Obama: Martin 'could have been me' 35 years ago

President Barack Obama. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

President Barack Obama. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Video from YouTube

— President Obama grappled with the Trayvon Martin case in the most personal of terms on Friday, telling Americans that the slain youth "could have been me 35 years ago" and urging them to do some soul searching about their attitudes on race.

The nation's first black president said the nation needs to look for ways to move forward after the shooting and trial in Florida. And he said it may be time to take a hard look at "stand your ground" self-defense laws, questioning whether they contribute "to the kind of peace and security and order that we'd like to see."

Read the full text from President Obama's statement here.

"Where do we take this?" Obama wondered aloud during an unscheduled appearance in the White House briefing room. "How do we learn some lessons from this and move in a positive direction?"

His appearance marked his first extended comments on the Martin case since neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman was acquitted last weekend of second-degree murder and manslaughter charges in Martin's death last year. Jurors found that Zimmerman was acting in self-defense when he shot the unarmed black teenager. Zimmerman identifies himself as Hispanic.

Obama said that as people process the verdict, it's important to put the pained and angry reaction of many African-Americans into context.

Protests and demonstrations, he said, are understandable, adding that "some of that stuff is just going to have to work its way through — as long as it remains nonviolent."

"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," he said.

The president said that distrust shadows African-American men: They sometimes are closely followed when they shop at department stores; they can draw nervous stares on elevators and hear car locks clicking when they walk down the street — experiences that he said he personally felt before becoming a well-known figure.

"It's inescapable for people to bring those experiences to bear," he said.

Obama said black Americans recognize a history of racial disparities in how laws are applied on the death penalty and involving drug cases, but he also said the African-American community was not "naive 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."

The president said it's time "for all of us to do some soul searching," though he said it's generally not productive when politicians try to orchestrate a national conversation that ends up being stilted and politicized.

He added that conversations within families and at churches and workplaces, where people may be more honest, could help people to ask themselves, "Am I wringing as much bias out of myself as I can?"

Overall, Obama said, race relations in the United States actually are getting better. Citing his own daughters and their interactions with friends, the president said, "They're better than we are. They're better than we were."

"Each successive generation seems to be making progress in changing attitudes when it comes to race," he said.

The president declined to wade into the detail of legal questions about the Florida case, saying, "Once the jury's spoken, that's how our system works."

But he said state and local laws, such as Florida's "stand your ground" statute, need a close look.

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 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.

Obama also said the country needs to look at ways to improve local law enforcement through better training and resources, and needs to look for ways to "bolster and reinforce" African-American boys.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has said the Justice Department has an open investigation into the case. The department is looking into whether Zimmerman violated Martin's civil rights.

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Comments » 23

WMissow writes:

Wrong Mr. President.

Trayvon had nothing of an upbringing that you had. You went to the best schools, colleges, you were given a silver spoon whether you appreciated it or not. Obviously from your choice of statements you still have a great deal against the people who cared for you and gave you these things, not the father who dumped you.

Maybe you should be talking to the Al Sharptons, the Reverend Wrights, the Jesse Jacksons of this world before you criticize the system that got you to where you are?

Your statements, in my opinion, just fuels people to rally and riot. How come none of your speeches say anything about blacks attacking or killing whites for no other reason than for fun?

Your wife had a $350,000 cushion job for which the college she worked for did not hire someone to replace her for her not too significant efforts and or achievements.

You take a vacation that costs the American people $100,000,000 and for what? For you to visit your homeland? That money could have been better spent here in cities like Detroit, or Chicago to help the people who you wish to have vote for you but have no idea what it is like to live like them.

No Mr. President you are nothing like Trayvon Martin except for the pigmentation of your skin.

RayPray writes:

What we need is a national conversation on race....

August8 writes:

in response to WMissow:

Wrong Mr. President.

Trayvon had nothing of an upbringing that you had. You went to the best schools, colleges, you were given a silver spoon whether you appreciated it or not. Obviously from your choice of statements you still have a great deal against the people who cared for you and gave you these things, not the father who dumped you.

Maybe you should be talking to the Al Sharptons, the Reverend Wrights, the Jesse Jacksons of this world before you criticize the system that got you to where you are?

Your statements, in my opinion, just fuels people to rally and riot. How come none of your speeches say anything about blacks attacking or killing whites for no other reason than for fun?

Your wife had a $350,000 cushion job for which the college she worked for did not hire someone to replace her for her not too significant efforts and or achievements.

You take a vacation that costs the American people $100,000,000 and for what? For you to visit your homeland? That money could have been better spent here in cities like Detroit, or Chicago to help the people who you wish to have vote for you but have no idea what it is like to live like them.

No Mr. President you are nothing like Trayvon Martin except for the pigmentation of your skin.

WMissow
Almost, they were both drug user's?

happy6 writes:

WELL SAID WMISSOW!!!! he is lacking

26yearsonmarco writes:

What's the Point?

Fact Check has revealed from time to time that our president has shaded the truth (common occurence in Washington) about any number of newsworthy events or completely ignored their reality. My guess is that if put to the test, the president's latest claim of "Trayvor Martin could've been me 35 years ago" would surely produce another pinocchio. For the moment, let go of your political tether, do some vetting, and then try to convince any openminded individual that the president's assertion is based on nothing more than objective realities. No so! The only commanding commonality is that they each had a white parent. That's a fact. . .so what's the point? Maybe he's answering those critics from the black community of a couple election campaigns ago who expressed the thought that Mr. Obama wasn't "black" enough. To the nation's credit, it didn't matter. Just like now the comparison, fact or not, really doesn't matter. . . except to those who shouldn't really matter. . .and any of those who choose to live in the past.

panola60 writes:

“There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps... then turn around and see somebody white and feel relieved.”
― Jesse Jackson

2themoon writes:

The only racist in this whole story is Treyvon Martin or is "creepy white cracker" not a racist term?

WMissow writes:

Where were Trayvon's "loving parents" when the little boy in the hoodie was getting tats and gold teeth? What about the marihuana use? Oh, that could not come up in court!

Maybe the community that fosters countless out of wedlock children, rap music about killing cops, gangs, should first take a closer look at themselves and do something, significant, about it, instead of blaming the world for their very unfortunate situation?

President Obama, you did not do anybody good with your pronouncement other than to foster more hatred.

Did you forget you are the President of the whole United States and not a community organizer any longer or is that the most real experience you have?

August8 writes:

in response to 26yearsonmarco:

What's the Point?

Fact Check has revealed from time to time that our president has shaded the truth (common occurence in Washington) about any number of newsworthy events or completely ignored their reality. My guess is that if put to the test, the president's latest claim of "Trayvor Martin could've been me 35 years ago" would surely produce another pinocchio. For the moment, let go of your political tether, do some vetting, and then try to convince any openminded individual that the president's assertion is based on nothing more than objective realities. No so! The only commanding commonality is that they each had a white parent. That's a fact. . .so what's the point? Maybe he's answering those critics from the black community of a couple election campaigns ago who expressed the thought that Mr. Obama wasn't "black" enough. To the nation's credit, it didn't matter. Just like now the comparison, fact or not, really doesn't matter. . . except to those who shouldn't really matter. . .and any of those who choose to live in the past.

Sure, don't for get in Hawaia there was a heck of a lot of racism, read that in my history book, hee-hee.

August8 writes:

in response to RayPray:

What we need is a national conversation on race....

We got to finish the job of dividing America 1st.

RayPray writes:

in response to GorchFock:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

"It is interesting to note that 45 million Blacks live in the European Union"

>>> Very interesting since this is a fantasy number, where it really is ~ 4 million

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/622...

Here are the Statistics for Blacks shot and killed in the following planets:

Moon 0 Blacks shot and killed.

Venus 0 Blacks shot and killed.

Mars 0 Blacks shot and killed.

How about South Africa?

Tens of thousands of Africans killing each other...

How about Chicago OBAMAland?

Statistically, the only odd thing about Travon is he was clipped by a Peruvian, rather than one of his own bros....

RayPray writes:

What we need is a national conversation -- or even dialog -- on gun-crazed INCAS....

WMissow writes:

26,

You are undoubtedly without any excuses RIGHT!

We did not hear B.O. say that Lion could have been his son, even though it could have been the same probability of being such.

While we are at it where is the outrage by the president about the 13 month old child murdered for no reason by two who also could have been his sons.

KR writes:

It could have been Obama 35 years ago? Really? He would have jumped out of the bushes and attacked a man by punching him in the face breaking his nose, then knocking him to the ground jumping on top of him banging his head into the side walk...wow... what a guy...glad to know the real Obama. Good thing he didn't do those things ey? What a s----- remark from our so called prez. Vote all his left wing liberal socialists out in 2014 and again in 2016. Take our America back from these socialists!

August8 writes:

Obama: So much polorization, so little time !!!

RayPray writes:

in response to GorchFock:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

"Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word, equality. But notice the difference: while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in servitude."

....Alexis de Tocqueville

"Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery."

...Winston Churchill

WMissow writes:

LOL.... heir dummkopf is now disagreeing with his own posts.

WMissow writes:

Klaus,

Please explain in "English" the interpretation of what you wrote.

August8 writes:

in response to WMissow:

Klaus,

Please explain in "English" the interpretation of what you wrote.

There you go again wasting valuable thought and ink on that 'person'.

2themoon writes:

"35 years ago he couldve been me"
I wish it was 35 years ago because id go to Kenya and get Obumas birth cert. and save it for 2008.

August8 writes:

in response to 2themoon:

"35 years ago he couldve been me"
I wish it was 35 years ago because id go to Kenya and get Obumas birth cert. and save it for 2008.

Hee-Hee !!!!!

WMissow writes:

August8,

Thank you.

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