‘A heartbreak that never seems to stop’: Michelle Obama speaks out after George Floyd’s death

Zoe Tidman

Michelle Obama has spoken out after George Floyd’s death, saying “it is up to all of us” to root out racism.

The former first lady shared her comments alongside a painted image of Floyd, a black man who was killed while pleading for air as a police officer pressed down on his neck for eight minutes.

“Like so many of you, I’m pained by these recent tragedies,” Ms Obama said. “And I’m exhausted by a heartbreak that never seems to stop.”

“Right now it’s George, Breonna [Taylor] and Ahmaud [Arbery],” she said, referring to a black woman who was shot dead by police in her home and a black man who was killed while out jogging in the US.

“Race and racism is a reality that so many of us grow up learning to just deal with,” she said in a statement shared on social media. “But if we ever hope to move past it, it can’t just be on people of colour to deal with it.”

The former first lady added: “It’s up to all of us—Black, white, everyone—no matter how well-meaning we think we might be, to do the honest, uncomfortable work of rooting it out.

“It starts with self-examination and listening to those whose lives are different from our own.”

Her comments came the day after Barack Obama, her husband and former US president, shared a statement on Floyd’s death, saying everyone had to work together to end the legacy of “bigotry and unequal treatment”.

“It’s natural to wish for life ‘to just get back to normal’ as a pandemic and economic crisis upend everything around us,” Mr Obama said.

“But we have to remember that for millions of Americans, being treated differently on account of race is tragically, painfully, maddeningly ‘normal’.”

Floyd’s death has triggered days of protests around the US, with people taking to the streets in more than a dozen cities.

From Los Angeles to Miami to Chicago, demonstrations marked by chants of ”I can’t breathe” – a rallying cry echoing Floyd’s dying words – began peacefully on Saturday before escalating as people blocked traffic, set fires and clashed with riot police – some responding with tear gas and rubber bullets.

In the nation’s capital, hundreds of demonstrators assembled near the Justice Department headquarters shouting ”black lives matter”.

Many later moved to the White House, where they faced off with shield-carrying police, some mounted on horseback.

Protests have continued after Derek Chauvin - the now-fired police officer who pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck for minutes – was charged third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter on Friday.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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