As demonstrators take to the street across the country to protest the recent killings of several unarmed black men and teenagers at the hands of police, President Obama urged people to take an historical perspective in an interview with BET Networks, saying, "As painful as these incidents are, we can't equate what's happening now with what was happening 50 years ago."
"We have made progress," he said in the interview on "106 & Park," which is set to air in full on Monday. "And if you talk to your parents, grandparents, uncles, they'll tell you that things are better. Not good in some cases, but better, and the reason it's important to realize that progress has been made, is that then gives us hope that we can make even more progress."
Mr. Obama has vowed to do everything he can to improve the bonds of trust between minority communities and law enforcement officials, which have been severely frayed in recent months.
"The president of the United States is deeply invested in making sure that this time is different," he said in the wake of heated protests in Ferguson, Missouri, after a grand jury declined to indict a cop who shot and killed unarmed black teenager Michael Brown. "When I hear the young people around this table talk about their experiences, it violates my belief in what America can be to hear young people feeling marginalized and distrustful, even after they've done everything right. That's not who we are."
The Justice Department is investigating the incident in Ferguson and another police killing in New York City for possible civil rights violations, and Mr. Obama has commissioned a review of a program that confers military-grade weapons and equipment on local police departments.
The president emphasized in the interview with BET that progress will come, but it won't be easy, and it won't be quick.
"This isn't going to be solved overnight, this is something that is deeply rooted in our society, it's deeply rooted in our history," he said. "We have to be consistent, because typically progress is in steps, it's in increments. You know, when you're dealing with something 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."