MetroFocus

FULL EPISODE

MetroFocus: June 17, 2021

“How different might our country look if all of us fully understood what had happened here?” On this Juneteenth weekend, that is the question author Clint Smith sets out to answer in “How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning With the History Of Slavery Across America” through visits to nine places that memorialize or distort their link to the legacy of slavery.

AIRED: June 17, 2021 | 0:28:23
ABOUT THE PROGRAM
TRANSCRIPT

>>> THIS IS SHOW SHOW WITH

RAFAEL PI ROMAN, JACK FORD AND

JENNA FLANAGAN.

♪♪

>>"METROFOCUS" IS MADE POSSIBLE

BY --

SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III,

SYLVIA A. AND SIMON B. POYTA

PROGRAMING ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT

ANTI-SEMITISM.

THE PETER G. PETERSON AND JOAN

GANZ COONEY FUND.

BERNARD AND DENISE SCHWARTZ,

BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, THE

AMBROSE MONELL FOUNDATION AND

BY --

JANET PRINDLE SEIDLER, JODY AND

JOHN ARNHOLD, CHERYL AND PHILIP

MILSTEIN FAMILY, JUDY AND JOSH

WESTON, DR. ROBERT C. AND TINA

SOHN FOUNDATION, THE JPB

FOUNDATION.

♪♪

>>> GOOD EVENING.

WELCOME TO "METROFOCUS."

I'M JACK FORD.

RECENTLY WE'VE SEEN INCREASED

DEBATE OVER HOW AND, INDEED IF,

WE SHOULD BE TEACHING ABOUT OUR

NATION'S ROLE IN THE INSIDIOUS

INSTITUTION OF SLAVERY.

IN HIS BOOK TITLED "HOW THE WORD

IS PASSED, A RECKONING WITH THE

HISTORY OF SLAVERY IN AMERICA"

CLINT SMITH TAKES US TO NINE

LOCATIONS TO, AS HE SAYS,

UNDERSTAND HOW EACH RECKONS WITH

ITS RELATIONSHIP TO THE HISTORY

OF AMERICAN SLAVERY.

ULTIMATELY ASKING THE QUESTION,

HOW DIFFERENT MIGHT OUR COUNTRY

LOOK IF ALL OF US FULLY

UNDERSTOOD WHAT HAPPENED HERE?

AND WE'RE DELIGHTED THAT CLINT

SMITH IS JOINING US NOW AS PART

OF OUR "CHASING THE DREAM"

INITIATIVE.

CLINT, WELCOME.

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING

US.

>> THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR HAVING

ME.

>> LET'S START AT THE BEGINNING

FOR ALL AUTHORS, AND THAT IS WHY

DID YOU FEEL THAT THIS BOOK WAS

APPROPRIATE AND NECESSARY AND

WHY NOW?

>> THE ORIGIN OF THIS BOOK WAS

THAT IN 2017 I WAS WATCHING IN

THE THE HOMETOWN OF NEW ORLEANS

AS THE STATUES OF SEVERAL

CONFEDERATE LEADERS CAME DOWN,

ROBERT E. LEE.

I WAS WATCHING THESE STATUES

COME DOWN AND THINKING ABOUT

GROWING UP IN A CITY WHERE THERE

WERE MORE HOMAGES TO ENSLAVERS

THAN ENSLAVED PEOPLE.

MY MIDDLE SCHOOL WAS NAMED AFTER

A LEADER OF THE CONFEDERACY.

MY PARENTS STILL LIVE ON A

STREET NAMED AFTER SOMEBODY WHO

OWNED 115 SLAVE PEOPLE.

WE KNOW THAT SYMBOLS AND NAMES

AND ICONOGRAPHY.

THOSE STORIES AND NARRATIVES

SHAPE PUBLIC POLICY AND PEOPLE'S

LIVES.

I GOT REALLY INTERESTED IN HOW

SLAVERY WAS MEMORIALIZED OR

FAILED TO BE MEMORIALIZED IN MY

HOMETOWN AND GOT CURIOUS AND

OBSESSED ABOUT WHAT THAT LOOKED

LIKE IN DIFFERENT PLACES ACROSS

THE COUNTRY.

>> I IMAGINE YOU LOOKED AT

DIFFERENT WAYS TO TELL THIS

STORY.

YOU CHOSE TO DO IT IN THE WAY I

MENTIONED IN THE INTRODUCTION,

IN A FASHION THAT I SAW

DESCRIBED AS YOU PROVIDE A MAP

OF AMERICAN MEMORY, TAKING US TO

EIGHT LOCATIONS WITHIN THIS

COUNTRY AND ONE LOCATION ABROAD.

WHY DID YOU ULTIMATELY DECIDE

THAT'S THE VEHICLE YOU WANTED TO

USE, THIS TRAVEL VEHICLE, THIS

MAP OF AMERICAN MEMORY.

>> SO I'D SPENT THE PAST SEVERAL

YEARS DEEPLY ENGAGED IN THE

HISTORY OF SLAVERY, READING

BOOKS ON HISTORY BY HISTORIANS

BIKE ANNETTE GORDON REED, WALTER

JOHNSON, THESE HISTORIANS THOSE

TEXT AND SCHOLARSHIP HAS BEEN

TRANSFORMATIONAL FOR ME IN

UNDERSTANDING WHY THIS COUNTRY

LOOKS THE WAY IT DOES TODAY

SPECIFICALLY IN THE CONTEXT OF

SLAVERY.

I THOUGHT ABOUT WHAT IT WOULD

MEAN TO TAKE THE BEST OF THAT

SCHOLARSHIP AND GO TO THE

PHYSICAL PLACES THAT SCHOLARSHIP

WAS IN CONVERSATION WITH.

IT'S ONE THING TO READ ABOUT A

SLAVE CABIN AND IT'S THING TO BE

IN THE PHYSICAL SPACE INSIDE OF

THAT CABIN.

IT'S ONE THING TO HEAR THE WOOD

MOAN UNDER YOUR FEET AS YOU

WALKED ACROSS IT.

IT'S ONE THING TO SEE THE WAY

THAT LIGHT SNEAKS IN THROUGH THE

CRACKS IN THE WOOD PANELS.

IT GIVES A DIFFERENT EXPERIENCE,

A DIFFERENT TEXTURE THAT I THINK

CAN REALLY CONTRIBUTE TO A MORE

NUANCED, DEEPER AND MORE

INTIMATE UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT

SLAVERY WAS.

SO I WANTED TO GO TO DIFFERENT

PLACES ACROSS THE COUNTRY THAT

TOLD THE STORY OF SLAVERY IN

DIFFERENT WAYS, UT MAIL-IN

VOTING

ULTIMATELY TO CREATE A QUILT, IF

YOU WILL, OF HOW THE MEMORY IS

PRESERVED ACROSS THIS NATION.

>> I WANT TO TOUCH ON SOME OF

THE LOCATIONS TO GIVE A BETTER

SENSE OF WHERE YOU WENT AND WHAT

YOU FOUND.

THIS IS NOT JUST ABOUT

LOCATIONS.

I WAS STRUCK BY THE

CONVERSATIONS YOU HAD WITH

PEOPLE AT THESE LOCATIONS,

INDEED, THE CANDOR THAT WAS

PRESENT IN SOME OF THESE

CONVERSATIONS.

WERE YOU AT ALL SURPRISED BY HOW

WILLING MANY PEOPLE WERE TO TALK

TO YOU AND TO BE OPEN AND

CANDID?

>> I DON'T KNOW THAT I WAS

NECESSARILY SURPRISED.

I THINK IT, AGAIN, REFLECTED

WHAT MANY JOURNALISTS WILL TELL

YOU, IF YOU APPROACH PEOPLE WITH

GENEROSITY, IF YOU APPROACH

PEOPLE GENUINELY WANTING TO HEAR

WHAT THEY HAVE TO SAY RATHER

THAN APPROACHING THEM THROUGH

ANTAGONISM OR ATTEMPTING TO SORT

OF DUPE THEM, YOU KNOW, WHETHER

IT BE ME GOING TO MONTICELLO, I

REALLY WANTED TO UNDERSTAND WHY

PEOPLE BELIEVE WHAT HAD THEY

BELIEVED AND WHAT WAS SHAPING

THOSE BELIEFS.

EVEN WHEN I DIDN'T AGREE WITH

PEOPLE, I APPRECIATE THEM BEING

OPEN BECAUSE IT GAVE ME A

CLARITY ABOUT HOW PEOPLE'S

HISTORICAL SENSIBILITIES ARE

SHAPED.

>> YOU START OFF THE BOOK IN NEW

ORLEANS, YOUR HOMETOWN.

THE NEXT CHAPTER THAT YOU TALK

ABOUT IS MONTICELLO.

IT READS, "THERE IS A DIFFERENCE

BETWEEN HISTORY AND NOSTALGIA."

>> THAT'S FROM ONE OF THE GUIDES

THERE, DAVID THORSON.

>> FASCINATING HOW FACT CAN BE

BETTER THAN FICTION.

>> INDEED.

DAVID WAS A FASCINATING GUY WHO

HAS BEEN LEADING TOURS THERE FOR

YEARS FOCUSING ON SLAVERY AND

THE HISTORY OF JEFFERSON'S

RELATIONSHIP AND MORAL

CONSISTENCY WITH REGARD TO

SLAVERY AND ALSO MAKING SURE WE

WERE FOCUSING ON THE LIVES OF

ENSLAVED PEOPLE AND NOT SIMPLY

JEFFERSON ALONE.

PART OF WHAT HE SAID IS THERE'S

HISTORY AND THERE'S NOSTALGIA

AND SOMEWHERE IN BETWEEN IS

MEMORY, WHICH IS TO SAY HOW WE

UNDERSTAND OUR COUNTRY AND HOW

WE UNDERSTAND OUR RELATIONSHIP

TO THIS COUNTRY AND ITS HISTORY

IS NOT SHAPED SIMPLY BY PRIMARY

SOURCE DOCUMENTS AND HISTORICAL

FACT AND EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE AND

NOT SIMPLY THE EMOTIONAL

ENTANGLEMENT WE HAVE TO CERTAIN

STORIES WE HAVE BEEN TOLD, BUT

THAT IT IS SOMEWHERE IN BETWEEN

AND FOR DIFFERENT PEOPLE WHERE

THEY END UP AT DIFFERENT END OF

THE SPECTRUM IS SHAPED BY THE

STORY THEY HAVE BEEN TOLD.

I THINK THAT MONTICELLO IS A

FASCINATING PLACE THAT IS ALWAYS

ATTEMPTING TO RESPOND TO NEW

INFORMATION AND OVER THE COURSE

OF THE LAST SEVERAL DECADES HAS

REALLY EVOLVED IN HOW THEY TOLD

THE STORY OF JEFFERSON AND THE

ENSLAVED FAMILIES WHO LIVED

THERE, HAVING GOING FROM

FERVENTLY DENIED HE HAD A

RELATIONSHIP WITH SALLY

HEMMINGS, WHO WAS THE MOTHER OF

SIX OF HIS CHILDREN, FOUR WHO

LIVED TO ADULTHOOD AND TO NOW

HAVING TOURS SPECIFICALLY

FOCUSED ON SALLY HEMMINGS AND

THEIR FAMILY.

>> I WAS THERE 30 YEARS AGO AND

THERE WAS NO MENTION OF IT AT

ALL.

ABOUT TEN YEARS AGO I WAS THERE

AND I WAS SURPRISED BY THE FACT

THAT THAT CONVERSATION TO SOME

EXTENT HAD BEGUN TO BE

INTERWOVEN INTO THE

CONVERSATION.

DO YOU SEE THAT AS A SYMBOL OF

WHAT'S EVOLVING THERE, MORE OF

AN OPENNESS AND WILLINGNESS TO

TALK ABOUT IT?

>> I ABSOLUTELY THINK THERE WAS

MORE OF AN OPENNESS TO TALK

ABOUT IT.

SO MUCH OF THE EMPIRICAL

EVIDENCE IS UNDENIABLE.

WE HAVE DNA, WE HAVE SEMINAL

TEXTS THAT MAKE CLEAR THE

RELATIONSHIP AND GAVE US CLARITY

ABOUT MULTIPLE ENSLAVED FAMILIES

WHO LIVED THERE, THE HEMMINGSES,

THE GRANGERS, THE FAWCETTS.

FOR SO MUCH OF JEFFERSON'S LIFE

HE WAS AWAY IN PHILADELPHIA AND

PARIS AND D.C. AND NEW YORK

DOING WORK ON BEHALF OF THE U.S.

GOVERNMENT.

IT WAS THE ENSLAVED FAMILIES WHO

CULTIVATED THAT LAND, WHO BUILT

THAT LAND, WHO MADE MEMORIES ON

THAT LAND.

AND WHEN WE GO THERE, THEY

SHOULD BE HONORED AS MUCH IF NOT

MORE SO THAN THE MAN HIMSELF.

>> ANOTHER LOCATION IS NEW YORK

CITY, RIGHT HERE.

I SUSPECT THAT IF I ASKED

SOMEBODY ABOUT YOUR BOOK.

IF I SAID HERE'S THE TITLE AND A

GENERAL OVERVIEW OF IT, GIVE ME

GUESSES AS TO SOME OF THE

LOCATIONS THAT MIGHT BE EXAMINED

THERE, I WOULD SUSPECT THAT NOT

A LOT OF PEOPLE WOULD SAY NEW

YORK CITY.

IF YOU LOOK AT THE HEADING OF

THE CHAPTER HERE, IT READS NEW

YORK CITY, QUOTE, WE WERE THE

GOOD GUYS, RIGHT?

WHY IS NEW YORK CITY INCLUDED

HERE AND WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY WE

WERE THE GOOD GUYS?

>> EACH OF THE SUB HEADINGS AND

SUBTITLES OF EACH CHAPTER ARE

TAKEN FROM QUOTES FROM PEOPLE

WHO MADE STATEMENTS IN THE

CHAPTER.

THAT WAS FROM ONE OF THE TOUR

GUIDES I SPENT TIME WITH IN NEW

YORK CITY AND SHE LEADS AN

UNDERGROUND RAILROAD AND SLAVERY

IN NEW YORK TOUR.

PART OF THE REASON I WANTED TO

INCLUDE NEW YORK CITY IS BECAUSE

I DIDN'T WANT TO ONLY INCLUDE

PLACES IN THE SOUTH BECAUSE THE

SOUTH IS NOT THE ONLY PLACE

WHERE SLAVERY EXISTED.

IT IS CERTAINLY NOT THE ONLY

PLACE THAT MADE SLAVERY THRIVE.

I THINK A RIGHT A LOT ABOUT THE

FINANCIAL AND ECONOMIC

INFRASTRUCTURE IN NEW YORK CITY

THAT SUPPORTED THE SLAVE TRADE,

THAT SUPPORTED BOTH

TRANS-ATLANTIC SLAVE TRADE AND

IF ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL

INFRASTRUCTURE AND THE SOCIAL

INFRASTRUCTURE THROUGHOUT THE

SOUTH.

WHILE SLAVERY WAS SATURATED

THROUGHOUT THE SOUTH, THE SOUTH

WAS NOT SINGULAR IN ITS USE OF

ENSLAVED PEOPLE.

NEW YORK CITY HAD A UNIQUE

RELATIONSHIP IN THE WAY THAT IT

FOSTERED AND GAVE RISE TO SO

MUCH OF THE ECONOMIC PROMINENCE

OF ENSLAVEMENT.

I THINK IT'S ALSO IMPORTANT THAT

PEOPLE KNOW THAT FOR AN EXTENDED

PERIOD OF TIME NEW YORK WAS THE

SECOND LARGEST SLAVE AREA IN THE

COUNTRY.

THE MAYOR OF NEW YORK CITY

ACTUALLY WANTED TO SUCCEED FROM

THE UNION.

PEOPLE ARE ALWAYS TAUGHT THAT

NEW YORK HAS ALWAYS BEEN THIS

BASTIAN OF COSMOPOLITANISM BUT

IT'S A LITTLE MORE COMPLICATED.

>> IT'S A MARVELOUS BOOK.

IT'S A MARVELOUS LOOK AT OUR

HISTORY.

IT'S A MARVELOUSLY

CONVERSATIONAL BOOK.

I MEAN THAT IN THE SENSE THAT

YOU ALMOST FEEL AS IF YOU'RE

LISTENING IN TO THE

CONVERSATIONS YOU ARE HAVING

WITH ALL OF THESE PEOPLE.

I JUST WANTED TO GET THAT

COMPLIMENT IN, BECAUSE IT IS SO

WELL WRITTEN AND SO ENGAGING AND

SO THOUGHTFUL AND SO

PROVOCATIVE.

A COUPLE LOCATIONS I WANT TO ASK

YOU ABOUT AS WE'RE HOVERING NEAR

THE JUNETEENTH DATE.

YOU TALK ABOUT GALVESTON IN

TEXAS.

WHY INCLUDE GAVESTON IN THIS

SELECTION OF LOCATIONS?

>> SO I WANTED TO GO TO

GALVESTON BECAUSE I WANTED TO BE

IN A PLACE THAT REPRESENTED A

DIFFERENT WAY THAT THE STORY WAS

BEING TOLD.

I WENT AFTER I SPENT TIME WITH

THE SONS OF CONFEDERATE

REPLENISHED MY SOUL IN SOME

WAYS.

JUNETEENTH WAS FOUNDED IN TEXAS.

THE STORY WAS THAT GENERAL

GRANGER CAME TO GALVESTON AFTER

GENERAL LEE SURRENDERED AND

ENDED THE CIVIL WAR AND YET

250,000 ENSLAVED PEOPLE IN TEXAS

HAD NOT BEEN TOLD OF THEIR

FREEDOM.

GENERAL GRANGER AND THE ARMY

CAME AND MADE THIS PROCLAMATION,

QUOTE, ALL SLAVES ARE FREE.

THE MYTHOLOGY OF THAT PLACE IS

IT WAS DONE AT -- AL EDWARD WAS

THE STATE LEGISLATURE THAT

PUSHED FORWARD THE LEGISLATION

THAT MADE JUNETEENTH A HOLIDAY

IN THE STATE OF TEXAS.

THAT COMMUNITY AND UNDERSTANDING

WHAT IT MEANT FOR THESE

DESCENDENTS OF PEOPLE WHO HAD

HAD THEIR FREEDOM PREVENTED --

HAD NOT BEEN GIVEN ACCESS TO

INFORMATION ABOUT THEIR FREEDOM

FOR SO LONG, TO SPEND TIME WITH

THE DESCENDENTS OF THAT

COMMUNITY AND THINK ABOUT JUNE

TEETH AS BOTH THIS THING THAT

CELEBRATES THE END OF ONE OF THE

MOST HORRIFIC THINGS THAT OUR

COUNTRY HAS EVER DONE AND

SIMULTANEOUSLY MOURNS THAT

FREEDOM HAD BEEN KEPT FROM SO

MANY HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF

ENSLAVED PEOPLE FOR LONGER THAN

IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN.

>> ONE OF THOSE CELEBRATIONS

WHEN YOU USE THE TERM

BITTERSWEET THAT'S PROBABLY

UNDERSTATING IT.

WE SEE IT WITH MEMORIAL DAY AND

OTHERS WHERE YOU'RE CELEBRATING

SOMETHING, BUT YOU HAVE TO LOOK

BACK AT THE PAIN THAT GENERATED

THAT CELEBRATION.

THE VISIT YOU MADE TO A

CONFEDERATE CEMETERY, TELL US

ABOUT THAT.

>> SO I WENT TO BLAINEFORD

SEMITORY WHICH IS WHERE THE

REMAINS OF 30,000 CONFEDERATE

SOLDIERS ARE BURIED.

I WAS A CONSPICUOUS PRESENCE AT

SUCH AN EVENT.

IT WAS AT TIMES CERTAINLY

UNNERVING.

I WRITE ABOUT THAT IN THE BOOK

AND DEEPLY UNSETTLING, THE FACT

THAT I WAS CONSPICUOUS, I WAS

MADE CONSTANTLY AWARE OF THAT BY

THE WAY PEOPLE LOOKED AT ME, BY

PEOPLE TAKING THEIR PHONES OUT

AND RECORDING ME AS I STOOD

THERE.

BUT I DID HAVE CONVERSATIONS

WITH MANY OF THESE CONFEDERATE

REENACTORS, THESE CONFEDERATES,

THESE PEOPLE ADORNED IN

CONFEDERATE MEMORABILIA.

PART OF WHAT I LEARNED IS FOR SO

MANY PEOPLE HISTORY IS NOT ABOUT

PRIMARY SOURCE DOCUMENTS OR

EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE, IT IS A

STORY THEY HAVE BEEN TOLD BY

PEOPLE THEY LOVE AND IT IS A

STORY THEY THEN TELL TO PEOPLE

THEY LOVE.

ONE OF THE PEOPLE I MET, JEFF,

TOLD ME ONE OF THE THINGS HE

LOVED ABOUT THIS CEREMONY IS HE

AND HIS GRANDFATHER WHEN HE WAS

YOUNG WOULD GO AND SIT AND WATCH

THE DEER MOVE AMONG THE

TOMBSTONES AT DUSK AND HIS

GRANDFATHER WOULD SING HIM SONGS

AND TELL HIM STORIES ABOUT THE

MEN BURIED HERE WHO FOUGHT A WAR

TO KEEP VIRGINIA FREE.

THAT IS HOW JEFF UNDERSTANDS

WHAT THE CIVIL WAR WAS.

THAT IS HOW JEFF UNDERSTANDS WHO

HIS FAMILY WAS AND WHAT THEY

WERE FIGHTING FOR.

NOW JEFF DOES THE SAME THING

WITH HIS GRANDDAUGHTERS THAT HIS

GRANDFATHER DID WITH HIM.

SO THERE'S A DEEP EMOTIONAL

RESONANCE AND ENTANGLEMENT IN

THE STORY OF HISTORY THAT MAKES

IT DIFFICULT FOR SOMEONE LIKE

JEFF TO DISENTANGLE THE

FALSEHOODS AND LIES HE HAS

RECEIVED FOR HIS LOVE FOR HIS

GRANDFATHER AND ALSO HIS SENSE

OF WHO HE IS IN THE WORLD

BECAUSE THAT HAS BEEN SHAPED BY

THE PEOPLE LIKE HIS GRANDFATHER

AND THOSE IN THAT COMMUNITY.

I THINK IT'S IMPORTANT TO

UNDERSTAND HISTORY AS RELIGION,

AS MUCH OF POLITICS AS BEING AN

HEIRLOOM, SOMETHING THAT IS

PASSED DOWN OVER GENERATIONS AND

SOMETHING THAT IS NOT SHAPED BY

ANY PRIMARY SOURCE DOCUMENT BUT

SOMETHING MUCH MORE TIED TO HOW

WE UNDERSTAND OURSELVES IN

RELATION TO THE WORLD AND THE

STORIES WE WANT TO TELL

OURSELVES.

>> "HOW THE WORD IS PASSED, A

RECKONING WITH THE HISTORY OF

SLAVERY IN AMERICA."

WHAT THEN DO YOU SAY TO SOMEBODY

ELSE WHO MIGHT BE A PERSON OF

GOOD FAITH IN THE SENSE THAT

THEY UNDERSTAND OUR ROLE IN THIS

INSIDIOUS INSTITUTION AND EVEN

UNDERSTANDING THAT THEY DON'T

FEEL IT'S PRODUCTIVE.

HAVE SUCH A DETAILED FOCUS ON

THE PAST.

HOW DO YOU ANSWER THAT?

>> I THINK WE CAN ONLY

UNDERSTAND WHY OUR COUNTRY LOOKS

THE WAY THAT IT DOES TODAY IF WE

UNDERSTAND THE HISTORICAL

PHENOMENON THAT HAVE SHAPED IT.

I WANT TO GIVE A READER A SENSE

OF OUR PROXIMITY TO THIS TIME.

SLAVERY IS SOMETHING THAT

EXISTED IN THIS COUNTRY FOR 250

YEARS AND HAS ONLY NOT EXISTED

FOR ABOUT 150.

THIS INSTITUTION EXISTED FOR 100

YEARS LONGER THAN IT DIDN'T.

THE WOMAN WHO OPENED THE

AFRICAN-AMERICAN MUSEUM WAS THE

DAUGHTER OF AN ENSLAVED PERSON.

MY GRANDFATHER'S GRANDFATHER WAS

ENSLAVED.

SO THERE ARE MOMENTS WHEN I

THINK ABOUT MY 4-YEAR-OLD SON

SITTING ON MY GRANDFATHER'S LAP

AND I AM REMINDED THAT THIS

HISTORY WE TELL OURSELVES WAS A

LONG TIME AGO WAS IN FACT NOT

THAT LONG AGO AT ALL.

THE IDEA THIS INSTITUTION WE'RE

ONLY A FEW GENERATIONS REMOVED

FROM WOULD HAVE NOTHING TO DO

WITH WHAT THE LANDSCAPE LOOKS

LIKE IS DISINGENUOUS.

I HOPE THE READER CAN UNDERSTAND

AND FEEL OUR PROXIMITY TO THAT

TIME IN A DIFFERENT SORT OF WAY.

>> WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT EBB

AND FLOW IN TERMS OF AWARENESS

AND WILLINGNESS TO EMBRACE THIS

AWARENESS AND UNDERSTAND OUR

PAST?

YOU SAW AFTER THE TRAGEDIES, THE

DEATH OF GEORGE FLOYD, WE SEE A

FAIRLY UNIFIED MOVEMENT SAYING

THIS IS IMPORTANT THAT WE KNOW

ABOUT THIS IN ORDER FOR US TO

DEAL WITH THIS.

AND NOW WE'RE SEEING A BACKLASH,

WE'RE SEEING A PUSHBACK.

WE'RE SEEING GOVERNMENTS STEP

IN, GOVERNMENTAL AGENCIES OR

CERTAIN LEGISLATORS STEPPING IN

AND SAYING WE SHOULDN'T EVEN BE

TEACHING THIS IN THIS FASHION

BECAUSE OF, AS THEY SAY,

DESTRUCTIVE QUALITY.

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THAT EBB

AND FLOW?

ARE WE GOING TO BE SENTENCED TO

LIVING WITH THIS FOR THE REST OF

OUR LIVES OR DO YOU SEE ANY

CHANGE IN THIS PATTERN?

>> THIS IS THE STORY OF RACE

THIS THIS COUNTRY.

THIS IS THE STORY OF SO MANY

THINGS IN THIS COUNTRY WHERE

THERE IS A RELATIVE AMOUNT OF

PROGRESS MADE AND THERE IS A

VIOLENT INTENSE SOCIAL AND

CULTURAL PUSHBACK TO THAT

PROGRESS.

WHAT IS UNDENIABLY TRUE IS

CERTAIN PARTS OF OUR COUNTRY

HAVE GAINED A MORE SOPHISTICATED

FRAMEWORK WITH WHICH TO

UNDERSTAND RACISM AS A

STRUCTURAL ONE, A SYSTEMIC ONE.

THE THING I TELL PEOPLE IS TEN

YEARS AGO IF YOU HAD ASKED

SOMEBODY WHAT REDLINING WAS,

THEY WOULD HAVE SAID, LIKE IS

THAT A MAKEUP?

IS THAT LIPSTICK?

BUT WE ARE NOW IN A PLACE WHERE

MORE PEOPLE UNDERSTAND REDLINING

AS A STATE SANCTIONED MECHANISM

BY WHICH BLACK FAMILIES WERE

PREVENTED FROM BUYING HOMES AND

ACCUMULATING WEALTH THAT WE KNOW

HOMES TO BE OR TO GENERATE.

THAT IS AN EXAMPLE OF THE WAY

THAT I THINK MORE PEOPLE IN THIS

MECHANISMS BY WHICH RACISM HAS

OPERATED THROUGHOUT OUR HISTORY

SO WE MORE EFFECTIVELY

UNDERSTAND THE REASON ONE

COMMUNITY LOOKS ONE WAY AND

ANOTHER COMMUNITY LOOKS ANOTHER

WAY IS NOT BECAUSE OF THE PEOPLE

IN THOSE COMMUNITIES BUT WHAT

HAS BEEN DONE TO THOSE

COMMUNITIES GENERATION AFTER

GENERATION AFTER GENERATION.

>> THERE ARE SO MANY OTHER

DESTINATIONS AND I WISH I HAD

THE TIME TO TALK WITH YOU ABOUT

THEM, BUT THE VIEWERS SHOULD GO

GET THE BOOK AND READ ABOUT

THEM.

YOU TALK ABOUT THE LOUISIANA

STATE PRISON AND ITS FOUNDATION,

IF YOU WILL, AS A SLAVE

PLANTATION.

YOU TAKE THAT ONE JOURNEY ABROAD

WHERE YOU GO TO SENEGAL.

IT'S CALLED THE HOUSE OF SLAVES.

I REMEMBER SEEING IT YEARS AGO.

IT'S HAUNTING.

SINCE WE DON'T HAVE THE TIME TO

TALK ABOUT THAT, I'LL MAKE SURE

PEOPLE DO.

LAST QUESTION FOR YOU, ABOUT TWO

MINUTES HERE, IN THE BEGINNING

OF THE BOOK YOU HAVE A QUOTE BY

FREDERICK DOUGLAS.

IT READS "THE DUTY OF TODAY IS

TO MEET THE QUESTIONS THAT

CONFRONT US WITH INTELLIGENCE

AND COURAGE."

ARE YOU OPTIMISTIC THAT WE WILL

HAVE BOTH THE SOCIAL WILLPOWER

AND THE POLITICAL WILLPOWER TO

CONFRONT THESE ISSUES IN OUR

PAST WITH, AS FREDERICK DOUGLAS

SAID, BOTH INTELLIGENCE AND

COURAGE?

>> I'M HOPEFUL THAT WE WILL.

WHAT I BELIEVE IS THAT I'M A

PART OF A LINEAGE OF PEOPLE WHO

HAVE FOUGHT TO BUILD A BETTER

WORLD EVEN THOUGH THEY REALIZE

THEY MIGHT NOT SEE THE BETTER

WORLD FOR THEMSELVES.

AND I THINK WE ARE ALL PEOPLE

WHO HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY TO HOLD

CHISELS AGAINST THIS SORT OF

METAPHORICAL WALL AND CHIP AWAY

AS MUCH AS WE CAN AT THIS WALL

OF OPPRESSION, THIS WALL OF

SOMETHING THAT ATTEMPTS TO

JUSTIFY THE SUBJUGATION THAT

PEOPLE ARE CONTINUING TO

EXPERIENCE AND WE CAN ALL HAVE

THE OPPORTUNITY TO CHIP AWAY AT

THIS WALL.

WE DON'T KNOW IF THIS WALL IS 6

INCHES THICK OR 600 MILES THICK,

BUT THE MORE WE CHIP AWAY AT IT,

THE LESS THE PEOPLE WHO COME

AFTER US HAVE TO CHIP AWAY AT.

WE ARE WORKING TO BUILD A BETTER

WORLD, A MORE EQUITABLE WORLD, A

MORE JUST WORLD NOT NECESSARILY

SO WE CAN SEE IT FOR OURSELVES,

BUT THAT SOMEBODY SOME DAY WILL.

IT'S OUR JOB TO PUSH THAT

FORWARD.

>> THIS BOOK, YOU CAN CONSIDER

IT ONE OF THE CHISELS TO HELP US

MOVING FORWARD.

IT'S A MARVELOUS WORK.

THE BOOK IS CALLED "HOW THE WORD

IS PASSED, A RECKONING WITH THE

HISTORY OF SLAVERY IN AMERICA."

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING

US.

IT'S A MARVELOUS BOOK.

THANK YOU SO MUCH.

YOU BE WELL.

>> THANK YOU SO MUCH.

♪♪

>>"METROFOCUS" IS MADE POSSIBLE

BY --

SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III,

SYLVIA A. AND SIMON B. POYTA

PROGRAMING ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT

ANTI-SEMITISM.

THE PETER G. PETERSON AND JOAN

GANZ COONEY FUND.

BERNARD AND DENISE SCHWARTZ,

BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, THE

AMBROSE MONELL FOUNDATION AND

BY --

JANET PRINDLE SEIDLER, JODY AND

JOHN ARNHOLD, CHERYL AND PHILIP

MILSTEIN FAMILY, JUDY AND JOSH

WESTON, DR. ROBERT C. AND TINA

SOHN FOUNDATION, THE JPB

FOUNDATION.


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