Outrage and protests have been sparked after a police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin fired seven shots at point-blank range into the back of 29-year-old Jacob Blake as he attempted to enter his vehicle.
Then, during a subsequent protest, a heavily armed 17-year-old opened fire at the crowd and killed two protestors. He was arrested and subsequently charged with homicide. He was not shot by police.
Blake, who has yet to be charged with a crime, is Black. The 17-year-old murder suspect is white, something that has not gone unnoticed.
Former U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama took to social media on Friday to address the violence, posting a lengthy statement on Twitter.
“I’m just devastated by the shootings in Kenosha. First, the seven shots from a police officer’s gun at Jacob Blake’s back as his children looked on. Then, two nights later, the bullets that killed two protestors, with a young man only 17 years old arrested and charged with homicide,” Obama wrote.
“These past few months, I’ve been thinking a lot about what our kids are seeing every day in this country — the lack of empathy, the division stoked in times of crisis, the age-old and systemic racism that’s been so prominent this summer,” the mother of two continued. “Sometimes they see it on the news. Sometimes they see it from the White House Garden. And sometimes they see it in the backseat of a car.”
Obama continued by admitting she, like many people, is feeling “exhausted and frustrated right now,” and spoke of her own personal experience as a person of colour.
“It’s a weight that I know Black and Brown people all across the country are shouldering once again. And we’re often left wondering how things will get better. But then I see the swift and powerful protests that have risen up around the country — from the world of sports to the folks standing up peacefully and purposefully in their own communities — and I see the glimmers of something different,” she wrote.
“They already are — opening eyes, rattling consciences, and reminding people of all backgrounds that this problem wasn’t solved earlier this summer and it won’t be any time soon unless we all make a change,” Obama added.
“And that is who I am appealing to today, and who we all must appeal to in the months ahead — to those who look like us and those who don’t; to those who vote like us and those who don’t; to those who’ve experienced this kind of trauma and those who haven’t,” she offered.
For those on the sidelines, she encouraged them to join their voices and not leave “the oppressed to fight these battles alone.”
“So I want to encourage you all to keep using your bullhorns and your ballots to reform policies in our cities and our neighboUrhoods,” she said. “And I hope you’ll keep speaking out wherever you are — board rooms, class rooms, dining rooms, break rooms, locker rooms — because if enough of us do that, we’ll open up even more minds. And maybe we can prevent the next name from being added to this seemingly unending list of tragedies.”
Obama concluded by encouraging all Americans to exercise their right to vote.
“And make sure you’re registered to vote — and if you think you’re already registered, take a minute to confirm that your information is updated,” she wrote. “Sending so much love and prayers to the families of those we lost and those whose lives are forever changed.”
I’m just devastated by the shootings in Kenosha. And I can’t stop thinking about what our kids are seeing every day—and our obligations to them going forward.
— Michelle Obama (@MichelleObama) August 28, 2020