“Trayvon could have been me”. US President Barack Obama has made one of the most extensive speeches on race since he was elected as the country’s first black president in 2008.
Addressing the controversial verdict in the Trayvon Martin murder trial, where George Zimmerman was acquitted on all charges of killing the unarmed black teenager, Obama opened up on the African-American perspective on a very personal tone:
“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 happened 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.”
Obama also called for Florida’s ‘stand your ground’ self-defence laws, largely cited as the reason Zimmermann was acquitted, to be examined.
In the wake of Zimmerman’s ‘not guilty’ verdict, protests and marches spread across the country, sparking a national debate on racial profiling and civil rights.
At his surprise White House briefing, Obama has taken the issue to the highest level.