President Obama on Thursday addressed the recent police killings of two black men – Alton Sterling and Philando Castile – that occurred within days of one another, saying the country has “seen tragedies like this too many times.”
“These are not isolated incidents,” Obama said. “They’re symptomatic of a broader set of racial disparities that exist in our criminal justice system.”
The president also offered statistics outlining the undeniable racial imbalances that exist in America.
Last year, for example, African Americans were shot by police at twice the rate of white people. When African Americans and Hispanics are stopped, Obama noted, they are three times more likely than whites to be searched. Black people are also 30 percent more likely than whites to pulled over.
Obama, who delivered the remarks after just arriving in Poland, said the recent killings shouldn’t just be troubling to those in the minority community.
“This is not a black issue,” he said. “This is an American issue.”
Obama reminded Americans that “there is no contradiction between us supporting law enforcement…and also saying that there are problems across our criminal justice system.”
He urged police departments across the country to accept recommendations made by a presidential task force last year, saying too many departments have been slow to implement policies that will help their jurisdictions and reduce these tragedies.
He also chided Congress for failing to pass a bipartisan criminal justice reform bill.
“Change has been too slow,” Obama said. “We have to have a greater sense of urgency about this.”
The remarks came hours after Obama released this statement on social media, saying the recent shootings “troubled” him:
This is a moment, as the president said, when the country should come together and recognize that, while the vast majority of law enforcement selflessly does heroic work, there is still much to be done to ensure a fair and more just system for all people – especially those of color.
Until then, it is imperative that people of all races and beliefs continue to speak out.
“We can do better,” Obama said, “People of goodwill can do better.”
Sean Colarossi currently resides in Cleveland, Ohio. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and was an organizing fellow for both of President Obama’s presidential campaigns. He also worked with Planned Parenthood as an Affordable Care Act Outreach Organizer in 2014, helping northeast Ohio residents obtain health insurance coverage.