The verdict on Trayvon Martin case was out coincidentally on the year which marks the 50th anniversary of the civil rights March led by Martin Luther King Jr. Given the range of emotions the verdict attracted, the president decided to give an unscheduled speech, six days after the Florida court acquitted George Zimmerman. Obama’s speech clearly reflects that, though racism in the American society has improved a lot in the past few decades, still there is much to be done in that area. While the opinion on the verdict given by the Florida court is divided, one has to admit that as Obama says, an African American living in the USA is still a victim of certain stereotypes. He is right when he says, people lock their cars instinctively when they see a black man passing by, and women become vary when they are alone in an elevator in the company of black people.
Many critics of this speech including Tavis Smiley, the talk show host, opined that this was Obama’s attempt to use the race bait for political leverage, and in fact he went on to say that ‘Obama was leading from behind’. But one cannot ignore the underlying sincerity which echoed throughout the speech. He is serving his second term in office and he need not worry about being re-elected and thus, he has no necessity to take political advantage of this issue. The body language of the president, whereby he talked without notes and teleprompter, just reflected the he evidently wanted to diffuse the situation more than anything else. Being the first president of African descent, he cannot but empathize with the feelings of the people, who feel wronged when a white man is acquitted after shooting a black man. But as Obama says, the judge conducted a very professional hearing and the juries have passed their verdict and that’s how the American legal system works.
As he repeatedly conveyed, the African American people of this country is watching this incident via the prism of the past history and that history is hard to ignore, and the anger which is seen today is a culmination of past experiences. He also asked the black community to reflect upon the fact that the number of African Americans involved in violent crimes is disproportionately high. Clearly, his speech was not aimed at passing a judgment on whether the juries were right in acquitting George Zimmerman or not. Instead, the speech was more an attempt, to urge the people to have faith in the judiciary system, and hold on to the promise that tomorrow would be a better day than today, as today was better than yesterday.
Washington Post. July 19, 2013. President Obama’s remarks on Trayvon Martin (full transcript).Available at <http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-07-19/politics/40672554_1_trayvon-martin-stand-your-ground-president-obama-s> Accessed on September 28, 2013.