[AAS21 Podcast] Episode #14: Inspiring Change in Trump's America

Tuesday, Jan 29, 2019

As we step into 2019, Professor Eddie Glaude, Jr. and Associate Professor Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor discuss and review the political climate of America. Professor Taylor points out the importance of continuing to organize and mobilize social activism, like Black Lives Matter, with the understanding that a single objective is more significant than the different political views. Dr. Glaude highlights the deep fear and "Shock and Awe" around President Trump's current administration and policies. Professor Taylor warns of the dangers of moving forward as a nation with an "anything but Trump" perspective; how it lowers the expectations for parties and continues to perpetuate similar issues. Agree or disagree? Listen, share and let us know what you think.

 


 

Podcast Transcript:

[Intro music]

Eddie Glaude: Hi, I'm Eddie Glaude, Chair of the Department of African American Studies here at Princeton University and welcome to the AAS 21 Podcast. I'm delighted to have joined me today Professor Keeanga Yamahtta Taylor. She's the author of the award-winning book from Black Lives Matter to Black Liberation, the first serious history of the movement and its political implication. Her second book How We Got Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective (2:00) won the 2018 Lambda Literary Award for LGBTQ non-fiction. And she has just finished an amazing book entitled Race for Profit: Black Homeownership and the End of the Urban Crisis which looks at the Federal Government's promotion of single family home ownership in black communities after the urban rebellions of the 1960s. Professor Taylor has emerged as one of the most insightful commentators on our current political landscape. So, welcome, delighted to have you here.

Keeanga Taylor: Thank you, very glad to be here.

Eddie: So, we are in 2019 finally.

Keeanga: Mm-hmm, we're in it.

Eddie: Yeah, can you imagine? So, typically, whenever we begin a conversation about the new year, it involves an assessment of from whence we came the year before. How would you describe the politics, the state of the political landscape in the country of 2018? What did we go through? What have we experienced? 

Keeanga: Um, the whirlwind. I think that 2018, I think shows the potential of how we can really up-end the- the Trump mess that we continue to be in. If you think about the beginning of the year um, as the- the year that preceded it began with hundreds of thousands of people assembling under the banner of the Women's Marches last January and I think that over the course of the year the- the-- you've seen different kinds of mobilizations take place uh, challenging the Trump agenda, the Trump regime. I think the question that confronts those mobilizations is one that we still have to deal with--

Eddie: Mm-hmm.

Keeanga: --in 2019, which is how do you cohere the- the pivot from mobilization to movement which means how do you connect uh, activist and organizers not just (4:00) to come out in response to specific events but, how do you turn that into sustained political um, organizing that connects networks of activists locally to a national apparatus that has the ability to mobilize people on an ongoing basis uh, and not just situationally. And I think that, that matters because as we get closer to uh, 2020, the temptation to kind of funnel all of our political energy is in focus into who will be president into the either congressional uh, races or the presidential election of 2020 um, become overwhelming. And while obviously, it's not insignificant, um, I think that what we've seen is that the power of social movements  has the actual ability to give emphasis, give steam to pushing through an agenda that is representative of-- 

Eddie: Mm-hmm.

Keeanga: --the wants, wishes, demands of ordinary people in a way that elected officials left unto themselves uh, rarely have the ability to do. And so, we've seen over the course of the year, the forces exist to do that. But whether or not that can cohere into an actual social movement that can remain independent from the- the dominant political parties elected officials to pursue its own demands remains to be seen. So that was definitely the challenge last year is most of the focus began to narrow down into the midterm elections--

Eddie: Mm-hmm.

Keeanga: --and it will certainly be a focus over the coming year.

Eddie: So, let's talk about that a bit.

Keeanga: Mm-hmm.

Eddie: It- it seems to me that one of the features of 2018 might be uh, might have been in some ways, the relative silence of Black Lives Matter--

Keeanga: Yeah. (6:00) 

Eddie: --right? So here we have a moment, a political moment, and you've written about this.

Keeanga: Mm-hmm.

Eddie: A political moment that was so important during the last years of the Obama administration.

Keeanga: Um, yeah.

Eddie: Putting forward arguments and claims that are in some ways consonant with what you've just described.

Keeanga: Mm-hmm.

Eddie: And then Make America Great Again came along.

Keeanga: Right.

Eddie: Yeah. And what we saw or what we've seen in interesting sorts of ways is the disarticulation of that movement.

Keeanga: Mm-hmm.

Eddie: What are some of the conditions even though we- we see, we saw the Women's March, we saw in some ways, coalitions around uh, The Green Movement, uh,--

Keeanga: Mm-hmm.

Eddie: --move forward, we see uh, we saw in- in the context of the midterms, progressive energies, uh, having an impact on electoral processes when we see who- who was elected at--

Keeanga: Mm-hmm.

Eddie: --the local level uh, but it seems to me that there are these forces that actually are at work that stand in the way of these pro-- of how it all will cohere and the example right in front of us is what happened to Black Lives Matter. What do you-- does that make sense to you?

Keeanga: Yeah. I think- I think that it's part of this question, this issue of how do we move from mobilization to movement--

Eddie: Mm-hmm.

Keeanga: --and then in some ways, the earliest phase of Black Lives Matter gave, I think provided an example of- of how-- what that might look like. And so, in the earliest phases of the movement, we had the big mobilizations but it was buttressed by lots of local organizing teach-ins, writing constant discussion and- and debate about how to move uh, how to move forward. And I do think that the- the questions in some ways about how to um, go from mo- mobilization to movement or raise tactical and strategic questions that continue to be very loudly uh, (8:00) debated even when it's not necessarily stated as such. 

Eddie: Mm-hmm.

Keeanga: So we have the, you know, for example, the controversy swirling around the Women's March as we embark upon the third anniversary. And so some of these uh, has been described simply as uh, the political misjudgment of the leadership and questions as to whether or not they're anti-Semitic but I think that what really lies underneath that is this big debate about uh, how do we actually move forward as an effective um, movement. And so, with the Women's March, it has split. It has led to an-- 

Eddie: Uh-huh.

Keeanga: --organizational split so you have the- the existing Women's March but then you have a new formation called the March On which has a much more uh, specific and narrow focus around electoralism. And so we can debate the-- you know, which strategy may be better were if the Women's March uh, has had a much more political focus on building coalitions and connections uh, with other existing movements versus March On which has had a more narrow focus on uh, electoral questions. There can be a debate over, you know, which strategy is most effective but that to me is what is at the heart of it. And I think in a similar way with Black Lives Matter the question uh, has been what is the most effective way to- to carry on. And so uh, you end up with a focus I think on the midterm elections--  

Eddie: Mm-hmm.

Keeanga: --and harnessing the strategy and tactics to- to that while other questions about what kind of organizations do we want, what our next step is for the movement, what are the most important issues for the movement get suppressed. And so, it doesn't mean that that's universal and you can see the potential for revival of the kind of on the ground (10:00) activism that made Black Lives Matter so dynamic in the first place with the-- you know for example, in the summer of 2017, the murder of Stephon Clark in Sacramento mobilized hundreds of people locally. They are in street demonstrations in an attempt to bring pressure on the political establishment there locally. And so, we know that the murder of black people by police and other agents of the- the state continues. So, the need for a Black Lives Matter movement continues to exist. The question I think, that pervades the activist and activist organizations most intimately connected to that continue to be what is the most effective way to move our struggles forward. And I think that whether it's the Women's March, whether it is Black Lives Matter, that what to me this says it that there need to be more spaces for robust discussion-- 

Eddie: Mm-hmm.

Keeanga: --and debate about what is the most effective way to organize a social movement on the one hand but how do we effectively fight for the social transformation that compels people to join these organizations to uh, be drawn to social activism in the first place. And there's not enough-- I don't think that that question is taken seriously enough as an actual question and debate about what it is that we should be doing right now.

Eddie: To take up the question in some ways also invites making explicit some of the political differences--

Keeanga: Mm-hmm.

Eddie: --within those groups.

Keeanga: Mm-hmm.

Eddie: So when we talk about the fissures within the Women's March or the fissures within Black Lives Matter, what we see are that there's just simply different politics at work among those folk. So, you could have some people who are standing in solidarity--

Keeanga: Mm-hmm.

Eddie: --in relation to the experience of someone being murdered--

Keeanga: Right, right.

Eddie: --and over the course of organizing and fighting together, (12:00) we come to realize that some hold the view of what constitutes the good that may be consonant with-- 

Keeanga: Mm-hmm.

Eddie: --a certain liberal vision.

Keeanga: Right.

Eddie: Others may want to say that at root, at the root of this uh, is- are the contradictions and capital.

Keeanga: Right.

Eddie: Somebody else may-- so, part of what this articulation perhaps involves is the kind of articulation, a various different political positions--

Keeanga: Mm-hmm.

Eddie: --where the actual problem that once allowed you and I to stand in solidarity together which is no longer in front of us can now then our differences--

Keeanga: Right.

Eddie: --emerged. And some folks say that that's not my politics, right?

Keeanga: Right.

Eddie: So, those folks who tend to think that all of our answers rest in electoral politics, right?

Keeanga: Right. I mean, I think that those questions come to the surface during any kind of social movement, --

Eddie: Right.

Keeanga: --right? The further you go along and the more obstacles you encounter, begin to raise political questions about what is effective or not. My concern for, you know, the Women's March or Black Lives Matter is the lack of attention paid to teasing out those debates--

Eddie: Mm-hmm.

Keeanga: --so, if you don't have the instruments or structures that allow for a kind of open discussion and debate uh, across different groups and- and people who are connected, then how do we ultimately determine whether or not, you know, or- or whether we- we just simply have a divergent uh, political uh, strategies--

Eddie: Mm-hmm.

Keeanga: --about what is the most effective way--

Eddie: Right.

Keeanga: --to move forward. Because the reality is when you're talking about social movements, you don't need-- um, everyone doesn't have to think the same. Everyone doesn't have to have--

Eddie: Exactly.

Keeanga: --the same politics. I mean, that is the nature of coalitions is that it brings together a wide variety of people who are focused on a single objective or a few (14:00) uh, objectives-- 

Eddie: Mm-hmm.

Keeanga: --and that's what you need to agree on. You don't necessarily need to, you know, have the same kind of political analysis of what the- the- the problem is. You can agree that there is a problem and that uh, we are coming together to resolve it. I think the political conflict, you know, comes when we are sit-- trying to figure out how to situate that particular problem and maybe create, you know, have a- a much uh, broader or wider analysis of why that problem exists. But that might be, you know, an issue for a different type of organization. And so I- I think ultimately, what some of these means is that we have to figure out how to have a more democratic movement--

Eddie: Yeah, yeah.

Keeanga: --in the sense of creating opportunities for people who are activated around these issues to really discuss and strategize around what is the most effective way for us to move things forward. What is the most effective way for us to confront this particular problem in ways that simply have not existed in the movement work um,--

Eddie: Mm-hmm.

Keeanga: -up to this point.

Eddie: It's hard to imagine that 'cause I think you're absolutely right. It's hard to imagine that in- in- in the context of the deep fear--

Keeanga: Mm-hmm.

Eddie: --that people have around Trump. And Trump is a--

Keeanga: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

Eddie: -so folks are so overwhelmed--

Keeanga: Mm-hmm.

Eddie: --by the threat that he represents and those who support him represent. That the idea of creating space to- to deliberate, to- to- to work out the nuances of our political positions--

Keeanga: Mm-hmm.

Eddie: --in pursuit of the good that- that we ideally share,--

Keeanga: Mm-hmm.

Eddie: --right? Scares the hell out of folks. They're like- they're like the- the they're in full-blown panic mode given what Trump has done, right? So we see what the-- in 2018 the tax cut (16:00)--

Keeanga: Mm-hmm.

Eddie: --which is clearly kind of the last almost our hope, it was a last gasp of- of- of that particular ideological orientation--

Keeanga: Mm-hmm.

Eddie: --that has led to the latest robbing of the public coffers. You look at what they've been doing with the judiciary and what McConnell has been doing, you look at immigration policy and Steven Miller and what- what he's doing--

Keeanga: Mm-hmm.

Eddie: --and you look at Wilbur Ross and- and the--

Keeanga: Mm-hmm.

Eddie: --senses and what they're doing. You look at what is happening in EPA, you look at what is happening in- in the Department of Education,--

Keeanga: Mm-hmm.

Eddie: --Department of Interior, right? There is like, for some of us, uh, a wholesale panic about what's happening.

Keeanga: It's shock and awe.

Eddie: Exactly.

Keeanga: Duh.

Eddie: So the idea of us taking how do we do this work--

Keeanga: Right.

Eddie: --of building a more democratic movement--

Keeanga: Right.

Eddie: --in the face of these sorts of forces. Because this is just what's happening in the U.S.. We see the contradictions of capital all across the globe and we see what's happening in places like Brazil,-- 

Keeanga: Mm-hmm.

Eddie: --in places like Europe as- as in some ways, right-wing fascist forces--

Keeanga: Mm-hmm.

Eddie: --are kind of consolidating in the face of- of what they see--

Keeanga: Mm-hmm.

Eddie: --are the cracks and they oh, you know--

Keeanga: Mm-hmm.

Eddie: --the chasms that are- that are being evidenced uh--

Keeanga: Right.

Eddie: --in the moment. They don't want folk to go in the left direction,--

Keeanga: Right.

Eddie: -they want them to come go- go- go right.

Keeanga: Well, in some ways, they're- they're connected, right?

Eddie: Right.

Keeanga: The- the seeds of Trumpism were sown during the Obama administration. And so, you know, for people who think that Trump was just a- as Van Jones said, a whitelash--

Eddie: Mm-hmm.

Keeanga: --um, miss how when neoliberal centrist failed to deliver on the promises of change,--

Eddie: Right.

Keeanga: --then it creates an opening for real strong men, you know, right-wing uh, uh, forces that Trump represents to come in and say, "I'll do the job. I can actually follow through on this". And so, we're dealing with the repercussions of that. (18:01) But the problem, I think, part of the problem is that the- the crisis that Trumps represents,-- 

Eddie: Mm-hmm.

Keeanga: --the kind of right-wing insanity that the Trump administration represents puts a tremendous amount of pressure on activists, on people who consider themselves broadly to be a part of uh, the left uh, to go for anyone but Trump, right?

Eddie: Right.

Keeanga: Anyone but Trump.

Eddie: Right.

Keeanga: You got a pulse? Okay, anyone but Trump. And so, the problem with Anyone But Trump mantra is that you know, it really lowers-- it does multiple things. One, it lowers the expectations of uh, what we should demand out of- out of government. Two, it allows the democratic party to put forward uh, anyone with a pulse uh, regardless of- of politics as in- as an alternative to Trump. And so, when that happens um, it just continues to perpetuate uh, a cycle that doesn't necessarily continue to operate on the same access but that gets much uh, the- the crisis has the potential to get much worse--

Eddie: Mm-hmm.

Keeanga: --with the continued failure to be able to deliver on the- the demands that people, the demands and the desire that people have uh, for things to be different, for things to change--

Eddie: Mm-hmm.

Keeanga: --um, and so, this is part of the constellation of political issues that confront people who see themselves as organizers and activists today. How do you continue to uh, resist the implementation of this right-wing agenda whether it is the- the- the manufactured border crisis--

Eddie: Mm-hmm.

Keeanga: -whether now it's 800,000 federal workers who are being locked out of employment, whether it is the- the law and order regime (20:00)whether it's the  threats to, you know, the- the threats for war, the- the threats uh around nuclear weapons, climate change, all of-- how do you continue to build an active resistance to that or an active opposition to that while at the same time not having all of that energy funneled- 

Eddie: Right.

Keeanga: --into an electoral process that is aimed at getting you off of the street by being more reasonable and letting elected officials handle this crisis. 

Eddie: Hopefully, we’ve learned a lesson from 2007 and 2008 with-- because Obama did that kind of. He was that kind of figure, right? 

Keeanga: Right. Right.

Eddie: Because remember that the energy around the anti-wrath war movement and how we green screen them and he became in some ways, the object of that organizing energy and in some ways when he got into office that energy had to figure out what it was going to do once he’ve revealed himself to be who- who he actually turned out.

Keeanga: Right. Well, some of that depends on who is-- who becomes the actual nominee, right? 

Eddie: Mm-hmm.

Keeanga: And so, if it’s Joe Biden, you know.

Eddie: Right.

Keeanga: Yeah, I'm not sure if that would be the issue of the movement just collapsing into the uh, into the campaign. If it’s you know, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, that’s uh, that’s a different question. And so, these, these are all of the-- you know, these are all of the issues that are animating politics right now.

Eddie: It’s one of uh, it’s one of the interesting features of 2019, is that people had been talking about how Trump has in effect destroyed the Republican Party.

Keeanga: Mm-hmm.

Eddie: And we can take issue with that claim in the sense that Trump has just simply made explicit what the Republican party has been doing --

Keeanga: Mm-hmm.

Eddie: -- uh, for decades as long as I can remember since Nixon in terms of how it’s dog-whistled, that nature of it’s poli-- the tip-- it’s -- 

Keeanga: Right.

Eddie: Trump is the embodiment of the ethos of the Tea party and the ethos of uh, financial elites.

Keeanga: Right.

Eddie: Right. I mean it’s like, it’s like in one body. He's like the Frankenstein of those various movements(22:00)that are within the Republican Party.

Keeanga: Right.

Eddie: And then-- so people have been talking about that the Republican Party will not bounce back from this and of course-- and then there’s the kind of those--

Keeanga: Those people need to stop talking because you remembered, in 2015 and early 2016 we were talking about the distraction of the Republican Party--

Eddie: That it was going to be one party, right?

Keeanga: Because Trump was the-, going to be the nominee.

Eddie: Exactly.

Keeanga: And so, that-- when you have a two party system, there is no distraction of the party. 

Eddie: Mm-hmm.

Keeanga: You know, they may fall out of favor for uh, one election or two elections but because of the- the- the nature of the two party system, they'll always be uh, revived because the other party will disappoint which creates an opportunity for the revival of the other ones, so.

Eddie: Well, that’s a wonderful transition to- to- to the question. That is about the other party because it seems to me--

Keeanga: Mm-hmm.

Eddie: As people are talking about the collapse of the Republican Party, other folks are talking about the civil war within the Democratic Party.

Keeanga: I wish.

Eddie: Say more [laugh].

Keeanga: [Chuckles]. I mean, the you know, it remains to be seen if there is an actual civil war within the uh, the Democratic Party. I think that you have-- there is a- there’s a battle for what direction the Democratic Party is gonna go in because you know, for a long time in the aftermath of 2016, you had the leadership of the party making bizarre assessments of why they lost the elections. So, everything from the Russians did it to Bernie Sanders fault and really failing to grasp the ways that Hillary Clinton was not just a bad candidate even though you know, she clearly was a bad candidate but the failure of the party to really understand the- the political dynamics and really how do you activate the 108 million people who were eligible to vote but who didn’t vote.

Eddie: Who didn’t vote. Yeah.

Keeanga: And so, the failure of the- the leadership of the party to really (24:00)understand that has created an opening, right? 

Eddie: Mm-hmm.

Keeanga: For those who do. So you have the new wave of uh, of- of- of wave that might be an exaggeration, some new people in the Democratic Party probably--

Eddie: Justice Democrats --               

Keeanga: Yeah.

Eddie: Right.

Keeanga: Most, well, most dramatically exemplified by Alexandria Ocasio Cortes and so, that those are people who recognize on the- on the ground that the Democratic Party if it wishes to be relevant in the lives of regular people cannot just be the "We're not Trump party".

Eddie: Right.

Keeanga: Cannot just continue to offer up warmed over versions of Republican policies that they have to actually put forward an agenda. You can't keep trying to compel people to vote on the basis of voting against that you have to give people something to vote for and that really is where I think, if there is going to be a civil war where it will manifest itself because the Democratic Party has spent the last 40 years of its history trying to distance itself from a legacy of building the public sector, investing in the public sector um, believing that government has a positive role to play in the lives of people. 

They have tried to refashion themselves and they have been largely successful at doing that and instead in place of that championing uh, public-private partnerships and championing different privatization schemes is more efficient and effective in delivering public services um, and so, that is the legacy, part of the legacy in which they own now and that is part of the legacy that has alienated them from tens of millions of um, voters in this country who would be voting Democrat if they had something to vote for and so that's the real conundrum um, for the party, (26:00) not whether or not your friends on Facebook liked Hillary Clinton, not whether or not your friends in social media are you know for a Democratic Party candidate or not. What matters is do they have a message that resonates with people who have been utterly alienated from politics because of the cynicism of elected officials. 

Eddie: Something is happening though. I mean, I think you're absolutely right. Axios just released a poll not too long ago saying that um, 51% of those persons who identify-- self-identify as Democrat now described themselves as liberal.

Keeanga: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

Eddie: And in 1992 only 25% who self-identified.

Keeanga: Mm-hmm.

Eddie: Describing some--

Keeanga: Well, when you have Trump describing himself as a conservative [chuckles] you know. 

Eddie: [Chuckles] something is going on.

Keeanga: Yeah.

Eddie: It's not-- it's not just simply norm erosion to echo Corey Robin.

Keeanga: Oh. Yeah.

Eddie: There's a kind of reorganization of the of the- of the lens, of the Physical-- [crosstalk] There's a real-- [crosstalk]

Keeanga: There is a radicalization. There is a radicalization that is happening-- Bernie Sanders got 13 million votes running as an open socialism. 

Eddie: Yeah.

Keeanga: This is [inaudible]

Eddie: Yeah. And you have Up Eds[?] in the U.S.-- USA today about democratic socialism.

Keeanga: Yes. In the New York Times.

Eddie: Right, right.

Keeanga: I mean, Trump has helped lay bare what capitalism is in the United States and so, there is a kind of urgency to responding to that and it means that and- and also because of the- the kind of tepid response of the Democratic Party not just historically. The- the-- I mean this was the Obama administration.

Eddie: Mm-hmm.

Keeanga: In the face of overwhelming crisis, right? War in the Middle East, a collapsed economy, the very recent aftermath of Katrina. Crisis surrounding the country we have warmed over half measures constantly.  A constant appeal to bipartisanship with people, with a party that in a very abject way has-- [stutter] it just could not care less (28:00) about the- the conditions faced by ordinary people.

Eddie: Mm-hmm.

Keeanga: And so in reaction to that kind of wishy-washy centrism, the left is very appealing. Socialism is very appealing and then when you have someone like Sanders who can very clearly articulate what that means, right? In a similar way to the- the- the slogan from the Occupy movement, the 1% versus the 99%. It's not deep. It's not strangely ideological. It's not abstract. It's real life and- and there's a way that those politics become appealing and so, when Ocasio Cortes says, “You know, to all the people who are questioning how we are gonna pay for the new Green Deal?”

Eddie: Mm-hmm.

Keeanga: These people never question how we pay for anything else.

Eddie: Right.

Keeanga: The war. We don't question how we pay for war.

Eddie: Right.

Keeanga: The tax cut, we don't question how we pay for the tax cut. This spaceforce that Mike Pence and Donald Trump have thought up. No one questions how we pay for that but when it comes to the livelihood of regular people, oh, then we got questions. "How are you gonna pay for that?" We gave the Pentagon $717 billion, 200 billion more than they asked for and no one questions that but when it comes to health care or universal education, free college, "Oh, we got questions. How are you gonna pay for them?" 

Eddie: Right. It seems to me we're in a moment and here I'm echoing you that we're in a moment where the- the underlying assumptions that enable such a world where certain things are questioned and other things are not.

Keeanga: Mm-hmm.

Eddie: That's collapsing.

Keeanga: Mm-hmm.

Eddie: So, the age of Reagan, right? Since 1980 where- where the basic- the basic orientation has been, you know, privatization, deregulation, erosion of the social safety net, right? Small government, cutting corporate tax rate, (30:00) right? Right? Range of- range of things, right?

Keeanga: Mm-hmm.

Eddie: Where- where we want to move from any robust notion of the public good has to be moved into the private domain, right?

Keeanga: Right.

Eddie: Where kind of neoliberal logic not just simply your terms in terms of economics but in terms of how we understand the very nature of citizenship to echo with Wendy Brown.

Keeanga: Mm-hmm.

Eddie: Where we all become in some ways uh, self-interested uh, homo economist as it were.

Keeanga: Mm-hmm.

Eddie: But that is literally collapsing. So, the idea that Ocasio Cortez could put forward a position coming out of Peter Diamond and others that- that we could actually raise the marginal tax rate of those who make over $10 Million a year by 7-70% and the fact that that hit the pages of The Wall Street Journal in the New York Times suggested some-- there's-- like you said in the very beginning of our conversation, there's an opening.

Keeanga: Mm-hmm.

Eddie: The question that we have to ask ourselves is whether or not uh, centrist Democrats are in cahoots with--

Keeanga: Mm-hmm.

Eddie: -- with you know, centrist Republicans because remember what was it Clinton said that he's just an Eisenhower Republican, right?

Keeanga: Mm-hmm.

Eddie: That that these folks won't come together because they see what's on the horizon, right?

Keeanga: Right.

Eddie: So, so we have an opportunity. Now, the question is where does race fit in what we've just described?

Keeanga: Mm-hmm.

Eddie: Because if Sanders is articulating it in the way that you suggest. Elizabeth Warren just tripped and fell over her DNA test, right? 

Keeanga: [Chuckles]

Eddie: And we still have, and- and- and clearly we still have, right?

Keeanga: Mm-hmm.

Eddie: A deep sense that the country is experiencing demographic anxiety because it's- it feels like it's not--

Keeanga: Some of the country.

Eddie: Some of the country and it's actually overstated because people are arguing that- that because of the expansion or the- the growth of the Hispanic population.

Keeanga: Mm-hmm.

Eddie: And Africa-- that an Asian that somehow this means that the country is browning but they don't many Hispanics see themselves as white. 

Keeanga: Mm-hmm.

Eddie: (32:00) So, it doesn't necessarily mean that the- that the- racial regime is being upended just simply because of demographic shifts but where does race fit in all of this because it seems to me underneath even the shifts that we've just described that so many folks still believe that this country is a white nation and the vein of old Europe.

Keeanga: Well, you know, of course race is at the center of all of it. The immigration crisis, you know, is race is at the center of that. The hysteria that leads to such an overwhelming almost trillion dollar budget for defense, race is plays effect-- plays a role in that the rationalization of Muslims and Arabs and then Trump's recipe for the homefront even though you know there are always these half-hearted efforts to suture some African-Americans to his agenda either by using racism to appeal to some black people using anti-immigrant--

Eddie: He just did it. Yeah and that’s so-- yeah, absolutely.

Keeanga: Yeah. I mean, that was part of his um, his uh, new deal um, his new, New Deal that was a part of his platform when he was running was I think number seven on his top 10 points of his agenda uh, was to go after immigrants for the sake of black people because immigrants are apparently in direct competition with African-Americans and so, I think race, even when, you know, discussing the domestic budget right? The sanctioning of budget cuts um, on a domestic level. Those are dog whistles, right?

Eddie: Right.

Keeanga: The- the- the discussion about why are we talking about welfare and food stamps? I mean, these have been marginal parts of the budget historically but now I mean--

Eddie: Right, 2018 and 19, right? What's going on? Right.

Keeanga: Come on. What- what does the welfare state in the United States?

Eddie: Right.

Keeanga: Why are you talking about that?

Eddie: Right.

Keeanga: As any kind of budgetary issue. This dog whistle. Its race and so, race is the glue that holds this (34:00) Republican agenda together and one in which the Democratic Party has acquiesced to repeatedly over the last 40 years and so for the left, however we conceive of that, the broad left, uh, the opposition to Trump to be meaningful and to- to be effective. It has to take the- the question of race head-on. And to me, that- that- that- it's an easy thing to do. One, in terms of showing the way that it is the glue that holds the Republican agenda together but also in terms of making an appeal to how we're going to build a mass movement to confront the entirety of this agenda. You can't build a mass movement to confront this agenda by telling black or brown people to put their issues on the back burner.

Eddie: Right. Yeah. There's a- there's a- there's a, you know, in researching this book on, on James Baldwin I came across a handwritten note in 1963 after the murder of-- the assassination of uh, John F. Kennedy.

Keeanga: Mm-hmm.

Eddie: And it was a note written on behalf of Lorraine Hansberry, Harry Belafonte, all the folks who were in the meeting with Robert F. Kennedy.

Keeanga: At that meeting, yeah. Right.

Eddie: And Jimmy is writing to uh, Kent Robert Kennedy, basically offering condolences and hoping that in his grief there could be a moment of space for bridging but then he says at the end of this little note in his handwritten, that he wanted to remind Kennedy, Robert Kennedy that we were the source. That at the heart of all of the things that he's experiencing that led to the murder of his brother, that we are the source. And until you get this right, right? Any quest for justice will run aground.

Keeanga: Right.

Eddie: So, as we come to a close and I- and- and I- 2018 was a hell of a year.

Keeanga: Mm-hmm.

Eddie: And here we are at the beginning of 2019 and Trump(36:00)with his manufactured crisis at the border, uh, Stephen Miller inflected policies separating children from- from parents. We've had children die in detention camps on the border. We- we see a deep-seated kind of ugliness uh, that pervades the country to use a metaphor or an image. This doesn't seem like it's weather. This seems like deep climate change.

Keeanga: Mm-hmm.

Eddie: --in terms of what's happening in the country. It seems like it's something more fundamental. These aren't just storms. These are super storms.

Keeanga: Mm-hmm.

Eddie: What do you imagine our role as intellectuals, as public intellectuals, our role as people who work in African-American Studies folk are looking to us more often than they have?

Keeanga: Yup.

Eddie: We find ourselves, you, and myself, we find ourselves with these platforms that we can have an influence. Sometimes, outside influence, given what we do.

Keeanga: Mm-hmm.

Eddie: What, what should we be doing, in your mind in this moment?

Keeanga: That's a great question. I- I think there are- there are a few things. The main thing always for me, is I'm always interested in trying to use history as a way of understanding our contemporary moment but also as a way to try and reconnect young people in particular with the radicalism that most people don't know about and so, that I think is- is critical because there's always a-- you know, the problem of trying to see what we're doing today as new um, as you know, we face unprecedented problems and you know, it's not- it's not true. I mean, the Trump administration presents its own set of conundrums and- and crises and problems but there have been versions of this historically, and so, we have to look to history in some sense(38:00) to try to understand that. You know?

Eddie: Mm-hmm.

Keeanga: What are the continuities but what is also different and not just to understand what we face but how we should respond and so I think that there is a long history of opposition and resistance in this country but there's also a history of failure and so, what can we take from the high points of opposition and resistance to try and create a kind of movement today that can win? Because the biggest difference we face between the past and the present is the- the threat of an annihilating future. Climate change is real. It's not some mythology concocted to get you into recycling. It's real.

Eddie: [Chuckles] it’s real.

Keeanga: And so, that is different because we could be facing yeah, uh, uh, uh, you know, a future that is much more bleak than the human race has had to contend with and so, that lends a certain bit of urgency to trying to get this right. In other words that we- we don't have forever to continue to experiment with failure. At some point, we have to get this right.

Eddie: Yeah.

Keeanga: And so, I think that, that means we have to keep studying and keep talking and- and- and keep writing as a way to try to connect those lessons historically to the present moment.

Eddie: Absolutely. That seems like a wonderful place to stop.

Keeanga: Thanks so much for having me. Real glad to be here.

Eddie: Thank you for joining us for this discussion Professor Taylor. Additionally, I want to thank, send a special thanks to Courtney Bryan for providing the music to this podcast, to the staff of the Department of African-American Studies here at Princeton, our office manager, April Peters, our event coordinator Dione Worthy, our social media specialist Anthony Gibbons and our technical specialist and audio engineer Eleo Leo. Remember you can find this podcast and more by visiting our website at (40:00) aas.princeton.edu. Thanks and we'll see you again.

[Music]

[END]

 

 

 

 

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