Nedra Pickler, MSN, June 23, 2015
President Barack Obama says the history of slavery and segregation is “still part of our DNA” in the United States, even if racial epithets no longer show up in polite conversation. He uttered the N-word in making his point.
In an interview, Obama talked about the debates over race and guns that have erupted after the arrest of a white man in the racially motivated shooting deaths of nine black church members in Charleston, South Carolina.
“Racism, we are not cured of it,” Obama said. “And it’s not just a matter of it not being polite to say nigger in public. 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’s remarks came during an interview out Monday with comedian Marc Maron for his popular podcast, where coarse language is often part of the discussion. The president uttering a racial slur aloud stirred controversy, especially on social media, and White House spokesman Josh Earnest said later Monday that wasn’t surprising.
The White House on Monday said Obama would travel to Charleston on Friday to deliver the eulogy for the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, the pastor of the Emanuel AME Church and one of the victims of last week’s shooting. Obama and first lady Michelle Obama knew the slain pastor, who also was a state senator and an early Obama supporter in the 2008 presidential campaign.
In the interview, Obama said while attitudes about race have improved significantly since he was born to a white mother and black father, 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.”
He said it’s important to respect that hunting and sportsmanship are important to a lot of gun-owning Americans. “The question is just is there a way of accommodating that legitimate set of traditions with some common-sense stuff that prevents a 21-year-old who is angry about something or confused about something, or is racist, or is deranged from going into a gun store and suddenly is packing, and can do enormous harm,” Obama said in a reference to suspect Dylann Storm Roof, whose purported 2,500-word hate-filled manifesto talked about white supremacy. Roof faces nine counts of murder in connection with Wednesday’s shooting.