Pres. Obama: We Have to Take the Black Lives Matter Movement Seriously
Yesterday, President Obama spoke to law enforcement officials at the White House forum on criminal justice, and took some time to address and defend the Black Lives Matter movement. The phrase has become a rallying cry among activists calling for reforms in law enforcement and the criminal justice system after the several high-profile cases of unarmed black men and women being killed by police or while in police custody. President Obama directly addressed critics who have countered by insisting that “all lives matter.” The president explained:
Black Lives Matter is a social media movement that tried to gel around Ferguson, the Eric Garner case and some other cases that came up. And very rapidly, it was posited as being in opposition to the police. And sometimes, like any of these loose organizations, some people pop-off and say dumb things. On the other hand though, it started being lifted as “These folks are opposed to police. They’re opposed to cops, and ‘All Lives Matter.’” So the notion was, somehow saying “Black Lives Matter” was reverse racism or suggesting that other people’s lives didn’t matter, or police officers’ lives didn’t matter. And whenever we get bogged down in that type of discussion, we know where that goes … I think everybody understands all lives matter.
I think the reason that the organizers used the phrase ‘Black Lives Matter’ was not because they were suggesting nobody else’s lives matter. Rather, what they were suggesting was there is a specific problem that’s happening in the African-American community that’s not happening in other communities. And that is a legitimate issue that we’ve got to address.
The president praised “the overwhelming majority of law enforcement” who he said are “doing the right thing and want to do the right thing.” He also said he recognizes “that police officers have a really tough job and we’re sending them into really tough neighborhoods that sometimes are really dangerous and they’ve got to make split-second decisions.” He also said other large social issues should be acknowledged. “We as a society, if we’re not investing in opportunities for poorer kids, and then we expect police and and prosecutors to keep them out of sight and out of mind, that’s a failed strategy.” Still, he insisted that the issue must not be politicized and that the issue of police violence is a serious one, and that the concerns of the Black Lives Matter movement must be addressed:
But having said all that, we as a society, particularly given our history, have to take this seriously. And one of the ways of avoiding the politics of this and losing the moment is everybody just stepping back for a second and understanding that the African-American community is not just making this up. It’s not just something being politicized. It’s real and there’s a history behind it and we have to take it seriously.
You can watch the entire discussion below: