Trevor Noah Presses Obama on His ‘Defund the Police’ Criticism: Is the Slogan Really the Problem?


After catching some heat regarding his criticism of the “Defund the Police” slogan, former president Barack Obama joined Trevor Noah on The Daily Show, giving him a chance to clarify his critique.

Obama has joined several of the late-night hosts while promoting A Promised Land, but none managed to conduct a conversation as insightful and in-depth as Noah, who avoided softball questions and pressed the former president on racism and the Black Lives Matter movement.

The two first discussed Obama’s new memoir, which he described as a way to “give people a sense of what it’s like to be in the White House as a normal person, finding themselves in extraordinary circumstances.”

“We’re learning right now a vivid example of the fact that our democracy is not the way we would imagine it to be,” he added. “There are all kinds of elements to it where the most votes don’t necessarily translate into the equivalent amount of power.”

Noah later asked Obama to address the backlash he’s received for criticizing calls to defund the police, noting that 2020 saw unprecedented protests against police brutality in the wake of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor’s killings.

Noah also questioned if the slogan was really the problem, or if people based their feelings on already established views on a party or movement.

“Your presidency, as you know better than everyone, people thought, that is it, we’re now in a post-racial utopia,” said the host. “And then people saw there was still a lot of work to be done. Let’s talk a little bit about the movement as you want to see it.”

“I’m glad you actually brought this up,” Obama replied. “Because what’s been fascinating while I’ve been on this book tour is people have asked me what’s my source of optimism? And uniformly what I have said is nothing made me more optimistic during a very difficult year than the activism that we saw in the wake of George Floyd’s murder and Black Lives Matter.”

The former president also addressed Noah’s specific questions regarding “defund the police,” clarifying that he did not “chastise” the Black Lives Matter movement, but instead was concerned with losing potential allies due to a dividing slogan.

“What? Hold on a second, I just spent the whole summer complimenting them. What are you talking about?’” Obama added of the Black Lives Matter movement, explaining that he wasn’t yearning for “a bigger Democratic majority,” but instead wanted to express people’s aversion to the slogan.

“The concern in these debates is often, ‘Oh, are we just trying to make white people comfortable rather than speaking truth to power,’ right?” he added. “The issue to me is not making them comfortable. It is, can we be precise with our language enough that people who might be persuaded around 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?”

Watch above, via YouTube.

Have a tip we should know?

Filed Under: