tv Panel Discussion on Race in America CSPAN November 18, 2016 12:48am-1:43am EST
at the 67th national book awards held wednesday night in new york city, the nonfiction prize scholar for his book stamped from the beginning the definitive history of racist ideas in america. earlier this year he took part in a panel on race in america at the end of this book festival. this is just under an hour. >> good afternoon. my name is isaac and i will serve as the moderator for today's panel black in america.
one of the things that's very interesting is to have the opportunity to look and listenen to the schools leader. one of the things she said last night was the key that questions perception and less individuals gain a greater knowledge for questions and answers. that is exactly what this panel will do. we will sit down and today is important because on today, april 161862 if i'm not mistaken, you look at the emancipation in washington, d.c.. once we sit down, we understand that and we have a couple of great authors with us. we have doctor ibram kendi from the university of florida, the author of the book "stamped from the beginning." the definition of the racist ideas in america and it's a book thathe bookshave spent a great e
ensearching it. it's the ideas and the power over the course of american history. doctor ibram kendi has done this in a number of ways throughouts his book in which he uses the lives of five major americans. these were intellectuals throughout the time to history. the first is a puritan minister who sits down and talks about how he looked at some of his ideas into the next individual in the book as an individual thomas jefferson who talks about him as well as his family's upbringings and the thoughts he had in framing the constitution. we sit down and look at the abolitionists who were very strong in making sure that he i ended slavery and worked within that movement. we also have an amazing scholar w. e. b. du boise who put down
the naacp and the prison activist angela davis.is we have doctor ibram kendi who is a native son of the jamaica queens new york where he lived until he moved to virginia the last two years of high school. he then went to florida amm for his undergraduate and then was able to get his doctorate and from temple university he is now a professor at the university o florida so he will sit down and give the background in terms of the history of racism in america and we have with us as well professor watkins, a young man from baltimore city and young man of baltimore city. he's put together a number of essays called living and dying while black in america. professor watkins is from
baltimore city and this chronicles his life story in many ways and talks about thele things he saw and witnessed. he's able to sit down and talk about the racist policies we'vee had in america and how these a impacted him growing up especially in the urban environment. he's a young man who's turned his life around in the early days to gain education tons showing the proper greeting and how important it is through education is the key to success. he's a graduate and has his masters from johns hopkins and also teaches a creative writing program at the university of baltimore. so, to have both of these gentlemen, the scholars and activists with us on a panel i think is a great opportunity for the school and for all the panelists and we thank you for joining us. i would like to start with doctor ibram kendi talking about your book and talking about what led you to this point in terms
of the publication and research. >> thank you. an incredible introduction and it is a pleasure and an honor tl be here to be presenting at the annapolis book festival. i went to high school not too far from here so any time i can come back to my second home, i take that opportunity. i'm actually here talking to you about my new book and it really is brand-new. it came out on april 12, just a few days ago stamped, from the beginning of the definitive history of racist ideas in america. on april 12, 1860, jefferson davis who at the time was one of the u.s. senators from mississippi stood before his colleagues in the u.s. senate and uttered the phrase the
inequality between aween black-and-white race was stamped from the beginning so ironically my book came out on the very da that the title was inspired from and he made that statement because there was a bill on the floor that would consider granting funds to educate black people in dc and of course he got up and argued against it. many of you no jefferson davis later became the president ofed the confederacy. and i start with a very small story to say that was to a certain extent the indicative of the history of racist ideas that essentially over the course of american history coming to that of racist policies put in place for individuals who didn't want antiracist policies to be put ie
place like a bill that would provide education to black children in washington, d.c. ina the same manner that educational funds were being provided then you have individuals like jefferson davis present, produce, reproduce racist ideas to either challenge those billsa were two defend the bills and to defend the existing racist policies so i am saying in a nutshell is that we have been taught this history that ignorance and hate has led to racist ideas and then individuals that have these ideas are the ones that essentially have created theseo policies. what i found through studying the history of the ideas is that
the connection has been quite the opposite. it's what i call the producers of racist ideas. someone as influential as jefferson davis or someone as influential today as a donald trump. i am talking about theseg about powerful producers of racist ideas or powerful producers of ideas. i'm differentiating between thes and the consumers of those ide ideas. people like you and i.. i studied the history of the producers, why were they producing these ideas and i found that people created a racist ideas to justify the slave trade. i found that people created these ideas to justify slavery and i found people created these ideas to justify segregation and people continue to create racist
ideas to now justified masss incarceration. so i'm finding we have these policies in place and disparities in place and then people are creating racist ideas over the course of history to justify and rationalize. then it causes you and i having consumed these ideas to look out at america and see the disparity or see people enslaved were to see 2 billion black people in jail or to see hundreds of thousands of people coming over to america and viewed that as normal. that's the power that the ideas have had over the course of american history. and i try to chronicle that from the beginning that these ideas have been powerful enough to make us believe that inequities are non- cut that inequities are normal. and we will have more time to
play to talk about that but i wanted to give a brief introduction to stamped from the beginning. >> it's very important to know that with these policies and throughout the history where are we today, what's going on in the community and how have these policies impacted us at the grassroots level and that's why we have professor watkins, living and dying while black in america, professor, thank you for being here. >> thank you for having me. so, doctor ibram kendi has done amazing research that these things into context and i think it goes well with this book because it actually breaks down how these things hit everyday citizens who have to deal with these issues that were established a long time ago. if you are from a place like east baltimore or any urban area
and you never see your self in a book or television or see yourself, you know, as a statue when you walked on the street, there's no representation of yourself anywhere in the country you helped build, then it is a chance for you to see your self and understand your story and journey and also putting these into a historical context. on the other side of the spectrum if you are in a place far removed from a place like east baltimore, if you are from a suburb and you don't have a lot of experience with the urban communities or yo where you have one black friend, it gives you the opportunity to be able to understand or see the humanityoy of the media leaves out. a lot of times you see unarmed black kid gunned down, and then what's next. but really we have to stop and
think that kid, he was just a kid that had goals and dreams and ambitions. he could have been annexed, you know, barack obama. they never get a chance.ge think about the people we celebrate in society today and look at them when they were 20-years-old. look at malcolm x. had 21 for further use of you that look up to george w. bush, look at him in his 20s. i guess not much has changed. [laughter] but you get the point. in life, we all make mistakes. nobody is squeaky clean and we can experience redemption and take those mistakes and resiliency that comes from those mistakes and grow to become great people. so i think it does a great job at showing the humanity the media leaves out.
.. understand. it is very accessible. if you read 20 million academic articles a day, you say literature, if you like a second grade reading level like a 50-year-old you can get to the book in three days. >> ibram kendi and d. watkins, as you put together research, in terms of your personal background, what is the number one thing you would like the reader to take from your book? >> black readers or white
readers? >> both. >> i ask that for a specific reason. for black readers, one of -- one of the major unfortunate findings in the book in studying this history is -- i not only try to study racist ideas but i also try to study antiracist ideas and antiracist policies and strategies, protest movements to show the course of history, interlocking struggles and black people specifically middle income black people have been long taught ever since the abolitionist movement that the way that we can undermine racist ideas of whites is when we go before white audiences to not defined stereotypes. to represent the race well.
many of our parents have told us to, quote, represent the race well which means don't defined stereotypes, defined stereotypes. don't make it seem as if you are inferior. act intelligent, speak proper. all of these different things. abolitionists, specifically in 1790 began lecturing free blacks that this is the way that you undermine the prejudice of whites and thereby undermine the ideas that were underlying slavery, free blacks need to go before white audiences and show your equal humanity. that is what we -- two black people by white abolitionists and many internalize those ideas. we have been consuming them in teaching and reteaching and what i found in the book is that idea is based on a racist idea. that strategy is based on a
racist idea. it connotes this idea that black people are responsible for the racist idea that white people have, that black people are somehow responsible for the racist ideas white people have which means there is some truth in the racist ideas that white people have because black people are acting a particular way. i basically chronicle this strategy of upwardly mobile blacks defying racist ideas and show the way those ideas are based on racist ideas. very quickly, typically most americans think of a racist idea as an idea that states racial groups are biologically distinct and black people are genetically distinct and inferior and typically people do not acknowledge the other ways
people have considered blacks to be inferior like culturally to give you an example. throughout history you had a group i call assimilationist's who stated they are biologically equal but when it comes to culture they say black people are culturally inferior. they say since we are biologically equal black people can be developed. they entered into black communities trying to develop black people because black people were inferior but since they are biologically equal they can be developed, they can be civilized, they can be improved. i show in the book that is a racist idea too. >> d. watkins, what would you like readers to think about? >> three things. i would like every reader to think more critically about race in society after reading the
book. it doesn't ask you to change your perspectives what to think about these things. the traditions and information given to you versus your own thoughts and opinions of how these systems came about and how you can interpret them. humanity, we are humans, people, these people who die and who go through these things are people. you can be a ku klux klan member from mississippi or gangbanger from california, but put two of those guys in a room with free ice cream they are both going to take it. who is too racist for ice cream or too gangster for ice cream? we are taught we are so different but we have so much in common. and another thing, something i live by, the ethiopian proverb that reads, when spot is united they can take down a lighting. i don't care what will trickle down into these communities. i think about how we as
individuals can use our power to make real change. my thing is literacy. i work with reading programs, i help other writers get book deals, i helped a whole lot of other writers get their work published in different places. that is my job. i have another friend that does the same thing with financial literacy and nutrition. we are all figuring out what our passion is and we are working really really hard to achieve mastery and share no skills with other people. i want people to read this book and understand how strong we are as individuals and the things we can do because all of us have been waiting for politicians forever so when people ask me things like what do you think of the election? what do you think about this president, this candidate or that candidate, i am not jaded and i understand the importance of all these things but i know that any and every change i wanted to see came from grassroots work so i put my time
and energy there. i don't need to donate campaigns and wear a t-shirt with someone's name on it. i don't need a slogan. i don't need to wait for you to come to my city and call me a third world country and leave. or offer free bumper stickers. that is not going to help people make money, in won't keep you out of prison, he won't get people reading or do any of these things. i want people who read this book to understand how powerful we are as individuals and how we can do more for our communities than marching in protest. marching and protesting is great, you need marches and protesters but we need lawyers, teachers who believe in these issues, we need people who run for office who believe these issues to keep them when they get elected and do all these other things too.
i was on the television show not long ago, chris hayes, we were talking about these issues and the guy -- working with the guy in the nikes to work with the guy in the suit, work with the white guy, we need all these different people to get together and work if we want to get through these issues and hopefully this book gives enough examples on how we can unite as one to give you these issues that plague our country today. >> ibram kendi, you see the history and knowing the history, how do we move forward? are we able to move forward with the history and scars inflicted on the african-american community? >> i will take your second question first. the answer is yes.
black people have suffered quite a bit of trauma as a result of many things we could talk about, but at the same time i don't think the history of oppression has made black people inferior in any way. it reduced their opportunity, but the people themselves just like any group of people throughout world history who suffered oppression, the people were able to put a strikethrough. i think we should first recognize black people, racial groups are equal despite their differences. that is the first thing people recognize. i am pretty clear i take a very
antiracist position which is racial groups are equal. when you believe racial groups are equal, when you believe antiracist ideas and you look out at racial disparities and inequities you will see discrimination. when you truly believe the racial groups are equal and you look out at disparities you are not going to see the black unemployment rate is twice as high as the white unemployment rate, black people don't want to work because black people are, quote, unqualified, you will see discrimination because you believe the racial groups are equal. i am hoping people really understand the difference between antiracist and racist ideas because it is a very simple distance, antiracist believes racial groups are equal, racist ideas connote that in some way a certain group is inferior or superior.
i will say also as i stated in my opening talk when we are trying to confront these producers of racist ideas differentiating them from you and i, the consumer, when we are trying to confront them and their ideas education and persuasion is not going to work. so again, it could work with us but if you are creating ideas to justify existing policies, you are not creating those ideas because you are ignorant or hateful, you recognize the ways in which those ideas benefit, and rich you, manipulate others, you recognize that. you and i when we go to those people and try to persuade them and convince them otherwise is not going to work. that is like trying to convince an executive of the country that sold harmful products that its products are harmful.
they already know and don't care so we need to recognize the differences and those producers of those ideas and they are simply manipulating those ideas to enrich their policies, to enrich, rationalize disparities. and you see that over and over again. we understand that in slavery. we understand how slaveholders create ideas that black people were stupid and turn around and when skilled workers would run away they would put out advertisements saying my smart black worker needs to be recovered. we know these contradictions, that is one of the things, our strategies have to change.
to undermine racist ideas we have to undermine the policies that gave birth to them. >> d. watkins, we understand where we have been but how do we make the change did you look at the educational system in baltimore city and we can look at educational system here and bring your children here a phenomenal education. these children are already on the path to success. how do we get our children in baltimore city beyond that path to success and what are the things we need to do? >> there are a lot of things we can do when we talk about resources, finding qualified teachers and giving them what they need to stay in and all these things that would work in a perfect world, in all fairness, i give a full disclaimer, the type of work i anticipated, what i believe in, is not a 30 year battle, it is
not a 45 year battle. when i die i will not see the change i want to see in schools with a country or in general. these issues took hundreds of years to create and will not be affected by policy, there will be a few good teachers to change it, we are fighting against a culture of people, forced to go to school when there was nothing on the other side of success, 97% of the people in baltimore, pull your pants up and getting a good grade does not guarantee you will not get a bullet in your head, it does not guarantee you won't -- i am not fighting against simple ideas. maybe a few months ago i was watching a television show that came out in the 90s called a different world about kids in
college, like a black college and there was a woman named whitley who was a substitute teacher who came home, really frustrated she had a long day, duane wayne said what is wrong? what is going on? she said they want these kids to fail. these textbooks are old, my class is crowded, they are saying these kids have a learning disability but they only behavioral issues, like it is a system set up for these kids to fail. i said wow! this is crazy! look at the clothes and equality of the show and i remember when a different world without so i knew it wasn't anything new but the issues were the same. i hit the button on my television to check the year, make sure i wasn't hallucinating, it was 1991. 2016, the same thing. the school of education, they fly people in from all over the
globe and they sit there and say the data says this or that, give me my check and leave me alone and that is it but if everybody is so smart and we have all this research, we are not making it into the classroom. that is why i put so much of these things on community-based work. what i have seen is from the ground up, social fabric, strong neighborhoods. the cliché works, it takes a village so my job like i said, my commitment and focus is literacy. i try to continue to create the content that gets young people excited about reading or telling their own story. i am trying to create a culture of thinkers and readers and
communicators, you cannot creates a culture in one lifetime, not the way i want to see it, these things take time. i always have much love and respect to the dynamic, administrators and teachers and these people who want to change these things, this is capitalism. you know what social reproduction is? sustain capitalism, you must create a permanent underclass, and the police forces. you do that through education and it is in front of our faces and they say -- a conspiracy theory guy, drug testing them, crazy. the same issues have been going on year in and year out. it is a mistake, you start saying these things were put in place for a reason and it is up to us to change them because the
system is working great for the people who created it. [applause] >> the last question i would like to ask is a very hot button issue which deals with the criminal justice system. my question to you is how has racism impacted the criminal justice system? you touchbase with that through the book and professor watkins, how has the criminal justice system impacted the life of the african-american male? i will first go ahead and ask ibram kendi to talk about that. >> we have spoken a lot about many different things so i want to give a brief history lesson
on the relationship between black men and crime. so anybody read shakespeare? i am sure -- i don't know how many of his plays you have read but there are certain ways in which the black characters are seen as devils or demons. some people are shaking their heads. this literature came about as a result of these connections that were made between blackness and the devil and those deep connections were being made in the 1600s and those connections settled into america. we saw those connections made in a very dramatic way in the salem witch trials, those familiar with the salem witch trials,
people were constantly saying the devil, black man was speaking to the witch and the which was of course bringing harm to me, that was a constant refrain during the salem witch trial, the notion of devil and blackness, the devil is the ultimate criminal, right? so that was -- that emerged early on in american history. when black people resisted enslavement in maryland, in florida that was illegal, they were considered criminals. when they resisted enslavement, when they fled to the north they were considered fugitives of the law and when black people, black people were enslaved in this country for roughly 200 years so over 200 years when they were resisting slavery, doing what many people in this room were
doing, that led to their classification as criminals and roughly by p 1890s you had more and more reports of crime data specifically from census data and that census data started showing black people were more likely to be arrested, black people were more likely to be in prison and those racial disparities have continued to this day and scholars in 1890s took that data and stated this means black people are by nature criminals and now of course most scholars took this crime data as fact, as actual crime rate meaning they stated black people are more likely to be arrested and imprisoned, they are more likely to commit crimes so in being more likely to commit
crimes they are more criminal like and that criminality emerges from their nature or their culture. scholars put forth over the course of the 20th century, those are the theories put forth by police officers, prosecutors, politicians, many other people today to justify why 40% of incarcerated populations in this country are black even though black people represent 13% of the prison population. and 22 times more likely to be killed by police. they are recklessly violent and criminals. that is the reason why. these racist ideas, blaming black people to justify racial disparities, it is a history of racist ideas. when you see these shootings, typically three responses. there is a response that states
the individual, trey von martin or jordan davis in florida was acting somehow recklessly or you have people who say the police officer was acting recklessly and people who state both. those positions, the three positions, people who utilize to explain racial disparity over the course of american history there was something wrong with black people, something wrong with discrimination or racial profiling or both and we see that constantly playing out. racial groups are equal which means there are black people who act recklessly bullet before the police, some white people are recklessly before the police and some people don't, the racial groups are equal or they are not. when they are not so many people believe they are not, black people actually commit more
crimes when statistics say otherwise. we know the racial groups we were talking about earlier, white people are more likely to sell consumed drugs in this country, we know there is no such thing as a violent black neighborhood, we won't think of it that way because that would call for a war against unemployment as opposed to war against drugs and criminals. [applause] >> before we turn it over, we will ask a couple questions. would you mind answering that quickly in terms of the role you have seen in terms of incarceration in your neighborhood? >> i studied at trump
university. i wish everybody was. we have to leave time for questions, doctor kinsey summed it up beautifully but i would like to add the biggest employer in the united states of america, it worked. and outside prison, we don't produce any products in the country unless they come out of jail. everything is gone and we are outsourcing all these things to different countries, and we wonder why things are the way they are. the biggest employer, sucking young people up, it used to be a joke going around among the delete, you are not making money unless you own a prison and the judges who got convicted not long ago, he was selling young
people to his friends. if you think of it, it is better than slavery. if you have a plantation and you own slaves, make sure you are going to house them and clothe them and make sure you are making money. the taxpayers are paying for healthcare and housing and clothing. how do you let it become a superpower and make poor people pay for it? mitt romney doesn't pay anything. >> at this point we would like to open the floor for questions. >> this is me when i quit
smoking cigarettes. >> if you want to ask a question you can line up behind the microphone. >> such an enlightening panel, happy to be here. one question is about the power of social media and race relations and broadening situations that occurred in neighborhoods and taking it national. and power of hashtag by black lives matter. how do you see that shaping the movement? how do you see that? >> i would ask professor watkins, he talks about social media. >> social media is like a gun. if somebody comes and you take that gun and shoot the person and save everybody you are a hero. if you aim at these people who
might be buying my book, a horrible person. you get a lot when you get qualities like people, they do great on the ground reporting and help spread these causes and issues which is great but a lot of times people think they are making a difference and the whole illusion, it can go either way. great communities accomplish great things but at the same time you have a lot of control to infiltrate these movements. what i would like to see social media do is i would like to see it used as a tool to mass educate our children or all these issues you need to know about, and it will be in the
same place at the same time, access to everybody. >> i thank both of you for your work. i work as a surgeon, whether i am at home or grew up in rural north carolina or baltimore seeing folks from greenmount or liberty, i was wondering, where have you seen in your research that racist ideas have been implanted? not the evidence of it but i don't read much about it. >> you have probably seen a recent study of medical students, medical students that believe black people are more
susceptible to pain, that theory was a theory that was used by benjamin rush. benjamin rush was in medical school, a famous doctor in philadelphia during the late 1700s and early 1800s and in one of his books he fight another doctor who stated his doctor was able to amputate a black person's leg while the black person held their leg because that black person did not feel pain. later the father of gynecology,
has a statue, in new york city in front of the american medical academy. so this guy was a practicing doctor and foul decided there was a major gynecological problem affecting women and he decided he was going to experiment on the vaginaes of enslaved black women and this speaks to the deck i was making earlier, he experimented and did not give them anesthesia and argued they didn't need anesthesia because they were black. in other writing he talked about how these women were rising --
writhing in pain, he saw the women writhing in pain but in his literature when he was trying to justify why he didn't use anesthesia they are black, he probably knew, he knew black people are equal in the sense that we feel pain too but he had to figure out a way to justify why he did not use anesthesia. i will also say the first scholars in the united states were typically medical doctors, phds did not emerge to the degree until the latter part of the 19th century and these medical doctors were the very people creating these racist ideas not only about medicine but all different types of things and the very people
creating notions that raises are biologically distinct and have specific diseases that need to be treated differently and all these ideas that never showed themselves to be true. >> if you ever read this book, medical apartheid, medical apartheid does a great job, he had a brilliant idea, african babies born in stables and i forget what the sickness was but he had a bright idea of taking it off the books like a nail, trimming the nail into the skull of these babies, infant mortality rate. medical apartheid is a great book that talks about that. i was reading that book and making myself upset. >> an instrument in surgery, won't call it by that name.
>> we only have time for a few more questions. >> dick gregory one time said or houses were desegregated before churches. when jimmy carter was governor of georgia, he went to church one sunday morning and took several african-americans with him and they were admitted but had he not been there they would not have been admitted into the church which is also known as a house of god. my question to the panel is does the history of racism in the united states represent failure of christianity, failure of the
message of christianity as described in the new testament, in the gospels or over 1 billion people in the world consider themselves christians and yet we have this history the panel has been talking about occurring in a christian country. so my question to you is do you agree the history of racism in the united states -- represents a failure of the ethics of christianity? >> yes, i agree. [applause] >> last question. >> thank you to ibram kendi and d. watkins, i just retired after 25 years as a librarian in prince george's county in the
public library and most of the time i worked in district heights as my privilege to work there in district heights and places like that, and i want to add one thing to what you said about the guy in the suit and everything, there are a lot of women who are out there doing that kind of thing too. from the library, a lot of predominately women there but also sororities, men, and women with ministries and all sorts of things doing a lot too. i also want to say there are two annapolises but one place they come together is annapolis senior center where most people have gone beyond a lot of stuff, thank you. >> i always acknowledge all the
women i work with, i should have been more clear in my language, i wouldn't even be here, can't even do anything but thank you for that. >> i will echo that. first of all that will conclude the panel. i know, i know. we have time constraints but definitely wish to thank the panelists, ibram kendi, d. watkins, we want to thank all of you for coming out, taking time and please support, read their books, they are very excellent. we know you have a question and we have opportunity, we will allow you to answer that question, just not right now. okay? thank you very much. [applause]