2020-05-17 00:52:28 UTC
adding that some people still feel they can kill a black man for going for a jog
*44th president delivered online commencement speech to HBCU graduates
*He slammed his successor, President Trump, for his handling of COVID-19 crisis
*Pandemic 'tore back the curtain on idea folks in charge know what they're
doing,' he said
*'A lot of them aren't even pretending to be in charge,' Obama said on Saturday
*Former President also made mention of fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery, 25
*Arbery was shot dead while accosted by two white men in his neighborhood
*No arrests were made by authorities in February 23 killing in Brunswick,
*State-run agency arrested and charged two men on May 7 after video surfaced
Former President Barack Obama slammed his successor Donald Trump on Saturday for
his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and said the fatal shooting of an
unarmed black jogger in Georgia shows America is still unequal.
In an online commencement speech to the class of 2020 which graduated from
historically black colleges and universities this year, the 44th President did
not mention Trump by name, but there was no mistaking who he meant.
More than anything, this pandemic has fully, finally torn back the curtain on
the idea that so many of the folks in charge know what theyre doing, Obama
told graduates on Saturday.
A lot of them arent even pretending to be in charge.
Obama urged the graduating class to take up the mantle of leadership, saying:
'If the worlds going to get better, its going to be up to you.'
The nation's first black president also alluded to Ahmaud Arbery case, which
ignited outrage after video of the unarmed black jogger's fatal shooting
surfaced online and went viral.
Arbery, 25, was accosted by two armed white men while going for a jog in his
Georgia neighborhood on February 23.
The two men claimed they suspected Arbery of being linked to recent burglaries
in the area and that they were legally permitted to detain him until law
enforcement officials arrived.
After a struggle in which Arbery tried to flee, he was shot. Video of the
incident shows him collapsing to the ground after he was stopped by the two men.
Public outrage grew as it was learned that local authorities declined to
prosecute the men, who were known to be friends with officials in the
It took more than two months for authorities to make an arrest and charge
Gregory McMichael, 64, and his son Travis McMichael, 34, with murder.
Obama told HBCU graduates on Saturday that the COVID-19 pandemic, which has
claimed a disproportionately large number of African American victims, 'just
spotlights the underlying inequalities and extra burdens that black communities
have historically had to deal with in this country.'
The inequalities are visible not just in the realm of public health but also
'just as we see it when a black man goes for a jog, and some folks feel like
they can stop and question and shoot him if he doesnt submit to their
Obama, who has largely been quiet since leaving the White House in January 2017,
has vowed to be more involved in trying to help his vice president, Joe Biden,
win the presidency this fall.
Last week, the former president hit out at Trump over his handling of the
pandemic, calling his administrations efforts an absolute chaotic disaster.
Obama also blamed the current occupant of the Oval Office and his allies for
exacerbating tribal tensions around the country, which he says has hampered
the effort to reduce total number of cases nationwide.
Audio of the web call in which Obama spoke was obtained by Yahoo News.
What were fighting against is these long-term trends in which being selfish,
being tribal, being divided, and seeing others as an enemy - that has become a
stronger impulse in American life, the president said.
And by the way, were seeing that internationally as well.
Its part of the reason why the response to this global crisis has been so
anemic and spotty.
It would have been bad even with the best of governments.
It has been an absolute chaotic disaster when that mindset - of whats in it
for me and to heck with everybody else - when that mindset is operationalized
in our government.
Obama added: Thats why, I, by the way, am going to be spending as much time as
necessary and campaigning as hard as I can for Joe Biden.
Trump has been slammed by Democrats for his administrations response to the
COVID-19 pandemic, which has so far claimed the lives of more than 88,000
Americans and infected nearly 1.5 million others.
The president has denied reports that some of his top aides, including Health
and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and White House trade adviser Peter
Navarro, warned him as early as January that a pandemic would have devastating
consequences for Americans.
Trump has also been faulted for his administrations failure to put in place a
plan to have readily available testing so that Americans can isolate those
infected with the coronavirus.
While Trump has largely been portrayed as absent, state governors have taken the
lead, imposing lockdowns while urging the public to maintain social distancing
Trump has even lashed out at several governors, particularly Democrats like
Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, while urging his supporters to liberate those
states from lockdown even while his own administrations health experts
continued to encourage Americans to maintain social distancing.
The president has also made comments that have prompted mockery and scorn from
the public, including his suggestion that cleaning disinfectants could be
ingested into the body in order to treat COVID-19.
Trump, for his part, has claimed that his decision to shut down travel from
China saved lives, though the administration has allowed flights from China
carrying American citizens and legal residents to continue landing in the
The current president, meanwhile, tweeted on Saturday: OBAMAGATE!