tv Adolph Reed Jim Crow and Its Afterlives CSPAN May 27, 2022 3:56pm-5:07pm EDT
app. you can watch anytime online at c-span. org. c-span, your unfiltered view of government. there are a lot of places to get political information. good evening everyone again. welcome to atlanta history center's virtual author talk series. my name is claire haley and i'm the vice president ogood evening everyone. welcome to atlanta history centers virtual author talks series. -- it is absolutely my pleasure to welcome you to tonight's author top.
we are so lucky to be joined by -- who will be discussing his book -- he will be in conversation tonight with james oakes, if you have not yet purchased your copy of the book, you can see all my marks in here. i highly recommend you do so. they'll be a link to do that in the chat, from atlanta history centers museum store. you can pick it up from us. or we will ship it from you if you are in domestic u.s. shipping. as adolf and jim talked this evening, if you have questions for them, please drop those in the q&a. we will get to as many of them as we can by the end of the talk. i'm going to briefly introduce the two speakers and turn it over to them. we have a lot to dig into tonight. adolf reed junior is a political science at the university of pencil beta. he is the author of w. e. b. dubois's, american political thoughts, he's written articles for many publications. including the progressive black agenda and many others. he's been politically active since
the 1960s. he's been all over the south, most of the other place in the country. all detailed in the book. he is in conversation tonight with james oakes, jim is a 19th century historian of america. he's written many books as well. he's tackled the history of the united states from the revolution through the civil war. his early work focused on the south. examining slavery as an economic and social system that shaped southern life. he is a distinguished professor of history at the city university of new york graduate center. adolf and jim, thank you so much for being with us tonight. >> thank you for having us. >> thank you rob. >> great to be. here >> absolutely. >> great to be able to talk for a little while with my old friend, we know each other 35 years or so. >> that is right. >> one of only a book, the south, jim crow and, it's after lives. for those of you haven't
had a chance to read, i highly recommend it. it's important to know that although the material the book is filled with fascinating autobiographical detail, it's not a member and any traditional sense. it's not a personal triumph over adversity story. you don't present yourself as representative of anything. -- the subject is really the dying of what you call the jim crow order. you bring to that subject a certain perspective that is helpful, at least fascinating, anyway. one of them is what you say as the justification for rainfall to begin with. you are part of the last generation to have lived through the jim crow order. why is that important? what's that allow you to see?
>> i think it's important for a couple reasons. on one reason, it's a part of the time, old people always think that way. [laughs] another one is, frankly, this was the immediate. the idea emerged from conversations with a couple of friends and colleagues who also had connections to it. they are both professors. and the sense that a direct connection via lived experience was on the way out. it stood in stark contrast to the ways that both academics and lay people, non academic writers, were actually representing jim crow, i mean, the jim crow order, life in the
south. between 1900 and 1970. that just seemed so out of, so dissonant from what the social system actually was. my son often refers to the way that people like to think and write about that period as well as slavery, the event of white people's permanent sadistic camp. they did it all while they tortured, they brutalized black people. directive objective. >> you also talk about the specific timing that you experienced this. the cliché is, the old order was dying, the new one was struggling to be born. that gives a certain
perspective because it exposes the contours of the system and which at the height of its power and significance you might not see. >> yeah, i think that's right, jim. it is telling. look, i think i mentioned, i make this point a couple times in the book as well. it's only with the benefit of hindsight that i could look back and see signs of the unraveling and the decomposition. and more to the point, that i could see germinal forms of what was going, what could become, or would become, the order that replaced it. that is absolutely
correct. >> yeah. so one of the basic observations you made that's critical to understanding the larger purpose. the jim crow order, but we usually think of as jim crow, the manifestations of jim crow, the segregated schools, segregated theaters, segregated lunch counters, those were, in some sense, superficial. but not at all trivial. in terms of the day today experience. that's where your book is still moving and powerful. you talk about, you begin by talking about jim crow in your neighborhood in new orleans. negotiating just the local codes. why don't you talk a bit about that? >> yeah. i like talking about this because it helps to underscore a way that i was really, really stupid for a long, long time. so, as in a number of other southern cities, which doesn't include atlanta, i mean places like charleston, probably savannah, richmond,
the patterns of racial occupancy by area or neighborhood weren't necessarily strictly segregated, right? and what made me feel stupid, only when i read thomas hansen's book on charlotte, north carolina, from 1900, 1975, that neighborhood segregation the south, and the southern cities, was first of all, the product of the introduction of the idea of the neighborhood as a distinctive place where one lives as a way of giving, of making a statement about one's position in the world, and that that didn't come into existence until the early years of the 20th century, it's part of the spread of, or the birth of a real estate industry, in urban
areas in the early 20 century. and the moment at which the real estate industry was born. which was precisely the moment of a consolidation of this new, white supremacist order. so, my neighborhood in new orleans was an older one. like a lot of americans, roughly 50-50 black or white. the patterns of separation where also a potpourri. it's important, it was like whites on one side of the street, blacks on the other, some portions it was whites on one half of the block, blacks on the other. in that context, people kind of had to figure out what an unofficial etiquette of neighborhood life was going to be like. and they did. they worked it out. it was like a folk development. it was also the case that when the
whites who are friendly and of course, the friendliness is then within boundaries. there is no popping in these houses for coffee. but not often enough, whites who were very friendly in the confines of the neighborhood witnessed if you, basically, if they ran into you in some other context. and at the time, and understandably, it felt like they were being two faced. and in retrospect they probably were in some ways. they were also trying to navigate this system that they didn't have any part in creating either. so -- >> the fact that these codes were local is also an aspect of the system. on one hand there was a kind of legal superstructure to jim crow. >> right. >> that consolidated at the very end of the 19th century. but it also varies from place
to place. and that means, for example, traveling is fraught. >> oh, it was a colossal -- yeah. >> three, actually, the experience of flying and stopping in at the airport, where you don't know which restroom is the right restroom or getting on a trailways bus and wondering if you are sitting in the back because if you stopped, a monroe, louisiana, you don't want to get off the bus. >> right. >> or driving in the car and having to stay with friends because you can't stay in--. so it's not just negotiating a local codes, it's the not knowing what the codes are from one place to another that makes the system so, so irrational and arbitrary. >> well, totally. and even out their time in the 60s we thought that if you're going to do it, you should do it the way the south africans did it, where it was the same way everywhere, right? for instance, probably some people like in the audience are going to know this but in montgomery, alabama
-- and this was one of the immediate precipitants of the bus boycott, but the way that segregation and public transportation was acted out, was practiced, blacks would get on the bus at the front, pay the money, get off, and then re-enter through the rear door. and often enough the bus driver pulled off just out of spite, right? so one of the initial demands of the montgomery improvement association was to end that practice, right? so they were looking for some parity and dignity within segregation. >> right. >> but there are all kinds of local variations, i mean, like that. and then i mention, too, that in commercial culture, you know, different commercial
enterprises were likely to set different rules, right? so look, in new orleans, there was some partial department stores where you could try and has but not shoes, others where you could try shoes but not hats. and the people picked from the buffet of offenses, basically, to get a menu of the least unpalatable. >> right. so, this -- i thought about two things as i was reading this. one of them is the degree to which the arbitrariness and the irrationality of the system is not -- i suppose, in some ways is a symptom of its incompleteness, but in other ways is one of the things that makes it so oppressive. >> right. >> because you don't know. >> no, that's right. >> what's so terrifying is that you don't know when you go into the next town whether the rules
that the same. >> the airport story. so i was flying from pine bluff, arkansas, to new orleans. and i thought that i had a stop in el dorado, arkansas. i didn't realize i had to change to el dorado, arkansas. so we landed in el dorado in a d. c. three, from the old trans texas airlines. and i get deposited with my suitcase on the tarmac. so is 1966. so it's like two years after the public accommodations act was passed, which means all the signs in places like airports that designated the racially separate waiting rooms had been taken down. >> right. >> but it's a sunday afternoon, there's nobody around. i think it was like palm sunday or something. and i kept looking from the tarmac into the terminal for some sign of life so i could read a cue as to which door is the appropriate
door to enter. and, look, it could have been fine, right? it could've been that nobody would have cared one way or another. but it could have been not fine. and the black person was always expected to know what the rules are even if they just showed up. so i sat on the tarmac and read for two or three hours in the kind of chilly air until my other plane came. >> right. but it's also, it's also one of those stories where it's the dying old order and the new [inaudible] -- >> oh yeah! >> [inaudible] you are at this other turning point and nobody knows where the rules are going to be yet. there's several, you know, one of the things that i find so powerful about the book is that humanity of it. you already mentioned that you could see your neighbors as two-faced because they won't recognize you in downtown they way they would in the neighborhood. but they also, you tell the story of the store owner who, you know, caught you shoplifting and could have made your life miserable in ways
that could've ended up ending you up in angola or [inaudible] farm or something, but still behaved like a humane, decent person in the middle of this brutal system. >> well yeah! and that kind of stuff was common enough i'm. this was, like, either at the very end of 1959 or the very beginning of 1960, which was, which would have been just a few months before the school desegregation controversy erupted across the city. and i mean, these people were decent. i mean as i say in the book, my thought at the time was that they treated me the way that i would expect they would have wanted someone to treat their own kid, right? >> right. >> and they gave me the dutch uncle lecture and, you know. and they sent me on along my way and there were a lot of interactions like that. and
people tend to forget, i mean, you know that segregation's order was imposed on everybody, right? and i'm not saying that most whites fought against it tooth and nail, but. >> they had to live with it. >> yeah, but it didn't emerge from the heart and souls of the the white community or whatever. they had to live with it too, just like we did. >> that's right. so was the kid who helped you build a model airplane, is that the son of the storekeeper? >> no, that was the son of the storekeeper in my own -- yeah, over at the galliano family. they lived around the corner from us, they lived next to their corner store. so until well after mid-century, like the largest nominally white population in the city was italian and the two
neighborhood stores -- and like, this predates even the coming of the first a&p and i can remember when the a&p opened a few blocks away and store owners were concerned about the impact of the supermarkets. the galliano family around the corner, they were decent people, they were friendly enough. not gruff, they treated everybody with respect and dignity. i mean nobody was on a first name basis with anybody, so my grandparents were mr. mac and miss mac. and they were mr. tony and ms. tony, basically. and they'd ask about, you know, how families were doing, and whatnot. yeah, i mean -- and this one year, i think i must have been ten or 11. somebody
had given me a model airplane. and i was kind of skittish about the gasoline and the wings, or the motor. so their son, who was probably 15, 16, offered to come down to our house and go in the backyard and show me how to set the thing up and fly it. and we spent the better part of an afternoon talking like i would who would ask about school and talk to any teenager, right? life and baseball and so forth and so on. and it was just -- and then, you know, i don't think i ever saw him again. but it wasn't any particular reason to. he had his life, how did i had mine. and i think he went on, actually, to be a planner in local government, i'm not sure if it's the same guy. >> yeah. so it's these human interactions in the context of a system that is terrifying in so many ways that you capture so beautifully in the book. >> thank you.
>> the after lives of the subtitle or sometimes a political and sometimes psychological. so you tell us several stories about experiences with police while they're driving. they are terrifying, because of wet jim crow was. >> right. >> and yet they are surprising, because they turn out not to be what could easily have been. >> oh, man! yeah! i mean, the first one where it really, would have knocked me for a loop. i was like and i'm sure a lot of people in atlanta know this, i was on i-65 from montgomery to mobile. i was about halfway to mobile. and there was nothing on the highway at that point. it was
brand-new. and it was later at night. and alabama state trooper clocked me breaking down the 83, which was at that point, 23 miles over the speed limit. so it was just the two of us on the side of the road in the middle of alabama. and he called me back to his car. i got in. first, he coughs. and he covered his mouth, and he turns to me and says, excuse me, sir. okay. so, i'm already not quite prepared for this. and then he said, look, i tell you what. because i explained to him, you know, i was trying to get to new orleans, i had to go to a meeting, i couldn't leave until i got off work. blah blah blah. and he said, i'll tell you what. i'll let you off with a warning. he said, i wrote you up for under 20 mile, or under 15 miles over the speed limit. and i'm going to let you off with a warning. and just please don't speed anymore in alabama, okay? and i thanked him
profusely and got back in my car. and it was really a pleasant and empathetic interaction. the next one was about a year later, i think, probably. i was driving in south carolina from greenville to charleston. and was about to get on i-26 from i-276, i think it was, [inaudible] and i noticed that the car had been tracking me for several miles so i try, so i made sure i stayed within ten miles of the speed limit. and as soon as i got into the wrap, going to get on to 26, the blue light came on. and it was a south carolina trooper. and he pulls me over and he called me back to his car. in south carolina, they actually did mount a shotgun within the passenger street, so the barrel was in my face. and it turns out i had a, a
pan-african the -- pan-african liberation committee had called a boycott of gulf oil, because gulf gulf was invested in a refineries in casbinda, which is the province of angola, and they were subsidizing the portuguese war against the anti colonial movement. and it turned out this trooper wanted me to explain the gulf boycott to him. and if there is also, just like after the opec crisis. and so there, i was. i was sitting. and he was quite interested and i was sitting in his car, staring at the shotgun, trying to explain what this bumper sticker was all about. >> right. >> and he said to be, and you are especially concerned, because they are doing that to your race of people. and i said, yeah. and then he thanked me, and, but he did ask me where i
was going in south carolina, what's the nature of my business was. so i told him that i was going to charleston. and that was it, right i? was off. and he was also pleasant. which was not exactly the kind of interactions i'd had with state troopers proir to that >> i'm going to make it sound like both your interactions sure humane indecent well. >> they were. >> one of the things so compelling about your description of writing on the trail ways to always poses the context in which the right to place, right? in the context of the murders of -- and goodman, but also, at the same time, and much less wildly known, the bodies of several black people had been found floating in the nearby rivers and things like that. and again, you just never know whether or not when the bus pulls into the station you are going to be safer now
absolutely,. i compounded, i grew my first beard around the same time. and that incident, we were it was close to some kind of vacation. there were college students who had gotten on a bus at different points. there were little groups together. we stopped in lake village, arkansas. which is down in southeast arkansas. an elderly white couple got on. again, this is years after segregation and public accommodations, especially interstate travel. i don't know there is a reflex or what. the old couple were infirm, driver gets up and instructs the two black college students who are sitting right behind his seat to get up and let the old white couple sit down. of course, the
students balked. not least because there are plenty of seats they could've taken. there was a standoff for several minutes. i'm in the back of the bus with that kind of cheap vodka, sipping. i'm just watching this, wondering, what is going to happen? it is going to be we all get disappeared? i know everyone is very much away of -- it wasn't that far away, it wasn't that long ago basically. eventually, only about a dozen people on the bus at that point. eventually, the bus driver thought better of it for whatever reason, got back in the seat, started driving. >> yeah. i wonder if we could, before we got a question and answer. some of the big important teams have developed.
i mentioned earlier describe these experiences superficial manifestations of a much deeper system, jim crow order. i wonder if you can talk about what that order was. you have a quote, there are several places where i could coated you. this comes in the context of your discussion of floyd mckissick and the seoul city project. you said something like, in one city, the jim crow order was explicitly and definitively about race. in another sense, it wasn't about race at all. can you tell us what you mean by that? what's the jim crow order was? >> i think of the jim crow order as something quite specific. even take take the big issue of segregation. charles -- work on this was
good. other people have done quite good work on this too. segregation didn't become a big hot button issue, black or white, until the -- case. from emancipation forward at the state level, at the local level regulation, racial regulation of that sort went in all sorts of directions. in some cases, trolleys is where jim crow and trains and ships, river boats, weren't. some cases, it was the other way around. in some places segregation was imposed after emancipation, and rescinded later, and then imposed again. in some places, that went the other way around.
segregation took on it's deep meaning in the context of imposition of the quantified social order that implanted racial hierarchy and white supremacy at the constitutional level. as a cornerstone of government. everybody of economic and social life in every state of the former confederacy. it wasn't imposed, first of all, it emerged, right, i don't to say was crafted. it emerged as a response to a problem that the dominant planter merchant capitals class in the south had had since emancipation. the danger of
white people and blacks voting together to challenge the ruling class is absolute prerogative. for a long time i thought, well, this must be a gradient concern. our side as it were never strong enough. the readjustment movement in virginia and 1879 was pretty successful. the populist and alliance insurgency an early 1890s was dramatic and successful, especially north carolina. also along the way they were killion's of intermittent local fights over taxation and and range control, whatever. public works. finding education. after the defeat of the populist insurrection insurgency, and one state after
another first came the franchise. the first move was disfranchising up to 90% of the black population. -- until quarter to a third of the white population. you take the franchise away from these people, and then the playing field in politics, what can even become a political issue gets tilted very sharply to, i don't like using that. to advance the interest of the dominant class. often enough, even now, people strain to figure out why the union movement is weak in the south. you get all this crap about american exceptionalism and conservative southern culture. the only thing that you need to understand is that the working
class was effectively disfranchised until after world war ii. the ruling class got to set all the rules. there was no jon bald gelled and the governor's mansion to pardon the rioters. all public officials where hired hands of the ruling class. not to mention, an open question until at least 1964 whether the democratic party in the south should be understood as the above ground wing of the kkk, or the k k k should be understood as the underground wing of the democratic party. white supremacy then becomes certainly, as former governor
charles aycock of north carolina said in 1904, reflecting on the push in 1898 that out of the duly elected populist republican fusion government, we needed to have the strength that all comes from thinking like. what that meant was, white supremacy, the rhetoric of white supremacy as the sine qua non of politics was imposed on whites as well as it was on blacks. it's that period, right, the period of imposition to consolidation of that order and its gradual disintegration after world war ii that i describe as the jim crow era. in fact, i often said, or i said when i had classes, all four of my grandparents were sentient beings, a couple
of probably them full adults, by the time the jim crow order consolidated into a normal politics in normal life. it's back was broken by the time i was 18. it's a finite moment. >> yes. >> right, i want to stress that, people often say, this happens we had a couple of podcasts not that long ago, that they have trouble accepting the formulation that the jim crow era is over. and it's because we come so accustomed to thinking about race and injustice in a way that's all about attitudes and doesn't have anything to do with political institutions. >> our political economy.
>> right, that's right, exactly. right, exactly. >> when that merchant landlord political economy collapsed, politics changed. >> oh yeah, totally. and it's not determinist either. we need aggressive political forces to kick in an open doors even. >> exactly, exactly. one of the things -- well, we have more time, maybe we can discuss your really interesting short chapter on passing as a manifestation of how historically specific that moment in time was, from say, 1890, to 1940, however you want to date it. it's really interesting to me the way you describe that. >> thanks. so, passing is, of course, something i've known
all my life because it's a common enough thing in the south, in louisiana. i've also been struck for a very long time about the overwrought ways that people think about it, right? in novels, in movies, whatnot. for -- for thomas dickson, this was the horror to be avoided and fought at all costs. four race men and women, passing was a marker, a common fictional character is the black person, the genteel black person, who typically could've passed but who didn't because of a sense of mission to the race. of course, the reciprocal of that, if they do pass, you turn your back on your mission
to the race. but what i found and saw and understand to be true is that a lot of so-called passing was totally instrumental, flippant even. i mention that on my way to high school i saw a guy who rode the bus. and all the black people on the bus were convinced that he was a bus --, that's what they called them. and he had a job that permitted him to wear a tie and a pocket protector with some pens in it. not many
black people had such jobs like that. this guy was probably passing to get access to a job that he could not have access to otherwise. i know a family who lived in two sides of a double house. they had the same last name. the fathers were first cousins. they looked alike. one side the house lived as white, the other side lived as black. nobody made any bones about it. and there was no angst. as much as i love the version of sooner we done with the trouble the words, that mahalia jackson sings, the crescendo the second version of and imitation of life. that moment didn't really happen much. it might have happened, passing just wasn't a phenomenon that had all that sturm und drang about it. when you think about it, the idea of passing itself presumed a regime of strict racial regulation that didn't exist
basically after 1970. so from that perspective, all kinds of idiosyncratic reasons why to have an identity other than identity that they think they were assigned. passing as a socially distinctive phenomenon basically ended between 1970 and 1975. >> right, right. so, this important point you are making about the historical specificity of the jim crow era, use, in your last chapter you use the controversy over confederate monuments in a very interesting way to catch two big transitions, that is, one is represented by what the explicit message of those confederate monuments did to distort and whitewash the history of slavery in the civil war and its relationship to the civil war. >> right.
>> the second thing is the moment at which they are constructed is a moment in which a new order, the jim crow order, it is consolidated and then the moment at which they are torn down reflects yet another order. >> right. >> so do you want to go through those? [inaudible] few words [inaudible] and interesting when you think about those. and i think it's correct. >> oh, well thank you. look, yeah. like, in the first period, people forget that while the monuments were erected, nominally, often enough, to commemorate the treasonous insurrection by the elites of the 11 slave owning states against the constitutional government of the united states of america, some people call it something else somewhere, but i forget what. >> southern independence. >> oh, yeah, that one! hey, man. look, i gave a talk at
winthrop nerar rock hill about a decade ago. and it was a big talk with a packed auditorium. at the middle i read article 10 -- of the u.s. constitution. and i apologized. i said, yeah, i know this has nothing to do with my dog. but i've always dreamed since i was an undergraduate of giving it talk to a predominantly white audience someplace in the south and reading article one section ten just to bring home that >> but the monuments. the monuments deny that it had anything to do with slavery. there was no such darn thing as a right to secede from the union. >> right. but anyway. >> it's a lie. it's a falsehood, right? >> oh yeah, totally. totally. and even more telling, is that the period in which they were
erected, because they were all erected between, between 1880 and 1915, 1920, they were erected not even to commemorate slavery, or rather, you know, the lost cause so much, as the lost cause was erected to commemorate imposition of the white supremacist order that was imposed after the defeat of populism, right? so, they weren't so much backward looking monuments to past gallantry and failed struggle for independence as they were components of an effort to impose an ideological hegemony on whites in the south, to create and impose this notion of white identity. >> right.
>> and then they come down when, well when that order is, like, swept into the ash bins of history, it's gone already for decades. but it's sort of convenient, as it were, to denounce the expressions of inequality that were associated with the jim crow era, while -- but to do so in a way that focuses on the white supremacist ideology and not the exploitation. so, in the same breath, you can denounce, you know, the old order of exploitation and celebrate the new one [inaudible]. >> and that brings us to the afterlife question, right?
because that -- i mean, lot of people talk about the importance of understanding the moment at which the confederate monuments were put up. they don't have to do with the civil war as much as they had to do with the consolidation of the jim crow order. >> right. >> use mitch landrieu and his very moving speech on justifying taking them down as some reflections on where we are right now, and what has changed, and what has not changed, and why what has not changed causes people to misread the times we live in as a continuation rather than a break from the jim crow order.
>> right. and i think that's, yeah, i think that's really important too. so, at the time you know, that the monuments came down in new orleans, and of, the landrieu speech was beautiful, the best thing i've ever read. and it practically brought tears to my eyes, especially seeing him quoting alexander stevens speaking of georgia. but at the same time, new orleans is, like, the second most unequal city in america. the poverty rates are high and i was actually looking at the numbers earlier today for something else i'm writing now. blacks are in substantial disproportion represented among the populations who get the short end of the stick there. but then blacks are represented in substantial disproportion in the overall population. but at least a third of the white
population works the same kind of dead end jobs with no benefits, from paycheck to paycheck, and with the same poor public health indicators and so forth and so on. one of the things that's happened is the different system of economic exploitation has emerged over the intervening century, right? and it's -- it appears to be a racial system still, because half a century, more than half a century of post war racial liberalism, that is disconnected racial inequality from political economy, sort of leads us to see what appears to be
phenotypic overrepresentation of black people among people who get the short end of the stick as evidence of nothing has changed. at the same time, and i know atlanta is as much like this as new orleans is, over the last half century, we've seen the emergence of a strong black political and business class that's more or less seamlessly incorporated or meshed with its white peers. i mean, they live in the same neighborhoods, they go to the same clubs and stores, they seem to have this in class defining characteristics, they have the same view of the world. and their share of governance, right? so in that sense, and this is one of the ironies of the hurricane
katrina moment, right? because everybody came away from katrina thinking that it provided evidence of how divided the city was with respect to race and economic condition and opportunity. and ironically, in the more than 15 years since katrina, the governing class in that city has become more seamlessly interracial than anyone would ever have imagined even a decade prior to that. and i suspect something a lot like that is going on in atlanta and elsewhere as well. >> yeah. so one of the observations you make at the end, i want to press you on this because i'm not sure i understand it. as you say that the sense people have that nothing has changed, when in fact all of those horrific quotidian experiences have in fact been swept by the boards.
so you know, you don't have to worry about, you're not told to get in the back of the bus and these kinds of, you know, you don't have to worry if you can stop at a motel when you're driving, something like that. that stuff is gone and the sense of psychological >> this is where i'm a little confused. because i always insecurity, not to mention physical ins to insecurity [inaudible] but what that has gone is the class inequality that that order represents, it was designed to consolidate. >> right. thought of the collapse of the jim crow order as a kind of not as dramatic a transition as the collapse of slavery and emancipation were, but a fundamental revolutionary transformation, socially, but nevertheless the collapse of a particular political economy and a new kind of class
structure. so it's not so much of the persistence of a particular class structure but the persistence of class inequality, right? >> right. yeah, that's right. right. >> and that causes people to look and say, but correctly, you know, but african americans still, you know, are disproportionately lack medical insurance, disproportionately housing and stuff like that. one of the things that is curious to me about it, and is eerie to me right now, this know-how notwithstanding the fundamental transformation that i agree with you has happened, is the sudden, not sudden, but the revival of intense interest in suppressing the electorate,
especially the black electorate. and what does that represent to you? >> well, look. i mean, tories never wanted everybody to vote, right? >> that's true, that's true. >> becsuse they can count, right? and i've said this a lot about this -- disenfranchised -- disenfranchisement in the 19th century. but if blacks had voted 60 - 4o for democrats, and then white supremacy quite likely would have been imposed but disenfranchisement probably would not have been on the top shelf of the mechanisms that was employed to imposing it. and i think the same thing is true now, right? and so that's why i think it's a mistake for us to keep focusing on voter suppression, the analogy to 1890, right? what i was just
writing about -- what's her name? the former governor of south carolina? >> nikki haley? >> yeah, haley. she in her own, in her own way believes in racial equality. she appointed tim scott to the senate, she moved expeditiously to take the confederate flag down after the dylann roof murders. she also is very much in favor of voter suppression, right? and she gets her [bleep] on her shoulders if i can say that, if she wants to suppress black voters. she wants to suppress democrats. that's what the key is here. and race has always functioned as a shorthand that reads class conflicts into
nature, class conflicts and class dynamics into nature. that's what race does, that's what it emerged to do, that what is it has always done. and it's doing the same thing for the right now that it did for the right then. but i should've thought to send this to you though, because your good friend and colleague, professor willard degette in south carolina, who i worked with us on a lot of stuff there, called me a few years ago around the sanders campaign and pointed out he had been reading the -- classic southern politics in the state and nation. >> right. >> and found keys description of how race worked in south carolina in 1949 and found that it works almost verbatim, with
just a few words changed here, for 2018. and it works, and the changes have to do mainly with the fact that systemic incorporation of blacks into mainstream politics and into governing means that they use it in the same way whites do, to keep class and political economy off the table basically. >> this partisan imperative, it is not new. in that sense, it is similar to what morgan -- described as -- then it was getting rid of republicans. >> right. >> even if you had a chance to
read van gosse's recent book. he said the first waves of disarrangement in the post 19th century northwesterly driven -- >> that's right, i read some of his drafts. i work in progress. that's right. >> it's one of the reasons why we're miss reading the cues, we think it's driven by racism, it's a partisan imperative, which means it's about power. >> that's right, and the extent to which we asked yes and reading the racial cover story as the real story. does the other side work for them? our job, as people who believe in justice and equality and what not should be to demystify this claim instead of trading on ourselves. >> i agree, i think that's one of the things your book does just brilliantly. >> thank you very much, james. i really appreciate it.
>> we are just about out of time. i don't know whether or not you have anything you'd like to say. >> do you have any questions? >> i try to read the one that was emphasized, what is changed, so. some of them are just a little more specific. i think you did that. let's go ten minutes over. we can do more questions and answers. i certainly have time. let me see if i can see any questions here. why do you think jim crow wasn't crafted when it came off the heels of reconstruction? i'm not entirely sure. you
mentioned the book on plessy, ut it's also part -- i mean, read that in the -- >> yeah. that's right. >> how is there gets more specific about it, right? it's not until jim crow gets linked with disenfranchisement that it becomes something. >> i think that's absolutely right. yeah, i think it makes sense to see the 30 years after emancipation as something like a period of flux. i guess you could call it something like -- the interregnum. but it was an open question what the terms were going to be, the south was reconstructed, but lack citizenship was consolidated. especially in relation to the dominant plantation economy in the south. these things just
got worked through over time. >> he made the point earlier about what was at stake for the merchant landlord merchant class in the late 19th century that would cause them suddenly to consolidate around disfranchisement. it wasn't just the large questions of who's going to pay for schools. even down at the local level, i remember reading a study of lynching that said that lynchings didn't happen if the sheriff showed up. >> [laughs] >> that's when you got lynchings. and that matters politically because even if a certain portion of your electorate, your election depends on the presence of black voters, the sheriff is more likely to show up. >> right.
>> when he got some of his votes from black voters. the disfranchisement and the wave of lynchings are simultaneous, they are connected. racial terror is part of that system. let me see if there's anything else, if you look at american way black people are treated today has it progressed at the rate you could predicted? did you expect the black community as a whole to be in better social and economic standing than it is today? >> well, that's an interesting question. first of all, i'm not the kind of social scientists who makes predictions. i predict what is already happened. and explain why it had happened the way it happened. and that kind. i don't have any predictions. as
my old friends and former physician, --, with whom i end the book said, he was 80 in 2000 to basically. he said in response to a despairing med student, nobody standing in 1950 could've predicted that within 15 years the back of the jim crow system was going to be broken. and he's definitely right about that. i think that it would be good for us to stop thinking about the black community as a whole. i think that's basically a class project. i just wrote something about the racial wealth gap for instance. there's a sense, we know that three fourths of the so-called racial wealth gap, the first place, there's no such thing as black wealth and
white wealth. there's wealth that's owned by individuals and households who are black, and there's wealth that's owned by individuals and households were white. if we were to use racial wealth gap as a shorthand for that relationship, fine. that is not how people use it. we know that roughly three fourths of the so-called racial wealth gap lies between the richest 10% of white people and the richest 10% and a black people. we know also that the bottom 50% of blacks and whites have no wealth. sometimes, people who are committed to the notion of a racial wealth gap would respond to that point by saying, well, there's collective wealth. there is no collective black wealth. there is no collective white wealth. in fact, the thing i just wrote, since we all have been conditioned for 100 years to think of black people as
operating with a hive mind, so we all want the same things, so we can speak for everybody, that point may not come through clearly enough. but imagine a white nurse who is fallen on hard times and is facing eviction. and then imagine the possibility of her trying to dip into the pool of collective white wealth to pay her landlord, or pay her mortgage. or even better, that she texts jeff bezos and asks him to pitch in, because they're white together. that doesn't happen. what's going on here is that the whole wealth focus, right, it is an extrapolation of the mindset of the investor class
onto all black people, right? making rich black people richer doesn't do anything at all good for the rest of us. and in fact, to the extent that it legitimizes the larger inequality, because they are richar, that, then, does bad for the rest of us. as my colleague and i've been saying for years now, the problem with this notion of social justice as closing disparities is because we're in a society that gets more and more unequal across the board almost on a daily basis, winning disparities would mean, that ideal, would mean that the society can be considered just if 1% of the population controlled 95% of the resources, so long as 12% of that 1% was black, 14% was hispanic, it was
half women, et cetera. that's a notion of social justice that is legitimate to defend in a philosophy class as any other. i'll say, it's not the one i'm committed to. i really care about rich people getting richer and whatever how color they happen to be. >> what was that study -- the federal reserve study, they said that if wage rates have been equalized blacks and whites in 1970 the wealth gap wouldn't exist. >> that's right, exactly. >> equalizing wages is much more important. for the vast majority of poor people including black people. here's another one, i guess we have time for another question here, it does raise the question about what's interpreted in terms of race versus other
answers suggested. this is the question. it suggested that's one of the reasons for the health disparity between in the elderly black population compared to the white ones are the same age might be due to the chronic stress brought on by years of oppression under jim crow. in the medical literature, this is sometimes been called weathering. do you have any thoughts thoughts? >> yeah, a friend of mine has done a lot of work on the weathering hypothesis. a sociologist named arlene--. there's probably something to that. i don't know, i mean, as a rule you can get rid of most of the difference by controlling for incoming access to resources. the same thing about katrina. when everything was, when the bodies were actually counted, right, it turns out that blacks and whites died in the storm and were displaced by the storm in numbers that were roughly
equivalent to their percentage in the overall population. what determined who got stuck on the overpasses and in superdome, who got stuck in the astrodome in houston, and other shelters, in baton rouge. or outside the state. who lived their exile in in less strained or stressed conditions, who was able to come back when. the better predictor was always access to resources, prior to katrina making landfall and that was true for blacks and whites.
>> right. >> there's something to the weathering hypothesis. there's also a tendency, people like to see the 25 cent bet on the table and raise it $250. that kind of thing. >> a little bit like what happened to the statistics on racial disparity in covid. >> oh, lord. that's right. exactly. by the way, people yelling at me, me and merlin for having pointed out that at the beginning. what's also really disturbing about it, how many people are so infatuated with disparities discourse that especially, they didn't think about the dangers and the
sordid history of racial medicine and racial biology. playing fast and loose with biological discussions of race difference can actually give, we've seen it. >> you see it sometimes in what i think are very dangerous arguments for the epigenetic, transmission of the trauma of slavery over the course of generations. it's getting awfully close, if not reaching, a kind of genetic biological determinism. i think anyone concerned about race or racial equality should be resisting. not invoking. >> absolutely. absolutely correct. i think that's probably it. thanks, adolph. >> thanks claire, thanks jim, thanks everyone in the audience.
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