President Barack Obama on Post-Racial America

January 11th 2017

Kyle Jaeger

President Barack Obama gave his farewell address in Chicago on Tuesday night, outlining the "state of democracy" as he prepares to leave office. In spite of progress, Obama warned that democracy continues to be threatened by racial tensions and economic inequality, and he rejected the notion that his election eight years ago meant America had entered into a post-racial society.


"Such a vision, however well-intended, was never realistic," Obama said. "Race remains a potent and often divisive force in our society."

Though race relations in the U.S. have improved, "we're not where we need to be, and all of us have more work to do," he continued. And as long as we continue to frame social and economic issues as conflicts between white people and those of color, conditions will degrade for all Americans, the president said.

"After all, if every economic issue is framed as a struggle between a hardworking white middle class and undeserving minorities, then workers of all shades will be left fighting for scraps while the wealthy withdraw further into their private enclaves," President Obama stated. "If we decline to invest in the children of immigrants, just because they don’t look like us, we diminish the prospects of our own children – because those brown kids will represent a larger share of America’s workforce."

The president also discussed the road forward.

"If we’re going to be serious about race going forward, we need to uphold laws against discrimination — in hiring, and in housing, and in education, and in the criminal justice system. That is what our Constitution and our highest ideals require."


There are no easy solutions to America's racial issues: "Hearts must change" and that can take generations, he said. In order to bring about that change of heart, however, white Americans have to recognize how the nation's history and institutional racism have impacted, and continue to impact, minorities in the country, Obama said.

"It means acknowledging that the effects of slavery and Jim Crow didn’t suddenly vanish in the ‘60s; that when minority groups voice discontent, they’re not just engaging in reverse racism or practicing political correctness; that when they wage peaceful protest, they’re not demanding special treatment, but the equal treatment our Founders promised."

In his speech President Obama stated that this requires Americans of all races and creeds to leave their bubbles, engage those who don't share the same skin color or political ideology, and base opinions "on the evidence that’s out there."