Barack Obama may no longer be president, but he continues to be a strong and much-needed voice when it comes to issues that are impacting the nation. This week, the former president penned a heartfelt letter on Medium addressing the ongoing protests sparked by the death of George Floyd.
Obama explained how the current climate and moment could be used to force systemic change.
“As millions of people across the country take to the streets and raise their voices in response to the killing of George Floyd and the ongoing problem of unequal justice, many people have reached out asking how we can sustain momentum to bring about real change,” Obama wrote.
“Ultimately, it’s going to be up to a new generation of activists to shape strategies that best fit the times. But I believe there are some basic lessons to draw from past efforts that are worth remembering.”
Obama went on to discuss how to force real change which starts at the local and state levels.
“Moreover, it’s important for us to understand which levels of government have the biggest impact on our criminal justice system and police practices. When we think about politics, a lot of us focus only on the presidency and the federal government. And yes, we should be fighting to make sure that we have a president, a Congress, a U.S. Justice Department, and a federal judiciary that actually recognize the ongoing, corrosive role that racism plays in our society and want to do something about it,” he added. “But the elected officials who matter most in reforming police departments and the criminal justice system work at the state and local levels.
“It’s mayors and county executives that appoint most police chiefs and negotiate collective bargaining agreements with police unions. It’s district attorneys and state’s attorneys that decide whether or not to investigate and ultimately charge those involved in police misconduct. Those are all elected positions. In some places, police review boards with the power to monitor police conduct are elected as well. Unfortunately, voter turnout in these local races is usually pitifully low, especially among young people — which makes no sense given the direct impact these offices have on social justice issues, not to mention the fact that who wins and who loses those seats is often determined by just a few thousand, or even a few hundred, votes.”
You can read the full piece here.
Floyd was killed after a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on the back of his neck for nearly 8 minutes while Floyd pleaded for air. The ex-officer, Derek Chauvin, has been arrested for third-degree murder. The three other officers involved — Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao — have been fired by the Minneapolis Police Department and remain under investigation.