- The Washington Times - Monday, June 22, 2015

President Obama used the N-word Monday in making the point the nation still has not overcome its legacy of racism, but the White House denies the president planned to use the provocative word as a way to spark a broader conversation about race.

In an interview on comedian Marc Maron’s “WTF” podcast, Mr. Obama spoke frankly about race and gun violence. His comments came just days after a white gunman was charged with shooting and killing nine black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina.

“Racism, we are not cured of it,” Mr. Obama said. “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.”

During the interview — recorded Friday and released Monday — Mr. Obama also decried the political power of the National Rifle Association and again called on Congress to pass background-check legislation.

Hours after the interview surfaced, the White House announced that Mr. Obama and Vice President Joseph R. Biden will travel to Charleston on Friday to honor the victims of last week’s shooting.

Mr. Obama will deliver the eulogy at the funeral for the late Rev. Clementa Pinckney, one of nine people shot and killed by gunman Dylann Storm Roof, who purportedly wrote a lengthy manifesto that included themes of white supremacy.

SEE ALSO: Christian’s message on Dylann Roof’s Facebook page goes viral: ‘Give your heart to Jesus’

The White House acknowledged that Mr. Obama’s use of the N-word drew more attention to the podcast and to the thorny issue of race relations, but officials denied that he went into the interview intending to use the term.

“As evident from the conversation, it was a free-flowing conversation and it was pretty wide-ranging and there was no decision made on the part of anyone here at the White House that we were going to capitalize on this audio interview,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters. “The way the president designed his argument in this scenario is more provocative and I don’t think anyone here is surprised this is getting a little more attention.”

But some specialists doubt the White House’s claim and say it’s entirely likely Mr. Obama knew using the N-word would draw more attention to race relations.

“Just as he fully articulated ‘nigger,’ we have to speak honestly and openly about the state of race relations and all the ugliness that it conjures up — even if it makes some people uncomfortable,” said Montre Carodine, a professor at the University of Alabama Law School who has written extensively on race relations. “What’s interesting is that we probably wouldn’t even be talking about the podcast interview if the president hadn’t said ‘nigger.’ I’m sure he knows that.”

Moving forward, Mr. Obama says he’ll still push for gun control legislation even though such measures have virtually no chance of clearing Congress.”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,” the president said.

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