(CNN) – At the tail end of a week spent addressing the thorny issue of race in America, Barack Obama is responding to fresh criticism for using the words “typical white person” in reference to his grandmother during a radio interview.
Thursday night, Obama told CNN’s Larry King that “what I meant really was that some of the fears of street crime and some of the stereotypes that go along with that, you know, were responses that I think many people feel. She's not extraordinary in that regard. She's somebody who I love as much as anybody. I mean, she has literally helped to raise me. …
“And so the point I made is that good people, people who are not in any way racist, are still subject to some of these images and stereotypes and that it's very hard to escape from them,’’ Obama said.
Obama, who mentioned his grandmother during a speech on race he delivered in Philadelphia Tuesday, had told the hosts of a sports radio show in that city that his grandmother was not a racist, “…but she is a typical white person who, you know, if she sees somebody on the street that she doesn’t know, there is a reaction that has been bred into our experiences that don’t go away and sometimes come out in the wrong way…”
He added that that was the “nature of race in our society, and we have to break through it,” saying that he saw each generation “feeling a little less like that.”
Conservative critics immediately reacted, saying his use of the phrase “typical white person” was a racist characterization.
When King asked if the comment might hurt his campaign, Obama responded: “I think that my campaign has always been built on a confidence in the American people, that we can talk honestly about issues, that we can acknowledge that they're complicated, that we can disagree without being disagreeable…”
Race has come to the forefront in the Democratic race recently, with comments by Clinton supporter Geraldine Ferraro that Obama would not be a major presidential candidate if he were white, and a new focus on the controversial remarks about 9/11 and other issues by the Illinois senator’s former minister, Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
Watch Obama explain his comments on Larry King Live here.