The Black Lives Matter movement, which many have embraced and others have claimed is anti-police, received an endorsement from President Obama, during a special White House session to deal with reforming the nation’s criminal justice system.
Speaking to law enforcement officials, including 50 of the nation’s top police chiefs Oct. 22, Obama said the movement is addressing an important issue – deaths of unarmed Black men and women at the hands of law enforcement – and is not racist or exclusionary, as its critics have claimed.
“I think the reason that the organizers used the phrase ‘Black Lives Matter’ was not because they said they were suggesting nobody else’s lives matter,” Obama said. “Rather, what they were suggesting was there is a specific problem that is happening in the African American community that’s not happening in other communities. “And that is a legitimate issue.”
The Black Lives Matter movement began shortly after the aquital 2013 of volunteer security George Zimmerman in the shooting death of unarmed African-American teen Trayvon Martin n and has grown continuously with the police-related deaths of numerous unarmed black men across the nation. Obama said one of the issues that needs to be addressed is the disproportionate imprisonment of African Americans and Latinos. They represent 60 percent of the prison population although African Americans and Latinos only represent 13 and 17 percent of the population respectively, according to Whitehouse.gov. In Washington, African-Americans represent over 90 percent of the prison population, although they only account for 49 percent of the city’s population.
“The problem of racial justice or injustice in the society has been a running theme in this country’s history for a very long time,” Obama said, “and so, we just have to make sure that all of us own it.”
Currently, the United States has the highest prison population in the world, including China, which has a population more than 10 times larger than the U.S. To address this, Obama stated that reform should include fair application of law, proportionality in the sentencing of crime and programs focused on rehabilitation and crime prevention.