President Makes Surprise, Personal Remarks on Trayvon Case and Racism in America
President Obama made a surprise stop at today's press briefing to address the Trayvon Martin case. The president didn't field any questions in his appearance, but said he wanted to further discuss the context behind his comments made directly following the shooting death of the 17-year-old Florida boy by George Zimmerman.
After the February 2012 shooting, Obama spoke out about the tragedy, saying that Trayvon could have been 'his son.' Today, he added on to that statement, saying, "When Trayvon Martin was first shot, I said this could have been my son. Another way of saying that is that 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, you need to understand that they're looking at it through a lens and a [...] history that doesn't go away," he said.
In a rare personal application, the president also touched on his own experiences of racism, saying "there are very few African American men in this country who haven't had the experience [of being followed] when they're shopping at a department store, and that includes me."
He gave other illustrations, such as people locking car doors and clutching their purses when an African American man passes by. "I don't want to exaggerate this," he added, "but those sets of experiences inform how the African American community interprets what happened one night in Florida."
The black community, he said, is also "knowledgeable that there's a history of racial disparities" in the application of our laws, once again adding that that ends up impacting the interpretation of the case.
President Obama also addressed possible scenarios of how the nation can address the issue of racial tensions and disparities. One of those ways, he said, is to "do some soul searching" and think about how to support black youth.
"We need to spend some time in thinking about how we can bolster and reinforce our African American boys," he said. "There are a lot of kids out there who need help and are getting a lot of negative reinforcement ... [We need to ask if there] is more that we can do to give them a sense that their country cares about them, values them and is willing to invest in them."
He also encouraged families and churches and workplaces to engage in dialogs about race.
Watch the video in the clips below, and tune in to The Five, today at 5p ET to hear the hosts' reactions to President Obama's unexpected remarks.