President Obama said Friday that Americans should respect the George Zimmerman verdict, but white Americans should also understand the problems of racism.

“Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 yeas ago,” Obama said during a surprise appearance in the White House briefing room today.

Obama said he himself has been subjected to casual prejudice, even as senators, but also said African Americans needed to address the problems of violence in their own communities.

Obama said all Americans should do “soul-searching” in the wake of the verdict and the reactions to it.

Borrowing a quote from Lincoln, Obama said people should appeal to “the better angels” of human natures, rather than using incidents like Travyvon’s death and Zimmerman’s acquittal to “heighten divisions.”

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Obama also said that Americans should realize that, over the course of decades, American race relations have improved.

“I don’t want us to lose sight of the fact that things are getting better,” Obama said.

BREAKING: President Obama Press Conference, Talks Trayvon Martin Murder and Racism In America  was originally published on