President Barack Obama had some frank words about the persistence of racism in the United States during a podcast interview with comedian Marc Maron released Monday, addressing directly some of his frustration with the slow progress of healing race relations.
“Racism: we’re not cured of it,” President Obama said on Maron’s “WTF” podcast. “It’s not just a matter of it not being polite to say n-gger in public. That’s not the measure of whether racism still exists or not. It’s not just a matter of overt discrimination.”
Obama’s words come just days after a white man shot and killed nine people in a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina. The shooting has prompted many to revisit America’s complex racial history.
The president acknowledged the ongoing pervasiveness of racism in the United States, acknowledging the pace of progress can feel slow. “The legacy of slavery, Jim Crow and discrimination in almost every institution of our lives—that casts a long shadow. Thats still part of our DNA,” Obama said. “Societies don’t overnight completely erase everything that happened two-to-three hundred years prior.”
Obama echoed his words earlier this week on gun violence in the states, saying that the country must implement “common-sense gun safety laws.”
“I’ve done this way too often during the course of my presidency. It feels as if a couple times a year, I end up having to speak to the country and to speak to a particular community about a devastating loss,” Obama said. “It’s not enough just to feel bad.”
Speaking like a president approaching the end of his tenure, he looked back too on some of the frustrations of his time in office more than six years since he ran for president on a message of hope and change. “When I ran in 2008, there were those posters out there. ‘Hope,’ and ‘change.’ Those are capturing aspirations about where we should be going as a society. A society that’s more just. A society that’s more equal.”
“How do we operationalize those abstract concepts into something really concrete?” Obama continued. “As soon as you have to start talking about specifics, then the world’s complicated… It turns out the trajectory of progress always happens in fits and starts.”