“Racism, we are not cured of it. And it's not just a matter of it not being polite to say 'nigger' in public. That's not the measure of whether racism still exists or not,” he said. “It's not just a matter of overt discrimination. Societies don't, overnight, completely erase everything that happened 200 to 300 years prior."
The interview with Maron, a well-known comedian, was recorded Friday and released in full on Monday. During the conversation the president also stressed that race relations have dramatically improved in recent decades.
“I always tell young people in particular: do not say that nothing has changed when it comes to race in America unless you lived through being a black man in the 1950s, or 60s, or 70s,” he said. “It is incontrovertible that race relations have improved significantly during my lifetime and yours and that opportunities have opened up and that attitudes have changed. That is a fact."
Speaking about the recent church shooting in Charleston, S.C., where nine people were killed last Wednesday, Obama echoed remarks he made last week about the slew of mass shootings he has commented on in recent years.
“There's no other advanced nation on earth that tolerates multiple shootings on a regular basis and considers it normal. And to some degree that's what's happened in this country. It's become something that we expect,” he said.
He also bemoaned the difficulty he has encountered passing gun control legislation through Congress. He told Maron that he did not expect the most recent shooting would change the situation.
“Unfortunately the grip of the NRA on Congress is extremely strong,” he said. “I don't foresee any legislative action being taken in this Congress and I don't foresee any real action being taken until the American public feels a sufficient sense of urgency and they say to themselves, 'This is not normal. This is something that we can change and we're going to change it.'”