Monday at a Joint Press Conference at the White House with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe, President Barack Obama addressed the riots in Baltimore.
The president said, “We have seen too many instances of what appears to be police officers interacting with individuals, primarily African-American, often poor, in ways that raise trouble and questions. And it comes up it seems like once a week now. Once every couple of weeks. So I think it’s understandable why the leaders of civil rights organizations, but more importantly moms and dads across the country, might start saying this is a crisis. What I’d say is this is a slow rolling crisis that’s been going on a long time. This is not new. We shouldn’t pretend it’s new.”
Obama continued, “I think it’s going to be important for organizations like the Fraternal Order of Police and other police unions and organizations to acknowledge that this is not good for police. We have to own up to the fact there’s going to be problems here like every other occupation. There’s bad politicians who are corrupt. There are folks in the business community or on Wall Street that don’t do the right thing. Well, there are police that aren’t doing the right thing. Rather than close ranks, what we’ve seen are thoughtful police chiefs and commissioners recognize they’ve got to get their arms around this thing and work together with the community to solve the problem.”
He added, “I think there are police departments that have to do some soul searching. I think there are communities that have to do soul searching. I think we as a country have to do some soul searching. This is not new. It’s been going on decades. Without making excuses for criminal activities taking place, we also know you have impoverished communities stripped away from opportunity—where children are born into poverty. They’ve got parents, often because of substance abuse problems or incarceration or lack of education, themselves can’t do right by their kids. It’s more likely those kids end up in jail or dead than they go to college in communities where there are no fathers who can provide guidance to young men. Communities that—where there’s no investment and manufacturing has been stripped away and drugs have flooded the community and drug industry ends up being the primary employer for a lot of folks.”
“In those environments, if we think we’re going to send police to do the dirty work of containing the problems that arise there without a nation and society saying what can we do to change those communities to help lift up communities and give those kids opportunity, then we’re not going to solve this problem. We’ll go through the same cycles of periodic conflicts between the police and communities and occasional riots in the streets, and everybody will feign concern until it goes away. Then we’ll go about our business as usual.”
“But if we really want to solve the problem, if our society really wanted to solve the problem, we could,” he said. “It’s just it would require everybody saying this is important. This is significant, and that we don’t just pay attention to communities when a CVS burns. We don’t just pay attention when a young man gets shot or has his spine snapped. We’re paying attention all the time because we consider those kids our kids and think they’re important.”
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