President Barack Obama, a biracial president — a black president — used the n-word during a comment about race relations in America. Everyone has wanted President Barack Obama to adequately address race relations for years, stretching back to his candidacy. Certainly during the years of racial upheaval that followed his election into office as our first non-white president.
In a podcast released on Monday, Obama did just that.
During an interview on NPR’s WTF Podcast with Marc Maron, President Obama made an observation about race. One that involved the use of the n-word.
“Racism: we’re not cured of it… It’s not just a matter of it not being polite to say n***er in public. That’s not the measure of whether racism still exists or not. It’s not just a matter of overt discrimination.”
You know what’s most interesting about that statement? It’s the absolute truth. Some Americans believe that as long as they don’t say the n-word outright, they’re spared the otherwise well-earned label of racist. Such Americans often believe they can substitute the n-word with code words like “thug,” “welfare queen,” “terrorist,” “hoodlum,” or “Section 8.”
Unfortunately, these people also believe that a member of a minority group can be racist when that’s not remotely how racism works in America.
— Variety (@Variety) June 22, 2015
Racism is a combination of the following factors: prejudice, power, and privilege. All of these factors must be present in order for a person or act to be racist. It’s why a black man can be prejudiced, but he can’t be racist. He may enjoy male privilege, but he does not have white privilege.
White privilege is a haze of manufactured confusion that certain Americans dwell in. That hazy-thinking is why such persons are genuinely upset that President Barack Obama can “drop the n-word,” but their whiteness “prevents” them from freely doing the same.
To those indignant Caucasian Americans who want to say the n-word openly and are mad that they don’t get to do so (anymore, without being called on it), you’re not fooling anyone. Not really. I am not fooled and neither are the African-Americans who exist on the other side of your willful ignorance and white privilege. Please stop pretending that the n-word magically appeared out of thin air. Your behavior is a waste of energy, and the gesture is meaningless to the point of infuriating.
— New Day (@NewDay) June 22, 2015
We all know that the n-word wasn’t born in ’80s rap videos or on inner city street corners. It was established in America as a derogatory term said by white Americans as a means of addressing, describing, and verbally assaulting powerless African-Americans. It was meant to be a constant reminder that these people would never be viewed as completely human.
As for the discussion about if Barack Obama can use the n-word or if black Americans shouldn’t use the n-word, that will never be a conversation to be had with white Americans. White Americans do not need to be part of every conversation had by members of non-white groups. The world will not end if black people don’t get to hear your individual or collective thoughts on how they cope with a derogatory term.
Even if African-Americans opt to “reclaim” the n-word positively to mean brotherhood or express familiarity amongst themselves, it’s not the business of any white American, and it never will be. White Americans who are seeking to make the n-word their business are using logic wrapped in twisted entitlement and a strong desire to “get away” with racism.
Not surprisingly, other sensible and decent Americans are perfectly capable of functioning without the n-word in their lives. They are not wringing hands over how African-Americans do (or don’t) use the word. They don’t bring up the usage of the n-word among African-Americans as justification for stereotypical thinking and deep-seated racial hatred.
If you’re white in America and angry that President Barack Obama used the n-word, you are simply either not wise enough to appreciate the point he made or even worse — you feel affronted that you can’t call someone like me the n-word and get away with it. Well, when it comes to President Obama and the n-word, everyone who gets to be upset, emotional, or concerned about the word is not white.
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) June 22, 2015
If you are a white American, it’s just another day of that word having no place in your life or vocabulary. Instead, focus on the actual point he made about racism today. If you allow yourself to think intelligently and critically, you’ll realize that President Barack Obama made a good point.
It’s a point far more significant in and of itself than whether or not Obama should have used the n-word.
[Image Credit: Aude Guerrucci-Pool/Getty Images]