Surprising reporters with his unannounced appearance during Friday’s press briefing, President Obama spoke for almost 20 minutes on George Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin and race relations in the U.S.
Taking his “if I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon” comment even further, the president said today, “Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago.”
In one of the most personal speeches the president has ever given, he talked about growing up as an African-American man, hearing the sounds of car door locking, watching women tighten their grip on their purses and being followed by the police for seemingly no reason other than the color of his skin.
Obama said he wasn’t proposing anything formal, like a five-point plan, but said there were things we could all work on to improve race relations in America.
Because law enforcement is predominantly at the local level, we need to do more training at the state and local levels to reduce the mistrust in the system that currently exists.
We need to examine some state and local laws to see if they are designed in such a way they encourage the kind of altercations and tragedies like what we saw in the Florida case.
We need to bolster and reinforce our African-American boys. There are a lot of kids out there who need help. Is there more that we can do to give them the sense that their country cares about them and values them and is willing to invest in them?
We all need to do some soul searching. Are we judging people on the color of their skin rather than the content of their character? That would be an appropriate exercise in the wake of this tragedy.
He offered his final thought, saying:
As difficult and challenging as this episode has been for a lot of people, I don’t want us to lose sight that things are getting better. Each successive generation seems to be making progress in changing attitudes when it comes to race. Doesn’t mean racism is eliminated. But, we should have confidence that kids these days have more sense than we did back then, certainly more than our parents did and our grandparents did.
We have to be vigilant and work on these issues.
Watch Obama deliver his remarks Friday afternoon via Fox News: