Transcript of EP 161 – Greg Thomas on Untangling the Gordian Knot of Race

The following is a rough transcript which has not been revised by The Jim Rutt Show or Greg Thomas. Please check with us before using any quotations from this transcript. Thank you.

Jim: Today’s guest is Greg Thomas. Greg is CEO of The Jazz Leadership Project. He curates and facilitates business workshops and humanities programs for a range of organizations, including JP Morgan Chase, Verizon, the NYPD, TD Bank and Google. He’s written on jazz and Democratic life for Arrow, New Republic, The Root, New York Daily news, The Developmentalist, and his own blog, Tune Into Leadership. Greg’s a senior fellow of The Institute for Cultural Evolution and an advisor to The Consilience Project, as am I, right? He’s also a co-producer of the Annual Shaping an Omni-American Future Event. Greg has lectured at institutions such as Columbia, Hamilton, Van Buren University, and Harvard. I normally do not mention people’s ethnicity on the show cause usually it’s not relevant, but in this case, I am going to mention that Greg is a Black American, grew up in Brooklyn, New York, has family roots in Georgia and currently lives in Connecticut. Welcome, Greg.

Greg: Thank you, Jim. It’s great to be on your show. Thanks for inviting me.

Jim: Yeah, Greg, actually, you invited yourself. Greg reached out to me and suggested let’s do a chat on, he suggested a title, Untangling, the Gordian Knot of Race. I looked into his materials briefly, I said, “I think this guy’s got some things to say, so let’s have him on the show,” so it’s great to be here. One of the things I enjoy frankly, about my show is, I do a fair bit of research for each show on average, about 10 hours. Actually, I often don’t listen to podcasts. I get transcripts of podcasts, read them, et cetera, read articles, et cetera, and just track down thing. One of the things I love about my research is discovering new authors that I didn’t know about. As I was doing my research, I stumbled across a guy named Albert Murray. I never heard of him. How could that be? How could I not have ever heard of Albert Murray as it turns out? I’m currently reading his book, The Omni Americans, and I got to say, wow, this guy is great.

Greg: There you go. I’m so glad to hear that. If I can be an introduction to Murray, I will have done some good in the world.

Jim: Right. Before we jump into a whole bunch of interesting topics, maybe you could give us a minute or so on The Jazz Leadership Project, because that also looks interesting and I wish it had existed back in the day when I was a business practitioner, because it looked like, unlike a lot of these goddamn training things, it would actually be of use, right?

Greg: Yes. Well the short version is that The Jazz Leadership Project is a business run by myself and my partner and wife, Jewel Kinch-Thomas, and we use the principles and practices of jazz music as a way to enhance leadership capacity and team cohesion in a nutshell. But we do that through a variety of principles and practices that are heard and felt in the music, but that application directly in the workplace with individual leaders, as well as teams who work together on projects and such. So it’s a wonderful analogy and metaphor, and we find that when we share the analogy and metaphor and the music itself and tie those together, bridge them, that people get it, whether or not they were into jazz or not. So it’s a lot of fun, but it’s also very educational and very practical at the same time.

Jim: Yeah. It made sense to me because you think about especially early stage companies where a lot of my experience was also later stage companies, the idea of improvisation, but with a theme and who holds the baton moving around at various times, depending on what’s going on, actually made sense. I go, “Damn, that’s a useful metaphor.”

Greg: Excellent. I’m glad to hear that.

Jim: Why do we need to untangle the Gordian Knot of Race?

Greg: We do because we have been caught in this Gordian knot, this twisted, confused and confusing idea and a set of practices and behaviors deriving from such that for the last 400 or so years has just got us in a jam. Now, of course, there are many, many, many problems in the world unrelated to race. When we talk about our meta crisis, there’s a, let me use a technical phrase, there’s a shit load of stuff, that we have to deal with, but race in terms of identity, in terms of how we perceive ourselves in terms of how we interact with other people in the United States in primarily Western nation, say, it’s been, pun intended, it’s been colored by this idea of race and a process that’s called racialization, both of which are supported by a racial worldview. It’s like there’s a socialization process that we all go through as individuals, as from being a child to an adult, you get socialized.

Greg: Part of the socialization has been the acceptance of the idea that we are parts of different subspecies called races. So we accept this usually it comes as a part of what I call “unconscious culture” when you’re just growing up by the time you’re seven or eight- years-old, you just observe. You hear how people talk, you look at TV, you’re part of the media and this idea of races, primarily Black and white, which leaves out a whole swath of people, of course. Then we just continue speaking, thinking and behaving as if those terms and ideas are real, particularly biologically, that’s racial essentialism. So the differences that we see externally, you, Jim, you have lighter skin than I do.

Greg: I have more melanin than you do, and there’s a process through which there’s a sorting, certain attribution are given to these differences, and then they are centralized where it’s like, this is actually has a biological basis. Stereotypes are developed, and then people actually believe, think, and behave as if these differences, which are based on, in part, phenotype are real and are more important than the things we share in common. So when we untangle this Gordian knot, when we look at the actual history of this, when we look at how false it is, how it’s a part of what my late friend, Stanley Crouch called The All-American Skin Game: The Decoy of Race.

Greg: If we can take a look at it without getting caught up in so many of the traps that when we talk about this topic, there are a lot of traps. There are a lot of dead ends that we can go down, and I’ve been thinking about and writing about this for some decades now. I just think that we need to face it. We need to face that what we call racism is actually tied closely to the very idea and concept of race, the process of racialization and a racial worldview, which basically, if you think about John Vervaeke’s basic definition of worldview, he says, “Worldview, it is a guideline for how we see the world and how we act and behave in the world as agents.” So if we see the world through the lens of race, then it’s like, “Well, the world is made up of these races and therefore, we act and behave based on that,” and it’s a bunch of malarkey, man.

Jim: I’ve been amazed at that. I’ve learned the biology relatively early that the differences between the races are tiny compared to the differences within the races, right?

Greg: Exactly. Exactly.

Jim: Frankly, I grew up in a fairly racist place. My dad was a D.C. cop. Most he, and all his buddies were terrible racists. I used to argue with him all the time and say, “Now, why do you hate Black people?” I tried to drill into it and I’d cause their heads to explode, because they didn’t actually have any good reason. It was clear to me that it was one of these asinine distinctions. Then, I later learned that it’s surprisingly recent historically, at least the Black/white thing, right?

Greg: Right. Very much so. That’s right.

Jim: You go back to the Greeks and the Romans and while they hated everybody who wasn’t a Greek or a Roman, they didn’t hate Black people any different than they hated other white people. In fact, they had great respect for Hannibal, the military man and other people. As best I can tell, and I don’t know what your thoughts on this is, as far as I can tell it may well have been the slave trade that produced this, because the Christianity Catholic church still at that time forbid, in theory, slavery of fellow Christians. Even when Blacks then became Christians, which many of them did, they had to come up with this sleazy story that somehow Blacks were not full humans to allow slavery.

Greg: That is so true. That’s a part of it. So there’s-

Jim: I think that’s a big piece of it.

Greg: Yeah. That’s a religious dimension where they looked at the story of Shem, Ham-

Jim: Shem and Ham. Yeah. That was just after the fact bullshit to justify it=

Greg: To justify it, right.

Jim: The fact that, supposedly you weren’t supposed to enslave fellow Christians, but it was too profitable, so they had to find some fucking bullshit excuse, essentially.

Greg: Well, there you go. That’s true. This is why the fields sisters, Barbara and Karen Fields in their book, Racecraft, they actually argue that racism existed before the concept of race and those two things. So you have this practice where if you start with since 1619, which has become a very controversial year in the last few years because of The 1619 Project. But that’s when you had the first shipment of 20 African enslaved people who came to these shores. If you start from there, you actually have a group of various people who were indentured servants and they weren’t all so-called Black people. You have people from different European nations and different parts who were working under that status. About the late 1600s, there was a rebellion, Bacon’s Rebellion in which there were groups of so-called Black people, so-called white people who actually worked together, there were folks who didn’t like that.

Greg: So there were laws that started coming into being where they actually had this distinction about white people and certain rights that people who were not white did not have, whereas, the people who were white had, so they codified this in law. This was for the purpose of, as they say, dividing and conquering. So after a certain point, the association between an African origin, dark skin, and all of that to being enslaved in a system that was chattel slavery, slave property and being enslaved for life. So when you do that in a country and in a context in which the very idea of freedom is a founding principle, there’s a big, huge cognitive dissonance, big, huge contradictions. So what do you do? My friend and colleague, Greg Enriquez talks about culture in terms of justification systems. So how do you justify this? Well, you justify it by saying, “Well, these people they’re subhuman. They have all of these inbred, inborn deficiencies.”

Greg: Then you give biblical justification, you give pseudo-scientific justification, all of this to justify being able to exploit people, generation after generation. That’s what actually happened historically in a nutshell. But it’s still the foundation of it is so erroneous, both in terms of being biologically true, and also, the social construction piece. For us to go beyond, to transcend race, we’re going to have to deal with some of these terms and ideas first before we can move beyond it. That’s why it’s this process of untangling. So what is socially constructed is racism is socially constructed. Okay? Not race. Okay? So yes, there were people and groups, there was a system in place that exploited people based on race, and that’s racism and this racial worldview that we were born in developed.

Jim: Yes, actually it’s a justification for the system of exploitation, right?

Greg: Exactly. [inaudible 00:14:29]

Jim: Otherwise, you’re violating Christianity and you’re violating the enlightenment view that all men are created equal, right?

Greg: There you go.

Jim: If you’re going to say, “All men are created equal,” the only way you can keep chattel slaves is saying they’re not men, right?

Greg: That’s right.

Jim: Essentially they’re subhuman.

Greg: Right.

Jim: So it’s a classic, horrible justification. Before we go on, though, we should, I think, both agree that chattel slavery was a particularly horrible form of slavery. If you look at other historical forms of slavery, the Greeks and the Romans and the Chinese, et cetera, generally speaking, people weren’t treated formally as property. They had some rights. Breaking up to the families, typically wasn’t done. American chattel, slavery, and also other Americans, keep in mind that the Caribbean islands actually had slaves before the U.S. did. Brazil was a slaveocracy of tremendous proportions until way after the United States, but let’s call it the American forum, America big A, North and South form of slavery was a particularly horrific variety of slavery in the historical context.

Greg: There’s no question about that. Absolutely, because there are historians and there are people who say, “Well yes, the system of slavery existed from back in the time of the Egyptians and the Greece.” That’s true.

Jim: Yeah. Moses and those folks, they were slaves. Right?

Greg: That’s right. So, but you’re right. Chattel slavery, where you are literally property that could be bought and sold, families broken up, beaten and exploited for your labor and you are born with that status. That is a particularly horrific and brutal form of slavery. We definitely have to acknowledge that at the same time, and this is where some of our anti-racist activists and academics fall down the job, in my estimation, you have counters to that system all throughout the same history, from the Quakers and various movements, the Abolition Movement and that type of thing.

Greg: You have so many responses to that at the same time, and the irony of the very ideas from the enlightenment being the basis upon which those movements are based and a system in the United States where you can have redress and address these ongoing problems within the very system of government. As again, Stanley Crouch would say there’s a lot of blues attending to the American government and the history of the American government. As we said, it was codified into law, into legislation. The Supreme Court solidified it and crystallized it with The Dred Scott Decision and such. At the same time, it’s those very ideas of freedom that inspirited and inspired people to fight against that, and in time for it to be abolished, that also has to be acknowledged.

Jim: I think that’s a hugely important point. People point out that’s very, very common today to talk about the hypocrisy of the slaveholders who wrote the Declaration of Independence, and that is true. Many of the signers of Declaration of men were slaveholders, right?

Greg: That’s right.

Jim: However, they did say those magic words, “All men are created equal,” and over time and it took a long time and a lot of the things in between were pretty fucking terrible. The post-Civil War, Jim Crow Era, that was a gross reversal of what should have happened. But to your point, the enlightenment principle, “All men are created equal,” did provide an opening that eventually took too long, but eventually allowed people of good faith to realize that this is all fucking wrong shit-

Greg: No doubt.

Jim: … and no other society has ever done that really, right?

Greg: Absolutely. That’s why our mutual colleague and associate, Jamie Wheal in Recapture the Rapture, he talks about how our system of democracy with the idea of equal treatment beyond religion, creed, belief, and even so-called race. That idea and ideal is something that is an ideal to aspire to, to admire, to reach for and to continue working towards, because of the infinite game, based on James Carse’s Finite and Infinite Games, it is. Without that aspiration, without an understanding that we live within, in the United States and in the West, a system of government and governance that at least in theory in aspiration is democratic and is an open society where you can have free enterprise.

Greg: These are powerful ideas and practices that we can’t just willy-nilly throw away, because Zach Stein talks about being in a time between worlds, but whatever the world that comes after this one that we’re in, there’s going to be changes. There’s going to be changes in all types of systems, but I would say that certain fundamental rights, the freedom of speech, the right to associate, these fundamental classically liberal values are foundational for whatever comes beyond that. Wouldn’t you agree? Wouldn’t you say that is also connected to the idea of Game B?

Jim: I agree, and of course, to some considerable degree, the ideas of free speech are under fairly serious attack right now.

Greg: That’s the truth.

Jim: Well, let’s go on to that. First, before I do, I want to do the little sidebar, just tell a personal story.

Greg: Sure.

Jim: You mentioned Stanley Crouch and I have a love of Stanley Crouch, a huge love of him. Back in the ’80s, I was still a fairly conservative Goldwater Republican, for one reason, which was anti-communism and I will stick with that, goddammit. After 1992, I left the Republicans because I did not like their homophobia, their nativism and the implicit racism and things like Pat Buchanan, so I switched. I never became actually a Democrat, but left the Republicans.

Jim: But anyway, back in the ’80s, when I was still pretty hardcore Goldwater Republican, I used to sneak and buy copies of the Village Voice for one reason, which was to read Stanley Crouch. Here’s another thing, I don’t know if I’ve ever told anybody this except my wife. In 1992, after I had sold my third company, I took two months off, then went got back into the world. I seriously considered reaching out to Stanley and offering to hire him for me to go up to New York for three months and spend two hours a day with him to teach me all about jazz.

Greg: Oh, my God. You never told anyone that? That’s wonderful. He would’ve been the one to do it, I tell you.

Jim: I figured two hours a day for three months and have him just play records and talk to me. If he talks anything like he writes, that would’ve been the most amazingly fun thing, amazing, because to my mind, he was like an H.L. Menckem of the late 20th and early 21st century.

Greg: That’s a good way of putting it. The thing is, let me tell you something, he was a friend and he was a great storyteller. So you would’ve had a rip-roaring time. I can tell you that.

Jim: Yeah. I’ve always regretted not doing that, because I do know a little about jazz, my wife a lot more, but I will say, the kind of jazz that I’m comfortable with is very standard, mid-’50s jazz. I have a saint in jazz, it’s Coltrane, right?

Greg: Yeah.

Jim: But I also like Miles Davis, Sonny Rawlins, Thelonious Monk, people like that, but I know there’s a lot more to jazz than those classic guys, but when I want to listen to jazz, that’s what I generally want to put on. But I would love to have been able to explore jazz with a raconteur master like Stanley Crouch.

Greg: I hear you. The ’50s, as far as jazz, the mid-’50s to the late ’50s, it’s a sweet spot in the history of jazz music. Some call it a golden era where you had a confluence of just the greats and great styles of jazz were all present at the same time from Louis Armstrong, the pater familias of jazz, the father of jazz, to Duke Ellington and Count Basie, their orchestras to the style called bebop that came in the ’40s with Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie and Bud Powell and Max Roach and Thelonious Monk. But then after that, you had various styles that flowered hard bop, cool jazz, modal jazz, you had all of those going on at the same time, so that’s a wonderful period. That’s a sweet spot in the music. Oftentimes, when I’m playing the music, I’m playing either that period or music that’s very influenced by that time period.

Jim: It’s funny, this morning when I was finishing my prep, I actually put on Giant Steps by Coltrane.

Greg: (singing)

Jim: That’s just like, to my mind, it’s not his most advanced. I think his most advanced is a album called The Love Supreme, which I love also.

Greg: Well, when you say advanced that’s relative, The Love Supreme, wow, what a spiritual monument that book is, but Giant Steps-

Jim: I love that too.

Greg: … but harmonically, the thing about John Coltrane was that his exploration into scales and harmonies, by the time he got the Giant Steps, which is after him being central part of Miles Davis’ first great quintet that came out, of course, with Kind of Blue. When he went off on his own as a leader, Giant Steps represents his exploration into harmony. So you find that there’s a different core chains, every two beats, now I usually don’t do this, but I’m going to just show a little bit of what I do privately. My wife and my daughter who, by the way, is now a student at MIT, they’ve had to put up with this for a long time, but I, as a teenager, immersed myself so much in jazz that I learned solos by Charlie Parker and Clifford Brown and John Coltrane and many others. I learned the solo to Giant Steps, so I’m going to do a little bit, if you don’t mind of Giant Steps.

Jim: Go for it.

Greg: (singing) And I could continue. So this is a little bit of his solo.

Jim: That’s great. I guess before we move on, then later under my wife’s influence, actually, because she’s much more adventurous musically than I am, I did pick up two other jazz people. One from the very early earliest period, Django Reinhardt, and then-

Greg: Oh, yeah.

Jim: Now we listened to him a fair bit, actually. Then at the other end, Keith Jared, who we actually saw live in Boston one time. That was really quite an experience.

Greg: Yeah. Oh, yeah. Django, a master of the guitar and Keith Jared, first of all, what a virtuoso as a pianist.

Jim: On the piano, man, unbelievable. Right?

Greg: His trio, his jazz trio for decades was one of the greatest ensembles in the music. Absolutely. I love it. When I do workshops, sometimes I use an interpretation of his trio, by his trio, performing All the Things You Are. It’s just fabulous, because it shows the swing, the flow, what we call the ensemble mindset in jazz that we apply in Jazz Leadership Project, and Keith Jared, he was wonderful.

Jim: Indeed. All right, let’s get back to our topic here. Let’s move on to the next topic that I have on my topic list, and that is a term you used a fair bit is that you feel that it’s time that we learned to transcend race. You put together an essay, which I found very interesting, called Why Race-Based Framings of Social Issues Hurts Us All. Tell me where you’re going with that.

Greg: I hear you. Yeah. I think a goal and an aspiration should be to move beyond or to transcend race, racialization, and a racial worldview. We do that and we’ve gone a long way to addressing and resolving the problem of racism itself. Now to be frank and to be mature, in group, our group dynamics will most likely always exist among human beings. Bigotry, to one extent or the other, will very likely always exist among human beings. But it doesn’t mean that we have to base those on the idea, a false idea of race. So it’s an aspiration for us to move beyond being confined in terms of the way we look at ourselves and others by these ideas. So I would say transcending race, to use an integral term, that you want to transcend race, but include culture, because culture is real. Culture is very, very real, and that’s my emphasis.

Greg: It’s like, it’s one thing to say you want to take away or move beyond something, but how do you do it first, and what are you going to embrace in place of it? One of the great things for me is culture, cultural expression. You and I have been talking about that. We’ve been talking about that by talking about music. As we talked about different artists that we loved, okay, now they happen to be mostly Black American as an ethnic and cultural term as I use that. You could also say Afro-American, but there are many, many great jazz artists from other cultures and cultural groups and ethnic groups, I mean many. That’s one of the things that, for me, has allowed me to actually move beyond considering race. When I was a teenager, I immersed myself in the music and I did it based on what I heard and what I loved, and I didn’t allow a false idea of race to confine what I listened to.

Greg: So I fell in love with Dave Brubeck’s quartet and Paul Desmond’s sound on alto sax. I fell in love with a saxophonist named Zoot Sims, who’s part of a school of tenor saxophone playing derived from Lester Young. I love Zoot. I fell in love with Phil Woods who, after Charlie Parker, one of the great post-Charlie Parker saxophonists of all time, one of the greatest saxophonists of the 20th century. None of these people are classified as Black, but they touched my soul. So when I got to college, I went to Hamilton College in Central New York from 1981 to 1985. So when I went to Hamilton, I started learning details about the slave trade and Jim Crow, things that I only had an inkling of starting in high school, not just through what we studied in high school, but by seeing programs like Roots, Alex Haley’s Roots, that had a strong impact on me in high school.

Greg: But when I got to college, I really started delving into it. These feelings of close to hatred started coming up, and it was my love of jazz music and people in jazz music who themselves would be classified as white. Also, frankly, my love of European Western music, European, I should say, classical music, it was called classical music, concert and chamber music that allowed me not to go over the cliff of racial hatred. Culture is something that is very powerful, because that’s where internally our values and the meanings we derive from the things that are important to us derive from, and then the artifacts, what we create based on those values and meanings that show up in the world as art forms, that show up as creativity and creations, as rituals, as myths, all of those things are very important parts of human history. We can look at those as a much stronger basis in index for human motivation, behavior and aspiration than a bullshit idea like race.

Jim: Yeah, when I was reading Albert Murray, The omni-Americans, he makes that point, that American culture, yes, it derives from English culture sort of, but man, does it have a lot of ingredients since then, including the American Indians and certainly. He calls them the mulattoes, the Black-

Greg: Well, yeah. Yeah. Well I think, what did he call it? Yeah. Yeah. So it’s a mix, as Frederick Douglass would call it, a composite. Albert Murray, who you mentioned several times was a mentor of mine, directly, as he was for Wynton Marsalis, one of the world’s greatest musicians and artists and the gentleman who runs Jazz Lincoln Center as artistic and managing director. In fact, as we were recording this, I just was with him here in Connecticut. He was playing at the Ridgefield Playhouse. I went to see him, we were hanging out and then on my blog Tune Into Leadership, I just had a piece on that experience. So Albert Murray was central to those Wynton and myself and his thought is foundational. Neither he nor Ralph Ellison and thereby, Stanley Crouch, who Ellison and Murray were profoundly influential on Stanley, and Stanley actually introduced Wynton to Albert Murray, Albert Murray focused on an omni-American identity, which takes a look at kind of the out of many oneness of American history and culture, so there’s many tributaries in terms of America.

Greg: But we have one shared group of ideas that are the basis upon which we base are very society. An omni-American way of looking at things, he loves Constance Rourke, she was a great cultural historian in the early 20th century. She had a book called American Humor, which actually used the word humor, not just as comedy, but as character, like American character. She talked about three primary figures, three primary archetypes of an American identity. You’ve got the Yankee, who was rebelling against the mother country. Of course. You’ve got the back woodsman, or we say Native American, who as Murray says, and is rebelling against aspects of what we call civilization, which could be a controversial claim today, but they are a foundational archetype of America. There’s not happenstance that at the Boston Tea Party, they dressed up like Native Americans.

Greg: You know what I mean? Then of course, there’s the Negro American, an archetype of improvisation of other qualities. So those three types, based on Constance Rourke’s work, are fundamental to what Murray called Homo Americanus. Okay. Three foundational types, which is a variation in extension of Homo Europeaus, which he said was a combination of Greek, Roman and the Judeo-Christian heritage. So we are a real big mixture here. We are not any one thing. So if we can accept that in cultural terms, accept that as, to put it in a very fundamental way, Ralph Ellison once said this to a group of Harvard students, “All y’all are part Black and I’m part white.” Okay, if you want to put it like that. But this mixture is what really makes us a people and as dynamic as we are, but we don’t have to hold onto the idea of race to do it. We could lean on culture, in my opinion.

Jim: Murray, I knew as well in your writings and on some of the podcast appearances support the idea that a Black culture is a rich and wonderful thing that should be preserved.

Greg: Well, a Black American culture, absolutely, as a foundational. One of the reasons I emphasize Black American, because if you just say Black, that connotes largely race within a racial context that I’m trying to-

Jim: Wonderful point out. [inaudible 00:37:08] It’s a great point.

Greg: Yeah. Yeah.

Jim: It’s also culturally different, a Black Uganda culture has very little in common Black American culture.

Greg: There we go, and you’ve got Caribbean culture. There are distinctions there. If you look at so-called white people, all kind of distinctions there. You’re going to tell me that the Scotch-Irish are the same as the French or the Germans? Get out of here. It’s ridiculous. You know what I mean?

Jim: That’s actually a very important point to make. I’m glad that you brought that up. People forget how much animosity there was between the white ethnics not that long ago. You read our literary novelists of the ’20s and my father, even who was born in 1923. He grew up in inner city Patterson, New Jersey, and he was considered Irish, even though he was only half-Irish. He said in those days, literally, if you walk through an Italian neighborhood and you were considered Irish, you might well get your ass beat and vice versa, by the way. He wasn’t saying-

Greg: There you go.

Jim: Even today as much problem as we do still have around race, we’re not that bad, and so that was the inter-ethnic, and I remember, I didn’t know that, I was a young kid, but my grandmother banned her son from her house for 20 years for marrying an Italian American woman.

Greg: Wow.

Jim: Jesus Christ. Right?

Greg: I know.

Jim: Yet, she didn’t ban her daughter who married the Syrian. What the fuck do I know? But anyway, so she was just so opposed to Italians. I grew up in a post-World War II suburb of D.C. where there were all kinds of ethnic groups all mixed together. We just thought that these stories from our parents were the stupid ass shit we ever heard. I’m going to be prejudiced against an Italian or a Ukrainian or a Greek or Polish, what the fuck? It just seemed ridiculous. Yet in their age, that was as real as the Black white thing is today, maybe more so. So that gives me considerable hope that we can move to a point where it may be the differences, obviously, the difference are still there. They’re real, as you say, Scottish Irish American is still somewhat distinct from, let’s say, a Greek American, but everybody gets along. We think that the idea of kicking somebody’s ass because they’re Italian is just like, what the fuck? Only an idiot would think something like that. Right?

Greg: I totally agree with you. I think one of the things about Murray’s omni-American idea, as I’ve adopted it, and I’m using as part of the movement that you mentioned earlier, shaping an omni-American future, where The Jazz Leadership Project is collaborating with several Jewish organizations, Combat Antisemitism Movement and the American Sephardi Federation, it’s important to recognize what we hold in common and our differences, but to not allow our differences to be that which divides us into these tribes that want to destroy each other, it’s not necessary. But the thing is, what we are talking about is a real kind of developmental challenge, because fundamentally, as Jamie Wheal points out ain Recapture the Rapture and elsewhere, as he talks about, and fundamentally we are tribal as human beings. So it’s so easy for us to get into these tribes. So the question becomes, can we developmentally speaking grow beyond our tribal roots. Now to a certain extent, you’re going to be parts of different groups, and that’s one of the things to recognize, but do those groups have to go to war with each other, rhetorically or otherwise?

Jim: In fact, on the Game B Synthesis, we say the real group is the group of 150, and that can be mixed of all sorts of different kinds of people, and that that’s really your tight group. there’s no reason that has to be segregated by race or religion or anything at all. Once you built that strong cell at the Dunbar number, we call the Proto V, then those groups interrelate with each other, and they’re all part of the broader community, and we all accept each other, but also our differences. The idea of coherent pluralism, we agree on some things and we agree to disagree or say, “Hey, people just have different aesthetics, different ways to live, and that that is-

Greg: Exactly.

Jim: … and that is fine. This is so anti, unfortunately, the trends in our society today where this attempt to force everybody to believe exactly the same thing, and if you get one word wrong, they want cut your throat.

Greg: Absolutely. Yeah. There’s cancel culture dynamic, which is really not new, it’s just the current manifestation. I tell you, that’s why you look at the work of The Consilience Project that we are both on the board of advisors for the media and how the media, both so-called legacy media, mainstream media, and now social media really advances the incentive structure of these are based so much on conflict and so much on, let’s talk about mainstream legacy media, which is a fundamental part of Game A-

Jim: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Greg: Take a look at the local news anywhere in the country, local news, they are going to start off with something crappy, something tragic, something to raise your fear, to get your amygdala going, any night of the week. They ain’t starting with good news, because it’s like, there’s a structural thing with legacy media to use conflict. I’m a long-time journalist. There’s an old phrase, “If it bleeds, it leads.”

Jim: I was going to just say that, but you beat me to it. Of course, we know that grabs your dopamine reactions, right? This is how we are hijacked by highly-emotional material, whether it’s relevant or not. You look at these, and why do I need to know about a car wreck in Utah? I don’t, but oh yeah. I happen to kill a few more people than usual, so therefore they decide they have to throw that out there just to grab more eyeballs.

Greg: Absolutely. Now let’s take it back to race. This is why these horrific instances where unarmed Black people, Black men in particular, but it’s not just Black men it’s Black women also, or Black people, I want to use nuance in my languaging because I try not to fall into the race way of actually using language. I actually try to confront it by saying racialized and identified as, that type of thing, so people identified as Black people racialized as Black, these horrific incidents, which become national call celebs are horrific and they are. But when you look at the actual statistics of police killings of American citizens and how many are of color, there’s not that much, and this is the work of Roland Fryer, there’s not that much of a numerical distinction between Blacks and white.

Greg: Where the distinction comes, and this is also Roland Fryer, is in the use of force with people who are racialized as Black, which is that’s important to recognize. But getting back to the media, you have instances that are very similar to the ones that become cause libs that happen to other groups, but you don’t hear about them nearly as often. Why is that? Because I think there’s an inherent bias in legacy media to reinforce and leverage for profit this whole racial dynamic. It’s really messed up because when you’re talking about the media, this is the window through which we see things that’s happening in the world, and so the media is a big problem in this also.

Jim: Yeah. It’s a bigger syndrome here. You mentioned in one of your essays, and frankly I’ve read both of these books and the ideas of Ibram Kendi and Robin DiAngelo are part of this both New York Times best sellers referenced constantly, they’re part of this broader syndrome. That’s your take on those two thinkers in particular?

Greg: Yeah. Yeah. They’re their distinction among them, but I think we can talk about them together in that they are both bestselling authors. You see these lists of books that folks should read after George Floyd’s murder and they’re invariably on them. I agree with John McWhorter that Robin DiAngelo’s book on white fragility is just a bad, poorly written book, but there’s more to say about that. I’ll give you more specifics, and even Ibram’s Kendi, I guess he had the right title at the right time, How to Be an Anti-Racist and that becomes a bestseller also, but frankly, both of these thinkers, and I know this is going to really sound like I’m disparaging them, but if you put it in grade terms, these are like frankly junior high school to high school-level thinkers, in my opinion.

Greg: I know that [inaudible 00:47:26] had a PhD in history and written a book on history. I’ve read that book also. But when you get to their ideas, as far as anti-racism, the people we’ve been talking about, we mentioned Albert Murray, Ralph Ellison, Stanley Crouch, these people shouldn’t even be mentioned in the same sentence really, because their ideas are just so simplistic and so ungenerative as compared to these really great thinkers and writers of the 20th century. Take Robin DiAngelo, one of the things that I’ve thought for a long time, Jim, is that okay, if we’re going to move beyond race, if we’re going to transcend race or embrace what someone whose work I very much appreciate and have learned from Carlos, Dr. Carlos Hoyt, Jr. He wrote a book called The Arc of A Bad Idea: Understanding and Transcending Race.

Greg: In it, he talks about a non-racial identity, that there actually are people, in the last part of that book, he profiles many of them who just do not consider themselves in racial terms. They just don’t. They are a group of people who say, “Well, I just don’t buy into that.” So I’ve said to myself for a while now, Well, what do we … ?” If you pull the rug from other people, so many people because of our socialization and racialization consider themselves in racial terms, if you just say that race isn’t real and you pull the rug from them, what’s left? I have always thought that ethnicity is something that people could turn to, not becoming ethnocentric, no, but people have an ethnic background. You’ve mentioned your own. I consider my own Black American heritage and ethnic and cultural identity. But Robin DiAngelo says to people who are racialized as white, “Ah, ah, ah, don’t even try that. Don’t try to go to ethnicity. No, no, no. You are white. If you are white, you’re culpable, you’re guilty, and the best thing you can try to do is become less white.”

Jim: When I read that book, I said, “This is a mean, bad person,” but she sadistic literally. I was also wondering, and what would a Moldavian make of this? A Moldavian is a white person living in the land between Romania and Ukraine. The Moldavians had no involvement in colonialism, slave trade or anything. What would a Moldavian make of this?

Greg: I hear you. Yes. It’s very, very American-centric. You know David Fuller, the founder of Rebel Wisdom?

Jim: Yeah, a good friend. A wonderful friend.

Greg: Yeah, absolutely. He, one time, and I really appreciated this reference. He called Robin DiAngelo Nurse Ratchet of One Flew over the Cuckoo’s nest.

Jim: Well, I love that. It’s perfect.

Greg: Yeah. Isn’t that perfect?

Jim: On the other hand, I did find Kendi’s book. How to Be an Anti-Racist much more charming. He-

Greg: Oh, absolutely, because he’s telling his personal story [inaudible 00:50:48]

Jim: His personal story was really quite moving and his brutal honesty about himself was amazing. On the other hand, his basic formulation, I go, he just made it up. No evidence, nothing. It was essentially a linguistic move rather than a scientific move.

Greg: I hear you. Yeah. I’m glad you make that distinction because I would agree. His personal story, his own evolution, but again, that’s why we go to the whole developmental piece. Is that the end of the evolution? I say no. No. Okay. This just takes some of his basic ideas, anti-racist, okay. I could say that, okay. You are against racism. Well, I’m against racism too, but his particular formulation of being an anti-racist still accepts race as a concept. In fact, it further reifies race as a concept as does Robin DiAngelo. So to me-

Jim: In fact does the whole woke thing. I refer to this woke thing as racist neotribalism, essentially trying to force people back into these categories, when in reality, people should be blending and mixing, and let’s not forget how did the Irish and the Italians settle their businesses mostly in the bedroom, if you want to know the truth?

Greg: Hello. Well, the blending and mixing that piece to the cultural intelligence that we need, because see, that’s the way culture works. I’m thinking I’m speaking of culture as a dynamic, culture doesn’t give a what your race is and people who come from different cultural backgrounds, particularly when you’re talking about the West and most particularly the United States, we have been trying on different masks, different traditions. I’m a New Yorker, man. I come from New York, which means that I’ve been exposed to all kinds of ethnic mixtures. When I was coming up, I loved knishes, which came from a Jewish heritage. I love trying these different parts of a New York heritage, and it’s like, I could embrace it all. No I wasn’t native to it. No, but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate it. It extends some far beyond food to dance, to music, to visual art. You know what I mean? Opera-

Jim: Oh, you mentioned that you loved Western classical music and Afro-centric jazz and blues.

Greg: Absolutely.

Jim: My wife is a complete maniac on blues. I enjoy blues, but I enjoy jazz more, but she loves blues. She’ll just listen to blues for hours.

Greg: But a lot of times when you think about our wives and you think about the women in our lives, man, there’s some wisdom that they have [inaudible 00:53:53]

Jim: She’s got a lot more wisdom than we do. They got more wisdom than we do on average.

Greg: Lord knows it’s true. But when you look at the blues, man, the blues is a foundation for jazz and for American music overall, even for gospel music.

Jim: And the Rolling Stones, don’t forget that. They were a blues band originally, right?

Greg: The absolutely, the whole rock, the British Invasion, it was, it was largely blues-based. Now the Beatles, you;re talking about ensemble. Mine said they were a fabulous group that played blues and beyond in terms of their songwriting and stuff. But blues is the foundation and this is why, again, Murray’s ideas and Ralph Ellison’s ideas are so important, because they dealt very strongly with blues. Ellison called the blues fundamentally a tragic comic dynamic. So you have the tragic reality of life that’s inherent in the blues, often in the first eight bars of the blues. But the comic dimension or that dimension of some hope or optimism is in that last four bars when you are responding to the tragic. So the blues, and this is Murray, the blues is not a form that avoids looking at the low down dirty shameness of so much of life. But the blues can look at that reality and says, “”You know something? I’m going to give you a quick metaphor, a representative anecdote.” So you got these two elder Black guys and they’ve been through it, man. One says, “Listen, man, my baby kicked me out again.”

Greg: The other one’s like, “Oh, that’s a shame, man.” He said, “You know something? My rents’ due, and I don’t know where it’s coming from, man.” So to get to some fundamental questions, well, what do you do in that circumstance? Murray says that what often they would do is you have the Saturday night function in Black American, his cultural history, which is like a ritual, right? You go back to myth and ritual. So it’s a ritual where you get together and have a good time and stomp those blues away. So those two guys would say, “You know something? You’re right. Things are really screwed up. But you know something I’m going to get clean. I’m going to put on my suit and I’m going to go to the Savoy and we going to have a good time and we’re going to stomp those blues.” Murray says, “It goes from a ritual of purification where you purify the scene, or you purify the atmosphere, you,” as he said in some places, “you unass the place.” You know what I mean? “It’s stink with stuff, you unass it.” You like that. I knew you’d like that.

Jim: I love that.

Greg: But check this out, in the process of doing that, what goes from a purification ritual goes into a fertility ritual, baby. You’re starting to get it on. You know what I mean? So we can continue the very species. You know what I’m saying? This is fundamentally an affirmative perspective on life.

Jim: Blue’s music is extremely sexy, right?

Greg: Absolutely. That’s what Murray said. Murray said, “Look, one of the reasons that some of the preachers are against blues music isn’t because they [inaudible 00:57:45] He said, they know people are having a good time. This is good time music. You know what I mean? When you get to the actuality of what I call the blues idiom perspective, the blues idiom wisdom, you’ve got a sacred and secular dimension. So Saturday night, that’s the secular, you know what I mean? You’re stomping the blues of the week of work and troubles before, and then Sunday morning, that’s when you go to the church service. There’s a ritual of propitiation and devotion, so this is a part of a whole cultural complex that we’re talking about.

Greg: So, you don’t hear people like DiAngelo or even Kendi talk about these cultural dynamics. They’re so focused on race and racism. You don’t hear them talking about racialization or racial worldview. So, they’re too limited. That’s why I said I’m sorry. It’s like I don’t even know if I could say it’s college level. I know there may be many people who are shocked to hear me say that, but I’ve done a lot of reading and study over the years and I know levels, and these folks do not match up. I don’t give a damn if they’re popular. I don’t give a damn if they’re on all of these lists that you’re supposed to read if you want to be an ally. They are too limited in their vision and in the solutions that they propose, that is not the way to go.

Jim: Yeah. The other issue that I find with this broader phenomenon called woke is something called strategic essentialism. It’s very hypocritical. It’s to pretend that we should be essentialist about our ethnicities so that we’ll have more power to fight for spoils in a racialized or ethnicized or genderized fashion. When I think about that, I said, “That sounds like Lebanon to me where you end up with every faction fighting each other to the death in the name of the faction.”

Greg: Yeah. I hear you, tribalism yet again. Yeah. Gayatri Spivak a came up with the concept of strategic essentialism. I disavow it now because of where it’s going, so the question is essentialism itself, when you’re saying that there are certain immutable characteristics based on phenotype, outer appearance, the size of your skull and all that kind of mess, that there are certain attributes and certain stereotypes that should be attending to that, and that’s a good thing? No. Even as a social construction, looking at race as a social construction, if you do that, you’re still holding onto race as a concept. You mentioned transcending race and a non-racial identity, I’m an advocate for de-racialization.

Greg: I think that we can not racialize ourselves or others. Then there’s another colleague, Dr. Sheena Mason, who talks about her theory of racelessness. It’s like we don’t have to consider ourselves in racial terms. And in fact, it so happens that on September 24th, Dr. Sheena Mason and Dr. Carlos Hoyt Jr. and I, we have an event where Resolving the Dilemma of Race(ism) and it’s spelled R-A-C-E with I-S-M in parentheses. That’s Dr. Sheena Mason’s formulation to show that there’s this tie between race and racism, and it’s not easy.

Greg: I consider myself politically a radical moderate, Jim, and as such, the moderate side is that in many ways on issues, I can see not only value on both sides of the political spectrum, that’s kind of a centrist perspective, but it’s more that I’m looking at being a moderate in terms of moderating in between those, and also that middle path that Aristotle talked about, and that’s talked about in certain Buddhist traditions, the middle way, the middle path. But the radical part, man, my radicalism comes on my view of race, because most of us don’t even consider speaking in a way that we don’t reinforce race, let alone thinking and behaving in a way that’s that we deny that’s a reality and we don’t go for it anymore. I think we have to draw the line in the sand at some point, and enough of us doing that can move us forward.

Jim: That’s a wonderful, hopeful thought, but I think we do need to be realistic and say that racism still exists. There are still-

Greg: Absolutely.

Jim: I divide racism up into the various buckets. The essentialist racist, who literally says, “You’re Black, you must be no goddamn good. I don’t care if you’re a Nobel prize winner. Right?

Greg: Right.

Jim: There’s the old, horrible, racist joke. What do you call a Black man with a degree from Harvard Law School, from Johns Hopkins Medical School and has a Nobel Prize in physics?” The answer is the N word. Right?

Greg: Right, right, right.

Jim: Yeah. That’s an essentialist racist. Unfortunately, that’s a small percentage of Americans today. It was a big percentage 50 years ago, but we made progress, but we still have to push out that last bit. Then there’s prejudicial racism, where the famous example of the white woman clutching her pocketbook when she sees a young Black man walk by, and frankly, some of that is from valid statistical inference, but also it’s grossly exaggerated, and that’s still around. We need to work on that. The other one that is important is implicit racism. In fact, this is probably the biggest one today. You look at the research that’s been done on things like the tests of resumes, which are identical, other than it says, Jamal Robinson on one and Chad Worthington on the other, particularly where people don’t have much information. In the interviews, once you get to the interview stage, people aren’t too prejudiced it turns out.

Jim: They get a chance to talk to Greg Thomas or Jim Rutt and they say, “Hey, they’re both assholes. What the fuck?” But at the level of resume, if it says Jamal Robinson on one and Chad Worthington on the other, you’re going through 200 resumes, you’re more likely to pick Chad Worthington than you are Jamal Robinson. We need to be aware of that and work against it. Fortunately, there are things like de-identifying resumes. I strongly encourage companies to do that. I did this in my company companies. I talked to my people, we need to understand, but meet our level of consciousness. There is implicit racism that it’s come from this 400 years of this racial modeling and we may reject it consciously, and I hope we all do, but it’s still there and we should be aware of it. There is still such a thing as structural racism.

Jim: I give a very simple example of one that’s not very controversial, but it’s just an example of many others. Imagine a small business that’s been in business for 50 years. They’re doing electrical work and home repair and it’s got 100 employees or something, but it only hires by reference from current employees and not for a racist reason, but it’s a Southern company, and 50 years ago, it was all white. Guess what? Those references are going to be mostly all white, and so the company’s still mostly all white, even though there’s no racist intent, it’s a classic example of structural racism and we should be on the look about for that, and we should make sure that we don’t do things that perpetuate previous racial structures unintentionally.

Jim: But it’s probably not as big a deal as some people think, but it’s real. Then, of course, finally, we need to acknowledge the historical impact of racism. An example I give there is redlining. For a long while you could not get a low-interest mortgage in majority Black neighborhoods. That significantly impact intergenerational wealth creation and intergenerational wealth transfer for Black American people, there is still residual harm from that. We need to acknowledge that. So while I’m well with you that the reification of race as this be-all-and-end-all is a wonderful thing to transcend, I think it’s also important to acknowledge that racism still exists and it still harms the Black American person, and that we should not, in any means, back off from the work to squeeze that out of our society.

Greg: Thank you for laying that out, Jim, I would totally agree. I think there’s very few people of goodwill and conscience who would claim that there is no racism that still exists. I appreciate how you define, from your perspective, various kinds of racism. The truth of the matter is, and this is something that Carlos Hoyt, Sheena, Mason and I, and others, Ameil Handlesman, as a person who also he doesn’t even use the word Black, Camille Foster, there are people who do not buy into the concept of race who analyze this process of racialization and racial worldview, but you don’t have to deny the existence of racism in the various forms that you mentioned in order to do that.

Greg: So it’s not a one- to-one where I say race isn’t real in terms of biological essentialism or as a social construction, but you can have racism without racists. That’s the structural dimension that you’re talking about. So we can walk into gum at the same time, man. I can say, “Yes, that’s true,” and I can say at the same time, I’m not with the concept with the process with that whole identification. I do think, and strongly believe, that if we have more people who are not thinking, speaking, believing and acting in racial terms that that will have a positive and fruitful impact socially, culturally, and interpersonally with our relationships with one another so we can move beyond not only the tribalism, but we can address so many of the problems we have. Man, we have so many problems and predicaments that we’re in that we need to be able to work together beyond such superficial differences.

Jim: Here. Here. In the same way that the Irish and the Italians worked it out. Yes, one likes spaghetti and the other likes boiled potatoes, but other than that, the distinctions aren’t that big anymore. That’s where we should aim to. We’re getting close to our time now. One last topic, which I think, I really don’t know what your perspective on this is, but because we have talked about art so much and music in particular and culture, as opposed to race, which is such a nice distinction, a very controversial topic, it produces hurt feelings and shit storms on Twitter and everything else is something called cultural appropriation.

Greg: For me, that’s a soft walk.

Jim: I bet a nickel that you’ve got some thoughts on-

Greg: I got some thoughts on that.

Jim: Let it rip. Let’s go for a good jazz riff here on that topic.

Greg: Absolutely. Absolutely. Well, one of the things I learned from Ralph Ellison being deeply immersed in his work is that what’s called appropriation is the way culture actually works. If you think back to people, think back to ancient times, the Greeks were profoundly influenced by folks in Mesopotamians and in Egypt, right? The Romans were profoundly influenced by the Greeks, right? Islamic scholars who brought back many of the lessons from the time of Aristotle, for example, brought those ideas back to the fore in the West. Ideas are part of culture. Practices are a part of culture, so the idea that any one group owns a particular cultural form or cultural product or artifact is ridiculous. Culture works through appropriation, but appropriation doesn’t have to be looked at in the negative sense that so many of these people are talking about.

Greg: It’s just a part of the process. Now, do I deny that there has been such a thing as negative culture appropriation? No, just like I don’t deny that there’s racism in the past and present. I think true appropriation is when you have a person or a group of people who will steal and it’s only theft if you do not acknowledge the origins of where it comes from, you do not give credit to where it comes from and you profit from it as if you were the creators, that’s true cultural appropriation. So I don’t deny that that has happened in the past. Look, when we’re talking about the music industry.

Greg: The music industry was set up to, well, I shouldn’t say only set up to exploit, but there was a lot of exploitation of artists and it wasn’t just Black artists, but there were a lot of Black artists who were exploited and their work appropriated in that sense through the music industry. But, again, we have to have more sophisticated and nuanced discussions about these things, man. Again, I learned that through reading Ralph Ellison. Appropriation is the way culture works. As a cultural dynamic, when groups of people are in close proximity, even if we’re talking about slave owners and enslaved people, there is cross influence. So you have in American dance, you had the phenomena of enslaved people observing the dances of the people in the big house creating their own dances that would imitate and even mock those dances, right?

Jim: Yeah, that white people got a broom pole up their ass and ours ain’t going to be that way.

Greg: Well, let’s just say they certainly added some style and variations to the themes that they inherited, for sure. But then, you had the people who had those original forms, they would see the folks in the fields, or in the out houses or just when they had their own time to be amongst themselves, imitating those dances. Then they started imitating the imitation. That’s just an example of how culture works. You try on this, you try on that for size and you say, “Well, let me adapt.” This happens linguistically language is a profound example of culture. So you find the way language changes and is adapted and formed. John McWhorter’s an expert on this stuff. That’s not appropriation. That’s just the way culture works.

Greg: So I do think it’s an important topic to discuss. I think it’s unfortunately too simplistic in the way so many talk about it, particularly, young people who are college age who are inheriting certain ideas from postmodernism say in reaction to modernism. So I think we can talk about it, but maybe we can point to, well, these are the cultural dynamics. If someone doesn’t respect the originator or originate towards and they exploit it and claim that they created it, that’s a valid description or definition of cultural appropriation. Otherwise, baby, that’s just the way it goes.

Jim: I love it. I figured that would be about your take. Like the idiotic ideas, “Oh, no. At Oberlin College, we can’t have sushi at the lunchroom.” What the fuck? Right.

Greg: Some of this stuff, it goes to such a level of absurdity, but people inherent bad ideas, people inherent incomplete ideas, people, unless they’re truly educated, and I don’t mean PhD level. I mean people really study history, study cultural dynamics over time, cultural histories, to understand how these things actually develop. Again, it’s a very blinkered limited and simplistic way of looking at things. Okay. Sushi is something created in Japan, presumably, and we can’t have that because it might offend the Japanese. Really? Hell. It’s an export, man. Sushi is a part of our cuisine now. So it’s a form of respect when you say, “Man … ” because I remember when I was introduced to sushi back about 25 years ago, I was like, “Oh my God, this is wonderful.” I remember going to dinner one time with Wynton Marsalis and we had sushi, man. We loved it. I acknowledge where it comes from, and it’s an example of cultural creativity.

Greg: Let’s acknowledge the cultural creativity of the range of humanity and then realize as Albert Murray’s then realized that Albert Murray said that as Americans, we are the heirs of the history and cultures of mankind and womankind across time. We’ve inherited it at all. So as we say, in the Institute for Cultural Evolution and Integral Theory, let’s embrace the best of what came before. Let’s acknowledge the shadows of what came before, not try to fall into those, those habits, but then let’s try to embrace the best, look at the downfalls and see what can we create better. I’ll end with this. Albert Murray says that when you look at Black American musicians, in jazz, in the dynamic in New Orleans where you had very learned musicians, who in terms of reading music and playing in orchestras, and that type of thing, ended up because of some racial laws at the end of the 19th century, having to play with musicians who only played by ear.

Greg: So Ralph Ellison says that the techniques of jazz came from this combination, like a desire to be able to play as technically well as learned musicians, but those who played by ear, they had some great things too, so there was a real confluence there. So when we look at that history, when we look at those cultural dynamics, you have within jazz music, and this is what Murray said, he says, “It’s not like the people who played jazz didn’t want to play European classical music.” In fact, that was the part for many, Art Tatum, Oscar Peterson arched in so many, that was a part of what they learned how to play. But this is what Murray says about not only Black American musicians, but Americans overall. It’s like we learned about those things, but we were always looking for something better. You know what I mean?

Greg: So it’s like we can learn from the past, but what are we going to create that will be for our time and for our generations to follow even better, to not be confined to the greatness of the past, what can we do to search for something even better, even more generative, even more fruitful to gather around and strive for? You know what I mean? So it’s a combination of like foundations. We have certain foundations that we get from the past, but baby, we got to look for something better, because we know we are in a mess and we need enough of us to be leaders and to be out front with a new set of ideas and a new set of ideals influenced by the best of the past, but that is forward-looking so we can get out of this poly and meta crisis that we’re in before is too late, because boy, there’s a lot of work to be done. I thank you, Jim, for your part of doing that work from your perspective through Game B, for example.

Jim: Well, thank you, Greg, for an extraordinarily enjoyable wide-ranging, and I would say, very hopeful perspective on our situation. It’s a bit of a predicament, but I remain an optimist. The human race has gotten through worse things than this, and if we keep in good faith working with each other as fellow humans, I think we’re going to make it.

Greg: I think so too, man. I agree. I consider myself a tragic optimist as a blues man, so I agree.

Jim: I love it. We didn’t get to a lot of things on my topic list and maybe we’ll have you back on again and talk about them.

Greg: I’d be glad to.