[There was a video here]
A question that's lingered for days now that a jury found George Zimmerman not guilty of murdering Trayvon Martin is what President Obama was going to say about the case. Though he issued a short statement immediately following the verdict, it seemed unlikely he wouldn't elaborate on a decision that's aggravated America's racial tensions more than anything in years. That said, any statement he'd make would have to be far more politically minded than much of the angry dialogue being slung back and forth this week.
This afternoon, in a surprise appearance at standard a White House press conference, the president finally spoke more about the Zimmerman verdict, giving a short but poignant speech on the Florida trial itself and America's intractable issues with race.
Saying outright that Trayvon Martin "could have been me 35 years ago," Obama pulled no punches when getting to the racial dynamics of what many Americans have been feeling this week:
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.
The president added, "We need to ask whether we are making African American young men feel part of this society. Black boys need more encouragement."
Obama also touched on the wisdom of Florida's "stand your ground" law, and similar laws in other states: "I think it would be useful for us to examine some state and local laws to see if it—if they are designed in such a way that they may encourage the kinds of altercations and confrontations and tragedies that we saw in the Florida case, rather than defuse potential altercations."
Naturally, Obama's somber and direct tone in confronting the realities of racism has infuriated many on the right wing, who are taking his speech to be advocation for and invocation of a "race war":
Obama goes full race war: In putting shooting "in context",it's all about how "black folks" see it, not how whites or assault victims see it— Patrick Dollard (@PatDollard) July 19, 2013
The President of the United States incites a race war among his own citizens. I may actually vomit I am so disgusted. #tcot— Rob al Kafir (@robfit) July 19, 2013