President Obama's Very Personal Response to Trayvon Martin Verdict Is What Our Country Needed

obama trayvoon martin speechYesterday, President Obama made a surprise appearance in the briefing room at the White House to make some remarks about the Trayvon Martin verdict.

The President had made a brief, impersonal comment following the jury's verdict but said he wanted to expand his thoughts a little bit after watching the country debate -- and protest -- the decision during the past week.

Obama started out by extending his sympathy to Trayvon's family. He commended the judge and jury, saying, "Americans should respect the verdict," and then he got into the meat of his talk -- a discussion about race in America, during which he talked about his own personal experience as an African-American man in this country.

[W]hen Trayvon Martin was first shot I said that this could have been my son. Another way of saying that is Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago. And when you think about why, in the African American community at least, there's a lot of pain around what happened here, I think it's important to recognize that the African American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that doesn't go away.

Obama addressed why emotions over the Zimmerman verdict are running so high. He explained the lens through which many black Americans see the case -- and how their own experiences and our country's history inform their perception:

There are very few African American men in this country who haven't had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store. That includes me. There are very few African American men who haven't had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That happens to me -- at least before I was a senator. There are very few African Americans who haven't had the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she had a chance to get off. That happens often.

Obama noted that those experiences shouldn't be exaggerated:

Now, this isn't to say that the African American community is naïve about the fact that African American young men are disproportionately involved in the criminal justice system; that they're disproportionately both victims and perpetrators of violence. It's not to make excuses for that fact -- although black folks do interpret the reasons for that in a historical context.

That 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was murdered on a street in Florida is a crime and a tragedy. George Zimmerman was found not guilty of that crime, and whether you think that verdict was just or not, it must be noted that Zimmerman did not act alone. The citizens of the U.S. were complicit in that shooting, just as we are complicit in the acts of racism that continue to occur throughout the country on a daily basis.

Many conservatives are criticizing the President for making these remarks at all. Yet, it's poignant that the Trayvon Martin travesty happened during a time the first African-American president is in office. It shows how far we've come, and how far we still have to go. And that's why the President's remarks were so important and so necessary.

Obama ended his speech by saying we've gotten better about race relations:

I don't want us to lose sight that things are getting better. Each successive generation seems to be making progress in changing attitudes when it comes to race. It doesn't mean we're in a post-racial society. It doesn't mean that racism is eliminated. But when I talk to Malia and Sasha, and I listen to their friends and I seem them interact, they're better than we are -- they're better than we were -- on these issues. And that's true in every community that I've visited all across the country.

Let's hope so.

 

Watch the President's statement in full:

 

 

Do you think Obama should have spoke out at such length about the case? Why or why not?

 

Image via the White House/YouTube

racism, barack obama, crime

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names... namestaken

Obama is not black...He is as much white as Zimmerman..But that is not convient for vote mongering and race baiting...

the4m... the4mutts

I feel that Obama gave undue attention to this case, and despite his long winded talk about racism, he did nothing but fuel the flames. I mean, seriously? He only cared so much because it was a black kid, that was shot by a light skinned man.

He made it just as much about race as the media did, and that does nobody any favors.

Im not saying that some people arent racist, or that racism doesnt need to be talked about. But for a black man to pick THIS of all reasons to speak about it?

Fanning the flames.

nonmember avatar 12811

Race is so blind in this country and I am speaking from personal experience here. I am a white woman married to a black male. We have black and white children. I have gotten more racial slurs from black women then my husband has experienced from white people. He is 26, in his lifetime he has only been called the 'n' word one time. He has been to jail before, but he did commit crimes. (Driving with no lisense mostly ) he has been wrongly accused a couple times on bigger crimes but always got out not guilty. I'm not saying racism doesn't exist because it does, but what I see... racism is used as a way to get away with a lot of things. If u have a burden on yourself and use ur skin color as a way to defend yourself . Then in my eyes u are just as racist as someone that actually does hate based on color.

bills... billsfan1104

He a fucking piece of shit and this proves it. He stoked the fires even more and I call him out on his bullshit. He was a privileged kid who was raised in Hawaii and went to the best schools He was nothin like Trayvon. Trayvon again was shot for "walking while black". He was shot because he was beating the fuck out of Zimmerman. And the problem with liberals, the President, the media and the race baiters, are that they are continuing the narrative that Trayvon was so innocent an he did not do a thing. They brought race into this and act like black men are being hunted down and killed everyday by "whitey". When in fact black men are being killed by their own race at an alarming rate. Black fathers are absent from their kids lives at an higher rate. And the list goes on. No one want a to discuss that, they only want to discuss Trayvon.

bills... billsfan1104

And no I do not respect this president anymore. I have never called him that, but now I am. Our country did not need this. Our country did not need him to stand there and make a judgement and say Trayvon did not but walk and he was shot because of race. Now the DOJ will have to press charges and this has become nothin but a witch hunt.

gsmom... gsmommy2204

It's pretty screwed up that he's even mentioning this case at all - he's never mentioned the hundreds of troops we've lost or expressed sympathy for their families or compared himself to them in any way. He's never mentioned any other kids - white, black, Hispanic, Asian, etc. - that die every day from rape, murder, drunk drivers. I guess those kids don't deserve the same kind of media coverage that Trayvon does. Oh, that's right - only cases that can cause racial drama & give him more clout with the ''minorities' - which, by the way, are now the majority in most states, matter. This whole world is going to hell in a hand basket.

jalaz77 jalaz77

Not impressed with the attention this case revived from the PRESIDENT of the US. Why in the hell dies this case get so much god damn attention? There are murders EVERYDAY, why is this one special? It's sad a person was killed by a guy who should of never had a gun to begin with and never should of been on "watch" because he he isn't a cop. I am so sick of hearing about this case!

jalaz77 jalaz77

Wow, so much for proof reading...sorry folks!

bills... billsfan1104

It was sad that Trayvon broke the law when he started beating the crap out of Zimmerman.

miche... micheledo

Haaa haaa. Namestaken. I never thought of that. Obama is actually more like Zimmerman!!! :D

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