I once told a Harvard professor that one of my favorite things about New York City is being able to walk and walk in any direction, and then being able to just hail a cab and head back to my starting point. His response stuck with me. He explained that as an African-American, getting a taxi to pull over and pick him up was far from a sure thing. It was a stark reminder of the differences in the way we experienced even the most mundane daily activities.

Today, President Obama provided us all with another such reminder as he addressed the reaction to the Trayvon Martin case: “There are, frankly, 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. There are very few African-Americans who haven’t had the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she had a chance to get off. That happens often. And I don’t want to exaggerate this, but those sets of experiences inform how the African-American community interprets what happened one night in Florida.”