WATCH: President Obama’s Remarks on the Trayvon Martin Case

"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."

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[*] QUESTION: Whoa!

That’s so disappointing, man. QUESTION: What’re you doing here?

Jay, is this the kind of respect that you get?

(LAUGHTER)

You know, on television, it usually looks like you’re addressing a full room.

(CROSSTALK)

I got you. All right. Sorry about that. Do you think anybody else is showing up? Good.

Well, I wanted to come out here, first of all, to tell you that Jay is prepared for all your questions, and is very much looking forward to the session.

Second thing is, I want to let you know that over the next couple of weeks, there are going to obviously be a whole range of issues — immigration, economics, et cetera. We’ll try to arrange a fuller press conference to address your questions.

The reason I actually wanted to come out today is not to take questions, but to speak to an issue that’s obviously gotten a lot of attention over the course of the last week, the issue of the Trayvon Martin ruling.

I gave a preliminary statement right after the ruling on Sunday, but watching the debate over the course of the last week, I thought it might be useful for me to expand on my thoughts a little bit.

First of all, I want to make sure that once again I send my thought and prayers, as well as Michelle’s, to the family of Trayvon Martin, and to remark on the incredible grace and dignity with which they’ve dealt with the entire situation. I can only imagine what they’re going through and it’s remarkable how they’ve handled it.

The second thing I want to say is to reiterate what I said on Sunday, which is there are going to be a lot of arguments about the legal — the legal issues in the case. I’ll let all the legal analysts and talking heads address those issues.

The judge conducted the trial in a professional manner. The prosecution and the defense made their arguments. The juries (sic) were properly instructed that in a — in a case such as this, reasonable doubt was relevant. And they rendered a verdict.

And once the jury’s spoken, that’s how our system works.

But I did want to just talk a little bit about context and how people have responded to it and how people are feeling.

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.

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 — 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.

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.

And, you know, I — 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.

The African-American community is also knowledgeable that there is a history racial disparities in the application of our criminal laws, everything from the death penalty to enforcement of our drug laws. And that ends up having an impact in terms of how people interpret the case.

Now, this isn’t to say that the African-American community is 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. It’s not to make excuses for that fact.

Although, black folks do interpret the reasons for that in a historical context. They understand that, some of the violence that takes place in poor black neighborhoods around the country is born out of a very violent past in this country. And that the poverty and dysfunction that we see in those communities can be traced to a very difficult history.

And so, the fact that sometimes that’s unacknowledged adds to the frustration. And the fact that a lot of Africa-American boys are painted with a broad brush and the excuses given, “Well, there are these statistics out there that show that African-American boys are more violent,” using that as an excuse to then see sons treated differently causes pain.

I think the African-American community is also not naive in understanding that, statistically, somebody like Trayvon Martin was probably, statistically, more likely to be shot by a peer than he was by somebody else.

So — so folks understand the challenges that exist for African- American boys. But they get frustrated, I think, if they feel that there’s no context for it, or — and that context is being denied. And — and 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.

Now, the question, for me, at least, and — and I think for a lot of folks is, “Where do we take this? How — how do we learn some lessons from this and move in a positive direction?”

You know, I think it’s understandable that there have been demonstrations and vigils and protests and some of that is just going to have to work its way through as long as it remains nonviolent. If I see any violence, then I will remind folks that that dishonors what happened to Trayvon Martin and his family.

But beyond protests or vigils, the question is: Are there some concrete things that we might be able to do? I know that Eric Holder is reviewing what happened down there, but I think it’s important for people to have some clear expectations here. Traditionally, these are issues of state and local government. The criminal code and law enforcement is traditionally done at the state and local levels, not at the federal levels.

That doesn’t mean, though, that as a nation, we can’t do some things that I think would be productive. So let me just give a couple of specifics that I’m still bouncing around with my staff, you know, so we’re not rolling out some five-point plan, but some areas where I think all of us could potentially focus.

Number one, precisely because law enforcement is often determined at the state and local level, I think it would be productive for the Justice Department, governors, mayors to work with law enforcement about training at the state and local levels in order to reduce the kind of mistrust in the system that sometimes currently exists.

You know, when I was in Illinois, I passed racial profiling legislation, and it actually did just two simple things. One, it collected data on traffic stops and the race of the person who was stopped, but the other things was it resourced us training police departments across the state on how to think about potential racial bias, and ways to further professionalize what they were doing.

And, initially, the police departments across the state were resistant, but actually they came to recognize that if it was done in a fair, straightforward way that, it would allow them to do their jobs better and communities would have more confidence in them, and in turn be more helpful in — in applying the law. And, obviously, law enforcement’s got a very tough job.

So that’s one area where I think there are a lot of resources and best practices that could be brought to bear, if state and local governments are receptive, and I think a lot of them would be. And let’s figure out, are there ways for us to push out that kind of training.

Along the same lines, I think it would be useful for us to examine some state and — 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 diffuse potential altercations.

I know that there’s been commentary about the fact that the “Stand Your Ground” laws in Florida were not used as a defense in the case.

On the other hand, if we’re sending a message as a society in our communities that someone who is armed potentially has the right to use those firearms, even if there’s a way for them to exit from a situation, is that really going to be contributing to the kind of peace and security and order that we’d like to see?

And for those who — 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? And if the answer to that question is at least ambiguous, then it seems to me that we might want to examine those kinds of laws.

Number three — and this is a long-term project — we need to spend some time in thinking about how do we bolster and reinforce our African-American boys? And this is something that Michelle and I talk a lot about. There are a lot of kids out there who need help, who are getting a lot of negative reinforcement. 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?

You know, I’m not naive about the prospects of some grand new federal program. I’m not sure that that’s what we’re talking about here. But I — I do recognize that, as president, I’ve got some convening power. And there are a lot of good programs that are being done across the country on this front. And for us to be able to gather together business leaders and local elected officials and clergy and celebrities and athletes and figure out, how are we doing a better job helping young African-American men feel that they’re a full part of this society and that — and that they’ve got pathways and avenues to succeed? You know, I think that would be a pretty good outcome from what was, obviously, a tragic situation. And we’re going to spend some time working on that and thinking about that.

And then, finally, I think it’s going to be important for all of us to do some soul-searching. You know, there’s been talk about, should we convene a conversation on race? I haven’t seen that be particularly productive when, you know, politicians try to organize conversations. They end up being stilted and politicized, and folks are locked into the positions they already have. On the other hand, in families and churches and workplaces, there’s a possibility that people are a little bit more honest and at least you ask yourself your own questions about, 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.

And let me just leave you with — with the final thought that, as difficult and challenging as this whole episode has been for a lot of people, I don’t want us to lose sight that things are getting better. Each successive generation seems to be making progress in changing attitudes when it comes to race. It doesn’t mean we’re in a post-racial society. 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. And that’s true in every community that I’ve visited all across the country. And so, you know, we have to be vigilant. And we have to work on these issues. And those of us in authority should be doing everything we can to encourage the better angels of our — nature as opposed to using these episodes to heighten divisions.

But we should also have confidence that kids these days, I think, have more sense than we did back then and certainly more than our parents did or our grandparents did, and that along this long and difficult journey, you know, we’re becoming a more perfect union, not a perfect union, but a more perfect union.

All right?

Thank you, guys.

19 comments
HaroldPelham
HaroldPelham

Sounds to me lke just some more Filthy down in the gutter Race-baiting Mumbo Jumbo on behalf of Mr. Obama nothing more!!!

EzraTank
EzraTank

Why didn't one reporter have the balls to ask him about the EVIDENCE that TM doubled back and attacked Zimmerman? 

EzraTank
EzraTank

 This is such a horrible sign of leadership. 

The black leaders (other than Bill Cosby) need to stand up and start calling out the black community for part of these problems as well.  Yes there are white A-hole racists and probably always will be.  But there are also black racists that seem to get a pass. 

Had Trayvon stayed at home, which the evidence clearly points out he had reached, instead of choosing to double back and see what the "crazy ass cracka" (racist statement) was doing this isn’t even a story.  Had Trayvon not confronted (jumped) George Zimmerman, then this isn't even a story.The media (especially NBC editing the 911 tapes) painted Zimmerman as a white racist profiling Trayvon.Not true.Zimmerman openly admitted English wasn’t even the first language spoken in his household growing up.If you listen to the 911 tapes COMPLETELY without NBC’s editing, the 911 operator asked what race the person is.Only then does GZ even mention, “He looks black”.

Yes we have a large problem in this country when it comes to black and white.Neither side was the winner in this case.Yes blacks go to prison a very high rate compared to other races.But culturally blacks are very different.There are plenty of opportunities for blacks to rise up and get education.And the black community needs to stop labeling blacks, “Uncle Tom’s” when they are successful.Just look at the black on black homicide rates?You must look within first to fix a lot of the problems facing your society.Can we PLEASE get some black leaders during these 15 minutes of Trayvon fame to come out and touch on some of these points?

 The real people that need to stand up are the females of the black community.  Start acting stronger.  Start saying NO to men and having children with men that will NOT stick around to be a father.  Teach your children that the police aren't ALL bad, because they are not; they are there to do a job.Are some of them racists, yes, but labeling them all bad is ridiculous.

Start looking at the OTHER side.

FBI Statistics:

"Blacks commit more violent crime against whites than against other blacks." Forty-five percent of the victims of violent crime by blacks are white folks, 43 percent are black, 10 percent are Hispanic.

Blacks are seven times as likely as people of other races to commit murder, eight times more likely to commit robbery and three times more likely to use a gun in a crime.

"Blacks are an estimated 39 times more likely to commit violent crime against a white person than vice versa, and 136 times more likely to commit robbery." (If decent black folks have trouble hailing a cab, and they do, these numbers may help explain it.)

Black-on-white rape is 115 times more common than the reverse.

hue
hue

The president referred to this as "the Trayvon Martin ruling". There was NO ruling regarding Trayvon Martin. 

TIME staff should refer to the case properly also.  

paulzco
paulzco

But also, Trayvon Martin did not "stand his ground on that sidewalk" as the president stated.  He went after and brutally attacked Mr. Zimmerman rather than calling for help which he could have easily done.  Let's not play fast and loose with the facts to make points please!

paulzco
paulzco

I read this speech expecting to be outraged but surprisingly was for the most part pleased by the balanced and reasoned approach that he took.  I was still disappointed, however, by a number of things. First of all, he failed to acknowledge that racial profiling may not have been involved at all in this situation.  Secondly, that it was all about what the country can do to help the black community rather than what they can do to help themselves to change the realities that cause their young men to be violent criminals which in turn fuels racial profiling (black mothers that beat their kids thereby teaching them that "might makes right" and black fathers that disappear as soon as their pants are zipped).  Lastly, what a shame that he did not also express sympathy for the ordeal that George Zimmerman has gone through when he was just trying to help his community be safer 

TerryDianeSmith
TerryDianeSmith

It seems the President is saying he could have been Trayvon Martin 35 years ago. If that were true he would not be elgible to be the President today. I believe he should have stayed out of this and not taken sides. If Trayvon Martin had not been on top of Zimmerman he would not be dead today as Zimmerman would not have had to defend himself with this guy on top of him beating him up. They know the positions as they have been witnessed and the Coroners Office has said that was the position .  Body to Body. Zimmerman did not shoot him from a distance. I am very disappointed in this President though I voted for him twice. This decision was in a Court of Law. There will be numerous (and already have been) affected by all of the protests. Some will have records now and some will not be able to attend the College they want to because of this. Martins Parents have been Warned by their Attorneys to behave. They are going to make more money than they have ever thought from the death of their son.I believe this young man had numerous problems . You do not get suspended from school for no reason.

Afrozemerchant
Afrozemerchant

The most prejudiced are the ones who think they are Christians and believe in Jesus in this country,what they forget is the life of Jesus, who was tortured and abused by the very people who he came to help,and he showed trust and goodness to his enemies though they were all clearly against him and his preaching,what does faith teach us?the answer is to trust each other and show kindness to our fellow brothers and sisters who might look different in appearance but they are all gods creations,and there are good and bad people in all races,but the danger is associating and generalizing the whole race for the action of some,our country is the biggest proponent of human rights around the world and understands that equality among people has brought prosperity to our great nation and the future looks really bright if we continue in that direction by assimilating all section of society with genuine understanding of each other and helping to build bridges among community which will unite us in creating better future for our children.

terryclifton1
terryclifton1

Lets see, there is racial discrimination, age discrimination, there's discrimination against gays, lesbians, etc.., reverse discrimination, and so on going on in this country every day. What the president didn't say in his speech was the fact that a black man fears another black man way more than he fears a white man. Statics also say, and this wasn't brought up either that black on white crime is staggering compared to white on black crime, so to paint white people more dangerous to blacks is laughable.

KarenGillis
KarenGillis

I think we the people need to accept the verdict in the Trayvon Martin  case.  I see nothing that indicates that Mr. Zimmerman is racist or that Trayvon's civil rights were violated. I am deeply sympathetic to the Martin family. But I need to say to you,  Mr. President,  please stick to the many real issues this country is facing.

NancyDrew
NancyDrew

You really can't relate unless you have walked a mile in a person's shoes, so I can't get upset when people say they don't relate. I understand that slavery is not hurtful to you because the same history that enslave us is the same history that uplifted you. For people to say that this is not about race and then turn around and say it's 99% of Blacks killing, robbing, raping, doing crimes is evident that when you see my skin color I am in that 99%, so that contradicts what is said it's not about race. So much bad talk is said about the President because of the stigma that his skin color has even though to be President in the first place you resume has to be extensive. He is intelligent and has walk the long road of economic and social struggles to stand next to people his equal. He did the same things you did to make it, same education, same working long hours, same struggles. So,I ask why is he not an equal to his partners in Office, oh, I know why because he is Head of State. Woow, you still don't see?

theamericansnc.com
theamericansnc.com

American society’s pathological refusal to discuss our tortured ‘racial’ history or acknowledge that this history’s legacy continues to have real world implications for contemporary Americans means that many decent white Americans are actually surprised by what happened in Florida. Unfortunately, black Americans my age are all too familiar with such injustice. This is why it is hard to find one black American citizen who believes George Zimmerman innocent.

The 2012 death of a innocent black teenager at the hands of a white vigilante who believed himself to be enforcing the law is just the most recent incident in a four-hundred year old North American narrative replete with the same story. What is aberrant about Trayvon Martin’s case is that it has made news. Most of our stories have never been told. And our nation’s insistence that we behave as though ‘race’ is not a factor in contemporary Americans’ everyday lives ensures that they never will.

http://theamericansnc.com/2013/07/11/i-am-trayvon-martin-superstorm-nemo-my-brush-with-a-baby-faced-homicidal-maniac-and-the-utter-absurdity-of-living-your-life-as-a-black-american-male-in-2013-part-1/

_Guest
_Guest

I have to be honest that I lock my car doors when Black people are around and I had no clue that the President can hear people lock their cars. I am ashamed.

But Trayvon made me realize how oppressed Black people are and how people do not want to place themselves in the young Black teen's shoes. I don't believe that people should kill one another. I abhor killings. I realized how much America fear, prejudge and hate Black people and Rachel who are not part of the norm and this is not right. President Obama opened my eyes that I myself should not fear Black people. We should integrate and not separate. We should live in unity.

Just read the comments on all the boards. 99% of them are negative. People are just filled with hatred towards the President and Trayvon. I do not see the President as a divider. I see him as opening people's eyes that people do continue to fear Black people and prejudge them. And we should not. We should help them and each other and live in unity with them.

Teddy1
Teddy1

Comment about "fist fight and street fights," on 1970'S we had a lot of fist fights, strong people was winning all this fights and humiliation was on small people that had to take it. Things changed a little be with martial arts and it was accepted kicking that before that was not manly and not accepted, then guns came in, and many people that did not know how to fight started using them to protect and defend there honor, since then things changed, it became an option ?if some will be losing a fair fight he or she could react out of anger to shoot some one in order to stop been hurt humiliated, first fist and street fights are wrong even do we have the reason and the power to do it, we have to teach our kids and grand kids not to get involved on this type of things, younger kids like RSP. Trayvon Martin should be teach to go out and knock some ones door and report some one following them call 911, I am so sorry that Mr. Trayvon Martin or his friend did not call 911, to report he was been follow by some one, things could had been different, please teach your kids to call for help. 

For those who claim to be Religious authorities in our community  and calling for a vigil and prayer for Mr. Trayvon Martin let me tell you reality truth you are just a bit late for him. why don't you organize a few vigils an prayers for the kids that are waking our streets afraid not knowing what to do if they feel been followed by some body, first teach them that not all white people is racist and not all blacks are criminals, my bigger concern is that the responsible adults not looking for a God and not praying for there babies, 

GOD BLESS YOU AND YOUR FAMILIES   

RipperMrsRipper
RipperMrsRipper

The ridiculousness continues, it appears there is a game called divide and conquer being played.

"Borrowing a quote from Abraham Lincoln, Obama said people should appeal to "the better angels" of human natures, rather than using incidents like Travyvon's death and Zimmerman's acquittal to "heighten divisions."

Really? Seriouosly?

I am so glad their are still people like those on this site that actually care about this country.

GunRightsAttorneys.Com is a growing, nation-wide data base of pro second amendment attorneys that proudly show their support for the firearms enthusiast. Attorneys represented on the site are seasoned trial attorneys practicing in the specialized area of firearms law as well as other legal areas. These attorneys number one goal is to ensure that the Constitutional rights of their clients are protected. With extensive knowledge of the law coupled with skilled courtroom advocacy the attorneys listed work tirelessly to achieve the best possible outcome for their clients.

PaulDirks
PaulDirks

Simple statistics lesson.

For the sake of argument assume 5 percent of Caucasians are criminals. 

Then assume that Blacks are twice as likely as Whites to be criminals. 

If you therefore assume that because someone is Black that they are a criminal, there is a 90 percent chance that you are a moron.

Thank you for your attention.


boomstick
boomstick

@terryclifton1 Did you read/watch the speech? Obama acknowledged the disproportionate crime rate amongst African-American males, and that Trayvon, statistically, was more likely to be killed by a peer than by someone like George Zimmerman. So, in fact, the president DID say these things. Furthermore, nowhere in this speech did he say that white people are more dangerous than blacks. How about you go back and read (or watch, if reading is difficult for you) the speech, and then post a comment on the speech that actually happened, as opposed to the one in your head.