With racial issues and policing headlining the political conversation in America in the midst of nationwide protests and the murder of two police officers in New York, Barack Obama said he believes the issue of race relations is surfacing “in a way that probably is healthy.” according to CNN.
Obama welcomed the attention race relations and policing in minority communities have attracted recently and said he believes there will be “progress” on those issues in the next year as a result of the task force of police, community leaders and activists he assembled this year.
“I actually think that [the U.S. is] probably in its day-to-day interactions less racially divided,” Obama said in an interview with NPR released Monday and recorded before his family vacation in Hawaii.
“The issue of police and communities of color being mistrustful of each other is hardly new; that dates back a long time. It’s just something that hasn’t been talked about.”
Obama spoke out after two white police officers who each killed an unarmed black man were not indicted by two separate grand juries in recent months, empathizing with protesters and urging them to remain non-violent.
Protests have been rioting and looting across the nation following two high profile grand juries returning non-indictments for the white police officers who had killed Eric Garner in Staten Island, N.Y., and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., both unarmed black men.
Last week, two NYPD officers were killed in an ambush by a civilian, an event which spurred additional dialogue regarding communities’mistrust of police.
Obama also drew attention to the rise in cellphone use to document and hold police accountable for their actions, referring to the cellphone video that showed Garner in a chokehold.
He added that while the Garner and Brown cases have exposed racial tensions, he believes Americans’ day-to-day interactions are less racially divided today than in years past according to TIME.
“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,” he 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.”
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