Despite recent turmoil over several police killings of unarmed black men by white officers, President Obama told NPR that race relations are better off than before he was elected.
“I actually think that it’s probably in its day-to-day interactions less racially divided,” the President told interviewer Steve Inskeep in an interview published Monday. “But I actually think that the issue has surfaced in a way that probably is healthy.”
Obama argued that the tensions between blacks and police departments across the country were not new. He added that while problems are becoming more visible due to social media and technology, people now have a better chance at raising awareness and making change.
“It’s understandable the polls might say, you know, that race relations have gotten worse — because when it’s in the news and you see something like Ferguson or the Garner case in New York, then it attracts attention,” the President said.
“But I assure you, from the perspective of African-Americans or Latinos in poor communities who have been dealing with this all their lives, they wouldn’t suggest somehow that it’s worse now than it was 10, 15 or 20 years ago,” he added.
When Inskeep asked how the President planned to address these problems in his final two years in office, Obama referenced his time as a state senator in Illinois, passing legislation such as a 2003 racial profiling bill.
“We were able to work with the police departments and the state police in Illinois and persuade them that they would be doing a better job policing if we just kept track so that we had data,” he told NPR.
The President concluded by describing an administration “task force” drawing from police officers, activists and community leaders designed to find solutions to persistent racial tensions across the country.
“[W]hat’s been striking to me in the conversations we’ve had is that they’re interested in solving a problem as opposed to simply stewing in the hopelessness of race relations in this country,” he said. “And I’m convinced that we actually are going to see progress on this issue next year.”