tv Book TV In Depth CSPAN March 10, 2012 9:00am-12:00pm EST
sunday panels continue starting at 1 eastern with the environment, the great depression at 2:30, the american west at 4, and at 5:30 studying the brain. and diana enrique on bernie madoff at 7, and look for coverage streaming live on booktv.org today beginning at noon eastern and sunday starting at 2:30. the tucson festival of books, live this weekend on c-span2 and booktv.org. ..
>> harvard professor, randall kennedy nerd is selling book company and/or time scott keeter in "nigger: the strange career of a troublesome word" you write about violence by speech. what do you mean? >> guest: that book is itself about a word that triggered lot of violence and to some it is a violent word in and of itself. what i wanted to do was give a history of this word that has been covered with blood literally and sometimes figuratively and wanted to show the way in which this word has wrought havoc on american culture. of course that is not all it does. one of the reasons it is book worthy is a complicated word. it has a terrible history,
history of insult, history of terrorism, history of intimidation, but of course other uses too. put to anti racist uses and made an ironic term. it has been made a term of endearment. so the word nigger is a complicated word. it has its violence aspect but other aspect as well. >> host: who was big mama and how did she use the word? >> guest: big mama was lillian stand, wonderful lady who probably did not get more than a sixth grade education, born in south carolina and live current tire life in south carolina. she was a seamstress. she was a domestic. she was a strong-willed lady who
raised a slew of kids and send most of them through college and absolutely great person. i knew her for a good portion of my life. shea news a whole lot of different words. she referred to black people sometimes as colored people but she also sometimes would use the infamous and word --n word. and she is a person whose example and wisdom has been with me all my life. >> host: is it illegal to use the "n" word? >> guest: generally speaking no. i take that back. if you use the "n" word in an
employment setting, you or somebody -- supervisor and you referred to your work to worker as nigger refer to black people as niggers, you may be in violation of the law by creating a hostile workplace and thereby make yourself subject to a liability under state law or under civil-rights law of 1966, 1964. in certain circumstances you can do things that would make yourself -- which subject you to legal liability or another way. if you commit violence and in the commission of a violent act refers to people using the "n" word you might be subject to
hate law legislation and thereby not only be prosecuted for whatever 5 intact you committed but also by its subject yourself to an enhanced penalty by running afoul of state haig was. under certain circumstances yes. you would be in violation of the law. generally speaking, because of the strong shielding power of the first amendment, comedians and or writers, can use the "n" word and not fear the law of the you might have to fear public opinion which can be a powerful force. >> host: is that the mere words versus hiding words argument? >> in the law of homicide all so
different levels of homicide and one big divide is between manslaughter and second-degree murder. the law gives you a little -- if you kill someone you can make the argument that you killed somebody if you were in the grip of passion. classic example of manslaughter is you come home and you find your girlfriend or your wife in the arms of another and you kill that person you have committed a violent act but the law will give you a little bit of a break because you were in the grip of passion and the law says we give something of an excuse. not a full excuse but recognize you couldn't control yourself. some people made the argument that they were in the grip of passion because somebody called them the infamous "n" word and
they struck the person and maybe killed the person and the argument becomes can you or can your lawyer make the argument to a jury that you were in the grip of passion because this person called you this particular word? in some jurisdictions like washington d.c. you cannot even make that argument. washington d.c. has the just words doctrine and the law says no matter what the word, no matter what somebody calls you that is no excuse for accusing violence but other jurisdictions say we will let you make that argument to a jury. >> host: you write in the "n" word book there's nothing necessarily wrong with a white person saying the "n" word just as there's nothing necessarily wrong with a black person saying it. what should matter is the context in which the word is
focused. the speaker's aim affect alternatives. to condemn whites who use the "n" word without regard to context is to make a fetish of the word. >> guest: the best example to illustrate that point is mark twain's great novel huckleberry finn. nigger appears in huckleberry finn over 200 times. i think it is a wonderful novel and its impulse is anti racist. its impulse is anti slavery. over the years there have been many people who have wanted the book banned or wanted to erase the word. i am not for that. you have a white officer but he is using the term nigger for purposes that are clearly anti racist purposes. lenny bruce was a great social
satirist. he had a number of skits in which he used the word "n" word not to insult black people. but to turn the tables on racist -- he used the word "n" word -- "n" word to laugh at them. he was using the word has a mirror on racism to combat racism. those are some examples. there are others. some of her short stories -- she wasn't using it to be a racist. she was using it as an artist to they legitimate racism. there are black people too who
have used the term "n" word in ways that in my view are completely not objectionable. dick gregory titled his first autobiography "n" word -- nigger:an autobiography. richard pryor had two great albums, bicentennial nigger. using the term in anti racist ways. ironically. >> host: the book was published in 2002. was the reaction you got from colleagues and publishers? >> guest: when i wrote that book i got a strong reaction. much of it positive. but also i got a lot of negative reaction. and i continue to get positive reaction and negative reaction some people took real offense at the title. if there was one aspect of the
book that probably got me the most negative reaction was people who complained about the title and who thought that i was being sensationalist, fought by was exploiting this term by putting it right there in the title. right there on the cover of a book that appears in bookstores all across america. what i said to people was -- i say this unapologetically, you want people to read your book. there are thousands of books in any book store. there are hundreds of thousands of books in any big library. you get a lot of competition. the first thing you want to do if you are an author is at least have somebody pick up the book and so when i was thinking of a title i was thinking what can i title this book that would at
least get somebody to take a peak, read that first paragraph. and i thought nigger. "nigger: the strange career of a troublesome word" would stand out. just like writers think hard about topic sentences think hard about examples, get the reader's attention. that is what i was trying to do with this title. it certainly succeeded in getting people's attention. >> host: in 2008 you published "sellout: the politics of racial betrayal". what is a sellout? >> guest: a person viewed as being a traitor to his group. every group has a notion of who
is inside, united states america -- if you do certain things which are deemed to give comfort, give aid to an enemy of the united states. you are called a traitor. called a sellout if you are taking money for it. i wrote this book to focus on this phenomenon in the context of black america. just like every group has this notion of insiders and outsiders, therefore every group has a notion that if you are an insider and do certain things against the perceived interest of the group, we call these people sellouts and that is what i wanted to write about. >> host: with the possible exception of athletes you right, blacks to obtain success in a
multiracial setting will always sooner or later encounter whispered insinuations or shouted allegations that their achievement is attributable at least in part to selling out. >> guest: that is true. for instance there are some people, fortunately not many but there are some african-americans for instance who would call the first black president a sellout. there are black americans who will say if you are black and your the head of a fortune 500 company you are necessarily a sellout. there is a real anxiety, substantial part of black america and to be successful.
what did you have to do to get that back in, one of the things you had to do. that is what i talk about. >> host: welcome to booktv on c-span2. this is our monthly index program where we have 1 offer on to talk about his or her body of work. it is harvard law professor randall kennedy who has written five books. here are his books. in 1997 he came out with "race, crime and law," 2002, "n" word, the strange career of an troublesome "interracial intimacies: sex, marriage, identity and adoption". "sellout: the politics of racial betrayal" in 2008 and his most recent book the persistence of
the color line. on "in depth". when did you start teaching and harvard? >> guest: summer of 1984. >> host: what do you teach? >> guest: i teach courses on race relations. i taught courses on the first amendment and criminal law. nowadays two courses, contract and race relations. >> host: if you like to participate in our conversation with professor kennedy we will put the numbers on the screen. 737--- 624--- 737-0001 in the store several times and. not sure what numbers we're using. 737-0002 for those in the mountain and pacific time zones. and if you want to send an e-mail to prepare for canada you can at firstname.lastname@example.org or
tweak booktv/-- twitter.com/booktv. i got all of that mix the. only done that once or twice. in your most recent book "the persistence of the color line: racial politics and the obama presidency," you right opposition to anti-black racism generates protectiveness. even if black vehemently disagree with obama on important matters subordinate their misgivings out of a sense that racial loyalty demands solidarity with the nation's first black president. >> guest: yes. there are people who are critical of the president with respect to various issues who have to make a calculation over and over again with this they want to publicize their criticism. on the one hand they have real disputes with the president and therefore want to relay --
disagreement to him and others. on the other hand they recognize the president of the united states, barack obama, is going to be facing opposition not so much based in an authentic disagreement with this or that policy but rather an opposition fuelled by anti-black racism and people even if they are critical of president obama do not want to do anything that will help the cause of those who are against the president at least in part because he is black. >> host: what is a race man? >> guest: a race man is a term that refers to black americans who have a sense of camaraderie, a sense of solidarity, a sense
that they should use their gifts, their talents, their resources not only to further themselves but to uplift the race within themselves. it is an honorific term. to be a race man or raise woman is to be a person -- >> host: in "sellout: the politics of racial betrayal" you're right clarence thomas is very much a race man. a black person who seeks self consciously to advance by his own lights the interests of african-americans. >> when you write a book, one thing about writing books, sometimes you want to revise
things. it is something i would not run again. the person whose politics are at variance with most black americans strongly at variance with most black americans. very conservative. most black americans in terms of politics are not. but he does see himself as pushing a political agenda that will in his view advance the fortunes of black americans. that is what i meant. in his own mind he sees himself as a race man.
in certain ways it is an accurate portrayal of the justice. when i wrote that i was being rather generous. i think if i were revisiting of that territory i would be more critical of the justice because frankly in the way in which he has not only taken positions but also voiced positions he has taken, i have more questions than i had then of the degree to which he sees himself as someone who has obligations to advance the fortunes of black america. >> host: where did you grow up? >> guest: i was born in columbia, south carolina in 1954. i spent my first few years of life in columbia, south carolina
but at a young age my parents left south carolina. they were refugees from the jim crow south. and they moved to washington d.c. in search of more opportunities. i grew up in washington d.c.. i went to public-school for a good long while. i went to tacoma elementary school. and then i went to st. augustine school for boys. a private school on the ground of the national cathedral. it was a formative influence for me. it was probably the most influential school that i attended. for one thing, i learned the
rudiments of expository writing. so any time i write an article, any time i write a book, i quite literally say thank you to my teachers at st. albans. i think of ferdinand roubaix who talked a wonderful class on expository writing. charles sullivan and mr. willis, most importantly of my high school history teacher john mckeon who introduced me to history, introduced me to the study of history, study of historical writing. very important figure in my intellectual development.
>> host: how many african-americans attended that school? >> guest: not many. in my graduation class of 70 there were probably seven black american students. when i began there were fewer but more came over time. there were not that many. there are more now. but when i was fair there were not many black students. it was an extraordinary intellectual environment. absolutely extraordinary. st. albans really did inculcate a notion of public mindedness. we debated all of the public issues of the day that were the wide range of ideological positions that people took. we were encouraged to speak out.
we were encouraged to write down our views. to this day i have very fond feelings toward st. albans and very fond feelings towards my teachers. >> princeton? >> guest: i went to princeton university between 1973-1977. gained a wonderful experience again of a host of teachers several of whom have become very close friends of mine. one of my teachers at princeton was a man by the name of stanford levenson, university of texas. a very distinguished, very interesting intellectual in general, legal academic. i had him for politics.
i had him for a course on constitutional interpretation. he gave me my lowest grade at princeton. a lifelong friend ever since. he has -- wonderful feedback. one of my teachers was erik phone a, great american historian at columbia. my senior thesis was a biography of richard hofstadter who had been erik phone air's dissertation advisor. he is now a clinton professor at
columbia. richard hofstadter was the clinton professor at columbia and i have known eric for decades now. a person who reads all of my work and gives me feedback. i am on the board of trustees at princeton was fond feelings toward princeton. it too very influential in my life. ten years after you were there michele obama was born -- didn't seem her experience was the same as yours. >> host: my sense from what she had written in the papers she did not have as positive and experience, my experience was very positive. i feel lucky in that way but i have been a lucky person, i
interacted with people who have been encouraging, supportive, starting with my parents. henry kennedy passed away. my mother, rachel kennedy, my mother was a schoolteacher. my parents were deeply -- nothing to precedent in education in our household. they were supportive. they send me to schools as i indicated that were tremendously supportive. i have been lucky enough to fall under the sway of wonderful teachers at every institution i have attended and again, i had
friends along the way, every school i attended, my very closest friends. >> host: you write in the "n" word book that the first time you came home from the playground and related that you were called the "n" word you got different reactions from mom and dad. >> guest: i don't really remember the first time i heard the infamous "n" word. probably goes so far back. it is a word that has been around me all my life of the first time i got in a fight over the "n" word was when a little white boy called me nigger at recess and tacoma elementary school and we fought
after-school. i came home and they asked how did things go and everything was fine except the kids called me nigger at recess and we had a fight after words. my parents had completely different reactions with my father saying you did the right thing. if somebody calls you nigger you can fight them. my mother on the other hand fougthought that that was absoly ridiculous. anyone who calls you that word mean to insult you is a stupid person that you should ignore them. in my book i talk about that. i focus on that episode to show that we do have a choice in terms of the way in which we can
respond to words. although i followed those pieces of advice at various places in my life over time i think my mother had a better argument. >> host: we will start our conversation with our viewers with an e-mail from pigeon. professor kennedy, please say the "n" word, not the "n" word. when anyone hears the "n" word they automatically think that word. why not avoid the extra syllables and awkwardness of that stupid phrase? the booktv audience is knowledgeable enough to not think every use of the "n" word is racist and beyond the pale of decency. i find the "n" word more offensive than that word. you're right about that. >> guest: i do. i use the term as we have already seen but are also
sometimes say "n" word and and i do not object when people use the term "n" word. there is such a thing as euphemisms. we do cover up certain fact with euphemisms and i have a role for that too. i differ with the power. i do not get angry. i have very good friends who as a matter of principle never say the term nigger. they never say it. and they never say it because to them this word is so horrible, it has brought so much havoc and created so much pain that in their view it as a matter of principle. they never say it. obviously i don't follow that myself, but i think that is a perfectly understandable
position to take so i don't object when people use the euphemism "n" word. sometimes i use it and sometimes i don't. >> host: i think mr. pigeon for his e-mail and i choose not to use it. in "sellout: the politics of racial betrayal" have you ever had that were directed at you? >> guest: had the word directed me when i use the word nigger. some people said i was selling out for book sales and that itself was a politically irresponsible act that was exploitation of hand therefore i was showing in sufficient racial loyalty in naming my book nigger. and other positions i have taken in my academic career have prompted people sometimes to
label me a sellout. i have been very fortunate, extremely privileged in my life. i am a professor at harvard law school. very privileged position. some people look at that and presume that to obtain that position, i have had to compromise my principles and engage in various forms of racial be trail. the term was directed at me and quite sure that was one of the reasons i wanted to write a book about it in order to grapple with that part of my autobiography. >> host: would you! the term post racial? >> guest: it is something of a
blur. it is a word that has become rather popular. i don't use it. i know it is a word that is out there. i usually put quotation marks around it because it is not altogether clear to me what it means. i suppose maybe it means a society in which racial consciousness has with the way. it seems to me it is a word which if it is to be used profitably needs more definition. if one is going to use it one should be fine. when i hear it is one of the blog words which could mean anything and i steer away from it. >> host: your 2003 book "interracial intimacies: sex, marriage, identity and adoption" you write i myself am skeptical if not hostile toward claims of
racial kin ships, a validation of racial roots and politics organized around concepts of racial identity. i am a liberal individualists who yearns for a society in which race has become obsolete as a significant social marker. >> guest: it is interesting. you are picking portions of my book -- this is another one i would probably revise. i believe what i said. when i wrote that book i was in a very strongly individualistic mode, allergic to notions of group responsibility, group solidarity and that is still a part of my persona. i don't think i would write that sentence again. hy and conflicted.
i have strongly individualistic aspects but i am a race man. i am a person who feels -- i feel feelings of racial kinship and racial responsibility and racial solidarity. it is a struggle within the and in my riding. when i wrote that i was legitimizing the race man aspect of myself. i think if i were redoing it i would probably -- i would
probably -- be clearer about the way in which -- i am conflicted. i am conflicted. in some context i push further in one direction and in some contexts i push in another. but both of those impulses are very much with me. you mentioned the book "interracial intimacies: sex, marriage, identity and adoption". that is one of my favorite books. one of the reasons -- is probably my favorite book. the reason why it is probably my favorite book is because i have gotten more letters and e-mails from people who expressed gratefulness about that book than any other. the reason people expressed gratefulness is because there is a big chunk of that book that has to do with adoption.
there was a legal question that was on the table when i wrote that book and the legal question was should be legal system in any way discourage interracial adoption? i took a very strong position that the legal system should not discourage interracial adoption. the legal system should not privilege same race adoption at all. i took the position what we should want to do is encourage adoption and adoption of all sorts. it seems to me it should be encouraged and no privilegeing of same race adoption over interracial adoption and over the years many people have written and who have said,
either solace, comfort, encouragement. the book has been used in legal briefs in that way my individualism is coming out. what we should want is youngsters to be brought up by loving people. forget about the race saying. let's just have loving adults bring up children. i still believe that very strongly. very strongly. at the same time in other contexts, am i a race man? i am a race man for talking about the montgomery bus boy. is very easy for me to get quite emotional in talking about the
greatness of the black people in montgomery, alabama in what was an extraordinary instance of community solidarity, banding together to create one of the great moments in american history and indeed world history. do i have tensions within me is that our work out through my book for attempting to work out through my books? yes. >> host: can white people be race men? >> guest: sure. much of the history of the united states is white people being raise men. thomas jefferson was very much of a race man. ben franklin was very much of a race man. andrew jackson was a race man. that is a good question because they are in a sense -- you have
-- brought face to face with my views being the ugly side of being a race man. words that some of the great people and the great people in american statesmanship. john c. calhoun erase man? yes he was. i guess -- make a distinction race man-july embrace of blacks who are raise men? no i don't. if you are a race person of whatever race and your aim is to
institutionalize the superiority of your group, i am for that? no. am i a race man that wants black racial superiority? i am not. not after that. i am a race man that wants to use sentiment of racial solidarity to create a just society for all people. i am a transitional race man. a i am a race man strategically. i am a race man that wants to create a cosmopolitan society that one day actually will see the withering away of racial
consciousness. i am a transitional race man. >> host: randall kennedy is author of five books. "race, crime and law," the "n" word, "interracial intimacies," "sellout: the politics of racial betrayal" and his most recent is "the persistence of the color line: racial politics and the obama presidency" which came out last year. tunisia in virginia. you have been very patient. go on with your question or comment. >> i would like to ask what the black author is does he recommend his books focus on political aspects such as -- and also i want him to explain the argument that the advancement of the civil-rights movement of the 60s and subsequent brown versus board of education decision, the argument that it had more to do
with the image of black independence and economically and culturally because it took away the ability of blacks to control their own social structures in their communities because before that the community was more established and punctual. >> guest: i will take those questions in reverse order. i think is profoundly mistaken to believe black americans were better off before the civil-rights revolution. i have heard people say that. seems to me that is a segregation nostalgia. black americans are better off after the wonderful civil-rights revolution. people forget the degree to witch segregation not only involved white supremacy, excluding blacks from various
forums in american life but how segregation also involved putting black institutions under the from of some black people, white supremacists. if one takes a look at the law of student expression, some of the classic court cases that validate the notion that students in public institutions have free speech rights, where do they come from? they came from black institutions in the age of segregation in which black principals or black college presidents at the behest of their white bosses through black kids out of school and oppressed them, suppressed them. a lot of people have forgotten
that. a lot of people have forgotten the way in which during the age of segregation black entrepreneurs would pay it -- take black customers for granted because black customers were essentially a captive market. segregation was a thoroughly evil system and we should not in any sense rue its passing. black americans today are undoubtedly better off than they were 50 years ago if we think about symbolism, and i think symbolism is very important. you might say sitting at the back of the bus was a matter of symbolism. in a certain way was. if you are on a bus everyone is getting their place at the same time. did it make a difference whether you had to sit at the back of
the bus as a way of showing that you were lesser than white people? that was the symbolism that made a lot of difference. we don't have that today. we have problems today. we have massive problems today. is still the case that with respect to any index of will be and whether we're talking about life expectancy or health outcomes or wealth or income or education or incarceration rates, people of color and in particular black people are still getting the short end of the stick. that is true. that is absolutely true. but as compared to 100 years ago or 70 years ago or 50 years ago or 30 years ago black americans have come a long way to
contribute to black americans. it is a tribute to american society as a whole because it is an extraordinary thing that as i sit talking today the president of the united states is a black american. the voting rights act of 1965. 1965 is not long ago. as recently as 1965 there were parts of the united states where black people could not vote because of in some instances sheer terror or in other instances out and out fraud legal chicanery. that has changed. we have a black president of the united states. black attorney general of the united states. one could go on and on and on. obviously from my statement i am not at all -- i am hostile to
the view that black people have in any sense gone backward. black people have to their credit, they credit of all of it to the credit of american democracy, have advanced and have advanced in an extraordinary way. with respect to the first question i recognize and have read from the author's that were referred to, those are not the author's that i have relied upon in my work or i have taken inspiration from. the people who have written about african-american culture
over the years, people like w. e. b. dubois or john franklin, the black american authors had the biggest imprint on me intellectually. >> host: this is booktv our monthly "in depth" program. randall kennedy is a guest. this e-mail is from frieda williams from albany, calif.. why have previous attempt at achieving reparations for blacks in the past failed such as randall robinson's attempt. and state intervention, and good
living conditions, sustained focus on black inner-city youths and rural areas. >> guest: the reparations story is a complicated one. hand quite allergic to any talk of preparation. and repudiated claims of reparations. reparations -- i am for reparations. stated as reparations, black americans have not gotten them and that won't change anytime soon. why is that the case? there are a number of reasons. ignorance of the american past and the degree to which black americans have oppressed society not only informally but also by
the state apparatus, the state of the united states. the federal government of the united states. when it was the leading force behind slavery, a leading force behind segregation. the government acted terribly toward black americans. the way in which it acted terribly continues to reverberate in our society after world war ii. there was a state policy and united states policy to help people and the lot of the wealth
of americans lodged in their homes but that didn't work well because of a formal policy by the united states government that influences black people and my family and so ignorance is part of it. the nile is part of it. many white americans are extremely allergic to anything that smacks at accusations--so that -- reparations at one level has not borne fruit but we live in a complicated -- we live in a complicated society. there is another way--that is through for instance
affirmative-action. affirmative-action -- the main motive power behind affirmative action is as far as i am concerned preparatory justice. it is a type of preparation. it has not been packaged that way. there's this allergy to reparations so we package affirmative-action and all sorts of other ways. diversity for something else but the real motive behind much of what we referred to as affirmative-action is trying to make amends for the past. i think as far as i am concerned that is correct. we haven't made nearly enough in terms of amends for the past. to the extent we made some amends, that is a good thing. where we in the foreseeable future have a more capacious,
more powerful, more frank preparation policy of the sort that the caller suggested? no. we won't have that. unfortunately. but we won't have that. >> host: in "interracial intimacies: sex, marriage, identity and adoption" you write i am ambivalent about the continuation of racial affirmative-action programs. they have performed a great service but they do draw racial lines, a toxic activity that should be avoided absent compelling arguments to the contrary. >> guest: yes. this is the third time in our conversation that you have focused on a text which i would revise. in fact my next book, the book i am working on really hard right now is going to be a book about affirmative action. i am going to turned the manuscript at the end of the summer. i am a proponent of affirmative
action. it is true. for a long time i was very ambivalent. i was always for it but very ambivalent. i was torn. now i am not so porn. i am for affirmative-action in a much stronger way than i have been in the past. i do think it is true that in american life when you use racial distinction to allocate thanes i do think that almost inevitably there is going to be a toxic effect. there is going to be the exacerbation of resentments so whenever you allocate things along racial lines are there going to be some negatives? there are going to be negatives. there are going to be -- but
with respect to affirmative-action, b pluses have over the past 30 years, have outweighed the negatives. on the affirmative action front, i am a considerably stronger proponent now than i have been in the past. >> host: ahmad is on with professor randall kennedy. please go ahead. >> caller: first question i have for you is the transitional raise food to you spoke of. i would like to say i am somebody like that. i wanted to know if you fought the work of john rawls will help us move in that direction. i am a middle eastern -- i am an arab-american, post 9/11 veteran. my experience, i have been back and when i was in was we experienced the bad parts of the
race men kind of faint the bad aspects of the act we break which discrimination is worse. african-americans in the workplace and outside the workplace have casually used epithet's towards middle easterners with terrorist like comments and things like that. i wanted to get your views on that and i appreciate you working. thank you very much. >> guest: thank you for calling. can black people be racist? answer: yes. we have seen that throughout american history. black people have participated in terrible acts against native americans. black people have participated
in american imperialists ventures. black people today, some unfortunately have participated in the racist taunting of people of middle eastern ancestry. black people are people. and so black people have done wonderful things just like people of all backgrounds have done wonderful things. ..ust like people of all backgrounds have done terrible things. and that's -- seems to me that is a point that needs to be underlined and when black people act out badly, mistreat people, act in a racist way, enact a way that shows disrespect for people based on sexual orientation,
when black people act out badly, everybody aught to call them out, including other black people. .... >> i respect john rawls but praenl -- frankly if i had to grapple with this race man idea the person i would choose would be martin luther king, jr.. martin luther king, jr., also had a struggle within himself. there were times when he was the race man. montgomery bus boycott, his first speech, a great speech, his first speech as a civil rights champion in announcing the boycott, he talks about -- hel calls on black people to bad
together so that when the history books were written, historians would talkr about th greatness of black people as a people. he was speakin g very specifically as a race man. at the same time, he was a cosmopolitan person who at his best recognized that we are all brothers and sisters and should embrace one another as brothers and sisters. so i think that martin luther king junior, himself is what i would call a transitional race man and insofar trying to get one's bearings in our complicated racial environment, i can't think of a better person than martin luther king, jr., -- not that he had all the answers. not that i agree with him about everything. but he certainly in spirit had a wonderful spirit that's still
very much inspires me. >> host: our next call comes from st. george, utah. go ahead, ron. ron, are you with us? last chance for ron. >> caller: can you hear me. >> host: please go ahead with your question, yep. >> caller: yeah. professor, i wanted to ask you about sellouts. how would yo u view a person wh was -- came to prominence basically as a voice in the inner cities and then was given a job and he then ceased to continue to be the voice or he eradicated the major part, in my opinion, of his rhetoric, which was aaction? it's kind of like in the movie "i'm going to get you sucka"
where he said what happened to all the brothers? well, they gave them all jobs. well, i can understand that. this is aa person that came to prominence as a voice of people of the inner cities and then got a job and ceased to really be a voice with action. now, i think that your colleague,i cornell west confrontedea one such person wh now is on msnbc, i don't know if i can say bthat. but he confrontedf him and calld him a sellout and actually told him that you haven't done anything anyway. how do you view such a person and i'll take it off the air. >> okay, thank you very much for the call. i think people ought to be very careful when they use the sellout label. you know, we all do things for
all sorts of reasons. we have different phases of our life. let's takes the example that yo just gave the person is in the inner hecity, maybe is a communy activist, then he gets a job and you don't hear from him. well, you have to ask a whole lot oaf questions. one question i would want to know is, is he doing this strategically? biding his nstance, time? is he taking the position that, well, i've been giving -- i've been given this job, maybe i will bee quiet for a while, quit for a season, or two or three. get seniority, get knowledge, get position and then later i will attempt, when i've got, you know, more power, to do things which i think i could not do now. now, people say that all the time and, you know, oftentimes when people say it, they're just
rationalizintig their accommodation to new circumstances. they're just rationalizing their bought quiet-essence. and then that doesn't happen so i think we need to be very careful before we say somebody is engaged in what we call racial treason, selling out. do i think there are people who sell out? yeah, i think there are people who sell out, but i want to be loathe to come to that conclusi conclusion. i want to know a whole lot about them. i want to have real clear proof before i calall somebody a sellt some >> host: you've mentioned the montgomery bus boycott a couple of times. you write this, the boycott is typically portrayed as an entirely voluntary enterprise in
which the heroes of the story wagest their struggle against racist villains without morally soiling their hands at all. the reality, however, was considerably morewo complicated. the boycott was mainly animated by the commitment ofa many blacs to reform, if not erase patterns of racial subordination that rightly abhorred. it's importantly to note, howev, that the boycottpo was also reinforced by the knowledge that any black person caught riding buses would face ostracism frome his peers. he and she would be denounced as a sellout or words to that effect >> guest: yes. one of the things i wanted to point out in my book. again, we're all part of groups. and whenever you're part of a group, a group creates boundaries and if you wander far enough outside. of the boundary thee group is going to sanction you. the united states government has a law of treason, for instance. that's a nation state.
every group has its boundaries. and from time to time a group will use coercion to whip people into fshape. every time, for instance, there's a strike, the union calls strike. somebody -- a union member who crosses the picket line is going to bese ostracized. that person is going to be called a scab. there are going to be all sorts of coercive -- there's going to be all sorts of coercive force brought to bear on that person to try to whip that person into shape. now, that's just a fact of collective action. and i've already indicated my great admiration for the montgomery bus boycott of 1955, '56 but was there a coercive aspect to the boycott, yes, there was. there were some black people
that did want to ride the bus and you coulomd understand why they did. if you had to go -- if you had to go walk for 5 miles, if you really needed money to support your y family and you thought tt you needed to get to your workplace, you might very well have been willingve to ride at e back of that bus even if most of your black neighbors took a different position. well, to make that boycott effective, word had to go out, listen, we as a community mean business. and if you cross thei community this, you will have to pay a veryu steep price. that is whatec comes with collective iaction. and, you know,, just to be realistic about it, that's what comes, you know, the united states of america -- whene it goes to war, has a draft. if you don't submit to the draft and the powers that' be say tha
you ought to, you go to jail. again, collective action alway has an aspect of coercion surrounding it, and that's one of the featuresan oil company about in my book. >> host: robert, from atlanta, you're on with author and professor robert kennedy. zblshg thank you, professor, i appreciate being able to ask you a question. i was actually struck by your comment about your parents in that -- i think we live in a bit of a parallel universe. i had about four years ago experienced something very similar when comings home from school after first hearing that epithet and explaining it to my father who was a veteran from vietnam and he said it was unacceptable to even stand by and seeo it and as i returned e next day with the bloody nose that resulted standing next to the young man who had perceived the first time my mother explained to him that was not
the best approach or best advice after he then took me out for cream. so it's o interesting how two different people from two different areas could have such a similar response from my parents. my question, they're both about bias. the first is how media bias around conservativists -- and i'm struck how thomas sowell and allen west and justice kennedy and even in your comment you talk about -- thomas.: justice >> caller: around the dichotomy how racial bias is treated. where it seems that the african-american communityan ha voted for president obama almost as apr monolithic bloc and yet when others disagree regardless of race with some of his policies, they are often -- too often regarded doing so out of
racial prejudice which really freezesud the argument in its place because short of being called a pedophile in today's community, being called a racist is probably the worst thing you could beyo called in an enlightened community which i seek to be part of. thank you, sir. >> guest: well, there are a number of interesting in your comment. with respect to president obama and the african-american community, in my book "the persistence of the color line" one thing that i was very keen to recall is that president obama had to work awfully hard to get the african-american community on his side. remember, early on in his campaign, many african-american activists and elected officials were in the camp of his rival,
hillary clinton. it was only after barack obama won the iowau caucus and did wel in some of the other primariesi -- and he really workedr hard to get african-americans on his side, the african-american community went for him. it's true that black americans especially in presidential politics and prose overwhelmingly favor the democraticat candidate. i don't think that they are acting with a herd mentality. i don't think they're acting b under dent of brainwashing. i don't think that they are acting unthinkingly. i think the great mass of black americans size up the candidates and make a thoughtful decision about which candidate they're going to havedi policies that o balance are going to best serve
their interests. and i think that the great mass of black americans made up their minds that barack obama would do that. with respect to your comment about the term "racist," i agree with you. racist is an interesting term. it is a word, an idea, that fortunately has been -- it's an idea that is highly stigmatizing to american life, especially, if you're an electoralat politicia. you do not want to be viewed as a racist. and that's a good thing. i mean, after all, there was a time, not so long ago, when politicians, frankly, didn't care, indeed, there was probably aup time not too long ago when some politicians would have liked being referred to as a
racist. that's no longer the caseoo and that's a good thing. ironically, there's a flip side to that. racist has become a stigmatizing term and people, fail to use i even when it fits. because if you use the term and then somebody calls you on it and says, well, i don't agree. why are you calling somebody -- such and such a person a racist, it turns out that if you cannot give a good persuasive reason for why youe called such and suh a person a racist, then it flips and you become stigmatized for having s called the person such stigmatizing term. and so sometimes now in american life we've actually gone, you know -- people don't say that so-and-so is racist, they say so-and-so is racially insensitive or some other
weaselly word because you don't want to be called out calling somebody a racist and then not able to persuasively back up your claim. so it's an interesting word. it's probably a word that could stand a book. >> host: in your nearly 30 years as teaching, have you run across you've determined are racist? >> guest: i've had a few. very few, very few. but have there been a couple? yeah, there have been a couple but i say very few. you know, one of the great -- i've been so privileged in my life. i spoke earlier about the associations i've had with respect to family, with respect to friends, with respect to -- colleagues, with respect to teachers.
my students -- i mean, all of the books that i write are tried out on my students. we have these things -- we have these captive audiences called classes, and in my classes i try out my books and my students respondnd and give me great feedback, which i put to use when i, you know -- rewriting and rewriting these manuscripts and my students have been just wonderful in terms of helping me to put together the books. i have students from a wide range of ideological positions. some of the students with whom i've been closest personally have been very conservative
students. and they give me their feedback just like students who were closer to my ideological, you know, situation. they give me their feedback and it's been a wonderful thing. but students, too, are part of the reason why i feel like i've been a very privileged person. >> michael in arizona, please go question or ur comment for professor randall kennedy. >> caller: yes y. gentlemen, i feel privileged here to have you both you here. it brought to mind the civil rights act and the watts riots broke out and the comments that johnson made -- i'm paraphrasing, of course, hera ft veryha dismayed that after all had done for the black people, that they're rioting in watts.
i look -- i point in my life where on my own, on the side of my head i looked at mr. johnson and r.says, well, yeah, the civ rights act are cool but you didn't solve the problems that were concerning the people in watts. and maybe you ought to put a little attention on that. but to my -- the real reason why i'm calling here. i see a source of violence in all communities that is extremely in the black communities, and that is a violation of two constitutional provisions. and they say the same thing and to me they really meant it when they said congress shall pass no bill attaineder, and the congressno will not pass bill o attaineder, i understand it targets an identifiable group for punishment without benefit
of a trial. so if you -- if you find somebody with a joint or a hash pipe or some controlled substance, he's in the club. he doesn't doneur anything -- >> host: michael, we're going to leave your comments there and get a response from randall kennedy. >> guest: well, the caller makes two points to which i want to refer. when you speak of lyndon johnson, it's quite a striking thing that -- i mean, the 1965 voting rights act marked in a way the highs point of the civil rights revolution. as the caller indicated, you know, within weeks you have this outbreak in watts, which really did show the way in which the civil rights revolutionci -- fo all of the good that it did, left un touchtouched important injustices in american life,
injustices that have not gone away. the watts riot followed by the newark riot, followed by the riots in new york, philadelphia, other places showing the way in which particularly inner city america still suffered grievously under a combination of racial oppression and class injustice. the civil rightsev revolution really did not transform that problem. and indeed nothing has transformed that problem. we are still grappling with that problem. and the caller is right to bring our attention to it. with respect to the question of black people and the interaction of many black people with the
administration of criminal justice, that was the subject of my first book "race, crime and the law." that is still a very sore point because with respect to virtually every aspect of the administration of criminal justice, we have a race problem in every aspect and every area in vamerica, whether it would b the west, whether it would be the northeast, whether it would be the southeast, everywhere in america we still have a real problem with respect to racial discriminationsc in the administration of criminal justice. that was the subject of my first book. it's probably a subject to which i will return. and it's still a big problem in
american life. 1997, "race, crime and the law" came out and randall kennedy wrote, maybe the crack powder distinction and indeed the entire war on drugs is mistaken. but even if these policies are misguided, being mistaken is racist and om being the difference is one that matters greatly. >> guest: yes. let's talk about the crack powder distinction because there's been a lot of talk about that, in fact, there's been legislation. last year or so, the governmen passed a law -- it used to be that casrack was -- after a certain amount of crack -- if you had a certain amount of crack you were punished much more harshly than if you had a certain amount of powder cocaine. there was a certain -- there was a so-called 100-1 ratio. that has been distinguished somewhat. nowe i think it's an 18-1 racia.
there are many people who claim that the crack powder distinctioshn in terms of punishment was racist. the story there, as i detail in my book, and as i still believe complicated. it's complicated in the followingom way. when i was writing my chapter about race and the war on drugs, i did the following. i went to the computer and i went to the congressional record and i typed in crack cocaine. i wanted to seeed who was the firsth person that really talke about crack tcocaine? and who were the people who were behind cracking down on crack? who did i find? representativeta charles wrangl and other members of the congressional black caucus. their position, when they went to congress, they said, listen,
they were in congress and they said, listen, our communities are being ravaged by this new form of cocaine called crack cocaine. now, when things happen that, you know, ravage white communities, there's action. people are concerned about it. but when things happen in black communities, all too often, there's indifference. through this indifference we want to crack down on crack. well, the congress did crack down on crack. and i think the congress cracked down on crack in a way that led to, in my view, tragic results. but if we're talking about the crack story, we can't forget the role that black representatives played in it thinking that they were helping their community. now, i think that they were wrong -- i don't think that they were trying to be wrong.
i don't think that they were ill intended. their intentions were ill intentions. but it miscarried. i think, frankly, the whole war of drugs has miscarried. again, not out of bad intent but, you know, sometimes people make mistakes. and so mye purpose in writing that sentence that you quoted was to say that, when we go back, we need to recognize that there are allgn sorts of motor vehicles that people have. sometimes when people do somethingme that we think has l to bad results, it's not because people intended the bad results. it's not people were malevolent. people makepe mistakes and it seems to me it's important not just as a matter of analysis, but it's also important as a political matter because if you're confronting somebody and you think that they -- you
disagree with what -- what they -- you know, some policy, there is a big difference between saying that policy is a racist policy and that policy is a mistaken policy. if you say that that policy is a racist policy, one consequence may be in part because racism, to get back to the earlier call has been so stigmatized, sometimes -- a politician who's policy -- youof a say, ah, i'm against that policy. it's a racist policy. that politician may be very defensive -- no, i would never haveed voted for a racist polic. m how dare you call me in favorite of a racist policy and that person may say, i'm not a racist. i would not be for a racist policy and they might, in fact,
entrenched themselves -- they might embrace that policy out of a human instinct which is defensive instinct. i'm not in favor of a racist policy. how dare you? i'm going to double down on it. that's scenario number 1. scenario number 2, i think your policy is mistaken. you might have had good with it.s in fact, let's assume you had good intentions but we've studied itit. it's had the following effects. we should change it. very often -- not always, but very often a person confronting that will have a different attitude because after all we all make mistakes. we all make mistakes. and if you tell me, i've made a mistake, i'll revisit it. more of a mind to listen to you.
you know, fine, i made a mistake. i made a mistake. thank you for pointing that out. let's try to reform it. that's whatis legislation is al about. so i thinke we need to be very careful with the racist label. and with respect to the crack cocaine/powder cocaine distinction. is race part of it? i think race can be part of it. so, for instance, you might say would legislators have been more willing to revisit the issue if the crack powder distinction had done to white communities what it has done to black communities? i think the answer there is probably so. is there a racial distinction maybe in the way in which congress has reacted? maybe so. but still i think we need to be very careful in labeling actions
as racist when it's possible that they were not racist in their origins. they were merely mistaken. >> host: porter in altus, oklahoma. this is booktv tv on c-span2. go ahead, deporter. >> caller: hi.ti >> host: the first w-- you say affirmative action wason part o reparations. affirmative action did not hel everyone that was affected and the f families there was affect is still affected by slavery. >> host: uh-huh. >> caller: so i think if you put that into it would help the american economy because 50% of that money would go back into the economy buying businesses and homes and things like that. my question is -- my first question is this, do you think that president obama, although he's a black man, should apologize to slavery for the united states of america? and the second question is, me
being af black man and a musli what y do you think about lewis fair condition and his teachings? >> guest: okay. a couple of things, first, you're absolutely right in your comment about affirmative action as a type of reparations when you make the comment that affirmative action helped some people but nott other people. in edfact, one of the criticism of affirmative action has been that as it works itself out, usually, it helps those who are actually better off in the black community, those who actually probably bear fuer scars from slavery and segregation and that's a criticism of affirmative action. it's a good criticism. it's true. it's true. but sometimes you have to get, you know, what redistribution you can and that's why i'm
basically a supporter of affirmative action even with its deficiencies and inadequacies but you did put your finger on an important inadequacy of affirmative action as it usually plays itself out. now, you asked the question about barack obama and the apology foogr slavery. it's an interesting question. i thinker that there should lon have been -- long ago have been an apology for slavery. one question people have with respect to apologies, though, is the problem of the hollow apology, the problem of the formulaic apologies. one hears apologies in life and in politics and in our culture. you want ana apology to mean
something. and i think philadelphia be worthwhile we as a society could craft for whether we should -- maybe we should have -- maybe there should be some commission about this. i know that -- i know representative conyers for a number of yearsye have sought a commission to discuss just this issue. one other point on the reparations point, there was a wonderful teacherho at yale law school named boris bifta called "the case for black reparations" still ka book very worth readin. and one thing that he said, you know, when people talk about reparations in his view people talk about slavery too much. as soon as you talk about reparations people immediately talk about slavery and one problem with slavery is, you know, when people talk about slavery, they think about it being so long ago. and when you seyay reparations r
slavery, people says, well, there's no more slaves, there are no more slave masters. happened aa long time ago. concerned, it's much more useful to talk not aboubt slavery but to talk abou segregation. there are millions of americans alive today who were the direct victims of segregation in the united states. my imother, my dear mother, wh i'm sure is watching right now, citizen of south carolina -ti- could she go to the university of south carolina? no, she could not. she had to go to south carolina state. now, she got a good education at south carolina state. she's proud that she went to south carolina state just like of my family went south carolina state. they could not go to the university of south carolina. when my mother graduated from
south carolina state and wanted to get a higher rseducation, th state gave her money to go out of state -- she went to nyu to get her master's in education because no such degree was offered for black people in south carolina. she was a direct victim of segregation, and she's living just like there are millions of other black americans who are living. in the discussion of reparations b and whether there should be reparations -- we should not think, we should not have our minds too focused on what happened prior to 1865. the united states -- in the united states, we had a formal pigment terre haute ocracy that lasted longer. the 1965 voting rights act and
it comes closer formal racial discrimination and victims of formal racial discrimination are all around us. and i think in talking about repatriations we should remember thatt. >> host: patrick, miami, good afternoon. >> caller: professor kennedy, thank you for taking my call. i was struck byi your concept o the sellout. it's been a word that's been given to myself, i'm a vanderbilt graduate. i think it's there in that concept of sellout where there's a lot of ground to be covered still in the black community. i'm wondering what your thoughts are on how we begin to shift the paradigm so that the achievements that we associate with selling out are not viewed with suspicion or the pejorative way by the black community at large but a really to i go site the concept of the race man that you talk about so eloquently.
thank you. >> guest: it's a complicated we'll have to n, remember that black america is tremendously complex with all sorts of positions. we just finished with black history month and all through black history month, this month and historically, a lot of pride is expressed about black american firsts and black americans who had succeeded in all spheres, you know, business, law, inventing things, medicine and so people in the audience should not, you know,ud think that, you know, all black americans look ascant at black americans who have succeeded. there is a very strong tradition in black america. applauding black americans who have gone out in society and
proven their mettle. at the same time, there is this suspicionic that is still there and, you know, even in places -- even in places of privilege, at the very end of the book, oil company about why i wrote it. and oneal reason i wrote it because at my law school, harvard law school, clearly a place of tremendous privilege -- there's still a certain anxiety that bubbles up. i have. students who come to me at office hours we'll be talking about careers and there will be a certain sort of anxiety expressed or almost a sort of -- a feeling of guilt expressed with people saying things, like, well, i really don't know if i want to pursue this sort of career because if i do this, won't i object a mere assimilationists?
won't i object selling ou -- wot i be distancing myself from my people? i say, listen, we live in a huge society.y, there are people of talent needed all over the place. do your thing. if you want to be a great tax attorney, a great tax attorney. you're not going to be selling out. if you want to be a mergers and acquisitions attorney -- if you want to be a corporate attorney, do it. do your thing. that's what i tell students to do. just like -- just like thurgood marshall did his thing. i worked fore thurgood marshall. it was one of the great experiences of my life. he's always e been a hero to me but sometimesfe i get the feeli that people think that a person like thurgood marshall speak as if he was, you know, a martyr.
that he wase being a civil righs attorney and that it was all a matter of drudgery for him. it wasn't a matter of drudgery for him. he was doing what he wanted to do. em he was doing what he wanted to do. he loved doing what he wanted to do. that's one of the reasons why he was so excellent at doing what he did. and i would say that if you want to be, whatever kind of lawyer you want to be, defense lawyer, you want to be a prosecutor, knock yourself out, grabbed a passion, and do it. and don't be worried about this notion of, you know, am i doing enough to help my community? to tell you the truth, i would very much subordinate that way of thinking. if you are a good person, acting within the law and advancing
yourself, you, especially if you're a black american, if you're doing those things you are probably inspiring others, and that is a good thing. don't worry frankly about the sellout concern. do your thing. that would be, that's my advice. >> host: this is "in depth" on book tv on c-span2. this month, professor and author randall kennedy is our guest. every time we have an author on we always ask for some of the influences, favorite books and what they're reading. we will show that to you now, along with a little bit of video from professor kennedy talking about interracial intimacies, and we will continue taking your calls after this.
>> a couple of reasons. the question was, why a book elationshi >> host: go back to rsons. interracial relationships. think there's a variety of reasons, one is i think that interracials intimacy, these sorts of re relationships which i'm most re, concerned, sexual relationships, marital relationships, familial relationships, our understudy to. a l i teach at a law school, i teaci at harvard law school. inteach on race relations, law, in such a course there is no, sa people expect for you to spend t long time talking about the lawn rce wgulation of race at the
workplace, the regulation of face with respect to housing o markets, the regulation of race with respect to education. spent a lot of time on that. people don't think about spending a lot of time on the rt regulation of race with respect to marital intimacy, sexualut intimacy. now, if you think about it, if you think about how people get jobs, if you think about how yot people conceive of themselves, everything but heoow people lean about the world relationships ae incredibly important. friendship as an institution, dating as an institution, is incredibly important. and one thing that drew me to this subject was the extent to which people actually did not talk about it and actually thought
>> host: we're back live with professor randall kennedy, and "interracial intimacies," professor, you write that you wanted that book to provoke readers to rethink their casual reliance. on racial distinction in their private affairs. what does that mean? >> guest: so, for instance, in friendships, in dating, in marriage, i think that for many people there sort of habitual, just by how the, you go to someplace and are looking around, who are you going to talk with, we race coded. and we go to people who, our society has told us, we should go to. and i am saying that the self-conscious and recognize that frankly we need to undo the habits that we have inherited.
and we need to self-consciously seek out other sorts of people. there's nothing wrong with that. people are people. let's go outside of our expectations, let's go outside of the normal bounds, let's open ourselves up to people that we would not have normally open ourselves up to. that's what i would say. encourage in interracial intimacies. >> host: we're talking with randall kennedy who is also the author of five books. these are his five books. his first book that came out in 1997 was "race, crime and the law," followed by the inward book. "sellout" came out in 2008, and
finally the persistence of the colorblind is his most recent book but it cannot last year. professor kennedy indicated he is working on a six book, which is due when? >> guest: it will be published early next year. it will be published in the spring of 2013, and it will be a book about affirmative action. >> host: does it have a title? >> guest: you know, it does not have a working title. it's going to give up the law and politics of affirmative action. one of the reasons why my publisher wanted me to expedite the book is because the supreme court just decided that it would review and affirmative action case involving the university of texas law school. so my publisher is assuming that next spring, that's going to be an issue very much on the front pages. and they want to have my book out around that time. by the way when i mention my
publisher, i said earlier in our conversation, i feel so fortunate in my associations, and one aspect of that has to do with the people who actually produced my book at in legal academia, most legal academics sort of make their mark through writing, writing articles for long reviews. i read for a number of years law review articles and enjoy doing it to one of my longer bootable articles -- an article about the administration of criminal justice. and a fellow read that article by the name of errol mcdonald, he's an editor at pantheon books. he called me up and said this was an interesting article, you should make it into a book. and i said, you know, i've been thinking about writing a book, and fine, we talked a few minutes and the next day i had a
contract. and i have been with them ever since. he got me into writing books. he's been my editor ever since, pantheon has been my publisher, and i must say i feel tremendous sense of gratitude and gratification through my association with errol mcdonald and others, and the people at pantheon books who helped me put out these cultural productions. >> host: we'll put the numbers up on the screen in case you like to participate in a conversation with professor randall kennedy. you can also contact us electronically. ote at c-span.org is her e-mail address, or twitter, twitter.com/booktv if you want to leave a comment there as well. in "the persistence of the color line," and writing about the 2008 election you talk about the
clintons and the race card, but you reference an article you wrote for the atlantic in 2001 called the triumph of robust tokenism. what is that about? >> guest: the atlantic magazine wanted an article, they asked a bunch able to write articles about the legacy of bill clinton's presidency, and he wanted me to talk about bill clinton and african-americans. and basically what i said was that bill clinton got an extraordinary recession from african-americans, a lot of applause from african-americans. i thought that african-americans frankly gave him too much applause, had credited him excessively. i thought that much of what he had done fell under the rubric of tokenism.
.com and here's where the title came in, i said, you know, it was robust tokenism and i don't see your tokenism. tokenism can be imported. oftentimes tokenism is used as a put down. merely symbolic. but i think symbolism is, you know, can be very important. and i thought that bill clinton had done certain things which furthered the overall project of inclusion, the inclusion of black america at the highest levels of american government. he furthered that, and i wanted to give him, you know, he is due credit for that. not too much credit but do credit. and that's what that article was about. >> host: next call for professor kennedy comes from haiti in lakewood washington. go ahead. are you with us?
are you hearing anything, professor? >> guest: no. >> host: we have to move on. we will go to milton in philadelphia. high, milton. >> caller: hello? >> host: go ahead. >> caller: i have problems with black conservatives is this, i understand that you issues with president obama and his policies, right? but this criticism of him about the fact that he has to produce his birth certificate, and these comments that he is not one of us, he was raised by his father from kenya, he's a socialist, and all these attacks against him, you cannot help see that it is racially motivated. and then you have references from florida like west and all of these other black conservatives, what are they out there denouncing this criticism of president obama? >> guest: okay, first of all agree with the caller that some,
not all, not all by any means, but some of the criticism of president obama, as far as i am concerned, is certainly fueled by racial animus, racial resentment. some of it is just out and out, some of it is out and out racist. some of it is a little bit more subtle, and so i agree with the caller. i agree with the caller that there has been an insufficient criticism of the racist attacks on president obama that have come from conservatives. now, there are two other aspects of the caller's remarks that i would like to note. one has to do with the whole issue of president obama, you know, was he born in the united
states. clearly he was born in the united states. one point that i don't think has been paid much attention to, however, is the wisdom of that part of the united states constitution that says that the president of the united states must be born in the united states. i think that part of the united states constitution ought to be, ought to be rescinded. we out of a constitutional amendment that removes that part of our constitution. there are at least seven perfect people who have won the congressional medal of honor who are naturalized citizens of the united states. there are thousands of people who are buried in arlington national cemetery who paid the ultimate price on the half of the united states, who are naturalized citizens of the united states. there are millions of people in
the united states who were born in some of the country. why shouldn't they be eligible to be president of the united states? we have at people, we that's estate who were born abroad. we've had supreme court justices who were born abroad. i think that's, frankly, it should be no law to be born abroad. the president of the united states, barack obama, was not born abroad, and many of those who have raised that as an objection to him, i think our inability in a sort of code language. they don't want to be viewed as racist so they come up with some other reason to oppose the president. i think that is going on just like the caller indicated and i think about to be criticized. what i did want to put in there that the whole idea that shattered a natural born citizen of the united states to be president, it seems to me that that is an antiquated and mistaken notion. >> host: no wonder you like
sanford levinson are. >> guest: i do. i am a big fan. >> host: this e-mail, i've not read any of your books but now i want to. my question, among the sellouts in your bookmarks and actually talk about politics in the gop and the persistence of the color line. >> guest: yes. they can be. they don't message of have to be at all. the fact of the matter is that black america is ideologically varied, just like latino america, just like white america, just like the asian american -- just like asia america. nina, there are black people who are quite conservative in various ways. there are black episcopalians but there are black religious groups of various sorts. to claim that any of these
people are necessarily sellouts? not at all. and i again am loath to use the term sellout. in my view, you have, i want to define it very, very, very narrowly. and so i think, for instance, there are relatively few sellouts, period. i want to have a very narrow definition, because that term, that idea, that notion of traitorous, it's a complicated notion, it's a tricky notion, it's a notion that he is quite destructive. instead of calling somebody a sellout, and by the way, it should be remarked that sometimes, sometimes people who are sellouts our heroes. think about, for instance, think about a white person who grew up
with the ku klux klan's been for neighbors, who turned against the claim. and their neighbors said oh, you are a sellout. yes, they were sellouts. they were traitors, god bless them. so any, the fact that coming in, the fact that you are a traitor is not even in itself -- a traitor against what? what about germans who turned against islam? with a traitors yet, they were traitors. god bless them. so the term, you know, still has a coveted one. it's not even necessarily a bad thing. it depends on what you're selling out. and can one be a black conservative and not be a sellout? yes. one can be a black conservative, not be a sellout. i'm not conservative.
i think it would be better to challenge people based on their views but if you disagree with somebody, you think this, i think it's wrong for this, this and this reason, let's talk about the substance of the issues, not turn, you know, not turn the discussion into what is often just a nakedly ad hominem .. discussion about who is a traitor and who isn't. it often doesn't take in where we should want to go. >> host: and in "sellout" randall kennedy rights to use a black spies to maintain surface of black activists was ongoing, systematic and extensive. in 1967 the fbi launched a ghetto informant program aimed at enabling officials to monitor the tenor of public opinion in black communities. ..
to developed into ghetto listening posts under the direction of the fbi, black spies and agents, provocateurs, penetrated all of the significant black activist organizations. the consequences for the panthers were catastrophic. they became consumed with weeding out traders, falling prey to collective paranoia that led to constant urgings and at least one member -- one murder of a member. >> guest: every group has had to deal with this problem. it gets back to the caller's -- quite literally been paid to infiltrate black organizations at the behest of white supremacist organizations. the answer is yes. it happened in mississippi. the mississippi sovereignty
commission paid black informants to tell on their neighbors and that is a part of black american history that has not gotten frankly enough attention. a very disturbing part, but a part of history that should not be surprising. every group has had to grapple with this. the episode that you mentioned especially with respect to the black panther party does show the way in which, when you start to try to find out who is a trader is the very effort to do that is worse than having a trader amongst your midst because it does lead to paranoia and makes groups very often vulnerable to outside manipulation which is one of the
things that unfortunately be felt black panther party. >> host: my understanding of sellout is someone -- tends to forget them. doesn't give back. >> guest: that is the definition some people have. many views are like that. i would be a little more demanding given the harshness of the term and the consequences that blow from being labeled a sellout but it is true that some people view it as people who made it up the ladder with the help of other people and show selfishness after. >> host: algiers lady says in the structure of black classes have you ever ventured in the average black life by living
within? >> i am sorry? >> host: have you ever ventured into the average black life by living within? is what it says. for example black like me. >> guest: this is an instance where i didn't have to be what do what the guy in black like me did. i could write a book called black like me but the journalists in black like me had to a whole bunch of things to make himself a dark so he would be taken as a black person. i don't have to do that. i can go to practically any place in the united states and given the way i look, people will assume that i am black and i have traveled pretty widely. i have indicated in the past i have lived a very privileged
life as i have. one of the aspects of that privilege is i have -- i have had the benefit of seeing a wide range of black american life. so my parents were not wealthy people at all. we were working class folks, working-class community in washington d.c.. spent a lot of time growing up in the deep south with my aunt and my grandmother and big mama in south carolina. i have seen a pretty wide swath of black american life and that has stood me in good stead. i have written these various
books about race relations in america. >> host: murphy e-mails in please comment on the show alexander's thesis in the new jim crow, state system of mass incarceration is a reinvention of the under cap of slavery and jim crow. >> guest: i think professor alexander's book has been useful in publicizing and highlighting the problem and the injustice of mass incarceration and hyperincarceration and hyperpunitive this in america. united states infringers a larger percentage of its population by far by far, than
any other advanced society in the world. it does this in my view needlessly. we are creating needless misery. and ought not be in prison. the title the new jim crow that focuses attention on that. on the other hand some criticisms of the title. i do because the system of jim crow segregation was a specific
system, explicit white supremacy, what we have in america is more complex and we need to start working on creating new vocabulary. united states -- who is the top official. overseeing the united states prison system. the united states prison system, the attorney general of the united states. fat doesn't fit with the new jim crow analogy. you don't have a black attorneys
general. and jim crow, you didn't have black officials, how many officials do you have with chief of police, of fact of the matter is you do have black officials strategically placed who were also implicated in this terrible system that we have and so the jim crow analogy does capture attention but i also think it obscures important new features of our society. so i want us to develop some new words, a new vocabulary to deal with issues that are truly new
in american life. >> host: daniel in new jersey, you are on with author and professor randall kennedy on booktv. >> caller: hello. it is a privilege to talk to you. i have learned so much from your book. the other books -- consider you in my tradition, great privilege to be able to talk to you. also -- the college of criminal justice. the question i wanted to ask you, what about the criminal justice system, in seems to me, a new book caused the last foundation -- >> the last foundation? >> caller: the last foundation and against the united states. it seems to me you also had a
question earlier, the injustice, the more fundamental question is the racial implications of the war on drugs. the war on drugs if you look at historically because i want to listen to your answer, has been compared historically to the back woods immediately after the emancipation. >> guest: thank you for your compliments. i have tremendous respect for your institution and the person who heads it, your president, jeremy travis. i think that -- do we have a race problem in the
administration of criminal justice? at every level? answer, yes we do. i am not saying that there is not racial discrimination in the administration of criminal justice. there is. that is an important feature of it that we need to continue to attack. still, there have been important changes. you mentioned the war on drugs. there are very important sectors of black america that are invested in the war on drugs. some of the people who are the most hawkish of our elected politicians on the war on drugs are black politicians so it is not simply just a white/black thing. the war on drugs, i don't think that is a way of attacking of the war on drugs, to rationalize
the issue. what do we think of the war on drugs on its merits? there are enough white people in prison wrongly because of the war on drugs. i think that the war on drugs is misleading and mistaken and it is cool in certain respects. it has fuelled a tremendous violation of civil liberties in america. there are lots of reasons outside of the racial context, lots of reasons to be against the war on drugs. there needs to be more attention frankly placed on that. i don't want to forget about the race issue. it is there, but sometimes it takes up actually too much attention, and i think that people haven't heard enough,
sometimes, about some of the other reasons, non-racial reasons why the war on drugs has been a real disaster. i would urge you to think about your upcoming book the new plantation. there are some people, professor alexander, there are others who try to analogize all the racial regimes to the present system. again for rhetorical purposes it has certain benefits but i think it often obscures more than it illuminates. >> christopher tweets in since you are now a proponent of affirmative-action how do you predict that the supreme court will evaluate affirmative-action when it hears fisher this fall? >> guest: in fischer versus texas which the supreme court said a few weeks ago was put aside in the next term it is
highly likely that the supreme court will limit racial affirmative-action more. already limited -- allowed it some breathing room but over the past ten years or 15 years including the supreme court of the united states is increasingly limited the scope of racial affirmative-action. the supreme court will limit it more. i don't think the supreme court -- any circumstances be taken into account in selecting students. it will get some breathing room but less breathing room. it will be an unfortunate step in the supreme court, it is the step that is forthcoming.
>> host: an e-mail from alabama, professor kennedy, you admitted your feelings of black racial solidarity have grown over the years, would is growing in the american white community as it transitions in numbers from majority to plurality and even minority status over the next several decades? >> guest: i recall earlier amending the comments about racial solidarity. i am only for racial solidarity if it is on behalf of some other water goal. i am not for black solidarity merely for the purpose of black
solidarity. i have for black solidarity in circumstances in a political struggle where black solidarity is useful to change things and more a just it. i am not for black solidarity just for blacks solidarities say to. i am not for black people just because i am black and i want black people to do well. i want a more decent, just society. so people banding together in a particular moment to create a more decent justification for everyone. that is all right with me but if people are gathering together in trouble listed ways. to gather together for ourselves and ourselves only i am against
that. >> when you think of the history of race relations in the u.s. what is the case of henry louis gates and how significant is that. >> guest: when you said that, when he was arrested in his own home? henry louis gates jr. is a university professor. there are not many of them. it is the highest level of professor of harvard university. one of the most well known professors in the united states, probably the world. is a very privileged character. very impressive person and one of the leading, most influential intellectuals in american life. he has at his disposal in
america what the great w. e. b. dubois could only have imagined to have had. when you say henry louis gates jr. the trajectory of his life is an illustration of how american life has opened up tremendously over the past 100 years. at the same and time you have this guy who is a university professor who takes a trip to china, he comes home and finds his door won't open. so he and the man who drove him home, cabdriver or livery driver giggle with the door, a neighbor says -- called the police and says i don't know for sure whether it is a break in going
on but these two guys who look like they're trying to jeter with the door to get in a don't know what is going on and a police officer goes over and henry louis gates is in his house and a police officer comes in and asks identification. professor gates was not too happy about that but shows an identification showing he lives in the house. it is his house. they have words. the officer essentially lowers him outside. professor gates is screaming at the officer and the officer arrests him for disorderly conduct. in my view the officer was wrong in arresting professor gates even if it was the case that professor gates was not being deferential to the officer, even if it was the case that professor gates was hollering at the officer. police officers carry around weapons. they should be very well
trained. they should have discipline. they should have enough training so that they don't get unhinged simply because somebody is giving them lip. i don't think anybody should be arrested for giving a police officer lip. that is what henry louis gates was arrested for and is a bad thing. it doesn't an end there. we were talking about the issue because there is a presidential press conference. somebody asked the president of the united states what do you think of this police officer are resting henry louis gates jr.? here we have a situation where this very famous professor is asked -- somebody asked about the arrests of this famous professor and who does he ask? she asks the first black president of the united states. again, this too, of our
remarkable moment. the president is the black president of the united states. she gives an answer a lot of people don't like to. he says i don't know, i am not saying this was racist in any way. it was a stupid thing the police officer did. some people interestingly enough made it seem as though barack obama accused the police officer of acting in a racist way. all he said was the police officer acted stupidly. i agree with president obama on that but the president backed off of that. the famous beer summit. we have a clash of things. we have on the one hand many black men who are not as privileged as henry louis gates. they didn't get out of jail immediately. there are many black men who would probably have languished in jail for a good long while
not having done anything worse than henry louis gates jr.. he was protected by his privilege. we still have a race problem in american life but things have changed. things have changed since the time my parents left south carolina with jim crow segregation with their young kids. things have changed quite dramatically and we should be happy. however you feel about barack obama. 5 him -- for him or against him we as americans should feel happy that there has been substantial progress on the racial front in the united states. >> host: katrina in detroit, you are on with randall kennedy. >> caller: thank you. mr. kennedy, i never heard of you before, but i promise to go
out and read as much of u.s. icahn. i want to respond to the veteran, the arab veteran saying african-americans are racist. i would just like to ask you a question. where do we draw that line? african-americans have never in all of our history had any type of hate group that went out and targeted different groups and made cartoons about them. have always accepted foreigners to the establishment and then once we notice the products are not as good or weeks old and they don't hire anybody from the community than once we voice
those opinions on those concerns all of a sudden we are labeled as racist. and i want you to say is that attitude of voicing your concerns about businesses in the community being a racist? >> host: we get the point. >> guest: here is what i say. of course, if there is a business in a community and you think that the person is selling bad good's work overcharging or refusing to hire people because of their race, of course those concerns should be voiced and there is no objection whatsoever to raising such concerns. that is perfectly fine. i don't think that is what the previous caller was saying. i think the previous caller was
saying that he had seen or experienced instances in which black americans have objected to business not because the business was doing anything bad, but solely because of the background of the business person. a person from career or something else. isn't it a bad thing if black people object to people or mistreat people solely on the basis or on all of the basis of their background. i was simply saying that is a bad thing. if black people say that i am against this business because this business person comes from, i don't know, iraq or saudi
arabia, that is the reason i am against this business it is a bad thing. i don't think we should be at all apologetic about the repudiating of that sort of thing. have i seen black people act in a racist way, sure. these black people act in a racist way. i have seen black americans speak disparagingly about black africans. i have seen black americans speak disparagingly about black people from the caribbean. these things happen within black america and it seems -- when i say we, we black americans ought to be very forthright in saying we are not going to stand for that. by the way we ought not to stand for black americans acting in a racist way toward white
americans. have i seen that? yes. i have seen that too. we ought not stand for black americans acting in a way that is unjustifiable towards other people based on sexual orientation, religion, raise, any characteristic that is an justifiable basis for being against people. >> host: this week from debra dickerson. from your former are a is that research assistant? what do you think of the black intelligentsia's rejection of the occupy movement while occupy the hood embraces them? >> guest: good to hear from debra dickerson. absolutely. former research assistant and student. thank you very much. good to hear from you.
i want to argue with the premise of your question. i do not think that the black intelligentsia in a wholesale fashion has rejected the occupy movement. there have been some features of the black intelligentsia that unfortunately have sort of po - pooh-po pooh-poohed the occupy movement saying too many white people -- that is a very unfortunate responds. but i don't think it is fair to say that as black intelligentsia. that is part of the black intelligentsia. there are wider parts of the black intelligentsia that have been frankly very supportive of the occupy movement and its concerns and its aims and its
goals. about -- >> host: 30 minutes left in this "in depth" is professor randall kennedy of the harvard school of law. five books under his belt and one more coming in january of 2013. here of the five that professor kennedy has already written. at the 11 in 1997, "the 'n' word: the strange career of a troublesome word" in 2002 which was a best seller, "interracial intimacies: sex, marriage, identity and adoption" came out in 2003 and professor kennedy has indicated that that of his five book is his personal favorite. "sellout: the politics of racial betrayal" came out in 2008 and his most recent "the persistence of the color line: racial politics and the obama presidency". .. color line, professor, you write: obama is determined to avoid venturing beyond what he perceives as the comfort zone of a majority of voters. on no topic is his caution more evident than race relations. because that topic remains volatile:
>> guest: yes. so here we have the first black american president. he gave a >> guest: he gave a speech during his campaign, his most, by be far his most celebrated speech, a more perfect union, ii philadelphia in which the immediate impetus behind thentro speech was to quell the controversy about his relationship with his pastor, jeremiah wright.ah and in his speech he said, you r know, race relations is a very important subject, and we're going to have to, you know, talk about it beyond just one speech. well, during the rest of the campaign, you didn't hear anymore speeches on race, and certainly as president of the united states you have not heard, you have not heard one
single speech devoted to, you know, racial issues in american life. now, i say that as a descriptive statement. i'm not putting him down for that. some people do, but ino don't. he's an electoral politician who has to play by the, the t imperatives of electoral politics. the central imperative of electoral politics is to get enough votes to win. he is not going to do anything that is going to turn off voters who he needs, and, you know, talking about race is not going to be helpful to him. and so he's a very good so politician, and so he's noting going to talk about race. and he hasn't. we were just talking about the, um, the issue of the arrest, int my view the very bogus arrest, of henry louis gates jr.s he said, you know, he thought it
was a stupid arrest, it was aouh big reaction to that.as a within two days the president had backtracked and said heside wished that he hadn't poured, you know, fuel on the fire. he invited the officer to come to the white house, president gates to come -- professor gates to come to the white house. that was an end to it. you did not see the president talkth about, you know, the larr racial questions around the administration of criminal justice in american life. you're not going to see it. s and one reason you're not going to see it is because the race question -- an important question in american life -- is not a good issue for thisis president and is especially not, it's especially not n a good ise because he's black. there would be more room, frankly, for a white president with his ideological background
to talk about race than him. he's black, if he, you know, people are going to be viewing everything he says with hypersensitivity. and so he's not going to talk about it, and like i say, and like i said in my book, that he doesn't talk about it -- he's obviously concerned about it, he's obviously a person who's thought much about it. take a look at his memoir, take a look at what he taught when ht taught at the university of chicago law school. he's a thoughtful person, a well read person, a learned person, i'm sure that this is an issuets that matters to him a lot. but, you know, the electoral imperatives tell him stay away from this issue, and as a disciplined politician and as a politician who wants to succeed,
is going to listen to those imperatives. >> host: next call for professor kennedy comes from betty in houston. go ahead, betty. >> caller: hi, it's debbie. >> host: debbie. sorry about that. >> caller: yes. thank you for taking my call. i would like to object to president obama being constantly referred to as black and the first black president. his mother was white, he is of mixed race. he's always acknowledged being racial and of mixed race. he's done a wonderful job of trying to include and be inclusive in bringing all people into the process. i think he doesn't want to be taken hold as, you know, the first black. he's obviously the first mixed race president we've had. >> host: okay, we'll leave it there. you write about that -- >> guest: i do talk about that. i think that it was a very
important thing, the way in which barack obama termed himself. barack obama as an adult has referred to himself consistently and unequivocally as black or african-american. there was, for instance, the latest census there was talk, and they wanted to know, you know, which box did you check? he could have called himself all sorts of things. there are hundreds of thousands of americans who have a parent who's white and a parent who's black who call themselves, you know, multiracial or mixed race or something else. he could have done that. he did not. he referred to himself as black, that's why i call him black. and i think that as a political matter that turned out to be a quite important decision on his part. so, you know, he's saying that
he's mixed race, i suppose, although frankly you could say that we're all mixed race. very large part of the american, you know, there's been a lot of mixing and matching in american life. and then if you globalize it, there's been even more mixing and matching. the question of what we decide to call ourselves is, you know, a political decision, a political choice. i don't think, frankly, that we have to be any particular thing. we don't have to call ourselves any racial name. that is something that we do as a political matter, and this person, barack obama, has decided to call himself black, and that's why i call him black. >> host: professor kennedy, you say that you are currently reading a book called "defending white democracy" by jason morgan ward. what is that book about? >> guest: um, that is a book about segregationist thought in
the 1940s and 1950s. in a sense, before the outbreak of the sort of full eruption of the civil rights revolution. what professor ward talks about is, you know, what were, what were white supremacists saying in the '40s and '50s? how were they seeking to hold back what became the civil rights revolution? and it's a very fine book, and i've derived a lot of knowledge, a lot of information and knowledge from reading it. >> host: and another book you are currently reading, "body and soul: the black panther party and the fight against medical discrimination." >> guest: yes. well, um, alondra nelson who is a very distinguished professor at columbia university has
written a new book about the black panther party. one of the things that i like so much about this book is that it presents the black panther party in a light that's unusual. and, you know, when you say black panther party, people immediately think of race, they think of leather coats, they think of people brandishing guns, they think of fiery rhetoric, and they don't think of -- and that's it. that sort of exhausts, you know, the knowledge base of those people when they think, when you evoke the idea of the black panther party. well, this book talks about the way in which the black panther party sought to, um, assist black americans with medical care. it talks about the way in which the black panther party created clinics, the way in which the black panther party, um, criticized what they viewed as inadequate ro vision of medical
care -- provision of medical care, the way in which the black panther party actually nudged the overall society to democratize the provision of health care. and so what professor nelson does is shine a light, a very intelligent, a very bright, a very vivid light on an aspect of the black panther party that nobody else had paid hutch attention to. much attention to. so that book is certainly one of my favorites. and, again, i learned a lot from that book. >> host: john in sacramento, good afternoon to you. >> caller: good day, gentlemen. um, my question is a real quick one. you have the chinese community in which in every city in america you can find a chinatown. the chinese community takes care of the chinese people, you know, doctors, lawyers, dentists,
anything you need in the chinese community, the dollar circles in their community. the jewish community are the same way. the jewish community dominates in hollywood and in banking, and they assist other jews to the point where they created a whole other nation. and then you have the irish community in which, you know, the police, fire department, nursing has a large number of irish people -- >> host: john, we got your point. what's your question? >> caller: my question is, should not the black privileged elite help the black poor and underpoor as other communities are helping the people in their community? thank you. >> guest: okay. i think it's a wonderful question, and i think two things about it. one, yes, because i think people who are privileged with education, privileged with resources should help those who have less just as a general matter, and i've said the same thing within black communities. and, frankly, i think that that
has been done. has it been done enough? no, it hasn't been done enough. it's never done enough in various communities. listen, in, you know, the boston area, you know, a locus of immigration from ireland, you have clash relations within the irish community. those who were, you know, successful did better, moved away from the old neighborhoods just like, just like, you know, you have class stratification within the irish community just like you have class stratification within black communities, just like there are people in the irish community who complain about the more privileged irish having moved away and not paying enough attention, not sort of giving back enough just like you have in the black community. i think these various communities, same thing could be said about chinese community,
japanese-american community. these various communities act in very similar ways. people talk about jews. you know, you go back to the early 20th century, poor jews complained bitterly about the german jews who looked down their noses at them. so i don't think black americans have acted, you know, any worse than any other community. and, indeed, i would say that in certain ways there has been considerably more solidarity within black communities in part because of the force of just an overall white supremacy that forced black americans to show more racial solidarity than was the case and other sort of ethnic communities. >> mud stick tweets in to you, professor: will there ever be a time when the affirmative action lottery tickets can be given to poor instead of minority?
>> guest: it's a great question. it will certainly feature as an important part of my book because there are people who are saying, listen, you know, why should black middle class or affluent people get a helpful push when there are poor white people who don't? now, to tell you the truth, if i were king and could do whatever i wanted to do, i would be, i would turn in, i would be happy to turn in racial affirmative action for a full-throated, comprehensive redistribution of opportunity and wealth in society that paid no attention to racial lines. i would be absolutely willing to make that trade.
but guess what? that's not going to happen in america. at least not for the foreseeable future. so i'm in the position of either accepting racial affirmative action for all of its limits or no redistribution at all. and, therefore, i'll take racial affirmative action with all of its limits. of one of the things that people ought to think about when they, you know, hear people criticize racial affirmative action and some of the critics say what we should have is, you know, class not race, we need to ask some questions. so you're saying class, not race. okay. now, how much money, how many -- how much this terms of resources are you going to be willing to dedicate to class? because we have to be very careful. there are a lot more poor white people than poor people of color in the united states.
and if we're not willing to allot enough for all poor people, you could easily have a situation in which poor white people get the huge share of the benefit, and poor black people are left out almost entirely. that's one thing that we need to be concerned about. we also need to be concerned about the following. i know people who say, you know, class not race. they say that on monday, but then if racial affirmative action was gotten rid of on tuesday, where would these people be on wednesday? they said on monday that they were in favor of class, not race. would they be saying that on wednesday when it was time to, for instance, raise taxes? no. on wednesday they might very well say, well, you know, in principle i'm in favor of class, not race. but i certainly don't want to raise taxes for that. and having gotten rid of racial
affirmative action, they would be fully willing to lead the status quo alone with racial affirmative action gone. that's one of the things that i'm very concerned about. >> host: just about ten minutes left in this month's "in depth." our guest is randall kennedy. lauren in atlanta, go ahead with your question or comment. >> caller: thank you. and thank you for a fascinating conversation. i would like to add a different viewpoint to it, then get your learned opinion. i believe that the medical community should recognize racism as a form of mental illness. because racism greatly diminishes a person's mental and reasoning capacity. l and some of these side effects of racism such as debilitating ignorance, low self-esteem, a false sense of superiority, an erosion of the heart and the mind ask a spiritual -- and a
spiritual hypocrisy that defies logic. these things debilitating, they need psychiatric treatment. >> host: i think we got the point. thanks, lauren. >> guest: i think it's an interesting idea. um, well worth thinking about more than i have thought about it. one caution that immediately comes to mind is if you call something, you know, a mental illness, you immediately take away from the person who's suffering the mental illness. you know, we, we relieve people who have a mental illness of respondent. i mean -- of responsibility. if you have a mental illness, you have a mental illness, and we don't condemn you morally for be it. do we want to take that position with respect to racism? maybe the answer is yes, but on the other hand maybe the answer is no. i'll have to think about that. a bit more. but thank you very much for the
question. >> host: scott in tacoah, georgia. did i say the name of your town correctly? >> caller: yes, you did. northeast georgia, just about an hour from atlanta. dr. kennedy, thank you for taking my call. about a decade ago on this very show i was introduce today the author or stanley crouch, and i was just curious your thoughts or reflections on his work as it relates to the conversation on race. >> guest: yeah, well very quickly, and i know stanley crouch, and i agree with some positions that he's taken, and i disagree with other positions that he's taken. he has a, he has a style of presentation that's different from my style. i mean, he is a, um, he's a columnist, he is self-consciously a pugnacious polemicist who, you know, who takes a position and just zeros in on that.
um, as you've heard over the, you know, my time on this show and others, i mean, i take positions, but, um, i also always make sure to acquaint the reader with other positions. and i'm perfectly happy in telling a reader the other position has some good points to it. and, um, i'm perfectly happy to tell a reader that i'm ambivalent. i'm happy to tell a reader that i'm unsure. so, you know, there's just different styles of presentation. my style, i think, is one that i think some people see sometimes as insufficiently militant. with respect to certain issues. but my style is my style, and, you know, he just has a different style. that's one i respect, and, you know, i get a benefit from reading his material. >> host: e-mail from justin in
pittsburgh, pennsylvania. it's not fair for be professor kennedy -- for professor kennedy to reduce his being called a sellout to being simply a response to his being a harvard law professor. does he not think he is playing part in certain sections of his books? the role of an embedded reporter for a largely white audience. >> guest: um, i think descriptively there's something to the, that statement. i am a reporter to an audience. do i think my audience is made up largely of white readers? sure. i have lots of black readers, i have lots of readers of all sorts. that doesn't bother me at all. and so, you know, i don't feel bad about having readers of all
different sorts. nor do i feel bad and there's some people criticize me because they say, gosh, you say things people are going to talk about in bad way, aren't you concerned about that? well, you know, frankly when you write a book, anybody who writes any book should know -- especially if it's about a volatile political subject -- you write a book, it really goes out of your hands. it goes into bookstores, it goes into libraries. people are going to take the book, they're going to run with it. there are some people who are going to take what i've said and go on a completely different direction than i'd intended, than i would want. i accept that as one of the hazards that comes with writing. i accept it, i try to make myself as clear as i possibly can at a given point. i recognize that everything i say is to some extent provisional. i send in my manuscript, the book comes out, i have that
great pleasure of seeing it. i read it usually within two weeks i'm already revising. in our conversation over the past couple l l of hours there have been on at least three occasions when i've said, you know, if i was writing that now, i would tweak it here, i would tweak it there. that's what comes with writing books. and i'm not inhibited by it. it doesn't really, it doesn't bother me in a big way. it just comes with the territory as far as i'm concerned. >> host: where do you do your writing, and how do you fit that in with classes? >> guest: i do my writing everywhere. um, i have three wonderful children, henry kennedy, thaddeus kennedy, rachel kennedy. as i, as i, you know, chauffer them around to soccer games or football games or parties and
things, as i'm waiting for them in my car i have lots of paper, i can write anywhere. some people can only write one place. not me. i write all the time. i can write anytime, i can write late at night, i can write early in the morning. i'm always writing. um, i write all the time. when i'm teaching, i'm writing. when i'm not teaching, i'm writing. so, you know, one of the things that i like about writing is it's something i can do, frankly, anytime. >> host: how old are your kids? >> guest: i have twins that are 13 years old, and i have a 17-year-old. so i'm surrounded by teenagers. they, too, are a great encouragement. today hear about, they live with these books as i write them.
i test out various portions on them. they see the covers. they see the titles. they make suggestions all the time. and sometimes i take their suggestions, and sometimes i don't. but they are very helpful collaborators in the process. >> host: your first book was dedicated, for my darling wife, yvette love matory? >> guest: yes. i've said many times this our conversation that i have lived a very charmed life. there is one great exception to that. and that was the death of my wife six years ago, yvette matorey was a wonderful cancer surgeon. she succumbed to a skin cancer, a disease on which she had done quite a bit of research, and,
um, of course, that was a terrible tragedy. and, um, and, you know, it's still very much a part of my life, and i did dedicate that book to her, and she's still, you know, very much a part of my thoughts and the thoughts and love of me and our children together. >> host: richard in laredo, texas, your on with randall kennedy. >> caller: well, god bless. i figure we need all the god bless we can get these days. but my suggestion is i have a word that might help p pour out the real problem we're dealing with, with racism and ethnoschism of all kinds in america. the words from the spanish word -- [inaudible] which means bureaucracy. we trust too much in the system, and the --
[inaudible] is going to drag the cart with all the people in it whichever way it decides to go. so we hay think we're in charge -- we may think we're in charge, but whichever way you pull, we in the cart follow. >> guest: well, you know, i think i probably differ with the caller. i think forchew that itly -- fortunately we live in a society for all of its problems and there are many, does provide space to influence our faith. and, in fact, one of the ways in which our society gives us space is through permitting people to write what they think and
disseminate what they think. it's one of the most important ways in which we have some l influence on our surroundings. and i'm very grateful to that. i don't think it should be taken for granted at all. we need to be very on guard as to any force that encroaches upon that. but as things stand, one of the great, one of the great glories of our society is the space given to people to express themselves and communicate with their fellows. >> host: sandra in albany, california, we have exactly one minute left for your question and for professor kennedy's answer. go ahead. >> caller: thank you, mr. kennedy. mr. kennedy, president obama addressed apec today and be tomorrow will be meeting with mr. netanyahu of israel. what does it take to have our president, obama, lead with and talk to the black community who
are suffering so badly under our current recession with the same seriousness, respect and accommodation? what can we do ourselves as a group to assure our civil rights? >> host: we're going to have to leave it there, sandra. >> guest: i think that the president on an ongoing basis is, um, meeting with various sectors of the black community. i think it's a mistake to think that he is, you know, indifferent to the black community. i think he is very aware of various problems the black community faces and that, in fact, he's doing what he thinks he can to help black americans along with other americans. do i agree with all of what the president says? no. and in my book i'm critical of him in certain