01/13/2015 11:44 am ET Updated Jan 13, 2015

Jimmy Carter On #BlackLivesMatter: We Need 'Absolute Equality'

Jimmy Carter has lived in Plains, Georgia for all of his 90 years. The small-town peanut farmer who rose to the presidency in 1977 says people in the remote, rural city have lived in racial harmony for the majority of his life there, a lesson he said in a HuffPost Live interview Tuesday that America could learn from.

"I didn't have any white neighbors [growing up]. All my neighbors were African-American," Carter told host Marc Lamont Hill. "I saw then the ravages of racial discrimination. Separate but equal. It was the law of the land. The civil rights movement came along and I think it was a great liberating factor for both white and black people. It removed millstones from around our necks. I think there has been a degeneration in this country in absolute equality for black and white people."

Carter said he's saddened by the events in Ferguson, Missouri and in New York, where race relations have been more than strained for the last three months. Ever the optimist, Carter said this time of tension provides a unique opportunity to re-examine the state of our nation.

"I think these events have been highly publicized, and I think they've been difficult for our country," Carter said. "I hope it will remind us to take another look to make sure that we correct the problems that still exist that have not been resolved with the civil rights movement."

Watch the rest of the HuffPost Live conversation here.

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#BlackLivesMatter March on Washington, DC