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tv   Bakari Sellers My Vanishing Country  CSPAN  July 9, 2020 9:41pm-10:42pm EDT

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analyst and former south carolina state representative examines the socioeconomic challenges americans and the rural south face through the lens of his hometown denmark south carolina. he spoke with the former mayor of south bend indiana. this is hosted by left bank books. >> in the event coordinator and i hope produced hundreds of events each year here in st. louis. i especially thank them for their support. what jd events did is a
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hillbilly elegy of the forgotten working-class men and women part memoir, part historical and analysis. it is an eye-opening journey of the south past, present and future. anchored in the hometown of south carolina it illuminates the things that continue to fertilize the soil of one of the worst states in the nation. he traces his father's life to martin luther king and numbered of the student nonviolent coordinating committee. in the dwindling rural black working class many of whom can trace their ancestry back seven generations. in the poetic personal history we are a weekend to the crisis affecting the other forgotten men and women through the media
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acknowledges. family members, neighbors and friends. he humanizes the struggles that shaped their lives to gain access to healthcare as the hospitals disappear into to make ends meet as the factories have shut down and to hold onto precious traditions has the towns erode to forge a path forward without succumbing. my vanishing country is also a love letter to fatherhood his life lessons that shaped him and his newborn twins that holds the name, honor and legacy. the history in 2006 when at just 22-years-old he defeated a 26 year incumbent, someone who's been in office longer than he's been in life to become the youngest member of this tale legislature and youngest african-american elected official. 2014 he was the democratic
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nominee in the state of south carolina and cnn political analyst served in the state legislature. recently named to the magazine 40 under 40 list he is also a practicing attorney who likes to give a voice to the voiceless. joining the conversation piece served a two-term mayor of south bend indiana and was the director candidate in 2020. a graduate of harvard university and oxford road scholar he enlisted in the u.s. navy reserve and became a lieutenant when he was appointed to afghanistan in 2014. april 2019, he announced in february 2020 they won the iowa caucuses. becoming the first openly person to ever win a primary presidential or caucus. he offered the shortest way home in 2019. now i'm very proud to welcome
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everyone at home please give a round of applause. [applause] >> thank you so much. pete, you got me ask >> yes, thanks. i want to say thank you for welcoming me into your home, friends, customers, family, eat we've known each other a long. of time and it warms my spirit how well you did running for it. we all thought they were extremely capable and you exceeded our greatest expectations. we expect so much more now which i guess is a double-edged sword. but thanks for your friendship, love, kind words and i'm glad
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you are spending an hour with me today. it's a pleasure. >> it is a pleasure. it makes the conversations we're having that much more timely so it's great to be united and see that your pandemic beard again is at the top percentile [inaudible] [laughter] >> liz told me to make sure that i wore my pete buttigieg attire. >> all of our dress codes are being adjusted. i'm excited to talk with you. i know people who do the moderating q-and-a later but before we jump into the substance of the book i'm
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curious i've written one book and it was a memoir as well so i'm curious about your process on the page out in the world how has the reception then clicks >> i have to tell you i was starting the process not wanting to write a memoir. i was trying to write a book that no one wanted to buy with 20 or 30 different publishers. i did everything i thought you could do to get a big opportunity. they said tell me your story so i told them about where i was coming from and about the
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charleston massacre. at the reception i was nervous and anxious because as you know when you write your truth down, it you put everything you have onto the sheet of paper and so i am excited and anxious and hope people will read it for the sense of understanding. i wrote it over a four to five month period and the reason is because the somebody we both called a friend had a book coming out at the end of the year so my publisher said whatever you do have t you haveo finish this book so we can get it out before then. i was excited about that. >> congratulations on bringing out such a terrific read. you mentioned two of the
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tragedies that in many ways are the pillar of the story. first you describe it as the most important danger in your life and it happened before you were even born. i am embarrassed to admit this but i wasn't taught anything about the massacre growing up. i certainly learned about what happened at kent state and the killing of the protesters but it wasn't until later that i learned about the massacre of students on the historically black college. as a haunting and memorable experience i had the opportunity to visit the site.
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i assume he educated so many including me about what it was like and what happened and what it meant. i wonder if you can share a little bit about first of all how you think we can do a better job as a country understanding and acknowledging what happened and then what it was like to grow up in the shadow. >> first let me say thank you for using your platform being on the trail, exploring the history of. my father said you know the campaign called me and i'm going to walk around and talk about the massacre. i said that's going to be a good event. it warms my spirit.
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you didn't have to but you picked that moment out to left those voices up. i see that his eyes don't talk as much as they used to from carrying the burden of the generation. i know that he shot and was imprisoned and i talk about the injustices but then i also talk about the trauma that extends from that generation. my father had a felony for
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[inaudible] my family had undergone so much trauma that it isn't just one generation that deals with this, it is more and more. growing up in our household, we all knew two things one is he made me that here in the kitchen every day. it was an experience. second, i grew up around so many people. stokely carlyle, marion berry, jesse jackson, so i look at my politics, my life, the culture and i was grateful. my father didn't want us to
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think that it was [inaudible] be others that gave so much. >> so you grow up surrounded by these giants in the movement and about develop a sense of responsibility that comes with that. even so, it was an audacious thing to run for office. [inaudible] >> exactly. i am a big fan of running before people say it is your turn. but i think one of the defining dynamics is this question of doing things out of step for your age. your family members described you as being kind of an old soul. on the other hand because you are taller coming year at college and people have no idea that they were 6 feet until
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[inaudible] you run for office i think 20, 21 and gets sworn in and run statewide. i certainly felt when i was running it felt to be in a fairly similar dynamic we found was many of those excited about a candidate i didn't find that same enthusiasm always existed.
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what is it like walking into a place i assume as those that have been there for a long time what is it like and how did you think about how to negotiate your age? >> that is a good question. when i ran i had a if not even who, if not now then when. i did think people are going to ask a. i went to kindergarten for a semester ended amid interest-rate end up in third grade than there were questions about whether i would skip and i
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made a personal choice not to do it. so i went to high school, college at 16. but one of the things i wanted to do was run for office and i didn't think you had to wait in line. i didn't think i had to get approval. i talk about the fact i called my opponent of the time and informed him i was going to run and just let him know and had the courtesy and we didn't speak at all until two days after. but when i walked into the capital, when you knock on doors
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you have this resolved that they were going to knock on every single door. i wanted to meet people where they are. i have this belief you want a grocery store in your community, you didn't want your grandkids divvied cooker and is to have to choose whether to pay their utility bills or get their pharmaceutical drugs. i went through these steps in my mind and i wasn't getting jaded by reality. then walking through the statehouse i was walking into a statehouse where is the same state that put my family through so much trauma and i would try to change that and put a face on
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that, tear down the system. i don't know how successful i was but i tried my damnedest. there was a sense of being young and everybody looked at me because i was 21, 22-years-old. everybody staring at you i him e first time you open your mouth they want to see what you are all about. i don't think people really remember that when i was elected when i was having a rough day i took a deep breath and looked at the flag. >> and it ultimately says something about why.
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>> i remind people all the time it is and the civil war it was up for the civil rights movement and resistance. so all of these emotions were going through my mind and going through my head. every day it was such an amazing feeling that it was being a young black democrats in south carolina. >> let me take it one step deeper especially for those around the subject of ambition one thing that i've appreciated you mention you and a friend are
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slicing and dicing is present on my mind is this question of ambition. you're not supposed to reveal you're expected to present your decision or ambition to run that way other than as the story or not and i'm not even talking about the potential running mate selection. ..
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>> but i had just lost my mind. what am i thinking about?
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and then to deliver the mail and then there are people in line to take his place? so how did i have the audacity to skip over them? what warms my spirit when i was running for office. >> you are the elected official. >> i was elected 2006 barack obama gave an amazing speech in 2004. the person we look to because
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devol patrick hit that plateau and hit that mountain. so i guess he thought it was unconscionable but into know i wanted to serve them i was getting invited in. there was a lot. >> you never know. so the ambition that was displayed was refreshing but i do think it is a thin line and
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i try not to step on the line. >> it's good to have that northstar. >> the other thing you are very transparent about in the book that is striking and to speak about anxiety and fear or like a classmate who died a similar experience not somebody i knew well but it shook me and change me. and that harrowing experience
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and with your wife coming very near to losing her life with complications from childbirth and then you what your daughter went through so why you try to take that step and share that and second what is your reaction or what has struck you or shaped you individually or as a matter of policy. we can sheena light on - - china light to confront the mental health challenges with everybody mission and be so hesitant perhaps. >> that aspect is something that was cathartic for me especially for a black man and they don't talk about issues of mental health rethink the only thing we can talk to is our barber and that is in therapy either.
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i wanted to break that stereotype and say here i have a beautiful family i'm a lawye lawyer, and having to live my life as an example for others but i suffer from anxiety and these irrational fears that the time they feel very rational that you're dealing with. and so that chapter entitled anxiety because for me that's what it is. i use that fear to make the most of every 24 hour period that i have. and then you mention going through the's issues and my wife almost dying in childbirth and my daughter being diagnosed, on the transplant waiting list.
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she was very small. but she had a very big belly and was yellow. you can see her dying in front of you. you talk about all these traumas that my trauma may not be yours we want to lay it out to people to be the perseverance especially during the time of coronavirus and uncertainty in the angst that goes along with that. for me it's really personal and i also tell people this book is really aspirational. i don't think by any stretch i want them to think i'm perfect.
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but it is a way i believe people can garner understanding especially among the issue of infant mortality black women are four times more likely to die during childbirth than their counterparts and i wanted to shine a light on that. my wife was extremely strong and passed that down to my daughter and although lasher was the toughest year of my life i don't wish that on anyone to almost lose your wife and daughter but it's like avoiding a car crash every day for an entire year so uniquely enough even in
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quarantine this doesn't affect us. everybody is healthy. we have been down that road but i wanted to pour everything out and perversely enough one of the things donald trump has been characterized is to be your authentic self describing to a culture of anti- intellectualism mike that's the thing. that people are actually enjoying this book because there is a value added to be your authentic self what i remember most about this campaign recently going through this authenticity is you and your husband on the front of time magazine. and i utilize that image for
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me recent political history to say that's the best politician but right below when barack obama was in the white house and jacob said is your hair feel like mine and he reached over to touch his hair and you together on the front of time it was hopeful and aspirational to show the true value of what this country could be like barack and a four -year-old black kid. that authenticity and to give it your all that's i tried to do in my vanishing country as well. >> you do me a great honor to put that image in that company. i know that image you are
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talking about. it is extraordinary. thank you for that. i know we have some audience questions although speaking of rankings just before i relinquish control there was one you are less than fully forthcoming people discussing if you are good at basketball. those who have the objective you if you are as good as you can - - as you believe you are. >> i'm the adult league all-star. i still have it. and actually in a group with some of my friends you are mentioning the book. nobody read it who was close to me so this is new. my dad didn't read it was joking with my sister and brother and said this will be
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weird and they said let's see if you get invited. [laughter] i'm better in my head. >> young people have the burning desire is it a lack of fear? >> i would say this is a trait more prevalent in young people. thank you for your question but i do think it's a trade a lot of young people have we do have the sense we can change the world generations he which is a god-awful name for a generation by the way like it just sounds like the end of the world.
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one year ago we were concerned about this generation eating ipod - - tied pods and now looking at throughout the country it is a fascinating generation i we say every ounce of change we have in this country from the civil rights movement to women's rights and the gay rights movement has been led by young people and a lot of that has to do with the fact we still believe in words like hope and love and truth and justice and peace and meet people where they are. very good question. >> it is a great question. sometimes it's good not to know what you don't know. and to have that sense of thinking in your teeth maybe
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that's not unique to young people for those who stepped into the arena and the generation they don't belong to the same generation as those today but you can see the energy and opportunity but the activism is driven not by idealism but reality. they say school violence like it's routine the longer your planning to be on the earth the more you have to deal with the consequences of those decisions being made right now about climate change. to go back to the activists generation of the civil rights era and then to spend some time with the students and the
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bowling alley that's now on campus more importantly getting a dose of inspiration from the motivation of people have. >> the next question. besides voting what about the narrative of public health? as we define our new normal? >> sure. we are getting a false choice for many readers now if we can be on the side of public health and with that economy the public health strategy is good for the economy some of the polling we see about reopening what i write about in my vanishing country that i
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begin to unpack and with the data it is very important and i united states surgeon general with his comments and telling white people to put their pants stop smoking and talk about public health you have to look at the facts that that we live in a food desert you don't have access to fruits and vegetables and lack of medicaid expansion and your hospital close down your how that quality care we haven't spent money on infrastructure it's like a joke on jay leno that's not true.
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>> that was funny he was hilarious and that's the way people of color are treated so we have to look at all of these things my those in new york and detroit and milwaukee are dying and higher rates so i think having a good political strategy is good for the economy to help change her new normal. >> so across the systemic issues to show the disparity
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but the weakness and access to healthcare. and with that labor protection to help that spread. working through these discriminatory path. it's a weakness in our country. but i also want to mention these unglamorous issue areas. in my book some people respond to my favorite part about notre dame some people were connected to indiana there is one half of 1 percent who just love the discussion of wastewater system. mares love but not a lot of other people. >> so a lot of times but at
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the state level and that infrastructure for example and also racial justice and to see what the quirky the nerdy pursuit and then something like flint happens and then in particular were all black residents like south carolina over years and decades. so this is everyday life whether clean safe drinking water for that it's more than a convenience store with access to fresh fruits and vegetables somebody's more likely to have diabetes not because they chose to but then these conditions but also more
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likely and tragically for your own family so all of these things connect together and it is systemic and to be more desirable. >> your dad's generation all trauma parallels a lot how do we do a better job of career letters it was a challenge
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than and the challenge now. and it was frowned upon because it shapes our agricultural norms. and that voice with that level of activism from kaepernick and all my friends are black lives matter and the ferguson protest but that activism when we look back those that stand on the front line in that quest for freedom and justice
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will always be remembered kindly. in the meantime to have a certain skill set to make sure you hone that skill set and then with a decent communicator. and that skill set to organize and communicate and propel you into whatever ritual you may have. samuel l jackson was a true activist from morehouse college for holding the board of trustees none other than martin luther king. so you see that trajectory go to places that your fervent desire to be a part of change.
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there's a lot of college campuses if you are young person on the front line with those skill sets to a place they can propel you. and then back in the day and then back in the day that activist is something that has happened in recent memory and mentioned in passing but is so striking. they have managed to strip him i will always see mlk with a
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37 percent approval rating and was taken from us. now there are holidays and statues and one of the things we did this week was a statue from the moment from the university of notre dame and doctor king the famous photograph on and on at soldier field but that was not the most just best decision at the time. the very things that is come on - - incredibly controversial. and those that are legitimate
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than others but also warning signs that moral clarity does move you. >> doctor king with an approval rating and what they realizes the approval rating hovered around the low thirties and then juxtapose that against with 22 and 40 percent. donald trump's approval rating is stronger than mlk at the time of his death. those who stand up for justice no matter the consequences. >> i'm 17 i live in st. louis
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missouri. do you have any advice how clear teens in the midwest can advocate for themselves especially in regard to the lgbtq community? >> absolutely. you are doing it speaking of these issues and being upfront. there is still the awareness of how different it is depending on who you are to question anything that is not mainstream. any part of lgbtq. it means one thing and one part of geography and another. the struggle for equality does not and when marriage equality came to this country in 2015. and then to be out and step forward.
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to be in a school or community role. and how many changes there are with that first person that you see. when i was in high school i knew exactly zero gay students. so many are looking to the rider to the left. in coming to terms with who i was. and to let others know. it's a matter of activism and policy. letting someone see you know who you are.
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and that will matter as much as a very real thing we have to do to have violence and dealing with the health issues and health equity issues. and the intersection of the different patterns of gender identity sexuality and race. >> i want to ask a question. i want to know about carrying the burden. but the lgbtq community did you feel a sense of pressure or burden or responsibility to
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be representative of the community to be oppressed with certain parts of the midwest is very stagnant political thought the lack of progressive ideals and ideology did you feel a sense of pressure and responsibility the lgbtq community to stand up strong? >> no question that you feel that and are aware of that responsibility and humbled by it. to know there is such diversity within that community to make sure people's experience could be very different than ours.
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and to move into who you are and be clear about it. or people outside of the community. and then grow up with a certain definition of a right or a wrong way to be clear on - - queer. but somebody let me know and then to have a conversation with parents. with a friend or loved one. and never dreaming this would be possible. but i have done that with that
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responsibility to try every step of the way and whether their politics line up perfectly. and i try to wear it well. >> that is a question i've always wanted to ask it was a question to be president of black america then to articulate with president of the united states of america and to become secretary of state. that would be one hell of a book to write.
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>>. >> so my question how can people have conversation and with privilege and these conversations how do they acknowledge the humanity of others without letting hate? >> that's a powerful question when black people of color read this book i want them to get understanding the struggles where people come from jeff conversations around the issue of race and compassion and a sense of empathy and giving people the benefit of their humanity. my greatest fear is raising
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black children in this countr country, there is a large segment of the population not only did this book come out during a pandemic with racial disparity but also one who was murdered in a good old-fashioned lynching walter scott, and the list goes on and on and then the eight others killed in the charleston massacre about other people's humanity wrote this book because i wanted to start a conversation and hopefully understanding to say
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you can teach people arithmetic and science and the ancient egypt and rome. so it's an amazing opportunity to learn so we appear to have those difficult conversations. >> the only way to have these conversations and they will be uncomfortable for the search for understanding and try to understand without to know those things through experience and that's why stories are so powerful. because they allow us to see or what we don't know basin what we do.
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if we don't know what it's like to walk into the south carolina state legislature so describe what it's like to walk into a room. and then you read about what it is like to go to the experience your family went through medically. and from a young woman in childbirth and i will never understand that. but i do know what it's like to be afraid and have grief and encounter something outside of your control. so we take those pieces of what we might understand just because we're people and
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connect those two things will never quite understand. if we have that listening here. and then shaped a little bit as many people did. and then to shape my understanding of what i do. that's the only way i can get to the way we can. but i think your question that we have to do this before it's too late. and in particular in this historical massacre and by what happened.
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and with the future of the american project. >> that's what i tell people. i love this country so much. and we are supposed to put on display for all children no matter what they look like to that american dream. i don't want this country to vanish are those ideals to vanish any longer. it's a political climate we are in now that those ideals are fleeting and abraham lincoln call the better agents of our nature and that's only way we can come together to
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answer a question directly how we can come together with understanding and compassion in the humanity and that's the way we can heal and that's what our country needs. >> one more question. what is your proudest accomplishment? >> the outside legislature was endorsing barack obama. and inside the legislature i'm up from a poor community in the library is a big deal that's my biggest accomplishment. and that's a place where they
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can go community programs that something very proud to accomplish. >> thank you so much to be very inspiring. thank you so much for being here tonight. and if you have an opportunity to buy the books please do. >> and give a shout out. >> congratulations.
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