President Obama shared his frustrations about poverty stricken urban neighborhoods during a radio interview on the Steve Harvey show this morning.
“I’ve seen this movie too many times before,” Obama said, referring to the cyclical nature of the problems like the incident in Baltimore citing his experience as a community organizer in Chicago.
The problem, as he explained it, is that Americans only worry about poor neighborhoods when there’s a crisis, failing to engage with their concerns and difficulties over time.
“People have a tendency, once the fires have been put out, and the cars aren’t being tipped over, you know there’s not some immediate crisis, then folks wanna go back and focus on, you know, whatever reality TV thing is going on,” he said.
Obama complained about “dis-invested” communities where the primary economy was the drug trade, where young people were more likely to go to prison than college.
Sending police officers to clean up those kinds of communities, he explained, understandably led to “a situation of enormous tension” with the citizens.
“We’re not going to change this overnight,” he added. “It requires focus.
During the interview, Obama explored many of the themes he laid out yesterday during a press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe — including his denunciation of the rioters in Baltimore.
“This has been true since the sixties, these are our communities that get torn up,” he said, bluntly, pointing out that people were losing their jobs due to the destruction of property and looting. “This kinda stuff is always self-defeating.”
“There’s no excuse for that,” he continued. “That’s not a statement. That’s not politics. That’s not activism. That’s just criminal behavior.”
Obama also praised Baltimore police officers for “showing restraint” during the protests, even though many were injured in the process.
“My heart goes out to the police officers who were injured over the last few days,” he added. “They showed appropriate restraint and a number of them were hurt with stuff being thrown at them … it shows how tough a job policing can be.”
But he admitted that police brutality across the country was “happening way too often” and needed to be addressed.
“They gotta build more trust, and it’s in their interest to root out folks who aren’t doing the right thing, to hold accountable people when they do something wrong, instead of just the closing ranks approach that all too often we see that ends up just feeding greater frustration.” he said.
Obama also indicated that he might visit the city of Baltimore “once things have cleared up.”
“I think there’s going to be a time when I go back to Baltimore, a city that’s obviously close by and I’m familiar with,” he said.
During the response of the Ferguson riots, Obama also left open the possibility of visiting, but has not done so yet.