Barack Obama - Navigating America's Racial Divide

December 12, 2016 - President Barack Obama 12/12/2016 Views: 20,711

President Obama talks about how he's approached discussions on race during his time in office and reflects on the varying degrees of racism in America. (7:09)

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I've gotone more question for you.

Um... this isa personal question.

-Yeah.-It's a little bit selfish.

Um... I look up to you, becausewe share a lot in common.

We both have parentswho are black and white.

Uh, both half African.

South Side of Chicago.South side of Africa.

-Um...-Similar.

-In and around race...-Yeah.

when you are a personwho has a platform,

-Right.-when you are in a space

where you are engagingwith people...

it is often difficult...

to navigate and skirt that line

-Yeah.-between speaking your mind

-Right. -and sharing your...your true opinions on race,

whilst at the same timenot being seen to alienate

some of the peopleyou are talking to.

-Right. -You know, becauseif you are a white person

who's speaking about race,then you are just a person

-who is interested in race.-Right.

If you are a person of colorwho's speaking about it,

it's, like, "Oh,the black thing started again."

-(chuckles)-So...

the question I'vealways wanted to know is,

-Yeah.-how did you navigate that?

'Cause we watched you do it,but I always wanted to know

how you navigated thatthrough your two terms.

You know...

my general theory

uh, is that...

if I was clear in my own mind

about who I was,comfortable in my own skin,

and... had clarity

about the way in which race

continues to be...

this powerful factor inso many elements of our lives,

but that itis not the only factor

in so many aspects of our lives,

that, uh...

we... have by no means

overcome the legacies

of slavery and Jim Crow

and colonialism and racism,

but that the progress we've madehas been real

-and extraordinary.-Mm-hmm.

Uh, if I'm communicatingmy genuine belief

that, uh...

those who are not...

uh, subject to racism

uh, can sometimeshave blind spots,

or, uh, lack appreciationof what it feels

to be on the receiving endof that,

but that doesn't mean thatthey're not open to learning

and, uh...

caring aboutequality and justice,

and that I can...

uh... win them over,

because there's goodnessin the majority of people.

If I... I always feltthat if I really knew that

and I just communicated itas clearly as I could,

that I'd be okay.

Um, another wayof saying this is

there's not been a timein my public life

or my presidency,where I feel as if

I have had to bite my tongue.

There have been times in mypublic life where I've said,

how do I say thisdiplomatically?

How do I say this,as you indicated,

in a way that it's received.

-Yes.-Right?

So there, there...

have been very few instanceswhere I've said,

well, that was racist,you are racist.

There have been timeswhere I've said,

you know, you might nothave taken into account...

(both laughing)

uh, the, uh...

the ongoing legacy of,of, uh, of racism

in why we have so many

black men incarcerated.

And since I know

that you believein the constitution,

and believe in justiceand believe in liberty,

um, how about if we try this?

Now, some might say

well, you're not speaking fullytruth to power

-because of that diplomacy.-Yes.

But, you know,

I don't think that, um,

trying to appeal to the betterangels of our nature,

as Lincoln put it,

uh, is somehow compromise.

There may be times where...

uh, you just have tocall things out

and name names.

But the challenge we face today,

when it comes to race,

uh, is...

rarely the overt,

Klansman-style,

uh, uh, racism,

and typically has more to do

with the fact that,

you know, people got other stuffthey want to talk about,

and it's sort of uncomfortable.

And it's...

somebody not getting called backfor an interview,

-although it's never explicit.-Mm-hmm.

Or it's, you know,

who gets the TV acting job?

The actress who doesn't quitelook the part,

and what does that mean.

In-in that environment,

where you'renot talking necessarily

about cut-and dried,

uh, racist behavior,

but ratherabout the complex ways

in which society is workingthese issues through,

uh, you know,trying to reach folks

in ways that they can hear,

I think, is, uh, is important.

And, I would add,

everybody's got a different roleto play.

Um, you know, if Chris Rock'sdoing standup,

then there is a benefit to him

doing somethingthat is different

from the president of the UnitedStates doing something.

For one thing, you know,

he doesn't have to, uh,edit his language

(laughing):quite as carefully,

because I am still subject to,

you know, some restraints...

You still got yourlast few days.

...on-on those seven words

-George Carlin talked about.-Yes.

See, I-I can't use those,

uh, as a general proposition,

because a lot of childrenare watching.

I try to comport myself in a way

that, uh,

my mother would approve of.

Well, I just want to saythank you so much

for being on the show.

Thank you for beingan inspiration,

and, most importantly,thank you

for giving me an opportunity tosee what I would look like

after eight years of thetoughest job in the world.

You know,I-I will say that I resent

how youngand good looking you are,

'cause, uh, I used to thinkof myself in those terms,

and, uh, it's been downhillfor quite some time.

-Thank you, sir.-Thank you, man.

-Thank you very much.-Appreciate it.