On Monday, after the killing of three police officers in Baton Rouge and a town hall on police brutality last week, President Obama released a statement from the White House in support of law enforcement in the United States.
There is no doubt that it has been a harrowing month with folks on all sides of the issue of police brutality speaking out and speaking up, especially in the wake of the deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling earlier this month. However, President Obama’s letter seems to come down on the side of protecting police rather than promoting systemic change.
Of course, we should expect the President to respond to the deaths of law enforcement, as he is the military head of our nation. No doubt law enforcement has felt demoralized as critiques of police interaction with black people levies a massive (and at times nebulous) charge against American police forces: systemic racism.
Yet, it is interesting that President Obama deems it more important for police to feel supported in their work than compelled to change their practices on-the-whole. In his letter, he valorizes the hard work and dedication of officers that put their life on the line each day for their communities, emphasizing that officers have a right to go home. While that is important and true, he does little to encourage officers to carefully consider their interactions with civilians, to think of the black families who lose mothers, brothers, fathers, sons, and daughters to systemic racial violence in policing each year.
President Obama does not point out that black people have a right to go home, too.
While the deaths of police officers this month are abhorrent, it seems that the President is unable to simultaneously critique their work or the systemic issues that makes policing dangerous for officers and for black communities. The fact of the matter is that police are highly protected public servants. Police violence is at a twenty year low. The killers of police officers will go on trial and will languish in jail, or will be blown up.
We have learned to not expect this same legal retribution, or even moral support from the President, when police officers abuse or kill black people.
Photo Credits: AFP Photos