Barack Obama claims ‘defund the police’ slogan disturbs ‘not just white folks, but Michelle’s mom’
Former President Barack Obama is attempting to clarify and parse his criticism of the phrase “Defund the Police.” He stated in an interview with The Daily Show‘s Trevor Noah on Tuesday that it gave pause to “not just white folks, but Michelle’s mom,” referring to former First Lady Michelle Obama’s mother Marian Shields Robinson.
Obama emphatically stated that his remarks were not an endorsement of the view that “Defund the police” cost Democrats seats in down-ballot elections. This seems to be in contrast to earlier statements he made concerning the matter. He called it a ‘snappy slogan’ and insinuated it stood in the way of progressive goals.
“You’ve 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,” Obama said recently in a Snapchat interview. “But if you instead say, ‘Let’s reform the police department so that everyone’s treated fairly … suddenly a lot of folks who might not otherwise listen to you, are listening to you.”
In response to Obama’s statements, the Black Lives Matter PAC has launched a website called “SnappySlogan.com,” saying “if you are worried about whether ‘Defund the Police’ is the right slogan, you are a part of the problem.”
“President Obama thinks you lose people with snappy slogans like #DefundThePolice,” the BLM PAC said in a statement. “Our movement believes when leaders waste time criticizing a hashtag instead of talking about stopping murders committed by law enforcement and white supremacists, we lose Black lives.”
“If the former President is worried about whether #DefundThePolice is the right slogan, we must make it known that this is the type of leadership that is a part of the problem.”
Obama has stated that the activism and protests that sprung up after the police killing of George Floyd were one of the few things that kept him optimistic during an otherwise difficult year. “I have consistently believed that their courage, activism, media-savvy, strategic resolve far exceeds anything I could’ve done at their age and I think has shifted the conversation in ways that I would not have even imagined a couple of years ago,” he said.
In the Noah interview, Obama addressed differing roles of activists and politicians as well.
He also told Noah: “I was making a very particular point around if we, in fact, want to translate the very legitimate belief that how we do policing needs to change, and that if there is, for example, a homeless guy ranting and railing in the middle of the street, sending a mental health worker rather than an armed untrained police officer to deal with that person might be a better outcome for all of us, and make us safer.”
“If we describe that to, not just white folks, but let’s say, Michelle’s mom, that makes sense to them,” Obama said, then added “But if we say ‘Defund the Police,’ not just vote white folks but Michelle’s mom might say ‘If I’m getting robbed, who am I going to call, and is somebody going to show up?’ Right?”
Barack Obama tells Snapchat's @PeterHamby that “snappy” slogans like “Defund the Police” aren't very effective and will lose you an audience.
“The key is deciding, do you want to actually get something done, or do you want to feel good among the people you already agree with?” pic.twitter.com/sN8pigpP9O
— The Recount (@therecount) December 2, 2020
Obama also took issue with the criticism that “we [are] just trying to make white people comfortable rather than speaking truth to power,” pointing out that “the issue to me is not making them comfortable, it is can we be precise with our language enough that people who might be persuaded around that particular issue, to make a particular change that gets a particular result that we want, what’s the best way for us to describe that?”
“So what you’re basically saying is we should workshop all of our slogans with Michelle,” Noah joked. Obama laughed and replied, “That probably would be wise.”