“It shouldn’t be normal in America in 2020. It can’t be normal,” Barack Obama said a few days after the death of African-American George Floyd at the hands of the police. The shockwave produced by the affair has since spread across the United States. Protests and riots against racism and police violence erupted in Minneapolis, then in several other states. In a column published on the Medium site, the former occupant of the White House took a closer look at the social crisis the country is going through. An analysis and an invitation to “make this moment the turning point of real change”.
For Barack Obama, the wave of demonstrations which has submerged the country indeed represents “a legitimate frustration in the face of the failure of several decades to reform police practices and the American criminal justice system”. “The overwhelming majority of the demonstrators were courageous, peaceful and inspiring,” he wrote, however, condemning a “small minority” who had used violence, which “harms the cause and worsens the situation of neighborhoods already in short of services ”. According to the former President of the United States, the protests serve to “highlight injustice”, but the changes must go “through specific laws and institutional practices”. Ambitions that can only be achieved by electing “civil servants who respond to our requests”.
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In his column, Barack Obama recalls that the public authorities which count most to reform the police services and the American legal system exercise at local and state level. “It is the mayors and county officials who appoint most of the police chiefs and negotiate agreements with the police unions. District and state prosecutors decide whether or not to investigate a case and charge in fine people involved in inappropriate behavior, “he explains.
I wrote out some thoughts on how to make this moment a real turning point to bring about real change –– and pulled together some resources to help young activists sustain the momentum by channeling their energy into concrete action. https://t.co/jEczrOeFdv
– Barack Obama (@BarackObama) June 1, 2020
Align protest and politics
The former American president therefore recalls the importance of the vote: “The participation rate in these local elections is generally and unfortunately low, especially among young people […] If we are to make real change, the choice is not between protest and politics. We have to do both. We need to mobilize to raise awareness, and we need to organize and vote to make sure we elect candidates who can reform, ”he said. “The more we can make specific requests, the more difficult it will be for elected officials to simply offer an answer to this crisis, then get back to work as usual when the demonstrations have disappeared. “
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Barack Obama also sees hope in the activism emerging from young people visible in recent weeks. “If in the future we can channel our anger towards peaceful, sustained and effective action, then this can be a real turning point for our nation’s ambition to live out our highest ideals,” he writes. There is only one way to do this: “Let’s get to work. “