A prominent Southern Baptist leader said that President Obama exploited Trayvon Martin's death to increase African-American voter turnout in order to help President Obama get re-elected.
Richard Land, the Southern Baptist Convention's top public policy ethicist, says he stands by his remarks that President Barack Obama “poured gasoline on the racialist fires” when he addressed Martin’s slaying and that Obama, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Rev. Al Sharpton have used the case “to try to gin up the black vote for an African American president who is in deep, deep, deep trouble for re-election,” The Associated Press reported.
“The president’s aides claimed he was showing compassion for the victim’s family,” Land said. “In reality he poured gasoline on the racialist fires.”
According to the Associated Baptist Press, Land described activists Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton as “racial ambulance chasers” who are fomenting a “mob mentality” over the recent shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin by a neighborhood watch captain in Sanford, Fla.
Land said President Obama turned it into a national issue when he said if he had a son, he would look like the young man targeted as suspicious while walking through a gated community wearing a hooded sweatshirt.
“He put the presidential spotlight on Trayvon Martin’s death and thereby bolstered the burgeoning protest,” Land said. “I believe Mr. Obama’s comments were misguided, and I think they were harmful. No one knows what his son would look like. The statement was meant as a sign of racial solidarity. Martin is black, so by extension Mr. Obama shares the victim’s racial identity.”
As the Huffington Post writes, Land said he understands why the case has touched a nerve among black leaders, but he also defended the idea that people are justified in seeing young black men as threatening:
A black man is "statistically more likely to do you harm than a white man," Land said.
"Is it tragic that people react that way? Yes. Is it unfair? Yes? But it is understandable," he said.
The comments come at a time as the Southern Baptist Convention is trying hard to diversify its membership and distance itself from a past that includes support of slavery and segregation.
Land was one of the chief architects of a 1995 resolution by the Southern Baptists apologizing for their role in supporting slavery and racism.
“We apologize to all African-Americans for condoning and/or perpetuating individual and systemic racism in our lifetime; and we genuinely repent of racism of which we have been guilty, whether consciously (Psalm 19:13) or unconsciously (Leviticus 4:27),” the resolution said, the Associated Baptist Press reports. Further, it sought “forgiveness from our African-American brothers and sisters” and pledged to “commit ourselves to eradicate racism in all its forms from Southern Baptist life and ministry.”