On the podcast “WTF with Mark Maron,” President Barack Obama said that the United States is not cured of racism, using the n-word in the process.
“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 said.
“Racism, we are not cured of it,” he continued. “And it’s not just a matter of it not being polite to say nigger in public.”
While Obama stressed that race relations are better now than they were for him as a child, he emphasized that the long-standing racial imprint of our society is still alive and well today.
“I always tell young people, in particular, do not say that nothing has changed when it comes to race in America, unless you’ve 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,” Obama said.
The interview comes just days after a mass shooting in South Carolina, which has reinvigorated the conversation about race relations in the United States.
The White House stood by Obama’s comment Monday.
“Truth is he uses the term about a dozen times in ‘Dreams from my Father,'” White House deputy press secretary Eric Schultz told CNN.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said that the president has no regrets about his use of the word.
“The president’s use of the word and the reason he used the word could not be more apparent,” he told reporters.
“I don’t think he was surprised by” the public reaction, Earnest said. “But I think it has prompted careful consideration of what he said.”
The podcast spurred a heated conversation about whether it’s appropriate for any president to use the term, regardless of racial identity. “The N-Word” quickly became a trending topic on twitter, with more than 88,000 tweets about the subject at press time.