Following President Obama's personal remarks on the Trayvon Martin shooting and racial issues in the U.S., politicians and civil rights leaders are considering what steps to take next to advance racial equality and improve race relations. The suggestions have included federal racial profiling legislation, a review of "stand your ground" laws, and even congressional district-swapping.
"This conversation at the grassroots level, at the community level, within boardrooms and suites also has just begun," Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League, said on NBC's "Meet the Press." He pointed to theon Saturday, where citizens called for federal intervention in the Martin case as well as changes to laws like Florida's controversial "stand your ground" rule.
George Zimmerman initially cited the "stand your ground" rule after fatally shooting 17-year-old Martin last year, though the law was not cited in his legal defense. About a week ago, a Florida jury acquitted Zimmerman of murder charges.
On Friday, President Obamaand laid out steps the government could take moving forward. He called for a further look at "stand your ground" laws, as well as racial sensitivity training for police officers.
On CNN's "State of the Union," Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said that "stand your ground" laws may have to be reviewed in Florida and other states where they exist, including his home state of Arizona. "I'm confident that the members of the Arizona legislature will, because it is a very controversial legislation," he said.
McCain also talked about ways to help African-American youth.
"We cannot be complacent in our society when we still have a dramatic disparity between black youth unemployment and non-black youth unemployment when we have these still contradictions in our society," he said. "So, do we have to continue and emphasize affirmative action programs? Yes, without quotas. Do we have to do a lot of things in America? If you can salvage anything about this... national clash of ideas, of thoughts about this Trayvon Martin case, it is that we've still got a long way to go."
Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), noted on "Meet the Press" that the CBC is already drafting legislation to address racial profiling.
"If we start to do things from the congressional perspective, maybe they can help," she said. "Let me just say this. I don't care how many laws you put in place. You cannot legislate against prejudice or bias or racism. You cannot do it. And so all we can do is the best we can."
On CNN's "State of the Union," former House Speaker Newt Gingrich suggested that members of Congress could be more racially tolerant if they swapped districts temporarily.
"I've been working for six months to try to get the black caucus and the House Republicans to swap districts," he said. "I think nothing would be more helpful than to get three days of the black member going into a Republican district and three days of that Republican going into a black district."
Asked whether he'd be willing to spend a few days in the Georgia district that Gingrich formerly represented, Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., said, "I would do it in a heartbeat."
Gingrich criticized Rush for representing Chicago, "the most violent city in America," but failing to move forward any solution in Congress.
"You have a congressman whose own district is bleeding, who puts on a hoodie as a symbolic act, but he doesn't do anything about the gangs in his own district," he said, pointing to the high rates of gang activity in Chicago, adding that "No one wants to have an honest conversation about it."
Rush pointed out that, in fact, he and other Illinois congressmen, along with other members of the CBC, are spearheading a National Summit on Urban Violence that will take place in Chicago later this week.
"I'm astounded and ashamed about this violence. But this is also systemic to an overall problem," Rush said. "Understand there is a real serious issue of disinvestment in our communities. Disinvestment."} }
In his remarks Friday, Mr. Obama alluded to the fact that problems of poverty in urban areas have contributed to so-called "black-on-black" crime. African-American young men, he said, are "disproportionately both victims and perpetrators of violence."
The president said that "black folks do interpret the reasons for that in a historical context. They 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."
Mr. Obama added that the nation should do more to "bolster and reinforce our African-American boys," noting that there is "more we can do to give them a sense their country cares about them and values them and is willing to invest them."
Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Md., on "Fox News Sunday" explained the way Washington can address so-called "black-on-black" crime.
"When we're focused on addressing issues of poverty, when we are focused on improving our education system, when we are focused on changing gun laws because there is such a rampant availability of guns in our inner cities, and we have no inner city agenda in this country that's focusing on statistics" of black-on-black crime, she said. "Even in these last two weeks in Congress, the debate in Congress has been about things like -- do we provide for food and nutrition? Do we address issues of poverty? Are we going to have an education system that works for all of our young people so they can succeed?"
Some black leaders like Rev. Jesse Jackson have suggested boycotting Florida because of its "stand your ground" law, but Edwards said on "Fox News Sunday" that the CBC hasn't discussed the matter.
"Many of us understand that sometimes when we call for those kind of economic boycotts, the impact on some of our communities could be really tremendous," she said.