Sanford, Florida

A History of Discrimination Earns President Obama a Right to Speak

RNS photo by Pete Souza/The White House.

President Obama tours the Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial, RNS photo by Pete Souza/The White House.

 I first learned about President Obama’s comments about racism and the Trayvon Martin case last week when a Facebook friend posted a link with this comment:

“Full text of the American President’s divisive and racist remarks today. He moves smoothly into his new role as race-baiter in chief.”

My friend’s anger was matched by many others from PowerLine to Breitbart. But what I read seems to me as controversial as tomorrow’s sunrise and incendiary as wet newspaper.

Let me try an analogy.

Imagine that Joe Lieberman had been elected our first Jewish president. And that in a moment of crisis, he felt compelled to explain that some reaction to even the hint of anti-Semitism is partly explained by the Jewish cultural memory of the Holocaust. And he included personal anecdotes about growing up Jewish in America.

Would he be accused of being divisive and guilty of whatever the Jewish equivalent of “race-baiting” might be?

Lament from a White Father

Hands held in a circle. Photo courtesy Brett Jorgensen/

Hands held in a circle. Photo courtesy Brett Jorgensen/

Death is horrible enough. But systematic injustice — one that allows white boys to assume success, yet leads black boys to cower from the very institutions created to protect our own wellbeing — is a travesty. Listen to the stories from Saturday and Sunday nights, of 12-year-old black boys who asked to sleep in bed with their parents because they were afraid. If black youth in America can’t rely on the police, the law, or their own neighborhood for protection — where can they go?


Trayvon Martin: Zimmerman Charged with 2nd Degree Murder

Photo by Evan Vucci-Pool/Getty Images

Trayvon's mother and brother watch Corey announce charges vs Zimmerman. Photo by Evan Vucci-Pool/Getty Images

Authorities in Florida have charged George Zimmerman, 28, with 2nd-degree murder in the shooting death of unarmed Trayvon Martin, 17, in Sanford, Fla., in late February.

The charges, announced by special prosecutor Angela Corey, at a news conference in Jacksonville, Fla., Wednesday evening, come six weeks after Zimmerman, a self-appointed community watch "captain" in a gated Sanford community where Trayvon was visiting his father on Feb. 26, shot the teen -- who was armed only with a cell phone, a can of iced tea and a packet of Skittles -- in what the shooter claimed was self-defense under Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law, which allows victims to use deadly force against an attacker if they believe their lives are in danger.

Justice for Trayvon Martin: Million Hoody March

Residents attend to a town hall meeting 2/20 to discuss Martin's slaying. Getty

Residents of Sanford, Fla. attend to a town hall meeting 2/20 to discuss Martin's slaying. Via Getty Images.

On February 26, 2012 in Sanford, Fla., George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old boy. Zimmerman, 28, a neighborhood watch "captain," says he was acting in self-defense, and — incredibly — Zimmerman has yet to be arrested or charged with a crime.

However, thanks to the organizing efforts of Mr. Martin’s parents, civil rights groups, media commentaries, and concerned citizens, our latest racialized miscarriage of criminal justice is now getting the widespread attention that it deserves.

On Monday, the US Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) announced it would launch an independent investigation into the causes and circumstances of Mr. Martin’s death.