Former President Barack Obama said Friday that the death of a black man at the hands of the Minneapolis police, and the continued disparate treatment of other blacks and minorities in the United States, “shouldn’t be ‘normal’ in 2020 America.”
The former president tweeted that he wanted to share conversations he has had with friends “about the footage of George Floyd dying face down on the street under the knee of a police officer in Minnesota.”
Obama said a “middle-aged African American businessman” friend told him in an email “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.”
My statement on the death of George Floyd: pic.twitter.com/Hg1k9JHT6R
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) May 29, 2020
Another friend, Obama said, referenced a song by a 12-year-old gospel singer named Keedron Bryant that went viral this week in response to Floyd’s death.
In the song, the boy sings, “I’m a young black man, doing all that I can to stand. Oh, but when I look around and I see what’s being done to my kind every day, I’m being hunted as prey.”
“It’s natural to wish for life ‘to just get back to normal’ as a pandemic and economic crisis upend everything around us,” Obama said. “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.”
Obama’s mention of jogging referred to the death of Ahmaud Arbery, a black man who was shot while jogging in February by a pair of white men in a Georgia suburb.
“This shouldn’t be ‘normal’ in 2020 America. It can’t be ‘normal,’” Obama said. “If we want our children to grow up in a nation that lives up to its highest ideals, we can and must do better.
Obama said it will be the responsibility of Minnesota officials to investigate Floyd’s death, but he added that “it falls on all of us, regardless of our race or station — including the majority of men and woman 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.”