Love it that Obama said what has needed to be said for a long time!! *Edited with a transcript of his speech today*
*I watched the speech but I copy and pasted this with my phone so I apologize how it copied it
Obama Trayvon Martin Speech Transcript: President Comments On George Zimmerman Verdict
The Huffington Post Jul 19, 2013
President Barack Obama madea surprise statement on Friday about the George Zimmermantrial, Trayvon Martinand racein America. Following is thefull transcript of hisremarks, asreleased by the White House:
I wanted to come out here, first of all, to tell you that Jay is prepared for all your questions and is very much looking forward to the session. The second thing is I want to let you know that over the next couple of weeks, there’s 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.
Thereason Iactually wanted to comeout today is not to take questions, but to speak to an issue that obviously has gotten a lot of attention over the courseof the last week -- the issue of the Trayvon Martinruling. Igavea preliminary statement right after the ruling on Sunday. But watching thedebateover the course ofthe last week, Ithought it might be useful for me to expand onmy thoughts a little bit.
First of all, I want to make sure that, onceagain, 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 entiresituation. Ican only imagine what they’regoing through, and it’s remarkablehow they’ve handled it.
Thesecond thing I want to say is to reiterate what I said on Sunday, which is there’s going to be a lot of arguments about thelegal issues inthecase-- I'll let all thelegal analysts and talking heads address those issues. Thejudge conducted the trialina professionalmanner. Theprosecution and the defense madetheir arguments. Thejuries were properly instructed that in a casesuch as this reasonabledoubt was relevant, and they rendered a verdict. And once the jury has spoken, that's how our system works. But I did want to just talk a little bit about context and how people haveresponded to it and how peopleare feeling.
You know, whenTrayvon Martin was first shot Isaid that this could havebeen my son. Another way of saying that is Trayvon Martin could havebeen me 35 years ago. And when you think about why, in the AfricanAmerican community at least, there’s a lot of pain around what happened here, I think it’s important to recognize that theAfricanAmerican community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that doesn’t go away.
There arevery few African American men inthis country who haven't had the experienceof being followed when they were shopping in a department store. That includes me. There arevery few AfricanAmerican menwho haven't had the experienceof walking across thestreet and hearing thelocks click onthe doors of cars. That happens to me -- at least before I was a senator. There arevery 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 shehad a chance to get off. That happens often.
And I don't want to exaggerate this, but those sets ofexperiences inform how theAfrican American community interprets what happened one night in Florida. And it’s inescapablefor people to bring those experiences to bear. TheAfrican American community is also knowledgeablethat there is a history of racialdisparities in the applicationof our criminal laws --everything from thedeath penalty to enforcement of our drug laws. And that ends up having animpact interms of how people interpret the case.
Now, this isn't to say that the AfricanAmerican community is naïveabout thefact that African American young men are disproportionately involved in the criminal justice system; that they’re 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. They understand that some of the violence that takes placein poor black neighborhoods around the country is born out of a very violent past inthis country, and that thepoverty and dysfunction that wesee inthose communities can betraced to a very difficult history.
And so thefact that sometimes that’s unacknowledged adds to the frustration. And thefact that a lot of African American boys are painted with a broad brush and the excuseis given, well, thereare these statistics out therethat show that African Americanboys aremore violent -- using that as anexcuse to thensee sons treated differently causes pain.
Ithink the AfricanAmerican community is also not naïve in understanding that, statistically, somebody likeTrayvon Martin was statistically morelikely to be shot by a peer than hewas by somebody else. So folks understand the challenges that exist for African Americanboys. But they get frustrated, I think, if they feelthat there’s no context for it and that context is being denied. And that all contributes I think to a sense that ifa white maleteenwas involved in the same kind of scenario, that, from topto bottom, both theoutcome and theaftermath might have been different.
Now, the question for me at least, and I think for a lot of folks, is where do we takethis? How do we learn somelessons from this and move ina positive direction? I think it’s understandablethat therehave been demonstrations and vigils and protests, and some of that stuff is just going to haveto work its way through, as long as it remains nonviolent. IfI see any violence, then Iwillremind folks that that dishonors what happened to Trayvon Martin and his family. But beyond protests or vigils, thequestion is, arethere some concrete things that we might beableto do.
Iknow that Eric Holder is reviewing what happened down there, but I think it’s important for people to have someclear expectations here. Traditionally, these areissues of stateand local government, the criminalcode. And law enforcement is traditionally done at thestateand locallevels, not at the federal levels.
That doesn’t mean, though, that as a nation we can’t do some things that I think would beproductive. So let me just give a couple of specifics that I’m stillbouncing around with my staff, so we’re not rolling out some five-point plan, but some areas whereI think all of us could potentially focus.
Number one, precisely because law enforcement is often determined at thestateand local level, I think it would be productivefor the Justice Department, governors, mayors to work with law enforcement about training at thestate and local levels in order to reducethe kind of mistrust in the system that sometimes currently exists.
When Iwas in Illinois, I passed racialprofiling legislation, and it actually did just two simplethings. One, it collected data ontraffic stops and theraceof the person who was stopped. But theother thing was it resourced us training police departments across the state on how to think about potentialracial bias and ways to further professionalizewhat they were doing.
And initially, thepolice departments across thestate were resistant, but actually they came to recognizethat if it was done in a fair, straightforward way that it would allow them to do their jobs better and communities would havemoreconfidence inthem and, inturn, bemorehelpful in applying the law. And obviously, law enforcement has got a very tough job.
So that’s onearea whereI think thereare a lot ofresources and best practices that could be brought to bear if state and local governments are receptive. And I think a lot of them would be. And let's figureout are thereways for us to push out that kind of training.
Along thesamelines, Ithink it would be useful for us to examine some stateand local laws to seeif it -- ifthey are designed in such a way that they may encourage the kinds ofaltercations and confrontations and tragedies that wesaw in theFlorida case, rather thandiffuse potential altercations.
Iknow that there's been commentary about the fact that the "stand your ground" laws in Florida were not used as a defense inthecase. Onthe other hand, if we're sending a messageas a society in our communities that someonewho is armed potentially has the right to usethosefirearms even if there's a way for them to exit from a situation, is that really going to be contributing to the kind of peace and security and order that we'd liketo see?
And for thosewho resist that idea that weshould think about something like these"stand your ground" laws, I'd just ask peopleto consider, ifTrayvon Martin was of ageand armed, could hehave stood his ground on that sidewalk? And do weactually think that he would havebeen justified inshooting Mr. Zimmermanwho had followed him ina car becausehe felt threatened? And if theanswer to that question is at least ambiguous, thenit seems to me that wemight want to examine those kinds oflaws.
Number three -- and this is a long-term project -- we need to spend sometime in thinking about how do we bolster and reinforce our African American boys. And this is something that Michelle and I talk a lot about. There area lot of kids out therewho need helpwho aregetting a lot of negativereinforcement. And is theremorethat we cando to give them thesense that their country cares about them and values them and is willing to invest in them?
I'm not naïveabout theprospects of somegrand, new federal program. I'm not sure that that’s what we're talking about here. But Ido recognize that as President, I've got someconvening power, and thereare a lot of good programs that arebeing done across thecountry onthis front. And for us to beable to gather together business leaders and localelected officials and clergy and celebrities and athletes, and figure out how are we doing a better job helping young African American men feel that they're a full part of this society and that they've got pathways and avenues to succeed -- I think that would bea pretty good outcomefrom what was obviously a tragic situation. And we'regoing to spend sometime working on that and thinking about that.
And then, finally, I think it's going to be important for all of us to do some soul-searching. There has been talk about should we convene a conversationon race. I haven't seenthat beparticularly productivewhen politicians try to organize conversations. They end up being stilted and politicized, and folks arelocked into the positions they already have. On the other hand, in families and churches and workplaces, there's the possibility that peopleare a little bit more honest, and at least you ask yourselfyour own questions about, am Iwringing as much bias out of myself as I can? Am Ijudging peopleas much as I can, based on not the color of their skin, but thecontent of their character? That would, I think, be anappropriate exercisein the wakeof this tragedy.
And let mejust leaveyou with a finalthought that, as difficult and challenging as this whole episode has beenfor a lot of people, Idon’t want us to losesight that things aregetting better. Each successive generationseems to be making progress in changing attitudes when it comes to race. It doesn’t meanwe’rein a post-racialsociety. It doesn’t meanthat racism is eliminated. But when I talk to Malia and Sasha, and I listento their friends and Iseem them interact, they’re better than weare -- they’re better than we were -- onthese issues. And that’s true inevery community that I’ve visited all across the country.
And so we haveto be vigilant and wehaveto work on these issues. And thoseof us inauthority should bedoing everything we can to encouragethe better angels of our nature, as opposed to using these episodes to heightendivisions. But weshould also have confidence that kids these days, I think, havemore sensethan we did back then, and certainly more than our parents did or our grandparents did; and that along this long, difficult journey, we’rebecoming a more perfect union -- not a perfect union, but a more perfect union.
Thank you, guys.
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