During an exclusive interview with BET aired Monday, President Obama commented on unrest over the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, saying the protests were "necessary" and noting that "a country's conscience sometimes has to be triggered by some inconvenience."
The protests, Obama said, allows the nation to "have the kind of conversation that's been a long time coming."
"I think a lot of people who saw the Eric Garner video are troubled, even if they haven't had that same experience themselves, even if they're not African-American or Latino," Obama said.
"I think there a lot of good, well-meaning people, I think there are probably a lot of police officers who might have looked at that and said ‘that is a tragedy, what happened, and we've got to figure out bring an end to these kinds of tragedies.'"
Obama noted that after "attention spans move on," there is no longer any impetus for change. Obama then committed himself to keeping the issue in the national dialogue to combat the opinion–held by a majority of Americans–that race relations have worsened during his presidency.
"The value of peaceful protests, activism, organizing…it reminds the society that this is not yet done," Obama said.
"I'm going to stay on this. Not only am I going to stay on it by virtue of this staying in the news because of some of these protests, but hopefully the entire society says ‘let's finally try to make some real progress on this.'"