At the end of a press conference on health care reform, they asked President Obama about the arrest of Henry Louis Gates, Jr, a black Harvard professor who is a friend of his. Obama took three minutes to answer the question. In part he said:
Now, I don’t know, not having been there and not seeing all the facts, what role race played in that, but I think it’s fair to say, number one, any of us would be pretty angry; number two, that the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home; and, number three, what I think we know, separate and apart from this incident, is that there is a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately. And that’s just a fact.
That was so great and so wonderful! To have a president who does not mouth the storybook lies about America but knows full well what goes on and says it out loud. Not only was he willing to call the police boneheaded right there on television, but he did not buy the police account of events either!!
One of the best lines from his NAACP speech last week:
When I drive through Harlem or I drive through the South Side of Chicago and I see young men on the corners, I say, there but for the grace of God go I. They’re no less gifted than me. They’re no less talented than me.
One of the greatest, greatest things about Obama is that he does not believe in the Just World Doctrine – unlike most White Americans, who seem to believe, or at least want to believe, that the world is just. Not should be just, but already is just!
So when the world is plainly unjust they look the other way or try to come up with Some Logical Explanation or some half-baked excuse. Like when the New York Times talks about black unemployment. Unless the injustice is far away (China, Alabama) or long ago (1800s, 1950s) or is done by people “not like them” (Muslims, blacks) it makes them uncomfortable and not, say, angry or sad or shocked like they should be.
They want to believe that America, or at least White America, is just. It is clear that their sense of themselves as good people is built on it, which makes their belief even more deeply rooted. But the lies and the level of moral and intellectual blindness required to carry that off means only that more evil will be done.
Therefore the Just World Doctrine makes the world more unjust than it would have been. And so then, one fine day, one bright Tuesday morning, they find two of their tallest buildings falling down in front of their eyes.