Americans have spent the past day discussing two killings of black men by police officers, and on Thursday, President Obama briefly interrupted a trip abroad to address the world on the subject.
Earlier on Thursday, Obama himself posted to Facebook on the subject:
“[The shootings] are symptomatic of the broader challenges within our criminal justice system, the racial disparities that appear across the system year after year, and the resulting lack of trust that exists between law enforcement and too many of the communities they serve.”
Now he’s adding even more to the discussion, giving a speech from Poland, where he’s set to attend the NATO Summit.
It’s rare for a president to give a domestic policy speech from foreign soil, but the President said he needed to speak out after the tumultuous day. In a speech that lasted just over 16 minutes, Obama listed out statistics on racial disparities on America. As the Guardian transcribed:
“Last year,” Obama continues, “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 Americans defendants are 75% more likely to be charged with offenses commanding mandatory minimums.”
“If you add it all up, the African American and Hispanic pop [sic], who make up only 30% of the general population, make up half of the incarcerated population,” Obama says.
The President also weighed into the meaning of “Black Lives Matter”:
POTUS: This is recognizing that there's a particular burden that's being placed on a group of our fellow citizens. https://t.co/lLeRFUpo7E
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) July 7, 2016
And he added, according to The Guardian:
“The data shows black folks are more vulnerable to these kinds of incidents,” Obama continues. “This isn’t a matter of us comparing the value of lives – this is recognizing that there is a particular burden that is being placed on a group of our fellow citizens, and we should care about that. We can’t dismiss it. We can’t dismiss it.”
“I actually, genuinely, truly believe that the vast majority of American people see this as a problem we should all care about,” Obama concludes. “And I would just ask those who question the sincerity or the legitimacy of protests and vigils and expressions of outrage who somehow label those expressions of outrage as quote-unquote ‘political correctness,’ I just ask folks to step back and think, what would happen if this happened to someone in your family? How would you feel?”
“To be concerned about these issues is not political correctness – it’s just being an American, and wanting to live up to our best and highest ideals, and to recognize that we have some tough history and we haven’t gotten though all of that history yet.”
As the President said Thursday: “We can do better. People of goodwill can do better.”