The ‘outside agitator’ in the White House

Back in the ’50s and ’60s, defenders of segregation had a stock explanation if some of the local Negros began to get a little rambunctious. Almost always, it was the work of some “outside agitator” putting bad ideas into the heads of people who were really quite content with their situation.

The concept of the outside agitator hasn’t gone away, but these days he resides up in the White House. For daring to suggest that yes, there might be something to the complaints of bias and discrimination in law enforcement, by pointing out that the relationship between many police departments and the communities that they serve has been broken, President Obama has been accused by many on the right of reigniting a racism in this country that had largely disappeared before he took office.

Take this essay by Jed Babbin in The American Spectator, where he writes:

“(Micah) Johnson’s horrific attack on (Dallas) police is the most recent evidence of one of the worst divisions in our society, that between law enforcement people and the civilians they are sworn to protect. That division has been created and is exacerbated daily by President Obama and the rest of the pure-as-ivory-soap ideological liberals he has led for eight years.”

Babben can even cite the starting point, dating it back to the moment in 2009 when Henry Louis Gates, a well-known Harvard professor, was arrested in Cambridge, Mass. under suspicion of breaking into his own home. The president spoke up, mildly, in Gates’ defense, and from that moment on, Babben writes, “Obama has pushed American blacks along the road to Dallas” and the assassination of five police officers.

It’s hard to overstate the utter cluelessness on display here. What happened to Gates drew immense attention because it drove home to black America that no matter how successful or mainstream they might become, it could not erase the suspicion inherent in being black. Obama voiced that sentiment, gently, but to suggest that he in any way created it is absurd. Likewise, Obama was not president in 1965, when the Watts riots began in Los Angeles over allegations that the police had beaten up a suspect in a drunken driving arrest. When the Rodney King riots began in 1992 following the acquittal of police officers who had beaten King senseless, on videotape, Obama was an obscure figure running a voter-registration campaign in Chicago.

In recent days, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed has recalled his own father sitting him down at age 14 and drilling into him the dangers inherent in interactions between black males and law enforcement. As Reed noted, he is 47 years old, yet he can still recite his father’s instructions verbatim, and they are still relevent.

“Keep your hands on the steering wheel. Look forward and say, ‘yes sir’ or ‘ma’am’ to the police officer. Place your wallet in the seat beside you. Ask for permission to do anything, because he was concerned about me living. He just wanted me to get home safe.”

Black America didn’t need a black president to tell them all this. It has been part of the black experience for centuries. In his Pulitzer Prize-winning book “Slavery By Another Name”, Doug Blackmon thoroughly documents the process by which local police were used to dragoon generations of innocent black men into short lifetimes of forced labor, a sly reinvention of slavery that reached from Reconstruction well into the 20th century. The great triumph of the ’60s civil rights movement was its success in forcing white America to witness on the evening news the ways in which state and local law enforcement in the South — police dogs, batons, firehoses, Bull Connor, the Edmund Pettus Bridge — was deployed as a weapon of repression against black America. That cultural memory hasn’t faded, and in some communities the relationship hasn’t changed as much as it should have.

And if the topic has been forced onto the public agenda in recent years, it’s not because of the excruciatingly gentle attempts by Obama to validate but not inflame. The outside agitators this time around are cell-phone and surveillance videos, which have made us all witnesses to what had long remained hidden, and have made it impossible to honestly deny that change is needed.

 

 

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1721 comments
Dennis Michael Smith
Dennis Michael Smith

Great article, Jay.  The right wing has for decades used the paranoia, bigotry and ignorance of some working class white people to trick them into being useful idiots for the wealthy and corporate class for years and to vote for the very Social Darwinist economic extremists who threaten to ruin middle class opportunity in this country and drive us back into the Robber Baron days.  Regular decent open minded white folks who work for wages ought to be working TOGETHER with African-Americans and Hispanics to demand a fair deal for the average worker and not just the rich.


geodunn
geodunn

@Dennis Michael Smith love the way you categorize working class white people as "paranoid" , "bigots" and " ignorant".  Why?  because the don't agree with you? If people in that demographic called blacks xxx or zzzz or yyyyyy, what would be you reaction. You are simply ignorant based on your comments.  

rightofcenter
rightofcenter

Jay, the right blames Obama, you blame the right. What change are you calling for? How about specifics? I will be waiting for that column where you advocate solutions instead of throwing stones.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

I'm still stuck on Bush's "odd" behavior yesterday.  He reminded me of several things, shared below, but also of the Stay Puffed Marshmallow Man in Ghost Busters (the original).


Is it possible he was as handicapped during his term as Reagan was?


geodunn
geodunn

Regarding Jay's opinion piece I could not disagree more.  Every time their was a "racial incident", this celebrity President has jumped to a conclusion before the facts were in- with the intent of creating a inflammatory narrative. Holder and Lynch did the same thing and went beyond.  To use the Dallas Police shooting as a platform of gun control and support for BLM as being non violent is so out of touch.

It also is misconception of the who gets "the talk".  I am a 55 year old white guy and my father told me to keep hands on steering wheel, yes sir/ madam or no sir/ madam, wallet on the seat and permission for any movement.  I have consistently told my two boys the same thing.  It is not a white / black thing.  It is respect for police and authority.  There is not a moral equivalence during a police stop.


Nick_Danger
Nick_Danger

@geodunn 

"It is not a white / black thing.  It is respect for police and authority." 

With respect, you have insufficient knowledge of the subject upon which you expound.

geodunn
geodunn

@Nick_Danger @geodunn nick you have no idea what my knowledge is or isn't other then me being middle age and white.  That perspective is what prevents progress from being achieved. What your perspective implies in wanting to dictate situation not to have a conversation about it.  That is why people with limited knowledge of specific circumstances like Furgeson, Trayvon, Grey, etc.. jump to conclusion about what happened and then generalize and eventually leads to conflict.  The issue is not broken tail light and selling CD's- issue is what happens during the interaction.  

Your a moral narcissist who thinks he is "right" just because he feels it and it makes you feel superior.  Get the info from multiple sources with an open mind and you'll be better off.


Nick_Danger
Nick_Danger

Will former Atlanta police officer James Burns be indicted for murder?  Probably not, because he was a police officer. 

Anyone else who shot at a car driving away from him, killing the driver, without cause, would be in prison.  Just sayin'.

geodunn
geodunn

@Nick_Danger again you base the conclusion on your very limited knowledge of what transpired.  like reading chapter 1 and the last chapter of a book and think you read it.  come on.

Peachs
Peachs

@Donnie_Pinko the will of the people, how do you have the two most unpopular candidates to ever run for office, in one election.  Seems to me growing up ain't all it is cut out to be..

PaulinNH
PaulinNH

@Donnie_Pinko  included all the inclinations that many of us have come to find, shall we say, a tad grating about the man: his interminable, self-congratulatory stump speech, wearingly bereft of humor, argument, story or anecdote, more a listing of all bad things in the world and how they must be put right, delivered in his usual droning shout. 

Ah - the jaded journalist who needs to be entertained approach.

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

I see where the Clueless In Chief used the memorial in Dallas to push gun control.  The embarrassment of him continues.

W on the other hand gave an appropriate presidential speech worthy of the occasion and challenges.

It must be painful for the Left clinging to a loser with the likelihood of Hillary going down in a historic defeat.

BTW, have you seen the latest battleground polls?

Trump ahead in Florida and Pennsylvania, tied with the Hilldabeast in Ohio.

Peachs
Peachs

@CherokeeCounty @JohnnyReb and we have a marginal candidate at best. We need a grass root turn out that carries local elections, they need to get out of the streets and in the voting booths. 

lvg
lvg

I disagree.

CherokeeCounty
CherokeeCounty

@JohnnyReb

I was actually glad to see those polls.  They should remind everyone sane that this thing won't be a cakewalk - that there are a significant number of morons out there who would actually vote for Trump - so we can't take the election for granted.

LordHelpUs
LordHelpUs

@JohnnyReb The only thing worse for the GOP than a Trump loss is a Trump victory.  Even if it is a close loss it will be terrible for the GOP.  A Yuge loss followed by a rebuilding of the GOP is the only "good" outcome for the GOP.

CherokeeCounty
CherokeeCounty

@JohnnyReb

By the way, President Bush gave a good speech.  So did President Obama.  I know it pains you to no end to see one of Those People occupying the White House, but I wonder why it is so impossible for you to just be a little bit gracious occasionally, and admit when he does something well.

lvg
lvg

@JohnnyReb @JohnnyRebObama said one of the difficult challenges for the police was "inner  cities  awash with guns" Now tell me why anyone on the right would have an issue with that statement? (other than it came out of the President's mouth). And then tell me how your "law and order " candidate will make things better for the police to reduce the number of guns in the inner cities.


(Atlanta has over 10,000 guns it seized and the  GOP /NRA legislators will not allow them to be destroyed but rather put back out on the street).


Peachs
Peachs

@CherokeeCounty @JohnnyReb CC you can't outrun reality, if Reb wants to say he can defy gravity and jumps off a 10 story building ,only the ground will correct his thinking. 

PaulinNH
PaulinNH

@CherokeeCounty @JohnnyReb  It's the bubble he is in.  A relative of my wife posts all sorts of stuff on Facebook from various right wing sites - everytime (and I mean EVERY time) Obama says anything they dig to find whatever they can use to gin up false outrage.  I don't recognize the country these folks live in.

LordHelpUs
LordHelpUs

@PaulinNH @CherokeeCounty @JohnnyReb Haha!  Those may be the same people I talk to regularly.  They were OUTRAGED at Bill Clinton's moral failings.  That was then...now, they will gladly pull the lever for Trump.

breckenridge
breckenridge

My goodness the racism was hot and heavy last night.  Racist....they're such ugly people.  And unfortunately the comprise a significant portion of the republican base.

Peachs
Peachs

@breckenridge has always been there, the whole idea of SP as VP, they knew who they were and bet the house there are a lot of them out there. We in return stay at home not vote and let these idiots think they run the place. 

Peachs
Peachs

@InTheMiddle2 @breckenridge at least in the Democrat party we know who is who.  Dennis the menace comes to mind, if you don't know who your speaker is, how do you know who anybody is?

GB101
GB101

It’s hard to overstate the utter cluelessness on display here. What happened to Gates drew immense attention because it drove home to black America that no matter how successful or mainstream they might become, it could not erase the suspicion inherent in being black.


No, the Gates episode became an episode because Gates had a chip on his shoulder.  The police were in fact protecting him and his property.  He was breaking into the house.  The police would have been derelict in their duty had they not investigated.  He should have shown them his ID, explained that he had locked himself out of his house, and thanked them.  


He didn't.  He was indignant over nothing.  It was not the cops who acted "stupidly."  It was Gates.  The afterwards the president of the United States also acted stupidly.

CherokeeCounty
CherokeeCounty

@Peachs @GB101

I expect I would have been pretty angry had I been arrested for trying to get into my own home - after I had provided proof that it was in fact my home.  


An independent panel with experts from across the nation published a report on June 30, 2010, which states that "Sergeant Crowley and Professor Gates each missed opportunities to 'ratchet down' the situation and end it peacefully" and share responsibility for the controversial July 16 arrest

stefpe
stefpe

@GB101 "He should have shown them his ID"
He did...

Peachs
Peachs

@CherokeeCounty @Peachs @GB101 I remember this generation of whites as teenagers, they were very agitated at authority. Now suddenly they are all preachers..

Peachs
Peachs

"No one is quite sure if Theresa May, the next British prime minister, can successfully balance the nation’s economic and political needs with the exit from the European Union." NY Times


Reality what a concept.  It is the reason divorce lawyers make so much, and straight strong men have daughters.  


The word conservative use to mean a banking type, solid personality, now it comes in a radical package, like chemotherapy, which very much like conservatives doesn't work 97% of the time. 


By the time they find out it will be too late, they will be replaced by progressives, then after a few years of watching minorities succeed in a real economy, they will be back on the chemotherapy, forgetting the damage it did last time.  

Doom Classical liberal
Doom Classical liberal

Hmm. I was just watching snippets of Obama's speech. Had no idea he went into even more grievance mongering again-living in the past and complaining about slavery, Jim Crow, and on and on. Sheesh. No wonder we can never move on. The grievance industry won't let us. 

td1234
td1234

@Doom Classical liberal And the hyperbole saying that it is easier for children to get a gun than a book. 


Obama can be a great speech maker when he keeps the ideology out of a unity speech. 

Peachs
Peachs

@skydog12 @td1234 @Doom Classical liberal you know what else has been easy is drugs, 30 year war and you practically can buy it in a retail store.  How many lives have we ruin on the inability of the our government to understand what we can do and can't do. 

Doom Classical liberal
Doom Classical liberal

@td1234 @Doom Classical liberal


Hard to take the man seriously when he says its easier to get a gun than a book. As I said to another poster earlier on that topic- it must be getting awful hard to get a library card nowadays. 


Just watched that Fox news reporter with all the BLM folks getting in his face and yelling the F bomb 4 million times. Hard to take these BLM morons seriously as well. What a bunch of stupids. 

skydog12
skydog12

@td1234 @Doom Classical liberal


Yeah, I would not say it is easier for a child to get a gun rather then a book. About the same difficulty factor for getting both. Easy.

And you don`t have a problem with this?


Oh yeah, the only way to stop a bad child with a gun is a good child with a gun.


Almost show time for the cons.


Hit it Lee, ah 1, ah 2, ah 3...I`m proud to be an Amerikan....


goat diddler
goat diddler

He coulda done a little shuffle and sang mammy and you cons wouldn't have been happy. Just the sight of him makes you cons unhappy.

Donnie_Pinko
Donnie_Pinko

@td1234 @Donnie_Pinko 

Lol. Very predictable you'd say that. 

On the contrary, it's what happens when you try to carry out a hybrid 'revolution' that leaves a capitalist system of class relations in place.

td1234
td1234

@Donnie_Pinko @td1234 LOL. Very predictable you would say that. 


I have never seen this fantasy world you keep alluding too. 

Infraredguy
Infraredguy

@Donnie_Pinko Hillary could turn that over to Bill, he knows about those things and besides, there are a whole bunch of interns down there that have never heard of him