Critique of Barack Hussein Obama's 2013 Speech on Trayvon Martin's Death Ruling

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

July 19, 2013

Remarks by the President on Trayvon Martin

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

THE PRESIDENT: I wanted to come out here, first of all, to tell you that Jay is prepared for all your questions and is very much looking forward to the session. The second thing is I want to let you know that over the next couple of weeks, there's going to obviously be a whole range of issues -- immigration, economics, et cetera -- we'll try to arrange a fuller press conference to address your questions. (1)

The reason I actually wanted to come out today is not to take questions, (2) but to speak to an issue that obviously has gotten a lot of attention over the course of the last week -- the issue of the Trayvon Martin ruling. I gave a preliminary statement right after the ruling on Sunday. But watching the debate over the course of the last week, I thought it might be useful for me to expand on my thoughts a little bit. (3)

First of all, I want to make sure that, once again, I send my thoughts and prayers, as well as Michelle's, to the family of Trayvon Martin, and to remark on the incredible grace and dignity with which they've dealt with the entire situation. I can only imagine what they're going through, and it's remarkable how they've handled it. (4)

The second thing I want to say is to reiterate what I said on Sunday, which is there's going to be a lot of arguments about the legal issues in the case -- I'll let all the legal analysts and talking heads address those issues. The judge conducted the trial in a professional manner. The prosecution and the defense made their arguments. The juries were properly instructed that in a case such as this reasonable doubt was relevant, and they rendered a verdict. And once the jury has spoken, that's how our system works. But I did want to just talk a little bit about context and how people have responded to it and how people are feeling. (5)

You know, when Trayvon Martin was first shot I said that this could have been my son. Another way of saying that is Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago. And when you think about why, in the African American community at least, 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 a history that doesn't go away. (6)

There are very few African American men in this country who haven't had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store. That includes me. There are very few African American men who haven't had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That happens to me -- at least before I was a senator. There are very few African Americans who haven't had the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she had a chance to get off. That happens often. (7)

And I don't want to exaggerate this, but those sets of experiences inform how the African American community interprets what happened one night in Florida. And it's inescapable for people to bring those experiences to bear. The African American community is also knowledgeable that there is a history of racial disparities in the application of our criminal laws -- everything from the death penalty to enforcement of our drug laws. And that ends up having an impact in terms of how people interpret the case. (8)

Now, this isn't to say that the African American community is naïve about the fact that African American young men are disproportionately involved in the criminal justice system; that they're 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. They 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 a very difficult history. (9)

And so the fact that sometimes that's unacknowledged adds to the frustration. And the fact that a lot of African American boys are painted with a broad brush and the excuse is given, well, there are these statistics out there that show that African American boys are more violent -- using that as an excuse to then see sons treated differently causes pain. (10)

I think the African American community is also not naïve in understanding that, statistically, somebody like Trayvon Martin was statistically more likely to be shot by a peer than he was by somebody else. So folks understand the challenges that exist for African American boys. But they get frustrated, I think, if they feel that there's no context for it and that context is being denied. And that all contributes I think to a sense that if a white male teen was involved in the same kind of scenario, that, from top to bottom, both the outcome and the aftermath might have been different. (11)

Now, the question for me at least, and I think for a lot of folks, is where do we take this? How do we learn some lessons from this and move in a positive direction? I think it's understandable that there have been demonstrations and vigils and protests, and some of that stuff is just going to have to work its way through, as long as it remains nonviolent. If I see any violence, then I will remind folks that that dishonors what happened to Trayvon Martin and his family. But beyond protests or vigils, the question is, are there some concrete things that we might be able to do. (12)

I know that Eric Holder is reviewing what happened down there, but I think it's important for people to have some clear expectations here. Traditionally, these are issues of state and local government, the criminal code. And law enforcement is traditionally done at the state and local levels, not at the federal levels. (13)

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 with my staff, so we're not rolling out some five-point plan, but some areas where I think all of us could potentially focus. (14)

Number one, precisely because law enforcement is often determined at the state and local level, I think it would be productive for the Justice Department, governors, mayors to work with law enforcement about training at the state and local levels in order to reduce the kind of mistrust in the system that sometimes currently exists. When I was in Illinois, I passed racial profiling legislation, and it actually did just two simple things. One, it collected data on traffic stops and the race of the person who was stopped. But the other thing was it resourced us training police departments across the state on how to think about potential racial bias and ways to further professionalize what they were doing. (15)

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 and, in turn, be more helpful in applying the law. And obviously, law enforcement has got a very tough job. So that's one area where I think there are a lot of resources and best practices that could be brought to bear if state and local governments are receptive. And I think a lot of them would be. And let's figure out are there ways for us to push out that kind of training. (16)

Along the same lines, I think it would be useful for us to examine some state and local laws to see if it -- if they are designed in such a way that they may encourage the kinds of altercations and confrontations and tragedies 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 were not used as a defense in the case. On the other hand, if we're sending a message as a society in 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, is that really going to be contributing to the kind of peace and security and order that we'd like to see? And for those who resist that idea that we should think about something like these "stand your ground" laws, I'd just ask people to consider, if Trayvon Martin was of age and armed, could he have stood his ground on that sidewalk? And do we actually think that he would have been justified in shooting Mr. Zimmerman who had followed him in a car because he felt threatened? And if the answer to that question is at least ambiguous, then it seems to me that we might want to examine those kinds of laws. (17)

Number three -- and this is a long-term project -- we need to spend some time in thinking about how do we bolster and reinforce our African American boys. And this is something that Michelle and I talk a lot about. There are a lot of kids out there who need help who are getting a lot of negative reinforcement. And is there more that we can do to give them the sense that their country cares about them and values them and is willing to invest in them? (18)

I'm not naïve about the prospects of some grand, new federal program. I'm not sure that that's what we're talking about here. But I do recognize that as President, I've got some convening power, and there are a lot of good programs that are being done across the country on this front. And for us to be able to gather together business leaders and local elected officials and clergy and celebrities and athletes, and figure out how are we doing a better job helping young African American men feel that they're a full part of this society and that they've got pathways and avenues to succeed -- I think that would be a pretty good outcome from what was obviously a tragic situation. And we're going to spend some time working on that and thinking about that. (19)

And then, finally, I think it's going to be important for all of us to do some soul-searching. There has been talk about should we convene a conversation on race. I haven't seen that be particularly productive when politicians try to organize conversations. They end up being stilted and politicized, and folks are locked into the positions they already have. On the other hand, in families and churches and workplaces, there's the possibility that people are a little bit more honest, and at least you ask yourself your own questions about, am I wringing as much bias out of myself as I can? Am I 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, be an appropriate exercise in the wake of this tragedy. (20)

And let me just leave you with a final thought that, as difficult and challenging as 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 seems to be making progress in changing attitudes when it comes to race. It doesn't mean we're in a post-racial society. It doesn't mean that racism is eliminated. But when I talk to Malia and Sasha, and I listen to their friends and I see them interact, they're better than we are -- they're better than we were -- on these issues. And that's true in every community that I've visited all across the country. (21)

And so we have to be vigilant and we have to work on these issues. And those of us in authority should be doing everything we can to encourage the better angels of our nature, as opposed to using these episodes to heighten divisions. But we should also have confidence that kids these days, I think, have more sense than we did back then, and certainly more than our parents did or our grandparents did; and that along this long, difficult journey, we're becoming a more perfect union -- not a perfect union, but a more perfect union. (22)

Thank you, guys. (23)


1)    Barak Obama generally avoids press conferences and the tough questions.
Frustration is building in the White House press corps over President Obama's lack of news conferences. He hasn't held a full-fledged news conference since July (when he made controversial remarks about the arrest of a black professor by a white policeman in Massachusetts), and White House reporters are grumbling about it. U.S. News & World Report - January 12, 2010.

2)    Barak Obama generally avoids press conferences and the tough questions.
On Thursday, for the first time in 308 days, President Obama will confront the White House press corps in a full-blown news conference, taking the best shots that reporters have to offer on the topics of their choosing. Fox News – May 27, 2010.

3)    The Trayvon Martin death ruling was not an issue according to Jimmy Carter.
Former President Jimmy Carter weighed in on the George Zimmerman trial Tuesday, parting from many other Democrats in praising the jury for their “not guilty” verdict. New York Daily News – July 17, 2013.

4)    Trayvon Martin’s divorced parents did not care where he was the night of February 26, 2012.
Martin's body was taken to the morgue, where he was tagged as a John Doe, as he was not carrying any identification. The mobile phone found at the shooting scene was malfunctioning to the point that the police Cellebrite data recovery device could not access it. Martin's father, Tracy Martin, called to file a Missing Persons report early on February 28 and police officers arrived at his fiancée's condo with photographs of his dead son about 9:20 am. Wikipedia Encyclopedia.

5)    The biased media misrepresented Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman.
The Associated Press noted that initially the most widely used media photo of Martin was several years old and showed him as a "baby-faced boy," rather than as a 17-year-old young man. To represent Zimmerman, the media chose a shot of a beefy 21-year-old Zimmerman taken seven years prior to the shooting, whereas recent photos show him as slim-faced and more mature. The two outdated photos chosen by the media may have helped shape the initial public perception of the shooting. The AP quoted academic Kenny Irby on the expected effect, "When you have such a lopsided visual comparison, it just stands to reason that people would rush to judgment," and another academic, Betsi Grabe, as saying that journalists will present stories as a struggle between good and evil "[i]f the ingredients are there." Wikipedia Encyclopedia.

6)    Barak Obama and Trayvon Martin were both drug users.
Trayvon Martin had been suspended from his Miami high school for possession of an empty marijuana baggie, a family spokesperson confirmed Monday. NBC News – March 26, 2012.
Of his early childhood, Obama writes: "That my father looked nothing like the people around me—that he was black as pitch, my mother white as milk—barely registered in my mind." The book describes his struggles as a young adult to reconcile social perceptions of his multiracial heritage. He wrote that he used alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine during his teenage years to "push questions of who I was out of my mind". Wikipedia Encyclopedia.

7)    Trayvon Martin was wearing the clothes of a hoodlum.
A hoodlum is a thug. Usually in a group of misfits that are associated with crime or theft. Wikipedia Encyclopedia.

8)    Black leaders never mention the breakdown of the family as the cause of violence.
Race-baiting leaders such as Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson are failing to provide the moral and spiritual leadership African American youth need. The breakdown of the black family is directly related to the loss of the moral compass in that community. Catholic Online – August 20, 2013.

9)    Black leaders never mention the breakdown of the family as the cause of violence.
For many black youth, gangs and the violence that comes with it are part of their culture. This is because the gang, as twisted as it may be, is replacing the family for many troubled youths. Since gangs have twisted moral compasses, thinking becomes distorted and before long even murder becomes rational. Catholic Online – August 20, 2013.

10)    Trayvon Martin was suspended from school the night he attacked George Zimmerman.
Martin's third suspension was for tardiness and truancy, his family said Monday. NBC News – March 27, 2012.

11)    Trayvon Martin was never arrested for being a thief.
According to the report, the 12 pieces of jewelry included silver wedding bands, earrings with diamonds and a watch. The investigator asked about the jewelry and "Martin replied it's not mine. A friend gave it to me," the report said. He declined to name the friend. The jewelry was impounded and photos of the pieces were sent to Miami-Dade police, but Martin was only suspended for the graffiti. No evidence was ever released that the jewelry was stolen. NBC News – March 27, 2012.

12)    Black leaders never mention the breakdown of the family as the cause of violence.
We know that children, particularly young male African Americans, benefit from parental marriage and from having a father in the home. Today, the majority of black children are born to single, unmarried mothers. The Washington Post – February 5, 2011.

13)    Black leaders never mention the breakdown of the family as the cause of violence.
At the heart of the deterioration of the fabric of Negro society is the deterioration of the Negro family. It is the fundamental source of the weakness of the Negro community at the present time. United States Department of Labor.

14)    Black leaders never mention the breakdown of the family as the cause of violence.
Juan Williams Wall Street Journal article sums what black activists are conveniently ignoring in their outrage over a single black teen’s death that “nationally, nearly half of all murder victims are black. And the overwhelming majority of those black people are killed by other black people.” Instead of wearing hoodies and participating in what I call hollow racial protests, the NAACP, black Congressmen and concerned citizens need to be showing outrage at the cancer called the breakdown of the American black family. Since the 1960s the crumbling black family has led to more black men in prison, greater number of high school dropouts, suspensions, etc. Finally, the biggest problem is 70% of black children are born to unwed mothers. – April 4, 2012.

15)    Racial profiling has helped decrease crime.
In December 2010, Fernando Mateo, then president of the New York State Federation of Taxi Drivers, made some pro-racial profiling remarks in the case of gun-shot taxi-cab driver: "You know sometimes it’s good that we are racially profiled because the God’s-honest truth is that 99 percent of the people that are robbing, stealing, killing these drivers are blacks and Hispanics." "Clearly everyone knows I’m not racist. I’m Hispanic and my father is black. ... My father is blacker than Al Sharpton." Wikipedia Encyclopedia.

16)    Barack Obama has helped increase violence in Illinois.
The staff at Advocate Christ knows all too well that Chicago's headline-grabbing plague of violence — which appears to be on the downswing after hitting 500 homicides last year — is no laughing matter. Last year, the well-regarded facility treated nearly 1,100 shooting and stabbing victims.  The number of patients who are dead on arrival has quadrupled in three years. The number of trauma surgeons has jumped from three to seven in a decade – and they’re looking to add an eighth. NBC News – August 19, 2013.

17)    Trayvon Martin viciously attacked George Zimmerman.
A medical report compiled by the family physician of Trayvon Martin shooter George Zimmerman and obtained exclusively by ABC News found that Zimmerman was diagnosed with a "closed fracture" of his nose, a pair of black eyes, two lacerations to the back of his head and a minor back injury the day after he fatally shot Martin during an alleged altercation. ABC News – May 15, 2012.

18)    Black leaders never mention the breakdown of the family as the cause of violence.
The epidemic of black-on-black violence is fostered by the disintegration of the black family -- more than 70 percent of black children are born out of wedlock -- and by a gang and hip-hop culture which glorifies violence. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – August 25, 2013.

19)    Black leaders use racially biased news reporting for their own racist agenda.
When there is a relatively rare example of racially motivated white on black crime, as Trayvon Martin initially appeared, a highly evolved, well-oiled civil rights machine is engaged. And my friends the Reverends Sharpton and Jackson are quick to ride the engine of sympathetic news coverage. In these campaigns, the leaders avoid the reality that, in terms of ordinary crime – murder, assault, robbery, rape and so forth – more whites are victimized by blacks than the other way around. Fox News Latino – August 23, 2013.

20)    Black leaders use racially biased news reporting for their own racist agenda.
The most egregious current example is the Florida bus beating of the 13-year old white kid by three black 15-year olds. The race of the assailants went generally unremarked until the viral video showing the black kids pounding and kicking the white kid made it a talking point on conservative talk radio. But ideology aside, how could you possibly report that story without mentioning the race of the victim and the perpetrators? Can you imagine what the narrative would have been if three white bullies had brutally beaten a black kid under the same circumstances. It would have been the biggest story in the nation. Fox News Latino – August 23, 2013.

21)    Black leaders and the media are causing an upswing in racially motivated crime.
Jeffrey Babbitt, a 62-year-old retired train conductor, was walking through the crowd near tables set up with chess boards when the suspect in the attack - 31-year-old Lashawn Marten - shouted a racial comment before hitting Babbitt in the head. "He said 'The next white person who walks by, I'm going to [expletive],'" one female witness told WCBS-TV. "His fist went in and the man's head bobbed and he hit the ground and you could hear his skull hitting the ground." CBS News – September 7, 2013.

22)    Black leaders and the media are causing an upswing in racially motivated crime.
There were no public demonstrations for the, “quiet and gentle” Babbitt. No one shouted, “No justice, no peace!” and called for immediate police action on his behalf. Ten days earlier, in Pittsburg, four black teenaged girls set upon Ginger Slepski, who is white. The girls had allegedly thrown a bottle at Slepski’s car and when she stopped to ask, “What is your problem?” she said the girls repeatedly urged each other to “Get that white (expletive)” and “Shut up, white (expletive)” What followed was a savage beating. Slepski, 32, told a reporter, “I thought it was so animalistic, so violent. I thought they were going to kill me.”  The mother of two suffered bruises to her head, scrapes on her arms, legs and feet and torn ligaments in her shoulder, which left her unable to return to her work as an electrician. The teens were charged with robbery and racial intimidation. Again, no marches or protests on Slepski’s behalf; no “community activists” appeared to chant, “What do we want? Peace! When do we want it? Now!” No black leaders spoke out to urge tolerance, unity and good behavior by their flock. Rockland County Times – September 14, 2013.

23)    Barack Obama’s lack of respect for others has come back to him.
Mark your calendar: Aug. 28, 2013. That was the day the roof fell in on President Obama. Our closest ally, Congress, the media and our military demonstrated their utter contempt for him. He has tried to avoid the world and U.S. involvement in it, so, naturally, his sudden call to arms (however weak and unsatisfactory) has provoked waves of skepticism. The Washington Post – August 30, 2013.