Apparently, everything but racist policing killed Mike Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner on Staten Island.
“It’s decades of racial disparity, and economic disparity. It’s not a problem with the police,” said Jeff Roorda, an official with the St. Louis Police Officers Association after the Ferguson grand jury announcement was announced. “If we spend this time in the wake of Michael Brown’s killing trying to change law enforcement to fix this problem, it’s going to be a betrayal to his legacy, because that’s not why Michael Brown ended on the street confronting a police officer.”
As delusional as that statement may seem to many, it’s not too far off from the one President Obama gave following the announcement that Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson wouldn’t stand trial for killing Mike Brown, and it’s motivated by the same inability to hold police officers accountable. In his speech following the grand jury decision, the President called for order and championed the “rule of law.” He also played a dangerous rhetorical game.
“Finally, we need to recognize that the situation in Ferguson speaks to broader challenges that we still face as a nation,” said Obama. “The fact is, in too many parts of this country, a deep distrust exists between law enforcement and communities of color. Some of this is the result of the legacy of racial discrimination in this country. And this is tragic, because nobody needs good policing more than poor communities with higher crime rates.”
The president doubled down on that theme last week in his statement following the announcement that Eric Garner’s killer wouldn’t face charges, emphasizing the right of police officers to come home and the need for confidence in the system. And, in his first sit-down on the topic on police brutality this week on BET, he said more of the same.
The President’s comments have been characteristically moderate and politically safe, but hold depressing implications for American race relations and our capacity to reform deadly police practices.