By Jirtme Cartillier, AFP
WASHINGTON–For a frustrated President Barack Obama, last week’s slaughter of nine black churchgoers proves once again that the United States has yet to exorcise its racist demons. But, just to underline the point, he showed in remarks released Monday that he is not afraid to use a term that most Americans would blanch at in an effort to convey his frustration. ��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,�� America’s first black president said. ��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.�� Speaking to online radio broadcast ��WTF with Marc Maron,�� Obama put last week’s murderous rampage in a black church by a suspected young white supremacist in the context of U.S. history. ��It is incontrovertible that race relations have improved significantly during my lifetime and yours, and that opportunities have opened up, and that attitudes have changed,�� he said. ��What is also true is 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,�� Obama said.
��We’re not cured of it.��
Such an analysis might seem obvious in the wake of more than a year of racially charged protests triggered by alleged police abuses and the deaths of unarmed black men. ‘Within our grasp’
But it is nevertheless very unusual for a U.S. politician to speak so frankly on a topic so many Americans are uncomfortable with. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Monday that Obama did not regret using the term.
Before last week’s slaughter in the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, the president had begun to identify more closely and personally with the civil rights cause. A high point for supporters came in March when Obama attended a ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of a brutally repressed civil rights march in Selma, Alabama. ��Our march is not yet over,�� he declared. Obama returned to this theme, and to his own experiences of race and identity as the son of an absent Kenyan father and a white American mother, in the interview with Maron.