On July 19, 2013, President Obama held an 18 minute press briefing where he discussed the George Zimmerman verdict, race relations in America, and what we can do as a community to move forward. This speech is not only monumental during his time as the President of the United States, but as an African-American in power who has the ability to raise awareness and effectuate change.
President Obama used this speech to explain the systematic injustices that blacks have faced throughout history, how this affects us in our communities, and how others profile, stereotype and create generalizations about blacks, especially about the black boys and men in our community.
He discussed what it means for many blacks to be followed while shopping in the store, walking and hearing car doors immediately “clink” when walking by, and stepping into an elevator and witnessing a woman clutch her person tighter and hold her breath. He stated that, “the African American community is also knowledgeable that there is a history of racial disparities in the application of our criminal laws — everything from the death penalty to enforcement of our drug laws.”
President Obama used his platform to express on a national and global stage the trajectory effects of the past and how this has led the black community to not only protest, demonstrate and hold vigils, but want to create an action plan to help better their own communities. Obama offered four ideas that he felt would help make the nation more productive:
1. Relationship building between the Justice Department, governors, mayors and law enforcement to “train at the state and local levels in order to reduce the kind of mistrust in the system that sometimes currently exists.”
2. Examine state and local laws that can potentially lead to altercations rather than diffuse potential altercations.
3. Spend time thinking about how do we “bolster and reinforce our African American boys.” Creating solutions to encourage, uplift, and show that “country cares about them and values them and is willing to invest in them.”
4. Engage in some “soul searching.” He suggests that convening politically to discuss race relations is not productive, but encourages discussions surrounding race to take places at churches and within families. He suggests that we ask, “Am I wringing as much bias out of myself as I can? Am I judging people as much as I can, based on not the color of their skin, but the content of their character?”
President Obama has never nationally addressed the black community on the national stage, but he has shown that this tragedy, at the end of the day, does affect him. One because he is black, but also because Trayvon Martin could have seriously been him 35 years ago.
What I encourage our community to understand that this is a call to action. It’s time for us to begin making moves.
The time is now to make a difference. It is truly on our generation to be the change that we wish to see in the world.