Former Secretary of State Colin Powell called the Trayvon Martin verdict "questionable" Sunday and said he believes the acquittal of the Florida teen's shooter, George Zimmerman, will soon be forgotten.
The first black chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff appeared on CBS's "Face the Nation" Sunday and said it is up to President Barack Obama to continue the national discussion on racism.
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"I think that [the Trayvon Martin verdict] will be seen as a questionable judgment on the part of the judicial system down there, but I don't know if it will have staying power," Powell said. "These cases come along, and they blaze across the midnight sky and then after a period of time, they're forgotten."
Zimmerman, a neighborhood watchman, was acquitted last month in the shooting death of 17-year-old Martin in a case that divided the nation and stoked racial flames. Zimmerman argued he acted in self-defense, while some claimed he racially profiled and pursued Martin.
Powell said the case is a good indicator of where the country stands on issues of race and injustice.
"Enormous progress has been made. African-Americans and other minorities have moved to the top of every institution in American society," he acknowledged, but "there are still problems in this country ... There is still racial bias that exists in certain parts of our country."
Obama spoke passionately about his own experiences with racism after the Trayvon Martin verdict.
"When Trayvon Martin was first shot, I said that this could have been my son. Another way of saying that is Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago," the president said in July. "There are very few African-American men who haven’t had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That happens to me, at least before I was a senator."
Powell said it's that kind of candor the U.S. needs more of from its leaders.
"I'd like to see [Obama] be more passionate about race questions and I think [his post-verdict speech] was an accurate characterization of some of the things that we were exposed to," he said.
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