Micah Zenko writes: President Barack Obama surprised the White House press corps on Friday when he preempted the normal daily briefing to offer his unscripted ideas on the Trayvon Martin case.
Obama departed from his usual reluctance to talk publicly about his personal experience with racial bias, reminding viewers that African-American men — including him, before he became a senator — experience prejudice based only on their appearance, not their personality or behavior. He added that the African-American community was interpreting the outcome of the case through a “set of experiences and a history that doesn’t go away.” And he noted that, while the African-American community is not naïve about violence involving its young men — they are “disproportionately both victims and perpetrators” — that fact is no excuse for different treatment under the law.
It is striking to compare Obama’s deliberate and thoughtful commentary about the tragic killing of Trayvon Martin with the military tactic that will forever characterize his presidency: killing people with drones. The president posits that it is wrong to profile individuals based upon their appearance, associations, or statistical propensity to violence. By extension, he believes that, just because those characteristics may seem threatening to some, the use of lethal force cannot be justified as self-defense unless there are reasonable grounds to fear imminent bodily harm. But that very kind of profiling and a broad interpretation of what constitutes a threat are the foundational principles of U.S. “signature strikes” — the targeted killings of unidentified military-age males. [Continue reading…]