First of all - I am a mega dog-lover and what Vick did positively turns my stomach. Secondly, I really hate the attention and resources we tend to lavish on professional athletes. But with all that said, I don't know when I've been more in agreement with our President.
He said, 'So many people who serve time never get a fair second chance. He was ... passionate about it. He said it's never a level playing field for prisoners when they get out of jail. And he was happy that we did something on such a national stage that showed our faith in giving someone a second chance after such a major downfall.''
I've spent most of my professional life working to give a second chance to young people who've made mistakes. As is the case with Vick - who spent 18 months in prison- we hold them accountable. But we also recognize that for all of us, growth happens when we make mistakes, pay the price, and learn from the experience.
But all too often, we tend to withhold that second chance - especially from African American men and boys. The result is that one in three Black boys born in 2001 will spend time in prison.
A few years ago Leonard Pitts wrote An Open Letter To African American Men and talked about this.
Can we please stop being such good customers of the American injustice system? I am sick to my soul of watching shaggy-haired black boys and men in orange jumpsuits led into courtrooms to be judged for doing some stupid and heinous thing. I'm weary of the truth in that old Richard Pryor line about how he went to court looking for justice and that's what he found. Just us.
Contrary to what society has told us, to what so much of our music claims and to what too many of us have internalized, the reason isn't that we carry some kind of criminal gene. No, it's that we don't get second chances, don't have the same margin for error a white guy would. One strike, and you're out.
We need to recognize this. Need to make sure our sons and brothers recognize it.
The fact that Obama recognized and verbalized this meant a lot to me. While I've been one of his most ardent supporters, my biggest disappointment in Obama has been his lack of engagement on this issue of African Americans and the criminal justice system. His support for the death penalty has always been one of the hardest things for me to understand. But I am very encouraged by these words from Obama about the importance of second chances. Its the foundation on which a real system of justice can be built.