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tv   After Words Robin Di Angelo Nice Racism - How Progressive White People...  CSPAN  August 29, 2021 10:01pm-11:01pm EDT

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>> robin d'angelo looks at how well-intentioned white people can inadvertently cause racial harm through what she calls a culture of niceness. she's interviewed by eddie grob, author and princeton university professor of african-american studies. afterwards is a weekly interview program with relevant guests of interviewing top nonfiction authors about their latest work. >> i'm so delighted to have this opportunity to sit down and talk with you robert d'angelo if i may call you robin . it's so exciting . >> it's an honor. >> i want to begin with it seems like a basic question but it's a moment in the book where you are actually dealing with the kind of tension between class and race and you told your story. and i thought it's really important to begin with your
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journey to this work. tell a little bit about you and the way in which your upbringing shapes how you approach antiracist education . >> i'll talk about the aspects of my life and upper trainingi think is so relevant to the work i do today . what two pieces and one i'm not sure i write about in the book and that is that my mother died when i was 11 years old. she died of leukemia. this was the late 50s, early 60s. at that time you didn't talk about those things. it's probably seems shocking to people today cancer was a shameful thing and we were told not to speak about it and when she died we were told not to talk about it. afterwards either. so it was a traumatic experience for me but i don't think it had to be that traumatic if you have been able to talk about it. i was 11 years old.
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so from an early age i couldn't articulate it this way at that time but i didn't understand the relationship between violence and suffering. there was this huge elephant in the room and by god i couldn't talk about that then but i'm going to talk about this elephant now.t i also grew up in poverty because my mother was a simple mother. she was going with cancer, shecouldn't keep a job . he couldn't keep us house, we were often left with strangers for long times. she couldn't keep us e fed or be. i'm quite sure that i wasn't clean as a child. and i had a lot of shame and i'll never forget that moment that all of that crystallized for me and she took us, my sisters and i to visit some friend and as often happens
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when the adults get together the children begin to play and we were playing and then it came time toleave and i was the last one toout the door . i overheard one of the little girls asked the mother what's wrong with them? that is the literal question she asked, what's wrong with them and i stopped riveted. i wanted to hear that answer. and her mother went like this, therefore. and i won't ever forget that moment. i even feel chills now because it was when i realized there's something about us shameful caand everyone can see it but nobody should speak of it. and i share that because when i realized much later in life that i participated in somebody else's oppression a, that was unbearable to me. i cannot know the black utexperience that i can tap into the shame of poverty and discrimination based on the importance of not wanting to contribute in a form of that
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for anybody else. i also always knew i was white and i have to look at what people who are for or working-class to say they don't have privilege and i have to saycome on . i always knew i was white, i always knew it was better to t be white . in fact, we use like people to ameliorate some of our class shame. i can remember being hungry, being out in public in a park , seeing food left out and reaching for that food and being admonished not to touch it because you don't know who touched it, could have been the language of the time was colored person. don't sitthere, you don't know who sat there, could have been a colored person and the message was clear, had a alcolored person touch that it would be dirty . i was actually dirty. but in those moments, i wasn't poor anymore, i wasn't
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shameful anymore. it was a form of rejecting our dirt and shame onto black people. and it was the way that we align ourselves or i would say we align ourselves with the dominant white culture that our poverty separated us from. i don't have less racism because i grew up poor, ijust learned my place in the racial hierarchy . from a different class position and i would have learned it had i been middle-class. i would have learned there too, just different lessons would have come home to me. >> i but it was important to give a sense of your own journey, the way in which user biography as a way to disrupt the kind of false, in some ways false dichotomy which is the most important which is every phenomenal advice but i think it's important that 'swe start with your story. that there's a journey to this work.
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now talk a little bit about before we get to the actual book nice racism talk about how life white fragility changer that changed your life. this, the former book was this extraordinary new york times bestseller, number one. how had it transformed you because a lot of this the stories in the new book, of your travels around the country doing this extraordinary work around integration. >> like a lot of white people who experienced a form of oppression in their life other than of course you don't experience racial oppression but we experience d other forms and for a lot of us , we thought long and the unjust life is for us. but rarely, i was in my 30s before i ever considered how i benefited d. and then in a large part my whiteness allow me to navigate my poverty.
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i didn't go to collegeuntil i was in my 30s . but of course once i got there, i fit in. i was elected everywhere by all my teachers, by the curriculum. and myi graduated not knowing what i can do and got this position as what we call in the 90s a diversity trainer. and i've been doing this kind of work now for about 25 years. i went on to get my phd d. i've been writing and publishing on racism and white racial identity for decades. but mostly in academia and i know you're an academic and you know that's does anybody read peer-reviewed articles we write? sometimes, maybe gradstudents . and i had written the article white fragility about the frustration of trying to talk to white people about racism.
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so being a diversity trainer, going day in and day out going against my socialization which most white people are taught not to talk about racism and every day i walked into rooms filled with white people and said going to talk about racism, most often standing side-by-side with a black cofacilitator who was the only black person in most of those rooms and being stunned at the hostility to the conversation, at the meanness. we can be really mean on this topic. and driving home with that cofacilitator and bearing witness was part of being white is never having to bear witness to the pain of racism on black people and rarely being held accountable for the pain you've caused black people. that experience ofacademia , kind of brought me to be writing and somebody
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somewhere quoted from white fragility, the article and it exploded. i apparently captured in language and dynamics that's been familiar certainly the black people but also once i named it familiar to white people. and it's harder to deny a shared experience . so i was getting emails from around the world about that article. and i knew it would be useful to develop it further and make it accessible. it's not my favorite way to write but we have to do it in academia. i wanted to make it accessible in more plain language. so i went to a non-academic publisher, and nonprofit social justice public or publisher, beacon press. i knew there would be an
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audience for the book based on the reaction but it's still on the list, in three years who coulddream of that ? i wasn't prepared i for the depth of backlashfrom all sides of the spectrum. i expected it from the right . you expect that, that doesn't really get to you in the same way. but i didn't expect it to that degree from the left. though that's been a process. >> that's interesting that you didn't expect it from the left. there's a sense in which the left is i wouldn't want to say it, i wouldn't want to generalize too much but there's a sense in which i remember this moment, he was kind of testifying before congress and he said something to this effect that
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he was skeptical of the white liberal. skeptical of those who wanted to do something for him as opposed to with him and he had seen how white liberals had responded to the cold war, to the accounts of the mccarthy area and how they betrayed them so there's this suspicion in baldwin as well as a letter from a birmingham jail at the beginning of the book. so say a little bit about nice racism, what is it and who are these people who are the nice racists that you're talking to ? >> well, it's me. we have to start with the basic foundation of systemic racism. so let's proceed from that premise that racism occurs in explicit acts but it actually is a structure that infused across society. and it is the norm.
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it's not an aberration. it's reproduced 24 seven 365. it's a highly adaptive system. look where we are with voters rights. we thought in 1965 we settled that. and we're in a very serious place right now. so itadapts to challenges and it keeps on keeping on . so if it is a system, we are all shaped by. we are all shaped by it. so for those of us who are white, we have to change our question from if i had been shaped by this system to how have i been shaped by it? you cannot be exempt from the cultural waters use women. so nice racism is meant to capture the well intended white progressives. the moderate who is more concerned with a lack of conflict, was more concerned
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with comfort and saving face thenracial injustice . there's so much handwringing about white people feeling guilty. for me that's a great example. my goodness, white people may feel something unpleasant in looking at racism and we're going to compare that to what we watched this summer with george floyd and ahmaud arbery and so forth. the reason i say in king's terms, it was moderates, in all the other ones it was liberal but today we say progressive.i think we do the most daily harm. and i don't want to speak for you, you can correct me or if i miss speak but odds are on a daily basis you're not interacting with white nationalists and if you are
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interacting with white nationalists you're aware that's whoyou're interacting with and to some extent you know how to protect yourself . especially in academia you are most likely interacting with colleagues just like me. and we are the ones that send you home often exhausted. the thousand daily cuts, that maddening insidious, i can't get my fingers on this but yet again we reproduce racism in our outcomes, in our hiring, and our policy. so it's more subtle. it's the smileon the face . it's a gas lighting. it's the denying. >> you invoke guilt and in the book you make a distinction between shame and guilt . >> just in the condensed version, guilt is generally what you feel about something you've done and feel responsible for and shame is
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generally something you feel that you inherently are . so guilt is i did that and shame is i am that. my area of scholarship is discourse analysis. language is political, language is not ctobjective, it's not neutral and language shapes perception so i'm attentive to how we frame conversationsand how we position ourselves in conversations . and i notice that white progressives, those who would voluntarily attend a talk or watch a video like this, will pretty freely talk about feeling shame and i don't know what to do. i feel really ashamed but not guilt, not that's worthy of note, this is a pattern. and as a sociologist, i think patterns are rich sources of insight. so how did, how does this function, if i feel guilty,
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i'm responsible for something and reparative action would be to somehow address what i have done. if i see shame i just am bad and there's nothing i can do. i'm salt from responsibility. and shame tends to elicit sympathy, support. if i say i feel so ashamed, i'm such a bad person most people around me will reassure me. no, nobody should feel shame. we're all inherently good. this is a pretty popular progressive mantra . so it functions in the environment in ways that actually i think garner more social capital. >> in some ways i think you use the fact that i feel bad actually establishes that i'm actually a decent person. that i'm a goodperson . but what's interesting is as
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you know in any kind of political theory circle, if the it's the action of shame in our policies that represents a certain kind of problem so chris mcgraw rex about the fact that trunk, people thought that cheney could move trunk around. that there's no feeling of shame and on the right, it's the absence of shame that allows them to do x, y, and z . and it seems to me after reading nice racism is prevalent shame . on theleft , it's comes to binary but it's the prevalence of shame on the left that actually enables in certain interesting sources so i found this talk about the feeling of guilt is really kind of critical intervention. because there seems to be always at least in my work and in my conversation and in
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the zone that you're in, there's this sense in which we cannot sit in our discomfort. we find ourselves not only feeling guilty but feeling shameful and feeling this sense that we are not in fact shameful and that comes up the works, we can't get to where we want to go. >> shame is a very unpleasant feeling. with guilt shame is the worst but can we bear it, can we build our capacity to feel it and move through. it's the question that never failed me in my efforts to unpack. virtually every white person you talk to even those on camera engaging in racism will claim that they're not. how do we keep getting racism
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, that's what edward o calls racism without racism. but the question that has really served me in trying to figure that out is not is it right or wrong, is it right or wrong that you feel shame? number that we could split hairs over forever. it's how does it function and how does it function in this context and if it functions to motivate you to build your capacity to move through it, to change the way you understand what you said, well then it's functioning in a constructive way but if it's functioningto excuse your inaction , to be the reason you don't engage, to cause everyone around you to walk on and shells and to be careful and don't say this and don't say that, but it's functioning to protect the racist status quo. >> so chapter 5. is the longest chapter of the book.
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and t it is a detailed account of what you call the moves of white progressives. and i found it fascinating. credentialing to out votes. and i'm thinking about how woke is them in the context of what are thedebates we saw. about the bernie sanders campaign . between bernie sanders the campaign and black lives matter or some of the conversations we overheard with occupy wall street. at the very moment occupy is taking off black lives matter is taking off and we were wondering some of us why were these things coming together and it's like abolitionism and true soil, what are they going in different directions . talk a little bit about the moves of white progressivism and why you thought it was so important. to lay out because i did have language.
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to say that's what that was for its fascinating. talk a little bit about that chapter, lay out why it's in some ways at the heart of the book h. >> i appreciate you if i understood you correctly acknowledging that it resonated. you've experienced these moves. you've been on thereceiving end of these moves . i've been an educator and one of the things i'm effective at is breaking itdown and showing what it looks like . years how i can help you understand what you're doing and how it's functioning. so the book is about the ways in which we perpetrate racial harm h, then i need to make that very very clear. and i've been observing it, receiving it, participating in it. i'm not outside anything i write about.ts i just wanted the opportunity to say all right.
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let's take apart what do we do? so credentialing is a really big one because it's so predictable that the moment a white progressive encounters a black person or engages in a cross race they're going to need to establish that they're not racist. and unfortunately most of the ways we seek to do thatare not remotely convincing . and i've been in enough conversation with black colleagues and friends who are like our eyes are rolling on the inside . piece would be your making angfool of yourself . we're making a fool of herself. i'd want to know if i came out in the bathroom and my skirt was tucked up into my pantyhose and my bottom was showing and you came up to me and said heads up. it's visible. i would be like oh my god, thank you so much and pull my
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skirt down. i u wouldn't say how dare you, no it isn't and everybody better proceed as if they don't see anything and of course that's white fragility but i see two overall categories of credentialing. colorblind, white progressives are less likely . to go into colorblind. we're going to go into proximity and have you noticed how often white people will use proximity to black people as their evidence that they arefree of racism . i had a black roommate in college. i went to this school, i work on a diverse team. i traveled the world. i live in a big city, therefore i have proximity and what i try to help people do with that is say okay, if your evidence that you're not racist is that you can tolerate proximity, you can walk down the street in a large major city and pass
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black people and not lose it, then in order for that to be good evidence, it has to not be possible by somebody who's racist. otherwise that's notgood racism, that's not good evidence . so apparently, racists can't have proximity to black right here i think we see that'sridiculous . that's absurd .we can go all the way back to days of enslavement and jim crow and we're quite clear that white racists have proximity pretty intimate proximity at times to black people. and so i want them to see what they're doing when they do that. that they're not convincing anybody. and to reveal the underlying framework that they're operating from. we just cannot get where we
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need to go from that framework that says racism consists of individual acts of intentional meanness. that's most white people's definitions is why most people what people will say they're not racist and why to support their case their friends will say how nicethey are . he's a nice guy, he can't be racist. those things are mutually exclusive. >> i have this experience recently on television with my good friend senator claire mccaskill. that at the moment when senator blunt described the people act and senator manchin, his version, his response and when stacy abrams endorsed manchin's compromise, blunt described it as the stacyabrams bill . and obviously what he's
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trying to do is put a black face on this and the response from my good friend was he's not embracing it, he's a nice guy. that was exactly this language. talk about how woke, a lot of folks areexperiencing this today. something about how woke it is ? >> i had a thought there about that example. it flew out. okay, so outwoking is a move white people make to show i'm more down than you are and i've read your book so now i'm actually more down than you and i'm going to call you out d. i've been studying this for three months and i'm going to tell robin d'angelo how wrong she is. sometimes i'll go to youtube
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and i'll see something. five reasons why robin d'angelo is wrong. and the top one will be she says all white people are racist,can you believe that . what i want to ask is pretty much every white person to do is take a moment and defined for yourself what is the criteria by which you would grant that somebody is racist ? what is the criteria? i don't think many white peoplehave thought deeply about that . if you're astounded that i would say all white people are racist, then tell me what you think it takes. and it's probably going to come down to some version of individual conscious meanness across race. and that's framework, that paradigm just couldn't be more effective atprotecting races and . because it's one that exempts virtually all white people. guarantees the census senselessness. guarantees that then nice people couldn't possibly participate and then we end
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up with racism without racists. and so let me just be clear since i said when i say all white people are racist what i mean is that we live in a society in which it is in. racist ideologies are circulating all the time. the vast majority of what people lift segregated lives and not only feel no loss about that which for me is the deepest message of all, that i could go cradle to gray as most white people will with no authentic sustained relationship with black people. and not only not feel anything of value as a missing hibut defining my life as gaining. from the absence of blacks. what's happening when the
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neighborhood is. what's happening when it's coming down? what are we talking about when a violent crime happens and whsomebody has to stay on camera you wouldn't believe thatwhatever happened here . you already know what kind of neighborhood we're talking about and it begs the question where should that happen? >> .. this is not the result of loud phrases but actually the result of or it is sustained over time to how we are habituated.
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all of us are habituated to live the value, these racial habits, the heart of our way of living. so when i read this in "nice racism" i never really thought about it in this way, that we know that our social groups are homogeneous for the most h part, that when people talk about network racism, they're talking aboutci the fact our networks ae so homogeneous that opportunities are passed along in certain networks because they are not strong. other networks because they are robust. i'm not playing golf went up 15, 16 with my friends dad and the like. so there is the sense in which this segregated world, white world, right, which has all of these advantages almost as you put it earlier this is the water
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you swim in. you can't come out of that without even at drop on you. it reminds me of that moment in the hidden world, where he says racism comes to them as natural as language, as this kentucky born guy. what do you make of that? >> guest: it is such an important point because it is such a sticking point. this gets us up against the very precious ideology of individualism. which causes lots ofin white people to meltot out into white fragility here you don't know me.'t how can you say anything about me? it's true i don't know all of you. i don't know most of the white people i'm talking about. that's on each individual white person to look at all right how have i been shaped by this? what's my class position? what's my gender? what it do my life experiences within a society that -- i just going to go here, , white
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supremacy, the idea that white is the stand-in for human, the ideal human, t and the further u are away from that standard, the less human, it's really an argument that the white body is the standard by which all bodies, humanity, shall be measured. from that whiteness, then the less human you are, right? that's the society we live in. we are all shaped by it so that's why say we change the question from if two how. -- two how. i don't think anyone would argue the moment a baby is born and the declaration is made, boy or girl, a whole set of socialization kicks in and you cannot avoid it. the blanket they wrap you in is going to be shaped i whatever
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gender they see you as. you can resist it but you will have to resist it and not to resisted every step of the way from everyone you meet. they will be responded to you consciously or not as a male or female. these categories categories are being challenged but none of us can be exempt from it come from gender conditioning. and yet we think we can be exempt from racial conditioning. so if that framework is helpful i i would offer it to white people to think, to use. >> host: sorry, go ahead and try to i a thought because i can imagine what i call that yeah, but. white folks listening but yeah, but, and he says he lives a secular life overall. the difference is black people who may also lived separate from white people, one, that is the result of decades and decades and decades of policies and practices that were forced on
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black people. this idea people prefer to live with her own i don't think some people prefer to live with her own with all the resources and some prefer with none of the resources. that's been imposed and so now it seems natural that it is the result of the policies. and you are not sitting at the table as a homogeneous group of people making decisions that affect my life. but my group is sitting at the table making decisions that affect your life. can you see that picture in your mind of the governor of georgia surrounded by other white people signing the voting restrictions with the picture of the plantation? behind him. so yes, biden administration will be the most diverse administration we have ever had, but not one person listening right now was raised in a society which biden's administration was in office. all of our conditioning doesn't unravel the moment there some
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diversity in front of us. the people who are enacting these policies, banning whether you could, you or i could be having this conversation on the college campus, who has the power to ban these conversations? nacho group. my group. >> host: just listening to you and reminded me of a moment in the book that he found really interesting, and it's these deeply personal moments. my social group, predominantly black, people of color because it's exhausting at times, right? then yet to make the decision, you wrote about this in the book, the people who are in your close groups who happen to be white, who are white, make a distinction. there's a distinction between
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being white and happening to be white. let's make that distinction. you have to make a decision in those moments, , do i risk our friendship to tell him or her what she just did, or what he just did wax do i just let that slide or do we just move on? to have to interpret the drums today? that is, always being asked to give an account for why a, b, and c, right? there's not only the broad macro question but also the internal demands that are placed on relationships, interracial relationships. i've got this in your own book when you found yourself doing certain things you would call your black friends and say, who do similar work, and they would have to walk you through it,
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right? what kind of labor that is, that's an additional kind of labor you don't have with other kinds. does it make sense? >> guest: absolute. there are two concepts that are useful for me and one is allostatic load and that refers to chronic pressure lots of people carry allostatic load, but racial weathering is the result of allostatic load that is due to the stress of living and a society in which systemic racism is the foundation. all that i can you come here and i just said that thing, it's coming from a racist assumption. it's coming from a bias that i'm oblivious to it and i say it and i carry on. i had a great time at the party and you are sending that hours agonizing, is it worth it? what i risk losing the relationship? how often has since gone well for me?
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you know what, it's not worth it. unfortunately, as it argued in white for julie, often the punishment gets worse not better. that's what i see white for julie as a kind of every day white racial bullying, a a fof everyday white racial control, right? we have this interaction and then you have to think that whether it's worth it to talk to me, and baby futures, no, it's not. i've got to get to the day, a country to give get my family at home, and so i didn't get called in. i wasn't accountable. racism got to fly. you got to bear the brunt of it and we keep on keeping on with me being comfortable and you being uncomfortable. i want to share a really powerful moment that drives this home. i was in front of a -- back anything we could be in front of
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groups, and i've gone over white fragility and all of these dynamics and i post a question to the people of color in the room. i said how often have you tried to get a white person feedback on our inevitable and often unaware racist habits and assumptions, and have it go well for you? they laughed. they rolled their eyes. the number one response is never. the number two response is, rarely. i followed up by saying, asking, welcome what he could give us that feedback? and have us receive it with grace, reflect and seek to change our behavior, what would that be like? i'll never forget this black man raised his hand and he said, it would be revolutionary. revolutionary is a really strong word, right?
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that's a difficult white people are, but that is a frickin', if i may, revolution, give us the feedback and have us receive it with grace, reflect and seek to change. that's a difficult we are. on the other hand, that doesn't seem like a very tall order. it really doesn't but it is a tall order from the current paradigm that says only that people. that guarantees i'll have to defend myself and then you well be in a position of deciding whether it's worth it. >> host: this is a wonderful way of handing out, right? the work speaks to the cross racial interracial relationships, kind of personal interactions, how they run aground in which allies are pushing this as a philanthropic issue. they are not seeing themselves.
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they understand instances decently. we can go through all that. we are in a moment where we're seeing this work at the macro level, in very, very clear ways. senator tim scott declares america is not a racist country. vice president harris echoes, we are not a racist country have to do with our racism. okay. another kind of moment, critical race theory as a catchall phrase for the kind of work that you do, the kind of work that even room does. this effort to re-narrate 1619 project, right? all of these are a tense to kind of tell a different story about
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our beginnings, about who we are, confronting our wrongdoings and the like, and we see the depths of the vitriol. we see the intensity of the response. reading "nice racism," we see it broadly across the country at large. bring the two together, talk about "nice racism" and talk about we are as a country in this moment which is supposed to be, supposed to be a moment of profound possibility and transformation trick to precisely because it is a moment of profound possibility we are seeing incredibly amplified efforts to stop it from being that moment. so carol anderson so beautifully argues in white rage, every inch a black progress has been met by white rage. i believe the current moment is a backlash to obama presidency. i think this blocking of critical race theory is a reaction to what happened this summer. and that more impolite people
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are being awoken and galvanized to get involved. the forces that are invested in racial justice are deep, but the forces that are invested in maintaining a racist status quo are also very, very deep. and for the most part have the reins of power. so i see both those sides, if you will, absolutely amplified. i don't believe those who want to protect the racist status quo can come out and say that. they can't so they have to find the bogeyman, which have always been effective at doing. the southern strategy where you manipulate the white populists and racial animus. you caused them to be afraid. you reinforced this idea of scarcity, that any game for you as a loss for me.
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heather mickey talks about that in the sum of us, that jonathan talks about it in dying of whiteness, right? critical race theory, and registered tim white call it conservative racist theory -- i just heard tim white dashed it's a standard standard for anyone who acknowledges that systemic racism is real. it's the perfect standing in a way to cover that. you have the word critical, and outside of academia a lot of people here that as meaning criticism, and that sounds bad, right? critical thinking means thinking deeply with nuance and with education. then you have the word theory. that sounds like some radical crackpot thing. if it is just a theory then it's not true or established and its such a perfect little mima to dismiss the conversation.
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it is being protected. there's a part of me that doesn't want to talk about it because i don't want to reinforce the legitimacy of is it right or wrong? let me be clear. true critical race theory of course comes out and legal scholarship, like kimberly or derek bell. i'm not a critical race theorist but, of course, it's been applied, the premises that racism is structured into the society. and that absolutely -- >> host: like you switch the question, to how come with regard to the critical race theory debate, i want to ask the question why. why critical race theory, why now? so it seems to me that these
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moments, to attack 1619, all of this is aimed at as we sit at the beginning of this particular conversation is aimed at arresting change, to limit the scope of remedy. we are not bad so we can't engage in this wholesale transformation of who we are. we are not that, we are this year instead of debating crt on its merits, because at least then we know what it is, we need to ask ourselves why is is being asked. i want to get to this, seems to me this is where -- at the level of politics, because you have two sites as you describe them, and i don't want to make all of
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those persons on the right daily callers, progressive subscribers or white nationals or the like. they seem to be, there seems to be some level of solidarity with regards to maintaining the idea that america must remain a white nation. on the other side you have nice racism. those who are fighting for a more just america who claim, this is what makes your books are interesting to me at a certain level, is that among those who are supposedly fighting against those folks come you have joe manchin and the like, and you can use your text to see what he's doing in real time at the love of politics. talk a little bit about what does it mean for these people to
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be on the side of a more just world? >> guest: yeah. i hope white people keep fighting. i hope nice white people are out there fighting. unfortunately, i haven't seen that the energy that we saw last summer is being sustained. running down to approach us on some level is exciting and exhilarating, but the daily work of putting racism on the table looking at your policies and practices in the workplace, challenging one another, that's the really hard stuff. and in case i don't say earlier, or later, it takes courage, it takes commitment but it also takes courage, and niceness is not courageous. so my point around that is that so many white people see the present of niceness as an indicator of absence of racism. and a culture of niceness is actually one that prevents us
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having difficult conversations about racism. it's generally a culture that's nice for me but not necessarily nice for you. there's this idea that the way that i experienced the world was must be the way you explained ee world, so i find our campus to be a very welcoming place, wouldn't you feel it to be a welcoming place? or this idea that if a policy displayed to everybody then it is there, even if the outcomes are not going to be the same. right? so it takes a lot of commitment and courage, and that i want to see sustained and this ties back. the moment i think i've arrived i will be complacent. i'm also going to be defensive about any feedback to the contrary. any idea, this is why one of the chapters is called there is no choir. the moment i think i am the
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choir, i'm going to be part of the problem. there is a level of humility that white people need to have, a level of understanding that this construct is hundreds of years old at this point back to its nuanced, complicated, charged. it's not simple. it's not going to change just because we are friends. and so my learning will never be finished. >> host: what about my trauma, robin? >> guest: i'm curious, you teach in college classrooms i assume and when you talk about race you may see some of these moves. so there's a chapter called what about my trauma? that's a pattern i often see amongst progressive white people, that as soon as we start having hard conversations where they become implicated, we're not going to talk about it out
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here, with likely to talk to everybody else's challenges, we're going to whatever we talk about we're going to connect to do so. what does it look like in your life? the number one question i get when i give a talk is how do i tell my friend about racism? i reply like this. how would i tell you about your racism? the question always implies it's not me. i'm good to go, i have to go forth and tell other people. as soon as it starts to implicate us, many white progresses will move into their own pain and her own approach. maybe you could imagine if it starts getting hard i start feeling implicated and i'm going to start talking about growing up poor and others people said that thing about me when i was young and had that hurt me, and now i'm going be a victim. right? one going to say this conversation bringing up my old traumas and i can't continue in
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this conversation. i wanted to call, call that in. and again ask people to think deeply, so how this function in the conversation, what happens to the conversation when you move to that place. i also want to push -- people are wrong. i'm not denying you have trauma but i am going to hold firm that talking about racism is in and of itself traumatic. >> host: so here we are -- >> guest: for white people. >> host: here we are. we've had this wonderful conversation. people have come to you. they have read white for julie. they are going to read "nice racism." hopefully it will read some of those articles, too. the scholarship that informs it all year what is the source of hope for the work that you do and what you've seen over the
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years of doing this work? where is your source? not that we have to end with hope, the typical american narrative the talk about what you see on the immediate horizon as he continued to do this work. >> guest: you know i'm an educated cybersex a little bit about the politics but before i sailed what has given me hope, i think hope is political. because it tries behaviors and responses, just like i think emotions are political. because they are informed by the framework through which we are making meaning which is why if you told me 20 years ago what you're doing is racist, i would've interpreted that to a particular framework and would've had a set of emotions, and they would have triggered some responses which would've been at the time white for julie. today at a different framework and have different feelings if you were to say that to me. and hope function similarly. it doesn't function the same for black people as a test for white people.
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i can't speak to your relationship to that concept, but what i can tell you is after 25 years of doing this work and seeing where we are right now, do i struggle with hopelessness? yes ideal. and i cannot go there -- yes, i do. as a white person i cannot succumb to it. because the moment i do, great, give up, give up and do does it serve? what does that serve? because it's a system that benefits me if i give up hope within it, if i give up hope to fight it, i continue to benefit from it. on the other hand, too much hope can make me call in and can cause me to be complacent and there were lots of white folks who felt completely hopeful following the civil rights movement of the '60s, and look where we are. so it is something i navigate, i
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have to push to it. but what gives me hope is there's a couple maybe concrete things that on the stage, the world stage at the democratic debate, reparation for black people was discussed with absolute legitimacy. i didn't think that would happen in my lifetime. ta-nehisi coates article on reparations is brilliant and powerful and started to make headway in the culture. there was a time when you couldn't critique capitalism, and there's a a time when you couldn't say white supremacy. and now from the president office, i'm talking about biden, jesus saying systemic racism -- he is saying systemic racism is among the urgent issue of our time. that's incredible and it gives me hope and it's tempered by the
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fact we will see what happens when he isn't president anymore, whether that be four years from now or 12 years from now. >> it is been an absolute delight to have an opportunity to talk with you and am reminded of a wonderful phrase from tammy baldwin who says hope is every day. if you have to end in everyday that means you're battling the spirit. thank you so much. >> "after words" is available as a podcast. to listen visit or search c-span "after words" on your podcast app and watch this and all previous "after words" click the "after words" button near the top of the page. >> you've all all of it was1 winner of the conservative book of the year award for his most recent book a time to build. here's a portion of his
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acceptance speech. >> it is really a great pleasure to be here and just enormously humbling and to see so many friends gathered here and just to be able to appreciate isi what is done for me since i is an undergraduate coming to isi program and what it's done for so many people like me who of looked for substance and look for community in trying to make their way to and often hostile culture and be connected to the ideas that are essential to us as americans. we were just talking at dinner about how energetic isi is now come how much great work it is doing, great the publications are. it's really, this is a high water mark for isi, , and i'm ia grateful for it as a know so many people are. of course thank you so much for this extraordinary honor. it's really too especially given the other fantastic books you might've chosen this past year, even just among the other finalists a book by chris
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caldwell, robert riley, bradley wilson. i can tell you rather watch them, i'm sorry. i can tell you having read them that they're all better than my book. [laughing] and i'm not ashamed to say so. so i am grateful for whatever clerical error or temporary insanity landed me here rather than those authors. i shouldn't say temporary insanity because really to me isi in fact, has always been the great antidote to the serial bouts of insanity that it added up to the life of our culture in the last few decades. isi stood against temporary insanity and for permanent sanity, the kind of permanent sanity that are required to sustain our culture, rooted in a sense of the worthiness of our inheritance as americans and in a worthiness of the civilization that's been passed down to us and ritter also in a sense that they get to so valuable because
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it can enable us to deal with permanent human problems, the ones we always face. our culture has been a long train of insanity because it forgets that those problems are durable and that we have to learn from the ways in which they've been dealt with by wise men, women over centuries and millennia and i would imagine they don't play anymore, that we know better now, though we don't need institutions in the rules and the convictions and the path to truth those prior generations have paid for us. i is i remind college students, the people who most need that reminding, that they didn't invent the human condition, that it was here before them, that if something to learn from our people have understood it and made the most of it, that the hunger for meaning that they feel is not new either, and that there are ways of eating that hunger that are a lot better than the kind of thin gruel they are too often offered where they are. that act


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