Commend President Obama for His Candor About Race

Trayvon Martin rally in Hollywood

Target: U.S. President Barack Obama

Goal: Commend President Obama for his recent speech about race

After George Zimmerman was found not guilty of Trayvon Martin’s murder, the nation’s first black president got in front of cameras and candidly spoke about his own experiences that had to do with racial relations in the country. He most notably said that he could have been Trayvon Martin 35 years ago. This speech will go down in history and define this president, and deserves praise from people of all colors.

The not-guilty verdict in the George Zimmerman case shocked the whole country. Obama first reacted cautiously to it, saying that the jury has spoken and that America is a nation of laws. But some days after the carefully worded written statement the president gave a 17-minute speech, relating himself closely to Martin and providing context that he personally knows of. He said that like many African Americans he had been followed in department stores and witnessed people lock their cars when he was crossing the street. “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.”

President Obama spoke about racial disparity in the criminal justice system, including how drug laws are enforced. He pointed out that young black men are disproportionally incarcerated. There are misunderstandings among whites about why crime touches African Americans, and faulty views entered the legal system. “Stand your ground” laws should be re-examined closely because if Trayvon Martin were white, “both the outcome and the aftermath would have been different.”

In terms of steps we can take to change the situation, it would be productive for the Justice Department to partner with state and local governments to train police to be fairer and to curb racial profiling. Obama passed such legislation in the Illinois Senate.

It is also important to give black boys positive reinforcement, to tell them that their country cares about them and values them. They are a full part of the society and have paths to succeed. Obama urged everybody to think about that and do some soul searching. People should be honest about their feelings about race and not be afraid to talk about it. It is part of our lives. Sign below to thank the president for his candor, openness and heart-felt words that might lead to a change in policy and people’s hearts.


Dear Mr. President,

Thank you for the speech about race that you made after of the not-guilty verdict in the George Zimmerman case. When the verdict came, many people were shocked and took to the streets to demonstrate. You felt people’s pain, exacerbated by insensitive remarks by Mark O’Omara and Robert Zimmerman.

Black people know what racial discrimination is. Like you pointed out, they are followed in department stores, people lock doors when a black person crosses the street, and women (white women) clutch their handbags in an elevator ride with a black man. You know firsthand about these attitudes, and it is important for people of all races and colors to hear about instances of discrimination from their president. It frees us to be open about our feelings and may even bring policy change on the state and local levels.

“Stand you ground” laws are discriminatory in their application and need to be repealed. You are absolutely correct when you say that if Trayvon Martin were white, the outcome and the aftermath of the incident would have been different. Your speech will go down in history as uniting and deeply truthful. Thank you for sharing your story with the country and the world.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Greg Lilly via Flickr

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