Richard Land is arguably the most powerful member of the Southern Baptist Convention. For twenty-three years, he has headed up the SBC's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. While presidents of the SBC serve for one year and rotate out, Land's position has been the one that defines official church positions on issues of public policy. Richard Land has a nasty habit of making controversial and racist statements in public that directly impact church policy, the relationship the SBC has with African-Americans, and yes, even public policy.
Which is why it didn't surprise me to hear about his latest rant, this time around the Trayvon Martin case:
Land says he stands by his assertion 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."
Land, who is white, said in an interview he has no regrets about his remarks. He 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."
"Is it tragic that people react that way? Yes. Is it unfair? Yes? But it is understandable," he said.
In classic right wing fashion, Mr. Land, a former Bush appointee, just politicized that which was not political, but deeply personal to President Obama. When he said his own son would look just like Trayvon Martin, that was not a political statement. It was a statement about who President Obama is. Despite the right wing's desperate effort to politicize that remark, it just wasn't political. Barack Obama is undeniably black.
His remarks about statistical likelihood of a black man doing more harm than a white man are even more disturbing than his effort to "other" the President and make this tragedy some kind of statement about crime, especially in a state where incarceration of black men in private prisons is a profit center. Land presumed Trayvon Martin guilty on a statistical probability that's not based in any kind of justice. It would have been more accurate for him to say that if one is black and male, there's a statistical likelihood they'll be convicted of doing harm, whether or not they actually did it.