I’m pleased that President Barack Obama reassured African-Americans Saturday that he remains focused on the dangers facing young black men and police across this country, even as U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced his resignation in the midst of the Michael Brown investigation.
Black America – and certainly Michael Brown’s family — needed to hear from their Black president on this particular issue, at this particular time.
“I know that Michael’s family is here tonight,” Obama said during the Congressional Black Caucus’ annual awards dinner. “I know that nothing any of us can say can ease the grief of losing a child so soon. But the anger and the emotion that followed his death awakened our nation once again to the reality that people in this room have long understood, which is, in too many communities around the country, a gulf of mistrust exists between local residents and law enforcement.”
Michael Brown, the unarmed teenager from Ferguson, Missouri was shot and killed August 9 by police officer Darren Wilson.
Several eyewitnesses said Brown’s hands were raised in the air when he was gunned down. A grand jury has been empaneled to determine whether charges against Wilson should be filed.
“We have to close the justice gap — how justice is applied, but also how it is perceived, how it is experienced,” Obama said. “Eric Holder understands this. That’s what we saw in Ferguson this summer, when Michael Brown was killed and a community was divided. We know that the unrest continues. And Eric spent some time with the residents and police of Ferguson, and the Department of Justice has indicated that its civil rights investigation is ongoing.”
Obama’s acknowledgment of race and policing comes at a critical moment in our communities. Many Black Americans expressed shock and disappointment that Holder is stepping down after six years leading the Department of Justice as the agency’s first African-American U.S. Attorney General.
While many black Americans praised Holder for his commitment to civil rights issues, others questioned whether Holder’s replacement – whoever that may be – will have the same drive, pledge and racial awareness that Holder possessed. But I believe Obama clearly understands the seriousness of race and policing in America and will direct the next U.S. Attorney General to continue Holder’s diligent pursuit of civil rights cases, which includes the Michael Brown case.