At Howard; 209; Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
Go on Patrick swaggered and you are at Howard. In this world the media coverage of the latest tragedy or the latest in reality TV. Taking time to reflect upon our world its beauty and its pain is something that all of us try to do along the way there are individuals who help us focus our minds on the challenges of the human experience and the wonders of this world. I have the privilege of an honor of introducing our speaker to talk to him me. Louis Gates Jr. Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr. is the WCB de Boyce professor of the humanities chair of African-American studies and director of the w e the boys Institute for Afro-American research at Harvard University. Let us give a Howard University welcome to Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. you
are from. Thank you thank thank you so much thank you Dean Richardson for that marvelous marvelously warm introduction and warm is the key word in the sentence. I can't believe I told the publicist of Warner Books the publisher of the book I said Friday night 6:30 in this cold nobody is going to be I know my people my people are not going to be out. I've been black 53 years ago nobody got a show. So I told people I meet them at 7:00 for dinner because this will come back in very short. I'm astonished that so many of you came out and I'm deeply appreciative I love Howard University. Several generations by family went to Howard Medical School here dental school here two generations went to dental school starting in 1900 my Great Uncle Robert. Robert Thompson graduate from dental school here and
lots of my cousins in my generation Howard is the only. I've seen about this in the shower about five o'clock. And I was come to church so I had to take a bath right go on the stand and get my suit pressed and everything. My mom be looking down she said boy don't be going dirty to the church you got to be clean I said yes ma'am. I think what I'm about to say is true that the only job that I've ever applied for in my professional career and didn't get was a Howard University. And that is a true story. Now that will save you time because every time I go to a black school because of how communities are the black school I love coming to Howard and I had people ask me that because I actually wanted to be chair of the English department here in the late 80s and maybe I want to know the details I will be glad to show them.
I'm on my book tour. This is the companion book that goes in my new film series and for the first time I have the promo tape and I can show you excerpts from the four hours. The series will be on February 3rd and February 4th on PBS all the PBS stations across the country so you'll be able to see it here. You'll be able to see it. And it's called where the series is called America beyond the color line because that was the English name in the English production company was supposed to change it to America behind the color line which is the title I wanted to use in the United States but they didn't do it. So the book is called America behind the color and the series is called America be on the color line but it doesn't matter you know what it's talking about some a set up for you in 1900. The W E B Dubois the greatest black intellectual of all time. I mean people talk about our generation. People say nice things about me and of course but greater things about my partner Cornell West and some of the other Manning Marable and Claude Steele. None of us all of us put rolled up together. I could not tied his shoelaces
W E B Dubois Dubois was the man. That voice was the book of the month club because that's about how many books he published. Dubois 900 wrote famously that the problem of the 20th century would be the problem of the color line. So I wanted to ask at the beginning of the 21st century what was the problem of the twenty first century. And unlike the lordly Dubois who said it is desk and just decided what the problem would be but he decided correctly I wanted to travel throughout the country asking African-Americans the rich and famous and powerful. People like Vernon Jordan or Bernie Mac Alicia Keys Chris Tucker Maya Angelou but also the not so rich and famous indeed the anonymous the unknown drug dealers extra dealers prisoners a Cook County Jail residents of the Robert Taylor home grandmother unwed grandmothers and unwed mothers living in the
same household in the inner city. I wanted to ask a broad. Swath of the African-American people the following questions. Where are we as a people 35 years after the brutal assassination of Martin Luther King and where are we going and why are we where we are. What's good about the African-American experience and what's not so good about the African-American experience and the result of these interviews I travel the film crew. And you know it was funded by BBC and PBS. The results make up a four part series and these are the four parts one part one is on. The Ebony is called Ebony towers and it's about the new black middle class. It focuses on blacks on Wall Street. The black CEOs of the Fortune 500 companies but other successful black people and programs designed to reach into the inner city and save our children and make them
realize that they can be productive members of society part to the opposite end of the economic spectrum. It is called the streets of heaven. And it's about the Robert Taylor Homes you all familiar with the Robert Taylor Homes. Robert Taylor Homes of those infamous housing project in the United States set up in 1960 as the most promising housing project in the United States on the South Side of Chicago. The Robert Taylor Homes were so bad at one point. The average age of a grandmother in the Robert Taylor Homes was thirty two years old. The Robert Taylor Homes are so bad the city of Chicago decided they couldn't save them. They couldn't solve the problems. So they are tearing them down to my film crew was the last film crew in the Robert Taylor Homes and we went into people's homes and and and talked to them and I learned so much about running drugs about the drug trade and just about the delimitation of life choices that people in those homes have. Part three is called the black pill and it's about the curious phenomenon of middle
class black people in the north and the West reverse migrating to the south. Martin Luther King came back in his cave. It would be he would say what is the most amazing thing has happened since I've died. And I would tell him if he asked me is the fact that our people are moving back to the south. In greater numbers than moving moving out of. We've been running away from the south since 1910. Think about African-American culture. There's a million songs called Follow the North Star and follow the drinking gourd the drinking gourd of course was the big dipper. You know which involves a North Star. Get out of the South right. There's not one song that says follow the Southern Cross. Go back to Mississippi. And Alabama but that's what our people are doing and I start with Morgan Freeman at the Lincoln Memorial and we make our way south we go to Memphis where Dr. King was killed where the civil rights movement was ended. In my opinion they would go to Fort Benning Georgia Birmingham and then we end up in Atlanta all black neighborhoods.
Million dollar homes all black swimming pools all black country clubs of course all black jack and Jills. They always been all black all all colored black and not I mean these are people who lived in integrated neighborhoods to occupation families people making lots of money and they are moving back to Atlanta to be with black people. So I ask what would Martin Luther King think of this. This what Dr. King died for to get black people out of all black neighborhoods. Is that the same is it different. I end up the great interview with Maya Angelou talking about the difference between enforced segregation on the one hand and willing Association on the other hand and I'm interested in your your take on this. And as I have to say in full disclosure I've been looking at it to try to buy a brownstone in Harlem so you know I'm one of those people to black Hollywood. Black Hollywood then sell Halle get Academy Awards. Sidney Poitier gets an Academy Award for lifetime achievement. I want to go to Hollywood to
see if racism has ended in Hollywood does this spell the end of racism. When two black people get Oscars. So I interview as I said Bernie Mac and Chris Tucker and Samuel Jackson Alicia Keys Quincy Jones. You know it was really really exciting and we'll talk about what I concluded there. So that's it. The black middle class Ebony towers the black belt the return of the black middle class to the south. Black Hollywood and the streets of heaven about the inner city. I went to Yale and September 1989 I was one of 96 black men and women to enter Yale at that time. And by contrast the class of 66 at Yale had six black men to graduate. What was there a genetic blip in the race and all of a sudden there were 90 smart black people existed in 1909 who hadn't existed in 1066. Of course not. We got in because of affirmative action and
without affirmative action no matter how intelligent I may or may not be I would not have been admitted to Yale because I didn't have the class status within the race. My daddy who worked two jobs for 37 years. He's still alive 90 years old. Two jobs worked as a laborer in the paper mill in the day and a janitor in the evening. My daddy worked those two jobs but my brother me through college my brother is very successful oral surgeon in New York City. And then there's little me bringing up and bringing up the rear. We would have had the class status for me to be admitted as one of those six black boys to come to Yale. Why because if you look at the biographies of those boys who graduated in 66 one's father was a doctor one is a lawyer one is undertaker one is a numbers runner. That puts you in the black upper class and in those days. But my end and I was St.. Basic working class so we coulda made it through the filters within the race. For me to be
allowed by other black people to apply to Yale and your all black people in here know what I'm talking about. Affirmative action in those days was a class escalator. It moved people from. The black working class to the larger middle class. And that's certainly what happened for me. Today by contrast affirmative action is Lani Guinier is put it a class bridge so it tends to work for people in that poor black in the middle class to allow them to perpetuate their middle class status to their children. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that. But one of the things that we need is more affirmative action so that we can get more black people for as it were from the know class of the working class and the working class to the middle class I'll be talking about that in a minute. But we were the vanguard of the race. We were the talented tenth. We were determined that we were going to to transform American society from the inside. Have you ever read Sam Green leaves
Greenlee's novel this book is set by the door. You ever hear that or see the movie. Or how many you ever saw Putney Swope. OK Putney Swope when you read the book I start off with the whole story about Putney Swope so I'll tell the plot for those who haven't seen it and one person at least was was at Politics and Prose last night so she's heard all the stories that she's got to bear with me. The scene opens the film up as it's produced by Robert Downey Sr. and Mel Brooks is in this movie. It's a Madison Avenue advertising firm. Eleven. Men are sitting at the board of directors. All have suits on one lone black man he's the Joker. His name is Putney Swope the chairman of the Board is holding forth. He has a heart attack drops dead right on the board of directors table over his dead body. They hold another vote right away before the people of the mortuary even get there and then they count the votes so they count the votes. There are nine votes for one person two votes for someone else.
The nine votes go to Putney Swope and everybody's in shock. The camera pans on this one white guy and he says I thought nobody would vote for him but me and everybody voted for it. And punny is a Tommy teetotal Tom. But the next scene put these guys at military fatigues and he's got this black army cap on and he has fired all the white people in the advertising firm and he's changed the name to the truth and sole advertising firm any he gets on hires all these people from the inner city to come up with new ideas for new products like Ethereal cereal and Victrola cola. And the most popular product of all which is face off pimple cream. This brother revolutionizes Madison Avenue makes a hundred and fifty six million dollars in the first six months of this new advertising agency. So he's a genius right. So he's descended on by
by for black revolutionaries. And they represented archetypes of the revolutionary movement 960 done. There's a Stokely Carmichael figure he represents black power advocate. There's a Huey Newton figure represents the Black Panthers. There's a mana kurang figure representing black cultural nationalism and then there's a Whitney Young figure who's the only one in the suit representing the National Urban League and all these guys have been in the past the guy has bullets on and you know braids and they all look like you know their types in the society and they all beat up on partly because they all want some money. So one of them says power to the people and whatever says revolution is a cleansing force and the other one said we need a 10 point program like the pansies they bever the Panthers ten point program. All of us had it hanging on our dorm walls and you know all throughout the country and. One of them says for them pipes up we need black culture nationally we need the Goos Asaba you know the
seven principles that the Qur'an got Barach a workout. So they all put it on these folks head and finally the guy from the National Urban League says Violence will not. Get you a job. Our people need jobs and the guy from the Black Panthers says yes but violence will eliminate the competition for the time. Finally put is what gets discussed it throws them all out of his office and says they're all hustlers and said the real revolution will occur from inside the system just like this book is set by the door. Transform the system from the inside. These were our role models but we had two boys and Paul Robeson and phenomenon and Marcus Garvey and Nat Turner. They were all on the posters on our walls. But deep down we want to be liked but we want to get inside the system and transform it. From the inside. At the height of our strike for the Black Panthers just two weeks before the whole country went on strike in
May of 1970 we went on strike April 15th led by Kurt Schmoke former mayor of Baltimore current dean of the law school at this great university. Kurt was our leader. We shut Yale down I was the secretary of the the Black Student Alliance and we talked those white kids in voting to shut down. I mean for the Black Panthers this will never happen and never have before in human history and will never happen again. I don't know how we pulled this off but we pulled this off. John is in there. John like Jean Janae d e n e t. The great French revolutionary flew over from Paris is a French playwright and address this band we were bad all of black people chorus that together we had to forget them as I had a two foot high afro. My Afro was so bad Cornell West has a crew cut. Next time I will put my i'ma i'ma start a website just because nobody ever believes me. My daughter Maggie was look at when she was a little kid She's 23 now. She was looking through the Yale yearbooks called the Yale banner my senior year I have my fro and she said he does not a
picture of you. That's me baby. And she said this you she looked at me she said You look just like a cling on. I said baby I look like a good I was a good look at clean up. So we're all sitting there being black you know doing all that stuff when they used to change the soul handshake every month is like changing the security code in a lock. See if you get into the den you know do all that stuff. So John Janae praises the revolution talks about the Black Panthers of lumpenproletariat. All this other kind of stuff the rhetoric from the late 60s then looks at us and calls us Neo race traitors. He said with a new ball Thompson that we had allowed the system to save itself from the genuine revolutionary fervor that was happening throughout the streets of black America and the system co-opted us by allowing us and mittens to the historically white elite institutions that Yale and Harvard and Princeton. A pit of my eyes. We sat there in total shock because we were the
revolutionary vanguard. We were going to do it better than DuBois to find the talents of 10 to tell the temporary leaders. But we were the vanguard of the all the black people got to reach back in the ghetto and drag black people into the broader American society. And here's this french been telling us that we were Uncle Tom's band we were we had much attitude that afternoon how cynical. We were going to prove him wrong. Well. What's happened 35 years later. Oh engine a cited the great Marxist philosopher Herbert Marcuse. Marcous was Angela Davis's mentor at Brandeis and Mark Uzzah was the greatest Marxist American Marxist philosopher at that time said that Angela Davis was his most brilliant student I mean this guy was a genius. We had to study his book reason in revolution in about three classes that year we studied reason in revolution. She quoted an essay Marcous I had written in 1058 that said the principal outcome of the civil rights movement would be the creation of a new black middle
class. Yes it would get rid of days your segregation but its principal economic effect will be the creation of a new black middle class period full stop. How cynical. I thought. If we have a new black middle class won't that lead to the subsequent diminishment of the black underclass. That was the theory. But where are we ladies and gentlemen. Since the day Dr. King died. You know what's happened to black America since the day in 1968 when Martin Luther King died. The size of the black middle class has quadrupled. There are huge huge percentage of black people relatively speaking who now make what my mother would used to call white money as opposed to colored but. We have a new black crossover middle class produced through affirmative action. But you know what the percentage of black children living at or beneath the poverty line is 40 percent. You know what it was a day Dr. King was killed.
Forty percent. The result is exactly what Herbert Marcuse have predicted but without the cynicism It is astonishing. No one could believe predicted that outcome. No civil rights leader predicted that outcome. Everybody presume that if we quadrupled the size of the black middle class the black underclass the size would diminish proportionately. But that's not what happened. So it's the best of times for our people. It's the worst of times for our people. There are two nations in America and unfortunately both nations are black. We have a class of the black haves and a much larger class of the black have nots. One thousand ninety two million two hundred eighty thousand black man are in the care of the prison system in prison on probation or parole. In that same year 23000 black men got a
college degree. That's a ratio of ninety nine to one and the ratio for white men was that year six to one. Sixty one in Chicago right now today this evening. Forty five percent of all black men between the ages of 20 and 24. Forty five percent are both out of school and out of work. In Chicago one in five that's 20 percent of all black men are in prison on probation or parole. Sixty nine percent of all households in Chicago are headed by single mothers. The average lifespan for a black man is fifty nine. In Chicago and in any given week through all ages and social classes of the black community in Chicago in any given week only 45 percent of the men and women in the black community in Chicago are gainfully employed.
Yet at the same time we have the largest black middle class that we've ever had in history. So what did I learn by going around and having these conversations. Well what conclusions do I draw. First the causes of our misery and poverty are of two different sorts. They are both structural and they are behavioral. So what's that mean. Structural You cannot enslave people for three hundred years followed by a century of days your segregation. And in the south sharecropper economy was a just a synonym for slavery. Which is why everybody ran away and ran away to the north. You can't do that to a people and it not have extremely deleterious effects that only. An idiot or racist. The deepest racist that I can even imagine that I could even pretend that that's not the case but simultaneously many of our own people have internalized
our oppression and so we have to have a two pronged attack on poverty. We have to fight the historical results of institutional racism and white racism on the outside and we have to fight the way our own people have internalized their oppression from the inside. How do we do it. A Marshall Plan for the cities. We can rebuild Europe if we can rebuild Iraq. How come we can't rebuild the inner cities here. Every year the National. Every year the National Urban League calls for a marshal plan for the city's falling on deaf ears. We need a comprehensive jobs program under Bill Clinton. Twenty two million jobs were created on their little jobs program and sophisticated jobs program designed to produce skills for a highly industrialized highly and tech technologic tech. I'm sorry a technological world economy would
transform. The sense of possibility that individual black people have who are mired in poverty. One guy the black man and the item be well's. Homes that I was interviewing that you saw that clip. He goes on to tell me he is working at Popeye's making $600 a month. He used to make six thousand dollars a day selling drugs. And I said Lindau he's in college of them and I hope he makes it. I said Linda I'll buy that. Do you ever think about this $6000 a day. She looked at me like I was a fool he said. I think about all day long I'm flipping hamburgers are you crazy. He said every time his check bounces he thinks all I need to do is score one time and it's quick six grand. Why don't we do that in the 50s. Because we believed in deferred gratification in spite of George Wallace and Bull Connor's an Orval Faubus. We believed that there was light at the end of the tunnel
that we could become a doctor we could become a lawyer that there was hope for us. The people mired in the inner city don't believe that anymore. They have lost the faith they have lost hope. They go for instant gratification. And it manifests itself in many many ways. We'll talk about a minute we need school reform. The amount of money spent per black child per poor child in the inner city should be exactly the same as that spent in the richest white suburb that RIM's the city. We have to equalize the allocations of taxes for all of our schools. We have to revolutionize the curriculum. I mean the schools have become zoos. The schools have become out of control where learning can even take place. We need to go back. You know what I would do if I were commissioner of education which is why I would never be I would reinstitution lies to the three Rs idea of reading writing and arithmetic. And I would have people diagramming sentences on blackboards and everybody would sit in a straight line and they would call
teachers sir and ma'am that might sound hokey and corny I am from the country Piedmont West Virginia but it produces May it produce Thurgood Marshall. It produced Cornell West. It produced the dean here. What was wrong with that system. Where did it go. M Street High School Dunbar High School. They were as good as Exeter and Andover and the Hill School. These were tremendous institutions of higher learning. Mackin we used to watch it's academic with Matt McGarry I think was his name because all our TV programs came from D.C. because Piedmontese near Cumberland male near Houston and I used to watch these distinguished intelligent black kids going to Mac and into math you know what are they like now are they still producing great scholars like they did 30 years ago. Somehow I wonder. We need an internal revolution too. Now a lot of black audiences hate to hear this but it's true. It's so much easier to beat up on George Wallace and Bull Connor and Rush Limbaugh and God knows Rush Limbaugh is a big
fat racist with out a doubt. I was talking to Vernon George the other day about Philadelphia winning on Sunday remember. And I said man it was a miracle I said I was praying for the brother and Vernon said that was an act of God. I said What do you mean he said he was punish and Rush Limbaugh ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. I believe a band because I knew it was like watching a member when Muhammad Ali's career was going down and it was he was barely when and if he won it all. It was agony to watch him. That's what it was like watching the Eagles. I can't stand this. I was doing the grade the student papers you know I just said please let him win. Lord please let him win then. And finally he won. We need to transform our people's attitudes toward school. Getting straight A's in school was a way of fighting white racists in the 1950s get all the education you can but I bet I heard that a thousand times from my
daddy. You got to be ten times smarter than the white boy. That's what my daddy said to me. And that's only that you'd be ten times more than white what you are going to make it. And I believed it. Cornell I laugh about this all the time Cornell West the book is dedicated to my partner Cornell West Cornell and I laugh about this all the time how absurd it was for our parents to believe in the American system. I was born in 1950. Four years before Brown v. Board. And by the time the Supreme Court settled Brown v. Board I was prepared I was launched. My mother was like a booster rocket like a space ship launch of me and my brother out into American society. We believed that we could do anything. My mother was crazy. My mother told me and my brother every day of our lives that we were beautiful and that we were brilliant. Now she might have lied. Maybe one out of two. You decide when it's your time. But I was stupid enough to believe or I read the results of a poll in The Washington
Post recently inner city black kids here in DC was about three years ago. It said list things white. You know what we're listed getting straight A's in school speaking standard English and visiting the Smithsonian. What's happening are people if any of us had said this kind of thing we were growing up your mother would have smack you upside your head and if you persisted they would have checked you in an insane asylum. Our heroes with Thurgood Marshall Martin Luther King look we like Hank Aaron Jackie Robinson was a hero. He was an icon. Willie Mays was a hero but nobody confused them. Nobody confuse who was more important. Nobody confused who was doing the work of the Lord. If you were a black lawyer a black doctor a black minister a black accountant you'd make a have a little segment in ebony the first Negro to be a secretary on Wall Street. And they were heroes of our people. What has happened to us. What is it. No white racist makes you get pregnant when you're 16 years old.
Nobody is ready to have a baby when they're 16 years old. My first child was born I was 30 and I'm still not ready. You cannot have a household with a 32 year old grandmother and a 16 year old mother. That is a sight of hope and optimism. And if the mother has dropped out of school herself and can't read and write adequately How's she going to read and read and teach your child to read and write. This is not going to happen ladies and gentleman. What you romanticize poverty all day long. We can talk about white races till we're blue in the face. That is not going to liberate our people. We need a more revolution within the African-American community. We need to return to our roots our roots are that education is the blackest thing that you could embark upon. Education is the blackest thing that you could embark upon not learn to play basketball. Look I love basketball. I did a profile of Michael Jordan for The New Yorker. I mean he's like a genius. But I did this account. I did a story
for Sports Illustrated 1991. So I called their research department and asked them to look at the 1990 census. And I said I want you to tell me how many black doctor doctors there are how many black lawyers there are how many black dentists there are and how many black professional athletes in all sports including the minor leagues in baseball in 1900 I don't know if the 2000 census census has reported but the ratios I'm about to give will stay the same. In 1900 and Joan there were approximately 20000 black lawyers. There were 14000 or so black doctors there were 5600 black dentists. I remember because I have a brother DNA three generations then it's in my family. Do you know many black professional athletes that were in 1900 in all sports. One thousand two hundred black professional athletes is easier to be a black brain surgeon. Then to be a professional athlete my dad he said oh I was a professor down to Duke for two years and my house was there a
black basketball court right. So you know the weather's warm in the south. Kids playing basketball 24 hours a day 365 days a year. My daddy would. I can't I'm in a church I can't say what he would say but he would look at that and he would say. And then he would say if we studied calculus like we study basketball we'd be run in Nassau and MIT. We but we would have invented Microsoft. It's the truth. When did it become the easiest way to get out a ghetto playing basketball or throwing a football instead of mastering the ABC. We have lost our values ladies and gentlemen. We as a people have to return to the embrace of education. It is the only way out of the ghetto at Harvard at the DuBois Institute which I'm proud to to be the head of. Anthony Appiah and I started the Martin Luther King afterschool program after school prayer. We go to churches and mosques. I raise the money. We start with Eugene Rivers church in Roxbury.
We wire it we wire the church we pick one from a regional center broadband sophisticated fast computers. We train and harbor kids trained by us to teach African and African-American history and computer skills all at the same time. The schools are packed because the public schools are failing our kids. So we have. If we had a thousand schools we could we could fill them up. The kids have to undergo this intensive course in computer training. Jean Rivers is a genius. Even got the penal system in Boston to sentence black kids on probation. To Martin Luther King school sometimes they say they will take the handcuffs off. We put a white shirt on him and a time to sit there behind down and learn how to deal with computers and learn about the Queen of Sheba and the black pharaohs of the Nile is bad. It's a small thing but it's something. And if the if the
administration you know I meant to hear them so tell till tomorrow morning I go back home. So I went to look the White House and I could and I look at George Bush desecrating. The grave of Martin Luther King. By putting everything there and then found him going wasn't a desecration alone. I didn't think of it yesterday I thought well you know at least the shrine. But then to a point that make that appointment that he made today of this racist judge I could not believe the timing it's like it's like making an obscene gesture. Martin Luther King it was disgusting to me it was just disgusting to me and it should not have happened. It should not have happened. But we need. If the administration was serious about education reform we got a black man running the Department of Education. They could take programs like the MLK program Norful on his program in Brooklyn the trains kids in 12 weeks to get jobs on Wall Street. I do a feature on a program started by Maurice actually the first black grand chess master
and Daniel Rose the great philanthropist in New York. They took the school with the worst test middle school with the worst test scores in New York City. They basically had Dan Rose body and hired new teachers and instituted a chance as part of the curriculum for all the students. Now it has the highest test scores in New York City and their chess team. The raging works have kicked everybody's behind from the finest prep schools to the finest public schools at the whitest suburbs. All through learning chess all of these programs are small scale. What we need is federal money gluing them all together and making a new sophisticated educational program for our inner city schools. They could save the schools if they want to. People don't want to. There is a huge segment. Of people in American society who love seeing black people getting pregnant in their teens who love seeing us selling drugs doing dope with a one way ticket to straight to jail. I never been in a prison cell before
have you been in a prison cell. OK. Yeah. You know more white people. Last night. More white people raise their hand in politics about all these black people I know you all been in prison. I had never been to prison before. I walk in the Cook County Jail. First of all four people are crowded in a cell bill for two and the toilet is an open toilet in the middle of the cell. I never said I didn't I didn't know where people went to the bathroom where they ring the guard like schools I mean I go to pass through. I had no idea you go to the toilet right there in front everybody is disgusting. Prisons are dehumanizing places. I asked the warden if you could get you're in charge and you could get rid of the people who are here for drug related charges who should be in medical facilities. What would these cells look like. He said wave a wand get rid of seven out of 10 prisoners. Seventy percent of these prisoners would
disappear. That's disgusting. We need prison reform in this in this. In this society without a doubt we need prison reform. And I am determined to spend my political energy on school reform over the next decade and prison reform. You know we you know have to be sent to prison to be raped every day had to be citizens in prison when you should be in a medical facility $60000 a year. To take care of a prisoner Harvard costs thirty five thousand dollars a year. I don't know what it costs to go to Howard. I know because I go to Spelman because that's where my baby has gone the school. Dan Rose said the most urgent social problem facing America today is ending the impoverishment in the inner city of black people and stopping this train that goes from the ghetto straight to county prisons county jail and then to the state and federal penitentiary. $60000 a year tax eaters. He says should be
transformed into $60000 a year taxpayers that would transform our society and our people. Where the black men on the campus they are in jail and they're in jail because they took the easy way out to get that $6000 a day. If I've been in the inner city. I'm an entrepreneur ladies and gentlemen that's you know that's no secret. And I had believed that the way out. Of our you know the black section of Piedmont West Virginia was through education. I'd be in jail too because I would stone. Opted. For that life. It would have been so difficult if you could take care your mama take care you daddy just take these drugs 12 years old 12 year old person just take them and take them two blocks away. If you get caught now it's going to happen to you. That's how they get it. Right. They get caught they get a little slap but they become hooked on the money and the mother turns a blind eye. She knows where the money is coming from. I got people on camera
explaining this to me explaining this to me unless we restore hope to people unless we have a revenue revolution our attitude soared toward education. You know what's going to happen. The two classes of black America will persist and never the twain shall meet. We need more black entrepreneurs Russell Simmons right. But we need them to be literate we need them to stay in school and then learn how to channel that entrepreneurial activity not into illicit behaviors forms of the economy but in licit forms of economics. We need to stop scapegoating. We need to kick white racists in the behind when ever they manifest themselves. There's no question about that. But we also need to stop blaming other people for problems that are our own. We need to stop hating stop scapegoating gay people or
knows it wouldn't be a church I mean let me say it. I can't live reverend in in the middle of a church. It wouldn't be a black church without the gay community. What's a black church being run by. I don't know about your black church but mine in Piedmont was run by. Black women and gay men. It was we act like we don't know what gay people are Give me a break. And if I went to church you know what gay people are and then the ministers have nerve to stand up and say God don't like homosexuals I mean please God is love. And if two people fall in love and they're the same sex I do not believe that God would punish that action and it's disgusting to hear black people stand up and say that turns my stomach. We got to fight sexism in this size in the in the black community. Black men have been victims of our own mythology about our own sexuality. You know how many black marriages have been destroyed. By black men not knowing how to deal with a reptile dysfunction. Seriously. You know because we're supposed to be super studs. You know we're supposed
to be you know Captain Black man in bed. Black on black violence black men beating their wives. A lot of that violence is traceable to sexual inadequacies of the band within mascot in alcohol drugs and bio violence. We need to be open about these things. Anti immigrant attitude we need to stop scapegoating stop scapegoating the Jewish people. We need to be more like Jewish people instead of scapegoating Jewish people. Mind you of the mind of the king is based on guess what Hebrew school Jewish. If Jewish people had to wait for the state to perpetuate Jewish culture there wouldn't be a Jewish culture. They educated their own. They taught them Hebrew. You were the chosen people. They taught them that we need to do that too through our own after school programs just like they do. And the sight of those after school programs should be black churches and black mosques. Why not to train people in education. But because our kids don't act out in church like
they do in public schools. Because if they do SR holy goes go beat them over the head. People act differently in a church than they act in the school. They do anything in school. We have in other words ladies and gentlemen to find the causes of impoverishment on the outside of our community and on the inside of our community to change the bell curve of class was a bell curve of class. We need the same percentage of black poor as white poor the same percentage of black rich as white rich the same percentage of black people in the middle class and black people in the working class as white people in the middle class and white people in the middle class. And we can't stop working until we achieve that result. This is a Catholic society there are always going to be unfortunately poor people. There are always going to be some people are phenomenally rich. But right now we we are the poor people. We are disproportionately poor. It will take trillions of dollars in economic policies and individual will and initiative for us to achieve these results
but that has got to be our results our effort to achieve those results over the next 25 years because if we don't we are doomed to see the perpetuation of poverty disproportionately affecting a huge number of black people. We are doomed to have two classes in the black community. We're doomed to have a tiny class of black people doing well. Looking back from the suburbs or they're all black upper middle class neighborhoods and blacks thought back in the prison and hellhole of the inner city and never the twain shall meet. And ladies and gentleman Martin Luther King Jr. did not die for that. That is why I wrote this book. That is why I embarked on doing this film series as a wake up call not just to America but to black America as well. Thank you very much of that.
Of the do I think there's a conspiracy. I don't believe there's a conspiracy. I don't think that there are 12 guys sit around thinking how do we kill black people. I think the system is so corrupt and institutionally racist and classes that it yields this result unless we as a people fight back. You don't have to have a bunch of people sitting around plotting the destruction of black people for black people to be destroyed. You see what I mean. So I might be agreeing with you about the ends not agreeing with you about the means a lot of black people support charter schools. Do I want my child to be sacrificed till the system changes. I'm not going to give anybody a hard time by sending our kids to charter school when you know it's maybe maybe it's politically correct to say that based on how I feel. I think everybody should go to charter school if that's the best education that that you can get in the community. I don't know how to change the schools that's why I'm embarking on
this program with a lot of other people to try to get to the public schools reform. You know we have to destroy them all and start all over I don't know but I know that they are failing our people right now and we have to do something drastic. What I think about reparations. I think that should be a symbolic form of reparations from the American government from the European government and African governments all of whom sold Africans in the slave trade. I think everybody should pay us. And in fact I think that African governments that led the slave trade to take the lead. I do and set up a tent unaided and then do a course they did it. They did it the white people did they all did it out of the evidence I don't have any money these government but they can make a symbolic gesture and apologize like the president did in his done. I got an honorary doctorate from Berlin after I mean my Africa series. So many black National said to being like Kuranda you know I love you I love the said and I wish you wouldn't
talk about the African role in the slave trade. Why do you talk about that in public as a crank of a scholar they did it is the truth. You know now like I made it up. When we had a historian might go to be if I lie about that and the president of been then came to Baltimore got on his these in the church and apologized to the African-American community for his ancestor's role in the slave trade. It's Africans do that psychs out the white do they got to do that too. It's a brilliant move. And they could do some like make us all citizens or something. You look like a been any and here's a passport they made me a citizen you know it's bad I'm like I'm african now but we're not going to get a check in the middle from the American government. Firm of action affirmative action should be a form of reparation to me. Free drugs for Africans are suffering from who are HIV positive. Other forms of compensatory programs
like education programs inner city. I think a real leader in the White House would say to the American people I know you're scared. I know everybody's worried about money. We owe our fellow citizens a debt for the 300 years of slavery and 100 years of days or segregation that we made them suffer under. And we are going to pay them by continuing affirmative action and by a constant comprehensive jobs program. And then if they are too stupid to take advantage of these opportunities. Well shame on him or something like that. You see what I mean. That's what a real leader would do in this country and that's what I think reparations should should be. I think that some values in the inner city need to be changed. I mean people need to defer gratification that's when the problems are people. One of the reasons people are poor because they have nothing to live for. So I want to have why do you have that baby. I want somebody who would love me no matter what I want to have because nobody else loves me. You know well I'm going to have to get the system changed enough so that the person feels loved enough so they can wait to have a baby. Right till they finish school etc. etc. that all
values that our people hold her good just because they're black. Right. I think that we need to go to the churches Cornell now where when Cornell came down for the Million Man March I watched Colin Powell that morning on CBS News and he said while the main memory is a great thing it's too bad Farah Khan thought of it. That's what Colin Powell said. And I said who also going to pull this off. Only Farah Khan. I said the Cornal could have gotten a million man to come to the mall I mean that's his way it was. Whether you like Farah Khan or not that's a fact. Cornell said Brothers if that's not true and I said well who could've. He said the National Black Baptist Convention. There are 14 million black Baptists only 35 million black Americans 14 million of us are Baptists. How come the Baptists can organize to do these things the Methodist the ame e a m e Zion the black Presbyterians the Deltas AKAs the Kappas. You know Jack and
Jill Jack and Jill should be black history school not black city school you know. Why not why shouldn't black black and black until they were over a few years before I was a kid they would kick me out of Jack until they heard me say that Jack and Jill should be like Hebrew school stead of just teaching people how to be nice jive and be color struck and all the other things that you learn. I'm sorry Jack and Joe were ever about to present Jack and Jills on here. Transform these things into transformative. Agencies that's what we have to do. And we also need our leaders standing up saying hard things to our own people instead of pandering to our people. You can get a rise out of black people by finding a white racist to beat up on any dummy can do that. We will always stand up here whenever you talk about the white man how evil they are but you stand up and say you are killing yourself you're killing our people by having these babies doing these drugs. Flunking out of school playing basketball all day on
day one should we have some leaders to stand up and say that. You know that's real. It's true. It's true. And it's the kind of stuff black people say in a barbershop in the beauty parlor and in their living rooms. I ask all these black people why are you poor. Why are you here. Not one person in the inner city said to me because of white racism. They said I'm a bad choice. I should've stayed in school. I said I know it's more complicated and I say it's more complicated in my book in this audience in this great chapel and on TV but they understand they made bad choices. We can explain that away romanticize there. You know we have to say yes she did but now we've got to reach in and we gotta keep this from happening again. You know. This there is no way to live. This is not what the 60s were all about. It's not what Frederick Douglass was all about some what Harriet Tubman was all about. And often those of us who are educated are in the middle class pretend that we're down with the brothers and sisters because we have the same culture and we have the same culture.
I don't know where can take last. Come for buns and bow ties with my tuxedo. You know don't I listen to Joe Madison don't I listen to. The Tom Joyner Show. Don't I watch all of black TV shows. You know I'm a brother. I celebrate Kwanzaa. You know I like Al Sharpton. We are not the same people. You cannot have us the same you cannot with a straight face say you're black you're black experience if you live in. And wealth is the same as somebody who's living in a two or three generations mired in poverty in the inner city. We are not embracing the same culture we are not having the same black experience. And those of us who are succeeding have an historic and moral responsibility to do what we can to help our brothers and sisters not in a condescending way but by beating up on the power structure and by subsidizing and working at and encouraging self-help programs. Scuse me.
Of the kind that I've talked about this evening and a lot more that I haven't talked about. To give people hope again in the system we have more opportunity now if you're black than we ever had before and less of us are hopeful than ever before. We have more black poor people than we've ever had before in spite. Of all of the progress that we've made since the death of Martin Luther King. And that is something that should keep us awake at night. That is something that we should determine to do something about. Thank you very much Lazar general. You've been a wonderful audience. Thank you for welcoming we all benefit from the community of ideas. Dialogue helps us find valuable links to what's important in our lives. That's what we bring you every week. I'm Patrick swaggered. Thank you for joining us. Had Howard.
Come come. Come. Come come. Come come. Come. Come. Come come.
- At Howard
- Episode Number
- Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
- Contributing Organization
- WHUT (Washington, District of Columbia)
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- Henry Louis Gates, Jr. speaks at Howard University about his new book and series "America Behind the Color Line" (or "America Beyond the Color Line") which is about current attitudes about the Civil Rights Movement and the status of African Americans today. He distinguishes two strands of African American communities since the Civil Rights era: the privileged and the disenfranchised.
- Asset type
- Talk Show
- Copyright 2004 Howard University Television
- Media type
- Moving Image
Guest: Gates, Henry Louis
Host: Swygert, H. Patrick
Host: Richardson, Bernard
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WHUT-TV (Howard University Television)
Identifier: HUT00000013001 (WHUT)
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- Chicago: “At Howard; 209; Henry Louis Gates, Jr.,” 2004-01-30, WHUT, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed September 20, 2020, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-293-4x54f1mt3d.
- MLA: “At Howard; 209; Henry Louis Gates, Jr..” 2004-01-30. WHUT, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. September 20, 2020. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-293-4x54f1mt3d>.
- APA: At Howard; 209; Henry Louis Gates, Jr.. Boston, MA: WHUT, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-293-4x54f1mt3d