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Obama: Let Trayvon verdict prompt soul-searching, wringing out personal bias

Published: Fri, July 19, 2013 @ 5:38 p.m.


President Barack Obama grappled with the Trayvon Martin case in the most personal of terms on Friday, telling Americans that the slain youth "could have been me 35 years ago" and urging them to do some soul searching about their attitudes on race.

The nation's first black president said the nation needs to look for ways to move forward after the shooting and trial in Florida. And he said it may be time to take a hard look at "stand your ground" self-defense laws, questioning whether they contribute "to the kind of peace and security and order that we'd like to see."

"Where do we take this?" Obama wondered aloud during an unscheduled appearance in the White House briefing room. "How do we learn some lessons from this and move in a positive direction?"

His appearance marked his first extended comments on the Martin case since neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman was acquitted last weekend of second-degree murder and manslaughter charges in Martin's death last year. Jurors found that Zimmerman was acting in self-defense when he shot the unarmed black teenager. Zimmerman identifies himself as Hispanic.

Obama said that as people process the verdict, it's important to put the pained and angry reaction of many African-Americans into context.

Protests and demonstrations, he said, are understandable, adding that "some of that stuff is just going to have to work its way through - as long as it remains nonviolent."

"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.

The president said that distrust shadows African-American men: They sometimes are closely followed when they shop at department stores; they can draw nervous stares on elevators and hear car locks clicking when they walk down the street - experiences that he said he personally felt before becoming a well-known figure.

"It's inescapable for people to bring those experiences to bear," he said.

Obama said black Americans recognize a history of racial disparities in how laws are applied on the death penalty and involving drug cases, but he also said the African-American community was not "naive about the fact that African-American young men are disproportionately involved in the criminal justice system, that they're disproportionately both victims and perpetrators of violence."

The president said it's time "for all of us to do some soul searching," though he said it's generally not productive when politicians try to orchestrate a national conversation that ends up being stilted and politicized.

He added that conversations within families and at churches and workplaces, where people may be more honest, could help people to ask themselves, "Am I wringing as much bias out of myself as I can?"

Overall, Obama said, race relations in the United States actually are getting better. Citing his own daughters and their interactions with friends, the president said, "They're better than we are. They're better than we were."

"Each successive generation seems to be making progress in changing attitudes when it comes to race," he said.

The president declined to wade into the detail of legal questions about the Florida case, saying, "Once the jury's spoken, that's how our system works."

But he said state and local laws, such as Florida's "stand your ground" statute, need a close look.

Obama said it would be useful "to examine some state and local laws to see if they are designed in such a way that they may encourage the kinds of confrontation" that led to Martin's death. He questioned whether a law that sends the message that someone who is armed "has the right to use those firearms even if there is a way for them to exit from a situation" really promotes peace and security.

And he raised the question of whether Martin himself, if he had been armed and of age, "could he have stood his ground on that sidewalk" and shot Zimmerman if he felt threatened when being followed.

Obama also said the country needs to look at ways to improve local law enforcement through better training and resources, and needs to look for ways to "bolster and reinforce" African-American boys.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has said the Justice Department has an open investigation into the case. The department is looking into whether Zimmerman violated Martin's civil rights.


1excel(1307 comments)posted 3 years ago

Now is the time to send concealed carry laws nationwide to their grave. They are nothing but concealed death when those who are armed start a confrontation. LET'S GET ALL OF THE GUNS OFF THE STREETS!

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2DSquared(1788 comments)posted 3 years ago

How about "fathers" staying with their "baby mommas", working for a living, and teaching their offspring to study hard and be responsible human beings who contribute, not take, from society! There's some real honest to goodness soul searching for you Mr. "Choom-Gang!

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3redeye1(5662 comments)posted 3 years ago

Excel Why don't you get off our streets .Do us all a favor and move to another country like England where they don't allow guns You are a typical OBAMMY voter which means you truly are "A FOOL"

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4NoBS(2824 comments)posted 3 years ago

Now is the time to strengthen concealed carry rights nationwide. When we have a POTUS who sympathizes with the thug who was rightfully put down because he chose to start a fist fight with a LEGALLY ARMED man, and who seems intent on widening the racial gap, these are times when all honest, law-abiding citizens should not only own guns, but carry them everywhere it's legally possible to do so.

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5janeyblue(227 comments)posted 3 years ago

Yes Excel,lets take ALL guns off the streets. According to you,the police,all peacekeeping forces,the military will no longer be armed. No Nerf guns, no Red Ryder Carbine Action 200 Shot BB Guns to defend us from murderers and rapists and terrorists and vermin and scumbags.
Shall we arm them with sporks? Butter knives? Bull whips?
Maybe it is time for Ex to retire the cut and pate comment on every article with the word gun in it.
Yes I get it,freedom of speech. But give it a rest. Go check your statistics on how many are killed by knives. Bombs. Buses. Cars. Boats. Trees. You could theoretically die from a paper cut. Ban paper too. Cast iron skillets. Even you can understand this Ex.
I have the right to own a gun. To carry a gun.I will use a gun if need be to defend myself and my loved ones. Nor do I care what color the hooded thug is. He/she could be blue with green polka dots. Does not matter.
Simply put,guns really are a weapon that has evolved over the eons from a rock. Think about that.

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6republicanRick(1735 comments)posted 3 years ago

The worst areas for crime in any city is in the black neighborhoods. Most shootings are from young black men. Majority of welfare and food stamps are black families, sometimes multiple generations have lived on welfare. 75% of black births are to single women.
Let's ALL consider what these statistics mean.

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7excel(1307 comments)posted 3 years ago

So, to enhance your feeble argument you add far more to what I had printed.

Now let's go back to my previous posts. I stated that only the military and law enforcement had any real need to possess and cary firearms.

There is no need for firearms amongst the civillians. Zimmerman who will never get his back is doing quite well without it. Can he go out and buy another one? Possibly but who would risk selling him one? Unseen forces have put the squeeze on ammo sales and hopefully gun sales will be brought to a halt. We are putting your cave man attitude behind us.


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8papa1(711 comments)posted 3 years ago

if I could ask George Zimmerman one question it would be this. "why didn't you identify yourself to trayvon martin?" excuse me, i'm George Zimmerman and i'm a neighborhood watch captain. can I help you?. he had no business stalking martin and he had an obligation to identify himself. why didn't he? why didn't he take the stand in his own defense if he was innocent? this verdict stinks when you learn that three jurors wanted either second degree murder or manslaughter. what changed their minds in sequestration? and why did one have a book deal in the works? it's a shame trayvon martin didn't live to tell his side.

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9ANTIYOUNGSTOWN(253 comments)posted 3 years ago

I need clarification so I am asking for a clear, logical explanation. Feel free to respond if anyone can.

Innocent until proven guilty. That is how the law works, correct? As I understand it the situation played out as such. Zimmerman calls in a suspicious person in the area. He receives advice not to continue pursuit but does anyway. To this point we know no law had been broken. There was no indication or proof at this time that Trayvon was being racially profiled since Zimmerman did not use any racial slurs.
Now, we go to a conversation that Trayvon was having on his cell phone at or about the same time. As the witness said on the stand under oath, Trayvon said he was being followed by a creepy-*** cracker. (A racial slur).

Moving forward, no one but Zimmerman truly knows who was the aggressor. No one witnessed who really threw the first punch but there were witnesses saying Trayvon was on top of Zimmerman beating him. So, these are the facts as I understand them.

My questions are, by the facts of the case how is this a case of injustice? How can people say this is a travesty? A tragedy, yes. Are people really looking for justice? Or is it vengeance they want?

This is an honest question. I`m just looking for someone to clarify. No "what if`s" or "what someone should have done".

A court of law does not deal with "what if`s."

If my facts are correct I want to understand how when presented with facts, can someone disregard them, form an opinion without any proof, then expect to make a strong, respectable arguement.

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10papa1(711 comments)posted 3 years ago

if trayvon would have been smashing zimmermans head on concrete it would have been crushed, not cut. use common sense. and I repeat, why didn't Zimmerman identify himself? he wanted confrontation, that's why. there should have been one black juror and one male. I repeat, this stinks. the prosecution blew this case.

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11ANTIYOUNGSTOWN(253 comments)posted 3 years ago

Papa, were you there? Do you know exactly what happened? Or are your posts going to be nothing but "what if`s" and speculation?

As for the jury selection the process of voir dire allows the prosecution and the defense to pick or eliminate the jury. You can't just make up your own jury because you feel more blacks should have been on it.

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12papa1(711 comments)posted 3 years ago

ANTIYOUNGSTOWN, you're exactly right, why didn't the defense strike one or two jurors to get a fairer mix? and asking why Zimmerman didn't identify himself isn't what ifs or speculation. it's a fact. why didn't he? again, use common sense. I repeat the defense did a poor job and blew it.

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