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Race remains a factor in America: Obama

Asserting that he is a testimony to the progress America has made with regard to racism, US President Barack Obama acknowledged that race remains a factor in the US society.

world Updated: Jul 23, 2009 18:46 IST

Asserting that he is a testimony to the progress America has made with regard to racism, US President Barack Obama on Thursday acknowledged that race remains a factor in the US society.

“That is a sign, an example of how, you know, race remains a factor in the society,” Obama said at a White House press conference when he was asked about the arrest of a prominent Harvard University Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr in Cambridge last week.

That doesn’t lessen the incredible progress that has been made, he said. “I am standing in Washington as testimony to the progress that’s been made. And yet the fact of the matter is, is that, you know, this still haunts us,” Obama said.

Even when there are honest misunderstandings, Obama, the first African-American president, said the fact is that blacks and Hispanics are picked up more frequently and often for no cause casts suspicion even when there is good cause.

“That is why I think the more that we are working with local law enforcement to improve policing techniques so that we’re eliminating potential bias, the safer everybody is going to be,” Obama said.

Although the charges against Prof Gates have been dropped, he told the CNN in an interview: “This is not about me; this is about the vulnerability of black men in America.”

"My understanding is, at that point, Professor Gates is already in his house. The police officer comes in. I’m sure there’s some exchange of words. But my understanding is, is that Professor Gates then shows his ID to show that this is his house and, at that point, he gets arrested for disorderly conduct, charges which are later dropped,“ said Obama, adding that the professor is a friend of his.

“Now, I don’t know, not having been there and not seeing all the facts, what role race played in that.

“But I think it’s fair to say, number one, any of us would be pretty angry; number two, that the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home; and, number three, what I think we know separate and apart from this incident is that there’s a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately,” he said.

“That’s just a fact,” Obama said in response to the question.