Former President Barack Obama said Friday that he is “inspired” by the young people taking to the streets to protest against racism: “They’re saying we don’t accept the status quo.”
“Those people out on the streets — that’s a sea change,” Obama said in a virtual town hall titled “Mental Health and Wellness in a Racism Pandemic.”
Rep. John Lewis, the civil rights legend, and Bryan Stevenson, a civil rights attorney and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, also joined the conversation. It was organized by the Obama Foundation’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative.
“Older folks I think can learn from young people ― impatience,” the former president said, speaking of the massive protests around the nation and world against systemic racism and police brutality, which are largely being led by young Black activists.
“There has been as much honest conversation in this country on the topic of race in the past week as has taken place in my living memory,” said Obama, who was born in 1961. He noted that protests for racial justice have taken place not only in large cities but also in small towns.
“The white community oftentimes just doesn’t want to hear it or says you’re playing the race card or you’re exaggerating. But part of what’s happening with videos is now you can’t ignore it,” Obama added, referring in particular to the viral video of George Floyd’s death. Floyd, who was Black, was killed when a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, knelt on his neck for nearly 9 minutes.
Since Floyd’s death set off the protests, Obama ― who had stayed largely out of the political fray since the end of his presidency ― has spoken out more frequently. On Wednesday, he said in another virtual town hall that he was “proud of you guys,” referring to protesters, and on Monday, he wrote a post on the need for both “protests and politics” to bring about change.
Both Lewis and Stevenson spoke Friday of their...