Message to President Obama: Stand Your Ground

Message to President Obama: Stand Your Ground

By Mike Green

President Barack Obama surprised the nation on July 19 with an impromptu press conference in the aftermath of the recent acquittal of George Zimmerman, a self-proclaimed volunteer community watchman who was eventually arrested and charged weeks after admitting to shooting and killing 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. The unarmed Black teenager was walking home from a nearby store on a rainy evening in Sanford, Florida when he was followed and approached by Zimmerman. Although public scrutiny is focused on Florida’s controversial Stand Your Ground law, Zimmerman’s freedom didn’t come by invoking “Stand Your Ground,” a statute that justifies killing in self-defense.

Rather, Zimmerman was returned to society a free man because the jury believed what he did was completely acceptable in America today. A recent Washington Post-ABC poll revealed a majority of white Americans (51 percent) believe Zimmerman’s acquittal was justified. Beyond that, 54 percent of white Americans also believe minorities are treated equally and fairly in America today.

Government Gone Too Far?

Ironically, that poll result is reminiscent of the 1973 Quayle Poll, in which 65 percent of white respondents in Illinois believed the government had “gone far enough” or “gone too far” in helping Black Americans overcome generations of legally sanctioned societal barriers and open hostility.

Similarly, in 2010, members of the upstart conservative movement, Tea Party, were polled and displayed alignment with Illinois conservatives from a previous generation. 73 percent agreed with the statement, “Blacks would be as well off as Whites if they tried harder.”

Killing the American Dream

Imagine that. A mere five years after the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, conservative (and liberal) white Americans were satisfied the government had fully met whatever presumed obligation they were willing to tolerate in helping Black Americans. Nearly four decades later that sentiment remained deeply entrenched in the psyche of many conservative white Americans.

The same unbroken historic narrative surfaced again in the aftermath of the Zimmerman trial. Ironically, the prominent perspective held in the private sector (thanks Mitt Romney) was reflected in the results of the latest polling, which revealed a stereotypical sentiment coursing through the veins of many in the investment class. The notion that nearly half of the nation (47 percent according to Romney) is lazy and dependent upon government dovetails with beliefs of previous generations of White Americans who proclaimed government had done more than enough, and Blacks would be as well off as Whites if only they would try hard enough.

Obama’s Innovation

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That consistent history underscores why I am so proud of the leadership exhibited by our president. The irrational fear and stereotyped branding ascribed to Black males in America, emphasized by the jury’s dismissal of all optional charges against Zimmerman, wasn’t lost on him. And instead of letting the nation devolve into inane partisan bickering with racial undertones, Obama established a platform of personal revelation and empathetic understanding, set a legacy agenda for sustained national discourse and reminded us of his own capacity to convene around the issue of fearing Black boys and men, which seems to permeate every nook and cranny of our society. Even the president hasn’t been immune to the racist undercurrent that flows unabated beneath the surface of a presumed post-racial America.

The main point is: President Obama has established the best possible dialogue, policy and action platform to determine the way forward for our nation.

“You know, when Trayvon Martin was first shot I said that this could have been my son,” President Obama said. “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 doesn’t go away.”

America21: Doing the Work

Mr. President, I salute you. In modern times, there has not been a more powerfully positioned Black man on Earth than you. Please continue standing your ground to ensure the nation doesn’t set aside the important questions (which have raged for generations) around the issues of privilege, fear, access and opportunity.

I promise that I, along with my colleagues at The America21 Project and Saving America’s Black Boys National Campaign, will stand with you and continue working diligently to follow through on your suggestion of gathering leaders and influencers to find positive ways of developing collaborative paths toward productivity and prosperity for African American boys (and girls) in a nation where they still face contempt deeply embedded in large pockets of the population.

We heard you, Mr. President. And we’re prepared to scale up our ongoing efforts to meet your declarations:

“But beyond protests or vigils, the question is, are there some concrete things that we might be able to do.”

Yes. We’ve been invested in deployment of a new narrative, new vision and new approaches for about three years.

“… and this is a long-term project — we need to spend some time in thinking about how do we bolster and reinforce our African American boys.”

My Saving America’s Black Boys National Campaign, launched at SXSWedu earlier this year is a great platform for convening leaders and influencers to facilitate ongoing dialogue that leads to policy changes and strategic deployment investments in new infrastructure and pipelines to productivity and prosperity across the nation.

“And is there more that we can do to give them the sense that their country cares about them and values them and is willing to invest in them?”

Yes. African American males have a long history of innovation and creating significant value that have contributed to multi-trillion dollar industries. The establishment of a National Institute for Minority Innovation and Competitiveness (NIMIC) would provide the research, data, academic rigor, new competitive intelligence indices and other measurement tools that help make the case for national investment in scaling up the hidden talent pool that flourishes in America’s economic blind spot.

“I do recognize that as President, I’ve got some convening power, and there are a lot of good programs that are being done across the country on this front. And for us to be able to gather together business leaders and local elected officials and clergy and celebrities and athletes, and figure out how are we doing a better job helping young African American men feel that they’re a full part of this society and that they’ve got pathways and avenues to succeed — I think that would be a pretty good outcome from what was obviously a tragic situation. And we’re going to spend some time working on that and thinking about that.”

Saving America’s Black Boys National Campaign

Mr. President, we’ve got your back. Thank you for acknowledging this work is important and should be supported nationwide. We’re already engaged in convening stakeholders and advancing the narrative you’ve declared is important.

I’d like to invite you, the First Lady, your daughters and entire administration to gather with us at the Puget Sound Region Economic Solutions Summit on Aug. 16 in Tacoma, Washington, when I and my colleague Johnathan Holifield, visionary architect of Inclusive Competitiveness, will lead a discussion with business leaders, educators, entrepreneurs, policymakers, community activists, parents and students in addressing unique economic solutions that can, as part of an overall economic toolkit, lead to development of a pipeline to productivity and prosperity for America’s Black Boys.

I’ve long focused my attention on moving the divisive debate toward a solutions-oriented discourse, which I believe should be built upon a firm foundation of education, especially STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math), job- and wealth-creating, high-growth entrepreneurship, equal and equitable access to investment capital and innovative policymaking.

My colleagues and co-founders at America21 have codified an inclusive economic framework and enveloped it within an overall vision of Inclusive Competitiveness that will, when packaged with other economic tools, help strengthen the global competitiveness of America.

Of course, the work we and others do requires a base of support. And there’s no more powerful base than the declarative power of a president committed to a cause – a cause whose time has certainly come.

Thank you for your leadership. Thank you for standing your ground and establishing a firm foundation for the work we do.


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INVITATION: We need your support to sustain the work we do at America21 and Saving America’s Black Boys Solutions Summit series. Join us in supporting President Obama’s unprecedented courage in setting the nation’s focus on developing inclusive frameworks across America that invest in the innovative talent inherent in America’s Black boys.

Your contribution will help scale up the work we’re doing across the nation. Any amount can make a huge difference. Be a part of this 21st century historic turning point. Don’t delay. Support the Saving America’s Black Boys Campaign (click here) today.

Saving America’s Black Boys – Tacoma Economic Solutions Summit

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  1. […] 1973, a mere five years following the brutal assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, the Quayle Poll showed an overwhelming majority of both white conservatives and liberals in Illinois believed the […]

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