On Friday, at a press conference, the president said, that Trayvon Martin “could have been me 35 years ago.”
Recalling his remarks after the shooting that, if he had a son, he would have looked like Martin, Obama said: “Another way of saying that is, Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago.”
He also suggested that the outcome of the case could have been different if Martin were white.
“If a white male teen would have been involved in this scenario,” he said, “both the outcome and the aftermath might have been different.”
The nation’s first black president, Obama said that it is impossible for the African-American community to not view the Martin case without filtering it through a long history of racial discrimination.
“The African-American community is looking at this through a set of experiences and history that doesn’t go away,” he said.
Obama said that, before he was elected to the Senate, he was also profiled in department stores and viewed suspiciously on the street.
The president also nodded to the Justice Department investigation to see whether it makes sense to bring federal civil rights charges against Zimmerman. But he also urged state and local officials to review their own procedures to see how to improve their law enforcement practices.
He also called for a review of so-called “Stand Your Ground” laws, a central issue in the confrontation between Zimmerman and Martin.
“If Trayvon Martin was of age and was armed, could he have stood his ground on that sidewalk?” Obama asked. “If the answer to that question is at least ambiguous, then it seems to me that we should examine those laws.”
And though Obama sidestepped the idea of demanding a new, national conversation on race — and while he said that racism was far from eliminated — the president ended on an upbeat moment, expressing his view that race relations are “getting better.”
“We’re becoming a more perfect union,” he said. “Not a perfect union, but a more perfect union.”