President Barack Obama commented publicly this morning on the Trayvon Martin shooting case. In very personal terms, Obama spoke about Martin’s parents, and considered how he’d feel in the situation. In what most news outlets are considering the apex of the speech, Obama says that “if I had a son he’d look like Trayvon.”
If you need to catch up on the Trayvon Martin case, you can read a timeline over at ABC. If you want the TL;DR, this is as close as it gets: George Zimmerman, a self-appointed neighborhood watch “captain”, shot 17 year old Trayvon Martin, and no one’s sure why. In addition, Zimmerman may have made racist remarks, which were captured during a 911 call. The local police flubbed the handling of the case, as local police often do. There have been multiple calls for justice, including a “Million Hoodie March” and a Change.org petition with over 1.5 million signatures.
“I think every parent in America should be able to understand why it is absolutely imperative to investigate every aspect of this,” said Barack Obama, “and that everybody pulls together — federal, state and local — to figure out exactly how this tragedy happened.”
If the speech had stopped there, the message from Obama would be clear: any of of our children could have been shot and killed, and when children are killed without reason like this, action needs to be taken.
But Obama continued: “You know, if I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.”
Here’s Obama’s mention:
Here’s where critics deviate in opinion. While most news outlets applaud Obama’s incredibly personal statement, one can’t help but think that whether Trayvon looks like Obama – meaning racially – isn’t important. Trayvon was shot and killed. Regardless of what or who he looks like, Trayvon’s death is a tragedy that should be investigated. Though there is more fuel on the fire with Zimmerman’s possible racial slur on the 911 call – the message should be clear that any time a child is killed, it should be investigated vigorously. Obama’s rumination of having a son that looks like Trayvon makes the difficult assumption that Trayvon’s case touches him as a parent only because Trayvon was black.
In contrast, the Miami Heat’s Dwyane Wade told the Sun-Sentinel, “I’m a father. It’s support of the tragic thing that has taken place. No matter what color, race, we’re all fathers.”
That should be the message: that no matter what color you are, if you’re a father, you imagine what it’d be like to lose a son. No need to dice it up by race; I have a son. It could have been him. No need to dice it up by gender; Obama has daughters – it could have been one of them.
Not to be minimized – the racial component in the case is important. But in thinking about the tragic death of Trayvon Martin, we need to stand side-by-side regardless of race to combat this sort of thing.
What do you think? Are we being too touchy? Do you prefer Obama’s response or Dwyane Wade??