Most of the people that frequent Reasonable Conversation are aware of this video. If you're not, Representative Bobby Rush, from Illinois's 1st Congressional District, went to the podium during Wednesday's general speeches segment of the House's daily business. His topic was the Trayvon Martin shooting and that profiling/generalizing about people, especially young minorities because of their clothes is bad. After a minute or so worth of comments, Mr. Rush removed his jacket and pulled up a hoodie over his head and donned dark sunglasses. He was immediately gaveled down, instructed to stop (which he refused) until they eventually cut his mic off. He was then escorted from the Chamber by the Sergeant at Arms for violating the dress code, which forbids the wearing of any hats in Chamber while Congress is in session.
Watch the video:
Obviously, his point was that everyone who wears hoodies isn't a bad person. I think most of us get that. I have a bit of a hard time in understanding why the Martin case would strike especially close to the Congressman's heart over the other senseless killings of young black men that occur every day in the country. It would help if we understood better what exactly the Martin case was exactly. Right now, I don't know. Do you? Was it the case of an over zealous, perhaps racist neighborhood watchman named George Zimmerman who refused to follow instructions from the 911 operator to stop following Martin and stay in his car? Was it the case of a citizen trying to keep his neighborhood safe by trying to question what was this young man doing in this area and it somehow went to hell with the kid leaving the man no choice but to shoot him to preserve his own safety? I have my gut instincts about this, but until I hear more facts, there's no need to go there. I know how the case was presented originally in the media, I know how the conservative media responded, I know how a few nationally known leaders of the African American community became involved and I know how the recently released video doesn't seem to show us a man who was just in a life and death struggle, who had his head bashed on the ground and also sustained a broken nose.
This will get sorted out soon enough. Back to Congressman Rush...
Bobby Rush has served the good people of Illinois for 19 years. He also served in the US Army for four years. Afterwards, his life took a turn towards controversy when he co-founded the Illinois chapter of the Black Panthers. He was very involved in the group's activism and spent six months in jail on a weapons charge for carrying a gun into a police station in 1972. He spent a lot of time while in the Black Panthers working on improving community health access for those suffering from Sickle Cell Anemia. He graduated from Roosevelt University in 1973, and formally left the Black Panthers, who he criticized for glorifying "thuggery and drugs." A born again Christian, Rush continued his studies at McCormick Seminary and received a Masters degree in Theology in the early 1990's.
I believe Mr. Rush had mostly good intentions. This isn't some johnny-come-lately popping off. He's a serious guy who has been witness to a lot of history in his time. He has educated himself. He has served this Country in both the Armed Forces and Congress. He deserves respect.
That said, his actions Wednesday were grandstanding. He KNOWS you can't put on a hat while in Congress. He did it, with C-Span's cameras rolling, with full knowledge that it would be a thing. I'm not sure why he did it. Was it to emphasize the point that we shouldn't judge a book by its cover? On some level, certainly. But most media outlets who covered it didn't talk about the entire scope of his comments. To a large degree, people who heard about this got the following as a takeaway:
Congressman Bobby Rush, former member of the Black Panthers, violates House rules by wearing a hoodie and sunglasses in the Chamber while making remarks about Trayvon Martin; has to be removed by security.
That's not entirely fair, but it is what it is. The average Joe/Jane Sixpack in Anycity, USA sees that and doesn't think good things, I imagine. A picture, especially one with little to no context, tells a thousand stories. Even with context, its still a stunt unworthy of this American, the Body which he serves in and the Martin family.
Maybe instead of holding a press conference or remaining silent on the issue, this seemed to be the best way to express his outrage. But, we don't yet know exactly what happened that day. So, outrage might be a bit preliminary. We can "what-if" this to death, but Rush's stunt didn't help anything associated with Treyvon Martin, all the other black kids shot to death that day/week/month, or much anything else except for putting some light on himself.
I do think, by the way, its a fair question to pose to the other high profile African Americans like Congressman Rush, preachers Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, film-maker Spike Lee and yes-even President Obama, why this case? Why this kid? Why not the kid who was shot a week prior? Understand, in some cases, there may be legitimate answers. In the case or Jackson and Sharpton, I've heard media reports that suggest the Martin family, entirely dissatisfied with how the death of their son was being handled by the local police, did whatever they could to bring some attention to what they feel is a wrongful death. (If I'm them, I do exactly the same thing. If phone calls, requests for information, etc. seem to run into a brick wall over my dead child, then screw you-I'll make sure everybody knows what's going on. If I'm proved to be wrong, then I'm just a crazed, out-of-my-mind grieving parent. I get a pass. If I'm proven to be right...and the locals did screw the thing up, then too bad....maybe you should've talked to me when I asked nice...) Spike Lee basically made a fool out of himself by getting involved. As far as President Obama goes, I think he could've and should've remained silent on the matter. No, I don't think he made anything worse by commenting about it, (and those 'tards who say he's pushing racial division are way off base...) but I don't think he made a damn thing any better either. To the casual observer, including this one, it seems a bit exploitative.
Which, is exactly the term I think best describes Congressman Rush's actions the other day on the floor of the House. It doesn't make him a villain or a racist, but I wish he'd not done it. Let's let all the involved agencies do their work and release their conclusions. Then, we'll be able to discuss more correctly whatever it is that needs discussing.