I have to admit I wondered what the hell was going on with President Obama's handlers when they decided to alter his LA fund raising itinerary to head over to Marc Maron's WTF garage studio in Highland Park. To do a one hour Podcast interview so soon after the tragic murders in Charleston, South Carolina seemed to ring a dissonant note. Granted there was the usual grumbling about how Obama and Hillary were just screwing with traffic on the wealthy Westside of LA to soak the rich and paying no never mind to the poor working folk who got them elected; but Highland Park is a working class neighborhood deep into the inevitable process of gentrification, and Marc Maron brings to mind frivolity. Why not attend services at LA's First AME Zion Church and speak to the congregation?
As it turned out President Obama chose Marc Maron's "WTF" podcast because he wanted to say something that might not be well received by the AME Congregants. In answer to Maron's second query about the state of racism in America, the President said, "Racism. We are not cured of it. 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 200-300 years prior.
So what I tried to describe in the Selma speech that I gave, commemorating the march there, was, again, a notion that progress is real, and we have to take hope from that progress. But what is also real is that the march isn't over, and the work is not yet completed. And then our job is to try in very concrete ways to figure out, what more can we do?"
Barrack Obama is not the first American President to use the word 'nigger', but he may be the first American President to utter the word in public since Teddy Roosevelt invited Booker T. Washington to dinner at the White House in 1901. I believe that he did it deliberately to draw attention to the work that remains to be done. While I was tempted to disparage President Obama's choice to visit Marc Maron's garage on Father's Day, I'm now in a certain awe of how he decided to call Americans out from the polite umbrella of the 'n-word' to address the hard work that remains to be done.