Video: President Obama’s Remarks on Trayvon Martin and Racism in America

I would call this the Quote of the Day. All 17 minutes of it.

For me, this was the key passage:

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 so the fact that sometimes that’s unacknowledged adds to the frustration. 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.

This is worthy of a standing ovation. Because some of us may consider this to be common sense, but there are large swaths of Americans that either don’t see it, recognize it, or acknowledge it. There are also those, mostly (but not exclusively) on the Right, who will resent the president’s remarks.

The point is, this is leadership. For the president of the United States to bring this issue directly to the forefront and confront the reality of race in America requires courage, because a significant portion of America does not want to hear it. This country is very racist.

The words of the Sirotas, Smileys, and Zimmerman apologists are very petty and small today.

If you’re unable to watch the video, you can read a full transcript here.

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  • Victor_the_Crab

    This is worthy of a standing ovation. Because some of us may consider this to be common sense, but there are large swaths of Americans that either don’t see it, recognize it, or acknowledge it. There are also those, mostly (but not exclusively) on the Right, who will resent the president’s remarks

    .

    And that is why we will never have nice things. Because right wing douches, like those who snark tweeted the president’s speech, will do what they can to keep the country divided for their benefit.

  • missliberties

    Fantastic stuff. I will never understand why when the President sez stuff like this the right accuses him of being a racist????!!! I don’t get that at all.

    And for further joy, today Markos was asked about the NSA spying and his response was that is an issue that embraces white privilege!!! Take that you intellectualderps and lily ass white boys who think someone ‘might’ have make a log of who you called.

    “NSA spying is bad! So is stop and frisk. So is splitting up families by deporting children to countries they’ve never been to and don’t speak the language. So is harassing American muslims.”

    “Government overreach is bad. But to act like having the government track who you call is the height of government abuse is a very white privileged view of the privacy issue.”

    • ChrisAndersen

      Markos said that? Good job.

      There really does seem to be a strain to the outrage over the NSA story that says, “But I didn’t think I would have to be subject to these kind of abuses. I thought it would only be *those* people!”

      • missliberties

        Yes he did.

        I absolutely love how he put some of the holier than thou, members, in their place, with the white privilege view of privacy.

        No kidding. While Detroit has been under seige by a GOP dictator, while people are struggling to find jobs, while the NRA passed all these laws under our noses in the last two years, people like David Sirota, Snowden, who is a Rand Paul fan, Greenwald, who used to be a Republican.

        David Harris-Gershon has become the new leader of the purist pack and his every dairy hits the rec list. He is the perfect example of (perhaps unintentional) white privilege.

        After the Trayvon verdit he brought himself to apologize to the parents of Trayvon, by first making it about him with his statement that, “I’m a white, Jewish man who lives in Pittsburgh. We’ve never met, and likely never will. Yet, despite this, my heart aches for you this morning ….”.

        I am so glad Kos said that he doesn’t give two shits about Snowden/Greenwald. I hope it shuts these people up. We have serious and pressing problems right here at home to sort out and I am sick of listening to these jerks.

        http://www.dailykos.com/comments/1224960/50794665

        I’ll wait and see if the jerks rail against Kos. I honestly consider the Snowden/ Greenwald fans trolls. Hopefully they will take their purity and shove it up their azz. :)

  • GrafZeppelin127

    “Resent” doesn’t do it justice. They’re in meltdown mode right now. (Then again, when are they ever not in meltdown mode, but…..)

  • http://joevillanova.blogspot.com/ Joe Villanova

    this is a quote : “the people who believe that Trayvon had no right to be where he was also believe Obama has no right to be where he is.”

    • missliberties

      Perfect.

  • ChrisAndersen

    Obama has this uncanny ability to frame debates in ways that break out of the usual mode. He doesn’t enter this debate and talk about it as an issue of the black community vs. the white community. He doesn’t even frame it as an issue of violence in our communities.

    He frames it as a parent having to deal with the dangers in our world that threaten our children. As a white parent of a 19 year old boy I find myself empathizing with Travon Martin’s parents and the parents of all the teenage black kids out there who have to have “the talk” with their kids. What an awful burden to place on those parents. What an awful burden to place on those kids.

    And how awful is it that so many simply refuse to acknowledge that this is the reality of African Americans in this country today.

    • missliberties

      He is leading from behind. The time is right for this commentary. It is wise to understand that you can’t be a leader if people don’t follow and now is the perfect time for people to reflect on the circumstances. I love how he has coupled it with a push to look at stand your ground laws. ! Yeah.

    • Badgerite

      Excellent comment!

    • js hooper

      This is why they hate him.

      Both the right wing and faux left view Pres.Obama as the empty chair that they can project all of their fears, prejudices, resentment etc etc.

      When they are faced with the MAN HIMSELF and not the caricature they’ve created…it eats them up inside and brings out their ugliness.

  • i_a_c

    This was a courageous, heartfelt statement by the president today. Both genuinely courageous and politically courageous. Some people don’t want to hear the truth about the experiences of people of color in this country and they will be turned off by today’s remarks. It costs the president every time he talks about this. But it’s likely that his comments also helped along the healing process, and maybe reached a few people who never had to worry about being followed in a department store.

  • D_C_Wilson

    They missed the post by Starnes calling Obama the “Race-baiter-in-chief”

    http://livewire.talkingpointsmemo.com/entry/fox-news-host-calls-obama-race-baiter-in

    Petty and small doesn’t begin to describe these people.

    • missliberties

      They don’t want to talk about race because……? It’s about them? Or something.
      Not that they are trying to surpress ‘the moocher’ vote or anything like that.

      • D_C_Wilson

        The worst sin in 21st century America is apparently, reminding a bunch of neo confederate secessionists that racism still exists.

        • muselet

          The real racism is prejudice against whites.

          (Just typing that made me feel stupid.)

          –alopecia

          • missliberties

            but thanks for the laugh