well, it took a little while, but president obama finally offered more than a brief, bloodless, perfunctory statement on trayvon martin’s murder and george zimmerman’s acquittal. if you haven’t seen it, you can watch or read it here: http://wapo.st/15zqdqe.

i did both, and after sitting with it for a few hours, i had some thoughts to share. first i posted them on facebook, then i thought i’d post them here, too.

  1. i think it’s great that obama was finally willing to say the words ‘race’ and ‘racism’. that’s rare and huge.
  2. sorry, but no. it’s not the experience of being followed in department stores that provides the contextual frame through which black people and allies view trayvon martin’s murder. it’s the centuries of lynchings and vigilante violence against black people—either ignored or tacitly endorsed by the state—that provides that frame.
  3. sorrier, but it’s not just a “history of racial disparities in the application of our criminal laws” that has an impact on people who interpret the case. that would be the ONGOING mass incarceration, criminalization, and vilification of black people, particularly black men, which happens not just in the application of criminal laws, but in the conception and creation of those laws.
  4. ok, i’m getting less sorry now. it’s great that obama spoke on race. it would have been greater if he had spoken about trayvon martin’s murder. it would be greater if the context he was providing sounded more like “here are tools for you to understand trayvon’s murder and zimmerman’s acquittal in a way you didn’t before” and less like “look, don’t hold black people’s different interpretations against them—they just bring certain baggage to the case that they can’t get rid of.”
  5. alright, i’m not really sorry. that has passed.