Obama in OC: What Does it Mean?

Obama just recently finished his much anticipated town hall in Costa Migra. The news of his arrival to Orange County sent off a rock star frenzy rivaling that of ticket sales for No Doubt’s summer concert dates! I unfortunately did not get a ticket nor a press pass. Nevertheless, as I continue my notes on our supposed “post-racial,” society, Obama’s arrival comes at a peculiar moment in time.

In the election, Obama lost to McCain in OC’s popular vote. However, he did do exceptionally well for a Democrat in terms of being competitive by gaining 48% of the vote. This statistic will always be cited by those in our county who signal that times are a-changing and rightly so.

Nevertheless, the day before our nation’s first African-American president visited one of the largest and most important counties in the nation, a reminder also came to us about how far we have yet to go. Julian Alexander, a young African-American man from Anaheim, was shot and killed by a police officer late last October. Just yesterday it was announced by the District Attorney’s office that no charges would be pressed against the officer in question Kevin Flanagan.

In the early morning hours of October 28th, Flanagan, on-duty, had given chase to suspected robbers when Alexander, just twenty years old, went outside of his home with a broomstick to investigate the commotion. Officer Flanagan shot and killed the young man in yet another instance of police violence against a person of color.

The DA’s office somehow concluded this week that the Anaheim police officer was acting within the acceptable realm of self-defense. Really? A cop needs a firearm to handle someone with a broomstick? Daffodil Altan of the Orange County Weekly quoted the infamous county Da Tony Rackaukus when he said in relation to the Alexander shooting:

“In a circumstance where it’s dark and there’s a lot going on…the police officer is required to do his duty, to follow those people…Now he’s in a dark place and a person has a stick up. That’s a moment of decision and a reasonable police officer would shoot that person,” said county DA Tony Rackauckas. “He’s about to be assaulted and has a right to defend himself and I think the public understands that.”

As Atlan also quoted senior district attorney David Brent, investigations into what transpired that night showed that Officer Flanagan claimed to have felt threatened by what he thought was a weapon simply because there was black tape on the end of it. This is a travesty that shows that all too often there is no justice for people of color who are killed by police officers who can claim just about anything to evade prosecution.

Now I know that President Obama was here in OC to address the dire economic situation. I also know that when he has spoken in the past about controversial police brutality and murder situations – as in his comments to the ruling in the Sean Bell case – his take hasn’t been all that impressive. I didn’t expect him to speak to this latest instance of systemic and institutional racism. However, in this instance, Obama’s visit to Costa Mesa is highly paradoxical.  Therefore, it is important for people to temper  notions of a “post-racial,” society exemplified by the ascendency of Obama to the presidency of this nation with the life of Julian Alexander that was taken by police fire and posthumously robbed of justice by the district attorney’s office.

All too often these robbers still go unpunished.

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