President Barack Obama used the N-word and the much of the national media went into a frenzy. In an attempt to shed light on racism in America following the church massacre in Charleston, South Carolina, Obama conducted a podcast interview with Marc Maron.
During the interview Obama said, “Racism, we are not cured of it. 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 200 to 300 years prior.”
The context of Obama’s message was completely lost and media outlets pounced on his use of the N-word. Fox News used the issue to dub President Obama, “rapper-in-chief.”
It soon became a moment where “undercover racists” could show their true colors. The “undercover racist” doesn’t believe he or she is a racist. They aren’t supporters of the Confederate flag, they probably aren’t fans of White supremacist groups, and they could possibly claim to have one or two Black friends.
The undercover racist doesn’t display overt racism, but he or she is racist in action. They would laugh at or share a racist meme; vote for laws that disproportionately affect minorities such as the voter ID law and racial gerrymandering; they give uncomfortable stares to Black people when they walk into a room; and they have a deep desire to say the N-word.
So when President Obama recently used the N-word, the undercover racists emerged and wondered why they weren’t allowed to use it. Another argument suggested that a White politician would be vilified for using the word. But the gripes proved Obama’s point. Just because it’s politically incorrect for Whites to use the N-word, that doesn’t mean that racism has been eradicated.
Also, it’s not the first time a U.S. president has used the word. Lyndon B. Johnson, the president who signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act, often referred to the act as the “n—– bill.” Last fall, undercover racists attacked Selma director Ava DuVernay for portraying Johnson as a “bad guy” in the film. The controversy may have led to her Oscar snub.
But by making a fuss over Obama’s use of the N-word, it shows that some want to continue to embrace racist attitudes without the stigma of being called a racist. President Obama is a Black man who has experienced the effects of racism in America. The undercover racists should either admit to being full-blooded racists, or they should allow Black expression to exist without the need to subtly reveal their true feelings.