President Obama spoke for the first time on the Trayvon Martin case today, calling it a “tragedy” and that “it is absolutely imperative that we investigate every aspect of this.”
African-American leaders have been calling on the President to speak out about the case which has caused a national outcry. Some noted that Obama personally called Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown law student vilified by Rush Limbaugh over her Congressional testimony on the birth control mandate, but has made no such gesture to, say, the parents of Martin.
Obama opened his remarks saying that he didn’t want to impair any legal process, particularly the ongoing Justice Department investigation. But he added this:
“I think all of us have to do some soul searching to figure out how does something like this happen,” said Obama. “And that means we examine the laws and the context for what happened, as well as the specifics of the incident.”
Obama said, “My main message is to the parents of Trayvon Martin… if I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon. I think they are right to expect that all of us as Americans are going to take this with the seriousness it deserves and we’re going to get to the bottom of what happened.” The remarks came at the end of his announcement of the nomination of Jim Yong Kim to head the World Bank. It was the only question he took, and it appeared the White House wanted to give him space to answer it.
The reference to examining the laws and the context is a fairly clear reference to the “stand your ground” law, the NRA-promoted measure that allows citizens to hold their ground and even use deadly force if they feel threatened, claiming self-defense. “Justified” self-defense killings in Florida have tripled since the advent of that law. In the wake of the Martin case, civil rights leaders and other advocates have called for a re-examination of it.
For weeks Trayvon Martin’s death occasioned no response from pretty much anybody. Now the President of the United States is talking about it. That’s a victory for the activism work put into this tragedy. Now it’s time for results.