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Obama says inequality, racism persist in US

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
US President Barack Obama speaks during the commencement ceremony for Howard University in Washington, DC, May 7, 2016. (AFP)

US President Barack Obama has said America has better “race relations” now than when he graduated from university in 1983, but noted the country is still suffering from “inequality and racism.”

“Race relations are better since I graduated. That's the truth,” Obama told the graduating class of Howard University, one of the highest ranking Historically Black universities in the US.

The US is in “a better place today,” Obama said Saturday, citing his historic election as “one indicator of how attitudes have changed.”

Nowadays, he said, “we're producers, studio executives. We're no longer small-business owners, we're CEOs. We're mayors, representatives.”

However, he said a lot of work still needs to be done, citing racism, income inequality and disparities in unemployment, pay and criminal justice.

“Racism persists, inequality persists,” he said, adding, “I tell you this not to lull you into complacency, but to stir you into action because there's still so much work to do.”

“No, my election did not create a post-racial society,” he joked. “I don't know who was propagating that notion - that wasn't mine.”

Howard University President Dr. Wayne A. I. Frederick (L) helps to adjust the hood after Obama (C) was presented with a Doctor of Science honorary degree by member of Howard University Board of Trustees Vernon Jordan during the 2016 commencement ceremony at Howard University, May 7, 2016 in Washington, DC. (AFP)

Obama took office in January of 2009 as the first African-American president, but he has encountered strain of opposition that often appears to be racially driven.

Compared to white people, African Americans are treated more unfairly; they are being incarcerated more frequently and earn less, opinion polls show.

Several US cities, including Ferguson, Missouri, Baltimore and Maryland have been the scene of massive protests over the killing of young black men at the hands of white police officers.

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