At the beginning of June, after days of international protests against police brutality due to the death of George Floyd (and countless others), Barack Obama took to Medium to lead the voices of change as only a real president can. In this blog, I will break down the main points of his essay, but I implore you to read his words as well.
Violence is Not the Answer
Former President Obama starts out his essay commending the large majority of protestors. He said, “The overwhelming majority of participants have been peaceful, courageous, responsible, and inspiring.” However, he does not mince words when it comes to the small minority of those who resorted to violence. He points out that destruction in communities that are already short on investments and services will be worse off. The violence actually detracts from the larger cause.
To cap off this point, Obama said, “if we want our criminal justice system, and American society at large, to operate on a higher ethical code, then we have to model that code ourselves.”
Use Your Voice and VOTE
The next actionable item Obama outlines is the power of voting. He acknowledges that many feel the only way to see actual change is through large protests. However, Obama explains that there is not a choice between protests and politics. Both must be used in order to enact lasting change. Protests will gather attention and awareness, but then those ideas need to be taken to the polls – especially when it comes to local and state elections. These are the ways change can be made from the ground up.
Have a Specific List of Demands
Finally, Obama emphasizes the importance of a concrete and specific list of demands from the protestors. Once a protest has garnered the attention of local governments, a movement needs a clear list of demands in order for things to not go back to business as usual after the protests slow down. In doing so, Obama says, “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.”
Barack Obama’s essay comes at a vital time where leadership and guidance are lacking from the current administration. Trump has worked to pull people apart and stoked the fires of racism. The Black Lives Matter movement and public protests show that hate will not be tolerated.
Take steps to make sure your voice is heard. Vote! Click on the link to register to vote or check your voting status https://www.whenweallvote.org/