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Friday, July 19, 2013

Obama’s Remarks on Race Prompt Emotional Outpouring on Twitter

Twitter erupted after President Obama spoke Friday in deeply personal terms about his experience as a black man in the United States, as he sought to explain the perspective of African-Americans in the aftermath of the verdict in the Trayvon Martin case.

Many people thanked the president for openly discussing what has been a frustrating and painful time for many African-Americans. As my colleague John Eligon reported, many black parents have struggled in recent days to explain to their children how an unarmed teenager on his way home from a store could have been killed and no one convicted of a crime.

Among those who praised Mr. Obama’s remarks was Robert Zimmerman Jr., the brother of George Zimmerman, who was tried and found not guilty in the shooting death of Mr. Martin because the jury believed he was acting in self-defense.

“I’m glad he spoke out today,” Mr. Zimmerman said in an interview on Fox News. “And no matter what your opinion of the verdict is, there have to be things that bring us together. There have to be teachable moments that we learn from what happened here.”

He also posted on Twitter:

Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, the parents of Trayvon Martin, said in the opening paragraphs of a statement:

We are deeply honored and moved that President Obama took the time to speak publicly and at length about our son, Trayvon. The president’s comments give us great strength at this time. We are thankful for President Obama’s and Michelle’s prayers, and we ask for your prayers as well as we continue to move forward.

We know that the death of our son Trayvon, the trial and the not guilty verdict have been deeply painful and difficult for many people. We know our family has become a conduit for people to talk about race in America and to try and talk about the difficult issues that we need to bring into the light in order to become a better people.

Many of the thanks came from young black people, who have been part of a national conversation about race on social media since Mr. Martin was killed in February 2012.

Mr. Obama had been criticized in recent days, including by Jesse Jackson, for not addressing the impact of the verdict on the black community. On CNN, Mr. Jackson called on the president to offer “moral leadership.”

Such leadership, a Twitter user who identified himself as a “strong black man” said, is “all we want from him.”

One Twitter user speculated that Mr. Obama had needed some time before making his thoughts public.

Others viewed his remarks as “stoking racial tension” in the United States, as one Twitter user, identified as Scott Good, posted.

With the president speaking openly about the effect his race has had on ordinary moments in life, some people took the opportunity to share their own experiences with racism and discrimination.

Others wondered why it was a surprise to anyone that Mr. Obama would discuss race.