In a wide-ranging — and at times contentious — interview with Fusion host Jorge Ramos which aired Tuesday, President Obama denied that he ever believed the U.S. would become a post-racial nation during his tenure, while seeming to take credit for what he sees as improved race relations.
“The killings of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Trayvon Martin clearly shows that we don’t live in a post-racial society as many people expected when you were elected,” Ramos began.
“Well, I didn’t expect that,” Obama interjected, smiling and telling Ramos, “you probably didn’t either.”
“But many people expected you probably to do more on race relations, dealing with white privilege,” Ramos said. “Do you get angry with this? Is it your responsibility?”
“I think that if you look at the history of race in America, it’s usually not a single moment where suddenly everything gets solved,” said Obama. “It’s a process. I think that because of our policies, there’s more equality than when I came in.”
Despite that claim, a majority of Americans appear to believe that race relations have gotten worse since Obama took office. According to a recent Bloomberg Politics poll, 53 percent of Americans believe that race relations have soured during Obama’s term. Recent unrest over grand jury decisions in the deaths of Brown and Garner — two black men killed by white police officers — have put that division on display.
“But they see Eric Garner and they see Trayvon Martin and they say there’s not really a lot of improvement,” continued Ramos.
“The folks who say there’s not a lot of 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,” Obama said. “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?”
Obama also touched, albeit lightly, on his own experience with discrimination.
“Nobody’s going to be pushing harder than me because I’ve been subjected to these kinds of misperceptions in the past,” Obama said.
“You’ve been discriminated?” Ramos asked.
“Of course,” Obama replied. “I think it would be pretty hard to grow up in the United States of America without having any experiences of discrimination.”
Obama said that while he believes racism and discrimination are “embedded deeply in society,” he added “what I do know is that in my life things have improved and they’re going to continue to improve.”