An imperial presidency imperils us on many fronts. Our foreign policy is in shreds, with practically nobody wanting to be our next defense secretary. The president chooses confrontation instead of cooperation with the Congress on the divisive issue of immigration. But, perhaps most dangerous, is his failure of leadership on issues relating to race.

A grand jury in Ferguson, Mo., acting on evidence that included testimony from six black observers on the scene, did not indict police Officer Darren Wilson on any charge in the shooting death of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old unarmed black man.

The grand jury, which included African-American members of the community, concluded that insufficient evidence existed to indict Wilson.

President Barack Obama in this case seemed to ignore the fact that he was elected to represent all of us.

In his remarks to the nation following the grand jury’s decision, Obama said, “There are Americans who are deeply disappointed, even angry. It is an understandable reaction.” In face of the evidence and proper application of the law through the grand jury, this statement, along with follow-up action and events, is an insult to all who believe in the rule of law. The president, in effect, seemed to disregard the verdict, seemingly excuses the riots as understandable.

Obama speaks about disappointment, but I submit that there can be no greater disappointment than that which so many who celebrated the election, twice, of an African-American leader as our president, now feel.

Our leader’s reaction to the riots has been exacerbated by inviting the race baiter, Al Sharpton, to sit at the head table with him and others for discussions in the riots’ aftermath.

No member of law enforcement was invited to the discussions, which were followed by outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder’s promise that any semblance of racial profiling by the police will be eliminated before he leaves office.

Law enforcement officials believe that the proper and limited use of some legally allowed elements in racial profiling has proved invaluable to them in the apprehension of criminals and in the prevention of crime. In protecting us from terrorist acts here at home, reasonable profiling has become essential.

The president and his administration have destroyed much of the progress since the Los Angeles riots followed the acquittal of four white police officers in the beating of Rodney King, a black man, who asked, “Can we all get along?”

We will never “get along” as long as we have leaders who embrace racist opportunists among us like Sharpton, and when we hear false and incendiary statements like, “Young blacks are killed by police with impunity.” (Rep. Al Green, D-Texas).

Our president chose at the United Nations to point to the Ferguson riots as a “manifestation of America’s ethnic strife.” Instead, he could have talked about all the great progress that has been made in the past 50 years.

The Ferguson riots and others that have preceded them cannot be excused as a product of racism and police brutality. To reach such a false conclusion would destroy any hope for bringing us all together.

Many of the riots are unfortunate acts of a small criminal element. Many rioters do not live in the communities affected. It is also an excuse for many to take to the streets at the slightest provocation.

President Obama must act now. The problem is not exclusively race relations. It is instead that there are no jobs, there is an inner-city education system that is deficient, and there are drugs and crime. That should be the agenda for a summit on race relations.

The understaffed, underpaid and under-appreciated good men and women who comprise a “thin blue line” to protect us and our loved ones on a daily basis are the most critical component insulating us from anarchy. Our police put their lives on the line for all of us, regardless of color. Racism and our judicial system are not root causes of our national problem. Those who would riot, destroy our small businesses and conduct acts of criminality must be confronted with education, understanding, help and hope. They need jobs.

We must confront racial tension with reason. And President Obama should remember he is the one best example for the nation’s black youth, and that he represents all Americans.

Don Roberts, a former city councilor and former vice chairman of the Charter Commission in Augusta, is a trustee of the Greater Augusta Utility District.


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