Barack Obama endured one of the most difficult days of his post-presidency on Wednesday after progressives, activists and blue check social media influencers blasted him over his criticism around the call to defund the police. While the blows were severe, the call-outs were legitimate.
In an interview with Snapchat, Obama pontificated that the “snappy slogan” alienates people.
“You lost a big audience the minute you say it, which makes it a lot less likely that you’re actually going to get the changes you want done,” he said. What remained unsaid is that Obama was referring to segments of the white population who are uncomfortable with facing the sobering fact of racism in law enforcement.
Barack Obama in a Snapchat interview has some advice for Dems on “defund the police” pic.twitter.com/WLz8au8lrB
— Francesca Chambers (@fran_chambers) December 2, 2020
His words weren’t fictional like a beloved children’s book, but they exposed a canyon between Democrat elites and progressives facing an issue that has real-life effects and consequences, most specifically, death. The rallying cry #BlackLivesMatter and kneeling in protest of police brutality were first viewed as non-digestible. But now some have dwarfed and morphed both into a capitalistic, social currency of sorts. Undoubtedly, there are still segments of the population who still feel it is an affront to their privilege.
“Defund the police,” an already toned down directive stemming from “abolish the police,” simply means re-allocating funds or redirecting funds from a city’s law enforcement, and instead investing in other government agencies like education, social services and infrastructure. It also means taking reducing monies for larger police departments that delve into militarization by purchasing artillery and vehicles used for war that evoke excessive force.
It was not long after the interview went viral that the hits rained down from Capitol Hill legislators who are no longer interested in pacifying the old guard. Instead, they would like to usher in policy that represents the disenfranchised.
With all due respect, Mr. President—let’s talk about losing people. We lost Michael Brown Jr. We lost Breonna Taylor. We’re losing our loved ones to police violence.
It’s not a slogan. It’s a mandate for keeping our people alive. Defund the police. https://t.co/Wsxp1Y1bBi
— Cori Bush (@CoriBush) December 2, 2020
Soon, members of “The Squad” followed.
The murders of generations of unarmed Black folks by police have been horrific. Lives are at stake daily so I’m out of patience with critiques of the language of activists.
Whatever a grieving family says is their truth.
And I’ll never stop fighting for their justice & healing.
— Ayanna Pressley (@AyannaPressley) December 2, 2020
We lose people in the hands of police. It’s not a slogan but a policy demand. And centering the demand for equitable investments and budgets for communities across the country gets us progress and safety. https://t.co/Vu6inw4ms7
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) December 2, 2020
What I’m realizing is that many of y’all don’t want structural change….you only want just enough change to keep Black folks out of the streets and for us to continue to support the democrats getting power by assuring them that we will always support white comfort & control.
— LaTosha Brown (@MsLaToshaBrown) December 3, 2020
I’m old enough to remember Colin Kaepernick explaining exactly why he was protesting, only to see his message sabotaged by performative patriotism. Bad slogans/messaging isn’t the problem. There will never be a nice way to sell progress to people who actually don’t want it.
— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) December 3, 2020
The criticism also turned to Obama’s latest book,” A Promised Land,” which previously faced heat over a passage where he admitted faking interest in philosophical authors to attract women.
One social media user pointed out that Obama wrote he initially did believe Henry Louis Gates was capable of aggressive activity after the researcher and Harvard University professor was arrested while trying to enter his own home during a public racial profiling scandal in 2009. The incident prompted the infamous “Beer Summit” to which Obama invited Gates and Cambridge Police Sgt. James Crowley, the white arresting officer, him to share beer and conversation at the White House.
Obama’s immediate guess as to the circumstances of Henry Louis Gates being arrested for attempting to enter his home own in July 2009: pic.twitter.com/8B7Aq2pTzE
— Daniel Steinmetz-Jenkins (@daniel_dsj2110) December 1, 2020
And lastly, Obama pissed folks off further when he voiced support for the COVID-19 vaccine, telling Sirius XM host Joe Madison that he would take a vaccine approved by Dr. Anthony Fauci. Later his predecessors, former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, said they would also be willing to publicly take the vaccine with Obama to inspire public trust and support.
A Twitter user pointed out why there’s limited trust in those actions, specifically referring to when Obama cringingly drank a glass of water in Flint, Michigan, during the height of the 2016 public health crisis which disproportionately affected Black community members who make up a majority of the city.
Obama ‘drank’ the Flint water live on tv too so…
— I’ve been a democrat my whole life (@memebotaccount) December 3, 2020
Obama is undoubtedly a man of great ideas, who for the past 12 years enjoyed limited public scrutiny, even from those who vehemently opposed him. Black communities often hold up safeguards around those who are barrier-breakers, in fear that the opportunity may never present itself again, and because the optics of grilling him or any community member is bad for “family business.”
But without the shroud and protection of the White House, Obama and the former First Lady Michelle Obama have seemingly felt more comfortable exposing their political and personal views, which remain consistently moderate.
A new wave of legislators unafraid of using the tool of social media, coupled with those who are tired of privileged elites screaming down from the mountain, apparently means that the nation’s first Black president can no longer enjoy that luxury.
For his loyal base — the young adults who championed for him in 2008 and are especially fatigued with surviving two recessions, and a pandemic — his brand of respectability no longer suffices. Especially when Black people are being murdered by a state that saunters off into freedom.
Obama is the same as he’s always been. It’s me who has (thankfully) moved further to the left.
— king crissle (@crissles) December 2, 2020
It is time and past due time, to hold Obama accountable. Our lives are depending on it