Obama spoke minutes after a prosecuting attorney in suburban St. Louis announced that a grand jury decided not to indict police Officer Darren Wilson, who is white, in the shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black man.
Obama repeated pleas for peace from Brown's parents, saying they "have lost more than anyone."
The president has made several calls for calm and restraint in Ferguson, both immediately after the shooting and in the weeks leading to the grand jury announcement.
Though some black leaders and lawmakers have condemned Wilson and cast the case as a clear example of racial inequities in policing, Obama has walked a finer line, saying he did not want to prejudge the case.
Obama suggested he sympathized with the anger, calling it "an understandable reaction." He attributed it to a long history of "deep distrust" between police and communities of color and a "legacy of racial discrimination."
"This is not just an issue for Ferguson; this is an issue for America," Obama said. "We have made enormous progress in race relations over the course of the past several decades. I've witnessed that in my own life. ... But what is also true is that there are still problems. And communities of colors aren't just making those problems up."
Obama also called on police to distinguish between peaceful protesters and troublemakers using the situation to as an excuse to loot and riot.
Asked Monday whether he planned to make the trip himself, Obama did not rule it out.