WTF? - "the N-word" Heard Round the World

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. 

Views: 356

Comment by koshersalaami on June 22, 2015 at 2:40pm

The work that remains to be done has been a very big topic lately. There has been a substantial fight between those who say we aren't anywhere near where we should be and those who say that racism is functionally over as a mass American phenomenon, who will deny that any individual act is based on racism and especially that any individual act is indicative of a wider phenomenon. The fight broke out seriously again with the Trayvon Martin killing, continued through the rash of police killings with no indictments, went through the McKinney swimming pool incident involving the brutal treatment of a 14 or 15 year old girl in a bathing suit, and just went through the church killings in Charleston. 

Charleston reached conservatives. Not all of them, but a lot of them, and so the conversation just gained a great deal of steam. Too many people knew that pastor. He was extremely respected. Today, the governor of South Carolina announced that she is in favor of taking the Confederate flag down from the statehouse. The same opinion has been voiced by the head of the RNC and by Mitt Romney. At this point, a whole lot more people are reaching the conclusion that the flag belongs in a museum and not on a government flagpole. 

That awful young man will have accomplished the exact opposite of what he was trying to accomplish. He shook up the wrong people. 

Comment by nerd cred on June 22, 2015 at 2:46pm

Once again I say, good for him. He's talking like a man who's not worried about being elected. It's time for some blunt talk and who better than he to do it?

Comment by Carole Dixon on June 22, 2015 at 5:19pm
The racists have come out of the closet since the Charleston shooting. I got to listen to a fellow tell me all about how none of this crap had anything to do with white privilege today. Not the girl at the pool, not the shooting in Charleston. Then I got his version of the civil war. The other night I heard a perfectly intelligent woman express large amounts of unapologetic racist views. Another conversation with someone last night that left me glad to be leaving this area. My tolerance for the intolerant is at an all time low.
Comment by Lois Wickstrom on June 22, 2015 at 5:32pm

The Civil War never ended. It was a military defeat, but the South is just biding its time.  Until we can all "see that divine spark in each of us" it will not be over.

Comment by Abrawang on June 22, 2015 at 5:35pm

It seemed perfectly fine in context.

Comment by alsoknownas on June 22, 2015 at 6:30pm

Take the flag down.

Comment by Theodora L'Engle Knight on June 22, 2015 at 6:41pm

i'm completely okay with this. all of it. but i'm a big fan of marc maron and WtF and of obama. well, off and on with him. the show was recorded on Friday, i'm pretty sure. so it wasn't on Father's day. and it was put up today. again, not father's day. i wasn't at all shocked that he used the n-word. by committing to talk to maron in his humble garage, knowing exactly how he conducts his interviews and how personal and deep they can and do go, he was agreeing to go to another level. to not focus solely on politics, to talk about the internal struggles he experienced being half black and half white. about having a father who was not present in his life. about all kinds of things. which, of course, includes racism, which is huge in his life. i'm not going to go into the disrespect that he has endured because of being a black man, about the GOP basically making a commitment to not pass any legislation that he put forward.

enough from me. he spoke about South Carolina. he was clearly shaken and distraught and horrified. he talked about gun control. it does not feel to me that he disrespected the people in South Carolina by having a relatively personal conversation with marc maron. but, again, i am biased. i love both men.

if some of you took the time to listen to some of maron's many many many other interviews, well, it would all be very clear.

Comment by JMac1949 Today on June 22, 2015 at 6:57pm

Theodora, you turned me onto the interview and I deliberately held off commenting or posting about it until it happened.  Thanks for the tip, it makes a great subject to post about.

Kosh, NC, Carole, Lois, Abra and aka, thanks for reading and commenting.  I was starting to think that this one might get lost in the wash. ;-)

BTW: Obama will be delivering the eulogy at the funeral service of for Rev. Clementa Pinckney, the state senator and pastor who was one of nine people killed at Mother AME Church in Charleston.

Comment by Theodora L'Engle Knight on June 22, 2015 at 7:42pm

thanks, jmac. it is a great subject to discuss. i'm glad you know about him and his podcast now. i'll let you know if anyone really interesting is coming up.

that's great news about him delivering the eulogy. i knew he wouldn't just let this lie.

Comment by L in the Southeast on June 22, 2015 at 8:43pm
Talk about making a mountain out of a molehill! The President didn't call anybody a nigger. He simply referred to the word without coating in six layers of sugar or by using the infantile "N-word." The media has lost its mind.


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