• AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
  • State and local laws that may lead to the kind of tragedy that happened in Florida ought to be reconsidered, the president 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,” President Obama said in an unscheduled address at the White House this afternoon. “That includes me. And there are very few African-American men who haven’t had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That happened to me, at least before I was a senator. There are very few African-Americans who haven’t had the experience of getting on an elevator, and a woman clutching her purse nervously, and holding her breath until she had a chance to get off.”

“Those sets of experiences inform how the African-American community interprets what happened one night in Florida,” the president said. “And it’s inescapable for people to bring those experiences to bear.”

Obama was addressing the reaction of blacks to the acquittal Saturday of George Zimmerman in the fatal shooting in Florida last year of Trayvon Martin, the African-American 17-year-old.

The president said African-Americans were well aware of “a history of racial disparities in the application of our criminal laws, everything from the death penalty to enforcement of our drug laws. And that ends up having an impact in terms of how people interpret the case.