In U.N. Speech, Obama Invokes Ferguson and Racial Tension in America

In U.N. Speech, Obama Invokes Ferguson and Racial Tension in America

President Obama acknowledges the U.S. still has racial issues.

Published September 24, 2014

In a speech in which he urged other nations to reject "the intolerance, sectarianism and hopelessness that feeds violent extremism," President Obama acknowledged that the U.S. also has similar shortcomings. He pointed to the shooting death of unarmed teenager Michael Brown at the hands of police officer Darren Wilson and the crisis that continues to grip Ferguson, Miss., to make his point.

"I realize that America’s critics will be quick to point out that at times we too have failed to live up to our ideals; that America has plenty of problems within its own borders. This is true," he said in remarks delivered before the U.N. General Assembly Wednesday morning. "In a summer marked by instability in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, I know the world also took notice of the small American city of Ferguson, Missouri — where a young man was killed, and a community was divided." 

The United States has its "own racial and ethnic tensions," Obama added. "And like every country, we continually wrestle with how to reconcile the vast changes wrought by globalization and greater diversity with the traditions that we hold dear."

He also said that the nation welcomes the world's scrutiny because "what you see in America is a country that has steadily worked to address our problems and make our union more perfect."

On Tuesday, Attorney General Eric Holder, who has been far more outspoken than the president on the issue of race, also cited Ferguson to call on Americans to finally have an honest, albeit difficult, conversation about the still-sensitive issue.

"Will we again turn a blind eye to the hard truths that Ferguson exposed, burying these tough realities until another tragedy arises to set them off like a powder keg?" Holder asked in a speech at New York University. "Or will we finally accept this mandate for open and honest dialogue, reach for new and innovative solutions, and rise to the historic challenge – and the critical opportunity – now right before us?"

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(Photo: Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

Written by Joyce Jones

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