Obama: "Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago"

In a surprise appearance in the White House briefing room, President Obama spoke at length Friday about the impact of the George Zimmerman trial and the death of black teenager Trayvon Martin, talking of his own personal experiences with racism, saying it would be "useful" to review "stand your ground" laws and to renew efforts aimed at boosting the self-esteem of black boys.

President Oama pauses as he speaks to reporters in the Brady Press Briefing room of the White House in Washington, Friday, July 19, 2013. Obama says black Americans feel pain after the Trayvon Martin verdict because of a "history that doesn't go away."  Associated Press
Associated Press
President Oama pauses as he speaks to reporters in the Brady Press Briefing room of the White House in Washington, Friday, July 19, 2013. Obama says black Americans feel pain after the Trayvon Martin verdict because of a "history that doesn't go away."

After a week of reporters questioning why Mr. Obama hadn't spoken on television about the case, the president appeared in the White House press briefing room unannounced and discussed his reaction to the verdict and observing that Trayvon Martin "could have been me 35 years ago."

The president, speaking off the cuff, said he is still "bouncing around" ideas with his staff, but he proposed several approaches, including a study of "stand your ground" laws that allow people to use deadly force when they feel threatened.

"It'd be useful for us to examine some state and local laws to see if they are designed in such a way that they may encourage the kinds of altercations and confrontations and tragedies like we saw in the Florida case," Mr. Obama said.

The president also said Americans need to examine whether racial bias was a factor in the episode.

"If Trayvon Martin was of age and armed, could he have stood his ground on that sidewalk?" Mr. Obama asked. "And do we actually think that he would have been justified in shooting" Mr. Zimmerman?

A Florida jury on Saturday found Mr. Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, not guilty of second-degree murder in the February 2012 shooting of the teen. The Justice Department is reviewing whether the teenager's civil rights were violated.

The president spoke in unusually personal terms about Trayvon Martin's death and the experiences of blacks such as himself who have been profiled because of their skin color. He said black Americans bring a special history and set of circumstances in judging the Florida trial and its verdict.

"When Trayvon Martin was first shot, I said that this could have been my son," Mr. Obama said. "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 -- that doesn't go away."

Mr. Obama added, "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."

"And 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 car," the president said. "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."

Mr. Obama said he didn't want to "exaggerate" those feelings of black citizens.

"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," he said.

Immediately after the Feb. 2012 shooting, Mr. Obama spoke out about the case, saying if he had a son, the boy might have looked like Travyon Martin. On Friday, the president said communities should do more to help black boys in their upbringing to ensure they succeed.

He said the country needs to think about "how do we bolster and reinforce our African-American boys?"

"There are a lot of kids out there who need help, who are getting a lot of negative reinforcement," Mr. Obama said, adding that America needs to give them "a sense that their country cares about them."

Mr. Obama said black Americans "are not naive" about the difficulties they face.

"Folks understand the challenges that exist for African-American boys," he said. "But they get frustrated if they feel there's no context for it, and context is being denied."

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prov227 07/21/13 - 08:46 am
You're never quite sure ...

which side he will expose, his "black" side or his "white" side. He reminds me of Star Trek's ambiguous Mr. Spock. What bothers me is that Mr. Zimmerman has been portrayed as "white", because that is convenient for some to use. Really, why isn't the POTUS displayed as "white" and Zimmerman as "Hispanic". Not convenient or doesn't generate one issue votes? See the ambiguity?

AutumnLeaves 07/21/13 - 02:41 pm
As for President Obama, every

As for President Obama, every time he opens his mouth I am more and more disgusted with the irresponsible, narcissistic, destructive things that come out of it. Yes, Trayvon could have been him. But that says more about our President and his lack of character than it says about the state of the nation. The president smoked pot in his younger days. He was truthful about it, that is in his favor, but he seems to think it was a-okay, which it was not. It was illegal; but the rules were not for him. Somehow he was elected anyway. This is exactly the sort of thing I could see coming and he stood up there and said the most divisive, inflammatory thing he could say instead of speaking to the actual facts of the case. I also find it not surprising that he was not expected to speak, that he "surprised" the media. I doubt it met with the approval of his advisers; so I'm guessing he plunged into the morass all on his own with his typical arrogance. Why bother having advisers? He is a know-it-all intent on being popular at any cost, their collective wisdom goes in one ear and out the other.

Little Lamb
Little Lamb 07/21/13 - 02:55 pm
Martin Could Have Been Obama?

Boy, that Rachel Jeantel really helped Trayvon Martin's cause when she appeared live on Piers Morgan's CNN show in an interview Tuesday night.

First, she admitted that Martin initiated the fight, i.e., Martin was the agressor and not Zimmerman.

Next, she stated that Martin did not have anything against Zimmerman because Martin perceived Zimmerman to be racist. No, instead Jeantel said Martin attacked Zimmerman because he perceived Zimmerman to be a homosexual predator.

Now that Martin's friend (a friend so credible that the state's prosecutor called her as a witness) has painted Martin as a violent homophobe, how does the mainstream media react?


playlikethunder 07/22/13 - 09:32 am
This thing has nothing to do

This thing has nothing to do with race...unless you are a black, then it's ALL about race.as usual.
Where is the hue and cry for justice for the vistims of that scum bag O.J. Simpson?? I guess we'll see that play out on Unsolved Mysteries.Where's the protests and outcry for the couple beaten at Riverwalk, right here locally? These people were attacked by black punks that could have been Obama, 35 years ago...right?

playlikethunder 07/22/13 - 10:24 am
What's so bad about obama

What's so bad about obama reflecting on his "battles' with racism?
He , like thousands of other blacks are simply dishonest about it. These same people who cry and whine about racism never acknowledge the fact that since the Freedman's Bureau was formed at the end of the War of Northern Agression, a fair percentage of this country has made it's life's work the babysitting of a race of people who wanted "freedom" , yet doesn't know what to do with it .They never realized the great responsibility that went with it.Today is no different.I find it amusing, but so typical....people want EBT cards ,but can't be even bothered take the responsibilty to be drug tested ( civil rights you know ) -yet the people who actually work and pay the taxes that supply the monies for this have to,by and large.Another example, the woman mentioned in the story Sunday who showed up at the "rally' for this martin kid...carrying voter registration papers???They want to vote, but do not want to carry an ID to responsibly help curb fraud...yet have no trouble producing an ID to purchase alcohol and tobacco,while plopping down a EBT card to get groceries they supposedly can't afford, yet have no trouble affording the above.Small examples.
This martin kid wanted to wander freely thru a protected neighborhood, yet did not want the responsibility of accounting for who and what he was doing.I believe there is a group called the East Augusta Neighborhood Watch that patrols the east end of town-if I
got stopped by one of them and questioned I hardly think I would pick a fight with them-especially if I were only a 17 yr old kid.It's a shame the martin kid did not know to identify himself and state his business like the grown man he thought he was......parents??? Honestly, was he taught the small micron of acceptabal , respectful behavior???
It would have made all the difference in the world.

Fiat_Lux 07/22/13 - 12:37 pm
The best one I've heard lately, and it really is funny...

If Obummer had a son, he would look like Trayvon.
If Obummer had a city, it would look like Detroit.
If Obummer had a country, it would look like Cuba.

InChristLove 07/22/13 - 09:28 pm
(Bigj706) "Like I said before

(Bigj706) "Like I said before what you see on tv and read don't represent a whole race. or even a majority no smoke just just trying to knock off those blinders and that judgmental mentality."

Evidently you have misunderstood my comment. No where did I say it represented a whole race. I do believe that is what "most" or "majority" means.....no all but some. Do we need a lesson in the English language? I'm glad to say I have no blinders on and like I said I see, hear and read what goes on every day and please explain where I was judgmental. I stated an opinion that there's a lot of talk and no action.....no judgment, just observation.

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