US President Barack Obama has used the strongest of terms to affirm that the country is not cured of racism. His comments in a podcast come a week after deadly shootings in a South Carolina church.
In an interview with comedian Marc Maron, Obama said that while attitudes in the US had improved, the legacy of slavery "casts a long shadow and that's still part of our DNA that's passed on."
During the interview, released as a podcast on Monday, Obama made pointed use of the n-word, a derogatory ethnic slur directed at black people, especially in the southern states of the US. Last week nine people were shot dead in South Carolina, allegedly by a 21-year-old white man with racist sentiments.
"Racism, we are not cured of it," Obama said. "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."
Obama said that while the US had made progress in eliminating racism, there was still more work to do.
"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,'" Obama told Maron.
Obama also discussed gun control. He said one of his darkest days was another shooting incident, when 26 people were gunned down in a Connecticut school in 2012.
"I tell you, right after Sandy Hook, Newtown, when 20 6-year-olds were gunned down and Congress literally does nothing, yeah, that's the closest I came to feeling disgusted," Obama said. "I was pretty disgusted."
The twice-weekly podcast produced by New Jersey satirist and stand-up comedian Maron, "WTF with Marc Maron," began in 2009 and has included interviews with comedians Louis C.K., Carlos Mencia and Dane Cook. Maron also spoke with the late actor Robin Williams.
On a more personal note, Obama reflected on his image in Washington: "Some of the mythology about me being very professorial, removed, that stuff ... I think it has to do with me not schmoozing enough in Washington because I've got two kids," he said. "And it's true that I don't do the cocktail circuit."
jm/ng (Reuters, AP)