It Could Have Been Me

Recently, President Obama made a spontaneous appearance prior to a press briefing at the White House to offer his perspective on the verdict  in the Trayvon Martin shooting.

Here’s an excerpt of what he said:

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.  I think it’s important to recognize that the African- American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that doesn’t go away.

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.  And 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 happened 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.

President Obama is correct in stating that marginalized people view circumstances through their unique experiences and history. As a woman, I can attest to that. You see, there isn’t a female on the planet who hasn’t learned at a very young age that boys and men are dangerous. She learns that her safety is not guaranteed in a world of males, and vigilance is her salvation. She learns that she is not free.

And yes, she learns to be fearful of men in elevators, black or white, young or old.

Until we can trust each other, we should at least do no harm. That means leave the firearms at home. Better to be in an elevator with your car keys than a gun. You just might be wrong.

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