President Barack Obama reflected on the attack on a white disabled man aired on Facebook by four African-America teenagers, describing the incident as a “terrible” and “despicable” hate crime.
Obama made his remarks in the context of a discussion of race relations and whether or not they had gotten better or worse during his presidency.
“I don’t think it’s accurate to say that race relations have gotten worse,” he said, blaming social media, smart phones, and the internet for “surfacing” more incidents of racial violence.
“What we have seen as surfacing, I think, are a lot of problems that have been there a long time,” he said in an interview with local Chicago station CBS 2. “Whether it’s tensions between police and communities, hate crimes of the despicable sort that has just now recently surfaced on Facebook.”
The suspects, Jordan Hill, 18; Tesfaye Cooper, 18; Brittany Covington, 18; and Tanishia Covington, 24 were charged with criminal hate crimes and aggravated kidnapping as well as other felony charges, according to NBC News.
Obama also discussed the horrifying incident in an interview with Chicago’s ABC7.
“It’s terrible,” he said. “And so part of technology allows us to see now is the terrible toll that racism and discrimination and hate takes on families and communities. But that’s part of how we learn and how we get better.”
Obama argued that it was alarming to see the new images on social media, but that it would help society root out the scourge of racism.
“We don’t benefit from pretending that racism doesn’t exist and hate doesn’t exist, we don’t benefit from not talking about it,” he said. “The fact that these things are being surfaced means we can solve them.”
Obama remained convinced that race relations were getting better, citing the Council Wars in Chicago when he first arrived in 1985.
“I promise you, for the most part, race relations have gotten better,” he said.