I just read Obama's statement today, Remarks by the President on Trayvon Martin. It's good and worth a read.
"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. That includes me. There are very few African American men who haven't had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That happens to me -- at least before I was a senator. There are very few African Americans who haven't had the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she had a chance to get off. That happens often.
And I don't want to exaggerate this, but those sets of experiences inform how the African American community interprets what happened one night in Florida. And it’s inescapable for people to bring those experiences to bear. The African American community is also knowledgeable that there is a history of racial disparities in the application of our criminal laws -- everything from the death penalty to enforcement of our drug laws. And that ends up having an impact in terms of how people interpret the case."
I do think there's a disconnect between someone who can say this, "And the fact that a lot of African American boys are painted with a broad brush and the excuse is given, well, there are these statistics out there that show that African American boys are more violent -- using that as an excuse to then see sons treated differently causes pain." and also consider nominating NYC Police Commissioner Ray Kelly (of stop and frisk fame) to head the Department of Homeland Security.
I also agree with Experiences and History by Ed Kilgore "Not being African-American or a conservative, Obama’s statement struck me as squarely identifying what’s wrong with the Supreme Court decision in the Shelby County v. Holder case, what’s wrong with claims that affirmative action is useless and morally tainted, and what’s wrong with the belief that with slavery and Jim Crow gone, the only genuine civil rights cause is to protect white people from the injustice of continued African-American grievances. People still alive remember Jim Crow. Still more know something about history. And anyone paying attention understands the connection between those ‘experiences and history’ and contemporary phenomena ranging from mass incarceration of non-violent offenders, to ‘Stand Your Ground’ and concealed-carry laws, to attacks on ‘looters’ and ‘parasites,’ and to the undermining of public schools and the social safety net."