Georgetown University Professor Michael Eric Dyson on Sunday called on President Barack Obama to use his position to explain to white Americans that they do not continually have to fear that police would “kill your child” as African-American parents do.
In an appearance on CBS, Dyson said that protests in Ferguson, Missouri after a white police officer shot 18-year-old Michael Brown while he was unarmed was a symptom of a larger problem in the nation.
“Ferguson is emblematic of those larger shifts,” he pointed out. “You’ve got white flight of a formerly white suburb that’s now 65 percent black. You’ve got 22 percent poverty, you’ve got the over-policing of an entire community who feel racially harassed by the police. Every 28 hours across America a black person is killed by a security guard, a police officer or some other executive of the state or police force.”
Dyson said that President Obama “knows better than most what happens in poor communities that have been antagonized historically by the hostile relationship between black people and the police department.”
“It’s not enough for him to come on national television and pretend that there’s a false moral equivalency between police people who are armed, and black people who are vulnerable constantly to this,” he insisted. “He needs to use his bully pulpit to step up and articulate this as a vision.”
Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus, however, argued that the president had “struck a good, balanced tone because he is at the head of a criminal investigation, and he doesn’t want to go too far in overstepping the bounds there.”
Dyson agreed that Obama’s tone was not the problem: “What I’m talking about is leadership. That’s not simply a matter of tone.”
“Because there is no functional equivalence between police people who are armed to the teeth with military-grade weaponry trained at vulnerable black communities who are inflamed now as a result of decades of negligence,” he noted.
According to Dyson, the president needed to use his “unique experience as an African-American male” to spell out discrimination for white people.
“I’m saying to you that if he can inform American society that, ‘Look, yes, we must keep the law. Yes, we must keep the peace. People must calm their passion. But let me explain to you why people might be hurt, why they might be angry, and why they might be upset,'” Dyson continued. “He has a responsibility to tell that truth.”
“Especially white people, whose white privilege obscures from them what it means that their children can walk home and be safe, they’re not fearful of the fact that somebody will kill their child who goes to get some iced tea and some candy from a store,” he remarked. “Until that equality is brought, the president bears a unique responsibility and burden to tell that truth.”
Watch the video below from CBS’ Face the Nation, broadcast Aug. 17, 2014.