Friday, July 19, 2013

President Obama On the Trayvon Martin Case and Race in the USA

"Trayvon Martin could have been me..."

By now I'm sure many of you who might bother to read this have heard a great deal about the shooting death of Trayvon Martin and the "not guilty" verdict rendered by a court in Sanford, Florida, against the man who shot him, George Zimmerman, during an altercation for which he was the only witness to the full events of that tragic event. 

Now we have this from the White House....What the President spoke about I feel goes beyond one event, one verdict, one news story that has received so much attention. I have known black co-workers, neighbors and friends and some of them have shared the stories of their struggles in daily lives, struggles with white-on-black profiling and police harassment that I as a white person have never had to experience. That is why I think what President Obama said is important; not because of one criminal case in Florida. He said things that needed to be said about race and identity in the USA that others would consign to the past or search for ways to excuse. 

 Say what you might about other issues and other actions by this President, but today he said something important, something beyond the partisan and transient, something that reflects a truth about our nation.  This is what a leader is supposed to do.   


  1. Thanks for your take on this sad tale Doug. I think the story speaks volumes about America today and particularly the Obama regime.
    I could say a lot more, but compared with the mass murder of innocent people George Zimmerman doesn't hold a candle to Barack Obama I don't think. What I see here is rather different to your own view Doug because I see a cynical exploitation of this man's death for political purposes by a world class perpetrator attempting to identify with the "victim". I'm afraid Mr Obama's dramatics leaves me cold and frankly I am reminded here of the famous legend of Hitler's Jewish grandmother
    Another point here for me is whether politicians should involve themselves in questioning verdicts of a court, or is that actually a cardinal hallmark of a totalitarian regime?
    I know we have different perspectives on this Doug and I doubt we will agree on all (or perhaps even any) aspect of this tragic story, but it is important that the wider debate takes place in a calm and measured way. Thanks for initiating discussion of this important topic Doug it raises so many issues about America today and its role in the world.

    1. Thanks for your candid remarks AA. My own view is indeed different, as you write: while good executive leaders generally respect the court system by declining to inject themselves into the results, there needs to be exceptions.

      The Zimmerman verdict (and the white-hot commentary in the major media) has become so viral here that this case is a national "cause celebe", along the magnitude of The Dreyfus Case on French society 120 years ago or the Brixton Riots in 1980's England. To say "it's strictly a local matter" overlooks the length of commentary and disturbance this trail has engendered.

      As I said I have worked and socialized with African Americans and what they have told me is very close to everything Barack Obama spoke about in that clip. The United States is still a racist society, moving very slowly to rectify the injustices of the past. The recent 5-4 Supreme Court Decision here dismantling Section 5, a key federal oversight provision of the Civil Rights Act of 1965 is but one case where we are going backwards, not forwards, over here.

      Personally, the President's remarks struck me less as exploitation and more like a leader presenting personal, emphatic and rational public reflections. Politicians by nature are not saints and as I said I cannot defend all this Administration's actions, especially on foreign policy matters. But frankly a bit of dramatics is called for when an armed man can stalk and kill a 17 year old and then walk away from a court a free man---because, as some commentators say, Martin has been judged a "thug" who had it coming among in the court of corporate-generated public opinion.

      Or hearing that George Zimmerman couldn't have been racially obsessed by Trayvon Martin blackness because his mother was Peruvian and that makes him an ethnic minority too is too insipid to even respond to, and yet I read and hear something like this in the media here every bloody day!

      This case reveals divisions that still exist in the USA despite the nonsense some spout about great progress toward a "post-racial" society among some members of the chattering classes. For a leader to ignore the need to speak measured words of reason and support for progress to me is a good thing.

      Thanks for your response AA.