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Barack Obama is opening up about his childhood experiences with racism. In the second episode of his recently launched Renegades: Born in the USApodcast with Bruce Springsteen, the former president recounted the time he got into a fight with a former friend who called him a racial slur.
“Listen, when I was in school, I had a friend. We played basketball together,” he began. “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 where he might not even have known what a c**n was. What he knew was, ‘I can hurt you by saying this.’”
The former commander in chief didn't take the incident lightly and a fight ensued.
"I remember I popped him in the face and broke his nose, and we were in the locker room,” he told Springsteen. “I explained to him -- I said, ‘Don’t you ever call me something like that. 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.’”
Obama hasn't been one to shy away from talking about race. In June of last year, he penned an essay on Medium about how to enact change amid protests over George Floyd's death.
"I recognize that these past few months have been hard and dispiriting -- that the fear, sorrow, uncertainty, and hardship of a pandemic have been compounded by tragic reminders that prejudice and inequality still shape so much of American life," Obama wrote. "But watching the heightened activism of young people in recent weeks, of every race and every station, makes me hopeful. If, going forward, we can channel our justifiable anger into peaceful, sustained, and effective action, then this moment can be a real turning point in our nation’s long journey to live up to our highest ideals."
The father of two noted that change will be "up to a new generation" while adding that history can provide "basic lessons" that are worth remembering.
Watch the video below to hear the message of hope Obama delivered shortly after the protests.