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Why did Obama speak out on Trayvon Martin now?

While downplaying the prospect of a federal civil rights case against George Zimmerman, President Obama offered his own views on the impact of racial disparities on young black men and their families. 'There's a lot of pain,' he said.

President Obama pauses as he speaks to reporters in the Brady Press Briefing room of the White House on Friday, reacting to the jury verdict after the fatal shooting of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin.

Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

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President Obama made a surprise appearance before the White House press corps Friday and delivered highly personal remarks about the aftermath of the George Zimmerman trial and the experience of being an African-American male in the United States.

Expanding on comments made after a Florida jury found the neighborhood watch volunteer not guilty of murdering Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teen, Mr. Obama said the trial was conducted in a professional manner. The president praised the dignity shown by Trayvon's parents throughout the ordeal.

Then he went on to talk about what he called the context of the case, and how people, especially the African-American community, are receiving it.

“When you think about why, in the African-American community at least, there’s a lot of pain around what happened here, I think it’s important to recognize that the African-American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that doesn’t go away,” Obama said.

Most African-American men have been followed by security when shopping in a department store, said the president – including himself, when younger.

“The African-American community is also knowledgeable that there is a history of racial disparities in the application of our criminal laws,” said Obama.

The president then discussed how the African-American community is not “naïve” about the fact that black males are disproportionately represented among both perpetrators and victims of crime. But some of that violence and the poverty endemic in black neighborhoods can be traced to the nation’s difficult history, the president said.


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