Obama: Trayvon ‘Could’ve Been Me 35 Years Ago’

The president explicitly addresses race in connection to the Zimmerman trial verdict.

By Aura Bogado Jul 19, 2013

President Obama made a surprise visit at the daily White House press briefing today to make statements following the Zimmerman trial verdict. Obama mentioned last year that Trayvon Martin could have been his son. Today he claimed, "Another way of saying that is, Trayvon Martin could’ve been me 35 years ago."

At times, Obama appeared to be addressing white Americans looking for explainations about the massive rallies, vigils, and marches that have erupted since the verdict. "When you think about why in the African-American community, at least, there’s a lot of pain around what happened here," he said. "It’s important to recognize the African-American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and history that doesn’t go away."

The president’s remarks also included some suggestions on moving forward–recalling his work as a state Senator: 

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. 

You can read Obama’s entire remarks on the White House website.