UPDATE 4:20 PM EST
Trayvon Martin’s family has released a statement regarding President Obama’s comments on the Zimmerman verdict:
We are deeply honored and moved that President Obama took the time to speak publicly and at length about our son, Trayvon. The President’s comments give us great strength at this time. We are thankful for President Obama’s and Michelle’s prayers, and we ask for your prayers as well as we continue to move forward.We know that the death of our son Trayvon, the trial and the not guilty verdict have been deeply painful and difficult for many people. We know our family has become a conduit for people to talk about race in America and to try and talk about the difficult issues that we need to bring into the light in order to become a better people.What touches people is that our son, Trayvon Benjamin Martin, could have been their son. President Obama sees himself in Trayvon and identifies with him. This is a beautiful tribute to our boy. Trayvon’s life was cut short, but we hope that his legacy will make our communities a better place for generations to come. We applaud the President’s call to action to bring communities together to encourage an open and difficult dialogue. Our family is committed to this dialogue through the work of the Trayvon Martin Foundation. We seek a future when a child can walk down the street and not worry that others see him as dangerous because of the color of his skin or the clothes on his back. We seek a future where our children can grow up and become the people God intended them to be.
On Friday, President Barack Obama surprised a group of reporters at a White House briefing when he made an unscheduled appearance to discuss an issue that has gripped the nation over the last week.
Telling reporters that he planned on speaking to them at a later date about a range of issues, including immigration and the economy, he focused his attention on the George Zimmerman verdict, Trayvon Martin’s death, and the unrest that has stemmed from the situation.
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.
He then sent his prayers to Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, praising them on their strength and grace throughout this difficult time.
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.
And then, in his first comments since the Florida jury acquitted Zimmerman, the president gave his unscripted view on race relations in this country and jump-started the conversation that needs to be had in America.
Take a look at the most powerful statements from that speech:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 fact that a lot of African-American boys are painted with a broad brush and the excuse is given, well, there are these statistics out there that show that African-American boys are more violent – using that as an excuse to then see sons treated differently causes pain.
- So folks understand the challenges that exist for African – American boys, but they get frustrated, I think, if they feel that there’s no context for it or – and that context is being denied. And — and that all contributes, I think, 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.
VIDEO SOURCE: CNN