Colin Powell: Zimmerman verdict ‘questionable’

August 25, 2013

The 'not guilty verdict' that cleared George Zimmerman of Florida teen Trayvon Martin's death "will be seen as a questionable judgment on the part of the judicial system down there," Gen. Colin Powell said Sunday.

On CBS' "Face the Nation," the former secretary of state and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff expressed doubts over the case's "staying power" citing the nation's erratic approach to race relations.

"These cases come along and they blaze across the midnight sky and then after a period of time, they're forgotten," he said.

The weekend before the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the former "Secretary of State who happens to be black" shared his own experiences during the Civil Rights Era.

"As a soldier I couldn't participate in this, I could just watch it" Powell said recalling his view of the march returning from the Vietnam War. "And as I watched it unfold I said, you know, this is a time for America to live up to its creed and this is the time for us to understand that segregation and Jim Crowism and these awful laws are not just a burden for African Americans, they are a burden for all Americans."

When asked to comment on President Obama's handling of the Zimmerman verdict and about race issues in America, Powell expressed both approval and a desire for more.

"Yeah, I'd like to see him be more passionate about race questions," Powell said, adding that Obama's description of life as a black man in America was "an accurate characterization of some of the things that we were exposed to."

Responding to host Bob Schieffer's suggestion that Obama could do more for the African American community," Powell said that as president, Obama has a "responsibility to the whole country" and should speak on the issue "not just because he's the first black president but because he is the President of the United States."

"This is a problem that affects all of America, not just black America," he said reiterating his sentiments 50 years ago.

"If Dr. King was here, I'm quite sure he would say, 'Congratulations on all the progress that's been made, but let's keep going. The dream is not fully achieved yet," said Powell.

Ruth Tam is a writer based in Washington, D.C. Follow her on Twitter: @ruthetam.
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Ruth Tam · August 25, 2013