The 44th president expressed his thoughts on the phrase that his risen in popularity this year during a new interview.
Former President Barack Obama said that young activists shouldn’t use “defund the police” if they’re aiming to garner support and facilitate change in a new interview. He also referred to the phrase as a “snappy slogan.”
Obama shared these remarks with Peter Hamby who hosts a political show on Snapchat, Good Luck America. He went on to share advice for activists who believe in the slogan, “If you believe, as I do, that we should be able to reform the criminal justice system so that it’s not biased and treats everybody fairly, I guess you can use a snappy slogan like ‘Defund The Police,’ but, you know, 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.”
This notion is a bit alarming as the terminology has risen in popularity this year following the violent deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. These killings at the hands of police shook up the nation amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Nationwide protests took place at the height of the public health crisis, protestors and organizers alike strategized vehemently to make their voices heard this year. For many, stripping money from police departments looks like allocating funds to different areas of a city’s budget to directly impact marginalized communities.
Instead of “defund the police,” Obama shared what Democrats should be saying, “‘Let’s reform the police department so that everybody’s being treated fairly, you know divert young people from getting into crime, and if there was a homeless guy, can we maybe send a mental health worker there instead of an armed unit that could end up resulting in a tragedy?’” Here he alleges people who aren’t listening will begin paying attention. “If you want to get something done in a democracy, in a country as big and diverse as ours, then you’ve got to be able to meet people where they are,” Obama said.
Later in the interview, Barack Obama also explicitly laid out how Democrats should work together to accomplish policy goals despite their major differences. “My advice for the Democratic Party is telling a story. Because people, young people, folks my age, people generally don’t listen to a bunch of policy analysis.”In the past, president-elect Joe Biden has shared that he supports police reform. A few months back he shared his thoughts on reform and that he believes trained officials rather than police should show up to mental health crises during an interview with Trevor Noah.
Based on the quotes pulled from the interview, it appears Obama believes stating the phrase “defund the police” doesn’t mitigate real change. But, 2020 has shown us that Black Lives Matter and grassroots activists’ constant determination has led to dismantling large budgets that allow police to historically harass Black communities. In June, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced he would cut $100 million to $150 million from the LAPD budget and reinvest it in communities of color, according to NPR. As time goes on, the long-term effects of the term “defund the police” will show themselves.