Obama: George Floyd made America ‘come face to face’ with Black community’s reality

In a '60 Minutes' interview before his book drops Tuesday, the nation's 44th president talked about race, politics and his successor

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As President Trump continues to resist President-elect Joe Biden’s win, Barack Obama has finally broken his silence concerning the election stand-off and on the lasting impact that George Floyd’s death had on race relations in America.

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Obama was a guest on 60 Minutes on Sunday while promoting the release of his new book, “A Promised Land,” a memoir of his early years and first term in the White House.  

As for the current administration’s resistance to admitting defeat he continued,  “I think it was time for him to concede probably– the day after the election– or at the latest, two days after the election,” Obama told Scott Pelley of 60 Minutes during their socially distanced sit-down. “When you look at the numbers objectively, Joe Biden will have won handily. There is no scenario in which any of those states would turn the other way, and certainly not enough to reverse the outcome of the election.”

As the conversation turned to protests ignited in the wake of Floyd’s death, Obama was candid about how he felt while watching that horrific video of his last moments.

“It was heartbreaking,” he said. “Very rarely, though, did you see it so viscerally and over a stretch of time where the humanity of the victim is so apparent, the pain and the vulnerability of someone so clear. And it was, I think, a moment in which America for a brief moment came face to face with a reality that African Americans in this country I think had understood for quite some time.

And I was heartened and inspired by the galvanizing effect that it had on the country as a whole. The fact that it wasn’t just Black people. It wasn’t just some, quote/unquote, “liberals” who were appalled by it, reacted to it, and eventually marched. But it was everybody. And it was a small first step in the kind of reckoning with our past and our present that so often we avoid.”

Obama continued:

“We have a criminal justice system in which we ask oftentimes very young, oftentimes not-very-well-trained officers to go into communities and just keep a lid on things. And, you know, we don’t try to get at some of the underlying causes for chronic poverty.”

The former president who created an initiative My Brother’s Keeper while in office to provide training and mentorship to Black and brown young men said that there are clear ways to find solutions to the problems of police brutality. But he said that the way to do so was something that the entire community would have to buy into.

“So if we’re going to actually solve this problem, there are some specific things we can do to make sure that our contracts with police officers don’t completely insulate them when they do something wrong, putting money into budgets for training these police officers more effectively, teaching police officers not to escalate but to de-escalate,” he told Pelley.

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“But it’s important for us not to let ourselves off the hook and think this is just a police problem, because those shootings, that devaluation of life is part and parcel with a legacy of discrimination, and Jim Crow, and segregation that we’re all responsible for,” he concluded. “And if we’re gonna actually put an end to racial bias in the criminal justice system, then we’re gonna have to work on doing something about racial bias in corporate America and bias in where people can buy homes. And that is a larger project in which all of the good news is all of us can take some responsibility. We– we can all do better on this front than we’ve been doing.”

The first volume of Obama’s presidential memoir “The Promised Land” comes out Tuesday, Nov. 17. Watch the entire interview below:

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