President Barack Obama said there are "some hidden biases that we all carry around"
He argued, though, that people are "basically good" and want to fix those problems
African-Americans, Obama said, are "starting behind" and should be given a "hand up"
In some of his broadest remarks on racism yet, President Barack Obama said Friday that he believes while there are “some hidden biases that we all carry around,” people are “basically good” and want to fix those problems, if given solutions.
“What I don’t think is always captured in our political debates is, the vast majority of people are just trying to do the right thing. And people are basically good and have good intentions,” Obama said during his year-end press conference Friday.
“Sometimes our institutions and our systems don’t work as well as they should. Sometimes you’ve got a police department that has gotten into bad habits over a period of time and hasn’t maybe surfaced some hidden biases that we all carry around,” he added.
Obama referenced Eric Garner, the unarmed African-American man who died after he was put in a chokehold by a white police officer, saying that “this isn’t a situation where people feel good seeing somebody choked and dying.”
“I think that troubles everybody,” Obama said.
But he argued, “if you offer practical solutions, I think people want to fix these problems.”
His remarks came in response to a question on the state of blacks in America today, which he acknowledged remains problematic. He said African-Americans still face an income gap with whites, what he called “a legacy of a troubled racial past.”
African-Americans are “starting behind” because of this, Obama said, and Americans “should be willing to provide people a hand up, not a hand-out” to help improve those conditions.
The still-fraught state of race relations in America has become a subject of national debate in recent weeks following the acquittal of two white police officers who shot two unarmed black men, in unrelated incidents in Missouri and New York City.
Americans frustrated with what many see as unequal treatment of blacks by police officers have launched protests across the nation. And Obama created a task force to examine police tactics and propose what he called Friday “concrete practical things…to rebuild trust between communities of color and the police department.”
He said he’ll implement them however necessary when he’s given those recommendations.
The events of the past month have contributed to the largest percentage of Americans saying racism is the country’s most important problem since 1992, according to a new Gallup poll. It found that 13 percent of Americans chose racism, up from just 1 percent in November.
But the president said, overall, the renewed discussion on race has “been a healthy conversation we’ve had.”
“You’re not going to solve the problem if it’s not being talked about,” he said.