Obama Used The N-Word Today — To Make A Very Good Point

Photo: Courtesy of Marc Maron.

He didn't cry and he didn't drop an f-bomb, but President Obama did deliver a raw and resonant moment in his interview released this morning on the WTF with Marc Maron podcast. During a discussion on race relations in America, the president emphasized how much further we have to go to defeat racism — in shockinlgy frank vocabulary, including the n-word.

In the interview, which was recorded only a day after the horrific mass shootings in Charleston, host Maron asked the President to comment on the evolution of racist attitudes in the U.S. Obama began by saying:

"I always tell young people in particular: Do not say that nothing’s changed when it comes to race in America unless you lived through being a black man in the 1950s or 60s or 70s. It is incontrovertible that race relations have improved significantly during my lifetime and yours." However, he added, "What is also true is that the legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, discrimination in almost every institution of our lives — that casts a long shadow. That’s still part of our DNA that’s passed on. We’re not cured of it… It's not just a matter of it not being polite to say 'nigger' in public."

As with many of the issues broached in the hour-long interview (including health care and the environment), Obama emphasized not only the importance of recognizing how far we've come, but also that real change doesn't happen as fast as we would like it — and that we can't let frustration stop us from trying. The vitality of hope still seems to be at the core of Obama's value system.

In choosing to use the bracing racial term in this context, Obama underscored his own point perfectly: It is startling to hear the president — or any public figure — drop the n-word. It certainly wouldn't have been headline news 60 years ago. But as Obama went on to say, "that's not the measure of whether racism still exists or not. It's not just a matter of overt discrimination."

The whole interview is well worth a listen, as Obama does what he's always been good at: humanizing the president and the presidency. He talks candidly about his family, the struggles of aging, and some of his favorite comedians (cue the eye-roll when he pronounces Louis C.K.'s name as "Lewis" — OMG, Daaaad).

On every subject he addresses, Obama continually brings the conversation back to resiliency and the road ahead for all of us. Concluding his comments on race, he said, "The march isn't over and the work is not yet completed. Then our job is to try, in very concrete ways, to figure out what more can we do."
Advertisement

More from Politics

Update: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney announced in a press conference that dashcam and body cam video of the department's interaction with...
Election Day lasts just one day — a 24-hour culmination of the seemingly never-ending campaign season. But we’ll spend the next two, four, six years ...
What can you do to make the candidates first head-to-head battle as pleasant as possible? What is the secret to keep yourself smizing as you listen to the ...
If the chaotic party politics of the 2016 election have left you feeling completely birdbrained, this video is for you. The Founding Fathers (presented ...
The 2016 presidential election has been a captivating contest. If you feel like sometimes you can't look away, well, you're not alone. Even celebrities ...
In the social order of bonobos, females rule and develop cross-generational bonds to keep the males in check. A senior female takes charge, intervening ...
The first presidential debate is finally upon us. On Monday, our candidates for commander-in-chief will finally go head-to-head on issues that matter ...
1. World News: Puerto Rico has declared a state of emergency after suffering its largest power outage since 1980.The outage left 1.5 million Puerto ...
Update: Officer Betty Shelby, the policewoman who fatally shot Terence Crutcher last Friday, has been charged with first-degree manslaughter, NBC News ...
Step aside, old-school political merch. We're way past bumper stickers and buttons. With the election just months away, people across the country are ...
Between Two Ferns With Zach Galifianakis: Hillary Clinton from Funny Or Die Will Tim Kaine be president for nine months if Hillary Clinton gets pregnant? ...
Goodbye, paperwork printouts and lines at the DMV. Hello, registering while in line for coffee. Starting today, you can register to vote over text ...
1. Here At Home: No charges will be filed against police in the shooting death of Korryn Gaines. Korryn Gaines, 23, was shot and killed on August 1 ...
It happened again. This week, two Black men went from living, breathing human beings to hashtags. And yet, despite all I hear about hashtag activism, I'm...