In a meeting with top law enforcement leaders Thursday, President Obama explained the “All Lives Matter” vs. “Black Lives Matter” question, ultimately saying, “I think everybody understands that all lives matter.”
“Everybody wants strong, effective law enforcement,” he continued. “Everybody wants their kids to be safe when they’re walking to school. Nobody wants to see police officers who are doing their job fairly hurt. Everybody understands it’s a dangerous job.”
Obama made the statement with representatives from the criminal justice community, including a representative from the newly formed “Law Enforcement Leaders To Reduce Crime And Incarceration” group.
“I think the reason that the organizers used the phrase ‘Black Lives Matter’ was not because they are suggesting that nobody else’s lives matter. Rather, what they were suggesting was there is a specific problem that is happening in the African American community that is not happening in the other communities, and that is a legitimate issue that we have got to address.”
The statement came after Obama discussed how “All Lives Matter” and “Black Lives Matter” became opposed to each other.
“The notion was that somehow saying ‘Black Lives Matter’ was reverse racism or suggesting that other people’s lives don’t matter, or police officer’s lives didn’t matter, and whenever we get bogged down in that kind of discussion, we know where that goes,” Obama said. “That’s just down the old track.”
Despite saying “all lives matter,” Obama stressed taking the “Black Lives Matter” movement seriously.
“Having said all that we as a society, particularly given our history, have to take this seriously,” Obama said. “The African American community is not just making this up. It’s real, and there’s a history behind it and we have to take it seriously.”
The discussion came the same day the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the Sentencing Reform And Corrections Act with a few corrections, putting the bill that would reduce mandatory minimums and enact prison reforms at the forefront of the criminal justice reform movement.
“Today’s bipartisan Committee vote demonstrates the broad consensus that we can thoughtfully addresses the most serious and complex matters in prison sentencing,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley said in a statement. “This bill preserves sentences necessary to keep violent offenders and career criminals out of our communities while addressing over-incarceration concerns and working to reduce recidivism.”
Obama also discussed the need to address the sentencing problem that came after a spike in incarceration.
“We increased our prison population fourfold from 1980 and the best social science seems to indicate that initially, locking up folks who were violent for more certain, longer stretches reduced violence on the streets but there was a diminishing return at a certain point and it flattened out,” Obama said at the meeting.
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