Former President Barack Obama has said that he once broke a classmate’s nose in a changing room fight after he was racially abused by his then-friend. The 59-year-old Mr Obama shared the story on his new podcast “Renegades” with Bruce Springsteen.
“Listen, when I was in school, I had a friend. We played basketball together. And one time we got into a fight and he called me a c**n. Now, first of all, ain’t no c**ns in Hawaii, right? It’s one of those things that where he might not even have known what a c**n was. What he knew was, ‘I can hurt you by saying this,’” Mr Obama said in the podcast, adding “and I remember I popped him in the face and broke his nose and we were in the locker room.”
“Well done,” Mr Springsteen responded.
“‘Don’t you ever call me something like that,’” Mr Obama said he told his fellow student at the time, adding that the use of racial slurs was an “assertion of status over the other”.
Mr Obama said the point of the racial slur was to say: “‘I may be poor. I may be ignorant. I may be mean. I may be ugly. I may not like myself. I may be unhappy. But you know what I’m not? I’m not you.’”
He added: “That basic psychology that then gets institutionalised, is used to justify dehumanising somebody, taking advantage of ‘em, cheatin’ ‘em, stealin’ from ‘em, killin’ ‘em, raping ‘em.”
The country’s first Black president said:“In some cases, it’s as simple as, you know, ‘I’m scared I’m insignificant and not important. And this thing is the thing that’s going to give me some importance’”.
Mr Springsteen asked Mr Obama in the second episode of the podcast: “How do you hold the same country that sent man to the moon with being the same country of Jim Crow? You don’t make peace with that obviously, but how you sort of hold that being the same America?”
Mr Obama replied: “I think that it is, partly, because we never went through a true reckoning, and so we just buried one huge part of our experience and our citizenry in our minds.”
Mr Springsteen continued: “Is the country ready to deconstruct its founding myths? Or is it prepared to consider reparations? Do you think we’re at that place right now?”
“If you ask me theoretically, ‘Are reparations justified?,’ the answer is yes,” Mr Obama replied, adding: “There’s not much question. Right? That the wealth of this country, the power of this country, was built in significant part, not exclusively, maybe not the even majority of it, but a large portion of it was built on the backs of slaves.”