Saying it can’t just be left to the police to “do the dirty work of containing the problems,” President Obama today said change must come to minority communities, implicitly acknowledging that the root of the deadly confrontations that crop up between police and African Americans lies in the communities themselves.
Now, I would disagree with his solutions to these problems. But I give the president credit, unlike the race baiters who descend on episodic violence to promote anger and hatred, for understanding that this is not simply about police racism, but about a societal problem that leads inevitably to conflict between the police and minorities.
Obama spoke during a Rose Garden press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Abe. He lamentably undermined his message on the need for change by proclaiming a police discrimination “crisis.” But he also spoke eloquently about the problems within the dangerous places where cops must patrol:
Without making any excuses for criminal activities that take place in these communities, what we also know is that if you have impoverished communities that have been stripped away of opportunity, where children are born into abject poverty; they’ve got parents — often because of substance-abuse problems or incarceration or lack of education themselves — can’t do right by their kids; if it’s more likely that those kids end up in jail or dead, than they go to college.
In communities where there are no fathers who can provide guidance to young men; communities where there’s no investment, and manufacturing has been stripped away; and drugs have flooded the community, and the drug industry ends up being the primary employer for a whole lot of folks — in those environments, if we think that we’re just going to send the police to do the dirty work of containing the problems that arise there without as a nation and as a society saying what can we do to change those communities, to help lift up those communities and give those kids opportunity, then we’re not going to solve this problem.
And we’ll go through the same cycles of periodic conflicts between the police and communities and the occasional riots in the streets, and everybody will feign concern until it goes away, and then we go about our business as usual.
Obama, of course, sees government as playing a major role in the solution, touting things like “early education,” a tens of billions of dollars new childcare program of little benefit. He wants “investments” in massive “job training” programs, which don’t get real bang for the buck.
But he also has some ideas a conservative could consider.
We’re going to have to think about what can we do . . . to make sure that we’re reforming our criminal justice system so it’s not just a pipeline from schools to prisons; so that we’re not rendering men in these communities unemployable because of a felony record for a nonviolent drug offense.
Now that’s an idea. There are some conservatives, in the libertarian spirit, who would just legalize drugs altogether. Short of that, ensuring that someone’s life is not ruined because of a minor offense that plenty of protected kids at college routinely commit may be a point of agreement between Obama and the right.
And Obama admits that the “massive investments in urban communities” he wants aren’t coming out of Congress. So he knows he’ll have to find other pathways that, though they may not involve reducing government, don’t include expanding it.
If we really want to solve the problem, if our society really wanted to solve the problem, we could. It’s just it would require everybody saying this is important, this is significant — and that we don’t just pay attention to these communities when a CVS burns, and we don’t just pay attention when a young man gets shot or has his spine snapped. We’re paying attention all the time because we consider those kids our kids, and we think they’re important. And they shouldn’t be living in poverty and violence.
It is important. It is significant. It’s the future of our country. Now if Obama would stop demonizing conservatives at every turn, maybe he could make progress with them trying to solve the problem. If he really wants to.