Young people in the United States must capitalize on the momentum they have created through protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death before the attention moves away, former president Barack Obama said in a virtual town hall Wednesday.
Obama made the comments during a panel on police violence organized by the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance during a panel discussion on law enforcement, an initiative he launched to empower young minorities.
“I’ve been hearing a little bit of chatter in the internet about voting versus protest, politics and participation versus civil disobedience and direct action,” Obama said during the live event.
“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.”
WATCH | Panel featuring Barack Obama:
The virtual town hall comes on the same day Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison increased the charge against fired officer Derek Chauvin to second-degree murder in Floyd’s death and announced charges against the other three officers who were present, according to reports.
I know the past few months have been hard and dispiriting. But watching the heightened activism of young people makes me hopeful. And if we can keep channeling our justifiable anger into peaceful, sustained, and effective action, this can be the moment when real change starts.
Obama is taking on an increasingly public role as the nation confronts a confluence of historic crises that has exposed deep racial and socioeconomic inequalities in America and reshaped the November election.
‘Immoral economic disparities’
“We’re in a political season, but our country is also at an inflection point,” said Valerie Jarrett, a longtime friend and adviser to Obama. “President Obama is not going to shy away from that dialogue simply because he’s not in office anymore.”
Former Democratic president Jimmy Carter also released a pointed statement on Wednesday on the Carter Center’s website.
“People of power, privilege, and moral conscience must stand up and say ‘no more’ to a racially discriminatory police and justice system, immoral economic disparities between whites and blacks, and government actions that undermine our unified democracy,” his statement said.
“We are responsible for creating a world of peace and equality for ourselves and future generations. We need a government as good as its people, and we are better than this.”