America’s First Black President Once Again Pleas For An End To Bigotry

In Canada, We At Least Now Have A Prime Minister Striving To Do The Same

An Excerpt from U.S. President Barack Obama’s July 12th Address at Memorial Service for fallen Dallas, Texas Police Officers

Posted July 14th, 2016 on Niagara At Large

(A Brief Foreword Note from NAL publisher Doug DraperWith now fewer than six months left in his presidency, Barack Obama delivered what is arguably one of his most heartfelt and reasoned statements yet for healing the divisions between groups of people in his country.

This address came on July 12th, in the wake of the killing of five police officers by a black Army veteran whose rampage was reportedly triggered by two black men shot to death by police days earlier.

U.S. President Barack Obama depicted as a witchdoctor in one of many racist posters displayed at rallies of angry white people in recent years.

U.S. President Barack Obama depicted as a witchdoctor in one of many racist posters displayed at rallies of angry white people in recent years.

The words in this eloquent address also came from a person who has been a high-profile target of racial prejudice going back to his historic swearing in as the African American to assume the U.S. presidency.

From the earliest days of his presidency, there were rallies of mostly older, white Americans, featuring Tea Party favourites like Sarah Palin, and featuring a forest of signs depicting Obama as an African witchdoctor, in white face or wearing a Hitler moustache. The rallies were punctuated with chants, echoed right up to the Donald Trump ranting mob-fests of today, of; “I want my country back!” – code for ‘get the darky out of the White House’.

Overlaying all this ugliness were the birthers, convinced that a black person with a name like Barack Hussein Obama could not possibly have been born in the United States and, therefore, had no legal right serving as the country’s president.

Trump was already emerging as a champion of these bigots with demands, foreshadowing his race-baiting tactics of the past year, that Obama produce a copy of his birth certificate.

One of millions of Americans, according to polls, who have bought into a line spun by Obama haters that the president was born in Africa.

One of millions of Americans, according to polls, who have bought into a line spun by Obama haters that the president was born in Africa.

Five decades ago, during some of the darkest days of the American civil rights movement of the 1960s, then U.S. President John F. Kennedy could only image what it must be like being a person with darker skin in his country with these words; ““If an American, because his skin is dark, … cannot enjoy the full and free life which all of us want, then who among us would be content to have the color of his skin changed and stand in his (or her) place?

Obama has never had to image what it is like being black in America which is why his words on bigotry, in all its forms, resonate all the more. And it is why I am posting some of them here, followed by a link to the full text of his address, because we Canadians are facing enough of this ugliness here that it might do some good if we spent a little time meditating on them too.

Indeed, we Canadians have no reason to be smug or feel things are much better here when we also have a major party in the country that has a record of stoking the white hot ambers of rascism, zenaphobia and homophobia to turn one group against another for political purposes.

This party – a Tea Party version of a once more moderate,  inclusive Progressive Conservative Party of Canada that come sometimes justify including the word “progressive” in its name – has shamelessly used divisive, fear-laden  rhetoric aimed at people of colour and at people who dress differently  or practice a different religious faiths.harper trump

All this in an effort to fire up a core of supporters which consistsmostly of older, white people – what this party’s last leader, Stephen Harper, referred to as “old stock Canadians” – and those supporters,  millions of them, are still here  ready to accusing others of engaging in “barbaric cultural practices.” of possibily being affiliated with terrorist groups and of stealing a Canada once more dominated by people of British descent away from them.

For them, the desire for a government that would pledge to take them back to that country lives on.

Here then are a few of Obama’s words.) 

“Now, I’m not naïve.  I have spoken at too many memorials during the course of this presidency.  I’ve hugged too many families who have lost a loved one to senseless violence.  And I’ve seen how a spirit of unity, born of tragedy, can gradually dissipate, overtaken by the return to business as usual, by inertia and old habits and expediency.  I see how easily we slip back into our old notions, because they’re comfortable, we’re used to them.  I’ve seen how inadequate words can be in bringing about lasting change.  I’ve seen how inadequate my own words have been.

And so I’m reminded of a passage in *John’s Gospel [First John]:  Let us love not with words or speech, but with actions and in truth.  If we’re to sustain the unity we need to get through these difficult times, if we are to honor these five outstanding officers who we’ve lost, then we will need to act on the truths that we know.  And that’s not easy.  It makes us uncomfortable.  But we’re going to have to be honest with each other and ourselves.

U.S. President Barack Obama

U.S. President Barack Obama

We know that the overwhelming majority of police officers do an incredibly hard and dangerous job fairly and professionally.  They are deserving of our respect and not our scorn.  (Applause.)  And when anyone, no matter how good their intentions may be, paints all police as biased or bigoted, we undermine those officers we depend on for our safety.  And as for those who use rhetoric suggesting harm to police, even if they don’t act on it themselves — well, they not only make the jobs of police officers even more dangerous, but they do a disservice to the very cause of justice that they claim to promote.

We also know that centuries of racial discrimination — of slavery, and subjugation, and Jim Crow — they didn’t simply vanish with the end of lawful segregation.  They didn’t just stop when Dr. King made a speech, or the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act were signed.  Race relations have improved dramatically in my lifetime.  Those who deny it are dishonoring the struggles that helped us achieve that progress.

But we know — but, America, we know that bias remains.  We know it.  Whether you are black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or of Middle Eastern descent, we have all seen this bigotry in our own lives at some point.  We’ve heard it at times in our own homes.  If we’re honest, perhaps we’ve heard prejudice in our own heads and felt it in our own hearts.  We know that.

And while some suffer far more under racism’s burden, some feel to a far greater extent discrimination’s sting.  Although most of us do our best to guard against it and teach our children better, none of us is entirely innocent.  No institution is entirely immune.  And that includes our police departments.  We know this.protest1_ZVTZ

And so when African Americans from all walks of life, from different communities across the country, voice a growing despair over what they perceive to be unequal treatment; when study after study shows that whites and people of color experience the criminal justice system differently, so that if you’re black you’re more likely to be pulled over or searched or arrested, more likely to get longer sentences, more likely to get the death penalty for the same crime; when mothers and fathers raise their kids right and have “the talk” about how to respond if stopped by a police officer — “yes, sir,” “no, sir” — but still fear that something terrible may happen when their child walks out the door, still fear that kids being stupid and not quite doing things right might end in tragedy — when all this takes place more than 50 years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, we cannot simply turn away and dismiss those in peaceful protest as troublemakers or paranoid.

We can’t simply dismiss it as a symptom of political correctness or reverse racism.  To have your experience denied like that, dismissed by those in authority, dismissed perhaps even by your white friends and coworkers and fellow church members again and again and again — it hurts.  Surely we can see that, all of us.

We also know what (Dallas Police) Chief Brown has said is true:  That so much of the tensions between police departments and minority communities that they serve is because we ask the police to do too much and we ask too little of ourselves. As a society, we choose to underinvest in decent schools.  We allow poverty to fester so that entire neighborhoods offer no prospect for gainful employment.We refuse to fund drug treatment and mental health programs.

We flood communities with so many guns that it is easier for a teenager to buy a Glock than get his hands on a computer or even a book — — and then we tell the police “you’re a social worker, you’re the parent, you’re the teacher, you’re the drug counselor.”  We tell them to keep those neighborhoods in check at all costs, and do so without causing any political blowback or inconvenience.  Don’t make a mistake that might disturb our own peace of mind.  And then we feign surprise when, periodically, the tensions boil over.

We know these things to be true.  They’ve been true for a long time.  We know it.  Police, you know it.  Protestors, you know it.  You know how dangerous some of the communities where these police officers serve are, and you pretend as if there’s no context.  These things we know to be true.  And if we cannot even talk about these things — if we cannot talk honestly and openly not just in the comfort of our own circles, but with those who look different than us or bring a different perspective, then we will never break this dangerous cycle.” – U.S. President Barack Obama, Dallas, Texas, July 12th, 2016

Read Obama’s whole Dallas addresshttps://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/07/12/remarks-president-memorial-service-fallen-dallas-police-officers .

Former Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank responds to a woman at a Town Hall meeting about six years ago who has a Hitler moustache drawn on a photo of Obama

NOW IT IS YOUR TURN. Niagara At Large encourages you to share your views on this post. A reminder that we only post comments by individuals who share their first and last name with them.

Visit Niagara At Large at www.niagaraatlarge.com for more news and commentary for and from the greater bi-national Niagara region.

“A politician thinks of the next election. A leader thinks of the next generation.” – Bernie Sanders

 

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