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How President Obama 'Showed His Brother Card'

President Obama during his appearance at the White House on Friday.
Saul Loeb
AFP/Getty Images
President Obama during his appearance at the White House on Friday.

(Click here for updates we added after this post was published.)

Among the many commentaries after President Obama's personal remarks Friday about the prejudices that African-American men still deal with and the emotions that the Travyon Martin case has raised, there's this from Radio One Detroit host Angelo Henderson on All Things Considered:

"He showed his brother card. He talked about being an African-American, [about] being racially profiled as a kid. ... He connected with so many African-American men who have been in those same situations. ... He revealed that, yes, he's part of this community."

We'll add the broadcast version of his conversation with NPR's Audie Cornish to the top of this post later.

We're also watching for more commentaries.

At the National Journal, Jill Lawrence (who this blogger worked with for many years at USA Today), writes:

"Though his apparently unscripted comments in the White House press briefing room drew scorn and even accusations of racism from some on the right, he was right to try to lay out a constructive, non-political path forward. It would have been a missed opportunity – a huge missed opportunity – if America had not heard firsthand from its first black president at a moment like this."

But Ari Fleischer, a White House press secretary during President George W. Bush's time in office, asks "why did it take the Trayvon Martin case for the president to come out and raise some of these very valid issues that it would be constructive for our nation to talk about in a unified fashion?"


8:15 p.m. ET. Obama "Set The Right Tone," Says National Urban League President:

"I think he set the right tone and had the right message and helped the country take a step towards a better understand of why there is such outrage," National Urban League President Marc Morial tells NPR's Brakkton Booker. "My own hope is the statement today is not only the beginning of a conversation but actual steps to confront the great challenges that we face as a nation."

To those who argue the president should not say there's a need for a national conversation about race (he made the case it shouldn't be led by politicians but "in families and churches and workplaces") — Morial rejects "a chorus that would suggest we all just ignore the elephant in the room. ... That's the height of irresponsibility. It doesn't acknowledge something that is very real that people talk about privately all the time — that's been part of kitchen table, boardroom, street corner conversation since this verdict came down."

8 p.m. ET. A "Bridge To Whites" Or Signal There Won't Be A Federal Case?

NPR's Frank James writes on It's All Politics that Obama's "African-Americaness ... allowed him to speak so personally and honestly about the Martin-Zimmerman case and to be the bridge to whites that might help them better understand what so many blacks have been experiencing."

Paul Mirengoff, on the conservative Power Line blog, thinks that "Obama's personalized and other musings about race in the first part of his talk were designed in part to make walking away from federal prosecution of Zimmerman more palatable to blacks. By convincing African-Americans that he really is a black president, he positions himself to receive less blowback for not persecuting Zimmerman to the max."

7:55 p.m. ET. Praise And Criticism.

-- From columnist Charles Krauthammer on Fox News' Special Report: Obama gave "a political speech addressed to his constituency on the left, which I thought was unfortunate. ... Look, I gave him and [Attorney Gen. Eric] Holder credit all week for trying to de-racialize the issue. And what Obama did, I think, unfortunately, today is to reracialize it."

-- From the editorial board of The New York Times: "President Obama did something today that he hardly ever does — and no other president could ever have done. He addressed the racial fault lines in the country by laying bare his personal anguish and experience in an effort to help white Americans understand why African Americans reacted with frustration and anger to the acquittal of George Zimmerman for shooting Trayvon Martin. ... It is a great thing for this country to have a president who could do what Mr. Obama did today. It is sad that we still need him to do it."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.
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