MLK Week 2020: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Revolutionary and Scholar

MLK Week 2020: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Revolutionary and Scholar


So I’d like to introduce
our current speaker this
for this morning.
During his 22 years
as an educator,
Dr. Maurice Dolberry has been
a teacher, a coach, an educator
in grades pre-K through 20.
He currently runs A Line
in the Sand LLC, which
is an educational consulting
and research service,
and coaches high school
wrestling in Seattle.
Originally from
Ypsilanti, Michigan,
Maurice is a hip-hop head, a
sci-fi fan, and a longtime dog
owner.
He earned his bachelor’s
of science in biology
from Howard University,
a HBCU, in Washington DC,
a master’s in education–
[LAUGHS]
You got to let folks know.
[LAUGHS]
–a master’s in education from
Florida Atlantic University,
and a PhD in education from
the University of Washington.
Just as a side note, we
met as graduate students
in University of Washington.
Dr. Dolberry is someone
who I highly look up to.
He’s a friend.
I consider him just
off-the-charts genius
in so many different ways.
And so I hope that you’re able
to take a lot from this talk.
In addition, he taught in the
Umoja Black Scholars Program.
And so just real quick
if you’re interested,
talk to Crystal Welch.
And he also taught African
American Experience,
which you can
currently take through
our American Ethnic
Identity Studies, which
is Dr. Eric Elwin in the back.
He currently teaches
the class right now.
So if those programming
classes sound interesting,
then those are two people
you can connect with.
So without taking
any additional time,
please welcome Dr.
Maurice Dolberry.
[APPLAUSE]

Man, whenever somebody
introduces you
and your boy introduces
you, it’s always like, man,
I don’t really do
all that stuff.
[LAUGHTER]
And now I got to live
up to what he just said.
I appreciate the introduction,
and thanks for having me
here this morning.
I was listening to–
because we had some music
playing when I walked in.
And I was listening to some
music on the way over here.
And so one of my former
students, he had–
I know they turned it up because
I wasn’t talking loud enough.
But if you’ve ever had a
conversation with me, been
around me, you’ll
learn that I am
a discursive speaker and
a circuitous storyteller,
as my advisor told me.
And I speak in epicyclic ways.
All of those things
are aspects of being
an African American, circuitous
storyteller meaning the stories
that I consistently tell,
the narratives that I give
are circular in nature.
So I’ll start talking about
something, and you’re like,
what in the world?
Why did we start talking about–
oh, I get it.
That’s why.
And then it’s epicyclic.
So I’ll be talking
about something
and then go back to
something, and then
move forward and then go back
to something again, and then
move forward and go back
to something again, right?
And it’s discursive.
[INAUDIBLE]
But I promise you,
at the end of about–
I don’t know– 50
minutes, 55 minutes,
depending upon what
your attention span is
like, we’re going to all be at
a specific and a certain place.
But I was listening to
a song this morning,
and I’m at the point now where
I’m that dude who’s like,
y’all don’t know about, but
Max Romeo’s song starts out
(SINGING WITH JAMAICAN ACCENT)
Lucifer son of the mourning,
I’m going to chase
you out of earth.
Nobody?
OK, wait a minute.
Everybody’s looking
at me like I’m crazy.
Jay-Z used it in a sample.
Anybody play Grand Theft Auto?
Y’all don’t remember?
That was one of the tracks.
Oh.
You’re driving along.
[LAUGHS] Like, oh.
That’s where I heard
that song before.
But I was listening
to that song.
And the lyrics, he starts out,
“Lucifer son of the mourning,
I’m going to chase”– and this
is my Jamaican accent, right?
(SINGING WITH
JAMAICAN ACCENT) I’m
going to chase you out of earth.
And I was thinking
about the history
of Max Romeo, a guy
who’s a reggae artist
and he’s from Jamaica.
And there’s this one
part in the song, and–
oh, do this.
Get your smartphone, your
tablet, your laptop, whatever.
Get that out.
Take that out.
I’m going to be
talking about stuff.
I’m going to be looking
at my smartphone.
And hell, if it gets boring,
you can do something else.
Go to Facebook.
Entertain yourself.
If it’s boring, I’m
going to do that.
[LAUGHTER]
Right?
But I’ll bring up some
things as we go along.
And please do look down.
Feel free.
Add these pieces in.
I like words, so I
might use some words
that you’re unfamiliar with.
Look those things up.
But at one point in the song–
and I want to make sure
I get the lyrics right
here when he says, (SINGING
WITH JAMAICAN ACCENT)
so when I check him my
lassing hand, and if him slip,
I go with his hand.
So he’s saying my lassing hand,
my cutlass, my sword, right?
He’s talking about the devil.
Literally, he’s going to
send the devil to outer space
to go mess with another race.
OK, OK, right?
I’m starting to talk about
a reggae song, you’re like,
but I’m here for Martin Luther
King Jr. But he says, look,
I’m going to check the devil.
I got my sword.
I got my cutlass.
And if the devil
comes checking me,
the devil comes
putting his hand on me,
I’m leaving with
his hand, right?
(JAMAICAN ACCENT) I got
leave with his hand, right?
And so thinking about this
is how I think, right?
And so this is how
I am describing
what do these things mean to
be a circuitous storyteller
as an African American
person, to speak in epicycles,
to think.
So I was like, man, the
understanding and the history
of being African
in this hemisphere
is one that is
couched in violence.
As my fellow peer from Howard
University, Ta-Nehisi Coates,
talks about, that this history
of plunder and black bodies not
only being sites of
plunder and violence,
but literally ourselves
being the plunder–
so pirates and treasure
and plunder as in we’re
stuff, and the
reduction in humanity
and what that means for being
black in this hemisphere.
And so my thesis
statement for you–
because some of you
are looking like,
I don’t know who Max Romeo is.
Why are we talking
about reggae lyrics?
Here’s my thesis and challenge.
And I want this
to be interactive.
There are going to be
times when I’m going
to stop as we’re going along.
For Martin Luther King
to engage as a scholar
and to engage as an
activist and to purposefully
be nonviolent in this
hemisphere considering
we got to chase the devil out
of earth is as revolutionary
an act as a black
person could engage
in considering the history and
the context in which blackness
sits in this hemisphere.
So violence is normal.
Violence is regular.
It is ingrained in the
existence of this history.
So I think, since
its formal existence,
the United States has had, I
believe, 16 years during which
it has not been either at
war or had its military
occupying another place and
engaging in acts of violence.
How old is the United States?
1776, 2020, what is it?
How old is the United States
on July 4 this year, 200 and?
Some of y’all in here got
some quick math skills.
243.
Quick maths.
What is it?
243.
243 years.
The United States has
spent about 16 of them
not engaging in
war and violence.

So yeah, that’s my thesis.
My thesis is that Martin
Luther King was a revolutionary
because he engaged
in nonviolence.
And I’m going to really
challenge you this morning
to consider the
conception of nonviolence
and challenge the
idea of nonviolence
as acquiescence, as giving up,
as giving in, as accepting.
Oh, so here’s–
Martin Luther King
was born in 1929.
That’s where we’re
supposed to start, right?
Sorry, because this is a lecture
about Martin Luther King.
Martin Luther King
was born in 1929.
Cudjoe Lewis died in 1935.
So that’s the first one.
I want you to look that up.

I think it’s K-U-D-J-O-E.
Check it out.
Take your smartphone
out, your laptop.
If you’re sitting
next to someone,
if you’re the type of
person you don’t want to use
your smartphone, take a second.
Turn to the person who is
next to you in your vicinity.
Everybody in here,
without me telling you–
because I told you, let’s do a
little learning this morning.
Who is Cudjoe Lewis?
Anybody know who he was?
If you don’t, look
it up right now.
Here, I’m going to
give me you a second.
Spell it again.
Yeah, K-U-D-J-O-E Lewis.
And I gave you the context.
Martin Luther King
was born in 1929.
Cudjoe Lewis died in 1935.
Who was he?

Make sure everybody
around you, the people
who around you that are not
using their technology–
and I understand.
I want to support that as well.
Who was he?
Just share with each other.
Start talking.
I don’t have to be the only
one talking this morning.
Share who he was.

And look.
Y’all can’t get away from
us Howard University folks.
We everywhere, right?
I brought up Ta-Nehisi Coates.
You familiar with
Ta-Nehisi Coates?
Got a new book, Water
Dancer, Between the World
and Me, MacArthur genius.
That’s how we do it.
Zora Neale Hurston, another
Howard University alum–
Zora Neale Hurston wrote
about Cudjoe Lewis.
So now, understanding
who he was and just
that basic understanding
of who he was,
understand if he had been Martin
Luther King’s grandfather,
he would have spent time
sitting at the knee of a man who
experienced the Middle Passage.

One of the things that we
consistently hear as we push
back against social justice
movements– and in particular,
anti-blackness and social
justice movements–
slavery was so–
Long ago.
–long ago, right?
Slavery was so long ago.
And I know if you’re
here listening me,
this is an example of so-called
preaching to the choir.
You understand, at least to a
significant degree, that, no,
it wasn’t.

So again, if that
was his grandfather,
he would’ve sat at
his grandfather’s knee
and could have learned
about him being chained
to the bottom of a
ship that took him
from the western coast of
Africa to the United States
to experience this imminent
violence, the same sort
of violence that caused Max
Romeo to write a song talking
about “Lucifer son
of the mourning,
I’m going to chase you out
of earth,” the willingness
to pull out the sword
and cut off his hand,
the legacy of people
like Nat Turner who
engaged in an uprising, who
engaged in an insurrection
and engaged in acts of violence
as acts of freedom and acts
of revolution.
The normalization of the plunder
of black bodies and black folks
is something that is so
ingrained that Martin Luther
King, who was born
Michael Lewis King in 1929
and matriculated and
moved through his life
to actually engage
in nonviolence–
again, to go back–
now, I think you’re
starting to get it now?
To go back to my thesis,
that’s an act of revolution.
It makes him a radical
and a revolutionary.
To be clear, I’m not
telling you that to engage
in acts of violence is
something then that is wrong.
I think, look, there’s
reasons for violence.
I think Aaron mentioned
that I’m a wrestling coach.
There are times for violence.
I mean, look, there
are people who deserve
to be pushed into traffic.
I ain’t even going
to lie to you, right?
There’s times when folks–
I am not someone who
is against violence.
But again, as we start
to reframe and understand
the context in which Martin
Luther King’s life sits,
we have to understand
nonviolence then
as still an act that
is revolutionary
couched as a black man, an
African American man born
to a significant
amount of privilege,
born to a significant
amount of privilege.
Dr. King’s bad and bougee.
He was born in–
OK, Migos?
I know you all might not
have heard of Max Romeo
and never heard
“Lucifer” by Jay-Z. It
was on the Black Album.
“Bad and Boujee,” Migos,
you heard that song?
OK, great.
And I’m on camera.
Like, yeah, he’s said Dr.
King was bad and boujee.
Well, good morning.
But Dr. King was born
into a significant amount
of privilege.
He was born into a very
financially stable home.
He was born into the
so-called nuclear family
in the United States,
a mom and a dad
in a so-called loving home.
He’s the son and grandson
and great grandson
of a Baptist preacher.
And I’m going to
come back to that.
Put a pin in that for a second.
Because one of the things that
we understand about Martin
Luther King is his
push against capitalism
as well, which, again,
is an act of revolution
in this hemisphere
where capitalism
is the precedent, where the
initial capital that funded
and continues to
fund, to this day,
the hemisphere was black bodies.
That’s the capital upon which
this entire hemisphere sits
currently.
So then to be against and to
challenge– not to necessarily
be against, but to
challenge capitalism,
again, is an act of revolution.

To give a little
bit greater context
in which Dr. King’s
life sits, we go back
for a second to Cudjoe Lewis.

Scott versus Sandford,
Dred Scott case,
Scott versus Sandford–
I see some knowing head
nods, and I see some–
OK, here’s another one.
Pull it up.
Scott, S-C-O-T-T versus
Sandford, S-A-N-D-F-O-R-D.
Take a second.
Pull it up.
Take a second.
Pull it up.
Those around you,
if they don’t know,
make sure everybody
around you has an idea.
What are the basics of
Scott versus Sandford?
When we talk about those things
here in the United States,
we’re talking about Supreme
Court case, the Dred Scott
decision.
I’m dating myself a little bit.
I’m thinking about Bobby
Brown in the “My Prerogative”
video and he had the boom mic–
[LAUGHTER]
–with the– some
people are laughing.
I love that kind of stuff.
Aaron mentioned I’m definitely
a big-time sci-fi nerd,
so this is cool to me.
I get to walk around
with a microphone.
So do we have a
solid understanding
of Scott versus Sandford,
what it was about?
OK, Scott versus Sandford
established two very important
things during the lifetime
of Cudjoe Lewis, established
two very important things.
The first thing
that it established
is black bodies that
are on this soil
are not citizens of
the United States.
They’re not citizens
of the United States.
The second thing that
it established as well
is that black bodies, as
they exist on this soil,
are not human beings.
So it established two things.
So when we start
talking about concepts
like institutional racism and
we consider how revolutionaries
like Dr. King fought against
institutional racism,
and scholars like myself and
people who stand in classrooms
and say, the United States,
as an institution, is racist,
this is what we’re
talking about.
The Supreme Court
of the United States
determined, not somebody’s
naughty grandfather
down in South Carolina who likes
to abuse the word “nigger” too
much–
we’re talking about the
United States Supreme
Court which establishes
how laws are interpreted.
Chief Justice Roger Taney–
I can almost quote
it– said, the Negro
has no rights that need be
respected by any white man.
Slavery is his place.
So slavery, as an institution,
existed exclusively
as a function of the lack
of humanity of black folks.
And when we start talking
about how long ago slavery was,
I’m trying to bring
you to understand
that’s an anachronistic
argument to say
that slavery was long ago.
It wasn’t because it overlaps
with Dr. King’s life,
literally.

So having established,
then, that black folks are
neither citizen nor human,
we move forward a little bit
to Plessy versus Ferguson.
And I’ll jump ahead.
Wait.
Why are we talking about
Supreme Court cases?
Why are we talking that stuff
in Dred Scott and Plessy
versus Ferguson?
Because in 1955, how old was
Martin Luther King in 1955?
He was born in 1929.
Y’all math folks, I got to
keep my math folks awake.
January 15, 1929,
[INAUDIBLE] ’68.

So if he helped lead the bus
boycott in Montgomery in 1955,
he was born in 1929,
how old was he?
26 years of age.
26 years old.
At the age of 26,
Martin Luther King Jr.,
doctor at that time,
Martin Luther King Jr.,
is leading the
Montgomery Bus Boycott.
That’s something– as I’m
talking now, punch that in.
Type that into
your smart device,
“Montgomery Bus Boycott.”
So remember, I’m circling back.
So I’m talking about
Plessy versus Ferguson.
I’m talking about
Scott versus Sandford.
Because all of these things–
Martin Luther King’s
revolutionary attitude,
his revolutionary mores–
are born of the things that
he is experiencing because
of what the United
States, as an institution,
had established
before he was born,
but in lives that
overlapped his.
So we have to
understand– you have
to understand– we have to
understand why was there
bus segregation in 1955.
The answer is Plessy
versus Ferguson–
P-L-E-S-S-Y versus
Ferguson, F-E-R-G-U-S-O-N,
Plessy versus Ferguson.
Give chance.
Make sure everybody around you
knows Plessy versus Ferguson,
what did it establish.
What did the Plessy
case establish?
If you’re not sure,
ask someone around you.
We usually say three
words when we bring up
Plessy versus Ferguson.
What are the three words
that we think of when
we say Plessy versus Ferguson?
Separate but equal.
Absolutely, right?
But if we just
leave it at that–
Plessy versus Ferguson,
separate but equal–
uh, then we don’t understand
why Martin Luther King,
after Rosa Parks decided one
day that she was no longer going
to sit in segregated
seating, she
wasn’t going to give up her seat
as an African American woman–
if we don’t understand what
Plessy versus Ferguson means,
then we can’t
couch that in terms
that make us, one, understand
why that was happening.
But two, that should
give us pause.
It should give us outrage.
How long before– you looked
up Plessy versus Ferguson.
How long before
Rosa Parks sat down
and they started
that bus boycott,
how long was Plessy versus
Ferguson before that?
Look at it.

1896.
Yeah, 1896, 1955, right?
So in 1955, Rosa Parks,
an old lady, was on a bus,
and she was real tired.
And one day, she just happened
to sit down on the bus
and was like, I’m so tired.
And then some mean old
white people came up to her.
And she was like,
I’m old and tired.
I don’t want to get up.
That’s what we learn, right?
That’s what we learned.
That’s what happened.
Rosa Parks was an old lady who
decided one day she was tired.
Some of y’all are like, nah.
Hell nah.
We know better than that.
Rosa Parks was in her 40s.
In fact, Rosa Parks as a young
girl than I am now– man,
time is flying.
Rosa Parks decided not as
an old woman, but young–
I like to think I’m young–
as a young woman who was
also involved with– she
was a secretary with
the local NAACP.
She decided to engage
in an act of protest.
[SCREECHING NOISE]
Homer Plessy decided to
engage in an act of protest.
Homer Plessy, if he
walked into– well,
if he walked into the room
right now, he’d be old as hell.
He’d be mummified, like
200-some years old, right?
We’d be like, oh, shit.
[LAUGHTER]

Right?
But Homer Plessy looked
like a white person.
As we use our visual
here, especially
in the Western hemisphere,
how we decide how people exist
and in terms of race,
if he walked in,
you would assume
he’s a white person.
So Homer Plessy had it set
up because Homer Plessy also
identified as black.
So Homer Plessy sat down
in a white train car.
Rosa Parks sat down in a
white section on the bus
and engaged in an
act of protest.
And it was a setup.
So he got himself
arrested purposefully.
Because they were
trying to challenge,
in the Supreme Court, not
burn a train car down–
I’m with that too, right?
But there are different
ways to engage in protest.
And so when we hear things
like, but it was so long ago,
those things are over,
haven’t we move beyond that,
we have to put those things,
again, into historical context.
It’s not over.
That’s why 60 years after
Plessy versus Ferguson,
Rosa Parks is still
doing the same damn thing
even though, in 1954,
Howard University graduate,
Thurgood Marshall, argued in
front of the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court decided–
what was the case,
1954, Thurgood Marshall?
1954, Thurgood Marshall,
put it in context.
Plessy versus Ferguson,
separate but equal.
1954, Martin Luther
King is 24 years old.

What’s the case,
1954, Supreme Court?
Brown.
Brown.
Brown.
Brown, yeah, Brown versus
Board Of Education, Brown
versus Board of Education.
So the United States– and
y’all got to feel me on this.

Remember that the chief
justice of the United States
back in Scott versus
Sandford had said,
the Negro has no
rights that need
be respected by any
white man, that slavery
is his natural,
God-ordained place.
1954, Chief Justice
Earl Warren says,
because of the
history of racism,
separate is inherently unequal.
The United States,
as an institution,
said, we are racist.

It’s not the radical
black activists, right?
The United States
Supreme Court said,
due to the history of racism,
separate is inherently unequal.
Homer Plessy understood that.
Rosa Parks understood that.
Claudette Colvin
understood that–
Claudette Colvin,
C-L-A-U-D-E-T-T-E Colvin,
C-O-L-V-I-N. Take a second.

And share the knowledge.
Share the knowledge.
Make sure people
around you know who–
get to know somebody, if you
ask them their name or whatever.
Who was Claudette Colvin?
Can you spell that again?
C-L-A-U-D-E-T-T-E
Colvin, C-O-L-V-I-N.
Make sure people around
you know who that is.
You got to give me
thumbs up here, nod.
We know who Claudette Colvin is.
But respectability
politics said,
we can’t use Claudette Colvin.

We’ve got to use Rosa Parks–
respectability politics,
when respectability becomes
political, the perfect victim.

Trayvon Martin had
on a black hoodie
and he had gotten
suspended a couple of times
for smoking weed.
And we saw on his phone he had
some videos of people fighting.

You know what the underlying
argument is there?

What’s the underlying argument?
Yeah?
That therefore, he deserved to
be killed by the neighborhood
watch guy.
That’s the underlying argument.
That’s when respectability
becomes political, right?
Dr. Dolberry was jogging and
he had on a black hoodie,
and he was shot by the
neighborhood watch guy.
Please don’t let that happen.
Oh, this is terrible.
It’s outrageous.
He didn’t have videos of
people fighting on his phone.
He’d never been kicked
out for smoking weed.
This is now terrible.
But this other person, right?
That’s what happened
with Claudette Colvin.
That’s what happened with her
as a teenager who was pregnant
but still faced discrimination,
the same stuff that
was supposed to have ended.
It was supposed to be
separate but equal.
We just proved that.
The United States
Supreme Court said why.
But then we had
to use Rosa Parks.
How long did the Montgomery
Bus Boycott last?
Martin Luther King, after
having graduated not only– so
he graduated from high
school at 15 years old.
And then he went to another
HBCU not quite as great
as Howard University but
a phenomenal institution,
Morehouse College.

And then he graduated
from Morehouse,
and then he went on to get his
PhD from Boston University.
And yeah, while he was at
Boston University becoming
a formal scholar, you’re
going to read about, yeah,
absolutely, he
plagiarized some stuff.
His dissertation was suspect.
He didn’t do enough
of his own work
when he got his PhD when
he did his scholarship.
However, everything that
he did afterwards more than
proved he was a scholar.
The reason why he engaged
in nonviolent protest
is because he studied
nonviolent protest.
He didn’t make a decision and
say, I’m afraid to be violent.
He made a decision
and said, within–
[INAUDIBLE] ah,
I’m getting it now.
Within this hemisphere that
is based on the plunder
and violence against
black bodies,
a country that is
always at war, that
is consistently and constantly
engaging in acts of violence,
for me to engage in acts of
nonviolence is revolutionary.
It’s radical.
It’s abnormal.
And so he went to India
and studied nonviolence
as a scholar and studied
nonviolent protest
and the legacy of Gandhi.

Like, we saw Rosa
Parks was afraid,
and she was old and tired.
She wasn’t tired.
She was protesting.
Martin Luther King
wasn’t afraid.
He was a scholar of
nonviolent protest.
He studied it in situ–
Latin phrase, I-N S-I-T-U.
You can look that one up too.
He studied it because
he was a scholar.
At the same time in Boston,
a little bit later on,
around that time, there was
another guy, Malcolm Little,
people calling him
Detroit Red at the time.
Malcolm X.
You got it.
Around that same
time, a guy who was
named Detroit Red, a hustler
living that street life,
goes on, becomes Malcolm
X, becomes Malik Shabazz.
Malcolm X challenges
Martin Luther King.
And we see them.
They’re always juxtaposed
against each other–
that you have the dreamer, the
nonviolent guy, the one who
is ready to acquiesce,
versus the one who
has (JAMAICAN ACCENT)
cutlass in [INAUDIBLE],,
ready to send Lucifer
to outer space.
But here’s the thing, right?
Here’s what we
challenge, circling back.
We’re talking about the
enslavement of black folks
here.
And Malcolm had a thing where
he talked about the house
slave and the field slave.
Y’all familiar with that, when
he talked about the house slave
and the field slave?
And he would say,
the field slave
was at the end of
the overseers whip.
The field slave had to
work from see to can’t see.
The field slave was
not in master’s house,
but lived out in a
shack on the plantation.
The field slave felt the
beating sun down on their backs.
And they said, when master’s
house caught on fire,
they were hoping for a stiff
breeze to burn it all down.
But that house slave, the
house slave would say,
master, our house
is burning down.
We need to put the fire out.
But one of the things
that Malcolm overlooked
and one of the things that we
have to understand is that–
I know I got to–
because I want to
do some Q&A too.
One of things that Martin
Luther King understood
and that we have to remember,
that the house slave was closer
to the seat of punishment.
Those of us who black folks
we call light-skinneded”–
there’s a ded at the end–

we bore, just in the
color of our skin,
the punishment, the plunder
of the black female bodies
that were happening
in the house.
So they were closer
to what was happening.
And so they engaged in acts of
resistance that weren’t overt.
They had to be covert.
But they engaged in
resistance all the same.
So taking a more nuanced
view than Malcolm X offered
us, Martin Luther
King, in that same vein
and understanding–
very clear, Malcolm
was calling Martin Luther
King a house slave.
But again, it overlooks the
fact that the house slave
bore the brunt.
They were around master way
more than the field slave.
So an understanding that as we
engaged in acts of revolution,
then we have to understand there
are different ways to do it.
It can be violent.
It can be nonviolent,
circling back to my thesis.
As Martin Luther King,
as a scholar who studied
nonviolence, who existed
in a hemisphere based upon
the plunder of black bodies
and black bodies as non-human
capital, Martin Luther
King engaged in acts–
and I would argue the
ultimate acts of revolution.
So I’ll cut where
I was talking there
and give an opportunity
for you all–
let’s engage in some
dialogue and some discussion
if you have questions
for me or you
want to make some statements.

That’s one of the
ironies and one
of the things that
everyone here–
I think everyone in
this country should
read “Letter From
a Birmingham Jail”
because it speaks
to those things.
One of the things
that we’ve done
is we’ve turned Martin
Luther King into someone
who was afraid of revolution.
But if you look at–
I mean, understand
the acts of violence
that happened against him.
He was 30 years old.
He might have been 30
years old when he first
experienced acts of violence.
A woman stabbed him
during a book signing
and he nearly lost his life.
He was on the front
line, literally
on the front line as he was
engaging in acts of revolution,
putting his life on the
line and was killed for it,
no different than
any other, quote,
unquote, “soldier”
in revolution.
One of the things that has
happened– and Dr. King
recognized this
in his final book.
Howard University graduate
Stokely Carmichael,
when he was a
protege of Dr. King,
broke off from him and with the
Student Nonviolent Coordinating
Committee, and he created
the phrase “black power.”
And so what Dr. King
realized is that Stokely
was speaking to those folks
who said, you know what?
The nonviolent thing
is cool and all,
but we need to engage in action.
Malcolm X said, look, white
man put his hand on you.
Send him to the grave.
And so Stokely
Carmichael, Malcolm X
speak to what I
argue is a much more
American positionality,
which is,
yeah, we going to kick your ass.
That is what America
is consistently–
the United States of
America has been about.
That’s why it’s always at war.
And so that’s why Martin
Luther King gets exercised,
gets extricated from the
list of revolutionaries.
And he’s put in this place where
we’re comfortable with him.
Realize, by 19– so 1963,
Martin Luther King Jr.
won a Nobel Peace Prize.
By 1967 here in
the United States,
you know what– they do Gallup
poll, Harris polls, where
they do approval ratings, the
same ones they use now and tell
you how popular your current
impeached president is.
And Martin Luther
King’s approval ratings
amongst Americans, low 30s.
Most Americans did not
like Martin Luther King Jr.
And that’s not just, do you
like Martin Luther King Jr?
This was breaking down–
I’ve seen some of
the surveys before
and the questions they ask.
Do you agree with his policies?
Do you think he causes violence?
That’s gaslighting right there.
Do you think he incites
people to violence?
Do you think he pushes too far?
And most of the United States,
which is mostly white–
it’s mostly white people–
they were not fans of his.
They did not like him.
So it’s why it’s bizarre
to look back at it.
And now those same polls, his
approval rating is like 95%.

But those same folks,
during his lifetime
before they co-opted who
Martin Luther King was,
they did not like him.
They didn’t like
what he stood for.
And so his image, his likeness,
his revolution, his radicalness
has been extricated from
the conversation in ways
that, quite honestly,
make conservatives
and make racists
feel comfortable.

Why do I know who
Rosa Parks is but not
who Claudette Colvin is?
Why isn’t that something that
you talk about as an issue?
It’s a similar reason
why most of us in here–
I want to see a show of hands.
Raise your hand if you
know who Bayard Rustin is.

OK, Bayard Rustin was a
mentor of Martin Luther King.
If you ever watched
the movie Selma,
Bayard Rustin’s one of
the main characters.
In the movie, Bayard Rustin was
an openly gay man in the 1950s
and ’60s, an openly
gay black man.
So for those same reasons why we
are not as familiar– and plus,
Rustin took this weird turn
at the end of his life.
He took this
neoconservative turn
at the end of his life,
which was bizarre,
but still doesn’t
negate his legacy.
So again, a mentor
of Dr. King, someone
who worked literally
side by side with him who
the movement split
away from as he
began to be more outspoken
and open about his sexuality.
So the same way that the
civil rights movement, looking
for the respectable victim,
chose Rosa Parks, the NAACP
secretary, the seamstress, the
happily married heterosexual
woman as opposed to the teenage
girl who absolutely should have
the exact same rights as the
40-year-old, happily married
heterosexual seamstress, right?
But she was pregnant.
And we say, well, we can’t
promote teen pregnancy
because there’ll be pushback.

Going back to the Martin Luther
King and Malcolm X differences,
do you think one
presented a bigger
threat to the white power
structure at the time,
and do you think that
that changed over time?
Yes and yes.
Martin Luther King
posed the greater threat
to the white power structure.
Martin Luther King literally
had the ear of the president.
1964, Martin Luther King,
at 35 years old, is–
and you can look up the picture.
Lyndon Johnson, the
president, is sitting down
and got the pen signing
the Civil Rights Act,
and Martin Luther King is
standing over his shoulder,
smiling.
So Martin Luther King had
the ear of the planet.
That’s what he did.
Malcolm spoke to putting
the United States
on trial for its
human rights abuses
against folks, black
folks in particular,
but against marginalized
folks in the United States
in a pan-African way.
Martin Luther King utilized
the media to do it.
And those of us who are
critical race theorists
and this interest
convergence, Lyndon Johnson
was ambivalent
about civil rights.
On one hand, he was an advocate.
And on the other hand, he
was a redneck from Texas.
But as communism is spreading
throughout the 1950s and ’60s,
and McCarthyism,
and we’re worried
about literally the Soviet Union
is putting missiles or trying
to put missiles in Cuba,
the previous president,
who had been murdered,
had to stop Khrushchev
from putting missiles in
Cuba, nuclear missiles
to fire against
the United States.
And so people like Che
Guevara’s leading revolutions.
He’s in African countries.
He’s in Angola.
And he is arming black
folks against colonizers.
And so the United
States is fighting
the spread of communism.
They may or may not give
a shit about black people
here in the United States, but
they are fighting communism.
And every time they come
on TV– so now you’ve
got these Cuban
Freedom Fighters who
are liberating black folks
in these African countries,
and they re talking about
the rights of the black man
in this hemisphere.
And every time Martin Luther
King is walking on TV,
he’s getting his ass kicked.
He’s engaging.
He’s getting brutalized.
And so all these countries–
as communism is spreading,
these countries are looking,
and they’re all people of color
because most of the planet
is not white people.
So they’re like,
your capitalism,
it sounds cool because I
like the blue jeans and air
conditioning and internet.
I’m being anachronistic, right?
It’s cool to have stuff, but the
way that y’all treating black
folks, that don’t look right.
And I look and I
identify with them.
So Martin Luther King, by
putting the United States
on trial in the
media, definitely
was the greater threat to
the white power structure.
Malcolm spoke more to the
black power structure.
And so he was speaking
to empowering kids,
I say, like students at the
time, Stokely Carmichael.
He was speaking to kids
like Lewis Farrakhan.
He was speaking to those
people who were thinking–
and these are parts of
a whole, in my opinion.
He was speaking to them and
the black empowerment, the side
that says, I don’t give a
damn about the white power
structure.
Here’s what we need to build.
Here’s what we’re going to do.
We will arm ourselves.
So he was speaking to the
Black Panthers and Deacons
for Defense.
He was speaking to that, like,
the (JAMAICAN ACCENT) cutlass
in him hand, which is
where Malcolm stood.
So they’re parts of a whole.
But again, to solidify the
answer to your question,
Martin Luther King
was the greater threat
to the white power structure.
And Malcolm X terrified
the white power structure
because he was empowering
the black power structure.
So by the ’70s, do you think
that that switch then–

especially because he
was specifically talking
to the people that eventually
become the Black Power
Movement, the Black Panthers,
once you hit the ’70s and they
stop being willing to sit
down with the white president
anymore, did that shift–
so you talked about the approval
rating of Martin Luther King.
Did they even do
approval ratings
of people like Malcolm
X at that same time?
That’s a good question.
Whereas by the ’70s, those
names became far more
paid attention to by that
same power structure.
Yeah, it’s an
interesting points.
It’s an important point.
There’s a shift that happens
in the white power structure
and they find Martin Luther
King’s message more co-optable.
It’s why you hear the remnants
and the legacy of that
now in those conservative
talking points–
that Martin Luther King
said we want to judge people
by the content of
their character
and not the color of their skin.
And that’s now couched
as an argument to say,
so Martin Luther
King was colorblind.
He didn’t want us
to see race, which
is actually 180 degrees
opposite of what Martin Luther
King said.
One, there’s the speech.
You can look it up.
He’s like, I want to
get the language right.
I’m almost quoting.
He’s like, I want to get
the language right tonight.
I’m black.
Yes, I’m black and
proud and beautiful.
And so that’s who
Martin Luther King was.
But because he
was nonviolent, he
was more palatable, whereas
Malcolm X was not as palatable.
So between the two, whose
message could be co-opt?
It was Martin Luther
King’s message.
And so that’s why Martin Luther
King’s approval rating is high,
but I argue the same
percentage of people
actually agree with his stances.
Most Americans now would not
agree with where he stood.

No one?
[INAUDIBLE]
Hold on.
Hold on.
Let me get the question.
[INAUDIBLE] has not changed?
I didn’t hear the first
part of what you said.
OK, what I’m trying
to say is this.
[INAUDIBLE] Malcolm X and
Martin Luther King, right?
But back then too, we had
to same problems, boys
getting shot and murdered
and all of the above.
Yet, we still have the
same problems today
as we had back then.
So is life repeating itself?
For sure.
We’re fighting the
same battles, right?
It’s like I talked about.
Rosa Parks was fighting
the same damn battle
that Homer Plessy was fighting.
Martin Luther King is
fighting the same damn battle
that Frederick
Douglass was fighting,
but not quite the same
fight as Ida B. Wells Ida B.
Wells said, look, we
pulling the shotguns out.
Black folks are being lynched,
so here’s one thing we can do.
I’m going to make the speech.
But you come to lynch us,
[SHOTGUN COCKING NOISE]
So different legacies of parts
of the same whole, but yeah,
we’re still fighting
the same fights.
And to the previous point,
it’s because the messages
have been co-opted.
And so we get gaslit.
We are told that it is us who
causes the violent responses.
Dr. King writes
about that in “Letter
from a Birmingham Jail.”
And so again, I did impugn
Dr. King’s scholarship
at Boston University,
but understand,
everything he wrote
after that was his own
and was absolutely
brilliant and probably more
brilliant than anything anyone
else at BU has ever put out.
That’s hyperbolic.
But yeah, we’re still
fighting the same fights.
Things have gotten better.
No question.
Things have gotten better.
But they’re not fixed.
And so the difference
and the discrepancy
between better and fixed is
now centered in the debate,
and so people will
conflate the two.
Well, Martin Luther
King was murdered
for what he believed in, but
Dr. Dolberry can stand in here
and talk about white people
who hated Martin Luther King.
It’s not what I’m talking about,
but figuratively speaking.
So yeah, it’s the
fact that we continue
to fight the same fight.
And it’s the reason
why I brought up
Scott versus Sandford.
And it’s the reason why I
talked about violence being
embedded in this hemisphere.
It’s because we’re
fighting that still.
We’re still fighting
to recognize
the humanity and the civilian
rights of black folks, which
is why we’re still
fighting those things.

I want to– hi, Dr.
Dolberry, [INAUDIBLE]..
So I kind of want to piggyback
a little bit off Lawrence
and ask, was Dr. King’s
message more palatable
because his nonviolence was more
accepted as he’s not preaching,
stand up against the master?
He’s just asking us not
to beat on them anymore.
Or they didn’t accept Malcolm X
because if they would armed us,
we probably would have
went out and shot them off?
And so I’m asking, are we
dealing with the same issues
because we didn’t arm ourselves
and fight back then and fire
with fire?
So now we’re living in a legacy
of Dr. King that’s been taken,
put into a white framework to
make them comfortable with it,
and we’re still preaching
the same nonviolence,
but we’re still
murdered in the streets.

We’re still killed by cops.
I’m sure we’re still
lynched in certain places.
And I’m wondering if we
would’ve armed ourselves,
if this narrative could
have possibly been different
because maybe violence
is the only way
to make violent people
understand that, hey,
I don’t deal with violence.
Yeah, that’s an important
point you bring up, Shawana.
And I’m pulling up the “Letter
from a Birmingham Jail.”
And this is one of the
things that he says.
He’s challenging
white people and he’s
challenging the white clergy.
And he says, “In
your statement, you
assert that our actions,
even though peaceful,
must be condemned because
they precipitate violence.
But is this a logical assertion?
Isn’t this like
condemning a robbed man
because his possession
of money precipitated
the evil act of robbery?
Isn’t this like
condemning Socrates
because his
unwavering commitment
to truth and this
philosophical inquiries
precipitated the act by the
misguided populace in which
they made him drink hemlock?”
And so he’s saying that it’s
Malcolm X and [INAUDIBLE]
the super trick.
It doesn’t matter,
is the answer,
whether it is violent
or nonviolent.
Because at its core,
whether you choose violence
or whether you
choose nonviolence,
at the core is the
plunder of black folks
and the reduction, dismantling,
and denial of black humanity.
The answer, in my
opinion, is both.
So you needed the Panthers–
and Martin understood
this, and they understood.
And in their own conversations,
Malcolm told [INAUDIBLE]—-
oops.
Malcolm told Martin, like,
I need you and you need me.
We need you in there
because you can sit down
with the president.
And Martin was like, I
need you because, yeah, I
need them to know,
nah, I got the cutlass.
I’m leaving with your hand.

But again, the
palatability of nonviolence
in a violent country
makes things easier.
It made Martin’s message
much more co-optable,
and it made the Black Panthers’
message basically impenetrable,
right?
So when they armed themselves,
the response from the NRA,
the response from Governor
Reagan at the time,
became President Reagan–
you know what the
response was when
the Panthers armed themselves?
Was it the Waldron
Act, Walcott–
what was it that they passed?
Mumford Bill.
Mulford–
Mulford Bill.
–where they said,
we’re actually
going to reduce– the NRA
wanted to reduce the rights.
So even if you arm yourself–
so that’s why I say
it’s a super trick.
If you go to arm yourself, then
they go back to institutions.
You’re [INAUDIBLE]
the institutions.
They go to the violence.
So you have to fight
on both fronts.
That makes– [INAUDIBLE]?

There was another.
You had your hand– yeah.
Oh, hold on one second.
[INAUDIBLE]

I just wanted to
hear your opinions
about just today and how there’s
a different fight to be had,
and it’s not so black and
white, excuse the pun,
but black and white
in terms of laws.
Racism is showing
up more in society
in the private sector,
things that don’t necessarily
have a law attached to it.
So I just wanted
to understand what
you thought should be the
strategy for promoting
love and acceptance and
getting rid of racism.
And I mean, I know it’s never
going to be completely gone,
but I just wanted to understand
how that could be done today
using Martin Luther King’s–
Absolutely.
I’m a huge fan of Martin
Luther King’s conception
of brotherhood and
humanity, getting along
in his visions of little
white boys and white girls
and then people of all races.
Those things are– and
that’s one of the things that
has happened.
The pushback
against him has made
him pollyannish
to say that, look,
all that pie in
the sky and stuff
and we’re still getting
shot down in the street.
And both of those things
are true simultaneously.
But on its surface,
the idea that–
[INAUDIBLE]
But the idea that we
really did all get along
and we ended racism, we
saw each other’s race
and acknowledged the physical
differences that we have that
make up these so-called races
but existed without racism,
that we removed
racial hierarchies,
those are aspirational.
They should be aspirational.
They should be what
we’re fighting for.
I think it’s parts of
the same whole in terms
of Malcolm and Martin and
the idea of either violence
or nonviolence.
They’re still aspirational.
They still want
peace and still want
people to either get
along or get along
separately, go their separate
way, but to get along.
And so the challenge
that is faced
in carrying a legacy
of love the way
that Martin Luther King
engaged in, it’s hard.
It’s difficult. It does
subject you to more violence.

It’s just two different
roads to travel.
And I think we can go back
and forth between the two.
Ultimately, I argue, though,
the institutions have to change.
I argue less against changing
hearts and minds of people.

Like Ruby Bridges–
I know y’all still got
your Ruby Bridges, right–
Ruby Bridges, the
woman who integrated
schools in Louisiana.
When we think about
school integration,
we think about
Brown versus Board.
Ruby Bridges, as a six-year-old
kid, five-year-old kid,
she spent an entire year going
to school in an empty building.
And look, Ruby–
that’s why I started
about this anachronistic idea
that, well, it was so long ago.
Ruby Bridges visited
Barack Obama.
Ruby Bridges, you
could invite her today,
and she could come
here and speak.
And she is engaged in
civil rights activism.
As a kid, she went to
a school by herself
because white parents
in Louisiana said,
if we put our children in the
school with this black child,
it’s going to ruin education.
A calendar year, she
spent a year by herself
until white parents put
their kids back in schools.
So the idea that–
like, I always wondered like,
what are those kids doing now?
I know what Ruby Bridges is
doing because she’s famous.
But what are those
kids doing now?
Did they just
change their minds?
And are you going to
change their minds?
Eh.
If it was serious enough
for their parents to say,
no, you literally
can’t go to school.
I’ll take my child out of
school not for a couple of days.
That’s why I want you to
look up the bus boycott too.
That was 381 days.
That’s a huge investment just
like taking your child out
of school for an entire year.
Are you going to change
that person’s mind?
Probably not.
Are they terrible people?
I don’t know, and
it doesn’t matter.
But we need to change the
institution, is my argument.
And whether it is through the
perceived threat of violence
or through nonviolence
and acts of protest,
that’s where it lies.
So I diverge from Martin
Luther King’s conceptions
of hearts and minds and
changing hearts and minds.
I’m not so into–
I mentioned I’m a
critical race theorist.
I am not so into
hearts and minds.
Hold on.
[INAUDIBLE]
[INAUDIBLE]

I had to come in late, and I was
looking forward to hearing you.
But I was wondering,
if at all possible,
respectfully, I ask
if you could just
give me a few tidbits from what
you talked about today so I can
have a better understanding from
where everybody is coming from.
I had a 10:00 AM class
so I couldn’t get here
till a little while ago.
Give the Cliff
Notes of the speech.
Yes.
[LAUGHTER]

I’ll give you my thesis.
And very quickly, my thesis is–
and I think it speaks
to the discussion
that we’re having now–
that in a hemisphere
and in a country that
is mired and couched in
violence and mired and couched
specifically in
violence that involves
the plunder of black
bodies, that him engaging as
a nonviolent activist
who experienced
all types of violence– in fact,
the ultimate form of violence–
was a revolution and makes him
a revolutionary and a radical in
addition to a scholar.
That was the main point
that I was making.
I had a question,
if I may jump in.
And you got one behind you too.
I’m thinking of context.
I think about my grandparents
in Mississippi, Holmes County,
Central Mississippi.

Leflore County,
just north of 1955,
Emmett Till is murdered brutally
for allegedly cat-calling out
at white woman, kidnapped
out of his house.
In 19– I believe ’64
or ’65, Freedom Summer
in Neshoba County to the
east of Holmes County,
you have Chaney,
Schwerner, and Goodman,
college students like
yourself, or many
of you, who are part of
the civil rights movement,
and their goal is to
register black voters
in the state of Mississippi.

I think of Rosa Parks.
In her autobiography, if
you watch the documentary
The Rape of Recy Taylor,
she talks about growing up
in a house where her father–
it was common to have
guns in the house.
And you have to
ask yourself why.
Because my grandparents,
black people,
lived in a state of terror.
And so to segue way
back to the conversation
and trying to add–
this is fascinating to me–
I kind of think about
how do you engage
or how do you achieve
that level of love
and brotherhood in a society
where one group is not
allowed to protect itself
from violence by the group who
they’re supposed to be
in relationship with.
And then maybe projecting
it forward, for students
who are activists who are
engaged in organizing,
how do you deal
with this sort of–
I don’t know if it’s a trap.
What do you want to call it–
where if I’ve talk
to folks back home,
there’s a clear understanding
that nonviolence
is supported by self-defense.
And so we have to be clear
with violence and self-defense.
They go together.

What kind of advice,
maybe, would you
give those students
or people here
when that dichotomy
gets presented to them?
How do you respond to that?
Or historically, how have people
responded to that so that they
can achieve their goals?
And I hate to put you
on the spot that way.
Ooh.
[LAUGHS] What I tell students–
like, when I was
teaching at [INAUDIBLE],,
working with different
student groups,
and I would talk to some
of their organizations,
their social justice
organizations,
I would remind them
and let them know
that you have to be purposeful
about how you engage,
and you have to pick and
execute and protect yourself
at the same time.
For most of us,
thankfully it ends up
being simply
protecting ourselves
from the folks in the room who
do not have our best interests
in mind but who show up.
And that’s normal.
I don’t know who
it is in this room.
It may or may not
be you right now,
but it may be you later on.
It’s tough.
People aren’t just evil.
They don’t just,
like, I’m leaving here
and going to the police.
It’s not that way.
It’s something happens and then
you end up saying something,
and then you end up
jeopardizing someone else.
So in the nonviolent and in
the ways of verbal protest,
protecting yourselves
in that way–
to speak to what
you were saying,
that’s one of the reasons why
the Panthers and the Deacons
for Defense– in particular,
in Louisiana and Mississippi–
were so important
because they used
the threat of counter-violence,
in fact, as a way
to maintain peace.
And that conundrum is
something that I think
is as American as it gets.
The United States has the
most powerful military
in the history of humanity–
as far as we know, in the
history of this solar system.
Ain’t nobody else that exists–
nobody else that we know
can blow up the planet.
The Roman Empire was
really, really powerful,
and they would have been
decimated by one jet.
So they’ve created the most
powerful fighting force
in the history of
humanity and wield
that as a common threat to say,
hey, listen, we want to talk,
but ultimately, we
going to kick your ass.
And so it speaks to you have
to speak people’s language,
and it takes both.
And we have to be very, very
careful especially when people
are using the message, for
example, of nonviolence
in order to get us to acquiesce
to violence, which was never
what Martin Luther
King was about.
He was, again,
using the violence
and putting it on international
in this new thing called
television.
So now we can actually see
pictures of what’s happening.
So I’m not going to shoot back.
I’m not getting the
cutlass, but I’m
going to show the
world who you are.
I’m going to challenge
your morality.
And I’m going to challenge
your morality on the grounds
that you claim your own morality
here in the land of the free
and the home of the
brave, indivisible
with liberty and
justice for all.
Give us your tired, your
poor, your huddled masses,
yearning to breathe free.
I’m going to take all these
things that you project
inwardly and outwardly,
and I’m going
to show how you come
up short, which, again,
can be as powerful as taking up
arms and raiding Harpers Ferry.
But again, it requires
both and an understanding
that, yeah, your life is
going to be in jeopardy,
can be in jeopardy either way,
if that answers your question.
I mean, that’s a tough one, man.
That’s a–
Sorry–
It’s a great question.
–to do that to you.
I think we have time
for one more question.
You have person back here an–
I just wanted to–
I actually agree with King’s
passive approach, but I think
the real question is–
I’d like you to elaborate on–
isn’t the struggle for people
of color more within than out?
We have to stop
perpetuating black violence
against ourselves.
Because I think if you
have an adversary who’s
not well intentioned,
you certainly
can’t do anything to
inflame the situation.
And I think perpetuating
violence against ourselves
only gives them a reason
to commit more violence.
What you’re talking
about is interesting
because that’s really where
Malcolm X and that’s where
the nation was in
the Nation of Islam.
The Nation of Islam
said, how can we expect–
and here’s one of the things
that I push back and challenge
Malcolm X’s conceptions.
Malcolm X consistently
went to– and my grandma
would do the same thing.
My grandmother,
god rest her soul–
love her to death from a little
haystack in North Carolina.
My grandmother went
to the grave saying
that she would never
have a black doctor.
And in her– now, I’m not saying
that’s what you’re saying.
So I’m separating.
And she would– because she just
did not believe that a black
person could–
there’s an old expression, “the
white man’s ice is colder.”
That make sense, the white
man’s ice is colder–
Better.
–the conception that there is
and buying into a white sense
of superiority.
So Malcolm would
say, the white man
would never let you come into
his community, take his woman,
engage in acts of
violence against him.
The white man would never
let you take his money
and invest in his own
businesses, right?
And that’s an important
message to understand
about black empowerment.
And to your point,
it is, and they
challenged other black folks.
Hey, tighten up.
Clean up.
Part of that, though,
the danger, the problem
when that becomes problematic–
when that becomes
problematic is when it moves
into respectability politics.
So now Claudette Colvin cannot
be a face in the civil rights
movement, well, because she
got pregnant before she was
married.
When it moves into
respectability politics,
that’s when the N-word
reflection actually
takes on notions
of white supremacy
and black inferiority.
So absolutely, there
is embedded violence,
and there’s a
disproportionate amount
of violence in African American
and in black communities.
But we go back to, what is
the root of that violence?
So we have to come–
and I challenge this, and
I taught college education.
I challenged my students.
I said this to them.
No matter where you
go in the country–
Seattle, Miami, Detroit,
Chicago, Boston.
Wherever you go, there is this
achievement gap in education.
It doesn’t matter where you go.
There’s an achievement gap.
Black, brown, southeast,
yellow, red folks
are at the bottom of
this achievement gap,
and you have to come to
a fundamental conclusion.
Either there is something
inherently and fundamentally
wrong with those people
that causes, for example,
black folks to be more
violent, less intelligent, more
hypersexual–
we either say those
are the reasons why,
or systemically
and systematically,
things have been done to
these communities that
have caused these
communities to be that way.
And it’s not because of
the color of their skin.
It’s because of
institutionally what
has been done to those
folks in their community.
It doesn’t matter who you
put in that community.
So for example, I
lived in Minneapolis.
And Minneapolis has a
huge Hmong population.
And this is Eastern and
Southeast Asian people.
And the Hmong folks
were doing worse–
standardized test scores,
GPAs, graduation rates–
but had been similarly
disenfranchised.
So when folks are
disenfranchised,
when folks are victimized
by systemic racism,
that’s what happens
to them regardless
of their race or ethnicity.
It’s a human response to
systemic and systematic
violence and
institutional racism.
And so that’s where I
make the distinction.
Because on one
hand, again, there’s
the personal responsibility
and there is improving
what black folks are doing.
But in answering
and in solving that,
we cannot begin with
black pathology,
the idea that there is something
inherently wrong with black
folks, because then we’re
not going to be able to fix
the problem because the
problem is the institution that
dehumanize black folks.
If you want to know why someone
black kills someone black
and that’s
disproportionate, it’s
because we, everyone
in this hemisphere,
has been taught what Roger Taney
told us in the Dred Scott case,
that black people are
neither human nor citizen.
So if you have been inundated
for centuries with the idea
that black humanity
is not as important,
is not as valuable, then
you value black lives
less no matter who you are.
That’s not a black thing.
That’s an American thing.
That’s an institutional thing.
It’s something we’ve
all been taught if you
exist in this hemisphere.

So does that answer your–
Yeah, I mean, to a degree.
[INAUDIBLE],, push back,
unless we don’t have time.
I’m curious to hear what you–
I just think at some
point, we understand
that from a societal
standpoint, it’s [INAUDIBLE]..
It’s social learning to
devalue the target group.
But at some point,
the minorities
have to band together.
There has to be some cohesion
because you can [INAUDIBLE]
the value of yourself by
the valuing each other.
So there has to be another
Martin Luther King-type
push for black cohesion.
I’ve always asked why Micheal
Jackson, Oprah Winfrey, all
of our athletes
don’t band together
to start their own
political party,
to push for their
own [INAUDIBLE]..
We just have to
gain [INAUDIBLE]..
I get it, that the
structure is still
designed to thwart progress,
to commit violence.
But it has to start
from within, I think.
I think we can hurt
ourselves that way.
Sure.
I agree that there
is that portion.
I think of it this way.

We can inoculate ourselves.
We can take it upon
ourselves to say, all right,
I exist in this
toxic environment.
Lani Guinier uses the
analogy of miner canaries.
She’s another critical
race theorist, lawyer,
Princeton, Harvard because
that means something–
not as good as Howard.
But Lani Guinier uses the use
of miner’s canary analogy.
And she says you’ve
got these miners–
you know the whole old school–
and I know we’re running
tight–
the old school analogy of
a miner’s canary, right?
Back in the day,
way back in the day
before we had
electronics like this,
they used to send a
canary down in a mine.
And the canary would
go down far enough.
And at a certain point,
if the mine was toxic,
the canary would die.
And so then the miners knew,
hey, we can go this far,
but we can’t go this far because
this is a toxic environment.
And so one of the
things that we’ve
tried to do, for
example, in schools–
now, as I’ve mentioned,
I’ve been in schools
for a long time.
One of things that
we’ve tried to do–
and this is Lani
Guinier’s analogy– was
we take the canaries, right?
And we take the little
canaries and be like, hey,
look at the sparrows.
The sparrows can go
further down in the mine.
Why aren’t you little canaries
more like the sparrows?
Look how tough they are.
They can go further down.
And then we come up with these–
we put little gas masks
on the miner’s canaries.
Like, hey, if you put
this little mask on you,
then yourself, you can go
down further in the mine.
But we lose sight of
the original problem.
The original problem is that
the environment itself is toxic.
We’re not fixing the canaries.
We don’t need tougher canaries.
We need folks who are
detoxifying the environment.
If we see black
children and black
and brown and these
marginalized kids
as valuable, as
coal, as diamonds,
if we see them as that, then we
will detoxify the environment
to make that
investment to dig out
these gems and these jewels.
So it is a function, right.
We do have that
personal responsibility.
But to me, the bigger fight
is against the toxicity
of the environment itself.

I would love to
get your question.
Unfortunately,
we’re out of time.
We have to transition
to our next speaker.
You’re welcome to follow up
and ask questions one to one,
talk to Dr. Dolberry afterwards.
I’ll stick around.
I’ll stick around.
I love this [INAUDIBLE]
I just want to
thank you all again
for coming out,
listening to our lecture,
being a part of
the MLK Week talks.
Please give your appreciation to
Dr. Dolberry, Maurice Dolberry.
[APPLAUSE]

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