The Arc of History: An Update

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S1: It is now my distinct honor to introduce the chief justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, John Roberts, to administer the presidential oath to the next president of the United States, Joseph R. Biden.

S2: David Harris solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States Constitution of the United States, so help you God, so help me God. Congratulations, Mr. President.

S3: Hello and welcome to Comcast. I’m Virginia Heffernan. He has gone not a wet eye in the house over here at REDACTED Cast. How about you? President Biden took the oath and the stage and with a few words, righted the ship of state today. That’s all. He didn’t lead us to glorious Terra Nova or even to smooth sailing. He just got us gently back on course, which for today is enough. And I must say, inaugural sentimentalism is best enjoyed when spiced with a residual hatred for the former president. Not that I’d say that allowed on such a sweet day, but it did make it all the more moving to cry over Biden’s speech and the beautiful poetry of the day when thinking how wonderful it was that the hated former president Donald Trump, wasn’t there. And as for him, the show’s white whale, well, in the end, he just left, the fight was over. The proud boys were disavowing him. He had tried to murder his vice president. Trump had no more tricks and he was licked. His vapid family trailed behind him as he trudged up the steps to a plan, cares which one, and he left for his revolting pleasure palace, his swamp life, his hamburgers, his howling madness and his gruesome retirement in the embrace of fire eyed prosecutors and creditors who’ve run out of patience and are in the mood for asset seizure. On Friday, we expect to know the former president’s parting pardons summer under wraps until Congress subpoenas them.

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S4: But for now, it seems Trump didn’t pardon himself or his family because pardons in those cases could be taken as admissions of guilt, which might point to state charges, or maybe they’d just be ignored. So Trump’s in his gilded cage and extremely vulnerable. In any case, it’s going to be an arduous road back for him, an arduous road to glitzy grandiosity, to even getting his calls returned. And Trump’s not going to even make it more than a few steps down that road because he’s going to hit a wall of big, beautiful wall.

S3: May Trump be walled out of the lives of all decent people forever.

S4: I said last week that Trump Castle will stay till this is over. And I meant it, though briefly. I wondered if that means till the Senate trial in Trump’s impeachment is over, but I don’t think we have to wait that long. Trump cast, unlike Trump himself, knows how to say goodbye. We know Biden won fairly and decisively, and we know it’s time to lay our burdens down. So next week will be our last episode, a wrap up. And today we’ll talk for the last time about the big sweep, progress and a.. Progress in America. Anti-Racism and racism, decency and indecency. Good. And if I may, evil. For this, I can think of no better guest than Dr. Ibram Kendy, author of How to Be an Antiracist. He’s an historian of race and racism in the U.S. and this is his second time on the show.

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S3: The first time he said something I’ve been mulling ever since. And now four years later, I want to understand how he thinks about what he said then. I’ll be back with Dr Kennedy in just a minute. But first, for old time’s sake. One final batch of tweets or what we imagined Trump would be tweeting today if Twitter hadn’t finally pulled the plug.

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S5: I wish I could be at the inauguration, but I will be at the tailor’s getting fitted for my five star general uniform. It’s going to have the biggest epaulets I’ve ever seen. I’ve always wanted to be in the military and now I am. On Inauguration Day, I will be holding a rally in Florida for all of the wonderful people who stormed the Capitol. They will be arriving on the Trump train since they are all on the no fly list. I just wish there was more time in my term so I could be impeached. A third time for the impeachment trifecta, but January 20th is right around the corner. You know, I begged the military for a parade, but they came into office and now the guy who doesn’t want one is getting it. Unbelievable. To my followers on Inauguration Day, I want no violence, but make sure you use the Vanguard formation for constant movement, no violence. Make sure your communications are working and charge no violence. Have milk at the ready for tear gas. No violence. Tactical gear and body armor is a must. No violence. Remember, we are the party of law and order. So you can pick up your zip ties at the lobby of Trump International Hotel. Use discount code insurrection for 10 percent of.

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S4: Dr. Kendi, welcome back to Dreamcast.

S6: Oh, it’s a pleasure to be back on the show.

S4: It’s been since 2017 that you were on the show with my esteemed co-host, Jamelle Bouie, and he asked you a question and your answer stopped me in my tracks. I was actually at the YMCA when YMCA meant something other than Trump’s campaign song. And also when we used to get out to gyms and I was on a some kind of treadmill or whatever, and I was listening to the show. And Jamelle, ask you the question that I think we’d all been wondering since Trump’s election, which is, are things getting better or worse? Just we had been used to the idea of things getting getting better and that Obama was some kind of apotheosis. You know, it was we were all moving toward this great moment and things would only be up the mountain from then on. And suddenly it seemed like things were getting worse. And you gave an extraordinary answer that I have borne in my mind since March of twenty seventeen all the way till Biden’s inauguration. And that is, if I can paraphrase that they’re not getting better or worse, they’re getting better and worse simultaneously. Can you say something more about that?

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S7: Well, I think in many ways we, especially in recent years, have been arguing over whether things are getting better or worse. And and both sides have come with extremely relevant, evidence based arguments about how things are worse now than they were 50 years ago, particularly for black folks or even the American people more broadly, and how things are better. And the reason why both arguments have been effective is because they’re both true. And in my work, especially as it relates to race and racism, I chronicle not just this history of anti-racist progress where we have been breaking down barriers, where we have created situations in which, you know, the first black woman can be elected and inaugurated as a vice president of the United States. But we’ve also experienced as a nation racist progress, where the barriers, where exclusion, where discrimination, where policies have become more sophisticated over time. And typically those new and more sophisticated policies are relevant to the times. And so, like last year, when those who wanted to suppress votes realized the way to do so was to make it harder for people to send mail in votes that became a new way, sort of to suppress votes, particularly of black and brown voters. And I think we have to to own that. And I think now, particularly on January six, people saw racist progress sort of on display.

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S4: Mm hmm. That phrase, the new and more sophisticated kind of barriers, the building of those barriers brings to mind a kind of dance of death between something like a virus and an antibody. You know that they’re occasionally adapting in various ways. And you’re right, the insidious effort to sabotage the post office that the USPSTF that we hadn’t seen before. It just it beggared belief as it was happening. But it also it also seems like a very and you may not like this metaphor set. And please tell me, if so, why you don’t. But it seems like a very like it really does seem like a battle for survival with one group of white supremacists of racists concocting. And by the way, it just because we’re on, you know, the the big topics today, I think racial progress is a is a very good proxy for progress generally for what we mean by progress. And so when I talk about white supremacy, we might as well be talking about patriarchy or or, you know, runaway capitalism. But in any case, on the race subject, that white supremacists become more wily, find better ways to create sophisticated barriers while anti racists and those kind of hurt by racism find better ways to thrive. That battle is just extremely interesting because I want to talk about your book, How to Be an Anti-racist, which you hadn’t published. When you talk to Jamelle and has been one of the signature books of our time. Just one small note is, you know, when you said, well, racism might be ascendant basically when it’s in the White House, but so is anti-racism. One good example of that is that in Obama’s last year as president, the bestseller list was dominated by books by Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and Newt Gingrich. And in the last year of Trump’s presidency, it’s dominated by books largely about race and racism, about the new Jim Crow, about white fragility and your book. And it’s been somewhat astounding. It’s exactly the point you make.

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S8: That the radicalism, if that’s the right word, has happened in tandem with this reactionary politics that has been on center stage and I think you’re right in that white supremacy or racism can be can serve as a stand in for patriarchy or ableism and other forms of bigotry or oppression. And ultimately what’s happening and what’s happened over the course of of American history and will be definitely seen over the last year, is this clash between really the forces of justice and injustice. And that to me, I just don’t think it is accurate to make this case that America is inherently and historically has been this just nation or that America is inherently or has historically been this unjust nation. It’s been both. But more importantly, it’s been a clash of, you know, feminism and patriarchy, of racism and anti-racism, of those who are advocating for our economy that serves everyday people and those who are advocating for a comedy that serves the super rich and to not share the tale of both sides. But more importantly, the clash is to really leave out the driving force of history and even the driving force of our time.

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S4: I think that’s that’s absolutely right. The question I’ve said this to listeners so many times that I have is and I still think it’s an open question, I’m not sure if the arc of history bends toward justice. I’m not sure I have a teleological idea of history where, you know, we know where it’s all going, but it seems to bend towards survival. I mean, just as a tautology. Right. Like, you know, what will be here in 10 years will be the thing that survives. And what I’ve wondered all through this, especially in the Times where it seems like, man, that Trump and Trump and Trump are sowing the fields with salt like nothing will grow here again. You know, they’ll they’ll block justice at every turn. No one will ever get a hearing. George Floyd will be killed over and over and over again. It doesn’t stop. It’s never stopping. And then you see things like the fact that he was a one term president, the fact that he’s impeached twice, the fact that he has all kinds of outstanding, uh, criminal proceedings that could be brought against him, the fact that he’ll never get alone again and that alone might be called in. And then he’s been driven to Florida and that he’s been written out of history because he didn’t show up at the inauguration today. So there may be ways that it’s the antiracist forces, the forces of justice that are, in fact, adaptive. Forget if they’re righteous, like forget for a second. If we even have a dog in this fight, like who’s it’ll be the one that wins that that that is adaptive to the human, to the human race. And we have, you know, all kinds of, you know, Charles Murray’s of the world that will tell you that science believes that white racist thinking will win out. And we’ve listened to that a lot. But it seems to me that the mechanisms that you describe of racism and again, as a proxy for other kinds of systemic injustice, but racism, the erecting of barriers is a weaker gesture than the will to survive and thrive and acquire resources and equity.

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S6: I think it is. And I think that in order to have the power to erect barriers and to sort of harm people, you have to convince those people that those barriers are actually a form of freedom and that those barriers are helping them or are keeping them from the people who are truly hurting them when indeed those people who are who they’re led to believe are hurting them are actually their natural allies. So you literally have to constantly create a world of make believe that Donald Trump created. And fundamentally, I just don’t believe I believe that lies and misinformation are more easily believed, but they’re also more easily demonstrated to be not true. And so then what happens is once we’re able to show people the lies or once that runaway train of misinformation or brutality or terror sort of eventually runs you over, then people start realizing that this was actually bad for them. Yeah. And then those very same people begin to be part of this larger movement for justice. And I do think I agree with you that over the course of human history, you know, people are inclined to survive. And once they realize that in. Issue like bigotry is an existential threat to human existence as it truly is, and we should see like climate change, like nuclear war, and we saw that through the Trump administration, people like, OK, you know what? I need to fight against it so I can survive.

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S4: You know, I think of Eugene Goodman as this fascinating figure who acted, as we all know, as a decoy to distract the insurrectionists, the the terrorists at the Capitol from the Congress, people that he was sworn to protect. And he did so by leveraging white supremacy and virulent murderous racism against murderous racists using their own. It was like a jujitsu move, you know, and and what a kind of extraordinary way to wrap up this incredibly dangerous time in American history, to know that their racism would lead them off the ledge, would lead them away from their goals, would be for them counter adaptive, ultimately, that their eyes would be so flooded with the desire to take down one more black man that they wouldn’t be able to complete the insurrection that they were hellbent on. I mean, I just I think that is astounding. And obviously, Eugene Goodman is a hero and also incredibly tragic, but canny that he was able to divine that.

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S8: I actually think that’s a metaphor for Trump’s presidency, you know, in that that’s precisely what happened. I mean, he ran himself off the cliff. Yes. And certainly through his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and certainly through his sort of stoking this lie, which then led to this to this catastrophic moment that likely destroyed his political future. And it’s the same thing even with the Confederate states of America, that they decided to do the extreme thing and succeed from the Union, which ultimately led to the demise of slavery.

S4: So it has been a coming into consciousness for so many of us around so many different kinds of tyranny. You know, I think I’ve said this before that, you know, I think there was no harder core a Hillary supporter than I am not since the Red Sox in 1986 have I, like, identified way too much with a participant in a national contest and thus got my heart broken, you know? And I literally thought, you know, if I touched her hair like that kid with Obama would feel like might also bleached hair, you know? And I was like, she’s too much like me. And and and when she lost, it took a long time to get over that. You know, she could be my older sister. She could be my mother. It took a long time to get over that. But when I did, I was able to start looking around and saying, she’s not she is not the woman man for this moment. You know, she actually I can open my heart to someone like AOC whose politics are different and whose background is different and start to see, you know, start to see other Jamie Harrison that the like it Kamala Harris, of course, that the future might not belong to people who look like me and. It’s embarrassing to admit, but I thought the progress was going to be another white person who looks at this time a woman, you know, I could only move that far outside the cycle of, you know, the world. I was a little bit locked in. And, of course, our great half Irish president, Barack Obama, I had no trouble identifying them. But I think we’ve all moved, you know, to the left so much that you hear Joe Biden talk about systemic racism. I mean, it sounds like the critical legal scholars that I studied with who were reviled in the 90s, you know, and like, how does Joe Biden, you know, Mister Crime Bill, suddenly talk about the is sensitive, the finer points of systemic racism? Just this this huge move in sounds a little age of Aquarius, but in consciousness that has happened over the last four years in tandem with the very public racism. I mean, is that your experience? Because I know you describe moving from a period of kind of racism yourself to a greater consciousness of anti-racism?

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S7: Certainly, I think it’s important for us to recognize the ways in which Black Lives Matter. Activists, anti-racist scholars, all different types of folks since the 90s have really moved this country to a greater awareness of the problem of systemic racism. And because in the 90s, there was this common belief among Democrats, let alone Republicans, that racism did exist. But black folks also needed to take personal responsibility or stop using the race card. And so now I think we’ve gotten to a place where even some of those folks saying that then are now recognizing that the root issue is racism. And that’s that’s the result of a tremendous amount of organizing narrative shifts, scholarship demonstrations that have happened, particularly over the last 10 years, even more so the last sort of seven years that I think we should acknowledge and recognize. It’s similar to some of the shifts that we’ve seen in the 60s or some of the shifts that happen in an eighteen fifties and sixties. But the key is we need to implement policy change. Otherwise then this is all for naught.

S4: Yeah, I mean, the same as, you know, the people tracking, you know, what kind of change me to made in the world and how much some of the men implicated in offense’s violence all the way up to rape got their positions back or the discourse just that, you know, the caravan moved on and left for dead some of the women who had complained or women who had been hurt. And there certainly is a fear about Black Lives Matter like that, that it seized Black Lives Matter over the summer, that that particular version of the uprising was so compelling. And all of a sudden every brand, you know, was emphasizing their anti-racist moves and doing hand-wringing, but that that might not get in place, especially if Biden. Papers over everything glad handing with Mitch McConnell kind of forgiving everything in the name of unity, that would be bad and unsettling, is that what you see in Biden?

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S3: Is that your fear with Biden?

S6: So the beauty is that now that Biden, President Biden is in office, we are going to sit back and see what he does. To me, the way to bring about unity is through creating equity and justice for all. Yeah, that’s a better path to unity than than, let’s say, not holding certain people accountable. Because what’s going to happen is if if the path to unity is not holding group A accountable, but continuing to hope Group B accountable Group A is going to be like, oh, I like your unity, but certainly Group B will not. In Group B has often been black folks.

S4: I want to go back to your own development that led you from that last conversation on troub cast to the publication and just to the beneficiary of the enormous success of how to be an anti-racist, because it seems like some sharpening of your positions and also broadening. I mean, there’s just that book is the is really the flowering of some of the thinking that that I heard you doing in in 2017. And, you know, what emboldened you to publish it? And were you surprised at the reception? And also what happened what happened to you during the Trump administration, I guess what happened to your intellectual life, your activist life?

S6: I think what caused me to write how to be an racist is everyday people pretty much asked me to write the book after writing Stamp from the beginning, which was a history of racist and anti-racist ideas and going around encouraging people to to to express anti-racist ideas, to be anti-racist. Folks were like, what are you talking about? Like, what do you mean anti-racist? How can I be be anti-racist? And I heard that question over and over again, which caused me ultimately to to break how to be an anti-racist. And I knew in writing how to be an anti-racist that racism is so intertwined with other forms of bigotry that there’s just no way to separate it out. And too often we have we have separated out racism from sexism, from from classism, from homophobia. And that’s just not how people experience it. So, you know, a queer Latina woman experiences racism and homophobia and even sexism at its intersection. And so we have to talk about it in that way, which is why I decided to write about it in that way. But I also wanted to get people to think about how we should be, you know, and, you know, asking themselves, giving people the direction of the type of person they can be in this world that could create an equitable and just society.

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S3: Yeah, I mean, it is it’s such a practical manual. It’s really amazing.

S4: And I think one example of intersectionality in an unexpected place is Amanda Gorman, the twenty three year old poet who recited her poem The Hill We Climb today at the inauguration. She suffered with stuttering as a child and likened herself to Maya Angelou, who was quiet or silent almost for five years following trauma. And part of her connection with Biden is this, this stutter, the sort of a.. Ablest kind of thinking. And just what a what an amazing way to think about anti-racism and its proxies that it could bring together Amanda Gorman and Joe Biden on this very profound question about the abilities of their bodies and that I thought really made intersectionality not not at all a buzzword, but a kind of a better name for our common humanity at one of her poem or if anything, in the inauguration today gave you pause or gave you hope.

S6: I mean, obviously, I think many, many people have spoken highly and showered her with praise for just an incredibly powerful poem. I’ve also seen that former first lady Michelle Obama was was decked out in nice fit and so was the new first lady. Joe Biden had an incredible blue jacket. And so I think folks were folks were dressing today. Yeah. But I think, you know, I was not able to hear all of Biden’s President Biden’s speech, but I did hear him at one point mention that for 400 years, the dream of African-Americans have been deferred. And he did mention that apparently that, you know, that needs to end. And so I’m encouraged and I’m certainly going to be pushing for that to be.

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S4: Dr. Kennedy, I got to hear you say words that we’ve never been able to say on this show before. That is President Biden, you said, rolled off the tongue. So those are the facts at the end of the day today. And I’m so grateful for all your work and for getting to talk to you again on this show.

S9: Thanks again, Dr. Kennedy. You’re welcome. Thank you for having me. Dr. Abrams Kennedy is a professor at Boston University and director of the anti-racism center for his book, How to Be an Anti-racist. He won the National Book Award and hit the number one spot on The New York Times best seller list. And that’s it for today’s show. Next week, we’re going to have the very last episode of Trump cast with a surprise guest. In the meantime, find us on Twitter to celebrate, to say goodbye and to talk about the future. I’m at page 88 and the show is at Real Trump Cast. Our show today was produced by the fabulous Melissa Kaplan and engineered by the equally fabulous Richard Stanislaw. I’m Virginia Heffernan. Thanks for listening to Trump cast.

S10: Hello, my fellow Americans, especially the ones who were at the Capitol, you did a great job, great job. Believe me, no violence. Now, a number of prominent Republicans have told me that I have to give a concession speech. I don’t I don’t know what a concession speech is. I mean, the only concession I like are the ones at the stadium. They’re my favorite concession because, you know, you get a hot dog and something like that. You know, you’ve got to have a lot of options because of the mustard. You could get yourself a Diet Coke, which everyone knows. I drink some popcorn, but you have to be careful with the popcorn because it gets stuck in your constructed your teeth. You know, you just like these little shells. Get in there and it’s Kelly. Kelly with that. God, what a husk. It’s a get kitchen. That’s terrible. It’s bad for your teeth. It’s bad for your teeth. Those things are murder. This will be a non concession speech. It’s the opposite of a concession speech because I’m not conceited. So why should I concede I am going to continue to fight even after the inauguration? I myself will not be fighting. I’ll be on the golf course, you know, because I can’t fight because of my bone spurs. But my attorneys will be fighting now. The definition of a conspiracy. I looked it up on the Google. There’s an agreement between two or more persons to engage jointly in an unlawful criminal act or an act that is an asset in itself, but becomes unlawful when done in combination. That means every single person who voted for Joe Biden is an odd that conspiracy. And I will be suing every single one of them because this is the biggest ever lawsuit, because this is the biggest ever conspiracy.