In an wide-ranging interview with Fusion/Univision anchor Jorge Ramos given in Nashville, TN that aired earlier this week, President Barack Obama discussed the state of race relations in the United States, given the recent circumstances created by the legal processes involving Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Eric Garner.
Partial transcript as follows:
RAMOS: On another issue, the killings of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, clearly shows that we don’t live in a post-racial society as many expected when you were elected.
OBAMA: Well, I didn’t expect that. You probably didn’t either, but —
RAMOS: But many people expected you probably to do more on race relations, dealing with white privilege. Do you get angry with this?
OBAMA: Well, you know, I —
RAMOS: Is it your responsibility?
OBAMA: I think that if you look at the history of race in America, it’s usually not a single moment when suddenly everything gets solved. It’s a process. I think that because of our policies there’s more equality than when I came in, with respect to healthcare, with respect to access to college, with respect to opportunity. I think because of the work that Eric Holder has done under my direction. The criminal ‑‑
RAMOS: So we’re doing better on race?
OBAMA: I think the Criminal Justice System is improved. I think that if you talk to younger people, your daughter, my daughters, their attitudes absolutely are better when it comes to race.
RAMOS: Eric Garner, and they see Trayvon Martin, and they say —
RAMOS: — there’s not really a lot of improvement.
OBAMA: Well, but, you know, the folks who say there’s not a lot improvement I don’t think were living in the ‘50s and remember what it was like to be black or Hispanic and interacting with the police then. They don’t even remember what it was like 20 years ago. There has been improvement. The question is what more do we need to do, and what’s clear, when you look at some of the reports that have occurred around the country, is that not only is there still a lot of suspicion and mistrust between police officers and communities of color. But what’s also true is that there are still instances in which a young black boy or brown boy is not being evaluated, in terms of risk, precisely in the same way as a white young person might be by the police. Now, that can be solved through better training, better accountability, better transparency, and so the task force we’ve put together is designed to do precisely this. But I think it is important to realize that even as we push to get on top of these issues around the country, and nobody’s going to be pushing harder than me because I’ve been subjected to these kinds of misperceptions in the past, that —
RAMOS: You’ve been discriminated?
OBAMA: Of course, you know, I think it’d be pretty hard to grow up in the United States of America without having any experiences of discrimination, but what I do know is in my life things have improved, and they’re going to continue to improve. And so we have to recognize that issues of racial prejudice and discrimination, they’re embedded deeply in society, and they don’t transform overnight, but each successive generation, what we’ve seen in America is we’ve seen improvement. And I’m confident that if we are focused on it and are willing to talk about these honestly, ten years from now things will be better and twenty years from now even better than that.
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