On Sunday, President Barack Obama said that Ferguson should not be compared to Selma and did not rule out making a visit to Ferguson after the grand jury announces its decision on whether to indict officer Darren Wilson.
Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), who was beaten during the voting rights protests in Selma, recently predicted what he felt would be a “miscarriage” of justice in Ferguson and compared the situation in Ferguson to Selma. Other social justice activists have in recent weeks also tried to compare the Ferguson riots to the peaceful civil rights protests.
Obama said that “the kinds of ongoing problems we have with police and communities of color around the country are not of the sort that we saw in Selma.”
“We’re not talking about systematic segregation or discrimination,” Obama said on This Week. “They are solvable problems if in fact law enforcement officials are open to the kind of training and best practices that we’ve seen instituted in lot of parts of the country.”
Obama also did not rule out a future visit to Ferguson, replying, “You know, I’m going to wait and see… how the response comes about.”
He urged activists to “keep protests peaceful” and not “overreact.” Obama said that he has instructed outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder to “engage nationally in a conversation between law enforcement and communities of color that often times feel as if they not being treated fairly by law enforcement officials.”
Regarding race relations, Obama said that his “own experience tells me that race relations continue to improve.”
“If you think about just in our lifetimes — we’re about the same age — where we’ve traveled, there’s no way to say that somehow race relations are worse now than they were 10 years ago, 20 years ago, or 50 years ago,” he told host George Stephanopoulos.
He said it is important not to “overreact” or “suggest somehow that we haven’t made progress.”
“One of the things that I think the presidency drives home is — in a democracy, progress is incremental,” he said. “You know, and it goes in stutter-steps and sometimes there is some backsliding. But the overall trajectory I think is positive.”