White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest directly answered reporters on Tuesday when asked why the Obama's have spoken so candidly about race relations in the last few months.
Earnest called the President's discourse "a reflection of the national debate and dialogue that has been taking place across the country when it comes to these issues of the relationship between law enforcement officers and the communities they serve and protect."
"There is an obviously significant overlap when it comes to that issue and the issue of race. They're not the same thing. But to deny that race is an element of some of those challenges is to deny sort of the basic fact of what's going on," he said.
On Sunday, the First Lady gave an impassioned speech at Tuskegee University, recalling her own reckoning with being the first African-American First Lady. During her address, Obama made it clear that she related to the graduates, not only for their academic achievement, but on the basis of being scrutinized because of what you look like.
"The world won't always see you in those caps and gowns," she said. "Instead they will make assumptions about who they think you are based on their limited notion of the world. And my husband and I know how frustrating that experience can be," she said.
Within the past two months, there have been at least three high-profile shootings of unarmed black men: Walter Scott in Charleston, South Carolina, Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Maryland and Brendon Glenn in Los Angeles. Obama used Gray's death to comment on the state of the nation, saying that the country was in need of "soul searching."
Last week in the Bronx, Obama made an even stronger statement, saying that his initiative "My Brothers Keeper," would address the academic achievement gap between boys of color and their peers as well as the school-to prison pipeline.
On Tuesday, at a poverty convention at Georgetown University, the president again touched on race, reminding the audience that there are deeply rooted economic polices that further aggravate the climb out of poverty.
President Obama, stunned many when he first spoke out on the death of Trayvon Martin in 2013, saying directly that Trayvon could've been his son. Many in black America cheered on his statement, relieved that the first black president addressed the complicated issues compounded by race in America. Others felt that as the president he should have remained neutral and believed that his statement negatively impacted relationships with law enforcement.
On Tuesday, Earnest reminded reporters that the president has a level of influence that hasn't been seen when it comes to American race relations. "The President, as the first black President of the United States, has something important to contribute to that debate," said Earnest.