Though President Barack Obama issued a short statement immediately following George Zimmerman‘s acquittal in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, many have wondered how our country’s first African American president REALLY felt about the case. And as it turns out, he’s none too pleased.
In a surprise appearance at a standard White House press conference Friday afternoon, President Obama finally elaborated on his thoughts regarding the Zimmerman verdict, not only speaking on the Florida trial itself, but also America’s issues with race.
But perhaps the most surprising piece of Obama’s poignant speech was when he said outright that Trayvon Martin “could have been me 35 years ago.”
“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. 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.
“And 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 happened 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.”
The president added:
“We need to ask whether we are making African American young men feel part of this society. Black boys need more encouragement.”
President Obama also spoke on Florida’s controversial “Stand Your Ground law” and how it needs to be reexamined:
“I think it would be useful for us to examine some state 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 defuse potential altercations.
“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?”
Obama then questioned the outcome of the situation if Trayvon had been white and had a gun on that fateful night:
“And for those 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, it seems to me that we might want to examine those kinds of laws.”
Naturally, Obama’s statements have angered conservatives on the right wing (aka the WRONG wing), who are accusing him of advocating and invoking a “race war,” and then there are those who are applauding the president for being so open and honest.
Obama goes full race war: In putting shooting “in context”,it’s all about how “black folks” see it, not how whites or assault victims see it
— Patrick Dollard (@PatDollard) July 19, 2013
The President of the United States incites a race war among his own citizens. I may actually vomit I am so disgusted. #tcot
— Rob al Kafir (@robfit) July 19, 2013
Obama is the most irresponsible presidnet in history. Now we’re having national debates about hypotheticals? #standyourground
— Emily Miller (@EmilyMiller) July 19, 2013
Unbelievably inappropriate for POTUS Obama to side with Trayvon. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Not advancing race relations.
— Crystal Wright (@GOPBlackChick) July 19, 2013
I love that President Obama spoke about his own experiences with racism. Truly humanized him.
— Blake Moreno (@childshbambino) July 19, 2013
Obama’s statement on the Zimmerman Trial / Trayvon Martin’s murder was realistic, honest, and personal. #institutionalizedracism #UShistory
— Jaimeson Cortez (@JaimesonCortez) July 19, 2013
Conservative white folks are about to call for a revolution because President Obama just made too damn much sense for them to comprehend.
— ???.pa? (michael) (@emptychampagne) July 19, 2013
An Obama speech on race is like a turning on the light in America’s dirty kitchen. See how the racist cockroaches scurry!
— Osutein (@osutein) July 19, 2013
WATCH PRESIDENT OBAMA ADDRESS THE ZIMMERMAN VERDICT AND RACE IN AMERICA HERE: