President Obama said that the murder rate in the African-American community is “crazy” during a town hall on race relations in America titled "The President and the People: A National Conversation" today.
“It is absolutely true that the murder rate in the African-American community is way out of whack compared to the general population,” Obama said. “And both the victims and the perpetrators are black, young black men.
“The single greatest cause of death for young black men between the ages of 18 and 35 is homicide. And that’s crazy. That is crazy,” the president continued, responding to a question from Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn.
Obama spoke as part of a Disney Media Networks town hall titled "The President and the People: A National Conversation," which aired Thursday at 8 p.m. ET and was simulcast commercial-free on ABC, ESPN, Freeform, ABCNews.com, Freeform Digital, Watch ABC, Watch ESPN, Yahoo, ABC News’ Facebook page and YouTube channel as well as ABC Radio and ESPN Radio. Disney is the parent company of ABC News.
Flynn had asked the president about the challenges facing police in protecting communities where the police face high crime rates. He also urged the president to continue the conversation on this topic even as the 2016 presidential race dominates much of the political discussion.
After acknowledging the elevated murder rate facing the black community, the president went on to say that tackling the problems facing communities that are riddled with high crime rates cannot fall to police alone.
“We can’t put the burden on police alone,” he said. "It is going to require investments in those communities. It’s going to require making sure the schools work. It’s going to require having after-school programs. It’s going to require making sure that as young people start getting into high school that they are given a path for a productive life.”
The president said it will also require looking at the issue of guns.
“Now this is tough,” he said of tackling the guns issue. “I have presided over more memorials of mass shootings than I would like. And it’s heartbreaking. But that doesn’t even count the hundreds of kids just in the South Side of Chicago that have been shot.”
He went on to make the point that police operating in communities with high crime rates have the added challenge of operating in a circumstance where “they are aware of the fact that there’s just a lot of guns washing over there.”
“And they don’t know what might happen, which means you’re going to be a little -- your adrenaline is going to be little bit higher,” he acknowledged. “It’s going to be tougher.”
The president ended his response with a final defense of the phrase “Black Lives Matter” against those who have interpreted it to mean that black lives matter more than other groups.
“I think it’s important for us to also understand that the phrase 'Black Lives Matter' simply refers to the notion that there’s a specific vulnerability for African Americans that needs to be addressed,” he said. “It’s not meant to suggest that other lives don’t matter. It’s to suggest that other folks aren’t experiencing this particular vulnerability."