Darlene Superville, AP, October 22, 2015
Defending the Black Lives Matter movement, President Barack Obama said Thursday the protests are giving voice to a problem happening only in African-American communities, adding, “We, as a society, particularly given our history, have to take this seriously.”
Obama said the movement, which sprung up after the deaths of unarmed black men in Florida, Missouri and elsewhere, quickly came to be viewed as being opposed to police and suggesting that other people’s lives don’t matter. Opponents have countered that “all lives matter.”
“I think everybody understands all lives matter,” Obama said. “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.”
At the White House, Obama said there are specific concerns about whether blacks in certain areas are treated unfairly or are more frequently subjected to excessive force by police.
But the president said people should also “understand the overwhelming majority of law enforcement’s doing the right thing and wants to do the right thing” and “recognize 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 said people shouldn’t be “too sanctimonious” about situations that can sometimes be ambiguous.
“But having said all that, we as a society, particularly given our history, have to take this seriously,” Obama said. “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,” he said.