Obama as lame duck president speaks truth about race in America

obama fam

Watching and listening to President Obama now vs. when he first announced his run for the presidency, several things are apparent. He has a lot more gray hair, he has many enemies in Congress and he no longer dances around “the race talk.”

Seven years into his presidency, with little to lose, some of his idealism has faded. He wouldn’t be human if politics hadn’t made him weary. The bruising battles with members of Congress, some of whom show him nothing but disdain, are never-ending.

Despite all that, he is taking a lead role on the issue of race, as he did with health care reform and other issues. The problem is, you can’t legislate decency.

As he did in Ferguson with the death of Michael Brown and in Florida when Trayvon Martin was killed, Obama has taken these acts personally. When Martin died, he said if he’d had a son, he would have looked liked Trayvon. He knows what it’s like to raise two beautiful daughters he and his wife are intent on protecting from hurt, harm and danger. He can relate to the parents’ pain because he is a husband and father. Say what you will about Obama, it is clear he cares deeply about his family and all American families.

To show how serious he is about young black men dying in incidents with police and authority figures, he brought in former Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate claims that Ferguson, Mo. officers were disproportionately ticketing and arresting black people. The results of that investigation showed a widespread pattern of abuse of residents in the suburban St. Louis town and emails from city officials that read like they had been written in the 1950s.

Yesterday, it was announced that the Justice Department will open an investigation into the practices of police officers in Baltimore. That is a good move. The officers charged are black and white, so it will be interesting to see what happens as their cases proceed.

We may have a black president, but I’m still not convinced we are living in post-racial America. If only that were true.


It’s winter in Baltimore: “Makes me wanna holler…”

I can’t wrap my head around what is happening in Baltimore.

On the day of Freddie Gray’s homegoing — and despite his family’s pleas for peace — some people turned a protest into burning and looting businesses. These people set fire to a structure that, when finished, would have provided affordable housing to 60 senior citizens.

Misguided people took what started as a protest about 25-year-old Freddie Gray’s death in police custody and turned it into an opportunity to destroy property, steal and attack the police.  Come on people, do you really think this will help anyone? Do you lack the discipline and self-control needed to refrain from making a bad situation worse?

If you think these acts will assist in unraveling the mystery of Freddie Gray’s death, you are delusional. Why not channel your anger and frustration into something positive, like rebuilding that senior center? There is no excuse for this nonsense.  Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once said that riots are the language of the unheard. If that’s true, then the jobless, the under-educated and the hopeless need a new vocabulary. When Dr. King and his associates protested, they were respectful, strategic and most importantly non-violent.

Rioting, to my knowledge, has never worked.  The First Amendment, which guarantees free speech and the right to assemble, does not cover arson and looting. Those are crimes that will land you in jail. Further, these acts will only serve to distract from getting to the bottom of what happened to Freddie Gray on April 12.

Gray’s death needs to be investigated and the cause of his death should be resolved truthfully. Let’s pray that fact won’t get lost in the streets of Baltimore.

Thankfully, God always has a ram in the bush, as was the case in Ferguson, Mo. after the death of Michael Brown.  The Baltimore ministers, Nation of Islam members, Omega Psi Phi fraternity brothers and others who are helping to restore calm are standing in a dangerous gap.  Some of these men and women live in the community and are aware of its problems and what it will take to fix them.

One such man is Pastor Donte’ Hickman of Southern Baptist Church in East Baltimore. In an interview with CNN last night Pastor Hickman said the burning of the church’s senior center caused him to hit the reset button.  “We were seeking to restore people while we bought property,” he said of the building project.

“I see revival…..I see us now coming back bigger and better than before,” he said. “I am a man of faith. Every negative is just our opportunity to fight back with another positive.”

Finally, a voice of reason in a sea of despair.

And speaking of boldness, how about the mother who saw her teenage son on TV taking part in the riots? She went down to the scene, slapped him across his head and pulled him out of the crowd before the police had a chance to put her child in jail. I could see my mother doing that. In fact, one time she did something similar — but that’s another blog for a different day.

That’s what’s missing in Baltimore, in Ferguson, in New York and all cities where unrest has taken hold: adults who care enough to snatch some kids up and put them on the right path before the next riot begins.