Obama: “Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago”

President Obama has spoken out on the Trayvon Martin case, saying that “Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago.” He spoke of how African-Americans are marked in US society as objects of special scrutiny, followed for no reason by security in department stores or reacted to with the body language of fear. He also slammed the Koch Brothers’ ‘stand your ground’ laws, enacted by Republican state legislatures via the far right wing lobbying organization, ALEC.

CNN reports

26 Responses

  1. Dear Professor Cole: I am interested in your comments. I recently retired from the World Bank and know South East Asia (Bangladesh, India)and some Middle Eastern countries ( Saudi Arabia, Islamic Development Bank; Jordan; Lebanon; and several African countries with Islamic and Christian people – Nigeria, Tanzania, Mali)all very different, tribal and loaded with emotional conflict about matters that a Dutch protestant and catholic and finally agnostic cannot figure out. My only consolation is that they can’t figure it out themselves either. Most of my Islamic friends I like, but when they get hotheaded, I leave their train. I hope you can inspire me.
    John Schwartz

  2. Throughout the crisis, U.S. Ambassador Patterson played the role of defending the democratic process and the rule of law. When Gen. Sisi issued his ultimatum to the president on July 1, the U.S. adminstration showed its true colors as National Security Advisor Susan Rice told Morsi’s foreign policy advisor, Essam al-Haddad, that it was over: either Morsi should resign or he would be overthrown. She advised that he should resign which Morsi summarily rejected. Once told by Rice of the impending coup Morsi videotaped a 22 minute speech on a smart phone vowing not to resign or submit to the impending coup. His aid quickly emailed the impromtu speech to his supporters. Within the hour he was taken into custody not to be seen or heard from again.

    Meanwhile, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel spoke to the coup leader Gen. Sisi at least five times during the crisis. He advised that they announce the elections would be held as soon as possible. In addition, he assured Sisi that the administration would maintain its military aid. Within days, Deputy Secretary of State William Burns went to Egypt and met with the coup leaders and their civilian enablers. While in Cairo he ignored all the facts surrounding the overthrow of an elected president. In essence, his message was to support the coup and its aftermath, as he stated, “The United States is firmly committed to helping Egypt succeed in this second chance to realize the promise of the revolution.”

    Obama supported the coup in Egpt which is ILLEGAL AND ACT OF TERRORISM. He topple a democraticlly elected president, like other coup in chile and Iran and many other countries. And the phony ‘progressives’ always cover for the US government CRIMES.
    link to globalresearch.ca

    • After the last twelve years, I didn’t think it was possible for the word “terrorism” to be abused even more egregiously than it has been. Congratulations.

      Anyway, so the US told Morsi there was going to be a coup, advised him to step down, and tried to get elections as soon as possible.

      When were you going to get to the part where the US did something wrong? Or supported, as opposed to being a bystander to, the coup?

  3. Perhaps it should have been.

    The we wouldn’t be subject to these cheap, mercenary, ‘jumping_on_the_political_gravy_train’ exhibitions.

    • You think he deserved to be killed to shut him up?

      Maybe that’s what people are getting upset about.

  4. Dear Mr. President – you have the government recording data, marking every single American, on the suspicion that every one of us is a potential participant in terror plots. These words of yours on Trayvon Martin indicate tunnel vision.

    • “marking every single American, on the suspicion that every one of us is a potential participant in terror plots”

      No.

      It’s amazing how that story has become a blank canvass on which people are projecting their own stories.

  5. Obama seemed pretty unsympathetic to Zimmerman, who was acquitted in a fair trial by a jury of peers, and who is in hiding because of multiple death threats, which, in fact, Obama is indirectly encouraging. Nor did Obama condemn actions like those of Spike Lee, who tweeted Zimmerman’s home address (though he may not have gotten it right) in what looks a lot like incitement to promote murder, or the New Black Panthers who have threatened to kill Zimmerman.

    Many, including Obama, are guilty of a top-down logic – an inference from the general to the particular, from liberal civil rights ideology to the particular Zimmerman case with scant attention to the particulars of the case – the facts surrounding the shooting, or of the relevant law (It was regular ‘Self-defense’ not ‘Stand your Ground’).

    Most people with whom I have spoken only care about the racial aspect and seem to want see it exclusively as discrimination against blacks.

    Few understood that the fatal shot was fired as Zimmerman was having his head beaten against the concrete sidewalk, according to both the testimony of witnesses and the photographs showing multiple cuts and bruises on the back of Zimmerman’s head. One slam of the head to the concrete can only produce one bruise or cut at a time, thus there must have been multiple head blows to the concrete before the fatal shot was fired. Many people simply ignored this fact, if they even knew about it, or bothered to find out.

    Apparently a relative few bothered to listen to the one juror, who was willing to speak about it to CNN’s Anderson Cooper, in order to understand the thinking of he jurors. This juror stated that race did not appear to be a factor – there was no evidence that it was.

    I suspect that most people, including Obama, would have fired the shot, rather than continue to risk death or maybe just a skull fracture, had they been in Zimmerman’s position.

    It is an unfortunate affliction of mankind that such a large subset of humanity love their ideology more than they love truth.

    • “which, in fact, Obama is indirectly encouraging”

      Just so we’re absolutely clear: for Obama to denounce racial profiling, even after repeatedly urging people to respect the verdict, is what this commenter is calling “indirectly encouraging murder.”

      That’s it, that’s the problem, that’s what Obama is not supposed to do.

      • Obama’s statement is unfortunate, for it implies that racial profiling was an established fact.

        But it is not an established fact. The jury considered the influence of race in this unfortunate event and found that face was not a factor.

        • No, the jury did not consider the influence of race. The jurors brag about how they didn’t consider race. They also report that they didn’t consider any of the events that led up to the confrontation, which means that the issue of whether Zimmerman profiled Martin was never considered.

          Meanwhile, we have years worth of Zimmerman’s police call transcripts, in which he consistently, only calls the police about black people.

    • Ah, but the question is why did Trayvon Martin decide to hit George Zimmerman? No one witnessed the start of the confrontation between Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman. We only have Zimmerman’s side of the story. So we cannot know whether or not Martin was justified in hitting and knocking down Zimmerman. If Zimmerman reached toward his holster or attempted to pull his gun out, then Martin would have every reason to think that he was about to be shot and that he needed to hit Zimmerman to stun him and take away the gun. If Zimmerman was simply standing and asking questions, then Martin did not have a right to step forward and hit him.

      This is the truth: at the most crucial moment, we do not know what happened. We don’t know if Zimmerman blocked Martin’s path. We don’t know if Martin jumped Zimmerman. We don’t know who grabbed first, shoved first or swung a fist first. We don’t know if Martin realized from Zimmerman’s body language that Zimmerman had a weapon.

      Many a policeman has shot someone and claimed self-defense because the person who was killed “made a furtive move like he was pulling out a gun.” Did Zimmerman make a furtive move that Martin interpreted as pulling out a weapon? We don’t know. It’s even possible that Zimmerman doesn’t know either. In the heat of the moment, when each man was anxiously eyeing the other, it’s possible that Zimmerman reached back and felt for his holster without even being aware that he had done so.

      There is a fog of war even in fistfights. I recall a fight that happened in a hallway back in high school. A conversation became a debate became an argument became shoves became fists within the space of a few seconds. Afterwards, each of the two teens claimed that the other one started it. And those of us who were standing right there, within feet of the tussle, were unable to say who was to blame. The whole thing happened too fast with each young man reacting negatively to the other. The principal ended up lecturing both students that they were equally responsible, that each man could have walked away, and that was the end of it.

      In the initial police interview, Detective Chris Serino makes it clear he believes that Zimmerman is exaggerating how hard he was hit and that he was “slammed multiple times” into the pavement. Serino says, “That’s why we’re here today. Once again, these can be interpreted as capillary-type cuts or whatever, lacerations, uh, not really, um, coinciding with being slammed hard into the ground. OK? That’s skull fractures is you happen with that. I’ve seen ‘em all, you know.” link to txantimedia.com

      Per the medical report of the Altamonte Family Practice, George Zimmerman suffered two scalp lacerations (one 2 ct. and the other 0.5 ct.) which did not require stitches and mild bruising on the back of his head. The scalp is filled with blood vessels and even a minor cut will bleed profusely. Getting slammed multiple times into solid pavement would have produced far more swelling, deep bruising, and most likely skull fracture. Look at pictures of boxers after fights if you want to see how much the human head will swell and bruise under severe trauma.

      Just because Martin ended up on top of Zimmerman and struck him does NOT prove that Martin was the guilty party. Imagine if you thought a man with a gun was about to shoot you, wouldn’t you fight back? And wouldn’t you keep hitting him, trying to stun him, until you secured his gun?

    • Zimmerman wouldn’t have gotten out of the car if Trayvon had been white. A white boy would not have been a threat in his eyes. The future implications of legally endorsing that, given America’s history, should be obvious to you.

  6. I thought the President struck the right tone in acknowledging the difficulties faced by the justice system, the marking of Blacks in society, and the inherent problem with Stand Your Ground. Then I heard David Brooks praise the President and concluded that I really missed what Obama said.

    Will we correct the laws that allow a white person to shoot anyone out of fear or will the reactionary right win out?

  7. Just here to warn you all that a tidal wave of “Trayvon got what he deserved” posts are following right behind me from every other website in the United States.

    Collective punishment is a violation of international law, as Prof. Cole often reminds us, but I guess it’s fine within a country. Maybe Zimmerman will move to the Occupied Territories and pursue his relentless hunt for suspicious persons there.

  8. Obama could have been Martin, straddling Zimmerman on the ground, and beating Z’s head into a concrete sidewalk? That’s interesting.

    Also, stand your ground was not an element of this case. It was self defense, because of the above.

    • True story: the conflict between the armed, larger George Zimmerman and the unarmed, smaller teenager he was following only began when Zimmerman began losing the fight.

      The History of the Universe: First the Big Bang happened, and then Trayvon Martin was hitting Zimmerman.

      • Untrue story. You made it up. There is no foundation for the claim that Zimmerman assaulted Martin, including no marks on Martin except the bullet path. Martin sucker-punched Zimmerman, whose nose was broken, and then furthered the assault, which is why he was shot dead.

        • You see nothing wrong with what Zimmerman had done? Other than the fact that he racially profiled someone, followed them even against police orders, and then confronted them… Let’s disregard all that. You see nothing wrong with the fact that he shot someone? A kid? A kid that was going to the store to buy candy? That doesn’t bother you? Not one bit?

        • There is no foundation for the claim that Zimmerman assaulted Martin

          What claim that Zimmerman assaulted Martin? Could you quote it for me?

          Here’s my comment. Please point out the part where I “made up” a “claim that Zimmerman assaulted Martin.”

          True story: the conflict between the armed, larger George Zimmerman and the unarmed, smaller teenager he was following only began when Zimmerman began losing the fight.

          The History of the Universe: First the Big Bang happened, and then Trayvon Martin was hitting Zimmerman.

          Oh, wait, there is none.

          That’s a nice bit of projection on your part, accusing me of making up a claim that occurs nowhere in my comments, right before you start throwing out wholly unevidences assertions like “Martin sucker-punched Zimmerman.”

  9. Having grown up in various different cultures (domestic and foreign), I have found that scrutiny of the unfamiliar is not unusual. Just as Barry O states that something might have befallen him 35 years ago, we find that is not specific to him and many of us have used our ‘uniqueness’ to our advantage. And, to be sure, obvious differences can be hazardous if one is unaware.

    Even for people who should be ‘alike,’ there have been problems. We only have to look back a few days to read about Darryl Green of Chicago, Barry O’s stomping ground.^

    And, let’s not forget the Revvin’ Jesse Jackson, who – way back in 1993 – had these words of wisdom: “There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery. Then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved…. After all we have been through. Just to think we can’t walk down our own streets, how humiliating.”*
    Remarks at a meeting of Operation PUSH in Chicago (27 November 1993). Quoted in “Crime: New Frontier – Jesse Jackson Calls It Top Civil-Rights Issue” by Mary A. Johnson, 29 November 1993, Chicago Sun-Times (ellipsis in original).

    And, then, there’s Juan Williams who’s a little skittish himself: “I’m the father of black young men, and I’m saying that if you saw a couple guys walking around looking like thugs down the street late at night, you’re saying, ‘Oh, I’m not going to think it through.’ Caroline, I think you are way off base.”**

    ^ link to inquisitr.com
    * link to en.wikiquote.org
    * link to nytimes.com
    * http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=132×5163337
    ** link to bvblackspin.com

    • Just in case using the diminutive form of a black man’s name, someone you don’t know and who doesn’t use that name himself, didn’t demonstrate your racism clearly enough, it was nice of you to change Jesse Jackson’s title to Revvin’, to make sure you left no doubt.

  10. I warned these responses were coming, but I’m disappointed to see them here, from people who probably would speak out against an Israeli settler chasing and shooting a Palestinian boy.

    Apparently the white peacenik left has decided that, since Obama is the enemy, and 95% of blacks voted for him, they all deserve to be abandoned to the tender mercies of States’ Rights, limited government, and the Tea Party, which a disturbing number of them seem to admire.

    Just as well. White radicals have already proven their uselessness in failing to stop, or even foresee, the rise of the far right. Perhaps in radicals’ eyes the crime of the minorities is that indeed they want America to function and prosper.

    Either these old lefties will die in death camps built by a fascist right they helped into power by sabotaging the Democratic Party while utterly lacking the skills to replace it, or they will be overrun and forgotten by the nonwhite demographic wave that is the only thing that can save democracy from that fascism. I intend to fight alongside those who would die rather than see whites restored to the status of a Master Race.

    • “Either these old lefties will die in death camps built by a fascist right they helped into power by sabotaging the Democratic Party while utterly lacking the skills to replace it, or they will be overrun and forgotten by the nonwhite demographic wave that is the only thing that can save democracy from that fascism. I intend to fight alongside those who would die rather than see whites restored to the status of a Master Race.”

      Overwrought, overheated rhetoric fueled by a fevered imagination and a cartoon version of American history and current events.

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