What Fear Of Saying 'The N-Word' Really Means

06/24/2015 06:08 pm ET | Updated Jun 24, 2015

President Obama's much-discussed interview with comedian Marc Maron this week drove news outlets into a tizzy after the president said a racial epithet on air.

"We are not cured of it," Obama told Maron on his "WTF” podcast. "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. It's not just a matter of overt discrimination. Societies don't, overnight, completely erase everything that happened 200 to 300 years prior.”

The media endlessly criticized the president's choice of words and generated sensationalistic headlines like TMZ's "PRESIDENT OBAMA DROPS THE N-WORD."

But what does all the uproar really say about our culture's relationship with such a word? And, more specifically, what significance, if any, does it have when the president uses it in a blunt and honest conversation on race? In a HuffPost Live conversation on Tuesday, Intercept journalist Juan Thompson helped to answer these questions and, in doing so, perfectly explained why it was "important" to hear the president repeat it:

If you're afraid of saying it, you're afraid of grappling with it. And do those people tense up, though, when you talk about the structural racism and white supremacy to which the president was referring? You don't get the same sort of reaction. If you're talking about black people being brutalized and terrorized by the police, will people tense up? No, they [just shrug]. But when the president comes on and says "nigger," then everyone's like, "Oh my god!" It speaks to how immature you are.

Watch the full discussion in the video above.

Sign up here for Live Today, HuffPost Live’s morning email that will let you know the newsmakers, celebrities and politicians joining us that day and give you the best clips from the day before.

Also on HuffPost:

Obama Visits The 50 States
Suggest a correction