play in the Hispanic community, too.  While the President didn’t indict Zimmerman, his racially charged remarks might play badly.  The President should have made no reference to the race of anyone involved; and indeed all good people feel sympathy for the Martin family, regardless of skin color.  If you don’t feel bad for them, yeah, I think there is something wrong with you.

But according to Jackie Calmes and Helene Cooper of the New York Times, this is swell:

President Obama did not mention race even as he addressed it on Friday, instead letting his person and his words say it all: “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.”

Weighing in for the first time on the death of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed black teenager shot and killed a month ago in Florida by a neighborhood watch volunteer, Mr. Obama in powerfully personal terms deplored the “tragedy” and, as a parent, expressed sympathy for the boy’s mother and father.

“I can only imagine what these parents are going through. And when I think about this boy, I think about my own kids,” Mr. Obama said. “Every parent in America,” he added, “should be able to understand why it is absolutely imperative that we investigate every aspect of this and that everybody pulls together — federal, state and local — to figure out exactly how this tragedy happened.”

While speaking movingly from his perspective as the father of two girls, one a teenager, Mr. Obama notably made no reference to the racial context that has made the killing of Trayvon and the gunman’s claim of self-defense a rallying point for African-Americans. Since Mr. Obama first began campaigning to be “president of all the people,” as his advisers would put it when pressed on racial issues, he has been generally reluctant to talk about race. And after his historic election as the first black president, Mr. Obama learned the hard way about the pitfalls of the chief executive opining on law enforcement matters involving civil rights.

You know normally I hate the “imagine if the races were reversed” argument (in part because they assume that the reverse of white is black, etc.).  I figure most of the time you get that it is just as bad if a white guy says it, so what is the point?

But you know what?  I think it might be useful in this case.

So imagine Trayvon is white.  Imagine him with a more traditionally “white” name, like Tommy.  I supposed we can still imagine Zimmerman is Hispanic, or half-Hispanic, however he imagines himself.  He is who he is.  So Tommy Martin was shot by George Zimmerman and was claiming self-defense.  But Tommy didn’t have any weapons on him, just a bottle of ice tea.

And President James Marshall comes on TV.  And what does he look like?  Well, he looks like this:

And the first lady looks like this:

And he gets on TV and says, “My heart goes out to the Martin family.  As you know, Grace and I have only had one daughter.  But if we had a son, he would look just like young Thomas.  So I am going to make sure justice is done.”

Can you imagine the outrage if that happened?  The entirety of MSNBC would be calling it racist.

And for once, they would be right.

If you assume the mantle of president, you have a duty to see all of America’s sons and daughters as you would see your own children.

Now people are human.  The fact that Trayvon looks like an extremely clean-cut kid makes us lament his death more than if he didn't, even as we consider the fact that it still might have been justifiable homicide (not because Trayvon deserved it, but because George might have had a reasonable--even if mistaken--fear for his life).

I mean my fictional President Marshall is actually modeled after the movie Air Force One.  I have long argued that movie is actually much smarter than most people realize.  The movie was about (besides kicking terrorist butt) the conflict between the office of the President and the man who is the President.  As the highest office holder in the country, he had all kinds of duties but as a father and husband, he had human weakness.

So the officeholder of the presidency proudly declares that we will not negotiate with terrorists.  But when they put a gun to his daughter’s head, he can't live up to his ideals.  In one of Ford’s better acting moments, they break his will, at least temporarily.  At one point they discuss the possibility that being held hostage amounted to a disability in the meaning of the 12th Amendment.  I believe the words that were said was that he could be alive, but not the President.  Indeed right at the end, as Air Force One crashes into the ocean and the President is reeled into the new plane, they parallel this conflict by then announcing that the plane was now “Air Force One.”  Air Force One is not that very specific plane with the Presidential seal.  It is whatever plane the current President is standing in.  And the President is not George Bush or Barrack Obama, but it is the guy who is holding the office.  We might be nice and call Bush “Mr. President” for the rest of his life, but it is in fact inaccurate.  He is not the President.  And hopefully we can say the same thing about Obama next year.

Now I would never fault Barrack Obama for being as human as the fictional President Marshall, when faced with one of his daughters being held hostage.  But barring some extreme circumstance like that, he has to be the President of the entire United States, and be not more the "President of Black America" than any other colors.  Even if he feels some slight affinity because of color, he should never express it.  At the very least he should keep it to himself.

And this might look like a shift in gears, but we will bring it back around to the topic of this post in just a moment.  Via Weasel Zippers we also learn that the New Black Panthers are putting out wanted posters that accuse Zimmerman of murder:

Their leader was quoted as saying:

Muhummud told the group he was not concerned with rumors of death threats to George Zimmerman, “He should be afraid for his life…”

If a Black panther kills Zimmerman the FBI would have immediate grounds for suspecting that this is a hate crime.  And I am sure that the DOJ would be interested in just as vigorously enforcing the hate crime laws against these Black Panthers as they are against Zimmerman, right?

Oh, wait a minute...

I mean joking aside this is the problem Obama creates when the President himself (as well as the Attorney General) indicates a greater affinity for one race than another, and they throw an easy case like the Black Panther voter intimidation case.  It makes you think that maybe the deck is stacked.  And even if it isn’t, the perception is damning.


As I was looking for a full image of the wanted poster I found this video from the event:

Does anyone else notice the irony of the sign stating that they were the New Black Party for Self-Defense?  Apparently they don't think the law of self-defense applies to anyone but black people.  Then again, I don't think these people are too bright.


Follow me at Twitter @aaronworthing, mostly for snark and site updates.  And you can purchase my book (or borrow it for free if you have Amazon Prime), Archangel: A Novel of Alternate, Recent History here.  And you can read a little more about my novel, here.

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