President Obama on Monday took a shot at the media for its coverage of last week’s violence in Baltimore, saying news outlets too often focus only on looters and rioters rather than on those who are trying to solve the complex problems plaguing America’s cities.
In a speech at Lehman College in New York City, the president said lack of economic opportunity for young people of color in inner cities helped fuel the protests that have been seen in Baltimore, Ferguson, Missouri, and elsewhere across the country in recent months. Mr. Obama said it’s vital that the nation turn its attention to improving the lives of blacks and Latinos, particularly those in rough neighborhoods or trapped in failing schools.
But the president suggested that the news media contributes little to the broader debate and instead focuses on acts of violence.
“America’s future depends on us caring about about this. If we don’t, then we will just keep going through the same cycles,” the president said. “We ask police to go into communities where there is no hope. Eventually something happens because of the tensions between society and these communities and the police are just on the front lines of that. And people tweet outrage and the TV cameras come and they focus more on somebody setting fire to something or turning over a car than the peaceful protests and the thoughtful discussions that are taking place.”
Mr. Obama spoke at an event unveiling the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, a nonprofit spin-off of the president’s My Brother’s Keeper task force, designed to improve opportunity for young men of color. The alliance side of My Brother’s Keeper is comprised of top businesses and also includes athletes and entertainers.
The president said it is imperative the nation address the root causes of tension in urban areas, not just the symptoms.
“What kind of country do we want to be? It’s not enough to celebrate the ideals we’re built on,” he said. “Those can’t just be words on paper. The work of every generation is to make those ideals mean something concrete in the lives of our children, all of our children. And we don’t get there as long as kids in Baltimore or Ferguson or New York or Appalachia or the Mississippi Delta … believe their lives somehow mean less.”