Barack Obama recalls how he broke a classmate's nose for using racial slur, Bruce Springsteen says 'well done'

Barack Obama recalls how he broke a classmate's nose for using racial slur, Bruce Springsteen says 'well done'
Former President Barack Obama stands with singer Bruce Springsteen during a campaign rally at the Cleveland Mall on November 2, 2008, in Cleveland, Ohio (Getty Images)

Former President Barack Obama recently recounted a locker room fight from school when he allegedly broke a former friend's nose for using a racial slur against him. The 44th POTUS narrated the incident during an episode of his Spotify podcast with Bruce Springsteen, titled 'Renegades', which was released on Monday, February 22.

"Listen, when I was in school, I had a friend. We played basketball together," the former president told the Jersey Shore rocker during a discussion on race.

"And one time we got into a fight and he called me a c***," Obama said about 13 minutes into the episode to chuckles from Springsteen. "Now, first of all, ain’t no c***s in Hawaii, right?" he said, referring to his Aloha State upbringing. "It’s one of those things that — where he might not even known what a c*** was — what he knew was, 'I can hurt you by saying this'," he continued. "And I remember I popped him in the face and broke his nose. And we were in the locker room."

"Well done," Springsteen remarked, before Obama added, "I explained to him — I said, 'Don’t you ever call me something like that'."


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Obama, who appears to have never discussed the episode in the past, said that hurling racial slurs comes down to "an assertion of status over the other." "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?" Obama said to Springsteen. "I’m not you."

"That basic psychology that then gets institutionalized is used to justify dehumanizing somebody, taking advantage of 'em, cheatin' 'em, stealin' from 'em, killin' 'em, raping 'em," the former president continued. "Whatever it is, at the end of the day it really comes down to that. And in some cases it’s as simple as, you know, 'I’m scared I’m insignificant and not important. And this thing is the thing that’s going to give me some importance.'"


In the second episode of the podcast, Springsteen asked Obama: “How do you hold the same country that sent man to the moon with being the same country of Jim Crow? You don’t make peace with that obviously, but how you sort of hold that being the same America?”

Obama responded: “I think that it is, partly, because we never went through a true reckoning, and so we just buried one huge part of our experience and our citizenry in our minds.”

Springsteen followed with another question: “Is the country ready to deconstruct its founding myths? Or is it prepared to consider reparations? Do you think we’re at that place right now?”

“If you ask me theoretically, ‘Are reparations justified?,’ the answer is yes,” Obama replied, adding: “There’s not much question. Right? That the wealth of this country, the power of this country, was built in significant part, not exclusively, maybe not the even majority of it, but a large portion of it was built on the backs of slaves.”

Former President Barack Obama awards the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Bruce Springsteen during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House on November 22, 2016, in Washington, DC (Getty Images)

Obama had previously discussed the impacts of racism on American society. In a 2015 interview, shortly after a deadly shooting at a historical Black church in South Carolina, he evoked another racial slur to warn that the country is still not "cured" of racism.

"It's not just a matter of it not being polite to say [the N-word] in public," Obama said at the time. "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."

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