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tv   Open Phones  CSPAN  January 31, 2015 12:00pm-1:04pm EST

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..over the week that them well, joining us now on or
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outdoor set is harvard prefer randall kennedy. a frequent guest on booktv and an c-span and his most recent book which came out last year, which he is talking about down here in miami "for discrimination: race affirmative action and the law." has affirmative action been successful in this country. >> verse successful. helped with the desegregation of american life, particularly in higher education and employment and i think that it has done a very good job in a variety of ways. it has helped to rectify past injustice. it has helped to bring into important discussions people who had here to for been excluded and, therefore, enriched our public debate and our learning
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in various schools. so i think it has been a success. that certainly is what i argue in my book. >> host: where did you come um with the title? >> guest: the last thing that was part of this project. i did not have a working title. book had to be published and i needed a title. the man who came up with the title is my editor. i had come up with a couple of titles. they were pretty flat. he said what about: for discrimination. initially i didn't like it. usually it's a bad word, but it grew on me and i have come to like it. >> host: there is a stigma attached to affirmative action? >> guest: yes. affirmative action has costs and one cost is the idea that it's
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beneficiaries are people even irthey're not beneficiaries, if they're thought to be by-riz i think many people think that, well so and so is a beneficiary of affirmative action. they probably are a little less good than people who did not have affirmative action because affirmative action means giving people a helping hand a boost, so if you needed a helping hand needed a boost, that suggests that maybe you're not good as others. >> host: randall kennedy harvard law is ore guest. if you want to call in and talk with him about the issue wes have started talking about, 202 is the area coat, 5853-90. for those out west, dial in and we'll get to your calls as quickly as possible. professor kennedy, are you a recipient of affirmative action? >> guest: yes.
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i am affirmative action baby. i was helped by affirmative action in terms of my education i'm -- one doesn't know for sure, but i feel virtually certain that affirmative action helped enable me to go to yale law school. i think that affirmative action likely helped me to secure a job at harvard law school. i was a very fine student. very hard working. i think that my record speaks for itself and that i've been able to be a real contributor to legal academia. but what i -- have been helped like so many other african-americans over the past 30 years in elite institutions?
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have i been helped by ayre affirmative action yes? >> host: when did affirmative action begin in this country. >> guest: well, it all depends on how you define affirmative action. for instance i mean, there's a way of saying that affirmative action has been part of american life since the civil war. the first civil federal civil rights statute civil rights act of 1866 was vetoed by the president of the united states, andrew johnson the successor to lincoln lip, -- abraham lincoln, he said it would give, quote, discriminating protection to african-americans. he thought it was giving an illicit, up, -- unjust helping hand to african-americans because it allowed them to
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become citizens immediately. he thought was was a sort of illicit reverse discrimination, several laws said that all people had to have the same rights to enter into contracts and own property on the same basis as white people. he viewed that as a type of, quote, affirmative action. now, people nowdays don't view that as affirm tv action. they view that as just antidiscrimination law. the affirmative action we're used to, that it talk about in my book, mainly came about in the late 1960s and the early 1970s, and the reason it came about is because of a widespread feeling that antidiscrimination laws alone would not be enough to quickly desegregate american life. >> host: what about court cases? >> guest: there have been many court cases and there will be many more. just this past week, an
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antiaffirmative action organization filed a court case against my university, harvard university asserting harvard university was discriminating against asian-americans in particular. so a court case filed against the university of north carolina claiming their asia americans and whites were doing discriminated against. so affirmative action has been controversial since the late 1960 and row mains. >> host: be bachy case. >> guest: the first time that the supreme court of the united states grappled with affirmative action -- >> early 70s. >> guest: it was 1975 or 1976 as i recall. and what happened in the balky case was that it was a classic compromise. it was a case that involved
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affirmative action university of california at davis medical school. this medical school set aside a certain number of places -- i think it was 16 places -- for disadvantaged minority -- racial minorities, and what the supreme court said it was up constitutional for a public institution of higher education to set aside a certain number of places. they said that is too quota like so they struck this down but the supreme court also said that universities could take race into account along with other things in determining who they were going to admit to their -- to these educational institutions. that was a very interesting case because it really came down to just one justice. it was a split 4-4 case, and one justice, louis powell was the
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swing justice who said you cannot have quotas but you can have -- you can take race into account as one of many factors. and by the way that's the law of balky is still the ring reigning law of the supreme court. >> host: do we have aniyed what happened to allen balky? >> guest: yes. we went to medical school and has become a doctor, and from what i can tell has led a gainful, productive life. >> host: how frank can you be in discussions about race in the law with your students at harvard? >> guest: i'm very frank. and in all of my book, i have attempted to be frank. i take my position. i take my position. i argue my position strongly. i am pro affirmative action, for
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instance. but in my book i also talk about the costs. in fact some of my friends are -- get a little miffed with me because they think maybe i give away too much. maybe the think i talk about the cost too much. but i think people are smart. i don't think it's useful to try to hide the ball. i take a position. i believe that information is my friend. i want people to have information. i want people to have all the arguments. i think if people have all the arguments, they will armed with all the arguments embrace my position. so, i'm like that in class. i'm like that when i write. and so i'm very frank. >> host: randall kennedy, you came out with a book "the n-word." what was the reaction to that?
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you spelled out the n-word. >> guest: the name of the book was: "nigger the strange career of a troublesome word." a book that sold more copies than all of my other books combined. i got a lot of criticism from the book. >> host: from african-americans from whites liberals conservatives. >> guest: all sorts -- liberals, conservatives, blacks asia americans. but there were a lot of people who liked the book but it did get a lot of criticism. a number of people who did not like the title, for instance. they didn't like the fact i spelled out the word, and they didn't like the positions i took but there again, i said what i believed and i put all the arguments out there. a person who -- here's one thing i do when i write my books.
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i want to arm a person who disagrees with me -- i want a person who disagrees with me to read my book and see all of his already ore arguments there. nobody can read a book of mine and say well, kennedy didn't bring up this argument against his position. i bring up all the arguments. >> host: "washington post" recently dade series on the n-word. >> guest: i saw that. >> host: has it been destigmatized in a sense? maybe that's not the right word. >> guest: that a big argument. there are some people who say that one way of dealing with this word is to not make a big deal of it. if you don't make a big deal, if people just use it let it roll off your back it will use the status and it will lose its attraction and ability to hurt. now, america is so large that i
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think it is taboo in certain circles. you never get any serious politician using this word under any circumstances. if you had a politician on our show right now they would not repeat the name of my book. they would not even repeat it. they would not say, quote, this guy wrote this book called -- they would not repeat because it is serious politics. for you to say that words to discredit yourself. if we go to other realms. if we're talking about rap obviously, talking about comedy talking about popular culture people use the word. so it's a word that is complicated. you can use it in some forms, but even in those forums you take a risk. i think that is at it should be, frankly. the n-word is a word that has been used and it's still used
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to hurt people. i think whenever you use that word you should be using it advisedly. you should be the a sense -- you should be using this word in full recognition that a lot of people find it hurtful. >> host: randall kennedy, harvard law is our guest. bonnie in rock island illinois, you are the first caller. you're on booktv. >> caller: thank you for taking my call. i do want to make the comment, discrimination not only includes race and religion but also life experiences. there's a great need for educators who are retired to get -- to dedicate themselves to volunteer to educate those incarcerated with the basics of reading and math. those who have been incarcerated are, even after release, discriminated for the rest of their lives and i wanted to ask
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mr. kennedy what his thoughts were on that. and i'll take my answer off the call. >> host: thank you ma'am. >> guest: i think you make an excellent point. the fact of the matter is that the united states of america incarcerated a larger percentage of its population than any advanced industrial democracy. that is a shame. it is a disgrace. it is really an open scandal, and we need to do something about that. i would totally embrace your comment that we need to do as much as we can -- first of all to change our policies so we don't incarcerate so many people, and secondly for those people who have been incarcerated, we do overstigmatize them and hurt their ability to come out of prison and get on with a gainful productive life.
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so i wholeheartedly embrace the sentiments of the caller. >> host: joe in florida. hi joe. >> caller: good morning. i have a question for professor kennedy. some of us look towards affirmative action as to blacks enter university circuit. i happen to be one who graduated from a major university white major university in the state of ohio. this was before affirmative action. and far too many times there's nothing said about those of us who were participants in the collegiate atmosphere, and the collegiate academia that existed before affirmative action. what is his position on some of
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us? >> host: jo, very quickly, before the professor answers, tell us your experience. what year did you graduate where did you go to school. >> guest: graduated in 1959 from kent state university. and the makeup of the school at that time, i guess there was probably around 7,000 students, of which there was no more than a maximum at best 100 minority afro american students from ohio and surrounding areas. -- states rather. but the experience was one of high -- a highly competitive environment that there was no assistance provided to us with respect to holding hands and what you might call a mentor, but we were there just to survive, of which we did. so i was wondering what his take would be on that kind of
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situation that prevailed before affirmative action and in a totally white environment. >> host: thank you sir. professor. >> guest: so it's a wonderful comment. of course it's true that african-americans and other racial minorities attended predominantly white institutions before the onset of affirmative action. they did in much smaller numbers, however, that's caller indicated. much smaller numbers. one thing that affirmative action did in the late '60s and early '7s so was to create larger cadres of racial minorities at these predominantly white institutions, and with the idea being in mind again, that the the desegregation of american life was something that was proceeding too slowly under the
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old rules, the old regime. as for the circumstances of racial minorities before the advent of affirmative action i agree. black history does need to be more known. i think that there are good aspects and bad aspects to it there are plenty of instances plenty of stories of african-americans and other racial minorities at predominantly white institutions who did not have the benefit of affirmative action and created wonderful careers for themes and what they were able to achieve needs to be saluted. i think that one can say that and also say at the same time, hough, that what has occurred over the past several decades has been good. larger numbers of racial minorities at these institutions has been good not on form
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themselves but the country as a whole. >> host: o'the n forked." per sis continues of the color line and sellout, names of other books. here's the cover of "for discrimination: race affirmative action and the law." tana, san diego, you're on with professor randall kennedy. >> caller: good morning, dr. kennedy, it's an honor to speak to you, sir. i was wondering, whoa die doo you think the press in general has ignored the fact that the main beneficiary of affirmative action has been white women? i tend to have to expose that to my friends at work because they assume that the only people who are benefiting are so-called minority people. and it's always a very interesting experience when they realize that they are the main beneficiaries of affirmative action. >> host: tawnya, do you favor affirmative action laws? >> actually die, but i just wish that people were more educated
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on the fact that a lot of people who are getting the benefits of it do not say they're getting the benefits of it and many of them don't know that because in my job environment i would say that probably seven of the 40 people definitely were helped because they were white women, because they're not even as qualified as some of the black men who tried to get the same job. >> host: thank you, ma'am. >> guest: i think that the caller makes an excellent point. the fact of the matter is that in american life there are many groups who get all sorts of benefits sometimes informally sometimes formally clearly women. what about all the people who get benefits abuse their parents happen to go to a particular university? legacies. what about the benefit that athletes get? as far as i'm concerned, there are probably good reasons for
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aiding all of these various groups. it shouldn't be -- nobody should be under the delusion that it's only racial minorities that get various benefits. people -- farmers get benefits. people in various regions get benefits. what about the fact that at public institutions they're a tremendous benefit given to in-state students as opposed to out of state students. that's a preference. so long as preferences have a good sensible basis, as far as i'm concerned they should be allowed. after all, racial affirmative action is no -- except as a recommend -- remedy -- affirmative action is something that politicians permit racial affirmative action is permissive. it's not required. and so if people permit it and
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it's usually the majority that is permitting nittany event, it seems to me it should be allowed. if the majority of people in particular states don't want to have it, for instance the people of california got rid of racial affirmative action but people in michigan got rid of racial affirmative action. if they want to get rid of it they can it about if people in a jurisdiction wants to have it. >> be able to have it, and there's good reason to have it, as i argue good my book. >> host: diego in delta, colorado. hi diego. diego, we have to let that go i apologize. that connection is not working. so we'll move on to lynn in parksburg, pennsylvania. >> hello dr. kennedy. as one involved with discrimination and education, are you aware of anyone looking
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into the fact that all higher education, from what i experienced, higher education, when you are accepted as a student, it is not a contractual agreement. you can complete all requirements for a degree the entire syllabus with a 4.0 average, have paid all your tuition, perhaps through government grants and they can choose whether they feel like giving you your diploma or not. you may not get your diploma. you have no legal recourse. it was not a contractual agreement. so that students have no antidiscrimination protection for graduation and getting a diploma. therefore, they can't --
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>> whoa do you ask that question? >> caller: it happened to me. and, therefore, i could not go out, get a job in my field, and pay back my government loan so that all these pop up -- i went to a very prominent university in philadelphia for a masters to become a teacher for a second career. and old white women are not favored. >> host: all right. thank you, ma'am. >> guest: ma'am, i'm sorry to hear about your unfortunate situation. i must say though, that i don't think that you're correct in saying that a student who goes to an institution is without recourse if that institution arbitrariry withholds a diploma. in fact i think that any student who goes to a public or private
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institution, in fact does have a contractual relationship with the institution, and if this institution acts arbitrarily, i think they are in breach of contract and are also probably in breach of a whole set of state and federal laws. so if you have been treated arbitrarily by the institution i would suggest that you consult with a lawyer because i think you would in fact have recourse. >> host: professor kennedy because of the nature of your books, do you get a lot of people e-mailing you, contacting you, this happened to me? yes, i -- >> guest: yes, i do. i have gotten lots of e-mails and frankly one of the things that is most gratifying about writing my book is that it does trigger telephone calls it triggers e-mails, it triggers
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letters. obviously i'm in no position to help out everyone but i'd say a couple of times a year, there are people who get in touch with me, or their lawyers get in touch with me, and i have been able to assist people and i'm very happy about that. >> host: were you surprised by what happened to your colleague, henry louis gates. >> guest: where he was arrested by the police officer? yes, was surprised by that. frankly, here you have this very esteemed very famous professor at -- university professor at harvard who was arrested in his own house after proving it is his own house. i mean this is an instance of reality outdoing anybody's imagination. i wouldn't have thought that up for a law school hypothetical so i was a bit surprised by it.
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but of course what happened was a little bit of a insight about the problems that african-americans at every level -- now he is at a very elite level. this happened to him. he went to the stationhouse in handcuffs. and nothing ultimately bad happened to him. charges were dropped. but what about a younger person let's say who did not have the resources that he had a younger person who did not have the resources maybe to be calm or a person that might have gotten angry and lashed out at the police officer. that sort of case turns out not be a case where the person is just at the stationhouse for a matter of hours. that is the sort of case that ends up with somebody badly hurt or killed.
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so the henry louis gates episode was a very sobering episode, and unfortunately all of the surrounding issues surrounding that incident are still very much with us. >> host: paul in providence, rhode island please go ahead with your question or comment for randall kennedy. >> host: paul, we're listening. >> caller: hello? can you hear me? >> host: yes. we are listening, sir. >> caller: yeah, hi -- >> host: we'll leave paul -- >> caller: hello? >> host: paul, you're not quite getting the concept. let's lose paul and move on to valley stream, new york. and in valley stream, new york this is la span.
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>> caller: my comment is simply this. in hearing and not having had the opportunity to read the book i thought, how wonderful it is that this has taken place in this country because it solidifies the heart and soul of what we like to think america is integrity. just that word is what i wanted to say. this book calls to mind that the country itself is about integrity. >> guest: thank you very much. i appreciate that. >> host: professor, if somebody were to pick up one of your books, which one would you recommend to them? >> guest: the book i had the most fun writing, the book that i spent the most time writing, was a book called "inner racial intimacy.
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sex, marriage, adoption and identity." a book about the way in which the legal system has regulated interracial intimacy over the course of american hoyt. that -- american history. that was my favorite book. the trouble is it's long. it's 600 pains. if i was re doing that book now i would split it into two books. you have to be a rather committed reader to read that entire volume, but for me, that was the book that i think has been the best one i've read. >> host: why? that a little off your beaten path of law professor. >> guest: no. no. it's full of law. it's full of law. the first racial laws in america were laws that regulated interracial sex and interracial marriage, and the last of the
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jim crow laws was the law that prohibited marriage across the race lines. struck down in the most aptly titled case of all on american constitutional law "loving versus the commonwealth of virginia." now, there's another reason why i like that book, and it goes to an earlier question you asked. you asked me whether people get in touche with me. a lot of people got touch with me after the book was published because a big portion had to do with interracial adoption and a lot of people read that book and who were being frustrated by their ability to adopt across the race line, and that book made the argument that nobody should -- the states ought not get in the way of people would want to adopt across the race line, and that book has been used very widefully legislation
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it's been used in litigation it's been used to encourage people to adopt interracially and i'm very happy about that. >> host: randall kennedy appeared on booktvs "in depth" program last year to discuss his entire body of work. if you want too watch that program, good to in the upper left-hand corner there's a search function, type in his name and it will pop up and you can watch it online at your leisure. peter in san jacinto california. >> caller: it's san jacinto. i'm honored to talk to dr. kennedy. i i have a question. can you hear me. >> host: go ahead, pillar. >> caller: i want to ask do you believe that affirmative action
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leveling the playing field when president johnson prompted americans to begin restitution for african-americans, do you think this reparations were terms and do you think african-americans will ever receive restitution. if not, or if so, why? >> guest: so, in my view, affirmative action is at least in part a type of reparation. i think there are a bunch of reasons -- good reasons to support affirmative action but i think reparation is is one of them. reparative justice. this is one way -- we don't call it reparation but i think it has been a type of reparation, and it's entirely justifiable on that ground. >> host: how do you think president obama has been on the issue of race?
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>> guest: well, he is in a very tough position as the first black president. and i think that being the first black president, he has felt inhibited. i think he is clearly attuned to the feared allegation that he is showing racial favoritism to his people so to speak, and so i think he has bent over backwards to avoid that sort of allegation. he is in a very difficult position. obviously he has lots and lots of positions. obviously a historical first. i think that when you are a historical first, like the great jackie robinson, in a way barack obama is the jackie
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robinson of the higher echelons of american politics, and just like jackie robinson, had to bite his tongue, just like jackie robinson had to take it or had to be twice at disciplined as anybody else had to avoid saying maybe some of the things that were on his mind. i think barack obama has been in the same position and that's what happens when you're a pioneer. so i give him -- i respect him. i admire him. has he done everything perfectly? of course not. but i think that given circumstances, he has done an admirable job. >> host: josh is in carbondale illinois. go ahead. >> caller: good morning. professor kennedy, i've read several of your books and several of your articles. i'm a big fan of your work. my question is, i have a concern about some of the trends in
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higher education when it comes to affirmative action, where essentially institutions of higher learning are really concerned about the racial dynamics and diversity of their freshmen class but not really tracking and looking at the graduation class, and so when you look at graduation trends, white students might graduate at 50% to 55% and students of color, african-americans, for example, might graduate at 25 or 30%, and there's summon new constitutions on things like mismatches which say that some affirmative action policies put students of color, african-american students hispanic students, into academic situations they're not yet prepared for. so i'm just interested in hearing your comments on that. >> host: thank you, sir, josh are you a college student? >> caller: i'm a college professor. >> host: what do you teach? >> caller: i teach intercultural communications. >> host: thank you, sir.
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>> guest: well, first of all i think that's a nice point. there is a difference between getting into an institution and graduating from the institution. i think that we always have to be attentive to all facets of collegiate life and to be -- that colleges seem to be falling down and not attending to the needs of the students. we need to be attentive to that and concerned about that. do i think that affirmative action is going to change over time? sure, i think affirmative action will chane over time. the demographics of america change over time, and with the change in demographics we'll see changes in affirmative action. i think that there are people very intelligent people who want to tweak affirmative action in various ways, want, for
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instance to be more attentive to the issues of class. i welcome that. i think that we should be experimental. i don't think that because something has worked well the past we should just leave it alone. i think we should always be reexamining. i'm in favor of racial -- we should be reexamining our policies all the time and one thing we should take into account is the very issue you mention. good point. >> host: martin luther king without regard to race or color. did i quote him correctly. >> guest: martin luther king jr. is often misunderstood on this. there were certain things he said, for instance, his great "i have a dream speech" and said i want to live in a society in which my children will be assessed on the basis of their character, not their color.
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that sounds like quote color blindedness. i say in any book, martin luther king, jr. stated on many occasions that insofar as black people have been held down there needs to be special efforts to assist them in elevating themselves. so martin luther king, jr. was in fact his own time a proponent of what we now call affirmative action. >> host: randall can't is out here in the miami heat with us. marcel is in goodyear, arizona. mar sell. >> caller: professor kennedy, i just have a question for you. do you think that affirmative action has benefited the african-american people at all? i mean i work for the federal government and i see that the federal government is the biggest violation of racism.
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when i'm there working and i see the number of african-americans that are employed by the federal government if you're in washington, dc or baltimore area there's a lot more african-americans that are promoted up in high hierarchy positions but if you go to the south or the west that's not the case. so us out here on the west kind of struggle with the fact that in that sense, city government federal government we're not getting promoted to the level that we should be. we're very capable people with college degrees and we watch people that come in that have been in the system maybe one or two years and get promoted over us. >> guest: a couple of things. number one we live in a huge huge huge country, and different parts of the country, i'm sure there are different levels of affirmative action. things are different in different places. i think, though that
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affirmative action by and large has been beneficial, not only to african-americans but to the country has a whole. having said that -- i've said this several times in the past half hour -- i don't want to make it -- i want to say one more thing, though. it's not like affirmative action is the great pan see ya -- pan see ya the great cure-al. the fact of the matter is particularly higher education, affirmative action is only going to be helpful to people who have the wherewithal to get into college in the first place. frankly, if you are a plausible candidate for a selected college, you're already doing pretty well. so one problem with affirmative action frankly, is that it tends to help people who are already doing pretty well. affirmative action does not help in a strong way people who are
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further down on the socioeconomic ladder. for that we need other programs. so, while i'm in favor of affirmative action, i don't think affirmative action can do the whole thing. i think it's one of many things that has helped americans get over some of the inequities in american history and some of the current inequities but not the only thing. >> host: lee in rockville, maryland. good afternoon. >> caller: well, yes. good morning professor kennedy. enjoying the show. professor, i'd like to ask you something. i live in rockville, maryland right near washington, dc, and like most people, many people in the washington area work for the federal government and i was perusing the vacancy announcements. i applied for a job at the
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government agency that i work for, and i got an interview and in a few months later i got a letter back saying, thank you for applying, we have selected someone else. and then in the newsletter the agency newsletter, they had the announcement of the position being filled and the woman that got the job was an african-american woman with no college degree, no college degree. i, of course, have a bachelors degree from a very good university. a masters degree in business administration from a very good university the same college, and i also am an adjunct professor at one of the local community colleges in the maryland suburbs where i live. and this woman did not have any college degree got this position and i was wondering about how anyone in their right
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mind could defend affirmative action, a vial, vicious, system of affirmative -- something called affirmative action when kind of thing goes on. if you think this is an isolated case you also believe in the easter bunny and santa claus. this kind of thing goes on all the time. >> host: lee, tell you what. lee, stay on the line. let's hear from professor kennedy and then we'll let you give a quick response. >> guest: a couple things. number one i defend affirmative action in principle. i do not defend affirmative action in every instance. i'm quite sure that there are mistakes made. i i'm quite sure there are probably some affirmative action programs in some places that have done bad things. just like in any other program. so i'm not going to defend affair -- defend affirmative
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action in every instance. it may well bell that the incident you mentioned -- it's terrible and if that's the case, that's very bad. at the same time i don't think that you can use an instance or even if you gave me 20 instances, i don't think -- this is a huge country. you could give me 50 instances. this is a huge country. this is a program that involves many thousands, tens of thousands of hundreds of thousands of people, 10, 20 50 instances is not characteristic of the way affirmative action has been practiced across american life. so it sounds like something there may have been a skew here, and if that's the case, that's terrible. this is the sort of thing that can actually discredit affirmative action, and that's bad. but you can't expect of a policy that it will be perfectly done,
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or even satisfactorily done in every instance. >> lee, very quick response. >> caller: i understand your point. but anytime you start judging people on the basis of the color of their skin and not on the content of their character like martin luther king said, you're asking for trouble. you are asking for trouble. that's all i have to say. >> guest: okay. well, let me respond by saying martin luther king jr. -- take a look at my book. i make a big deal of this. again, martin luther king, jr. has often cited as a person who his ideas were against affirmative action. martin luther king, jr. said, expressly, that reparativity demands that special efforts be made on behalf of those who have been historically kept down in american life. and the fact of the matter is
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that across america, i can give you many instances of people who occupy positions in government who occupy positions in educational institutions high and low who would not have occupied those positions but for affirmative action they got in because of affirmative action and have been important, positive contributors to american life. >> host: shana vallejo, california. >> caller: thank you for taking my call. i am helped by affirmative action being accepted at uc berkeley after high school. and my question to dr. kennedy is what his thoughts are which i think i got it right -- conly a form uc regent who i
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understand is totally against affirmative action. >> guest: well in my book, i talk about ward conly. ward conly has been a leading antiaffirmative action activist. i disagree very strongly with ward connelly and make my argument against his argument. now, i want to say -- i argue strongly in favor of affirmative action. at the same time there are people who i think are perfectly good people perfectly reasonable people, who disagree with me. and i don't think that people who are -- not all people who are antiaffirmative action in my view are unreasonable or evil or anything like that. we're talking bat public policy about which people can agree and
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disagree. there are people who are sincerely against racial oppression who sincerely want to elevate america to a higher level, who are against affirmative action because they think that the drawbacks of affirmative action outweigh the benefits of affirmative action. i disagree with them but i want to caution people against thinking that anybody who disagrees with their point of view has to be malevolent or ignorant. >> host: what's your take on what is happening in ferguson. >> guest: my take is it's an american trapping. it's terrible. it shows one of the great weaknesses in the american legal system, which is lack of regulation of the police. now, that should have been
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evident before ferguson. it's evident today after ferguson. that a nation that prides itself on being law-abiding needs to be much more attentive to regulating the agent of the government that most people come into contact with day in and day out. we're talking about people who have the guns on their hips and the authority to use those guns and our legal system does a very bad job of policing the police. and for me, that is certainly one of the sobering lessons of ferguson. >> host: the grand jury doesn't indict. >> guest: i would say, frankly -- if the grand jury indict or does not indict, my
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statement would remain frankly, the same. in any event, whatever happened in ferguson, we have a problem across the united states not a regional problem. it's a national problem. at every level. the police are not held sufficiently to account and that poses a danger to all americans. >> host: three more calls, then we let you go. you have been very patient out here in the miami heat. renee is in dallas. >> caller: hello. mr. kennedy, professor kennedy -- excuse me -- i'm actually calling about -- i'm calling actually about one case that i had the luxury of actually sitting in on, and it was a case that was out of san
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antonio, texas and it involved a young man who has never been in trouble before part of a fraternity educated, has a degree former pool player, and it was an incident with i believe -- a former football player, and it was an indent with i believe the uncle was in the military, never been in trouble before, married to a captain or something of that sort. well needless to say, this guy that was in the military, he and his wife and an incident where he got angry at the wife and went in on a military base, unfortunately and shot her. and decided afterwards to go ahead and go, once he was incarcerated, -- he called out to a nephew who is aa green horne, over in billion in trouble before, family also military and ended up being
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incarcerated or arrested because he had gone to the aid of this uncle. once he had gone to the aid of the done tell, a lot of the information that exchanged over the phone -- because he had gone to see him, and the uncle laid a sad story on him or sob story on him, had this one wife who was unfaithful. >> host: renee, this is getting a little complicate for a call-in program. can you cut to the chase? what's your final statement. >> caller: i'm so sorry. i'll cut to the chase. needless to say this -- sure. needless to say this young man was a football star, had an all-white jury and the jury found this particular kid guilty
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of conspiracy to shoot or kill -- i'm not sure. forgive me. i don't know the legal terms. >> host: all right. you know what renee, i'm sorry. we have to let you go. i think that's going to go on a little bit long. any response that you want to give tomer? do you know. >> guest: i'm not sure. the fact of the matter is that the administration of criminal justice -- the subject of my first book, race, crime and the law, is still an area not only in the racial context but in many contexts, that it's very unsatisfactory and we need as a society to re-evaluate how we punish people, the sent to which
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we punish people. we live in a society in my view which is just hyper punitive and we are wasting unnecessarily -- there's some people who do terrible things and we need to be protected. some people are really dangerous and we need to be protected against dangerous people. on the other hand we have in our prisons for far too long people who really represent no danger. this as an area that begs for more study and for reform. >> host: what do you tell your kids about interactions with the police? >> guest: i have two boys. i have two boys and a girl. and i have had the talk that many black people have had and unfortunately, i have to tell my children -- i have told my children that they should be
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respectful to police, the police have a difficult job in my life i have usually had good interactions with the police. on the other hand, anybody who reads the newspapers knows that black young men are viewed differently than others by police -- by the way by police of all backgrounds. not just white police. talking about black police too. not only are they viewed differently by police, they're viewed differently as matter of policy. so i told my sons they have to be on their ps and qs. i told them they should be respectful. i've told them that it if they are approached. if they are -- if the police stop them they should not argue, that they should do what
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they're told that even if they are being treated wrongly be quiet, call just -- do what you're told. we'll get that sorted out later, because unfortunately, we live in a system in which all too much leeway is given to the police and in which if something really bad happens, and you're hurt unfortunately the legal system is not going to do much to assist you. that is a sobering fact of life and a fact of life i have conveyed to my boys on a number of occasions. >> host: all right. ron in harbor city, california. make it quick. we're running out of time. >> caller: okay. quick is good. i just like to -- wondered what your opinion would be about the president who is african but is
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white. he look white african, and the one thing that people -- or i say is that he is the one person who -- reverend sharpton -- one of the richest people in the country, came from slavery, but our president didn't. he doesn't have no connection with slavery. do you think that's how he got to be president in the sense he beat hillary and that what happened -- >> host: anything you would like to respond to there? >> guest: yes. the caller makes an interesting point about the question of the racial identity of the president of the united states. the book before this one was a book called "the persistence of the color line: racial politics and the obama presidency." one thing i point out is that barack obama made a very fateful decision as a young adult and that had to do with what would he call himself?
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his mother is who it his father was a black african, could have called himself many things could have called him multiracial. he decided to call himself african-american, or black, and that is -- because of that identity he has advanced his life and that is what most people see him as and that perfectly proper. before i go, let me say how happy i am to be on the show with you and how great a service that you provide so thank you. >> host: one more call and then we let you go. i promise. drink some of the water. you have been standing out here in the heat for an hour in karlton, texas you have the last word. >> caller: i'm so sorry to hear what went before you. i'd like toow your view regarding the importance of immigration reform in states like texas that have been making legislation through the judicial system also, if you could, use
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the analogy of little steps made by small feet. >> guest: okay. on the immigration i'm not an expert about everything, and i'm going to leave that one alone because i don't really have anything particularly learned to say about it. on the point about important steps being made by little feet, i'm not quite sure what the caller had in mind but my interpretation of what she said is that there's something for all of us to do and that everybody no matter where they are, can take steps that advance our society upwards. i'm a big believer in that. i think that all of us, no matter where we're situated no matter what our occupation is, there are things day by day that can be done to better not only ourselves but better our
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neighbors, better our society as a whole, and frankly, it's the accretion of those small steps that make a huge difference over time. >> host: what's your next book. >> guest: a book on the civil rights revolution. it's going to take a while to complete but i'm having a lot of fun doing it. ... to do with the last caller's point. i get tremendous inspiration in doing research about the civil rights movement precisely because so many people very modest people, very modest people did things day by day that have made a huge difference here so this is a book that i
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do, i have a smile on my face. it reallyss it really is inspiring, and i want to tell their story.i that's my next book.>> >> host: randall kennedy. if you want to h watch any of his previous times on booktv, go to, search function upper left-hand corner type in his name and we've covered several of his books onp booktv. as always, thanks -- >> guest: thank you very much. appreciate it. >> host: good to see you. >> is there a nonfiction terror or book -- author or book you'd like to see featured on booktv? tweet us @booktv or post on our wall >> next on booktv, james robbins recounts the high and military career of general george custer including his childhood and formative years as well as his time in the field of battle from the civil war to his final defeat at the battle of little bighorn. this is about an hour and 15 minutes.


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