President Obama was asked at his year-end press conference today about the state of black America at the conclusion of 2014:
Like the rest of America, black America in the aggregate is better off now than it was when I came into office.
The jobs that have been created, the people who’ve gotten health insurance, the housing equity that’s been recovered, the 401 pensions that have been recovered: a lot of those folks are African-Americans. They’re better off than they were.
The gap between income and wealth of white and black America persists, and we’ve got more work to do on that front.
I’ve been consistent in saying that, you know, this is a legacy of a troubled racial past, Jim Crow and slavery. That’s not an excuse for black folks, and I think the overall majority of good black people understand it’s not an excuse.
They’re working hard. They’re out there hustling and trying to get an education, trying to send their kids to college. But, you know, they’re starting behind oftentimes in the race. And what’s true for all Americans is we should be willing to provide people a hand up, not a hand out, but help folks get that good early childhood education, help them graduate from high school, help them afford college.
If they do, they’re gonna be able to succeed, and that’s gonna be good for all of us.
And we’ve seen some progress. The education reforms that we’ve initiated are showing measurable results. We had the highest high school graduation that we’ve seen in a very long time. We are seeing record numbers of young people attending college. You know, in many states that have initiated reforms, you’re seeing progress in math scores and reading scores for African-American and Latino students, as well as the broader population.
But we’ve still got more work to go.
Now, obviously, how we’re thinking about race relations right now has been colored by Ferguson, the Garner case in New York, a growing awareness in the broader population of what, I think, many communities of color have understood for some time, and that is that there are specific instances, at least, where law enforcement doesn’t feel as if it’s being applied in a colorblind fashion.
The task force that I formed is supposed to report back to me in 90 days not with a bunch of abstract musings about race relations but some really concrete, practical things that police departments and law enforcement agencies can begin implementing right now to rebuild trust between communities of color and the police department.
And my intention is to — as soon as I get those recommendations — to start implementing. Some of them, we’ll be able to do through executive action. Some of them will require congressional action. Some of them will require action on the part of states and local jurisdictions.
But I actually think it’s been a healthy conversation that we’ve had. These are not new phenomena. The fact that they’re now surfacing, in part because people are able to film what have just been in the past, stories passed on around the kitchen table, allows people to, you know, make their own assessments and evaluations. And you’re not going to solve the problem if it’s not being talked about.