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Obama Says He’s Willing to Withhold Federal Funds From Law Enforcement Agencies That Don’t Make Changes to Treat Black People Fairly

As angry protests rage across the country over a criminal justice system that doesn’t appear to work for Black people and as many observers wonder what President Obama is going to do about it, the president said he could foresee withholding federal funding from law enforcement agencies unwilling to make changes to ensure Black and brown people are treated fairly.

“The federal government can have an influence,” Obama said during a half-hour interview with BET’s Jeff Johnson that aired Monday night, his first extended comments about the protests and the frustration many are feeling. “We fund a lot of jurisdictions around the country. If we can identify some of the best practices, for us to say, ‘You need to adopt these best practices. If you don’t, perhaps some of the funding available for things law enforcement cares about becomes less available.’ We can provide more to folks doing the right thing, and investigate folks not doing the right thing. It becomes an important part of the leverage we can exert.”

As he carefully chose his words during the BET interview, during which he refused to express his feelings about the grand jury decisions in St. Louis and Staten Island not to indict police officers for killing Black men so as not to influence the federal investigations, it’s clear the president knows he’s in a precarious position. It’s a position he seems to find himself in whenever racial issues splash into the spotlight and communities begin screaming at him to do something, say something. Anything.

It’s also a strange position because he is being asked to comment on a deteriorating racial climate at a time when many people believe the increase in violence and abuse against African-Americans is because of him—his election exacerbated hostilities from a portion of the population outraged that an African-American is the most powerful man in the country.

A recent NBC News poll revealed just how much the president is being hurt by his reticence on the grand juries and the racial turmoil. Asked about the president’s handling of the grand jury decisions, 30 percent approve of the president while 46 percent disapprove. There were more disapprovals than approvals in every group, even among Blacks. Whites disapprove by 49 percent to 27 percent, Blacks disapprove 46 to 35 percent, and Latinos disapprove 38 to 36 percent.

Obama said he understands the pressure being placed on him. He said when he met last week with a group of young African-American activists, some of whom were from Ferguson, as they told their stories of encounters with the police “my mind went back to what it was like for me when I was 17, 18 and 20.”

“As I told them, not only do I hear their pain and frustration…part of the reason I got into politics was to figure out how do I bridge some of those gaps in understanding so the larger country understands this is not just a Black problem or a brown problem but an American problem,” he said. “So we take this very seriously. Eric Holder obviously takes it seriously. He’s got a similar set of stories, experiences he can share.”

Obama said having these incidents on film makes a big difference.

“It used to be folks would say, well, maybe Blacks are exaggerating, some of these situations aren’t what they describe,” he said. “Now they’ve seen it on television. It gives us an opportunity to have the kind of conversation that’s been a long time coming.”

As the protests continue to rage around the country, the president said he’s fully in support of them—as long as they remain peaceful.

“That’s why I had them in the Oval Office, some of these folks who’ve been organizing these protests. Because the old adage, power concedes nothing without a fight — I think that’s true,” Obama said. “But what’s also true is that a country’s conscience sometimes has to be triggered by some inconvenience, because I think a lot of people who saw the Eric Garner video are troubled, even if they haven’t had that same experience themselves. Even if they’re not African-American or Latino.”

But he said people then get distracted by the next big story and their interest wanes.

“The value of peaceful protests, activism, organizing is it reminds the society this is not yet done,” he said.

He said the task force he’s created has 90 days to report back to him with concrete steps law enforcement can take to improve the relations between police and communities of color.

“I’m going to stay on this,” he promised.

Obama got a bit defensive when addressing the Black community’s frustrations with him.

“Sometimes people’s concerns are not based on fact,” he said. “If you looked at what happened with Michael Brown, with Trayvon Martin, with Eric Garner, I’m being explicit about my concern, explicit that it’s a systemic problem—Black folk, Latinos, are not making this up. People are frustrated with me not saying this is what the outcome should have been.”

He said because the Justice Department is still in the middle of investigations on these cases, he can’t put his “thumb on the scale” and influence the outcome.

“This is not only personal for me, because of who I am and who Michelle is and who our family members are and what our experiences are, but as president, I consider this to be one of the most important issues we face. Because America works when everybody feels as if they are being treated fairly and that they’ve got a fair shot,” Obama said. “And whenever we are unified in trying to uphold our ideals, then this country can’t be stopped. And when we are divided and people feel as if those ideals are being betrayed, that holds us back in every aspect of life.”


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8 thoughts on “Obama Says He’s Willing to Withhold Federal Funds From Law Enforcement Agencies That Don’t Make Changes to Treat Black People Fairly

  1. Jay Contreras says:

    How in the hell is he going to withhold federal funding from crime enforcement agencies when the BIGGEST drug dealer & illegal arms dealer in the WORLD is the CIA? and is part of the federal guvment..and the FBI, which is another US FEDERAL terrorist organization…as well as NSA..which is spying on everybody…all of this rhetoric rings hollow and is the height of insanity and hypocrisy.

  2. Beware of false promises!

  3. Jose Cabrera says:

    The Victimization needs to stop! Damn The majority of the Black folks who are crying are those who think that they're the on one's. They're the ones committing the crimes and then they cry Foul! Don't get me wrong the things that have happened in the past few months are distubing. But not evey young black man is being targeted. If you're dealing druugs, slaving out your women, in other words Pimping your women. Then get arrested for doing all this stupid ass shit, your not a victim. Whenver a black person kills a Latino, a White person, or whomever I don't hear any one out there protesting No Justice No Peace, You can give ashit about anyone else. But when a black man is shot by a Police Officer it's racism. Your not the only one's Latino, White, Asians are going through more shit that you can shake a stick at. But We as a people fight through the legal system to get our results, not al of use but most of us. Now the President is talking this stupid ass shit out the side of his ass! Really Mr. President! Don't get me wrong I got nothing but love for you! But You lost your Rabbid Ass Mind! Lets see what we can do to educate our young Black and Latino's to get their damn education, Learn about the legal system. Stop Gang Banging, Stop killing themselves. But the Police is the problem, yea there are a few Rogue Officers but not all of them. But we kill ourselves by the hundreds, Rape our women, Pimp our women, deal drugs and then you dry about being a Victim, Man kiss my ass! If your doing the right thing, what are you so afraid of! Do the right thing, Beigh Respectful, Shut the Fuck up, Answer the questions, and if there is an issue with a racist ass, file a complaint.

  4. Who I Am, is the way in which the President describes himself and his Family. However, I have been always contentious when in comes too descriptions of all people in society. The people from in Africa were not Slaves but Enslaved. The people in so called Latin America were not Latin, but the doctrines of salvation was preached to them to accepted this term without question. Montezuma was not a Latino, Cortez was, and so, the people of Turtle Island (US? Canada) were not Indians, for, their is only one India.
    The Continent of Africa is the largest land mast on Earth, many European countries such as Germany, Italy, France, Spain, Norway. Sweden, UK, USA, Mexico, Peru, India, China and others can fit into the continent.The continental African people are of different cultural groups, such as the Ashanti, Edo, Fanti, Dogons, Xhosa, Zulu and still today there are No groups named or called Slaves.
    We of African origins as our ancestors that were enslaved through human trafficking, by Arabs and Europeans colonialist under disguise and Doctrines of Salvation, with promises of self fulfilment, thereafter, by brute force the Africans became SLAVES to these oppressors and Africans in the Diaspora became enslaved to the names such as Slaves, Negroes, Blacks, Darkies, Roughs, Maroons, Monkeys and many other names. Truly, our descendants are not descendants of slaves but descendants of a productive, African people forced into more than 400 years of inhumane slavery and with no reparations, after the Emancipation.
    Our African ethnicity is universal and this global Identity cannot be separated from Africa. The time have come for the Global African Unity movement to begin. Lets come together NOW. Rise up, Africans, it does not matter where you are on Earth, you know your ethnicity is different from your Nationality.
    Beware of the William Lynch syndrome of 1711.

  5. To be truly meaningful. He should of done it 6 years ago. Then by now changes would of been made. He's got less than 2 years left. How much effect will that have against a 2 year hold out.

  6. Yet another excuse for Obama to create more government control. If individuals did not break the law, police officers wouldn't have to deter them. Furthermore, he supports these protests? More like he incites them with racist statements. Withholding federal money is tantamount to blackmail, which is illegal, but why would that matter to Obama?

  7. Fisher HL says:

    Since when does the president control funds?

  8. Maybe we should cut a lot of his funding, going by what he said. I've never seen the blacks doing non violent killing, non violent burning and non violent looting. I guess blacks in groups killing and beating helpless people on the street is non violent. I could go on and on, but you get the point.

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