President Barack Obama returned to Jimmy Kimmel Live! on Thursday (Mar. 12), to discuss a myriad of topics from his daily activities in the White House to the recent shooting of two officers in Ferguson, Mo.
Mr. Obama said the protests that have traveled the nation are necessary given the injustice that’s plagued certain communities, but violent acts should be condemned. Read an excerpt of his statement below:
What was beautiful about Selma was reminding ourselves that real social change in this country so often has happened because ordinary people are willing in a non-violent fashion to make their voices heard. What had been happening in Ferguson was oppressive and objectionable and was worthy of protest, but there was no excuse for criminal acts. Whoever fired those shots shouldn’t detract from the issue. They’re criminals, they should be arrested and then what we need to do is make sure that like-minded, good spirited people on both sides, law enforcement who have a terrifically tough job, and people who understandably don’t want to be stopped and harassed just because of their race that we’re able to work together to try to come up with some good answers.
I think I put together a task force after the original Ferguson event had taken place that had police officers, police chiefs and some of the organizers of protests both in Ferguson and in New York, young people. They came up with some terrific recommendations and found that there’s a lot of common ground, and what we have to make sure of is that the folks who disregard and disrespect the other side, people who resort to violence that they’re marginalized, but they’re not the majority.
In the same way that you can’t generalize about police officers who do an extraordinarily tough job, overwhemingly they do it professionally, you can’t generalize about protestors who it turns out had some very legitimate grievances. The Justice Department reports showed that they were being stopped, African Americans were being stopped disproportionately, mainly so the city could raise money even though these were unjust.
What was happening in Ferguson was you had city government telling the police department that stop more people, we need to raise more money. Folks would get stop, they would get tickets then they’d have to wait in line to pay it, take a day off work, folks would lose their jobs. In some cases they were thrown in jail because they didn’t have enough money for fines. And then they’d get fined for that. There was a whole structure there, according to the Justice Department report, that indicated both racism and just a disregard for what law enforcement is supposed to do.
Before, I said this at Selma, it is not unique, but it’s also not the norm. We’ve got to constantly when we’re thinking about issues of racial progress, or any kind of issue, recognize that things will get better, but there’s still more work to do and we shouldn’t be complacent about the very real existence of problems out there, but we shouldn’t despair and think nothing has changed. If people are goodwill, which is the overwhelming majority of Americans who are working together, this is a problem we can solve.
The commander-in-chief later lightened the interview by participating in the show’s staple segment titled mean tweets. “How do you make Obama’s eyes light up? Shine a flashlight in his ears,” the 53-year-old read before he let out a little chuckle.
Check out clips of his appearance below.
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