The Conversation

You're Not Doing Obama a Favor by Praising His Trayvon Speech

The Business Insider tells us: "People Are Saying Obama's Off-The-Cuff Speech On Race Was One Of His Most Important Ever." That sounds wonderful for Obama, and is intended as praise, but is actually rather damning.

The entire premise of the speech was a lie. Race had nothing to do with the trial of George Zimmerman, as both the prosecution and defense said, and no evidence that he profiled Trayvon Martin because of his race. 

In insisting on the importance of race, Obama continued the federal government's scapegoating of a young man who, until he was falsely described by the media as "white," was an unlikely villain in a contrived racial drama.

Arguably, then, Obama's speech was not only misleading but profoundly destructive, setting back the cause of civil rights, dividing Americans against each other, and undermining public faith in equality before the law.

Certainly, Obama delivered his remarks with unusual fluency--and without a teleprompter--likely because it covered topics he knows well and has written much about: namely, the politics of racial identity, and himself.

An entire generation of Americans has been raised to regard such articulate cultural self-awareness as the highest form of intelligence, even though it creates nothing of material interest or real philosophical value. 

But if the most important speech Obama has given in the past five years--in the midst of economic crisis, rising debt, and new foreign challenges--is about identity politics, then his presidency is a staggering failure.


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