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Blog Home > CEO Joe Jones Shares His Thoughts on President Obama's Remarks About the Trayvon Martin Case With the New York Times
CEO Joe Jones Shares His Thoughts on President Obama's Remarks About the Trayvon Martin Case With the New York Times
[This article orginally appeared on The New York Times website on July 19, 2013.]
By: Erick Eckholm

"Wow" is what Joseph Jones of Baltimore said after watching President Obama's unexpected and deeply personal plea on race and crime on Friday.

"Wow" repeated Mr. Jones, who as the president of the Center for Urban Families in Baltimore promotes job skills and "responsible fatherhood" training for young men, many of whom know the criminal justice system from the inside.

Like many black Americans, Mr. Jones felt a surge of pride, recognition and hope, he said, when he heard the first African-American president speak so candidly about issues that are of desperate concern within the black community but are often ignored in political debates.

"We've grown in our society where the leader of the free world can come out in the bully pulpit and talk honestly about race and young black men," Mr. Jones said. But the true test of progress will be if another, nonblack president can be so honest, he added.

Mr. Obama's remarks, at the daily White House press briefing, stirred immediate and emotional reactions around the country. Many people, black and white, expressed appreciation that the president had ventured beyond the debate over Stand Your Ground laws to broach delicate subjects like the high crime rate among young black men and the profiling and fearful responses that many black men say they face, corroding their faith in the justice system and themselves.

Stil, some of the president's detractors responded with skepticism about his motives or even anger at what they saw as a divisive injection of race into the case of George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin, and what some saw as a sly call for gun control and easing up on crime. Others expressed sadness, saying that the president seemed to be saying that the nation's racial divide would never end.

"The great achievement of our society, the possibility of not talking about race even farther away and maybe out of reach forever," said Joseph A. Davis, a shop owner in Boca Raton, after listening to Mr. Obama speak.

On Twitter, a line from the President's remarks posted on his White House account - "Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago" - was shared more than 6,700 times in the first three hours after the speech.

Trayvon Martin's parents issued a statement thanking the president.

"President Obama sees himself in Trayvon and identifies with him," said the parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin. "This is a beautiful tribute to our boy."

"We applaud the president's call to action to bring communities together to encourage an open and difficult dialogue," they said.

In Florida, Arthenia L. Joyner, a state senator and 1960s civil rights advocate who will serve as Senate Democratic leader in 2014, said the speech was important because it came from a black president who had experience profiling himself.

"I think he laid it out for some folks who don't know how black folks feel about what happens to black boys in this country," she said.  

John H. McWhorter, a black profesor of linguistics and American studies at Columbia University who is know for contrarian views on racial issues, said he felt that Mr. Obama had exaggerated the daily racism felt by most blacks and thet he personally had never experienced, as Mr. Obama said he did, feaful reactions from white people he passed in the streets.

But Mr. McWhorter said he was hopeful that the Martin case and Mr. Obama's response could trigger a national look at the ways the police treat young black men, the destructive impact of the war on drugs, and the proliferation of guns and laws that almost encourage their use.

"This is an opportunity for nonblack America to see that these things matter greatly to black America," he said.  

But even some longtime civil rights advocates were more skeptical about the potential impact of Mr. Obama's remarks. "We're kidding ourselves if we think we've made major headway on the issue of racism," said one veteran of the movement, the Rev. Nelson Johnson, 70, of Greensboro, N.C.

Among some conservative advocates of guns rights, the president's comments sparked darker suspicions.

"it is a deep exploitation of events to further gun control," Paul Valone, president of Grass Roots North Carolina, said of Friday's remarks. "They will stoop to any depth to make this happen. Even a race relations argument should be irrelevant to this case."
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COMMENTS
Gary Williams JANUARY 9 2014
This case was an eye opener. It proved to show how crooked the system still is. Allowing a man to get away with murder. IF you followed all the facts within the case, there was no excuse for why Zimmerman had to kill Treyvon. I am proud that President Obama publicly spoke on this issue. Putting it out there for everyone to see. This problem exists everywhere we go. We (people of all races) are not criminals. We are free to walk wherever we want. Not one person should ever be above the law for anything. And I feel that he should have been found guilty and placed in jail for 1st Degree murder. I am constantly watching my back wherever I go at night due to fact I was robbed at gunpoint twice. I don't care what color or neighborhood I am in. That is just me because of the trauma that I went through. I sincerely send my prayers to the Martin family for their loss. And I hope that we can all grow from this as a nation and not allow this to push us back into the pass from which we have suppose to have grown from.
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