NEW YORK -- Barack Obama gave a blunt appraisal on Monday of the recent shooting in Charleston, telling a podcast that "it's not just a matter of it not being polite to say nigger in public." The country's first African-American commander in chief added: "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."
Nine people were murdered in an African-American church in South Carolina last week, with Dylann Roof arrested on suspicion of the massacre. The FBI is looking into the killings as both a possible hate crime and an act of domestic terrorism.
Obama noted that "no other advanced nation on Earth" suffers these incidents with such frequency, ascribing that to the “legacy of slavery." He said: “Jim Crow, discrimination in almost every institution of our lives, you know, that casts a long shadow, and that’s still part of our DNA that’s passed on."
When asked how to stop the killings, he said it was possible to “make events like this less likely," namely passing laws to control gun rights in the US, however said the "grip of the NRA on Congress is extremely strong."
On gun control, Obama reflected: “The question is, is there a way of accommodating that legitimate set of traditions with some common-sense stuff that prevents a 21-year-old who is angry about something, or confused about something, or is racist, or is, you know, deranged from going into a gun store and suddenly is packing and can do enormous harm? That is not something that we have ever fully come to terms with."
Legislators in South Carolina are coming under increasing pressure to remove the confederate flag from the state building, with critics arguing the banner is a symbol of racial hatred. During the shooting, victims reportedly pleaded with the killer not to shoot, the attacker responding: "No, you've raped our women, and you are taking over the country... I have to do what I have to do." On Sunday, protesters in Charleston defaced a confederate monument, writing, “black lives matter” on a civil war statue.
Last week, a board member of the National Rifle Association responded to the Charleston killings by blaming the pastor and state senator who was gunned down in the massacre. Writing on the TexasCHLForum.com, Charles Cotton said Clementa Pinckney was to blame for the slaughter as he voted against a law that would have allowed congregants to carry concealed guns in churches.
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