Obama Trayvon Martin

March 24, 2012 by staff 

Obama Trayvon Martin, Declaring that “if I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon,” President Obama chose a highly personal way to join the heated national debate over the death of Trayvon Martin, the black teenager fatally shot by a neighborhood watch volunteer in Florida.

Obama took care to voice no opinion on the conduct of the shooter, George Zimmerman, or any legal aspect of the case beyond a call for a thorough investigation. “The attorney general reports to me so I’ve got to be careful about my statements to make sure that we’re not impairing any investigation,” he said.

Yet his remarks Friday could have a powerful influence on how the public views the case. It was a rare White House moment — a president identifying himself with a victim in a racially-charged shooting. More broadly, it drew attention to the way young black men are seen by a predominantly white society.

Whether Zimmerman acted legally in the Feb. 26 shooting and whether the Sanford, Fla., police acted properly in declining to arrest him turn in large part on how the victim is viewed.

Zimmerman, 28, has claimed he shot Martin, 17, in self-defense after calling police to say he was following a person in his gated community who he believed was acting suspicious. Supporters of Martin’s family have said the high school student was merely walking to a relative’s home and that nothing about him could reasonably have been considered suspicious or threatening.

Martin’s parents appeared to acknowledge that Obama’s public identification with their son carried huge symbolic importance.

“The president’s personal comments touched us deeply,” they said. The remarks “made us wonder: If his son looked liked Trayvon and wore a hoodie, would he be suspicious too?”

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