President Obama made a surprise appearance before the White House
press corps Friday and delivered highly personal remarks about the
aftermath of the George Zimmerman trial and the experience of being
an African-American male in the United States.
Expanding on comments made after a Florida jury found the
neighborhood watch volunteer not guilty of murdering Trayvon Martin,
an unarmed black teen, Mr. Obama said the trial was conducted in a
professional manner. The president praised the dignity shown by
Trayvon's parents throughout the ordeal.
Then he went on to talk about what he called the context of the
case, and how people, especially the African-American community, are
"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 doesn't go away," Obama said.
Most African-American men have been followed by security when
shopping in a department store, said the president - including
himself, when younger.
"The African-American community is also knowledgeable that there
is a history of racial disparities in the application of our
criminal laws," said Obama.
The president then discussed how the African-American community
is not "naive" about the fact that black males are
disproportionately represented among both perpetrators and victims
of crime. But some of that violence and the poverty endemic in black
neighborhoods can be traced to the nation's difficult history, the
"So folks understand the challenges that exist for African-
American boys, but they get frustrated, I think, if they feel
there's no context for it, or that the context is being denied. 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," said
So, what to do? The president raised that issue, noting that,
among other things, the Justice Department is reviewing whether to
bring federal civil rights charges against Mr. Zimmerman. But he
indicated those might not be forthcoming.
"Traditionally, these are issues of state and local government,"
But it might be useful for the Justice Department to expand the
availability of police training in avoiding racial profiling,
according to the president. States could perhaps reflect on the
nature of stand-your-ground laws, and other statutes that might
encourage violence as much as protect against it. …