The president noted that, in terms of race, the country “by no means overcome the legacies of slavery and Jim Crow and colonialism and racism.”
“Those who are not subject to racism can sometimes have blind spots,” he admitted when Noah, who is biracial as well and from South Africa, asked him how he approached conversations on race. However, the president noted that just because some people have a “lack of appreciation” for the lived experiences of others does not mean that they cannot learn or do not want to learn about it.
“I always felt that If I always knew that and communicated it as clearly as I could, that I’d be OK,” he said.
He said he rarely felt like he had to “bite my tongue” but that he tried to speak “diplomatically.”
“So there have been very few instances where I’ve said, ‘Well, that was racist. You are racist,'” Obama said. “There are times I have said, ‘You may not have taken into account the ongoing legacy of racism for why we have so many black men incarcerated. And since I know that you believe in the Constitution and believe in justice and believe in liberty, how about if we try this?'”
He went on to say that he understood that people didn’t like his diplomatic approach before going on: “I don’t think trying to appeal to the “better angels of our nature,’ as Lincoln put it, is somehow compromise.”
He also noted that the racial dialogue of the current United States is far different to the one that took place at earlier times in American history: “There may be times where you just have to call things out and name names, but the challenge we face today when it comes to race is rarely the overt Klansman style racism.”