President Obama believes racial equality has improved during his tenure, partially thanks to policies — including his signature healthcare law — undertaken by his administration.
“If you look at the history of race in America, it’s usually not a single moment where everything gets solved — it’s a process,” Obama said in an interview Tuesday with Univision. “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 Eric Holder has done under my direction, I think the criminal justice system has improved.”
Thousands of protesters have staged demonstrations in cities across the country in recent days, outraged by the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. Both unarmed black men were killed by white police officers, and grand juries later opted not to bring criminal charges against the authorities.
Obama acknowledged the frustration in the aftermath of those decisions, but said “the folks who say there’s not a lot of improvement, I don’t think were living in the '50s and remembering what it was like to be black or Hispanic and interacting with police then.”
“They don’t even remember what it was like 20 years ago,” Obama continued. “There has been improvement.”
The president, however, said it was “clear” there remained a lot of suspicion and mistrust between police officers and communities of color.
“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 a white young person might be by police,” Obama said.
Obama said he believed a White House task force created earlier this month could help address some of those issues by identifying better training procedures, and that “nobody is going to be pushing harder than me” to provoke that change.
Still, the president said he was confident things would “continue to improve.”
“We have to recognize that issues of racial prejudice and discrimination are 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,” Obama said.