POTUS Says Open Conversations and Occasional Discomfort Is Key to Achieving Racial Justice Change

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“We’ve been able to have conversations that might not have happened 20, 30, 40 years ago,” President Obama told NPR.

As racial justice issues continue to dominate the national conversation, President Obama stopped by NPR to discuss the Black Lives Matter movement and its effectiveness.

POTUS told NPR interviewer Steve Inskeep that though the issues at hand are nothing new—“There’s no Black family that hasn’t had a conversation around the kitchen table about driving while Black and being profiled or being stopped”—he credits modern technology (and the subsequent visibility) for achieving change.

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“I think really what’s changed over the last several years is the pervasiveness of smartphones and the visuals that suddenly have sparked a conversation about how we can deal with it,” President Obama said.

He said that the conversations can, at times, be uncomfortable but the discomfort is necessary.

“In Dr. King’s word, you get a disinfectant by applying sunlight to it, and people see, you know what? This is a true problem, and as a consequence, we’ve been able to have conversations that might not have happened 20, 30, 40 years ago, with police chiefs who genuinely want to do the right thing, law enforcement who recognize that they are going to be able to deal with crime more effectively if they’ve got the trust of the communities,” he said.

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He went on to discuss the recent emergence of college students who are protesting for racial justice on campus. He gave the students a metaphorical pat on the back, but reminded them that it’s crucial to listen to the other side of the argument.

“I think [campus activism] is a good thing,” he said. “But let kids ask questions and let universities respond. What I don’t want is a situation in which particular points of view that are presented respectfully and reasonably are shut down, and we have seen that sometimes happen.”

Watch the 30-minute interview in full below.

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