Former U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday encouraged young people who have led protests over violence against African Americans to continue to make sure they bring about change, and opined that the movement reflects an unprecedented «change of mindset» in the country’s history.
In a talk organized by his foundation, the first African-American president of the United States (2009-2017) said that he does not entirely agree with comparisons of current protests with the riots recorded after the assassination of Martin Luther King in 1968, because «there is something different» in the current movement.
«You look at these protests (from now) and you see a much more representative display of America’s diversity in the streets, protesting peacefully, that they have felt called to do something. That didn’t exist in the 1960s, this broad coalition,» Obama stressed.
The former member added that «while some protests have been marred by the actions of a dwarf minority involved in violence, most Americans still think the protests are justified,» something that «would not have happened 40 or 50 years ago.»
«There’s a change of mindset that’s happening, a greater recognition that we can do things better,» he said.
Obama avoided directly criticizing President Donald Trump’s handling of protests and focused instead on sending a message of hope to all those young people who are outraged by the murder of George Floyd and other African-Americans who have lost their lives in the wake of police violence in recent years.
«I hope that (young people) will feel hopeful at the same time as angry, because they have the power to change things. They have communicated a sense of urgency that is of the most powerful and transformative I have ever seen,» Obama said.
«I can only thank (the young people) for helping to bring us up to this point,» he added.
The former president asked them to continue to press to «ensure that steps are taken» toward a change, because what often happens with the protests is that «there comes a point where attention is distracted» or groups of demonstrators begin to shrink.
Obama recalled that many of the great historical changes in the country «have been thanks to young people,» and that both Luther King and Cesar Chavez, Malcolm X were young when they took to the streets, just like the leaders of the feminist movement or the rights of the LGBTQ community.
«Sometimes when I feel hopeless, I look at what’s happening among young people and it makes me feel optimistic, it gives me the impression that this country is going to get better,» he added.
The former president noted that «400 years of racism cannot be eradicated at once,» so it may not be realistic to expect «radical change,» but the protests have been «an incredible opportunity for many people to wake up» to the inequalities that affect many blacks and Latinos in the country.
Obama turned to these young blacks and Latinos to tell them that «their lives matter,» but he also thanked those cops who have expressed solidarity with the peaceful protesters, for defiing that «change is going to need everyone’s participation»