President Obama addressed the deaths of two black men Thursday who were killed this week in police shootings.
“We have seen tragedies like this too many times,” the President said, speaking from Warsaw, Poland. “All of us as Americans should be troubled by these shootings.”
President Obama described the deaths of Alton Sterling – shot and killed in Baton Rouge, Louisiana earlier this week – and Philando Castile – similarly killed in Minnesota Wednesday – as “not isolated incidences,” but instead “symptomatic of a broader set of racial disparities that exist in our justice system.”
The President went on to say that while the Justice Department has opened a civil rights investigation into the death of Sterling, and alluded to a possible investigation into the Minnesota shooting, he could not comment on the specific facts of these cases, but has full confidence in the DOJ.
After listing a number of statistics showing African Americans and hispanics represent more vulnerable populations, such as being “thirty-one percent more likely than whites to be pulled over,” the President went on to say:
When incidents like this occur, there’s a big chunk of our fellow citizenry that feels as if because of the color of their skin they are not being treated the same and that hurts… that should trouble all of us. This is not just a black issue, not just a hispanic issue. Its an American issue.
All fair minded people should be concerned.
President Obama went on to address law enforcement officers and their own concerns about personal safety. “To be concerned about these issues is not to be against law enforcement,” he said, reminding them that his Administration “on a regular basis” recognizes their sacrifices:
To all law enforcement, I want to be very clear: we know you have a tough job. We mourn those in uniform who are protecting us who lose their lives. On a regular basis, I have joined with families in front of Capitol Hill to commemorate the incredible heroism that they’ve displayed. I’ve hugged family members who have lost loved ones doing the right thing. I know how much it hurts.
But I repeat, if communities are mistrustful of the police, that makes those law enforcement officers who are doing a great job, and who are doing the right thing – it makes their lives harder. So when people say ‘black lives matter’, that doesn’t mean ‘blue lives don’t matter’, it just means ‘all lives matter’, but right now the big concern is that the data shows black folks are more vulnerable to these kinds of incidences.
President Obama concluded by asking those who question whether the national outrage typically sparked after these events is just a case of political correctness, “what if this happened to somebody in your family. How would you feel?”
“To be concerned about these issues is not political correctness. It’s just being an American … and to recognize the reality that we’ve gotten through some tough history and we haven’t gotten through all of that yet.”