Michelle Obama delivers moving speech about police brutality and racism

Joanna Taylor
Monday 08 June 2020 14:30
news

Michelle Obama told millions of Americans that the Black Lives Matter protests are the "results of decades of unaddressed prejudice and inequality" in a moving graduation speech.

The former first lady spoke about the protests during 'Dear Class of 2020', a series of virtual speeches that featured herself and her husband Barack Obama, as well as musicians Beyoncé, Lizzo, Billie Eilish and Lady Gaga.

Addressing graduating students, Obama said:

Over these past couple of months, our foundations have been shaken. Not just by a pandemic that stole too many of our loved ones, upended our daily lives and sent tens of millions into unemployment, but also by the rumblings of age old fault lines that our country was built on. Lines of race and power that are now so nakedly exposed for all of us to grapple with. 

While this period is unprecedented, it is not a complete anomaly, simply some random coincidence to be dismissed. What's happening right now is the result of decades of unaddressed prejudice and inequality. 

She also discussed the nature of protesting, saying that anger needs to be channelled into "plans and policies".

It's up to you to couple every protest with plans and policies. With organising and mobilising and voting. Anger is a powerful force. It can be a useful force, but left on its own it will only corrode and destroy and sow chaos on the inside and out.

But when anger is focussed, when it's channelled into something more, that is the stuff that changes history. Dr King was angry. Sojourner Truth was angry. Lucretia Mott, Cesar Chavez, the folks at Stonewall, they were all angry. But those folks were also driven by passion, by principle, by hope. 

She went on to talk specifically about the protests sweeping the US and the world, saying

If you're spending a lot of time just hashtagging and posting right now, that's useful especially during a pandemic but it's only a beginning. Go further. 

I know you can do it because over these many years I've seen exactly who you are. I've seen your creativity and your talent and your resourcefulness. I've seen you speaking out to end gun violence and fight climate change. I've seen you gathering donations for those in need during this pandemic, I've seen you marching with peace and with purpose.  

Earlier, Obama shared a painting of George Floyd on her Instagram, and listed the names of other black people who have died of the result of racist police brutality. She called on people of "all" races to oppose racism.

People want Obama to be the queen of everything.

Because unprecedented times require extraordinary leadership.

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