WHITE HOUSE - Days after nine members of a historic African American church were gunned down in South Carolina, President Obama said despite significant improvement in race relations, the United States is “not cured” of racism.
As the first African American to lead the United States, Barack Obama has long fielded questions on just how much progress the U.S. has made when it comes to race relations.
During an hour-long interview with WTF podcast host Marc Maron, the president acknowledged opportunities have opened up and attitudes have changed in his lifetime, but said that the legacy of slavery and discrimination “casts a long shadow” and is “still part of our DNA.”
Obama went on use the n-word to make his point. He said it’s not a matter of it not being polite to say the word in public.
“That’s not the measure of whether racism still exists or not. It’s not just a matter of overt discrimination," he said. "Societies don’t overnight completely erase everything that happened 200 to 300 years prior.”
The president’s use of the n-word dominated Monday’s White House briefing, where Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Obama did not regret his choice of words.
“The president made clear that it’s not possible to judge the nation’s progress on race issues based solely on an evaluation of our country’s manners,” he said.
During the podcast, Obama also addressed gun control in the wake of the deadly shooting at the Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, saying he has had to address a grieving nation “too often.”
“This is unique to our country," he said. "There’s no other advanced nation on earth that tolerates multiple shootings on a regular basis and considers it normal.”
Obama said there are measures that can be taken to enhance basic, common-sense safety laws that he says the majority of gun owners’ support.
Earnest laid out some of those measures Monday.
“Closing the background check loophole at gun shows. That doesn’t infringe significantly on the second amendment rights of law-abiding Americans," he said. "We can ban assault weapons. You don’t need an assault weapon to go hunting. That certainly is not part of anybody’s family's heritage.”
The White House spokesman said it is unlikely Congress will act in a way that the president believes is in the best interest of the country and he encouraged the American people to send a signal to their lawmakers that gun control is a priority.