Former President Barack Obama admitted he faced “institutional constraints” that caused him to be silent on race issues at an event for his foundation– My Brother’s Keeper Alliance.
During a forum hosted by his foundation, Obama made the revelation, The Hill reported. The event included a panel centered on the movement sparked by the death of George Floyd last year.
At today’s @MBK_Alliance Leadership Forum, we’re talking about the amazing levels of activism we’ve seen since George Floyd was killed—and the need to reimagine policing and public safety. Join us live. https://t.co/p6ucOZgwtD
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) May 26, 2021
“I did not in any way want to endanger their capacity to go in, investigate and potentially charge perpetrators, which meant that I could not come down or appear to come down decisively in terms of guilt or innocence,” Obama said.
Obama also blamed an unfriendly Congress and lack of Democratic governors for his reluctance to speak on social justice and race.
“Keep in mind, in 2012, I won. But I didn’t win congressmen, and we didn’t win a bunch of governorships back. We didn’t win a bunch of state legislators back,” the former president explained. “And so, all the reform initiatives that we were coming up with and the ideas that had been generated, we weren’t able to translate into as bold a set of initiatives as I would have wanted.”
The former president made a similar point during a New York Times interview published on Tuesday. After Ezra Klein asked him about his unwillingness to call out racism, Obama argued presidents must pick their battles if they wish to lead effectively.
“I think every president has to deal with this. It may have been more noticeable with me — in part because, as the first African American president, there was a presumption, not incorrect, that there were times where I was biting my tongue,” he told Klein. “That’s why the skit that Key and Peele did with the anger translator, Luther, was funny. Because people assumed Barack’s thinking something other than what he’s saying in certain circumstances.”