Obama weighed in on the Trayvon Martin controversy Friday, Mar. 23, when he used a high-profile Rose Garden appearance to declare, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.”
“I think all of us have to do some soul-searching to figure how does something like this happen, and that means we examine the laws and context for what happened, as well as the specifics of the incident,” Obama announced.
His statement sparked a media firestorm that won Obama plaudits from a series of high-profile African-American political activists who have highlighted the controversy.
The activists include Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and Ben Jealous, head of the NAACP. Activists for the New Black Panthers and the Nation of Islam have also entered the fray.
Obama’s Rose Garden comments also prompted the criticism from Gingrich and Santorum, which Plouffe used on Sunday to lambaste the candidates.
However, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s careful statement didn’t provide Plouffe an excuse for criticism.
“What happened to Trayvon Martin is a tragedy. There needs to be a thorough investigation that reassures the public that justice is carried out with impartiality and integrity,” said the Romney statement.
A weekend statement by the Republican National Committee also avoided the issue, and instead focused on areas where Obama’s public support is weakest — Obamacare, gas prices and the economy.
Also, the efforts by Obama, Plouffe, Sharpton and their allies to elevate Martin’s death are meeting criticism from other leaders in the African-American community, who say Obama and his deputies haven’t done enough to curb black-on-black crime.
Obama’s focus on the Tayvon Martin death at the hands of George Zimmerman is misplaced, said Fair.
“It reinforces the notion [among African-Americans] of the evilness of white people … that white people are killing black people,” said Fair. But “the outrage should be about us killing each other.”
In 2009, completed law-enforcement investigations showed that 352 African-Americans were killed by known whites — a category that includes Latinos — and 4,094 African-Americans were killed by African-Americans, according to FBI data.
On Mar. 25, Chicago-based Catholic priest Rev. Michael Pfleger — a well-known social activist who leads a majority black congregation — urged attendees at a Chicago protest to do something about urban crime around the country.
“If you really honor Trayvon Martin, what are you going to do differently tomorrow about violence? What child are you going to reach out to? What youth center? What school? What will you do differently to fight the violence?” he declared, according to a report from a local CBS station.
This broader perspective was also pushed by Joni Hudson-Reynolds, an African-American blogger, who wrote Mar. 19 that “the nation’s attention is on the Trayvon Martin case,” but “this past weekend 41 people were shot on the streets of Chicago [and] the youngest victim a 6 year old was killed in a drive by.”
Former Texas NAACP leader C.L. Bryant made the same argument. “Why isn’t somebody angry about that six year old girl who was killed on her steps last weekend in a cross fire when two gang members in Chicago start shooting at each other? Why is there no outrage about that?”
“The epidemic is truly black on black crime,” Bryant told TheDC. “The greatest danger to the lives of young black men are young black men.”