Read President Obama’s Message: This Shouldn’t Be Normal
May 30, 2020 5:30 AM
Today, we sent the message below to our email subscribers about President Obama’s response to the tragic killing of George Floyd. If you’d like to receive updates like these and other Foundation news in the future, you can sign up for our email list here.
When the COVID-19 pandemic ricocheted around the world, it upended our societies and brought our lives to a standstill. But today in the US, we wake up in a country where it is clear not everything has stood still. Racism has not stood still. Bigotry has not stood still. The fatal disparity that people of color face—whether at the hands of law enforcement or the whims of our health care system—has not stood still.
On Friday, President Obama shared this video from 12-year-old Keedron Bryant, putting into song the anguish and heartbreak millions share after the senseless killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and too many more.
We wanted to share this video with you today, as well as the President’s own words about the tragic events of the past several weeks.
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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 majority of 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.
Six years ago, President Obama launched My Brother’s Keeper so that every boy and young man of color in America would know that their dreams mattered—that Keedron’s dreams would matter—as much as any other child’s. Today, that urgent work continues through the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance and through the work of several of our leaders who are fighting systemic racism throughout the world.
While now is a time for grief and anger, it is also a time for action and resolve.
And read the story below about how our neighbors here in Chicago are helping care for the communities of color disproportionately affected by COVID-19.
This is no time to stand still.
—The Obama Foundation
After a Chicago community call with President Obama, community organizers from across Chicago collaborated to create We Got Us, an initiative delivering packages of essential supplies to the city’s South and West sides. Their mission goes beyond providing immediate aid to the communities that have been disproportionately affected by the virus—these organizers want to help restructure systems to be more inclusive of the neighborhoods they serve.