By Chris Hoenig
In an unusually personal discussion, President Obama questioned claims that race did not play a role in the shooting of Trayvon Martin and the subsequent acquittal of George Zimmerman, telling reporters, “Trayvon Martin could have been me, 35 years ago.”
The President’s visit to the White House briefing room was a surprise, and the message he delivered was clear. “It doesn’t mean we’re in a post-racial society or that racism has been eliminated,” Obama said, although he urged Americans not to “lose sight” that there has been racial progress in America. Still, he said, Black Americans have been informed by years of racial injustice. “The African-American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that doesn’t go away,” he said.
“We’re becoming a more perfect union. Not a perfect union, but a more perfect union.”
The President continued: “There are very few African-American men 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-American men 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 the chance to get off. That happens often. ”
The unscripted remarks came just a day after Martin’s parents publicly asked the President to review their son’s death and the laws that allowed Zimmerman to be acquitted. In front of the cameras, Obama said he would. “If Trayvon Martin was of age and he was armed,” the President asked, “could he have ‘stood his ground’ on that sidewalk”
When it comes to Martin’s death, Obama questioned both the shooting and the verdict. “If a white male teen was involved in the same kind of scenario, from top to bottom, both the outcome and the aftermath might have been different,” Obama said. Still, the jury has spoken and “that’s how our system works.”
You can read the President’s remarks in full HERE.