As part of his end-of-presidency media tour, President Barack Obama hosted Trevor Noah at the White House for last night’s (December 12) episode of “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.” The two discussed several topics, including the insidiousness of contemporary racism.
“The challenge we face today, when it comes to race, is rarely the overt Klansman style of racism, and typically has more to do with the fact that people got other stuff they want to talk about, and it’s sort of uncomfortable,” Obama said. “It’s somebody not getting called back for an interview, though it’s never explicit. Or it’s who gets the TV acting job—the actress who doesn’t quite look the part, and what does that mean. In that environment, we’re you’re not talking necessarily about cut-and-dry racist behavior, but rather about the complex ways in which society is working these issues through, trying to reach folks in ways that they can hear, I think, is important.”
The president also discussed the concept of addressing racism with “diplomacy”—a strategy that has been criticized by people who want him to confront racial justice more explicitly:
There’s not been a time in my public life or my presidency where I feel as if I have had to bite my tongue. There have been times in my public life where I’ve said, how do I say this diplomatically? How do I say this, as you indicated, in a way that it’s received? So there have been very few instances where I’ve said, “Well, that was racist. You are racist.” There have been times where I’ve said, “You might not have taken into account the ongoing legacy of racism in 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?” Now, some might say, “Well, you’re not speaking fully truth to power because of that diplomacy. But I don’t think that trying to appeal to the “better angels of our nature,” as Lincoln put it, is somehow compromise.
He went on to reflect on his responsibility to speak out against discriminatory policies during Donald Trump’s impending presidency:
If I think core values of ours are being threatened—I’ve said this—if I thought a Muslim registry was being set up, that violates the Constitution and violates who we are, and makes us less safe because it would make it easier for groups like ISIL to recruit and radicalize home-grown terrorists? I might have to say something about that. If I saw DREAM Act kids—young people who were brought here as children who are, for all intents and purposes, Americans—suddenly being rounded up, contrary to who we are as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants, I might have to say something about that.
He also talked about the importance of intelligence briefings (which Trump said he doesn’t need, because he is “like, a smart person”), what he will do when he leaves the White House and why you should sign up for insurance via the Affordable Care Act now.
Watch the extended interview above.