The president said he could have been Trayvon Martin 35 years ago and that African-Americans see the case through a hard history of racial injustice.
"I think what President Obama is pointing to is this is a conversation America needs to have," said N.C. NAACP President Rev. William Barber.
A call to have an overdue and deep conversation about race. That's Barber's take on President Obama's comments concerning Martin.
"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 me," said the President.
The president's remarks came during an unexpected briefing. It marked his first public reflection on the George Zimmerman trial.
"The African-American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences," said Obama.
They are historical experience, according to Barber.
"It was a disturbing deja vu. Forty-eight years ago a black boy went to the store to get some candy and he was murdered. His name was Emmett Till. Forty-eight years later a black boy goes to the store to get some candy, he's murdered in Sanford, Florida."
Barber says race was definitely a factor in Zimmerman's self-defense argument, and a not-guilty verdict.
"What if Zimmerman was black and Trayvon was white? Well, we don't have to guess about that with John McNeil," said Barber
McNeil is the Wilson-native who served seven of a 20-year sentence for killing a white contractor in Georgia after the worker threatened his son with a knife. A judge released him this year because the jury didn't consider his right to defend himself on his own property.
"And then John was forced to plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter," said Barber.
Barber believes the answer, among other things, includes action to repeal stand your ground laws and enact laws that make racial profiling illegal.
"When the president says talk he's clear that talk leads to transformation, because you have to have conversation among the people," said Barber, "and then the people will begin to question the politicians and they will insist that this becomes a matter of public policy."