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tv   After Words Reniqua Allen It Was All a Dream  CSPAN  January 14, 2019 12:04am-1:05am EST

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. >> hello. >> how are you? i am awesome.
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how are you it is such an exciting day. you have an amazing book with amazing lyrics it so hard without going to the lyrics but the main theme of your book it is all about the american dream and how it's been a dream deferred for many so tell me a little bit why the american dream is something of a dream deferred? . >> yes. 's for so long young black people growing up even myself grow up with the idea you can be anything or do anything because that's what we were told as kids. i grew up in the post- civil rights moment. we saw black people on television and they were
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mayors and governors and jesse jackson running for president. oprah was on television. it was a time where it seemed like things were possible. there were other symbols like rodney king and in my own community but there was a time where things seemed like they were looking up for black people and that the american dream may be wise possible i think our parents were the first real generation to benefit from like affirmative action and benefiting from the legislation of the sixties owning homes and corporate america higher rates than ever and i felt like things were looking up and it was possible for black america. probably for the first time in
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many years. then it just seemed it all fell apart. barack obama was nominated for president of course, and then armed political climate totally changed. so for me it was the idea that maybe it was impossible are created for us with this idea you could do better for your parents it doesn't matter your lot in life but it doesn't seem like that's a reality even now that is disappointing at least for me and growing up listening to rap and hip-hop it felt like things were possible. rappers even if you like it or not but they were out there
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throwing dollar signs. but i kid could turn into a wrapper. that was a tremendous thing for me to see jay-z. like dreams could be realized. and that was hard for me to deal with when i was writing this book to make you talk about upward mobility that we can do better than our parents so what i found fascinating is even though the american dream was not made with african-americans in mind especially black millennial's why is there the belief i will obtain this upward mobility
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that is difficult especially without generational wealth? . >> that is the craziest thing to me. young white millennial's that thought they could attain the dream the most did not believe in it as much. a young black woman more than latino, they had hope and faith. but i don't know why i want to include the entire diaspora but the one thing that sticks out is that black women are highly religious or spiritual. so i do think there is a sense of hope in the black community. but i can understand why things have been so profoundly
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bad for the blacks we were bringing here and denigrated vet things are pretty bad for the black community we haven't gotten the same treatment even looking at the first black president. so it seems we don't have much more than hope that's the only kind of explanation then just to show up and die. i'm being dramatic but hope is a profound way it is a survival coping mechanism to hold onto sometimes. >> speaking about that hope , was that of a young man of $100,000 in student loan debt. i am very fortunate i did not have student loan debt when i
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finished college. >> lucky you. >> that was a huge difference in my life. but so many people of our generation have not had. so can you talk what you touch on in the book where college may not be the ideal path that it is sold to us in the case for many millennial's? . >> yes. and this is a problem but black millennial's feel that more because we have that less historical wealth or that cushion to fall back on and then when we do get jobs we make less money. i consistently question education in this book and in particular college education because so many young black women are failing and falling
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behind and getting in debt and then just to be miserable more often they not they enter college but they could not finish so they are also one of the largest groups start college but don't finish. or they don't go to the school they want to because of financial reasons. it really impacts black people and i think i didn't grow up in this america but of our parents generation, they had a different reality. they didn't have to go to college. a small percentage a small amount go to college and finish it but you shouldn't have to go to college to have a happy life and have health care and your basic necessities and one generation
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ago, you could get a job in a factory. you could send your kids to college. you could buy a home and that's not possible anymore. that we all don't have to be intellectuals with degrees. so i'm really questioning college as the goal and i don't know necessarily those that do acquire degrees that people of color are largely not always getting those jobs so college is a tough decision for many people. it feels accessible in some ways more than ever but then inaccessible to take on student debt.
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and i'm not sure what the answer is. but i still think the college degree has to be the answer to upward mobility and that's what it seems that the older generation is telling us that's our way up but it seems like there should be multiple avenues to moving up. >> exactly. i did not know that not going to college was an option like many black children who grow up with parents with college degrees who saw the opportunity because of the fact they went to a historically black colleges and universities. it really put that pressure on their kids this is the way out to where you will really experience this upward mobility but then in your book looking back to the bush administration were all of that is wiped out in the high zine one - - the housing crisis and with that wealth
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that they could obtain. and you write quite a bit about coownership so can you elaborate on the black millennial approac approach? . >> yes. it's hard. they have the lowest rates of home ownership which is upsetting in itself. everyone will say millennial's are not buying homes but in particularly as they age they are buying homes it is just later in life it is difficult in these big cities. but what i heard the most was those that ended up homeless with their parents just a tremendous amount of people
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who saw their parents completely wiped out without housing crisis. that was a big theme for the millennial's and that soured their thoughts on homeownership. but for me that was important and a vital part to be coming-of-age so in 2005 that was before the housing crisis so i did not see the crash my family already own homes so that wasn't my burden growing up. homes were expected as much as a college degree. but i was totally misguided with the idea of the ownership society of george bush was touting that if you look at the american dream homeownership was fundamental
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to being an american and i think those that by into that largely as well. they think that i need to own this home to be an american so to prove my worth. then obviously looking back that was a misguided sentiment but i wanted to feel i was part of society and doing something so i bought a home in 2005. >> oh my goodness. >> how has that been for you? . >> it did not work out. [laughter] . >> and for reasons i don't want to say i was told i got an adjustable-rate with really great credit i was making
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$28000 a year when i bought the home of a one bedroom condo but i also knew my income would increase so in television and you start pretty low but your salary jumps pretty quickly over a few years so i doubled my income and then it went from there but then one thing that was significant is i bought in this neighborhood which was like african americans were in this community but this side of town where like where my mom was pulled over by police officers in the sixties and an area that was known to be not friendly for blacks they
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certainly didn't buy in that area in the fifties and sixties so it meant something to me to move there. that was a special moment so maybe that also was misguided so i struggle why i bought there sometimes i think the property values were better. so that was one thing that also felt like an accomplishment for me and my family that we had arrived some way in addition to homeownership it was the area that i chose. the other problem was that i got out of the adjustable loan and making enough money to refinance to a conventional loan but then a few years after that i got a letter to say i may have been targeted by my mortgage company because of my race.
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that was hard so that they felt like a failure more than anything else. it just felt like an absolute failure and the american dream whatever it was failed me. >>host: what you talk about is what you mentioned in the book called the trap that basically they institutionalize racism it is covert that pops up when you least expect it because the idea that all the ways that you could fail or fall there are interesting stories that were students who ended up in prison or alternative means or whatever so speak
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about the trap. >> it is hard. that's the thing. there is less room for failure and for screwing up in black america. it doesn't matter what. it could be corporate america. actors and actresses in hollywood it's clear to me you have to do it perfectly that is a frustrating space to be because if you don't then you are caught up in a cycle you can get out and then you try to claw your way out and it's impossible. the one real story that sticks out is a young man who got arrested in the bronx for riding a bike some ridiculous arrest he was given a ticket
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and a court date didn't have $500 and thrown into rikers for five days he couldn't bail himself out got bailed out by a nonprofit they are a great group and waited and waited and waited for a court date after court date it was pushed back in the meantime he was fired from his job because he missed eight days so now on his record is a felony and it is listed he is still waiting for a court date but who wants to hire a young black man with an open court case with a felony? he was never given the benefit of the doubt and four years tries to piece together his lif life. it turns out he did not do it
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and everything was wiped off but that was two years to be set back and struggle to feed his child and it's heartbreaking because it shows how you can completely be encouraged she could've taken a plea just to get out or could have turned to illicit activities because what else do you do if all your other legal means have turned on you? i see that story after story with this generation is set up for failure. >> the hard thing for us is you do so with the backdrop of barack obama being president but there is so much black success but we don't realize how much of anomaly that really is. >>host: i think a lot of people can see it so think you
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can reach out and grab it so like coming out with the theory now she's on hbo and the cover girl. you see that upward mobility that in success and think why not me? so tell us the reasons why this is the logical way and to think there will be a direct path? . >> this is such an anomaly. that's the way that works so hard to get to where she is. power. a lot of times we don't have access. you can see the faces out here
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but if you look at the numbers who actually controls television and film? it is like 94 percent of studio executives film and television are white. that is unbelievable to me in this country that isn't reflective of what society looks like not even other people of color but white folks are largely white men. so people have a hard time. they like stories they can see themselves in and it might be harder to do if you are a white executive to see yourself reflected of these brown folks. they are there. i am familiar with these folks and these people of color and their lives and communities
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it's harder to relate people like stories they can relate to and. >> i cannot stress that enough it is unbelievable and i know what i read. people love to talk about the face of the millennial's and white privilege but there is an anecdote there was a one-page pitch to hbo now granted she had a movie she did before. but a one-page pitch i just cannot fundamentally cannot imagine a young black kid and she said it wasn't great it was half which i cannot even imagine that now to hbo. we don't have the benefit of the doubt that i think a lot of young white people do we could go into a room like a crumpled up hoodie if we get in we could get shot just like
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what mark sucker berg wears but that is where one - - what is frustrating. we have to be so on point and even if we are that still doesn't help hopefully things are starting to change people that are in positions of power because we are not there to make those higher decisions. it's one thing to have a black base for television or movies but it's great to have black panther that movie was fantastic but those executives are still not largely people who look like me. >>host: you brought up the net him but one - - lena donna but i want to mention you said she turned in a one-page paper
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should only done one other film she had advances going for her but people often argue her talent but what you just said black people have to be exemplary it isn't just good enough to show up. and i have often said the true definition of equality that not everybody can go to college not everybody can be a bright shining star so can you speak about that particular issue? . >> i just want to see a black donald trump the president. i really do. barack obama take his politics aside, i feel he is the gold
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standard yes look at barack obama. but and have this wonderful life and the perfect trajectory. and that is hard. donald trump for his failing failings, he speaks in a way that is more accessible. and people can relate to and i know he is rich and elite, but that is an example of mediocrity. i want us, he is messy. his life is messy. he's on his third wife. a baby mama. i never heard anybody call
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milani baby mama nobody makes fun of her body. he's constantly on twitter or talk radio and inarticulate and i don't know anyone like that at that level who could be like that who also goes to ivy leagues. there is so much of a burden on us to be perfect and that is exhausting. and i want to be mediocre and thrive maybe there is one or two but that is another reason why i decided to write this book because i saw people at the same level of me talking how they got seed grades in college or they were drinking the whole time.
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or that i had help getting in and i didn't hear that from the black students. black stude. . . . . we are looking for things to be perfect. like i need to have this type of job and environment that i am in. one of the young men that you interviewed who happens to be
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gay and would talk to people -- can you speak to that? >> guest: he was really fascinating and touched on something that i think we don't talk about a lot in terms of the importance of class and relationships and how crucial that is. new york is a hard place. everybody is trying to be presented in a certain way. he talked about how he felt like it he pointed to show that he made it and wanted that reflected in his relationship but he also talked about how he only dated for western class
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people because they could relate to him more, so i totally understand that. our struggles are sometimes different even though the end goal might be the same. you look at the statistics and people with similar incomes and similar education levels often do better than particularly black women often are known to date people with lesser degrees and shows you don't always do as well if you have a partner with similar income. i guess i don't know what the answer or the solution is to that because black relationship class is important that there are so many other things that affect why we want to have these
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relationships. there are so many other reasons people are incarcerated. that is a big thing. for us to get to that point because i've been to states you can share your life and be with somebody else. i understand why there is a hesitancy and why class does matter sometimes. maybe it doesn't matter but it's something that we should be talking about and it seems really superficial i think to some people but in terms of if both of us have bad credit how do we apply for an apartment or things like that. it's real and we need to be able to talk about it and i appreciated his honesty about that and the importance of facing the relationship because
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we don't talk about that. >> host: i used to live in washington, d.c. and came to new york. i felt like we were always trying to date the same guys. it created a weird dynamic between black men and women and you speak but the fact of mass incarceration and who's actually available and that speaks back to the track where people get on the track and fall off the dating pool of who is acceptable. >> guest: it's hard. one of the chapters i wanted included, yeah i came to new york city some years ago. i'm from here but came back after being in washington, d.c.. if you go to college and get a degree a lot of times you want someone who's on that leve who i
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don't necessarily believe you have to have a degree to be an intellectual but sometimes it just falls into that place and i know for years i've wanted that, i wanted a person with a degree. a good job for you know, who makes a certain amount of money, good salary. it just doesn't necessarily happen that way. or you have an image of this perfect relationshitheperfect rw for me and other people i grew up with someone had to deal with relationships. there's a lot of healing in the black community and at the same time as we are trying to work out our own relationship things i think there is a pressure if you are those few people
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would've you believe that can manage to get a degree then you are expected to date someone, not the guy that's in jail for 20 years, that's a broad way of thinking about our professional lives and financial live and then in our personal lives like we have to date the perfect guy or woman or what have you and particularly i think i talked about this two we are supposed to date a barack obama or michelle obama but that is another hard standard to live up to and i think this of many of us not realistic in new york. everyone is like a model here. i'm not. [laughter] there's a lot of competition. >> host: speaking of new york, a lot of people of color are leaving and you mentioned that
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in your book, migration towards the south or the west coast with opportunities. >> guest: for me growing up in suburban new jersey it is the end-all be-all for me it's where dreams are made. biggie was there, little kim, foxy brown. it was the place you went to make it into something happened when i came of age. not just music but it felt like the culture and i should say black americans because my dad is from a speed to it felt like it had moved and i think there
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are so many reasons for this. new york city, brooklyn, harlem those places are not what they look like anymore. they are unaffordable for so many people to buy homes and so that was part of the problem is that financial need but there's also a cultural movement that is fascinating to me. it's fascinating that people i spoke with in the book it wasn't necessarily fully economic though the ability to have more space wasn't for a lot of the millennial and this idea that shows up over and over again not living on top of each other, living in the south they are largely countryfolk.
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we are a countryfolk. some of i also understood. but this is something about it g in the south being around other black people i think about reclaiming a space that was ours it was the reason so many people were drawn to it that the south is really the place because i have such an interesting relationship with the south is a place of plantations and pain and memory and it's interesting i talk to people and i don't get it in the same ways that you do. it's a great place to be.
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people were drawn to it and i could kind of get it after going there and speaking with an mc and the connection to home but it's something i feel uprooted. we can say he lived in this so to speak.
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for me it is always a place of pain even though new york city is equally as terrible. i get why people want to move away from that but just kind of be claiming our homeland i think they may be so uprooted. >> host: you touched on your relationship with the south. i've been trying to find the new south folks are still prominentl prominent in the imagination but i can't. every time visit the south and look forward to the stories
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instead of a feeling of freedom and comfort i like a path that doesn't feel so distant. my family of course is from the south as well. people are so drawn to it to the opportunity and the community that exists but at the same time they've voted overwhelmingly for trump, most as you pointed out in the book voted overwhelmingly for the democrats in the 2016 election so i'm wondering how does one reconcile the fact that
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something appeals to the people of the south and of that hostility that happens there with the fact [inaudible] >> election night, 2016 i was sitting in a bar in union square which i think is a pretty progressive part of the city and there's a bunch of drunk supporters that think they can make america great again. there are supporters there that shock me. they are everywhere. this place is not so unique. or going into barney's i was in bloomingdale's a few days ago and it felt like i is for on me.
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it's an incident where people have claimed discrimination. it's not so great all the time that's how i reconcile there are towns we didn't even know existed for decades. it's a hard city for black americans as well and especially our neighborhoods are safer segregated but we still are in space is often brings together people take the train together, sometimes we are even on the same block together with people that are different from us so it feels like maybe we are more
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integrated and we are one of the most segregated places in the country because we don't interact with each other. we are very segregated and that's how i kind of reconcile that and we can talk about it. everyone thinks they are immune to it and i think the south is better about acknowledging that. a lot of america is quite segregated. i feel the north somehow was better than the south but as you
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point out in the book -- >> guest: even the unionization's for example it's something that does positively impact african-americans in the studies have shown they are in the union, however not only are we left out others like him after movement to keep us out the movements. blacblack people were largely lt out and that's something that i think is a very northern thing. the neighborhood i grew up in that wawas the black section ino
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i think i need those reminders. they were not treated much better than the south. >> host: something that came up in your book around gender identity i don't know if you've got the same chapter it's whether or not he was a cross reference out of the 75 that you
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spoke with for this book off to dc issueoftendo you see issues d identity and gender, and what that says about how people conceptualize? >> guest: that is a good question. i think the questions certainly came up. for most people it wasn't a focus. i think halfway into the conversation she spoke to me that she identified as queer and it was important that wasn't the focus and a lot of times people try to unpack so yes that might have been a part of who they were but then there's also the
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greatest part of the class part and that is where we tended to focus on what. i didn't want it to be a focus of conversation that i do think that they definitely impac impaf the vulnerability they make a lot of money to those that have a hard time getting jobs or health care so we don't want to downplay that. something came out when we talk about opportunity in particular but i tried not to stay in that space. america was amazing and great.
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he talked about i am queer but that's not who i am also i'm these other things, and i think that was an important point to make that we don't have to be defined by just these one things about us and this is a great example of acknowledging it but what is interesting a is mom was very accepting and i let people decide how much of a role they wanted to play because each is different. i kind of let people and the way their identities affect them kind of drive the story.
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>> another thing i found fascinating and when i think about my parents idea and when you talk about in this book how they created their own definition of success can you speak on that a little? >> guest: we can't define it in the traditional way it may not look like being in a marriage together for 50 years or being in a job with the same employer, that's fine. i think like they parents, my mom. it wasn't a traditional. that's what success looks like
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but we found that it could mean freedom, happiness, doing what you want, being poor but being able to get up and applaud every day. i think it is largely rooted in the idea is that we need freedom we need space to be. we don't want to be boxed into this dream that wasn't for us i
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can be happy in a home and we can to find that in our own ways and it may not be an issue. our relationship whatever it is maybe somebody has a traditional job or they are doing sex work and liking it nothing's wrong with that. i think we are trying to push the boundaries and redefine what the american dream is mean.
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it's what our dreams are and i think this generation is doing the same. >> host: as you outlined in your book there is the standard belief of homeownership and you talked about having the perfect job and perfect life and personal relationship. how out of the people you spoke to for this book how were they able to move beyond what the standard is in america? >> guest: i don't think there's any other way.
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even middle-class black men man can't hold onto the dream. we know particularly this generation part of it is there is no other choice by society that hasn't allowed them to thrive they either wanted to where they thought they were expected to play also think what's different is there is an understanding this may be wasn't for us we are not going to take part of that and that's okay let
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them have their dreams and we are going to do something else. it's having the been laid out ie sun all day being told they are less than and seeing women in the classroom get accepted and that being okay where folks were gunned down to really look at the dream but i do think there is something about seeing the embodiment of the dream and what happened after. look at what happened when the
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embodiment gets in the white house. i thought that there was change and hope. there was some progress i don't want to say there hasn't been this young kid i spoke to from texas said he thought with barack obama things were going to be better but in fact they were not and it takes a good hard look because getting to the presidency -- it ha that shouldn our dream and our goal and yes it happened that person is now
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president >> host: i wanted to talk about the boldness and they talk about being in title and selfi selfish. and the movement is different in the opposition to what people think of.
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>> guest: we don't have that much power. i think they live in a different space and as you say some of the commentary overall they touch on this entitled overeducated but that isn't the millennial population either. it's largely people of color. a lot of our experiences are the same. somehow we are unique in that
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you like it is still at the bottom all the time which is a frustrating place to be. their hair is a certain way or to do what other millennial set colors do. but i think we do live in different realities. the world sees us in different ways, whether people like that all legit or not there is a privilege to being white and sometimes another millennial there's a lot of millennial
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sewer black they talk about having privilege with immigrant parents and a different experience and how they are seen in america. so i think that there is a difference. we lived in different realities and we need to acknowledge that. i think it's hard for this generation to see that sometimes, because we are together sometimes in the same schools and classes and situational relationships. sometimes our parents are of different races, because we have profoundly different experiences i think that is a hard thing for america to see. it's not the place and things. charlottesville was one thing. i've seen people with tiki torches shouting things. it's people questioning who you are. in humanity, do you belong here, and that is a hard thing to take
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every day. i think it tells you a little bit each time i've had it been talked about how when they walk in the store they have to take their 30s off of -- hoodies off. it's the freedom you can just walk around you are totally opposite there is a lack of freedom and for me that ultimately is the dream i would like to see. they may not even realize they have. we all have a millennial existence in some ways but there are some ways that limit us that's just really hard for us. >> host: thank you so much. it's such an important book and
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i am so excited for you.

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