And race-baiters lie
DEC 29, 2014 • BY DANIEL HALPER
America is “less racially divided” now than it was six years ago, President Obama told NPR in an interview. The president was responding to this question, from NPR host Steve Inskeep, “Is the United States more racially divided than it was when you took office six years ago, Mr. President?”
“No, I actually think that it’s probably in its day-to-day interactions less racially divided. But I actually think that the issue has surfaced in a way that probably is healthy,” Obama responded.
I mean, 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 — and for a variety of reasons.
In some cases, something as simple as the fact that everybody has cellphones now so that you can record some of these events, you know, it’s gotten a lot of attention; I think that’s good. I think it then points to our ability to solve these problems.
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. 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.
Here’s the rest of the part of the interview on race relations:
Well, let me mention a couple of data points that perhaps do not suggest it’s worse but suggest a broad gulf. One has to do with Ferguson …
… which you alluded to. There’s a case where there was a grand jury investigation that was released; there were thousands of pages of testimony; people went around reading them — I certainly did. There was a lot of evidence, a lot of debate even about the grand jury process.
And in the end, surveys showed that majorities of white people thought the grand jury was right not to indict the officer who shot Michael Brown; majorities of African-Americans found the grand jury was wrong. How do you lead the country when people see the basic facts so profoundly differently?
That’s not new, Steve. I mean …
Not new, but how do you deal with it in your final …
… two years?
I think that the fact that there’s a conversation about it, and that there are tools out there that we know can make a difference in bridging those gaps of understanding and mistrust, should make us optimistic.
You know, when I was in the state Legislature in Illinois, I passed a racial-profiling bill. From the perspective of African-Americans, yeah, there was a common, you know, phenomenon called “driving while black” — that you were more likely to be stopped particularly in certain jurisdictions.
If you’d asked whites in those jurisdictions, “Do you think traffic stops were done fairly?” the majority of whites probably would say yes because it’s not something they experience. It’s not because of racism; it’s just that it’s not something that they see.
We were able to work with the police departments and the state police in Illinois and persuade them that they would be doing a better job policing if we just kept track so that we had data. And combined with training, suddenly those officers out there are more intentional about how they decide should I stop somebody or not. And the incidents of racial profiling went down.
The same is true with a lot of these issues. If you have good policing, I guarantee you that nobody’s interested more in good policing than African-American community or Latino community because they’re more likely to be victimized, if they’re in low-income communities, by crime.
And the task force that I’ve put together is drawing from police and faith community and civic leaders and activists — and what’s been striking to me in the conversations we’ve had is that they’re interested in solving a problem as opposed to simply stewing in the hopelessness of race relations in this country. And I’m convinced that we actually are going to see progress on this issue next year.