Former President Barack Obama on Wednesday encouraged young people who have led protests against violence against African-Americans to continue to make sure they bring about change, and said the movement reflects a “change of mind” unprecedented in the country’s history.
In a talk hosted by his foundation, the first African American president in the US (2009-2017) assured that he does not entirely agree with the comparisons between the current protests and the riots registered after the murder of Martin Luther King in 1968, because “there is something different” in the current movement.
“You look at these protests (of now) and you see a much more representative display of America’s diversity on the streets, protesting peacefully, that they have felt called to do something. That did not exist in the 1960s, this broad coalition “Obama stressed.RELATED
The former president added that “although some protests have been marred by the actions of a dwarf minority who engaged in violence, most Americans still think the protests are justified,” something that “would not have happened 40 or 50 years ago. “
“There is a change of mentality that is happening, a greater recognition that we can do things better,” he said.
Obama avoided directly criticizing the management of President Donald Trump’s protests and instead focused on sending a message of hope to all those young people who are outraged at the murder of George Floyd and other African Americans who have lost their lives as a result of the police violence in recent years.
“I hope that (the young) feel hopeful as well as angry, because they have the power to change things. They have communicated a sense of urgency that is the most powerful and transformative I have ever seen,” Obama said.
“I can only thank them (the youth) for helping to bring us so far,” he added.
The former president asked them to continue pressing to “ensure that steps are taken” towards change, because what usually happens with protests is that “a point comes when attention is distracted” or the groups of protesters begin to decrease.
Obama recalled that many of the great historical changes in the country “have been thanks to the young people,” and that both Luther King and César Chávez, Malcolm X were young when they took to the streets, just like the leaders of the feminist movement or of the rights of the LGTBQ community.
“Sometimes when I feel hopeless, I look at what is happening among young people and it makes me feel optimistic, it gives me the impression that this country is going to improve,” he added.
The former president clarified that “400 years of racism cannot be eradicated at once”, so perhaps it is not realistic to expect “radical change”, but the protests have been “an incredible opportunity for many people to awaken” to the inequalities that They affect many blacks and Latinos in the country.
Obama addressed these black and Latino youth to tell them that “their lives matter,” but he also thanked those police officers who have expressed their solidarity with peaceful protesters, for considering that “change will require the participation of all the world”.