News & Politics

Atlanta Mayor on Arbery Shooting: Rhetoric From the White House Gives 'Permission' to Racists

FILE - In this Jan. 4, 2018, file photo, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms speaks at a press conference in Atlanta. In Georgia, black women will likely factor into one of the country’s marquee political contests. The Democratic race for governor features two women, and candidate Stacey Abrams is running to become the first black woman ever elected governor in America. Bottoms hasn't officially endorsed a candidate in the gubernatorial race but counted Stacey Evans among her supporters. She said she feels compelled to help empower other women, especially black women. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that rhetoric from the White House gave “permission” to people who are “prone to being racist” and contributed to the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery, a black man killed by two white men, in February.

Donald Trump called the shooting of the unarmed jogger a “very disturbing situation” and that “law enforcement is going to take a look at it.”

Arbery was shot by  Gregory and Travis McMichael, who suspected Arbery of being involved in several home burglaries. Travis McMichael, the 34-year-old son of Gregory, had been involved in the prosecution of Arbery a few years ago on an unknown charge, although those circumstances have not been made public.

But there’s enough evidence to convict the McMicael’s of lynching, if not murder according to Bottoms.

The Hill:

“The rhetoric that we hear coming out of the White House in many ways, I think many who are prone to being racist are given permission to do it in an overt way in a way we wouldn’t [otherwise] see in 2020,” she said.

Bottoms said if local leadership fails in cities across the country, the Justice Department is supposed to step in and “make sure people are appropriately prosecuted.”

“But we don’t have that leadership at the top right now,” she said. “It’s disheartening. I have four kids, three of whom are African-American boys. They are afraid, they are angry.”

There’s more to this story that has yet to come out, but the verdict is in; guilty of racism. And not just the McMichaels, but Donald Trump as well.

The charge that rhetoric “enables” racists to commit violent, racist acts is absurd. Using that reasoning, no one should ever be able to disagree with any black activist because any counterargument will “enable” racists and white supremacists. It’s a phony argument that resonates with the black community, and not many more.

Frankly, it’s a charge that’s becoming stale. To agree with Bottoms, you have to accept the premise that she alone can discern “racist rhetoric” from the White House. Trump rarely utters anything racial at all and when he comments on race, it’s usually milquetoast bromides that are relatively uncontroversial.

That occasionally gets him in trouble because, apparently, he doesn’t emote enough about his hatred of racism. When he blamed violent, thuggish crazies on both sides for the violence in Charlotte a few years ago, the left went ballistic, saying that Trump “enabled” more violence.

Racists and white supremacists don’t need any encouragement to commit acts of violence. They are perfectly capable of hating all by themselves. That they see Trump as a kindred spirit isn’t the president’s fault, nor is it his responsibility.

Bottoms should stick to commenting on the homegrown racism in Georgia and not try to make every shooting of a black man by white people as representative of something national.