Obama: African-Americans Are Incapable of Acting as Citizens of the United States
It is with sadness that I witnessed the president of the United States tell the world that African-Americans are incapable of functioning as responsible citizens at the most basic level.
Our first White African American leader said:
You know, when Trayvon Martin was first shot I said that this could have been my son. Another way of saying that is Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago. And when you think about why, in the African American community at least, there's a lot of pain around what happened here, I think it's important to recognize that the African American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that doesn't go away.
There are very few African American men in this country who haven't had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store. That includes me. There are very few African American men who haven't had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That happens to me - at least before I was a senator. There are very few African Americans who haven't had the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she had a chance to get off. That happens often.
And I don't want to exaggerate this, but those sets of experiences inform how the African American community interprets what happened one night in Florida. And it's inescapable for people to bring those experiences to bear. The African American community is also knowledgeable that there is a history of racial disparities in the application of our criminal laws - everything from the death penalty to enforcement of our drug laws. And that ends up having an impact in terms of how people interpret the case.
Although he would know best whether he, 35 years ago, would be adjudged a thug and potential murderer who could be stopped from taking the life of another only by being shot, it is another thing to indict an entire group as incapable of behaving as citizens.
In a court of law:
... the jury is to determine the facts of this case. You are the sole and exclusive judges of the facts. You alone determine what evidence to accept, how important any evidence is that you do accept, and what conclusions to draw from all the evidence. You must apply the law as I give it to you to the facts as you determine them to be, in order to decide whether the Commonwealth has proved the defendant guilty of this charge (these charges).
You should determine the facts based solely on a fair consideration of the evidence. You are to be completely fair and impartial, and you are not to be swayed by prejudice or by sympathy, by personal likes or dislikes, toward either side. You are not to allow yourselves to be influenced because the offense(s) charged is (are) popular or unpopular with the public...
In short, you are to confine your deliberations to the evidence and nothing but the evidence[.] ...
Your verdict must be based solely on the evidence developed at trial. It would be improper for you to consider any personal feelings about the defendant's race, religion, national origin, sex or age.
It would be equally improper for you to allow any feelings you might have about the nature of the crime to interfere with your decision.
(The above are jury instructions from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, yet they can still be considered representative of the duties with which juries are charged. Check out others if you like.)
Generally, jury duty is a right/responsibility of citizenship.
To plainly state that "the African-American community is looking at this issue [and presumably others] through a set of experiences and a history that doesn't go away" is to plainly state that the African-American community is incapable of serving on a jury where a verdict is based solely on the application of the relevant law to the evidence developed at trial.
No more. No less.
No "baggage" influencing the call.
No sets of experiences, no histories.
Justice is blind.
Since, according to Obama, the experiences and history do not go away, then these "personal feelings" are inescapable.
... African American young men are disproportionately involved in the criminal justice system; that they're disproportionately both victims and perpetrators of violence.
Of note, BHO chose not to offer Jesse's seemingly similar feelings toward blacks that would make the reactions Obama seems to condemn near universal:
There is nothing more painful to me ... than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery, then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved.
(Whites + White Hispanics (ask the media) + African-Americans = just about everybody = near-universal.)
Given the above, it seems odd that Obama would indict all others from being what is arguably cautious and protective of their lives and property from a group that "disproportionately" includes "perpetrators of violence" (and possibly other crimes).
It is also a bit odd that he discussed whether Trayvon would have been justified in shooting George if Zimmerman had been in a car following Martin. Perhaps a better question would have been whether Martin would have been justified in shooting Zimmerman if George had been pounding Trayvon's head on the cement.
The bottom line is that Obama has chosen to disenfranchise blacks wholesale from the right/responsibility to serve as jurors -- i.e., to act as responsible citizens -- by labeling them as persons incapable of deciding cases on the merits.
We will have to see if Judge Rosemarie Aquilina will bar the empaneling of blacks in order to prevent "not honoring the president."
Michael Applebaum is a medical doctor and lawyer practicing in Chicago.