President Barack Obama at the White House on Friday, July 19, 2013. (Getty Images)
100 cities are planning rallies against Stand Your Ground laws for Saturday. Atlanta is one of them.
WASHINGTON (USA Today) -- President Obama said Friday that Americans should respect the George Zimmerman verdict, but white Americans should also understand the problems of racism.
"Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 yeas ago," Obama said during a surprise appearance in the White House briefing room.
RELATED: Former Pres. Jimmy Carter speaks on Zimmerman acquittal
Obama said he himself has been subjected to casual prejudice, even as senators, but also said African Americans needed to address the problems of violence in their own communities.
As the Justice Department investigates whether to charge Zimmerman with civil rights violations in the wake of Trayvon's 2012 death, Obama said state and local governments should examine whether changes to laws can head off violent confrontations.
Obama said all Americans should do "soul-searching" in the wake of the verdict and the reactions to it, but questioned whether a full-blown "national conversion" would do much good if too many politicians or pundits were involved.
Borrowing a quote from Lincoln, Obama said people should appeal to "the better angels" of human natures, rather than using incidents like Travyvon's death and Zimmerman's acquittal to "heighten divisions."
Obama also said that Americans should realize that, over the course of decades, American race relations have improved.
"I don't want us to lose sight of the fact that things are getting better," Obama said.
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