Transcript for President Obama: Lessons From Trayvon Martin's Death
The reason I actually want to come out today. Is not to take questions but. To speak to an issue that officers got a lot of professional course last week the issue be for about one. I gave preliminary statement right after the ruling on Sunday. But. Watching the debate over the course of the last week. It might be useful for me to expand -- my possible. First of all. I want to make sure that. Once again. I send my thoughts and prayers -- -- -- to the family. A trailer on mark. And to remark on the incredible grace and dignity. With -- which they've dealt with the entire situation. I can only imagine what liberal influence. It's remarkable how they've handled it. The second. -- a lot of serious to reiterate what I said on Sunday which is -- going to be a lot of arguments about -- legal issues in the case. I'll let. All the legal analysts. And Talking Heads address those issues. The judge conduct of the trial of professional manner. The prosecution and the defense. Made their arguments. The juries were properly instructed. That. And they. In a case. Such as this reasonable doubt was relevant and they rendered a verdict. And once the jury -- and that's our system works. But I didn't want to just talk a little bit about context. And how people responded to it and and how people -- feeling. You know. When veteran Omar was first shot. I said that this could have been much sought. Another way of saying that is a -- on -- could have been me. 35 years ago. And when you think about why in the African American community at -- There's a lot of pain around. What happened here. I think it's important to recognize that. The African American community is looking. At this issue through. A set of experiences. And and a history. That. That doesn't go away. There are very few African American men in this country who haven't had the experience of being followed when they were shopping -- department -- That includes me. There for very very few African American men -- experience. Walking across the street and hearing. A lot split on the doors of cars. That happens. To me at least before it was -- senator. They're very few African Americans who have never experience are getting on the elevator and a woman clutching her first. -- nervously. And holding her breath. Until -- just to get off. That happens. -- And I don't want to exaggerate this but. Both sets of experiences in form. How there -- American community interprets. What happened. 19 floor. And it's inescapable for people. To bring those experiences -- The after -- -- also knowledgeable that. There is a history. Racial disparities in the application of work from all -- Everything from the death penalty to enforcement. Of our drug loss. And that ends up having an impact in terms of -- People interpret the case. Now this is in the -- every American community is and I need about the fact that. Every American. Young men. Are disproportionately. Involved in criminal justice system. That they are disproportionately. Both victims and perpetrators. Of violence. It's not to make excuses. For that fact although. Black folks do interpret. The reasons for that in a historical context we understand that some of the violence that takes place in. Poor black neighborhoods around the country. Is born out of a very violent past in this country. And that the poverty and dysfunction. That we see in those communities. Can be traced to. Very difficult history. And so. The fact that sometimes that's -- acknowledged. Adds to the frustration. And the fact that -- A lot after American boys are painted it with a broad brush. And the excuses given welder these statistics after the show that African American. -- are more violent. Using that as an excuse. To -- C. -- treated differently. Causes pain. I think we have been hurt me is also not -- and understanding that statistically. Some electorate on Martin was prior. Statistically more likely to be shot by. Appear there was by. Somebody else. -- -- So folks understand. The challenges that exist. For African American -- But they get frustrated I think if they feel that there's no context -- -- in that context as being denied. And and that all contributes I think to a sense. That. If a white. Male -- was involved in. The same kind of scenario. From top to bottom. Both the outcome. In the aftermath might have been different. Now. The question for me at least and and I think for a lot of folks -- Where we take this we. Learn some lessons from medicine and move in a positive direction. I think it's understandable that -- been demonstrations. Vigils. Protests and some of that stuff is just gonna have to work its way through as long as it remains non violent. -- foresee any violence than will remind folks that. That this honors to. What happened -- -- mark and -- them. But beyond. Protestor vigils question is -- some concrete things that we might you would do. I know that Eric Holder is is reviewing what happened. Down there but I think it's important for people to have some clear expectations -- traditionally these are issues. State and local government. The criminal code and law enforcement has traditionally done at the state and local levels not at the federal loans. That doesn't mean though that. As a nation. We can't. Do some things that I think would be productive. So let me just give a couple of specifics that. I'm still bouncing around -- my staff. So we're not rolling out some five point plan but some areas. -- I think all of us could potentially focus. Number one precisely because. Law enforcement is often. Determine that the state and local. -- it be productive. For. The Justice Department governors mayors. To work -- law enforcement about training at the state and local levels. In -- Reduce. The kind of mistrust. In the system that sometimes currently exists -- when I was in Illinois. -- past racial profiling legislation. And actually did just two simple things -- -- collected data on traffic stops. And the race of the person who stopped but the other thing was that resource. -- training. Police departments. Across the state. On how to think about. Potential. Racial bias and ways to further professional lives what they were doing and initially the police departments across the state were resistant but actually they came to recognize that if it was done in a fair straightforward way. That it would allow them to do their jobs better and communities. Would have more confidence in them. In turn be more helpful and in applying the law and obviously law -- got a very tough job. So that's one area where I think their a lot of resources and best practices that could be. Brought to bear -- state and local governments. Are receptive and I think a lot of them would be and then let's figure out of the way this restaurant. Push -- -- kind of trend. Along the same lines I think would be useful for us to examine. Some state and and local laws to see if it. If there are. Designed in such a wherever they may encourage. The kinds altercations and confrontations and treasures that we saw. In the Florida case rather than diffuse. Potential altercations. I know that there's been commentary about the fact that the stand your ground laws in Florida we're not used as defense in the case. On the other hand if we're sending a message. As a society and our communities that. Someone who is armed. Potentially has the right to. Use those firearms. Even if there's a way for them to exit. From a situation. Does that really going to be contributing to the kind of peace and security in order that we'd like to see. And for those who. Who resists that idea that we shouldn't. Think about something like this standard room laws I just ask people to consider. -- -- -- Martin was an -- and armed. Could he have stood his ground on the outside -- And do we actually think that. He would've been justified in shooting mr. Zimmerman. Who would follow him in a car because he felt threatened. And if the answer. To that question is at least ambiguous. That seems to me that we might want to examine most -- -- Number three and this is a long term project. We need to spend some time thinking about how -- we bolster and reinforce. Our American -- And this -- -- -- Michelle and I talked a lot of there'll -- a lot of kids out there who. Need help we're getting a lot of negative reinforcement. And is -- more that we can do to. Give them a sense that. Their country cares about -- and values and is willing to invest in them. You know I'm not. -- you about the prospects of some brand new federal program I'm not sure but that's what we're. Talking about it but I I do recognize that as president I've got some convening power and that there are a lot of good programs that are. Being done across the country on this front and for -- to be able to gather together business leaders. Local elected officials clergy and celebrities and athletes and figure out how we. Doing a better job. Helping. Young -- emerged from. Feel. That. Careful part of this society and that. And that. They've got pathways and avenues. To succeed. I think that would be. Pretty good outcome from what was obviously tragic situation we're gonna spend some time working -- -- and thinking about them. And then finally and I think it's going to be important for all of us to do some -- -- The other news talk about who should we convene a conversation on race. I haven't seen that be particularly productive when. Politicians try to. Organize. Conversations. -- of being stilted and politicized and folks. Are locked into the positions -- have. On the other hand and -- -- and churches. Workplaces. There's a possibility that people are -- but more Austin. At least you ask yourself your own questions about. -- -- ringing. As much bias out of myself as -- -- and my judging people as much as I can based on. Not the color of their skin but the content of their character. That would. I think beer and appropriate. Exercise. In the wake of -- -- and let me just -- you -- With a final thought that as difficult and challenging us. This whole episode has been for a lot of people. I don't want us to lose sight that things are getting better. Each successive generation. It seems to be making progress in changing attitudes when it comes to race doesn't mean we're post racial society doesn't mean there. Racism is eliminated. But you know when I talked -- Malia and Sasha. And I listen to their friends and I see them interact. They're better than we -- For better than we worked on these issues. And that's true in every community that I visited all across the country. And so. There we have to be vigilant and we have to. Work on these issues and those of us and authority should be doing everything we -- encourage the batter Angel -- nature as opposed to. Using. These episodes. -- divisions. But we should also. Have confidence that. Kids. These days I think you have more sense than. We did back then and certainly more than our parents did or grandparents -- in that. Along this. Long difficult journey. -- -- Becoming. A more perfect union. Not a perfect. But a more perfect.
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