Via Washington Post
President Barack Obama has largely shied away from talking publicly about his life as a black man in American society. Until today.
“Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago,” President Obama said in remarks in the White House briefing room aimed at addressing the case of a young black man shot under controversial circumstances in Sanford, Florida.
He continued in very personal terms, adding that he, like many African American young men, had been followed in department stores, seen people lock their cars when he crossed the streets and watched as women clutched their handbags during an elevator ride with him.
“Those sets of experiences inform how the African-American community interprets what happened one night in Florida,” Obama added. “And it’s inescapable for people to bring those experiences to bear.”
George Zimmerman, the man who shot Trayvon Martin, was found not guilty six days ago. President Obama had already released the sort of carefully calibrated statement on race that has been a marker of his handling of the issue as a candidate and as president. In other words, he didn’t need to speak more fully on Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman and race in America. He chose to.
Obama seemed to be largely speaking off the cuff. There was no TelePrompTer. He repeatedly looked down, seemingly gathering his thoughts and making sure he said what he meant. It was the first black president of the United States speaking at a remarkably personal level about his own experiences with race in this country.
The easiest theory to explain the change in Obama’s approach to talking about race then is that he now never has to worry about winning another election and, therefore, can speak his mind more freely.
The personalization of his remarks suggest a man who, like many people had hoped when he made history with his election in 2008, wants to leave a lasting legacy on both race relations and the place in society for young black men.
“I think it’s going to be important for all of us to do some soul-searching,” Obama said toward the end of his remarks Friday. He clearly had already done some of his own.
Watch the powerful speech below:
Source: Washington Post