Political Animal


March 23, 2012 11:38 AM “If I Had a Son, He’d Look Like Trayvon”

By Ed Kilgore

Ta-Nehisi Coates, who has done as much as anyone to bring the Trayvon Martin case to national attention, said of President Obama’s comments this morning:

Stunning. Pitch perfect. No idea how it’ll play. Don’t care right now. Maybe I’ll care later. But for now, I just felt it was a stunning exercise in political minimalism. That’s a compliment

You can judge for yourself:

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Ron Byers on March 23, 2012 11:51 AM:

    That is a brilliant comment.

  • John B. on March 23, 2012 11:52 AM:

    Yes. (He says in a hopeful tone.) Here, the power of this simple statement is that it reveals the absurdity of Rivera's implicit all-dark-skinned-teens-are-hoods paradigm. It reveals the diversity of black experience.

    And if someone says, Well, Obama is a hood, too, that says far more about the person saying it than it does Obama.

  • stevio on March 23, 2012 11:54 AM:

    Trayvon looks like everyone's son.

    Every parent should substitute Trayvon's face for that of their own son. What happened there is a classic example of what happens when hate, fear, and paranoia supplants honest discourse, common sense, and justice.


  • gregor on March 23, 2012 12:01 PM:

    The sad thing is that the Republican Party is too far gone for any reasonableness let alone the touching sentiments expressed by Obama to make any difference.

    They have decided that Obama is the devil, and has to be destroyed with all there might. Now even if the leaders change their minds due to some miraculous event, the views of the Republican masses will remain unaltered for a long time.

    Perhaps this should not have been unexpected, given the transformative nature of the 2008 election.

  • T2 on March 23, 2012 12:02 PM:

    When some say "we have to take our country back"....this is the result.

    I'm sure the Right Wing/TeaBag talk shows will have a field day with Mr.Obama's comment. And with their words, we'll have the answer of "how could this happen?"

  • TCinLA on March 23, 2012 12:11 PM:

    For those who don't know Sanford FL, Dave Zirin had a small history lesson in his Edge of Sports column (even if you don't like sports, like me, Dave Zirin is a must-read) about Sanford FL. Things like this have gone on there a looooooooong time:

    The city of Sanford also has a past that speaks to the racism many believe to be at the heart of why Trayvon was killed and why the man who pulled the trigger was never arrested. I'm not arguing that Sanford, Florida is somehow more or less twisted than anywhere else...
    But Sanford, Florida does have its own history and it includes a collective moment of intolerance and bigotry that almost derailed the man Martin Luther King called “a freedom rider before freedom rides,” Jackie Robinson.

    Before Robinson broke Major League Baseball’s color line in 1947 as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers, he spent a season desegregating the minor leagues, playing for the Dodgers AAA team, the Montreal Royals. The Royals held Spring Training in Sanford.

    Dodgers General Manager Branch Rickey, after so many years, thought he knew Florida. He believed that Robinson’s presence could go over if efforts were taken to ruffle as few feathers as possible. Robinson, on Rickey’s instructions, didn't try to stay at any Sanford hotels. He and his wife didn’t eat out at any restaurants not deemed “Negro restaurants." He didn't even dress in the same locker room as his teammates.

    Rickey thought that would be enough. He thought he knew Florida. But he didn't know Sanford.

    As Jean West, a school teacher in Florida, wrote, "Branch Rickey had miscalculated the degree to which Jim Crow was entrenched in Sanford. As an example, an inanimate object, a second-hand piano, purchased in 1924 from the courthouse for use in a segregated school in nearby Oviedo, was filed as a 'Negro Piano' in the school board's record; living human beings challenging segregation certainly would not be tolerated."

    It wasn't. The mayor of Sanford was confronted by what the author describes as a "large group of white residents" who "demanded that Robinson... be run out of town."

    The Mayor caved. On March 5th, the Royals were informed that they would not be permitted to take the field as an integrated group.

    The team then took an extraordinary step. Rickey, moved the entire Dodger pre-season camp from Sanford, Florida, to Daytona Beach due to the oppressive conditions of Sanford. That sounds heroic and it speaks well for Rickey's fierce desire to forge ahead with “the Great Experiment”, racists be damned. But the mob in Sanford had made, at least for the moment, a successful stand.

  • stormskies on March 23, 2012 12:21 PM:

    President Obama is a naturally caring person who can empathize with the emotions of all of us. Yesterday, for example, a person who is deaf was next to Obama at some event and signed a message to him in which Obama signed back.

    Here is the story from C&L

    POTUS' Sign Language
    By scarce
    Crossposted from Video Cafe

    via Distriction, in a blog post called "Sign of the Times":

    Stephon stood just a few feet away from Barack Obama. The president, busy shaking hands, looked right at him. “It was like he was waiting for me to say something,” he said later.

    So the 26-year-old Prince George’s Community College student took his cue and spoke to President Obama in his first language: American Sign Language. “I am proud of you,” Stephon signed. The president, almost involuntary, instinctively, immediately signed back.

    “Thank you,” Obama replied.

    This is one of those moments that humanize the office of the presidency.

    And recounted in Stephon's own words:

    The moment I will never forget was when he looked at me. He gave me a chance to talk to him. It was like he was waiting for me to say something. I took the moment and signed “I am proud of you,” and his response was “Thank u” in sign language back! Oh my gosh! I was like wow! He understood me after I said I was proud of him. It was so amazing…I was just speechless. Right after he thanked me, he smiled at another deaf lady who signed “I love you.” When I shook his hand it did not feel like he was superior to me. He was just a humble man. I am just impressed by him and know that he will have my vote and he will win second term without a doubt. Yeah, I feel safe to have him for another term.

    Team Obama have added the video to their own YouTube channel, here.

  • n bates on March 23, 2012 12:43 PM:

    Right-wingers are griping about Obama's comment - well it's OK with me but it would help to find more precedent out there (and I didn't have time to read all the post and comments), so what's the scoop on Presidents commenting in personal ways about what's going on?

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on March 23, 2012 12:54 PM:

    @stormskies: I saw the sign language video (even Michelle's, too) and went all Bieber-fever school girl!!!! I think I'll have the warm and gushy fuzzies all day... How such a small gesture (or turn of phrase) speaks volumes for his humanity.

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on March 23, 2012 1:22 PM:

    It's really nice that Obama phrased it the way he did. He could have easily detached himself from the issue by giving a generic, bureaucratic, canned press-release-safe response. Or, worse, went all Uncle Ruckus a la Geraldo Rivera, as I know certain black people have been known to do when these kinds of unfortunate situations occur. It's not like people who don't think highly of black/brown/"other" people are terribly discriminating in who they choose to target.

  • schtick on March 23, 2012 1:58 PM:

    With the way some of the wackos are blaming the victim and sticking up for Zimmerman, anything they may say about Obama's statement on the issue wouldn't surprise me in the least.
    We already know where they would stand and what they would be saying about a black man shooting an unarmed 17 yr old white boy. Enuff said.

  • T-Rex on March 23, 2012 2:09 PM:

    That was a beautiful statement, and he very wisely avoided anything that would look like jumping to conclusions. I'm glad he said that we have to examine the context, i.e. the "stand your ground" law, as well as the specific incident. I'd add to his comment "If I had a son he'd look like Trayvon" that the pictures of Trayvon remind me of a lot of people's sons, black, white and Asian among others (and when I say "Asian," I'm thinking of the innocent young Japanese exchange student who was shot to death by a homeowner after ringing the wrong doorbell, and not knowing the word "freeze.") Trayvon was a nice-looking kid with a sweet smile and his whole life ahead of him. You don't even have to have children of your own to feel for his family.

    By the way, the first words Captha gave me were in the Hebrew alphabet. I'm all for multiculturalism, but my keyboard isn't. Sheesh, give us a break!

  • left reach on March 23, 2012 2:22 PM:

    I had just arrived home and turned on the television--what a touching, reflective and amazing statement from the president. A tear jerker for me.

    And not a minute later, there's Rick Santorum's previously stated remarks that if Mitt Romeny is the nominee, we should stay with the president and re-elect him.
    I bet that reaches the independents no matter how he walks it back.

  • Hedda Peraz on March 23, 2012 2:30 PM:

    Civilization- still a work in progress.
    Most especially, right here in the USA.

  • Danny on March 23, 2012 2:46 PM:


    Re: Captcha. It's only the other word - the one that's always in the same font - that you actually have to get right. The word that looks like it was scanned from a book - you can just type in whatever.

  • Anonymous on March 23, 2012 8:30 PM:

    thoughtful comment without sensationalizing.

    by the way, i looked up what political minimalism is on wikipedia.
    it is a very interesting way to judge obama's stance.

    i still don't know what conservatism means in US these days. i know generally what liberalism is in the term of economics, foreign policies and political terms.

    funny thing today is that "conservatives" today on TV love to use the language of liberals such as constitutional liberty, limited government and individual responsibility.
    but in reality it's still liberals that oppose wars, military expansion, overreaching of big businesses and organized religions or police based on those liberal principles.

  • jeanne marie on March 23, 2012 9:24 PM:

    This is just sad. Some people can not see beyond skin color.