"Let's get to work!"
In the wake of George Floyd’s murder, former President Barack Obama has offered a comprehensive guide on how to "make this moment a real turning point to bring about real change."
In a short article, which he published to Medium, Obama shared three “basic lessons” the new generation of activists can draw from past efforts to evoke change.
"First, the waves of protests across the country represent a genuine and legitimate frustration over a decades-long failure to reform police practices and the broader criminal justice system in the United States," he began. "The overwhelming majority of participants have been peaceful, courageous, responsible, and inspiring. They deserve our respect and support, not condemnation — something that police in cities like Camden and Flint have commendably understood."
Obama went on to condemn violence amidst the ongoing protests, writing, "On the other hand, the small minority of folks who’ve resorted to violence in various forms, whether out of genuine anger or mere opportunism, are putting innocent people at risk, compounding the destruction of neighborhoods that are often already short on services and investment and detracting from the larger cause."
For his second core lesson, the former POTUS spoke of the importance of both protesting and participating in electoral politics, especially at the local level. "The point of protest is to raise public awareness, to put a spotlight on injustice, and to make the powers that be uncomfortable; in fact, 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. But eventually, aspirations have to be translated into specific laws and institutional practices — and in a democracy, that only happens when we elect government officials who are responsive to our demands," he wrote.
Third and finally, Obama shared the value of "tailoring reforms for each community."
"The more specific we can make demands for criminal justice and police reform, the harder it will be for elected officials to just offer lip service to the cause and then fall back into business as usual once protests have gone away," he wrote before providing links to lists of organizations "who’ve been fighting the good fight at the local and national levels for years."
"If, going forward, we can channel our justifiable anger into peaceful, sustained, and effective action, then this moment can be a real turning point in our nation’s long journey to live up to our highest ideals," Obama concluded.
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