It didn't immediately appear to be so, but President Obama just gave one of his most candid interviews on race.
In a 25-minute interview on Black Entertainment Television airing Monday night, Obama offered some basic comments about hearing young activists talk about their personal experiences of "having been stopped for no reason or having generated suspicion because they were in a community where they supposedly didn't belong." He said the conversations reminded him of his own experiences as a young man, a theme he has touched on before going back to his race speech in 2008, and he said it was "personal" for him.
But he also had this to say about the kind of cultural and political impact of the Eric Garner video (at the 3:30 minute mark below):
“It used to be folks would say, well, maybe blacks are exaggerating, maybe some of these situations aren't what they describe. But we've now seen on television for everybody to see -- gives us an opportunity, I think, to finally have the kind of conversation that's been a long time coming."
The idea that blacks exaggerate racial slights (or even invite them through their own behavior) has been one of the many road blocks to the kind of conversation that Obama suggests that country is in the middle of right now and should continue. With this line from the BET interview, Obama has essentially tossed the notion of the "race card" in the garbage, validating complaints about racism that, in fact, go beyond Ferguson and Staten Island and stretch into other sectors.
Obama essentially says, 'Take it from me (and the video); black people aren't just making this up.' He has also largely dispensed with the lectures about black behavior, which used to be a staple of his conversations with African Americans.
Both moves suggest that he has set up a post-Staten Island approach to race that will define the next two years of his presidency and his legacy. Whatever comes next will likely look and sound very different than what came pre-Staten Island.