During an unscheduled appearance in the White House briefing room on Friday, a somber President Barack Obama said, “Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago.” Earlier this week, the president asked the nation to respect the jury’s not-guilty verdict in the George Zimmerman trial, but Friday afternoon he asked White Americans to understand the racial discrimination that affects Black Americans.
It’s not the first time the president has made reference to the slain teenager. Shortly after the 17-year-old was shot and killed last year while walking home, Obama admitted, if he had a son, he would look like Trayvon. It was a rare glimpse into racial matters from the country’s first Black president.
Obama became emotional during the 17-minute briefing on Friday and said he, too, has been the subject of racial prejudice, according to AP. He called on state and local law agencies to examine their laws as the Justice Department decides whether to charge Zimmerman with civil rights violations. Obama also questioned Florida’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” law, which has become the center of debate in both the Travyon Martin and Jordan Davis cases.
The president also encouraged the country to do some “soul searching” as a result of the verdict. On a positive note, however, he said race relations in America are improving. In reference to his daughters and their friends, he said: “They’re better than we are. They’re better than we were.”