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President Barack Obama said Thursday that all Americans should be troubled by recent police shootings, calling on the U.S. to "do better" amid rekindled nationwide debate about the use of force by police.
"These are not isolated incidents. They're symptomatic of a broader set of racial disparities that exist in our criminal justice system," Obama said.
The president made his statement on the deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling shortly after arriving in Warsaw, Poland for a NATO summit. The shooting of the two black men this week by police prompted protests across the country.
Sterling, 37, was tackled to the ground before he was killed in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. His death was also documented by a witness and posted to Facebook.
A day later, 32-year-old Castile was fatally shot by police during a traffic stop in front of his girlfriend and a child. The aftermath of the shooting in Falcon Heights, Minnesota was captured in graphic detail on Facebook video.
Obama said that his position means that he cannot comment on the specific facts of these cases.
The president also recognized the challenges that police officers face every day.
"Let me just say we have extraordinary appreciation and respect for the vast majority of police officers who put their lives on the line to protect us every single day. They've got a dangerous job. It is a tough job and as I've said before, they have a right to go home to their families just like anybody else on the job," Obama said.
He also said that Americans understand there are times where police officers will have to make split-second decisions. Obama said, however, that Americans cannot ignore "data that indicates disparities in how African-Americans and Latinos may be treated in various jurisdictions around the country."
He urged Americans to band together to solve these issues and not let it "degenerate into the usual political scrum."
"This is not just a black issue. It's not just a Hispanic issue. This is an American issue that we should all care about. All fair-minded people should be concerned," Obama said.
Obama explained that "this isn't a matter of us comparing the value of lives," but "recognizing that there's a particular burden that is being placed on a group of our fellow citizens."
"When people say black lives matter that doesn't mean that blue lives don't matter, it just means all lives matter, but right now the big concern is the fact that data shows black folks are more vulnerable to these kinds of incidents," the president said.
The president concluded by saying that being concerned about these racial disparities is not political correctness, but "just being American and wanting to live up to our best and highest ideals."