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Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Obama gets personal about Trayvon Martin case

President Barack Obama pauses as he speaks about the death of Trevyon Martin at the beginning of the daily White House briefing in the Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, Friday, July 19, 2013. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
President Barack Obama pauses as he speaks about the death of Trevyon Martin at the beginning of the daily White House briefing in the Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, Friday. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

President Barack Obama kept his own counsel after the six women deciding whether George Zimmerman deserved prison time for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin delivered their verdict, releasing just a written statement appealing for calm the day after the ex-neighborhood watchman had been cleared of all charges.

But the president was quietly keeping tabs on the country’s response to the outcome of the racially charged trial, particularly in the black community. He discussed it with his family. He was ready to address it during a series of interviews with Spanish-language TV stations earlier in the week, if asked. He wasn’t.

By Thursday, aides said Obama was telling top advisers the country needed to hear from him, not in a way the White House would script it but in a frank discussion of his views and experiences as a black man in America.

On Friday, he stepped up to the podium in the White House briefing room and delivered a rare and extensive reflection on race by a president who has shied away from the issue even as he is constantly dogged by it.

“When Trayvon Martin was first shot, I said that this could have been my son,” Obama said. “Another way of saying that is Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago.”

For Obama, the product of black-white parentage who has written about his own struggles with racial identity but has kept the subject at arm’s length in office, his remarks represented an unusual embrace of his standing as the nation’s first black president and of the longing by many black Americans for him to give voice to their experiences.

“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,” he said.

“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,” Obama said.

A Florida jury last Saturday acquitted Zimmerman, 29, of all charges in the February 2012 shooting death of Trayvon, who was 17 and unarmed. The outcome cheered those who agreed that Zimmerman had acted in self-defense and angered and disappointed those who believe the teenager was targeted and pursued by Zimmerman because he was black.

Despite the emotional aspect to his comments, Obama appeared to signal that the Justice Department is unlikely to charge Zimmerman with violating Trayvon’s civil rights, despite intense pressure to do so from the NAACP and others. An NAACP petition urging the department to charge Zimmerman has collected more than 1.5 million signatures.

Obama said people should have “some clear expectations” about any Justice Department action because issues regarding the criminal code traditionally “are issues of state and local government.”

Obama, too, had been under pressure from civil rights leaders and others to speak out, but he resisted doing so until Friday. His only comment on the verdict was the paper statement issued Sunday calling Trayvon’s death a tragedy for the country and urging the public to heed the “call for calm reflection” from the boy’s grieving parents.

Even as the president urged the public to accept the verdict — “once the jury’s spoken, that’s how our system works” — he gave voice to the feelings of those who were angered by the decision.

Obama said there’s 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.”

He said he was considering a number of steps, including law enforcement training, examining state and local “stand your ground” laws to see if they encourage the kinds of confrontations that ended with Trayvon’s death and how to give black boys “the sense that their country cares about them and values them and is willing to invest in them.”

He also called on the country to search its soul.

Obama said Trayvon’s parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, had shown incredible grace and dignity throughout. He did not mention the feelings of Zimmerman, who relatives say has been threatened with death.

Trayvon’s parents released a statement calling Obama’s comments “a beautiful tribute to our boy.”

Zimmerman’s brother, Robert, also welcomed the president’s remarks. He told Fox News “the American people need to have some time to digest what really happened and to do that soul searching the president spoke of.”

Despite that fact that Obama’s race has been central to the story of his political rise, he has rarely addressed the matter as a public figure. He last spoke about race in substantive and personal terms as a presidential candidate in 2008 when he addressed criticism over incendiary comments by his former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

In 2009, Obama stumbled when commenting on the arrest of a black Harvard professor in the professor’s home, saying the police “acted stupidly.” He was forced to retract his comment, then held an awkward “beer summit” at the White House with the professor, Henry Louis Gates, and the white arresting officer.

But on Friday, Obama spoke poignantly about public distrust of many black men, including him before he became well-known, saying they draw nervous stares on elevators and hear car locks clicking when they walk by.

He sought to end on a more positive note, saying the U.S. gets better with each passing generation despite lingering racial discord. He sees the progress when listening to his daughters and watching them with their friends.

“They’re better than we were on these issues,” Obama said. “We’re becoming a more perfect union. Not a perfect union, but a more perfect union.”


AP White House Correspondent Julie Pace contributed to this report.


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Copyright  © 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Copyright  © 2013 Capitol Hill Blue

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5 thoughts on “Obama gets personal about Trayvon Martin case”

  1. “It doesn’t matter whether or not Travon Martin was a stone cold thug intent on breaking into a home in the neighborhood and robbing it, or worse. He was not caught in the act of committing a crime when Zimmerman confronted him.” …extract from post

    Say what…!? / : |

    Seemingly this is an apologia for a black teen thug that ran afoul of a Hispanic with a penchant to enforce the law via watchan’s post; I.E., an accident waiting to happen in time and space.

    Although I do not condone profiling, it’s a fact of life in a multi-racial/cultural society.

    No amount of kvetching or writing on anyone’s part will change the order of the day.

    This President is absolutely wrong in dragging the office of the Presidency down to the level of a local community policing accident/incident gone bad.

    I personally find no pleasure in that Trayvon Martin was shot and killed. This was a young black teen that no doubt didn’t get the parenting/mentoriing he desparately need and so too had to grow up in a disenfranchised situation.

    Carl Nemo **==

  2. Let’s keep to the facts in our comments:

    ON 02 JUNE 2013.
    During the Tuesday, May 28th hearing, Mr. O’Mara misstated the nature of video from Trayvon Martin’s cell phone which was included in the Defendant’s 3rd Supplemental Discovery. He stated that the video showed “two buddies of his beating up a homeless guy,” when what happened was Trayvon Martin, along with a buddy, was videotaping two homeless guys fighting each other over a bike. Though it was unintentional, it is a particular concern to us because we are and have been committed to disputing misinformation in every aspect of this case, not causing it. For that, Mr. O’Mara apologizes. Press Release

    It doesn’t matter whether or not Travon Martin was a stone cold thug intent on breaking into a home in the neighborhood and robbing it, or worse. He was not caught in the act of committing a crime when Zimmerman confronted him.

    What we know happened is that, armed with a pistol, George Zimmerman took it upon himself to exit his car and follow Martin.

    He’s defense was that he feared for his life when Martin turned the tables on him and ended up on top of him and hitting his head on the concrete curb.

    We will never know if Martin intended to do great bodily harm or believed he was defending himself.

    We can only speculate what would have happened if Zimmerman had been killed by Martin. Presumably Martin would have claimed self-defense ( or stand your ground), citing his fear that he was in fear for his own life. This defense would have been bolstered it Martin said Zimmerman was trying to shoot him.

    Some who have tried to dismiss any racial bias in the verdict have said that both Zimmerman and Martin were members of minority groups. It could be argued that Zimmerman, who is what is sometimes called a white Hispanic, and is in fact racially white. Reference.

    He was judged by six white women. We’ll never know what would have happened if there were one or more black members of the jury. Most of us learned about jury nullification from the O.J. Simpson murder trial when the defendant was found not guilty. Few people know that jury nullification can work the other way.

    A jury can similarly convict a defendant on the ground of disagreement with an existing law, even if no law is broken (although in jurisdictions with double jeopardy rules, a conviction can be overturned on appeal, but an acquittal cannot). Reference.

    Obama was right in attempting to reopen a forthright discussion about racism in America. He is not politicizing this. Quite the contrary, it offers him no political benefit to raise this difficult cultural and social issue.

    Obama has something in common with very black person, especially every black man no matter their social standing. In the media we are hearing from many middle class black men describing their experiences where they were the victims of racial profiling. Read: For many black men, being racially profiled is a sad reality.

    Unfortunately I doubt many citizens are ready to have a discussion with an open mind.

    • Let’s keep to the facts in our comments:

      Hal, you sir are a gem to have around here on CHB. You have such an incredible knack to see the facts and to only state the truth on most any subject while the rest of us bums here on Doug’s news site more often then not post nothing more then opinionated babble. 😉

  3. If they wanted to raise someone to the status of martyr, it would have been wise to make sure the person was deserving of such a thing.

    Likewise, the only racism concerning this case is coming from the President, the media and the Black Panthers. The Panthers placed a bounty on Zimmerman’s head, and the President obviously believes justice is based on skin color. But he should know, it’s his DOJ and his AG. The media first referred to Mr. Zimmerman as white, then white Hispanic. They don’t refer to Obama as white African-American. So what gives?

    We also must wonder if we should take advice on justice from a man with a secret assassination list. Such a person obviously knows nothing of justice.

    Personally, I believe if a Caucasian teen had assaulted and beaten Mr. Zimmerman to the point of unconsciousness, that Mr. Zimmerman would also have shot the white teen and justifiably so.

  4. It’s difficult for me to understand why President Obama would want to identify with the likes of Trayvon Martin.

    As President of the United States he has access to the best HUMINT in the world including the profile of Mr. Martin which for a teen was an ugly life story in the making.

    Trayvon was a violent, confrontive, black teen who seemingly enjoyed fighting by either engaging in such directly or staging such fights evidently in a “Fight Club” tradition. Onc account says he even made videos of his buddies beating up a homeless person, evidently for ‘giggles’. / : |

    George Zimmerman the cop wannabe, a gated community watchmen who was legally armed and potentially dangerous happened to run into this violently disposed teen, the two being as I’ve mentioned before as matter meeting antimatter to simply go ‘poof’ that fateful night.

    Results: Trayvon dead and Zimmerman’s life ruined within the confines of the U.S. for seemingly the rest of his mortal life.

    Barack Obama had absolutely nothing in common with Trayvon other than he’s a black man residing in a nation with a propensity for racism.

    The President mentions how people (no doubt whites) would observe him when in the area at least until he made U.S. Senator, but even then folks who were politically not savvy would still not know Barack other than him being a possible threat as a dangerous black man looking to either panhandle, rob or do physical mayhem to them. It’s simply a fact of life in this country. Tragic but true.

    This President is flat wrong in politicizing this case with the possible result of fomenting racial discontent or worse, ‘race riots’.

    It’s beneath the office of the President and he knows so. There’s some other ulterior motive here and as Keith one of our contributors has outlined in another article it seemingly is to further the agendas of certain black leaders who always come to the forefront when these publicized trials occur; I.E., the Reverends Sharpton, Jackson et al. all with an agenda for exploiting their own race for
    publicity and no doubt contributions to their cause through some contributory pipeline.

    With so many things going wrong for this second term President in terms of the IRS, NSA et al. scandals he seemingly needs to have some ‘boohoo’ distraction from the business at hand; evidently Trayvon Martin fits the bill for such.

    Carl Nemo **==

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