Obama, Holder and the Disingenuous Ferguson Tweets

By Amelia Hamilton Published on March 13, 2015

This week, two police officers were shot in Ferguson, MO.

A few hours later, the White House sent out a couple of tweets in response. One is attributed to AG Eric Holder:

 

The other tweet was attributed to President Obama:

Stunning. How can two adults (and the staffers who approved these tweets) be so out of touch? How can they lack such basic self-awareness?

When Michael Brown attacked a police officer, the officer shot and killed him in self defense. Later, Eric Holder’s own Justice Department investigation would exonerate the officer. But before this, Holder and President Obama were among those who jumped on the Brown story, spinning a narrative about trigger-happy racism.

Shortly after Brown’s death, Holder flew to Ferguson and spoke with students and community members. He described his own experience of being pulled over and having his car searched in New Jersey, and speculated that such incidents were racially motivated. Perhaps they were. But the effect of Holder’s actions was to give official cover to the narrative that Michael Brown’s death was racially motivated, and not simply the result of Brown attacking an officer of the law.

I don’t know how often racial injustice occurs in Ferguson. What I do know is that it is wrong in every instance. I also know that every time racism is falsely attributed to a incident, it sets race relations back. It makes it that much harder for the valid complaints to be taken seriously.

Just days ago, Holder was still at it. “Seen in this context,” he said, “amid a highly toxic environment, defined by mistrust and resentment, stoked by years of bad feelings and spurred by illegal and misguided practices, it is not difficult to imagine how a single tragic incident set off the city of Ferguson like a powder keg.”  Tell that to the black and white business owners who have lost their businesses and livelihoods to protestors. I doubt the context in which their stores were burned down will be much comfort.

The president, for his part, sent three official representatives to Michael Brown’s funeral in August, to the funeral of a man killed after robbing a store and attacking a police officer who then fired in self-defense. In September, the President spoke to the Congressional Black Caucus, with Michael Brown’s family in attendance, and said that racial injustice by police officers “stains the heart of black children.”

He offered this racial gloss without the facts, and as we later learned, contrary to the facts. When the grand jury came to a decision, it concluded that there was no racial element in the Michael Brown shooting.

Rather than admitting his mistake and reassessing the situation, Obama chose to continue in a similar vein. “There are Americans who agree with it,” he observed, “and there are Americans who are deeply disappointed — even angry. It’s an understandable reaction.”  What? Wasn’t it good news that a police officer had not shot a man out of racial animus?

There are, of course, countless factors that contributed to the spiraling chaos in Ferguson. However, Obama and Holder are not without fault. Rather than changing their strategy after things got out of hand, the president attempted to shift blame over to the media, since protests, he said in the same speech, “make for good TV.” But if Obama is concerned about those who stoke racial tensions, perhaps it’s time he look in the mirror.

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