Saturday, July 20, 2013

The President's Amazing Impromptu Speech on Trayvon Martin

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Complete White House Transcript Here

. . . 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 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. 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. 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 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 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

. . . And the fact that a lot of African American boys are painted with a broad brush and the excuse is 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.

Jonathan Capehart on Washington Post
President Obama’s unannounced entry into the White House Briefing Room took reporters by surprise. But what he had to say took the nation by surprise. In his first public remarks since his written statement after George Zimmerman was found not guilty in the killing of Trayvon Martin, Obama gave voice to the frustration and fear that has gripped the African American community. And he did it in the most personal terms we have seen to date.
What is so significant is that the president spoke up for Trayvon. After a trial that seemed to put Trayvon on trial for his own death and a verdict that freed people to smear all young black men for the actions of a few, Obama’s nearly 20-minute oration restored Trayvon’s dignity.
. . . I was in the briefing room when the president said these words, and I will admit to a welling of the eyes. One of the reasons President Bill Clinton is so popular among blacks is because he spoke to them and about them in ways that were knowing. To have a president who looks like me and has lived the same experience I have and to say so before the nation was as overwhelming as it was historic.
But Obama wasn’t just talking to me or fellow African Americans. He was talking to all Americans.

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