Black Uncles, White Uncles

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S1: On the battlefield of justice, Americans like John, Americans like Reverend Lowery, C.T. Vivian, two other patriots that we lost this year. Liberated all of us, the many Americans came to take for granted America was built by people like that.

S2: America was built by John Lewis’s members and staff will be required to wear masks at all times and the whole of the House, except that members may remove their mass temporarily when recognized. We can’t let the fundamental right to vote be denied, especially in the middle, as this pandemic rages on.

S3: Hello and welcome to Comcast, I’m Virginia Heffernan. So Herman Cain, trumped by finance guru, masterful executive and one time presidential hopeful, didn’t wear a mask to Trump’s under attended rally in Tulsa in June. He also walked far and wide without a mask in defiance of health regulations. He is now dead of covid-19. As my Slate colleague Joel Anderson tweeted, imagine surviving the Jim Crow south, somehow managing to prosper and giving it all up at the end because he wanted the approval of the dumbest racist in the world. And Trump by Representative Louie Gohmert of the great state of Texas, who just as a reminder, doesn’t believe lynchings are hate crimes, didn’t wear a mask to the House judiciary hearing Tuesday. Gohmert also has coronavirus. He’s asymptomatic and believes he got the disease from wearing a mask. In the meantime, the president has retweeted misinformation about the disease that has killed some six hundred and sixty thousand people worldwide. And counting what he and his son are promoting. All the bleach and placebos and cautions against demon sperm is the equivalent of advocating blood, letting exorcisms hand amputation and leeches for pancreatic cancer. Now, this stuff is too far out, even for YouTube, which, along with Facebook and Twitter, has banned some of the lethally false stuff that the president and his son have been promoting. And meanwhile, cheap, light, plentiful and safe masks that work to prevent a deadly disease. That’s a few square inches of cotton or paper continue to be considered a scourge far too onerous to bear for free thinkers like Gomera and Cain, who just want to impress Donald Trump. Lord, have mercy, make Cain rest in peace, and may the memory of his better days and bigger accomplishments console his family. And I also wish Louie Gohmert a speedy recovery of his health and his senses. We have, as usual, a world turned upside down. And my guest today to discuss this curious intersection of heightened racism with heightened terror of death is Echo Yanka, a law professor at Cardozo School of Law in New York. Echo is a prolific writer on election reform, criminal justice and policing. And in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd in May, Yanka said, We can no longer have an America where white problems are social problems and black problems are policing problems. We’re going to talk about secrets in white families and secrets and black ones, basically the archetypal uncles we all have who we’ve jollied along at family events as they surfaced, the disturbing truths about white supremacy, one uncle by being a white supremacist and the other by seeing white supremacy everywhere. What are we going to do with these wild truth tellers, these uncles, when or if all this is over? And what are we going to do with the truths of racism itself, the one that President Trump has laid bare? Echo Yanka has some ideas. Echo, welcome to Trump Cast. Thanks for having me. We should have done this a long time ago. I’m so glad we’re finally doing it, to be sure.

S4: Am I following Mary Trump?

S3: You are following Barry Trump. Exactly. The pressure. Yes, a voice of dissent who I think is is made back the money that she was disinherited of from Trump. And in some ways I think we’re all trying to do that right. Like he and his ilk as have aimed to disinherit so many of us. And maybe we’ll claw way back. It’s going to be a long road. It’s going to be a long road. So we both spent some time in academia. You’re still there. And somehow before we start, I was remembering that Marjorie Garber, a professor of mine and graduate school, cited Madonna on the subject of race. Now, Madonna back in the news because she’s somehow anti vax or inserted herself in and in her usual odd way into the debate. But this is old Madonna of the song Vogue. And I don’t know if you remember, there’s a lyric, something like it doesn’t matter if you’re black or white, if you’re a boy or girl, you’re a superstar. That’s what you are. And and and Professor Garber used this to make a point that there is a category of superstardom that allows you finally to transcend race and gender, that you’re in this category of third ness. Yes, that is out of the binary. And this is you know, when you think of someone like Kanye West or the late, now late Herman Cain, that there’s some way that you get to be neither black nor white. You’re accepted among everyone, and you can kind of become a Trump trumpet like candid. I want on the occasion of his death for you to talk a little bit about Cain’s story. I know it’s not your not your area of expert. But as a way of thinking about race since Jim Crow in the US, tall order, but see if you can make something of that.

S4: Sure. I mean, so there is something I think for many people and certainly for black Americans. There’s something startling about seeing, as you say, this group of black superstars who somehow either supported acquiesce in the weirdest cases, genuflected a bit to to Donald Trump. And it’s hard to know exactly what to make of that. I do think the superstar. Black categories. Categories. Yeah. There’s a beautiful old poem, a credit to his race. I haven’t read in many years, but the beauty of that poem is it speaks about this man who strove to live impeccably in every way so that he would never be intimidated by the sort of hate that was considered being a Negro. He he wanted to transcend that kind of thing. And on his gravestone, the right here, he lives a credit to his race. Right. It’s kind of the ultimate insult that all this work he did best made him a good kind of black person. I think many superstar black people wrestle with that, you know, in a couple of ways that we could talk about this forever. But in one way, there’s the sort of feature of being considered a superstar, a black person, as though it means your success means you’ve escaped some natural state of degradation, like, oh, you’ve been successful in another way. You find out that O.J. Simpson found out that, you know, the moment criminality was on the table, suddenly his blackness was very much at issue. Mm hmm. So I think it is a weird and peculiar.

S3: Yeah. It goes to the well, the sort of perfection, the perfect man, the sort of Sidney Poitier character in our own time. Obama just you can never make a mistake, but if you do, you’re no angel.

S4: That’s right. And what and once you do, then your blackness is really important. Right. So Obama I mean, poor Obama. Right. I remember the people who decided they didn’t support him because they felt he was denying his whiteness because he was biracial. And this was a big thing in certain white communities. Right. We think he’s only for the black people because why doesn’t he admit that he’s biracial to which those of us who study criminal law thought I have never seen a dark skinned, defended biracial be described as white. It’s only when you’re running for president that suddenly we’re interested in your being racial. Yeah, but look, with Herman Cain, I do think we should remember, you know, there is a deep black conservatism. There’s always been a big black conservatism. There’s a deep black sort of I say authoritarianism. I mean, there is a not surprising response that given many of the problems in the black community, what is needed is more discipline, more in some cases, more police, whatever the case may be. I think it’s a minority view. And like most things in the world, it’s much more complicated. But, you know, we shouldn’t be surprised that black people are not a monolith and that there were some Trump supporters.

S3: So Cain was extremely gifted at finance and just the numbers. And sometimes I think about Ben Carson and he’s such a laughing stock now. But this surgery he did takes an extreme left brain. And both of these figures Trump black men, Cain and Carson live in a level of just escalated achievement in the so-called left brain. And I think that can sometimes lead you to think everybody else just needs more discipline. And they don’t need they just need to ace the SATs. They just need to get the numbers. And all those things are race blind. And since my achievements are in a field that, you know, where there’s a where there’s a right and wrong, you either separate those Siamese twins or those conjoined twins are not, then why can’t everyone do what I do as I’ve done? It’s just interesting that it would turn out in this florid support very for it for, you know, a hysterical white male whose is, you know, doesn’t have any sense of rhyme or reason. It just very, very hard to see Herman Cain, with all his achievements, decide to go to that Tulsa rally, not wear a mask and contract coronavirus at his age. It just it’s where did where did. It’s my usual question on the show. When did everybody lose their minds?

S4: Yeah, there is a lunacy about it. There’s no question about that. I mean, part of it is surely that there is a way in which we talk about politicizing things, but this is politicizing a very different way. Right. I mean, it has become that everybody who doesn’t agree with us is against. And I understand that, right, because there are things I see, for example, on the right where I think this has destroyed a basic line of decency where I don’t know how we can repair that or I don’t know how we can have faith in each other again. Yeah, or at least we’re going to have to find a way. But when you see that come down to things like not listening to your doctor. Right. There’s another story, by the way, a woman who took her sick child to covid party in Florida to get her sick because I guess for her, the weather told her that’s the thing to do. When a child contracted covid, she tried to treat the child with Trump’s fever hydroxy Cauchon. And then her daughter died. And her response was, you know, my daughter’s a patriot. Hmm. It’s it’s hard to know what to do if people are going to be dedicated to the level of of basic denial.

S3: Yeah. The deathwish streak. It just you know, I feel like when when there’s mass talk on American life, it’s almost always either racism or the next step beyond beyond extermination is racism, which is just a deathwish just like this. Fantastic. I don’t know that I’m going to go down with this. I’ve been also reading about Louie Gohmert and how he contracted the virus and after rejecting masks and now he said something that just, you know, his explanation for why he got it is not because he wasn’t wearing masks all the time and was denying the significance of the disease and worried about communism. But because he did wear a mask and he says he must have breathed out or touched a mask in some way, that it gave it back to him. So essentially he had covid, so he got covid. And I mean, I know as little about epidemiology as probably he does. And yet even I know that if you give yourself a disease, you are just. Yeah, I don’t know. I just it’s become so exhausting to try to pass the thinking. You know, I think Kanye West actually is an interesting avatar of this because he’s in a kind of psychotic or hypomanic state so much that his language has broken down. And, you know, if Louie Gohmert could admit that this is some kind of mental illness, it might actually make things clearer. At least Kanye is constantly being framed as he’s vulnerable, he’s in trouble. You know, he’s a poet whose language has slid off the rails. And, you know, if Louie Gohmert, his wife, told us that he he needed his medication or he needed an intervention by again, I would I might think, OK, we have a level of sanity. At least we’re distinguishing sane conversation from word salads and forms of psychosis. I don’t know.

S4: So I have a theory about this, but I only have a theory about this sort of a theory about everything. And please and this is a great theory because it’s really based on my observation and gut, but because it is something I believe. But don’t pretend I could prove I am not going to die. This like it’s a theory that I’d be happy to be taught better one way or the other. But I think part of it is just people have been lied to on some set of real issues for a long time and they know they were lied to. And so I get that right. So you may not know why, but you know that you once upon a time, your husband worked. You didn’t. And you could afford a nice house and two cars and vacation and you know that your lifestyle has been slipping away and slipping away and slipping away. And this is a theory I actually really put together when I used to be in the field knocking on doors for campaigns. Right. People feel like every time we complain things were getting worse. People told us, don’t worry, you wouldn’t understand. It’s too complicated, right? Globalization. Don’t worry. You wouldn’t understand. It’s too complicated. Why did my bank accounts under strain? Don’t worry. You wouldn’t understand. It’s too complicated. And meanwhile, they see that some rich people who don’t seem to do very much or move people around are getting extraordinarily rich. And so this is just in a deep suspicion of expertise across the board and led them to reject this. The reason this is my theory is because there are a bunch of things people have beliefs about, but I just don’t even understand why they would have beliefs about race.

S3: Yes. Yes.

S4: Like people ask me, well, what what is your opinion on global warming? I think I don’t have an opinion on global warming. I would just listen to whatever the scientists tell me.

S3: That’s how I feel about opening the schools. I know you have children. I was just like one thing that should not be used to address complicated science involving virology and epidemiology. It’s a town hall. I love the town hall, but a twelve hour discussion of what do I think should happen with washing the desks or whatever. Yeah, just yeah.

S4: Tell me what to do and I will do it no matter if you want to tell me that after the scientists tell us to the best of their knowledge what’s actually happening, we have hard decisions to make about. Good life, right? Where to put our money, what risk to absorb as a society? Fine, but the idea that we will vote on the epidemiology is just this is not right. And I get that they’re not clear lines, but it’s a hard question how to respond to some parts of global warming. But the idea that voters should have a baseline opinion on the facts of global warming. Yeah, it’s just I don’t have a baseline opinion on my cancer. The people who do die. Right. You know, and I’m not saying we should never question experts. That’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying there are a bunch of things where we have good reason to be epistemically modest.

S3: Yeah, this I like this. And also the what is a role, the role of an opinion. I mean, vaccines work is not an opinion. You know, I think I don’t agree with that. They don’t work. It’s not it’s not right. There’s not a question of agreement or not agreement. That’s exactly right. That it’s not that you have the wrong opinion. It’s that you have an opinion at all.

S4: When I should give my child this vaccine treatment might be an opinion, maybe if the doctors say the medication is indifferently effective between five and six. OK, so that’s something to really talk about. But whether or not this vaccine works is not something we have an opinion on. The heart of the theory is it’s because you feel you’ve been lied to so much about X, Y and Z that people are happy to believe they were being lied to about everything.

S3: Right. And don’t feel there’s not another choice where they feel they can pick and choose better to have defensive global skepticism about anything you hear. At the same time, there’s an enormous level of credulity passing as skepticism. So, you know, the queue crowd believe that they’ve done a whole lot of research. Right. That gives the lie to ordinary packets of existence and empirical facts that we haven’t done. I mean, they style themselves as educated and educated in some kind of new way. And it’s the same with flatter theories. It doesn’t seem to come to them and it doesn’t seem to come like a revealed religion. It’s more I’m not sure about this, the recent doctor that that Trump the Trump likes, who believes in demon semen. But she seems to have come to her calculations through a combination of theology and science. And she does have a science background, you know, as opposed to certain evangelical leaders or a certain certain Pentecostal leaders who, you know, it came in a bright light. You know, we’re sort of all I don’t know, sometimes I think that I that we have, like, some kind of longing for scholarship all the time.

S4: I’m so looking forward to the next set of deep social scientists and psychologists to help us through this. Because one one thing I do, I guess I believe I think conspiracy mindedness is a state, not a goal. It’s not a search for truth. Right. It’s a way of being. Yes. Yeah. And the question is, so why would you want to be this way? And I suspect that mostly it’s my pure guess is there are a lot of people in the world who feel ignored and they are not wrong about that. Right. I mean, so my colleagues say, well, everybody ignores us. We’re academics. But that’s not true when we speak. People listen. When we speak, we’re given at least some amount of differential.

S3: You’re standing in front of a classroom.

S4: Exactly right. And if you’re at a cocktail party, you say something. I think academics who were born into high status families sometimes don’t know what it might be like to be, you know, the grocery store bagger who, when they speak at a cocktail party, is just entirely ignored. Right. I say that having been a grocery store bagger, we’re just giving a lot of status. And I think that leads some people to want to feel like they are in on it the way you’re not right. They get something about the world that you don’t. That’s a way of claiming back that kind of individual recognition and status. The world ignored, too, that that’s because they’re rubes. And I say that because the world we’ve been given this year is a world that looks like the conspiracy theories of last year. Right. Amazing. Yeah. It’s a world in which globalization, disease, government, ineptness in fighting power struggles have led to huge numbers of deaths, have led to civil unrest. And what I mean, this is a conspiracy theory world. And when it conspiracy theorist came up with yet another new theory. Yeah. Yesterday, the saying, look, our theories actually had something to it. We heard that. No, no, it’s really five giant Bill Gates. It’s like, no, no, we we’re two twenty twenty four.

S3: When people look the law, I mean, the signature failure, at least that Trump always points out is that we or the it didn’t follow even natural law, let alone kind of a. Principles that he won, so once the world was upside down with his victory and we, you know, everybody was like, you know, back on their heels, epistemologically even, you know, I think I’m not the only one still traumatized by a little needle on the times it times front page. Now, I understand statistics work differently than just, you know, are we going to win or lose? But I read that needle as a binary and I looked at it every day, like checking my blood pressure. Right. Sure. I was healthy work out. And then I had a heart attack. So I feel as though. So that was sort of a moment where you thought, well, the usual instruments don’t apply anymore, the usual ways of taking the temperature. And so in some ways, you know, no wonder that it was not an immediate slope, but a decent slope to maybe a ramp that Trump can’t quite walk down to believing you should inject bleach. I mean, you know, if Trump Donald Trump is the president, then all bets are off, right? Exactly. Yeah. I have a question about conspiracy in the black community and not to make you just an avatar of that, but, you know, whatever. You do it all the time. And I will happily speak for white women, Karens and all the people. Yes. So there’s this book by Janice Radway that I think about a lot called Reading the Romance from 1980 about hyper literate women who read, you know, on the order of I don’t think this happens anymore, but, you know, like 20 bucks a day of of Harlequin romance of mass produced roses. Right. And so what what’s the purpose of that kind of literacy? And I would liken it to people who use screens all the time now, you know, just watch YouTube four hours a day. They’re reading, they’re looking at images they’re trying to process. And just the plot of a lot of those romances was. Your husband seems or your partner looks brutal, but actually he’s got a heart of gold, and so it was a way of constantly rereading there, you know, and becoming readers. Things look bad for me right now because there’s nothing going on in my life. But in fact or worse, there’s a lot of suffering. But actually, there’s this, you know, loving, patriarchal presence that is kind of taking care of me. And he does this because he has to. And I sort of I see there’s something a little bit in the conspiracy theory like this. If I turn myself into an interpreter of events, like you said, about understanding why am I making less? What’s going on with globalization? If I feel that I can somehow read that and make sense of my shit life syndrome or make sense of the bad things happening around me by just using this interpretive process, then that gets me that gets me a ways like if I turn my dying child, like you just mentioned, into a great patriot who has but one life to give for his country, it’s a lot that’s a lot better than my child just died.

S4: Yeah. Look, I think that’s got to be right. I mean, and why wouldn’t that be attractive? And, you know, I don’t say this to mock people, but rather, you know, I don’t know what makes conspiracy theories go entirely. I want to learn more about it. I suspect they exist in every society. But in a society where you feel buffeted by the winds and much less powerful, where you can just actualize your agency much less than you ought to be able to, why wouldn’t you be attracted by the idea that at least you’re in on a secret that nobody else is and you get all these machinations work? I mean, that’s a way of claiming back agency, right? Yeah. Otherwise it just all feels random, like, you know, you just have a crappy job because, you know, there are a lot of crappy structures that don’t care about you. And it’s just going to go on and on like this. Whereas a lot of us with way too many years of education probably don’t feel that kind of utter lack of agency and thus don’t sort of need to reinterpret the world quite so radically this way.

S3: You know, I do think that that black Americans on the left so started a little bit less on their back foot when Trump was elected. I mean, this joke on the first episode of Saturday Night Live after the election, you know, do you remember this? Absolutely. Absolutely right. And also, you know, when you see I think someone was joking that when they read that 98 percent of Alabamans voted for Doug Jones against Roy Moore sorry, black black Americans, they are black women. They ask them. They’re like a tiger mom saying, like, what happened to the other two percent? Exactly right. And that puts, I think, black Americans that a good relation to truth because and there are fewer anti maskers among the black protesters right now than certainly the, you know, armed Louie Gohmert types in Texas. It’s a very interesting place for black Americans to have that feeling of being right instead of to have the feeling of, say, white women, of, you know, my relatives, people who look like me, voted for Trump is a little bit of a smug position. Yeah, no, that’s right.

S4: So, you know, so look, I mean, there are a couple of things I’d say on this, right? So Trump likes to trumpet that. He got whatever. You know, I think it’s eight percent of the black vote or eight percent of black men, many fewer black women. And look, I do get that. That’s a question. I think black Americans like you asked that question all the time. My sister and brother and I often think what is wrong with you know. But that being said, I think that’s actually about right. I would have been very proud of America if eight percent of Americans voted for Trump. Right. I mean. Right. It would have signaled what we know, that Trump was saying some things which probably were diagnoses people refused to make. Right. They were important to say it wouldn’t be that they should fall on entirely deaf ears even if the way and the messenger were hugely toxic. But you can recognize those things without thinking, let’s drink this poison, right? Yeah. The kind of example I use is Louis Farrakhan. Right. And oh yeah, I don’t want to be misunderstood as supportive of Louis Farrakhan. The anti Semitic and awful things he says utterly should be rejected. But it’s not surprising that some black Americans cottoned on to what he says about racial deprivation, about self-reliance, about needing to rebuild the black community. The difference is Louis Farrakhan could win a mayoral election in a major black city because enough people would hear what he said. Right. And reject him on what he said wrong. White Americans do that. Donald Trump.

S3: That is a really brilliant analogy and a God. I mean, I hate to say this, but Trump has represented such a complete referendum on who we are and individual audit of our like this kind of later life A. Education in what the hell do I even believe? And we didn’t think it would come all the way down to disease vaccines and, you know, the murder of George Floyd. But in some ways now it looks like that’s the way it was all rolling, that it would have to we really have to, like, pull out all the wires. And that’s been I mean, I think that’s from your work. I can tell that’s been immensely interesting to you just to kind of lie in bed. And, you know, all our pieties have been questioned and you know that. And, for example, resurfacing Louis Farrakhan, which happened with the women’s march, you know, just like we’ll look at that, that old guy is back in the news. Herman Cain is back in the news. And it’s certain strain of 70s feminism was back with the women’s march, though. I was thinking about the the statuary that they’re pulling down and remembering that myelin built the, you know, signature American memorial at twenty one, architected it at twenty one with the Vietnam Memorial on the grounds that those hero statues were over nineteen eighty.

S5: So and now it’s time to talk about it again. And foot soldiers in Vietnam of all races, not Confederate soldiers and would be generals. And we had this conversation. What is it. Nineteen eighty is like harrowingly 40 years ago and this is on the mall. It’s not like oh it won the Whitney Biennial and we’re doing this again with Louis Farrakhan.

S4: This has been really painful in lots of ways, but two ways you just touched on, which I think are hugely important. Right. So one is, you know, even as much as I came to support Hillary Clinton for president, I mean, certainly there was just no question in the election, one of the most disappointing things, one of the things I celebrated with Obama’s election is I thought a generation has turned the page and this is nothing against my mother or, you know. But I think, frankly, those of us between, I don’t know, 60 and 40 should be embarrassed that we have allowed the baby boomer generation. You only get so many presidents per generation. And the idea that we returned, as you say, to some of these old fights, has been just dispiriting. I mean, they’re not fights that ought to have been reinvigorated and they have been. The second thing you said about having these fights again, and in particular in the age of Donald Trump, you know, look, I don’t speak for all black Americans, but that’s why you’re here. I know. I know. Right. So just before I came on the podcast, all black Americans called me and we talked about this excellent. It was a huge conference call, let me tell you. But look, one of the things that’s really painful about Trump’s election is not the small percentage of black Americans that support him. I think in lots of black families, you have sort of a normal amount of sort of racial trauma, suspicion, anxiety, bruises, things that have happened to the person at work that betrayed you, particularly on these lines, the mentor you thought you could trust to explode. You know, these are just the normal. Parts are being blocked, but we all have what I like to think of is that super suspicious cousin for that super suspicious uncle and he’s the one of the barbecue who says you can’t trust white people. They’re all against us. They’re scheming to hurt you. And most black people I know just don’t feel that way. Right? We get racial anxiety and we get racism. We are exhausted and tired of white people who refuse to see racism, but we don’t have the view. Indeed, we are also exhausted that any racial critique is read by white people as racial hatred. Like we can talk about racism without saying it’s to stop hearing only that. But you have that uncle who just keeps saying, nope, they’re all against us. You can’t trust them. And the problem with Trump’s election is that uncle now at the barbecue seems much harder to respond to. Right. Because what he said was when push comes to shove, there is no thing that some racist couldn’t package in the right way that Americans would swallow whole. And you said no, uncle. If, for example, somebody came down an escalator and said Mexicans are rapists, that would be a lie too far. I mean, yes, we all get racism, uncle, or we all get racism, Cousin Steve. But don’t be so cynical. And one of the things about the election was it was a deeply scarring moment, unless your Uncle Steve, who just is now quietly folding his hand in the corner and saying, I told you so.

S3: So I’m so glad you brought up this uncle figure, because as I’m sure you know or can guess, among white people, Trump was the racist uncle. I mean, it’s as though those uncles are all at the barbecue or running the barbecue and running the country and they’re talking to each other. I mean, someone said Trump knew her roommate in college or something, and he came in to see the roommate. I don’t even I can’t remember the circumstances, but that he was just funny. Know, he told you you were hot. He told you whatever. You knew he was kind of racist and that you were only there because, you know, there was a line that separated you from all the unsavory people that he had discriminated against. But it was OK for them. And Obama said the same thing about Jeremiah Wright. He’s like our crazy, my crazy uncle. And I think now I could be wrong. But I think Tamika Mallory of the of the women’s march said the same thing about Farrakhan, that he’s just like it. It’s familiar to. Yes. You know, of course we don’t agree, but it’s familiar to us. And I think that the proximity we’ve all had to, like, confront our uncles and in your case, maybe say, you know, you were kind of right, like not going to and that the kind of illusion that we had in for your college, that, you know, that where we all were living together and, you know, and everything seemed kind of all right. We were center left. And then there are a couple of weirdoes at the Dartmouth Review that we’re sort of poltergeists, but we didn’t take them too seriously. Yeah, that is not yet another kind of tectonic shift. That is that that’s made it very hard. I think epistemology is the word very hard to land on a shared truth so that somehow the nuts out there, you know, even also on the far left, you know, who said I mean, I was for one was surprised to hear socialism back in the mix, you know, just like, wow, we’re really down to first principles like the nuts and bolts of the car are all out there. And we’re just, you know, we’re having to. It’s a far cry from Hamilton premiering in eighteen.

S4: You’ve got to be exactly right. I actually I think of them as the Hamilton era versus the Trump era. It’s actually. That’s so. Yeah. Oh wow. Is in twenty sixteen there was this sense of endless optimism and not to say things are perfect. I mean we understood what the cry of the forgotten war. You know, it’s not like people are deaf to that. I hope not. Yeah. But the optimism was we have the energy, we have the thoughtfulness. We can fix these problems. And I think there were others who just thought, nope, I’m going to blow it all up. I just don’t believe. But I think I should also say I think your uncle example is the right one or your girlfriend at the party. Example’s the right one, because not only do we find out something, we may have suspected that there are many more people who are like Donald Trump than we thought. But I think what we really found out was how few people were willing to draw the line. Right. So the example you give is the right one, if maybe I’m wrong about how politics works. But the part of me that is harsh and I don’t hope it’s a big part of me thinks when your crazy uncle said those things at the Thanksgiving party, we should have drawn that line a long time ago. We should have said that is unacceptable. We never did, you know, we sort of thought it’s going to be OK. And so the fact that we knew that, as you put it, it was OK to be there because we were not the people Trump was slagging off on is the kind of thing the cancer metastasized. Yeah, yeah. You know, I hate to make this personal because it’s not this is not a personal story, but every black person I know has had. The experience of somebody saying something racist and everybody in the room quickly descends on what’s happening to make sure essentially that the racist is not harmed. It’s a weird kind of experience, right?

S3: This is this is the fragility model. Yeah, that and I think we have all been participating in that. I mean, 2016, it turns out the optimism was predicated on nobody mess with the fragility. Yeah. You know, so I went to the University of Virginia and Jamelle Bouie was there long after I was. And he was my former co-host on Tramcars. We used to talk about UVA because I was affronted as a woman from New England by the use of the N-word. He found everything inspiring because he found this black community that had formed itself very much in opposition to the dominant, very clear racist culture that even connected itself on a regular basis to Thomas Jefferson and, you know, kind of owned some of those antebellum masquerade tropes. And he was you know, he he just like was very successful there. And I think another friend of black friend of mine there said, Marcus Whitney, said it was so much harder on those white women from New England because you went out with people who, you know, would use the N-word and then you would say, you know, I always say like Jimmy Stewart, like, oh, I’m offended by the words you use, you know? And they were just like, get out of our scene. You’re a buzzkill. And then you had nowhere to go. But it turns out that the you know, the world that I felt like I was a part of, like white progressives had a great deal of fragility protecting it. And fortunately, we had enough black colleagues who made us feel like we were, even though LMB style says, I can’t call him a friend because he’s never had me to dinner, you have to be to be careful at leveraging whatever. But but but it’s more like understanding that pact, especially, you know, you were at Columbia, you were at Oxford. That pact is so familiar to you that you make the person that tilts toward I had this husband of a friend of mine who is a neurosurgeon, and he started to tell a story about why we shouldn’t buy smart water. I think whatever the one that has 50 Cent is somehow involved in, I don’t know, it’s some kind of water franchise. We shouldn’t buy it because as a neurosurgeon who, by the way, been to Harvard, he knew that black people just shot each other in the head all the time. And we couldn’t encourage violence because he has to operate on these people on a daily basis. And let me tell you, the crowd of, like, you know, successful white people, you know, there’s a little discomfort, but then let’s make him feel better about what he just said, because it’s so terrifying to confront that an E.R. surgeon operating on, you know, skulls and brains brings to it this kind of racism.

S4: Yeah, I remember I was once in church with my children. I don’t know if I’ve ever told the story, but I was once in church and my children and my children are what people politely call active. So, yeah, but actually in church, they were being pretty good that day. I mean, there were very small. So they’re being pretty good for how old they were four to four and two. And this woman just kept doing the dirtiest looks. I mean it was really just I mean, it was out of control, hostility and like, you know, like a black person. My I sat there thinking, I wonder what’s going on. I hope it’s. Oh, no, I mean, this is weird. I mean, this is OK, whatever. So I’m trying to ignore all of this. And afterwards this little woman walks up to me and just starts hissing. Why are those children here? Why are you here? Look around. Do you see any other black people in this church? Why are you here? And so what happens? So the entire church, whoever hears this, understands what’s going on. They race over and they sort of screw up and they start saying, oh, you should see. This actually didn’t quite say whatever they did. They kind of ushered her away. But when speaking to me, the most interesting thing to me was how people were utterly whispering, oh, we’re sorry. And I just thought, why are you whispering to me? Like, why is the important thing here to make sure she’s OK? Look, I thought we’ll be fine. I actually I’m not sure I was fine, but anyway, will my children will be fine. I’m the big boy, but I just couldn’t get over why it was that the goal was to whisper to make sure that she did not feel that she did not recognize that she was polluting the air.

S3: Yeah, she is. She’s the uncle that we’ve been containing. And Will Max Boot says the whole Republican Party had been containing this voice. They felt they’d done a pretty good job. That’s right. David Duke. Right. And they were they you know, they knew that there was this kind of mad person in the attic or whatever, but they you know, they they could manage him. It I mean, it is very like obviously an inversion, but of what Obama used to say about Jeremiah Wright before he broke ties with him, which is like if you’re a kind of. Earlier with this idiom, you see it as a kind of eccentricity, you see, you know, antisemitism, racism as a kind of like almost funny, almost kind of funny. And that’s how you show that it was it’s wrong, is that you sort of jolly it along and try to quiet it and weirdly like dance attendance on it, you know, so that so there is no real confrontation like with the whispering. I mean, these are the kind of things that this catastrophe in the White House has surfaced and catastrophe among American people.

S4: No, that’s right. What we’ve learned, of course, is that, you know, black people have known this for a long time. The important thing to so many Americans about racism was not racism. It was not being called racist. Right. The ultimate wrong. The thing that outrages people is not doing race. I mean, you know, newspaper articles are hysterical this way. The person who, you know, literally puts a swastika in a KKK symbol on their home across the road from a school when asked as well, I’m not racist. I just think dot, dot, dot. Right. Because the only thing they’ve internalized is whatever else is true. Being called racist is bad. And yes, it’s not important not to be racist. It’s important not to be called racist.

S3: Yes. Yeah, that’s right. That that’s a that’s a worse criticism, you know, than the N-word. I think that appeared. Yeah, I saw that. And also sometimes it doubles as a racial slur. I don’t know. I heard I saw Van Jones repeatedly, not in this phase, but went right around the election, not in this current phase of his career, but called a racist as a way of being critical and even at the same time with boy, you know, with other kind of kind of demeaning words. And that that seemed to I mean, I don’t know, the mind boggles. You know, I think that’s what the the edifice of denial fragility has done is. It’s make us a little bit crazy that, you know, there’s so much that can’t be spoken. Yes. And I’m a fan of the rabid D’Angelo book, even though I know that lots of people dislike it, especially white women seem to love it. Maybe moral masochism, maybe because they get to say, oh, men are really like, yeah, but I like her idea that the defense mechanisms or something, whatever Freud would call them, are of the problem. I mean, they’re the things holding us in thrall and making it so that Donald Trump gets jollied along all the way to the White House.

S4: It’s it’s also the case there are many, many cool things about racism. And obviously, the ones that are most visceral to me are the ways in which it impacts and stunts the full range of black life. Right. That, you know, the idea that my children should not dream as big as others. You know, nowadays you can’t say such a thing, but you can certainly do a lot of things to make that true. And of course, my children are very privileged and very blessed. I’m not not unaware of that. But that’s but for their by the grace of God go. I write that lots of other black children are not. But the other thing that’s really true about this kind of thing is the kind of thing that Trump sells, the kind of easy racism that Trump sells has also really stunted the American imagination about what would be good for white people.

S3: I mean, it’s just this is I want to talk to you about this. Yeah.

S4: The amount of harm we have because we are so obsessed with a certain kind of racial amnesia, you know, the right is always saying, no, the left is obsessed with race. But I think we don’t see the way in which the American right and frankly, the American center is obsessed with race in ways that are just awful for us. There are a couple of new books on the subject which everybody should be reading, American poison among them. But it really is stunning.

S3: You know, I don’t know why I want to come back to Marjorie Garber, but she she she made this point once that who’s obsessed with sex the like in the in the 20s, in the sixties when people were talking about it, or the Victorians who put a sock over the piano leg lest someone mistake it for a phallus. Yes. Right. So it’s like that I feel like yeah. I feel like we’re in the sock over the pinata. Yes. The leg where we’re very worried about whether to say African-American or not and. Right. And and and that is making us very panicked. And then and then we’re trying to tell ourselves that it’s only it’s only certain, especially black people on the left who are obsessed with race. Yeah, he’s obsessed with race. That’s right.

S4: I mean, look, every nation is different, but it is not a coincidence that we’re the only advanced nation with no public health care system. Right. And a pandemic has made that so painful for all of us that why is that the case? You know, nothing ever has one explanation. The fact that Americans are obsessed. The undeserving poor, hmm, where the undeserving poor is usually the image of the undeserving poor, some black person living on the dole, the the classic the classic image is the welfare mother. Yeah. And so as a result, we refuse to invest in lots of social safety nets that would make everybody’s life better. It’s that kind of obsession with race that I just think it’s deeply sad that when people think of what it would mean to fight racism, the only thing we imagine is what it will cost us versus all the kinds of things that we would gain from, you know, the the I’m just going to go ahead with Robin D’Angelo.

S3: Her her founding story, her origin story is that she was I grew up with food instability, with with hunger, with, you know, she couldn’t get a bath. And yet she had all the self-esteem in the world when she was reminded that she that black people were intrinsically dirty, even though she was dirty. Yes. Like she hadn’t bathed ever. And that gave her suddenly she didn’t need to aspire out of her, you know, actual dirty. And let’s get her clothes washed, take a bath because she was clean to begin with. And, you know, that idea that that puts the the white poor in a rough situation because they are no longer sort of imagining a better life for themselves. Yeah, because as long as this thing is in place, you know, there’s there’s there’s not much more to hope for. And and you’re right that the the the sort of I sort of thought the current in the inaugural’s Trump’s inaugural speech, the carnage stops and here and stops now where he clearly meant the carnage starts here and starts and ends. But that all we can expect from this new president is an end to carnage that none of us are witness to. It just is you know, that’s a that’s a very sad low bar. You know, it’s right.

S4: Look, the funny thing is how good we are seeing these things historically, right? So if you read a story about, say, 1890 and the kind of utter poverty that so many sharecroppers had in the way in which they were offered this poverty as well, at least you have white skin, right? You are. Yeah. You know, you’re not the black sharecropper. And so it’s not that bad. Yeah, it’s very obvious what’s going on. It becomes obvious the way in which race, racial privilege and racial self-esteem is being offered in place of material progress.

S3: Yeah, that’s right. Self-esteem offered. That’s a that is beautifully put. That’s exactly it in the DeAngelis story. And her self awareness about that, I think is maybe one of the best parts of the book, that it was just like the surge of joy she got. I mean, some people get this from seeing themselves as like God’s child, you know, that like, it doesn’t matter how things look around me. But there was that it was I’ve infinite blessings, you know, and all predicated on this strange idea of cleanliness and dirt that went against the empirical truth. Yeah. And that’s unbathed, you know. And that is I really. Yes. The self-esteem, the self-esteem concept that goes that goes without works. You know, it’s just an article of faith that, you know, I’m better than other people.

S4: And so long as that so long as you’re told the kinds of things that you might otherwise reach for are actually ways in which you are eroding the boundary between you and those lesser people, you will avoid those things. Right. So these great social science studies where they so you and I will come up with a fake program entirely made a program. This program will give assistance to farmers in Alabama to help grow X, Y and C, and then we’ll survey people to support this program and they’ll say, yes, that sounds like a great program. Then you give them you give the same kind of population, the same program. You say, oh, and by the way, it will help black farmers as well. Do you support this program? And suddenly people vote no. Suddenly the same program that they were supportive of that would help them because they are motivated by this view that there’s some undeserving poor person who will be sucking up the system and that poor, poor takes a bite out of their birthright. That’s right. That some black person will get an unfair advantage.

S3: It’s we talked about uncles, you know, the like brother in law perversion that, you know, people would rather make less as long as they make more than their father in law so that, you know, if you’d rather make 40, if he makes 60. Right. You know, then make. No, that’s not it. You’d rather make 40 if he makes 30. But you wouldn’t. You know what I mean. Right. You would make 50 if he makes 50. It’s just it has yes, it has to you, right, exactly. You have to, like, be eating it out of someone else’s of someone else’s portion. I want to ask you a last question about things going forward. Yet another anecdote. We’re telling personal stories, and I think it’s probably because I hope we’re getting to the end of this presidency. And it would be nice not to have to do so much self searching about the American soul for all of us. But anyway, at the end of this, my family has been thinking like a lot of people of leaving the city. And we went looking for a place around Kingston, New York, the former capital. And we noticed that when we were looking at places, sometimes the neighbors would come out, the white neighbors, and we would have a conversation that sounded exactly like the Sixties Mad Men era conversations about the element, except it was about red hats. Are we going to be around red hats? And it was a whispered conversation. Yeah. Like, just so you know, there are some very liberal town. There are some red hats or rednecks here. And, you know, they don’t they’re they’re the good ones or they live way over there or they don’t do anything. But, you know, it sounded so much like those conversations about is my real or my real estate property is going to be dragged down by having trumpets around, especially, you know, flying the flags and doing whatever. And I just couldn’t believe, though, how much we had all introduced a new idea. You know, my a friend of mine pointed out maybe that’s a is that a red hat over there? Are we worried? And then said, oh, no, he’s in hejab. I mean, she’s in his shop. It’s OK. It’s OK. Yeah, it’s safe. And I mean, we might have been talking about black people, you know, for all the worries that we were going to be in a neighborhood with the wrong class of people. I mean, how, you know, are we just going to go back to repression after this and back to repressing that racist voice and pretending it doesn’t exist and moving away, trying to move to new houses so that we don’t have to see it and have it in our faces? Or is there you know, as you say, we’ve been we don’t need a conversation about race. We’ve been talking about it all the time for, you know, and enacting it in every way. But I mean, what’s to be done about the this kind of carnage? I’ll just call it carnage at you right out of the air. No, I don’t think carnage.

S4: I don’t think there’s a more important question. It’s such a great question. And, you know, one way to think about it, the way I think about it, if, for example, Trump is defeated, right. If assuming there is a November right of the world does not actually stop just. Yes. On the table, I suppose, you know, what are we supposed to do? Are we supposed to you know, we all have to live together somehow. Right? So the question is, how are we going to do it? And, you know, the two obvious but unsatisfying options are we all have to live together. We got to get past this. Let’s move on. And Biden is going to if Biden wins, he’s going to come to the podium and talk to you about restitching the American nation, the restitching the American soul. And some part of that has to be right. I mean, part of coming together as a nation has to be healing these wounds and moving forward. On the other hand. Right, some part of the question will be especially for people of color. And I think for women who think, wait a minute, this man told you that he grabs women, you know, and you did nothing about it and raped a friend of mine.

S3: And Jean Carroll. I mean, the amazing it’s unbelievable.

S4: And people did not draw blood. So the other half of that question is, well, wait a minute, who amongst us wants to keep the receipts? Right, because we can’t just let this be the thing America does really well is to forget what happened before. Right. You know, when you go to the south, everybody march for civil rights. Right? I mean, it’s a perfect we’re talking about this on the day John Lewis is being buried. Nobody remembers who was against the civil rights protesters. It’s as though those batons wielded themselves right. It’s as though those dogs bit children by themselves. And so if we indulge in this classic American fantasy that none of us were the ones who turned the fire hoses on the children, then we’re going to be doomed to repeat this. And I don’t know how we’re going to balance those two things. I don’t know how we don’t descend into permanent suspicious rancor, but not slip into the American sedative once again, because I’m sure that second choice is untenable.

S6: Echo Yanka is a law professor at Cardozo School of Law in New York. Thank you so much again for being here. And we’ll have you again. Again, thanks for having me. This is great. That’s it for today’s show. What do you think? Give us your five star reviews on Apple podcasts or wherever you listen to us. And then. Come to us on Twitter. Gather round, I’m at page 88, the show is at Trump Cast. Thank you, Slate plus members for supporting what we do. Your membership means everything to us. Our show today was produced by Melissa Kaplan and engineered by Richard Stanozolol. I’m Virginia Heffernan. Thanks for listening to Trump cast.