President Obama weighed in on Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman today at the White House press briefing:
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: That’s so -- that’s so disappointing, man. Jay, is this kind of -- the kind of respect that you get? (Laughter.)
Q: Wake up!
Q: What brings you out here, Mr. --
PRESIDENT OBAMA: You know, on -- on -- on television it usually looks like you’re addressing a full room.
Q: (Laughs.) It’s just a mirage.
Q: There’s generally not --
PRESIDENT OBAMA: All right.
Q: (Inaudible) -- got the Detroit story.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: I got you. All right. Sorry about that. Do you think anybody else is showing up? Good.
Well, I -- I wanted to come out here first of all to tell you that Jay is prepared for all your questions and is -- is very much looking forward to the session.
Second thing is I want to let you know that over the next couple of weeks there are going to obviously be a whole range of issues -- immigration, economics, et cetera -- we’ll try to arrange a fuller press conference to address your questions.
The reason I actually wanted to come out today is not to take questions, but to speak to an issue that obviously has gotten a lot of attention over the course of the last week, the issue of the Trayvon Martin ruling. I gave an -- a preliminary statement right after the ruling on Sunday, but watching the debate over the course of the last week I thought it might be useful for me to expand on my thoughts a little bit.
First of all, you know, I -- I want to make sure that, once again, I send my thoughts and prayers, as well as Michelle’s, to the family of Trayvon Martin, and to remark on the incredible grace and dignity with which they’ve dealt with the entire situation. I can only imagine what they’re going through, and it’s -- it’s remarkable how they’ve handled it.
The second thing I want to say is to reiterate what I said on Sunday, which is there are going to be a lot of arguments about the legal -- legal issues in the case. I’ll let all the legal analysts and talking heads address those issues.
The judge conducted the trial in a professional manner. The prosecution and the defense made their arguments. The juries were properly instructed that in a -- in a case such as this, reasonable doubt was relevant, and they rendered a verdict. And once the jury’s spoken, that’s how our system works.
But I did want to just talk a little bit about context and how people have responded to it and how people are feeling. 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 -- 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.
And 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 you know, 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.
Now, this isn’t to say that the African-American community is naive about the fact that African-American young men are disproportionately involved in the criminal justice system, that they are disproportionately both victims and perpetrators of violence. It’s not to make excuses for that fact, although black folks do interpret the reasons for that in a historical context.
We understand that some of the violence that takes place in poor black neighborhoods around the country is born out of a very violent past in this country, and that the poverty and dysfunction that we see in those communities can be traced to a very difficult history.
And the rest is here.