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U.S. black leaders urge discussions on race relations

July 21, 2013 at 2:47 PM

WASHINGTON, July 21 (UPI) -- The chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus said President Obama's remarks on the Trayvon Martin verdict were a step toward a new debate on race relations.

Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, said Sunday Obama gave validation to long-held feelings in the black community that they were in treacherous waters when dealing with the justice system and with Congress.

"I think that it was timely, but more importantly I think that he could feel the anger that was going around across this country," Fudge said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "And he felt that he needed to respond in a way that I think took a lot of courage."

Fudge said the innocent verdict for Martin's accused killer, George Zimmerman, was handed down amid a string of political developments that included the striking down of parts of the Voting Rights Act by the U.S. Supreme Court, and Congress separating the food stamp program from the Farm Bill and dragging its feet on Obama's job training bill.

"And they're trying to do the same thing with affirmative action," said Fudge, who urged Obama to continue to openly talking about race-based issues in an overall context rather than as separate issues.

"Yes, we need to have a discussion on race, but we also need to have a discussion on how we are treating poor and minority people in this country," Fudge said.

Urban League President Marc Morial said that while many issues related to the justice system involve state laws, the federal government could take constructive steps on the economy that would help minority and lower-income areas through job creation. "One thing that is going to have to be on the table is economic opportunities and the obstructionism about summer jobs and jobs training that has taken place in this nation after the recession, when the unemployment rate is so high."

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