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According to President Obama, it is unhelpful, paranoid, and (he implies) stupid for Americans to believe we are being deliberately targeted by persons motivated by a radical version of Islam. It is, however, perfectly rational for black Americans to believe that they are being deliberately targeted for wholesale persecution and execution by racist American police officers. Here’s the president speaking a few days after the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson:
Of course, it’s important to remember how this started. We lost a young man, Michael Brown, in heartbreaking and tragic circumstances. He was 18 years old. His family will never hold Michael in their arms again. And when something like this happens, the local authorities—including the police—have a responsibility to be open and transparent about how they are investigating that death, and how they are protecting the people in their communities.
Speaking at the commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the March on Selma, the president said:
Of course, a more common mistake is to suggest that Ferguson is an isolated incident; that racism is banished; that the work that drew men and women to Selma is now complete, and that whatever racial tensions remain are a consequence of those seeking to play the “race card” for their own purposes. We don’t need the Ferguson report to know that’s not true. We just need to open our eyes, and our ears, and our hearts to know that this nation’s racial history still casts its long shadow upon us.
Why isn’t “opening our eyes and our ears and our hearts” also a reasonable way to gather evidence about the intentions of radicalized Islamists? Why does the attorney general fret about those who might be inspired by Islamophobia to attack innocent Muslims, but not about the murder of police officers inspired by #BlackLivesMatter rhetoric? Why are the motivations so obvious, apparent, and simple when it comes to racism, but so complicated when it comes to Islam?
“We are still learning all the facts,” he reported coolly, even as Orlando police officers were processing the scene of this horrendous crime.
This is an open investigation. We’ve reached no definitive judgment on the precise motivations of the killer. The FBI is appropriately investigating this as an act of terrorism. And I’ve directed that we must spare no effort to determine what — if any — inspiration or association this killer may have had with terrorist groups.
And then there’s this, from his angry statement blasting Trump’s call to name the “inspiration or association” of the killer, radical Islam :
And let me make a final point. For a while now, the main contribution of some of my friends on the other side of the aisle have made in the fight against ISIL is to criticize this administration and me for not using the phrase “radical Islam.” That’s the key, they tell us — we can’t beat ISIL unless we call them “radical Islamists.” What exactly would using this label accomplish? What exactly would it change? Would it make ISIL less committed to trying to kill Americans? Would it bring in more allies? Is there a military strategy that is served by this? The answer is none of the above. Calling a threat by a different name does not make it go away.
… [T]here’s no magic to the phrase “radical Islam.” It’s a political talking point; it’s not a strategy.
“Racism” is a political talking point. It is not a strategy, at least, not one used to improve the lives of black Americans. Instead, it is a weaponized insult, strategically deployed against people who — for the most part — have done nothing whatsoever to deserve it. In particular, it has been used against police officers, including Darren Wilson, who have risked their lives in defense of the proposition that black lives and all lives matter.
Like Mona Charon, I ask “Whose side is he on?”