Thursday from Warsaw, Poland, President Barack Obama addressed the police shootings captured on video of separate incidents in which two black men were killed, Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Philando Castile in Minnesota.
Obama said, “I thought it would be important for me to address all of you directly, and I want to begin by expressing my condolences for the families of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. As I said in the statement that I posted on Facebook, we have seen tragedies like this too many times. The Justice Department I know has opened a civil rights investigation in Baton Rouge. The governor in Minnesota, I understand, is calling for an investigation there as well. As is my practice given my institutional role, I can’t comment on the specific facts of each case but what I can say is that all of us as Americans should be troubled by the news.”
“These are not isolated incidents,” he continued. “They are symptomatic of a broader racial disparity that occurs in our criminal justice system. I want to give people a few statistics to try to put in context why emotions are so raw around these issues. According to various studies, not just one, but a wide range of studies that have been carried out over a number of years, African-Americans are 30% more likely than whites to be pulled over. After being pulled over, African-Americans and Hispanics are three times more likely to be searched. Last year, African-Americans were shot by police at more than twice the rate of whites. African-Americans are arrested at twice the rate of whites. African-American defendants are 75% more likely to be charged with offenses carrying mandatory minimums.”
“They receive sentences that are almost 10% longer than comparable whites arrested for the same crime,” Obama added. “So if you add it all up, the African-American and Hispanic population who make up only 30% of the general population make up more than half of the incarcerated population. Now, these are facts. And 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. And that should trouble all of us. This is not just a black issue. It’s not just a Hispanic issue. This is an American issue that we should all care about. All fair-minded people should be concerned.”
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