President Barach Obama made a surprise visit to the White House briefing room on Friday, to make some deeply personal comments on the Trayvon Martin case. Obama didn't talk about the jury verdict in Florida that acquitted George Zimmerman, the Neighborhood Watch volunteer who shot Martin in a struggle after confronting him for walking through Zimmerman's neighborhood.
Instead, the president talked about how it is to be a young black man in America, to have shopkeeper's eyes following you as you shop, to hear door locks click as you walk down the street, to have women clutch their purses tighter when you get on the elevator with them.
Martin drew Zimmerman's attention and suspicion just by walking down the street after a trip to a nearby convenience store, his hoodie pulled up against the rain. Was it Martin's color that made him suspicious enough that Zimmerman felt the need to get out of his car and confront him?
Many commentators have pointed out in the past week that crime statistics indicated there may indeed be reason to be suspicious of young black men. They do commit a disproportionate number of crimes.
But that doesn't make all young black men criminals. The president's remarks illuminated the reasons for the pain that the black society is feeling after Trayvon Martin's death. It gives us all a reason to pause and think about our own attitudes on race relations in this nation.