Obama: All Americans should be troubled by the shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile

President Obama issued the following comment about the fatal shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. The President emphasized that we need to do better as a nation and said he and First Lady Michelle Obama share the feelings of “anger, frustration, and grief that so many Americans are feeling.” He emphasized that all Americans should be “deeply troubled” by the shootings.

All Americans should be deeply troubled by the fatal shootings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. We’ve seen such tragedies far too many times, and our hearts go out to the families and communities who’ve suffered such a painful loss.

Although I am constrained in commenting on the particular facts of these cases, I am encouraged that the U.S. Department of Justice has opened a civil rights investigation in Baton Rouge, and I have full confidence in their professionalism and their ability to conduct a thoughtful, thorough, and fair inquiry.

But regardless of the outcome of such investigations, what’s clear is that these fatal shootings are not isolated incidents. They 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.

To admit we’ve got a serious problem in no way contradicts our respect and appreciation for the vast majority of police officers who put their lives on the line to protect us every single day. It is to say that, as a nation, we can and must do better to institute the best practices that reduce the appearance or reality of racial bias in law enforcement.

That’s why, two years ago, I set up a Task Force on 21st Century Policing that convened police officers, community leaders, and activists. Together, they came up with detailed recommendations on how to improve community policing. So even as officials continue to look into this week’s tragic shootings, we also need communities to address the underlying fissures that lead to these incidents, and to implement those ideas that can make a difference. That’s how we’ll keep our communities safe. And that’s how we can start restoring confidence that all people in this great nation are equal before the law.

In the meantime, all Americans should recognize the anger, frustration, and grief that so many Americans are feeling — feelings that are being expressed in peaceful protests and vigils. Michelle and I share those feelings. Rather than fall into a predictable pattern of division and political posturing, let’s reflect on what we can do better. Let’s come together as a nation, and keep faith with one another, in order to ensure a future where all of our children know that their lives matter.

President Obama did what real leaders do, even though he understands more than many just how deeply the wounds of racial injustice burn, especially when they lead to senseless, tragic killings. Obama urged the nation to come together, and think about how we can be better.

The President is right, all Americans should be dismayed by these tragedies. Black lives should matter the exact same as white lives. The disparity in treatment between white and black people by the police belies the idea of our country as a place of freedom and opportunity. It will rightly tear this country apart if we don’t all insist that it changes.

This isn’t right, and we must be better.