“What I say to them is that people are complicated. Societies and cultures are really complicated. ... This is not mathematics; this is biology and chemistry,” Obama told the New Yorker's David Remnick. “These are living organisms and it's messy. And your job as a decent human being is to constantly affirm and lift up and fight for treating people with kindness and respect and understanding.”
Dozens and dozens of racially charged attacks were reported after Trump's victory. Many were believed to be directed by Trump's supporters at immigrants, Muslims, Latinos and African Americans. Anti-Semitic and pro-Trump vandalism also have been seen in several cities. Meanwhile, waves of anti-Trump rallies spread across several cities.
The real estate executive's election has energized white supremacist groups and members of the “alt-right,” a movement that rejects establishment conservatism and spreads its far-right ideology online.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a hate watch group, more than 700 reports of incidents and harassment have been reported since Election Day. The center collected reports from news articles, social media and direct submissions to its website. The group, however, cautions that not all incidents have direct references to the president-elect, and not every report could be independently verified.
Obama told his teenage daughters that they, too, must expect such racially motivated hatred.
"... at any given moment there's going to be flare-ups of bigotry that you may have to confront, or may be inside you and you have to vanquish. And it doesn't stop. ... You don't get into a fetal position about it,” Obama said.
He echoed the same sentiment he told a defeated and somber West Wing staff the morning after Trump was elected.
“You don't start worrying about apocalypse,” Obama said. “You say, 'Okay, where are the places where I can push to keep it moving forward.'”
Last week, "60 Minutes” correspondent Lesley Stahl pressed Trump to comment on the hateful or violent acts committed in his name.
“I am very surprised to hear that. I hate to hear that, I mean I hate to hear that,” Trump said.
When Stahl asked Trump whether he wants to say anything to his supporters, Trump looked at the camera and said, “Stop it.”
“I would say don't do it, that's terrible, 'cause I'm gonna bring this country together,” Trump said.
Trump already has faced criticism from civil rights groups, particularly for his decision to appoint Stephen K. Bannon, the former executive chairman of Breitbart News. Bannon once described the website as “the platform of the alt-right.”
The president and president-elect met in the White House two days after the election, signaling the start of the transition process. The two talked for about 90 minutes before going in front of cameras in the Oval Office.
“We want to make sure that they feel welcome as they prepare to make this transition,” Obama told reporters. “Most of all, I want to emphasize to you, Mr. President-elect, that we are now going to want to do everything we can to help you succeed — because if you succeed, then the country succeeds.”