Former President Barack Obama spoke about race relations in American society on the second episode of his new podcast with Bruce Springsteen, saying that at its core, racism is “an affirmation of status over the other.”
“I may be poor. I may be ignorant. I can be mean. I can be ugly. I may not love myself. I may be unhappy. But do you know what I’m not? I am not you, ”said Obama, describing the momentum behind one person calling another a racial epithet.
In the second episode of “Renegades: Born in the USA,” released Monday, the 44th President said this psychology has been institutionalized over time to justify and profit from the dehumanization of others. Racism is also due to an inner fear that “I am insignificant and not important. And that thing is the thing that’s going to give me some importance, ”Obama added.
To demonstrate his point, he brought up an example from his school days in Hawaii, when it came to beatings with a friend who called him a “coon.”
“It’s one of those things where he didn’t even know what a coon was – what he did know was, ‘I can hurt you by saying that,'” Obama recalls. “And I remember punching him in the face and breaking my nose and we were in the locker room. … And he said, “Why did you do that?” And I explained to him, ‘Never call me something like that.’
Obama and Springsteen also discussed the Black Lives Matter protests that swept America in the wake of George Floyd’s death in 2020, agreeing that the late Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) – who Obama said embodied [a] a very particular courage ”- had influenced an entire generation with its history of protest for racial equality.
Finally, the couple discussed the reparations, which Obama said were justified in his mind because “the wealth of this country, the power of this country … not exclusively, maybe not even the majority of it – this … but a large part of it was built on the backs of slaves.
Getting a wide range of Americans to agree on any kind of viable reparations program is another matter, the former president stressed, acknowledging that it was “ perfectly understandable that working-class whites, whites middle class, people who struggle to pay bills or process student loans … wouldn’t be thrilled about a massive program designed to deal with the past but not talking about their to come up.
“We cannot even get this country to provide decent schooling for children in inner cities,” Obama said. “And what I saw during my presidency was the politics of white resistance and resentment. The discourse on the “queens of well-being” and the discourse on the “unworthy” poor. And the reaction against positive action. All of this made the prospect of actually delivering any kind of consistent and meaningful repair program … not only a non-starter but potentially counterproductive.
Listen to the second episode of the podcast below.
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