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

Fight disinformation. Get a daily recap of the facts that matter. Sign up for the free Mother Jones newsletter.

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.” 

HERE ARE THE FACTS:

Our fall fundraising drive is off to a rough start, and we very much need to raise $250,000 in the next couple of weeks. If you value the journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us do it with a donation today.

As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

Please pitch in with a donation during our fall fundraising drive if you can. We can't afford to come up short, and there's still a long way to go by November 5.

payment methods

ONE MORE QUICK THING:

Our fall fundraising drive is off to a rough start, and we very much need to raise $250,000 in the next couple of weeks. If you value the journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us do it with a donation today.

As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

Please pitch in with a donation during our fall fundraising drive if you can. We can't afford to come up short, and there's still a long way to go by November 5.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate