Obama behavior has widened the racial divide
by Melvyn L Fein
August 24, 2014 07:55 PM | 4338 views | 5 5 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Melvyn Fein
Melvyn Fein
Like many other Americans, I assumed that electing an African-American president would improve race relations. Sadly, it has not worked out that way. Worse yet, our president’s behavior has contributed to widening the racial divide.

After violence erupted in Ferguson, Mo., in the wake of the Michael Brown shooting, Barack Obama did little to calm the waters. Oh yes, he made the mandatory pronouncement about how rioting and attacking the police were not acceptable, but there was little passion in his words.

Then he compounded the problem by attempting to be even-handed. He opined how the police were required to respect peaceful protests and not over-react. They ought not have brought out the riot gear or armored personal carriers to confront what was basically a civil rights demonstration.

But this was no civil rights march. This was a full-blown rampage. The pictures of people gleefully pillaging retail outlets looked very much like a mini-Watts. Added to this, shots were fired and Molotov cocktails thrown.

It has been argued that some people — some outsiders — got out of control and therefore the peaceable residents of Ferguson should not be punished. But that is like saying most Moslems are pacific and therefore we should never have sought to punish al-Qaida for 9/11.

Law and order is not just a phrase. If it is to exist, it must be upheld. Allowing the thugs to run rampant essentially gives them permission to be as vicious as they want to be. Fear of hurting their feelings is tantamount to applauding their hooliganism.

As for the alleged over-reaction of the police in attempting to restore order, that is a canard. No civilian heads were broken; no rioters shot; none of the perpetrators injured. It was the cops, thanks to their restraint, who were harmed.

Regarding that riot gear, were the police not supposed to protect themselves? Were they to stand there essentially naked and allow themselves to be pelted with stones? Years ago, when I was in the Army Reserve, we were trained in crowd control and I can assure you that the police, who are as human as anyone else, bleed when they are assaulted.

Now as to the causes of this nonsense: Why did the demonstrators in Ferguson go wild? Much of the blame can laid at the door of our president. Contrary to what he keeps saying, the economy is on life-support. Six years into his administration, good jobs have not come back.

That matters because the African-American community has been among the hardest hit. More blacks are out of work and/or underpaid than others. Naturally, they are hurting. In other words, their grievance is not altogether about police brutality, but a society that has deprived them of opportunity.

So whose fault is that? How about Barack Obama? His misguided policies have encouraged dependency rather than personal responsibility. In the name of making everyone equal, he has expanded the underclass. No wonder that those deprived of a chance to move up resent the authorities.

Then our president added to the difficulty by excusing the inexcusable. Michael Brown was a thug. He might not have been stopped for robbing the store he was caught on videotape raiding, yet his repugnant character was clearly revealed. He was not a nice “child.”

When we forget that, when we pretend this was irrelevant, we are complicit in the shooting. The police officer who fired that shot might not have had just cause, yet in immediately assuming a black teen was without culpability we indirectly abet future tragedies.

African-Americans have been badly treated in this country. Many still are. Nonetheless, in ignoring the role people play in their own degradation, we reinforce behavior that should not be tolerated.

Those who are not sanctioned for their thugery will continue in their self-defeating practices. By the same token, those who are indulgent of such conduct are asking for chaos and depravity. What sense does that make — for anyone?

Melvyn L. Fein, Ph.D., is a professor of Sociology at Kennesaw State University.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
August 25, 2014
If Obama walked on water Fein would say he couldn't swim.
August 24, 2014
You are WAY off in your assessment. The actions or words of the President have done nothing but soothe the situation in Ferguson. I am fed up with people defining the thoughts of African Americans without asking!!!
August 25, 2014
Let's face it, there is absolutely nothing President Obama could ever do that would satisfy Melvin Fein and the right wing but who better could define the African-American experience than an old, white, right wing conservative.
Rhett Writer
August 25, 2014
To TRW06. And I am sick and tired of people jumping into discussions without having read what the man said.

If he is so far off in his assessment, how is it that many of these black protesters are attacking Sharpton and Jackson? The simple reason is that the black community recognizes these race baiters for what they are. The do no good for the black people, who, as Dr. Fein states, have been, and continue to be in too many case, badly treated?

You need to quit listening to the race baiters and try to understand that many white people, even old white people, recognize the problems of black

people and want to help them.

There are black leaders who are working, hand in in hand with whtie leaders to correct these problems, but the race baiters (the Sharptons and the Jacksons) work that much harder to keep the racial tensions alive because their very livelihoods depend on it.
August 24, 2014
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