President Obama offered a sober analysis of race relations in America, and said that he did not feel his presidency represented the end of America's racial divide in the United States.
In a wide-ranging interview with Rolling Stone, the president outlined many of the themes that will be central to his re-election campaign. But he "Look, race has been one of the fault lines in American culture and American politics from the start," he told Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner in a wide-ranging interview. "I never bought into the notion that by electing me, somehow we were entering into a post-racial period."
But the president said that the country had made undeniable progress on the racial issues.
When I travel around the country, a lot of people remark on how inspiring seeing an African-American president or an African-American first lady must be to black boys and girls, how it must raise their sense of what's possible in their own lives. That's hugely important - but you shouldn't also underestimate the fact that there are a whole bunch of little white girls and white boys all across the country who just take it for granted that there's an African-American president. That's the president they're growing up with, and that's changing attitudes.
My view on race has always been that it's complicated. It's not just a matter of head - it's a matter of heart. It's about interactions. What happens in the workplace, in schools, on sports fields, and through music and culture shapes racial attitudes as much as any legislation that's passed. I do believe that we're making slow and steady progress. When I talk to Malia and Sasha, the world they're growing up with, with their friends, is just very different from the world that you and I grew up with.
The president also discussed his decision to launch into an impromptu -- and surprisingly popular -- rendition of Al Green's "Let's Stay Together" at the Apollo in January.
"It was my fifth event of the day," he said. "It's about 10:30 at night, and we go up to the Apollo. I wanted to hear Al Green. The guys who were working the soundboard in the back, a couple of real good guys, they say, "Oh, man, you missed the Reverend, but he was terrific, he was in rare form." So I was frustrated by that."
"Since I was on my fifth event and had been yakking away for several hours on all kinds of policy stuff, I just kind of broke into a rendition of 'Let's Stay Together.' And they're like, 'Oh, so the president, you can sing, man. You should do that onstage,'" he recalled. "[Senior adviser] Valerie Jarrett was with us, and she was like [whispers, making a slashing motion across his throat], 'No, no...' I said, 'Yeah, I'll do that. You don't think I can do that onstage?' I looked at [press secretary] Jay Carney, and he was tired too, and he said, 'Yeah, go for it.' So I went up there and we did it."
Added the president: "I can sing. I wasn't worried about being able to hit those notes."