In response to sustained national uproar over high-profile police killings of unarmed black men, President Obama sat with BET’s Jeff Johnson for a 25-minute interview that aired last night. “Absolutely,” Obama agreed that the vast majority of protesters have been peaceful. On the question of whether he’s been aggressive enough in talking about the number of African-American men shot versus white men, Obama says (11:51):
Well, sometimes people’s concerns are not based on fact. If you look at after what [happened] with [Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, and Eric Garner] I’m being pretty explicit about my concern. And being explicit about the fact that this is a systemic problem… I think sometimes what people are frustrated by is me not saying, “This is what the outcome should have been.” And that I can not do institutionally. It is my Justice Department that is investigating these cases. And part of the rule of law is that I’m not putting my fingers, my thumb on the scale of justice. It could compromise investigations if it appeared that I was trying to steer to a particular outcome. So I’m sure there’re some folks who just want me to say, “In such-and-such-a case this is what I think shoulda happened,” and “If I’d been on a grand jury this is what I woulda said.”…I’ll leave it to people to speculate on what I’m saying to myself or Michelle when we’re alone at night.