"An Immigrant Defends America" Why? Radio Episode with Guest Jason D. Hill
2:27AM Sep 17, 2020
Jack Russell Weinstein
Jason D. Hill
black lives matter
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I'm jack Russel Weinstein host of why philosophical discussions about everyday life. On today's episode, we're talking with Jason D. Hill about his immigration from Jamaica to the United States and his philosophy of individualism. I'd like to talk about what counts as good evidence. This may seem a strange way to start an episode about immigration of the American dream. But almost all of our discussions about race, ethnicity and class hang on what counts as support for our argument. On one side of the coin is the reliance on statistics. The percentage of crime is committed by people from this group or that percent of that population ends up getting an education on the other Other side are anecdotes, stories of hardships, success and tragedy that capture our imagination and move us sometimes even to care. The benefit of statistics is that they give us a bird's eye view of social patterns. The problem is that they don't tell us anything about particular cases. The benefit of anecdotes is that they promote empathy. But it is impossible to know whether they are representative of a one off event. What's more, neither has implicit meaning. If we know that 50% of purple people eater shoplift, we still don't know whether stores need more surveillance or the shoplifters just need bigger pockets. Just because Bruce was down on his luck through no fault of his own doesn't mean that anybody really cares at all. Evidence only makes sense if we establish in advance the narrative of which it is a part. Only context tells us our priorities, values, questions, preferences, and even goals only explains the evidence. Consider the statistic that 29 percent of foreign born Americans have a college degree. This may be interesting, but for most it won't strike much of a chord. But change the sentence to 29% of immigrants have a college degree, and we're much more likely to have an emotional reaction. The word immigrant is an American word. It is steeped in history, culture and politics. It evokes Ellis Island to the American dream. It can also to some be scary conjuring images of unwelcome jobs stealing interlopers. But either interpretation only makes sense, because the word immigrant is part of a larger narrative. America is a story even more than it is a place. Today's episode is going to contrast two of those narratives. One is an America where groups are thought of collectively, a country where certain races or ethnicities are subject to expectations and limitations because they're first and foremost group members. Black Lives Matters tells the story, but so does the Daughters of the American rebels. The other is an America where group membership is secondary to individual action. Where blackness or family history are only embellishments on a particular person's specific behavior. Chambers of Commerce share this point of view, so does the ACLU. The group advocates insist that our institutions define in advance who is successful and who is not. The individualist retort that all circumstances can be overcome, although just because they can doesn't mean they will.
The two are not mutually exclusive. Of course group membership effects personal actions in any one person can affect what groups can or can't do. But you have to pick one or the other to make sense of the facts we use to debate immigration. Does an immigrant go to college because she comes from China where such things are expected? Or does jiming go to college because she is diligent, a forward looking planner? What's the statistics tell us? Depends on what we decide they will mean in advance. Today's guest is going to fall on the individual side of the debate, he's going to argue that there is still an American dream that is universally applicable, and that too much emphasis has been placed on group membership. He's going to assert that identity politics has taken away individual responsibility and misrepresents the core American philosophy. Not surprisingly, he's going to make his argument while telling stories, his own immigrant history, first and foremost, but also the stories of those who moved up the economic ladder with him. He is and I hope he won't object me to saying so a romantic and his story is demand empathy. They are moving and empowering. But there are people who will object to his argument. They will say he isn't telling the statistical story that for every success, he recounts, there are numerous unnamed failures. The math, they will say is the final word, not the people. He just happened to know. I'll let him respond to that objection. Specifically. What I want to point out is that the statistic based objection is just as much of a choice as a storytelling approach. Neither necessarily trumps the other. It is all about what you hope to accomplish. Today, we're immersing ourselves in the drama and grit of those who make new lives for themselves. We are accepting the fact that for some America is indeed exceptional, a shining light on a hill. Our guests will try to convince us that we should all see it this way. But that's his job. Mine is to remind us that in this time of American cynicism and disillusionment, his approach is still very much worth attending to. And now our guest, this is Jason de Hill's second visit to y radio. He's a professor of philosophy members of the honors distinguished faculty and director of teaching practicum at DePaul University. He's the author of four books, the most recent of which is we have overcome an immigrants letter to the American people, which is available for presale on amazon.com doing quite well, I might add, Jason, thanks for coming back to why.
Thanks for having me, jack. It's such a pleasure.
We're pre recording the show so we won't be stopping for comment. But please send us your thoughts at ask why umd.edu post them on Twitter at why radio show or visit our Facebook firstname.lastname@example.org slash why radio show? You can always join our live chat room at my radio show.org So Jason, am I right? That today? June 10 is your birthday?
That's right it is I turned 53
congratulations. I hope that this interview is a birthday gift is not a birthday nightmare. It is a celebration indeed. And thank and congratulations on the new book. It's presale is doing very well. You're getting a lot of attention. That must be really exciting. And that must be a wonderful gift as well. It is. I was thinking about where to start because your book is so rich and has so many intriguing stories and challenges. But you describe very vividly a covenant as you call it a covenant that you made with America when it became your new home and you decided that you would take responsibility for your own life and your own betterment. I guess I was wondering, which came first, your commitment to individualism, or your sense of connection to America as your new home?
Well, I think both in some sense, I mean, as a child growing up in Jamaica, I had always had a sort of spiritual rapport with America, America always represented this sort of celebratory ideal for me it was the land of freedom. The land where you could enact a script for yourself and write rewrite your entire humanity almost, I mean, one is, given an identity that one didn't ask for, and with creative imagination, one can rewrite the self and make oneself into the human being that one aspires to be. So America always represented an aspirational identity for me, the person that I could become the person I really wanted to become not the identity that was bequeathed to me and it's So in that sense, it it this romance with America started from way back when I was living as a child growing up in Jamaica. And then my individualism was something that I just found myself occupying or inhabiting really as a child growing up I was always a rugged individualist never identified with groups as such and and and felt that I had certain sensibilities and certain qualities that were uniquely mine and that identified with as uniquely mine. So I always felt as a rugged individualist as a child growing up and a to wedded themselves quite quite beautifully.
Is was your perspective about America, about individualism? Was it a rarity in Jamaica? Or was it more common I know when I'm in America now, certain kinds of patriotism in certain senses of the American Dream are really politically laden and it can identify you is being associated with this group or that group, individualism as well. Was there that same tension in Jamaica or is it less complex?
I think for most Jamaicans America represented economic advancement, I don't think most Jamaicans were thinking as I was quite a precocious child. I don't think most Jamaicans were thinking as philosophically as I was, I think most Jamaicans were thinking as an of America as a place of economic advancement, a place where one could achieve some sort of sort of economic parity with their future compatriots, or make something substantial or remarkable of their lives. And, and by default, one could do that by escaping from a kind of social or economic oppression, which many of them those who are not from the middle class groups or even those who are from the middle groups had suffered in their own native native country.
Is there a strict for lack of a better term caste structure in Jamaica? Is there a tradition of upward mobility? As we're as we're talking? And I, I'm not sure that I I'm hoping I'm not being that guy by randomly picking something that I like but I'm very involved. I love ska music always have an A lot of my visions of Jamaica come from the classic film, the harder they come, which is about upward mobility and entrepreneurship, but also crime and there isn't in that vision, this sense at all that there is a middle class that there is an expectation that you move forward. That feels like a very American ideal, but I actually have no idea. So is there a rigor Is there a lot of room for upward mobility in Jamaica, or is it much more divided?
There isn't much room there is a very rigid class system. So I came from a middle class Background and, and there there are this which is a very small, small class system. The majority of people in Jamaica are very, very poor. And you have a very small upper class, extremely wealthy class system, a small middle class and a vast underclass of proletariat or peasants are working class people, most of whom are very, very poor and for whom there is very little chance for upward mobility. And so and it is also ruled by a system of pigment autocracy where your skin color so there is no overt racism. In terms of a one drop rule. We have no formal system of racial taxonomy in Jamaica, it's based on the color of the light your skin is, the more likely you are to be wealthy and the skin color that's prized, the most highly actually is brown skin. So People who are extremely dark are more likely to be poor, and people who are brown or lighter in complexion or are those who are more likely to be to be wealthy and are treated or treated in a much more fair and equitable manner. So there is a there is a rigid system and upward mobility is very difficult, which is why some of the stories that I tell in the book of semi illiterate people who have left Jamaica and who have come to America and to have made it, which is one of the things that I think makes America the greatest country on Earth. People who would never have made it in Jamaica, have come to America and with limited skills have managed to maneuver and navigate the system and have made something substantial their lives.
You use this term pigman autocracy, I've never heard that before. It's a wonderful term. It's a horrible idea, but it's a wonderful term. And then you also mentioned the one drop rule for our listeners who might not be familiar with it. It's this notion that in the history The United States if you have one drop of black blood, you're considered black. And and I phrase it that way because you come to America as a Jamaican. And in the sort of American taxonomy, the large scale American taxonomy, you become classified as black, but it's much more complicated than that. There's, at minimum, there's Caribbean, blacks, there's Native American, born blacks, there's African blacks, to what extent did you feel I don't know, pressure to identify with the larger group? And to what extent did it make you feel like you were misrepresenting yourself if it did at all?
Well, I had no illusions about what I was going to be identified as I grew up for the first 21 years in Jamaica as not having a race. I mean, I came from a very mixed race and mixed ethnic background. My grandmother's father was a Sephardic Jew and And her mother was was was. And she was mixed with East Indian and black. My, my, on my father's side, there was European ancestry, one parent was white and black. And my grandfather, my mother's father was was Hispanic. And so I came from a very mixed mixed background and didn't was identified as a brown skinned person. I was never I never knew I was black until I came to America, and was identified as such, because I was always a brown person. But I knew very, very clearly because I had read American history very clearly. So I knew upon arrival in America, and especially coming to Atlanta, in 1985. That such would be the identity that I would inherit. And I had no No, no, no misgivings, or no, I thought, you know, I'm a realist. I'm a romantic but I'm also a romantic realist. So I thought, this is the country that I'm coming to and, for me, adopting a black identity that was more of a political identity. Then it was a racial identity. It was an identity that in my future work I could use as a position of advocacy, and not a cultural identity or not certainly not a biological identity. So I didn't feel pressured and I didn't feel any sense of resentment I thought America unfortunately has. It's one of the defects of America that it has a one drop rule which forces people to discredit their the multiplicity of Heritage's and ethnic backgrounds, which they belong bye bye over determining their identities and forcing them into into just embracing one aspect of their heritage. I think this is going to change in the future. I think this is not going to be the case. As a result, as our society becomes more cosmopolitan, but personally, I did not feel like I was pressured or I didn't feel any sort of resentment about it. Did
was this A lack of feeling of pressure. Was that a choice? I mean, I think about the 1980s. You came in 1985. I think about this is the rise of Spike Lee. We're seeing the end of the 1970s successes with diversity on television and in the movies and things are becoming much more segregated in a certain sense for lack of a term. And Cornel West is starting to think Cornel West is starting to make a name for himself at this point. And is there is there pressure to be associated as a member of this group that you are just choosing to dismiss or do you not feel the pressure at all.
I don't feel the pressure at all. I have an identity first and foremost as an individual who happens to be Caribbean and who happens to get classified as black in America. my accent First of all, as has always been a moral identity, and that is I seek to identify myself by the actions that I commit, and that I wield in the world, my convictions, my values. And personally in my deepest self image is always reinforced by those values, those convictions and those actions, and not by a skin tone, or a skin color, or a racial descriptive identity, which has nothing to do with the content of my character, and has nothing to do with who I am as a person it's very, has always been very, very seriously for me to have a deep racial identity, because that has nothing to do with me as a person, whereas my values and my consciously held convictions and the actions that I execute in the world every day, say something substantially about who I am. So that racial identity has always been peripheral, to who I have taken myself to be. That, again is what it means to be a rugged, intransigent, inviolable individualist,
you use two different phrases. First you use political identity when you were talking about taking the role of advocate, and then you use moral identity in terms of your character. Now, these are concepts that political philosophers have been struggling with and and since the 60s and early 70s with john Rawls, there's this been this idea of individualism requiring what sometimes is called a thin theory of the self, which is that, that the identity that's foisted upon us, is thin, it's not robust. It doesn't have all of these other attachments that that what we are are individuals who can choose. I wonder if you talk a little bit about what it means to have a political identity. You talked, you mentioned briefly what it means to have a moral identity. How did those Different how those help you think about what it means to be an individual.
Well, for me, the political part of having this political identity that I talk about is part of what it means to be an American citizen. Right? That is, whether you're Republican, whether you're an independent, a libertarian or a Democrat, it means in some sense holding a thin adherence and allegiance to the core values of the Republic that unite us all as Americans. I respect the freedom of conscience of all My fellow Americans, I respect their first amendment, their second amendment rights, the freedom to hold their values, their freedom to carve out a conception of the good life, for themselves, even if I find a conception of the good life that they have carved out for themselves offensive to my sensibilities, I will fight to the death for their freedom to Carbo. That's the concept from the good life so long as it's not violating the rights of other people. If someone wants to form a conception of the good life around worshipping a Christmas tree on Mount Rushmore, God bless him. It's not the way that I would choose to organize my life, but he is or she is free to do so. So, when I talk about having a political identity, it's not just the identities that I hold around whatever political party I might belong to. It's the set of American ideals that unite us in civic unity and trust that is transcendent. Those are transcendent ideals, American ideals that I can say to Democrats or Republicans or libertarians, my politics, or anarchists, even though those people are very difficult to deal with, but I can say By definition, by definition, I can say, I hold a set of core values that unite a republic together, that make it possible for all of us to have a common conversation. And a common way of living together without clashing into ethnic or religious problems or violence, I should say, turmoil that we can have reasonable people can have reasonable disagreements that is only possible when you have a civilized society that agrees to adhere to a thin set of political values around which the Republic is organized. And I think that's part of what the Republic of France is doing when it matriculates its citizens through the say, and says, you know, you can have a conception of the good life, but you must be able to speak the French language and there are certain values that are inimical to the French Republic. And I think the same thing in America, gender equality is one of them freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of assembly, freedom of conscience. That's what I'm sort of talking about when I talk about those political values.
I talk about France a lot with my students, when I'm talking about the idea of diversity. And I talk about the let's say, the schools and I explained that in America, diversity means anyone can wear whatever headdress or other religious paraphernalia they want in a school, because diversity means full religious expression. But in France, religious diversity means nobody wears that because the republic comes first. And religion is a purely private matter. When we get back after the break. I want to talk about this. I want to talk about your claim in the book that that race is not part of the American metaphysics and what that means and then bring it into the contemporary conversation about right writers like Thomas Hussey coats and see what this attitude about individualism has to say about other controversies Black Lives Matter, etc. But first you're listening to Jason Hill and jack Russell Weinstein, on why philosophical discussions about everyday life. We'll be back right after this.
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You're back with jack Russel Weinstein and Jason T. Hill on why philosophical discussion but everyday life, we're talking about immigration. We're talking about race. We're about to start talking about contemporary political debate. And the way that individualism offers us a way of navigating these decisions. And funny I was listening to Jason talk and I had a sentence popped into my head, which was, I didn't become a Jew until I left New York City. And what what that meant was that when I grew up for the first 17 years of my life in New York, I became Bar Mitzvah. My father was religious at various different points, but it was not noteworthy. There were other Jews around just like there were lots of other kinds of people around when I moved out, refers to college where it wasn't a big deal in upstate New York, but then eventually to Vienna, Austria, California, and then here in Grand Forks, North Dakota, becoming Jewish became much more important to me because it became much more obvious to me that in the face of the diversity in the face of certain kinds of resistance, I really began to identify what it meant for me to be Jewish. But of course every day that I express that is a choice and how important that is whether my Jewishness is in the first and the foremost notion of my mind or being a professor is or being a father is or being a jogger or what have you. These are choices about what I want to focus on. And it makes me wonder how removable these things are to me, can I stop being a New Yorker? Can I stop being Jewish? Can I stop being a father? Not in the biological sense, at least, but in the in the commitment sense? And I don't have an answer to this question. But what America allows us to do is make those choices because there's no requirement to be one specific thing, at least Jason, that's what I understand you to be saying, when you say that there is no racial metaphysics in the United States. What does that mean?
Well, it means a couple of things. One is that so let me start by saying that America has obviously had a very ugly racial history. And that, you know, the basic birth defect in the creation of America was chattel slavery. And there's no going around that the birth of America was problematic from its inception it was ugly in many respects, but the creation of America and the creation of the American Constitution had had the forefront the inevitability of man's rights. That is in its political DNA, it recognize the intrinsic dignity of all persons. It just never lived up to it when applying that to women actually, and to black people.
So, race in of itself and the ascription of, or lack of ascription, of agency to people of color, and to women, for the most part was a betrayal of the American ideal in the first place. And we have had a series of progressive political movements that have sought to correct that, first with the civil Civil War, which I think was magnificent war as brutal slaughter as as it was, it was a war to end slavery. And to restore freedom to blacks. We saw the suffragette movement which granted women the right to vote, and the women's liberation movement which granted the feminist movement and we've seen now we have married to the quality where kids have a right to marry and so on so forth. The say thing about there being no metaphysics of race is that race has ceased continuously to be a determinative factor of one's destiny. That is in the old European, in the old world and all of Europe, ethnicity, and race, we're defining characteristics which sealed your fate determined tively when people left the old country, they came to America, they were free, and not just your country when the untouchable leaves India, and no one will touch the untouchable the Dalat and he or she comes to America, America gives you a free chance to start over from scratch to build a future no one cares basically where you came from. You could have come from the most humblest of origins. You come from America and you start from scratch. And this business of lineage and and tribalism is a very very interesting phenomenon. America is an unprecedented phenomenon in the sense that it is a country built on civic nationalism, not cultural or racial or ethnic nationalism. It says, We don't care where you come from and the membership principle that is to become an American. Unlike Germany, unlike so many European countries in the path is not the criterion is not predicated on ethnicity or lineage or blood. It is predicated on something else,
if I can interrupt for a second, it's, it's interesting because you talk about this lineage and comparing it to India. I think about all of the presidential candidates who are working incredibly hard to say they did come from poverty, they did come from the other places, and this ability to go from this humble pass to this greatness is actually incredibly valued, I guess the opposite of the Indian culture that you're referring to.
I guess what What's coming to mind is that there are people, the writer, Tennessee coats comes to mind. And you spent some time talking about him that say, well, that's just not true that being black defines who you are, it defines your identity, it certainly defines your limitations. And being African American in the United States is a trap that people can't get out of. And then, in addition to that, when I read your book, and I get excited about this notion that races is is not a metaphysics, the United States and I think this is right, this is great. Quotes might come back at me and certainly many liberals would come back and say, Well, of course, you can say that because you have white privilege, and that you can say that it's successful because for you it is you don't get to decide this. And so how does, how do you respond to this very, very vociferous cultural critique right now that You know all of that's nice in theory, but in practice, it just isn't true.
Make us a nefarious lie because part of what Tallahassee coats has left out of his book in between the World and Me, is the fact that he claims that the American dream was a dream built on the backs of blacks. It was exploitative, it was intrinsically racist. And that it was built on exploitation, destruction of families, what he's left out is the fact that the American dream was also part of the black American story. So the black experience is completely left out of the American dream. We go back to he leaves out black wealth, black entrepreneurship, black success, success stories. What about the black people who, under Jim Crow ism, under segregation, made something remarkably successful of their lives? What about blacks today who through grit, honor, tenacity, resilience and hard work have made something Including in black immigrants, and black Americans have made something remarkably successful of their lives. This, this count this universal blank and condemnation of the American dream and inextricably tied the American dream, to racism and to exploitation of blacks is I think, empirically false. Because I think, hey, the success stories of black immigrants who come to this country is a direct refutation of that claim, and the success stories of blacks in this country, both under segregation and post, the 1964 Civil Rights Act and post 19 1960s civil rights era, who have continued to make great strides and have continued to embrace the American dream and make something substantial of their lives. I mean, we live in an era today where camp I'm a professor, I've been a professor for 23 years and I've been at DePaul University for 18 years. I travel all over the country giving talks on my books. And I can tell you and I sit on mission committees, I can tell you that if you are a black person today, with minimal GPA, there is no college campus that will not swoop you up and court and dine you. You are a golden asset today, if you're a black, especially if you're a black man and you want to get into college, you are a prized nugget. Right? There are many ways in which being black today is is an asset in corporations. If you are a graduate and you apply for a job, there are many ways in which if you're a white male and academia, things are not so good for you. Right? It's your bet you're better off being black. If you're an academic, I say this as an academic, a black academic. If you're a white man in education, with a PhD in education, chances are if you're competing with a black man with that same PhD, he's going to get the job. So I'm just not Bang any of this bogus rap, that black people are endless victims, and that they're left outside the pantheon of the human community, and that the American Dream is outside of their, you know, outside of their reach.
I have so many, many thoughts on what you're saying. The first is this notion of success in the face of Jim Crow and other such things. I would recommend to my listeners, I don't know if you read it, I thought it was wonderful Edward Jones, his wonderful book, the known world about that one of the core stories in it is about a black family who is wins their freedom or given their freedom I can't remember and then themselves own slaves. And how complicated that is.
It's Oh, yes, I know that.
It's so beautifully written. And it's just so there's there's that element and then there's the I want to ask you about The critique that, well, what you say may be true in some sense. But isn't that another form of tokenism or objectifying blacks by giving them pride of place? But before I ask those questions, I just want to point out that you became so animated when I brought up ton of hate the quotes and this and your criticism is so incredibly heartfelt. This is clearly and this comes through, of course, in the book, this is clearly not just an academic matter for you. This is really a covenant a love letter to the country and it clearly infuriates you when someone comes along and tries to undermine that story that you think is so deeply meaningful and true.
Yes. Well, there are two things here one is Tallahassee coats is a hypocrite because he's living the American dream. This man is making millions of dollars. This is the only place where a black man can curse off white liberals and tell tell them that they are racist that they're mean spirited, exploitative people and they award him with a National Book Award. A MacArthur Genius foundation award and accolades apply. Where else in the world nowhere else in the world can a black man tell white people that they're evil, mean spirited, racist, and they make him a rich person. So he's living the American dream. But the other thing is that yes, I am deeply in love with America. I am a great patriot of this republic. I have a visceral love. I love America the way a mother loves a wayward son. Not that I'm saying that America is a wayward country. I think it's the most moral country and the greatest country on the face of the earth. And I spell out in the book in very clear terms why I think America is the greatest country on the face of the earth. I, you know, I define the moral meaning of America. And why I think that that it's for me, it's more than visceral. It's a visceral love the way a father or a mother has for a child. But it's also a love that is rooted in in convictions and the values that America stands for. And there are very few things That made me angry as I age. Not that many things make me angry criticism of America. It's fine. It's an it's not an infallible nation. But anti Americanism, which I'm witnessing on college campuses across this, this great Republic, anti Americanism invective spewed against this great country. Make me very, very angry. And when I see privileged, very ultra privileged writers such as Tennessee coats, sitting up there in his luxurious life, spewing invective and hatred against America, while America continues, continues to bestow accolades and wealth upon him, just infuriates me.
Chris Rock said once that that he is living amongst the nicest white people who ever walked the earth and that and that they speaks to this notion that coats can offer these horrendous criticisms and be rewarded for it. I'm curious what the difference is, in your mind between criticizing America and anti Americanism? Where's the line?
Well, here's the line, I think. And, and I think this comes in into play as an intellectual, which I am and as a professor and a writer. It comes at the level of demonizing versus the level of policies. So someone asked me about the president. And I said, Look, I'm not a psychologist, I'm not going to get into character analysis of the President. I'm a policy person, and I've been that way. You know what I when I voted for Obama, and I voted for when I became an American citizen to vote in 2002. And we spoke spoken about my voting habits. And I voted for john kerry and so on and so forth. And I said, I'm a public The kind of person I am I evaluate policies. I'll be the first person to say, I agree with the President's policy on this level. And I think the President's policy here is apparent. I think when it comes to criticism, you can say, look, America, like I was the first to say America's racial past has been ugly. And there's, it's it's had a horrible racial past. It is also a self correcting society with with with self correcting mechanisms that is always trying to improve itself. Anti Americanism is when you paint the country as irredeemably bad intrinsically bad when you paint the American people as intrinsically mean spirited, bigoted, racist, that by constitutional design, Americans are bigoted me spirited and racist and xenophobic, that is anti Americanism, that is empirically false. That is just not true. We have to look at the civil rights movement, we have to look at the role that choose, and so many whites played in the civil rights movement. Why the hell did white people, including Jews, risked their lives going on Freedom Rides? Why are they Why are so many of my white students at DePaul? I can't count how many number of white students are members of the Black Lives Matter movement, who are giving their time and effort to racial acne to the social justice warriors. So the store is just much more complicated than that American foreign policy has been complicated. It has been hypocritical. It has been disastrous for the past 75 years. I'm writing a book on American foreign policy that's that's coming out. It's 400 pages, I have to get it down to at least 200. But American foreign policy has also been extremely altruistic but Official it's helped a lot of third world countries, including the country I come from. It's lifted many nations out of poverty. It's also harmed some countries. It's a complicated picture. And just dampening America outright as this evil imperialistic country is is is sloppy, and it's it's mean, and it's and it's hurtful. It's hurtful to someone who loves the country and who wanted to be here. And I'll stand up and defend it the way you know, to use a female archetype the mother bear would defend her cub.
I just won't have it.
I think about um, we are we are pre recording. So there was a little radio magic when I when I wished you a happy birthday. That was a future oriented Happy birthday, but today, it came out when we're pre recording that yesterday, Roseanne Barr sent out a very racist tweet Comparing an Obama official, a black woman to an ape, and she, what her show was canceled. And not only that it came out this morning that and I don't know, by the time this broadcast if this will still be the case, I suspect it will, because it happened with Bill Cosby. That that they're taking off all the reruns from all of the Roseanne shows because she tweeted something racist. Now, a that's how the market works when it works well, but be that has never happened to before in American history that someone has said something racist, and they're being profoundly punished. Do you think that that is a revocation? Do you think that that's undermines coach's argument? Or do you think that that's something else is going on? Is this evidence of not just racial progress, but of this deep commitment to to a race free metaphysics that you're talking About or is this just coincidence?
No, I think it undermines quotes his argument I look to black men got arrested and for doing absolutely nothing which was which was unfortunate in Starbucks, Starbucks and Starbucks closed down its shops and had a racial bias training which cost him something in excess of $10 million Black Lives Matter I've been keep I wrote an article commentary magazine a couple of weeks ago, that was a cover story on my Black Lives Matter problem with a march with impunity without impunity into Jewish progressive neighborhoods calling Jewish people genocidal murderers and guilty of apartheid and you know, my position on Israel I'm radically pro Israel. I think we're seeing an enormous amount of power on the part of of blacks in the public sphere where they're, they're not being victimized quite obviously were their voices do carry weight, but let me say something about the rows and tweets You know, I think there's a double standard here. I think, of course, what she did is was was despicable. And in a civilized society, we should have no room for that. But Bill Maher, whom I actually like, because he makes me laugh, had a tweet in 2013, in which he put a picture of Trump beside an orangutan and said that Trump's mother must have had sex with an orangutan to produce something like this. Right? So I'm all for decency. And as a writer, I never eviscerate people of their dignity. I will criticize their ideas very sharply. And I think when you have to resort to hype to add homonyms and and racist remarks. Something is there's a positive imagination and a basic lack of decency. So I think what rose and did is wrong, but I think also on the left does it speaking here just impartially when George Reed came out and said You know things about gays that were very offensive to gays and made anti muslim comments. She went on a cry of the heart apology tour, and she got to keep her job. So I think we've got to be morally consistent here and just demand that we stop these kinds of on both sides, demonization and you and I spoke about this in our last broadcast, stop this demonization of both the left and the right and start attacking or criticizing in a cold dispassionate rational manner policies because I'm not Obama's I'm not Donald Trump psychology only a and their psychologists are equipped to make psychological statements about their mental health i can i can properly criticize as an ethicist as a political theorist and as Someone who's had extensive training also in psychology, I think, policies of the president or political actors.
I want to push you on this, though, because on the one hand, there's nothing that you would say that I take issue with at all. On the other hand, isn't there a fundamental difference between comparing an African American woman saying that she is the child of an ape using a racist trope and a standard way of demeaning someone that has really nothing to do with them, but much more to do with the racist of the United States? Isn't there a difference between that and and, and let's I didn't see what people picture but Whoopi Goldberg shirt, which is a political hyperbole that is about the individual person and the individual person's policy, which is his policy on guns. Presumably, it's not nice. I don't recommend it. I'm not suggesting I'm not defending the T shirt, but isn't equating that Who missing the point that if there is no a racial metaphysics in the United States that racist comments are on a whole different level than other forms of political protest, because there's so much worse.
Well, I think that's right. And I and I don't, I didn't mean the analogy to be sort of perfect one I sort of meant more of the like the Donald Trump mother must have had sex with an orangutan to be more of a closely related analogy. But, you know, it really just gets back to the whole issue of of offensiveness and what people find the country's deeply divided right now and what people find offensive. And the point here is that I as a writer, and as someone who makes a living parsh partially my living comes from being a professor but passionate makes a living from writing. Find it very They're disturbing when we get into the the realm of its sloppiness and its intellectual lazy of resorting to offensive symbolisms of just personally attacking people, as opposed to attacking their ideas. And I think we've got to get back to something like what john mccain I've been reading a lot of what he's been writing and what in his in his in his memoir and advocating which is more attacking or critiquing policies and, and and strategies that leaders and political actors pursue and staying away from the demonization of the individuals themselves. It's just counterproductive. It's mean spirited, and actually it gets us nowhere.
I want to in a minute, I want to ask you to tell a story that you Tell in the book about an immigrant you knew who started a grass cutting business because I think it offers a good contrast not just the the upward mobility but also the work stability and habits in his home country but but before that I want to ask, in my head, it's sort of the opposite it's it's it's not the mean spiritedness but the glorification of cultures. I don't know if you've seen I don't know if your movie fan I don't know if you've seen Black Panther but I'm curious. I have, um, how do you feel? Not necessarily about the movie itself? Right. I thought it was very good, have sinned several times but about the cultural power and impact and the way in which it was received mark, both marketed and received as this glorification of black collectivity. Does something like Black Panther, run afoul of your individualism and your resistance to this the primacy of group identity or is it is is it is something else going on there?
No, I thought it was a remarkable movie. I thought it runs a phone no more than Batman or Spider Man or Superman, all of which are populated by white characters. And this white superheroes I thought it was a remarkable movie in its Well, it was an okay movie just on the level of an action packed. You know, super thrill ride. right the the plot was formulaic, and you can tell what was going to happen, which is which is which made it no different than any sort of superhero movie, which is fine they had before they all have to follow a formulaic theorem. But what I thought was was amazing was that it wasn't a story about victimology. It wasn't a story about blaming the white man for the black man's problem. Quite the opposite, it was a story in which black people were doing the impossible. And that's what made it a form of romanticism. Black people were doing the impossible and overcoming obstacles. It was a film in which whites are actually irrelevant and incidental to black people's lives. And a story in which actually, blacks could be benevolent towards the white characters who were in there and, and offer a spirit of generous generosity. So I think more movies like this should be made. It wasn't glorifying. It wasn't some sort of homage to black collectivity. I just think it happened to be a movie in which there were black characters predominantly black characters, and which made it no different than any other mainstream Hollywood movie in which there are predominantly white characters. But it was celebrating something much more beautifully, which was the dignity of black people in a movie that celebrated heroism, there was a morality tale to it. They were principled moral. It was a medieval like a sort of like a medieval morality tale where you had good good fighting evil. And it wasn't afraid to pit a black man as an as a, as an evil character against another black man who was the heroic moral character. And I, so it didn't run afoul of my individualism at all. I think quite the opposite. It portrayed blacks in a wonderful and beautiful, elegant and dignified manner, the costumes, the acting, everything about that movie, I think, on an aesthetic, cinematic, and even philosophical manner was quite well done.
What's what strikes me is that one of the key conflicts in the movie is about This this debate as to whether or not the wakandans the the nation portrayed have a responsibility to help other black people to go into other countries, whether it's revolutionary or technologically or what have you. And this evokes to me your criticism of black lives matter that it's focuses on the wrong thing. Right. Talk a little bit about what you think Black Lives Matter is doing wrong by focusing exclusively on the police.
Well, there are two things one is black. Let me just say that I was a fan of black lives matter when the movement first started because I thought it had legitimate concerns. It was addressing the concerns of the shooting of unarmed black men in this country, which was tragic, which needed to get dressed. It has however strayed from its lane when you look at its Manifesto. It is calling for breakup of us banks, it is calling for the destruction of the US economy in many ways. It's calling for the free education of all blacks. I don't know why for education of All Blacks, but not poor whites or Native Americans. And it's attacking Israel and calling Israel a genocidal apartheid state, alienating progressive Jews from the Black Lives Matter movement. What I think the Black Lives Matter movement should be doing is turning it signs from white people moving into the black community where black on black crime is just is so astronomically high intellect, the South Side of Chicago where black people are killing other black people working with gang members and holding gang members accountable and saying, What are you doing? What are you people doing? What What is it with a drive by shootings? What is it with the disproportionate homicide rates in the black community being committed predominantly by these These gang members, they have some kind of credibility here where they could be working with these gang members. They could be working strategically with police officers to try to build trust. Because there is an absence of trust between the police officers between police between law enforcement in general. And these African and Hispanic communities Black Lives Matter should be strategically working with police officers white, black and Hispanic, and trying to reintegrate them back into these communities instead of spewing. Right instead of spewing, these invectives against law enforcement in general discrediting the reputation of law enforcement. They should be working closely to try to reestablish trust between law enforcement and neighborhoods, and more importantly holding The black community and the the criminal, the career criminality, element within these communities accountable to some higher standard. It's not doing that. It's turning its signs and listening to people like Tommy he's of course set saying who has said that? Talking about black on black crime is like shooting a man and blaming him for bleeding, which is utter nonsense.
You have a you have a statistic, I hope I get it right in the book that I found tremendously interesting. I think you said 93% of homicides are interracial. Meaning that roughly 93% of homicides in the black community are caused by other blacks in the white community, whatever those terms community means are white. I may have the number wrong but certainly if if this is the case, then this this notion of almost a race war that some people talk about the right will call At a race where the left will we'll call it oppression. That that's largely inaccurate and the wrong narrative. And so what you're suggesting, if I understand correctly is that is that what Black Lives Matter has to do is, is do what Malcolm X suggested, which is stay within the community where they have the influence and the power and try to bring the community up, whatever that means from within.
That's right. They can be a moral voice, they have a great opportunity where they have some credibility, and they can be a moral voice in the black community, and not give up trying to win. Look, there are a lot of well intentioned and well meaning white people who are members of black lives matter. I think of Martin Luther King, it can be if this could be a great opportunity to follow kings example where King noticed that Martin Luther King never demonized white people. Right. He had every opportunity in his time to call Why people venomous and evil and mean spirited? And what did he do, he preached a doctrine of love, and he won more whites over to his side. Because he preached a moral vision of unity and love. And Black Lives Matter is living or operating in a much more progressive time than Martin Luther King where it has voluntarily attracted much more progressive whites into its fold. And so I don't think it necessarily should exclude whites from the movement. But it can do work on multiple levels. And I think the majority of its work should be done within the black community.
I think the worst thing that I can think of that Martin Luther King said about white people is reserved for white liberals in in letter from Birmingham jail where he complains that they're too passive, that they're that they that they speak these things but that they don't have to that they're they're worried about rocking the boat. Youth Do you think that Trevor had asked this question? Do you think that your experience as an immigrant allows you to see things about black lives matter that a native born African American wouldn't see? Is this how much of how much of your criticism comes from the juxtaposition of being Caribbean born? And in this sort of sector of the black community as opposed to being native born? How much of this is? I'm not sure how to ask this question. How much? There is a literature on tensions in the in in America between Caribbean blacks, African blacks and native born African Americans? How much of this is that conflict being man? fest. And how much of this is just this is you as an individual, this is your choice. You see it, we can all see it if we're educated properly. I'm trying to bring the issue of immigration back on the table. And I'm just curious how much of your criticism of what's happening in the United States with race is available to you because you came from the outside and because you have an experience of immersing yourself in as opposed to always having been in here.
Right. That's a very interesting question. And I think it requires a very nuanced and subtle answer and not a knee jerk sort of, never done here. So you know, in all fairness, I have to say that I never sat in the back of a bus. I never grew up in an inner city, and knock on wood and Fingers crossed. I've never been harassed by a white police officer. I live in Lincoln Park. And you know, police officers see me every day they waved to me, I ride my bike in the park at one o'clock in the morning and white police officers will say just see, just say to me, just be careful. I've lived there for 18 years. So I think had I had a different experience, I might have had a different perspective. That's the first thing to say. Having said that, I have met. I don't think your race necessarily determines your perspective because I have met other black Americans who are both more conservative and who are also left the center liberals who are actually frustrated with black lives matter. I have met kids from the inner city who don't necessarily voice it as an explicit frustration with black lives matter but We're desperate for some kind of leadership, some kind of voice, who cannot make it to school at the pole who on scholarship because they have to cross gang turf, and who Sony choice is to either join again or be killed or be beaten up. And so they drop out of school because they can't make it from the south side over to Lincoln Park. And they are frustrated, they are in dire need of some kind of leadership, some kind of voice. And I think out of fear of being called a sellout or something less charitable than that they give some sort of allegiance to black lives matter. But I think if you sat many of them down on a one on one basis and promised them confidentiality, they would say we want some kind of advocacy. We Need a voice? rahm emanuel is not doing it. Right. No one is doing it for them. They're left without any kind of voice. I just wrote a letter that was widely published last week. And they've been doing the rounds in the media asking President Trump to send federal troops in the National Guard.
There's some there's at least one video on YouTube of you being interviewed about this. So I encourage people to take a look if they're if they're interested. Sorry, go on.
Yeah, to send troops in to quell the gang warfare that's going on in Chicago. Because it's just getting out of control. Because if this were happening on the Gold Coast, and white people were being shot to death and mass, it wouldn't be tolerated. Right. But I thought when my students are telling me my black students are telling me that they can't come to school, as they have in the past because of gang warfare. thought, if you care about human lives, not all lives matter if you care about human lives, then something has to be done. And the the police forces undermanned and on the person and and so I don't think it's necessarily because I have, I think partially it's because I was spared that experience like that I that I can be so forthright. But I think there are an equal number of individuals in the black community who feel that frustration and would want black lives matter to be speaking as advocates for them.
So so then again, before we move on to the next topic, the voice in my head of coats of the Cornell West's other folks would say, but you yourself just said that if it were white people who were being killed, they wouldn't stand It is this not evidence that coats and others are correct that, that there is institutional structures that that pre determine the failure and success of African Americans.
Well, look, I think it's an issue of affluence. I think if you go into any society, if you went to Jamaica and the rich brown people were being shot up to death, it wouldn't be tolerated. I think if he went into look, which we saw the same thing in America, where income Columbine where it was predominantly working class students who were being killed. It was silence. And recently with the with the gun shootings, where it was middle class students who were being killed. They made their way onto the cover of Time Magazine. I think it's more an issue of when the affluent and the middle class and the upper middle class are affected. Then attention is being paid per starts to being paid starts being paid to those who are being affected. So I'm not so naive to think that we live in a country where people really, really think that all lives matter equally. That's what we should be aspiring to. But I do think that I think this is correct, that if the affluent are being gunned down and killed, disproportionately, that greater tension would be paid to that sort of the egregious violation of rights would be attended to in a far quicker manner. But I think it's more I think it's I think it's more complicated than just a racial issue. Here.
I I'm thinking of the neglect of rural poor women. America when it comes to the opioid crisis and meth here in North Dakota, that's decimating communities in Appalachia, that's decimating communities where it is class and economic status and not and not race. I want to shift to this back to the conversation of immigration in the American dream. And I wonder if you tell the story that you tell in the book of the the man who started his start by mowing your lawn with a lousy lawn mower and what he said to you when you asked him how he was treated,
right, so this is a Jamaican who came to this country, when my mom and grandmother and myself came. And you know, he was semi illiterate, he could barely speak. Like a lot of Jamaicans poor Jamaicans who don't speak English. He could barely speak Standard English. He spoke a local dialect patois and, but was watching some TV and was acquiring The English language. And so he started moving my mother's lawn and with a rickety lawnmower and obviously the neighbors liked what he was doing. So they asked him to mow their lawn and he was mowing another lawn and he acquired a new lawn mower. And to cut a very long story short, he was doing half the subdivision with a tractor mower. And then in a year's time, he had acquired two tractor mowers and had six Mexicans working under him and was doing the entire subdivision and I asked him I said, You know, I said to him whether it was a predominantly white because we were living, it was mostly there were a lot of when we first moved to Atlanta, we lived in clan country, Ku Klux Klan country. Because land was cheap and as fearless Caribbean's we were not afraid of the Ku Klux Klan. We wanted cheap land and we weren't about to change anybody's lifestyles. We just wanted land. That was cheap. So it was a predominantly white community and I said How are the white people treating you? And he said, they treat me quite good. He said, they treat me good. And I said, You mean they treat you well, and because I tried to teach him the standard English. And he said, No, they treat me good. And he said they, they actually gave me water in a tall glass. But the important thing was that they paid him on time. And he couldn't get over how well they were paying him. They respected him as a trader. And this was a mark of courtesy and respect, where they didn't make social intrusion intrusions into his life and try to sort of worm their way into his life, you know, intimate, friendly way but just respected boundaries, and went over and beyond by treating him with a kind of dignity and respect that he didn't. That was obvious that it was obvious to him that Somehow surpass the way that he would have been treated. Had it been back in Jamaica, where he would have been really treated as a second class citizen, I don't think.
Yeah, he would have been accorded that sort of respect. You report that he said that, you know, sometimes they even pay in advance which no one ever does in Jamaica. And your book has a lot of memoir aspects that ends with some personal struggles of yours that are very moving. But I have to say that, I think the part the moment of the book that that got to me in the emotional sense the most was the moment when you say when you report him saying that they often give me a glass of water in a real glass with pride and respect. And you then go on to talk about how in America when you show up someplace with an accent, people are curious where you're from, that they don't, they're not resistant and you end You do a very good and moving job of talking about how this immigration status, regardless of the politics right now, is really valued at a curiosity of people. Do you think that this is the legacy of this race free metaphysics that this curiosity about accents and where people come from? And I wonder if you'd also talk a little bit about how the forwardness of the American vision as opposed to the historical focus and and how that connects to this curiosity?
Well, yes, I mean, I have lived in the deepest evidence five states in America, I lived in the deep south and in Georgia, and lived in St. Louis in upstate New York, Indiana, where did my my doctorate my PhD, Illinois, and I think there's one other state that's missing. And I have found that I still have an accent and and I have found that that accent has elicited more curiosity than it has hostility, especially in the south where people say, you know, let's say, back then, of course, I allowed them to call me boy because I was 20 or 21 and look like 15. So they would say, Boy, where are you from? And you and I would always tell them where I was from and, and, you know, I've traveled around the world, I've had the advantage of traveling around the world fortunate with my kind of work that I do. And I have seen where foreign accents in this city hostility. And I think it's just remarkable that in America now we're living in an age where if you ask people where they're from, it's considered insulting. And I think that's just horrible because I think people like when Americans say Where are you from? Because it shows both curiosity and people People where people come from is very important to them, your their roots are still very important to them. And to have an American acknowledge your roots and your origins is a show of respect. And I am very hopeful for the future. I think that, you know, we're in a transitional period in terms of, for example, refugee policy and our immigration policies. But I still think that fundamentally, this is a non xenophobic country. That is, I have lived here for 32 years. And as I said, I've lived in different states and I've taught black kids in East St. Louis. I've taught Klan members that don't know if I told the story of living, of teaching in Edwardsville, where 85% of my students identified as Klan members, you did not earn it, and it's not an The book
No, it's not in the book. They were from van Delia and they used to call it cleanse Delia. And, and they they saw many gas station and told me don't go to that gas station because it's populated by clendon. But so I've taught, you know, I've taught abroad, and now I teach very privileged, progressive students at DePaul, and I've taught an Ivy League students schools, I've taught at Cornell and Columbia University in New York, and I've been at the partner for 18 years as a tenured professor. So I've seen a lot of American I give talks all over this country. And, you know, I don't think you've lived in America. And you can agree with me coming from Dakota, living into quarter but unless you've lived in the heartland, you don't you know, you live in New York City and you live in this little bubble. And you live on the East Coast, the West Coast, you live in this bubble, but unless you really live in the heartland and you've traveled Kansas, the coders, Illinois, Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa, you really haven't seen American I think I have really seen In America, and, and and engage with the American people. And I, I think that going back to something we talked about the last time, if you do not have a sense of entitlement, if you work hard and pull yourself up, and our self reliant Americans actually respect that, you know, as I said, When I came to this country, I worked 45 hours a week and put myself through school. Before when winning a scholarship to do a PhD. I have found that most Americans respect that. What they don't want is a sense of entitlement, that we owe you something. Because immigration is not a right. It's a privilege.
And this is connected, this is connected to your observation. And I think these are my words, not yours, but that America is forward not backward looking that it's not where it's not where you come from, but it's where you're going. That's the most relevant to America.
That's right. That's right. It's not a very nostalgic place. And it's actually not a very sentimental country. And you're, you're basically as good as your, your present performance or it's a salesman's country as much as you can convince the next person, how well you're likely to perform in the future, which I love about this country because it gives you a chance to fail. And then to recoup from your failure and to convince your compatriots that I can actually make something substantial from of my life by future possibilities that lay ahead of me, and that's so pick when people talk about America and throw statistics at you and talk about, you know, equality of outcome versus equality of opportunities. I say the possibilities themselves are what makes America remarkable because there are are countries in this world there are states in this world that don't even grant you the opportunities? The opportunities themselves are what make America a golden place. Because I've seen the other side, where the paucity of opportunities, the absence of opportunities, the dearth of opportunities strangles people's lives, you know, make it almost impossible for them to make a step forward. And the fact that we live in a country with so many opportunities, so many possibilities, that for people to stand here now and say well, because the outcomes are not as we think they should be, is just ludicrous. Short of a utopian mystic state. America cannot promise you success. It can only give you the opportunity and say, work as hard as you can, but not short of a bloated hotel. unplanned state, no, no, no free country can provide you with that sort of guaranteed success.
And that's going to lead to my last question, although I will remark and I may have said this on the show once before that, quite a few years ago, I heard on the radio panel discussion and there was, I think, an ambassador from Pakistan, who said that America is the only country where the phrase Well, that's history means it's irrelevant. That everywhere else history, the weight of history makes all these decisions in America. It's, that's in the past, it doesn't count. And, and I think that that really is is a way of summarizing your very point, which is this lack of sentimentality, this lack of this, it's about what you're trying to do and how hard you work. And so then I asked you as, as an immigrant, and this is a sort of ridiculous question, but you'll know what I mean by it. How free are we in America? Because there are a lot of people who think we aren't free. There are a lot of people who think We were less free than we were. And this is true on the left and the right. They're just different justifications for it. There is a discourse now that American Freedom is a myth. It's a caricature that that we aren't. And so from the perspective of the immigrant from the perspective of the person who, who wrote the book that we're talking about, again, whose presale is available on Amazon. Um, how free are we in America?
Well, comparatively speaking, in abstraction, it's difficult to answer that question. But comparatively speaking, those who think that we aren't free, I would say, pack your bags and go to Saudi Arabia, go to Iran, go to North Korea, and just find out how free you really are.
How about how about Italy? How about Greece? How about Brazil? Those are the extreme countries that I think most everyone would agree. What about the more democratic more capital Economic powerhouses,
I still think there's a reason why people from those countries are coming to America in far greater numbers than our Americans. immigrating to those countries, there's still something fundamentally magical and wondrous about this great republican Boers that is an attractant to people from Brazil, from Sweden, the beloved Sweden that is supposed to be this, you know, golden place of, of the Finland producing and I love those countries. I spent a lot of time there. They're wonderful countries, but they're supposed to be producing the happiest people in the world. But far more people from Sweden are immigrating and Finland
and Finns are not happy. I've spent a lot of time in Finland, they're not happy people.
Far more of them are coming here than Americans are immigrating there. There's just there's something about this country. And it's not just about making money. It's about the possibility of remaking your life into something new. There's something about having a vision Have your life of an S, again, an aspiration identity, what I want to become in my life what I want my life to be. And America grants you that chance to rewrite the script, America grants you the chance to rewrite, to revisit the narratives that were bequeathed to you and say, I want to be something different. I want to engage in this process of becoming a new type of human being. It's more than just money. It's the chance to achieve a new type of humanity in your own person. And I don't think that that kind of possibility is to be had in most other countries. And I think that is the magic. That's part of the magic of America. It is a radical kind of freedom. It's a scary kind of freedom because America just sets you loose, and because it doesn't guarantee you That outcome. You see, this is the thing it says, okay, you want it. Go ahead. There are all these opportunities, you can go to Silicon Valley. You can go here, you can go there. But we can't guarantee you the outcome. But the mere I remember 20 years old, having all these possibilities ahead of me, and feeling like a giddy kid, a kid in a candy shop thinking. And I remember getting into 25 law schools and I never started for the outset, I just took it on a women are under 25 law schools and I got into these PhD schools to do my PhD in philosophy. And then I thought, Oh, I could do an MBA also. And I could do all these things. And then I also wanted to get I also want to go to Hollywood, I was writing the screenplays and I was gonna make my way across Hollywood. And then I was writing, I wrote a novel and I thought I could become a novice. I thought, This is America. And then I thought, you know, I really want to be a philosopher and I want to be a professor, you fool. You can No, but this is the magic of America and this is why people come here. So, for the detractors I say Pack your bags, you know, do not get inoculated, do not get any kind of inoculation against any kind of diseases go trekking the Amazon, try an experiment somewhere else, try living somewhere else. See how free you are? See what life is like there without the protections and, and the opportunities of America and and then and then come back to Dr. Hill and write to him and tell him what you think about this land of freedom that you relinquished. Now we can talk.
The book is called we have over common immigrants letter to the American people. It's available right now presale on Amazon, we will have a link on our webpage and then when it's available for regular sale, that link will still be good. Jason, I am sure that when your next book comes out, we will have you on again you are always a tremendous mentor. And and and i will say it'll be July 4 in a few weeks. It is nice to have an optimistic, enthusiastic, empowering message on the show to remind us of, of what we have as opposed to what we don't have. So thank you so much for your second and I hope the second of many visits to why radio.
Thank you jack, thank you so much.
You have been listening to Jason D. Hill and jack Russell Watson on why philosophical discussions but everyday life I'll be back with a few thoughts right after this.
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You're back with jack Russell Weinstein here on why philosophical discussions about everyday life. We were talking with Jason Hill about immigration, the promise of America and all sorts of racial politics that were challenging and interesting. He said something towards the very end, just a line in passing. He said, it's a salesman's country. And he was talking about the fact that you are valued by what you're trying to do and what you can convince other people that you've done is valuable, and it's no accident that Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman is one of the great American plays, because it shows what happens when things go right and when things go wrong, and it shows the relationship between the appearance of working hard and actually working hard, and the American dream, the American dream. That's a romantic phrase. It's laden with positive and negative emotions. For people who've achieved the American dream, it's one of the greatest things there is. And for people who are striving or feel excluded, it's much more complicated. But the question isn't whether any individual has made it. The question is whether any individual can make it. And that's the controversy that we've put forth today. How free are all Americans, whether they are foreign born or born in the United States? How free are they to achieve from Jason's perspective, everyone is afraid of achieve. individuals make the choices and the decisions that allow them to push ahead of the racism that exists, the interference that exists the difficulties that exist, but there's so much more opportunity he thinks In the United States, there's so much more potential and freedom and welcome ness in the United States than any other place. Because it's not about your tribe. It's not about your history. It's not about your race, he argues. It's about what you can do. It's about the freedom. It's a scary freedom. He reminds us a radical freedom because as we know, from our conversations on the show about existentialism, with freedom comes responsibility. If it's your choice to succeed, then the failure is your responsibility to obviously, Jason is not Eve, he doesn't think anyone can do anything no matter what. Life is harder for some people than it is for others. And he acknowledges that race and economic class play an important part in the equation. But ultimately, he wants us to understand that as an immigrant, as someone who came from To make it to the United States when he was 20, and is living a life that he wants to lead, that this option is open to everybody, the American Dream is still very much there, we still are the shining light on the hill. We just have to choose to make the best decisions we can be to be of good moral character in his words, and political character to have a good moral identity and a political identity. And what America does best is allow us to choose our own good, choose our own end, and that's true of immigrants. And it's true of native born. And it's true, I suspect of visitors as well. The convert is always the most enthusiastic about his or her religion, and the immigrant is often the most enthusiastic about their new country. Jason is a wonderful model of what America can mean. It's going to be July 4 soon. I hope that we can all take his message and remind ourselves of the promise that we have and the goodness and not necessarily focus on the negatives, which we do too often and too much. You've been listening to jack Russel Weinstein on why philosophical discussions about everyday life. It's been a wonderful discussion and as always, it's an honor to be with you.
Why is funded by the Institute for philosophy and public life, Prairie Public Broadcasting in the University of North Dakota is College of Arts and Sciences and division of Research and Economic Development. Skip wood is our studio engineer. The music is written and performed by Mark Weinstein and can be found on his album Louis Sol. For more of his music, visit jazz flute weinstein.com or myspace.com slash Mark Weinstein. Philosophy is everywhere you make it and we hope we've inspired you with our discussion today. Remember, as we say at the Institute, there is no ivory tower