tv After Words Reniqua Allen It Was All a Dream CSPAN April 24, 2019 2:35am-3:37am EDT
>> i met some of the most amazing people not motivated by money or status or celebrity but the desire to live in a right relationship with each other and the desire to do good. they've taken a heavy burden that leave very inspiring lives. >> now on c-span twos book tv, more television for serious readers. next on booktv "after words," whether the american dream is attainable today. interviewed by daniel belton of the route. "after words" is a weekly prograprogram with relevant guet hosts interviewing top nonfiction authors that their latest works. >> host: how are you today?
it's an exciting day and you have an amazing book. the main theme of your book it seems that it's all about the american dream and how they are coping with it. can you tell me a little bit about why the american dream has become the third for black millennial? >> guest: for so long particularly young black people like myself have this idea that you can be anything and you can do anything at least that is what we are told as kids.
they are mayors and governors and running for president. oprah was on television so in the time where it seemed like things were possible, there were symbols of coors light rodney king in my own community a young man was shot by a police officer, but largely i think it was a time where things seemed like they were looking up and the american dream was possible. our parents for the first real generation to benefit from things like affirmative action and they were benefiting from the civil rights legislation many were owning homes and high here rates than other and things started to seem like they were shaping up. probably for the first time in
many years and it just seemed like it all fell apart. barack obama got nominated for president of course, and in our political climate has totally changed. so, i think it was the idea that the american dream may be impossible and wasn't created for this idea that you can do better than your parents if you work hard enough it doesn't matter, but it just doesn't seem like that is the reality and it is a really profoundly disappointing thing at least funny. and then i will say one more thing about the title for me it was another moment where it felt like things were possible. whether you like it or not a lot of people don't, but they were
out there throwing around the dollars fines. a kid could turn into this rapper in his early 20s and the world would listen. like that was a tremendous things for me to see. it felt like dreams could be real and then it didn't. that was hard for me to deal with and why i set out to write this book. >> you touch on upward mobility which is this idea that we can do better than our parents have done before us. what i found fascinating in your book is even though the american dream in many respects everything was still black millennial's why do you think there is still this belief i'm going to obtain especially if
you don't have generational wealth young white millennialist people that fought that they had obtained the dream for most here it's more than latino or they have hope and faith. i don't know why. i think that the community at large, and i want to include the entire diaspora is a hopeful community. the one thing but also sticks out about them as unique is that they are highly religious or spiritual. i think there is a sense of hope in a community that is just a continuous thread, but i kind of can understand why. things have been so profoundly bad for the community since we
were brought here. folks immigrated as well but it was pretty bad for the black community. they treated the first black president, things haven't been equal as wealth is disastrous for us. we don't have much more than hope. that's the only kind of explanation we need something to hold onto otherwise we will just kind of shrivel up and die. it is a surviving to hold onto sometimes. >> host: speaking of that hope, one-story but stands out to me should -- i'm in the minority i'm very fortunate in that when i finished college.
you talk about what you touch on in the book that college might not be the idea path it's been sold to us in education is on the way out when in the case for many millennialist. >> guest: this is a problem that isn't particularly unique but the millennial scale up more because it is less historical while he was about to fall back on. then when we do get jobs we make less money. i really consistently questioned education in this book particularly college education, because i thought so many were
just failing and falling behind, and stood in it just made their lives absolutely miserable and more often than not he entered college, but they were not able to finis finish in the colonialo from one of the largest groups thabut start college but don't necessarily finish, or they don't go to the school they want to because of financial reasons really impacts john black people. and i didn't grow up in ms. america, but the america of our parents generation had a different reality. they didn't have to go to college. a small percentage actually go to college and finish it and i think we don't understand that as a people, and you shouldn't have to go to college to have a happy life and have healthcare and kind of your basic
necessities. i think the generation ago you could go out and get a job in a factory. you could send your kids to college and take vacation oncea year and buying a home. that isn't possible anymore. everyone's brain doesn't think that way. we think there will have to be different degrees and so questioning college is the goal and i don't know necessarily because of her jobs than ever that do require people of color largely not always getting some of those drops, so yes it seems like college is a really tough decision for many people. it feels accessible in some ways more than after but then inaccessible because they are taking on the student debt and jobs. i'm not sure what the answer is, but i just don't think that a
college degree has to be the answer to mobility, to move into upward mobility. and that is what it seemed that the older generation is telling us it's possible, that is our way out. it seems that there should be multiple avenues to moving up so to speak. i didn't know that's not going to college was an option and those that have college degrees solved the opportunities they would afford for themselves because of going to college is for historically black colleges and in the cities. so, they put that pressure on their kids like this is the way out where you will do better than me. we will experience this upward mobility, but then you look back through the bush administration where that is wiped out in the housing crisis. what little wealth our parents
and grandparents were able to obtain in a crisis and you write quite a bit about you get a whole section about his dream of homeownership. can you elaborate on the black millennial approach to the housing crisis and its prevalent here in new york city. >> guest: is hard. black millennial have the highest rates which is just upsetting in itself and i know everyone will see millennial fun on buying homes, but you look at so many and particularly as they age, and they are. they are kind of complete in that. what i heard the most is lots of folks that ended up homeless a tremendous amount of people that saul their parents completely
wiped out. it was a big theme for a number of the millennial semitruck and it soured their thoughts on ownership. for me it was a really important and vital part of coming of age. i'm on the oversight of the millennial generation and so in 2005 that was before the housing crisis. i didn't see a clash. my mom had a house. a lot of my family own home. so, that kind of wasn't my burden growing up. homes were expected as much as a college degree but i was totally misguided and i think it was this idea of the ownership society and george bush was telling there was this idea that when you look at the american
dream of home ownership is kind of fundamental to being american. american. it's a fundamental part of the dream and i think that folks buy into that largely as well and i don't know why i bought into that idea like i need to own this home and i need to be an american and prove some worth. obviously looking back i think that was a very misguided sentiment, the player wanted to feel that i was a part of society and that i was doing something. so i bought a home in 2005 at the right time. first, you us. [laughter] and how has that been for you? >> guest: i was told i got an adjustable rate and i had good credit.
i was making $28,000 a year when i got home. it was a condo in the suburbs in new jersey, but i also knew my income was going to increase. you start out pretty low once you put a few years am and once it turned out to be the case for me it doubled my income and then it ros grows from there but it s hard for me and one thing that was the kind in new jersey on the east hill where they walked out i bought the communities that we grew up in but i grew up on the white side of town and this side of town where my mom was basically arrested, not arrested, but pulled over by police officers and if you live in an area that was known to be not friendly for blacks, they certainly didn't die in that
area. they were in the area that i grew up in and it meant something to me to be able to move to the east hill. that was a special moment. and maybe that was misguided. i still kind of struggle with why. some of it is i think the property values are better, but i chose to buy in this neighborhood and fat in itself also felt like an accomplishment for me and my family. it felt like we had arrived in some way in addition to homeownership and it was also the area that i chose an other problem or thing that was frustrating of me owning a home is that a couple of years i got out of that adjustable loan and got into a conventional loan within a few years after that, i got a letter saying that i might have been targeted by my mortgage company because of my race, and that was a hard thing
for me. that felt like a failure more than anything else in home ownership it felt like an absolute failure like the american dream whatever it was totally failed me. >> guest: i can imagine. what you talk about was mentioned in the book that basically society that institutionalized racism both overt and covert when you least expect it and when you are expecting it is the trap and there's all these ways that you can stumble to you off-line these people that somehow ended up in prison or have great opportunities that in a trying to find alternative means whether it is -- whatever it is
to get their piece of the american dream. >> guest: it is hard. i think that there's less room for failure. if it doesn't matter what area you are in it could be corporate america. it could be actors and actresses in hollywood. it's clear to me that you have to do everything almost perfectly. and that is a frustrating space to be in that if you don't, then you get caught up in this cycle where you can't get out of it and you are repeating and feeling and trying to fall your way out of it is possible. the one story that sticks out is a young man who got arrested in the bronx for riding a bike. he ended up with a ticket and a
court date for eight days, didn't have -- for the defenders, a great groove and waited and waited for court date after court date they got pushed back and in the meantime he had eight days out of his job so he got fired and then after that she tried to get a job but on this record is a felony listed as a court date but it's still an open case. he was better than th never givt of the doubt in trying to years to figure out pieced together his life. it turns out everything got wiped off his recor this recordo
years of him being sent back in life struggling to see his child, and it is heartbreaking to me and shows how you can be encouraged to either one he could have taken the plea for something he didn't do just to get out or he could've turned to some illicit activities that so many people do because what else do you do if all the other legal means have turned their back on you and it's a frustrating place i see story after story this generation i think it's set up for failure and like many in the past i think the hard thing for us is that you do so with the backdrop of barack obama being president. there's so much black success but we don't realize how much of an anomaly that is. >> a lot of people can see it
started out with a web series and now she's on hbo and a cover girl. you see the upward mobility. tell us about why there's going to be a direct path for that success. >> guest: she worked so hard to get where she is but there should be more out there than there are and there simply aren't. with power a lot of times we don't have access. we see some faces out here but
when it would have been a first told television and film it's like 93 or 94% of the executives in film and television are whi white. that is unbelievable to me in this country and not reflective of what the society looks like to see ourselves reflected into the stories they are there these folks of color and their lives and communities i think it is harder for you to relate stories
they can relate to and it is just horrible at that. i can't stress it enough it is unbelievable. obviously privilege and what have you. granted she had a movie that she did before, but i can't imagine a young black kid getting away. i can't imagine her doing that even now probably to hbo we don't have the benefit of the doubt that i think a lot of young white people do. we can't go into a room with a hoodie on like mark zetterber.
we don't get the benefit of the doubt. they are not there to make the hiring decisions. it's one thing to have a black face on television or in the movies but it's great to have black panther in the movies. i loved it. it was fantastic. >> host: no pun intended or shame at what you mentioned in the book about the white theocracy where basically can't
use that she turned in a one-page she's only done one other film before this she has lots of advantages going for her. i've often said what is t was te true definition of the quality people can be just as successful >> guest: i just want to see a black donald trump be president. i really do. i mean barack obama, take the politics aside, he's hard to live up to. i feel like he is a gold
be perfect and that is hard it puts a burden on us that people just don't understand the stress of it all. >> host: you talk about relationships and the book and i often feel like when i talk to other young black people that we are looking for things to be perfect like i need to have this type of job and environment that i'm in. one of the young man talked about how class came up and he
would talk about dating somebody that's upper middle class. can you speak a little bit about that? >> guest: it touched on something that i think we don't talk about a lot and talk about the importance of class and upward mobility and relationships and how crucial that is. i know richard was the new york city and it is a hard place. everybody is trying to be at the next level of data were presented in a certain way. he talked about how he felt like she wanted to show that he made it. he also talked of how he dated
for working-class people because they could relate to him or so i totally understand that because of struggles i think that aren't different even though the end goal might be the same. you look at the statistics and peoplwithpeople with similar ind education levels often do better than particularly black women. you have a partner with similar income the class is important but there are so many other intersect with why we want to
have these perfect relationshi relationships. you have to get to that mental space where you can saved your life and be with somebody else. i understand why there is a hesitancy and i understand why class does matter but in terms of both of us have bad credit how do we apply for an apartment or things like that.
>> host: i always joke i used to live in washington, d.c., equally horribly to stay as a black woman [inaudible] [laughter] >> they fall into the trap and fall right off the dating pool where people are concerned i came to new york city some years ago but came back after being in washington, d.c., and i think that for many after you go to college a lot of times you want someone on that level and i
don't necessarily believe that you have to have a degree to be an intellectual. so few of us actually get that. it doesn't necessarily happen that way. you have an image of the perfect relationship and i know for me and some of the people i grew up with knowing how to deal with relationships growing up in houses with broken relationships there's a lot of healing in the community, and at the same time as we are trying to work out our own relationships there is a pressure if you are one of the
few people that can't manage to get a degree and you are expected to be and that is a flawed way of thinking so there is a section in our professional lives where we have to date the perfect guy or woman or what have you and that's also particularly i think i talk about this also we are supposed to be a barack obama or michelle obama and have the same dynamic but it is hard standard to live up to and to so many it is unrealistic. >> speaking of new york, a lot of people are leaving and you
mention in your book about this new migration with the coast with better opportunities. >> guest: growing up in suburban new jersey it is the end all be all for me where dream were made. little kim, foxy brown, it was the place you went to make it and some thing else happened as i came of age. not just music but part of it moved to the south and it felt like the culture an -- it's andd say black america because my dad is from diana said it is rooted in new york black culture, black american culture largely felt like it had and it wasn't there
and moved to the south and there are so many reasons for that. new york city, brooklyn, harlem, those places are gentrified they are not what they look like anymore. they are unaffordable for so many people, so i think that's part of the problem there is also a cultural movement that was fascinating. it wasn't necessarily economic though the ability to have more space was a big thing for a lot of the millennial set the book just to roam around like freedom, the idea that constantly shows up over and over again that the ability to be and not living on top of each other, living in the south and to do that for a lot of people. largely countryfolk.
we didn't come from cities. wthe cities.we are just a few de great migration in an inner-city life. so some of that i also understood. largely it was interesting to me if one is something about being in the south. it was about being around other black people and also reclaiming a space that was ours. it was the reason why so many people were drawn to it but i think the south was the place that captivated for me and i have such an interesting relationship it is a place of plantation and pain and memory, and it was interesting to talk to people because i like both, i don't get it the same way that you do. it was a great place to be but that is as far south they will say it's not the south but as
>> i think it's equally as bad. my relatives cannot go to certain neighborhoods. we are not treated properly better than my relatives in the south. we are doing so well too. >> to something that came up in your book around gender identity in your same chapter about shamir and be post gender. somebody even commented whether he is a cross-dresser like nail polish, out of the over 75 spoke
with this book, how often of these issues around identity and gender and sexuality come up and how do they spoke about people conceptualizing within the millennial generation questioning. >> good question. i think the questions and sexuality and gender identity certainly came up. i think for most people, and sometimes it was not a focus. i am thinking of one of the workers that i spoke with. i think halfway into our conversation she spoke to me that it was something that was important. but it was not necessarily the focus. a lot of times people were trying to unpack the intersection of all the identities. that might've been a part of who they were.
but there was also the race part or the class part and that is where we tended to focus a lot. i obviously did not -- unless we're talking something about relationships, i did not want that to be a focus of the conversation. though i do think gender in identity and sexuality definitely impact the mobility. white, gay men particularly make a lot of money compared to black men who would identify in the same way or clear men or trans folk who have a hard time getting jobs or healthcare. so i do not want to downplay that. those kind of things, political opportunity in particular. but i tried not to particularly stay in the space. which he was amazing and great,
he talks about, i am unclear, but that is not who i am. and most of these other things. i think that was the important point for me to it learn that we don't slowly have to be defined by these one things about us. i think shamir was a great example of doing that. of acknowledging it and i think shamir was interesting because his mom was very accepting and for other people whose family was not as accepting played a bigger role in their lives. but i let people decide how much of a role that they wanted that to play in their life. because everyone sees each part of these identities is something different. for me, being a woman and then a black woman, i know something important. it led to ways in the wake of how and entities impacted them and drives the story.
>> another thing i found fascinating is when i think about what my parents idea was successes and what white people's ideas of successes, and when you talk about in this book about black millennial's crating their own definitions of success, can you speak on that a little? >> i think that we cannot necessarily define success in that kind of tradition in a way that we have done in the past. it may not look like owning a home, it may not look like being in a traditional male woman being in a marriage together for 50 years. it certainly does not look like being on a job for 20 years for the same employer. that is fine. i think for young black millennial's, and for like my parents, my mom. i think success does has a traditional, you have a job, you go to work and provide for your family, i think that is what
success looks like. i think for this generation is that it can mean happiness in doing what you want. and it can mean being for sport and get up a blog every day. i guess we don't blog anymore, that's outdated. or beyond instagram or making a web series. i think we're defining what that looks like. and though i think the notion of the dream, sometimes they are similar but i think it's for the saint rutherford largely viewed as a freedom and we need space to be, we want to be ourselves and that's where sexuality and gender to comply, we do not want to be boxed into the stream that was not press. that we did not create, we want
to make her own dreams and define our own dreams. we wanted to divide our own lives. they are pushing back on it. i can be happy in a home and it may not be what i own but it's a home and we can define that in our own ways. it may not be ownership. but for some people it might be. our relationship, i want to be in love and be happy. maybe it doesn't look like marriage, maybe it looks like partnering up, whatever it is, or maybe 70 has a traditional job and liking it. nothing is wrong with that. i think we are trying to push the boundaries and redefine what some american dreams mean. maybe it's barack obama were like oh no he can't do that, but i think that largely that is
what black america has done. we have consistently redefine what our dreams are. i figure generation is doing the same. >> i feel like that is an important thing for black americans in agile and interval, there are so many issues with the stated belief of what the stated successes. you mentioned homeownership, imagine the abandonment of your parents, he talked about having a perfect job and perfect life, and having it to our personal relationship. and out of the many people you spoke to in this book, how are they able to let go or move beyond the hold of the peerage dreams, the hold of what the standard is in america. and to find their own happiness >> i think they have been forced to. it's like survival. i don't think there's any other
way. even middle-class black men cannot hold on to the dream. it is not just a classic, we know that so many young black men and women are downwardly mobile. in particular this generation. and i think there is no other choice but to redefine themselves and i think they been forced by society that has not allowed them to thrive in a way that they wanted to or that they felt that they were expected to. but i also think that this generation, i think there is an understanding of black americans, like saying america is treating us in a certain way and we know why, we will have to do something else.
we will not take part of that because this was not created for us. this is not meant for us. that is okay, let them have their dreams and we will do something else. i think it is that kind of work, it's having a black president and seeing mike brown laying in the sun all day, or trayvon martin and they are told that they are less than, ntn young woman in the classroom getting assaulted that being okay. or in charlottesville where folks were gunned down, all of these things have sparked up to really look at the dream. i think it's easy to keep using barack obama but i do think there is something about seeing him as an embodiment in the way that played out and what happened after barack obama, i think that is worse than saying maybe that isn't the dream. look at what happened so to
speak, the embodiment of success get to the white house. look how he was treated. look at the greater world. look who is elected president now. i think that has forced us to take a look and say is this america ? i thought they were changing but it's actually the same american the past, there been progress, i don't want to say there hasn't been but it is not as much as i think so many of us up is talking to. this young kid i spoke to from texas that i thought barack obama things are going to be better but in fact they are not. that is force us to really take a good hard look at what is success. because of getting to the presidency, if that success, that should've been our dream and goal. i feel like a lot of us saw that as a dream. and yet, it happened it was
good, but he was told that he is not american and that person is not present. i think that made us think let's look at this again. >> let's re-examine the whole thing. i wanted to talk about the bulk this -- there's a preconception that people have on millennial's in general that they are net differentiated out black millennial's. we talk about the being entitled, selfish, they're killing everything. the reality for what makes up the black millennial is very different. can you speak on what black
millennial's actually think when it comes in opposition to what people think of when they hear millennial ? >> i don't think we can kill thanks, we do not have that much power. we can't kill housing, waited homeownership -- for a parent. the housing market is probably killing us. america is killing us more. i think the black millennial lives in a profoundly different space and while the same pieces and commentary on the millennial overall they are pretrade as a liberal white, entitled, overeducated person. and that is not the white millennial population either. it is actually largely of people of color. it is not black and white, it's asian and hispanic and everyone who does definitely. you know a lot of our experiences are the same but were also unique. often at the bottom of many
lists. how we are unique ? i think we're different just like the criminal justice system, i've seen other millennial's of color, and i feel like blackness is still the bottom all the time which is a frustrating place to be. i've heard millennial say, i don't know about getting this black person, or their hear this certain way, or that areas a little too part of town, they dug the other areas of millennial's of color as well as white millennial's. it is bad. but i do think that we live in different realities. the world sees us in different ways. whether people like to acknowledge it or not there is a privilege to being white and sometimes to being another millennial, it is a privilege we did not speak about it much to
being an african, i spoke to a lot of african-american enter millennial's who are black and they talk about having a privilege in immigrant parents and having a different experience. and how they are staying in america. i think that there is a difference. we live in different realities and we need to acknowledge that different and i think it's very hard for this generation to see that sometimes. we are together sometimes and we are going to the same schools and classes. when int to see how different experiences are i think that is a very hard thing for america to see. and it's not the plane thanks, charlottesville was one thing, i've seen people with tiki torches shouting in the streets. but more than a subtle thing, as people questioning who you are, your existence, your humanity.
that is a hard, hard thing to take every day. i think he kills you a little bit more each time, i have had blackman talk about how they had stick their hoodies down with a walk in a store and unzipped themselves some people see that there is nothing. and just the freedom of being white that you can walk around in the world and i think for being black you're taught exactly the opposite. there is a lack of freedom and for me i think that ultimately is a dream that i would like to see, a freedom. you might have a copy millennial excreta some ways, but there are other things that really limit us and where on our souls. it's really hard for us. >> reniqua allen thank you so much. i enjoyed your book.
i am so excited for you. >> thank you for having me here. >> thank you. [no audio] [no audio] >> this program is available as a podcast all afterword programs can be viewed on booktv.org. here is a look at our live coverage wednesday. on c-span at 10:00 a.m. eastern the institution takes a look at nuclear deterrence with the
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