Trump’s National Security Adviser: “I Don’t Think There’s Systemic Racism” in US Police

Wishing problems are the fault of a few bad apples doesn’t make it true.

State of the Union

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George Floyd is only the latest in a long line of unarmed African-Americans killed by police in the past few years. Nearly 50 percent of the unarmed people killed by officers from the country’s 100 biggest police departments between 2013 and 2019 were black. Yet on Sunday, after “State of the Union” host Jake Tapper asked Trump’s national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, whether he thought systemic racism was a problem in US law enforcement agencies, he insisted police brutality was simply a problem of a few “bad apples.” 

“No, I don’t think there’s systemic racism,” O’Brien told Tapper. “I think ninety-nine point nine percent of our law enforcement officers are great Americans. Many of them are African American, Hispanic, Asian, they’re working the toughest neighborhood, they’ve got the hardest jobs to do in this country and I think they’re amazing, great Americans.” 

Conservatives have long hated the suggestion that law enforcement might be plagued by systemic racism, and have for years clung to the bad-apple theory of police brutality. But systemic racism doesn’t mean that each and every member of law enforcement is a racist. It means, as Tapper suggested, that the system as a whole creates racially disparate outcomes—like the one in Ferguson, Missouri, another city famous for police shootings, that resulted in 95 percent of all jaywalking tickets going to African-Americans, even though they only made up 67 percent of the population. That’s not a problem caused by a few bad actors.

It’s always easier to blame the individual police officer for brutality than the structure that created him, which is what O’Brien did in another interview Sunday with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. He called for the Minneapolis police officers who stood by and watched their colleague kill George Floyd to be prosecuted, suggesting that their inaction showed “a lack of humanity.” 

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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