Tuesday, June 23, 2015

POTUS Does Podcast

President Obama talked for an hour on comedian Marc Maron’s WTF podcast program, episode 613, recorded live last Friday. President Barack Obama used the n-word during during the podcast discussion to make a point America continues to struggle with racism.

President Obama used the podcast format to have frank discussion of the issues as the nation examines the role racism played in a white supremacist killing nine African-Americans last week in a historically black church in Charleston.
"Racism, we are not cured of it. And it's not just a matter of it not being polite to say nigger in public," Obama said.

"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."

Marc Maron’s WTF podcast program, episode 613 - MP3

"I always tell young people, in particular, do not say that nothing has changed when it comes to race in America, unless you've lived through being a black man in the 1950s or '60s or '70s. It is incontrovertible that race relations have improved significantly during my lifetime and yours," Obama said. But he added that "the legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, discrimination" exists in institutions and casts "a long shadow and that's still part of our DNA that's passed on."
Pres. Obama’s statement, that there is less American racism in 2015 than there was in 1965, is undoubtedly correct. Yet, last week, a white man walked into an historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina. He sat inside the congregation for an hour, as churchgoers engaged in Bible study. Then he announced to the African American congregants that they are “taking over our country,” and he opened fire, killing nine men and women. That young white man was moved to violence by reading racist writings on the Council of Conservative Citizens website and other racist organization websites that promote white primacy. While Jim Crow segregation can not today be openly practiced, the racist beliefs behind those once prevalent Jim Crow laws remains alive and common across the states of the old confederate south.

Two years ago this week, Chief Justice John Roberts walked into the Supreme Court and took his seat in the Court’s center chair. He then handed down the court's decision in the Shelby County v. Holder case concerning the constitutionality of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.  Lawyers for Shelby County, Alabama, argued in case that while America was once consumed by the kind of “‘pervasive,’ ‘flagrant,’ ‘widespread,’ and ‘rampant’ discrimination” that can justify a fully operational Voting Rights Act, our nation has sufficiently resolved its racism problem that the full provisions of the Voting Rights Act are obsolete and unnecessary.
Chief Justice Roberts began stating the court's majority opinion saying, “discrimination against African-Americans was so entrenched and pervasive in 1965 that to cite just one example, less than 7% of African-Americans of voting age in Mississippi had been able to register to vote.” Then Roberts reasoned that America has set aside this past: “There are examples of progress, more poignant than the numbers,” the chief justice claimed. “During the Freedom Summer of 1964 in Philadelphia, Mississippi, three men were murdered while working in the area to register African-American voters. On Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama in 1965, police beat and used tear gas on hundreds marching in support of enfranchising African-Americans. Today, both Philadelphia and Mississippi and Selma, Alabama have African-Americans mayors.”

“Things have changed dramatically” in the 50 years since the Voting Rights Act became law, Chief Justice Roberts wrote. Moreover, he reasoned, the central provisions that he and his fellow conservative justices struck down in Shelby County were “extraordinary measures to address an extraordinary problem,” and they could no longer be justified now that that problem had so diminished.
The premise that there is less American racism in 2015 than there was in 1965 does not answer the question of how much racism is enough racism to permit so-called “extraordinary” measures to address it. In today’s America, the GOP continues to win elections using the "southern strategy," white men still kill African American men and women because of the color of their skin, housing discrimination remains widespread, and more. We continue to need “extraordinary” measures to combat the practices and symbols of racism, like the confederate battle flag flying in states of the old confederate south, the GOP freely using "southern strategy" messaging, and states passing new laws restricting voting rights and access to the ballot box.

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