Unraveling Obama's False Narratives
JONATHAN S. TOBIN, Commentary Magazine
President Obama stated something that was incontrovertibly true on Saturday when he said, “America is not as divided as some have suggested.” He’s right. The awful nature of two police shootings of African-Americans last week followed by the horror of the murder of five police officers in Dallas has left some Americans feeling as if their country is falling apart. The comparison being mooted in many places was to 1968 when race riots and political assassinations seemed to drive the country to the brink of chaos. So President Obama did the right thing when he sought to use the bully pulpit of the presidency to remind us that this perception is highly misleading. As bad as the last week felt—and it felt very bad indeed—there is no comparison to that moment of crisis.
But if many Americans feel as if the nation is heading toward an abyss, it is due in no small measure to the same person who is, belatedly, trying to calm public opinion. Throughout his presidency and in particular during the last two years since the shooting in Ferguson, Missouri in August 2014, he and other administration figures, such as former Attorney General Eric Holder, have worked hard to promote a false narrative of resurgent American racism. If the president is now trying to assert that individual acts of violence, whether an arguably unjustified shooting by a police officer or a mass shooting by a disturbed individual, should not cause us to jump to conclusions about that act representing the intentions of an entire group, then it is he, as much as anyone who has encouraged Americans to think in this manner. Having helped to encourage that fundamental misreading of American society as irremediably racist despite the fact that we twice elected an African-American to the presidency, it is a little too little and far too late for him to be offering wiser counsel.
It must be understood that the Black Lives Matter movement, which has done its best to perpetuate the myth that all blacks are in danger from the police everywhere, did not operate in a vacuum. Though their hateful statements were more extreme than anything said by the president or Holder, the administration helped legitimize the now widely held belief that police are an out-of-control force that is over-militarized and inclined to murder minorities with impunity.