The following is a rough transcript which has not been revised by The Jim Rutt Show or Pamela Denise Long. Please check with us before using any quotations from this transcript. Thank you.
Jim: Today’s guest is Pamela Denise Long. She usually goes by Denise once you get the conversation rolling. She’s the CEO of Youthcentrix and she’s also a writer. She’s written several interesting essays on Newsweek. She also has written on Medium and elsewhere. Welcome Pamela. Well, I should say welcome, Denise.
Denise: Thanks, Jim. I’m so glad to be here. Looking forward to the conversation.
Jim: Yeah, I think this should be a fun conversation and probably illuminating for people, some points of view they haven’t heard before. So before we hop in, maybe give us 30 seconds on Youthcentrix. What do y’all do?
Denise: So Youthcentrix is an organizational development consultancy and because of my training and the areas I’ve chosen to do my master’s and doctoral work dissertation in, focuses on implementing trauma-informed care and diversity, equity, inclusion and anti-racism through that trauma-informed lens. I lead strategic planning sessions with a variety of organizations and government, for-profit, nonprofit organizations to help them implement diversity, equity, inclusion and anti-racism into their vision to make it a reality. Some of that’s political, as you could tell from my footprint at Newsweek and elsewhere. And some of that’s just regular organizations who are trying to turn that idea of equity into a lived reality for those who work for them as well as the people they serve.
Jim: All right, very good. And what’s your place where they can contact you if they want to know more about Youthcentrix?
Denise: Absolutely. So you can visit us on the website. It’s www.youthcentrix.com. That’s centrix with an X, one word. You can visit us there and you can see the contact form and the like if you need support at your organization or you have questions.
Jim: All right. Well, thank you very much. Now let’s hop into why I reached out to Denise. I saw a press release from the Coalition of Concerned Freedman and I read it and I go, this is actually quite interesting. This is a quite different lens on the history of black people in America who are descendants of the slaves or were free blacks from the very beginning, et cetera. And in kind of a different lens than the traditional red team blue way of thinking about race. And I thought it was actually quite interesting. I’m not a 100% I agree with all of it, but I thought it was certainly worth talking about in some detail. So could you start off with, tell us what the concept of a freedman is and why you have established this Coalition of Concerned Freedman?
Denise: So a Freedman is defined in even ancient terms as one who is released from slavery of whatever sort. In the United States’ context, the freedmen moniker is used to describe the emancipated freed slaves from chattel slavery. And so they were freed people and freedman is the generic term. So when we are looking at chattel slavery in the United States, we know that there were emancipation that happened across time. People self emancipated, like Frederick Douglass. There was the Emancipation Proclamation which freed people who were enslaved in the Confederacy. And then there was the end of the war that the Confederates conceded as well as the implementation of the 13th Amendment that freed all Negroes and Black Americans from the threat of slavery, except for as we know, involuntary servitude if you’re committed for a crime.
So freedmen are those people who were emancipated at the time, 1863, 1865, as well as the descendants of free Negroes and the enslaved people who were actually on a plantation at the time of those two emancipations I just mentioned.
Jim: And some Americans don’t know that, but perhaps 10% of the blacks or Negroes in the South before the Civil War were free for various reasons. Some had bought their freedom, some had been freed. I actually visited a very interesting museum in New Orleans, the Museum of the Free People of Color that dug into it. And many of them were frankly the offspring of sexual relationships between slave women and plantation owners who the plantation owners set up in New Orleans as free people and they established their own culture there. So there’s a very interesting and curious set of ways that people came to become freedmen. And so it looks like your definition includes them all and even some corner cases like the quite numerous African slaves that were held by Native Americans in the South before the Civil War.
Denise: Yeah, absolutely. So there were black people, Negroes who were enslaved through Native American tribes. A good portion of the folks who walked from Florida to Oklahoma were slaves as well as race mixed, biracial if you will, folks who were the progeny of Native Americans as well, so the Seminoles and all the stuff that was happening in Florida in that. And it’s interesting you talk about the different types of manumission and I’d love for you to share that. I don’t think people realize the various ways that had been concocted to release people from chattel slavery.
Jim: Including a fair percentage. People who bought their freedom when they were, what they call it, rented out or leased out or something. Typically, the deal was they got to keep a percentage of the money and if they were very careful with the money after 20 years, sometimes they could buy their own freedom and sometimes even that of their wives and children. Of course the most sad states where they could buy their own freedom but not the freedom of their family, which just goes to the horror of that whole chattel slavery system.
Denise: And so careful with the money also includes that the person who thought they owned you didn’t take it from you. So it’s not just that you were good at budgeting, it was also they didn’t take it, if you even got it. So there were other ways that people received what we call manumission, including if you told on enslaved people who were planning a rebellion to self emancipate, that was a way to get manumission. One of the statutes that I believe it was Sons and Daughters of the Confederacy, or I can’t remember the exact name, one of the ones that they commissioned to a former slave was a man who sold out a slave rebellion and they “lauded his character.” And I’m putting air quotes around that for selling out the people who were trying to self emancipate. You could indeed purchase your freedom and that of your wife and/or children and sometimes they required that those folks be enslaved.
So people who looked like they were black slave owners were actually the people who were having to purchase the people who were their relatives. And they looked like they were participating in slavery in the traditional sense that others did, but it really wasn’t the case.
Jim: Interesting. I also noticed that you use both in this press release and also in some of your writing, the term Negro. Now I’m pretty old. I’m old enough to remember when Negro was the polite term for black people. I recently read a very good biography of Martin Luther King, and I remember that he always used that term. That term has fallen out of favor and actually has looked at with disfavor by a number of folks. Why have you decided to use that term?
Denise: When you look from the time of the 1600s where the state of Virginia codified being someone else’s property for life, so chattel slavery as contrasted to involuntary servitude, Negro was the term that they used. They used Black and Negro somewhat interchangeably. Throughout the time of enslavement and the reconstruction era and the Jim Crow era, which Martin Luther King was fighting against in order to get civil rights in the 1960s, the term Negro is what is on the paper. So we in the Freedman community recognize that our people have been called a lot of things because we’re a founding population of America and there was always these different ways to try to frame a white versus a white nation really, and to include the people who look like me. I’m a dark-skinned woman with obviously curly hair. You will never confuse me with a white woman.
And so to ensure that those people who could be captured into chattel slavery and turned into an economic engine were included in it. So Negro is all across our documents as is colored, as is mulatto, as is octoroon, and all of these other ways that they were trying to figure out just how Negro are you and what kind of rights and privileges are you going to have in the nation? You’re right that it’s fallen out of favor with some people, but there’s always a way that people are going to deride the black experience. There are ways people say black that’s supposed to be derisive. So what we can’t do is run from the legacy of us being a founding population of the country. And I think Martin Luther King got that in addition to the fact that he’s a freedman and it was just the nomenclature of the time.
Jim: Great. Now, in this release then also on your site, which for people who want to learn more about the organization, concernedfreedman.com, you lay out four demands, or I guess you’d call them demands. Could you run over those for us?
Denise: So with this, are you referring to the three point plan to unite America or are you referring to the coalition’s response to the affirmative action decision from the Supreme Court?
Jim: Let’s see here.
Denise: ‘Cause there are four.
Jim: These are the four statements from the press release.
Denise: Gotcha, okay.
Jim: Basically. So I could read them to you. You could react to them if you’d like to do that. How about we do that?
Jim: Number one was immediately implementing a certification process to vet applicants and current students claiming to be of the US Negro freedman lineage and thus survivors of US Negro freedom discrimination as allowed by law and guided by existing precedents. So that was number one.
Denise: I can address that.
Jim: Maybe if you could expand on that and actually it’d be great to distinguish what a lineage is in your meaning and this whole idea of certification of a lineage.
Denise: So this press release is in response to the Supreme Court’s decision about race-based affirmative action. And so all throughout that Supreme Court decision, including the concurrences with the decision, the majority opinion as well as the dissents against the majority opinion, our freedman heritage, legacy and case law is all throughout it. And the reason for that is because we needed 1960 civil rights and affirmative action because our rights and privileges and 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments were not fully or even partially implemented after those were codified between 1865 and 1965. So that’s why we needed civil rights to begin with. And so that’s why our legacy is all over it. This is about the people. 1960 civil rights was about the people who were slaves in this nation. And we lose that sometimes in realizing we needed 1960 civil rights because the 1860 civil rights and our constitutional amendments had not been fully applied to Negroes.
So in recognizing the affirmative action decision saying there is nothing about this decision that prevents a government from redressing the racial discrimination it has implemented and thus, an institution from redressing the racial discrimination that it has implemented by taking action to repair those people, to provide restitution and redress to those people. So these four requests were aimed to be an owning of our claim to redress because of the ongoing discrimination we’ve experienced. For example, Harvard also owned slaves and used them as collateral and architects and the whole deal. So this first one, to your point, people often grift into a particular protected class in order to get the benefits of that protected class. We know that people claim to be Native American and we’ve had some pretty significant incidents of that when they are not Native American. Outright lies sometimes where they don’t have any Native American ancestry.
So when we say a certification process, we are meaning don’t just accept that someone says, “I’m a descendant of US slaves and therefore I deserve whatever.” You have to be able to prove that you can connect yourself back to a direct bloodline descendant of a Black American born in the United States during or around the time of slavery, and there are various ways to do that. And that is what we call lineage, where you prove your line of descent from a person who has endured the slavery, the Jim Crow, the civil rights era, and including the disparate impacts and discriminations of today.
Jim: This is quite interesting ’cause something I didn’t know until maybe six months ago and I started doing some research for another purpose, is that in the affirmative action programs that have been implemented, particularly at elite universities, a very surprising number of the beneficiaries are not descendants of freedmen. In fact, I pulled up a link where it was asserted that between half and two thirds of Harvard enrollments in the last few years of “Black” have been descendants of recent immigrants within the last two generations, either from the West Indies or from Africa directly. And overall the estimate is about 45% in say, the most elite universities are probably not freedmen even though they’re getting affirmative action under the category of Black. And so is this distinction one you’re trying to make?
Denise: Oh, absolutely. You hit it right on the head there and I fear that it’s even lower than that. So the reason, and Thomas Sowell captures this so beautifully in a long ago conversation that he had in his testimony before Congress, to say that one of the reasons we need this redress is because of the accumulated deprivations and extractions that American freedmen have experienced. And so the way that our lineage and our harm has been conflated with black looking people around the world is, I think, one of the greatest travesties of American policymaking when it comes to redressing the American freedmen. So we’re 80% roughly. American freedmen are 80% of the black population in the United States, but we benefit least from the things that are aimed to repair us because of the ways everyone has been shoehorned into our reparatory claims and the things that were set aside for us specifically. And that needs to be fixed.
Jim: I think this is a very interesting lens. Frankly, most of us haven’t thought about the distinction between having African heritage versus having lived through the horrifying experience of chattel slavery and then the false freedoms and the false dawn of reconstruction, which was then traded away in a corrupt political compromise around the Hayes election, that’s quite different. And truthfully, I have to say, thinking that African blood alone is significant in the same way that having gone through chattel slavery is frankly strikes me as racist, that you somehow think there’s something essential about being of African heritage that distinguishes you. And another example I discovered fairly recently is that the most highly educated group of immigrants in the United States are people, current crops are from Nigeria or about 65% of immigrants from Nigeria have four year college degrees. And just a very different history than your freedman.
Denise: Yeah, brilliant observation and let’s talk about some of the nuance behind that. We know that that area of Africa, that northwestern part of Africa is where a lot of the slave trading happened. So the irony that we recognize in the freedman community is that some of the very people who are coming here from Africa to benefit from our reparatory actions and affirmative actions are the descendants of slave traders. That’s how convoluted this whole thing is. There was this really interesting article, I think it was in the New York Times where a woman was highlighting her ancestors and how they earned wealth from trading slaves. And there were some really prominent African figures who were well-known and built their wealth upon the trading of slaves, on the trading of our people. And so the idea of giving our repair for suffering slavery to people who conspired with those who traded us for 200 years on this land is just a perversion that cannot stand. And I think any sound person when they think about, that will recognize that.
In addition to that, we have a burden, physical, psychological, economic, political that someone from Nigeria really does not have, right? So they can get a master’s degree for $2,000. How much is that going to cost the average multi-generational Black American? So they come over here, not debted, where so many of us are in debt, black women in particular as you well know because we pursue at higher education at such a high rate. And then we bring people over here who don’t have the psychological burdens, who haven’t experienced these deprivations and say that we have to compete with them for redress that was designed for us. Grossly unfair on so many levels.
Jim: Though I suppose to be fair, we should also point out that if you’re a Nigerian black person, you are just as likely to be pulled over for driving while black or other kinds of contemporary-
Denise: Are you?
Jim: Systemic racism.
Denise: So only to the extent that you come into the milieu that is anti-black American and you carry or put on our Black Americanness. So Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali and others of their time stated very specifically that dark-skinned Indians were able to come into United States and get admitted into institutions that Negroes were not. Africans were able to come here wearing their clothing and cultural apparel and be treated better than Negroes were. They could sit at tables, they could get into institutions, but Black Americans could not. So we have to recognize that element.
Jim: Yeah, there’s some truth there, though I will say, driving in a car at night, I doubt the cops are making that distinction. They say, curly hair, dark skin. I think he probably has a burned out taillight. But your point, I think in, general is correct that overall the level of systemic oppression of educated people from elsewhere is quite different than those of the historical American slaves. So let’s move on to point number two, which is refining recruitment, admissions and retention processes to ensure that vetted descendants of US Negro freedmen are prime beneficiaries of special considerations for admissions, scholarships, culturally responsive student services, tutoring, internships, mentorship, hiring, et cetera.
Denise: So the anchoring is that the person is vetted as a descendant of multi-generational Black Americans, as I often call them in my work, but freedmen, and that there is special dispensation to the freedman population as related to government programs as related to the hiring and related to student services overall. It’s at the heart of basically what we just talked about that people come over without the burdens that we’ve experienced and take advantage of the benefit of being black, which is that you’ve gone through some stuff that the country felt needed to be redressed and thus there are these special set asides, but if you’re benefiting from it, but you’re not the people who went through it, that’s a misappropriation in so many ways. And here I’m calling for lineage specific structuring set asides, if you want to call it that, for the harms that institutions and the government have perpetuated against our people.
Jim: Now, one thing where people often will push back on the idea of equity is that to degree, it starts to supplant merit. And that very seldom do I hear people question that say, having extra investments in K-12 education for the victims of systemic racism and earlier the experience of shadow slavery is a right thing to do, but that changing the standards for admissions to elite universities might not be the right thing to do. So where does help and thumb on the scale begin? And when might thumb on the scale be legitimate and when might it not be legitimate?
Denise: Complex question, and I appreciate the nuance of it. So by my estimation, and I believe the SCOTUS ruling addresses this as well or supports this as well. When you have harmed a people, the harm and the need for redressing that harm is merit enough. Now, we can get into the nuances of what types of screening supports and identification of students who are at the point of readiness for an elite institution ’cause what you ask about versus all other institutions. So when you say elite, I’m thinking Ivy League and the relatively few institutions that qualify for that. I think it’s about identifying processes and identifiers, whatever that means, for students who are freedmen, who are best positioned to be successful at those schools and/or partnerships with other institutions where for whatever benefit freedmen students might be able to integrate into an elite institution when it’s appropriate and that is the best place for them to get the credential that they are looking for.
So for me, being a freedman is merit enough because the harm has happened. Now, when it comes to specific programs, we need to look at the nuance of those institutions and how to identify people who are prepared, best prepared, I should say. Freedmen who are best prepared to integrate into them.
Jim: Now, in the SCOTUS decision there was some dueling papers quoted about the mismatch issue, the theory that if let’s say freedmen are admitted on a preferential basis to elite universities, they may actually be worse off than if they were better matched with the level of eliteness of university that was comparable to their level of academic achievement so far. So i.e., instead of getting admitted to Princeton and struggling because of weaker K-12 educations and other issues, instead they went to Ohio State, they may actually end up better off. Clarence Thomas supported the mismatched theory and quoted some research. Justice Jackson had some research that pointed in the other direction. Is this something you’ve looked into and have a view on?
Denise: So this kind of hearkens to the debate that we had at MIT around merit, fairness and equality. If we’re going to say that anywhere from 60 to 85 or more percent of the “Black” students at these elite institutions are foreigners, then how do we know what percentage of those people who are “mismatched” are actually freedmen? We don’t disaggregate data enough for that. And that’s one of the asks within these four demands in the press release, is to make sure we disaggregate the data and collect outcomes data on a lineage basis rather than this global big pot of black people basis. So that’s first. So I would need to know that first of all because I don’t know.
Jim: Nobody probably knows at this point. They don’t track it.
Denise: Right. And I want them to know. Right. And then we can discuss that piece of thing. So it would be great if even institutions now took a census of their student populations ’cause you could do that for your existing student body. How many are verifiably freedmen? And there’s a current process available for that. And I referenced that in point one about California state law, AB 3121, where people can prove that they are a multi-generational Black American with ties to the 1800s if not sooner in the United States. And in addition, obviously going forward, the best way to do that would be to have to identify people and vet those folk who claim to be of the Freedman lineage. And then the other thing I want to say about foreigners too, they’re such… American language is very interesting. We have such nuanced understandings and how we communicate.
Words mean multiple things, depending on who’s saying it, how it was said, the tone, all of those things. I wonder the extent to which that mismatch is shaped by the person not being a native English speaker first of all, but also standard American dialect and all of what that means in a fast-paced university. I don’t know.
Jim: That’d be interesting to find out. But as you say, we don’t know. But I think the principle, we certainly don’t want to do further harm to people who have suffered a history of harm. And so even well-intentioned actions that did cause this mismatch problem is probably not something we want. Would you agree?
Denise: Yes. And we need to understand the extent to which the mismatch is affecting the people who have been harmed to begin with, and then determine what it looks like to move forward, what kinds of lineage specific supports would be needed? The idea is not to bring in people who are grossly unqualified for the pace and setting. And yeah, the pace, I think is what we want to say here for the university, but it is to identify the ways also that redress can be provided to the freed people. That might include hiring freedmen who’ve already gone through the process of education and the like. It’s a matter of looking at what needs to happen, what can happen particularly for universities, not exclusively, but particularly for universities who did use slaves as economic resources as well as for building the buildings that people are in today?
Jim: Indeed. Okay, third point is piloting a multi-generational student development program that focuses on guiding descendants of US slaves/survivors of US Negro freedman discrimination from admission through alumni, career development and even retirement. This call to action anchors to the court’s critique of unclear outcomes after special considerations are given. Could you maybe expand on that? What was it you were pointing to there?
Denise: So you mentioned this earlier, Jim, or you alluded to it anyway, where people think this is just a handout, you’re getting something for free. Well, the reality is that you’re redressing the harm that you caused. And from a government perspective, you’re giving back my money, my wealth that you’ve stolen and/or prevented me from getting that you’ve helped everyone else use and to provide an economic floor for the nation and for the other people around us. So it’s not a handout, it’s redress and a return. But the idea here is one of the things that people critique is, well, people flunk out because they’re mismatched or whatever. So if we’re going to admit these students into our institution, there needs to be a commitment to their success. That does not mean you lower standards. That means you look at the people you have admitted and how do you support their development and mastery of the materials, the whatever?
I know I hear some people critique the study skills and study behaviors of those folk who maybe have not had the opportunity to develop those skills, which can certainly be habilitated or rehabilitated. And so here I’m just saying why not pilot and see, when you admit freedmen vetted freedmen into your institution and you support them in the ways that I outline in point to, which is the scholarships, the mentoring, the things, what happens as a result? Does repair and redress and success happen on the other end of that? And we don’t follow people, we let people in. And if you make it, you make it and you graduate, boom, that’s it. But what happens when people are supported intentionally, given our specific lineage and the deprivations that we’ve experienced? So it’s a research question in a way, but it’s also an ask for them to develop a program that can be a pilot for how to do this freedman lineage specific academic support well.
Jim: And that idea of helping people develop, I think there’s an awful lot of support for that, right? Even people like Clarence Thomas who voted with the right block, he was very clear that that kind of stuff would be okay, right?
Jim: Particularly if it was specifically to redress historical wrongs given. And at MIT, we have a program, in fact, I’ve helped support it on occasion, where we have… Now, it is a much broader spectrum than just freedmen. It includes all the usual Black, Brown Coalition, first generation, et cetera. Talk about those things later that aims at the following, which is people who showed real talent as undergraduates, but for family background reasons didn’t necessarily get great grades and so were not really eligible to be a graduate student at MIT because to be a PhD student at MIT requires really high grade point average. And this program is a one-year program where people work in the labs and take academic. And actually, it’s very, very, very focused mentoring and tutoring, et cetera, the things you mentioned. And most of them actually reach the level where they can go on to PhD programs at elite universities. And that strikes me as just a brilliant idea’s.
Denise: That’s fantastic. It is a brilliant Idea.
Jim: And Laura Schultz is the one who put that together in the brain and cognitive science department, at least she’s the one that runs it currently. It’s really good program. It sounds like that’s the kind of thing that your third point would definitely be pointing at other than the fact that it is open to a broader group of people rather than the freedmen.
Denise: Yeah, absolutely. And so when we think about redressing this nation and the type of program you’re talking about, it’s ironic to me in a way and I’m not speaking about the MIT program specifically, but I think just in general people have married our very unique, very specific harm in this nation where we were a founding population to every non-Anglo person in the world. And the way that the institutions of the United States and potentially even the government does not owe those folk. They certainly aren’t deserving of being equated to the descendants of the slaves who built the nation. So I am of the opinion that freedmen should not compete for slots with anyone. There should be, and there were lineage specific set-asides, but people are very good at sabotaging the freedmen. And as soon as our redress and set-asides were implemented, people started to act like the 14th Amendment was colorblind when the radical Republicans argued it specifically to redress the descendants, the slaves who needed this special repair in order to recuperate the 250 years of enslavement that they went through.
So I hope that makes sense. So I’d like to see an increased number of freedmen, and I’d be curious to know an increased focus on freedmen specifically and set asides for freedmen specifically that is not in competition with anyone else. I’d be curious to know how many folks in your program who are black looking or black are actually of the freedmen lineage provably.
Jim: Good question. I don’t know the answer to it, but maybe someone should dig into that. I’m just going to read your last of your fourth points and move on. So your last point is prioritizing admissions to STEAM and finance fields to address the health, wealth and wellbeing disparities of US Negro freedmen patients and consumers. Certainly that can’t be a bad thing to have more freedmen representatives on Wall Street God damn it and in research hospitals and places like that. I think every good-hearted person would like to see more of that so hopefully that one that would be less arguing about perhaps than some of the others. So let’s move on. Another thing I saw, which I was very actually glad to see, was that you supported Justice Thomas. I must say that the fact that so many people from the progressive side have made a personal enemy of Justice Thomas, I find very disconcerting. In fact, I would point people who really don’t know Justice Thomas and his work to a speech he gave in 1998 at the National Bar Association.
The National Bar Association is a historically black bar association for Black, I don’t know if they distinguish between freedmen and other blacks legal association. He gave a truly brilliant speech that many people, and myself included, believe was one of the great speeches of the 20th century, and we’ll have a link to it on the episode page. So I saw that you were a supporter of Clarence Thomas, and I congratulate you guys for that. Well, I don’t by any means agree with him on everything he says. I mean, he’s way too right wing for me, frankly. His life story is amazing. His opinions are the most carefully drafted of any of the opinions on the court. He’s really a great American, and it really bothers me that people want to dump on him just because he doesn’t act the way they think he should.
Denise: Yeah, liberals are hypocritical in that way. So what you’re referring to is the racism that Clarence Thomas experienced when there was a discussion about reinterpreting if Roe v Wade was properly interpreted to confer a federal protections exceeding what was already on the books for a woman’s right to an abortion. In addition to some comments he made about looking at the gay marriage law and how it was decided. And part of that… Well, I don’t want to over speak for him. So yes, the coalition came out in support with other prominent black American thought leaders, academics, all the things to say that just because you disagree with an interpretation of the second Black American if he’s Freedman too justice on the Supreme Court, doesn’t mean you get to call him racial slurs because you’re unhappy with something he did. So it was a condemnation of that behavior from the left.
Jim: That’s been going on for a very long time, right? That the left has been excoriating Clarence Thomas as a traitor to his race, et cetera, and seems to not believe that a black person could come to a principled conservative perspective, which strikes me as racist to its core, frankly.
Denise: Yeah, it’s definitely an interesting thing. It’s almost like white liberal people deciding that they know better than white conservative people about what black people could think, should think. So it’s a different wing, I guess, of controlling the thoughts and thought leadership of black people. And there are some ways that Justice Thomas speaks about things that I don’t necessarily agree with. I’m a black Republican, I’ve been a black Republican since Barack Obama’s first campaign, but I’m of the traditional initial Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass type black Republican ilk, which says that we’re in the implementation phase or should be in the implementation phase of the post-Civil War social contract. And so that puts me at opposition with some of my own fellow party members, actually.
Jim: Yeah, I used to be a Republican, but I got to say I jumped off in 1992. Well, I’m not a Democrat either. I put a flag on both their houses, Team Red and Team Blue, not for me. I’ll have my own set of ideas. And sometimes I agree with Team Blue, sometimes with Team Red, but I definitely don’t accept either one as scripture. That’s for damn sure.
Oh, I don’t either.
Denise: I will say that the number of Lincoln Republicans in the Republican party right now, not very many from my perspective.
Jim: Well, the Confederates-
Denise: I appreciate your point of… Go ahead.
Jim: No, I appreciate your appreciate my point of view. I appreciate that. Well, I think, and we don’t have to belabor at this point, it might be an opportunity for additional conversation with some of the other work that we’re doing, but it’s been interesting to see how those who resist the post-Civil War social contract are on the Dem side, Independents, as well as on the right with Republicans as well.
Denise: Now let’s go on to the next point, which I think I in general agree with you on, probably not entirely, but the general direction is in a essay you wrote on Newsweek, Black Leaders Have Sold Out Our Community to the Immigration Lobby. And this I think fits the earlier things we talked about, as best as I can tell your argument is that freedmen deserves unique and focused consideration and this attempt to broaden the coalition to include things like free immigration, et cetera, and many other things really aren’t what we should be doing. So why don’t you talk a little bit about how black leaders have sold out the community with respect to the immigration lobby?
Jim: So I am simply amazed by this manufactured border crisis and the extent to which local black leaders and their municipalities are providing special protections, dispensation to foreigners who are not Americans. And not only are they foreigners, but they’re illegal. And I recognize that the current president is not a Black American, it’s Joe Biden, who’s been in public office since at least 1973, but the way New York, Mayor Adams, who I am not sure if he’s a freedman or not, the way Chicago with Lori Lightfoot and Brandon Johnson, I am not sure if they’re a freedman or not, the way Chicago or California and Los Angeles with now Karen Bass, and also Washington DC. The ways which was it, Miriam Bowser and all of these folks who are in these black municipalities are not recognizing the ways immigration has had a negative impact on the multi-generational Black American community.
So much so that even Frederick Douglass and others championed immigration moderation so that first of all, America being a land of white settlers, new great wave immigrants who weren’t a part of the founding and the freed people were trying to get it together and be Americans and countrymen together. We’re still in that position, and the way that they seem to champion the Black Brown Coalition without recognizing the ways immigration undermines black American political power and funding is just wild to me. And I guess so many people think that we can’t be countrymen with our fellow countrymen, non-black countrymen that we need to import new people to coalesce with when those people are not rooted in the same civil social studies, I guess in lessons that our countrymen are. I don’t get the logic, and I think it’s a wish and a dream that we will come to regret, and that’s another reason I just think Americans need to get our stuff together.
And Tucker Carlson said it, “What is it that holds us together as a nation of people?” Knowing our history and being what it is before we import another five million, which is how many have been led in by Biden in my last count or the last count by immigration moderation organizations before we let those people into our country, which is so fractured. I hope that makes sense.
Denise: Yeah. And then you’ve specifically said elsewhere, I think I heard it on a podcast, that you are also dubious of the idea of the Black and Brown Coalition.
Jim: I don’t even know what that means because 60% of Hispanic immigrants in the United States are Mexicans, and Mexicans are white by treaty. They’ve been white by treaty, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo since 1848, which is the Mexican-American war that got us much of the Western territories. America paid them $15 million for those territories just as we pay the same amount we paid to France for the Louisiana Territories. So Mexicans, who are the vast majority, 60% of Hispanic immigrants in the United States have been white since 1848. They’ve experienced America as white, and they experienced America as white now. They access America as white in many ways. You look at some of the different pictures of people where you can see their race for various reasons, and they are identify as white even when they’re as brown as I am. So I think the freedmen lineage legacy, human and civil rights struggle gives moral authority to other people and their ambitions, whereas their presence and ambition, unless they’re supporting our agenda, does nothing for us because our moral authority is baked into the very fabric, the ink that’s on the papers in the United States.
So we benefit them, but unless they’re supporting our agenda of putting Americans first and putting freedmen in our proper place, then it’s a one-sided relationship.
Denise: Okay. Another area where you, I would say, differ from typical left politics is another essay you wrote for Newsweek, Stop Appropriating Black History to Push an LGBTQ Political Agenda. Tell us your thoughts about that.
So that was interesting because that was written around the time that Ron DeSantis rejected that AP course for, I think it was Black American studies that had a lot of stuff in there that wasn’t overly germane to our legacy and lineage as black people. And so part of that rejection was on the basis that it included things about LGBTQIA+ stuff that wasn’t relevant to repairing the freed people. I recognized obviously that freedmen are gay, they are bi, they are,… Yeah. And so I am not saying that we shouldn’t recognize or we should deny that not every freedman is gay, but what I am saying is when you prioritize LGBTQ as part of our moral authority, you don’t just legitimize freedmen, you legitimize every LGBTQIA+ person and that agenda. So when I take care of freed people, I’m taking care of you whether you’re religious, irreligious. Whether you are straight or whether you are gay. And of course, I don’t believe that a man who thinks he is a woman is an actual woman, and I do not believe he should compete with women.
Can you imagine a guy, a white guy who’s been white since 1776, deciding that he’s now a woman and he competes with me for a woman scholarship? That makes no sense to me, nevermind the physical elements of men competing with women. So for me, it’s freedmen period, and however you show up as a freedmen you’re covered under that. So let’s keep it more precise and not dispersed to other things that aren’t as relevant.
Jim: Though it is true that LGBTQ people have been discriminated against, but in different ways and at different times in different intensities so maybe there needs to be remedies for that group, but they could be separately and specifically tailored to their history and their experience. So as I understand it, your argument would be not to blend them all together into one mass of “oppressed people.”
Jim: All right. As a black Republican, who do you like in the Republican presidential race?
Denise: I would tell you to wait for that because I’m writing a Newsweek article about that. I was just asked to tell them my opinion on what I think. It won’t be Vivek Ramaswamy, I can tell you that. I have concerns about DeSantis that are courted by him. He seems to just step in it. He seems to try to cater to people who want to act like race and our history isn’t a factor, and at the same time, do the right thing by Black American history for the most part. And I think he needs to decide what he’s going to be. Vivek is a no, for me. It’s hilarious and disturbing that he would think that he, an immigrant, he is a first generation American. Both his parents were born in India, he was born in Ohio, but for him to suggest that my children or grandchildren should take a test that any immigrant can take otherwise not be able to vote is basically conferring a special status to immigrants because there are eight billion of them and only 350 million Americans. I just find it offensive and weird.
So it’s Donald Trump for me, if he can survive his indictment and if he embraces the three point plan that the coalition has advanced and an overall Black American agenda. And I got to tell you, people talk trash on Trump and I get why they do. And Black Americans can be uppity because I’m uppity too. And his way of showing up is very New York, and it’s very I’m going to say what I want to say. I am affecting an accent that’s not natural to me as you can tell, but he has to adopt a Black American agenda and put it out there. And he has said things about the Black American freedmen contribution to building the United States that Barack Obama was too scared to say, that Joe Biden has never said, and that Kamala Harris says she wasn’t going to do anything specific to benefit black people specifically. So Trump has more merit from a Black American perspective and for me, it’s all about policy.
Jim: So I got to say, I could never, ever vote for Trump on grounds of bad character. I’ve run businesses, built businesses, hired people and their policies or what their skills were, what they’re educated, those matter a lot, but their character matters a lot. And when I look at Donald Trump and everything about him, everything we know in the public record, he is someone who should not be trusted with power or authority over other people. He’s a bully, he’s a liar, he’s a grabber of women’s private parts, or at least claiming. Either he’s lying about it or he’s doing it. He’s just a bad guy so we’re going to have to just agree to disagree about that guy. I think in 2016, I said in public that I would vote for Saddam Hussein who was dead at the time over Donald Trump.
Denise: Well, that’s an easy choice. No, I hear you. So here’s the thing. I’m going to be real.
Jim: Yep, be real.
Denise: Which of our presidents have not done some really wicked? We look at, what is the guy that everybody was fawning over in the ’60s? The Kennedy Brothers, and I know they were-
Jim: Oh, them boys were some rotten sons of guns.
Denise: Right? They were moving. We look at Bill Clinton and you know Bill was moving too, right?
Jim: Oh, yeah.
Denise: You remember his interview when he talked about Lewinsky? Why’d you do it? Well, because I could. I mean, that’s the only answer and that’s the truth. And so I think we’re going to be hard-pressed to find a choir boy who has the ambition to seek the presidency. And not only that, but one who achieves it and has the character and integrity as you call it, to keep that choir boy status or choir girl status. And we look at Hillary Clinton and how many people have suicided themselves, if I can say that out loud on your podcast. So I think we’re wanting for character overall, and I think many people have things that they need to atone for, and Biden being one of them who has had a very detrimental impact on the Black American community. So at this point, we are still in the mode of fixing the stuff that people have done in their absence of character or their flaws around what they should be doing.
Jim: I think this is where we’re just going to have to agree to disagree because that guy when I look at him I wouldn’t hire him to run a lemonade stand, but some people like him and that’s what makes the world great, our differences.
Denise: Policy for me.
Jim: Yep. Okay, I hear it. I hear it. Let’s go into another topic, which is reparations. Give us your thoughts on this very complicated issue. What do you think about the idea of reparations specifically to the freedmen lineage and maybe… Yeah, I’ll just leave it at that.
Denise: Republicans should be leading reparation because we are the Republican Party, which was started because the new territories that were being added to our country were debating if they were going to use black people as the economic engine for the development of their states and territories. So a new party was needed and the Republican Party became what it is. Reparation is not complicated. It is the unfinished business of this country in this time. We know, as you stated, the Confederates came in and destroyed and sabotaged reconstruction which was intended to be reparatory and to enfranchise the people who for 250 years have been disenfranchised by the actions of the United States. And obviously when I say 250 years, I’m acknowledging the ways that Britain as the founder, the papa, of the colonies also participate in that slavery. So it is not complicated. It’s not hard to prove. One is a descendant of the people born in the United States during slavery before emancipation and/or approximate to it.
I can prove it on multiple sides of my family, both through vital records and census data. I can get to the late 1800s just through vital records, just through birth and deaths and marriage certificates. I can get to before 1800 through birth vital records and census data. Reparation to the freedmen would transform communities in the United States and bolster the American economy in a way that I don’t think we’ve ever seen before. It would transform dependence on government in the United States. Think about it, if I have the lineage wealth gap closed, which is low ball, $800,000 per freedman, I am able to stop working three shifts. My kids are no longer latchkey and doing whatever latchkey kids do as they age. My older kid can focus on their own homework instead of having to take care of their little siblings. My teenagers no longer have to work, have to work in order to supplement income. I can bail myself out when I am falsely unjustly arrested.
I don’t have to cop a plea deal when some bigoted prosecutor decides they want to support the stop and frisk of me or charges against me over some nonsense. I can hire a judge. We’re no longer dependent upon prison economy because people will be able to get themselves out of unfair situations. Black businesses can thrive, 40% of which closed during COVID. There are just so many ways that the problems that poverty causes will be obliterated through reparation of the freedmen community when we are 80% of the black population, and there are Negroes in Mississippi, Alabama, and the former Confederacy that are still using outhouses. I and my family is one of those. We had an outhouse, no indoor plumbing, no indoor facility, one heater. That would change all of that, and the American economy overall would benefit from the safety, security, and prosperity of that action.
Jim: I wonder how they get to the $800,000 number. I looked up this morning and the median wealth of an American is more like 200,000, or actually it’s less than that, 120,000. So there’s something going on.
Denise: They’re counting us in that because we’re broke. There have been lots of research that shows black wealth is actually in the negative. So when you look, how did they get to that? Dr. William, Sandy Darity out of Duke University has studied this issue for his entire career, as well as you can find an article on Newsweek that talks about reparation and the amount for per descendant of US slaves. So that’s the thing. You can’t count us in the wealth gap and get a median because we’re the poor people so we’re going to bring all of that down. So what you have to count is at least the white, truly white like Anglo wealth gap between the descendants. And I think what we should also look at is multi-generational American wealth gap, white Anglo wealth gap compared to the freedmen because weren’t able to invest in any of the earlier on stuff. And what you see is a lot of the times when we did acquire wealth and build cities, there were dozens of white race riots that took that wealth and appropriated the property of the black people.
So you know about Tulsa, but those things happened all over the country where our property in our cities that were prosperous, were burned down and the white folks who were upset about it took the things that we owned. So yeah, that’s where the 800,000 comes from.
Jim: Okay. So whatever the number is, let the mathematicians and statisticians work it out and argue amongst themselves.
Denise: Economists. Yeah.
Jim: Economists. Now, there are two theories on how reparations might be brought. One is to build institutions to aid freedmen or other groups, and the other is just direct grants of cash. Where do you fall in on those ideas? Or do you have some other ideas of your own?
Denise: So in the three point plan to Unite America, which people can find at www.concernedfreedmen.com, on the All-Americans first page of that three point plan, I speak about reparations. I speak about relaunching the Freedmen’s Bureau at the federal level as well as the State Bureaus of Freedmen Affairs. Cash restitution is always part of reparation because you have a 250-year wealth extraction. So to say that you are going to pay me through education is I think, kind of ridiculous. You need to give me my money back that you’ve taken from me because it’s money that I need. I’m literally writing a dissertation, which is what I’m going to get back to when we finish this interview. I don’t want any education grants. I want my money. My kid is taken care of for academic scholarships and the whole bit so it’s really wealth that’s needed. And I think it’s both institutions, but that institution is The Freedman’s Bureau, which Justice Special Field ordered the Freedmen’s Bureau at the federal and state levels.
And Justice Special Field Order 15 mandated our heritage organizations need to be run by freedmen because we’ve seen the Freedman’s Bank be sabotaged by people who came in and took the money, who built institutions that are still alive today. And we need to ensure that the appropriations of funds are generating outcomes, positive outcomes for the freedmen. So there’s some nuance to how those institutions would operate and be run by freedmen with an aim of making sure we’re being effective in what we’re doing within policy. Plus, you got to cut a check.
Jim: Got to cut a check. Now, I believe this would be unprecedented in American history if we were to provide let’s say, cut a check for harms, the majority at least, of which happened before the lifetimes of currently living people. It is true there have been economic harm done to freedmen in the times of people alive, for instance, redlining. And then what I personally am interested in, because I’m a farmer, the US Agriculture Department abused black farmers at a level that is hard to imagine as late as 1985. And there was relatively recently a big lawsuit that was settled that paid a $2.2 billion indemnity to black farmers. So certainly up until the ’80s, there was real economic harm being done to freedmen. But certainly the bulk of the harm was done prior to let’s say 1985. The times we have paid compensation, one example was the Japanese Americans who were interned after World War II, I think they paid $90,000 each to them, but only to those who still survived. They didn’t pay any descendants.
And the original Freedmen’s Bureau, and I really did like in the Supreme Court decisions on both sides people referenced the laws that were enacted during early reconstruction that really were aimed at giving specific targeted help to the freedmen. But those again, were targeted to people who had suffered personally from slavery or the essentially apartheid state that existed in the United States before the Civil War. So this would be a fundamentally different thing to compensate people for things that didn’t happen to them but happened to prior generations. Do you think the country’s ready for that, or do you think that’s a good idea, or does it open up a can of worms or every group comes forth with their claims?
Denise: Well, people will often grift into whatever they can get into, but here’s the reality. Had the reconstruction been actually completed and not sabotaged by Andrew Johnson and the Confederates, who as soon as they got their privileges back and got that amnesty bill that allowed them to vote again, they continued with their treason. Part of that treason was the sabotage of reconstruction. And you mentioned it earlier, the sort of behind the scenes compromise on we got to throw these Negroes under the bus in order for us to keep moving together with you and not try to secede again. To me, are we going to allow something that disgusting and anti-14th Amendment to stand? Is because you let the freedmen die out In the early to mid 1900s, you were facing Jim Crow and white Americans deciding they were tired of talking about the racial discrimination of the freedmen, we’re going to cater to white feelings where is concerned? I think that is mob mentality, and that is true democracy, which the founder said they didn’t want.
So the question becomes what is fair and just? And just because you’ve obstructed our justice claim does not mean that our justice claim is not valid, and the country has an obligation to right the wrongs. And the way I frame reparation is not just reparation for slavery, what we show is a continual line of harm to our people from the founding of the country. From 1776 until today, my own family members have experienced racial discrimination in education in a federal lawsuit showing that they were racially discriminated against. I have experienced racial discrimination in education and at work multiple times in ways that have been devastating to me and my growth and trajectory and wealth accumulation. So it’s a continual line of harm for our families is the claim, and it really amounts almost to a claim of genocide for all the things that have happened to multi-generational Black Americans that have not happened to most of anyone else in the nation.
Jim: Well, I think we’re going to wrap it up there. Pamela Denise Long has presented a really unique lens at looking at this set of problems from a well-thought out and different perspective, and I would encourage people to check out her work. And I’d like to thank you a lot for coming here on the The Jim Rutt Show and having this conversation.
Denise: Jim, it was a great pleasure, and thank you for having me on.
Jim: I loved the conversation actually. I always like people who think about a deep and complicated problem from a fresh perspective.
Denise: Thank you.