Politicians often employ the name of God to convey a sense of morality. It’s usually an ironic exercise for them though, given God is seemingly pure and just as opposed to politicians—who often prove to be calculated, hard to trust and, in select cases, audaciously hypocritical. President Obama recently invoked the name of God in the wake of a horrific, unjust killing of an American citizen at the hands of a terrorist organization. That citizen was journalist James Foley, who was executed by the terrorist group ISIL.
In his remarks about Foley’s execution, Obama spoke with great fervor, professing, “James was taken from us in an act of violence that shocks the conscience of the entire world.” Indeed, it was, and I salute Obama for quickly addressing his execution, which was released to the Internet by ISIL because all too often do Americans turn a blind eye to the horrors of war.
Yet when Obama talks of “an act of violence that shocks the conscience of the entire world,” one can’t help but think about that other act of violence involving Michael Brown, the antics of area law enforcement after that, and the shock it has spurred across the globe—along with the tepidness of Obama’s remarks about what’s going on in Ferguson issued the day beforehand.
So my frustrations only magnified as Obama continued: “Jim Foley’s life stands in stark contrast to his killers. Let’s be clear about ISIL. They have rampaged across cities and villages killing unarmed citizens in cowardly acts of violence… No faith teaches people to massacre innocents. No just God would stand for what they did yesterday and what they do every single day.”
Like other jihadists groups, ISIL is as close to godlike in its actions as consuming chicken bones off hot cement is to fine dining. The same can be said of America though. Perhaps it’s been a long time since President Obama reflected on a Rev. Wright sermon, particularly the now infamous one that perfectly encapsulated America’s frenemy relationship with Judeo-Christian values. But one doesn’t even have to go back that far to see how peculiar Obama’s criticism sounds given what’s currently going on stateside.
Just as no just God would stand for what ISIL did to James Foley, no just God would look at the death of Michael Brown and the treatment of peaceful protesters simply looking for answers. This would include Ferguson police officers threatening to kill people on the scene, plus shooting them with rubber bullets or tear gas. Even Don Lemon, who often sounds like a cheerleader for whiteness, revealed that one of his producers had a run-in with a member of the National Guard who categorized protesters as “ni**ers.”
As for the remark that “Jim Foley’s life stands in stark contrast to his killers,” the same can be said of all of the unarmed Black men who have been shot in cold blood by monsters hiding behind a badge. Interestingly enough, minutes after Obama slammed ISIL for bastardizing the word of God, protestors took to Twitter to reveal that Ferguson police officers were raiding Greater St. Mark’s church and taking their supplies. What just God would stand for this?
What presumably God-fearing leader would stand for any of it?
Numerous Obama apologists have cited Ezra Klein’s essay “Why Obama won’t give the Ferguson speech his supporters want.” In it, Klein explains that the White House point of view on Obama offering speeches on politically charged topics is that they are “as likely to make things worse as to make things better.” Moreover, that Obama is “a divisive figure who needs to govern the whole country.”
The majority of us are well aware of the fact Obama is “the president of the United States, not Black America” and that he is a divisive figure who is often damned if he do, damned if he don’t. We’re also just as aware that no matter how passive Obama is on politically charged issues—primarily associated with race—he will be no less divisive a figure.
So, at what point does President Obama realize that not only is his passivity on addressing racism and police brutality unhelpful, it’s hurtful? Black people are a part of this country, too. Lest we forget, we also played an integral role in Obama’s ascension to the presidency. Or is that Obama not the same person who once said as a state senator, “Race and ethnicity is not an indicator of criminal activity”?
I don’t agree with Klein’s assessment that, “For Obama, the cost of becoming president was sacrificing the unique gift that made him president.” The opposition has already neutered his presidency, so why not use the bully pulpit to speak on the disease that is racism and gross police brutality against Black men and women? If Obama wants to teach ISIL a thing or two about godlike antics, he should lead by example. Because going by Obama’s own account of God, America has its own sins to atone for.