• Show Notes
  • Transcript

On this week’s episode of Stay Tuned with Preet, “Beginning Again,” Preet answers listener questions about the ethics of the Trump family’s Goya endorsements, posse comitatus and the unidentified federal agents in Portland, and Preet’s frequent usage of the term “separate and apart.” 

Then, Princeton Professor Eddie Glaude joins Preet for a conversation that covers his new book, “Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own,” and what we can learn from the late novelist about racism, America, and a path towards justice. 

To listen to Stay Tuned bonus content, try the CAFE Insider membership free for two weeks and get access to the full archive of exclusive content, including the CAFE Insider podcast co-hosted by Preet and Anne Milgram. 

Sign up to receive the CAFE Brief, a weekly newsletter featuring analysis by Elie Honig, a weekly roundup of politically charged legal news, and historical lookbacks that help inform our current political challenges. 

As always, tweet your questions to @PreetBharara with hashtag #askpreet, email us at [email protected], or call 669-247-7338 to leave a voicemail.

REFERENCES & SUPPLEMENTAL MATERIALS

Q&A:

  • De Rienzo v. De Rienzo, 119 N.J. Super. 192, 194 (Ch. Div. 1972)
  • “Overview of the Posse Comitatus Act,” Rand Corporation
  • Walter M. Shaub Jr., “The Trumps think rules don’t apply to them. Their Goya endorsements prove it,” The Washington Post, 7/16/2020
  • Anita Kumar, Senators request ethics probe after Ivanka Trump’s Goya endorsement, Politico, 7/21/2020
  • U.S. Department of Justice, “Misuse of Position and Government Resources,” 5 CFR § 2635.702
  • Christine Hauser, “What Is the Insurrection Act of 1807, the Law Behind Trump’s Threat to States?” The New York Times, 6/2/2020

INTERVIEW:

EARLY JAMES BALDWIN

  • Eddie S. Glaude Jr., “African American Religion: A Very Short Introduction,” Oxford University Press, 9/24/2014
  • Alexis de Tocqueville, “Democracy in America,” Saunders and Otley, 1835
  • James Baldwin, “Maxim Gorki as Artist,” The Nation, 4/12/1947
  • James Baldwin, “Go Tell It on the Mountain,” Knopf, 5/18/1953
  • James Baldwin, “Notes of a Native Son,” Beacon Press, 11/21/1955
  • Harriet Beecher Stowe, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” John P. Jewett and Company, 3/20/1852

BALDWIN & THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT 

  • Eddie S. Glaude, Jr., “James Baldwin Insisted We Tell the Truth About This Country. The Truth Is, We’ve Been Here Before,” TIME Magazine, 6/25/2020
  • Eddie S. Glaude, Jr., “The History That James Baldwin Wanted America to See,” The New Yorker, 6/19/2020
  • Eddie Glaude Jr. in compilation list of literary recommendations, “‘Every Work of American Literature is About Race,” New York Times, 6/30/2020
  • Ed Pavlić, “Why James Baldwin Went to the South and What It Meant to Him,” Literary Hub, 6/29/2018
  • “James Baldwin and Nikki Giovanni in Conversation,” JSTOR Daily, 6/12/2020
  • James Baldwin, “No Name in the Streets,” Vintage, 4/17/1972
  • Esquire Editors, “James Baldwin: How to Cool It,” Esquire, 8/2/2017

“BEGIN AGAIN” & THE LIE

  • Eddie S. Glaude, Jr., “Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own,” Crown Publishing Group, 6/30/2020
  • Eddie S. Glaude, Jr., “James Baldwin and the Trap Of Our History,” TIME Magazine, 8/18/2016
  • Eddie S. Glaude, Jr., “Democracy in Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul,” Crown/Archetype, 1/12/2016
  • Pamela Newkirk, “How American democracy sustains racial inequality,” Washington Post, 2/5/2016
  • Begin Again’ Calls on James Baldwin to Make Sense of Today,” New York Times, 6/30/2020
  • Stokely Carmichael & Charles V. Hamilton, “Black Power: The Politics of Liberation,” Random House, 1967
  • Terry Gross, “A ‘Forgotten History’ Of How The U.S. Government Segregated America,” NPR, 5/3/2017
  • Luke Denne, “In ‘Cancer Alley,’ a renewed focus on systemic racism is too late,” NBC News, 6/21/2020
  • Antonia Juhasz, “Louisiana’s ‘Cancer Alley’ Is Getting Even More Toxic — But Residents Are Fighting Back,” Rolling Stone, 10/30/2019
  • Kevin Kruse, “What does a traffic jam in Atlanta have to do with segregation? Quite a lot,” The New York Times, 8/14/2019
  • Roge Karma, “Why this moment demands radical politics,” Vox, 6/9/2020

BLACK LIVES MATTER

  • Melissa Russo, “New NYC Schools Chief’s ‘White Manhattan Parents’ Tweet Brews Controversy,” NBC, 4/27/2018 
  • James Baldwin, “An Open Letter to Mr. Carter,” The New York Times, 1/23/1977
  • Philip Deloria, “What the Redskins Name and Confederate Statues Have in Common,” Politico, 07/15/2020
  • Walter Shapiro, “The Flawed Politics of a Law-and-Order Campaign,” The New Republic, 5/31/2020
  • Aristotle, W D. Ross, and Lesley Brown, “The Nicomachean Ethics,” Oxford University Press, 2009 
  • Jan Ransom, “Case Against Amy Cooper Lacks Key Element: Victim’s Cooperation,” The New York Times, 7/7/2020

ON BLACK VOTERS & POLITICS

  • Eddie S. Glaude Jr., “Black America can’t rely on Obama alone,” CNN, 2/16/10 
  • Eddie S. Glaude Jr., “Exodus!: Religion, Race, and Nation in Early Nineteenth-Century Black America,” University of Chicago Press, 2000
  • Amanda Sakuma, “Polls show Virginians are divided on Ralph Northam. The jury’s still out on Justin Fairfax,” Vox, 2/10/2019
  • “Eddie Glaude & Son: Leave Ballots Blank, Because Voting for the Status Quo Threatens Our Lives,” Democracy Now, 7/14/2016
  • James Baldwin, “Notes on the House of Bondage,” The Nation, 11/1/1980
  • Sean Illing, “Why this professor sees Trump as “an opportunity to imagine a new kind of politics,” Vox, 1/26/2017
  • W. E. B. Du Bois, “The Souls of Black Folk,” Yale University Press, 6/28/2015

CLIPS 

BUTTON:

Preet Bharara:

From CAFE, welcome to Stay Tuned. I’m Preet Bharara.

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

And so the lie is the architecture, the way in which what I call the value gap, this belief that white people matter more than others, how it takes root, how it affects our dispositions, how it in some ways distorts our character so that we can’t become the kinds of people that democracies require.

Preet Bharara:

That’s Eddie Glaude. He’s a professor at Princeton University where he also chairs the department and Center for African American Studies. His new book, Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own, explores the life and legacy of the late novelist. Helping us understand the America we face today. Glaude has written extensively about race in America and was an early critic of Obama for failing to make change for black communities. As protests for black lives continue, Confederate statues come down and tensions in the White House rise, I turn to Professor Glaude to unpack our current political moment and the invidious racism that continues to plague our society. That’s coming up, stay tuned.

Speaker 3:

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Preet Bharara:

Let’s get to your questions. This question comes in an email from Adam who writes, hello, Preet. Hello Adam. I thought there were prohibitions on the president and those around him endorsing products or businesses but recently we saw Ivanka and Donald Trump, presumably, promoting Goya Foods after calls for a boycott of the brand. Is there a law, and is there a statute of limitations for violating it? Thank you for your great show.

Preet Bharara:

Obviously Adam, you’re talking about the controversy surrounding the CEO of Goya Foods, Robert Unanue, who said nice things about the president of United States. Among other things, he said we are so blessed to have him as a leader and that made a lot of people upset, and longtime patrons of Goya Food products have said there should be a boycott and there’s been a lot of memeing and a lot of posting on social media about that and as you might imagine, supporters of the president have the opposite view because I think it’s wonderful when somebody in business or otherwise says nice things about the president, because the number of those people appears to be dwindling of late.

Preet Bharara:

It’s one thing for a private citizen to be endorsing or boycotting a particular product, commercial product. It’s quite a different thing, as you allude to, for someone who is in the government. Federal employees are restricted in a lot of things, including how they can be involved in politics and campaigning and how they can be involved in the endorsement of other products or using their position for self gain or for the gain of their families and various other things. Let’s put Donald Trump aside for a moment because the president stands in a sort of special position.

Preet Bharara:

In fact, the Hatch Act which governs federal employees and their involvement in politics does not apply to the president or the vice president, but in this case, Ivanka Trump posted a photograph of herself in a kind of awkward position holding up a can of Goya beans with the caption, both in English and Spanish, “if it’s Goya, it has to be good”, which I think was their slogan for a long time and she posted it on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook and that is why you’re asking this question which is a question lots of folks have been asking.

Preet Bharara:

Now on questions relating to government ethics, I go to the expert, Walter Shaub, who tweets a bunch and you should follow him if you’re not already following him and if you look at the particular regulation, there’s one that seems to apply to Ivanka Trump, who was a federal employee. It’s a regulation that’s called Misuse of Position and Government Resources and if you’re really interested, you can find it at 5 CFR, that’s Code of Federal Regulations section 2635.702, so this is very official. It says among other things, an employee may not use his public office for his own private gain, et cetera, et cetera. It also says an employee’s position or title should not be used to endorse any product, service, or enterprise or to give the appearance of governmental sanction.

Preet Bharara:

I remember in my days when I had a Twitter account that I was governed by these ethics rules and as U.S. attorney, I couldn’t endorse a book. I couldn’t endorse a movie. I couldn’t endorse a commercial product and there would be a penalty if I did so. Now, there’s an argument I guess, that can arguably made with respect to Ivanka Trump, that the social media accounts on which he posted these things were personal accounts and so we’re not involved in her official duties in any way as Walter Shaub and other people point out when you look at these ethics regulations, it’s a totality of the circumstances approach, and you look to see if in fact whether or not it’s labeled a private account or personal account. Does it function as an official account, an official reflection of what Ivanka Trump is doing in her capacity as an employee of the federal government.

Preet Bharara:

There’s a very good argument that because Ivanka Trump posts all sorts of official things in her social media accounts, that it is a violation, and by the way this is not the first time the ethics rules have been sort of blithely violated by members of the Trump administration. Kellyanne Conway has been cited time and time again for violations of the Hatch Act talking about politics and opposing candidates from the White House and there’s been really no consequence because there’s no enforcement and there’s not a lot of teeth, but I’m glad you asked the question and hopefully there will come a time when people will actually take their ethics obligation seriously, because among other things, it sets a very bad precedent for rank and file people in the Department of Justice, but not only there but everywhere in federal government.

Preet Bharara:

The official position you’ve been given is given to you in a public trust and it’s not supposed to be used to promote other products, particularly in this case, I think most egregiously the support of a company or a product in exchange kind of for the CEO of that company saying good things about the president.

Preet Bharara:

I have a couple of related questions that were posted on Twitter. @crookedreviews asks this, can you please discuss Posse Comitatus and how it might relate to what’s happening in Oregon right now, #AskPreet, [#CAFEInsider 00:06:26], and another tweet replying to that one from [Sinewy 00:06:30] saying, yes, please. Don’t they have to invoke the Insurrection Act if they are not invited by the state and local governments, #AskPreet, #CAFEInsider. The quick answer to your questions folks is no, and let me explain.

Preet Bharara:

We have a very long standing and important tradition in this country codified in the law in 1878, under President Rutherford B. Hayes in something called the Posse Comitatus Act and the tradition and the law is that outside of certain circumstances, the military, our troops, Army, Navy, et cetera are not permitted to help local authorities or federal authorities enforce the law. We have separate authorities for that. We have the police, we have the FBI, we have other resources, and there’s a separation between the enforcement of laws domestically in the United States that have a certain chain of command and certain responsibilities versus what our military can do, especially abroad.

Preet Bharara:

One of the reasons for that is that in a democracy, well functioning democracy as opposed to a banana republic, or as opposed to an autocratic society, you don’t want the chief executive of the country able to willy-nilly and on a whim and for whatever circumstances, political or otherwise, be able to call out troops into the streets. That happens in certain other countries that I think we don’t want to emulate, but whose example we’re a little bit creeping towards by fear, which is why we’re having a lot of this debate. The Posse Comitatus Act very specifically says whoever, except in cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the constitution or act of Congress, willfully uses any part of the Army or the Air Force as a Posse Comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws shall be fined, et cetera, et cetera, and possibly imprisoned.

Preet Bharara:

The reason that act is not implicated in what’s going on in Portland as Anne Milgram and I talked about at some length on the CAFE Insider podcast is that those are not troops who’ve been called in. Those are federal officers, and there’s lots of questions about them and the way in which they’re not identifying themselves and the authority they have to make certain arrests for certain kinds of conduct, that they are not part of the Army, the Navy, Air Force, or Marines. As far as we know, they are part of the Department of Homeland Security so that falls squarely within the authority that the president has in those circumstances, and we can have arguments about whether or not they’re overexercising their authority, whether the arrests are valid, whether there’s a quashing of First Amendment rights and whatnot, but it doesn’t run a foul of this, and then as to the second question, does the president have to vote the Insurrection Act?

Preet Bharara:

Well, first as I said, these are not troops, so the Insurrection Act doesn’t really apply, but I understand why you’re asking the question, even though these are not officially troops people in the military, because they sure look like they are. They were in camouflage. They’re not identifying themselves, they’re heavily armed. They look and act like troops even though they may technically not be. Whether or not it’s a violation of Posse Comitatus, it does seem to be a violation of the norm and the principle that we separate troops from domestic law enforcement. In fact, there was reports that the Secretary of Defense and others are a little troubled by the blurring of the line, at least aesthetically, between troops and domestic law enforcement. It’s a point well taken, although ultimately I don’t think Posse Comitatus comes into play.

Preet Bharara:

I appreciate all the questions we get at Stay Tuned and at the CAFE Insider podcast. Sometimes they’re about policy. Sometimes they’re about law. Sometimes they’re about politics. Sometimes it’s a question about my past or my experience, and sometimes people have a question or maybe even a mild criticism of how I speak and maybe some verbal ticks I might use, and a few people have observed that I do have a particular verbal tick and I’m aware of it and I’m seeking treatment, that I tend to say the phrase separate and apart from to introduce some topic.

Preet Bharara:

I thought I would address it. This question comes from Twitter user whose handle is [Miles Mac 00:10:03], who says, “When you say separate and apart from, what is the difference between separate and apart. Can something be separate but not apart from? Or apart but not separate from. Really value your perspective and insight.” #AskPreet. That’s a very polite way of saying that is a completely redundant phrase Preet, and you should knock it off, and others have been a little bit more pointed in saying, I should not use that phrase.

Preet Bharara:

I guess that’s true as a grammatical matter, then it occurred to me, why is it especially common I think among lawyerly types and it turns out maybe I knew this in the back of my mind after we did some research, that separate and apart is in fact, a legal term of art in many, many jurisdictions relating to divorce law. For example, before a marriage can be dissolved or divorce can be sought in a lot of states in the country, a showing has to be made that married persons have been living “separate and apart” for a period of time and there may or may not be a whole body of law that draws a distinction between what separate means versus what apart means.

Preet Bharara:

I guess that’s maybe why I and Anne and other people in the lawyerly pursuits have this habit of using separate and apart, I think in plain speech. My guess is it’s redundant. I can’t promise I won’t continue to use it, but also if you have a view and you have a defense of my use of separate and apart as a matter of style, write to us. Let me know. Stay tuned, there’s more coming up right after this.

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Preet Bharara:

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Preet Bharara:

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Preet Bharara:

And by the way, before we get to my interview with Eddie Glaude I just wanted to remind you, if you haven’t already, please listen to Anne Milgram’s interview with one of the Mueller teams lead prosecutors, Andrew Weissman. You don’t want to miss that.

Preet Bharara:

My guest this week is Professor Eddie Glaude, a distinguished professor of African American studies at Princeton. Glaude has spent the last 30 years reading and analyzing the late novelist, James Baldwin, whose work continues to influence the discourse on race in America. Since the killing of George Floyd and protests against police brutality erupted across the country, many have returned to Baldwin’s work to make sense of today. Glaude’s new book, Begin Again, does just that and more. I’m so excited to be joined today by Professor Eddie Glaude.

Preet Bharara:

Professor Eddie Glaude, thank you so much for joining us.

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

Oh, it’s my pleasure. Thank you for me.

Preet Bharara:

How are you? How are you doing in this time of coronavirus?

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

Ebbs and flows. Ebbs and flows. Today’s a good day, but I’m to trying to keep my head up.

Preet Bharara:

Yeah. As are we all. Congratulations on the book.

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

Thank you.

Preet Bharara:

It’s a huge success. I’ve only written one. You’ve written a whole bunch. The book is Begin Again, which I want to talk about a bit and the subject of your book. How was the writing of this book for you compared to the others you have done?

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

Oh, it was the most difficult thing… Well, one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. I suppose the most difficult book I’ve ever written was one of those Oxford’s very short introductions where you have to synthesize the entire field into the small book, but this one was so personal that I barely survived it. I thought I was going to walk with [Jimmy 00:15:41] Baldwin to reflect on Trumpism and I found myself engaging in this kind of intense self-examination. I barely survived this one. It was hard.

Preet Bharara:

I’ve always thought of him as, and refer to him as James Baldwin. Did you always call him Jimmy, or is it a privilege of having worked on a book that he’s become Jimmy?

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

I’ve been walking with James Baldwin for about 30 years. Teaching him, thinking about him, thinking with him and this one was such an intimate journey for me where he was in my head. He’s been in my head in an intense way and in my heart in an intense way for so long that he’s become Jimmy to me, and reading his papers and being in the archives and you see intimacy kind of reflected in that kind of personal description of him. When people called him Jimmy, it meant something. Whether he reciprocates or not, that’s what I’m calling him. I’m going to stick by it.

Preet Bharara:

I’m sure he would, but you go by Eddie, so it’s a little bit easier.

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

Indeed.

Preet Bharara:

You talk about this in the book obviously, but explain why Baldwin is so much in your head, in your heart for so many years.

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

Well, I think he’s the most insightful critic we have of democracy and race. When we read say, for example, Alexis de Tocqueville’s, Democracy in America, right? You get that chapter that’s an afterthought, the three races. It’s one of the most insightful descriptions of American democracy we have on record, but race is an afterthought in some ways to Tocqueville’s account of American democracy. For Baldwin, race is at the center of his thinking and so for me, he is in some ways the inheritor of Emerson. He takes Emerson across the tracks and this idea of self-creation, this idea of America is kind of, shall we say dipped in a deep blues, it encounters the experience of black people in a way that actually transforms how we might think of the very principles of American democracy.

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

He’s been so important to me because of that and he also takes seriously the dictum of Socrates, right? And that is that the unexamined life isn’t worth living. Baldwin holds the view and I came to learn this more intensely as I was working on this book that the messiness of our external world, the messiness of the world as such is a reflection of the messiness of our interior lives and we have to deal with us, our individual selves honestly in order to deal with the ghastliness of the world honestly and genuinely.

Preet Bharara:

Did Baldwin begin as a critic of democracy in his career?

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

Well, I was going to say as a black man born poor in Harlem, I guess he had an intimate experience of being critical of the United States as it was currently organized, but as far as work his Notes of a Native Son and Go Tell It on the Mountain in those early works, right? Go Tell It on the Mountain is actually the first book then Notes of a Native Son comes out. Those books are searing reflections on American democracy. Absolutely.

Preet Bharara:

He did undertake some evolution over time into the late ’50s and into the ’60. Can you describe what that evolution was like?

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

Yeah. When you read the early Baldwin, there’s this kind of preoccupation with finding his own artistic voice. There is this insistence on his own creative individuality where he doesn’t… he resists this kind of realistic depiction of black folk as simply the consequence of the sociological circumstance. That he didn’t want to reduce the art or the aesthetic choices of the black artists to his or her material conditions and so you see him fighting for his own voice, for a voice that isn’t kind of reduced to the reality of race, and you see that in the critique of Richard Wright’s Notes of a Native Son, likening that novel, native son to Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and trying to say that there’s kind of a sentimentalism at the heart of it, but by the time we get to Baldwin in ’63, ’64, ’65 we’re beginning to see a shift.

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

Fire Next Time is often seen published in ’63 as one of his most, if not the most important book of nonfiction, but we’re beginning to see because it’s a kind of prophetic gesture. If we don’t do X, then the fire is next time and of course the nation didn’t listen to him because Harlem exploded the next year and by ’65, you get Blues for Mister Charlie. I mean, there’s a sense in which he’s morphing with the changing conditions of black life and you can see the shift in his… what Michael Thelwell told me, the shift in his we. Who’s the audience? Who is he focusing on? You can begin to see despair and disillusionment color his sentences.

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

He always was rageful. He was always loving, but you can begin to see and feel the rage dripping from the sentences a little bit more as we read the later [inaudible 00:20:33].

James Baldwin:

So it was not my grandmother who raped anybody. Well, if the day comes, when you realize and you don’t want to realize it, that you can not make yourself heard, that the people who you are addressing a plea for them and for you on the pleas a very simple one. It’s saying look at it. Forget all the mountains of nonsense that have been written and everything has been said, forget the Negro problem. Don’t write any voting acts. We had that, it’s called the 15th Amendment. During the civil rights movement, 1964, what you had to look at is what is happening in this country.

James Baldwin:

What is really happening is a brother has murdered brother knowing it was his brother. White men avenge Negros knowing them to be their sons. White women have had Negroes burned knowing them to be their lovers. It is not a racial problem, it’s a problem of whether or not you’re willing to look at your life and be responsible for it and then begin to change it. That great Western house I come from is one house and I am one of the children of that house. Simply, I’m the most despised child at that house and it is because the American people are unable to face the fact that in fact I’m flesh of their flesh, bone of their bones. Created by them. My blood, my father’s blood is in that soil. They can’t face that and that is why they say Detroit went up in flames, and that is why the city of Saigon was under martial law.

Preet Bharara:

Before we get to 1968 and the things that happened in that year, that had a big effect on Baldwin’s thinking and output and approach to the world, sticking with the mid ’60s. What was Baldwin’s relationship to and with the sort of official civil rights movement specifically Dr. King?

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

Sure. First let me correct, Blues for Mister Charlie was published in 1964. I want to make sure I get that date right. His relationship to the civil rights movement. He tells the story of being in France and seeing a photo of a young girl trying to interschool Dorothy Counts and seeing this white mob surrounding her and he says in No Name in the Streets, which was written in 1972. That it was seeing that image that told him that he needed to put some skin in the game. He needed to leave Paris and return to the United States.

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

He did so by going south and he wanted to… At the invitation of Philip Roth and Partisan Review, he wanted to go down and in some ways chronicle and bear witness to what was happening and in doing so, he found himself not just simply chronicling, but bearing witness. Found himself supporting CORE. Found himself supporting SNCC and SCLC, not only financially but he also found himself in actions, right? He was in Selma several times. He was actively involved. One of his biographers, David Leeming says he actually became a member of CORE and SNCC to give you a sense of the depth of his involvement, but more than anything, this frail, vulnerable, volatile, queer black man took himself to be a witness of what was happening in that moment.

Preet Bharara:

And you’re referring of course, at the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee?

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

Yeah, absolutely and the Congress of Racial Equality. Yes, indeed.

Preet Bharara:

Then I want to get to what you talk about and write about, which is the devastation that he felt and obviously many, many people in the country felt when Dr. King was killed in 1968, in April of 1968. What was the impact on Baldwin?

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

It was devastating. Billy Dee Williams, who was with him in California when Baldwin received the call said that he never thought that Baldwin would be able to bounce back from that. The murder of Dr. King changed him forever in some ways. They killed the apostle of love and I’ve said… for some people this is a controversial statement. I said, America assassinated Dr. King. The conditions under which he bore witness, the nation refusing to in some ways fundamentally change, and Baldwin collapsed. Jimmy collapsed.

James Baldwin:

I never was able to write in New York, so I would go out and do my work and come back and do my work, if you see what I mean.

Nikki Giovanni:

Yeah. I understand.

James Baldwin:

And that all ended in a way, or somebody else began after Martin Luther King was murdered and I spent a long time in limbo. At the moment I’m based in the South of France, but there was any way ever to leave America. I would be a fool to think that there was some place I had to go where I wouldn’t carry myself with me, or there was some way for me to live if I pretended I didn’t have the responsibility which in fact I do have.

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

Relationships fell apart. He, in some ways… he didn’t quite go silent, but he didn’t write anything like a full length book until 1972. He did interviews. There was an interview published with Margaret Mead, A Rap on Race, the interview with Nikki Giovanni.

Nikki Giovanni:

In New York there’s a big campaign going on to humanize the policemen and they have billboards upstate, and they have a picture of this big cop bending over this little blonde girl and the sign say, and some people call him pig and I wanted to buy a billboard. I told a friend of mine, I want to buy a billboard and show this big cop and this 14-year-old kid with 30 bullets in him and saying, some people call him peacemaker, you know.

James Baldwin:

You ought to do it. One thing Lorraine Hansberry said get this photograph. When we had that famous meeting with Bobby Kennedy. Lorraine said to Bobby who is also dead.

Nikki Giovanni:

Everybody is dead.

James Baldwin:

Lorraine said to Bobby, in answer to something about black manhood. Lorraine said they had been talking about black men. Lorraine said she wasn’t worried about black manhood because they’ve done very well, all things considered. She was very proud of them but she told Bobby, she said, I’m very upset about the state of the civilization which produced that photograph of that white cop in Birmingham standing on that black woman’s neck.

Nikki Giovanni:

Yeah. What does that say for white manhood?

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

He wrote a couple of pieces for magazines, but for the most part, he was trying to figure out how to pick up the pieces and in 1969, he actually tried to commit suicide.

Preet Bharara:

Do you think Baldwin was affected more deeply than other black leaders at that time? And if so, why?

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

I don’t know if he was affected more deeply. Bayard Rustin once said that he was surprised that Baldwin survived as long as he did, because he would literally walk off stage trembling. He felt deeply about the question of black freedom, the question of democracy, the question of human being and as an artist, he got to the heart of the matter. I don’t want to say that King’s death mattered more to him than others, I have no basis of making such a claim, but I do know that Baldwin sensitivity, Jimmy’s orientation to the world would open him up to this kind of response if that makes sense.

Preet Bharara:

The subtitle of your book, Begin Again, is James Baldwin’s America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own. Obviously you say a lot of things about James Baldwin, but also the legacy of racism in America and how it affects us today and obviously there’s lots and lots of things that have been going on in recent weeks and months and I want to get to some of that, but you use certain phrases and terms in the book that I want to get you to elaborate on it and we’ll talk about what’s going on in the present day. You refer to the lie. What is the lie?

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

Yeah. The lie is so important. It’s the false hoods we tell ourselves about who we are as Americans. There’s a passage that’s at the heart of what I mean that Baldwin wrote in 1964 in an essay entitled the White Problem, and he says, the people who settled the country had a fatal flaw. They could recognize a man when they saw one. They knew he wasn’t anything else but a man, but since they were Christian, and since they had already decided that they came here to establish a free country, the only way to justify the role of this channel was playing in one’s life was to say that he was not a man. For if he wasn’t, then no crime had been committed. That lie is the basis of our present trouble.

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

The lie we tell about black people’s intellectual capacities, about our passions, about who we are. That lie is at the heart of a certain American self-conception and then the lie we tell about what we’ve done around the world as if we are an example of democracy achieved as if we’ve had only a benign relationship to Haiti, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the like, as if Nagasaki and Hiroshima only had to happen, right? The lie that we tell ourselves so that we can protect our innocence and then the lie that always emerges at the moment in which reality threatens to challenge American innocence and it leads to what I call this… it malforms events in order to fit the story we tell ourselves.

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

The lie is the architecture, the way in which what I call the value gap, this belief that white people matter more than others, how it takes root, how it affects our dispositions, how it in some ways distorts our character so that we can’t become the kinds of people that democracies require.

Preet Bharara:

Is that one lie or is that a lot of lies?

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

Oh, it’s a lie. It’s an art… It’s a constellation of lies like the lost cause. What is that? That’s a lie. We know it’s a lie, right? Or the way in which we narrate the story of the black freedom struggle of the mid 20th century. We tell the story as if it was only Brown v. Board of Education 1954, the Montgomery bus boycott at 1955. The student [inaudible 00:31:03] in 1960, the grand moment in 1963 with Dr. Kings my, I Have a Dream speech at the march on Washington. The legislation of Civil Rights Act of ’64 and the Voting Rights Act of ’65. Selma in ’65 and then King’s murder in ’68.

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

Black Power though is the moment in which the country, the Black Freedom Movement lost its way, Stokely Carmichael declaring what we’re going to… Black Power from the top of a bus in Greenwood, Mississippi was a moment of decline, right? We begin to tell this story of the black freedom struggle in such a way that it affirms America’s progress to a more perfect union. It fits neatly and efficiently in the story we tell ourselves and in some ways that’s a lie that protects our innocence and our willful ignorance.

Preet Bharara:

Is there some sense in which the lie or the lies as you describe them have changed, have become less malignant, have become less dangerous or taken on a different form? Or are we in the same place that we were in 50 years ago or a 100 years ago with respect to these things you call lies?

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

Baldwin says that America is always changing, but it never changes. There’s a set-

Preet Bharara:

That’s pretty profound. I’m not sure I understand that.

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

Yeah. It’s always moving, but then there’s something underneath it that is constant. One could say if you hold the belief that white people matter more than others, that belief looks like… it looks like one thing in the context of slavery, it looks like another in the context of Jim Crow and it looks like another in the context of the first black president, right? But the beliefs still obtains across those different historical epics. It’s still doing work. We’re hearing the lie right now, right? The way in which it’s being reasserted in the face of Black Lives Matter and the challenge to the form of policing in the country. We’re hearing it in the defense of Confederate monuments, in the defense of our heritage, in the defense of a certain understanding of America’s beginnings. That’s a reassertion of the lie that bears a family resemblance to what we’ve been telling ourselves since our founding.

Preet Bharara:

I’m guessing, even in the absence of these debates and the reassertion of respect for, and dedication to the Confederacy and its monuments and memorials, that the backdrop of the country is a lie which is an interesting word as you talk about it, because usually you think about lies being very intentional and part of what you’re talking about it seems is an utter lack of self-awareness on the part of America and Americans about the foundation of the country in all sorts of other structural things, how intentional is the lie?

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

It varies, right? I mean, it comes to us in the forms of inheritances that this is the way we come to understand ourselves as Americans. That we are an example of democracy achieved that… particularly for white Americans and I’m speaking here in the generality obviously. There is an intimate, inextricable connection between understanding America in a certain sort of way in their own identity as Americans. I write about this in the book. I think there’s also this willful ignorance, willful blindness. There’s a line in Baldwin’s Fire Next Time.

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

It’s a fascinating moment in My Dungeon Shook, which is a letter to his nephew. He says, and I know which is much worse and this is the crime of which I accuse my country and my countrymen for which neither I, nor time, nor history will ever forgive them. That they have destroyed and are destroying hundreds of thousands of lives and do not know it and do not want to know it. One can be indeed, one must strive to become tough and philosophical concerning destruction and death for this is what most of mankind has been best at since we’ve heard of man, but it is not permissible that the authors of devastation should also be innocent. It is the innocence which constitutes the crime.

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

We know how ghettos came into existence. We know what’s happening across the tracks, right? The country knows its history but yet it still claims innocence, and Baldwin is very explicit in his indictment and condemnation. The innocence is also the crime.

Preet Bharara:

You mentioned it already and I was going to ask you next about the term value gap. Elaborate on that and tell folks who may not want to hear it, what the evidence is of that value gap.

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

Right. I talk about this in my last book, Democracy in Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul. The value gap is this belief that white people matter more than others and that belief takes root in our habits. How our characters are formed.

James Baldwin:

To elucidate for myself a theology and the effects of a theology which I at that moment realize, I carry it in myself. It was not the world that was my oppressor only, because what the world does to you is the world does it to you long enough and effectively enough. You begin to do it to yourself. You become a collaborator, an accomplice of your own murderers because you believe the same things they do know. They think it’s important to be white and you think it’s important to be white. They think it is shameful to be black and you think it is shameful to be black, and you have no corroboration around you of any other sense of life.

James Baldwin:

All those corroborations which are around you are in terms of the white majority standards, so deplorable. They’re fighting you to death.

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

And we see that belief evidenced in our social, political, and economic arrangements. We can see it in the various ways in which advantage and disadvantage is distributed in the country throughout the country. The value gap is evidenced in the way in which we fund public education, the way in which we think about housing, the way in which we think about healthcare or execute healthcare, right? We can begin to see across the board the way in which policies have been passed which reflects this belief that certain people because of the color of their skin are valued more than others, right?

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

Concrete example, in the context of the new deal and in the post World War II era, this is the moment in which the bond to American middle class emerges and becomes power… Black folk are cut out from most of those benefits. Why? Because a deal was brokered between Roosevelt and the Dixiecrats and Southern Democrats, right? The wealth gap isn’t a result of just simply black folk not working hard, it has something to do with the history of a dual labor market. It has something to do with the history of a dual housing market. It has something to do with policies that literally excluded black folk from the benefits of this moment that led to the emergence of the United States as a world power.

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

Part of the challenge for us is to say that the world as it is isn’t just simply a result of happenstance. We’ve made decisions that are reflected in the world. Cancer Alley looks the way it looks for a reason. Birmingham looks the way it looks for a reason. Princeton University looks the way it looks for a reason. I’ve said this before. I said we can tear down the monuments of Confederate statues but the highways of Chicago, surrounding Chicago are monuments. They reflect a particular ideology that led to how they were built that reflected the valuing of certain people in the de-valuing of others.

Preet Bharara:

The highways in New York, Robert Moses.

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

Exactly, exactly. The parks, the built environment of the United States reflect… I tell people all the time, you can learn race just by simply driving around the country.

Preet Bharara:

I want to talk a little bit about Black Lives Matter, both the statement and then also the movement to the extent that it is a movement. Why do you think it is so hard for some folks, white folks to simply say the phrase, black lives matter? Why do they retaliate against that?

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

I think at its heart it’s because it reveals something about them. To assert that black lives matter is to concede to the claim that there are practices that devalue black lives.

Preet Bharara:

It goes back to the lie.

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

Exactly. One of the most difficult things about being black in this country is the ongoing work, the exhausting work of trying to convince white America that what is happening to us is real and for them to admit it, and again, I’m talking in the generality here. For them to admit it is to somehow admit their complicity in it all. The moment we assert black lives matter or the moment we assert black power, or the moment we assert freedom now just to give us a sense of the generations of these slogans, right? There’s an immediate call, an immediate counter to these sorts of slogans because the slogans reveal the failure on the part of the society.

Preet Bharara:

It requires an admission.

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

Exactly.

Preet Bharara:

… that there’s a problem and that there is racism and for some folks based on what I hear people say, and I wonder how you respond to people like this. They’ll say I myself am not racist. I myself view everyone equally. I myself I’ve never owned slaves. I myself have never hoisted a Confederate flag. I am good in all these ways. I don’t want this to be on me and I don’t need to hear from Eddie Glaude lecturing me about stuff that doesn’t involve me. How do you respond to that?

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

I hear it all the time. That they reduce racism to this act of individual prejudice, right? That I’m not responsible for this, or I’m not responsible for that and you know what? I’m not angry in responding to that which is always bubbling beneath the surface. I respond with this example. I believe as an example by way of analogy, right? Or a response by way of analogy. I believe the planet is in dire straits. I think climate change is real, but if you look at my house, if you look at the way I live, the choices I make, you would think that I thought the planet was healthy, that there was nothing wrong, right?

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

I’m not an active climate change denier, but the choices I make are constantly reproducing the conditions that harm the world. From my light bulbs, to the car I drive, to the way in which I use energy. What is the analogy. You don’t have to be a loud racist. The only thing you have to do is to say, I want my kids to go to great schools and usually according to social science data, whenever you hear that phrase, that’s a proxy for how many black and brown kids go to that school.

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

You can see about, well, I don’t want these people to live in my neighborhood because it’ll decrease my property value, or we’re making choices day in and day out that reproduce a world where certain people are valued and certain people that are not, and that has nothing to do with whether as you’re walking around screaming the N word, right? Or declaring oneself a white supremacist, right?

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

You don’t have to be Richard Spencer. We saw that in Manhattan when the chancellor was trying to what? Integrate schools. Remember that? And all of these liberal folk were in town hall meetings raising hell about what this would mean for the quality of their schools.

Speaker 6:

Stubbornly persistent segregation in New York City’s public schools once again took center stage Friday. Newly appointed Schools Chancellor, Richard Carranza weighed in on Tuesday nights, [rockers 00:42:32] meeting at P.S. 199 on Manhattan’s Upper West side, one of the city’s wealthiest and whitest schools.

Speaker 7:

You’re telling them, you’re going to go to the school that’s not going to educate you in the same way you’ve been educated. Life sucks. Is that what the [DUI 00:42:48] wants to say?

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

Part of what I’m saying here is that when we think of racism or white supremacy as simply the result of individual acts of prejudice or individual acts of discrimination, then we lose sight of the accumulative effect and benefit that white supremacy and racism have played over the course of generations.

Preet Bharara:

Do you think America has changed and is on the path to real change in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd?

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

It would be ahistorical to say that America has not changed at all. My daddy couldn’t go to Princeton and here I am a university professor at Princeton. There are exceptions, but we do know, we do know that the shifts and changes have been piecemeal incremental.

James Baldwin:

What is it you wanted me to reconcile myself to? I was born here almost 60 years ago. I’m not going to live another 60 years. You always told me it takes time. It’s taking my father’s time, my mother’s time. My uncle’s time, my brother’s and my sister’s time. My nieces’ and my nephews’ time. How much time do you want for your progress?

Preet Bharara:

With respect to the killing of George Floyd, do you think America has changed, and is on a path to change?

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

No. I’m not sure yet.

Preet Bharara:

You’re not saying no. You’re just… You’re not sure.

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

Yeah. I mean, there’s a moment where James Baldwin is interviewing Benjamin Chavis, former president of the NAACP, part of the Wilmington Ten and this is for his documentary. I heard it through the grapevine. There’s this startling moment where Baldwin says in effect, we’re still living under the slave codes. I mean, this is a startling provocative formulation but he’s talking about policing in the country. When that former police officer had his knee on George Floyd’s neck and that look on his face with no regard for the humanity of the person underneath that knee, that was an echo, that was a through line in American history. That’s not different, that’s familiar to every parent, every black person who has any sense of awareness.

James Baldwin:

A cop is a cop.

Nikki Giovanni:

Well, cops are white.

James Baldwin:

He may be a very nice man, but I haven’t got the time to figure that out. All I know is he’s got a uniform-

Nikki Giovanni:

[crosstalk 00:45:16].

James Baldwin:

… and a gun, and I have to relate to him that way. That’s the only way to relate to him at all because one of us is going to know one of us may have to die.

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

But people… That public lynching was the match to light to tinderbox where in that moment where it’s the possibility of change. I call it a moral reckoning, but there’s no guarantee we’re already starting to hear pivots. We’re already starting to hear it so we’ll see.

Preet Bharara:

Are we hearing those pivots because people grow tired and they can’t focus so much on one thing at a time, or it’s just a gravitational pull back to where we were before.

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

It’s a combination of things. There has been a deformation of attention over the last few decades where we move quickly as we can click. There’s that. There is the reality of a global pandemic and the incompetence of an administration that has failed at every turn to address the fact that this pandemic is killing Americans at alarming rates, what? 3 million infected and over 130,000 dead as of this conversation. There’s that but then there is… America has a tendency to exhaust itself fairly quickly when it comes to race matters. It wants to congratulate itself fairly quickly and then expect gratitude.

Preet Bharara:

Is that why you think that… Some things that have happened very quickly, it takes a while to change attitudes. It takes a long while to change culture. It takes some amount of time to change laws, but the Washington Redskins are no more. Various statutes have been taken down. Are those real things, are those performative things which has become a popular word? Do they matter? How do you think about those things?

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

Well, they matter. They matter but they can’t be the substance of the response. I mean, it matters for example that the Mississippi flag has been taken down with the battle flag of the Confederacy but at the same time the governor signed that piece of legislation, he also was denying legislation, vetoing legislation that could have fundamentally helped poor black and white people in the state of Mississippi. There’s a sense in which the symbolic shifts are critical in announcing perhaps the beginnings of a shift in how we think of one another, but they can’t be the substance of our response.

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

Oftentimes, again, given the fact that we’re such an immature nation, and I can explain what I mean by that. We’re so immature that we want to be congratulated for every gesture and then there’s the expectation that we should be grateful. Governor Cuomo could tell the protestors, you’ve achieved what you wanted to achieve. Go on home now. Really? Really?

Preet Bharara:

It’s like a version of completely different setting, but the version of Donald Trump wearing a mask for the first time publicly and wanting to be congratulated and thanked.

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

Exactly.

Preet Bharara:

And admired for doing the bare minimum that is necessary as a leader of the country where 130,000 people have died.

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

Exactly, exactly. We need much more. We need much more. We’re on the precipice, we will see what will happen.

Preet Bharara:

Is Black Lives Matter a movement like the civil rights movement of the ’60s, or is it something different?

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

It’s something different. We need to think about the 1960s as a historical aberration. We tend to read it as the norm, but when you think about the history of the country, the ’60s stand out as abnormal. I want to say that Black Lives Matter is kind of like a broad rubric under which a number of different political iterations or political organizations exist. It might be better to think of Black Lives Matter not as a movement, but as a slogan that organizes different… or a slogan used by different political organizations in this moment.

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

When we read Black Lives Matter as a movement, we want to identify leaders. We want to identify agenda. We want to identify particular persons who are engaged in a kind of concerted organized effort to do X, Y, and Z, but what-

Preet Bharara:

Strategy.

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

Exactly. If we think about Black Lives Matter as a general sensibility that’s organizing different ways of expressing our discontent with the society as it is, now we’re looking for a little bit more complexity. We’re being a little bit more nuanced in our analysis, and the analogy I would use is like Black Power. To think of Black Power as a movement is to lose sight of all the different organizations that were part of Black Power, from the Black Panther Party to the [US Movement 00:49:51], to the Revolutionary Action Movement, to Black Studies movements that led to African American studies in universities.

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

I mean, it’s just a variety of political organizing that’s happening underneath that rubric. I tend to resist reading Black Lives Matter as a movement. Instead, I think it’s a rubric under which different kinds of grassroots organizations are doing extraordinary work.

Preet Bharara:

I want to tell you about another podcast I think you should listen to. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, a white supremacist became an American political phenomenon. On the fourth season of Slow Burn out now, hear the story of David Duke’s rise to power and prominence. His election to the Louisiana legislature and then his campaigns for the U.S. Senate and the governorship. An existential crisis for the state and the nation. Hear how a Nazi sympathizer and former Klansman fashioned himself into a mainstream figure and why some voters came to embrace his message.

Preet Bharara:

Host Josh Levin examines how activists, journalists, and ordinary citizens confronted Duke’s candidacy and what it took to stop him. Subscribe to Slow Burn from Slate, in Apple podcasts or wherever you listen.

Preet Bharara:

Can you discuss a phrase that a lot of people have clung to in the past and still, and tell me what you think it means and whether it’s an aspiration, a proper aspiration, or is it something that’s quite distorted in the minds of people who use it and that is the need for colorblind society.

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

Yeah. To me that’s just a-

Preet Bharara:

What does that mean to you?

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

Neoliberal racism.

Preet Bharara:

How so?

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

The idea is not for you not to see me. The idea is not for me to leave the particularity of who I am and the history at the door in order to gain inclusion. That’s not the idea. Colorblindness is a kind of facile way of addressing the reality that confronts us in this moment, and it allows for in a way the continued inequality that has been the consequence of color conscious, right policy. The response to a hundred plus years, 400 years of policy that has been driven by the value gap, then the response is a kind of colorblindness which doesn’t necessarily respond to the particular ways in which particular people have been singled out for a specific kind of treatment, leaves us hanging in the wind.

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

You would want to lift all boats and as you’re lifting all boats, the inequality is still present. It doesn’t really address the specific ways in which black folk have caught hell in this country precisely because they’re black.

Preet Bharara:

What do you make of people who criticize the Black Lives Matter movement and who defend Confederate flags, who then quote from Dr. King and in particular some of his famous phrases including about judging someone by the content of their character, rather than the color of their skin. That goes to a kind of colorblindness fetish also. What do you make of people who invoke King but have a certain stance in the current moment?

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

You know, it’s bad faith. It’s like conservatives thinking about college campuses and invoking free speech as if they were proponents of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement or something. It’s always this kind of inversion, this kind of ironic appropriation of the languages of the freedom movement of the 1960s and then applying it for ends that you would find, at least I would find suspect.

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

Whenever these people invoke Dr. King, Dr. King is being used in that moment as a rear guard action. None of these folks, even the folks in the moment which Minneapolis exploded and they were quoting Dr. King and you would have to ask the question, “Okay, you quote Dr. King. That’s great, but do you actually believe in nonviolence, in the philosophy of nonviolence. That’s at the heart of his critique of urban rebellions?” If you don’t believe it, why are you quoting it?

Preet Bharara:

And you also wonder what they would’ve thought of King-

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

Of course.

Preet Bharara:

In 1963.

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

Of course. We tend to associate the call for law and order with the Nixon administration, but calls for law and order actually predate Nixon. You can hear it in response to King’s nonviolent mass demonstrations in the South. I just think it’s just a bad faith appropriation of Dr. King in order to discipline forms of black political descent.

Preet Bharara:

Are there any elements of Black Lives Matter that you think warrant criticism?

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

Of course. There are elements of whatever any… I think human beings are fallen, finite creatures. We make mistakes. I think any kind of effort to fundamentally transform a society carries with it the dangers of making mistakes, dangers of excess. Whenever there is an expression of anger you have… going all the way back to Aristotle. You have the spectrum of anger. Anger is actually, for Aristotle, the source of virtue. If you are not angry, if you are incapable of anger, then you’re a fool. Aristotle says, but then there could be excessive expressions of anger that leaves the ground scorched. Of course there’s room for criticism just as there’s room for celebration.

Preet Bharara:

You talk about forgiveness and anger. I want to ask you about a couple of cases that involve things that people have done, and there are mixed reactions to what the consequence should be and they’ve been on my mind a bit. One is almost exact same time… I think maybe even the same day that George Floyd was killed, there was an incident in Central Park in New York where a white woman, Amy Cooper threatened to call the cops on a black man, Christian Cooper, no relation. Who was simply engaging in birdwatching in the park and she made it clear that she was going to be falsely telling the police when calling 911 that she was being attacked by a black man and that caused an uproar.

Preet Bharara:

She got fired from her job. She was identified quickly and then some weeks later the decision was made by the local prosecutor to actually charge Amy Cooper with a crime and the victim of that crime, the person about whom a false 911 report was made has himself said very graciously, I think she’s suffered enough. I don’t know that prosecution adds anything to it and suggested that he would not cooperate with the prosecution. I am a former prosecutor. I spent a lot of time dealing with these issues and I will tell you that I have a hard time figuring out what the right approach in that case is. Do you have a view of that or how we should think about those kinds of things?

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

Sure. I’m not an abolitionist. I haven’t quite gotten there yet, but I am of the mind that we can’t respond to every situation with the idea of incarceration. I am a fundamental critic of the carceral state. Just as I don’t want a nonviolent offenders to be thrown away in jail and prison, I want to be consistent in that view. I tend to think just as I would about someone selling weed on the corner of a particular block shouldn’t be thrown away in jails or prisons. I don’t think Amy Cooper should experience prosecution in this sense.

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

It seems to me our ready at hand response to these sorts of matters is to involve the criminal justice system, is to figure out punishment and that punishment always takes a particular kind of form. If we’re trying to reimagine public safety, we need to be consistent in our reimagining of it. Now that doesn’t mean, I don’t think that Amy Cooper should be held accountable. I mean, there should be a fine. There should be some form of punishment that follows what she did because in effect she threatened the life of that man, because we know what these sorts of encounters can generate. The idea that she has to do time is anathema to how I think of matters.

Preet Bharara:

Should she be forgiven?

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

Well, that’s up to the man who bore the brunt of her hysteria, and I use that language hysteria not in a gendered sense, but in the sense in which how race works. I’m mindful of how hysteria can latch on to women but I’m not using it in that sense. I’m just trying to think about the way in which the black body has been read and continues to be read in public spaces. It’s up to him. I don’t think… For me it shouldn’t be forgotten.

Preet Bharara:

I want to ask you about another case, not a criminal case, because I’ve been thinking about these issues of whose voices should be weighed how. Does everyone have sort of equal voice on something? You’ll recall about a year and a half ago, the governor of Virginia, Ralph Northam, it was discovered that when he was back in medical school it turns out there was some controversy about which picture showed what, but he was shown in black face and it became an immediate controversy and scandal. Lots of people called for his resignation. For what it’s worth I was one of those people. I joined the bandwagon as a private citizen podcaster because I thought it was offensive and it was terrible. There were some reasons why some political operatives did not want him to step down because of the potential successors, but a lot of white liberals called for him to step down.

Preet Bharara:

In fairness my recollection is the legislative Black Caucus went to him and asked him to step down but the poll showed in the state of Virginia, that 60% of black voters did not want him to resign. They thought about how he was an ally to them in the present day and were prepared to forgive so long as the apology was genuine. They were prepared to forgive what he did in medical school and wanted to keep him in office. Do you have any reaction to that controversy and whether or not white calls for someone to step down in the face of a majority of black citizens who are the ones to be most directly offended by the conduct, how you balance that, or is that a silly question?

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

No, it’s not a silly question at all. I mean, like you I called for the governor to step down as well after a while, right? And then of course the controversy around the alleged rape or the accusation of rape I think with the lieutenant governor, and all of the things that followed in terms of who would succeed whom. I understood what local organizers and local voters were saying. I think our task in that moment is to think beyond the particular person. How can I put this? We need to get to a point or a place in the society where holding certain kinds of views are immediately sanctioned so that it can become general common sense that there’s no advantage to be had for holding such views.

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

How we apply that standard will vary, but nevertheless, it should be a standard. I understand what the voters of Virginia were saying. I see what Governor Northam has been trying to do at the level of policy, and we have to assess him against the concrete changes and accomplishments he’s made in his time in office. I don’t regret trying to insist that public sanction follows the discovery of ugliness.

Preet Bharara:

I guess, what I’m getting at is, it seems very quick for lots of folks who are not black to have an immediate reaction to something, to a bit of language or conduct or something else and should they pause for a moment and hear what black people have to say about it in considering what their own reaction should be? Or is that not the right way to think about it?

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

It’s some combination. I think it’s some combination because sometimes black folk can be wrong too. We can be wrong [inaudible 01:02:07] and we have to be mindful of that. I mean, I think at this point it’s about the values animating our decision making. Experience of course matters, but we want to make sure that we’re being as consistent as possible with regards to really signaling that certain kinds of behavior have no quarter to breathe in our public life.

Preet Bharara:

What is the obligation in your mind? The obligation or duty of a black elected official to focus heavily on race and racial injustice? Is it the same as, less than, or equal to a white elected official?

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

That’s a great question. I would say depends on the constituency. If 90% of black folks voted you in office, I’m thinking about Barack Obama here, understanding the political constraints, you still have to deliver for those constituents, right? That constituent. You can’t suddenly not be able to talk to them for fear of a backlash. You have to be able… otherwise black folk become a captured electorate. We don’t participate in electoral process in the same way as other constituencies do. That is you mobilize yourself. You mobilize around particular interests. You elect people who will pursue those interests and then you hold them accountable relative to their success and failure in making good on the promises in light of those interests.

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

If black folk can’t do that, then we don’t participate in the political process like other groups do, like other constituencies do. I’m not trying to say that there’s a one-to-one relationship between being black and representing “black interest”. One could assume that by virtue of being black, coming out of this tradition that you will be open to understanding some of the issues that confront black communities across the country. I understand the constraints of the political environment, you still should be expected I think to at least understand the view, but there’s no necessary relationship between being black and representing the interest of black communities if that makes sense.

Preet Bharara:

And you mentioned the former president, I wanted to ask you about that.

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

Sure.

Preet Bharara:

What’s your assessment of President Obama with respect to these issues?

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

In Democracy in Black, I was really hard on President Obama’s years. I thought he could have done much more. I thought he could have been bolder. I wanted him to shift the center of gravity of the racial discourse in the country. I thought he bent too much to the wheel of those were still committed to the old framework. In fact, he just simply… he maneuvered quite well actually within that old framework, particularly coming out of the Great Recession. The devastation in our communities was mind-blowing and we still haven’t bounced back and now we’re in a pandemic-

Preet Bharara:

And what about… do you think there was a weight on him-

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

Sure.

Preet Bharara:

… as the first black president?

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

Absolutely.

Preet Bharara:

And unnecessarily and legitimate constricting weight?

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

Yes, but at some point when you hear Mitch McConnell say we’re going to make you a one-term president, at some point you just simply need to say to hell with it and go big. Why is the ongoing mantra, bipartisan dah, dah, dah, dah, when you know your partners aren’t engaging in good faith. Go big, change the frame, unless you’re committed to the frame as it was, or as it is. This is what’s so powerful but our current moment. We have an opportunity to break the back of Reaganism, because it is clear in this global pandemic in the midst of this racial crisis, that the country is broken and we need to do something different, because remember Barack Obama is swept into office by way of a massive grassroots activism, having everything to do with the anti-Iraq war movement.

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

We saw a fight for living wage. We saw organizing around policing. All of this was the wind beneath his wings, and once he got elected, in some ways, he demobilized that energy. That energy found a way to reconstitute itself where we saw it in the form of Occupy Wall Street, we saw it in the form of Black Lives Matter in the context of his administration. Now, that organizing has… they continued. They have been continuing to do the work outside of the camera and we’re seeing the fruits of that work today. The short answer to your question, Preet, is that I understand the symbolic significance of the first black president. I was deeply disappointed.

Preet Bharara:

Well, how are these things going to work out if Trump is reelected?

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

The country won’t survive. I’m-

Preet Bharara:

The country won’t survive.

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

No. The erosion of the institutions… I mean, it’s like this, right? To my mind, the country won’t survive. As a country boy from Mississippi this is what I’m thinking. Yeah. If you recognize the termites in the floor and you think you can go another year or two or three or four years by having the termites in the floor, by the time you pull it up, you’re going to have to pull up everything, right? The wood is going to be destroyed. The erosion, not only of democratic norms, but the erosion of our institutional foundations, the foundations to our institution, even as people celebrate what the court has been doing, what the courts have been doing. We are in we’re on a knife’s edge as a country as this administration continues to thumb its nose at democratic norms and continues to exert the power of the executive branch on all facets of American institutional life.

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

If he got another four years they will be more emboldened and I don’t know if American democracy can survive at all.

Preet Bharara:

Let’s go back to 2016 for a second. I’m not revealing any secret. You’ve talked about this. Publicly you chose, and correct me if I’m getting the reasoning wrong. You chose not to cast a ballot for Hillary Clinton in 2016 in part because you thought the vote wouldn’t matter as much because you come from a blue state, New Jersey. How do you feel about that decision in retrospect, do you stand by it and how do you feel about what people should do with respect to their votes in 2020?

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

I write about this in Begin Again. Baldwin faced something similar in 1979 with the election between Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter. Jimmy Carter had been swept into office, southerner, black support particularly from the black leadership class from the civil rights movement and became once he entered office as president to kind of implement austerity across the board literally implementing policies that were devastating for black communities, particularly in urban areas. Black America was upset. Jesse Jackson even declared that Jimmy Carter had betrayed us to quote him here.

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

Baldwin was faced with Carter and Reagan, and it’s very clear… We need to be clear that for many activists during this period, Ronald Reagan was as bad as George Wallace. He was the governor of California during the repression of the Black Panther Party and Angela Davis and the like. He represented the face of this backlash as people called it, right? And a backlash is just simply a nice way of saying that white people can be racist again. Baldwin says that choosing between this guy who basically betrayed us and this guy who is who he is, oftentimes black folk don’t have anything to vote for, but then he said this and I should have known this as a lifelong reader of Baldwin.

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

He said sometimes black folk simply vote to buy themselves some time, to buy themselves some time. Now, in 2015 as I saw Hillary Clinton ascend and I saw that Clintonism still had a stranglehold on the Democratic Party and Jeb Bush was at the time that the rumored leader of the Republican side. I was like, we have to really do some work to break the back of this particular form of politics and it’s hold on the Democratic Party coming out of eight years of Obama’s administration where we had to, in some ways, mute the conversation around race. We need to turn the volume up as loud as we can, push the Democratic Party and hold them accountable.

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

I became even more intent in this view when the Republicans nominated Donald Trump, because I did not believe that America would elect someone so visibly incapable of running the country. So visibly unqualified to be the president of the United-

Preet Bharara:

We were both wrong.

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

I mean, that’s what I’m saying… I mean, and the way I put it is that I overestimated white America. I over overestimated white folks. I’m like, they couldn’t possibly elect this guy. To be honest with you I said, they couldn’t possibly elect this idiot. That’s the language I used, and so I thought I had the space to really push the Democratic Party left and then Hillary Clinton thumbs our nose at the Bernie Sanders movement. I wasn’t even a Bernie Sanders guy, but she thumbs her nose at the Bernie Sanders people by appointing Tim Kaine as the vice presidential candidate on the ticket and then the way in which the campaign was run.

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

I remember activists screaming from the top of their lungs from Florida to Wisconsin, particularly out of Milwaukee. We’re not going to turn out for. They need to do more, and then to just simply at the end of the day, bring out LeBron and Beyonce and Barack Obama. It just angered me in some ways. Looking back on it, what I thought I had room to do I now realize that I didn’t because we were already in our aftertimes. White America was beginning to double down on its ugliness in the face of it change and I should have known that. I should have known better.

Preet Bharara:

And so for 2020, what’s your plan?

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

We got to get him out of office, man.

Preet Bharara:

Okay.

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

We got to get him out of office, but we also, we can’t choose safety, and I write about this in Begin Again. We have to get Trump out of office, but we can’t choose safety… In the Martin King speech in Montgomery in ’65 comes to mind. King is saying, people want us to go back to normal. They want us to go back to normalcy and then he starts listing what was normal and it’s ghastly. I don’t want to go back to anything. That world, people suffered even before Trump. The wealth gap before Trump. I mean, we can go down the line. There’s nothing to go back to. We need to envision a new America and that’s what we have to push for even as we try to get this disaster out of office.

Preet Bharara:

I want to go back to what you were talking about earlier when we were speaking of Martin Luther King’s death in 1968 and how devastating it was to James Baldwin and he tries to commit suicide, but then you’ve also said that it was then that Baldwin gives utterance to this line. Hope is invented every day. Is that a personal mantra of yours, and should it be a personal mantra for all of us?

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

Absolutely. Absolutely. Hope is not guaranteed. This is not Voltaire’s Candide. This is not Pangloss. No, we have to deal with the ugliness right in front of us. There’s a wonderful poignant line in Du Bois’s Souls of Black Folk [inaudible 01:13:26] where he talks about the death of his son and he says, it’s a hope not hopeless but unhopeful. That’s a blue soaked hope. In the face of the tragic circumstances of our lives, the face that loved ones are dying and we can’t go to their funeral, we can’t sit shiva. Loved ones who are passing away and we can’t walk a second line parade to send them home in New Orleans. You have to find hope in the moment and sometimes you can find that hope in looking into your child’s eyes or looking at the glimmer that shines through the crack.

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

I’m a scholar of African American religion and my first book was entitled Exodus! and thinking about how enslaved people who had no real tangible language to imagine that they could live in a way other than being a slave. They found hope in those moments, whether it’s looking in the eyes of a loved one, looking at the fleeting smile of a child, and that became the basis to imagine themselves beyond their condition of living. Hope is invented every day my Lord. Yes, indeed.

Preet Bharara:

How should America commemorate and mark the 4th of July?

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

That’s a complicated… Preet [inaudible 01:14:46] damn. I don’t know. 4th of July is so ironic to me. Before it became this holiday in America’s civil calendar, its sacred calendar, the American Colonization Society used July 4th to raise money in order to send ex-slaves and black people out of the country, right? Some irony of all ironies, and then in the early 19th century when we showed up to these marches and parades, literally black people would be attacked because our bodies represented the contradiction of what was being celebrated.

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

I would love for the 4th of July to be a day where we celebrate a third founding of the country. A new America when the 4th of July is invested with all of the weight of our contradictions and our aspirations as opposed to just the celebratory account of the country.

Preet Bharara:

When you say the third founding, the second founding in your view as you write about in the book is what?

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

The civil war and radical reconstruction. The modern U.S. nation state is created in that moment. Citizenship is untethered from race in that moment, the passage 13, 14, 15th Amendments. We get a notion of federal government that is robust in that moment and of course, after radical reconstruction you get the country doubling down on its ugliness with the passage of Jim Crow laws and convict leasing and Anglo-Saxonism defining our global enterprises and the like.

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

You can imagine Frederick Douglas lives long enough to… is born as a slave. Lives long enough to see Abraham Lincoln but he also lives long enough to see the first Jim Crow law passed in Mississippi and he dies a year before Plessy v. Ferguson.

Preet Bharara:

Well, it’s the title of your book, Begin Again.

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

Yeah.

Preet Bharara:

Professor Eddie Glaude, thank you so much for being with me. It was a great hour to spend.

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

Man, it was wonderful. I really appreciate you. Thank you so much.

Preet Bharara:

Congratulations again on the book and I hope that in the middle of coronavirus you’re still able to get the word out about the book. I know it’s difficult for some authors.

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

Yeah. We’re blessed. This is one way to happen and just this is such a thoughtful conversation. Thank you so much.

Preet Bharara:

I really enjoyed it. Thank you so-

Eddie Glaude Jr.:

Indeed.

Preet Bharara:

My conversation with Professor Eddie Glaude continues for members of the CAFE Insider community. Insiders get bonus Stay Tuned content, the exclusive weekly podcast I co-host with Anne Milgrim, the United Security podcast co-hosted by Lisa Monaco and Ken Wainstein, recordings of weekly notes by Elie Honig and me and more. To get a free two week trial head to cafe.com/insider. That’s cafe.com/insider.

Preet Bharara:

From time to time, I tape an interview like I did with Professor Eddie Glaude and we don’t air it right away and some days pass, and sometimes in the intervening days, some event transpires that I really wish I could have asked the guest about. Well, that happened again in the last couple of weeks. Since the time that I interviewed Eddie Glaude about all the issues you heard about earlier, we lost an American legend in this country. John Lewis, as you all know, House of Representatives member, civil rights hero, fighter for justice passed away after a battle with cancer last Friday evening.

Preet Bharara:

Even though Eddie and I didn’t have a chance to talk about it, I wanted to end the show and say a few words about John Lewis. I don’t have a lot to add to all the praise and all the stories that have been told over the last week and there have been a lot of it, but I wanted to add my words to theirs. As you know by now he had a favorite phrase, which was good trouble. John Lewis was in his own words a troublemaker in the best tradition of this country, and so he referred to his life’s work as getting into good trouble, which meant signing up for work that requires direct and personal confrontation with injustice and corruption and bigotry.

Preet Bharara:

In every single way, he was brave and he was bold. He had not only moral courage, but also physical courage. That’s what it took to march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in 1965 and to take the blows and not fight back and be beaten to within an inch of his life. John Lewis understood as well as anyone on earth that well-written laws are not enough to guarantee victory for the rule of law. He knew better than anyone, that moral force not just legal might, must be brought to any battle for justice. Throughout his lifetime John Lewis received just about every award and honor this side of heaven.

Preet Bharara:

Among others he received the Liberty Medal, the Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Lincoln Medal, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Nonviolent Peace Prize, the NAACP Medal and the only John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award in lifetime achievement. Not to mention that he was returned to Congress 16 times by the voters in his district. There were a couple of times when I worked in the Congress that I happened to be in the same room with him and saw him from a distance, but I never met him or had an opportunity to have a conversation with him until last September.

Preet Bharara:

I was asked to help honor John Lewis by the Federal Bar Association, and he was being given an award aptly named the Rule Of Law Award and I’ll never forget going to the event, which was held in the Ceremonial Courtroom on the ninth floor of 500 Pearl Street at the courthouse there that I’ve spent a lot of time in. It’s the room in which I myself got sworn in as the United States attorney and to be alongside other officials to honor this great man. One of my favorite possessions and even more precious now is a photograph I have of shaking John Lewis’s hand after I finished speaking about him.

Preet Bharara:

As usual when John Lewis spoke, his words were incredibly moving, powerful, potent. He exudes an aura of moral authority more than any elected officials I’ve ever met, and when we had a little conversation about how things were going in the country, he said to me, and I don’t know if he meant it or not, but it meant a lot to me. He said, “Next time you’re in Washington, come by and say, hello.” Well, I never got that chance and I’m sorry for that. As you know, John Lewis came to prominence during the march on Washington in 1963. He was the youngest speaker at that event and he was in some ways the most fiery speaker. Among other things, he said-

John Lewis:

“To those who have said, “Be patient and wait.” We’ve long said that we cannot be patient. We do not want our freedom gradually, but we want to be free now. We are tired. We are tired of being beaten by policemen. We are tired of seeing our people locked up in jail over and over again.”

Preet Bharara:

And that was two years before he himself was beaten on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Perhaps the thing that John Lewis cared about most deeply and is so relevant today, more relevant than it ever has been, perhaps in modern times, was not just the power of protest, but the power of protest in favor of the right to vote. This past week, I noted someone posted on Twitter. It was the eldest son of Dr. Martin Luther King quoting John Lewis in his own words, “the vote is precious. It is almost sacred. It the most powerful nonviolent tool we have in a democracy.”

Preet Bharara:

In tribute to John Lewis, let’s remember and honor his life’s work. What he cared about, what he wanted to accomplish. Let’s change the name of the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Let’s pass a Voting Rights Act and in his words, “get in good trouble, necessary trouble and help redeem the soul of America.” John Lewis, rest in peace. Well, that’s it for this episode of Stay Tuned. Thanks again to my guest, Professor Eddie Glaude.

Preet Bharara:

If you like what we do rate and review the show on Apple podcasts or wherever you listen. Every positive review helps new listeners find the show. Send me your questions about news, politics, and justice. Tweet them to me @PreetBharara with #AskPreet, or you can call and leave me a message at (669) 247-7338. That’s (669) 24 Preet. Or you can send an email to [email protected] Stay Tuned is presented by CAFE. The executive producer is Tamara Sepper. The senior audio producer is David Tatasciore, and the Cafe team is Matthew Billy, David Kurlander, Sam Ozer-Staton, Calvin Lord, Noa Azulai, and Jeff Eisenberg. Our music is by Andrew Dost. I’m Preet Bharara, stay tuned.

Preet Bharara:

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