Friday, July 19, 2013

President Obama: Treyvon Martin Could Have Been Me

President Obama today, July 19, 2013, made an extended statement about the killing of Trayvon Martin and the trial that followed which resulted in the acquittal of the killer, George Zimmerman. Here, according to the New York Times, is what the President said:
“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 — that doesn’t go away.” 
“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." 
“You know, when 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.”
“I don’t want to exaggerate this, but those sets of experiences inform how the African-American community interprets what happened one night in Florida. And it’s inescapable for people to bring those experiences to bear.”
“I think it would be useful for us to examine some state and local laws to see if it — if they are designed in such a way that they may encourage the kinds of altercations and confrontations and tragedies that we saw in the Florida case, rather than defuse potential altercations.”
“Am I wringing as much bias out of myself as I can; am I judging people, as much as I can, based on not the color of their skin but the content of their character? That would, I think, be an appropriate exercise in the wake of this tragedy.”
“When I talk to Malia and Sasha and I listen to their friends and I see 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.”
“That all contributes, I think, to a sense 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 Times reported that the President praised the judge in the case and said,
“Once the jury’s spoken, that’s how our system works.”
“For those who resist that idea that we should think about something like these Stand Your Ground laws, I just ask people to consider if Trayvon Martin was of age and armed, could he have stood his ground on that sidewalk?”
“And do we actually think that he would have been justified in shooting Mr. Zimmerman, who had followed him in a car, because he felt threatened?”
The Times reported that the president said he was not advocating “some brand new federal program.” 

But he said Americans should try to figure out new ways to 
“bolster and reinforce our African-American boys.” 
He said that he and the first lady, Michelle Obama, talk often about the black youth who need positive reinforcement.
“There are a lot of kids out there who need help who are getting a lot of negative reinforcement,” he said. “And is there more that we can do to give them the sense that their country cares about them and values them and is willing to invest in them?”
The White House has issued a video of the President's remarks: