“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.
“So folks understand the challenges that exist for African-American boys, but they get frustrated, I think, if they feel there’s no context for it, or that the context is being denied. And that all contributes, I think, to a sense that if a white male teen was involved in the same kind of scenario, that from top to bottom, both the outcome and the aftermath might have been different,” said the president.
So, what to do? The president raised that issue, noting that, among other things, the Justice Department is reviewing whether to bring federal civil rights charges against Mr. Zimmerman. But he indicated those might not be forthcoming.
“Traditionally, these are issues of state and local government,” Obama said.