Obama: Trayvon Martin 'could have been me'

President Obama speaks about Trayvon Martin at the White House on July 19.

President Obama addresses the George Zimmerman verdict and the Trayvon Martin case's aftermath in an unannounced appearance at a press briefing.

WASHINGTON — Speaking to reporters at the White House, President Barack Obama said Friday that "Trayvon Martin could have been me" and that few African-American men in the United States haven't experienced racial profiling.

The president made an unannounced appearance at a White House press briefing to address the aftermath of the Florida case that has put a spotlight on issues of race and violence. A neighborhood watch volunteer, George Zimmerman, was acquitted last week in the shooting death of Martin, 17, who was unarmed.

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African-Americans view the case through "a set of experiences and a history that doesn't go away," Obama said. He said that black men in particular are used to being feared and blacks see a disparity in the way they are treated under the law.

He said he understands the feeling among African-Americans "that if a white male teen was involved in the same kind of scenario that, from top to bottom, that both the outcome and the aftermath might have been different."

The president has said little about the case since addressing it in a brief statement in March of last year, when it first came to national attention. In that appearance, Obama said that "if I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon" and that "I can only imagine what these parents are going through."

The president also called for the case to be thoroughly investigated and for Americans to "do some soul-searching to figure out how something like this has happened."

Obama gave a brief statement on Sunday, a day after the Zimmerman verdict. On Friday, he reiterated his message from last year, saying, "It's going to be important for all of us to do some soul-searching."

Obama recalled hearing drivers lock their doors and has seen women clutch their purses tighter when he walked by, before he was elected to public office.

Read a transcript of President Obama's remarks

He said that political efforts to orchestrate a national conversation on race haven't been effective, but that the nation needs to look for ways to bolster young African-American men. He added that it would be useful "to examine some state and local laws to see if they are designed in such a way that they may encourage the kinds of confrontation" that led to Martin's death.

We aren't living in a "post-racial" society, Obama said, but "things are getting better." He remarked on the difference between the world his daughters grow up in and the world that past generations of African-Americans knew.

"When I talk to Malia and Sasha and I listen to their friends and I see them interact, they’re better than we are," Obama said. "They’re better than we were on these issues"

He concluded: "On this long and difficult journey, we are becoming a more perfect union. Not a perfect union, but a more perfect union."

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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