Thirty-three people filed into a White House conference room on July 13 for a meeting with President Obama on race and policing, and at times, it got tense,The Washington Post reports.
Based on the seating arrangements, that’s probably not a surprise — activists sat between police chiefs and mayors, the head of the Fraternal Order of Police sat between the NAACP president and a Harvard professor. But eventually, it paid off.
President Obama strove to convey a message of solace and unity in the wake of an extraordinary week that rubbed raw issues of police safety and racial bias in policing, saying he believes Americans will come together to find common ground.
“As painful as the week has been, I fully believe that America is not as divided as people have suggested,” he said. People of all races and backgrounds are outraged by the killing of police officers in Dallas — even those protesting the police, he said. And the same people are angered by the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.
WHEN IT IS prayer time, Rami Nashashibi prays. His Muslim faith is the core of his life and work, inspiring the two decades of advocacy he has done on behalf of the poor and marginalized on the South Side of Chicago.
But when prayer time arrived on an unseasonably warm day in December, Nashashibi paused. It was just days after the terrible terrorist attack in San Bernardino, where extremists calling themselves Muslims murdered 14 people and injured many more. Nashashibi was in his neighborhood park with his three kids, and he found himself suddenly struck by fear at the thought of praying in public and therefore being openly identified as Muslim at a time when so many equated that term with terrorist.
That neighborhood park happened to be Marquette Park. Fifty years earlier another man of faith stood not far from where Nashashibi was standing, and he too felt fear. That man was Martin Luther King Jr. He had come to Chicago in 1966 to raise awareness about discriminatory housing practices on the South Side. His march through Marquette Park was met with racist sneers and vigilante violence. A brick thrown his way actually hit him in the head and brought him to his knees.
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In his last State of the Union address, President Obama made an impassioned case against religious bigotry and cast other key issues in moral terms.
He rejected “any politics that targets people because of race or religion.”
“This is not a matter of political correctness,” he said. “This is a matter of understanding just what it is that makes us strong. The world respects us not just for our arsenal; it respects us for our diversity and our openness and the way we respect every faith.”