Regardless of color, every loss of life to gun violence is a calamity. This is especially true of Chicago, the home city which Barack Obama represented politically and supposedly “organized” before rapidly ascending to the White House as our first African-American president. Despite Chicago having the strictest gun control laws in the United States, the Fourth of July weekend’s explosive sounds of celebratory fireworks were tragedy augmented by eruptions of gunfire in which 82 people were shot, 14 fatally. Shockingly, these events did not warrant front page treatment like the demise of one young man, Michael Brown: a recent high school graduate reportedly too timid to play football or have fisticuffs who had a physical altercation with a white police officer which resulted in his shooting death.
At 6-foot-4 and 292 pounds “Big Mike,” as he was known to his intimates, must have been an intimating figure. In any case, he certainly stood out on convenience store surveillance video when he brashly stole $48.99 worth of Swisher Sweets cigars and shoved a much smaller store clerk out of the way who attempted to block his departure. Minutes later, he and his partner in crime, friend Dorian Johnson, were found foolishly walking down the center line of a main thoroughfare when approached by Darren Wilson’s police cruiser. Through his attorney-spokesman, Mr. Johnson claimed that Big Mike’s actions were a “prank” and that Officer Wilson attempted to grab his friend by the throat through the window of his police car. The logistics of a presumably seated police officer reaching Big Mike’s neck through an open car window frankly defies me. On the other hand, if the officer was standing, I still don’t understand the purpose of reaching for a suspect with a car door as a barrier. Indeed, despite the boiler-plate facts of a shooting death of a black teen by a white cop, many aspects of this situation remain unclear.
What started out as store looting in Ferguson, MO has mutated into full-on civil unrest due to the young man’s tragic death. To this violent hotspot basking in the soft glow of mass media cameras, the Reverends Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson—who like Mr. Obama habitually ignore Chicago’s greater number of shooting fatalities which just this past weekend as an example amounted to 7 deaths and 29 injured—have made appearances. Ironically, Mr. Brown’s parents have hired the attorneys that represented Trayvon Martin; another supposed victim of white prejudice by volunteer neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman, a man of mixed race. As with the Trayvon Martin case, President Obama has weighed in “deepest condolences.” Interestingly, he remains silent on the war zone that his hometown has become. Indeed, why are the deaths of these particular two young men so much more important to the president than the deaths of scores of other young men who ‘look like him and could be his sons?’ As the first black president with vast powers at his disposal, why doesn’t he do something to stem the tide of gun violence in the black community?
The truth lies, I suspect, in a few political calculations. Firstly, Chicago is run politically by the Democratic machine and to highlight the ongoing problems of inner community minority violence would be a grave political embarrassment. Secondly, as the black vote is already statistically in the bag—and the vast majority of African Americans support the president no matter what he does or doesn’t do—he doesn’t feel the need to be proactive in their interests by addressing deep-seeded cultural problems like the obscenely high dropout, unemployment or abortion rates. Therefore, Michael Brown—the Trayvon Martin of today—serves as a political pawn to keep the populace divided against itself along racial lines. This dynamic distracts from true societal problems like a corrupt, highly dysfunctional federal government that lies and spies against its citizens. After all, it is said that a happy, prosperous nation votes Republican and an unhappy one votes Democrat. In the final analysis, how racist could an America be who has elected a black man to the U.S. presidency twice?