There is no question that the killing of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin has captured the nation’s attention. The local police department’s allegedly inadequate investigation and insistence that the shooter George Zimmerman remain free, with no criminal charges, has led to an eruption in social media, the creation of numerous online petitions, and even for the Justice Department to launch an investigation into possible civil rights violations of the slain teenager. One voice has been missing from the public outcry: President Barack Obama.
As the first black president, Barack Obama is frequently called on to comment on public controversies, particularly when that controversy involve issues of race. When he commented on the arrest of Professor Henry Louis Gates, saying the police officer who arrested the diminutive Ivy League professor acted “stupidly” the criticism that followed was loud and swift. Since then, the president and the White House have appeared to be much more careful when wading into the waters of public debates.
That hands off policy remained throughout the case of Oscar Grant’s shooter and the execution of Troy Davis, to the angst of many who feel the black president should express the frustrations of black America when one of our own is facing such horrific injustice.
But in the case of Trayvon Martin, that desire is misguided. In fact, by making any public statements about the ongoing investigation, the White House could derail the family’s efforts to seek justice for their son.