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Obama Speaks and the World Listens 

Obama speaking about race relations in America.    Photo: DPA

COMMENTARY  by Michael Owens

In the wake of the ‘not guilty’ decision in the Zimmerman case in Sanford, Florida, and the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down some of the provisions of the Voting Rights Act that helped ensure a fairer playing field for minorities in the South, President Obama spoke yesterday in a hastily arranged conference about the state of race relations in America. By doing so, he again showed America and the world what it is that they find so appealing about him.

He spoke not from a teleprompter as is the norm, but from hand-written notes and his heart. He was careful not to criticize the jury’s decision in Florida, which was probably just, according to the way the law is written. Rather than focusing on the individual decision, he chose to use the case’s backdrop to ask Americans to look inside themselves when it came to race relations.

He tried to elucidate what  it was like for many black people, especially black men, to grow up in America.

He said, “Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago.” Powerful words when they come from the lips of the President of the United States.

He told of white people showing fear of and contempt for blacks in everyday situations where white people would have little understanding. Being followed closely in a shop, doors locking loudly as blacks crossed the street, or women clutching purses tightly in the presence of a black man.

It could be ascertained from Obama’s speech that he felt as many Americans do. When it comes to racism in the world, though it exists in America surely, it is less there than most other places in the world. By extension of his speech about America’s race relations, many citizens of the world will look inside themselves also to see if they are doing everything that they can to reduce racism.

In typical Obama fashion, he ended his nearly 18 minutes speech with rays of hope at the state of things in America. He said that America was not where it needed to be, but that it was on the right path. And that path was ‘towards a more perfect union. Not perfect, but more perfect.”

Watch the full press conference:

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