By Albert Lin
In his address to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation on Saturday night, President Obama shined a spotlight on the heightened tensions between members of underrepresented groups and law enforcement.
In the wake of the police shooting of unarmed Black teen Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and the police shooting of unarmed Black man Levar Jones in Columbia, S.C., distrust of police, especially among Blacks and Latinos, may be at an all-time high.
“The anger and the emotion that followed [Brown’s] death awakened our nation once again to the reality that people in this room have long understood, which is in too many communities around the country, a gulf of mistrust exists between local residents and law enforcement,” Obama said to an audience that included Brown’s parents. “Too many young men of color feel targeted by law enforcement—guilty of walking while Black, driving while Black, judged by stereotypes that fuel fear and resentment and hopelessness.”
The President pointed out the “significant racial disparities” that exist when it comes to applying the death penalty, enforcing drug policy, and even pulling people over.
He cited a recent poll that showed that the majority of Americans believe police do not treat people of all races equally.
“Think about that,” he said. “That’s not just not Blacks, not just Latinos or Asians or Native Americans saying things may not be fair. That’s most Americans. And that has a corrosive effect, not just on the Black community. It has a corrosive effect on America. It harms the communities that need law enforcement the most. It makes folks that are victimized by crime and need strong policing reluctant to go to the police because they may not trust them.”
The worst part, Obama said, is that such mistrust “scars the hearts of our children. It scars the hearts of white children, who grow unnecessarily fearful of somebody who doesn’t look like them. It scars the heart of Black children, who feels no matter what he does, he’ll always be under suspicion. That is not the society we want. It’s not the society our children deserve. Whether you’re Black or white, you don’t want that for America.”
Obama made sure to point out that the Department of Justice’s investigations into the Brown shooting and policing practices in Ferguson is ongoing, even though Attorney General Eric Holder is stepping down.
Watch the President’s remarks below: