Well this is awkward.
If you missed Barack Obama's impromptu speech last Friday on the realities of growing up black in the same country as Trayvon Martin, this is the passage that's most essential for understanding why New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly would make a baffling choice to become the country's top domestic security official:
You know, when Trayvon Martin was first shot, I said that this could have been my son. Another way of saying that is Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago. And when you think about why, in the African-American community at least, there’s a lot of pain around what happened here, I think it’s important to recognize that the African-American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that -- that doesn’t go away.
There are very few African-American men in this country who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store. That includes me.
And there are very few African-American men who haven’t had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That happens to me, at least before I was a senator. There are very few African-Americans who haven’t had the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she had a chance to get off. That happens often.
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Stop-and-frisk, the deeply controversial policing tactic that Kelly has led and defended in New York City, is essentially the institutional version of everything that Obama describes above. The only difference is that the people following blacks in New York, eying them with distrust and suspecting them of being up to no good, are police officers. And they have the power to pat people down and detain them, one indignity piled onto another.
Obama was explicitly trying to bring "context" to the outpouring of anger following last week's ruling in Florida. But his words also offer the best context imaginable for why the architect of stop-and-frisk would be a bizarre nominee to become Obama's head of the Department of Homeland Security, a move that would implicitly endorse at the federal level the tactic of preemptively profiling minorities in massive numbers to head off crime.