Obama on "People Telling You Who And What Is To Blame For Plight" Of Poor Communities: "I'm Not Interested In Blame"


President Obama addressed the recent unrest in Baltimore in remarks he delivered at Lehman College in West Bronx, New York on Monday.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: You all know the numbers. By almost every measure, the life chances of the average young man of color is worse than his peers. Those opportunity gaps begin early -- often at birth -- and they compound over time, becoming harder and harder to bridge, making too many young men and women feel like no matter how hard they try, they may never achieve their dreams.

And that sense of unfairness and of powerlessness, of people not hearing their voices, that’s helped fuel some of the protests that we’ve seen in places like Baltimore, and Ferguson, and right here in New York. The catalyst of those protests were the tragic deaths of young men and a feeling that law is not always applied evenly in this country. In too many places in this country, black boys and black men, Latino boys, Latino men, they experience being treated differently by law enforcement -- in stops and in arrests, and in charges and incarcerations. The statistics are clear, up and down the criminal justice system; there’s no dispute.

That’s why one of the many things we did to address these issues was to put together a task force on community policing. And this task force was made up of law enforcement and of community activists, including some who had led protests in Ferguson, some who had led protests here in New York -- young people whose voices needed to be heard. And what was remarkable was law enforcement and police chiefs and sheriffs and county officials working with these young people, they came up with concrete proposals that, if implemented, would rebuild trust and help law enforcement officers do their jobs even better, and keep them and their communities even safer.

And what was clear from this task force was the recognition that the overwhelming majority of police officers are good and honest and fair, and care deeply about their communities. And they put their lives on the line every day to keep us safe. And their loved ones wait and worry until they come through that door at the end of their shift.

As many of you know, New York’s finest lost one of its own today -- Officer Brian Moore, who was shot in the line of duty on Saturday night, passed away earlier today. He came from a family of police officers. And the family of fellow officers he joined in the NYPD and across the country deserve our gratitude and our prayers not just today but every day. They’ve got a tough job. (Applause.)

Which is why, in addressing the issues in Baltimore or Ferguson or New York, the point I made was that if we’re just looking at policing, we’re looking at it too narrowly. If we ask the police to simply contain and control problems that we ourselves have been unwilling to invest and solve, that’s not fair to the communities, it’s not fair to the police. What we gathered here to talk about today is something that goes deeper than policing. It speaks to who we are as a nation, and what we’re willing to do to make sure that equality of opportunity is not an empty word.

Across the country and in parts of New York, in parts of New Jersey, in parts of my hometown in Chicago, there are communities that don’t have enough jobs, don’t have enough investment, don’t have enough opportunity. You’ve got communities with 30, or 40, or 50 percent unemployment. They’ve been struggling long before the economic crisis in 2007, 2008. Communities without enough role models. Communities where too many men who could otherwise be leaders, who could provide guidance for young people, who could be good fathers and good neighbors and good fellow citizens, are languishing in prison over minor, nonviolent drug offenses.

Now, there’s no shortage of people telling you who and what is to blame for the plight of these communities. But I’m not interested in blame. I’m interested in responsibility and I’m interested in results.

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