Welcome to Ties Never Broken On Air.
We are part of the Tavis Smiley Network on Blog Talk Radio.
Sit back and engage as we tackle the issues important to you and your family. It is our desire to equip you with up-to-date information, commentary and solutions to life's biggest challenges. Thank you for joining us as we embark on this journey to raise awareness and the importance of faith, family and fatherhood. Now, here's your host, executive director of Fathers Incorporated, Kenneth Braswell.
Good evening! Good evening! And welcome to Ties Never Broken On Air and we are part of the Tavis Smiley network. I am so ecstatic about tonight's show because it is the conversation that I have been talking about for most of my life and it was brought to my attention at the show that we did a couple of weeks ago that there was additional narrative for us to have with respect to the issue of racism in this country. And so, there had been several events that have taken place around the country that has stimulated this controversy. Nonetheless important than Trayvon Martin who has raised awareness about where we should be in this conversation. And so, what I have decided to do was to actually bring two friends on the air, and I affectionally call this show my two white friends, a friendly discussion on racism because the point that was brought up to me was that we often have this conversation about racism and that the meaning of black people in this country tend to have this conversation amongst ourselves when it comes to solution. However when we have the conversation with others, it is more in a combative role or we are defending the notion that one or another might possibly be racist in nature. I wanted to be able to kind of script on that conversation down and really have some conversation about it. Unfortunately, one of my friends and obviously, I have got thousands of white friends, but these are two that I hold really dear to my heart. So Amery who was going to be one of my guest tonight unfortunately -- not unfortunately because she got to take care of her children -- but she is not going to be here with us tonight, but she did send me a lot of notes and we are going to be talking more about a point of view later on in this show. But my good friend that I have on the line right now, Dr. Jack Conway. Him and I had been friends for very long time and without you having to know -- excuse me, we are on live radio -- without you having to know his credentials, what you really need to know is that and I asked this to him before and I'll say this probably so that everyone hearing this show would know this. This is the man who actually began to create and step the foundation of my own awareness with respect to my culture, and my people. I think when I first met Jack, I was somewhere around 23-24 years old, had no idea where I was going in life, had some skills, had some knowledge of things and kind of floundering around and life not really knowing, and he introduced me to myself and I became excited about the things that Jack told me, about black people in this history given his background in anthropology and with constant traces on both the African-American culture and the Native American culture, and in addition to that, his own culture of Irish descent, and I was fascinated by stories that he told me of his father and his connections in the civil rights movement, and friendship with Malcolm X, and that was really the beginning of me becoming aware myself. It actually kick started me into using some of the skills that I had around writing and speaking and generating in graphics and my technical knowledge and all that stuff that really do something good with it. And so, I have got Jack on the line tonight, and we are going to be talking about this very important issue in this country around racism. Good evening, Jack!
Good evening Kenny! Thank you very much. As usual, you are far too kind to me, but I am glad to be here with you.
No. I mean, it is the absolute truth. I mean, I don't even know any other way to say it, I know that every time I say it, I say it differently, but at the core of who I am, you know when I speak to people about, particularly when people ask me how did I get to where I am, you know, there are several names that I mention, but those names are never missing the name of Dr. Jack Conway. I always mention you as a catalyst for my awareness of myself and my culture. But tonight, I want to talk about this issue of racism in this country. And as I said before, you know what, I affectionally call this show. Me and My Two White Friends -- A Friendly Discussion on Racism, because Amery brought up to me after a show that David Miller and I had around the Trayvon Martin case, that often we have this conversation, but we don't have this broad conversation with both blacks and white and so that we can actually sit down and figure out what this thing really looks like. So we cannot get to a place where we can live together in this country and not be so focused on our differences and more focused on our commonalities. But in reality, there are things that continue to take place in this country day-to-day that proves to us that we are absolutely not in a post racial society, and I will just drop a couple of these things out and we will going to get right into the conversation. There was a new poll that was done by Reuters, I think last week. And what it found is, where the African-American relationships are segregated, they found that 40% of whites and 25% of non-whites do not have any close friends in other races. The online poll also found that 20% of whites say that 5 or more close friends of different races, so that they have 5 or more.
36% of non-whites said the same. Hispanics are the most likely to have the most friendship network. And then not to -- I think it was the week or so ago, the statue of Jackie Robertson as well as Pee Wee Reese in Brooklyn were vandalized with racial slurs and would hit the references, and then not too long after that, a Baltimore Orioles player, Adam Jones, has bananas thrown at him out of a game between San Francisco Giants and Baltimore Orioles and you lace that with Trayvon Martin and you laced that with a weather wrecking conversation that has taken place on a nightly talk shows and what is coming apart in the newspapers. We are probably more sensitized to racism right now than we have ever been in this country at least, from a conversation point of view. What is your take on what's your hearing Jack in the media right now? What do you expect? Not only to the media, but in your own circles and around you, what do you expect to this issue of racism?
Well, one of the things I think happens with racism and why it is so intractable is that we share an exaggerated sense of difference. As you pointed out, you can either talk about the things we share. We all share our humanity, we want to stay in things for our children, we are going to live in a good neighborhood, we want our children have a good education, we wanted to be treated with dignity and respect. But because of differences in historical experience and our relationships to the institution of society, it seems like we are constantly reproducing this emphasis on the things that divide us. So black and white become this exaggerated categories with these boundaries that are protected by laws, that are really hard to get over. And no matter what your take, no matter what your slant on any of the issues you describe, they always seem to be introduced into public discourse from a foundation of difference. One of the things that bothers a lot of white people especially -- I don't want to simplify this, but a lot of what we call liberal white people, one of the things that bothers people like that is that we really don't feel that difference. We really don't want the conversation to begin from a foundation of difference. We want the shared humanity. We want the commonalities as you call them. We want those to be the foundation of the conversation so that we start together and then we explore our differences together, but really what happens is the conversation becomes exaggerated and the differences are accented. There is no excuse for some of the things that are going on this country that Adam Jones thinks or the seizing of a monument of Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese. There's no excuse for that, but there can be a dialogue and I hope that is what we are doing tonight. There can be dialogue that begins from commonality and not always emphasizing or exaggerating the differences between black and white.
You know, I think that the -- what needs to take place is almost -- no, if there is a conversation at the water cooler. I think conversations at the water cooler probably emulate more the rhetoric that we hear than the solutions that we want. But it is more of a kitchen table discussion around with families and actually transparent about how they feel and even when they feel different from the person across the table, there still is a sense of family and it is okay to feel different, think different, but still know that we are sitting at the same table, and I think the other dynamic that takes place at that table is we're able to kind of get behind the theme of people to really be clear that what they are saying is actually what they are feeling. And so I think that there is an exploration effort that needs to take place amongst all blacks and whites to really sit down and so when I ask the question, how do you really feel? Right. And so, your answer to that question is how you feel about what is taking place, not how you feel about some issue that may be taking place at the moment, and I think one of the places that I want to get in tonight is exactly, you know, what is this conversation because, you know, there are closed doors. You know, I have conversations in my house, we have conversations at church, we have conversations in my circle, sometimes both conversations include people from other races, but for the most part, they do not include those conversations. But often I wonder, sometimes like, what does the conversation sound like when it is around your table at home, amongst your family and amongst your friends and you are having a conversation about racism, how does that conversation take place? Not so much, you don't have to give me personal pieces of your own household, but in general, what does that conversation sound like?
Well, I think one of the things that happens is, when you use the example of the kitchen table. President Obama always says this statement, "We have to learn to disagree without being disagreeable" and it is a really -- it sounds like a contrite political slogan, but it is really the crux of the matter. My conversations with my white friends, I would divide into liberal and conservative. The conversations with my liberal friends, they believe racism is real, it is troubling and it is growing. They worry about the direction the country is heading in, but every time progresses maybe a gay marriage, or black president, there seems to be this backlash of intolerance that things come out that you have not seen before and that makes it worse, but my conversation with conservative friends is that it is a very different conversation and it is one that needs to be put on the table in the discussion like this. My conservative friends believe in the ideological fiction of capitalism that life is lived by individuals, not as part of communities, not as part of families, but as individuals, and that each individual gets what they deserve. They believe that the plight of black America is due to an intrinsically inferior nature, not social or historical context, and these people are convinced that this is not racism. They are just talking about the way things are, and one of the things that with your introduction -- one of the things that it brings to mind is, I don't totally agree that racism is that accessible to each individual person and what I mean by that is if you ask somebody, "Are you a racist?" or "What are your feelings about race?", off the top of their heads they could come to some kind of summary of what they believe. But I think the fact of racism is very different. I think it is learned, ingrained, indoctrinated, call it whatever you want, but if I could digress for just one second, if you bear with me...
If you think about the concept of memory, if somebody asks you of how you spent your summer in 1968 or 1978, you go into your mind and you actively search for that memory. Call it recollection. But there is another kind of memory that people has. It is the memory that you use when you drive a car. When you get in a car, you don't say, "First I have to put the key and then I have to do this, then I have to do that", you have a complete menu of habit memory that you use to do those kinds of things. And I believe racism is more like the habit memory then the recollection. I think that people learn it by seeing things over and over again. If they see black people in prison, if they see black people in poverty, if they see any kind of pattern like that, it begins to take on a reality in their habit memory and so what happens is if you sit somebody down and after Obama was elected, this happened all the time, people would say I am not racist. And then they would go on to make criticisms of the man that they would never make of any president prior to him. So I think part of the problem is that the conversation even when it can occur happens at a somewhat superficial level, because the real problem is the ingrain pattern, it is the sense of habit. You're convinced that the nature of the world is that black people are X, Y, and Z, and white people are A, B, and C, and then you bring that information and that those memories that you have to each situation. So when Trayvon Martin happened, so many people, no one listened to the evidence. Everyone, both sides just instinctively jumped. And they jumped because they really feel at some deep level that they know what happened. And that is why there is bridge this conversation is so important. So I am sorry to over-academicize it, but I really feel that if we are going to solve this problem, if we are going to have a conversation that results in some kind of progress, it has to accurately identify where racism comes from. Why it is so entrenched and why it is so hard to get that. And I think it is because a lot of it happens below the conscious memory of people as they engage in social debate.
Yeah. You know it is one of the things you reminded me of some reading I have done sometime ago given them while I was reading this thing. I think someone was trying to give me a different point of view and I have read a little bit about it, but it sounds like in dianetics, there is this term called engrams and engrams are these things that are created in your mind by experience. And so, they say much like the reaction to have it which is the notion was, there was this woman whose son was killed by a motorcycle outside of their house, and the last thing she heard was the screeching sound of a motorcycle, and years after her son has died, every time she would hear the sound of a motorcycle, she would cringe and it would automatically bring up the death of her son again. And so I hear you, I'm receiving what you're saying, and so given that, you know there are -- we still are responsible for our habits, and so -- and we all bear some responsibility to not only own up to our habits, but to find a way to change the habits of people particularly when those habits are detrimental to yourself and someone else. So what are the role around look like? And so we know how to handle habits, so we are going down this scientific academic role, you know, how do you begin to infuse, actions, emotions, and feelings that begin to change the habit that even make us racist or make us appear to be racist?.
Well I think one of the things you have to do is look at the way of that. And this is a very controversial term. I think you have to look at the way racism is institutionalized. I prefer to call it systemic racism rather than institutional racism because it is not just a question of changing people's attitude as important as that is. I mean, people who are racists actually believe that black kids have schools, some teachers that are as good as white kids, but they are just not smart enough to succeed. They do not want believe that police are racially profiling people. They do not see the war on drugs as systematically racist. They don't believe that poverty has a relationship to crime. They don't see for example that trickled down economic theories designed to keep poor people in their place. So until we unmask these kinds of ideologies, we're not going to be able to change people's attitude. What we really need is social justice and social justice is not something that just appears. It is something that has to be fought. For example, the stop and frisk policy in New York City that was just thankfully shut down by the court. When that came out, a lot of people said that's a good program, I don't know why they could say that, I don't know how they could see that as something that wasn't right for exploitation and discrimination, but we have to look at the policies. We have to look at how fairness operates in government, in the court system, among the police. And I am not just -- I am not talking about affirmative action. I am talking about looking at what are the effects of these kinds of policies on different groups of people and when they --when racism is systemic, it -- like with habit memory, it continues to reproduce itself.
If you are racially profiling people or if you are using the war on drugs to harass poor people, for example, the penalties for cracked cocaine are much greater than the penalties for powdered cocaine. That is a class differential. That is a war that is being waged on poor people. Once you start that war, you start creating criminal records. Once you have a criminal record, you get arrested for something else, it builds and the next thing you know you are behind prison walls. So, what has to happen is the system has to be changed and it is a sort of a chicken and egg question because people's attitudes are what is going to change the system but changing the system is also what is going to change people's attitudes. But the key to me is identifying the nature of these kinds of social phenomena and where racism exists that that happens everyday in a context that we have become comfortable with because that is that hardest thing. These are the last ones to discover the existence of water. It is what -- it is the medium in which they swim. And we swim in a lot -- a lot of institutionally racist waters and we need -- we need to see them, it requires activism, it requires education, it requires analysis and so on and so forth.
Well you now, what does it seem like, Jack? It seems like when we have this conversation -- I mean you brought up a couple of thoughts for me and I am trying to -- all of them could use their own show. So, I am thinking in my head, one, is that one of the conversations we have not added in this country is this conversation around poverty. And it almost seems that every time you -- it almost seems that in order to talk about poverty, you got to talk about institutional or systemic, systemic racism. That you cannot have -- you almost cannot have those two conversations separate from each other. Does that sound right?
I agree. I agree. I have to fully agree with that.
And you know it could be a reason, as you look at our, presidency, it's not a valid reason why we do not talk about poverty and poor people in this country. But it is a reason. And so one of the things that, I have been kind of thinking about also is other cultures tend to get left out of the racism conversation? Just like we do not, want to knot all white people together, there is liberal white folks and there is conservative white folks and there are some that are in the middle and there are some that are closer to the left than they to the right, some are closer to the right than they are to the left. But then there also Latino people in this country. And there are African people in this country and there are Canadian people in this country and there are all kinds of people in this country. But this conversation of racism always tends to hang around -- and of Native Americans, let us not leave our indigenous folks either. These conversations always seem to circle back around to black people and white people. How come this conversation has not become broader than that?
Well, one of the things that happen is -- one of the reasons that happens is the word "racism". And again not to dive too deeply into the new onsets of social science but it is a concept that has been used to deal with a lot of those other issues as ethnicity and ethnicity in this country is not, even though it has many of the same problems and at the end of the day, black and white in America would be more profitably treated as ethnicity rather than race in terms of understanding, in terms of what I am talking about. But one of the things that happens is that the primary power differential in American history was between black and white, and a lot of what happens in capitalism is we have a system where our constitution promises the equality for everyone. But we live in an economic system that in genders, rewards and maintains inequality. It demands inequality. People cannot be rich unless other people are poor. And one of the things that happens with this is that you need categories of people that are dehumanized who can profitably and evilly serve as the underclass that always exist in capitalist societies and blacks in America have historically played that role. And Native Americans are much more soft in so many ways but one of the things that happened in American history is Native Americans were erased from American history. What white America does with black America is we tell the story of slavery and we do not tell it in a neutral sense. Slavery is a morality tale in which the better part -- our better angels fought our evil angels and our better angels won.
So, we tell the story of the civil war. We tell the story of Abraham Lincoln because we feel that there is redemptive value in that. We do not tell the story of Native America because there is no redemption. There is no point of which anything but genocide and destruction happened to the indigenous peoples on this continent. So, the traditional power differential on American history, the haves versus the have-nots has been a story of white and black and what happened through higher education especially through the activism of the civil right leaders and so many great black thinkers, is that black America has grown to demand the promise of America. That is what Dr. King was all about. But that power differential will remain as long as capitalism requires this inequality, as long as the traditional concept of dehumanizing our category of people focuses on black people. And so we get this black versus white spoken about your right, very differently from other ethnic groups, the Hispanics and so on.
You know, I remember, when we used to work at EHDR and I remember the comical conversations we used that -- me and Miriam and you and a couple of adults used to have about the black history month then, the Hispanic week conversation and particularly the awards. Because there were only so few of us there, the awards cycle, so you could almost guarantee that I was going to win it at least once every two or three years. We are going to win those awards.
And what I distinctly remember a conversation with someone there in an elevator one time doing, I believe it was black history month. And she came from nowhere because we were not talking about that, I guess you just felt like she needed to say it. And then I was approaching that she needed to say it too. And she said, "I do not understand, you know, why we have to always have a black history month.. I think we all suggest we get over it, you know, so that we can -- so that everyday can be black history month. Why do we always have to have a special time set aside just for black people." And I do not really remember how I responded to her. But the notion was get over it. And so many people today want to disconnect from the emotional expense that it takes to have this conversation by just saying "get over it". Can you just get over it?
No. You just cannot just get over it. But they are saying something much deeper than just get over it. What they are saying is that social and historical context don't matter. That, you know, what matters is who the individual is and if you are smart, if you work hard, if you are disciplined, if you are trustworthy, you will succeed in this country and people believe that this is a level plainfield. I actually heard Donald Trump say that he is a self-made man because his father only staked him to a $100,000, 000. That, you know, now he is worth billions but -- so, he is in effect the self-made man. The problem with getting over it is that this is the issue of systemic racism. People who believe that black people should just get over it do not recognize the phenomenon of institutional or systemic racism. People who believe that it is not quite that simple often are people who do recognize a phenomenon. For example, your issue -- the issue you work that you are dedicating your life to. Black families were fractured and they were fractured historically and radically by slavery. But in the 20th century, they were fractured by all kinds of. Be it poverty, be it, you know, other forms of deprivation, be it drugs whatever -- however you want to think it.
The African-American family in this country is still on the road to recovery and you are not going to get over it until that recovery is complete. Now, having said that, that almost implies that white families are humming right along when in fact they are, you know, the whole --there are problems all over the place. But when they say just get over it, you know that -- I had people when I was teaching Native American Studies say that to me, they say, "Jack, the Indians lost. Just get over it". And it matters how you talk about the past, it matters how you take the past and create a future for yourself. It always matters. The whole nature of human culture, what differentiates it from every other species is that we require this enormous amount of information to transmit to one another in order to become human. We are not born with the instinctual apparatus that most animals have. We have to fill in a person with information. So, there is never any real getting over it in human society. It always sort of how you conceptualize the past and how you teach that past to children and what they become is so dependent on what they are taught and how they are taught it. So, to just get over it is I think it is -- I think it the question is not right, the question is wrong because you do not -- nobody really gets over what happened in the past. It always encompass than what we know now and how we move forward.
You are listening in to Ties Never Broken on air. I am your host, Kenneth Braswell, and tonight my guest, Jack Conway and long-time friend, Aaron. We just, you know, for the most part just kick in this discussion around in a way that I think we all need to have this discussion without the emotion that is attached to it. And also on the line is another good friend of mine, Mr. David Miller. David was here on the show with me a couple of weeks ago talking about the Trayvon Martin case and his conversation stimulated some thought and another very good friend of mine that we are going to discuss in just a minute. How are you doing, David?
Hi. Pretty good. How are you doing, Kenneth?
David, meet Jack.
Jack, how are you doing?
I am good, David. How are you?
I am pretty good.
And so, David we have been having -- I mean I have been writing notes since you have been talking. I am definitely going to have this particular show transcribed the things that the conversation in this one that can be grown into a broader conversation where we can really begin to dismantle the dysfunctional thoughts that we have about each other. I was telling Jack earlier, David that I brought you on because one of the things that stimulated this show was a conversation that I had with another really good friend of mine and she brought up something and actually tonight will do something to me that I have never known before. But she brought up something that we need some more discussion and I have already eluded Jack to the conversation and this is where we are going to go from here. But we before we get started, let me read you a piece of something that you sent to me tonight so we that we could get a stand of where she is coming from. And so, the note starts, "A few weeks ago, when David Miller was your guest, he kept talking about doing the work. He was speaking of the work that contributes to the betterment of the black community. I could not agree with him more. It is a critical body of work that I was pleased and proud to be a part of". And she is talking about the responsible fatherhood work and the work around black men and boys' achievement. And it goes on to say, "What struck me were the barriers that I met as a white person. A white woman to trying to do the work. This is I will never -- one of the first times I delivered a fatherhood workshop at a conference. I was accused out loud in front of everyone of being a racist. I was using a variety of physical props to introduce an imaginary character. The character was a black male with no high school diploma, no work experience, and a criminal record who had lived in a community where there are not many fathers present in the homes.
This character was based on statistics of the men of our program and the program that was designed to help them and the purpose of the exercise was to demonstrate in a concrete way the barriers that these young men face when they become fathers. The goal was to increase people with understanding of why it is so critical that we help this population, that men overcome these barriers and allow them to become active, engaged fathers thereby improving the outlook for their children and their future generations It is just that you should know that when we ran this program in New York state, it was a state-wide program where 86% of the individuals who came through the program were African-American, another 14% of them were Latino which means that we a had high percentage of men in color in our program and this is across the state". And then she closes by saying this, "Anyone who knows me knows how passionate I am about this field of work. I have seen the spark in the eyes of the men who have ignited relationships with their children who have begun walking, earning and providing, who are facing their own anger, pain and breaking their cycle. So, why does my discussion, this characteristics make me a racist? David mentions how people need to do the work but does that mean all people? Being called the racist hurt me profoundly. Because I know that in my heart, when I was -- because I know what I am in my heart. When I was given the opportunity to leave a secured job to pursue this work, I have decided not to because I fear that I will always be secondary to this conversation as a white person and as a woman. So, which part of this work can I do?"
And so, you know, here is, you know, a person who is concerned about conditions of our people and particularly people who are less fortunate, in this case happens to be black men she is talking about. And yet, when she begins to describe and talk about these folks, people who see the illustration of what they look like in a physical form become aggressive in seeing what they believe to be another characterization of the stereotypes that so many people have laced them in believing. David, I sent this to you. Tell me what you thought about that when you are ready. Hello?
Hello. Let me _38:11_ to Kenny first.
David? Yeah. Uh-huh.
Can you hear me?
Well, thank you, Kenny for having me in this conversation. I want to thank Jack as well. When I read the e-mail, I was not surprised because of a few things that these are some of the challenges that we have in doing the work. And when I made the statement on your show, that there is so much work that we need to do and we need to be focused on doing the work. The work and the heavy-list things need to be done by anybody who has a pulse, who is passionate, and brings his tills to the take. And I think oftentimes, in the work particularly in the work in this face of responsible fatherhood and the work is being done across the country as it relates to boys of color, I think oftentimes, many of our colleagues in the white community feel like they do not necessarily have a role in that work or they question their role in that work. And one of the things that I am very clear about is that in this work around improving our lives, the children and families, we all hands on them, regardless of race, regardless of class, regardless of whether you went to college or you did not go college, we all hands on them and I say that because when we talk about the work that is being done with boys of color, mainly black and Latino boys across the country, our ability to improve the life chances of these boys is an issue that should impact all Americans and so, you know, from a non-African American and my non-Latino colleagues there is a space for you. And we need you to help us do the work.
I think one of the challenges, Kenneth and Jack that I face personally even on working and doing consulting work with non-profits and governmental agencies, you know, I have made some of my white colleagues who are not necessarily knowledgeable about this history and the traditions of the African-American community, the Native American community or the Latino community and they automatically assume that just because things may happen in their community at a certain way whether it is you are spanking your child or not spanking your child or, other different kinds of rituals and practices that may or may not go on in their community that they automatically see you with those rituals and customs and traditions should go on in the African-American community or again in Native American or Latino community. And so, I think from a cultural standpoint, I must say this and I am going to shut down, I always encourage my white colleagues, here are some books that you should read about the African-American community or of the Latino community or about the Native American community, so you can be __41:18__ from a cultural standpoint of better understanding of what you are talking about and I am just thinking in clothing if there need to be a lot more professional development around race and around class because there is a lot of my white colleagues, a lot of my colleagues of color who really had no business doing this work and then we may need to go get our job and like Target or Home Depot.
Kenny, can I respond--can I respond to that?
Absolutely. Go ahead.
First of David that is brilliantly said. One of the things that happened is there has to be what is called intercultural contact, experience have to become more integrated. Mixed schools, mixed relationships, mixed neighborhood, mixed organizations, etc. because familiarity doesn't breed contempt that breeds awareness. If a white person has no black friends or a black person has no white friends there is no path to empathy. You don't learn about the other's experience in a sympathetic manner. What you learn from a distance keeps you at a distance, what you learn up close makes you closer and one of the things that happens and I hear it in this conversation is that the conversation of racism between white people and black people often focuses and rightfully so on how white people are perceiving black people and it does not often enough focus on the reverse. One of the things I think that happens to someone like Anne Marie is a lot of African American people do not realized that some of us are collateral damaged when racists starts spilling their venom that even though we're not the exact target of such hatred we share in the sense of being demeaned, we share in the sense of being violated. Obviously not to the same extent but it's painful nevertheless and if you want to, like Anne Marie does, do something and if you want to do something about it, it's really hard to do it because the walls are up and we're talking in different universes and David's point about, you know, white people reading books or learning about black culture is critical because the intercultural contact is what's going to bring the walls down and it has to happen in conversation but it also has to happen socially, it has to happen educationally, it has to happen with us enveloped in a sense of community.
You know, earlier David I was reading Jack statistic from a pole that was taken last week and to Jack point the pole, you know, was talking about, how African-American relationships are segregated, and found that 40% of whites and 25% of non-white do not have any close relationships with other racists and so, you know, how to we create that space, where we are and comfortable _44:21_. You know, I remember when I first came to Albany and one of the things that was difficult for me moving from Brooklyn to Albany was this notion that black people and white people spend time together after 5 o'clock because in New York, you know, we spend time and we have fun, we eat lunch together, we talk during work hours, but when the bell ring, I went to Crown Height, they went to Bensonhurst and it wasn't until Monday morning at 9 o'clock that I saw another white face because in my community there was only Puerto Ricans, Hasidic Jews and Southern Blacks and so we have a very different personal and social experience than it was to our business experience and I remember distinctly when I got to Albany and I was working at this bank and I just got in, it was a very close quarters, it was kind of three of us or four of us, you know, in the room, I was the only black guy, you know, in the room and I remember them asking me a couple days after I have gotten there to lets go out for a drink together and I remember saying "no" and it wasn't because I didn't want to go out for a drink with them, and it wasn't because I did not like them, it was because what I was brought up to understand is that black people and white people don't hang out after work. We don't go to each others church, we don't go to each others businesses and we definitely don't go to each others homes.
And so I'm not exactly sure how much of that has changed, some now 20 years later. How do we begin to approach dealing with this issue of Jack and then David if we're not going to appreciate socializing together.
Well. The problem is, is without that sense of bringing us together, without some kind of sense of shared experienced we are not going to get there and it is a kind -- the word mixing is a piece or terrible word to use in this context but there have to be ways to bring people together. Things in the past like bussing, when you tried to bring kids to school, to level the playing field and create a kind of integrated situation, it didn't seem to work when it was tried because it may have caused more trouble than it helped, but you have to find ways to bring people together, there has to be a form, there has to be context, an institutional context to bring people together because you don't--you don't get there by accident, you really don't, it has to be an effort that people make and it is very comfortable for people to stay in there, you know, it's like you said at 5 o'clock the bell rings and you return to your corner and, you know, work okay, people get jobs through all different avenues, they have all kinds of skills, people can be flown together but that's being flown together. People coming together is a voluntary act that has to be undertaken by a lot of people and I agree with that, I don't think much has changed in 20 years.
And to answer the Jack's point, I just think individually we just have to take some ownership with the fact that we live in America. With all of the issues and challenges and being an American __48:08__ we live in America and I just think that, and we know that racism exist, but also I think that, particularly those of us that are parents who are raising children, you know, we have an obligation to make sure that our children understand all the races, other cultures, other religions. Let me give you an example, I am Christian but I have always been fascinated by other religions, other practices, I have taken my children to other worship places. Many of my friends are Muslims that I have been to masjids and temples, all over United States. I had always been fascinated by Native American ritual and traditions __48:54__ in particular. My children to different events hosted by the Native American groups throughout the country and I just think that as parents we should warn our children to be well-rounded and to have a better understanding of other religions, other races and other cultures. Because what happens Kenny, is that when you don't, is then when our children get older and they are in situation where they maybe working with somebody who is of another religion or who is of another race, because we just are very unaware of other people it creates a situation where a lot of times you have clashes in the workplace among adults who nobody ever sat down and took the time to help educate them around some of the things that we are talking about tonight.
You know I'm going to dig down another level. We have about 10 minutes left but, you know, I think at some point, you know, this is going to be one of those conversations that we are going to have to keep going because they are so many levels to dig down on this. You know, but having this conversation from a realistic point of view particularly, when and Jack brought up earlier the differences between the liberal perception and the conservative perception and how far apart those perceptions are and we have seen it throughout history, where we have found the way to work with those who think from a liberal point of view and really understand and still and are trying to really articulate this thing in the way that Jack is talking about it tonight. We will be ostracized not only by those who don't look like him who will question his validity in the conversation, but by those who do look like him who will then begin to use terms like "you are N lover" and so in a lot of times, you know, the personal, and I've spoken to people about this, the personal piece in that is really do, I want to engage in this effort that much that I want to be ostracized by the people that I have to socialize, live and congregate with and a lot of folks won't leave it alone and walk away in the other direction. How do we begin--is what we are suggesting tonight and that is beginning to find places of commonality to be together, is that also the mechanism that also allows us to deal with the internal racial dysfunction that we have with our own people within our own circles.
Dave--David I'll jump in first real quickly. I think that there is a lot of things tied up in that, but I think what you have to do is you have to consciously want to move out. I built my career as a cultural anthropologist which is the academic study of other people, of people from different cultures, of different religions, or different ethnicities and I always describe to my students that what you're trying to do in anthropology is build a bridge. Now, it's not a bridge that is ever going to make it all the way across. I'm never going to be black, I'm never going to be Native American but if I can get within shouting distance and you can hear me then we could work it out and so, what you have to do is consciously go after. In my life, I grew up feeling there were three gaps in my education; African American studies, Native American studies and women studies and I have dedicated my life to studying those three areas and if that pisses people off well, so be it and if people who can't deal with that don't want to talk to me or don't feel like they could find a way to accommodate me in their life then I'm glad to be done with them and at some point you have to take your stand and you have to say, "I'm going for what's right, I'm going for what is just", and let the chips fall where they will.
And again, I would just echo what Jack has said and can I go back to, again, if we are American. You know, and yet--and so, you know, I mean its _53:37_ American even though this is where I was born and where I live, when I look at so many terrible things that happened like Trayvon Martin and Oscar Grant. There are so many stories, names of people whose lives have been changed by racism and the justice system in this country. I just think that as long as I'm here, regardless of whether or not somebody likes, what I have to say or the stanzas that I have take or the things that I like, I think that we do have to begin to push for, sort of greater diversity across the border. When I say greater diversity, I am not talking about like in school when they say of diversity they want a Native American kid to just, bring him up in front of Native American community. I mean it's going to be greater than that and I just think that parents play a major role in this because we have children who grow up to become racists because they follow on the racist traditions of their parents. (Crosstalk) and I think if we are willing to go break the cycle much of this work really needs to start like in schools and working with parents and working with larger communities to be able to address some of these larger issues.
You know I think, you know, yesterday my wife and I was in Harlem and so I think sometimes and I have seen this as well and so Jack you told us about the gaps in your education and I have known a lot of people that have--particularly black students, who are coming to college and have never been really exposed to black history particularly as it relates to America and they come in and they want to take African American studies as a major or either a minor and they become educated and knowledgeable of we are in this country and they move to a whole other extreme and, so yesterday my wife and I was crossing a 125th Street in Lenox Avenue and on the corner was the Israelites and, so when I know both of you are very aware of those guys and so, as David said, I am fascinated, I've always been fascinated with other people as the both of you are, I just told my wife I just got to stop and I just to listen to them for a moment, no I don't necessary agree with everything they are saying, I don't disagree with everything they are saying I would probably would not say it in the same way they are saying it, but I can obviously understand how one can get from wherever they were and their station in life to be on the 125th Street, saying the things that they were saying and what--I think sometimes we become too educated sometimes, and we don't allow ourselves to let the practical experience give us the wisdom to navigate the information that we had and that could all be wrapped up in what we have already discussed in the socialization and being around each other and really beginning to understand each other, you know, from another point of view, but I can enunciate this and I will ask both of you for your closing point.
I know for me, you know, one of the times that I am always challenged by my Americanism and this does not make me non-patriotic, I served my country for three years and so I've been there, I've done, what I needed to do when I needed to do it, but often times I'm challenged when I'm at an event and I have to do the pledge to the flag--pledge of allegiance to the flag. I'm torn at that moment and I'm torn because I understand the patriotism that I have to have for my country because I love my country and no, I wouldn't to want to be any other place but I am torn about what that patriotism means to me and for the people who look like me and I think that, for all of us, we need to dig down on ourselves and find out where those places of pain exist for us with respect to race and try to find ways that allow us to heal in a way that people validate what you are feeling, understand what you are feeling and generally want to do something about how you're feeling and that goes both ways, not just one way, it goes both ways and that's my kind of closing point and so David I give you, your closing and Jack you're closing and then we are going to close this baby out.
I'll let Jack go first.
Okay. Quickly, Kenny what you're describing that self-awareness, that self _58:31_ thing is critical. I am more interested in the dialogue, in the communication. There was this great quote by a famous philosopher named Wittgenstein where he said, if lions could speak we could not understand them and what he meant by that is if people speak any people, you can understand them if you make the effort and it's the effort as Anne Marie said--as David said, it's the work. It has to be done individually, it has to be done in communities, it has to be done in groups, it has to be done in organization.
And I'll just build on work what Jack has said, there is an African proverb until the lion has his own storyteller, the story of the hunt will always be told from the hunters prospective, so I think that there are very rich stories of African-American, the white Native Americans, Latinos that are working together, I mean, there are some exciting examples of people working together in community to solve problems but from a media perspective you seldom hear those story. Folks of all races, of all religion all working together to tackle each and I think we got to do a better job of highlighting some of the positive things that are going on in communities where you have people from multiple racial groups working together all around creating safer communities and a better environment to raise families and I just want to see more of that happen.
Alright. Alright fellows, this is Jack Conway, my good friend Jack and David. Thank you so much for this rich conversation. I can't wait, you know, to hear the feedback from this and I'm sure its going to kick off a need to, for me to have this conversation because I like to, at some point, to have the perspective of women within this conversation as well because oftentimes this issue of racism gets wrapped up in sexism and sexism vice verse gets wrapped up in this conversation around racism. So, gentlemen have a great evening, thank you so much and we will be talking someday.
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