Obama: 'Trayvon Martin Could Have Been Me'
WASHINGTON - Nearly one week after a jury found George Zimmerman not guilty in the shooting death of teenager Trayvon Martin, President Obama said he wanted to provide some context to the controversy that's followed.
Obama addressed the issue Friday, urging Americans to search their souls in an effort to improve race relations.
His words were the most comprehensive comments on race heard from the nation's first African-American president.
Days after Martin was shot, Obama said the young man could have been his son. On Friday he said that Martin could have been him 35 years ago.
"There are very few African-American men in this country who haven't had the experience of being followed when they were shopping at a department store. That includes me," he said.
"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 cars. That happens to me - at least before I was a senator," he continued.
The president said there's a lot of pain in the African-American community, and the shooting and trial are viewed by Black Americans through a vision of history that doesn't go away.
In hopes that something positive will grow from Martin's death, the president suggested providing training for state and local cops to help foster trust in the justice system.
He said he'd also like states examine laws to see if they encourage confrontations.
"I just ask people to consider: If Trayvon Martin was of age and armed, could he have stood his ground on that sidewalk?" Obama asked. "And do we actually think that he would have been justified in shooting Mr. Zimmerman who had followed him in a car because he felt threatened?"
"And if the answer to that question is at least ambiguous, then it seems to me we might want to examine those kinds of laws," he suggested.
President Obama said he does believe race relations are getting better. He said he doesn't think it's productive when politicians try to orchestrate a conversation on race.
But he did ask Americans to do some soul searching and see if there is any bias they need to wring out of their hearts.
The president commended the judge in the Zimmerman case for her professionalism and said he respects the decision that the jury reached.
However, the Justice Department continues its investigation into whether Zimmerman violated Martin's civil rights.