While Washington, DC is painting a message on Friday in giant, yellow letters down a busy street ahead of a planned protest this weekend stating. "BLACK LIVES MATTER," former U.S. President Barack Obama said he is "inspired" by the young Americans taking to the streets to protest against the decades-old issue -- racism.
"Those people out on the streets — that's a sea change. They're saying we don't accept the status quo," Obama said in a virtual town hall titled, "Mental Health and Wellness in a Racism Pandemic." The conversation, which was organized by Obama Foundation's My Brother's Keeper initiative, also included Republican John Lewis, the civil rights legend, and Bryan Stevenson, a civil rights attorney and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative.
The U.S. Protests
The 44th American President, Obama, talked about the massive protests against systematic racism and police brutality. He said "older folks" can learn young people's impatience. "There has been as much honest conversation in this country on the topic of race in the past week as has taken place in my living memory," said Obama and noted that the protests for racial justice have taken place in large cities as well as in small towns.
While referring to the Minneapolis resident George Floyd's death by a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, Obama mentioned that the white community oftentimes doesn't want to listen to it or says, "You are playing the race or you are exaggerating," but in some videos, it is visible clearly and they cannot ignore it.
Obama has left the spotlight since the end of his presidency, but after the death of African American Floyd which sparked massive outrage and nationwide protests, he has spoken out more frequently. On Wednesday, June 3 he referred to the demonstrators and said "I'm proud of you guys."
Black Lives Matter
During Friday's conversation, the veteran Georgia Congressman Lewis recalled the 1965 incident when he was beaten by state police during the march for Black voting rights from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama.
"To see all of the young people ... not just men of color, but Black, white, Latino, Asian American, Native American, all of the young women, standing up, speaking out, being prepared to march... They're going to help redeem the soul of America," he said.
Stevenson, whose organization opened a museum in Alabama dedicating to the victims of lynching, spoke about the long legacy of racism impacting generations of African-Americans. He said in Alabama, "many of us have so much hope" but still many people find themselves over-policed and over-prosecuted and over-convicted and over-sentenced and marginalized and frequently denied opportunities.
While describing a personal experience a few years after he graduated from Harvard Law School, Stevenson said he faced cops who pointed a gun at his head. "I had to calm those officers down," he explained and mentioned that he was "exhausted" from bearing the "burden" of being an African American. "Black people in this country are undefeated in our resolve that we will be free. That's the thing that sustains me," said Stevenson.
In the Midst of Protests, Trump says, 'It is a great thing' for Floyd
A day after George Floyd's memorial in Minneapolis, during a press conference President Trump suggested that Floyd was "looking down right now and saying this is a great thing that's happening for our country."
The remarks during a televised White House briefing sparked confusion as to why Trump thought it was a great day for Floyd, as he stands accused by many of having failed to respond to the ongoing racism issue, the insane police brutality, and inequalities that demonstrators are protesting.
However, later White House senior communications advisor Ben Williamson wrote on Twitter that "It was very clear the President was talking about the fight for equal justice and equal treatment under the law when he made this comment."
But immediately after Trump's speech was televised, his presumptive Democratic opponent in the 2020 Presidential election, Joe Biden lashed out at him for invoking Floyd's name, calling it, "despicable." He wrote on Twitter: "George Floyd's last words, 'I can't breathe,' have echoed across our nation and around the world. For the President to try to put any other words in his mouth is frankly despicable."