President Obama’s final State of the Union address in front of a joint session of Congress was supposed to be different from the traditional six that preceded it.
Staying somewhat true to his words, Obama did deliver a speech that did not revolve around the laundry list of policy proposals. However, while he succeeded to take memorable jabs at climate change deniers, Donald Trump and gun control (albeit fleetingly), he failed to mention one of the most important issues plaguing the United States: police brutality.
A recent report revealed the number of manslaughter or murder related charges for on-duty incidents committed by police officers in America tripled from 2014 to 2015. Those statistics coupled with some recent incidents of police violence — particularly against the minority African-American community — has made police brutality one of the headlines this campaign season.
But apparently, it wasn’t a matter worth discussing during the highly anticipated, prime-time event. Obama also glossed over Black Lives Matter and racial inequality, something that social media users didn’t fail to notice.
Whenever you expect President Obama to speak radically or even firmly on police brutality it will almost always be a disappointment. #SOTU— Shaun King (@ShaunKing) January 13, 2016
Too many Black Americans feel like they don't matter potus - and that's cuz you are doing anything about our deaths. #SOTU— Nakisha M. Lewis (@NakLew) January 13, 2016
I hate "protesters" have to be mentioned with the "good police officers" If they were all "good" we wouldn't be in this space. #SOTU— Johnetta Elzie (@Nettaaaaaaaa) January 13, 2016
“For a long time in the civil rights movement, we said we needed a black face in a high place,” Khury Petersen-Smith, a Black Lives Matter activist, told Al Jazeera before the speech. “Now we've had seven years of Obama, and we have to ask whether black people are better off. The answer has got to be no. Very little from Obama's stay in the White House has advanced the lives of black people in a positive and progressive way. We need more than rhetoric. We need to see actual change.”
You say Dr King after 1 hour and no mention of police violence, mass criminalization, 47 million ppl living below the poverty line #SOTU— Holly Krig (@holidarity) January 13, 2016
Nothing on repo rights, future LGBT rights, white domestic terrorism, police brutality, black lives matter, gun control. #SOTU— Eliel Cruz (@elielcruz) January 13, 2016
I wish that every mention of protestors did not have to be coupled with an idyllic, mythic notion of the peaceful American police. #SOTU— deray mckesson (@deray) January 13, 2016
It is evident: police brutality has left the list of American concerns by Obama's failure to address it.— Mark Toliver ? (@chiguemdae) January 13, 2016
It is not the first time president showed reluctance to discuss police brutality during his State of the Union speech. In fact, he has only talked about the issue on rare, historic moments that can be counted on one hand. For instance, in 2015, he called police violence against black Americans a “slow rolling crisis.”
Also, during last year’s address, he mentioned “the events in Ferguson and New York,” but then said “surely we can understand a father who fears his son can't walk home without being harassed. Surely we can understand the wife who won't rest until the police officer she married walks through the front door at the end of his shift.”
Now, he seems to have lost another very important — and very final — chance to address the issue that’s weighing heavily on many voters mind going into the elections.