On Sunday, November 15, President Barack Obama appeared on 60 Minutes to discuss the release of his memoir Promised Land. He also opened up about the tragic killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Journalist Scott Pelley asked Obama, “Did you watch the video of George Floyd’s strangulation?”
Obama answered, “Of course. It was heartbreaking. 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.”
He spoke to how Floyd’s death affected the nation, which caused uprisings all over the country, “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.”
Obama continued, “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.”
When asked why these injustices continue from Trayvon Martin to Breonna Taylor persist, Obama explained, “One is that 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 we don’t try to get at some of the underlying causes for chronic poverty.”
He also added, “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.”
On May 25, George Floyd died after Derek Chauvin pinned him down kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes. Two other officers helped while one stood by and watched. His death led to protests and demonstrations both in the United States and abroad shining a light on the injustices of Black men and women killed by law enforcement officers.
In June, Chauvin was charged with first degree murder, while the three other officers involved in Floyd’s death — J. Alexander Kueng, Tou Thao and Thomas Lane — were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. All four officers were relieved from their positions at the Minneapolis Police Department.
All of the men are now out on bail. Chauvin is reportedly allowed to leave the state of Minnesota due to “safety concerns.” The trial for all four men is currently scheduled for March 2021. It’s not yet determined if all four will be tried together, or separately.