Obama: Trayvon Martin ‘could have been me 35 years ago’
President Barack Obama, breaking his silence on the George Zimmerman acquittal, said Friday that many African-Americans believe that “both the outcome and the aftermath might have been different” if Trayvon Martin had been white.
“You know, when Trayvon Martin was first shot, I said that this could have been my son,” Obama said somberly during a surprise appearance in the White House briefing room. “Another way of saying that is Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago.”
In searingly personal terms, Obama described his personal experience with race-based prejudice. “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,” he said.
“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,” he said. “There are very 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.”
So “the African-American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history,” judging “what happened one night in Florida” through that lens, he said.
Obama poured cold water on suggestions he call a national conversation on race, but encouraged churches and families to discuss the case and urged all Americans do engage in some “soul-searching.”