Less than a year ago, on July 19, 2013, President Obama made a 17-minute speech to share his thoughts about Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman. It was really two speeches? One group claims to have heard inspirational rhetoric of historic importance, a call for peace, justice and racial reconciliation. Other listeners speak of the president’s insinuation that criminal behavior by ‘young black boys’ is justified by injustices of the distant past and consequential, uncontrollable resentment.
A single, solitary speech. Two diametrically opposite interpretations.
One group is enthralled by high-minded rhetoric, moved to irrational, emotional celebrations, prepared to take to the streets in the name of racial justice, silencing opposition with claims of moral superiority, and waving the bloody shirt of Trayvon Martin as their flag and a photo of their fellow citizen, George Zimmerman, as the symbol of evil, the target of their wrath.
The other group is disgusted by the vile, ugly picture of ALL Americans implicit in the speech. For the speech to reflect America, it’s necessary to believe that whites perpetrate, condone or intentionally ignore hard-core acts of race-based oppression against black victims who are, in this speech, relegated to a state of sub-human savagery, incapable of taking responsibility for their actions and accountable to no rules or standards, black victims rendered helpless without a federal police force to protect them from racial profiling.
And so now, if we listen to the President, we have two sides in America. Both to some degree indignant, emotional, aggrieved . . . pushed to the edge.
Obama’s message? It’s war. He presents us with a choice between two lies. He concludes that justice chooses sides, it is not impartial or impersonal. He asks, “which will it be, Justice for Trayvon or Justice for George?” and tells you to choose carefully your hero or prepare to be trampled.
I’m not encouraged about the prospects of reconciliation. In a battle with justice and truth on the sidelines, unhinged emotion pitted against indignant logic, there are no winners, only victors and victims.
There is a better way – let’s find it together. Reject both lies. Soon, or else . . .