Jordan Fabian sums it up well enough for The Hill:
President Obama caused a stir on Monday by using the N-word to make a point about racism in America.
In a conversation recorded on Friday, less than 48 hours after a mass shooting at an African-American church in South Carolina, Obama said racism is still deeply ingrained in society despite the fact that racial slurs are no longer acceptable in normal conversation.
“The legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, discrimination in almost every institution of our lives — that casts a long shadow, and that’s still part of our DNA that’s passed on,” Obama said during an interview on comedian Marc Maron’s “WTF Podcast” released Monday.
“Racism, we are not cured of it,” Obama added. “And it’s not just a matter of it not being polite to say n—– in public. That’s not the measure of whether racism still exists or not.”
Obama’s phrasing renewed a debate over who is allowed to use the word and when it’s appropriate to say. The provocation also garnered more attention for his broader message, something that almost certainly factored into Obama’s decision to use the word.
The discussion about race consumed cable news chatter and dominated newspaper headlines on Monday. White House spokesman Josh Earnest fielded more than a dozen questions about Obama’s comments at his daily briefing with reporters.
The discussion arose amid a new battle over the Confederate flag, augmenting a debate about race and the country’s past. As the White House reiterated Obama’s call for the flag to be placed in museums rather than state grounds, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) said she would seek to move the flag.
Few commentators said that Obama was wrong to use the word, though some acknowledged the discussion of one word threatened to overshadow Obama’s larger message. Despite improvements since the civil rights era, Obama said, “societies don’t, overnight, completely erase everything that happened 200 to 300 years prior.”
I would only comment that if this is not an occasion on which editors should decide to go ahead and print the word nigger, I have no idea what would be.
Put simply, of course there will be discussion about President Obama’s use of the word. Yes, we should guard against allowing that discussion to overshadow the larger point. But, really, on this occasion, you are going to censor the President of the United States?
It is worth bearing this point in mind insofar as it might suggest something important about the readiness of American society to responsibly address these issues.
Fabian, Jordan. “Obama uses N-word to spark talk about racism”. 22 June 2015.