US president Barack Obama says racism 'part of our DNA', to deliver eulogy for slain pastor

  • Yashwant Raj, Hindustan Times, Washington
  • Updated: Jun 23, 2015 03:45 IST

US President Barack Obama believes it will take more than dropping the use of the N-word for the US to cure itself of racism, which is part of the nation’s DNA.

The president used the N-word to make that point in a podcast interview with a Los Angeles comedian, Marc Maron.

But his use of the N-word caught widespread media attention. “Racism, we are not cured of it,” the president said in the interview taped last week but broadcast on Monday. “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,” he added.

President Obama will visit Charleston on Friday to deliver the eulogy at the funeral of the pastor of a historic black church who was slain in last week's mass shooting, a White House official said on Monday. Dylann Roof, a 21-year-old South Carolina resident, has been arrested and charged with nine murders in connection with the June 17 shooting.

He said earlier in the interview that, in response to the same question about the massacre last Wednesday at an African-American church in South Carolina, that race relations have improved — they are much better now than, for instance, in the 50s, 60s and the 70s but the legacy of slavery and discrimination “cast a long shadow, that’s part of our DNA that’s passed on”.

Making the N-word impolite was not enough, therefore.

But that itself is work in progress. Dylann Storm Roof, who is alleged to have carried out the church massacre, used it frequently in what is being described as his manifesto, a 2,500-words hate-filled web post on white supremacy and why he did what he did.

Obama came at the shooting from a different angle earlier in the interview — country’s lax gun laws. In fact, that was his first approach to the issue in order of precedence.

Such killings occur in no other advanced nations in the world, which he said the day of the massacre and several times before, but the country remains unconvinced.

“I will tell you, right after Sandy Hook, Newtown, when 20 6-year-olds are gunned down, and Congress literally does nothing — yes, that’s the closest I came to feeling disgusted,” he said.

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