Obama tells BET audience despite grand jury decisions 'things are better'

President Barack Obama discusses race relations in an interview with BET set to air on Monday

Story highlights

  • President Obama tells BET racial tension "isn't something that is going to be solved overnight"
  • Obama has at times been reluctant to lead a national conversation on race
After weeks of racial protests across the country, President Barack Obama is taking the time to deliver encouraging words about the future of race relations in America to a network that reaches a predominately young African-American audience.
"What I told the young people who I met with -- we're going to have more conversations over the coming months -- is, 'This isn't something that is going to be solved overnight,' Obama says in an interview with BET that will air Monday. "'This is something that is deeply rooted in our society. It's deeply rooted in our history.'"
Once criticized for shying away from the topic of race early on in his presidency, Obama has more recently been forced to lead a discussion on the issue.
In his interview, the President says African-American youth need to be both persistent and patient in order to make progress on the issue of racial tensions in America.
"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," the President said in the interview. "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," he said.
The President also urged persistence in the effort to solve racial tensions, reminding the audience that typically progress occurs in "steps" and "increments."
"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.
In light of two recent back-to-back grand jury decisions not to indict white police officers in the deaths of unarmed black men, the President has vowed to take action.
Obama announced last week that he and outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder are "not going to let up" in the effort to ease racial tensions that exists between law enforcement officers and minorities in communities nationwide.