For the first time on Friday, President Barack Obama publicly discussed the controversial verdict in the Trayvon Martin case, and said in his emotional speech in Washington that 35 years ago, he could have been in a similar situation as the slain, unarmed Florida teen.Washington Bureau Reporter Michael Scotto filed the following report for NY1.
President Barack Obama surprised reporters on Friday when he walked into the White House briefing room and delivered his first public remarks on the not guilty verdict in the killing of Trayvon Martin.
"Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago," the president said.
His remarks were powerful and personal, his most extensive on the state of race relations since his historic 2008 campaign.
"There are very few African-American men in this country who haven't the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store," he said. "That includes me."
Those words were aimed at explaining the experiences of African-Americans and putting in context the frustration and disappointment expressed at the many rallies and protests that have popped up across the country since early this week.
"Folks understand the challenges that exist for African-American boys, but they get frustrated, I think, if they feel that there is no context for it," Obama said.
On Capitol Hill, his remarks were met by praise from members of the Congressional Black Caucus, who believe the comments will help begin a new dialogue about the problems facing the African-American Community.
"I think the president has done a masterful job in trying to acknowledge that we have a serious race problem in the United States of America and trying to avoid having people believe that's he's calling everyone a racist," said Rep. Charles Rangel, whose district covers parts of Manhattan and the Bronx.
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, whose district covers sections of Brooklyn and Queens, called the remarks thoughtful and heartfelt.
"I'm hopeful that the president's remarks will jumpstart all across America an honest but thoughtful and respectful conversation about the role that race plays, particularly as it relates to the criminal justice system," Jeffries said.
The president seemed to say as much in his remarks, as his administration now tries to tackle racial profiling and gun control.