"Racism, we are not cured of it."

[Content Note: Discussion of racism and racist violence; use of a racist slur.]

Today, if you browse the news, you will probably see a lot of headlines about how President Obama used the n-word, during an interview with comedian Marc Maron on his podcast. And it is notable that the President used that particular slur, during a discussion of racism, but not for the tittering, tutting, pearl-clutching reasons around which most of the discussion is centered, eliding the import of everything else he was saying.

The full context of his use of the word is crucial, and the ideas he was elucidating are important. We need to hear everything he said.

The entire podcast is available here.

image of President Obama sitting down with Marc Maron in his studio
[Photo by Pete Souza.]

Here is an excerpt from that interview:
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.

[But] the legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, discrimination in almost every institution of our lives, you know, that casts a long shadow, and that's still part of our DNA that's passed on. We're not cured of it. Racism, we are not cured of it. Clearly. 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.
It shouldn't be the least bit controversial for any black person (or any person at all) to observe that racism still exists. But it is, because there are so many white people who aggressively police anyone who states the manifestly obvious, because they are deeply invested in pretending otherwise, even as they endeavor to transmit to the next generation the language and imagery and narratives and dog-whistles and every other bit of reprehensible detritus that defines and maintains white supremacy and white privilege.

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