On Friday President Obama, in an informal briefing in the Rose Garden instead of the usual press room of the White House, reiterated his earlier statement that Trayvon Martin, the young man killed in the Sanford, Florida, shooting in February 2012, “could have been my son.” Said Obama:
You know, when Trayvon Martin was first shot I said that this could have been my son. Another way of saying that is Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago.
And then he expanded on his remarks in which he attempted to describe the experience many young black men allegedly have in today’s society:
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 then he capped his remarks off with his conclusion: If Martin had been white, there would likely have been no shooting:
If a white male teen was involved in the same kind of scenario, that, from top to bottom, both the outcome and the aftermath might have been different.
The president neglected to say that, according to the jury decision in George Zimmerman's trial, if Martin had truly been an innocent person, nothing would have happened the night of the shooting either, regardless of his race. If Martin was innocent and proceeded to walk to his father's house, without stopping to confront Zimmerman, he would still be alive. If he hadn't sucker-punched Zimmerman in the face, jumped on top of him, and began beating Zimmerman's head into the ground, he would still be alive today, regardless of his race.
Although the president’s remarks appeared to be casual and off-the-cuff, they actually were the result not only of pressure applied by black radicals, such as Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, for the president to speak out on an issue that wasn't an issue — namely, race — but also followed a closed meeting of five of the president’s advisors on Thursday evening. They were carefully crafted for maximum impact, as noted by one of his aides:
You often don’t hear him speak about this sort of thing; it’s just not something he does all the time, but it’s obvious that it was very personal to him.
And he spoke about it in a very personal way, in a way no one else could even imagine him saying. Even I got a little emotional hearing him talk about it.
The president said not one word about George Zimmerman, who received a not guilty verdict on Tuesday, but also failed to say anything about Martin’s background as a truant, a thug, a liar, a thief, a schoolyard bully, and a doper. And yet all that information was available to the president if he cared to use it. Obviously, it didn't fit the message he was trying to deliver.
During the discovery process in May 2012, the defense team for Zimmerman got the first glimpse of just who Martin really was, in data contained in 67 compact discs. Included were texts from Martin’s cellphone going back to November 2011 and photos of Martin other than the one the press used to generate public sympathy — a hooded innocent gunned down by a white racist.
As the Miami Herald noted in its article the month after the incident, “Weed, fights and guns,” a broader, deeper and uglier picture of Zimmerman’s attacker emerged:
As thousands of people gathered here to demand an arrest in the Trayvon Martin case, a more complicated portrait began to emerge of a teenager whose problems at school ranged from getting spotted defacing lockers to getting caught with a marijuana baggie and women’s jewelry.
In October, 2011, Martin was caught on a school surveillance video defacing lockers with obscenities using a magic marker pen. The police investigator said Martin was “hiding and being suspicious.” When the officer confronted Martin the next day he found Martin’s backpack contained some women’s jewelry — a watch, some silver wedding bands and diamond-encrusted earrings. Martin told the officer, “They’re not mine. A friend gave it to me.” Continuing his search, the officer found a large flat-headed screwdriver which the officer described as a burglar’s tool. The jewelry was turned over to the police and Martin was suspended for defacing school property.
Four months later Martin was caught with a baggie containing “traces” of marijuana along with a marijuana pipe.
It was at this time that his mother, Sybrina Fulton (who had divorced her husband Tracy Martin back in 1999 when Trayvon was four but who conveniently showed up with her ex to attend Zimmerman’s trial) kicked him out of the house and told him to go live with his father in Sanford. It was there that the run-in with Zimmerman occurred on February 26.
Martin’s text messages revealed a teenager just looking for trouble. In a highly redacted 10-page listing of his phone texts, Martin revealed a life of a marijuana smoker (one of his friends called him a “weed head”), and schoolyard bully who had been involved in at least three fistfights and threatened more in order to “get even,” and had shown an interest in obtaining a gun from another friend: “U wanna share a .380?” asked Martin at one point.
Photos released as part of the discovery process but not allowed in the courtroom as “not relevant” revealed an arrogant teen showing off his gold teeth and his disrespect for normal decorum with obscene gestures and threatening countenances.
Such was the background of the young man portrayed by the media as an innocent “hoodie” gunned down by Zimmerman. But there was one piece of evidence that surfaced during the trial: Zimmerman’s defense attorney Don West provided an expert who told the jury that there was enough marijuana in Martin’s system the night of the incident sufficient to create “some level of impairment.”
In all, the effort by President Obama to portray Martin as the innocent victim of a racist attack — so innocent that Obama said he “could have been my son” — fails when all the evidence is considered. Martin was looking for trouble — possibly an opportunity to burgle a residence in his father’s complex — and he found it in the person of Zimmerman, whose interest was in keeping people and property safe in the gated community of The Retreat at Twin Lakes in Sanford, Florida, on the night of February 26, 2012.
Photo of the gun taken with Trayvon's cellphone
A graduate of Cornell University and a former investment advisor, Bob is a regular contributor to The New American magazine and blogs frequently at www.LightFromTheRight.com, primarily on economics and politics. He can be reached at