Rev. Al Sharpton called the president comments “significant” and “much needed.”
Trayvon Martin’s parents said the president made a “beautiful tribute to their boy” and shared that they were “honored and moved” by his words.
However, talk show host Tavis Smiley, one of Obama’s most vocal African-American critics, was quick to dismiss the president on Twitter.
“Took POTUS almost a week to show up and express mild outrage. And still, it was as weak as pre-sweetened Kool-Aid,” tweeted Smiley.
The backlash to Smiley’s broadside was just as swift, with numerous Twitter users calling him out for being “pathetic.”
The president told the press that “Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago.”
He was very critical of Stand Your Ground laws around the country, challenging their effectiveness and enforcement.
“If Trayvon Martin was of age and was armed, could he have stood his ground on that sidewalk?” Obama asked. “If the answer to that question is at least ambiguous, then it seems to me that we should examine those laws.”
The president also specifically addressed why emotions over the Zimmerman verdict were running especially high in the black community.
“The African-American community is looking at this through a set of experiences and history that doesn’t go away,” he said. “There are very few African-American men in this country who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store. That includes me.”