President Barack Obama on Letterman
America has to escape from the residual racism which has scarred its history, President Barack Obama said last night.
In an interview on the Letterman chat show, the President said racism had been part of America’s past from slavery to the Jim Crow laws which followed emancipation.
“If we want to get past this, we have to make a little bit more effort,” he said.
While he sought to sound an optimistic note over progress made in recent years, the President warned that some poverty stricken communities remained in crisis.
Mr Obama was appearing on the show following another difficult week for race relations with tensions still running high following the death of Freddie Gray, an African-American in police custody in Baltimore.
With six officers having been charged, the President appealed for the due process of law to be followed.
But he added: “A lot of what we have seen in Ferguson, Baltimore and New York has been going on for a long time. But when we see it on video it is hard to deny it.”
The President insisted that it was not just a policing problem as he paid tribute to the overwhelming majority of officers who, he added, did an outstanding job.
“We have pockets of poverty, we have pockets of lack of opportunity,” he told his host.
He warned that the American policy of mass incarceration, often for drugs offences, had led to families being raised without a father figure.
Barack Obama and David Letterman share a joke
But in an appearance on a show which has been a mainstay of late night American television for more than two decades, the President also retained his sense of humour,
He said he was looking forward to playing dominoes and sipping coffee withDavid Letterman, the doyen of chat show hosts who is set to retire later this year.
Letterman, 67, who has dominated the late night chat show circuit for more than 21 years, is to step down later this year. President Obama leaves office in 2017.
In a valedictory appearance on the Letterman show, the President suggested the two men could enjoy their retirement together.
“I was thinking you and me, we could play some dominoes together,
"We can go to the local Starbucks and swap stories."
Looking ahead Letterman has said he plans to teach law at Columbia University, a prospect which amused President Obama.
"I'd be interested to sit in on that class. I mean, that would be a hoot."