NAACP head: "We have to be morally surgical" after shootings

Just days after two black men were killed by police in Baton Rouge and Minneapolis and a black man killed five white police officers in Dallas, NAACP President Cornell William Brooks said people need to be "morally surgical" when dealing with questions of fault between police officers and members of the black community.

"We are at a moment in this country where we have to be morally surgical, we have to be precise," he said on CBS' "Face the Nation. "So in other words, we understand that what fuels racial profiling as a country is that African Americans are seen as -- black skin being a robe of, I should say a cloak of suspicion, white skin being a robe of protection or respectability. We have to get beyond presumptions, beyond stereotypes."

He said the black community needs to support police officers who are dedicated to reforming the system, but can't give up on the "urgency" of the situation.

"There are police officers who've stepped forward, there are police officers who are supporting a reform in the ranks. We have to stand with them. In other words, those who honor their badges, who honor their oaths, we need to support," he said. "But we need to be clear: this is a moment in this country that is one of urgency, where you have 509 people who've lost their lives at the hands of police this year, 990 last year, we are at least 24 people ahead in this grim calculus. We have got to address this problem."

Brooks added that progress has clearly been made on race relations, rejecting the notion that the current situation rivals the unrest and riots of the late 1960s. Still, he said, there's much progress to be made, including passing the End Racial Profiling Act in Congress and working to pass legislation at the state and local level as well.

"Race relations have improved but they are not where they should be, particularly when a young black man is 21 times more likely to lose his life at the hands of police than his white counterpart," he said. "...Clearly we are not where we should be, we are better than we were and because we are better than we were we have the conviction that we can be better still."

That especially means making sure protesters take their frustration to the ballot box in November, Brooks added.

"To bring about the kind of change we need, we need to ensure that every demonstrator is a voter and that we show up en masse and in the millions at the polls in November," he said. "Because we need to bring about reform at the state and municipal level and at the federal level and of course call upon our presidential candidates to take racial profiling seriously."

  • Emily Schultheis

    Emily Schultheis is a reporter/editor for CBS News Digital.