The Former President of United States of America, Barrack Obama has said that if Americans want to bring about real change, then the choice isn’t between protest and politics but both, while Americans have to mobilize to raise awareness, have to organize and cast their ballots to make sure that they elect candidates who will act on reform.
He disclosed this on his essay, published on medium.com on Monday. He said millions of people across the country take to the streets and raise their voices in response to the killing of George Floyd and the ongoing problem of unequal justice, “many people have reached out asking how we can sustain momentum to bring about real change”.
He added that the waves of protests across the country represent a genuine and legitimate frustration over a decades-long failure to reform police practices and the broader criminal justice system in the United States. “The overwhelming majority of participants have been peaceful, courageous, responsible, and inspiring.
“They deserve our respect and support, not condemnation, something that police in cities like Camden and Flint have commendably understood. On the other hand, the small minority of folks who’ve resorted to violence in various forms, whether out of genuine anger or mere opportunism, are putting innocent people at risk, compounding the destruction of neighborhoods that are often already short on services and investment and detracting from the larger cause”, he said.
He cautioned on violence, or rationalize it, or participate in it. “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 saw an elderly black woman being interviewed today in tears because the only grocery store in her neighborhood had been trashed. If history is any guide, that store may take years to come back.
“The point of protest is to raise public awareness, to put a spotlight on injustice, and to make the powers that be uncomfortable; in fact, throughout American history, it’s only in response to protest that the political system has even paid attention to marginalized communities. But eventually, aspirations have to be translated into specific laws and institutional practices, and in a democracy, that only happens when we elect government officials who are responsive to our demands”.
Moreover, he said it’s important for Americans to understand which levels of government have the biggest impact on criminal justice system and police practices. “When we think about politics, a lot of us focus only on the presidency and the federal government. And yes, we should be fighting to make sure that we have a president, a Congress, a U.S. Justice Department, and a federal judiciary that actually recognize the ongoing, corrosive role that racism plays in our society and want to do something about it.
“But the elected officials who matter most in reforming police departments and the criminal justice system work at the state and local levels. 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. In some places, police review boards with the power to monitor police conduct are elected as well”, he said.