President Barack Obama, known for his calm and level-headed persona, once as a teenager punched a friend in the face and broke his nose after the friend called Obama a racist slur, he tells Bruce Springsteen in the latest episode of the pair’s new Spotify podcast series.
In the second episode of Renegades: Born in the USA, the two discuss race in America and begin the podcast talking about Clarence Clemons, the late saxophonist for Springsteen’s E-Street Band, who Springsteen said was often “the only Black man in the room” and was forced to navigate racist abuse, sometimes from people he thought were friends.
Obama said he had a similar experience growing up in Hawaii, when he was called a racial slur by a friend in the highschool locker room during an argument.
“I popped him in the face and broke his nose” and said, “Don’t you ever call me something like that,” Obama said.
Those hurtful racist slurs thrown around in the heat of the moment have devastating consequences and get “institutionalized,” and “used to justify dehumanizing somebody, taking advantage of them, cheating them, stealing from them, killing them, raping them,” Obama said.
Obama said he believes people who use racist slurs do so to assert their own status. “The claim is made that, ‘No matter what I am, 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,” he said.
On Monday, Spotify announced the launch of Obama and Springsteen’s new podcast series, which was recorded last year in Springsteen’s home studio in New Jersey. The series will feature six episodes released weekly exclusively on the Spotify streaming service. It’s the latest deal Spotify has signed with high-profile figures for podcasts, after the streaming service inked a contract with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in December. This week, Spotify announced it will launch service to more than 90 new countries, its biggest expansion yet. It was revealed this month that Springsteen was arrested for driving while intoxicated in New Jersey in November, and could make an appearance in court as early as Wednesday.