Former President Barack Obama said in an opinion piece published on Monday saying he “couldn’t disagree more” with the idea that only protests can bring about change, while issuing guidelines to “sustain momentum” to “bring about real change.”
Amid the protests and rioting that has broken out in over thirty major cities across the nation, former President Barack Obama wrote an opinion piece that was published by Medium on Monday titled: “How to make this moment the turning point for real change” in which he outlined guidelines for bringing changes that can help solve the problem of “unequal justice.”
“Ultimately, it’s going to be up to a new generation of activists to shape strategies that best fit the times,” Obama wrote. “But I believe there are some basic lessons to draw from past efforts that are worth remembering.”
Obama went on to relay the story of an elderly black woman that was in tears “because the only grocery store in her neighborhood had been trashed,” adding, “If history is any guide, that store may take years to come back.”
“So let’s not excuse violence, or rationalize it, or participate in it,” Obama the former US president advised. “If we want our criminal justice system, and American society at large, to operate on a higher ethical code, then we have to model that code ourselves.”
“I’ve heard some suggest that the recurrent problem of racial bias in our criminal justice system proves that only protests and direct action can bring about change, and that voting and participation in electoral politics is a waste of time,” Obama said. “I couldn’t disagree more.”
The ‘bottom line’ he wrote is that “if we want to bring about real change, then the choice isn’t between protest and politics,” Obama asserted. “We have to do both. We have to mobilize to raise awareness, and we have to organize and cast our ballots to make sure that we elect candidates who will act on reform.”
“Moreover, it’s important for us to understand which levels of government have the biggest impact on our criminal justice system and police practices,” former President Obama said in the op-ed.
“The elected officials who matter most in reforming police departments and the criminal justice system work at the state and local levels,” Obama pointed out. “It’s mayors and county executives that appoint most police chiefs and negotiate collective bargaining agreements with police unions. It’s district attorneys and state’s attorneys that decide whether or not to investigate and ultimately charge those involved in police misconduct. Those are all elected positions.”
“The fact that who wins and who loses those seats is often determined by just a few thousand, or even a few hundred, votes,” Obama highlighted.