Former President Barack Obama shared parts of the conversations he has had over the past few days in the aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd, the Minneapolis man who died May 25.
In a message posted to Twitter, he spoke of the frustrations felt by the people he spoke with, who noted that incidents ranging from racial injustice to the coronavirus pandemic cannot be regarded as normal and that the country must commit to improving itself.
Obama’s statement is as follows:
I want to share parts of the conversations I’ve had with friends over the past couple days about the footage of George Floyd dying face down on the street under the knee of a police officer in Minnesota.
The first is an email from a middle-aged African American businessman.
“Dude I gotta tell you the George Floyd incident in Minnesota hurt. I cried when I saw that video. It broke me down. The ‘knee on the neck’ is a metaphor for how the system so cavalierly holds Black folks down, ignoring the cries for help. People don’t care. Truly tragic.”
Another friend of mine used the powerful song that went viral from 12-year-old Keedron Bryant to describe the frustrations he was feeling.
The circumstances of my friend and Keedron may be different, but their anguish is the same. It’s shared by me and millions of others.
It’s natural to wish for life “to just get back to normal” as a pandemic and economic crisis upend everything around us. But we have to remember that for millions of Americans, being treated differently on account of race is tragically, painfully, maddeningly “normal” -- whether it’s while dealing with the health care system, or interacting with the criminal justice system, or jogging down the street, or just watching birds in a park.
This shouldn’t be “normal” in 2020 America. It can’t be “normal.” If we want our children to grow up in a nation that lives up to its highest ideals, we can and must be better.
It will fall mainly on the officials of Minnesota to ensure that the circumstances surrounding George Floyd’s death are investigated thoroughly and that justice is ultimately done. But it falls on all of us, regardless of our race or station -- including the men and women in law enforcement who take pride in doing their tough job the right way, every day -- to work together to create a “new normal” in which the legacy of bigotry and unequal treatment no longer infects our institutions or our hearts.
Minneapolis is continuing to deal with social unrest in the days since Floyd’s death, which has touched off demonstrations in several cities around the country.
Many of the protests over the past three days have been peaceful, with thousands amassing in the city’s downtown area to call for the officers at the center of the fatal encounter to be charged with murder.
George Floyd died when police officer Derek Chauvin attempted to arrest him by placing his knee on the 46-year-old’s neck causing him to lose consciousness and die.
The officers, including Chauvin, Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng were all fired. Both local authorities and the FBI are investigating the incident, but charges against them have not yet been brought by Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman.
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