Obama speaks on race, Trayvon Martin

WASHINGTON (AP) — In a rare and public reflection on race, President Barack Obama called on the nation Friday to do some soul searching over the death of Trayvon Martin and the acquittal of his shooter, saying the slain black teenager "could have been me 35 years ago." Empathizing with the pain of many black Americans, Obama said the case conjured up a hard history of racial injustice "that doesn't go away."

Obama's personal comments, in a surprise appearance in the White House press room, marked his most extensive discussion of race as president. For Obama, who has written about his own struggles with racial identity but often has shied away from the subject in office, the speech signaled an unusual embrace of his standing as the nation's first black president and the longing of many African-Americans for him to give voice to their experiences.

"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 said during his 20-minute remarks.

A Florida jury last week acquitted George Zimmerman of all charges in the March 2012 shooting of Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old. The verdict was cheered by those who agreed that Zimmerman was acting in self-defense, while others protested the outcome, believing Zimmerman had targeted Martin because he was black.

Despite his emotional comments on the case, the president appeared to signal that the Justice Department was unlikely to file federal civil rights charges against Zimmerman. Traditionally, he said, "these are issues of state and local government," and he warned that the public should have "clear expectations."

Following the verdict, some civil rights leaders called on Obama to lead a national conversation on race. But the president has resisted. Before Friday, his only comment on the verdict had been a written statement in which he called Martin's death a tragedy and appealed for calm.

But throughout the week, the president kept track of the national response to the verdict, particularly by black Americans, and had discussions with his family, aides said. He was ready to address the verdict earlier this week during a round of interviews with Spanish language television stations, but the matter never came up.

On Thursday, he told his senior advisers that he felt the country needed to hear from him — not in an interview or speech, just a frank discussion of his views and experiences. He spoke from the podium in the White House briefing room with no notes.

Even as the president urged the public to accept the verdict — "once the jury's spoken, that's how our system works" — he gave voice to the feelings held by many angered by the jury's decisions.

There's a sense, Obama said, "that if a white male teen was involved in the same kind of scenario, that, from top to bottom, both the outcome and the aftermath might have been different."

The president spoke emotionally about Martin's parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, saying they had displayed incredible grace and dignity. He never mentioned the feelings of Zimmerman, whose brother has said the former defendant has faced numerous death threats.

Martin's parents released a statement following the remarks, saying, "President Obama sees himself in Trayvon and identifies with him. This is a beautiful tribute to our boy."

Zimmerman's brother, Robert, also welcomed the president's remarks, telling Fox News that "the American people need to have some time to digest what really happened and to do that soul searching the president spoke of."

Despite that fact that Obama's race has been central to the narrative of his political rise, he has rarely addressed the matter as a public figure. He last spoke about race in a substantial way as a presidential candidate in 2008 in addressing criticism over incendiary comments made by his former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

In 2009, Obama stumbled when commenting on the arrest of a black Harvard professor in the professor's home, saying the police "acted stupidly." The president was forced to retract his statement, then held an awkward "beer summit" at the White House with the professor, Henry Louis Gates, and the white arresting officer.

But on Friday, Obama spoke poignantly about the distrust that shadows many African-American men, saying that they can draw nervous stares on elevators and hear car locks clicking when they walk down the street.

"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," he said. "That includes me."

In a departure from his typical caution on legal matters, the president also waded into the thorny debates on racial profiling and Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law, despite the fact that neither was formally raised during Zimmerman's trial.

Obama said it would be useful "to examine some state and local laws to see if they are designed in such a way that they may encourage the kinds of confrontation" that led to Martin's death. He questioned whether a law that sends the message that someone who is armed "has the right to use those firearms even if there is a way for them to exit from a situation" really promotes peace and security.

And he raised the provocative question of whether Martin himself, if he had been armed and of age, "could he have stood his ground on that sidewalk" and shot Zimmerman if he felt threatened when being followed.

Seeking to inject a sense of hope into his otherwise somber remarks, the president said race relations in the United States have improved with each passing generation. He said his young daughters and their friends are "better than we were."

"We're becoming a more perfect union," he said. "Not a perfect union, but a more perfect union."

Associated Press

President Barack Obama pauses as he speaks during the daily news briefing at the White House, Friday in Washington, about the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman.

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Ken Perry's picture


He is the biggest mistake this Country has ever made!! He is "acting" like he cared, he did not care about any of the other scandals that cost "American" lives. And now he is casting an image that the court system might have failed. This man is useless and has done more harm to Americas image and people then any terrorist group ever could. I believe he should be hung for treason for what has happened while he has been in office. Just my opinion.

JERRY ARIPEZ's picture

The only joke is you

I believe he should be hung for treason for what has happened while he has been in office.

Please educate all us readers what criminal offense(s) he has made for treason?????

Four people died doing a job they volunteered for...4000 died in two wars based on complete lies, are you going to hold Bush/Cheney as a traitors too?

done harm to Americas image and people then any terrorist group ever could.????

You are completely an idiot....and I am being nice....

Ken Perry's picture


Well, since you started by calling me an idiot I will start with.
Ok A-hole he has used kids and families to try and push his gun grabbing.
He has abused his powers by targeting people with the IRS
He has abused his powers by spying on all Americans.
He has divided this country and has brought back a lot of racism.
He is now casting doubt on the Court system by backing the thug trayvon and not honoring the Courts decision.
He is a liar and shows no respect to our Constitution or the will of the people.
Obamacare, bailout, and scandel after scandel.
In my opinion as I stated this man is a POS
But you see what you want and enjoy the kool aide and keep blaming everything on Bush/Cheney. and relax your EBT card will be re-charged in a few weeks and your phone will still work and your free medical. :)

JERRY ARIPEZ's picture


used kids and families to try and push his gun grabbing.
He like any President should speak and act on any kind of tragedy such as that in Newton, because there was FAMILIES AND KIDS INVOLVED, you must of been sleeping, since silence would of been ignorance.
abused his powers by targeting people with the IRS
Nothing was proven that showed he was involved or targeted any particular party since the investigation showed that all, both parties were investigated since that is what the IRS does to keep tax evaders from breaking the laws.

divided this country and has brought back a lot of racism.
The racism all started the first day he was elected with all of the racial attacks since he was black. He did nothing, but bigots like yourself sparked it all off....and carried it on, with your teabaggers with their hate signs and rallies....

Enough of your BS....

JERRY ARIPEZ's picture

I'll reinterate

Idiot....it's not your opinion, it is Faux Noise, per batium that was washed into your small mind since an audience like you and Dennis breath by the words of rightwing nust BS...

JERRY ARIPEZ's picture

I'll reinterate


Eric  LeBlanc's picture



Steve  Dosh's picture

Obama speaks on race, Trayvon Martin

Mainers, Friday 18:40 hst
Friday, July 19, 2013 at 11:30 pm
What do you think of this story?
I think it's great
We are blessed as a Nation to have such a great , empathetic , and historic President . Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall inherit he Earth . Pray for Nelson Mandela's health https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Nobel_Peace_Prize_laureates /s Steve

Eric  LeBlanc's picture

Mandela is a murderer and a

Mandela is a murderer and a terrorist

Tony Morin's picture

I usually just brush off the stupid crap you write,

but those are fighting words. You a big apartheid fan??

Eric  LeBlanc's picture

No, but I'm also not a fan of

No, but I'm also not a fan of waging a bombing campaign against government targets who I disagree with. Mandela isn't much different than the Boston bombers when separate fact from fiction.

Tony Morin's picture

Meet me behind the school

after the bell rings.

He may be hstoric being our

He may be hstoric being our first black President, but I wouldn't call him great. What has he done thats great? He signed a bill called the affordable care act ( which is going to result in more expensive healthcare), which the majority of Americans don't want. He's taken our national debt from 11 Trillion to 17 trillion. Experts claim the real unemployment rate is over 10% , because so many Americans have quit looking for work. He promised to bring transparency to the White House, when he and his cohorts have lied and misled on everything from Benghazi to the IRS scandals targeting his conservative oponents. As far as the Martin /Zimmerman trial, he injected the race issue, by saying if he had a son he'd look like Trayvon.
Abraham Lincoln and George Washington were great Presidents, this guys way below average in my opinion.

JERRY ARIPEZ's picture

You copied every word and posted as yours

The only words was your last line.....

You wouldn't even begin to know what is below average, but your own IQ,,,

You are a bigot Dennis and I sure hope that little boy in your avatar is just a kid in the park you like and not one you can ever influence...from all of your remarks about Al Sharpton and others that are standing for their kind since people like you would never in a million years.

Ken Perry's picture


Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Oprah, Cosby to name a few are some of the biggest racist in the world !! Jerry get your head out of your butt and pay attention. You attack people because they do not think exactly like you want everyone too, that is the typical "atheist liberal mentality" seek help friend they have meds for that.
It is funny tho how "your" type can call and label people but if anyone says anything you do not agree with they are bigots, or idiots, so typical.

JERRY ARIPEZ's picture

Lets not leave out those like you...

It is funny how "your" type can call and label people but if anyone says anything you do not agree with they are bigots, or idiots, so typical.
Here is your type. Coulter, Beck, Hannity, Savage, Limbaugh, Gohmert, Malkin, Fischer, -----all Bigots, Racists...your heroes....

That call people moonbats, dingbats, Dummycrats, etc....you and your kind of Christian hypocrites dish out the same type of labels and names and judge others, so get off your holier than thou soap box....

You should take your own advice and stop keeping your head up yours and talking through it....at least you would be able to listen better, once you got your feces out of your ears....

I call you what you are since you ramble on about Fox Noise talking points and none of the IRS or Benghazi events, came out with NOTHING, spying and drones was under the Patriot act , so other than right wing BS of wanting it to be something it wasn't and PEOPLE like you suck on it and drink it....because they know an audience like you can't think...

Ken Perry's picture


Jerry, loosen the tin foil hat and go outside and enjoy the rest of the day.

JERRY ARIPEZ's picture

Can't loosen

What I don't own or need, but yours is on way too tight...

If Al Sharpton really cared

If Al Sharpton really cared about his race he'd be marching in Chicago, and other big cities where the real problems are.
Al Sharptons just a Martin Luther King wannabe, who will never be anything but huckster, with people like you and Obama cheering him on.Obama uses Al Sharpton for politics, your just misled, and don't know any different.

Claudette Therriault's picture

unique view

Our president has a unique view in racial injustice. He's been there, done that. I am proud of him. I'm nearing 70 and I am appalled at how this country is sliding backwards into bigotry and women's issues.

Our nation will never get

Our nation will never get over racial issues until it gets rid of the hucksters like Al Sharpton who exploit it.


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