President Obama used explicit language to make a point about racism in a candid interview posted online Monday. Talking about America's racial history, he said that it's "incontrovertible" that race relations have improved in his lifetime. But he also offered a blunt critique of the status quo.
"The legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, discrimination in almost every institution of our lives, that casts a long shadow. And that's still part of our DNA that's passed on. We're not cured of it," he told comedian Marc Maron in an interview on his WTF podcast. "And it's not just a matter of it not being polite to say N----- 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 2-300 years prior."
Obama taped the interview with Maron on Friday; the podcast was released Monday morning.
The hour-long interview also touched on the church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, that left nine dead last week. Obama repeated that he has had to address mass shootings "way too often" during the course of his time in office.
"This is unique to our country," he said. "There's no other advanced nation on Earth that tolerates multiple shootings on a regular basis and considers it normal. And to some degree, that's what's happened in this country. It's become something that we expect."
Pushing for action as he did in the immediate wake of the massacre last week, he continued.
"It's not enough just to feel bad," Obama said. "There are actions that could be taken to make events like this less likely. And one of those actions we could take would be to enhance some basic common-sense gun-safety laws that, by the way, the majority of gun owners support."
America's rich history of hunting and sportsmanship, he said, needed to be respected.
"The question is just, is there a way of accommodating that legitimate set of traditions with some common-sense stuff that prevents a 21-year-old who is angry about something, or confused about something, or is racist, or is deranged, from going into a gun store and suddenly is packing and can do enormous harm?" he said. "And that is not something that we have every fully come to terms with."
Lamenting the National Rifle Association's "extremely strong" grip on Congress, he acknowledged that the fight for gun-control legislation will be an uphill battle.
"I don't foresee any legislative action being taken in this Congress, and I don't foresee any real action being taken until the American public feels a sufficient sense of urgency, and they say to themselves, 'This is not normal. This is something that we can change, and we're going to change it.'"
"If you don't have that kind of public and voter pressure," Obama said, "then it's not going to change from the inside."