tv Authors Jarvis De Berry Bakari Sellers Clint Smith and Mitch Landrieu CSPAN April 10, 2022 3:34pm-4:21pm EDT
for our struggle for a better america. we won't make it. we don't know. both of these guys will be signing books downstairs in the peters. well, i will eddie be signing the large posters of that are around the city. how will that work and there will be some eddie bobbleheads? thank you. coverage of the new orleans book festival continues now on book tv the y'all know everybody up here. y'all know bakari give him a big round of applause. he's from south carolina. clint smith clinton from new orleans and his grandpa's over
there and his mama's and his daddy's there. so he's going to act right? today and job is to jarvis you from mississippi? holly springs, mississippi college brings, mississippi, although he's been to here so many times and he's been here so long. he actually is in new. orleanian. yes, whether he claims it or not. we claim him. so give him a round of applause. i have to say a couple of preliminary things before we start i'm here in my individual capacity. i'm speaking only for myself. and i'm cheryl's husband. so that's just kind of it. so, it's nice, it's nice. that's true. it's nice to it's nice to be with all of you, and i really wanted to thank walter isaacson and cheryl and the entire team and staff all sponsors for putting this fantastic book festival, they've been working on this now as you know, right before covid hit they were like you think we're going to be able to go. i'm like, i don't think so. couple months. i don't think so. and here we are two and a half
years later and i think you'd agree with me at the spectacular response, right? so anyway three really brilliant minds on the stage yesterday. i had the opportunity to go to walter isaacson's class and i listen to walter and michael lewis talk to their students and the students were asking them. you know, how do you write a book? you know, how do you get it published? tell me a little bit about writing and essentially the message that they tried to deliver to the students that i hope that they saw was you can be technically good at writing. you could come up with a good subject matter. but if you can't see if you don't have insight. if you don't have perspective if you don't understand the undulations of high history moves in and out you may be technically good but you might not produce something that other people want to read. amen because if you don't think good, it's all the right good. and so these three gentlemen on this stage. i have been knowing quite a long time except bakari who got elected. i thought i kind of liked it when i was 27, and i thought i was pretty good.
he got elected to the legislature when he was 23 years old 20 sorry excuse. i'm sorry 22 forgive me. i got to get my facts, right? um and clint, i i really just had the pleasure of meeting clinton just a couple years ago. i can't lie. i've been knowing his daddy a long time and i didn't know him when he was growing up, but jarvis knows everything about me jarvis wrote for the times picayune when i was in office and used to write all kinds of stuff and from time to time. i would call him and say hey and he would say hey. and he is all of them have been have been. really visionaries and been leaders and all three of them have gone on to now not only become prolific authors, but recognize thought leaders in the united states of america, so i'm grateful that they came so give them a round of applause. so let me just let me before we get into what we're going to
talk about. let me plug y'all's books. i feel to believe this is series a series of i looked at the first thing i did was did it. what did he write about me? and and he didn't write anything about me. it was amazing. but there's a there's a this is really the soundtrack of new orleans and the united states of america from the time that jarvis began writing here quite a long time ago if you want to know anything that happened in this city really in the state in the country. that's it's in his book. so i would i would offer it to you. i'm gonna give it to the youngsta honest stage my my vanishing country from bakari who has written about his life in his story and what he sees and where he came from that i'm asking you a little bit about and then this is not clint's first book. he really kind of get into got into it as a poet. and then actually started doing some other stuff rights for the atlantic right now one of the best long-form magazines in the country. that's got the best writers and he has traveled the country and
has wrote a book called how the word has passed so show me a little bit of that. so the topic the topic today is about the south but i do want to ask them. just wanted two questions about their book bakari. i was really curious about why you named your book my vanishing country. okay, so i wasn't one thing that people probably understand. is that authors don't name their books your editor names your book for you. we were going to name this book country, but when you throw country and google it doesn't really google. well, there are a lot of things that pop up my vanishing country though talks of a 50,000 foot view of many of the principles that we hold dear those not so tangible ideals such as love. hope truth justice peace that many young folks still believe in how they're vanishing before our eyes and then on the the
kind of macro level. i'm from the pool rule south where we had three stop lights and a blinking light. and you know, we've lost our hospital i talk about kaftan nafta and how after captain nafta many of the textile mills that we had left and how you can really just drive down main street. and what used to be a record store a chinese food restaurant a florist a little theater of bookstore etc are now boarded up dilapidated buildings and those country towns that you know are also vanishing before your eyes. and so it has a dual meaning to it. and i also urge clint in his next book to put his face on the front of his book. i think he's the only one without a picture on the front of it. we are humble kinda but but this picture on the i didn't choose this picture either. in fact, i want it a picture of
myself enveloped in a burning confederate flag. i was going for it. it's my first book i said, okay. i said go big or go home and it was like probably not so they put a picture of me. this is a true picture of me. it's six years old headed to play summer league basketball and my dad took this picture on 633 frederick street, and i still have some of that youthful innocence that i try to hold dear to. so, thank you. thank you clint. yeah, i mean a little bit about your book the origin story of this book is like many of you in 2017. i watched the confederate statues come down here in new orleans so statues of pgt beauregard jefferson davis robert e lee and i was watching these statues come down and i was thinking about what it meant that i grew up in a majority black city in which there were more homages to in flavors than they were to enslave people. what are the implications that what does it mean that to get to school? i had to go down robbery boulevard to get the grocery store. i had to go down jefferson davis parkway. my middle school was named after
a leader of the confederacy that my parents still live on a street today named after someone who owned over 150 enslaved people because the thing is we know that symbols and names and iconography aren't just symbols. they're reflective of the stories that people tell and those stories shape the narratives that communities carry and those narrative shape public policy and public policy shapes. the material conditions of people's lives and that's not to say that taking down a 60 foot tall statue of robert e. lee is gonna suddenly erase the racial wealth gap, but it dells does help us recognize this sort of ecosystem of ideas and stories and narratives throughout history that shape what the contemporary landscape around this looks like and so i was looking around new orleans. i'm thinking about how i grew up in the city. that was once the largest slave market in the country and thinking about how how would that sort of narrative that part of the story? you know, dr. glaude was here before talking about the stories. we tell in the stories. we don't tell and think about how in my own education in my own childhood the story of new orleans as one of the centerpieces of slavery in this country was not really present
in my classrooms and in the sort of larger narratives that were being formed about this city the state this country. and so i started looking around and thinking about well, are the places in new orleans that are telling the story or failing to tell the story of themselves and i think about my historian my one of my former professors a guy historian a multi johnson and he says of new orleans the whole city is a memorial to slavery. it's in the levees and slave people built. it's in the roads and slave people paved. it's in the soil and slave people are buried in. it's in the buildings and slave people constructed and so for me, i was really interested in how the story of this place was told or how it feel to be told and that's sort of began abroading it out and think about well, how do different historical sites across the country had a different neighborhoods different cities who have a relationship to this history. how do they tell the story of their relationship to the institution of slavery? are they being honest about it? are they running from it? are they doing something in between and ultimately spent several years traveling the country and ultimately going across the ocean to try to get a
sense of how the story of slavery is told in different parts of the country. how is it told that endola? how is it told at the whitney? how is it told that manic? how is it told at a confederate cemetery? how is it told in new york city? how is it told in dakar senegal to try to get pieced together are a sort of patchwork that represents the the heterogeneity and plurality of public memory in this country around the way that the story of slavery is told. well, thank you so much. if you read jarvis's columns what you notice, i think that you would notice is is a is clear sight. a profound sense of justice and the courage to really talk about, you know tough issues and so jarvis, what is the kind of the through line as you look back when you were, you know deciding which one of your columns to put in because you know, i know that you've written in the new normal amount of them. what was the through line, you know that you were putting together when you wanted to decide what to include in the book. i think you named it.
excuse me from too loud. i think you named it that there is this. through line of how you adjust to this environment, especially when you consider it unjust and when you consider all of the implications of egregious acts of history that preceded your time here. i think that's also what all three of these books have in common bakari mentioned being from a small town in south carolina from a small town in mississippi. i think we had a few more stop lights than you all did. but to speak to clint's book one of the things that i don't think i ever mentioned in a column. for the people in new orleans, but my hometown of holly springs would have every april. a celebration. i think they officially called it the tour of homes meaning antebellum homes in the city, but colloquially it was not it the pilgrimage. and you would have people coming from i don't know how far from
the south and they would essentially do confederate cosplay through the streets of my town you would see a young boys who were maybe in teenagers in confederate grays and young girls in these big hoop skirts, and they were just put on this big display of how great the confederacy was right with no acknowledgment of the evils. no acknowledgment the war of northern aggression. correct specific, correct? that's that's exactly what they what they would turn it. and so i brought that history to new orleans and so it was always i was always astonished by people who would say in the comments. well, you never even thought about these monuments until mitch said something or these things never crossed your mind say dude, i grew up in the shad. you mentioned the shadows your book. i've seen people just flight this idea that they were above us and they were superior and
look how great it was. how great life was when you are were enslaved and so the through line of this book is it's not just focused on the monuments. i don't want you to think that but this sense of what is life actually like in new orleans that i don't mean that to be exhaustive or comprehensive by any stretch, but for particular? point in time this was what life was like and this is what people were struggling and how people were struggling to survive. thank you. i want to we did not talk before we had this conversation. so i want to kind of stretch it out just a little bit and in. bacardi does something that i have seen very few people do is that when he starts talking about the civil rights movement and he says i'm a child of the civil rights movement, which is one of the first lines in your book. you start thinking about you know calling names of folks that you were hanging out with because your daddy. you know has a has a story can
tell. i'm interested in the idea of lineage clint your pawpaw's sitting right over there. and your people are from monticello, by the way, so my people my great-great-grandmother was lorena mackey who grew up. i've just found out we probably related. um in the same in the same town and jarvis you think about already too but i want you to do something for me when you when you go through the colic we ever remember and who the great civil rights leaders of all time run through that list that you have. so people that's a good question. so people are sometimes when i talk about the mountain rushmore and we should probably shouldn't do this, but who cares? no, we're gonna do it. yeah when i try the mount rushmore like civil rights leaders and icons. i always start with fannie lou hamer in ella baker. right, true that right. so that and who else that that kind of probably puts you in some mind state or mind frame of where i come from. i add stokely i think that asokie carmichael, of course, i think that one of the greatest
politician civil rights heroes of all time is probably julian bond. uncle julian was was absolutely everything and with all due respect. i know that marks and was in the room. i know that mitch is here, but there was probably no bear mayor for black folk. in this country than marion berry like we can have a lot of conversations about marion, but but he created an entire new and i think clint mayor probably will could add some color to it, but he created an entire stratus of of black middle class in washington dc. i mean it was just fascinating to see the work that he did and the way that history looks upon him. we probably need to reframe that. and so when i when we talk about that, i those are usually the individuals who i look up to i there is a direct line between the shirley chisholms of the
world the hillary clinton's of the world the kamala harris is of the world and fannie lou and and ella and a lot of the things i you know, i also one of the other people i put on that list is somebody that many people don't talk about her name was sarah mae fleming. sarah actually said on a bus some 15 16 months before rosa did. and so there are a lot of these stories that mitch is talking about that we have to do a better job of telling that's why you know, god works in mysterious ways and he worked through cheryl to have this event at this particular time because two years ago or three years ago pre-covid. this event wouldn't have been as important as it is right now. because we have to do a better job of educating individuals on the legacy and history that people are trying to take away. yeah, thank you for that. and and he just is profound and you're a good mayor but mary. look mark reminds me better.
i mean every time i see my brother mark he reminds me that he was better than i was and when i see him bassetta young he does the same thing and well, let me watch watch this who who be julian bond in a race for congress. i don't talk about that race. i talk about that racing here. okay, so i'm not just john lewis one that race. that race was one of the more fascinating races that anyone will ever and i talk about it briefly and i dare not go too deep into it. there was an incident where congressman lewis who i love and adore. he would always advise me to walk on to the pages of history. that was his advice. he would all he'd be prepared. ceo is what they call me. my dad's name is cleveland lewis, so they call me little cl. he would always say little cl be prepared to walk onto the pages of history at one point in time. he did look at julian and challenge julian to a drug test. and it got sideways and it truly fractured the movement. it's one of the yeah, it's it's one of the stories that is one
of is a fascinating story that i won't go into. yeah another day, but i just wanted to just this when you think about these two great men who history has now looked back on and who have gone on to do incredible things actually ran against each other they ran against each other one time. it did not act particularly. well during that race just a little bit but it did and people don't know this and i'm sorry. i don't i'm not gonna take 30 seconds people don't know this, but they didn't speak to each other for decades. like this wasn't like a a simple thing like they didn't speak to each other for julian bond and john lewis did not talk. well each other. it's kind of like our families during covid when we were getting an argument back, but they they made some peace before on the issue of lineage and clinchbook. he he does this and clinton. i know you papa's here, but he saw saying mom the the grandfather of my grandfather that was enslaved. and that that lineage you know that did something for you right and you started thinking about thinking you talk about that just a little bit yeah, so i end the book.
the epilogue is a conversations with my maternal grandfather who's here, and then my maternal grandmother our paternal grandmother and part of what i wanted to do was that i'd spent these years going across the country talking to people talking to strangers and asking them these in-depth questions of their lives and what was their relationship their personal lineage with regard to the history of slavery and i realized that i had never brought that same level of intentionality to my own family. and there was a moment where i was pushing my grandfather we were at the national museum of african-american history and culture in washington dc. i was pushing my grandfather through the museum and my grandmother was walking a few places ahead of us. and i realized that so much of the history of it is documented in this museum so much of the violence that is documented in this museum. are things that they experienced and lived through firsthand and when i talked to my grandmother after she had this refrain she kept saying she was like i lived in lived i lived it and i think all the time about that museum
and i think about how the woman who opened the national museum of african-american history and culture was woman named ruth bonner who opened the museum alongside the the obama family in 2016. sort of rang the bell which was the sort of commemorative opening of the museum of the museum. and ruth bonner was the daughter of someone who was born into slavery. not the granddaughter, not the great granddaughter. she was the daughter a woman alive in 2016. of someone born into intergenerational chattel slavery and so the thing about this history is that we tell ourselves that this history was a long time ago when in fact it wasn't that long ago at all slavery existed in this country for over 250 years, and it's only not existed for a little over 150. so you have an institution that existed for our century longer than it has an institution in which there are people alive today who knew who loved who were raised by people born into bondage and people want to suggest that it has nothing to do with the contemporary landscape, but landscape of inequality people want to
suggest that it is irrelevant to the reason that one community looks one way in another community looks another way. and that is revealed to be profoundly morally and intellectually disingenuous. and so part of what the book is attempting to do is in. in attempting to give us a sense of our collective physical proximity to this history, right how the scars of slavery are etched into the landscape all around us that it will also give us a sense of our temporal proximity to this history and disabuse us of the idea that this history is somehow irrelevant to what again the contemporary landscape of inequality looks like in that we have to account for it and have to account for the fact that we again are still living in a moment in which they're that institution existed for a century longer than it hasn't and that doesn't even account for you know the history of jim crow the history of the aftermath of reconstruction mass criminalization mass incarceration. the list goes on did real quick. how many black folk in the room? how many black will go ahead
with that? i impressive as a mommy black folk in this room. have a parent or parents who went to segregated schools. or went to a segregated school. and i don't they're they're very few black folk with their hands down. which just shows you to your point? yeah, how you can touch history how it's not that i mean ruby bridges is ruby still. she's like out in her six. she's doing zumba class something, you know, like it's yeah like bringing her grandkids to soccer games like i mean, you know, i think it's just so easy with the eyes on the prize documentaries or the black and white images and our textbooks to convince ourselves that this era is is not like the way that i was thought about slavery as a kid was as if it was in the jurassic period like it was the dinosaurs the flintstones and slavery like all existing at the same time and that's how so many young people are taught about it and then you know again that doesn't even count for the civil rights movement. my mother was the first person among the first cohort to
integrate her elementary school, right? you know, and so so this is i mean, this is here now, she's right. she's right there mama so they can see just stand up. clint as haha, sorry i didn't mean to embarrass it clint. well while i asked this next jarvis, i want you to get ready but clint would you mind turn it to the last sentence in your book and reading it as we get it because it's the next segue into what i want to talk about next and i want of the book to lay this out to you the less the last sentence. long book clean. i know man. it's my father my father who many of you know is 91 years old and i in the regard of what clint was saying would say to me, you know, i i remember my grandmother really well and my grandmother actually was in the presence of touched and was part of the community that was enslaved and my father touches me every day and so because he says the same thing, i don't know why everybody keeps saying this was a long time ago.
it is in fact a part of his life and it's a part of mine on the lineage piece. would you just read the last lesson? yeah, just a lessons. at some point it is no longer a question of whether we can learn this history. but whether we have the collective will to reckon with amen, so that's what i want to talk about now. um, this is just this is i'm a frame this up and this is again my thoughts. we have this kind of idea and i had about the old south versus the new south. what does that really mean? what's it look like when dr. king left us. the last book that he wrote was where do we go from here, which is the topic of the discussion today. and it occurred to me from all the time that y'all were wonderful enough to let me serve you that. we watched our intellectual capital we watched our creative talent we watched our children. just leave the south. after slavery was legally ended. basically four million of the best and the brightest that
existed in america went other places. they went to new york. they went to detroit the great migration that is written about so incredibly in the warmth about the sons by isabel wilkerson if you think about it when i'm traveling around, i don't know about y'all, but i meet people and i look at them. i think man you look familiar. where you from. you know and if you check them out long enough, especially if they're from los angeles and they cooking good. they people from here. right like they all from the south. everybody's from the -- south. i'm like, how did you get up here? so just like the reverse migration. let's just started thinking about why louisiana why the south has suffered? and and why we keep doing that and if we lost so much. by expelling the best and the brightest what possibly? could we gain if we really thought about what the south ought to look like and ought to be like and so we're in this moment now? you know three young smart attractive brilliant black men. that would not be sitting here.
sometime ago. that have watched this country in the last six years. do things that you never thought? or maybe you didn't think that we would ever do again or maybe you did. and it feels to me and i think bakari i agree with you that. that it feels very familiar historically. especially after slavery ended and then we had reconstruction and then all of a sudden it was the clap i call it the clap back. i call it the reversion and it feels like that to me now. and i'm wondering how y'all feeling about the last six years. i think i know. but i'm interested in what you thinking about about where we going and how we going to get there what it's going to take and what it would look like. if we could get everybody back again. jarvis has for you. or the backlash is real and and obvious and and undeniable and the idea that a person is as
moderate as barack obama would spawn the vitriol that we saw and have seen you know i try to exist in these two worlds where i keep my skeptical hat on as a journalist, but my optimistic self as a real life human being so, i don't know that i can say that i did not see it coming because there has been no progress that black people have made that white people have accept it or not responded violently to bakari mentioned and asked about segregated schools. my parents didn't go to school with any white people. i went to school with very few white people and i would i need to ask if my knees who is in my hometown goes to school with any white people if she does i would doubt that they are many at all.
and so despite 1954 despite brown be bored. what the white south did was say, okay, we don't care what the supreme court says. we're still not going to allow this. we're still not going to do this. so there's always been a backlash in nor has there ever been a black liberation movement or black civil rights leader that white people have supported in real time. it just doesn't happen and it hasn't happened. and so we should not be surprised that the election of a black president led to what we have seen and continue to see. i mean i that is very fascinating and true. i refuse to like give talks about dr. king because his legacy was so whitewashed. and like the data point that i always go to is his last gallup approval prorating which was lower than donald trump's at any point. through after i think with 63% negative. oh, yeah, it was like he had like a 31% approval rating or something before he died, which
is kind of surreal, but i want to go to like one and i don't mean it being sensationalized, but i want to go to one more touch point to further talk about what you were discussing which is the violence that is is associated with the terror that many people go through and i am someone who believes that we have not had. any progressive? political policy changes in this country without black blood flowing through the streets and so people would say well, what do you mean bakari? and i say well it took the edmund pettus bridge. it took jimmy lee it took mega it took emmett to get the 1964-65 voting rights act like white folk had to see people get bludgeoned on the bridge. for them to really understand what was happening. you wouldn't have the fair housing act and if people want to go back and look at 68 in the assassination of king the fair housing act only passed because king was assassinated. i mean to bring it up to speed
we wouldn't have even taken down a confederate flag, but for nine black folk being killed in a church. that's a fact you wouldn't even have a conversation about police reform. if george floyd so in in and i wanted to pinpoint this because i see clint kind of knighting. so i'm sure he's gonna jump in and when we get you on tv clinton when you get the cnn contract you got to start jumping in a little bit more. that's all you man. this is where you would jump in. yes, where you right here and you hit him when you do it. i'm throwing him these lives and he clinton just got a jump in when i'm missing the alley. yeah you are. but i will tell you this that the fascinating thing about george floyd is this george floyd would not have happened. we would not have had the response to george floyd if we weren't in a pandemic. i firmly believe that. because y'all had to sit at home. and they had nowhere to go. and watch this nine minute video over and over and over again and
so to actually get accountability not justice justice as george floyd at home. that's a totally other speech. what black folk got was accountability, which is extremely rare, but it's not justice, but in order to get accountability you had to have a video so it had to be on camera you had to have a very courageous 16 year old black teenager named. danella frazier who actually stopped and took the picture and took the video you had to be in the middle of a pandemic and you had the had the entire world protest. that's all it took what? clint and it i was just that i think part of was that's good jumping and you know, i mean well on his notebookari and i want cnn together and i can attest to this so get ready for the he would be like elbowing me and jumping all on my lines and everything and i'd be like man he goes that's the way it is he's like roller derby you yeah him. no, that's all you i mean part of what i think is interesting too when we think about backlash is that we just commemorated the
or recognized the 10th anniversary of trayvon martin's death, which is understood informally is the beginning of the black lives matter. so it's been a decade in which black activists have been. or on the street black organizers, especially on a local level have been doing work that has been in many ways catalyzed by trayvon martin and then mike brown aragoner nisha mcbride so many others obviously leading up to brian taylor george floyd. i'm on aubrey. do you hear the lineage? i mean it's and so part of what i think is true. is that what has happened? is that over the past 10 years? there's been a profound shift in public consciousness. not with everybody but with many people. in which more people have begun to understand the history of racism not just as an interpersonal phenomenon, but it's a historical one as a sociological one as a state sanctioned one as a policy oriented one. and part of what has happened. is that again? not not without its
imperfections and it's inconsistencies, but you've had millions of people. who? are now beginning to understand a newer more expansive more pluralistic more inclusive story about this country getting a set of perspectives about parts of this history that they may not have been exposed to before and i think part of what we have seen this summer with you know, i call it like critical race theory summer was was that you had because there are millions of people who are experiencing a shift in their own understanding of the history of this country as a result of the the books that so many of us have been able to write that are only possible because of the work that activists and organizers on the ground have done. i mean was the same thing in the civil rights movement the civil rights activists. we're out here creating space that allowed for a new generation of a story and journalists writers like baldwin to come and tell new stories about this country that that shifted people's understanding of this country. so you have these people who shifted their understanding of
this country, but for a lot of other people that shift in consciousness, presents like an existential threat to who they believe themselves to be because if who you understand yourself to be is tied to the previous story of america. it's tied to a story of america that has been revealed to be two-dimensional and sort of a caricature of itself that talks about, you know, america as the shining light on the hill manifest. destiny is being an on you know this unparalleled good is never talking about black history. never talking about indigenous genocide never talking about the violence that different immigrant groups have experienced if your sense of this who you are is tied to that story of america and more people and fewer and fewer people are believing that story of america. you don't experience it as just an inconvenient reassessment of history you experience it as a threat to your very sense of self, which is why i think that we have now stay sanctioned efforts and state legislatures and school boards across the country who are attempting to
prevent teachers from teaching the very history that explains why our country looks the way that it does. day because they know that if a more expensive story of this country continues to be told that it will call into question the stories that they have told about themselves and the stories that they have told about their families and their communities and and i think that is the sort of current manifestation. we see with critical race theory and the book banning that people are scared. they're scared because they don't know who they are without this fictional story of america because then they're worried that the story that they have about themselves is also fiction and in fact news, they're saying it out loud. i mean on fox news, they're standing out loud as the fear of being replaced is the fear of any grant directly demographics changing and also the fear that they will be treated by. the non-white majority the way that they have treated other people who are minority. i will i will never remember.
i never forget a white high school classmate who had i think a 34 on the act asking me in another black classmate if i applied to jackson state you think they would let me in. seriously, so you think jackson state exists to keep white people out. like that's that's that is that really what you have grown up believing? that these black schools exist. so white people won't come in and not not the other way around, but i do think that they're like you said there is this existential threat this fear of being replaced seeing that the world is changing most evidently in the obamas being in the white house. and not knowing how to respond to that except through violence and taking the leavers of legislation and saying we're going to halt this. but it's different now to a certain extent right because i'm old enough to remember when being racist wasn't cool, but even more importantly there's something happening in our
world, right? i usually ask folk this question and i won't do it here because of time but i usually say what was the most amazing thing or the most the thing that just made you drop your jaw? charlottesville, and people will say the anti-semitism or they'll say the racism or they'll say the fact that these guys went and got like khakis and tiki torches and i'm like nah. the most amazing thing is that they wear no mask. like none of them covered their faces like it's okay to be that vile and to be that racist. it's a chant -- shall not replace us in blood and soil and death to -- and all this other stuff and go back to work. so when people talk about systems of injustice, we're not talking about just the vowel racist slurs that we get on a daily basis. i'm sure but we're talking about systems and these people are
participating in systems, but even think a little bit more critical about the fear that people have my grandma would always say you can't fall off the floor right? some things old folks say that don't make them you get older got the love humble and you're like wait you like? all right, grandma. she need to take a medicine, but like you can't fall off the floor was and it makes sense now, right but there are a lot of us right now who are on the floor together? like for example my heart breaks. for trans kids right now. right and people start now now people get uncomfortable, right because the conversation gets real because you cannot be selfish in your struggle. like if i if i'm out here and i think this is where we end up in this conversation if i'm out here protesting for women's rights, right if i'm out here just saying that or reproductive rights that i expect you to be with me protesting one another
unarmed black man is killed. and black folk i expect you to have the same level of exertion when they're now persecuting trans kids in florida. like it's i mean the list is gonna grow it's gonna be 16 states in the south and you can just add on to it, but i'm just saying that that is where we end up mitch where you can't be selfish in your struggle and when they came for me, nobody was there anyway exactly and yeah, i remember james bond once said, well, you know, i love my country so much. that's why i reserve the right to criticize her now. i'm making an executive decision right now not to take questions because we only got five minutes left and these guys are lighting up the room. y'all want would y'all rather talk? you want to hear them talk? all right. thank i think you see i can make an executive decision. i appreciate it. that's when you get to be the man. that's a good thing. yeah, that's what we're gonna do. so so you sit here and you just real we only have about five minutes left. i know you we could stay here all day, and i'm so honored to be. in the presence of these
gentlemen what? what are you? y'all got young kids. so how you feeling for them? and where do you think we're going? and what you what do you tell them about whether you can help make the world safe and not what are we looking at in the south? in the next 10 years and i put 10 on and on purpose don't give me 20 because everybody can say anything can happen in 20. i mean like what are you really think? where are we going and how we gonna get there? go ahead george. i think that's the scariest part of any black parent is how you senior children out into the world. i saw something that was i didn't see something. i read something by james weld and johnson we talked about the debate that black parents had even at the turn of the 20th century. there were some who want to show their children from racism and there were some who wanted to really instruct their children about the racism they would face and he said he can tell the difference either way which which method worked, you know, you were still gonna suffer it and so we didn't matter if your
parents it warned you about it or not. i don't want to kill the hope and optimism i see in my child's eyes when she plays with her friends who are not black. at the same time. i don't want to send her out into the world naive. about be very the envy that people will have because she has some level of success and i think we sometimes think of the backlash and the wrong way sometimes the backlash is simply a black person doing. well. i mean, that is the story of tulsa the story of rosewood as a story of of so many it's the story of the bomb threats being called into hbcus right now what we don't like to see you succeed and we don't like to see you do well and so i don't want to like saddle my child with this cynicism and this and it's weariness. but i also don't want to do the opposite and so it's a constant struggle and some days in one way and some days. i'm another but you know, the
the impulse is always out of love, but i'm not always sure that i'm doing exactly the right thing. thank you. clint the thing i always tell people and i talk about this a little bit in the book, but you know. as i mentioned the first enslaved people came to the british american colonies in 1619. emancipation proclamation didn't happen until 1863. so that's 13th amendment didn't happen until 1865. but what's true? is that from the moment black people arrived on these shores they were fighting for freedom. they were fighting for liberation and what that also means. is that the vast majority of black people who were fighting for liberation never got a chance to see it or experience it for themselves. but that doesn't mean that what they were fighting for. didn't matter because my life is only possible. because of generations of people who fought for something that they knew they might never see but fought for it anyway because they knew that someday someone would and i think that that is the sort of responsibility that is bestowed upon each of us to recognize that we are all
collectively attempting to build a better world and that we might not see that version of the world in our lifetimes, but we don't do it so that we see the fruits of our own labor we do it because we know that someday someone will because that's what other people have done for us. and i think that that's part of the black tradition in this country. right is this recognition that you don't fight for something only so you can experience it you fight for something because you know that someday someone will it's like we're all chipping away at this wall and you don't know if the wall is six inches thick or 600 miles thick but you know, the more you chip away at it the less the people who come after you will have to chip away and at some point you're gonna see the light on the other side of that wall. you don't know when it is, but you know that your work in shipping away at that wall is important to the person that comes after you and so that's the sort of thing that i hope to share with my kids. you know, that's the sort of thing where it's like right your life is only possible because of my grandfather and his grandfather and his grandmother and their grandfather and so the work that we need to try to do in our own lives is to continue
that struggle because that is part of the the lineage and tradition that we're a part of thank you forgory and tell them your kids' names. oh sadie and stokely. yeah. thank you know that stokely after stokely carmichael and sadie after sadie mays who was married to benjamin elijah maze who's the greatest educator of all time lineage, so, you know, i'm gonna be really quick so in my house, so first of all, i have twins at three years old, so they're buy one get one free today if anybody wants one. yeah. i'll just love your children stuff is cool, but i'm tired. come pick them up when you feel like it. but you know, we do i do two things in my household, which i think that a lot of people do. i don't get the parenting thing. i'm not sure i do it right, but i just try to do it every day. the first thing is black folk have this bonus on us and some other groups were particularly black folk. where we have to love our neighbors. even when they don't love us. and that is really really a
weird existence. that's a pressure type of existence that most other groups in this country don't have. and so i give my kids a lot of love, right? they know their house is filled with love because when they go outside, they know how difficult it would be. so my kids to be like how much does daddy love me and they all know that daddy loves them this much. so we just make sure that the house is filled with love right and that's because you got to exert a whole lot of it so you don't go around hating folk when you go outside. i mean hate is a horrible burden to bear in the last thing. that i'll tell you with my time is that we're reframing the way black folks think particularly about that wall that he was talking about. because my kids aren't going to be on this planet to just survive. i'm tired of black folks surviving every day. you know, we we will talk collectively about man. we made it. we just got to survive through this. my kids are gonna thrive though.
right, and so we try to it's hard. but we try to reform the way they think about their existence through those things. let me say this. this was unbelievable. when i get to feeling a little bit down and i ask how to futures gonna be the line forms to the right. thank you gentlemen, thank you all beautiful. you're watching book tvs coverage of the new orleans book festival, and now more from tulane university. so walter isaacson son of new orleans a broadmore. let's say right. sorry the product abroad for.