Obama Speaks: “Trayvon Martin Could Have Been Me 35 Years Ago”

President Barack Obama addressed the state of race relations in America, less than a week after George Zimmerman was acquitted Saturday on self defense grounds for killing the unarmed black 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

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In an unscheduled statement to the press Friday, President Barack Obama addressed the state of race relations in America, less than a week after George Zimmerman was acquitted Saturday on self defense grounds for killing the unarmed black 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, speaking with surprising personal detail on the subject.

Obama, who has been called on by African American leaders to spearhead a national conversation about race, instead spoke personally about the tragedy and the national controversy, calling for individuals to engage in soul searching instead of “stilted and politicized” conversations driven by elected officials. It was his most detailed address on race in America since his noted 2008 address following following media coverage of incendiary remarks by his pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

In the aftermath of the shooting last year, Obama said that if he had a son he would look like Martin. “Another way of saying that is Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago,” Obama said Friday. “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. There are probably 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-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.”

Obama said those experiences inform the African American community’s response to the shooting and to the subsequent court decision. “It’s inescapable for people to bring those experiences to bear,” he said.

Speaking without notes, Obama detailed some ideas he is thinking about to help restore trust, from a look at state gun laws to anti-racial profiling legislation and talks between local community leaders and law enforcement. Returning to a frequent subject, Obama said he was thinking of ways to empower African American young men – a theme of his administration that has drawn criticism from the left.

“There are a lot of kids out there who need help who are getting a lot of negative reinforcement,” Obama 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?”

Obama concluded with a look to the future, saying that his daughters’ generation is better than his own, as his was better than his parents’.

“It doesn’t mean that we’re in a postracial society,” Obama said. “It doesn’t mean that racism is eliminated. But you know, 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.”

“We’re becoming a more perfect union,” Obama concluded. “Not a perfect union, but a more perfect union.”

For a full transcript of Obama’s remarks, click here.

793 comments
grandmamadikan
grandmamadikan

Everyone is getting so up-in-arms about who was the real racist in the Trayvon Martin case. Yes, racism still exists. I don't think racism is the root of the problem with Trayvon Martin. It was a case of jumping to conclusions and stereotypes. Stereotyping can overlap with racism, and can sometimes become the same thing. People choose to be sensitive about race because they can. If I say, "There's a black man over there," I'm just describing someone's appearance. People choose to associate that with bias, claiming that I'm racist because I'm implying something about his intent or behavior. That's on them. Racial slurs are never okay, whether said by a black person or a white person. What's not okay is killing someone because of his "suspicious behavior." Zimmerman jumped to conclusions, but it's impossible to prove whether he was out to kill Trayvon or simply carry out his "duties." Either way, killing him is not justified in the least. Defending Zimmerman and pointing to his other good deeds still does not justify his action. If he had simply arrested Trayvon, I could see the controversy; but then again, black men are constantly arrested for actions they did or didn't do, and none of those cases ever make the news. Stereotypes are there because they're somewhat true, but killing him is too far. Since I'm not black, I cannot speak to the complete injustice of this case, but from any standpoint, killing a teenager for "acting suspicious" is wrong.

paulzco
paulzco

1.America does have a history of racial injustice towards blacks going back to slavery. 2. That legacy includes black women that beat their children and black men who don't stick around. 3. White people nowadays hate and fear blacks not because they hate the color brown but because they are pissed off to not be able to walk down the street feeling safe, leave their doors unlocked and watch their tax dollars go to house black men in prison. 4. Racial profiling and racial bias will not change until 13% rather than 50% of crime is committed by the 13% of blacks in our country and they see more and more black men who are upstanding members of the community (like our president). 5. Nobody can change the reality of disproportionate black criminality but blacks themselves. 6. Whites get really pissed when having a "conversation about race" really means blaming white people for the current state of affairs rather than seeing blacks take responsibility for their fate and future by changing the norms of their community. Maybe it is ultimately because of slavery and a history of racism but there isn't much that whites can do about that now! 7. This is a message of hope and empowerment! Blacks are NOT victims but are masters of their own destiny!!!

AllenCovington
AllenCovington

"The message is that we can all go out and get guns and feel anybody that we feel is threatening us and lie about the fact,” said Jim Cervini, Christopher’s father. “My son never threatened anybody. He was a gentle child, his nature was gentle, he was a good person and he was never, ever arrested for anything, and has never been in trouble. He was 16 years and four months old, and he was slaughtered."

Scott says he acted in self defense when he confronted Cervini and two others saying they were stealing from neighbors cars. He told them he had a gun and ordered them to freeze and wait for police.

Scott says he shot Cervini twice when the victim charged toward him yelling he was going to get Scott.

Can the SANE people STAND UP NOW? This can get ugly fast, and the "World" is watching...

AllenCovington
AllenCovington

Solution: Everybody get  "armed" , now ready? "Stand your ground", sounds stupid because it is. This is what we are heading to, can the sane people please take over before we become afganistan!

united_we_stand
united_we_stand

Who did Obama jump 35 years ago? And when did he stop calling white people crackers?

MK97
MK97

Okay this is for all of you that keep making this a racial issue. Trayvon Martin called George Zimmerman a cracker before Zimmerman got off the car. Doesn't this make Martin racist? To you Zimmerman was racist because he was feeling suspicious about Martin and all of you say "Don't expect to be treated better than what you treat others". Why is it that Trayvon Martin is not being accused of being racist by all of you? It very impressive how all of you found a way around this, and are doing your best in avoiding the fact that Martin was racist and he actually said "CRACKER". Yet I never read anything about Zimmerman calling Martin a "Nig*er" yet Zimmerman is the racist one. 

EddieVonMises
EddieVonMises

It's hilarious to read our "conservative" friends making excuses for an adult shooting an unarmed teenager to death.

The NRA is very proud of you, comrades.

ReneDemonteverde
ReneDemonteverde

An unarmed black teenager who was bashing his head in concrete. Obviously you just like to listen to other people opinions without formulating your own by reading well. Google George Zimmerman record as to his assistance to the black community before this all happen and come back here. 

LukeEaster
LukeEaster

Since when is serving your country putting yourself in harm's way?  Furthermore, in that honorable service, why should you fear friend and foe alike.  It is that service allowing us to voice our opinions w/o fear of reprisal ala King George & the reason this country was founded in the first place.  "Give me liberty or give me death!"  Sound familiar ronk?

MK97
MK97

I agree with you. A lot of the people who voted for President Obama weren't even colored. Oh yeah, and thats another one, its okay if you call whites crackers, and hispanics sp*cs, but don't you dare call a colored person black...because you  will be judge, called a racist and then jumped. Go into today's high schools and middle schools,  if there is a fight in the lunch room you can't say it was a "black and a hispanic" because you will be accused of being racist against blacks and you will face a beating after school. Why is this? Because everything that involves a person of color is immediately turned into a racial issue. If you fight with a colored person it is cause their black, if you verbally fight with a colored person it cause their black, if you don't like a colored person it is also cause their black...but your judgment on a colored person could never be because of their personality it is only and simply revolving around the simple fact that they are black AND THAT IS THE PROBLEM. Before there was a colored president people could freely judge the president we had... but now that a colored president was elected, you can't  judge him on simple political based issue without being called a racist. Colored people back up and justify all of their faults with one racism. 



MK97
MK97

"President Barack Obama addressed the state of race relations in America, less than a week after George Zimmerman was acquitted Saturday on self defense grounds for killing the unarmed black 17-year-old Trayvon Martin."  These words are under the title of this article. Did they really have to put "BLACK unarmed teen"? Would it have changed the fact that he was unarmed and now is dead? I don't think so...but some how it seems to people that if a black person was killed it is undoubtedly because the killer was racist...no other idea counts.  



MK97
MK97

Trayvon Martin calls Zimmerman a "weird cracker"....but somehow Zimmerman was racist. If it wasn't for white people, blacks would still be slaves today. I am not racist in anyway. I judge people based on who they are not on the color of their skin. But most of the people in favor of Trayvon are worst than racist themselves. They clearly don't care about the justice of a young mans death...they are too busy thinking about "OMG they killed him cause he was black". I'm not being racist here because not all of the people against Zimmerman are black, there are whites and hispanics too. If you see a man on a rainy day, he is dressed like a thug and he starts to slowly approach your house, would you find him suspicious? It is better saying that Zimmerman found him suspicious because of his attire, because this is not a racism case. 

Chutichuh
Chutichuh

@AllenCovington 

The USA is never going to be like Afghanistan. That is a WAR ZONE. Stand your ground is efficient because anything can kill you. Someone punching you in the wrong place can kill you, someone pushing you into a street could kill you, and especially if they have any solid object in their hand. 

 Stand Your Ground is for protection. No one has the right to harm another person. It's simple: "You intentionally hurt me, I can kill you."

Your elementary perspective doesn't protect anyone.

 Perhaps I don't have the martial arts or physical capabilities to run away or defend myself, should I let you attack me because I can't kill you? Jeeze. 


Stop slapping people on the wrist for doing stupid stuff, this isn't elementary or high school: THIS IS LIFE.

ahandout
ahandout

@united_we_stand He didn't.  He calls them teabaggers.  What a great example we have for a president.

EddieVonMises
EddieVonMises

@MK97  

Zimmerman shot and killed an unarmed teenager.

You people are pathetic.

collioure
collioure

@MK97 

Race, race, race.

You're no better than the pathetic President

Stirring up all this racial animosity.

Sheesh!

collioure
collioure

@EddieVonMises 

No one's making excuses.  It was a tragic incident.

Sometimes s_ _ t happens.,

Maybe wannabe cop Zimmerman is guitly as hell.

There just wasn't much evidence, and what there was backed up Zimmerman's story.

TyPollard
TyPollard

@MK97 

If you are in High School (I'll take your word for it) and are using the word "colored" you are being influenced by racially backwards people. You are too young to have developed the level of resentment and insensitivity on your own. I sincerely hope you not paint yourself in to a shrinking corner of white bitterness. It is becoming smaller and smaller and you will end up excluding wonderful people in your life.


TyPollard
TyPollard

@MK97 

Wow.

Colored has been considered offensive for almost 40 years.

You are out of touch and sheltered and confused. Maybe you should spend more time listening to them than you do judging their guilt or innocence.

small_axe
small_axe

@MK97 Why do you always exaggerate? 

"but some how it seems to people that if a black person was killed it is undoubtedly because the killer was racist"

No it doesn't. Many times when a black person is killed the motivation has nothing to do with race. But then again, many times it does. Regarding Zimmerman's stalking and killing of Martin, it seems to have been the case.

You do realize of course that just because race isn't always a factor, it doesn't mean that it never is, right?

small_axe
small_axe

@MK97 Are you a lunatic?

1. "If it wasn't for white people, blacks would still be slaves today. I am not racist in anyway." -- No comment required.

2. "If you see a man on a rainy day, he is dressed like a thug and he starts to slowly approach your house, would you find him suspicious?" -- A hooded sweatshirt makes you a thug and Martin was slowly approaching Zimmerman's house?

There is only one way that a hooded sweatshirt makes you look like a thug. It is a logical construction like "If A then B" and "If B then C", so "If A then C".

A = hooded sweatshirts are an urban/black style

B = blacks are thugs

C = Martin was dressed like a thug

Even in your protestations of not being racist, you can't hide it. How dumb do you think the rest of us are? You're racism is so thinly veiled that it makes one wonder why you even try to hide it at all?

EddieVonMises
EddieVonMises

@collioure @EddieVonMises  

If that s_ _t happened between a black man and an unarmed white teenager, would NRA nation be as interested in defending the defendant?

MK97
MK97

@TyPollard Good, I thank you for taking my word for it because I am in High School, 16 years old. And I am not cornering myself in anything, I have blacks friends and we get along just fine. But when I have to state the facts I simply do, no matter the judgment that it may bring.

MK97
MK97

@TyPollard Black people call hispanics sp*cs, they call white people crackers, white boys, white girls, flat white girls, white guys with small D's. No one ever seems to attack a black person when the black person is being racist, but when a person of different race says something about a black person everyone gets offended and start accusing. When blacks are racist then everyone locks their mouth and throws away the key. 

MK97
MK97

@small_axe @MK97 

I fail to see how Zimmerman killed Trayvon because of case. It was a matter of Trayvon's clothes and suspicious actions. And yes I do realize that case isn't always a factor, just that in this case it isn't. 

MK97
MK97

@small_axe @MK97 Also you can stop calling me racist. If what you want is for me to state some faults for another ethnic group, then here you go:

 White people have the highest percentage of committing rape crimes. http://www.sarsonline.org/resources-stats/reports-laws-statics

I recognize all ethnic groups have faults, but why would I start alligating about another ethnic group if we are discussing this one? 


MK97
MK97

@small_axe "B=blacks are thugs" is your racist point of view. Martin was slowly approaching people's house, which Zimmerman was hired to protect. So don't try to twist what I said to your commodity. 

MK97
MK97

I said I'm not racist because I am not. It is the truth, slaves didn't have say when slavery existed so they couldn't have ended it. The whites who thought slavery was wrong were the ones who brought there idea to the eyes of others.

MK97
MK97

@small_axe @MK97  I am not a racist, all races have faults, it is just that in this case w e are talking about the black race. Trayvon Martin didn't dress like a thug? How about sagging and dressing like a drug dealer.  Being suspended from school, found with women jewelry and a screwdriver is not an indicator that he was going to steal that night?  I did not see any comment of yours that talks about Trayvon calling Zimmerman a cracker. I am not trying to hide anything at all, because if I was racist I would simply say it...I have all the rights to do so. FYI not only blacks are thugs, in my school thugs are the people who dress with swag or swagger however you want to call it...not the black people.

TyPollard
TyPollard

@ahandout @TyPollard @united_we_stand 

You are wrong. 

I remember having conversations with Tea Baggers (family members) explaining to them the double meaning. They were wearing tea bags on their hats. 

It was an honest mistake by the Tea Partiers and by the President.

You are engaging in revisionist history.

collioure
collioure

@EddieVonMises @collioure r

You're still trying to make ths a racial matter.  It isn't; it never was.

Get a life!

NRA?  Don't ask me.  However, the NRA dd offer the only workable answer to gun violence at schools - armed guards.  One third of schools already have them.   No other solution possible today.

MK97
MK97

 Black people don't want to be called black, do you want me to invent a word for them? They call whites crackers?  Calling them black is like them calling a white person white. So if they call whites crackers, why would they be offended if whites call them n*ggers.

TyPollard
TyPollard

@MK97 @TyPollard 

You haven't addressed the use of the word "colored".

It is a bizzare choice of words.

MK97
MK97

@small_axe If whites can be profiled as racists, then blacks can be profiled as racists, when black people stop profiling others as  racists then others can stop profiling them back. 

Trayvon called Zimmerman a cracker making him racist with his own words...Zimmerman never called Trayvon a n*gger. Whats good for the goose ought to be good for the gander.

ahandout
ahandout

@TyPollard @MK97 Really Ty? "Skin Heads" is the accepted term for white gang members.  I can tell the meth heads by the way that they dress and act and their tatoos.  If you dress like a thug, a criminal, a drug addict, or a gangsta, you are projecting that image.  You can't then complain about people thinking that you are suspicious looking.

But that's not what Zimmerman said about Martin. He said he was starring into houses and acting strange.  Martin walked up to his truck twice to check him out. 

Not once did Zimmerman make any comments on Martin's apparel being suspicious.  So, you are arguing about the wind.

MK97
MK97

@TyPollard  It doesn't matter who invented because now a days, teens of all races dress with swag. If you associate swag with being black then you should consider yourself racist. I just say that what you do, who you hang out with, and what you wear says a lot about who you are regardless of your color and race.

TyPollard
TyPollard

@MK97 

Trying to understand different subcultures of Americans is not racist. Judging a fashion trend invented in a subculture as being associated with crime IS racist. Seriously, talk to some of these Americans.


MK97
MK97

small_axe your the one saying that being dressed like a rapper is practically being black and yet i'm the racist one. I said attire simply based on attire yet you base this on race.

small_axe
small_axe

@MK97 If his only reason for finding Martin suspicious was that he was dressed like a rapper, that is a millimeter away from profiling him for his race. If out of 100 black kids dressed like a rap performer, a few are criminals, how can you defend that profiling, and at the same time be offended that people profile whites as racist even though only a subset is actually racist? What's good for the goose ought to be good for the gander. you can't have it both ways, and yet you seem insistent on just that.

MK97
MK97

 Um if you could look a little harder you would see that the rapist are also mostly white... anyway, I am not on Trayvon's side because he called Zimmeran a cracker and now people say that Zimmerman is racist. Makes sense how?? 

united_we_stand
united_we_stand

@MK97 wrong and your link unsurprisingly only goes into color stats only for the victims, not the perps. 

collioure
collioure

@MK97 @small_axe

"I am not a racist, all races have faults, it is just that in this case w e are talking about the black race."

My, what a racist mess you are!

When you make a generalization about people of a specific race or skin color, that is surely racist.

FYI the libbies do not like the broader definaition of racism (= racial discrimination) because it includes the many forms of racism they pracftice.

LondonLovestoned
LondonLovestoned

@MK97 @TyPollard In my life experiences I have always associated cracker as a racist term against Whites.  However, Jeantel has explained that in Florida people use Cracker not in a racist way but just to describe anybody that is being a creeper. They call cops crackers.  She explains since Zimmerman was acting like a cop thats why the term was used.  There are lots of regional variations in slang so I can't assume she is lying anymore than I can assume she's telling the truth. 

MK97
MK97

@TyPollard There is no need to call me racist if I said one's style is alerting, because it simply is. People who sag their pants got it from a group of criminals who's pants where sagging because they had no belt. How can this possibly not be something to worry about? People of my age that follow and praise and ontop of all resembles what a criminal is.

MK97
MK97

@TyPollard Yet you or smat_axe have said nothing about Trayvon calling Zimmerman a cracker. Just keep avoiding it, go ahead.

MK97
MK97

@TyPollard If swag was so good they wouldn't of gotten their "fashion" from a jail with no belts. 

TyPollard
TyPollard

@MK97 @TyPollard 

Our dominate culture has decided what is appropriate an the work place.

It too is only fashion. Not right or wrong. Just fashion of our business culture.

It does not mean these swag wearers are criminals.

MK97
MK97

@TyPollard I have been to many schools, my world is not small. I didn't see you or small_axe ever say anything about Trayvon calling Zimmerman a cracker? How do you justify that? Doesn't that make him racist? 

MK97
MK97

@TyPollard Okay if dressing with swag is not alerting to others, then why can't you take your swag with you to a job interview? 

MK97
MK97

@TyPollard I d not get my info from TV. I go to high school where I see these happen in front of me. The ones dressed with swag, not the black people, but the ones dressed with swag (blacks, hispanics, and whites) that have swag are the ones that have drugs on them. BTW labeling someone based on the way they dressed is not racist.

MK97
MK97

@small_axe Not only black kids dress like rap superstars, all rap fans dress like rap super stars. You keep saying that blacks and rap is the same thing, and right after you finish stating it you call me racist. 

MK97
MK97

@small_axe I never said he had the jewelry that same night, but having robbed once is enough reason to worry he would do it gain. 

small_axe
small_axe

@MK97 WTF are you talking about? He was found with jewelry in his backpack the year before. How does that connect with the night in question? And dressing  in that style, while it isn't how I would choose to dress -- is anyone's right. Is it not? How many white kids dress like rock n' roll punk superstars? Why should it be a surprise that black kids will dress like their rap star superstars? Clothes CANNOT be a reason to profile people. 

TyPollard
TyPollard

@MK97 @TyPollard @small_axe 

You are wrong. 

Criminals don't have a "team' uniform making it easy for the police. Getting your info from TV and labeling all people who dress that way IS racist.

They are Valedictorians and athletes and science nerds and criminals too. This is why people call you and others racist. They know these kids. They love these kids. They hate the criminals too. They see you and others paint their children as criminals because their fashion tastes confuse you. They also were kids once that lived with those same assumption of guilt while being black urban and young.

MK97
MK97

@TyPollard @MK97 @small_axe Drug dealers, burglars, all these people on the streets dress the same. All of them dress with swag, if you see a person dressed with proper uniform or a person dressed like a thug, who will you assume to be more dangerous?

TyPollard
TyPollard

@MK97 @small_axe 

Think about this.

If he was dressed as a drug dealer why was Zimmerman thinking he was a burglar?

Also, this is the "uniform" for many many young boys. The percentage that are criminals is tiny. Probably the same percentage of kids the dress like rednecks.