Mr Obama said the problems had been there for a long time but public exposure to racially motivated crimes had grown due to social media.
He said he believed race relations had not worsened but stressed there was the capacity to improve.
"What we have seen as surfacing, I think, are a lot of problems that have been there a long time," President Obama told CBS Chicago.
"Whether it's tensions between police and communities, hate crimes of the despicable sort that has just now recently surfaced on Facebook."
"The good news is that the next generation that's coming behind us… have smarter, better, more thoughtful attitudes about race," Mr Obama added.
"I think the overall trajectory of race relations in this country is actually very positive. It doesn't mean that all racial problems have gone away. It means that we have the capacity to get better."
A woman, 24-year-old Tanishia Covington, and three 18-year-olds, Jordan Hill, Tesfaye Cooper and Brittany Covington, are due in court accused of aggravated battery with a weapon after they allegedly tortured a disabled teenager.
The group appeared to cut the man’s scalp with a knife, repeatedly punched and kicked him, forced him to drink toilet water and yelled profanities including “F*** white people” and “F*** Donald Trump”.
The 28-minute video on Facebook Live shows the 18-year-old crouched in the corner of a room, tied up with tape over his mouth.
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