- Former President Barack Obama spoke publicly about the death of George Floyd and recent protests against racism and police brutality today.
- In a statement, Obama thanked protesters for their activism and urged young Black Americans to "feel hopeful even as you may feel angry."
- He also urged Americans to make sure they were registered to vote in November (you can do that in two minutes here).
Days after President Donald Trump encouraged the use of violence on protesters and hid in a bunker as demonstrations ensued around the White House, former President Barack Obama delivered a hopeful address to the nation as part of a town hall meeting. The event was in partnership with the Obama Foundation's My Brother's Keeper Alliance, which supports young men of color.
The recent protests, Obama said, "are as profound as anything I have seen in my lifetime." He noted that a distinction between the modern-day protests and anti-racism protests of the '60s: "I know enough about that history to say: There is something different here. You look at [these] protests, and that [is] a far more representative cross-section of America out on the streets, peacefully protesting, who felt moved to do something because of the injustices that they have seen. That didn't exist back in the 1960s."
Recent events, he said, "offer an opportunity for us to work together to tackle [issues related to racism, to take them on, to change America and make it live up to its highest ideals...Part of what’s made me so hopeful is the fact that so many young people have been galvanized and activated and motivated and mobilized. Because historically, so much of the progress that we've made in our society has been because of young people. "
Speaking directly to young people of color, Obama said: "I want you to know that your lives matter. Your dreams matter." He also noted: "I've been hearing a little bit of chatter... voting vs. protest. Politics and participation versus civil disobedience and direct action. This is not an either or. This is a both and. To bring about real change, we both have to highlight a problem and make people in power uncomfortable, but we also have to translate that into practical solutions and laws that can be implemented."
The town hall, titled "Reimagining Policing in the Wake of Continued Police Violence," also featured vocal activists, community leaders, and organizers including activist Brittany Packnett Cunningham, City Council Representative Phillipe Cunningham, My Brother's Keeper youth leader Playon Patrick, former Attorney General Eric H. Holder, and Color of Change President Rashad Robinson.
Obama spoke out last week with a powerful statement addressing the police killing of Floyd and the viral racist threat targeting bird-watcher Christian Cooper, as well as systematic racism in the United States. "This shouldn't be 'normal' in 2020 America. It can't be 'normal,'" he wrote. "If we want our children to grow up in a nation that lives up to its highest ideals, we can and must be better."
After protests spread through the country over the weekend, Obama shared an essay in which he suggested how demonstrators can effectively demand change while also denouncing violence and riots. "So let's not excuse violence, or rationalize it, or participate in it. If we want our criminal justice system, and American society at large, to operate on a higher ethical code, then we have to model that code ourselves," he wrote.
He also shared a page of resources on his website highlighting leaders, organizations, initiatives, and more that people can support to demand justice for Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and the countless other lives lost to racist acts of violence.