President Obama surprised reporters in the White House briefing room to comment on the George Zimmerman trial, noting that “reasonable doubt is relevant” in a murder trial and speaking in personal terms about his experiences with the kind of racial profiling that outraged black Americans who think Trayvon Martin was unjustly targeted.

“in a case such as this, reasonable doubt was relevant, and they rendered a verdict,”  Obama said conclusively, before turning to the question of why this case received national attention, especially among the African American community. “And once the jury’s spoken, that’s how our system works.”

“Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago,” he said. “And when you think about why, in the African- American community at least, there’s a lot of pain around what happened here, I think it’s important to recognize that the African- American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that — that doesn’t go away.”

“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 meHe added that analogous experiences include a woman who holds tightly to her purse when a black man gets in an elevator, or hearing the sounds of car doors lock when crossing the street.

“That happens to me, at least before I was a senator,” he said.

Obama also emphasized that the African American community recognizes that young black men commit a “disproportionate” amount of crime and are disproportionately victimized by criminals.

“It’s not to make excuses for that fact, although black folks do interpret the reasons for that in a historical context,” he explained. “We understand that some of the violence that takes place in poor black neighborhoods around the country is born out of a very violent past in this country, and that the poverty and dysfunction that we see in those communities can be traced to a very difficult history.”

“Each successive generation seems to be making progress,” he concluded hopefully, citing his daughters’ friendships. “They’re better than we are; they’re better than we were on these issues, and that’s true of every community that I’ve visited across this country.”