President Barack Obama says the U.S. has not shaken off a long history of racism just because it considers the use of the n-word socially unacceptable.
Addressing the shooting deaths last Wednesday of nine black church members in Charleston, S. C. by a 21-year-old white man, Obama said in a podcast airing early Monday that the U.S. has not been “cured” of racism.
"It's not just a matter of it not being polite to say nigger in public,” Obama in a contemplative, hour-plus interview with comedian Marc Maron for his podcast, WTF. “That's not the measure of whether racism still exists or not. It's not just a matter of overt discrimination. Societies don't, overnight, completely erase everything that happened 200 to 300 years prior."
Obama, 53, said that although attitudes about race and opportunities for blacks have markedly improved during his lifetime, “the legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, discrimination in almost every institution of our lives, that casts a long shadow, and that's still part of our DNA that's passed on. We’re not cured of it.”
The interview was taped Friday, in Maron’s garage in Pasadena, Calif., while Obama was on a fund raising trip to California. He pointed to his speech marking the 50th anniversary of the civil rights march in Selma, saying that “progress is real and we have to take hope from that progress, but what is also real is that the march isn’t over and the work isn’t yet completed.”
Obama also repeated that he’s spoken about gun violence “too many times” and called it “not enough just to feel bad.”
“This doesn’t happen with this kind of frequency in other countries,” Obama said.
But Obama said he doesn’t expect Congress to make any changes in U.S. gun policy “until the American people feel a sufficient sense of urgency.”
“Unfortunately the grip of the NRA on Congress is extremely strong,” he said.
The White House said there was no grand plan for Obama to use the word and that he had no regrets about it. White House Secretary Josh Earnest, who fielded multiple questions Monday about Obama’s use of the words, noted that however provocative the word was, it illustrated a point Obama has long made.
“It is understandably notable that the president chose to use this word,” Earnest said. “But the argument that the president is making is one that is familiar to those who have been listening...He said it's not just a matter of it not being polite to say that word in public.”