Using the n-word in reference to President Barack Obama wasn’t a joke, comedian Larry Wilmore said.
In an interview with MSNBC’s Al Sharpton that aired Sunday, the host of this year’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner explained that he wanted to make a statement that acknowledged the historic nature of President Barack Obama’s presidency in its last year.
Wilmore’s choice to use the word in reference to President Barack Obama at the end of his performance at the annual DC fundraiser was met with dropped jaws and mixed reactions, and revived debate around the phrase.
“It was at the point where I wanted to make a statement more than a joke,” Wilmore told Sharpton. “I didn’t view that portion as a joke. And I really wanted to explain the historical implications of the Obama presidency from my point of view. I’m the same age as the president. We graduated from high school at the same time. And a lot of people don’t have awareness of how racism exists to the people who are being affected by it. They just see things like the Civil Rights Act, you know? Slavery and events like that, but they don’t have the experience of it.”
Wilmore continued to explain why he used the contentious term.
“In my time, I experienced a black man not being able to be the quarterback of a football team,” Wilmore said. “People thought there was a problem with that. And to see this man as leader of the free world meant something that words couldn’t put into justice. And when I think of the hundreds and hundreds of years of a particular word being used against us, to take away our identity and now to turn that around on its head, something that’s normally done in private, I acknowledge, and to make it public, was I thought, you know, a statement.”
During the interview, Wilmore also turned his attention to Trump, calling him the leader of the “upper crass” movement.