Barack Obama is typically viewed as the epitome of diplomacy, but during a conversation with Bruce Springsteen on Spotify’s eight-part podcast, Renegades: Born in the USA, the former POTUS revealed that he’s also capable of the occasional show of force.
During a discussion about racism in America, Obama recalled a difficult memory from his childhood, saying, “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.” He added with a laugh, “Now first of all, ain’t no c—ns in Hawaii, right? It’s one of those things where he might not even known what a c—n was. What he knew was, ‘I can hurt you by saying this.’” So, in response, the politician continued, “I remember I popped him in the face and broke his nose…It was just reactive. I said, ‘What?!’ and I popped him. He was like, ‘Why’d you do that?’ and I explained to him, I said, ‘Don’t you ever call me something like that.’” Obama also previously told this same story in his 2006 memoir The Audacity of Hope, explaining that the incident happened when he was in the seventh grade.
The conversation between the former president and Springsteen then turned to the larger issue of racism in America and uncovering the roots of that hatred. “The point is, what it comes down to is an assertion of status over the other,” Obama stated. “The claim is made that, ‘No matter what I am—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.’ And that basic psychology then gets institutionalized, is used to justify dehumanizing somebody, taking advantage of them, cheating them, stealing from them, killing them, raping them, whatever it is. At the end of the day, it really comes down to that.” He added, “And in some cases, it’s as simple as, ‘I’m scared I’m insignificant and not important, and this thing is the thing that’s gonna give me some importance.’”
The first two episodes of Renegades debuted on Monday, with the next six episodes slated to roll out over the course of the coming month, promising even more “deep and revealing conversations” between the two beloved cultural figures, “exploring a wide array of topics including race, fatherhood, marriage and the state of America.”
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