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tv   In Depth Imani Perry  CSPAN  November 3, 2019 10:01pm-12:03am EST

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a maybe forever stand and the recently published breath a letter to my sons. >> host: professor imani perry, what is the structure of your newest book, "breath"? >> guest: there are three sections, fear, fly and fortune. it is a letter, a series of letters to my sons but of course to the larger world both about a the reality of the terror and anxiety and worry that comes along with being a parent of
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particularly black boys in the united states at this moment, but it's also filled with my desire for them to live a life of beauty and joy and excellence and self regard and in the extraordinary tradition that we have to draw from. >> host: where did you come up with the idea? >> guest: i've written that letter is privately but my editor said is this something you would be interested in doing and i talk about my children all the time and post about them on social media and initially i think what we both had in mind is something that was a bitad lighthearted but then when i
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started to reflect on what it would mean to try to tell a story to them at up to my expectations but also my warnings and the depth of my love and a story for them and the world it became something more sober and i reached into the archives that i had in my mind of the work that for me to death and tried to have a conversation with with the past and present for their futures. >> host: it reads as if it flowed out of you. that's probably notca the case t -- >> guest: thank you. it certainly is the book that came outk most quickly and then added a sort of flow out of me. my previous work was the lofoundation for it and i wrote most of it while we were in japan where i was working foran the summer so there was a way in
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which th that provided a space f contemplation and retreat that allowed it to flow forth but it's also the case of the conversations in the book of the conversations we have all the time and so to craft those conversations and that message is close to time, but there is something that just sort of flowed forth and it does take some of the emotional energy i think of this task which is kind of breathless and beautiful and exciting. children's lives it is just like that. >> host: where did you come up with the title flex >> guest: it's so interesting because as many people guess, there's the statement i need to breathe there is also a reference to the city that i was
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born in, birmingham alabama had the worst air quality in the nation a year that i was born and i was thinking of the prevalence of asthma and environmental racism and the way that it makes it very hard to breathe actually and then i was thinking about the kind of holding one's breath and anxiety around the threat of violence moments of racial injustice and also in part because of a team of age in a art form with an extraordinary skill of rappers that i noticed to say all of those words requires a management of the breath. so i want them to breathe of course in the sense of taking in what they need to survive and flourishd but also managing thr
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breath, navigating it did the difficult moments which is what it means to get out and succeed. it is a powerful metaphorho for me. >> host: fear, fly, fortune. what does this mean? >> guest: the fear part, and i should say that that structure comes both from richard wright's native son between the world and me and there is a modification that i will talk about. the fear part in some ways i think it's self-evident, the fear of the ravages of racism whether that be the kind of harrowing incidents is that we have been seeing on video for several years and throughout
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american history of the killing of unarmed black people often by police officers without any process or just cause, the most minor of infractions or none at all. so there's that part of the fear and the fear at-large, through the ways in which inequality can limit your opportunities and also get inyo your head. those kind of fears are without question ever present and part of the task of parenting for me is to attempt to navigate around this with the fear of recognition that tomorrow really isn't promised big so you have to both attempt to navigate but you also cannot be completely overwhelmed by the fear
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otherwise you won't live if you have to deal with the reality, the tragedy and disaster are possible. and then it is in some ways an indication of toni morrison and you know, as opposed to the flight for a native son is the moment where the protagonist is running away from the wall because he's committed a murder that is pumped by his terror of being lynched essentially, but i thought about flight in the sense of actually taking flight in life, so to not, sort of an extension of the idea was being defined by the fear of how to take flight and that is a direct reference to the song of solomon and the idea of sliding if you
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give up the stuff that weighs you down as she says and then the fortune for me was a way of talking about the abundance that they had that isn't about the material fortune or inheritance in the way that we tend to describe it, but actually the fortune of a tradition of an ancestry of resilience, of incredible beauty, creativity even in the face of constraint and so, you know, i talk about everything from you know, our ancestors who worked the land to the mastery their repetition of a single composition over and over which functions to me as a way of thinking about how to navigate this that we have a set of notes that we can say is
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navigating the term over and over again so that's sort of the foundation of the structure. >> host: what we know about freeman? >> guest: this is a hard question to answer because [inaudible] in some ways the most important part is that they are fully and absolutely human, all of the complexity, and i say it that way because so oftenen i think black children in particular are not granted that recognition, so i can talk about how they are distinctive. he's a brilliant athlete, incredibly sophisticated at understanding humanan relations and a beautiful writer. i can talk about freeman as composing extraordinary music
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and an amazingly gifted artist and they are both really good friends and all these things, that i sometimesut hesitate because these things are true about them but i don't want it to sound as though i am making them exceptional because i really do believe that all children are really special and that many children who don't have parents who can draw attention to their gifts are often made to feel as if the children are inadequate and don't have much to offer, which i think that disproportionately .-full-stop just on black children but black boys in particular so they are really human at all children are. >> host: what do they think about the fact that you wrote a letter exposing them to the w world? >> guest: while, this far they are okay with it but i also understand that might change over time as they are 13 and 16, they are in a pretty intense
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stage of development, and each of them. i did give them veto power over the content of the book, so i allowed him to say if there were stories they didn't want in the buck for details i hope maybe they will let me tell later in but maybe not. but with respect to the idea of sort of being on a book tour and the book getting public attention, that isn't particularly interesting to me and i think that is a good thing. i am not in our domestic life a public figure, you know, and that's part of the day-to-day of our lives really isn't on display and that is the most important piece for them is the relationship. >> host: you write that racism is in every step and every breath that we take.
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>> guest: it really is. when you start to deconstruct it in a detailed fashion and you see everything from how homes are constructed. who has bank accounts and who doesn't. walking along the street, whose body elicits the clinching of the purse, where are their bookstores in the communities, what do the schools look like, what is the quality of the air we breathe quite? it is so pervasive and as uncomfortable as the conversations are for people, we
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just cannot function as a decent society without talking about it because we are in the thick of it all the time. we put the words are white people irredeemable. you took a little issue with that. i want to read what prompted this question and we will give you a chance to talk about this a little bit. here is a confession. recently i found your white people are irredeemable and again i have to issue a caveat with a sensitive kno the sensitt mean individuals we find that the persistence of the possibility. of course a single person can
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tell but i worry what people are irredeemable and it scares me. what's with the complete dissembling of the kingdom of identity look like and how would the pulse of the surface of what we all shatter, could we put something together again? t don't know i'm losing some of my inability to without the larger context so often sentences like that trigger a defensiveness that becomes impossible to engage in so this is the sort of difficulty of social media all the time it's
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not unique and i've experienced it with those that i've wrote a. e if you they hear white peoples individuals as opposed to whiteness. it would be a different relationship to the identity of
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i'm not talking about an individual, but certainly someone that is embraced by a white man or someone who thinks that so many figures like take for example john brown or box elder they are some of the most precious people in the world and it's important to me to not have a formulation that removes them from the struggle that i am engaged in a. >> one more question before we move ont on to some of your othr books. mothering black boys in america is a special calling to.
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>> guest: in some they are difficult but maybe not necessarily helpful about the challenges black boys face in this world whethert it is mass incarceration, inequality, high school graduation rates, college attendance, unemployment, although sorallthose sort of th. i think about it differently. i think about it wanting to raise my children who are identified as black boys got in a way doesn't limit their imagination and sense of possibility. it allows them to understand the fact of racial inequality and
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thinking they are in superior because they are relatively privileged. and also it keeps them away from seeking patriarchy or dominance in the society that values those things highly so even they are more elusive for black men to attain it is a society that values that support if the task is also raising them for me to not tell you that but the characters and sense of complexity and other people around them so all of that is a special calling because the lessons of what it means our across-the-boardrd and then oftn
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times not so good unless you capture both of those things with a story that is more accurate and more loving and gives them a greater capacity to be fully human. >> host: in the last 19 minutes, everything we've talked about are these the type of things that you teach at princeton? >> guest: not really which is interesting. it is a departure for me and the spirit with which i teach. certainly i teach the work of toni morrison and richard wright but i tend to think much more fact driven as opposed to the emotional but the dj is self is a kind of calling that's important to bring to that the values and justice even though we are supposed to be somewhat
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dispassionate. how does one get a phd and jd from harvard at the same time? >> guest: i i was just completely in love with the idea is that i didn't want to choose. i wanted to do everything. graduate school, law school, graduate school it was sort of a frenzy every day i was being nurtured by these gyrations of people that came before me and helped me understand the world. >> host: we want tod. play a
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little bit of music and video from 1999. ♪ ♪ jesse norman singing at the rosa parks congressional gold medal ceremony in 1999. what is that song? >> guest: lift every voice and sing, basalt known as the negro national anthem and black
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national anthem after the 1970s. and it is a song that i describe as black america's most precious song. that clip is incredibly moving. you've written a biography of the song. they were brothers born in jacksonville florida and of course as back in the day they were -close-brace then, people who follow every achievements as being ind service of the race. johnson became the first secretary-general of the naacp and the first.
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one of the signature accomplishments. >> host: and they were first-generation freemen born in the 1870s? >> guest: their mothers family -- yes as that generation that emerged in with the hopes and dreams and aspirations >> host: what was the reception when the song was written? >> guest: what was extraordinary is the song caught on with wildfire and was embraced as an anthem and i try to detail this in the book the united states di to do the natil
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anthem atd the moment even untl early on people were only referring to it asmo an anthem. the johnson brothers were educators at the time and they left florida. they actually were not there as the song caught on a. it was circulated and was printed in the back of seminol. they didn't intend it necessarily as an anthem if we continue to play that video we would have seen then president clinton.
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>> guest: one of the distinctions he may be the only -- postcode from your book made me forever stand. hip-hop uttered its way to the national anthem. >> guest: one of the things i talk about in my first bug is there is something that happens in the 70s and 80s which is a transformation both of the norms that have to do with the specific engagement and also connected to the deindustrialization and then there is a piece where i quote the reverend joseph lowery on
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this where he said black people were once the moral conscious of the nation. tipoff is absolute refusal to that notion, so it is bold, not formal, it's profane and unwilling to perform. it's a kind of ruffling which is a commonplace in american culture but it's a different kind of. so that departure was significant that i talk about in the book is that sun keeps coming back so there've beenbo various moments it seemed like it was going to peter out completely. it keeps coming back even though the kind of institutions and utmmunities on which it was song on a weekly or daily basis don't exist in the same way as the
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communities. >> host: what did you learn about the song and researching about? >> guest: the biggest surprise, so much of what i write about is how in the institutional life in the various organizations it was so exciting to see the graduation program like the dressmakers academacademy where they see thg every day and she talks about the world singing on the porch of a school looking out on cotton fields but what surprised me and was so beautiful this how many educators used it as a tool so i encountered these curriculum in which the vocabulary lesson is the song becomes the basis of whether our history lessons played so it had
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so many function. to seeay the way they took the task of preparing people to become warriors for justice was so moving. >> host: you set your views on this in the book and i want to read that very quickly. i like many other people finding singing alongside people of other conscience to be one against the pessimism that threatens to descend at every turn but when i look around the room and see so many closed mouths and nervous gestures i am reminded not to be deceived about the moment in which we live grasping somewhat randomly into the traditions and archives yet in desperate need of rebuilding and of building a n
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new. >> i talk and a lot of early chapters about associational life and taking this from alexis de tocqueville. it was so robust and explicitly political in the context of jim crow. across-the-board that is americans in general but that is precisely what was necessary. and it's necessary to solve social problems you have to be a member of the fabric of the community working together with his mutual dependence and trust
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so there is a way in which eric emotional and sentimental moments but it's for creating an emotional bond in the service of community center community itself is ultimately what was mostpo important, more than whether we think that particular song is a kind of virtual and a kind of commitment that made it so powerful. that is what we need to reembrace. >> host: author and princeton professor, imani perry is our guest on in depth. once a month we invite an offer to talk about his or her body of work and to take your calls as well. we have reached that point in the program we will put the lines of the people see them in a minute. (202)748-8200 in east and
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central time zones, 748-8201 for those in the mountain and pacific time zone. if you can't get through on the phone lines and would prefer to send a text, you can send a text message to (202)748-8003, and we both leave that one up throughout the program so that you get the correct number (202)748-8003. you can also contact us on social media. just remember@booktv. and our e-mail address is booktv at so all sorts of ways to get through and we will get to those in just a few minutes. imani perry is the author of five books, six books. what is the first, politics and poetics which came out in 04.
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more beautiful and more terrible the embrace of transcendence of racial inequality in the u.s.. 2011. next on gender integration kidnapping 2018 as well as maybe forever stand, the black national anthem and looking for lorraine, the wife also came out in 2018 and that's three books. and "breath" is the most recent which just came out this year. you have mentioned a couple of times but we will get to the title in just a minute.e. can you draw a direct line from langston hughes to be the smallest? >> guest: absolutely. in so many ways, both of them took the beauty of the vernacular language and crafted it and made decisions to tell stories that were planted and
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often had a political content and designated deeply. there are different kinds of political subjects like being an overtly activist organizer, but their relationship to black language and the desire to understand that as a foundation for the production of art absolutely directly connected. >> host: >> guest: part of what i talk about it in public is of course the process by which it became the most popular form of music and in the country had an
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audience that expanded on the initial audience and produced a great deal of wealth in the hip-hop but there's something i talked about because there was from the very beginning and elucidation of the postindustrial life in urban centers in the united states was like in all of its complexity. it is an exploration. >> host: you used the term mc. what does that mean? >> guest: if the word for a wrapper that's more organic to hip-hop. initially it comes from master ceremony which is pretty
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commonplace and then others spell it out to actually make a fanatic of that. the idea that there is a relationship between the wrapper and the dj and producer is imported. >> host: it's also a title isn't at? >> guest: absolutely. they are rappers, it is a kind of internal way of describing that role. and i am interested in what's madwhat madean mc, so not just n of a moment in history where condition in the community but what does it consist of independent became important because i was doing kind of a literary analysis. >> host: from your book a bit historic construction of opposition to whiteness in which blackness is demonized and has become a part of the artform
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consciousness. >> guest: i should say hip-hop has changed a great deal since 2004 although i do think there are aspects of the book but still describe it in meaningful ways but there is a very overt play with. the imagery of black people as thugs. embracing the idea of fog lights and criminalization of black people, the sins of the very long history of american stereotyping both prone to criminality and access and violence. hip-hop has engaged that satirically and critically played into it and have sort of played with that social reality
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throughout. >> host: butts here from the viewers as we continue to talk about the books. c-charlie is in roslyn heights new york url and with booktv. on caller: i've been fighting liberalism all my life and i've seen that the world is a very complex and politics is a very complex situation. i don't support a black nationalism it's as bad as a white nationalism and its feeding trumps base. there's good and bad in all groups. they are not inferior or superior and it's just as long awrongas white nationalism and t understand why she's supporting black nationalism.
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>> host: imani perry. >> guest: i'm not a black nationalist. i'm far left. nationalism takes on many different faces. there are certainly conservative brands of black nationalism that politically are actually quite aligned in many ways to the political conservatism so if we take an organization like the istion of islam which is white conservative although advocates black nationalism and then there is the diversion of black nationalism you would see in an organization like the black panther party or the student nonviolent coordinating committee which are about revolutionary socialism with third world politics, anti-colonialism that identified with colonized people around the worldd historically. so i should say that the single term doesn't mean much without the larger context.
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but i will say this, i disagree with a colla you caller that the the equivalent because certainly people trying to find a way of building a sense of control and autonomy over communities that they had lived after a long history of colonialism and enslavement and domination is not the same as celebrating the history of colonialism and the domination but that isn't a designation i would subscribe to. >> host: you say you are far left. what does that mean?yo >> guest: i identify as someone who believes in democracy and a socialist because i'm against economic exploitation. i believe everybody should have access to safe environments, clean water for schools, a living wage, healthcare.
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i believe in this heextraordinarily wealthy county that we shouldn't have children thatld are poor, we shouldn't he people living on the street. i don't think that the narrative, that the consequences of economic vulnerability are just a consequence if we should be okay with them i don't think that is a decent way to organize society and i don't think people are poor because they are deficient, i think it's because they are exploited or have a lack of opportunity so that's what i believe and so the question inasmuch as i write and think about race, it's never separate from the larger question of the distribution of suffering in our society. it's an example of how society has been organized in a way that distributes suffering an opportunity and wealth unjustly,
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but i don't want my objective is not for black people to become those who dominate. i need that isn't the idea is for you to become free a system of domination to have a real robust and thorough democracy which is only possible if you have a decent quality of life for all people in society. >> host: you were born 1972 in birmingham. what was your childhood like? >> guest: some ways very conventionally in some ways very unconventional. in alabama a few years away from that 16th street bombing to a family of stripers and also very solidly black southern working class culturally and then i was raised by my mother was in intellectu
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intellectual, and my grandmother who worked in hospitals and was the most resource will accept 12 children to college and my adopted father who was my mother's partner, a jewish man from brooklyn who was a communist and activist and person that worked against mass incarceration. he moved to cambridge massachusetts when i was five and that's when it was bohemian and artistic and intellectual and all those but it was also right after the busing crisis of boston so the shadow of the most difficult moments was always on my shoulder. so also in chicago where my dad moved and all these circles of
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intellectuals from all over the world and in activist also. i moved around a lot. i was in a lot of different worlds from a young age. >> host: were you always in a book as well? >> guest: it was something i always mentioned i watched a lot of tv and i mention that because people are like your kids are in front of screens, things will be terrible. i love reading but i also loved watching television as a child. had my imagination. >> host: let's hear from lloyd in st. louis. you are on imani perry. >> caller: hello. >> host: we are listening, please go ahead. >> caller: okay. i'm really impressed with you, professor, don't help me, imani perry.
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i'm 85-years-old, they will be 86 march 23, born in st. louis missouri. i remember i don't know if you check the output the movie once upon a time we have gone through many changes and i think about you getting a phd and a jd. i am an educator and didn't feel i needed a phd because i was an excellent educator so i pursued starting at 49-years-old. this is a part of being black you get to wearar many hats and i'm so proud of you and i have a paper i'm going to send you i just need your address in princeton, new jersey. carry on the good work, sister. i love all these things you've
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said and now i will hang up and listen to you. thank you very much. >> host: before you hang up, you mention some of your education credentials. what have you done as a courier? did teach all your life? >> guest: i taught middle school, math and language arts and then i went to law school starting at 45-years-old. >> host: did you practice law? >> guest: part time and taught school in the daytime and practiced hard time. i didn't love the legal profession, but i would never exchange having that experience because of the background that it gave me and i promote encouraging both males and females to go to law school because this is what we need but i think about the time where people like thurgood marshall and the environment we were raised in years and years ago, thurgood marshall predates me of
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course but i think about the different organizations and the origin of many fraternities and sororities and i will tell you which one i was in unless you really want to know. [inaudible] >> guest: the red and white. >> caller: but we also tell you this many of those members are the descendents of slaves. first-generation it's amazing what they developed in those days and again i'm going to let you talk but i'm going to send you the pages that i've developed about the beneficiaries of affirmative action some people have been anti-affirmative action and i won't go into detail but the paper that i will send you.
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>> host: we will get a response to. i am so appreciative for your words of encouragement. one of the thing is that has been so profound in my life and i think it's worth mentioning in public is that older black people have offered me the most consistent support and encouragement, and in particular appreciation for both my writing and early educational aspirations, and i think they sort of get left out. often times i think of it as the greatest generation they are often sort of discounted or diminished particularly by younger activists and i think it's really important to offer
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our appreciation for not just what they did to transform the nation but also what they continue to do to hold together the foundation of all of our work and to have made it possible i'm very thankful. >> host: we are going to play one more piece of music and if you can identify and talk aboutw it for us. ♪ ♪ who is that it wa was that it wg about? >> guest: that is nina simone
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singing a song she wrote in honor of her dear friend who had passed away. she takes a line from a speech that was delivered to young black writers in which she said that it t was a gift to be young and gifted and black so it was a song people thought was incredibly popularfa and it was- >> host: had she moved overseas by that point did she end up in paris? >> guest: also in west africa but i don't remember theha exact date. but it was four years after. >> host: this is what you write about her, she was a black woman born into the established yon le-class who became a
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greenwich village bohemian mileftist married to a man and a jewish communist songwriter. she cast with the working classes and became a wildly famous writer who drink too much, died early of cancer, loved some wonderful women and lived with an unrelenting loneliness and was intoxicated by beauty and enraged by injustice. i hope these stories will unfold in the book as something much more than that. it sounds like an american life in some ways. >> guest: absolutely. although politically she was an internationalist, she used to say before she passed away people always talk about going to europe. i want to travel the americas. she thought she was captivated by the story of the americas and
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so hers is a thoroughly american story between chicago and the village and between the small but prominent radical comrades and between her activist community and circles in new york she crossed a lot of boundaries. >> host: broadway, 1959. what happens? >> guest: a raisin in the sun opens, the first play by a black woman on broadway and it is an astonishing success. so this woman whowh has been a still young and she had been writing but in many ways, she would wait tables, work at camps, she had been a journalit
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so it was surprising that i buts also surprising she wrote this extraordinary play. it's the most widely produced play. constant revivals, and she hadn't yet turned 30 when the play went up. she was 29. so it was phenomenal and was also hard for her. >> host: where did you research this book and does she have relatives living? >> guest: she does have her cousin who lives in washington, d.c.. her best friend from childhood lives in new york that i talked to them after i finished thefi book. the papers are at the schaumburg center in harlem and the
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archivists tease me because they say i moved in. i would take my kids to school and tried to harlem, you lived in philadelphia so it was a longer drive, and i would stay as long as i could then drive hihome to pick up my kids from school and come back the same day and the next day. it was an extraordinary collection and i could use other archives so i could see the letters and i could see james baldwin's letters. >> host: was a friend of hers. >> guest: yes, close friend. she had all these people, w. e. b. du boise was a mentor. >> guest: >> host: people forget he died in the 60s. >> guest: and as she was dying she wrote an extraordinary obituary, just absolutely beautiful that talked about his
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significance for black people with large not just as a scholar but as a sort of important social andt political force. so he dies and 63 and she dies and 65 at the very beginning of the year. something heartbreakingly poetic about that relationship. >> host: robert, new york city. you are on with professor imani perry. >> caller: hello, how are you? >> guest: i'm fine. thank you. >> caller: i want to ask if you could elaborate a little more on the concept of black formalism and if indeed a dot cultural landscape in the
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community [inaudible] i just wanted to hear a little more of your thoughts on that and where we stand. >> guest: thank you. it is a term i use in may lead forever stand and i use it to distinguish between a concept that's important to talk about which is the politics of respectability and is basically the idea of tradition of black people performing a to make the
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argument for the full membership in the society that if we are respectable therefore we might be embraced. it isn't actually to make an argument to the larger society the selflf regarding ritual. it would be about how you address yourself and civic associations and church or various types of events and it's particularly potent when agricultural laborers continue so the question about whether it is sustained again there's less of that civic culture but particularly in the south is
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they are not about looking externally but they are about what are the rituals that have beehappeninside of communities. >> host: you use another term racist people, did i get that right? >> guest: yeshe and i use that term because -- what it means is what it means to be registered asr other because of race, because of that designation. i operate as many scholars do that it isn't real in a biological sense. there is no race gene. i wanted to use the term to talk
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about the way that race is ascribed to people as opposed to this idea that it just is even though the fact it is ascribed is incredibly powerful and shapes so much of our lives it is something placed upon us and byby us as opposed to something that just is. we don't even have to make a meaning of that's necessarily. race is making a meaning not just the way people with their genealogyy and personal history and all those sort of things. >> host: i skipped over this but how did you have three books come out in 2018?le >> guest: that was not planned. i never work on one single project at a time because they have a hard time choosing and my mind is moving all over the place. i worked on all of them for the seven years between 2008, 2011
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and 2018 and he anticipated thy would come out in sequins and realized because of the production schedules it is out of your hands they are going to come out in the same year which is pretty overwhelming that it was also nice to receive the fruition of the labor but it sometimes looks like a parlor trick i would work on this for a year and that from a bit of >> host: what is the difference between an academic and mainstream book and the construct of what you do with it? >> guest: that it's a good question and it isn't a hard fact distinction. certainly academic books focus on a conversation within a field and part of what distinguishes them is an odd conversation within the academic field the
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conversation becomes somewhat interior so the people who are reading you assume have a c certain set of body knowledge and books they write that i've always wanted to write in ways that don't require people to have read the same hundred bucks before hand so i try to write in inway even in the most scholarly words that invites people in and then points to the footnote section for the foundation of this go here and here. i also think a trade book or general market book by and large tends to serve the pleasure of the reader more directly. again, i think that's important for all the. you want to engage the reader emotionally as well as intellectually you want to teach them something so it's about
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knowing something but also feeling something so for me that development is this foundationha as a scholar and i'm also consistently building my craft as a writer so they take on different but i wouldn't say that i give up the priorities of either genre when i move between them. >> host: this is a tech stuff. if you had a daughter what later would you write to your daughter in 2019? second question why can't america get beyond the images 61 to 63 of your hometown of birmingham and desist from a professor at golden mesa community college. i'm so grateful for that question. i ask that question and about
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and i've had people say why did you write this for your son is? because i have sons. but the book would be much different had it been a letter to myok daughter's. probably the most significant difference would be i would write much more extensively about the way girls and women in particularly often expected to sacrifice for the service of others and they would have a different angle on the question of self regard and respect but largely it would be the same. so 61 and 63 thing is powerful and they wrote an essay in harper'sin last year and onef the formulations was about how it's almost weekend ossified city in the way people regard it and images, usually in january's
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times are that it's a city that has grown and was even much more complex than it's given credit for in terms of the various politics. there were people who believed in armed self-defense and people who had rebellions were riots in the streets of birmingham, people who turned into black tnationalists, there's all thee sorts of things in the city and then we had a major transformation with the election of the mayor and he was the mayor of birmingham for 30 years and still alive and extraordinary who saved the city from the ravages of the deindustrialization, the first black mayor. we lost steel mills and coal mines. so there's all that history that intervened and there is in
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general and a eraser of the society but also these places similar to angela davis a native from birmingham we see the picture of her with an afro in the 1970s. she's a living and breathing person that has had a long history of scholarly accomplishments, so i don't know the why necessarily but it is part of my task to kind of unfreeze the place. >> host: at the same time you talk about taking your son mr. alabama mississippi and you talk about the fact in your view those two places are quite unique. >> guest: they are unique and hollowed ground. i think we can cherish and embrace history and all also acknowledge life continues to have been in and around it. one of the stories i tell we
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went to a reunion of the freedom summer in mississippi and there's all these veterans of the movement or current organizers, it's a beautiful event and there was also prison labor on the campus where we gathered and it was this reminder you have this extraordinary history and struggle continues because the prison labor looks like alson organizers in the groove and many of the organizers working on voting rights and economic justice are working on mass incarceration or educational e. quality g now so i guess that's what i mean it's important to cherish history but not to treat it as something frozen.
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>> host: if you can't get through on the phone line you can send a a text message and he is the number to use, (202)748-8003. we will get to as many of those as possible but right now amy in tallahassee you've been very patient. thank you for holding. you are on the air. >> caller:>> guest >> caller: good morning i enjoyed your work. i am close to six steep. i am a native floridian if we get a lot of heck they have to tout my florida history a little bit. you started out with the origi origins. he gave a nice little summary, but the backdrop to that point is much deeper. i didn't read the book yet so i
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don't know how far you got into this. >> host: are you talking about the fact of the florida schools and why they chose jacksonvilles >> guest: yes. the point was originally written for the students to. >> guest: he wasn't gone but he moved after that. >> caller: ben bookersh t. washington and integrate the schools. florida was the best funded at the time in the south. [inaudible] >> guest: all of that is in the buck. >> host: it sounds like she either read the book or knows
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her history. john, hello. you've got to turn down the volume on your tv otherwise youu get that delay. can you do that quickly and start talking or do we need to move on? i apologize. if you get on the air turned on your volume or you will get a delay and hear everything through your phone. amber in lake charles louisiana it is your turn. >> caller: good morning. >> guest: good morning.. >> caller: been thinking about your research [inaudible] how will that gathering sources change? >> host: another thing if you are using a cell phone please talk into its clearly and don't
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use your speaker or it will get garbled when it comes on the air. >> guest: i think the question is how the 21st century changes in technology will affect research into the creation of archives and that is a great question. it is the one we have completely explored those of us who think about it but certainly there's a couple of different potentially challenging forces and one is both the quantity and fungibility of material and by that i mean we take for example exponentially more photos than we did in the previous generation. we have constant communication. a lot of it when we lose a device we may lose all of. that so it isn't as if you have letters that you keep in a
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folder. it's both the archives are too big or a too small so i think ts is a real question whether it suggests is we have to be increasingly deliberate about what we preserve and probably should be preserving a great deal more in physical form and not just digital form because as the platforms change it is unclear how many translations will be possible.ti >> host: historians 30, 40, 50 years from now we'll have more trouble with archives. >> guest: reading through them and collecting and making decisions about what goes into an archive and what counts. also i will say this: ho somes things that look like they include everything are defective. for example, you know, if you ever googled something you know have been editing you can find your reminded even with an incredible of a dense, not
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everything is there so that's also a question for historian, too because if you think you have a full archive, you in fact may not. >> host: next call, new york city. >> caller: yes, hello. good afternoon. great, great program. i guess i have a two-part question. i want you to speak to what seems to be where some of us were stunned by it at the present moment where the lie has become normalized and violence has also even become normalized. i would like you to speak to the patriarchal aspect of it, and also you mentioned about the identity of why this ended your projection of since it isn't
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based on biology it is a social con struct how we might go beyond that and what the future might hold in terms of the very identity of why this and i will listen over the air. >> caller: did you have a follow-up you wanted to make? >> caller: that's it. >> host: if you hang up now and turn on your tv coming you will hear the irony of her answer. but if you feel more comfortable say to you for staying on the line weng believe you on. she is gone. >> guest: thank you so much forqu that question or series of questions that are very thought provoking. so, let me say this, i certainly as an individual could not answer the question of how we get past the idea of why this
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means. it hinges upon the exclusion and superiority and notions of greater depth of humanity, but i do think that there is a huge body of work that we need to peruse and pursue and grapple with and one of the challenges and this is similar to thehe question of patriarchy one of the challenges as we spend our entire lives being taught to value certain things and think in particular ways and as americans one piece of that is we invest deeply in mythologies of the nation and in the idea we are as individuals innocent and that is what thinks you virtuous and that combination is difficult if we try to address inequality because the immediate
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response becomes defensiveness as opposed to what the truth is as grappling with issues if it makes you virtuous. challenging oneself. and the mythology of what it means makes it hard to confront the ugliness of the past and even the mythologies of our personal histories so i think certainly those of us take this were have to toe the story with greater truth and sensitivity and grace butes one that doesn't lean towards this but it leads towards the notion history serves us and it's the reason we draw certain aspects of our history because we want to build tthe good society and to do tht
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we have to think about how to tell history in a way that is honest about the failings and also the heroes that have led us towards the values that are inclusive and decent and beautiful. i don't have all the answers but that is part of it. or host: in her book more beautiful and more terrible, imanimani perry writes that racl inequality is the national cultural practice. >> guest: yes. s and it was important in that book for me to say that the way racial inequality -- one is we are not just living with the impact of the past, but we certainly are when you look at something like the wealth gap you think that is the impact of 20th century policies that created the wealth gap across.
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but the reality is when you do -- for that but they researched so many fields, science, media studies, literature, social psychology, economics and what i saw over and over again is that people disadvantage others based upon their membership in racial groups most dramatically black people at a disadvantage but it's not exclusively white people and even includes a significant number. it's not about the individual attitude. these are learned behaviors we exist in a culture that teaches us white people matter more. i wish that had been written before.
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if you understand that it is a culture that becomes why it is so hard to address it and you need a cultural shift we have to tell different kinds of stories. we have to be intentional aboutt the process. one of the common places in our society people often think is either impolite or is not nice or uncomfortable to talk about race hopes peopl but hopes peopn a less discriminatory fashion for that is a cultural shift that needs to happen and i also think that for me it was really important that we all understand and participate but it isn't a matter
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>> host: how many conservatives take your courses at princeton? >> guest: that is a hard question. there t are some that are more likely. i teach a course on the history of race and american law so that tends more likely to go across the political spectrum. i do thinkam african-american studies tends to be a self-selected group but a one of the things people are not aware of is that across the self identified political spectrum people hold very conservative ideas about race and so it's not as though the process of kind of educating and demythologizing doesn't happen even if i have a classroom filled with
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self-described liberals so there are people who by virtue of their sympathy or niceness that identify and hold conservative ideas about race or stereotypical ideas about people based upon racial groups so that's important because for me the role as an agitator is and so often those of us on the left are accused of this it is and political indoctrination. my objective as an agitator is to teach people the history and bring jobs ideas based on facts and episode and event and tools for interpretation. many years ago, if this doesn't socialnow because of media but when i taught in law school many years ago at
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rutgers, we don't know what the politics are a. there's a strong ideological commitment slayer never going to write or say anything that isn't backed up with substantial bodies of evidence and i'm also not going to function in such a way that my evidence cannotnt be contacted. >> host: next call comes from daniel in minnesota. >> caller: hello, sir. >> host: please go ahead. >> caller: [inaudible] i believe in what you're doing and i'm sort of on the opposite.
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the [inaudible] how i can inspire my life but i'm not a good writer, i'm not school educated, i have adhd [inaudible] what really made the contour and not only that but the archives are i went through and my father as a green beret and what he had done with intelligence -- w host: before we go too far i want to come back to a comment i thought you had made that you consider yourself a racist in some ways because of who you
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are? >> caller: no, i feel like i'm a white racist because of the upbringing archives. >> guest: it's challenging to parse that it's important. i don't think that -- i think it isn't true and isn't a particularly healthy formulation. i think it is a v very difficult to transcend the messages that are racist because of the way that our history is told and the way that our society is
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organized. also think it is extremely boimportant not talk about racen such a way that that becomes the only mechanism of thinking abouy inequality. educational access, disability, poverty, regional distinctions, all these things are extremely important in the distribution of opportunity and so sometimes i do worry that people read the conversation i and othersot have about race as an implication that if you are white and male therefore you have everything. obviously that isn't true. i was born in alabama, i've been to appalachia. the thing about race is that it creates a barrier so often
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between white people who are suffering the same kind of inequality as black people are. where race functions to disassociate sooc that's where white people think of who are poor and vulnerable think of themselves asth those with the black people on the other sideg of town who are also being exploited or also suffering or don't have adequate health care. i just want to parse that out because there will never be a case, and i can't these discussions and debates and certainly not everybody in my field agrees with me, many if not most do, but race is not everything in if one is concerned with injustice that is never going to be the only analytic. >> host: los angeles, good afternoon. >> caller: how are you doing,
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sir? [inaudible] thank you for having me. hello? >> host: go ahead. we are listening. >> caller: my question is a are we ever going to be living in a color free society? i was born in guatemala 10 miles of the british honduras police with all types of people and to me it was a cover of free society. it seems african americans are obsessed with race. i truly understand the situation. i've been in the united states for 45 years. i was in the army, but are we
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ever t going to [inaudible] i want my children to be judged by the content of their character and who is going to take the first step? so my final question are african americans obsessed with race is a because the product of so many hundreds of years, and i do appreciate your work. i have a jd also and i don't know how you were able to do the jd and phd. that is amazing. >> host: before you leave, where do you come down politically? >> guest: >> caller: iem far left. >> host: thank you, sir. >> guest: a couple of things in response. i appreciate the question. i do think that african-americans are obsessed
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with race and thank goodness because were we not it would require us to be deeply self hating people when something profoundly shapes every aspect of your life and history and denies you opportunity if you are not obsessed with that question it's hard to understand how that would make you someone that could have any self regard. so, yes. i am unapologetically obsessed with race and i think that is what is necessaryy to get to a more just society. i would take exception to the characterization of central america or latin america as a race free society. they are not. there are places where one doesn't talk about race in the same way that ifce you look at e communities that are deeply marginalized or the indigenous
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communities are if you look at the way that color functions in brazil and colombia and puerto rico and the dominican republic so not talking about race actually does not impact how materially it functions. a wonderful example of the evidence of how deeply stratified things are on the line of complexion even though the words are different because i'm not talking about it doesn't makef it better. >> host: february 6, 2016. would have been? >> guest: i'm drawing a blank i'm sorry. >> host: you were arrested. >> guest: that's probably why. [laughter] i was pulled over o for speeding
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and then i was told i have an unpaid parking ticket and later subsequently told my license had been suspended for an unpaid parking ticket inly philadelphia and it became national news because we talked about it. i will save some of the details. the part that was the most significant for me. one of the details is there was a male and female officer at the person who searched my body for weapons was a man, which i wasn't pleased about. >> host: why were you searched? >> guest: i don't know. and then i was handcuffed. i said can i pay the fine, and i asked if i could club president of the university and i was told no. i was taken to the police station, and it was very clearal tato me that they were skeptical of my claim to be associated with the university, which is fine. ..
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>> and i had to get somebody. but let me tell you and this didn't make it into the news is that after i talked about this incident i received
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consistent e-mails and messages on social media that were filled of the most disgusting slurs death threats and racial slurs. police had to get involved in patrol the front of my home. and telephone calls also. and the violent reaction was terrifying. and i am not the only person in my building at work that experiences that type of harassment on a regular basis. cr increased security of the african-american studies building on campus because we experience the most and those threats are very ugly and
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real. so when people say what do you mean racial discrimination but then respond with that that's an indication of the world that we live in. of course that was terrifying because she was just killed over a traffic infractions of people respond but i had seen the footage of her and i was terrified. >> but it was the venomous response teeseven did the university stand by you quick. >> yes. absolutely.ol a group of black women academics across the nation and abroad and spoke out on my behalf. my students.
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actually it was a saturday i was on my way to campusat for a student conference so i received a great deal of support that was essential from institution and community because i wouldn't want to get the impression it wasn't surrounded by love because i was but i was also afraid about the importance of free tspeech. >> did you ever hear from the princeton police because of your association with the university to issue an apology? you know where i am going. >> right.
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sort of like the skip gates i will say that the judge in my case was very gracious. i did have to go to court. but it was remarkable when you walk through princeton you don't see that many people of color but in traffic court you do see a lot of black people and asian and people of color. or middle eastern descent. so on the one hand i was treated well and i do think that was in part because of the attention that it created but also with the university but i could see evidence of inequality. so even if they had issued a
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personal apology i don't know if it would be appropriate for me to embrace that. but i don't live in princeton i have friends who live there leo have experienced people of color where they embraced and respected and care for so i don't want to characterize the town like that. >>caller: thank you for accepting my call. this is on behalf of all americans i would like to apologize for such an incident. it is heartbreaking that happened to you. but to my point are you familiar of the book the seven paths? >> yes.
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>>caller: can you give some discussion or at least bring the audience or the listening audience up to date on some of his writings and talking about how the confederate monuments came about in the south teeseven why is that a book of interest to you? >>caller: it parallels the story after the civil war and how a lot of these monuments in the south came about but it also parallels the dominant culture and then the african culture and their story how they were living after the civil war and how she referenced earlier all lot of those fraternal organizations.
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>> give us a snapshot of yourself. >>caller: retired. teeseven from stanford to asheville. >> that sounds like a delightful journey. [laughter] i think what he is referencing it is important to note in these debates around the confederate monumentshe that they were placed by and large as a retaliation to honor confederate soldiers that actually of white supremacy through jim crowow so they a public statement that we as white people run the south
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again so then so the united states was a nation that had not been defeated but that people think of themselves and having be defeated by the nation and that's also the largest proportion of african-americans so it is a complicated dynamic and so what has happened what i talk about in my diss of - - dissertation we will let you keep the south as a white supremacist state in exchange of us getting back to gather in the jim crow era but we have a repetition of this with
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the confederate monuments. ini often say that on the one hand i'm opposed to the monumentssl as a place to celebrate a statement of my ancestors but i am very cautious about the fact of those types of monuments as they exist in the south as a nation at large so when the president said a couple of years ago with the path of george washington from washington dc is here this is not just a southern story and if we raise the questions
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about monuments then raise that broadly lets not just talk about the one region but as a nation that there is a project in philadelphia and those are good questions to ask everywhere teeseven now a little closer to home at princetons university woodrow wilson school of international affairs. >> it out like the name of the school. because wilson wasn't on apologetic and oregon 81 - - organized against because they started a public conversation
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about wilson's legacy and then removed the mythology a talker his legacy and how he took legislation backwards on issues of race like the federal government. but that is not number one in my issue of things that i think of as an institution collectively we need to address. i wouldn't put it at the top but i'm grateful for the conversation teeseven from social media. ever considered being in the running for the national anthem i recall the number of years ag ago. >> i think what she is referencing is that there has been a suggestion as a defense of the charge one of the
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criticisms how can black people have a national anthem and that is part of the reason the naacp has the song as its official song does not refer to it as the black national anthem because it has a history of strong integration so his defense is the criticism. i never said it was the negro national anthem i think it's great for everybody. it doesn't mention race or nation. the talks about black life so it's never in the running in a a national sense but there has been discussion over time that the values asserted in the song in the beauty of the composition are without
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question are universal that you can tell a particular story of the struggles of african-americans to have messages that are meaningful for everyone teeseven the next call from new jersey. >>caller: thank you c-span. i live in a mixed neighborhood i have five grandsons who go to school that is 80 percent black and i would like to know what i can do to keep my grandsons better americans so we can get past this. because i make no connotations or d notations to the kids in our neighborhood the boy across the street or the girl across the street.
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i don't mention color. because it breaks me up to watch our nation and go through this. it breaks me up now to think about it teeseven are you white. >>caller: yes im. it breaks me up wondering what my grandkids might go through. i feel the pain of what little black kids probably went throug through. >> i don't want to play ascension but i was then moved by what he said that it is complicated and rare for whites living in predominantly black communities. on the one hand it is very powerful because white flight
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was a real thing if there is a critical mass of people then the majority of whiteco people depart so that prospect of integration disappears almost immediately. birmingham is an example we are the third black family on the street said several years later the neighborhood is completely black. but it is also the case from what he is saying i believe that it's always hard to be one of the few in areas where people are economically vulnerable which is the vast majority of the predominantly black communitiespr so referencing his grand sons is probably tough i think we can acknowledge that in society at
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large for those kids to navigate racial equality but yet to feel marginalized in their school environment. is important and requires sensitivity and always requires that with children and the best way certainly policy as structural changes and legal changes but at the neighborhood level is having developing real connection for people in the neighborhood to cultivate mutual trust. then that's the best you can do and as an individual he can't shape the fortunes of all the kids in the neighborhood but having ethical relationships to share
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knowledge or information or opportunity and allowing people to depend on you is the hope that we have. and those precious few integrated community. >> michelle obama was talking about whiteda flight out of chicago neighborhood. the wall street journal had an editorial to tie that added with the strike of the school to say they were fleeing black families by poor schools and high taxes and some of the other issues not just about race. >> right. and actually those are not contradictory statements. because federal policy dictated explicitly in early 20h century that neighborhoods
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were less creditworthy and helms are value less simply by the value of blacks of them including mixed neighborhoods was harder to get credit so federal government policy made it so it was a bad economic decision for white people to live in integrated neighborhoods for that is a function and then it becomes that accumulates now we don't have those fha guidelines or the rules that make it so youou can't formally get credit or not buy a house in a black neighborhood but now we have generations of the notion that neighborhoods where black people are are worth less and the price of houses depends on what people pay for them. so we have a system that the assumption is if the
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neighborhood has a lot of black people it's worth less i will not pay that much to live there so is that perpetuation that the value does not accrue in the samee way. it's also true black neighborhoods get less services even affluent it's harder to get a grocery store. so the consequences because schools are fundedd by local taxes so yes the schools are poor because they don't have nearly as much money or investment or adults to supplement the school funding because of white flight. so then the question that you pose is that i don't want to live there because these are better. but sure. it's important to understand the wholele structure is a
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consequence of how race is functioned and that will requiree that people live in the neighborhoods that are undesirable. >> reading the book that she is reading moby dick exit left and pantano general. tell us about that. >> it is a lot of what we were talking about i read in both english and spanish if feels like he's alive in my mind but he had this capacity to capture extraordinary beauty
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and love of the natural landscape of south america of these intimate passions and then also political content and a critique of the exploitation of the land and the critique of the various forms of domination of indigenous and working people. that you had to make a choice and could tell a story that resonated deeply with all of your readers and though the holdfast to a set of commitments that combines that it has shifted with color and texture over and over again teeseven is there a difference in the translation clicks is
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that more beautiful in his native spanish. >> yes it is. but i may be completely wrong i am not a professional translator but they both translate really well. but it does work extremely well but it's the level of idea along with the language that with the ideas put together even if the words have the same melody. i'm obsessed with wailing that is a little strange. but as life aboard a whaling ship i grew up in
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massachusetts and it's all there we can still see the remnants. is black people ints portuguese so on this cross-section they are facing incredible danger and a maniacal leader and navigating life and death in those circumstances so as a masterpiece teeseven good afternoon you are on with imani perry. >>caller: it's an honor to be on book tv. i admirenl your work.
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doctor luther king has been quoted to say the vast majority of white americans are racist either consciously or unconsciously and had reiterations of that one or two other times. i want to get your view on that. i know it is just a quote out of context but i would like to see what she feels about that after his passing. >> thank you. >> it is the quote among manny but the standard narrative is narrow and sanitize to remove those that are challenging.
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that my sense of what doctor king said and the things that i say that are the most provocative is actually an extraordinary moment. so it is a challenge to eject the dominant order of things and to do so by shaking people up. i would say i have went back and forth and how to do this. i decided i didn't want to use the word racism in the book because i wanted a word that
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didn't trigger certain things. is now were at this moment in american history. it is important to keep in mind there are a lot of different ways to make the point that we require a transformation and sometimes those ways of making the point are more provocative than others but the point is always to figure out how to transform what we are in teeseven one last callha from brooklyn. >>caller: how are you doing. i would like to state that
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it's obvious why people have a very long history of violence to black people. they have been trying to get along ever since we are forced to come here as slaves or jim crow black people have been trying to get along with white people but apparently white people don't want it that way. and you didn't discover america and you stole up project to thehe world with the nationality that you are not you don't even have at culture. so saying that i feel like white america, white people are trying to get a resource started because the federal government will not fight with you, the police everybody will be on the side of the white people.
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everyday i wake up that you see a white cop killing a black person man or woman. and then you'll see every white citizen running around using the n-letter word. and trying to start a race war they are really really tired of asking america for their freedom if you have to tell your child before they leave home what to do. >> yes.
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to give voice to the experience of feeling tired is true in a generous sense. and the complication goes back to where we started the formulation white americans are trying to start on - - start a race war. wouldn't say that. there are white nationalists. but i don't think that is the majority and it's important not to identify that as the center because but the battle lies in the transformation that is no more potent. but also that sense of worrying about your children at home.
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but over the last three years of this country is warranted. and that ugliness of in the public arena with no countervailing force to pulln' that back that is strong that is harrowing and many black americans think about that are all denigrated. and back where they were from the start teeseven that is the last word of our conversation. thank you for your time.
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>> thank you for being with us today. the v.a. is an important subject to talk about in an area of government that people hear about but don't know the details even in the veteran community those that don't understand the breadth and the depth certainly with time in the administration so what brought you to the v.a. cracks yo


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