Former first lady Michelle Obama condemned what she called the “systemic racism” emanating from the White House and elsewhere around the country in an explosive statement on Friday that addressed recent killings and racial unrest in Kenosha, Wis.
“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,” Obama said.
“Sometimes they see it on the news. Sometimes they see it from the White House Rose Garden. And sometimes they see it from the back seat of a car.”
Obama’s statement represents another intense criticism of President Donald Trump following her Democratic National Convention speech last week.
It also comes as the violence in Kenosha has emerged as a new flashpoint of the 2020 White House race.
Trump and his allies have sought to highlight incidents of rioting and looting that have accompanied the city’s protests against racial injustice and police brutality.
Those demonstrations began after Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, was shot in the back seven times by a white police officer on Sunday as he leaned over into his car.
Three of Blake’s children were reportedly in the back seat of his SUV when their father was gunned down.
On Tuesday, two protesters in Kenosha were shot to death and a third was wounded during an attack apparently carried out by a young white man who was caught on cellphone video opening fire in the middle of the street with a semi-automatic rifle.
Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old police admirer from Illinois, was arrested on Wednesday.
Prosecutors charged him on Thursday with first-degree intentional homicide, one count of first-degree reckless homicide, one count of attempted first-degree intentional homicide and two counts of first-degree reckless endangerment.
Trump has repeatedly claimed that if Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is elected in November, mob violence will descend upon communities across the United States.
At this week’s Republican National Convention, both Trump and Vice President Mike Pence warned that “no one will be safe in Biden’s America.”
Other administration officials also have seized upon the violence in Kenosha, with White House counselor Kellyanne Conway even suggesting Thursday that further unrest could help the president politically.
“The more chaos and anarchy and violence reign, the better it is for who is the clear choice for who’s best on public safety and law and order,” Conway said.
For his part, Biden used a video statement on Wednesday to demand a peaceful end to racist police brutality. He also asserted that “burning down communities is not protest.”
On Thursday, Biden accused Trump of “pouring gasoline on the fire” of the country’s divisions, and he reminded voters that “this happens to be Donald Trump’s America.”
Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris issued a similar rebuke of Trump’s response to racial unrest in a speech on Thursday, and she said she believes the officer who shot Blake “should be charged” with a crime.