[The 90s raw: race and racism]

This tape contains raw footage for the award-winning series The 90's. Eddie Becker interviews author Clarence Lusane (1953-) about his new book Pipe Dream Blues: Racism and the War on Drugs. Becker also interviews Sherod Williams, a clinical psychologist, about his views on racial attitudes in America.

00:00Copy video clip URL Clarence Lusane introduces himself. He begins by addressing the drug crisis and the negative social impact it has had on the country. He also talks about low income families and their economic drive to sell drugs. In that specific case, Lusane says “‘just say no’ does not work.” He goes on to talk about how society can go about addressing these drug related issues. He states that all cities need to be restructured so that young people are provided with better educational opportunities. He shares a story about a young boy who grew up with a crack addicted mother, talking about the negative effect this had on the boy. When asked what type of effect drugs would have on his life, the boy responded that he would not want to sell drugs, but would “probably have to.”

06:02Copy video clip URL Lusane calls for the need to reexamine international images, specifically the coverage of foreign drug cartels. Lusane talks about the poverty in Central America and how that drives ordinary farmers to cultivate drugs instead of food. He states that the American public should be aware of this aspect of the drug trade, but that the media only focuses on the drug cartels. “Until we become sensitive to that, until we change our economic policies internationally, there’s no way we’re going to be able to stop that very core of that drug producing process, which is farmers trying to meet their needs, trying to survive.” Lusane describes some of the solutions to the problem and criticizes the drug policies of the Reagan and Bush administrations. He also talks about the use of crop eradication in different parts of Peru and Bolivia. He goes on to call for debt relief and an examining of human rights for those countries.

13:39Copy video clip URL Lusane talks about one of the goals for his book. “One of the things that I’ve tried to do in the book is to document that drug use and the use of drug wars against communities of color, in particular African-Americans, has a long history.” Lusane traces back the issue back to slavery, saying that tobacco and alcohol were strong components in developing the slave trade. “So there’s a long history that goes back of, how do you destabilize communities–how do you go in and are able to oppress people, and one of those ways has been to addict them to substances that are harmful.” Lusane then talks about the use of alcohol against Native Americans during the settling of the U.S. and the use of opium against the Chinese in the 20th century. He goes on to talk about the rise of the drug trade during the turn of the century.

18:45Copy video clip URL Lusane talks about the media’s involvement in promoting the idea of African-Americans as heavy drug users. He states that it was a very explosive racial period partially fueled by the drug scare. He goes on to talk about the campaign to stop marijuana usage in the 1930s. Both Hispanics and African-Americans were targeted during this time. Lusane talks about the influence of drug culture throughout the 20th century.

27:46Copy video clip URL Lusane talks about Senator Joe McCarthy’s use of morphine while also being a major proponent in linking drug use and Communism to people of color. He talks about the racial tensions that developed during this period in history. He states that the most important anti-drug campaign came from the Nation of Islam. Lusane talks about many ex-addicts, including Malcolm X, who converted to Islam and became clean. The Nation of Islam developed a six-step program for their followers. Lusane talks about this in great detail.

32:06Copy video clip URL Lusane begins to talk about some of the modern day drug treatment practices. He states that people who have low self esteem tend to drift out of reality and into drugs. “It’s extremely understandable why communities of poor people, and in a racist society communities of poor people of color, would abuse drugs.” Lusane talks about the lack of opportunity for poverty stricken individuals. “A critical component is getting at the issue of self esteem and getting at it at a young age.”

37:25Copy video clip URL Becker asks Lusane about the criminalization process of the drug war. “We’re at the point now where we’ve got more than a quarter, or about a quarter of youth of color that are either in jail, on probation, or on parole… We’re seeing a destruction of a generation, probably a generation and a half.” Lusane goes on to talk about the U.S. being the number one incarcerator in the world and the effects of the prison system on minor drug offenders, specifically African-American offenders. Lusane goes on to talk about the mandatory minimum sentences and their effect on female criminals and their more broad negative effects.

44:40Copy video clip URL Lusane talks about the discussion over current laws and how they’ve affected drug usage in the country. Lusane states that the public has to challenge the government statistics on drug usage. He goes on to talk about the disparities in the statistics as well. Lusane also states that there is more heroin getting into the country now than ever before.

48:05Copy video clip URL Becker asks Lusane about the positivity coming out of the drug crisis. Lusane talks about the influx of community action and organizing against drug usage. Lusane talks about the Nation of Islam and their involvement in combating drugs. Lusane calls for more leadership from the local, state, and federal government. “We need to say that where we disagree, where we think there’s repression, where there’s a misguided focus on how money is used–we need the kind of leadership that can have an impact and reform that.” He continues to criticize the government’s drug strategy. He then goes on to talk about a program in California that has successfully kept children and teens out of drug and gang activity. Lusane states that the government must learn from this program and incorporate it into their drug strategy. Lusane talks about the range of the “Dopebusters” program.

53:04Copy video clip URL Cut to an interview with Sherod Williams. Becker and Williams discuss the issue of race relations in the U.S. Williams talks about an article he read in his local newspaper about the Ku Klux Klan. He goes on to say that “crass racism” has declined throughout the 20th century, but that “subtle racism” is still very prevalent in our culture. He and Becker discuss the issue of “subtle racism” in more detail.

57:01Copy video clip URL Williams talks about the difficulty of exposing “subtle racism” in certain situations. He also talks about the notion of racism being considered as a capital crime. He states that he liked to bring about an open discussion and debate about racism actually being a form of murder. He gives a number of examples of racism and how it can negatively affect a person’s lifespan. His full answer is interrupted by the arrival of his children coming home from school.

01:03:09Copy video clip URL Williams, a clinical psychologist, begins to talk about the preconceptions he experiences because of his race. He shares a story about an eight year old patient that was surprised by the fact that he was black and working as a psychologist. He says people assume he is a Democrat because of his race. He states that he comes from a Republican family and that his grandmother was the Vice-Chair of the Republican Party in Fort Wayne, IN. “People have preconceptions about blacks and what their roles are and what they think and how they feel, not realizing there’s really kind of a broad spectrum. I mean, if you’d get to know them you’ll realize that.”

01:07:04Copy video clip URL Williams talks about some of the subtle racism he’s seen in the Baltimore school system. He talks about some of the restraints put on students of color. He shares a story about a gifted four year old who he placed in a gifted school. He goes on to talk about the assumptions made based on race and shares a story about an instance of racism while in the Army. Williams’ supervisor was almost in disbelief at the fact that he got the highest score in the company on an intelligence test. He goes on to express his concern in assumptions about race becoming involved in the formation of social policy. He talks about societal norms and the prejudice that stems from them.

01:18:10Copy video clip URL Williams talks about the trouble that accompanies breaking new ground in certain areas of work. “There’s a lot of baggage which goes with that, when you are ‘the first one.'” “Anyone who’s going to do anything worthwhile typically has to break some kind of a barrier, particularly if you’re black and the question is, ‘Why is it that you have to carry that excess baggage?'” Becker asks if he meets many people who are burdened by societal issues and racism. He states that all blacks are burdened by it to some extent. “I will never be able to walk into a situation probably during my lifetime… very rarely will I be in a situation where I’m not black.” He talks about how African-Americans often subvert and internalize their feelings when confronted with subtle racism. He states that many African-Americans are forced do so in work situations for fear of losing their jobs.

01:30:17Copy video clip URL Williams comments on the American dream. “Just from my perspective, the great American dream is to be President you know? Blacks, at least I don’t think in those terms, I think of I’m not going to be President, certainly my father wasn’t going to be President no matter what we did, okay? But what I need to do with my time here is to create a foundation for my son and my grandchildren so that they could be.” He then goes on to talk about the trouble that arises out of comparing one’s own accomplishments to other people’s successes. Williams also philosophizes about the structure of the world and how men and women of color cope with it.

01:34:18Copy video clip URL When asked if things are getting better or worse, Williams says that things are better in certain ways. He states that there are more choices for African-Americans but that there are different battles being fought. He shares his own feelings of inadequacy. The interview is interrupted by one of his children.

01:37:20Copy video clip URL Williams talks about the differences between what he went through growing up and the experiences his son will go through. “My mother came in and said to me, ‘I want you to know something. Some time in your life someone may come to you and tell you that you’re not as good’… I don’t think she ever mentioned color but I think there was sort of an implication: you need to know that you’re as good as anybody else.” Williams states that he hasn’t felt the need to say the same thing to his child because he seems to be fairly comfortable with himself. He goes on to say that the “subtleties” will come up during adolescence. He states that he is unsure of what what he will tell his son. “I’m not sure what I’m going to tell him, because on one hand I don’t want to create expectation that there’s going to be difficulties, but on the other hand I know that there are and it’s a question of then what do you tell him? How do you prepare him?” Williams and Becker continue to discuss the issue for several minutes.

01:43:11Copy video clip URL Williams talks about self-esteem issues of many young African-Americans. He goes on to talk about the complexities of the drug problem in the U.S. He talks about some of the common personality characteristics of young drug dealers he has seen in his office. He then talks about the perceived lack of opportunity among black youth.

01:46:11Copy video clip URL Williams talks about black youth and their perception of being bound by certain limits in society including socio-economic and racial factors. He goes on to talk about some of his work with adjudicated youth. He goes on to talk about other aspects of racial awareness.

01:49:33Copy video clip URL Williams talks about the resistance in dealing with racial issues, specifically in the entertainment world. He then talks about the negativity and lack of quality role models in television. He goes on to talk about the many racial stereotypes projected through the entertainment industry. Williams emphasizes the importance in parents distinguishing stereotypes for their children. “You do get depressed and you do get discouraged, and some people don’t come out of it, and that’s I think what’s really missing.” “What you see on television, whether it’s the news or whether it’s a comedy is entertainment… it’s important as a parent to be able to tell people ‘this is entertainment… this is one person’s view.'”

01:58:20Copy video clip URL Williams talks about how he would approach his son in dealing with racial issues. He says that as a child, he was beaten up after a confrontation with a group of children at school, which he admits was a fairly normal childhood occurrence. However, as the beating took place, one child made a few negative racial remarks. This caused Williams more pain than the physical blows he withstood. “He said, ‘if you were in the South, you know, we wouldn’t be putting up with any this, you know. It’d be a lot worse for you.'” He goes on to talk about his experience growing up in Woodside, NY. He gets cut off by the end of the tape.

02:03:16Copy video clip URL Tape ends.

 

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