Slain black teenager Trayvon Martin's parents have welcomed US President Barack Obama's unexpected and unusually personal remarks on their son as "a beautiful tribute to our boy."
"We are deeply honoured and moved that President Obama took the time to speak publicly and at length about our son, Trayvon," Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton said in a statement, hours after Obama, the first black American president said the slain 17-year-old "could have been me 35 years ago."
"The President's comments give us great strength at this time. We are thankful for President Obama's and Michelle's prayers, and we ask for your prayers as well as we continue to move forward," the statement said.
A Florida jury acquitted George Zimmerman last Saturday in Martin's February 26, 2012, shooting death, inciting anger among many who considered the incident racially motivated murder. Zimmerman, 29, said he opened fire on Martin in self- defence.
"We know that the death of our son Trayvon, the trial and the not guilty verdict have been deeply painful and difficult for many people. We know our family has become a conduit for people to talk about race in America and to try and talk about the difficult issues that we need to bring into the light in order to become a better people.
"What touches people is that our son, Trayvon Benjamin Martin, could have been their son. President Obama sees himself in Trayvon and identifies with him. This is a beautiful tribute to our boy," the parents said.
During a surprise appearance in the White House press room on Friday, Obama had appealed to Americans to do some soul searching over the death of Martin and the acquittal of his shooter, saying in a rare public reflection on race that the slain boy "could have been me 35 years ago." Obama said the pain that African-Americans felt around the case came from the fact that they viewed it through "a set of experiences and a history that doesn't go away".
US media said that Obama's personal comments, which lasted about 20 minutes, marked his most extensive discussion of race as president.
Speaking without a teleprompter, Obama noted a history of racial disparity in law as well as more nuanced social prejudice that contribute to "a lot of pain" in the African- American community over the verdict.
"There are very few African-American men in this country who have not had the experience of being followed when they are shopping at a department store. That includes me," the president said ahead of over 100 scheduled vigils in cities nationwide demanding justice for Martin.
"There are probably very few African-American men who have not 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," he said.