“There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America—there’s the United States of America” —Barack Obama, 2004 Democratic National Convention
You can throw that speech right out the window!
President Obama made a surprise visit to the White House press room on Friday to speak about the aftermath of the Trayvon Martin case and made some of the most open and bold remarks about race of his presidency.
While the president began by commending the judge in the case as “professional” and the jurors as “properly instructed,” he brought the case into the much broader context of race in America.
When Trayvon Martin was first shot, I said this could’ve been my son. Another way of saying that is, a Trayvon Martin could’ve been me 35 years ago. When you think about why, in the African American community at least, there’s a lot of pain around what happened, 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 also said that “there are very few African American men in this country who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they were shopping at a department store. That includes me.” The same goes for African American men who have heard “locks click on the doors of cars,” or seen a “woman clutching her purse nervously” in an elevator.
The president also said that “there is a history of racial disparities in the application of our criminal laws” — from the death penalty to drug laws. He continued (with our emphasis):
Folks understand the challenges that exist for African American boys. But they get frustrated that they feel that there’s no context for them, that that context is being denied. And that all contributes to 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.
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