On the matter of the case of Trayvon Martin, the most high-ranking man in the land and the leader of the free world, President Barack Obama, hasn't had that much to say. What he has had to say has mostly been limited to the oft-repeated quote noting that if he had a son, that son would likely look like Trayvon Martin did.
In a surprise briefing, the President finally weighed in on the trial almost a week after the verdict. In short, he told the country that the fight to eradicate racism has made some progress, though not enough.
Furthermore, that Florida's laws (like the 'Stand Your Ground' law that enabled George Zimmerman) need examination.
Finally—and crucially—Obama explained that young African-American men and the way they feel about their place in America (and what every American has to do with that) needs to be honestly reexamined for their betterment.
On African-American reaction to the trial and its verdict:
"[None of] this isn't to say the American community is naive about the fact that African-American young men are disproportionately involved in the criminal justice system. It's not to make excuses for that fact, although black folks do interpret the reasons for that in a historical context, [one] born out of a very violent past in this country. And the poverty, and the dysfunction, can be traced to a very difficult history. The fact that that's sometimes unacknowledged adds to the frustration. The fact that a lot of African American boys are painted with a broad brush…and these statistics out there [about violence]…[and people] using that as an excuse to see sons treated differently causes pain."
On looking at the racial implications of the case:
"Someone like Trayvon Martin was statistically more likely to be shot by a peer than someone else. So folks understand the challenges that exist for African American boys. But they get frustrated when that context is being denied. And that all contributes to a sense that if a white male teen was involved in the same scenario, both the outcome and the aftermath might've been different."
On re-examining "Stand Your Ground" laws:
"I think it'd be useful for us to examine some state and local laws to see if they're designed in such a way that they may encourage the kinds of altercations and tragedies seen in the Florida case. If we're sending a message in our society and our communities that someone who is armed potentially has the right to use those firearms even if there's a way to exit from that situation, is that really going to contribute to the peace [...] that we'd like to see? I just ask people to consider if Trayvon Martin was of age and armed, could Trayvon Martin have stood his ground on that sidewalk? If the answer to that question is at least ambiguous, it'd seem we'd want to examine those kinds of laws."
On young African-American men:
"We need to spend some time thinking about how to bolster and reinforce African-American boys. A lot of kids out there who need help are getting negative reinforcement. Is there more that we can do to give them a sense that their country cares about them, and values them? For us to be able to gather celebrities and athletes and figure out 'How do we do 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 feel that that'd be a pretty good outcome from what's a tragic situaiton."
On the changing state of race in America:
"Let me leave you with a final thought: I don't want you to lose sight that things are getting better. Each successive generation is getting better. That doesn't mean we're in a post-racial society or that racism has been eliminated. But when I look at Malia and Sacha, I see that they're better than we are. We have to be vigilant. We have to work on these issues. Those of us in authoritiey have to do what we can to encourage the better angels of our nature. But we should also have confidence that kids these days have more sense than we did back then, and certainly more than our parents did or our grandparents did. And along this long, difficult journey, we're becoming a more perfect union. Not a perfect union. But a more-perfect union."
[Image via WhiteHouse.gov]