January 09, 2017
Asked about the perception that race relations have deteriorated during his two terms, President Obama said things are better now than they have been.
“I am absolutely convinced that race relations on the whole are actually better now than they were 20 years (ago),” Obama said, as ABC’s George Stephanopoulos interrupted him:
“Better now?” Stephanopoulos asked Obama in an interview taped on Friday for ABC’s “This Week.”
“Yes,” Obama responded. “But we have greater awareness of where we’re falling short than we used to. Let’s just take the example of– community police relations. I mean, the truth of the matter is that — that the problem of police shootings and reactions in the community– George, you and I are about the same age. I — I think you remember what happened in Los Angeles after Rodney King, I think you remember what– the divisions that happened after the O.J. trial. I think you — the — the notion that somehow any of that is new isn’t the case.
“What is true, though, is now we’ve got a bunch of videos that whatever side of the issue you’re on, raises the temperature on these issues and makes people really focused and– and– and– and trying to figure out, ‘What exactly is this?’ And I think that is a healthy thing. But I also– I’m not so out of touch that I don’t see how young people interact today.”
Stephanopoulos pointed to the “horrific” video posted on Facebook last week that showed a mentally disabled white man being beaten, taunted and threatened by four black people in Chicago. The suspects, now in custody, are heard using profanities against white people and President-elect Donald Trump.
“And, well, it was horrific,” Obama agreed. “And that’s an example of something that — it’s not as if that’s the first time that a hate crime has taken place in this country. Hate crimes have been taking place for hundreds of years in this country, but it’s there on video. And the– the– the sort of seeing cruelty and callousness of that sort from young people is heartbreaking. And so naturally if you see a video like that you’re going to say to yourself, ‘My God, this is horrible,’ and — and rightfully so.
“But that allows us then to talk about how — how — how do we break free from those kinds of attitudes? And I think that we are in a position to continue to make progress, but it’s gonna require us to both recognize what the problems are, also recognize the — the — the progress we’ve made.”
Obama made the point that crime has dropped during his presidency:
“But you wouldn’t know it if you were watching TV or looking at the Internet, and you certainly wouldn’t know it, listening to this past campaign,” he said. “There are some exceptions: Chicago, my hometown, in particular. But overall in the country, this is a much safer place than it used to be.
“But if you ask the average person they’d tell you, ‘Naw, it’s much more dangerous,’ despite the fact that violent crime has dropped precipitously. And so we have to recognize we’ve got some big problems on race, just like we got still big problems on crime, just like we got big problems on just about everything.
“But we also have to make sure that we’ve– draw confidence from the progress that we have made, ’cause otherwise, you get into this cycle of cynicism.”
Obama said it was “never a realistic expectation” to think racism would be eliminated after Obama became the nation’s first black president.