tv Ta- Nehisi Coates We Were Eight Years in Power CSPAN October 22, 2017 9:00am-10:16am EDT
figures in all of our history. we got to be thinking more about the people for whom we should be honoring. i think there ought to be statues to the most gifted and devoted an important and influential teachers in our country in every city we have, and every town because they are doing the most important work of any of us and they had been doing all along and they don't get enough credit. .. >>.
the african dance company and the children and junior company, that opened the way for us and for this evening. we like to thank macie and joseph who were the dance and drums instructors, thank you. [applause] my name is sandra bradley and i'm extending a warm welcome to everyone on behalf of van gogh videos and books. we all know in the language of ghana it means go back and fetch, reminding us not to forget our history and culture so we are proud that video and books is a sponsor for tonight and we want to thank them for 20 years for creating a space where we can gather, a space where we can strategize, a place where we
can immerse ourselves in history and culture, get knowledge, curate events and thank you to the family for sacrificing a lot to create a space of the liberation , and she's a shy woman but the rima is right here. [applause] >> 20 years is no joke, 20 years is no joke. i remember when you were talking and planning in your basement and here we are. speaking a liberated space, we are honored to be on hollow ground here in metropolitan ame church, founded in 1872, the oldest black church in washington dc and it is the oldest piece of land in this city continuously owned by black people. >>.
>> at this time of changing demographics and realistic speculation we know that that is how we are found so we are forever grateful to lester william around lamar, his ministerial staff, church administrator maria wallace, the church's ambassador. this is a very well organized place, but let me tell you. you all the ministries, members of this congregation for continuing the metropolitans long legacy of social justice so let the church say amen. >> while we are giving thanks to others i want to acknowledge that we contribute a lot to the
quality and character of this city. we are grateful to jazz and justice 89.3 which is broadcasting this life, thank you for being our media partners. we're also being recorded tonight by c-span so we thank deedee for also being here as well as wamu fm. >>. >> since its founding, this church has been a really important place for people to gather, talk, for people to have discourse.dunbar, mary mcleod afternoon, nelson mandela are just a few of the notable who have spoken here, dropped knowledge and insight. in january 1894, almost 125 years ago, anti-lynching abolitionists, journalists and or and or frederick douglass made his last speech from this pulpit. it was titled the lessons of the hour. in this speech he protested prejudice and racial
injustice. and here we are yet again gathered in metropolitan ame contemplates those same themes and delivering the lessons of the hour for these days and times. >> to help us do that, we are graced by the analysis of two critical thinkers, who have proven by their track record as journalists and storytellers and writers that they are not deterred by the cacophony of insanity, be a version to history and science, the dog whistle politics and assertions of the news that dominate the national landscape today. >>. [applause] so it is my pleasure to introduce kojo nnamdi.
>>. [applause] my dear brother, you may be a son of diana but i have to take you because you love dc so much, you were although deep in quality of life issues or the city every day monday through friday. you can be heard at nine on wamu talking about what's up in dc, thank you. [applause] he is going to be hosting our conversation with ta-nehisi coates. anybody who knows ta-nehisi coates knows he does not like
a lot of praise. he is very uncomfortable with the enumeration of his accomplishments. so ta-nehisi. [applause] [cheering] so i'm not going to embarrass you too much but i am going to say that we love you and we are very proud of you and we are very grateful that you are serious about the issues that matter to us.you are serious in your research, your analysis and we are looking forward to you assuming the totem of the confederacy that affects our
current life. without further ado, kojo nnamdi and ta-nehisi coates. [applause] >> thank you and is my understanding, can you hear me? >> it is my understanding that i will be talking, who can't hear me? i think i'll stand at the microphone. can you hear me now? it is my understanding that i will be talking with for 40 minutes, just the two of us and after that, the floor will be open to questions for people who either raise their hands at that point or find their way to one of the
microphones that are on the floor. >> so that said,, first and foremost, the title of this book. >> for eight years, "we were eight years in power". it seems to be after reading the book that the title applies to three different subjects but yet connected phenomena. the construction, the obama presidency, your writing career. can you break that down for us? >>. >> sorry, guys. there we go. >> okay.
>> is it working now? okay. keep a distance from you so we don't get that feedback that we're getting right now. it wouldn't be us if i didn't have to do this. >> what a way to start the tour. >> alright. >> i actually really appreciate that because it shows that you read the book. i think like the assumption and maybe i'll assume some responsibility is people see from when we were eight years in power, it's something to keep in mind that i mean lack people as a collective group and that's incorrect. the introduction, i talk about where the title comes from, congressman thomas miller of the reconstruction area, a congressman in south carolina found himself along with several african-american
folks who'd been here before the war, suddenly thrust into a ruling coalition in south carolina as black people were across the south, lack people all across the south and it was a change. this is a statement before the civil war, the majority of people actually were enslaved, they were black. and for the first time, in that state history, you actually have the possibility of a real democracy. in 1895, there was an older man. he attended the south carolina constitution convention. >> we are really in our coalition of white supremacist, put the final touches on the disenfranchised black people in the state. >> there's a way in which they call redemption
happening all through the country. >> and miller said , he pleaded with his group, assuming in his mind that they had some degree of sensibility . we were eight years in power. from the time we were in power, we turned this state into a state, this war-torn state into a place that had function in public schools, that had a functioning penal system,that could take care of the mentally inappropriate. >> built this into a functioningstate . why would you strip away , why would you disenfranchised half the people living in the state given our record, coming out of slavery? and the point challenging the story in this great b book about reconstruction, he reached out in his mind that they did not quite apprehend the white supremacist and
what he argued is he said that they were arguing for a good negro government. the idea that no matter how degraded by whatever experiences, they were smart enough were capable enough and could stand in a place that put citizens whatever the model was down by america. he points in his line that it just caught me up. while i was working on this book he said if anything, south carolina feared was a good negro government. they didn't want them to succeed. all the awards and the things that named that they had done actually made the case against blackfolks because it made the case against white supremacy assuming that white supremacy and some sort of logical argumentative structure that he could attack . but what peaceful to want to do is they want to degrade
you. and all these accomplishments you missed are arguments against what they want to do. and when i look back on the presidency of barack obama. >> allow me to interrupt, if i might be allowed to interrupt because your talking about the presidency of barack obama and what you say in relationship to the title of the book is that you need to see obama's collection as part of that a familiar cycle . and a great interruption. >> i'm not sure if i like the interruption or the person you interrupted but you can interrupt me anytime. but that's exactly it. when i look back, i think the obama presidency was based on the same set of theories, but your best face forward, work twice as hard. be scandal free.
don't do any of the things, don't be any of the things that they associate negroes with. were going to construct ourselves as the opposite, down to the presentation of the obama family. the president at the harvard law review, ivy league educated, beautiful kids, dog named bo.like, if you would construct a drawing that would be the antiracist, the anti-sort of stereotype of what folks committed, it was then and they ran the white house and that sort of way and yet they were met with this strange, people just didn't believe them. this argument against this idea of good negro government occurring. it was their accomplishments, the entire presentation of being this sort of antiracist model that's fueled a great deal of, but the antagonism
they face. remember at any point george did, we are so inured to that the people don't realize how this shocking this actually is. at any point you could've told the opposition party that they found at the very least upper locality, almost certainly a majority of people that did not believe barack obama was the legitimate president because they didn't believe he was a citizen of the united states. the opposition party, the thought was maybe this could be ended by presenting an actual birth certificate. but you're not in a logical argument. they don't literally believe, you know what i mean? in any factual way, anyway that's opened argument, that he's a citizen, they believe it because they have to believe it. it's not a argument so in that way, i saw that same cry again occur in the obama administration and. >> that's a familiar cycle, apparently it runs counter to
the notion that you see the illusion of a progressive american history that brought obama to power. there was this notion that obama's election was part of a progressive forward motion that would probably indicate that america has changed for ever and probably wouldn't be turned back. >> americans and thinkers, they're always thinking of an end of history moment, this is the moment where we conquer all of the problems that have plagued us only to find that history always wins. >> history doesn't even have an end and the election of barack obama, it was that sort of feeling and i tried to explain in the book easy it was to get caught up and how understandable it was for folks to get caught up. this was a moment that, as i say in the book, some black person on thomas jefferson,
had a meditation on george washington's plantation new in their heart of hearts that they were smarter injured than george washington. they make a better soldier than george washington. and i'm not like even being rhetorical about this. you've reading his recent biography, for all, he's the father of this junction of government balancing the budget, being fiscally responsible, he was terribly irresponsible, just a mess . just an absolute mess. and you have to believe there were black folks in that plantation life come on, man. >> this is a president? >> so obama is a realization of again, you have the microphone. i understand a lot of the rapture that went into that moment. but at the same time in
history, it's a hard taskmaster and is going to reach out and remind us exactly what we're doing and where we live. >> there were many people that felt that president obama should have spoken more directly and specifically about race. given what happened after his election. but you and i for years, barack obama walked in that space and never fell. what straight talk on racism has given him a sure footing? >> know you have to, the presidency represents the american people. >> this is a group and i don't want to be harsh here. but that, this is we build ourselves as this great saying you are what your record says you are. if the record says this is a group of people that would hand the nuclear launch codes
off to a dude that does diplomacy via twitter, who is caught on tape writing about sexual assault, that's okay. you can be president if you are white and do all that. if anything, i'm stunned that he was able to do, and i mean that. this dance of having to actually aside back and forth in order to be elected president twice, that doesn't mean everything i thought he did was correct but it was, you have to deal with the difficult problem of the actual people who live in this country. you can take one position and say there's no value in having a black president. that doesn't actually mean anything but if you are like, as most people in this room, and you voted for barack
obama, you have to understand that there are going to be limits there. limits on what this country can do and what it will actually come out with. when people think the presidency is in many ways political, that strong persuasive moral arguments made from that belief of it can produce career results but with people on anywhere out of this earth out of a strong moral feeling of power. >> i don't have much experience with that. i don't see examples of that is rated across america. people, forget it. you take the example of lincoln. people love citing the gettysburg address and my favorite is the 64 inaugural address, beautiful peace and rhetoric but none of that
would have happened if a group of slaveowners in the south went crazy and destroyed to destroy the county and direct their own country. in other words, he was thrust into a position and the motive, at least initially and at the end of the day throughout the war, the paramount motive was the preservation of a union. in other words, there was a motive beyond the moral idea of what the people were going through and that is a recurring theme and whenever you see progress in this country with black people, you necessarily see some alternative motive or the majority in our country which is rarely ever moral. >> so we talk about reconstruction, talk a little bit about the obama
presidency. the third reference of the title of this book is in some regards to you. when president obama came to office or thereabouts, you were unemployed. and -- >> i remember's eight years later, you are not. >> momentarily. >> and you write essentially that obama's presidency helped to jumpstart your and other black writers careers, what you mean by that? >> i mean the fact of a black president, they were. curious about things they were curious about before. when i was writing this book i was just through in my own personal journey, looking back on it, and when i'm in places like this, and i see so many people who have come out to see and thankfully
herewhatever i have to say or read the book , when i receive accolades, awards, whatever, i have to remain very pleasant that could have gone a different way. >> is not for a trick of faith. i know that because i was relatively 12 years into my writing career when barack obama became president. and eight years that came after were different than the preceding 12. there is i think a foundation from people putting accolades on you, to take a little too much credit. and to not realize that this is a pillar of faith that you stand on. i know this because i grew up in a community where i didn't feel like i was the smartest one there. >> i didn't think i would,
somehow i was raised to think i was particularly touched that away in other people around me were not. x that things went my way. and in this situation, it was the election. it made things more possible. the whole group crop of black writers let myself who were toiling away. >> before the president, our friend nicole hannah jones, she said i'm thinking about going into public relations. nicole has won several awards now. several awards. hailed as a genius and i feel that but people were looking back, they just work checking me like that. so it has to be understood thatsome part of this is faith . >> it must be said that during those hard times,, there are many people in this room who are particularly,
one of them, your father. >> you want to stand up? >> and mother. >> and the other, the wonderful can you, your wife. [applause] >>. >> what was the particular way in which she was able to encourage you at a time when you were seriously considering that you needed to find another form of occupation. you ended up being a writer because there wasn't much else to do.
>>. >> i'm sorry, then you. >>. >> i just did i swear a brief example, you are who you are. and it is something to be a certain way for 30 years of your life and people don't stand up and crop clap for you. that's fine, there's no expectation that people will stand up and when they do, it's a hard transition. it's a hard transition and people are not always, i probably, we should talk surreptitiously about this but anyway, i'm sorry. >> i'm sorry. what was the question? >> let's get to your writing. >> on this book you made a deliberate effort, conscious
effort after rereading the fire next time for the second time, you made a conscious effort of what it's like to write baldwin because you said that what was most important for one of the things that was most important about his writing was the beauty of his writing. >> how do you accomplish that? >> you don't. >> you don't, and i knew that you didn't. i knew that but you have to have like the whole clichc. >>. >> i, because that story, it isn't entirely of the moment, it's about how the world came to be. and the critical event was the murder of my friend. >> which i over for 15 years. and just angry, just pissed off and angry. he was killed by a police
officer anytime before cell phone video and it just felt like nobody cared. and i accepted that community which kept his memory alive and istewed over that . and i have been writing some things about the president at the time. some of those things were not kind. to say the least. and, which is my job. i don't apologize for any of that and that was my job. and i stand by all of it but i was home one day with my cell phone when it rang and i looked and it was a weird number, i don't know. i didn't answer. i picked up the phone to check the messages and the message said this is not a prank, this is the white house. when you come down to dc
tomorrow to meet with the president. i said, okay. all right. i have this feeling about doing this and not doing this, i said i'll go and i went down and i was reading the fire nexttime and i had been , i kept thinking why don't people write this way? why don't people write this beautiful, journalistic, historical and i went down to the white house and it was me and a bunch of other journalists and i knew that obama, that was off the record. they have assigned at the meeting and you have to sit where they tell you to sit. in two's so my nameplate was here and obama's nameplate was right there. i come up so i knew what this
was, this was like, saying some of my things, right? [laughter] i wasn't fooled. but i was a little shook. he comes in says hello to everybody and sit down, i sit next to him and i can't really saywhat i was thinking . life, i'm in church but i was like, -- you get to ask a question and i asked some really weak questions to the president. and he answered the questions and he said by the way, ta-nehisi, he knew my name was ta-nehisi or whatever. by the way, i saw what you wrote the other day. and it was terribly unfair.
and then he went off on me, right? for what felt like an hour, it really felt like that. so i'm, i went home , my heart heavy that day, i'm sad but you went back and he gave another one of these, i hate these speeches where you pull yourself up by your bootstraps, i hate those speeches and hegave it again. i said i'm not shook . if they call you down, then you're not going to do what you they think you're going to do and i wrote it again. i'm not the same thing but i wrote you know, you don't see all this. and i get another phone call. and it's this strange number and can you come down tomorrow, mister president. day off i told my wife i said i'm going down again.
but i'm not shook this town, i'm going to take it to him. you know what i'm saying? and kenyatta is life yeah, yeah, hyperemia. what did he do when he met kennedy, he gave this talk about race and that's you, you got it. i got on the train and i had, i fierce you not, i had a bullet on my iphone. i was listening to that joint all the way down there. i said i'm going to do it. i get down there, and it's raining that day and i can hear, i kept smelling the traffic. i'm way late. and i get out the cab and i don't have an umbrella. now i'm, i was in my mode and i was totally inappropriately dressed and everything.
just bring him in and they're calling me while i'm in the cab. are you coming in meeting this fellow, theirs, show some respect. i get there and it's like a room full of, the room is all white except him. and again, it's assigned seating and i already know in motion and this time he's here and i'm seated across fromhim. he's ready, now. >> i'm ready now, i'm not shook . >> good. so he says, it's nice of you to join us. he says, we had a question. so i sit down and the next time i get a journalist from all across the board. it's like i like date level people in that room and i don't, you have to remember, i'm not really seeing myself like that. i was at the unemployment office at harvard. so i'm watching this dude. i'm supposed to ask him
questions and it's the economy, foreign policy, the environment, tax cuts and he is taking every one of these dudes on in detail. >> it is like, i wish it's a display of illness and part of me is like, get them. you know? and i'm watching this black dude do this thing. but that part of me as i got to get ready to do what i got to do.>> so lifetime comes. >> i asked my questions and this time i'm actually overheated. i was like, when you said it was x, y, and z. i'm running down statistics about the candidates but in fact in mississippi two thirds of unemployment, i'm going. i said hold up. >> and i responded. >> and he's just gives his response and i say this doesn't happen, you keep going. i said can i respond.
>> he says yes, please. >> i looked around at all the lights in the room. it's in the book but i can't tell you what my reaction is. white people are looking like oh my god. >> he's, these black dudes is fighting, they're getting in it. >>. >> is now a spectator sport. they're like, you're not going to be the president. you don't beat the president but he goes back and forth and i leave and i'm thinking about this and i'm thinking about how fortunate. how fortunate i was to be there. to take that case directly to the highest office in the country and i called this editor and i rewound and i'm telling him and i said this is the moment. not only do we have, this should be the inspiration, this is the moment and this book doesn't exist and he said to me, chris is my
friend and he's basically giving me friendly advice and he says this moment is littered with writers who tried to do the fire next time. just do the fire this time. a lot of folks have tried that haven't quite gotten there that nobody remembers. then he says i think you can do it. if anybody can do it, you can do it. five drafts later, we didn't quite do it but we got the thing. [applause] >> you write that to be a black writer is to be drafted into the freedom of democracy. some black writers working for a evermore individual self. >> resists the backdoor answers and the tradition. >> you ran, that maybe one of the more difficult things to
understand, why? >> because we don't give ourselves enough credit. when i came into journalism, one of the big things from over older black writers and that many white writers who don't get box off as a black writer, don't allow them to, i understood what they were saying. you want your freedom to yourself wherever your curiosity goes and i agonized because my curiosity led me back to my people, back to my community. and it was only really when i thought of doing that report. on the presidency, the obama presidency that i came to understand that as i say in the book, i was never boxed in. i was only box out the cause african-american history doesn't exist over here. it is a thread running right
through the country itself so if you -- [applause]. they don't get that. they think it's just one little, you've got different and it's just one color in the rainbow. but if you are attempting to study american history and you don't understand the force of white supremacy and you fundamentally misunderstand america. you just can't. i don't, i don't mean that rhetorically. i mean literally if you don't know that life this country's wealth is onset of the civil war that a majority of it were more ties, that 4 million enslaved black folks in the country in the south, we're the largest concentration in the country. >> was more than all the
wealth in the country together, if you think that's a side note, you're not getting it. and then from an artistic perspective, you can't really write from a, i don't want to say that. what i will say is that african-american culture is rich. it's rich and there was i think a period, a certain crop of writers who came before me, the notion was we have to get their culture, we can't learn to talk like them, we can't do what they do, wecan't dance like them, then we can't , we can't really advance. but that's not your story. that's not what you. and that's not the heritage or it might be, that wasn't
what i knew. that wasn't my heritage, you've got to write what you know. any writer, that's not even black folks. any writer, you have to come out of who you are. you can try to be this man over here. i just think that now. but they didn't get it for four years. >> and the background of why you did that, to some extent how you were raised. >> your father, occupied the world of black nationals. and you were, are you said that you left the world of nationalists but it never left you. >>. >> that was how i was raised. that's my name. that's my everything. but in order to expand, in order to frankly go out and fight, in order to be able to write, i had to know more
than that. so i was raised in a particularly religious house to the extent that there was, forgive me. >> i'm talking to you all. >> that was malcolm x. when you heard somebody had died, or your son to have died, that was malcolm. that wasthe tradition . >> sorry. >> i can only who i am. but to the extent that i had been raised, that was where i had come from but i had to see things, i had to understand the other slice of the cake, i had to get back. i had toget with those guys . so honestly i wasn't really understanding of my own people. if you follow me. >>.
>> when you talked earlier about people saying those writerswho may be looking for their individual cells , a piece in the new york times established by thomas jefferson said coates gives whiteness power.are you and the all write both fetishizing race? essentially giving it more power? while those of us looking for great areas in public policy get ours. >> presumably both white supremacists and by you, how did you get far? >>. [inaudible] [applause] i leave it to congress to find a great area between his humanity, that's the thing. i leave it to him to find the
great area between himself and people who believe that you should be a slave or should not exist . this is war. when i'm talking, there's no middle place for that. that would not be my expectation that any jewish person would find common ground with a nazi, that's ridiculous. so i don't, that's giving whiteness power then so be it but more power to them. that's just not where i come from, that's not my mission. i come from a particular tradition. i use that tradition to use as much truth as i can in the world. i don't see common ground with bigots of any stripe. i don't seekcommon ground with homophobes .
i seek to -- [applause] i seek to disprove their arguments and make for aworld where that sort of thing does not exist . >> in this book you write a great deal about daniel patrick moynihan's report and the case for action that i think was written back in 1965 but you criticize that report for offering no policy remedies outlined with the cognition of african people. you said later as a senator, moynihan abandoned scholarship for rhetoric. he became a us senator after serving in the nixon administration. what did you mean by that? >> this goes back to your earlier question about why run to it?
moynihan was really very superlative but there's a, a discrepancy with people who have power and where people don't you don't have power. part of the privilege and part of the disadvantage of being white in this country is you don't have to know black people. but if you are black and you want to do anything or go anywhere, you'd better know white people. what that means is when white people get in a room and it's been analyzing, doing negro apology about black people, there are no other black people in the room but there are black people in the room who seek to find common ground, you know, as opposed
to represent their humanity, there's a way where people just presume they are too smart and moynihan ultimately did that. he, i think about even before he became a senator. this is a guy who what like white liberals up and down one side and up the other, you can find him writing to nixon urgent, or at least raising the issue that black people are in fact mentally inferior to white people. this is like crcme de la crcme educated, white persons. >> and light, they can't see it. they can't actually see why this stuff, he didn't have to have college. because there was nobody to attract them, you know what i'm saying? once they gave him the crown they would call him and they call him and urban artists. >> he should have shrank from that. no one should be called back.
but once that happened, what they give you, especially in the areas where you can have social media, so no one can check accuracy. you really, he could see say whatever you wanted. so i don't know, it's a different time. >> at the time of his report, the report itself became insightful, but nevertheless you realize that at some point that most of the conditions you talk about being remedied have to do with essentially empowering black men. >> he did actually but what he said was he said men must have jobs even if you have to take them from women. then he said black men and i thought that was interesting because there's another way of formulating that at that
black men must have jobs even if you must takethem from white men but that wasn't the formulation. >> .>> are we during morning and yesterday to today, viewing that through today's eyes because having been a black nationalist myself i remember that when some black masters just wanted our women to walk. >> that's very true. very true. >> if they're watching, looking at him through today's eyes where we are much more cognizant about sexism and then. >> i think even in, there were feminists who critique it from that perspective. that was there.there is a lot there forthrough his eyes. in that reward. >> if those voices may not have been heard , that moynihan may have had, but there on the record. >> the difference between you and president obama had over the trunk campaign was that president obama believe that
he couldn't win. you felt that from wouldn't win. >> and that turned out to be wrong but you have gone from that writing the american strategy now being wrong is larger than most imagine and will not end with trump, what do you mean by that? >> so there are weird things you say here but like most cultures, there's an idea in the country in any country of political noise and either things that are not described in the law but for reasons of fear, usually of being mentioned in some sort of way by the electorate, they don't violate. there has been a long history of having 40 or 50 years of republicans walking right up
to the line where doing what we call dog whistling and the reason they didn't step over the line is because it was believed that was too far. trump hasproven that is not too far. you don't know what to far is at this point . we are being saved right now in many ways by his ineptness and incompetence. and ignorance. but it disguises how dangerous this could be. if there was somebody for instance and i'm sure there is who's realized i can say, i don't have to dog whistle, i can shout. that somebody who knows what they're doing, that knows how to use the government in an effective way, which whatever agenda they have, that is a terrible, terrible future. and i don't know how that's not the realization that we don't have to do any of this. we don't have to sort of
pantomimed this threat. we can just say it. this dudes got elected writing about sexual assault. that's the sense. i can do what ever and i can be president. and it's like this notion for black. we received from obama, if i'm twice is good, i can be president. and there's counter notion from trump that i haven't got to do anything. i can be twice as bad and be president. and we've been suffering now and for a while. >> i'm about to relinquish the microphone but for those of you who have questions for ta-nehisi, why not that one or another of these microphones. >> what you see as your best work in this book? the reparations, my president
was black, essays in which you combined reporting with analysis. >> yes, it goes back to the point i was making about moynihan. one is that i was the kind of intellectual who in physical reports wrote and did not have to meet any of the people he's writing about and that's always dangerous. that's always really dangerous and i find that i am at my best when i have two counter poor balance systemic analysis, whatever, abstract analysis i need from a distance with what running, with the lives of people i'm talkingabout. it becomes an important chapter so i don't sit in my chair . >> by doing that, you move your self from the category of 75 as public intellectual and become a reporter.
it's a kind of third way. you end by suggesting that even in an era of your study of racism has come to an end but suggesting that in other ways , are you concerned that you might become the public intellectual that adolph reed writes about in what are the drums saying or for society at large, what's going on around blacks criticizing prices of the negro intellectual for having a more significant effect on black people at large? >> i'm always concerned about that but i think it's also a tautology. i point out that adolph reed did not publish that, he published it in the village voice. you are necessarily if you
are an intellectual, writer, artist, journalist, you are interpreting the reality for other people if your subject is black people and at any moment, it becomes a case that for large numbers of people, they're not interested in what you have to say but that will be white. it's just what's going to happen. the measure of, for instance, is a large number of people decided that they wanted to see what harold cruz had to say. the majority of people that read the crisis of a black intellectual are white. there aren't that many of us in the country. at some point, that's going to be the case and it's always true. i love heal, i think it speaks to truth.
about black people, the majority of people who have consumed that album are not black . the truth and i think it's important if, that you not let interpretive role dominate your perspective, that you don't find yourself shutting and dancing for people but you don't want to, i don't worry about who comes to read. i worried internally about making sure my motives for writing are fresh andwhoever comes after that, i'm not exploring it . [applause] >> your turn. >> hello, okay. thank you so much for your wonderful writing. a lot of your work deals with examining institutions, whether how the authorities
or courts or what have you and how their policies affect radicals and their ability to acquire wealth or that affect but i was curious if you had an account or a perspective about the black family in side the institution, not something that is acted upon but something that has, can the end in itself and affecting black outcomes and if so, is there any way to talk about that without adopting black conservative frameworks or the policy of respectability? >> sure there is. [applause] so now i'm going to be that person. i was raised in my first book on trump, all about family, all about fathers.
it's all about everything you just said. i don't think there's anything wrong with talking about the importance of family. i don't think there's anything wrong with having as many family as you can on children, people are interested in children being there. i think the problem comes in , that is the reason in any way, in any way for why people's wealth, black people, white people have a problem. you start to say, try to explain in that sort of way. >> >> a suite of question you immediately go to. the american government is not
god. but it collects a lot of taxes and it uses those taxes in particular ways. when that weight is being used specifically to remove wealth from african-american communities, throughout the book, it's great well into other peoples communities. there tends to be some effects. when that happens across literally for centuries, there will be some effects. i think private conversation that you have with your children, that i have with myself and my wife, that my parents had with me is very, very important. but never forget that they took from you. you just can't lose sight of that. not as an excuse but as an accurate statement of what actually happened. [applause]
>> thank you so much for being here today. i'm going to try not to be as -- my question is it's the way you write that's very specific. you spoke earlier about how you admire james baldwin and writing script or something but what you write, something but when you present argumentation. when i read about your biography, your life it was very interested in being a researcher in a lot of wacom researching topics. that comes out when you write. you reference a lot of facts and is very clear on where you are going. when i'm in, as a professional, when i'm in a workspace, a lot of time white people referencing your work and saying i'm familiar with these issues and are talking about in a way where as you said they may see a
perspective the didn't presidency. my question directly is deeply think about the way in which you present arguments, the way in which you write in telling the stories that we make them appealing an interesting to other people in a way that maybe others have not? >> yeah, i mean, the rule going forward is you can't ask a question longer than mine. [applause] >> i do. i do. it's a good question. i do, i do. i think about, i think about like how many things i read and ask myself, summary wants to make a conclusion, i'll say weight, how do you know that? like what's behind that? i go through the same process when i'm writing, always joke about you happen to have a
receipt. if i tell you this country was built on slavery, you would not have an america without slavery. i wouldn't say that an just keep going. here's why. it's always important to say here's why. you could make extreme of what sounds like extreme statements as long as you're the research and the citations to prove it. that's very, very, very important. it doesn't mean people will hit that and would automatically. i have their own reasons, but it satisfies my sense of curiosity. i know i'm not lying, you know? that's the most important thing. >> hello. you of written about many issues that in the near and dear to my heart, reparation, criminal justice reform, barack obama, housing, the list goes on and on but there is an issue that deals with unresolved issues since the
time of the end of the civil war, and issues that is just now beginning to become what i call -- 2.0. issues that your father lived through, spent over four years in prison. presence in the nice state and the counterintelligence program. only you i feel really has the attention of the country from the attention of the world can really, really address this issue and put it front and center of the states. are you going to do it? [laughing] [applause] >> talk about your marching orders. [laughing] >> probably not. [laughing] >> i'm sorry. one of the problems, the problem is i was telling him we don't have an army.
like i can do what i can do, you know what it means? [applause] what i can get to, and it's so much. it is so much. i've got to talking about this afterwards because he can't say this in public. i can say anything. [laughing] but there's so much, do you know what i mean? i think about, trump just did this rollback in birth control protections. and i think about, like black and brown women in a state like texas, like down south, do you know what they mean? i think about how one could to store size that in the same way i store size housing. think about all those service workers and public employees in wisconsin with the destroyed the unions. and how one could like i think about like guns, are there any
relationship between the nra and went to the nra become this -- i don't know. i too don't know but i think about like gun violence and out i could historicize that. these things as you know, they take like a year, year and half of research to do each one and to do it right. one of the huge problems is when people are stupid, they don't have to do any research. [laughing] they don't have to do anything. [applause] and this is like, i was in this awful mood because i was working on something as having to track down rebutting this guy. this will be small to guide, the voting paper of white working people have differentiated between the voting record of white professional workers and had no statistics. some calling around trying to get statistics. i can't just say if you don't provide assistance to, i've got
have received. got to -- you don't have to do any of that. this is like how evil wins. because you don't have to do the work, like to be good, to be right, to be on point, take so much. so like to take your stories, the political, i would have to dig into it in a way that people move for years said eddie conway deserved to rot and a cell. they just it off. right columns in the baltimore sun, "new york times," own up to fact check, donna to think that anything at all. this is like really, really important and it's like you guys because it's like it's an important thing. i'm in the middle of a dispute right now with something that was written in the "new york times" about me, and an article, i'm going to say this because in the article it says todd hasse coat is a self-made millionaire and longtime speakers delivery didn't bring it up so i'm glad you did.
>> i would like to be a self-made millionaire. i'm not yet. you understand? i'm not. i would love to be back in harlem what i don't actually been harlem right now. i'm gentrified in harlem. i wrote to them and said you also got to correct that. i don't have the senior financial statements but it would appreciate you not publish where live now. y'all didn't check that at all. do you know what they told me? they said, since you can't provide financial statements, proof, why don't you write to the editors saying that? i said wait, wait, wait. if i'm writing to the atlantic and said this kid got five kids out of wedlock you don't claim, they will say where are the receipts? but you get to do this to me, like you can be wrong. that is the story i go through over and over and over and over again. so what we need is more people. we need more people.
[applause] because i can't -- i can't carry it advocate like so much of why you ain't coming this can why you don't have analysis of this, like i can just sort of toss this off. i can easily read five books, spit it out. what we need is more people to write, because i'm not going to get all of them. i can't. it doesn't mean that any worthwhile but you must know this as a lawyer. you can take on every case. you just can't. you need more people. >> i've tried. >> and support for all the young people who think about being writers, like we need more people. like we really, really do. [applause] >> and give me your history, i found a self-made part bothersome, too. however, , we're running out of time and we'll have time for two more questions.
>> i read your book this weekend and it is fantastic. the most fascinating moment for me was when you talked about shortish rod and i was curious about what was the also intentions when put that in the book and connecting her to like breitbart and a lot of what she felt like a sacrifice to the power and also the first casualty of fake news. i just want to hear a bit more about -- >> just for reminder, shirley sherrod was a political point in the obama white house. with slandered in the worst possible way by andrew breitbart, breitbart news. the obama administration caves and fired her without as they sue that can is sort of proof of her remarks. when it came up later that she had not said that, folks i do apologize. the pipe of attempted to conduct
yourself through a good and evil government. attending to appear assertively without actually checking yourself. i found that just so upsetting. it was deeply, deeply upsetting. probably the most upsetting moment i have with yet administration because he you had, in some way to make barack obama possible and they just sold her out. i have no other way to put that at the do want to hear it wasn't my decision, i was involved. then when i talk to her, her rendition of it was i just got a phone call, and i thought about that dude, henry louis gates, he got to go to the white house and have a beer. you know, it just, i mean, it broke my heart. it really, really broke my heart so it's in there just to show the price of belief in folks. when you really should be
suspicious, skeptical. [applause] >> you are the last question. >> a lot of pressure. >> make it good. >> i'm going to try. you spent a fair amount of time in france and in europe, and i would be interested to know how your experience, for so many african-americans for the last 100 years, going to paris has been a real life-changing experience and limit some kind of reconceptualize their own american blackness. did that do the same for you, and how so? >> but in ways that people, that may be unpredictable. i didn't realize like what it means that the black community as american as 100 years -- 400 years ago. the ability to resist white supremacy. i was shocked to get over there and, like the black folks in france would say we look to you. like how can we, because i went over there a black folks had
that were talking about themselves, we don't have anything to gather. we ain't this, we had that. know what i mean? they look at us like we are on it. like we are on. there is no little step we take for granted. a black church in a way the black church exist here. you can find mosques but like going back to richard allen, naacp, it was based off the naacp. he set that up in like 2007. do you know what they mean? it was a different space. i have to tell the i gained a lot of respect for the political organizational skills of black people in this country.