In Rare BET Interview, See What Obama Says to Black Youth

December 9th 2014

Danielle Belton

Things are getting better.

That was the message President Barack Obama had for black youth in an interview that aired on BET Monday. Touching on the recent incidents of police brutality that have spawned nationwide protests, the president empathized with black youth, urging those fighting for racial equality to be patient, but also persistent in their efforts.

Sitting down with reporter Jeff Johnson, the president spoke on the progress we’ve made on race as a country, but also how far we have yet to go.

“It's important to recognize as painful as these incidents are, we can't equate what is happening now to what happened fifty years ago,” said President Obama. “If you talk to your parents, grandparents, uncles, they'll tell you that things are better – not good, in some cases, but better … The reason it's important for us to understand that progress has been made is that then gives us hope that we can make even more progress.”

The interview comes with the backdrop of nationwide protests and  unrest since the second non-indictment of a police officer for the death of an unarmed black man. Last week, a grand jury failed to indict an officer in the death of Staten Island father of six Eric Garner who was killed after several officers pinned him to the ground, one using a chokehold that’s illegal for NYPD officers to use. His case was the second high profile case of a black man killed by a white police officer where no charges were filed. In November there was no indictment for Ferguson, Mo. police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown who was unarmed when Wilson killed him.

As The Washington Post reported: “Obama acknowledged that the distrust between minority communities and law enforcement is 'deeply rooted in our history' and cautioned that it 'will not be solved overnight.' But in his first extended remarks on the subject since a New York grand jury decided last week not to indict a white police officer in the death of an unarmed African American man in July, the president also sought to remind his audience that life has improved for black Americans over recent generations.”

President Obama said this progress comes in “steps” and “increments,” and that fighting racism in American society will take time.

“You know, when you're dealing with something that's as deeply rooted as racism or bias in any society, you've got to have vigilance but you have to recognize that it’s going to take some time and you just have to be steady so that you don’t give up when we don’t get all the way there,” he said.