Former President Barack Obama has joined many centrist Democrats in criticizing the “Defund the Police” movement as ineffective virtue signaling, according to excerpts from a forthcoming interview on “Good Luck America,” an original political show on Snapchat.
“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,” Obama said in comments published on Axios.com. “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?”
According to Axios, the interview took place as the former president made the rounds to promote his latest memoir, “A Promised Land.”
Obama is no stranger to remarks such as these, ones that condescend and arguably attempt to delegitimize years of critical movement work. Framing calls to defund the police as a flawed, self-congratulatory, theoretical exercise is deeply insulting to thousands of people who took to the streets to fight for Black lives with a determination and commitment that the U.S. government has, thus far, failed to echo or act upon.
In a recent ESSENCE op-ed, Kayla Reed, Executive Director of Action St. Louis, and Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson, Co-Executive Director of Highlander Research and Education Center, both leaders with The Movement for Black Lives, explained why defunding the police is imperative for the safety and liberation of Black communities:
The call [to defund the police] comes in response to the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Tony McDade, and the countless more lives lost. The police are responsible for the death of hundreds of Black people each year through excessive use of force and many more fall ill, die or commit suicide while in custody. They cause harm with impunity, and decades of reforms, investigations and commissions have been unable to change this fact.
Some people will ask, but what about the real criminals? And violent crime?
Often this question serves as a red herring. The current system operates as though there is only one solution for all crime: arrest people, and incarcerate them. This is insufficient and ineffective. We are calling for something different.
Though the Movement for Black Lives proved pivotal in the 2020 presidential election—galvanizing Black voters across the nation and positioning voting for President-elect Joe Biden as one tool in the arsenal needed to dismantle the systems of oppression that kill us—Obama is far from alone in his critique of #DefundThePolice.
House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) issued a warning to Democrats on a caucus call in November, urging them to stay away from progressive positions as the Party faces run-off races in the battleground state of Georgia.
While the Democratic Party managed to hold on to the House, control of the Senate will come down to two races—GOP Sen. David Perdue facing off against Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff and GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler against Democratic candidate Rev. Raphael Warnock, senior pastor of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.
“If we are going to run on Medicare for All, defund the police, socialized medicine, we’re not going to win,” Clyburn said to people on the call.
During the Snapchat interview, Obama also commented on the increased support that Black men gave President Donald Trump during the 2020 presidential election, asserting that many men are attracted to male leaders who appear “macho.”
“I think men generally are more susceptible to public figures who act tough, try to project a stereotypical macho style,” he said. “I don’t think Black men are immune to that any more than white or Hispanic men are.”
The three-part interview is scheduled to air Wednesday through Friday on Snapchat.