Former President Barack Obama is encouraging Americans to make “real change” in response to the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and the widespread protests that followed.
The nation’s 44th president made his remarks Wednesday in a nationally televised speech during a virtual event hosted by My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, a program established by the Obama Foundation.
“As tragic as these past few weeks have been, as difficult, scary and uncertain as they’ve been, they have also been an incredible opportunity for people to be awakened,” Obama said.
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He praised peaceful protesters who have gathered in cities across the nation, following the May 25 death of George Floyd in police custody. Obama then urged U.S. mayors to take action by reviewing use of force policies in local police departments.
“The reform has to take place in more than 19,000 American municipalities, more than 18,000 local enforcement jurisdictions,” he said. “And so as activists and everyday citizens raise their voices, we need to be clear about where change is going to happen and how we can bring about that change.”
He made note of institutionalized racial injustices in everything from policing to health care.
“What has happened over the last several weeks is — challenges and structural problems here in the United States have been thrown into high relief,” Obama said. “They are the outcomes not just of the immediate moments in time, but they’re the result of a long history of slavery and Jim Crow and redlining and institutionalized racism that too often have been the plague, the original sin of our society.”
He talked about the civil rights movement of the 1960s and noted that many of the people protesting in cities today are much more diverse.
“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,” Obama said.
Speaking directly to young people of color he said, “I want you to know that your lives matter. Your dreams matter.”
In a lengthy Medium post on June 1, Obama said the protests are the result of a “decades-long failure” to reform police departments.