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updated 7/20/2013 1:16:01 PM ET 2013-07-20T17:16:01

Watch: Reverend Al Sharpton hailed the president’s statement as “historic” on NewsNation Friday, and criticized those who diminish the modern-day call for civil rights.

President Obama made history Friday with his emotional remarks on a topic he hasn’t much touched while in office: racial discrimination.

Reverend Al Sharpton hailed the president’s statement on NewsNation Friday, and criticized those who diminish the modern-day call for civil rights.

“We are not the troublemakers,” said the Politics Nation host. “We’re the trouble breakers.”

He went on to say:

“When you look at these state laws–Stop and Frisk in New York, 33 states with Stand Your Ground, Stop and Frisk in other states–these state laws are the 21st century version of state laws that Dr. King and others fought 50 years ago. And the most insulting thing to me is these journalists that say, ‘Well this not then.’ Well, it may not be back then, it may not be as bad as the ‘60s. But it is what we face today. That’s like telling people in the ‘60’s it’s not as bad as slavery. Why do we have to get comparative progress? Why not progress? So to say, ‘Oh, it’s not as bad as it was,’ the fact that it is unequal and uneven is bad enough. That we can be pulled over and frisked in New York, that we can deal with Stand Your Ground in Florida, in Texas, or Indiana, I mean to try and rationalize this is almost like, ‘Well at least we don’t make you sit in the back of the bus,’ like that’s an intelligent statement.”

Video: Rev. Sharpton: President made historic statement

  1. Closed captioning of: Rev. Sharpton: President made historic statement

    >> reverend al sharpton , host of "politics nation." thank you for joining me. i know you have a lot going on. nothing more so than this and what we heard from the president. what's your reaction, rev?

    >> well, i thought the president made a very, very historic statement that i think had to be said. i think he said it in a way that will make this country have to deal with the reality of why they're seeing such dissatisfaction and such real anger in our community. for the president of the united states to say that what we all go through and why there's anger, and to say that he said when it first happened and we started marching that trayvon could have been his son. today he said that trayvon could have been him. this is the president of the united states . for those of us that haare in these cities tomorrow, for him to say on the eve of that, really makes the country understand we're not the troublemakers, we're the trouble breakers. it's trouble when you've got to explain to your children that they are vulnerable and that the laws don't protect them. when you have stand your ground laws and other laws that really say that people based on a thought in their head can use deadly force , that is extremely frightening. so i think his statement was important. i think it was historic. we're going to put feet on this statement. and we have to deal with these laws. i think he set a dialogue. i think those of us on the ground are going to have to set action. as you know tomorrow, tamron, the parents are going to be out there. the mother with me in new york . the father in miami. we're going to be in 100 cities in a constructive but firm movement to really deal with this a week after this verdict.

    >> but rev, i have to also bring up, you know, people focus so much on the stand your ground and rightfully so. i'm from texas. gun culture . we've seen all kinds of things. we cannot forget the discussion as well, and maybe it will be pivoted from the president's remarks, on stop and frisk . i had nicolas pert on the other day, a young man from harlem, whose mother died of cancer. he's raising his siblings. he's been pulled over for being black in new york , never charged with a crime, and he's one of the statistics. 87% of those pulled over in 2011 were minorities. so the stop and frisk and other laws similar to it where you have, for example, some whites who live in manhattan say, well, crime is down now so it must be working. that doesn't mean it is right or moral.

    >> well, first of all, you know how i feel about stop and frisk . we helped do the father's day march. we brought 60,000 people by the mayor's house. that's what i'm saying. when you look at these state laws, stop and frisk in new york , 33 states with stand your ground , stop and frisk in other states. these state laws are the 21st century version of state laws that dr. king and others fought 50 years ago. the most insulting thing to me is these journalists that say this is not then. well, it may not be back then. it may not be as bad as the '60s, but it is what we face today. that's like telling people in the '60s it's not as bad as slavery. why do we have to get comparative progress? why not progress? so to say it's not as bad as it was, the fact that it is unequal and uneven is bad enough. we can be pulled over and frisked in new york , that we can deal with stand your ground in florida or texas or indiana. i mean, to try and rationalize it is almost like, well, at least we don't make you sit in the back of the bus, like that's an intelligent statement.

    >> reverend al sharpton , thank you so much. i know you'll have much more on your show "politics nation" 6:00 p.m . eastern. we'll have the continuing coverage of the reverend al sharpton 's mission to get people out with the national action network and have their voices is heard. i understand right now -- i'm being told i have nbc's chuck todd , who is standing by. chuck, are you there?

    >> i am. good afternoon.

    >> good afternoon to you. what i would like to start off with is the surprise of this. many have been asking all week long, would we hear from the president? he did a couple local interviews regarding immigration reform , but no one asked him during that time. here we are on this friday, and a surprise, very important and emotional remark from the president, chuck.

    >> you know, i was struck just this morning. our friend and colleague eugene robinson writes this column in "the washington post " that essentially says president obama should not be asked, it should not be demanded of him, and maybe he should not be the one to lead this discussion. i'm not sitting here setting the premise that somehow the president read that, reacted and said, no, no, no. i think what you heard today is the same thing i've heard from plenty of african- american friends and colleagues who are sitting there saying, you know what, here's my personal experience. this should be added to the conversation. you know, stieps these discussions get lost in personalities, get lost in partisan, polarized politics, especially right now where some portions of cable news, you know, try to use an incident like this in the wrong ways with and we miss the larger cultural discussion. i think, you know, if there's one thing the president can't stand, it is the inability, he thinks, of this modern media to have a mature discussion on race. and i think that this was his case of -- i feel like an example of stories that you heard from the beginning. you know, one of his motivations. he knew that if he successfully won the presidency, that it could be a very impactful thing, particularly to young african-american men, to sort of break that idea that a young african-american man could be anything they wanted to be in the united states . not just sort of get to a certain point but anything that they wanted to be in the united states of america . and that he would be that example. here's an example of him saying, you know what, he does have a responsibility as president of the united states , but also as first african- american president of the united states , to not sit silent because it might cause swing voter political problems. you know, you've got to be able to have a mature discussion about this. tamron, you and i have watched probably all week, you know, not all parts of cable television -- and aisle ni'm not referring to our channel. not all parts of the political discussion have been very mature on this topic. i think that's the case of the president trying to say, let me lift it up.

    >> we are our backgrounds. we are who we are. folks will come out and members of congress and other presidents have talked about being proud gun owners , being proud southerners, being proud parents. whatever the list. you can be a proud african-american and still see things clearly. i think that's what people wanted to see from this president, particularly african-americans. him to be an unapologetic black man but still be an american and say i can be both, and i can be fair. i often think about the picture of the little black boy in the office who asked to touch the president's hair. you can both and be fair.

    >> can i make one other point? you want to be crass here and look at this through a political prism?

    >> sure.

    >> this was not the politically right -- you know, if you were to sit there and say what's best for the president's politics at the moment, yes, let's get involved in a race discussion. you can sit there and argue and his political advisers said, if he even asks -- and any time he's done this on issues of race, he doesn't ask. he sit there and say, you know, don't do this. people that look at this and say he did this for political reasons, no. if he was thinking about his politics, he would have stayed quiet today.

    >> thank you, chuck. i know you got to get going.

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