For one, Obama did not make this about race. It was about race, if not based on the facts of the case then certainly on the upheaval around race that it created. The racial dimensions were central to the discussion surrounding this case long before he commented.
I think this was an effort to reach out on a personal level, because in case you hadn't notice....he is a black man. I see it as an effort to humanize things. To help people who do no know the experience of racism to better understand that it is a reality. If the a black man who presents like this can still illicit those reactions from some white people then clearly we still have racial issues in this country.
I think that a needed conversation is being pushed on all the people in this country who have been trying to dodge it and they don't like it. So they scream race-baiter and accuse people of making it up. It is real and it is time.