On Friday, President Obama briefly addressed the Trayvon Martin killing, in response to a reporter’s question. Though cautious because the matter is still under investigation, Obama said, “Obviously, this is a tragedy. I can only imagine what these parents are going through. And when I think about this boy, I think about my own kids…. If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.”
The president added, in reference to Martin’s family, “I think they are right to expect that all of us as Americans are going to take this with the seriousness it deserves.” Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich, after hearing Obama’s comments, decided “seriousness” wasn’t his preferred option.
The former House Speaker told Sean Hannity that the president’s comments were “disgraceful” and “appalling.” How on earth could Obama’s response be perceived this way? Well, I’ll just let Gingrich explain: “It’s not a question of who that young man looked like. Any young American of any ethnic background should be safe, period…. Is the president suggesting that if it had been a white who had been shot, that would be OK because it didn’t look like him? That’s just nonsense dividing this country up…. Trying to turn it into a racial issue is fundamentally wrong.”
First, anyone outraged by Obama’s comments on Friday probably didn’t hear Obama’s comments on Friday. Second, the president didn’t turn this matter “into a racial issue”; the shooter did.
Third, given Gingrich’s recent record on race – remember in December when he said black youths should be cleaning school bathrooms so they don’t become pimps or drug dealers? – maybe he should steer clear of claiming the high ground on respect for racial diversity.
And finally, as Amanda Peterson Beadle noted yesterday, even some Republicans aren’t on board with Gingrich’s nonsense. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said yesterday, “We all know there’s a racial component to this…. I think the criticism by our guys was a little off-base.”
Only “a little”?