All talks about legacies of white supremacy must be tied to empowering the lives of poor and working people as a whole. The black agenda - from Frederick Douglas to A. Philip Randolph, Martin Luther King Jr, Fannie Lou Hammer to Ella Baker - has always been tied to race talk inseparable from expanding possibilities of democracy, expanding empowerment of everyday people.
In a time in which Communist regimes have been rightfully discredited and yet alternatives to neoliberal capitalist societies are unwisely dismissed, I defend the fundamental claim of Marxist theory: there must be countervailing forces that defend people's needs against the brutality of profit driven capitalism.
What does it really mean to be a leftist in the early part of the 21st century? What are we really talking about? And I can just be very candid with you. It means to have a certain kind of temperament, to make certain kinds of political and ethical choices, and to exercise certain analytical focuses in targeting on the catastrophic and the monstrous, the scandalous, the traumatic, that are often hidden and concealed in the deodorized and manicured discourses of the mainstream. That's what it means to be a leftist. So let's just be clear about it.
The right wing can use anything, and we have to make it very clear and I make it very clear that my love for the president in terms of protecting him and respecting him but also correcting, now all three of those are crucial, and if I can do all three, then the right wing can use it whatever they want, and I'm just clear where I stand, over against them but also critical when the president leans toward the strong, rather than the weak.
I want to be a jazzman until the day I die. To help keep that motion, momentum and movement going, for myself, for my students, for the people who hear me. Oh sure, some days you look around at this country and look at the evidence and think, Oh Lord, don't look good. But you keep moving. You gotta keep moving.
When ordinary people wake up, elites begin to tremble in their boots. They can't get away with their abuse. They can't get away with subjection. They can't get away with subjugation. They can't get away with exploitation. They can't get away with domination. It takes courage for folk to stand up.
It's just that the churches have been sleeping for a long time. A lot of people argue that the churches are even dead. I don't believe they're dead, but they've been sleeping, but they, I hope, will wake up, and that's one of my tasks is to make sure they wake up as much as they do before I die.
I believe that all of us have gangster proclivities and greedy orientations that need accountability. That's why democracies are necessary. We have to have institutions to try to curtail the use of arbitrary power so that our greedy orientations and gangster-like proclivities don't get out of hand.
I'm a Christian. I believe that greatness has to do with the quality of love shown to the least of thy brethren and the quality of service to those who are catching hell. When you look at it in that sense, I'd say America has had great moments, but I wouldn't call it a great nation. I don't think there have been any great nations in the history of the world, because in every nation you find poor people being subjugated. So, I see the term "great nation" as a contradiction, as an oxymoron.
I'm not pessimistic, because poor people tend to bounce back. We've been through worse than this - working people been through worse than this. We've got slavery and Jim Crow. We've got workers with no rights up until `35. We're going to bounce back. We are resilient, resisting people. So, it's not pessimism, but it is blues-like. It's not optimistic. We're just prisoners of hope, that's all.
I was a gangster when I was young. I had a Robin Hood mentality and tended to always want to support the weak against the strong, but sometimes it was cohesive and I really needed to fall in love with the power of education to find the right venue to express my rage. I still have a righteous indignation at injustice, no matter what form it takes.
Like Richard Ellmann on James Joyce, Arnold Rampersad on Ralph Ellison is in a class of its own. His masterful and magisterial book is the most powerful and profound treatment of Ellison's undeniable artistic genius, deep personal flaws, and controversial political evolution. And he reveals an Ellison unbeknownst to all of us. From now on, all serious scholarship on Ellison must begin with Rampersad's instant and inimitable classic in literary biography.
But black folks have never really been optimists. We've been prisoners of hope, and hope is qualitatively different from optimism in the way that there's a difference between The Blues and Lawrence Welk. The Blues and Jazz have to do with hope while the other is sugarcoated music which has to do with sentimental optimism.
I grew up in traditional black patriarchal culture and there is no doubt that I’m going to take a great many unconscious, but present, patriarchal complicities to the grave because it so deeply ensconced in how I look at the world. Therefore, very much like alcoholism, drug addiction, or racism patriarchy is a disease and we are in perennial recovery and relapse. So you have to get up every morning and struggle against it.