Obama, Trayvon and the Problem That Won’t Be Named

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 During his surprise remarks about the George Zimmerman verdict Friday, President Obama talked at length not only about race, but also about his experience as a black man in America. Obama’s comments remain as conflicted as they were sometimes brave—evidenced by some of the suspicion and vitriol lodged against him in mainstream, independent and social media following the press conference. The short speech stands out as one of the few times that the president has talked explicitly about race and the problem of racism. But Obama’s remarks are also notable for what he did not address, and what so rarely gets addressed when we discuss racism today: white America’s responsibility for it.

Obama rightly claimed that he could have been Trayvon Martin 35 years ago. Those who immediately took to Twitter to remind us that Obama didn’t grow up in a ghetto are correct. But they should be reminded that Sanford, Fla., is a majority white, yet mixed neighborhood—and far from a ghetto. Those who remind us that Obama attended private schools should know that racism remains alive and well in those institutions. Yes, Obama attended Columbia University in the early 80s—during a time when a whites-only fellowship was offered; in fact, the fellowship never went away. And yes, Obama attended Harvard University, just up the street from where professor Henry Louis Gates was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct four years ago—on suspicion that he was breaking into what turned out to be his own home. Those who think that racial profiling somehow only happens in “ghettos,” which in this case is code for black neighborhoods often orchestrated for poverty, should be informed that black bodies are even blacker among white ones.

But Barack Obama hasn’t only attended institutions that have historically created unfair advantages for white students, or questioned black professors who teach there. Read more here.