President Barack Obama addressed the nation on Thursday evening in light of the recent deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, two persons of color who were killed by white police officers earlier this week, and urged Americans to “do better” regarding the reignited discourse on racism and police brutality.
Obama’s statement came two days after Sterling was shot in the chest in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Sterling was tackled to the ground, causing no imminent threat to either of the two police officers that had pinned and subdued him.
Obama’s address also came less than one day after the similar but unrelated death of Castile, who was fatally shot after being pulled over by an officer in Falcon Heights Minnesota while reaching for his driver’s license.
Both incidents were filmed by witnesses at each scene; Castile’s death was recorded by his girlfriend who was next to him in his car, with her four-year-old daughter in the backseat.
While the president stated that he could not comment on the details of each respective (and open) case, he used his platform to elucidate the horrifying statistics regarding law enforcement and communities of color—like how black people are 30% more likely to be pulled over by police officers compared to their white counterparts, as well as twice as likely to be shot by authorities.
“These are not isolated incidents. They’re symptomatic of a broader set of racial disparities that exist in our criminal justice system,” said POTUS.
Keeping in line with the sentiment that respect for law enforcement and understanding of racial bias are not mutually exclusive, Obama also lauded the efforts of police officers as a whole.
“Let me just say we have extraordinary appreciation and respect for the vast majority of police officers who put their lives on the line to protect us every single day,” Obama stated. “They’ve got a dangerous job. It is a tough job and as I’ve said before, they have a right to go home to their families just like anybody else on the job,”
The president also declared that “there is no contradiction between us supporting law enforcement” and stating that “there are problems across our criminal justice system with [racial] bias,” and implored police departments nationwide to instate more bias-free policies.
“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,” Obama said.
The president also invoked the #BlackLivesMatter/#AllLivesMatter debate, all the while explaining the impetus of the Black Lives Matter movement for the American public, intentionally or not.
“When people say black lives matter, that doesn’t mean that blue lives don’t matter. All lives matter,” Obama told the press. “This isn’t a matter of us comparing the value of lives. This is about us recognizing the burden that’s been placed on a particular group of our citizens.”
Image via YouTube.