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The tales of being black and an all white school. The internment of Japanese citizens bilingual Washington and the company man all up next on evening exchange. You know. Welcome to evening exchange I'm Kojo Nnamdi for the last few days we've been telling you that. And Renee Colbert the woman who filed a civil suit of sexual harassment against Montgomery county councilman I collected was going to be here but alas she had to cancel. She has the flu. We hope to slip her into our schedule real soon. And now for tonight. Fifty years ago today President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order nine hundred sixty six. That order authorizing the internment and relocation of Japanese-Americans and people of Japanese ancestry during World War Two. The order came just a few months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese air force. More than one hundred and twenty thousand people of Japanese ancestry were
relocated to U.S. Army Barracks in the West. Many stayed there for the duration of the four year war. In 1988 the U.S. government admitted it was wrong and promised restitution for the inter knees. Joining us tonight our Toshio host a World War Two in tourney whose name I hope I have pronounced correctly. Or C day. Thank you very much sir. Dennis Hi yes he is the national director of the Japanese American citizens lead. And Robert Brett is administrator of the office of redress administration in the justice DeMarte Department. Force or you can tell our viewers many of whom we assume were not around in 1040 to how that process of internment took place. Well of course President Roosevelt signed Executive Order and I know six six cents nine hundred forty two. Now February 19th rather. And that empowered the.
Person who was Under Secretary of War declare areas where it would be through military necessity to evacuate persons of Japanese ancestry. And although that's illegal. It was ordered and it didn't matter what part of the country you were in. It didn't matter what or how much property you own and what your relationship to the broader community was. You were gone out of it. That's right as long as you are within the area of the military zones that they said should be we should be excluded from that happen to be along the West Coast. One hundred and twenty thousand people there are those who argue that it was an understandable kind of paranoia because part of harbor had just occurred. The country was at war with Japan and wasn't that kind of order excusable. Well in one way of thinking. Because of racial prejudice the wartime hysteria and then lack of political leadership
as defined by the blue ribbon commission that studied that. From 1980 on. Came out with their report. Yes there was a lot of yellow journalism and so on that quipped up to fever to such an extent. That General de Wit who was in command out there. Listen more to the politicians than he did to the military side of things. Then as there were also others who argued that the Japanese needed to be interned for their own protection that anti-Japanese sentiment in the country was running so high that people would get assaulted in the streets and so for their own protection they should be interned. Did the Japanese community ever actually believe that. No in fact none of those allegations were true. The Japanese American community do not believe that charges potential saboteurs being in the communities were proven to be false. And I think what we have to remember 50 years later is that whatever is politically expedient or what is popular with
the public is not necessarily what is constitutional. We have a constitution which is supposed to protect the minority from. The actions of the majority which may trample on the individual rights and I think quite justifiably United States government 50 years later has recognized that this was an unconscionable constitutional wrong. What was the process by which that recognition came about. It was through the Civil Liberties Act of 1980 which after years of study and a commission which was mentioned was signed by President Reagan on August 10th 1988 it was unprecedented piece of legislation not only the redress of Japanese-Americans but it placed the responsibility on the Justice Department to identify and to locate individuals of Japanese ancestry and pay redress back home. Twenty thousand dollars these twenty thousand dollars each. Also you know any other that benefit our program in Washington. Individuals have to come forward to whatever end of the earth federal agency which you know is
administering the program. The Justice Department we had to go out first and look through 45 year old almost 50 year old records and identify these individuals and then locate them. We've now found that they're dispersed all over the world and which we've been doing since. Since present sign legislation is also unprecedented it's here you were the victor in the war in 1945 and victors usually like to argue that everything that was done in the war was done in the interests of victory but the United States had to admit that a wrong had been committed and that wrong had somehow to be righted was that a painful process for those of you in the Justice Department who actually had to work on this. Not at all I think we very quickly grasps legislation went to work and in fact I think it's represented in the way we've administered this program in 16 months since money was available to the Justice Department to make payments. We have now paid over forty nine thousand five hundred cases dispersing over nine hundred ninety million dollars in the last 16 months. By anybody's standards I think quite
an enormous achievement. Dennis that turnaround did not occur without a struggle in which your organization was involved for very many years are you now satisfied with how it's being administered. Well I believe that the program is being an issue very well and within the Justice Department Mr. Brad is a big part of that. This year we have another year of appropriations. We need a little extra money appropriated by the Congress to cover all of the people who are qualified for these benefits that will be working on that. I think a lot of credit has to go to the congressman specifically Mr. Panetta and Mr. Matsui who were in concentration camps in the 40s but who are able to 50 years later lead the effort to redress these particular wrongs. Having been placed in a concentration camp in voluntarily against your will when you were doing nothing but being a good citizen how do you avoid the lingering bitterness and hostility.
Well that's something that just got to be inculcated into you from childhood. After all you know from the time you go to school you pledge allegiance and of the country and divisible with the freedom and justice for all and you believe in these things even if you're put behind barbed wire and by believing in the tenets. Love of country and still love you. You feel you want to do something back for your country if that's what it took in order to show loyalty. We did it but in Beyond that we even volunteered from the camps in order to go to fight. I know that you did. And how were you treated in the camps themselves. Well within the camps itself it wasn't too bad within ourselves except for certain camps that had problems rather than propaganda the propaganda out was that you were allowed to leave the camps whenever you felt like it we know that wasn't true. Eight people got killed trying to leave the camps but what was life like inside the camps.
Well it depended on the camp the use you had different sizes wires in Hart Mountain Wyoming was 11000 believe in sad Anita and one of the earlier ones was 18000. You get you get that many people together in horse stalls for example. Very un satisfactory condition. You're going to have problems but you know it's been said that it doesn't really matter what the conditions are that the real pain in being incarcerated is being incarcerated that once you have against your will whether it's in luxury or whether it's in slums it's still a horrible experience. There is nothing as valuable as freedom. Therefore you can't put a price on freedom. Would anybody be willing to sell their freedom for twenty thousand dollars. I don't know anybody who would Denison with their scars on the next generation to the next generation of Japanese American feel any of the bitterness and hostility that their parents might not have.
Well you know it's very interesting because by and large the Japanese American community that was interned would not discuss this with their children which is represented by people like me. And it was only in the 80s when this became an issue politically in terms of the reparations who do that we see our parents aren't grandparents really start to open up and talk about what had happened to them. And so I think actually the movement for Redress had. Effects beyond the eventual signing of the Civil Liberties Act. It actually helped that sort of a catharsis for the community in terms of purging a lot of the feelings that people had held been with for 40 years prior to that. Let's take a telephone call caller. It's you're on the air go ahead please. Yes sir can you hear me. Yes sir. I'd like to know how is what happened to the Japanese during World War Two more heinous than what happened to the blacks. Ever since we've been in this country or to the American Indian. And this is the month of February Black History Month. I would think the topic that you're discussing this evening would be more appropriate for Channel 1 12. That's what channel
32. Thank you for your comment here at channel 32 you should know if you're a regular viewer. It's black history. Three hundred and sixty five days a year. However we also like to observe what has happened to other minorities or people who have been discriminated against in the United States. And this is clearly a case of that. But since you brought up the issue of race there has been a call for reparations from many in the black community as a result of slavery there's been legislation introduced and it hasn't gotten very far and that is a topic that we have and we'll continue to discuss here on evening exchange these gentlemen couldn't possibly answer that question. What you might be able to answer is not only the rising hostility again against Japanese but the comments coming from Japan. About Americans in general and African-Americans in particular derogatory comments that have been protested against in the African-American community and the like. You point out that there is a rising anti immigrant sentiment in the United States. What do you do about
these hostile relationships development. Well you know I think that's why a program like this on the 50th anniversary is very important because in fact many of the things we're seeing today are. Very similar as I understand it to what Japanese-Americans faced just before the internment calls for Japs to get out of the country. Overt hostility to Japan which translated into a racial backlash against American citizens. But there also have been comments by Japanese leaders exactly Japanese leaders as I said derogatory of Americans in general and black Americans in particular. Do you establish a pipeline of communication with the leadership in Japan. A pipeline through which you can express your concerns about the kind I think our organization doesn't really utilize a so called pipeline but we do speak publicly about those types of statements and our position is that stupid statements are stupid statements whether they emanate from American politicians or Japanese politicians. We are going to condemn both statements
and what we're trying to say is that both sides must cease the rhetoric. They have to get back in discussing issues in a very object a fashion to stop like going to for tat you know who's worse than the other. That's not an issue. Interested in your thoughts you mentioned the rising anti immigrant status I'm interested in your thoughts of how the Haitian refugees are being treated by the Bush administration being returned to Haiti at the request of the Justice Department sitting over here. I know you didn't expect this coming. I'm interested in your thoughts on the book. Well I think that the experience of Japanese Americans and all Asian Americans is an immigrant experience. And I don't think there can be any question that where there is discrimination against immigrants is incumbent upon groups like ours to voice opposition to that. In the particular case of the Haitians I think there is an element of discrimination involved there and where we can be of assistance or support in efforts to alleviate the problem. We will do that. There's a
symposium taking place this weekend at the Smithsonian Could you tell us quickly about that symposium at the Smithsonian related to the unveiling of the expansion of the exhibit in the American History Museum related to the internment of Japanese-Americans. It's free to the public at runs from the aft in the afternoon on Friday and all day Saturday. And Robert if you can persuade the appropriate Justice Department official to come here and discuss the Haitian repatriation with us we'd be very happy with you. Thank you all for joining us in the segment. Later we'll look at life. For African-Americans on the corporate ladder but next efforts to make Washington a multilingual state city Stay with us. Welcome back many of you may have seen the signs at the local Giant grocery store signs in
English and in Spanish sometimes even Vietnamese and French. Washington has become such a potpourri of languages that many businesses are taking steps to accommodate the growing non American born populations. At Potomac hospital in Woodbridge the doctors and many emergency room personnel are speaking Spanish. Joining us now is the patient relations representative at Potomac hospital. Laura McHenry. Barry sure is the vice president of Public Affairs at Giants foods and Myra Lopez is the acting director of Latino Affairs for the District of Columbia government. Welcome Now the District of Columbia government has been accused frequently in the past and present of not paying enough attention to the Latino community. Do you think that is about to change. Definitely. The signs are visible. We have been making a great effort to interact with the community. There's been a lot of dialogue. There have been a series of recommendations that have been presented to district government
on ways to address the issues regarding the Latino community ways that we can improve our service delivery. And we're acting on that. We are looking at how we can train our police officers better how we can provide training for our existing workers and how we can bring in workers that will be able to provide direct services to the Latino. Community. Laura How does a physician or a nurse who does not speak Spanish elicit from a Spanish speaking person. The exact nature of an illness. Well we have several ways of working with this type of situation and the one is offering beginning Spanish courses for our medical personnel. We also for a number of years have had a volunteer translators list and we use them as frequently as we can. But for those times when those those things fail we do have the 1890 Language Line which has been very helpful to us in. How does that work. Well it's telephone access through an 800 number and
once you've identified the dialect that you need you let the operator know which translator you need and within 15 seconds there's a translator of over a hundred forty different dialects. So if somebody is brought in and in the emergency situation and the doctor on call of duty at that particular point can that's big Spanish. That's the kind of situation that you know what we would use that operator. We let our staff people wear buttons in the store this is I speak spanish can I help you that's a great way to make people feel very much at home. Yeah because giant would be losing a great deal of customers if people came in and there was nobody at the checkout counter or someplace the route we're going to explain prices and the like so I guess for you the move has to be pretty aggressive. Yes it is as a matter of fact I hope your camera can pick this up we have signs in their stores that are bilingual. This is just one sample. We have these in Spanish we have also places and stores in Vietnamese. Are we in fact becoming a buyer or a multilingual community. And should we. Absolutely. Washington D.C. has always been a center and international
center because of its role as the the seat of government for the federal government but particularly in the Latino community we have seen a large influx in the last 10 years and we see other immigrant groups coming into this area and I think the main thing to learn from this is that this is not a trance in population. In the past we basically were not accustomed to large waves of immigration but that has changed and has changed permanently. And so. Institutions of business and. And the government need to be responsive to the changing demographic fabric in the area and we're seeing those changes now. You know there's there was an organization formed nationwide called I think the English only organization English as the only language for the United States. We are clearly not advocating for that organization. But you do know that there are many people who feel that if people who do not speak English come to the United States their first responsibility is to learn to speak English. Obviously for emergency services and for crucial commercial
services and for crucial state city and social services. Some people have to speak the foreign language. But shouldn't this also be reciprocal shouldn't those who speak foreign languages in general and Spanish in particular have as one of their first responsibility is to learn the language of business and socializing in the area in which they happen to live. I think that there's a myth about people not wanting to learn English. Clearly there's a a great proliferation of English as a second language programs in the area. They are filled to capacity there are a waiting list I think for many people that are new in the area. It becomes a matter of choice regarding survival an economic choice. There are situations where someone may be. Faced with the situation where they need to take on two and three jobs and therefore that limits their time that's available for learning English. But clearly there is a desire and I think that people really want to learn and are making those strides.
Also food is a obviously a basic necessity it's very important when people come to this country that they feel at home in a food store. So that's why we do these signs. Yeah I mean that's pretty obvious. You kind of eat. And that's what I said about essential services do you find among your personal any resentment any objections to being forced to speak a second language. Not at all. In fact we've had a great deal of enthusiasm for the beginning Spanish course. And people have really gotten very excited about being able to speak in both languages and to help people. And I think we have another consideration too. We're not just providing services but we're providing life and death situations a lot of care and we need to know something quickly. And I think it makes people feel more comfortable in dealing with anybody that comes in that doesn't speak the language that they know that there's. There's another there's a help there that can get them through the emergency situation. I think people scuse me. I think customers into our stores will feel very much at home if they know someone can communicate with them. So important how about the other non-English speakers as you pointed out Washington is an international
city in many ways and there are occasions as we pointed out in which you see signs in Vietnamese and I would use the signs in French. If this becomes a political issue you could have every single specific language group deciding that this city needs to have reflected what my language is how do we deal with it. You know the sort of representative you get to answer that. Well I think that we begin to prioritize those areas where we need to make the greatest impact but clearly we will have to address all persons that are seeking those services. As a matter of fact there are laws in the district that. Provide for persons that. Are either hearing or pay impaired or non English speakers to receive the services of interpreters when they are faced with legal proceedings of some kind of administrative relationship with the city so the laws are on the books they are progressive where we have ways to to be able to provide some very basic services that allow me to take a telephone call as you call you're on the air go ahead please.
Caller you want me to say. I'm learning Spanish and I'm very pleased with my progress and I think Americans are notorious for not wanting to learn second language I think people of the world learn how to in three languages it's just a matter of course like to add to your guess that it represents the D.C. government. If she has any suggestions of how an English speaker can learn it learn Spanish without you know without cause a whole bunch of money and you know get proficient with dialect and so forth. And one of the common I want to make learning Spanish is helping me with English. Because you have to conjugate verbs and I think I speak English better as a result of learning Spanish in English is such an illogical language Spanish and most of the lock languages make a lot of sounds all plurals applause all single as a single. It's not like that with English. You know what I tell you one thing as I'm as I'm studying Spanish and I'm becoming more and more proficiency with it. Finding out just how much I did not know English
and Latin. Well I write it forces you to go and really look at the language and study its structure. Actually the best way to learn any language is immersion and short of that I would advise the caller to get involved with the community. Perhaps Big Brother some organization some activity where that person is is is doing some volunteer work or interfacing with persons that are language minority. One of the intriguing things about John for me is that you have to have locations in all jurisdictions in the Washington area and Spanish may not be the predominant language that means this is something that you are doing with different languages in different locations. Yes but we've also instructed our people it's ironic that we have so many different cultures here and air people can speak the following languages if you don't mind reading. Go ahead. Italian Spanish Greek Ontarian Indian Japanese Korean Polish Turkey
Ethiopian Norwegian and even sign language. Well so we instruct our people if you can speak a foreign language we can communicate with customers better so they volunteer these languages and one of the intriguing aspects of the AT&T line does that exist for all languages. Yes it does. So that whatever the nature of your emergency regardless of whether I am speaking Swahili or any other language you'll be able to find a new capsule if I read it. That's correct. Well there it is we're out of time for this segment. Thank you all for joining us. Tonight at 9:00 the W.H. M.M. documentary unit will take a look at Washington's growing multicultural and multilingual population. Producer Melissa Messi has told a story of a city that has grown from being just blacks and whites to a place where people from all over the world called home. We have a preview of monumental change in D.C. the federal city the nation's capital. It was sung by Indians British colonists and the West African blacks who arrived as indentured servants
in 16 19 by the 18th century. Their status would be reduced to permanent bondage slavery in the 1900s bullishness wondered how the national capital a symbol of freedom and justice could be a center for slavery and the slave trade in 1850. After months of angry debate Congress abolished the slave trade in DC and Washington. Interestingly enough. Afro Americans were not freed by the Emancipation Proclamation. There was a proclamation in 1862 that freed them prior to the emancipation. Therefore they always prided themselves on being as they call themselves the first parade. And they took that not only as something to be proud of. They took it as an obligation. Don't you miss monumental monumental chains That's tonight at 9:00 and here on W.H. I'm I'm channel 32. Up next being black in the white prep school. Stay with
us. Oh and.
Welcome back what faces a young girl who was gifted and black and in an elite prep school. Author Lorraine Carey was once that little girl and in her new book Black ice she tells her story of how she had to make peace with the racial politics of her girlhood. Welcome to evening exchange Laurie. I knew all of the young men of your generation knew that your father was a martial arts expert. But what made you want to leave the comfort of his in your mother's protective home and Philadelphia and go off to New Hampshire to St. Paul's prep school. It's teenage cockiness that's the only excuse for it part. Partly it's that it's that adolescent. Rebellious n'est wanting adventure wanting to to try something that looks a little scary. The other was really a mission I grew up like so many of us during the civil rights era
and and I think we had the feeling that if an opportunity is open that it was partly our job to to go and go and breach the wall go go and take it. How did you reconcile that with what in the early 70s was a more black nationalistic approach we understand of the civil rights movement opened doors. But by the time you went to that school people were beginning to say oh we can do just as well by ourselves we don't need white people we don't need white schools. How did you reconcile that. I didn't reconcile it. I think if I had reconciled it if as if I had reconciled many of those many issues of my adolescence I would have been in a room 15 years later sitting writing about it frankly. Tell us about what the environment that same polls was like. Compared to the public school that you had attended previously you know one big difference is that it was residential as a big difference no matter what it's like in a
school or for adults in a corporation. If you go home to your own community in your own family it's very different. St. Paul School was was chock full of tradition. It was physically a very beautiful and woodsy sort of place with lakes and pine trees and all of the all of the signs of material comfort and all those the signs. Frankly the place it was built to to enforce class differences. We talked about this before the show that it seemed to be based on the model of the British public school. And so there was a little lack of familiarity with you going in from one public school system into the system that involved forums instead of grades and and houses and that kind of decorum. I didn't do you know I was a sort of dormitories. You don't call it a campus you call it the grounds. That was all that surface in
fact the surface differences were the easiest to master. Just learning to call yourself in the third form a sort of ninth grade right. I think what was more difficult to to see particularly 15 or 16 years old all the things we could feel but had no words for the way in which the institution seems sort of subtly to to press and press. But I was thinking that they have the you know the Japanese press or as they have in the subways the kind of people that the institution does what press and press press on you. Explain your differences. Why why do you have differences why you not like why you unlike you seem to progress very well in that environment you were there for two years and by the end I think of your first year you were vice president of your class. You seemed to deal with what people would call that the racial shock trauma very we'll.
How come I think I seemed to deal better than I really did it. Right. And I think many of us did because I think frankly First of all adolescent one the reasons our parents let us go was that they believed in us. I think that that that the adolescence for all of our self absorption and immaturity and selfishness and all the things that adolescents have there's also a lot of resilience. We also did have a great deal of love and hope put in aspire communities. You know I think that letting us go was showing a lot of trust. In our parents and I remember feeling that trust feeling that the I didn't come up here to say oh you know you could fail at home for free and come all the way up here. Only to you and to dishonor your your folks. Did you find the curriculum much more rigorous than your public school. Yes I did. It was a lot more difficult getting through I remember the problems you have with calculus. Tell our viewers about the first time
you have to face reality about what the reason could and couldn't do. I was appalled. I was a PI come up. I've come up with that with not only the normal you know if you're kid in public school and you do well you just assume that this is no problem. But also come up with you know there's true racial pride and then there's fault there's racial provide Oh. And I come up with and I had to learn to go to you know the realities of the situation to help burn off a lot of that bravado. That sense that because I'm black you know because we're the salt of the earth because we're you know we are the people therefore they are for this. I'm going to turn this place out no problem. No there's no Therefore therefore you work. That way. And you have and you have limits and. I would I couldn't believe in the woman who helped me with that was a very. Straight up Yankee school mistress. She was hardcore crisp she was. His name was Miss Dean
who said to me Well maybe you're going to fail. I said no I got passes. She said maybe so. And if you do you'll get up the morning you keep on going. It was nice that it helped me and large begin to large My view of what it means to to succeed it's not just achievement. It's more than that. The students of color at St. Paul have formed by the time you got there something called the Third World Coalition. What was its purpose. Oh it had a lot of purposes it was a so it was a support group. We're friends. We were it was a political group they argued far before I got there the event and when it was all boys the boys had argued for black books in the curriculum that sort of thing. It was to organize us into groups and go visit other black student unions and minority student unions in that New England area. It was for it was for support and for fun.
Weren't there any internal clashes among black students along the lines of either class or color for instance your light complection is with dark complection students who are black at the school have problems with you at all. None of the signs are not along the lines of class and color personnel. Sure and sometimes along lines of gender. You know you know the guys have been mentoring girls and there was a some of the things I want to talk about before we run out of time. First when you were asked about what it was like at your public school you told what in my opinion was a teeny little lie was said that at my public school if you do that well you're kind of frowned on and you said that wasn't entirely true because you know a lot of kids at your public school who are ambitious and who did well and were not found out but that is the perception that people have of what goes on in black public schools today that if you're good in school you were a nerd. It wasn't why did you say that. That was the beginning of my learning how to either go along with how people see you it's all that double consciousness I use you know the
boys talked about if either to go along with it because you because at 15 I didn't know how to say no you're all wrong or you know maybe I'll get penalize for it. You know maybe maybe you're thinking that. How did or how to just go along with it. You know let's let the live ride let let let it ride and let him see you as as they want to see you. That was something I learned more about like some fascinating almost typical teenage girl experiences that you had there. Today the rules have changed. When your first boyfriend Ricky came in you snuck him into your room that night and he laid in the bed next to you just to cuddle and you woke up and he was over you making love to you without your consent. Today Wouldn't that be considered some form of date rape. Yes. And you were very upset about it. But the next day you somehow managed to forgive him tell us about that and the feelings you have about that today.
I wanted to try to write that without stopping to do a little essay on it. Sure I wanted to try to show the ways in which teenagers one of the things I ask is how do we abuse each other really in terms of race gender class. How do we act in ways. How does being a good girl have to do with going along with people's perceptions of you instead of saying no this is what I am instead trying to find out who you are as opposed to accepting what other people say and how to how do you learn to do that. How do you believe that you deserve to do that. You obviously learn some things because later on that summer when you got a job someplace else and and the coke locked you in the freezer and tried to take advantage of you you got the man fired. Well have you never been locked in a freezer. It's very frightening. I can imagine what it was like being locked in that freezer What made you decide to go back and teach at the same polls after your experiences there.
I had numbed out. I had no idea how much it was going to stir up in me and I decide I just want some service I wanted to do some service after being in magazines and corporations for a while. I had no certificate to teach in public schools. I knew if I went to St. Paul's I did not need those certificates and I wanted a year out of corporations. I said I'd go back there. It seemed good for the black students who were there when you went back there to teach and later when you went back as a trustee because you like when you first went there you didn't believe that they were feeling the same things that you feel now you were able to tell younger students that yeah that's the way I feel. I hope I hope it's good. I don't you know I'm an adult I don't know how much good it does. But one thing I know that is good is to say them there is life after same post-school this life after this boarding school. And to say them here's a whole spectrum of ways in which you can respond to this. You don't have to find one response everybody has to squeeze yourself into that one and hear all.
So lots of alumni come back a fascinating two years in the Life of Hillary and Kerry spent at St. Paul's prep school in New Hampshire the book is called black ice and to find out more you'll just have to read. Thank you very much for joining us Lauren. Thank you. Stay with us we'll be right back. Welcome back for more than a decade writers have struggled with the plight of the young upwardly mobile
black executives often described as insensitive Bucky's who cut a deal with the devil to succeed. This story has been told in a generally one dimensional fashion but now author Brant Wade has penned a book a novel called The Company Man which tells another story about the black middle class in corporate America. Welcome Brant. Thank you very much. I was prepared not to like this book. I said who cares about what black executives in corporate America are doing when like me you were raised in the civil rights movement to speak and participated in and you say these guys in corporate America have nothing to complain about. This was a novel and I ended up liking it a great deal and it indicates to me that blacks in executive positions in corporate America do have a lot to say. Is this to some extent typical. I think it is the book a lot of question I get asked a lot is if the book is autobiographical and to a certain extent it is but mostly I would say
it's a composite of things I've heard from other black people I may have met at a trade show or at some business function where we'd maybe talk after the former presentation and kind of laugh and sometimes grimace at some of the same sort of experiences. Let me tell you what struck me most is that when you are black in corporate America you are expected to be a team player but you find out that there are two teams. There's the executive team that there's that you're a part of and there is the employee team which includes many blacks that you are expected to be sensitive to. You get torn between the two. Well in the case of the book company man I mean it is a piece of fiction but again it's it's based on real experience. I want to say though that what you just said isn't an experience absolutely protect. Particular to black people exclusive to black people and I say you know a lot of whites could read this book and really come away feeling the same way that you did
blackness adds a dimension too. You're a strange man I mean a lot of it is the culture of conformity. Right. The book is really about alienation and this person's blackness is a form of his is one aspect of his alienation but that's definitely true I mean you can be an individual. Whites can be seen as individuals. My belief anyway is they could be seen as individuals easier than blacks can be. You're still kind of associated with the group and association is generally less than positive because in this particular story when the blacks and the companies start organizing a protest for reasons which we say I will not reveal the executive director of the company or the president the guy who'd been helping you all along. You're a guy who was your mentor so to speak in the company expected you to know what was going on and expected you to. Him about right. That's the kind of loyalty that's called for. Yeah it's kind of interesting is it if you're a white person in that same situation and it were a group of white employees who felt disgruntled you would not be
accused of Honor for race traitor if you put your own self interests you know in the interest of your family before you would the interests of another group but with blacks as I show in company man there was always the there was always the stigma of having sold out for some reason so in some ways you're delimited by what black people think your identity should be and by what white people think your identity should be the protagonist makes a point in the book is that both the black character in a book who was a friend of his or a coworker and his and this man's mentor who was a white man both wanted him to do different things for identical reasons. Exactly right but as an executive in the book you experience the glass ceiling or the protagonist. I'm calling you the protagonist please because it's written in the first person. It is fixed. The experience of the glass ceiling because this friend points out that hey you haven't been promoted in the last what four or five years right company. Why was that. If you are seen as being in my opinion if you're seen as being sensitive in the
company if you are seen as being a threat to what other people can say or think or act on. People don't feel comfortable with you. I mean you know the myth we were fed Laughs I was fed when I was a young man was that if you do really well and you're good like cream you'll rise to the top. And that may be true for extremely technical esoteric fields and companies. But once you start to work for corporations you find out very quickly that success has often very little to do with how good you are at anything. It has to do with how well someone likes you. How comfortable someone feels with you. And the fact is executives tend to be white men by and large and they generally feel more comfortable with what they're familiar with it tends to be other white men and the protagonists in this book is sold torn I would goes on that he attempts suicide I'm not giving anything away that's right at the opening of the book and it tells you that he attempts suicide. And that is an extreme response but you seem to be suggesting is that for a lot of people in corporate America blacks in particular the response may not be that extreme but the
feelings of being torn are quite similar. Well the in there again you know frustration is not frustration in company Life is not something that. Black Soul experience but I mean the blackness adds a definite strong aspect to it I mean there was a guy at IBM in the 80s who drove through a building in Rockville and shot a bunch of people sure that there was a man who worked for Volkswagen of America believe in the early 80s who committed suicide over an issue similar to what I've depicted in a novel. I mean I've known black people who've told me some of these people I've met that they have they know that kind of frustration I mean I've known it myself. The protagonist in this book also suffers at one point from impotence one gets the impression that that's because he is so preoccupied with his job and career that's all he seems to be thinking about is that the reason. Well I don't want to really give that away. I won't impose that on the reader. But. I do think that there is there is a
stress that goes along with corporate life again it's not that's not exclusive to blacks but that blackness adds another dimension to it and it's the paranoia really I've never known where you stand with people because in this age of the PC the politically correct people really don't say how they feel. It doesn't give you a chance to. It really doesn't give you a chance to make an effect on the way people feel. You just kind of wonder you know black people generally have become very good at body language and knowing when someone is not comfortable with them because we've been used to dealing with it our whole lives. Let me take a telephone call you're on the other caller Go ahead please. Hi. I'm really interested in purchasing a book and I wanted to know what impact does the writer hope to have on young people in corporate America. Why only young people why not older people too because it really works. Oh ok thank you. Well I I don't have any particular political interest in changing everyone I mean every I guess
writer is at heart an optimist and I believe that by reading the book people may reach a different level of understanding but it's to show that the black experience is not monolithic and black people aren't monolithic and that you know the black experience is not exclusive the experience of the porn disfranchise In fact most people I know do what we do every day to go to work for a living and they worry about the same things that their white coworkers worry about I mean it's not a circle here it's black in a circle here that's white they're circles they're converging there's a great commonality in the experience of both. I want people to address and understand that commonality but also to understand the the impact that blackness makes. I guess we need to understand and we're talking here about a novel we have talking about a political tract that's trying to organize people to do anything in particular. It seems to be a novel that you had in your head. And it came out partially as a result of our experiences. But it also involves how you grew up and friends and grandmother and all of that kind of thing so it's just a story you wanted to tell. It's the book in unforced.
Well I don't want to say unfortunately but you know every every since ever since 69 when we first got off the boat here we were a political issue. And what blacks continue to do in the media and elsewhere is always seen in a political Can't you know I would like to be seen ultimately as a writer an American writer that would be perfectly fine to me I don't want to be delimited by being a black American right I'm proud of my blackness. I don't feel I have to wear it on my sleeve. The book is about alienation is as much a book about alienation as it is blackness is an aspect of that and that alienation is in corporate America. Yes it is. Here's the rope which we hear from a lot of black leaders today is. Industry is the way of the future economic development of the black community capitalism is obviously here to stay. We need to be forming our own large corporations. When are corporations going to larger and we have a few large ones already. But when they get larger shouldn't we expect the same kind of alienation in black corporations that is now being felt by that corporation.
Absolutely you know this. Again you know I mean I think there is so much emphasis on put a lot of times on the differences between blacks and whites that there's a large commonality we share and the experiences is never explored. Not every black person in corporate America I've encountered has said deeply interested in the welfare of their fellow black worker. I mean I can talk for facts and that is in black and white corporate America let's get to the telephone you're on their Caller go ahead please. Oh yes I would like to respond. Yes we have to speak for Ms. Allen his name was Allie. We really lock in however universe we would be with him. He should know more about him he's a writer too and added a lot. He was a brilliant black man and he was born in 1885 and he died in 1950 but what's your point. I read about he was excellent and he didn't feel the way you do. And he was a brother. I don't understand the point that you're making out with the novel we're talking about about corporate America.
He was a role he was one of the first black to be a Rhodes scholar in the time when bam black wasn't too appropriate or ex whatever you want to call and he emerge despite of it not affect what he taught at Howard University. Thank you very much for the history lesson let's go to the telephone again caller you're on the air go ahead please. I'd like to continue on the line that you had mentioned a few seconds ago about black people who work with black corporate America I think that's quite a bit of an ability to try to convert to one another. I think many times I think some of our strongest discrimination at the hands of people who think. You're right that we don't think that having someone right there would be
OK. You know that's true. But let me allow Brant to respond to that because the reason I said don't think that's true is because I think there was such a thing as a corporate culture. Yes indeed. Yeah. I I do think that she has a point it's something that gets addressed in the novel is there is a certain amount of inner anxiety from blacks that goes from certain blacks not by no means everyone. And I think getting back to maybe what the previous caller was getting at that there is a not only is there a group mindset among whites I believe that you know blackness is kind of seen as this big mass and it's hard to be an individual but you know in some ways black people themselves expect each other to be a part of this mass and if you're seen as having an idea that's divergent from the group then you're seeing is somehow an aberration or you know you're not part of the plan. Yes Brant Wade the novel company man it is in many ways a thriller because you will find some surprises in it but thank you very much for joining us. That's our show for tonight our
thanks to all of our guests to morrow we will look at the life and death of Malcolm X and we will give you tips on how to get that bill collector off your back. That's tomorrow at 7:00 here on evening Exchange now from all of us to all of you. Good night. Why.
Evening Exchange
Japanese Internment
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Kojo Nnamdi interviews Toshio Hoshidei, a Japanese American interned during WWII, and Dennis Hayasi of the Japanese American Citizen's League, on the decision of internment during WWII.
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This item is part of the Japanese Americans section of the AAPI special collection.
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Chicago: “Evening Exchange; Japanese Internment,” 1992-02-19, WHUT, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 29, 2024,
MLA: “Evening Exchange; Japanese Internment.” 1992-02-19. WHUT, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. May 29, 2024. <>.
APA: Evening Exchange; Japanese Internment. Boston, MA: WHUT, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from