COMMENTARY: A history of discrimination earns President Obama a right to speak

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President Barack Obama tours the Martin Luther King Memorial in Washington, D.C., Oct. 14, 2011. Photo courtesy of The White House/Pete Souza

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(RNS) Imagine that Joe Lieberman had been elected president. And that in a moment of crisis, he felt compelled to explain that some American Jewish support for Israel is partly explained by the Jewish cultural memory of the Holocaust. Would he be accused of whatever the Jewish equivalent of “race-baiting” might be?

  • Kay

    Excellent article. Bringing up two young men alongside African American friends we often discussed these differences, how I did not fear for their lives in daily life situations and we did not think to instruct them in how to respond to the everyday events they would encounter.

  • Ben

    To paraphrase Jonathan Merritt, the president is NOT Jewish, so this is not helpful.

  • Jeremy

    Getting there, Mr. Weiss, is all about becoming less Jew-ish centric, less Black-centric, etc., and more as the “perfect union” is supposed to be: we are all Americans, and enjoy the same rights and privileges of that title.

    Our President, therefore, is the President of all American people, and should NOT be personalizing a perceived racial situation (absolutely nothing rascist occurred here, and certainly was not reflected as such during the trial) and thus placing himself in the position of a potential race-baiter himself. That’s not his job.

    As for your somewhat biased interpretation of what occured that awful night, George Zimmerman was reacting to what had been a recent series of crimes — and not reacting to black people per se — but stupidly (and, in my view, illegally) disregarded Police instructions not to approach Trayvon Martin. Trayvon then did something equally stupid and apparently attacked George Zimmerman. The results were horrible.

    Zimmerman has no past history of racial animus — apparently just the opposite. Martin equally had no history of criminal activity. One overreacted to a wannabe role, the other overreacted to perceived bias. Both were stupid (and yes, Zimmerman should have been charged and convicted of a lesser crime).

    But no how, other than in your, the President’s (and others’) particular and incessant desire to create bigotry out of nothing, was this a crime about race and negative cultural history.

    Enough, already . . . Without points of view such as yours, we might be there already!

  • Suzon Gordon

    Sorry, something racist was, indeed, at work in the Martin case: The law itself. The president did something I’ve been waiting for, for 5 years. He opened a long-overdue the conversation on race in this country. I hope he isn’t finished because there’s so much more to say.

    And yes, it affects Jews. Because Jews still live with discrimination, subtle or overt, in some places and when anybody is being hurt, it hurts us. And because my daughter and her partner are raising my grandchildren–one white, three Black.

    Because at age 12 my grandson had a lesson in what I call OPP–Other People’s Problems. And because my daughter had to teach her younger children that the world is not as nice to Black people as it is to white. And because some Jews are Black. Need any more reasons?

  • Jeremy

    Because a fair trial (our President’s words) results in a verdict that we may find distasteful, does not mean the law is racist. What law involved here is racist?

    That your family, sadly, has to teach its inter-racial children that life is unequal, racially or otherwise, is nevertheless not a reason for a President of all the people to play the race game. Plain and simple, not all conflicts involving different races are racist. Assuming so only feeds the negative stereotypes even further.

    I’ve been called all the dirty names a Jew can be called, and my answer to that form of bigotry is rising above morons that resort to this stuff, competing successfully in society, and preparing a cleaner playing field so the next generation gets it better. That has, in fact, happened: MY inter-racial family has proved it. Yes, black and white.

    There may still be racism and bigotry; my only point is — our President should rise above it, and the Zimmerman/Martin tragedy had little to do such animus.