Episode Two: “Becoming Less Racist: Lighting the Path to Anti-Racism” with Eddie S. Glaude Jr.

Transcript:  Simran Jeet Singh: Welcome to our second episode of “Becoming Less Racist: Lighting the Path to Anti-Racism.” I’m delighted to have you all here. In our previous conversation, we spoke with Professor Anthea Butler from the University of Pennsylvania on what we mean by whiteness, and what we can do about white supremacy. Today, […]

Transcript: 

Simran Jeet Singh:
Welcome to our second episode of “Becoming Less Racist: Lighting the Path to Anti-Racism.” I’m delighted to have you all here. In our previous conversation, we spoke with Professor Anthea Butler from the University of Pennsylvania on what we mean by whiteness, and what we can do about white supremacy. Today, we’ll be joined by the inimitable Dr. Eddie Glaude. If you’re entrenched in the religion world, you may know him as the previous president of the American Academy of Religion. If your focus is more on race, you may know him as the Chair of the Department of African American Studies at Princeton University, where he also serves as James McDonald Distinguished University Professor of African American Studies. And if you were a normal person and not a total nerd like me, you might recognize him from MSNBC, and particularly from an impassioned commentary he gave in 2017 after the white supremacist violence in Charlottesville — that was a video that went viral and gave me goosebumps every time I see it. And given our current state of affairs and our collective focus on anti-black violence, I wanted to bring in Professors Glaude to help us understand what’s going on in our country today, how it fits into the bigger historical picture of what’s been happening and how we can think about dealing with these issues as individuals and as a collective. So let me just start by saying thank you, Eddie. Thank you for joining us today.

Eddie S. Glaude, Jr.:
I’m doing well, little technical problems. I apologize, but yep, okay. In this moment we’re exhausted. But you know, I think that’s not unique to us. Trying to manage, you know, the torrent of emotions, that’s about it for the most part. We’re thankful and blessed that we’re helpful, that we’re safe, yeah.

Singh:
I want to jump right into it. And you know, the first question I asked Anthea, the first question I want to ask you is could you jump right in and tell us about the first incident of racism you’ve encountered from a white person?

Glaude:
Oh, goodness. That’s hard to remember. I’m from Mississippi. Oh, no, I think… Probably I can tell you about the first instance. I can’t quite remember the particulars — when I was in the fourth grade, and the teacher, I think, was singling me out in ways that I just, I didn’t like. She was saying things that rubbed me the wrong way. And I remember jumping up and yelling, screaming that “you’re a racist,” stormed out of the class. Well, the earlier lessons in my life, I mean, in this sense, not so much, because not so much because of the encounter, because I don’t remember the details of what she said or what she was doing. It was more how my dad responded. So I stormed out of the classroom and I’m, I was deathly afraid of my father. So, I thought I was going to get severely punished, and I came home and I remember him asking me a series of questions. “What did she say?” To the effect? You know, “What does she do?” And what I said what I took her -to have done. I just remember him. And I remember it clearly and leaning into me and saying, “if anyone ever says anything like that to you, you do the same thing, you defend yourself.” Right? And it was an educating moment, but it was also very gentle, which was rare between the two of us. So it’s, you see, so it’s doubling, right? So there’s the moment of racism. And then there’s the moment of black love, right? Cause oftentimes we want to reduce our lives to the trauma of racism, to the horror and cruelty, when alongside that, of course, is the love that sustains us in the midst of it all.

Singh:
Right. Can you, were there any moments in your life where you didn’t stand up to authority? You know, your father said, you do that same thing every time. And I, you know, I’ve thought about moments in my own life where I cowed to authority figures, who said, “you have to do this,” and I didn’t want it two [inaudible] about my decision to counter their racism. Would you have any instances like that?

Glaude:
Not that I recall. It might be, you know, just the effectiveness of repression. Not that I recall. I mean, you know, there are, of course, there are slights that you just say, okay, right? There are moments where people are saying things that you just say, okay. I don’t want to fight that battle. As a child though, I remember being in predominantly white classes and on the coast of Mississippi and being one of two or three black students in a class of 30 students and being at a table doing a group assignment and suddenly feeling the necessity to tell people that I had Native American heritage. Just kind of denying who I was and, you know, and I still remember that exchange to this day. Right? What prompted me to say, well, you know, my great, great grandmother’s Cherokee or something? You know, that sort of thing.

Singh:
Well, yeah. It’s so interesting, I mean, the way these things come out psychologically and you know, one of the things that I remember that vividly was that you and I were on a panel together a few years back about the risks and the violence that comes with public scholarship. And I’d love to hear you speak a little bit about the kinds of threats and violence you’ve faced personally over the years. Would you mind sharing some of that with us?

Glaude:
Well, sure. You know, it ranges, you know, so I, you know, constantly get the emails, the name-calling. The most disturbing experience: I was receiving a series of emails calling me everything next to God. And suddenly, my son’s name showed up in the email chain — he had found my son’s email and he was emailing my son and the like. And it really unsettled me because it meant that the person was mining all the information he could. He Found his workplace and started emailing him. And, you know, by virtue of being a student of Cornel West, I was up close with Cornel when he became Cornel West. And I saw the way he handled the death threats, particularly after his position on the Million Man Walk, the Million Man March, and the like, and, you know, his lesson to me was, you’re going to get this stuff. You can’t allow it to derail you, you can’t allow it to interrupt your sense of calling, and you just can’t be naive, right, about it all. And so, that’s been my orientation until my family got roped into it. Just recently, Tucker Carlson and did a segment on me on his show, and he said — this was in response to something I was saying about the urban unrest — and he said, that it would, I wonder if Eddie Glaude would have a different position if someone was burning his house or throwing rocks into his BMW. And I have a BMW, right. So it was, it was a kind of signal to me, that I had to take that you can’t take it light, that it wasn’t just happenstance. Right? It was a kind of notice about my life and what he knew. And of course, it unleashed the legions of Fox News and all the ugliness that came with that.

Singh:
Right. And can I ask you just, how do you deal with that when you have the threats of violence? I know you, you sort of have the guidance of the great Cornel West to say, you know, you stand your ground, but how do you do it on a day to day level when you’re getting these attacks? How do you keep faith in humanity and how do you make sure that you’re not letting go of what you think is the right?

Glaude:
Okay. Right. I think, you know, it’s not an easy answer. I don’t let it overwhelm me. So I don’t linger on the emails. You know, you just start deleting, deleting, deleting, deleting, you create the conditions of around your living, where you try to keep it, the people you love safe, and you continue to focus on the task at hand, right? And then that’s a decidedly gendered way of responding to it, I suspect, but my response has always been to focus on the work to double down in those moments of really serious and intense ugliness and threat. To not dwell and not allow it to distract me from my calling, from what we’re tasked to do. Because that’s its intent, right? They want us to cower, they want us to retreat. They wanted us to feel like, if we continue to speak truth, that the risks, the costs well outweigh the benefit. To my mind, we cannot concede to that. So, whenever it gets intense, I get really focused, if that makes sense. And the thing that I’m really good at doing is compartmentalizing it, that’s how I’m able to be the Chair of African American studies and do all the things that I do. Right? So I’m really good at putting this in that box and this and that box and this box about the tasks in front of me.

Singh:
Right. Let’s talk for a moment about the compartment of you as a father. You’ve mentioned, you mentioned keeping your loved ones and your kids safe and how that can be scary. And, you know, there are different ways in which that must be very real for you in ways that it’s not for other folks. And, I’ve been reading personally a lot about, accounts of black parents, sharing their stories of how they talk to their kids about being pulled over by the cops. It’s not the same, you know, I deal with racism. I’ve never had that conversation with my parents, or they never had it with me. And I don’t feel particularly concerned about having it with my own kids. Could you shed a little bit of light on how you did that as a parent? How old were your kids? What did you tell them? What do you tell them now?

Glaude:
You know, I had a conversation with a colleague of mine, Imani Perry, just the other day, about this question and really how we have to disrupt it. And let me explain why that, you know, there’s this kind of approach — you know, black folk have to give their kids the talk. And what’s interesting is that, no matter what we say to our children, it’s not their behavior that generates the outcome. It’s not whether or not they do it or not. That actually matters. Right? What is really at issue is what you’re saying to your kids, what white people are saying to their children, what they’re saying to each other, not what I’m saying with my kids now. So it is, it’s an internal kind of conversation, right? Because of what might be described more broadly as the black tax, we have to explain to our children that because you are embodied in a certain sort of way, there are certain things that can occur to you, that you need to be aware of. Right? So any slight movement, your bodies can be read in any sort of way that can generate danger and harm. But I think the, the ongoing demand to make explicit the talk, right, is really kind of getting us to focus on, in some ways, not just simply the fact that as parents, we have to socialize our children to live in a world that, that dehumanizes them and denies them dignity and standing, but it also turns our attention away from talking about that very world that’s constantly trying to dehumanize and deny dignity and standing to black folk. So I think we have to disrupt the ongoing demand to give light to the talk, right? Because it’s not about what our children are doing or not doing it. Right? Whether you put your hands on the wheel or put your wallet there, or you say yes sir or no, sir, you can say, sir, for eight minutes and 46 seconds. And it doesn’t matter. You see? So, it’s as if the talk is evidence of something that needs to be made real for someone. You know, it, you know, it happens, right? Why are you having me to reveal something that every parent, every day, every parent of color, every black parent has to navigate. It’s a very painful exchange. It’s a very painful socialization. And then we have to perform it. You know what I mean? Does that make sense?

Singh:
Oh, I think that makes perfect sense. And I think about my own kids and this moment we had recently where she observed racial profiling for the first time recently. In my head, I was like, does she have to stop living in this ideal world that I want her to live in? Or do I have to bring her into reality? She’s four. She was three at the time. And do I have to tell her about it? And we did. I mean, we decided to start introducing these conversations and I think it’s important, but for her to have to — like, you’re saying the socialization so early, that’s painful. Like no parent wants that for their kids.

Glaude:
Yeah. So, I mean, you think about it. We don’t have the luxury of innocence. So, you know, Tamir Rice, just an example, didn’t have the luxury of innocence playing, probably imagining, you know, folks that he was, that he was about to capture whomever. No, that was the occasion for his murder. Or you think about some kid, some child, developing an entrepreneurial spirit and goes out and wants to sell water in the New York subway. And next thing, you know, he’s handcuffed, right? Cause he’s trying to sell chocolate bars or something, you know. Innocence is not something that our children have for long. And the talk is part of that socialization, which announces that — you know, as my dad told me, when I was 14 — you’re not cute anymore. And when he said, you’re not cute anymore, the next sentence was, “In their eyes, you’re a n***a now.”

Singh:
Mmhm.

Glaude:
What does that mean? I mean, that’s crazy on a certain level, you know, but anyway…

Singh:
Right. Yeah. No, thank you. And I think where we’re going with this is we’re moving for those of you who are joining us, we’re moving from the personal racism that Professor Glaude has experienced himself and with his family, into the more systemic issues that we’ve been talking about as a country. And if you have questions or comments, feel free to leave them on the post. Professor Glaude is as a professor and the Chair of the African American Studies Department at Princeton. And he’s talking us a bit about anti-black violence. What I’d like you to illuminate for us, and these next few questions aren’t easy ones. I’m going to ask a lot of you. I think what we’re having trouble with and what we’re starting to do as a society, as a nation right now, is to connect the dots. Is to notice that — Oh, this isolated incident in Minneapolis is connected to something bigger and it’s not as isolated as we thought. So can you talk to us a little bit about — what is anti-black violence? What does that look like to you? Is it police brutality? Is it mass incarceration? What else would you like people to think about when they’re thinking about anti-black violence in this country?

Glaude:
So I’m leery of a promiscuous use of violence, but I understand why people want to use that description in certain instances, but I think it’s important to understand a society that is organized in its political, social and economic arrangements to reflect the fundamental devaluation of certain people, as other people are valued more. So, America is organized along the lines of what I’ve called in my earlier work, the value gap: this belief that white people matter more than others. And that belief, it shapes all of our social arrangements. So, when we talk about anti-black violence, right, particularly in the context of police brutality, there are a set of conditions that make that possible. So we might not want to describe it as violent, but we would want to say what happens in American public schools, right? But the way in which public education has been defunded, the way in which public schools are funded, the way in which teachers inhabit those spaces, what conditions are being set up there, the way in which the healthcare system, reveals deep racial inequities and inequalities — that sets up anti-black violence. The way in which we have, even in entertainment and the popular cultural form — watching Cops, watching LA Law, right — sets up the violence. So there are ways in which, over and over again, there’s a kind of cultural practice — as my colleague at Amani Perry talks about in her book, More Beautiful, More Terrible — a kind of cultural practice of racial inequality that evidences itself in how we see, how we encounter, how we judge, right? How we move about, that, then results in violence directed towards the black body, right?

So, we can talk about in terms of criminal justice system, in particular policing, we could talk about it in terms of the carceral state. We can direct it in terms of violence against the black trans community. We could talk about it with regards to how black women are subject to a certain kind of violence. But I think all of that exists within a broader frame in which certain people are valued more because of the color of their skin and certain people are devalued. And that devaluation makes some of us susceptible to a kind of violence that others aren’t. If that makes sense.

Singh:
It makes perfect sense. And you know, what it reveals to me about my own thinking is — and I think this is probably true for most Americans — we start learning about race through examples of direct racism as kids, right? Like that’s when you learn about Rodney King, or that’s when you learn about Trayvon, or Emmett Till, for example. And then, you know, I’m 35 now and learning about systemic violence. And so in my head, the way that’s organized is — first you have these direct instances of racism and violence. And then it sort of goes to that. But what you’re saying is, that it actually works the other way, around the whole system. It’s been structured to filter down that way, so that it’s the organization, and then it’s the people.

Glaude:
Right. So let’s think about this in the context of policing, right? So, Derek Chauvin’s knee on the neck of George Floyd is an extreme consequence of a form of policing that is experienced daily. So if I’m constantly bending on the pen and doing all this, eventually I’m going to break it. What are the conditions that led me to snap it in two, right? What are the conditions that led to, right, an act where you could keep your knee on a man’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds? Right? So one of the things that I’ve been saying is that, if you look at the way in which the police responded to the protestors, were they white, black, green, purple, yellow, right? This male police officer with the steel baton as a young white woman, tries to stop him from brutalizing another, a fellow protester literally turns to her and swings with all of his might and hits her in the head with the baton. Folks focus on the violence, but they’re not focusing on the aggression, the spite, the insult.

And what I say is that if you bracket the tear gas and you bracket the rubber bullets, the insult, the aggression, the spite, is the way in which our communities are policed daily, right? Every encounter with people, by the way, you have the legitimate use of lethal force, every encounter is overdetermined by the possibility of aggression, right? Or the actuality of aggression. Right? And so it is the way in which we police daily, that then generates the horrific act. And then, in which we — because we live in never, never land in the United States, we always want to protect our innocence — it’s a kind of a willful ignorance. When we see the act, we clutch our pearls, but before the act happened, you’re defending stop and frisk. You’re defending a form of policing that sets the conditions for that to happen. That’s the kind of argument I’m trying to make.

Singh:
No, I mean, I think it’s a really powerful argument. And I, in my work, a lot of my work comes around racism at the intersection of hate violence. And one of my big frustrations, it’s very similar to what you’re describing, actually, that we only really pay attention when someone’s murdered. Like, that’s, it’s too late at that point. Right? Like we’ve been missing the story and that’s… As someone who’s working in this space, that’s when we can get the media attention, right. Like nobody’s going to care until George Florida’s murdered. But at that point, like, what do you do then? Like the life has been lost. And so the focus is completely off. I think you’re exactly right. That the focus has to be on the condition that pen is going to snap on my [inaudible].

So, I think that’s exactly right. So let me ask you a different way of helping us connect the dots. So you were helping us understand organizationally and culturally what’s happening — help us understand a little bit historically. And what I mean by that is in high school, we learned that there’s slavery and then there’s the civil war, there’s segregation, there’s Jim Crow. But each of those are disparate forms of anti-black racism. They’re not really connected in any way in the way that we learn. Right? So I never, I learned about Jim Crow. I never thought about what Jim Crow, like, what Jim Crow looks like today, until I read Michelle Alexander. And I think that’s why that book was so powerful for a lot of us, because we knew all that stuff. We didn’t know how to connect the dots. So can you talk a little bit about this? This is where I’m asking you to do like this from slavery today. Like what do you see in terms of anti-black violence that’s it a continuation of the same conditions you’re talking?

Glaude:
Right. I mean, so we know that there are, within the Academy, that people are talking about slavery is afterlife, the afterlife was slavery, and the idea of what the institution of slavery set in motion and how it continues to organize our lives, how it continues to define the of black life. But let’s think about this, right? So we have to understand that the institution of slavery, which is what evolves over its over its long history, over determines the very ways in which we think of democracy in this country, right? So the principles of American democracy are shadowed by the belief that white people can hold, or those people who become white, can hold those people who are black, or who become black eventually, right, in perpetual slavery. And then there’s a society that’s organized in light of all of the assumptions that enable the justification of that practice.

So political scientists at Harvard, [inaudible] argued that, okay, America doesn’t become a genuine democracy until probably 1965 with the passage of the voting rights act, right? Before then it’s a Heron vote democracy in some way. So, what happens when slavery over determines the evolution development of American society, you see over and over again, the distortion of democratic principles and the distortion, the character of those persons who are supposed to be citizens of a democracy. You see the limits of democracy exposed. Every time we introduce the issue of rights, this is what makes Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America is so disturbing for me, right? He doesn’t turn to the issue of race until he’s dealt with, according to de Tocqueville, the central issues of democracy. Now I will turn my attention to race and you go, all, you have missed something fundamental here, right?

Because the very notion of citizenship, when we think about the first natural, you know, the first piece of law around naturalization, all right? It inscribes in the law, a notion of light, right? It’s fascinating. Right? So, and what you see is the country grappling with that original sin. I mean, the original sin is actually that it’s a settler colonial society, right? That led to the extermination of native peoples here. But this, all of it is tethered to and bound up with this idea of a whiteness, this ideology of whiteness. So how does that play itself out? Well, it evidences itself in the second founding. So I’ve already talked about the original founder, you know, the founding of the nation being shadowed by the contradictions of slavery, those contradictions shadowed the formation of institutions, the idea of citizenship, the distribution of benefit and burden.

It then leads to a conflict that conflict is driven by the economics of slavery as one region, right, relies on it in another region, feeds it. Right? And how they’re going to reconcile this. Suddenly the nation introduces modern warfare to the world. The world hadn’t seen that level of carnage ever until the American civil war and it’s over the issue of slavery. And then we have to deal with the question, what will be the place of these formerly enslaved people? And it’s all we have to do is read, for example, what Whitman’s Leaves of Grass and his various additions. So early additions of Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman is an abolitionist. He’s trying to abolish slavery. You even have a character, a black character in the poem, but by the time we get to the last version, the last edition of Leaves of Grass, he’s redacted all of the black folk, because Whitman was an abolitionist, but he did not want to extend citizenship to these folk who he thought were baboons.

So, the question of citizenship, what to do with these folks, right? How are we to think about their role in place? Du Bois talks about this in the second chapter of Souls, right? What does it mean for these people to become wards of the state? How are we to think about the Freedmen’s Bureau? What, who are wards of the state, Native American orphans, right? And how does that make the issue of race so public? I’m trying to give you this broad sweep, right? And in the context of that battle, what will be the place of these black folk, right? The country doubles down on ugliness. It turns his back. I mean, you have this moment with radical reconstruction where there’s a genuine attempt to imagine a multiracial democracy, the country. If the country is at a crossroads, you can imagine itself, otherwise, what do we get?

We get a doubling down on white supremacy, this belief that whiteness accords want a certain kind of value. And how does that evidence itself? It evidences itself in Jim Crow loss, racial apartheid in the South. It evidences itself in the reconciliation between the North and the South as C. Vann Woodward puts it in the Strange Career of Jim Crow. That reconciliation was on the backs and necks. Oh, there’s that neck again of black folks. All right. You get convict leasing, another form of slavery. You get the violence that comes along with it, right. Not only, you know, I was thinking as George Floyd’s brother, Thelonious Floyd, okay, testified — and I was watching him perform this public ritual of grief. I was like, how many times have we had to go before these folk and tell them what they have done to us, which they know already?

I was thinking about congressional hearings in 1871 of the terror of the KKK and people having to describe what these people did. Right? And that period of intense violence that morphs into, you know, after the compromise of 1877, it morphs into what we described as the [inaudible], and how it organizes American African American life. Right. And I can take you all the way up to the 20th. So in other words, at every turn, the country has doubled down on this belief that white people matter more than others. And that doubling down evidences itself. Okay? In structural social arrangements, in the discursive practices of folk who, who inhabit this place. Right. And it blocks the way to the country being otherwise. Right? Does that make sense? I missed a lot, but that was, you gave me a question that…

Singh:
Yeah. Well, just give us five centuries of history. And I think it’s…

Glaude:
It takes us up to the turn of the 20th century. But anyway…

Singh:
Yeah, no, I’ve seen you, I’ve seen you speak enough to know that you can carry us through that in a way that very few others can. And so, I mean, I’m really grateful for that. And I think you started with the term evolution, and I think it, as you were describing what was happening and reminded me of something I’d been thinking about recently and seeing a lot of racial justice activists saying, that the scariest thing about racism is that it’s flexible enough to adapt to any condition. And that’s what you’re sort of describing over and over again, as we’ve talked about and nationally pushed back against racism and tried to turn the corner, it’s still there. Right? We can’t escape it. And so I’d love to hear from you, you know, we want to get into a bit of the practical, and I guess my first question coming from what you just said is, so what do we do as a society? What would it take to abolish anti-black violence? Is there a way of ending this and if so, what’s your vision for that?

Glaude:
Oh my goodness. I pray that there’s a way to end it. I do know that we have failed miserably at each inflection point where we had an opportunity to end it. So our history doesn’t bode. It doesn’t suggest that this moment we will do right, we will probably fail miserably. But as Beckett says in Worstward Ho — fail, fail, fail, again, fail better. So part of this involves re narration, telling a different story. That story will involve confronting the truth about cruelty and barbarity and the promise of our principles. And then it will involve repair, right? So if we tell a different story, this is what the 1619 project aim to do. What does it mean? What happens if we begin, not with Plymouth Rock, but with Jamestown? There was some problems with how that it took shape because race is much more fluid.

Remember when we said slavery evolves? You can’t read antebellum slavery back into 1619. This is why I always say, you know what? When I tell my students, if you want to read the 1619 project, I would urge you to read Mercy, Toni Morrison’s novel. Cause she’s writing in this moment and she’s dealing with the fluidity of racial categories in this moment. But what does it mean to start there? The nation is a corporation. We have native peoples. We have black folk, we have white indentured servants. The complexity of American life is there and it’s a failed project as well. Right? So it’s all there. So that re-narration orients us in a different way, because I think the way we tell our stories, what we leave out, actually reveals the limits of our conceptions of justice, right? Who we leave out actually reveals the limits of our idea of justice, right?

So that part of re-narration, telling a story where people of color, black folk, aren’t just simply added or recipients of charity or the philanthropic gesture, right? But rather are constitutive of this ongoing effort to build a genuine democracy, puts us on a different road, a different path. And then it requires us to confront the truth. And that is in confronting the truth, we have to admit our lies. There’s a reason why folk are destroying Confederates statues and demanding that the built environment looks differently, right? Because the built environment actually represents in so many ways the value gap, right? They’re the reasons our highways flow the way they do, the way zoning laws have allowed it. My colleague Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor has written an extraordinary book on housing in Chicago, about race for profit, that shows us this, right?

So, the built environment actually reflects the value gap. And what we see in the current protests, where folks smashing down statues of Jefferson Davis and demanding that US military bases are not named after Confederate soldiers in the light. Well, what is that all about? Confronting the lie of the lost cause, right? Dealing with the substance of what Du Bois argued in Black Reconstruction in that section on the propaganda of history. And there’s a wonderful moment in Dr. King’s speech at the celebration of Du Bois’s 100th birthday where King is engaged in an extended reflection on that section in Black Reconstruction about the fog of lies and what it does to the moral sense of Americans, of white Americans in particular. So we gotta tell the truth — that once we tell the truth and expose the lies and then locate that in a broader story, that’s not Nevernever Land. That isn’t about willful ignorance and protecting our innocence. Then we got to get about the business of repair. That means we have to engage in concrete policy to remedy what we have done. Now, that’s going to take a while, but I think we need to be as forceful and as forthright in arguing for a different story, for telling the truth and for repair as we possibly can be.

Singh:
That’s great. I appreciate that. And I think on a societal level, it makes perfect sense, right? Those are the three very simple on their face, but difficult steps that we should and needs to be taking. What about on a personal level, right? We have plenty of well, meaning people, individuals who are inspired by these protests learning as much as they can, feeling really upset about racism. What can they be doing in their own homes and in their own communities?

Glaude:
Well, first of all, stop asking us the question about… What, no, I’m just kidding. Right? Because you get that, you get that question after every moment like this. Oh my God, what can we do? And you just, and you know, you just kind of read it as that, that quintessential liberal white liberal question. Right? Because it’s shock, right? At the horror of it, when we’ve been screaming from the top of our lungs. Right. All along. Right. It’s a way of protecting a certain kind of innocence. I’ve been sitting with Baldwin for, for a number of years, and there’s this insistence that on Jimmy’s part that we deal with the interior mess — that we deal with the messiness of our interior lives, because that mess is actually at the heart of the ugliness of our exterior, our social arrangements.

Right? Because we haven’t dealt with our own pain and our own wounds, right? Because we haven’t honestly grappled with who we are, we latch on to these idols and these illusions as a way of evading a confrontation with ourselves and Baldwin brilliantly talked about this in relation to the South. He was like, I can’t believe that these people are leading the world. Right? Given how deeply and profoundly dishonest they are with themselves. So it seems to me that, you know, if we’re going to leave behind these categories, that blindness to each other, right, that blocks the view block that block us from seeing each other — and when I say that, I don’t mean I’m not reaching for some sentimental notion of universality, that we’re all just human beings. That’s silly. Right? And adolescent. But just really seeing the complexity of the human being right in front of you, that we have all of these categories that are doing the thinking for — how do we engage in a kind of critical inventory of how we see the world and how we see ourselves, right? That requires a kind of honesty that is painful, right?

I would urge every white person in the United States to grab ahold of Wendell Berry’s The Hidden Wound, right? This Kentucky born a white man grappling with how race has shaped the way in which he sees the world, how his racism comes to him, like language, which requires an ongoing critique. This is what I want people to aim for, to understand the basis of this distinction, that there are white people, and then there are people who happen to be white. And I happen to love a lot of people who happen to be white. Those are those folk who are engaged in the ongoing work of deconstructing, right, the ideology of whiteness. They’re anti-racist as best as they can be. They’re not sentimentalists, they’re not patting themselves on the back. They don’t view this as a philanthropic enterprise, right. They’re not denying who they are. Right? Then there are those white folk who see themselves as fundamentally tied to an ideology that distributes benefit and burden, according to who’s valued. Let’s choose a side, and then let’s do the work. Does that make sense?

Singh:
Right. Right. Exactly. Now that… We talked about that quite a bit in the last episode, and I shared this quotation from Angela Davis, I think, I mean, profoundly changed my life. And she said, in a racist society, it’s not enough to be non-racist. We must be anti-racist. And I think that’s exactly what you’re describing and that there is no middle ground there. Right? You either do the work or you don’t do the work and that’s up to you and it’s not your job. It’s not our job to get you to do the work. We’ll be there for you if you’re up for it, but that’s up to you. Right?

So, anyway, I really appreciate you, Professor Glaude. I mean, I’ve been following your work for years and the way that you teach, the way that you’re teaching us, all right, now you’ve devoted your whole career towards it, and you see it as a form of justice. And, you know, I can’t thank you enough. I appreciate you taking out the time for us today. Appreciate you. Thank you for everything. Yeah, of course. Yeah. And thank you. Thank you all for joining us in our second episode of “Becoming Less Racist: Lighting the Path to Anti-Racism.” We’re on a journey together to become less racist, and I’m grateful to have you all as company. I’m hopeful, we can all move towards anti-racism together, just as the professor taught us today. Our next episode will be next Tuesday, right here, same place. And just like today, we’ll try to learn as much as we can about what racist violence looks like in this country and to learn what we can do about it. So take care of yourselves, and see you then. Thank you. Appreciate you.