‘‘There are very few African-American men in this country who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store,’’ he said. ‘‘That includes me.’’
In a departure from his typical caution on legal matters, the president also waded into the thorny debates on racial profiling and Florida’s ‘‘Stand Your Ground’’ law, despite the fact that neither was formally raised during Zimmerman’s trial.
Obama said it would be useful ‘‘to examine some state and local laws to see if they are designed in such a way that they may encourage the kinds of confrontation’’ that led to Martin’s death. He questioned whether a law that sends the message that someone who is armed ‘‘has the right to use those firearms even if there is a way for them to exit from a situation’’ really promotes peace and security.
And he raised the provocative question of whether Martin himself, if he had been armed and of age, ‘‘could he have stood his ground on that sidewalk’’ and shot Zimmerman if he felt threatened when being followed.
Seeking to inject a sense of hope into his otherwise somber remarks, the president said race relations in the United States have improved with each passing generation. He said his young daughters and their friends are ‘‘better than we were.’’
‘‘We’re becoming a more perfect union,’’ he said. ‘‘Not a perfect union, but a more perfect union.’’