President Barack Obama, like millions of Americans, has watched people take to the streets in response to the killing of George Floyd and the ongoing problem of unequal justice. He addressed the situation in an essay on Medium.
Obama breaks down why we protest – to raise public awareness, to put a spotlight on injustice, and to make the powers that be uncomfortable. “Throughout American history, it’s often only been in response to protests and civil disobedience that the political system has even paid attention to marginalized communities,” he explained. “Eventually, aspirations have to be translated into specific laws and institutional practices.”
He goes on to say that’s why it’s important to vote – not just in federal elections, but on the state and local level, too. Mayors and county executives appoint most police chiefs, and district and state attorneys and so on. The former President adds that change comes from focus and unity. “The more specific we can make demands for criminal justice and police reform," he notes. "The harder it will be for elected officials to just offer lip service...and then fall back into business as usual once protests have gone away.”