In the first two Republican debates, neither racial policing nor the Black Lives Matter movement were brought up. The GOP candidates at large have spoken negatively about the movement or not at all. But in an interview from August that mostly flew under the radar until Wednesday, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio responded to a Black Lives Matter question with the empathy and understanding that other Republican candidates have not.
While on Fox News' The Kelly File, Rubio said that the issues raised by Black Lives Matter activists were valid. "This is a legitimate issue," Rubio said. "It is a fact that in the African-American community around this country, there has been, for a number of years now, a growing resentment toward the way law enforcement and the criminal justice system interacts with the community. It is particularly endemic among young African-American males — that in some communities in this country have a much higher chance of interacting with criminal justice than higher education. We do need to face this. It is a serious problem in this country."
Rubio then made an important point with a personal anecdote from his friend. "I have one friend in particular who's been stopped in the last 18 months, eight to nine different times. Never got a ticket for being stopped — just stopped. If that happened to me, after eight or nine times, I'd be wondering what's going on here. I'd be upset about it. So would anybody else."
The Florida lawmaker delved even deeper, touching on problems within the criminal justice system.
"If you're arrested, if you're a 19-year-old, young minority male — African-American or Hispanic — you're arrested, if you don't have any money, you're going to get public defenders," he added. "And they're going to push you toward a plea deal, because they're handling a thousand cases. You now have a record, which means you are now stigmatized — in the eyes of your employer, in the eyes of your future, etc. … And once you incarcerate someone, their chances of repeating offenses in the future begin to climb, because you're now basically housing them with criminals that they're learning the tools of the trade [from]. We do need to address that. And it is particularly troubling among young African-American males."
Displaying a solid comprehension of the bigger picture, Rubio called the treatment of African-Americans in this country "a serious problem," adding:
It is something we need to confront. Because you have a significant percentage of our population that feels that they are locked out of the promise of this country. And the result is the anxiety and the frustration now seeing expressed.
Cover image via Justin Sullivan / Getty Images