tv Lectures in History Ronald Walters Civil Rights Career CSPAN July 14, 2019 12:00am-1:16am EDT
♪ >> next on "lectures in history," university of texas at austin professor peniel joseph teaches a class on the life and career of civil rights pioneer ronald walters. in 1958, walters organized a desegregation sit in, and was influential in the spread of african-americans as a scholarly field. he also served as advisor to the founding members of the congressional black caucus, and was campaign manager and
consultant for jesse jackson in his 1984 and 1988 presidential campaigns. >> today, we will be talking about the life of ronald w. walters and the search for black power 1969 through 2010. dr. walters was an imminent political scientist who talked about and wrote about black leadership, wrote about reparations. he anticipates the rise of donald trump in the 2016 election with the book on white nationalism. he was one of the leading figures in african american intellectual circles, talking about how institutional racism impacted black lives through the 1970's, 1980's, 1990's, and into the 21st century. when you think about ronald
walters , it is important to remember that he was one of the leading, if not, the leading black public intellectual in the 1980's. right now, we may think of public intellectualism as something else, with the proliferation of social media, but ron walters was a scholar and activist who impacted policy debate and shaped the way black policy matters were presented at the local, regional, and national and international level. when we think about ron walters, he gives us a window into how we think about black politics as evolution in the postwar period. ron walters was born in 1938 in wichita, kansas. he was born to an african-american family who aren't quite professionals, but are notable black families in wichita, kansas. ron grows up and becomes a race man. he attends a segregated elementary school, but a predominantly white high school.
he becomes someone who is interested in civic activism. a lifelong interest in democracy and political affairs. he graduates from east high school and attends wichita state for a short time before transferring to fisk because of racism he encounters when he tells professors he wants to study africa. for a time, he wanted to work for the state department and investigate african-american affairs. he will eventually enroll in a phd program in political science at american university in washington, d.c. his interests in africa converge with the abiding interest of black-american politics during the civil rights movement and the black power period. when you think about the civil rights movement we are thinking
about 1954 and 1965, between the brown desegregation decision, topeka, kansas, all the way to the passage of the voting rights act, august 6, 1965. what's interesting is this period unfolds as a cinematic intensity. when we think about 1954, the brown decision sparked hope within the african-american community that full and equal citizenship is on the horizon. it also sparks what scholars call massive white resistance. a massive resistance movement that is contoured by white nationalism. when we think about white nationalism, in this sense, we are thinking about it as a political philosophy and ideology of white group interests. the idea of protecting your own
citizenship rights, but your own privilege, vis-ã -vis racial privilege and inequality. black presence in white schools was pushed back by white citizens of all economic backgrounds, religious backgrounds. when we think about massive resistance, it is not the klan, not tattooed thugs who are beating on black children trying to get into school. are people stance who are part of the clergy, people who attend church, women who are part of the pta. a massive resistance is organized by both men and white women. it is protecting white interests and white citizenship away from black encroachment. when we think about massive resistance, massive resistance is white nationalism and white supremacy, but by another name. that name is very genteel.
massive resistance is why we get the confederate flag and the rebirth of the confederate flag inside south carolina, mississippi, georgia. these become symbols of white racial intransigence, but also white racial pride. ron walter grows up amidst all of this. we think about 1955, massive resistance. that's also the year emmett till is assassinated. he's a 14-year-old black boy from chicago who is assassinated by whites and lynched in mississippi on august 28. we now know he did not whistle or say anything to this woman. caroline bryant. he was killed just for being black and 14 and going into a store. he is very important for us, because his body is recovered
from the tallahatchie river. in mississippi. there is a 125 pound cotton gin fan belt around his neck. he is mutilated, disfigured, this grotesque symbol of white supremacy and the fact that black life does not matter in the u.s., 1955. but jet magazine from chicago, they published his mutilated face, his open casket, because his mother allows his body to be seen in open casket, because she wants the world to see what they have done to her son. this is important. he becomes an icon before trayvon martin, before black lives matter, we have emmett till. 1957 is the little rock central high school crisis, where president eisenhower has to send troops to protect black
schoolchildren who are attending -- who are integrating all white central high school. 1960 is the start of the sit in movement. one of the things we have to know is ron walters is part of the sit-in movement in wichita, kansas. it predates the february 1, 1960 sit-in movement in leesburg, north carolina. that lunch counter is now civil rights museum in greensboro, north carolina. four black students at north carolina start a sit in that will evolve into over 50,000 students across the u.s. sitting in to try and desegregate lunch counters in the south, also the north, the west coast, and the midwest. 1961 will be the freedom ride. the freedom rides are groups of
interracial activists from the congress of racially quarterly, including the likes of sophie carmichael, there really has deep segregation to be met with massive violence, in places like alabama. that will force the kennedy administration to send federal marshals into the south. really, trying to take a stand, in terms of civil rights. the federal government. 1962, james meredith becomes the first black student to enroll at the university of mississippi. ole miss. there will be three days of rioting in oxford, mississippi. federal marshals again will be deployed. by 1962, the civil rights movement is really cresting. 1963 will be the pivotal peak
year of civil rights demonstrations. 1963 is the year of birmingham, alabama. martin luther king, junior, who really has come into the national spotlight alongside rosa parks, during the montgomery, alabama, bus demonstrations. that is a 182-day boycott that ends on the 182nd day to desegregate buses in alabama. that turns king into a national figure covered by times magazine, the new york times. by 1963, king is a leading political mobilizer, but it is really the struggle to end racial segregation in alabama that will transform him. writes the r king famous letter from birmingham jail. in that letter, like we will see with ron walters, king is a big believer in democracy.
the letter from birmingham jail while king is in prison, he writes young people who are being arrested in birmingham, alabama, in an effort to desegregate birmingham, alabama, are in the future going to be remembered as heroes of the u.s. for what king characterizes as bringing us all back to those great wells of democracy that were dug deep by the founding waters. -- fathers. 1963 is what is going to push john f. kennedy to really have his finest moment, as far as i'm concerned, as president of the u.s., june 11, 1963. he does a 20-minute live address to the u.s. about the crisis in america. it is about racial justice, racial equality.
that morning, governor george wallace, segregationist, who will run for president, did his infamous stand at the schoolhouse door outside the university of alabama, where he had to step aside so that folks can go in and desegregate the university of alabama. kennedy talks about that. also in the speech, he talks about rates of black babies dying compared to white babies. he talked about racial justice and the civil rights movement being a moral issue. he's using the language of martin luther king, junior, and civil rights activist. this is extraordinary. kennedy on june 11, 1963, does the most potent presidential speech since lincoln's's second inaugural address in 1865. the morning after kennedy's speech, early around 1:00 a.m.,
the civil rights activist and an naacp activist, is shot through the heart with a high-powered rifle by a white supremacist. he will not be in prison until the '90's on federal charges. when we think about that june of 1963, over 15,000 people arrested in the u.s. vis-a-vis civil rights demonstrations in 1963. it is a crisis point. an inflection point. birmingham is a global humiliation for the u.s., because everyone from the soviet union, to china, africa, other parts of europe, start calling americans savages and say that white supremacy is a global shame, and there is no genuine democracy in the u.s. this is a critical crisis of american democracy.
america's standing in the global world. 1964, when we think about 1963, march on washington, august 28 1963. that will be the first and last time john f. kennedy hears martin luther king, jr., say his speech. king talks about reparations in that speech. ron walters will be a huge reparations advocate. september 15, 1963, four black girls will be killed after white supremacists plant a bomb at the 16th street baptist church in birmingham, alabama. on november 22, 1963, john f. kennedy is assassinated in dallas, texas. these pivotal, iconic moments. three civil rights workers are
murdered in mississippi, in philadelphia, june 21, 1964. they go missing. the nonviolent coordinating committee, an interracial group of civil rights activists that came out of the sit-ins, are organizing a mississippi freedom summer to bring democracy to the state of mississippi. they will organize and bring over 1000 volunteers, many of whom are white, who go in and everything from registering people to vote, to the creation of over 41 freedom schools. the free southern theater is doing performances in the south. mississippi freedom summer is huge, in the sense of highlighting the depth of racial poverty and white supremacy. one of the things we see when walters, int ronald
his last final posthumously published book, he makes an argument that there was slavery into the 20th century, into the 1960's, with black people who are sharecropping in mississippi and alabama in the deep south who were disallowed to leave the plantations, who were victims of modern day slavery that go way past what the time blackman talks about in slavery by another name and there's a documentary about it. 1964 is also the passage of the civil rights act, july 2, 1964. the civil rights act is important. it is really set up both race and gender as a protected class by the federal government. it desegregates all public accommodations. when we think about 1964, the
civil rights act will be the major legislative victory of 1964. finally, in terms of this heroic time, 1965, selma to montgomery demonstrations. when we think about march 5, 1965, bloody sunday. there will be turnaround tuesday. on march 15, 1965, lyndon johnson is going to make his speech to the joint address of congress, where he says civil rights is a national issue. he joins that struggle. he says the demonstrators were beaten on the bridge on bloody sunday by alabama state troopers, lyndon johnson is going to say they are patriots and part of this long tradition of american freedom.
which is really extraordinary. the president on march 15 says he will push for voting rights, an act that will be passed on august 6, 1965. an act that we should say was basically revoked by the supreme court by 2013 in the shelby versus holder decision. the voting rights act will be huge. voting rights about does is it provides a concept for millions of african americans who have been disallowed from voting in the deep south to have access to the franchise over a period of time. that voting rights act and its consequences is something that ron walters devotes his life to. when we think about ron walters and black power, the black power ferment is what is going to excite ronald walters and mark the shift in his own scholarship. the movement for black studies is really going to be a movement
that argues that black people are being dis-serviced by eurocentric white supremacist educational institution in the u.s.. from kindergarten all the way to higher education. when we think about black studies, what is it? a disciplinary perspective on all of the fields, methodologically, in terms of black studies. history, political science, anthropology, ethnic studies, women's studies, all of these different disciplines. it does it from a black perspective. it is a perspective that critiques western civilization, white supremacy, racial slavery, and makes an argument that enslaved africans had intellectual abilities, real perspectives that should be
shaping how we think about the history and contemporary american democracy. we think about this move for black studies and black student unions, this was a move to try to disrupt these institutions of white supremacy. one thing i would push back against, the author does a great job with this book. he makes an argument that black studies is not quite as impactful as i think it is. when we think about black studies, black studies is a game changer, because this happened at both predominately white institutions, ronald walters becomes the chair from 1969 to university and
also howard university. ronald walters spends the bulk of his career in the political science department and also running different centers and institutes in leadership and urban politics. black studies transforms howard. even historically black colleges and universities are going to be transformed. when we think about black power and black studies, the movement for black studies is a counter hegemonic movement. it is a movement that is of western episamolo -- epistemology,
a movement that is critical of -- as the physical of knowledge what black studies says we do not just want to replace white with black, it is saying western civilization is ignoring histories of colonialism, racial slavery, imperialism, and by talking about slavery, reconstruction, the black experience in the west, we reformulate, re-think, and re-imagine paradigms and frameworks of not just intellectual history, but frameworks of culture, politics, gender, leadership, sexual orientation, war, violence, civil society, politics. black studies is a huge intervention which this book underestimates. when we think about ronald walters, he did not underestimate it. he understood it and pushed back gainst this idea of white control over lack independence. even by the 1960's and 1970's, when we saw a proliferation of white interests in black studies
in subjects. ronald walters pushes back against the idea of white control over black intellectual independence. including the nrc, different foundations that are trying to shape the different white liberal, the tenor of the black studies, by giving money to yale, different departments as long as those departments are not militant and are not radical. this is a good time to talk about ronald walters, black power, and black nationalism. when we think about this idea of black nationalism, it rests on 3 pillars. we can talk about how those pillars can grow and evolve. we are thinking about this idea of racial unity. this idea of the cultural politics of race and self-determination. ronald walters really tried to craft all of those into a paradigm for african-american
leadership, but also african-american leadership that was accountable to day-to-day ordinary black people. he goes from being an outsider, a black intellectual who is connected to the 1972 gary convention, the black political convention, connected to these insurgent outside movements to try and re-imagine black politics and becoming an inside, somebody advising jesse jackson, part of the national black leadership roundtable, who is ensconced in a kind of privilege, but never really white privilege, sort of like black elite trying to convince them to be more accountable to ordinary people. and often failing to convince them to be more accountable to ordinary people. when we think about ronald walters and black nationalist,
ronald walters was a black nationalist analyst and pen africa's. he was not an imperialist nationalist. as who thought they should not have a coalition. he felt black interests were not being served within the context of american policy. even during the civil rights movement, and the great society, black power, there's always this pushback. what ronald walters is always pushing is the idea of a black agenda. when you think about the black agenda, the high point is the 1972 darius convention. you think about the black power movement. one decade of black power is a call for a radical, social, political, cultural, economic self-determination at the local, regional, national, and global level. political, cultural, economic i disagree with the author who
says black power was fundamentally reformative. there were reform elements in black power, and the nixon administration and subsequent administrations tried to take the movement hostage and really point the movement and absorb it in very specific direction. when we think about black power as reform, it is richard nixon advocating black power as black capitalism. even though nixon advocates it, refuses to provide even black entrepreneurs the full and unfettered access and backing of the federal government to become these proto-capitalists. when we think about black power, the radicalism of black power is trying to fundamentally alter the way in which democratic institutions in the u.s. work. sometimes, people who are even militant and black radicals don't realize the radicalism of that. someone like martin luther king, jr., did.
malcolm x, by the end of his life does. for a long time, he's pushing back against king and voting. the only way you will transform this democracy is to utterly transform the institutions in the democracy. if these institutions are producing unequal outcomes, if you radically transform those institutions, you can gain not just access, but re-imagine the way in which power relations between blacks, whites, and other groups play out. that's what ronald walters tried to do. that's what he tried to do. when we think about black power, even a movement for black studies, black studies radically alters institutions of higher education. i'm not saying it is a complete revolution, but the place where we are, the very presence of black studies has changed and transformed this place. not just academically, but it's
connected to sport, culture, art, public policy. we cannot underestimate that, even as black studies didn't fulfill the mission necessarily of some of its most revolutionary architects, in terms of being something institutionalized and connected to communities. in some cases, that happens. in other cases, it did not. in other cases, we have a parallel to the ivory tower. in this case, an ebony tower. in terms of black studies. when we think about ronald walters and this idea of a black perspective, in 1972, the national black political convention meets in gary, indiana. walters is one of the key behind-the-scenes figures who is helping write the national black political agenda. what was the agenda? it was the agenda for urban, rural, local, regional, national, and international public policy transformations. this idea of ending black poverty. the idea of ending the achievement gap.
the idea of ending racial segregation both in living accommodations and residences, but public schools. the idea of ending wage gaps. one thing ronald walters always talked about was the wealth gap. he spent his life talking about the wealth gap. wealth gap to racial slavery and its aftermath, that one of the reasons why the black public has a hard time not just organizing itself, but wielding actual economic and political power, is because of a wealth gap. what racial slavery does, and one of the key igures, and we have seen brilliant books by everybody, to ebony and r and walter johnson, river
f dark dreams, to becker, empire of cotton, so many different others who were giving these fine studies of racial slavery. ronald walters is a trailblazer in arguing that what racial slavery does is create enormous wealth in the u.s. and it really is a violent wealth from hat black labor into white hands. that is his argument. he is absolutely correct. so ron walters, even though he is pushing for black leadership and black political power, he claims black people will never have the political power without closing the wealth gap. when he thinks about wealth gap, he is not talking about wages, he's not talking about a good salary. great he's talking about wealth. assets, wealth that can be legacy, that can help
generations of african-americans. and that is why ron walters, before the contemporary reparations conversation we are having, ron walters, along with people like randall robinson, were talking about reparations. there is a long history of this. queen mother moore, it goes back to the 19th century, bishop turner, the national coalition of blacks for reparations in america, and cobra and others. james foreman is part of this as well, when he went up to united churches and demanded half a billion dollars in 1969. so this idea of reparations and shooting for the moon, asking for the moon, reparations, walters looked at as a comprehensive policy
solution, that you would think about wealth, think about income, segregation, inequality, and think about why there are continuing, disparate racial outcomes. so in the late 20th century and the 21st century, the way we can identify racism is by looking at outcomes. we think about reparations, this is connected to mass incarcerations as well. by the 1970's, one thing walters becomes interested in his presidential politics. i want to talk about presidential politics and black power. walters leads studies and is at the 1976, 1980, 1984 democratic political conventions. he is very much interested in the way in which presidents --
and the rhetoric of the presidency, is impacting civil rights, impacting a movement for black political power, and racial justice and equality. one of the things walters is usually interested in is the convergence between race, democracy and citizenship, and the way in which rhetoric post-1960's starts to attack the moral basis of black claims of citizenship, and black claims of repaired citizenship. when you think about martin luther king jr. and the 1963 march on washington, one of the main things king says in that text, we come here today -- this is washington dc on the national mall, to cash a check, a check that was stamped insufficient funds, but we refused to believe that american democracy is bankrupt.
that is what he says. and in the 1960's there is a point where even the president of the united states, two presidents, kennedy and johnson, really justify that moral claim, they say, there is a moral claim. kennedy says it on national television, june 11, 1963. president lyndon johnson says it at howard university on june 4, 1965, in a very famous howard university commencement speech, where he says that you can't have two runners, and one has been shackled, and you expect them to run the race equally. and in that speech, president johnson talks about outcomes, not just equality of opportunity, but equality of outcomes. that is what he said. so for a time, the moral claim of black citizenship, not just equal citizenship, but reparative citizenship, and what are we are repairing? the crime of racial slavery and another century of jim crow racial segregation and anti-black violence. that is the crime that continues, even post-1965. so by the 1970's and 1980's, one
thing ron walters really challenges, and he pushes the black community on this, is to recognize that the rhetoric coming from the united states, from both republicans and democrats, is a rhetoric that is abandoning this idea of black citizenship. so way before bill clinton, robert smith talked about the convergence of clinton, jimmy carter abandoned the black community. jimmy carter, with the nobel prize, did not love black folks while he was president. so the convergence between republican racism and democratic party racism started in the 1960's and 1970's. we only have this idea of a moral, reparative black citizenship that there was a consensus around for several years, because of the crises occurring in the 1960's. i would argue maybe 1963 to 1968. one of the great tragedies of that time is the assassination of martin luther king jr.,
because as long as martin luther king jr. was alive, you had a symbol globally who was recognized as a symbol of that claim of moral, reparative black citizenship. so what is interesting when we think about civil rights and black power and black history, is that walters recognizes the 1970's that american politics has shifted toward neoliberalism. the rhetoric of jimmy carter is the rhetoric of bill clinton, and ron walters argues there is a strain of that rhetoric that continues in barack obama, and he pushes back against that even as the black leadership and the black community, unapologetically embraces the obama administration. hook, line and sinker. so when we think about walters in the 1970's and 1980's, even before talking about walters and ronald reagan, walters is pushing back against the
democratic party and the fact that the democratic party by the 1970's at the presidential level and the national level, is abandoning black folks. part of this pushback is trying to organize folks who are part of the black congressional caucus and black elected leaders, he is trying to push them not just further left politically, but he wants them to adopt a black agenda. he is pushing back against this idea that black folks are the literal bete noire of the democratic party. saying that bill clinton showed that by presiding over the death of ricky ray rector, the mentally ill black man in arkansas, showing white folks that he is willing to kill black people in order to become president in 1992, when you throw black people under the bus and still only get 43% of the
black vote. the fact that the white electorate refuses to vote for the democratic party is a moral sin on that electorate, not the party. but the party interpreted it that way. the party said, we have to do everything in our power to distance ourselves from black people, from black citizenship, from racial justice. ron walters is a strikingly eloquent voice trying to push the cbc and black leadership to say, this will not stand. and we think about the reagan era, it's important because ron walters looks upon reagan's ascendancy as the rise of white nationalism. he looks at white nationalism as something that can be racist and white supremacist and also something that can be just about white people trying to protect their group interests. he sees it as a combination of those things. he makes an argument that what
political scientists and scholars never do, they look at black public opinion and latino public opinion and other group public opinion, but they don't look at white public opinion and think of that as an interest group, as a block group in this pluralistic society, of white people trying to protect white interests. and in this case it is not just irish or italian interests, it is an amalgamation of white interests throughout the 19th and 20th century. and when we think of white nationalism, by the 1980's what reagan does is push back against reparative claims, moral claims of black citizenship. hey say affirmative action is reverse racism. black poverty
is not a result of public policy and white supremacy and institutional racism, and racial violence against black women and children, they say it is about black people's behavior and the great society and liberal programs have actually distorted the african-american work ethic. and that is the irony, because the african-american work ethic is what built up the united states of america. and continues to build up the united states of america. but the argument is that black people are somehow morally and genetically effective. and we continue to see scientific racism from conservative scholars, we have authors' bell curve, looking at test scores, bell curve, all these things into the 1990's and into the present. ron walters is pushing back against that. so when we think about what
walters tries to do, he starts talking about presidential leadership in the 1970's and '80's and he says that black people as an electorate can do a few things. they can decide to stay home and not vote, they can vote for the democratic party as the lesser of two evils. or they can withhold their vote, vote strategically, allow democrats to lose and be in a better bargaining position next time. and he says black people can create an independent black political party, give black votes to that independent party and then the party apparatus would negotiate with the democratic party or the republican party for policy demands in the next cycle. and that black political party never materializes, he is part of many movements including the national independent black political party in 1980 and others, but jesse jackson's
presidential run, especially 1984, is an example of what walters wanted, to have a black person run for president and utilize the publicity and power they would get from the presidential run to have leverage. he talks about independent leverage versus dependent leverage. independent leverage would mean you can negotiate with white powerbrokers independently. dependent leverage is what he says jesse jackson achieved, and he says jesse jackson was too wedded to the democratic party, so he could ask for concessions, but only within the framework of the democratic party. so when we think about the 1984 presidential run of jesse jackson, this is hugely important because what jesse jackson does, even as he tries to run as a universal candidate, he is going to be interpreted as a black candidate.
he tries to run universal everything, health-care, income ending poverty, a more generous foreign-policy to the third world, all these different things. 1984 and 1988 are great examples of how ron walters is transitioning into a political insider who is still concerned about black power and its impact on the grassroots. he becomes deputy campaign manager for domestic issues in the jackson campaign in 1984. he is writing memos, handling the press. he becomes a leading figure in the 1980's in terms of a black intellectual, but also as a policy advocate. and before bill clinton's election in 1992, he anticipates
the rise of neoliberal politicians who are scapegoating black communities, but these black communities are held hostage because the republican party under reagan and subsequently continues to be vociferously anti-black in terms of its policy positions. sometimes people say, is this party racist? and the answer is, all the racists think so, and they love the party. that is your answer. so if all the policy positions are anti-black, then that is your answer. but the democratic party has its own racial problems, because the democratic party starts to fear its connection to black votes is making it less hospitable to white voters. the democratic party under carter and clinton tries to
triangulate, tries to do things like affirmative-action, mend it, don't end it. welfare reform is aimed at a policy that is criminalizing the democratic party's most loyal constituency. these are things ron walters pushes back against. he says, how can you have allegiance to this party who is criminalizing black mothers who are single, criminalizing teenagers, throwing all these people in jail? and that is where walters' notion of black power as an independent political party that could potentially be the balance of power comes into play. that has a hard time coming into existence. why? because so many black elected leaders depend on the democratic party's patronage. our two-party system precludes walters' strategy of creating an
independent black party, even though historically black people have tried to do this, the freedom now party in 1963, the mississippi democratic freedom party in 1964, and the lowndes county black panther party that inspires the black panthers we think about in the contemporary context. so walters was all for that, but that does not happen in a way he anticipated. i will take questions. >> do you think black power was a logical extension to the integration of the civil rights movement? professor joseph: it is both. it is separate and distinct. when you think about civil rights and black power, you
think about the black freedom struggle as a huge redwood in california, a redwood tree. there are many, many branches, and at times those branches intertwined, and at times those branches are separate. black power is rooted in the same tree, but is definitely a different ranch. one thing we have to remember, the way politics works, people are very complex, so there are people who are part of both movements. there are naacp activists who admire and participate in acts of black power. i'm not talking about roy wilkins or thurgood marshall, but black power and civil rights at times converge. but one thing about black power that was different from civil rights, and this impacts dr. king's rhetoric, is black power has a structural critique of what is going on in the united states. it has a structural critique of what is going on domestically and globally.
it wants to understand why the convergence, what king talked about, militarism, racism, it wants to understand how it is connected at the local level, in the north, in the urban south, on the west coast, but also nationally and also in vietnam, africa, latin america. it wants to understand these things. one of the big differences, and sometimes people conflate this, they say black power activists, because of their critique of american democracy, didn't leave -- believe in america democracy. walters does. and by the end of his life, some say he is just talking about moral persuasion. certainly there have been eople, including black power activists, who were marxists,
socialists, feminists, who want system different kind of walters, he was talking about how do we leverage black power to transform democratic institutions. and he is interested in policy, why is white d in politics just intent on white ublic policy, and he is interested in illustrating that. one thing walters does in his 2003 book on white nationalism strobe light on something we saw nationally and people's surprise n 2016, this idea of white nationalism. group ea of white interests converging around a few things, not just anti-black and anti-latino racism, but converging around preserving
white privilege economically, preserving white privilege policy-wise, and this is white privilege from racial slavery. that's where the privilege is. privilege is racial slavery. the privilege is jim crow. one thing walters sees that at times, black elites at least were not ready to robustly criticize and mobilize against that privilege. once they became ensconced in the democratic party and in leadership and economic privilege themselves, they were milquetoast at times in trying to push back against the levels of privilege and the levels of racial animus that marked policy in the 1980's and 1990's. in this context i'm talking
about black elected officials who voted for reagan drug laws and crime reform, black elected officials, anybody who voted for the clinton crime bill are or welfare reform. these are things that will negatively impact, but at this point these folks are no longer accountable to the black electorate. so walters is a trailblazer. he doesn't have a prescription on how to win, but he is saying, here are the problems. sometimes really illustrating what the problems are becomes a huge intervention. it becomes up to another generation to try to answer those questions, but that is what walters did. of ways, when we think i want to a moment switch, but with walters and presidential leadership and walters and white nationalism, what walters sees is the fact that black politics and the way in which it moves
from protests to politics, we have to remember, there is all kinds of grassroots insurgency happening in the 1980's and 1990s. we aren't covering it here and walters is connected somewhat, but this is absolutely happening. but we are thinking about black politics as it is organized at an elite level, it goes from protests to policy. mobilizing demonstrations. in 1972 we saw a congressman from michigan align himself. and this was not happening by the 1980's. walters says black politicians have to reach out to the grassroots. he tries to connect this at a national black leadership roundtable, a national black faculty congress, all these
things that are never well resourced enough to become institutionalized. and when it comes to white nationalism, walters sees what we are experiencing today -- when you think about whiteness as a socially-constructed identity, postwar whiteness includes all kinds of previously marginalized white ethnics, people who could not be part of a white anglo-saxon protestant nation. walters anticipated and saw that. when you think about whiteness by reagan, it was catholics, gentiles, jews, irish, portuguese, greek, it was this white identity that was trying to protect its interests, and these were interests that were
fundamentally constructed on the backs of black and brown people. and he calls that out and says, black people have to understand that and organize within the context of this. walters really understood and tried to push back against this loss of moral authority, and it is not just king who had it, it is ella baker, fannie lou harris, malcolm a -- malcolm x. constantly saying what happened is because a series of crimes that happened against black america. saying it at a point in the s and 1960s, for black power nationally, and people say, how dare you?
people call it unspeakable truth. ron walters tries to call this out and say, here is what is happening in here is why we have to organize. >> a lot of the electoral strategy walters talks about seems like it would be easier to execute on a state and local level, and it seems like a much easier task to hold leaders accountable on those levels. i think about jesse jackson winning five primaries in 1984 and thinking, if you were working on those state levels, you might be able to achieve policy goals more easily in states like louisiana. is there a disconnect there, or is he deferring to other people with that level of action?
professor joseph: what he wants -- one reason why jesse ran was because harold washington of chicago became mayor after the 1983 election, and that was a big inspiration for jesse to take his southern tour in 1983. one thing you saw with jesse jackson's run, he mobilizes one million black voters who had not previously voted. and harold washington did the same thing in chicago, and harold washington inspired barack obama. by the time barack obama moves to chicago during his first couple of years, harold washington is mayor of chicago. so when we think about that, state and local parties, the thinking was that, if you have somebody who runs for president at the national level, and
remember by 1984 jesse received 3.5 million votes, -- by 1988 3.5 million votes. he mobilizes a constituency that is easier to mobilize if people are running for president. if shirley chisholm had run in 1972 -- shirley tells him -- shirley chisholm had run in 1972, but it was sort of a coalition of white and black and different progressives. where jesse, even though he gets 10% and 15% of the white vote, it is a third-world coalition behind jesse and there is really a lot of black voters behind jesse in the primaries. when we think about the electoral strategy, it was national, but it was national to get regional and local and even municipal buy-ins.
to see people do this. really, in a lot of ways, at obama run ally, the in 2008 helped people and helped at the local level, elections, it nt organized pushback against him is so hard and disappointment by people who supported him is so apparent, that early 2010 you are seeing a diminution, so in the eight years we saw the democratic party lose the most officially that it had ever lost, not just congress but state-by-state, because organized opposition runs so deep. i want to talk about ron walters as a pan-african.
and then wrap up. him as a pan -- we see this in his support for reparations and the movement to end apartheid in south africa. ron walters worked with people like randall robinson of trans africa, and he is a huge advocate of african independence, making sure africa is not the victim of structural adjustment policies, because imf policies restricted the way africa might grow into a superpower globally. walters travels to south africa, sees truth and reconciliation and pushes back against truth and reconciliation in south africa, as reconciliation on the cheap, just like he pushes back against conversations on race in the u.s. as reconciliation on the cheap. he does not want a wealth transfer in south africa from white hands and white power to
black hands, not just a political elite led by nelson mandela. o walters identifies neo-colonial ism that is flourishing in south africa, with everything from political corruption to endemic poverty to aids and hiv skyrocketing, high rates of black unemployment in south africa postapartheid. walters is huge as a functioning, radically pragmatic pan-african, who is interested in the united states having heart sanctions against south africa, which is eventually successful despite the reagan administration and others not wanting to sanction south africa. he is interested in real dialogue, learning from africans and not trying to do this whole
idea of, black people are the leaders that will teach the africans about their own independence. when we think about walters and the idea of reparations, he connects it both domestically and globally. his idea of reparations is both a wealth transfer that is not just income, because martin luther king jr. wanted a guaranteed income, but a guaranteed income would not be enough because general -- would not be enough because generationally, these wealth transfers from white to black have been going on since slavery and aided and abetted by the white government. when we think about the new deal and the way whites were able to buy homes that were subsidized, and even black gis were not able to do this. so homeownership value has become the biggest source of
intergenerational wealth among whites, and black people never had a chance, even in the 1940's, 1950's, and in 1960 to do this. and you compound that with black people being shut out for the most part of industrial labor, even though we are reminded that black folks were workers on arrival, they have not been able to be part of unions in a big way, which is part of that lack of access to both income and wealth. because unions allowed the white working class to get access to homeownership, the single driver of intergenerational wealth among ordinary whites.
we are not talking about the white elite, we are talking about ordinary whites. sir ronald walters, when we think about reparations and ron walters'pan-africanism and anti-apartheid, his notion of black power is global and cosmopolitan. he is usually interested in black people setting the agenda for themselves. it is important to remember that walters and this idea of a black perspective, it's not just intellectual, he wants a practical application that black people can identify the problems impacting their communities, and that they can also organize around those problems. so this issue of pan-africanism for ron walters is not just pan-africanism as this imaginary concept, it is tangible and constructive and institutional. walters leaves howard university in the 1990's, goes to the university of maryland. k he is reminiscent of aspects of what malcolm x talked about who wanted a big tent, a black united front to organize foral f , that. that is going to be h