President Obama issued an eloquent statement today on the Trayvon Martin case, carefully avoiding saying anything that might prejudice the investigation, but still showing amazing empathy for the affected family. The most touching part came at the end, when the president said that if he had a son, he would look like Trayvon.
We have had presidents who could show empathy with the victims of tragedy before, but this statement still represents something different. From now on, a black teenager in a hoodie can no longer be viewed as the "other." He could be the president's son. He could be the son of any of us. That change comes not just because we have a black president, but also because of President Obama's ability to see the victim of this tragedy as one of us, as a member of our family, rather than as someone from outside our life experience on whom we should nevertheless take pity.
Instead of looking at the world from the point of view of a so-called neighborhood watch patroller on the lookout for bad guys who might threaten or scare us, we should try to see the world from the point of view of a kid walking home from the corner store with a candy and soda. That kid deserved better than to be treated with suspicion and distrust. He deserved to be treated as parents would want their son to be treated.