Amid nationwide protests against police brutality and calls from activists to defund police departments, the former president of the NAACP argues the entire concept of American law enforcement needs fundamental restructuring.

“In order to change the scope and sweep of [police] brutality, it means that policing must change from the top to bottom,” Cornell William Brooks told Jim Braude on WGBH News’ Greater Boston Wednesday.

“It comes down to changing the culture of policing, to [saying] we cannot have a situation where Black people are literally regarded as the objects of suspicion, as opposed to the subjects of protection," he said. "And that goes to like literally, changing the entire culture and that is not a matter of tinkering around the edges.”

Brooks, now the founding director of the Trotter Collaborative for Social Justice at the Harvard Kennedy School, said he thinks most Americans are only now realizing the disproportionate harm American policing inflicts on Black and brown communities.

“I think it has a lot to do with … this tendency to want to believe the best about ourselves and the best about our country in spite of facts to the contrary,” Brooks said. “Quite often people will say that bad policing is a matter of a few bad apples, a few aberrational officers. And so that view of policing as a matter of a few misguided officers — as opposed to an industry which is affected by systemic racism — has led many people to blank and blink the facts.”

The ongoing demonstrations also shed light on a host of issues voters will decide on come November — from economic inequity, historic redlining, and disparities in healthcare, as evidenced by the COVID-19 pandemic, which is killing Black Americans at far higher rates than their white counterparts.

When asked if Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, was the right man for the job, Brooks said he thinks Biden will be able to “step into the gap” for Black Americans.

“It may not be his inclination, it may not be his disposition to rush forward with bold ideas, but that’s what the moment calls for. In the same way that LBJ may not have wanted to embrace civil rights or John Kennedy wanted to embrace civil rights, but the times called for it,” Brooks explained. “[Biden] needs to point to his record under President Barack Obama and then extrapolate forward what he plans to do as president. If he does that, he will be the President of the United States.”

Brooks also said that Biden should pick a Black woman to serve as his running mate.

“African American women have been the most loyal constituency of the Democratic Party…. There is a multiplicity of well qualified African American women who are fit to serve, who are prepared to serve as Vice President of the United States. And this is the moment to do so,” Brooks said.