During a podcast interview with comedian Marc Maron, an unusually candid President Obama talked about racism in America and his disgust with gun violence in the country.
“Racism, we are not cured of it,” Obama said. “And it’s not just a matter of it not being polite to say n*gger 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.”
The comments came during an hour-long interview recorded in Maron’s garage for his popular “WTF” podcast.
While the interview captures the president’s reaction in the immediate aftermath of the Charleston shooting, it’s really one of the first times we’ve seen Obama with his guard down in such a way.
Obama’s interview came just two days after Dylann Roof opened fire inside a historic black Charleston church, killing nine people at a bible study. During the interview, he said basic gun laws could prevent situations like this from happening, noting that many gun owners support laws to regulate ownership.
“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?” Obama said, referring to Roof.
Roof, who has been charged with nine counts of murder in the attack, posted a racist manifesto online, praising white supremacy and details intense racism. Obama said he wanted to drive home the point to the American public that the attack was part of a much larger issue.
“I think part of the point that I wanted to make was it’s not enough just to feel bad. There are actions that can be taken to make events like this less likely,” Obama said, adding that the country should work to enhance basic gun control laws. “This is unique to our country, there is no other advanced nation on earth that tolerates multiple shootings on a regular basis and considers it normal.”
Obama’s outrage over the Charleston shooting in particular was clear throughout the interview, but he also offered his thoughts on having had to deal with similar mass shootings throughout his presidency.
“I’ve done this way too often,” said Obama. “During the course of my presidency it feels as if a couple of times a year, I end up having to speak to the country and to speak to a particular community about a devastating loss.”
The president also noted his disgust over inaction in the wake of the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting that left 20 first-graders and six adults dead when a gunman opened fire at the elementary school.
“I will tell you, right after Sandy Hook, Newtown, when 20 six-year-olds are gunned down, and Congress literally does nothing — yes, that’s the closest I came to feeling disgusted,” he said. “I was pretty disgusted.”