As Black Lives Matter and anti-police brutality demonstrations sparked across the country following the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, “defund the police” became a rallying cry for protestors and activists demanding that local and federal governments reallocate funds from police departments to other divisions, such as social and public health work. However, Obama claimed that the “snappy slogan” can make those calling for justice lose “a big audience the minute you say it.”
He clarified that the problem isn’t the idea of redistributing the police resources itself, but rather the language used.
“That particular slogan I think the concern is there may be potential allies out there that you’d lose. The issue always is how do you get enough people to support your cause that you can actually institutionalize it and translate it into laws?,” he told Noah.
Obama goes on to express that slogans that hint at direct action, as opposed to something more universal like “Make America Great Again” or “Yes We Can,” need further explanation. He said that “defund the police” might make some Americans, of all races and backgrounds, worry about their safety and their comfort.
“The issue to me is not making me comfortable, but can we be precise with our language enough that people who might be persuaded by 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?,” he added.
He said that various roles in society, such as activists and politicians, require appropriate language, even if they’re pushing for the same goal and changes.
While many took Obama’s earlier criticism of the slogan as a slight against the Black Lives Matter movement and efforts to establish justice for the victims of police brutality, the former president said that isn’t the case and praised the activists.
“I have consistently believed that their courage, activisms, media savvy, strategic result far exceeds anything I could’ve done at their age and it has shifted the conversation in ways i would not have even imagined a couple of years ago,” he said.
Watch The Daily Show conversation above.
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