Obama addresses racial disparities, Ahmaud Arbery killing in speech to HBCU graduates
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In an address to graduating students at a joint ceremony for historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) Saturday, former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaThe soft but unmatched power of US foreign exchange programs O.T. Fagbenle to play Barack Obama in Showtime anthology 'The First Lady' Obama says reparations 'justified' MORE noted racial disparities — many of which have been underscored by the pandemic. 

“Let’s be honest: a disease like this just spotlights the underlying inequalities and extra burdens that black communities historically had to deal with in this country,” Obama said.

“We see it in the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on our communities just as we see it when a black man goes for a jog and some folks feel like they can stop, question and shoot him if he doesn’t submit,” he added, referring to the fatal shooting of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia in February of this year. 


The online ceremony, which was also attended by Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisTo unite America, Biden administration must brace for hate Democratic strategists start women-run media consulting firm Grassley to vote against Tanden nomination MORE (D-Calif.), comes after schools at every level — from elementary school to graduate programs — shuttered and switched to online learning as the coronavirus spread throughout the country in early March.   

The pandemic has had a particularly harsh impact on communities of color including black and LatinX populations. 

In April, Louisiana's health department released data showing that black people accounted for 70 percent of coronavirus deaths in the state. In Michigan, more than 40 percent of people who died from coronavirus were black. However, black people only make up 14 percent of the midwestern state's population. 

Other states across the country who provided racial data for coronavirus deaths and infections showed similarly disproportionate results. 

Obama said the younger generation is more aware of these injustices and has more resources to address them.

“Injustice like this isn’t new,” he said.

“What is new is that so much of your generation has woken up to the fact that the status quo needs fixing, that the old ways of doing things don’t work, that it doesn’t matter how much money you make if everybody around you is hungry and sick.”