In 2014, a New York City police officer was recorded placing Eric Garner in a fatal chokehold. Mr. Garner’s dying words, “I can’t breathe,” became a slogan for demonstrators. (Days ago, Mr. Floyd made the same plea before his death.) In an address after a Staten Island grand jury declined to indict the officer, Mr. Obama said:
Right now, unfortunately, we are seeing too many instances where people just do not have confidence that folks are being treated fairly. And in some cases, those may be misperceptions; but in some cases, that’s a reality. And it is incumbent upon all of us, as Americans, regardless of race, region, faith, that we recognize this is an American problem, and not just a black problem or a brown problem or a Native American problem.
This is an American problem. When anybody in this country is not being treated equally under the law, that’s a problem.
Less than a month after Mr. Garner’s death, an officer in Ferguson, Mo., shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old, setting off weeks of protests. When a grand jury declined to bring charges against the officer in that case, Mr. Obama said:
We need to recognize that this is not just an issue for Ferguson. This is an issue for America. We have made enormous progress in race relations over the course of the past several decades. I’ve witnessed that in my own life. And to deny that progress I think is to deny America’s capacity for change.
But what is also true is that there are still problems, and communities of color aren’t just making these problems up.
In July 2016, the police killings of two men — Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, La., and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minn. — were captured on video just one day apart. One day later, five police officers were killed in an attack in Dallas, further fueling debate between groups protesting violence against racial minorities and those protesting violence against the police.