“Co-creating a Truly Democratic Society,” Tim Wise, Oct. 8th, 2015

“Co-creating a Truly Democratic Society,” Tim Wise, Oct. 8th, 2015


(smooth music) (applause) – Thank you. Thank you very much. I appreciate all the
folks who were involved in making it possible for me to come back here to your campus, I’ve
been here several times, going back over about a 20 year period. I also want to thank
any and all professors who bribed your classes with extra credit (laughing)
so as to fill the seats. I love extra credit, it’s awesome. It fills the auditoriums
and keeps people here, and sometimes people don’t like that, when their speakers and
people are sort of bribed academically to show up for their gig, but I sort of like it, because to me, it’s an interesting little
thing where I get to watch for an hour people who didn’t
necessarily want to come but they sort of had to come to get the grade up or whatever, right, and I get to watch as I talk about some really uncomfortable subjects, as to whether or not they’re going to try to get up and leave, right? But I always make sure the
lights are on, I keep them on, I don’t do the spotlight thing
with everything else dark. That way, if you get up to
leave, I totally notice that and it’s completely tacky and
I will definitely call you out so you might just want
to sit tight for an hour. It’s just one hour of your life. You’ll never get it back,
but it won’t last that long. It will be all right. So thank you all for being here. Like I said, it is good to
be back here on the campus. The first time I came was back in 1996, and I am fully aware that means that was possibly before some of you were alive, so I really don’t want to
know anything about that, but I know that it’s been a minute, and I know that for many of
you, even if you were alive, you were quite small, so let’s just say I’ve been doing this work
for a very long time, first time here in 1996,
and I guess when you come to a place that you’ve been
coming to several times, I guess maybe this is the fourth time in the 19 years perhaps, you just sort of naturally look back and reflect on the way
that things have changed and haven’t when it comes
to the subject matter that you address over
that 19 or 20-year period. It’s sort of a natural
thing to do, I guess, when you’ve been doing this
kind of stuff for a long time and you find yourself back in a place where you sort of started
doing it, in many ways. And I would say that, really,
both ends of that equation are true, right, when it
comes to issues of race and racial equity and racism
and racial inequality, privilege, and all of these
subjects that I talk about and that I write about, a
lot of things have changed since 1996 and a lot of things have not. On the one hand, I think it’s fair to say that the nation’s attention
to matters of race has certainly intensified
in that 19 year period, for a couple of reasons, right, a couple of reasons that
are fairly obvious to you. Number one, the election
of a person of color as President of the United States and the push-back against
his election in many ways intensified our attention
to matters of race. Now it did not, as some
would insist of course, make us post-racial, that
was what many of you heard, you recall, like, the day after
Barrack Obama was President. Folks were like, good, we’re
done, next subject, right? Moving on now! I remember getting an
email from a guy like that, next morning, literally,
I knew it was going to be a crazy email, too, because
it was in all capital letters, and red font.
(laughing) And you just know that
shit’s about to go bad, when it’s all capital
letters and red font. Like, it’s not going to be a good morning. It was six AM, I hadn’t even
wiped the sleep out of my eyes, hadn’t had any coffee, this
guy’s e-screaming at me, right, and he’s like, ha ha ha ha! Wow, what, you know? And he says, I guess they’re going to have to find a new hustle now. Right, because naturally,
those of us who talk about racism and civil rights,
we had nothing to talk about now because Barrack Obama
had been elected President. That was what he was
implying, that now that this had happened, I was going
to have to find new work, as were others who had
been doing civil rights and anti-racism and racial
equity education work for a long time, which of
course makes perfect sense. I’m sure you can see the
unassailable logic of his argument. Much as I’m sure you would
agree that when Benazir Bhutto, a woman, was elected head
of state in Pakistan, not once but twice, it
meant that patriarchy had been smashed in Pakistan,
that there was no more sexism, that women and girls no longer
faced any discrimination. Same thing in England, you
know, they elected a woman, as well, and the Philippines, and Israel, and India, and Ireland,
a lot of other countries that have had female heads of states. We still have not, and I’m
sure all the women in the room know that you would be far
better off to just pack your bags at the end of our talk, move to Karachi, where women are finally treated equally, because they elected Benazir Bhutto. They have since, of
course, assassinated her, so that let’s you know how
much some folks loved her, but at least it’s good to know
there’s no more sexism there. Right, because that’s the logic. You have a member of a
subordinated, marginalized group become the head of
state and all the sudden all the other people who share
that individual’s identity are on easy street, you
see, it’s obvious, isn’t it? But that’s what he was saying,
and that’s what many others were saying in the wake of the election. So it’s intensified our
attention to matters of race. It hasn’t necessarily
helped our understanding of race and racism, however, to have a person of color
as the head of state. Also, in that time since 1996, we’ve had, I think we can tell, a heightened hostility to new immigrants, particularly those from
south of a particular border, never the ones from the north, the minutemen never camp
out shooting Canadians craftily trying to sneak
into the United States to take advantage of
our awesome healthcare. (laughing) You don’t see the minutemen
out in Nova Scotia in dinghies and little boats, you know, shooting at those crafty Canadians. It’s only certain migrants
about whom we care, in this case migrants
who were technically, if you know your history,
really just coming home. Right, coming home, right, to a place that was taken from
them by force and by fraud in a war of aggression
that this country started on false pretense, think
about what it means to then tell people that
they cannot come home. Right, it’s like if I were
to come to your house, go inside, put all your
shit on the street, and then you came home and
you were like, can I come in? Nope, I changed the lock. (laughing) And not only did I change the lock, I’m going to build a wall
all around this block, and it’s going to be a wall
like you wouldn’t believe. It’s going to be a wall
like you wouldn’t believe. What the hell does that mean, by the way? Anyone in here is like
a Trump interpreter, if you can just explain
what the hell to me, a wall like you wouldn’t believe. The only wall that I wouldn’t believe is a wall made of butter. Is that the kind of wall he’s planning on, because I don’t believe that, like, I don’t think you can actually
build a wall of butter. So if that’s what he
means, a wall of butter, then I totally would not believe that. Any other wall, I would believe, except I wouldn’t believe
that he would build it. He says, who builds
walls better than Trump? I don’t know, everybody,
Trump’s never built a wall. He builds casinos, he builds
hotels, he builds office parks, he’s never built a wall, and in fact, he doesn’t build anything,
he gets immigrants, often undocumented, to do
that shit for him, right? (applause) That’s not even in the outline,
I just felt like saying it. (laughing) Yeah, well. So we have heightened hostility
to new immigrants since ’96, even though, honestly,
it was already happening. I mean, Prop 187 in
California was passed in ’94, so we now are on a good two decade process of this demonization of
Latino and Latina peoples, but it’s certainly been ramped up lately. We also have, of course, if
you’ve been paying attention to the news over the
last year to two years intensified and disproportionate killing of young people of color, men and women, by law enforcement around the country. I’ll have more to say
about that in a minute. So all of that has been
going on in that 19 years, and in many ways we’re moving backward on some of those subjects,
and we’ll talk about that. But on the other hand, a lot has stayed exactly the same, too. One of the things that
has remained the same, as was true then so too now, the dominant majority in this country, those of us called white in this country, by and large, with exceptions duly noted, I’m not saying all white people, I shouldn’t even have to say this, but what I’ve learned, I’ve
been white a really long time, okay, and like, as a white
person, I know that when you talk about white folks
this and white folks that, there’s always that
white person that’s like, not all white people, okay, shut up, I didn’t say all white people. If I wanted to say all white people, I would have said all white people, and I wouldn’t be standing
here because I’m white. So I obviously know there are exceptions to what I am about to say. I’m talking ab out the
corporation called white people, and yes, there is one, right,
in effect in this country, a larger sort of corporate
reality that we share, right. Just like all white
folks didn’t own people during the period of enslavement, but the vast majority thought it was okay. Just like all white people
didn’t own businesses under segregation but the
vast majority of white people never raised their voice against it and in effect gave their consent to it. So we’re not talking about everybody, when we talk about white folks, black folks, or any other folks. I’m just using this
descriptively, and the fact is, the vast majority of
white Americans in ’96, today, and really all
throughout our history, have never, ever been
willing to confront honestly the ongoing realities
experienced by people of color in this country. We’re still not, by and large, committed to equity and true democracy, and the vast majority
of us continue to insist that people of color have
fully equal opportunity in employment, education,
housing, and that they even receive equal
treatment in the justice system. In fact, a survey taken
just a couple of years ago by folks at Harvard found
that white Americans are actually increasingly convinced that not only do people of
color have equal opportunity compared to us, that they
actually have better opportunity and that we are the real victims
of racism in America today. This is fascinating.
(laughing) All right, I got an
email, like, two weeks ago from this young man who said, I know you won’t respond to this. Well, no, not if you
yell at me, you’re right, I’m not going to respond to you, but I am going to talk
about you on the road, I am going to do that.
(laughing) He said, I know you won’t
respond to this but, and he proceeds to go on this long story about how he can’t find
a job, why, because all the jobs have been taken
by black and brown folk. Okay, really, where in
the hell are these jobs that black and brown people
have taken from white people? Exactly, like where,
are they in Second Life? Is this, like, in Minecraft world? Where are these jobs exactly, right? Because people of color
continue to have double the unemployment rate of white people. So if they’re taking these jobs,
they ain’t taking them far, right, they’re taking them,
like, over, down the block, and then they’re letting them go, because if you’re a person of color, twice as likely as a white
person to be out of work, clearly you didn’t take their job. Not to mention, when people
say they took my job, my instinctive reaction is, like, wait, did you have the job yet? Because if you didn’t have the job yet, that shit wasn’t yours, like, can we just, people say that, like, Mexican
immigrants are taking my job. Did you have the job, because
if you didn’t have the job, it wasn’t your job yet, you see, right? But this guy was convinced,
he can’t find work because of affirmative
action, he can’t find work because of people of
color taking his stuff, and yet, if that were
true, how is it possible that new college grads,
African American college grads between 22 and 27, right, are
still two-and-a-half times more likely to be out of work
than their white counterparts even when they have the same degree and the same discipline,
majored the same subject? How is it that Latino folk with a degree 50% more likely than
comparable white folks to be out of work even with the
same degree, same discipline? How is it that Asian American
and Pacific Islanders with a degree 30% more
likely than white folks with a degree to be out of work? Native American indigenous
brothers and sisters, two-thirds more likely to be out of work, even when they have a degree, so clearly, even though he may be hurting, and he may have a hard time finding work, it clearly isn’t because people of color are to blame for that, and
yet that’s the argument, that not only he, but according
to this Harvard survey, lots of white folks apparently believe. They believe that it’s people of color who have all the opportunity. They believe that they’re
the ones with all the access. And they believe this even as all the evidence
suggested in those arenas, not only employment, but
in education and housing, it continues to be the dominant group who has, by and large and far and away, the lion’s share of opportunities. We know, for instance,
that African American and Latino students are
about 10 times more likely than white students to attend K-12 schools that are places of concentrated poverty, where they’re twice as likely
to be taught by the least experienced teachers
whereas white students are twice as likely to
go to less poor schools and be taught by the most
experienced teachers. We know that students of
color are about half as likely to have access to honors and
advanced placement classes as white students are, white
students twice as likely to have access to those classes. We know that black students
are about three times more likely than white
students to be suspended or expelled from school, even
though they do not, in fact, break school rules
anywhere near that often. In fact, the rates of actual infractions, contrary to popular belief,
are virtually identical between white students
and students of color, according to the last 25 years
of research on this subject, but certain people
continue to be disciplined, other people not so much. And so the evidence is rather clear, and the dominant group
continues to ignore it, but this is a long tradition
in our country, and it’s something about which we need
to be clear historically, because see, it’s one thing to be in denial about racism in 2015. I almost understand that. I almost understand how that happens, because the fact is, when you
have outward manifestations of progress, whether it’s
a president of color, whether it’s a demographic
shift, you know, that now the country is
more brown and less white, and so maybe people see that and assume, oh, there’s a lot of
real, fundamental change. The popular culture is now
thoroughly multicultural, so certainly that can give
the impression, right, that certain things have changed, and I would say culturally,
a lot of things have changed, there’s been a real cultural shift. Right, but sometimes we
can then misinterpret that and assume that that’s
also a big economic shift or a big political shift
or a larger social sense. So I get it, even though
I disagree with it, even though the data
I just shared with you tends to argue against it, I understand. But here’s the problem: the denial isn’t a modern phenomenon. That’s not just a post-1996
thing, or a 2015 thing, that’s been a constant
throughout American history, so much so that even if
you go back to a time when we were a formal system of racism, formal apartheid, formal white supremacy, before Civil Rights Act of 1964, before the Voting Rights Act,
before the Fair Housing Act, white folks even then didn’t
think there was a problem. So go back and look at 1963, that’s the year of the
march on Washington, it’s the year of the Birmingham Campaign, the bombing of the 16th Street
Baptist Church in Birmingham, it’s the year that Medgar Evers, the head of the Mississippi NAACP gets shot down dead in
his driveway, it’s one of the high water marks of the
civil rights struggle, right, and yet in 1983, this is the year before the Civil Rights Act
was even put into place, Gallup, the polling
organization, they went out and they did a poll,
they asked a large sample of white Americans,
hey, do you believe that racial minorities, that
was the term they used, but in this country at that time, they were pretty much
talking about black folks, because this is before the
immigration restrictions got lifted in ’65, so we’re pretty much a white/black dynamic at that time. All right, they said, do you
believe that racial minorities are treated equally in your community, in housing, employment, and education? Now come on, right? 52 years later, if I ask you
that question about 1963, y’all are all going to get it right, you’re all going to get an A on the test, because you all know the answer: well, of course not, man, it was 1963, of course people weren’t
being treated equally. But when white Americans were
asked that question in 1963, not 52 years later, but at the time, two out of three white folks were like, oh yeah, everything’s
fine, everything’s okay. Racism, what? Discrimination, what? So they’re watching TV, the night of that march on Washington, Dr. King gives that “I
have a dream” speech, which, by the way, was not called that until many years later,
just so you know, right, that wasn’t really the
major point of the talk, was not about the dream, it
was about some other stuff, you might want to listen
to the whole speech, not just the one line that
they excerpt every year. You know, just go Google that shit, you can watch the whole thing, right? But in 1963, they asked this question. So you’ve got all these white
folks watching television the day of the march, they see Dr. King giving
parts of this talk, and apparently, according
to that survey data, they didn’t understand what
the fuss was all about. They’re looking at it
like, I don’t get it, why are there 200,000 angry
black people in Washington? (laughing) And why is that guy dreaming,
I don’t understand it. Is something wrong with him? This is America, everything’s good. Turn Leave it to Beaver back on, please, I need something to make
me happy again, right. 1962, even a year before
that, Gallup asked white folks if they thought that black
children had the same chance to get a good education as white children, and 87 out of 100 said yes. 87 out of a 100, almost
nine in 10, were like, what racism, what unequal opportunity? Now here’s the thing, right, there are only two possible
ways that you can understand that level of denial, you know? Like, one would be that white
folks were just so ignorant and unfeeling and uncaring,
but I don’t believe that. I mean, are there people
like that in every racial or ethnic group, yeah, of course, right, but like I said, I’ve
been white a long time, I don’t think nine out of 10
of us are that checked out. I don’t think you can be that ignorant and have this much power,
let me just say that, right. And I don’t think it’s
because 87 out of 100 are unfeeling or uncaring, either, right. It just seems to me the
second option is the only one that makes any sense, what’s
the second explanation? It’s really simple: white folks didn’t have
to know any better. You could be white and
be stone-cold ignorant to the reality that
millions of your countrymen and countrywomen were experiencing and there would be no consequence, right? It wasn’t going to be on the test, you didn’t have to know in
order to graduate high school, what was going on for other people, you didn’t have to know
to be considered competent to get into college, grad
school, law school, med school, to practice any profession, get
a certification or a license to practice whatever job
you might want to practice, none of that stuff was going
to be on the test, so to speak. You could be ignorant,
you could be oblivious, you have the privilege of not knowing. Now that doesn’t work in
reverse, people of color had to know what white
folks thought was important. Right, and still do,
like, if people of color don’t know white folks stuff,
that’s on the test, right? They don’t know that, they
fail the test, they go nowhere. It’s all, the whole test, is
whatever the dominant group thought was important, that’s
what’s going to be on there. That’s why people of color
have to learn white literature and white poetry and white art, and I know we don’t call
it that, that is the point. When your stuff is so normal,
(applause) when your stuff is considered
normal and normative, you don’t have to name it, you don’t have to racially label it, you don’t have to call
it white literature, it’s just literature, yes.
(laughing) Theater. Poetry and art. That’s why we don’t have
white history month, because we got May and June and July and some other stuff, right, we learn white history all the time. We don’t have to name it because
it’s considered normative. Right, that’s how oblivious,
though, we get to be. And it’s not just with race,
men get to be oblivious, right, to the experiences that women have regarding sexism,
patriarchy, rape culture. Those of us who are
straight or cis-gendered, we get to be oblivious to what our LGBT brothers and sisters experience. Those of us who are
able-bodied get to be ignorant of what our disabled brothers
and sisters experience. Think about that, if you’re able-bodied, you’re able to walk into this room today not having to really think about
how you’re going to get in, how you’re going to get
out, if there’s a fire, God forbid, how are you going to escape. These are things that able-bodied folks get to be oblivious to, not
because we’re bad people, right, it’s not because we’re
like, we woke up this morning, we’re like I’m going to be ableist today, I’m going to go oppress disabled people. You don’t have to ever
think anything like that when you’re a member of a dominant group. Sylvia Hurtado, who’s a
brilliant feminist scholar and activist says that, you know, members of dominant groups
can be infinitely good because they’re never
required to be personally bad. Right, you don’t have to be
personally bad or oppressive when you’re a member of a dominant group. You just go through life
and you keep getting stuff, right, you keep getting advantages and you keep getting to be oblivious. It’s like Bev Tatum Talks about, the moving sidewalks at the airport, you ever get on one of those
moving sidewalks, right, you don’t have to pick up
your feet and do anything. You don’t have to make an effort to go from point A to point B,
you can just stand still and you will end up where that thing
was programmed to take you. Right, same thing is true
with the society at large. Unless you push against the
direction that your society is setting you will end up
at point B from point A, even if that’s not where you wanted to go. So that’s the thing, we’re
not talking about good people, when I talk about these
white folks being in denial in ’63, ’62, or even today,
it’s not about white folks being bad or good, or people
of color being bad or good, it’s about the fact that when
you are the dominant group, you get to be oblivious
and there’s no consequence for your ignorance, right? Sort of like that movie, The Matrix, you ever seen The Matrix? There’s that scene at the beginning where Morpheus, which is
Laurence Fishburne’s character, offers Neo, which is
Keanu Reeves’ character, two pills, one’s blue, one’s red, right, and he says in effect,
I’m paraphrasing here, but not by much, he says, you know, you can take the blue pill if
you want and the story ends. You can go back to sleep and
be oblivious to everything that’s going on, that’s what
everybody else is doing, they don’t want to know the truth. They would rather die than know the truth. Or, he says, you can take the red pill and I can take you down the rabbit hole and I can show you how deep it goes, and now you will have enlightenment and you will see what’s really
going on in this society. And, of course, he takes the red pill, and if you’ve seen the movie,
he starts to see all the stuff that’s always been happening
but that he never knew before. This is a perfect metaphor
for race in this country. It is a perfect metaphor for
gender and sexual identity and class and religion and
all of those identities, because when you have a dominant identity you get to take the blue pill. In fact, when you have
a dominant identity, it’s like walking around
with a blue pill IV drip attached to your arm and you
don’t even know it’s there. Right, and the people
who are on the red pill, because they’re having a
very different experience, and they’re just having
to figure out, like, what the hell is happening in their life, so they start taking the red pill, they start to get enlightenment, they come up to us, they’re
like, don’t you see all this? And we’re like, no, man,
blue pill IV, right there. Don’t know what you’re talking about, but I got the blue pill, right? And we sort of like the blue
pill because it makes it easier and, you know what, every
single one of us in this room takes a blue pill on
something, guarantee it, because every one of
us has got an identity where we’re dominate, guarantee, it. Even folks of color,
if you’re able-bodied, you’re on the blue, right? If you’re straight or
cis-gendered, you’re on the blue. If you’re male, you’re on the blue. If you’ve got a college degree,
that too conveys privilege, that means you’re on the blue, vis à vis, 99.999% of the people on the planet. So every one of us has got some identity where we’re the dominant
group and we get to be stone-cold oblivious to
other people’s stuff. The problem is, when we’re
oblivious and we don’t own that, and we’re not willing to acknowledge it, then we can’t hear what the
red pill folks are telling us, right, and we act like we know more. It’s like, I’m oblivious
to calculus, y’all. (laughing) You know why? Because I never took it. You know why? Because they didn’t make me.
(laughing) And I was smart enough
in ninth grade to know if you’re not going to
make me take calculus, I am not gonna take it. I wasn’t good at math,
didn’t want to do it, tried to craft my whole academic career so as never have to take it. So I decided, they said I
gotta take three years of math, Nashville, Tennessee public schools. I’m like, three years,
how am I going to do that and not take calculus, I know,
I’ll take algebra one again, and then I’ll take geometry,
and then algebra two. I won’t even take trig,
that’s how smart I am, right? No offense, by the way,
to those who love math, I’m glad you do, and if
you teach it, that’s great, somebody’s got to do it, it was just not gonna be me. So I didn’t take it. as
a result I’m oblivious. That means if I were to stand up here and try to do calculus to you and actually do some up on the screen, you would all immediately
be like, wait a minute, A, he does not know what the
hell he is talking about, B, didn’t he just tell us that he didn’t even take the class? Aha, exactly, but that’s the point. In this country, we have
a lot of white folks who want to tell people
of color that we know more about their experiences
with racism than they do, and we did not take the class. (applause) And we have men who think that
we know more about sexism, patriarchy, and rape culture than women, and we did not take the class. You see the point? You don’t have to take the
class, metaphorically speaking, when you’re a member
of that dominant group. And so, for all of those
years, we’ve been in denial, and not having to know that
reality can be really dangerous, because then it makes it hard for us to have productive conversations, and it just adds to the tension
that exists in a culture. Right, so we talk about
things like policing, so for instance, all right, if white folks don’t understand
the historical relationship between law enforcement
and people of color, right, if you don’t understand the
difference of what it has meant in this country to be a
person of color confronted by law enforcement as opposed
to someone who’s white, then you can’t possibly understand anything that you’re seeing right now in this country, or the response to it. Not only will it be hard to understand how young black men are
21 times more likely to be shot and killed by
police than young white men, by the way, not because they
commit 21 times more crime, but 21 times more likely to be killed, two-to-three times more
likely when they’re unarmed, relative to white folks,
not only will it be hard to understand that, right, but it will be hard to understand how people of color
are responding to that, and the anger and the frustration,
it’ll seem crazy to you. Right, it seems irrational, and
so that’s why when folks say black lives matter, we’ve always got some white folks are like,
well, all lives matter. (laughing) What, doesn’t my life matter? Yes, precious, but it always did, that’s
sort of the point, right? (applause) It still matters. It’s okay. It’s just that when
your life has never been considered to matter, you
sort of have to proclaim that a little more loudly, the
rest will take care of itself. See, it’s like back in 1970, ’71, the term, the phrase “black is beautiful” became real prominent because black folks were trying to reclaim beauty
standards that excluded them, whether that was in the world of fashion, the world of entertainment,
et cetera, right, the idea was, by God,
we’re going to proclaim that blackness is in fact beautiful. They weren’t, it’s not like,
white people could have been, like, well, but I’m beautiful, we’re all beautiful in our own way. Yeah, we get that, sweetheart, that is totally not the point. It would be like 1985 when
the HIV/AIDS crisis exploded in this country and all
the sudden you had groups like ACT UP, gay men’s health
crisis out in the streets demanding, in effect, what, that people with AIDS’ lives mattered and we need more funding and research for this particular disease. It’d be like running into the
middle of that demonstration and being like, but what
about pancreatic cancer? There are other things that kill people. Or it’d be like walking into
a children’s cancer ward at a children’s hospital
and wanting to talk about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. It’s like, we get it,
there are other concerns, but right now we need to
focus on this one because this is the one that some
folks apparently don’t get. (applause)
Right? But if you don’t know the history, right, if you don’t know that for
years and years and generations, black lives did not matter in
the eyes of law enforcement, then I get it, you
might not understand it. Right, but the history
is really important. It’s not just that contemporary reality of disproportionate arrest
and racial profiling and even the killing of
African American folks, and I should also add to that
Latino and indigenous folks, Native American folks, actually, indigenous native North
Americans the most likely to be killed by police per
capita in this country, we oftentimes don’t talk about that. But that history’s important, see, because to be black or
brown is to know that police were the folks that enforced enslavement. They were the ones on the slave patrol, the equivalent of police in their day, they were the ones
enforcing the black codes, they were the ones enforcing segregation, they were the ones pulling
civil rights protesters off of stools and beating
them in the street and hosing them down in
the streets of Birmingham, even children six and seven years old. That was done by cops, right? And very few police ever condemned it, even the ones that didn’t do it, because that’s what folks will always say, well, we can’t all be
responsible for the acts of, that’s very true, that
is very true, right, but unless police culture stands up against those individuals
when they do that, then don’t be surprised
when people of color have a hard time trusting
anyone in law enforcement, because that’s the historical context. (applause) Folks of color know that
the police were implicated in riots and lynchings all
throughout the 20th century. They not only turned over
suspected criminals to the mob before there was a trial so
that they could be killed in extrajudicial ways, but
they also were involved in many of the race riots
that marked the first three or four decades of the 20th century, where white folks would just
go into black neighborhoods and burn them to the ground
and destroy their property. Places like East Saint Louis,
Illinois, 130 people killed, 150 people killed, including
37 children, right, thrown into bonfires in some cases, and police were right
there involved in it, and people of color remember that, right? Latino and Latina folk
in the Los Angeles area remember how cops were implicated
in the Zoot Suit Riots. They remember the way in which
law enforcement have been involved in the oppression
of peoples of color. They know that in the 1990s,
about a dozen officers in the Los Angeles Police Department were caught planting evidence
in the ramparts division on criminal suspects to try to
sweeten the cases against them. And see, back then, white folks
thought that whole argument was crazy, OJ Simpson went
on trial in 1994, ’95, right, and he’s found not guilty, and one of the reasons
was because the jury said, well, you know, in our mind,
there’s reasonable doubt because the blood evidence
was found by this cop who has a long history of racism. That doesn’t mean that OJ was innocent, and I’ve talked to an awful lot of folks, white, black, and otherwise, people are pretty clear now, they’re like, yeah, I pretty much
think he did that shit, like just, you know, but,
but, here’s the deal, right, that’s not how our system works. Our system is predicated on
this notion of reasonable doubt and that jury, which was not,
by the way, an all-black jury, said, you know what, if you
have a cop with a history of racism and we know the LAPD, then it’s not too extraordinary to believe that evidence could have been planted. And everybody in the white
community was appalled at that, well, how could that
possibly, planting evidence, that’s insane, right,
because in our community, that’s not our experience,
but then a couple years after that is when the
ramparts division scandal broke right there in Los
Angeles, confirming what, that at the very time black
folks were thinking maybe this happened, it was definitely
happening in that city. It doesn’t mean it happened to OJ, but it means that the context
of that suspicion made sense. But if you don’t know that history, then you can just assume
that any kind of opposition to law enforcement is purely irrational. You can’t appreciate the
differential experiences and you can’t understand
the differential perceptions that come from that, right? Because you don’t have to
worry about being pulled over and stopped and searched
when you’re driving or walking or whatever it is you’re doing, or just sitting in a classroom and walking out of that classroom and being suspected by a resource officer, which is the stuff that the data says happens to folks of color all the time, then it’s very hard to get
your head around it, right? We know, for instance,
that white folks use drugs and deal drugs exactly as often
as black and Latino folks. Actually, more than Latino
folks, equal to the rates at which black folks
use drugs or sell drugs, contrary to stereotype, right? Stereotype says, oh, it’s people of color dealing the drugs and doing the drugs and possessing the drugs,
that’s just not true. The actual rates of usage,
possession, and dealing are virtually identical across the board, and yet white folks are
four times more likely, excuse me, black folks
are four times more likely to be arrested for weed, and people of color generally
five to nine times more likely to be incarcerated for a drug offense compared to white folks, so
we’re all doing the crime but we’re not all doing the time. And I didn’t actually need
the data to know this, like, I could have told you
from personal experience, that the war on drugs was not about drugs, because if the war on
drugs had been about drugs, I don’t know who’d be
giving this lecture today. (laughing) But, but I know it wouldn’t be me, because I don’t think they’d let you Skype in a talk from prison, and that’s pretty much where I’d be if the war on drugs were actually, and I’m not trying to brag about that, I’m just reminiscing,
just so you understand. I don’t do that shit
anymore, my asthma came back, can’t do that anymore. All right. But to be honest, like, the data is clear, the anecdotes are clear, right, but if we don’t understand that, then it’s very easy for
us not to understand the way in which people
of color view policing, and then to think that when
they protest police violence or brutality, that somehow
that they just inherently hate cops, or they’re out to kill cops, or out on a cop-killing spree, that’s what law enforcement says, right, about Black Lives Matter, well, it’s encouraging violence, and that’s why there’s all
this increased violence against cops, except there
isn’t increased violence against cops, in fact, this
year, at this particular point, is on track to be the lowest
number of police officers killed in the line of
duty in the last 25 years. Right, so in fact, violence
against officers has declined, and even of those who have
died on duty this year, like, at least six or seven of those, they weren’t killed at all,
they had car accidents, you know, accidental deaths,
one guy died while he was working out at the gym
at the police department, one guy was detailing his
motorcycle and had a heart attack. You know, unless Black
Lives Matter somehow messed with the brake line or
something on the, you know, some guy had a heart attack, you know, if Black Lives Matter was
putting extra cholesterol in the donuts, I guess they
could be blamed for that, but other than that, I’d say
they’re probably not to blame. Now, of course, he was
detailing his motorcycle in advance of a presidential
motorcade, so, you know, thanks, Obama, I guess we can
try to blame it on him, right? But the reality is, all these
folks who want to make this argument are doing it to
discredit a legitimate movement rooted in a historical
understanding of the relationship between law enforcement
and communities of color, and if we don’t want to see the anger coming from those communities, then we have to stop the mistreatment, stop the harassment, stop the profiling, and immediately begin to
proclaim that black lives matter at all times and in all places, and until the institutions
of the country insist on that as loudly as the activists
insist upon that, then we’re not going to be quiet about it and we’re not going to go anywhere, and we’re not going to go
away and shrivel up and die and leave this issue to those who do not have the interest
of those communities at heart, it’s just not going to happen. But it’s not just with law enforcement, it’s immigration as well. The reason that we have
this increased hostility to certain immigrants
is because we don’t have an honest narrative in this
country about immigration. We haven’t confronted that either. And we know this is true
because whenever this issue comes up, you always have
some white folks who be like, I don’t mind immigrants, I
just want them to come legally, like my ancestors.
(laughing) Why can’t they just come the right way, like my
great-great-great-great-granddaddy? (laughing) First of all, let’s just
be clear about this: when your
great-great-great-great-granddaddy came, there was no law to break, right, so the fact that your
ancestors came to this country and did not break a law
that didn’t even exist does not give them any
cookies or brownie points or merit badges, right? You can’t break a law that doesn’t exist. So if the law says that all white folks can be citizens immediately, and that’s what it said from 1790 onward, that white citizens,
whites and only whites, could be citizens of the United States, then the fact that you came
the right way means nothing, there was no wrong way to come, right? So you don’t get any credit for that. Like, my great grandfather
who came legally, right, because there was no law to break does not get patted on the
back for having done so, it means nothing at
all, and I guarantee you that if my great grandfather
had lived in a country that was contiguous to this country and his family was starving
as they were in Russia and unable to make it
as they were in Russia, I bet you he would have
crossed that border, not caring much at all about what the laws of the United States said because that’s what parents do
to keep their families alive, and that’s what families do,
whether they’re from Europe, (applause) whether they’re from Europe,
whether they’re from Syria, whether they’re from Mexico,
whether they’re from Guatemala, wherever they’re from,
that’s what people do, but we’ve crafted a narrative,
a fictional narrative that says that, you
know, our ancestors came on the basis of principle, we
came for freedom and liberty, and these people are
just coming for stuff. Two points, number one, we did not come for liberty and freedom, because if we had come for that, we would have established that, right, but instead we spent the better
part of the colonial period just oppressing each other,
forget what we did to indigenous people and black folk for a minute, hell, we just would burn
each other at the stake, drown each other as supposed
witches, you know, hang people from trees that didn’t
practice the right religion. I mean, the idea that European
peoples came for liberty and freedom is absolutely
belied by every bit of evidence as to what we did once we got here, but the second point, just as important, is that in fact we too came for stuff. Stuff like opportunity, stuff for an ability to make a living, stuff to be able to feed our families, that’s the reason people migrate. Most people don’t want to pack
up all their shit and move, certainly not across the ocean. Most people don’t want to move out of town from where they were born. Most Americans live and die 60 miles away from where they were born. Moving is not easy, it is stressful. The idea that somebody’s
going to just pack up and take everything that they have and everything that
they’ve been and move it from point A to point B,
nobody wants to do that. The difference is, Europeans
have lied to ourselves and acted like our people wanted to come. Our people didn’t want to come,
James Baldwin told us that, he said that’s the problem
with white Americans, they think that their ancestors
really wanted to come here and they didn’t, any more than mine, and he was a black man
who knew of what he spoke. Right, we didn’t want to come, we were the losers of
our respective societies, and I don’t mean that to be mean, I’m not saying that to be pejorative, I don’t mean losers like in a bad way, I just mean we were not the winners, we were the ones getting our ass kicked. Right, only the losers
got on the boat, right? I love it when folks will be like, my family came over on the Mayflower. All right, you might want to keep that shit to yourself because
(laughing) if you knew who was on the Mayflower, you wouldn’t be bragging
so much about that. What do you think, you know
who was not on the Mayflower? The king, the king was
not on the Mayflower. Not anybody that the king
liked was on the Mayflower. The winners were not on the boat. If you were living large in England, you were not going to be all, like, wake up one Wednesday and you’re all like, well, I don’t know, um, things seem to be going
pretty swimmingly over here. However, upon reflection, I think, and I think my
family, we will all agree, that the best thing that we could do would be to get on a rickety ship and go across the ocean on a journey that will take weeks,
possibly die in the process, maybe be eaten by sharks, run out of food, get scurvy, die a horrible death, where they’ll have to dump
our bodies into the ocean, but what the hell, it
will be an adventure. (laughing) No, no, the winners
weren’t going to do that. Right, only the losers,
and there’s no shame in having been the loser, by the way, because when I say you were the loser, it was often because of
oppression and repression and having your land taken
by people wealthier than you, so I’m not trying to
say it to be negative. I’m saying, if we in fact were the losers, those who were run out, those
who were unable to succeed, then we should be identifying
with the folks who are also struggling, coming from other countries looking for that same opportunity. And if we can’t see us in them, and if we can’t see they in us, then that’s the root of our problem, but we’ve created this fictional history that elevates some and denigrates others, and here’s why it’s dangerous. The more we do that,
the less likely we are to actually solve the problems, right? So we’ve got folks that
are running around, saying they’re going to build that wall, or like Chris Christie says,
he’s going to go one better, he’s going to microchip everybody and track them like a UPS package. How the hell does that
work, like, some dude comes over the border, or scans
Trump’s wall, or whatever, right, and then Chris Christie is
gonna run them down and be like, and be like, give me your arm,
I gotta put a UPC code on it. Right, what the hell is, it’s like trying to one-up each other, it’s like, and you
know, Carly Fiorina now, she’s going to have to
come, she’s going to, what, release the Kraken on the
shores of the Atlantic, like, you know, have some sea monster that tracks people down
who decide to swim in. Going to build a dome, Ted
Cruz going to build a dome, impenetrable by parachute,
like, what the hell is this? But that’s what you do, you
propose those, and you say, we’ll just deport people,
and you say you’re going to do that to improve
the economic prospects of working people in America,
but then what we’re not facing is how those jobs are
really getting lost, right? It’s not because brown
folk are taking them, it’s because richer white folk than you have sent the jobs away, right, have sent them elsewhere
so they can take advantage of lower wages, and a
lack of environmental and labor protections, and a
lack of anti-discrimination law and a lack of occupational
safety and health regulations. So rich folks have decided
to send those jobs elsewhere so that they can make more money without any regard for the rest of us. That’s a rich white person problem, not a poor brown person
problem, but in this country, we’ve spent the better part of 400 years, going back to the days of the colonies having rich people like Donald Trump telling working class white people that their problem is working
class black and brown people, not rich white dudes like him. That is an interesting historical trick, and that is the one that
is playing out right now, because the more we focus
on the folks at the bottom, the less we focus on the folks at the top, like the 1% of all people in this country, almost all of whom are white, and disproportionately of whom are male, who currently have the
same amount of wealth as the bottom 90% of
the American population. 1% of the people, which
is about 325,000 people, having the same amount
as 325, or excuse me, as about 300 million people. We have 30 people in the United States who have the same net worth as the bottom half of
the American population. 157, 160 million people over
here, 30 people over here. We have 400 white people
in America with the same net worth as all 40 million
black folks combined. Do we actually think 400 white people worked harder than 40
million black people, or that 30 people worked
harder than 160 million people? The six heirs to the Walton fortune, that’s the Wal-Mart family, they have so much money that
they actually have the same amount of wealth as the bottom 40% of the American population,
127 million people over here, six people over here, the
heirs to the Walton fortune. And I want to put this
in perspective, right. So the Walton fortune heirs, six people, have so much wealth that they could buy every house in Seattle,
every condo in Seattle, every town home in Seattle, they could buy every one of them and be everyone’s landlord and
still have $40 billion left. And then they could buy
every house, town home, or condo in Anaheim,
California, if they like Disney, or in Napa, if they like wine, and they would still have
about $5 billion left. Just to put that in
perspective, Oprah Winfrey, who a lot of folks apparently
think is really rich, where the Walton family could
buy every home in Seattle, she can only buy all the
homes in Mokena, Illinois, wherever the hell that
is, I don’t even know. That puts in perspective how
somebody you think is rich ain’t really rich, you
can take all the wealth of all the other people,
Donald Trump, Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas
Mavericks, Mark Zuckerberg, George Lucas the filmmaker,
Steven Spielberg, the filmmaker, Phil Knight, the guy that started Nike, all these people that you
think of as fabulously rich, put them all together
and they still don’t come to half of what the
Walton family heirs have. Meanwhile, people who work at Wal-Mart, disproportionately getting
paid sub-poverty wages, so little that they have
to turn around and get on SNAP benefits, that’s what
we used to call food stamps, because they’re not getting paid enough, and then where do they
redeem their food stamps, dear friends, they
redeem them at Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart is the biggest
redeemer of food stamps. So on the one hand, they
don’t pay their people enough, even as their six wealthy
heirs have more money than God, and then those individuals
who they pay sub-poverty wages have to turn around and get food stamps and then buy the food at Wal-Mart, $13 billion a year redeemed
at Wal-Mart in SNAP benefits, a disproportionate amount of which comes from their own employees. That is the problem, not
brown folk from Mexico. That is the problem.
(cheering applause) So if we’re really going
to solve our problems, we have to change our analysis of what’s really going on in this country. There are problems, and
there are adversaries, and there are battles to be waged, but those battles are not with a bunch of working class folks fighting each other over the pieces of a pie
that not one of us own. That is not the battle. The battle is to figure
out how those folks who have jacked a disproportionate
amount of the wealth and the bounty of this
country and the planet have to be stopped before they
wreck not only this country’s economy but the global
economy, the ecology, and bring everything down with it. Thank you all so very much for being here, I appreciate your time and attention. (applause)
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. So we’ve got about seven
minutes for questions, I think, right, and I’ll take a few, and then I’ll let you out of here. Yes, right there first. – What I hear a lot in
the white community is, I don’t see color, and I always think about
how to address that. – Well, you could offer to get them some glasses. (laughing) Eye exam. Bifocals, whatever they need. You know, I don’t know why people think that’s a legitimate thing to say. First of all, they’re lying, because anyone who says they
don’t see color is lying. We know from the research, in fact, that children as young as six months old can discern color
differences between people, and different faces, you know, and they start attaching value to that by the age of two or three, according to the child
development research. So not only do we see color, we start ascribing value very young, and by the time somebody’s
old enough to tell you that in a conversation, they’ve
probably been socialized 15, 20, 25, 30 years at least of internalizing certain assumptions. We know from the research
on subconscious bias that the vast majority of us have it, to one degree or another. In fact, even the target group internalizes bias against itself. Right, the research says
the overwhelming majority of whites, for instance,
have subconscious biases against people of color, but
about half of black folks, for instance, have subconscious
bias against themselves. So not only do we see it, but we’re actually making
judgments all the time. They may not always be conscious, but they’re happening subconsciously. The second point is that to
say that you don’t see color is to say that I don’t see you as the person that you
are in the world, right? So that’s like saying, if you think about, let’s say you’re somebody
who’s a person of faith, and you’re a person who considers your Christian faith
really important to you. If I were to say to
you, well, I don’t think of you as a Christian, I mean, whatever, if that’s what
you’re into, that’s fine. I totally don’t see that
whole thing, you know, so whatever, you’d be offended by that, as well you should be because
that’s important to you. Same thing if I say, well,
you know, I’m Jewish, grew up in Nashville, which
is a whole other story, and you know, people would, I remember, I dated a girl once who was like, well, I know you’re
Jewish, she was Catholic, she was from Louisiana, and
this did not work out, but so she said, I remember we’d
been dating for like a year, and I’m at her place, and
she’s like, well, you know, I just think that you might
be Jewish, but you’re like the most Christian Jewish
person I’ve ever met, not realizing that was just, like, erasing my totality of who I am. I mean, to her it wasn’t an insult, and I didn’t even take it as an insult, except insofar as it was like saying, that thing you really
are isn’t good enough, so I’m going to make you something else. And when white folks say
they don’t see color, what we’re really saying is, and it’s a damn good thing I don’t, because if I did see you
as a person of color, you’d be screwed right about now. Right, it’s as if what we’re
saying is that it’s good not to be thought of as black, as Latino, as Asian American, as
Native, whatever it is, and so I think it’s something
people say sometimes meaning well but it’s just like denying a central feature of someone’s life, and if you don’t see that, you don’t really know who a person is. To not see color when color
has such vast consequences is to not see the
person, to not understand their experiences, to not be
able to empathize with them and certainly to not be able
to build a new world with them. Next question. – Thank you very much
for your observations. What are your recommendations? Is it education, charity, voting? What do we as individuals do? – Well, that’s all good, but I think in every one of those cases, voting, education, charity work, whatever it is that one
does, it’s important to have a particular kind of
intentionality around it. I think, you know, the idea sometimes, people say, well, education is the key, but it depends on what kind of education, like, what is education
pointing us towards? We have an educational
system in this country that certainly isn’t about liberation. It’s certainly not about freedom and liberating people from marginality. That’s why, you know,
you have to have handful of incredibly brave teachers
at a place like Garfield that just refuse to teach
the standardized test, you know, even though the state, you know, even though the state tells
them that you’re going to get in trouble, but if enough teachers decide we’re not going to play
this game, this is crap, we’re not doing this, this
is about destroying children, we’re about educating
and liberating children, if we’re doing that kind of education, then that’s important. Same thing with charity, if
charity work is sort of done with the mentality of helping
the poor benighted souls and fixing them, right, then I think we need to find another hobby. If, on the other hand, charity
and volunteer work is done as a way to build solidarity
and actually begin to build alternative institutions, then I think I’m all for that. So it’s about figuring out,
like, when you do volunteer work or you do service learning work, I know a lot of schools do service work, community service, service
learning, whatever, maybe religious institutions
that you might be connected to do that, ask those questions. Are we going in just to
fix someone else’s problem, or are we going to interrogate how that became a problem
in the first place, and how we might help them
build something different where they don’t have to rely on us? Right, because really,
they’ve got strength, they’ve got power,
they’ve got wisdom, right? Post-Katrina, people that went
down there to help rebuild learned a lot if they
were willing to listen to people from the community about the wisdom that they had stored away in their history that
they could bring to bear on building a new New Orleans, and although it hasn’t
been built by any stretch, those who went in with an open mind about this being more than
just charity did better. And I think the same is true with voting. Voting is fine, if you view it as harm reduction. If you view it as the end-all,
be-all of how social change happens then you haven’t
paid attention to history. Voting matters, I’m not saying it doesn’t. If it didn’t matter at all,
people wouldn’t be trying so hard to make it impossible to do, like, the fact that people are
trying to make it harder for folks to vote, taking
away early voting lines, taking away voting machines
in poor precincts of color, making you have to have a photo ID even though there’s only been 31 cases of in-person voter fraud in 15 years, acting like somehow voter fraud is a real problem in this country, but they know that if they
make a photo ID requirement, that poor folks who are less
likely to have photo ID, and especially if they’re
of color, because they live maybe in areas where
they don’t have a car, maybe they use public transportation, they don’t have a bank
account, they don’t need an ID, they know that that’s going to have an effect on who can vote. So voting matters, but only as, it’s like giving clean needles
to heroin addicts, right? It’s not going to stop opiate
addiction, but it might save some lives by preventing
disease from being transmitted. So it’s important, but it
can’t be the end-all, be-all, it has to be one of
many things that we do. The real advice I have for you though is do not look for those quick
fixes or easy solutions. The reality is that real
solutions to these problems, took years to get this point of having things as jacked up as they are, it’s going to take at
least that long, probably, to pull out of it, and I
think sometimes the mistake we make in this culture is that
we’re looking for the answer because we’re a culture
of quick fixes, right, we’re a culture that’s
like, you’ve got a headache, you take this pill, you
want to lose weight, you take this pill, you want
to, you know, whatever it is, we always have a quick answer, and they usually don’t work, right? They usually are not the
ones that are lasting. So if we’re going to find answers, we have to get into the community and work and listen to what
the community is saying and then move forward with an agenda that they come up with
rather than the one that we parachute in with and tell
them is the best for them. – Can you discuss, if you have an opinion, on the us versus them dichotomy, versus active inclusionism,
i.e., the, say, Malcolm X approach
versus Gandhi’s approach? – Malcolm X versus, did
you say Gandhi, okay. Well, I mean, look, I think there really are us’s and them’s. I mean, there really are
diametrically opposed interests in the world. The people who are committed
to over-fishing the oceans, thereby killing 95% of all
large fish species that are now extinct do not have the
same interests as I have, and they do not care about
the same things I care about. And those people who continue to belch and pump poisonous toxins into the air and contribute to climate change do not have the interest
of the rest of us at heart, or even themselves or their own progeny. So it’s nothing wrong with recognizing that there really are opposed interests, as long as we’re clear
about what side we’re on, and what we’re prepared to do to bring about a different society. The question is how we
define the us and them, and I think that’s been a
problem, right, and I think Malcolm X was someone who
recognized that as well, I mean, Malcolm’s primary
concern all throughout his life, and even up to his death,
was obviously dealing with a system of white supremacy and he had a particular
way of addressing it early in his activism and
a slightly different way after he went to Mecca, and had much more of
a Pan-African approach and also an approach that
had room for white solidarity and allyship in a way that it hadn’t, let’s say in ’61, ’62, ’63. Same is true, you know, with
the black power movement. The Black Panthers, for instance, contrary to popular belief, were not truly a separatist organization nor were they in any way anti-white. They worked with white
activists all the time. They encouraged white
activism and solidarity. SNCC did the same thing
in ’67, when SNCC expelled the white folks from the
group, it wasn’t because they didn’t feel white folks
had a role to play. What they were saying is, we need y’all to go talk to white people. We need you to let us have our space, we’ll plan and plot from here, but you’ve got to go talk to your people, because we can’t talk to them. They won’t listen to us. So what they were trying to do
was redefine the us and them, and they were saying that
it wasn’t necessarily just on racial lines, but it
might be on economic lines, it might be on the lines of
what our actual interest are, and I think in this country,
that’s been the problem. It’s not that we have an us and them, it’s that we usually pick the
wrong us and the wrong them, and for too often in this country, white working class
people have been convinced that the us was just white people, even though the interest of a poor person and a rich person during
the days of enslavement should have been obviously
diametrically opposed, because if I’m a white
person and I have to, like, charge you to work on your farm, or to work as a tailor, or a haberdasher or a milliner, or, you know, a shoe-black,
or whatever it was, you know, working, because
many enslaved Africans were also working in more urbanized areas, if I’m white and I have
to charge you for that, and you can get somebody
who’s black that you own as property to do it,
I’m going to lose, right? My wages are going to be driven down. So I should have had the
interest of identifying with African peoples and saying, hey, we need to overthrow
all this shit right now, right, because they’re taking
advantage of both of us. They’re keeping you enslaved, they’re keeping me
marginalized economically, so the us and them should
have been defined differently. But there was definitely an
us and definitely a them. Next question. – I just wanted to know
your thoughts on, so, I’m on Twitter a lot, and
so I have a lot of friends that will talk about other
people because they’re, like, black activists and stuff, and so I just, like, I don’t think
that there’s really a point where it’s too much, just
because there’s so much going on. But what’s your thoughts on that, and how do you approach
that, and do you think that there’s a point
where there’s too much? – Well, let me make sure that I know what you mean by too much of what, like what is it people
are complaining about? – So like, if, let me think about that for a second. Like, if someone will tweet something and then they’ll be
like, oh, that’s racist, or like, if a situation goes down, someone will tweet about
it, and they’ll be like, oh, that shouldn’t have
went down like that, people need to stand up, or like the black is
beauty and stuff like that. – Oh, so, like, people
that push back against– – Not pushing back, people that, like, are for it, like people that
go to, like, black brunches, and will go to– – Oh, oh, oh, so Twitter activism and sort of new media
activism for black liberation. I absolutely think that
when you’re a movement trying to figure out
your way, you’re going to experiment with a lot
of different techniques, and I think it’s important
for us to approve of and acknowledge the value of
some of these new techniques that have been made possible by media. That doesn’t mean that
every effort is going to hit its mark, it doesn’t
mean that every effort is going to end up being productive. There are certainly things
that all of us have done, God knows I have, on social
media that was unhelpful, right? And we’re all going to do that, we’re all going to have those moments, we’re all going to have those
days when we tweet something and it just was totally wrong, and we shouldn’t have done it, and maybe something goes viral
and it just doesn’t work, but I think that’s what
movements do, right, because it’s a lot of hit and miss. We think about the old movements as being so much more,
like, organized and together and, you know, never making mistakes, but that’s because the
winners write history and the winners of the
movement who won enough to be able to say, we’re
not going to tell you about all the times we screwed up, but there were plenty of
losses, plenty of defeats, plenty of strategic errors. I think black brunch, for those
of you who don’t know that, I think it’s actually quite brilliant. It’s been done in several large cities, where basically Black Lives
Matter activists and others have gone into, like, really
hipster kind of brunch areas where mostly white people
with money are having eggs Benedict or whatever
the hell they’re eating, having their little beignets
and sipping their latte, and they just sort of
interrupt the brunch, for like four-and-a-half minutes, which represents the four-and-a-half hours that Mike Brown was laying
in the streets in Ferguson, and they spend that
four-and-a-half minutes talking about issues of police brutality, and then at the end of
the four-and-a-half, they’re like, you know,
go back to your breakfast, enjoy, but it’s a way to
interrupt the process. And a lot of people didn’t like it. They’re like, well, that’s horrible, I’m just going to, that’s
not going to make friends and allies because
they’re going to be angry, and they’re not going
to join your movement. Yeah, probably not, it’s probably true. But it’s an important thing
because if I actually push back against being interrupted in my brunch, like, if I can’t spend
four-and-a-half minutes of my brunch time having
that pleasurable experience interrupted by a reality
about black people dying in this country from police violence, then I really have a problem and it’s better if I know that
and other people know that. Right.
(applause) So I think it actually
was quite brilliant. It’s not like they came in
and overturned the tables, and were like, oh, you
like hollandaise sauce, here, have some hollandaise sauce. It wasn’t like, you like cheese grits, how do you like them in your face? They didn’t do that, you
know, there was no violence, they didn’t pour coffee on
people, they didn’t, like, you know, slap people
with bacon or whatever. So I mean, you know, I
thought it was really good, and I think that even though I’m sure it made some enemies, the reality is, you
have to raise awareness in untraditional ways,
because you just can’t always do it through traditional media, you can’t always just do
it on Facebook, you know. Some people are just checked out. If they’re folks on Facebook, it’s just pictures of
their cats and their kids and the food that they’re eating, and even after someone just got killed, you know, by an officer somewhere, that’s the next day,
it’s like, that’s what, you know, there have been studies on this, that the day after Walter
Scott was killed in Charleston, the day after Dylann Roof
walked into the church in Charleston and killed nine people, and we act like, you know,
the whole world was grieving and the whole country was grieving, but the next day, some
analysis of Facebook posts by white folks as opposed
to people of color, the vast majority of us white folks weren’t posting anything about that, we were still taking pictures of our food, we were still sending
out pictures of our cat, we were still playing Words with Friends, or whatever the hell, and
letting everybody know that we were doing that, we were still sending
out cute little videos that we found on YouTube,
and at some point, going into those spaces and saying, okay, y’all been trying to ignore this, today is the day you don’t get to do that. And, you know, it might be
that only one out of 100 people who sees that actually
goes, wow, you know what, I needed to see that, but that
might help build solidarity as well, so I think, it
doesn’t mean that every tactic is a good tactic, it’s doesn’t
mean that every technique is going to be effective, it doesn’t mean that we can’t criticize those that are ineffective,
but I think when you’re going through the growing pains as a movement, that’s just part of it. You try different stuff
and you see what works, and when something isn’t working, you move onto something else, and right now, they’ve sort of done that, they’ve changed some of their technique. You don’t see the blocking
of traffic as much as was happening, that
was a good, I think, opening salvo for Black Lives Matter, to do that kind of stuff, now they’re moving on
to some different stuff. Actually putting out some agenda items, some actual policy ideas. They didn’t do that in the early stages. They were trying to mobilize. Now they’re moving onto some policy ideas. It’s the way a movement matures, and I think if we want to help it mature, we have to become part of it. Because it’s a lot easier
to stand on the outside of that movement and, you
know, throw bricks at it when you’re not connected to it, than it would be to get in there and really grapple and really, you know, knock heads and have some disagreements but also struggle and laugh and cry and organize and win and lose and all the stuff that
happens in movements, right? So anyway, thank you all,
I know we’re out of time, but thank you so much for being here. I will,
(applause) thank you. (smooth music)

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