“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.
But it might be useful for the Justice Department to expand the availability of police training in avoiding racial profiling, according to the president. States could perhaps reflect on the nature of stand-your-ground laws, and other statutes that might encourage violence as much as protect against it. Everyone could consider how the nation could further bolster the prospects for young African-American males.
“As difficult and challenging as this whole episode has been for a lot of people, I don’t want us to lose sight that things are getting better. Each successive generation seems to be making progress in changing attitudes when it comes to race,” Obama concluded.
The president’s remarks were a complete surprise to reporters, as noted above, and delivered on Friday afternoon, which is usually a slow news time in Washington. That did not mean they were unimportant, according to some political observers.