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President Obama made the following comments about the killing of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, who was shot by a Hispanic neighborhood watch captain in a gated community:
If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon," Obama said, underscoring how the issue affected him on a personal, and not just a political or legal, level. "I think [Trayvon's parents] are right to expect that all of us as Americans are going to take this with the seriousness it deserves, and we are going to get to the bottom of exactly what happened...Obviously, this is a tragedy...I can only imagine what these parents are going through, and when I think about this boy, I think about my own kids, and I think every parent in America should be able to understand why it is absolutely imperative that we investigate every aspect of this, and that everybody pulls together -- federal, state and local -- to figure out exactly how this tragedy happened...I think all of us have to do some soul searching to figure out how does something like this happen," said Obama. "And that means we examine the laws and the context for what happened, as well as the specifics of the incident."
I agree with most of what Obama said there, and pretty much everybody I've heard wants a thorough investigation of the Trayvon Martin case, as do I, but what difference does it make whether Trayvon looks like Obama's son or not, and why do we all need to do some "soul searching", especially when all the facts in the case have not been brought to light ? Why is the President of the United States further racializing this case, when racial tensions are already running so high over it ? He should be doing precisely the opposite in an attempt to calm things down. Regardless of how all this shakes out, this is ONE case, not a blanket indictment of the entire country.
On Friday, Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich said Obama and his comments were "disgraceful."
"It's not a question of who that young man looked like. Any young American of any ethnic background should be safe, period..Is the president suggesting that if it had been a white who had been shot, that would be OK because it didn't look like him? That's just nonsense dividing this country up.Trying to turn it into a racial issue is fundamentally wrong".
Mitt Romney and other conservatives have also called for a thorough investigation.
As best as I can piece together, here's what happened in the Trayvon Martin case, including the possible racial angles...
On February 26th, Trayvon, a black teenager, was returning home from a convenience store, walking through a Sanford, Florida gated community. He was wearing a hoodie. Neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, 28, (Reuters described him as a "white Hispanic", and the gated community is 50% white, 20% Hispanic, and 20% black) started following Trayvon, and called the police dispatcher to say Trayvon looked "suspicious". The police told Zimmerman not to confront Trayvon, a directive Zimmerman apparently ignored. According to Trayvon's girlfriend, with whom he was speaking on his cell phone, Trayvon turned around and said to Zimmerman, "Why are you following me ?" An altercation ensued (who the aggressor was, I can't tell you). Several witnesses report they heard a scuffle, a cry for help, and then a gunshot. Trayvon Martin was dead. Zimmerman had a bloody nose and a cut on the back of his head. Zimmerman said he acted in self-defense, and the police did not charge him.
There are a number of problems with the way the police handled this case. Trayvon Martin was unarmed. He was carrying a pack of Skittles and a bottle of iced tea. So, what was he doing that was "suspicious" ? Was he guilty only of 'walking in a hoodie while black' ? Further, for Zimmerman to act in self-defense, he had to fear his life was being threatened. It is also alleged that Zimmerman used a racial slur in reference to Martin on the police dispatch tapes, though I've read this is not clear. The police didn't interview Trayvon Martin's girlfriend, even though she requested an interview and could shine light on part of what took place. The police didn't even run a background check on Zimmerman. I understand why people are upset. This case upsets me too. I'm glad there is going to be a complete investigation of the matter. There are lots of questions that need to be answered here.
What we don't need is to add a parade of race baiters into the mix, and we sure don't need the President to be one of them.
The new Black Panther Party offered a bounty of $10,000 Saturday for the “capture” of a Florida neighborhood watch captain who killed unarmed teen Trayvon Martin.
“An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,” leader Mikhail Muhammad said after announcing the reward for George Zimmerman at a protest in Sanford, Fla.
Muhammad called on 5,000 black men to mobilize and capture the neighborhood watch volunteer.
“If the government won’t do the job, we’ll do it,” Muhammad said, leading chants that included “freedom or death” and “justice for Trayvon.”
The group hopes to collect $1 million off the outrage by next week
This kind of vigilante justice must be condemned.
Others have used the Trayvon Martin case for political ends as well, to attack Florida's Stand Your Ground law, which grants immunity to anyone who uses deadly force if they can reasonably claim they were defending themselves. The problem with blaming Stand Your Ground in the Trayvon Martin case is, Zimmerman was pursuing Martin. He wasn't standing his ground at all. He went after Trayvon Martin. The Stand Your Ground law should not apply.