President Barack Obama delivered a statement on the fatal shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota this evening live from Warsaw, Poland.
President Obama’s address comes after a jarring week of unrest from American citizens who have learned about the police shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. In a span of two days, two deaths against African Americans — one in Falcon Heights, Minn., and the other in Baton Rogue, LA — have sparked protesters seeking answers for injustice. In contrast, their have been a number of vigils across the country to honor Sterling and Castile.
Ahead of President Obama's statement, Vice President Joe Biden also gave his thoughts on Twitter.
More black lives lost. More anger I share with the country. More broken trust we have to restore. We all must do this.— Vice President Biden (@VP) July 7, 2016
Obama began his speech by noting "us as Americans should be troubled by these shootings because these are not isolated incidents. They are systematic of a broader set of racial disparities that exist in our criminal justice system."
According to a wide range of statistics and studies that have been conducted over a number of years, Obama noted as follows:
African Americans are 30 percent 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 percent more likely to be charged with offensives, carrying mandatory minimums. They receive sentences that are almost 10 percent longer than comparable whites arrested for the same crime. If you add it all up, African American and the Hispanic population who only make up 30 percent of the general population make up more than half of the incarcerated population.
Later in his speech, he spoke about the importance of police and how they have to make tough split-second decisions while on duty. However, he refers to the disparity of data that indicates African Americans and Hispanics may be treated differently in “various jurisdictions across the country.” He states that us Americans should be motivated to say “we can do better than this. We are better than this… we should be able to step back, reflect, and ask ourselves what can we do better so that everybody feels that they are equal under the law?”
Obama references the Task Force he created, which comprises of civil rights activists, community leaders, and law enforcement officials, who came up with recommendations to ensure that the trust between citizens and police is restored, as well as reduce the likelihood of these incidents happening again.
Before wrapping up his speech, he left us with a few final thoughts:
I mentioned in my Facebook statement that I hope we don’t fall into the typical patterns that occur after these kinds of incidents where there’s a lot of political rhetoric and it starts dividing people instead of bringing folks together. To be concerned about these issues is to not be against law enforcement...When people say 'Black Lives Matter' that doesn't mean 'Blue Lives Matter,' it just means 'All Lives Matter' but right now the big concern is the fact that the data shows black folks are more vulnerable to these kinds of incidents. This isn't a matter of comparing the values of lives, this is recognizing that there's a particular burden that's being placed on a group of our fellow citizens, and we should care about that. We can't dismiss it.
You can also read Obama's Facebook message on Sterling and Castile here.