tv Civil Rights in 1968 CSPAN January 6, 2018 7:01pm-7:28pm EST
thank you, everybody, for coming. [applause] ofwe continue our coverage the american national history association meeting and washington, d.c. you are watching american history tv on c-span3. >> we want to welcome ibram at americanfessor university and the founding director of the antiracist research and policy center. your first year at the university. thank you for being with us. let's go back to 1968. why was that such a defining
year for the civil rights movement? assassinationg's led to 2 different things. you have people who turned the page on civil rights and began embracing black power notions. notions of black solidarity. notions of forcing america to end racism. then you had others that doubled down on civil rights and doubled down on some of the ideas that martin luther king and others were putting forth, who tried to continue the poor people's campaign. you really had this ideological split that ultimately became, flowered into what became known as the black power movement. there was a year the civil rights movement ended, it was probably 1968. >> you don't have to travel far from where we're at to still see some of the devastation caused and theiots
demonstrations. dr. king talked about nonviolence yet his , assassination led to violence in detroit, washington, d.c., chicago, your home city of new york, and elsewhere around the country. why? >> it was actually the fourth straight year, really fifth straight year of urban , rebellions that were happening all over the country, in which people were upset. people were angry. people were angry at the violence in their neighborhood. they were angry at what they considered to be exploitive businesses in their community. they were angry that they felt their government, their local and federal governments were not speaking to their concerns. they were angry, of course, about police brutality which was , actually typically the cause of many of these urban rebellions. of course, they were following king who had, as you stated, preached nonviolence throughout
his career, suffered fatal violence. >> who were the other movements in 1968? >> dr. king was first and foremost. but there were others. i think by '68, carmichael, who became sort of the personification for the lack of a better term of black powerwhen -- black power when he, of course, uttered black power in mississippi in 1968. you also had leaders like h. brown who was also a major black power leader. but then, of course, you had some of king's aides, like jesse jackson. you, of course, had people like roy wilson, naacp. so there was, of course, a whole group of people who were trying to sort of make the case that racism was certainly a problem. of course, making different strategies as to how it ended. >> in january of 1965, president johnson outlined his state of the union address great society
program that took place yet now, january 4. as you look back at what he tried to accomplish, lot of the focus is on the civil rights movement and inner city. how did he do? >> well, i think johnson simultaneously launched the great society and was, of course critically involved in the launching of the vietnam war. 2 very costly initiatives. i think historians have focused on how it became untenable for americans to support both. ultimately johnson, partly because of the protests decided , that certain people were not grateful, certain people were were noty, that people impoverished out of discrimination. that it was their own doing. therefore, by the term law and 1968 order became popular in the american political scene just as , the vietnam war accelerated. >> our phone lines are open. 202 is the area code. 748-8900 for those in the
eastern or central time zones. c-span3, if you study this generation of americans, what questions do you have? , whatould like to ask were they thinking? my most recent work is on the and antiracistst ideas. what were they thinking? how were they trying to understand their nation, their world of racial inequities everywhere? how were they seeking to explain it? you had americans blaming the , the rebellions, on the people. there was something wrong with the people. the people were lazy, they were dangerous. then you had other americans who was policy, problem
structure, that the problem was america itself. continuously ask questions about this political split between the problem is people and the problem's policy. i still see that split in america today. >> why is there racism in america? >> i think when we really think about it, from the beginning of this country we have had racial inequality. the beginning manifested in slavery. when we think about it in the simplest form, we have to ask the question, wife is this racial inequality exist? there are 2 answers. either it exists because there is something wrong and inferior about groups of people and that is why they are more likely to be in prison, unemployed, they are more likely to be poor. they are lazy and more criminal-like.
something wrong with american policies. there is something persisting, like racial discrimination. that is why we have racial inequities. some americans refuse to believe that their nation has racial discrimination, that it is pervasive. the only explanation for the inequality is racist ideas. >> how significant was the election and reelection of barack obama to the issue? >> in for some people it signified for them that america racist.y was no longer how could a nation that elected a black person to the highest office be racist? it caused them to believe that this nation was post-racial. the idea became prominent for many americans. not exist,racism did racial discrimination did not exist. when a nation still had racial
inequities, when you say racial discrimination doesn't exist you are saying the reason the ofquities exist is because the people. there is something wrong with the people. 2 bylines.k has your current last name of kendi, and before that rogers. explain. >> i grew up in queens. there was a prominent children show called mr. rogers. i would always be kidded for will you be my neighbor and let me get your sweater. i never had an affinity for my last name of rogers. in the african-american tradition there is a tradition of changing your last name because their last names were bestowed upon them by white slave owners. was best to change
my name. i changed it together with my wife when we wed in 2013. we changed it to kendi. >> tell me about your work at american university. >> i established a new antiracism research and policy center based on a fundamental idea that there is nothing wrong with groups of people in this country. there is nothing wrong or inferior about black people, asian people, any group of people. then we have these racial inequities. that means that we have racial inequities because we have racist policies. we are going to be organizing teams of people to uncover discriminatory policies. to figure out ways to gala terry the more and policies, to make people aware of them.
and to engage in campaigns of change. year marking the 50th anniversary of what happened in 1968. the vietnam war, the civil rights movement. 50 years later how are we doing, especially in regards to civil rights? >> we have experienced a simultaneous history, dual history. we experienced the history of racial progress. of course, i think we can look at obama as one of the signifiers of racial progress for a certain segment of people of color, of the african-american community. the nation has also experienced the progression of racism. the progression of racism that i would argue was critical in the election of our current president. >> what do you mean? >> racist policies get more
sophisticated. what i mean by sophisticated is it becomes more difficult for concerned americans to see, to identify, to counteract policies that are discriminating against particular groups of people. for example, the voter id law, targeting african-american "oters with "surgical precision as the north carolina court stated is a more sophisticated form of oppression then a grandfather clause or a poll tax . that is what i mean by racist progress. >> let's get to the phone calls. we are live in washington, d.c. at the american historical association convention. >> i would like to be allowed to present this problem as i see it. that a lot of what has happened
to black people could be because, not because they are black, but because they are americans who can be identified by color. therefore, they become victimized by the attempts to be counter to racism. what i mean by that, just to , is that ofmple american education as compared to european education puts the .mphasis on higher education while european education puts especially the tactical component in the first years of school. so, by the time you get to high school you're doing what americans are supposed to be doing in college. when americans realize that are denied opportunities early in the years of schooling, they start to do things like, well, we will have open
admissions to the colleges for them so they can get in. no one has asked the question, if you gave them a lousy education in the first part, how the hell are they going to do in college what they have to do? >> let me stop you there. thank you for the call, by the way. >> i think, as it relates to education, certainly people have ensuringe point about quality schools for all children, in particular black children. that was the point that many parents in the 1960's made, even certainly by the late 1960's when you had the blessing movement where you had black children being bussed to what were considered to be better white schools. parents resent saying why don't you improve the schools where
the majority of black people are sending their kids? why isn't that a solution as white kids andng black kids to other schools? " lysing the schools and not viewing a white school -- equalizing the schools and not viewing and white school as fundamentally better than a black school was not on the american political table. when i say" lies the school i mean equalizing the resources -- school,ay equalize the i mean equalizing the resources. >> what is your background? professor --gtime somewhat longtime. atas trained a journalist , and i realized as ae more thinking
professor where i pursued my phd and african studies where i received in 2010 at temple university and started my career as an academic. >> good morning. >> good morning. resident oftime liste the u.s. and am fortunate to have high positions as a pastor and political positions. the wart years we have on drugs. blacks that are middle-class working in law enforcement, even in small towns. we have participated in the destruction of millions of black families, mostly working-class poor. there is no accountability for it.
tearsare crocodile talking about black families being destroyed, but we have been a part of that since the 1960's. affirmative action worked in all of these capacities. there is no reason they should toparticipating in trying change that thing. mostly black males, a few females. in middle-class, these men could have been successful. now that we have the opioid many of these black people are continuing to expose that even though so many black families have been e destroyed. theave been part of structural system from the city to the towns across the country. we have participated in that. i would like him to comment on that. >> thank you.
book that early in my the only thing wrong with black people is that we think something is wrong with black people. i go all over the country and i typically hear black people saying the problem is black people. to this caller's point, there have certainly been judges and politicians who have devastated families. not only black families, but even white families. i guess what i'm talking about, over the last 50 years there has been a growing divide from an economic standpoint. we're talking a lot about economic inequality. that economic inequality is not just existing in the black community. not just a result of black politicians. it is also a result of nonblack politicians. you've had judges and politicians who have devastated families. clearly, if you are the lower end of society from a structural
standpoint, and all of these families in the middle and lower income are being devastated, you are going to be devastated the most. that doesn't necessarily mean other families aren't being devastated. that doesn't mean that black politicians in particular were the problem. generally were the problem. >> part of that problem is the cycle of poverty. there are more black men in prison than there are white men in prison. how do you change that trajectory? >> i think first and foremost we understand that a more effective way of fighting crime is not through locking people up. is not by putting more police on the street, but by providing jobs andopportunities for people. we can actually see the relationship between higher levels of unemployment and higher levels of violent crime. we also know that black people and white people typically consume and sell drugs at similar rates. most people who have been locked up in the last few decades have
been locked up for drug crimes. but black people are far more likely to be arrested an incarcerated for drug crimes. so we, of course, have to eliminate that discrimination. like many extent, do states are doing, in which they are legalizing drugs like marijuana that a drug that is , less harmful to the body then alcohol. so i think for me, the focus should not be on thinking that the problem in a general sense, in a holistic sense is people. for us to see the ways in which by providing jobs and opportunities for people, that that actually will lessencrime. >> in washington dc, the next caller is from indianapolis. you are on the air. >> yes dr. kendi, it's an honor , to talk to you. i have been studying this since i retired about 10 years ago.
i have come to the conclusion that racism doesn't have much to with slavery. slavery was ancient and universal. be racismonsider to now started to develop in the 1820's with scientific racism with the idea that somehow you could establish a gradient of humans where the white englishmen were on top and black africans were on the bottom. somehow that was the natural order of science. at universities as the actual, accepted science in the early 20th century. woodrow wilson is a perfect .xample of that i just got through reading a very strange interview from a in aller jeff
conversation with adolf hitler. he said there is no scientific basis for racism, it is just a way for politicians to stir up people. what is your idea of where would we call racism came from? >> thank you, paul. >> i think it is important for us to define racism. racism is the marriage of racist ideas and racist policies. racist policies are policies that yield racially unequal outcomes. idea thatas are any suggests a racial group is superior or inferior to another racial group in any way. in my book, i'm begin the story of racist ideas and policy in 15th central portugal when they diverted from other ande traders in the region
began exclusively slave trading and african people. that exclusive slave trading and african people expanded. you had other slave traders from the french, the dutch, the english who were focusing on the transatlantic slave trade. they had to figure out a way to justify why they were exclusively slave trading and african people. those rationalizations were racist ideas. that these people were being slaves, that through the slave trade we are civilizing them. >> we will look at another panel looking at the corner ca -- but kerner commission. two of the questions focus on what happened. the second question in the title of the book is what can be done? from 50 years ago to where we are, what has been done? what needs to be done? >> the kerner commission laid
out one of the most expansive series of conclusions and recommendations to eliminate racial disparities in american history. fundamentally they viewed the problem is racism. they viewed the problem is racist policies. therefore, they took forth a series of solutions that would providingracism by opportunities, housing, jobs. i think the way that we problem, what racism results and is a certain amount of people having less opportunities than other groups of people. those who have other opportunities thinking that they gained or were more successful when they were superior, when in fact they had more opportunities and resources. the kerner commission made the case we need to equalize opportunities and resources. that is what we should have done
in 1968 and what we should be seeking to do today. historian who studies this issue, if you had a chance to sit down with dr. king, what would you ask him? , that whether him he still felt his dream had turned into a nightmare by the time he died. >> why do you say that? king gave aeven prominent interview with an nbc reporter in which he stated my dream from 1963 has turned into a nightmare. by the evening before his assassination he gave his mountaintop speech. he said, i may not get there with you, but i've seen the mountaintop. i believe we are going to get to the mountaintop. this message of hope, just as
his message in 1960 three was i have this dream and i think it is going to be actualized. .967, he was questioning that particularly as he was organizing the poor people's campaign and was receiving tremendous amounts of resistance from a president who said he was launching a war on poverty, i would ask what he truly believed. him, orm a nightmare to does he still have a dream? >> are there still physical scars from 1968, or have we moved on in america's cities? >> i definitely think there are scars. from people who were arrested in 1968 who were simply trying to provide a better community for people who look like them who are still in prison. to businesses that left and never came back.
and people in the community have not received the resources to build those businesses. i certainly think there are scars. >> if people want to follow you, how can they do so? ribram.witter, it is @d >> thank you for being with us. continue our coverage of this weakens's american historical association meeting in washington, d.c. you are watching american history tv on c-span3. name is patricia sullivan. i am a professor of history at the university of south carolina , and i welcome you to our discussion on race, policing. i would like to thank dan geary for organizing this panel. the commission report was issued in