A new poll shows that the majority of Americans, 53 percent, believes race relations have gotten worse since President Obama was elected.
The President sat down with Jeff Johnson on BET and talked about that and more specifically what to do about people of all ethnicities protesting lately all over the country after the grand jury’s decisions in Ferguson and Staten Island.
“A country’s conscience sometimes has to be triggered by some inconvenience because I think a lot of people who saw the Eric Garner video are troubled even if they haven’t had that same experience themselves even if they’re not African American or Latino.”
What the President is speaking of is empathy, empathy for people who speak of and feel that society has two different sets of standards for people of color and people not of color.
The President told Johnson he is seeking to use the power of his office and the federal government to urge those who discriminate against or profile people of certain groups to stop it or face the consequences where it matters most, on their bottom lines.
“If we can identify best practices, for us to be able to say you need to adopt those best practices. And if you don’t then perhaps some of the funding that’s available around some of the things law enforcement cares about becomes less available. We’re going to provide more for the folks who are doing the right thing and we’re going to investigate the folks who are not doing the right thing. I think it’s an important part of the leverage we can exert.”
President Obama says he plans to do this through the task force he recently set up following the Ferguson and Staten Island decisions.
Mr. Obama has appointed “a police chief, a criminologist, civil right leaders and activists” who will identify what’s working and what’s not around the country.
But beyond that the Justice Department already has the jurisdiction and ability to seek change even before the commission identifies problems like unfair traffic stops and forced confessions by police.
In that interview, President Obama also addressed his critics who say he hasn’t done enough to help black people, especially young men of color who feel the brunt of racial profiling and excessive force by police.
“I think what sometimes people are frustrated by is me not simply saying this is what the outcome should have been. And that I cannot do institutionally. It is my justice department that is investigating these cases and part of the rule of law is that I’m not putting my fingers, my thumb on the scales of justice and it could compromise investigations if it appears that I am trying to steer a particular outcome.”
As I wrote in one of my commentaries just last week that in many ways and for many reasons, this President is hamstrung when it comes to dealing with issues of race.
Damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t.
The first black President is walking a narrower racial tightrope than any other President before him, and he’s doing it without a net.