President Obama today doubled down on his statement last year that Trayvon Martin could have been his son, revising his remarks with the update, “Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago.
Obama spoke today about the Trayvon Martin case during an unscheduled appearance in the White House briefing room before the daily briefing by White House Press Secretary Jay Carney. Carney suggested afterward that Obama decided to take the stage after reporters from Latino TV stations earlier this week failed as expected to ask about Martin, saying Obama had prepared a similar statement for them.
Once again, as he did in a written statement issued Sunday, Obama injected race into a situation in which the sole surviving antagonist – George Zimmerman, who shot and killed Martin – says there was no element of race. Skating right by Zimmerman’s claims, Obama called for “soul searching:”
And then, finally, I think it’s going to be important for all of us to do some soul-searching . . . 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.
Obama said he accepted the jury’s verdict but, through his clear sympathy for Martin, obviously completely rejects the principle underlying it – that Zimmerman acted in self defense. Zimmerman said he had stopped following Martin at the time he was attacked and claims it was Martin who then came and found him, and then attacked unprovoked.
First of all, I want to make sure that, once again, I send my thoughts 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 . . . 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.
Incredible. The president is stepping into the case not only add racist motives that haven’t been proven but to throw doubt on a man who was declared innocent under the law Obama is tasked with upholding.
Obama offered only a mild caution against violence, and that merely in passing:
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.
Instead, he said it was understandable that African Americans – including himself – interpret the case along racial lines because of injustices and stereotyping past and present.
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 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 . . . The African American community is also knowledgeable that there is a history of 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.
Might not the first black president tell African Americans to try to look at the case dispassionately rather than suggest that whites should accept their reaction? Would that not do more, given the incredible progress the country has made with respect to race, to unite the country under his leadership?
Obama was obviously trying to make some kind of profound summing up of the Martin case. What he did instead was continue to polarize the issue and suggest that blacks have good reason to be angry.
Here’s the full video of Obama’s remarks: