Are police actually using deadly force disproportionately against black people? And how does the focus on police overshadow other monumental problems facing black America today?
Why is believing that black lives matter not the same as supporting the Black Lives Matter organization?
And why are black conservatives often excluded from mainstream public awareness and discourse?
In this episode, we sit down again with radio talk show personality and bestselling author Larry Elder, who hosts The Larry Elder Show for The Epoch Times. He is the executive producer of the new documentary “Uncle Tom.”
This is American Thought Leaders, and I’m Jan Jekielek.
Jan Jekielek: Larry Elder, it’s such a pleasure to have you back on American Thought Leaders.
Larry Elder: Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it. As Charlton Heston once said to me, thank you for letting me borrow your audience.
Mr. Jekielek: [I see that it says] “Uncle Tom” on your shirt. I have been talking about this film with you for a while now. It’s coming very, very soon.
Mr. Elder: I have been working on this film for two years, Jan, along with the director, Justin Malone, and it is about the grief that people like Candace Owens, Herman Cain, Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, Allen West, and Clarence Thomas get for simply suggesting that maybe, just maybe, the policies that blacks have been following, the democratic policies that blacks have been voting for, the left-wing policies that blacks have been pulling that lever for, maybe we ought to rethink them.
It’s not an angry film. It’s not a film that says: how dare you call us these nasty names? It’s a film that says: why can’t we have an intelligent discussion about whether or not we should be supporting school choice? Why can’t we have an intelligent discussion about whether or not we should be supporting Roe v. Wade? Why can’t we have an intelligent discussion about whether or not we should be having stronger borders? Because the studies suggest that unskilled illegal aliens take jobs away from unskilled black and brown workers and put downward pressure on their wages. Can we have a discussion about this without my being called an Uncle Tom, a self loather, or a sellout?
Dean McKay is the executive editor of The New York Times and happens to be black. He hired a conservative as a columnist named Bret Stephens, a never-Trump-er, the kind of conservative that the New York Times hires as a Republican. Bret Stephens’ first column had to do with his skepticism about climate change alarmism. That’s all; he didn’t say “I don’t agree with it.” He just said “I’m skeptical that these alarmist trends that people are predicting are going to happen.” Mckay said that people contacted the New York Times angry that they hired this guy, angry that he wrote this column. Mckay was surprised at the ferocity of people, because he hired a conservative to write a column that, in his opinion, was very intelligent. Stephens raised some questions about climate change.
Mckay publicly said that he found out “the left as a rule does not want to hear thoughtful disagreement” [in an interview at Code Conference]. That’s a verbatim quote. I argue that the black left doesn’t even believe there’s such a thing as thoughtful disagreement. Therefore, we’re not having discussions in the black community that, in my opinion, are healthy and could lead to a better outcome.
The number one problem in the black community is not racism. It’s not bad cops, although we both know both exist. The number one problem is the large number of blacks who were raised without fathers. In 1965, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who later on became a democrat senator from New York, wrote a paper called “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action”. At the time, 25 percent of blacks were born outside of wedlock, a number that he thought was horrific. He felt if we don’t do something, take some sort of national action, this is going to get worse. We’ll fast forward. Now 70 percent of black kids are born outside of wedlock, 25 percent of white kids now are, and nearly half of Hispanic kids are. Forget about Larry Elder. Barack Obama once said, “children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime; nine times more likely to drop out of schools and twenty times more likely to end up in prison.” [Barack Obama’s remarks at the Apostolic Church of God in Chicago on Father’s Day] Now, this is something that we’re not even having a discussion about.
In my opinion, if you look at the proliferation of kids born outside of wedlock, it parallels the rise in social spending under the so-called war on poverty that was launched in the mid-60s. Lyndon Johnson launched it with the best of intentions. He felt that it was going to make people more self-sufficient. All it did was create dependency. What is done is to incentivize women to marry the government and incentivize men to abandon their financial and moral responsibility. It is the number one social problem in America in general and the number one social problem in the black community in particular, and we’re not having that discussion.
When someone like myself or Bob Woodson, another community activist who’s in the film, raises these questions, instead of this igniting a healthy discussion, people like myself are denounced and dismissed as Uncle Toms, as self loathers. Why? That’s what the film asks. Why can’t we just have an intelligent discussion? Why are you assuming that I have some sort of malintent behind it? All I’m trying to do is get people to realize their God-given potential, the same as I assume you’re trying to do, and we just have a different philosophy about it. I don’t consider you to be self-loathing. I don’t consider you to be a race traitor because you’re advancing policy that I think hurt [us]. Why are you making that assumption about me?
Mr. Jekielek: You know, it’s a very fascinating time to be talking about this. It’s almost crazy because of this horrible killing of George Floyd that happened just a few weeks ago and the resulting protests. There are a lot of very well-meaning people on the streets wanting to support black lives, right? At the same time, there are a lot of concerns. I’ve heard from a lot of people that there’s only one way that’s allowed to think about this, and people lose their jobs, their careers, relationships, and so forth.
Mr. Elder: The narrative is that racism remains a powerful impediment for black progress in America, whether it’s systemic racism, a term you hear a lot, structural racism, another term you hear a lot, institutional racism, or one that I heard Beto O’Rourke come up with, foundational racism. If America were institutionally racist, why is it that in the 50s if you ask white people, would they ever support a black person president? The answer was no. Fast forward, Obama got elected. He got a higher percentage of the white vote than John Kerry did. We’re [still] talking about institutional racism. It’s crazy.
In 2015, Freddie Gray died in police custody. At the time of his death, the mayor of Baltimore was black, the number one person running the police department was black, his assistant was black, all the city council members were democrats, majority black, the state attorney who brought the charges against six officers was black, three of the six officers charged were black, the judge before whom two of the officers had their cases tried was black. By the way, he found him not guilty. The US Attorney General at the time, Loretta Lynch, was black, and of course, the president of the United States, at the time Barack Obama, was black. You have all these people running the institution.
I’m reminded of something that comedian Wanda Sykes said shortly after Obama got elected, and she talked about what was gonna happen down the road if and when things didn’t change. She said, “How are you going to complain about the man when you are the man?” Well, these American cities where we have these police chiefs that are allegedly racist have been run by Democrats for decades. Democrats have picked these officers, and in many cases, the chief of police happens to be black. People are still screaming about institutional racism.
We were having this interview in Los Angeles. From 1992 to 2002, L.A. had back-to-back black police chiefs. There was a black police chief in charge during the O.J. Simpson case. You might recall all these allegations about evidence planning and fabricating evidence and framing an innocent man. Because of all these allegations, the then-police chief Willie Williams did a complete and total departmental review to find out if anybody had done anything wrong at all in connection with the O.J. Simpson case. This is during the trial now.
The report came out and found no evidence whatsoever anybody had done anything wrong. It didn’t matter. It didn’t move the needle one way or the other. Those who felt that O.J. Simpson was an innocent man framed by the racist LAPD continue thinking he was an innocent man framed by the racist LAPD, even though the racist LAPD is run by a black man who just did a report that said nobody did anything wrong in connection with the O.J. Simpson case. My point is it didn’t matter.
Part of the protesters are demanding diversity in our police departments. As if, once you have diversity, magically these problems are going to go away. L.A. is about 40 percent or so Hispanic, about 30 percent white, a little under 10 percent black, the rest of it is Asian or Pacific Islanders. That’s exactly the percentage of the LAPD, and it is still being accused of being racist. In the NYPD, it’s the same thing. If you look at the racial demographics of the city and look at the demographics of the police department, they mirror each other, and still recently, the officers of the NYPD are being subjected with water balloons. [There are] urine-filled water balloons, trash cans full of water thrown at them, cars set on fire. Never mind how diverse the NYPD is. The average person that the average person on the street is going to encounter will be a person of color, [but] it doesn’t matter, because of this false narrative.
The stats simply do not reflect the idea that the police are going after black people. If anything, the stats show the opposite. There is a black economist named Roland Fryer who teaches at Harvard. Because of all these prolific, high profile shootings, he just knew that the police were disproportionately using deadly force against black people. He was kind of surprised that no one had done a comprehensive study to corroborate that, so he thought he would do it. He said that the results were the most surprising of his career.
Not only were the police not using deadly force disproportionately against blacks, they were more hesitant, more reluctant to pull the trigger on a black suspect than on the white suspect, presumably because they were afraid of being accused of being racist. That same result was replicated in a study published in a publication put out by the National Academy of Sciences, where researchers looked at every shooting in 2015 [and] every shooting in 2016. [There was the] same conclusion: the police were not using deadly force disproportionately against black people.
The reason blacks are two and a half times more likely to be killed by a cop than a white person is the crime rate, which is substantially higher in the black community than in the white community. A young black man is eight times more likely to be a victim of homicide compared to a young white man. The number one cause of preventable homicide of young whites is accidents like car accidents and drownings. The number one cause of death, preventable or non-preventable for a young black person is homicide, almost always committed by another young black person.
It’s not cops killing black people, it’s black people killing other black people. According to the CDC, the rate at which cops kill blacks has declined 75 percent in the last 50 or 60 years, while the rate at which police kill whites has flatlined. So arguably, if anybody has anything to complain about, it’s white people, because if you look at the crime rate, one would have thought that the rate at which police kill blacks would be even higher. If anything, the cops are hesitant, as I mentioned in these studies, to use deadly force against a black person because of a fear of being accused of being racist.
Now, nine unarmed black men were shot and killed by the police according to the Washington Post last year [in 2019]. Nineteen unarmed whites were shot and killed by the police last year, altogether fifteen [fourteen] unarmed blacks. That number is still smaller than the nineteen whites who were shot and killed. If there’s a White Lives Matter protest that was arranged, I never heard about it. It is not happening. [Editor’s Note: These numbers have since been updated by the Washington Post to 13 unarmed black men and 25 unarmed white men.]
Isn’t this good news? That’s the other thing about my movie I tried to stress. I’m suggesting that the problems that you’re talking about in America can be explained away in a nonracial way. Isn’t that good news? To know that the disproportionate number of blacks being killed by the police has to do with our crime rate and not because the police are racist, isn’t that good news? Then shouldn’t we start tackling what’s going on with our families that’s causing all of this stuff?
Instead of the reaction [is that] I’m a sellout; I’m a self loather; I hate myself; I’m an Uncle Tom; I have never been called the N-word; I’ve never been arrested by the police. These are the kinds of things that people say. By the way, these are not true. I’ve been called the N-word; anybody my age has been called the N-word. Yes, I was arrested once for mouthing off to an officer. I was young and impetuous, and frankly, I got what I deserved. I’ve never had the impression that the police are out to get people. That’s never been my personal experience and the data do not support it.
One more quick thing. There’s a city here in California called Rialto. Rialto has about 100,000 people. It is as diverse as California. The police department was ordered to have their officers wear body cams. The officers were reluctant to do it. They didn’t want to do it, but they did it and announced the program to the city, so civilians knew that cops they encountered were going to have body cams. What happened? Officer use of force fell 50 percent, officer complaint fell 90 percent.
Now a superficial reaction to that would be, “well the cameras change the behavior of both the civilian and the police officer.” Oh contraire, the police behaved as they were trained. As the camera demonstrates, they behaved as they were trained. People stop lying on the police. They stopped making false complaints. They stopped resisting because they knew they were being filmed. It is a crime to falsely accuse the police of engaging in police brutality when they didn’t do it, and it is also a crime to assault a police officer. This was now being taped. Officers didn’t have to use deadly force or any kind of force, because the civilians behaved more responsibly.
What does that tell you? It tells you that people have been lying on the police. We know one major case … [of this]: the Michael Brown Ferguson case. That’s the case where Michael Brown allegedly was running away from the officer saying, “My hands are up. Don’t shoot.” His friend, Dorian Johnson, is the one who said that he said that. It turns out it was not true. It started this whole effort about “hands up, don’t shoot.” It’s a mantra you’re still hearing, and the whole thing was a lie. That’s how frequently people lie on the police.
By and large, the police are trying to do the best job. It is the department of government that is arguably the most scrutinized. You have internal audits, you have civilian reviews, you have the DEA [Drug Enforcement Administration] locally, you have the state attorney, you have the feds, you have the media, you have the aggressive defense bar, [and you have] the ACLU [American Civil Liberties Movement]. It is arguably the most-watched over and inspected agencies we have in our country because of the awesome responsibility that they have. They have the ability to take your life, and as a result, we ought to be scrutinizing them, and we do.
Mr. Jekielek: So what do you make of this new executive order that the President just recently assigned around police reform.
Mr. Elder: Well, I think of it as I think of gun control measures that occur after a mass shooting. Do something, do something, do something; politicians are pressured by the public to do something. The republican party and Trump felt pressured to do something. The principal thing that this executive order did was to suggest the departments ban the use of the so-called chokehold or carotid hold. Well, most departments have already banned it, except in the case of using it to save the officers lives so the officer doesn’t have to resort to a firearm. That’s the policy here in L.A. That’s been the policy of big cities all over the country for years.
I’m not sure it’s going to do a whole lot other than give the American people the impression that Trump cares about this issue, and he’s acting on it. The reason Trump seems awkward is because he doesn’t believe the premise. The premise is that the police are engaging in systemic racism against blacks. He doesn’t believe it, because it’s not true. As a result, it’s hard for him to sound phony and go “Oh, this is horrible. This is a reflection of our racism.” the way Obama would do. Obama would talk about how racism is in America’s DNA. Obama said the Cambridge police acted stupidly. Obama said that we have our own troubles. There’s a place called Ferguson, Obama invited Black Lives Matter to come in.
Trump is not doing any of those things, because he does not accept the premise. He rejects the idea that the police are out to get black people and as a result, he’s not making any sweeping statements, because they would come across as being insincere, and they would have been insincere.
Mr. Jekielek: You just make me think of so many things.
Mr. Elder: Me too, I should listen to myself more often. One time, … I lost my train of thought, and I said, “I’m sorry, I forgot where I was. I wasn’t listening.” [Laughter]
Mr. Jekielek: You tackle the idea of systemic racism directly in the film. One of the scenes in the film is this now famous interview that you did with Dave Rubin, where on camera he kind of realizes that he doesn’t get what he means about systemic racism himself. Why are we still talking about systemic racism? If, as you’ve argued, there really aren’t many real examples of it?
Mr. Elder: Because [the concept of systematic racism] advances the agenda of a lot of people. It advances the agenda of the media. I think a lot of people in the media went into the profession because of [Bob] Woodward and [Carl] Bernstein. In the 1970s, they’re the ones who exposed Richard Nixon and all the stuff he was doing. A lot of people went into journalism because they wanted to be a champion, right the wrongs, what’s the term: comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable, something like that. I think a lot of young people who have gone into the media truly believe that racism remains a major problem in America. They’re around a lot of other young people, and they all say the same thing, so they’re all having these feelings being reinforced.
I also think that it sells copies. If you run stories about George Floyd being a microcosm of the racism in America, it sells copies. Racism sells. It also advances the interests of academia, there are a whole bunch of professors that are professors of African American Studies, professors of ethnic studies, and where are they going to go if all of a sudden, people realize that race has never been more insignificant in terms of becoming successful in America? Where are these people going to go?
And of course it advances the agenda of the Democratic Party, because without getting black people angry and stirred up over the assertion that “racism remains a major problem, and by the way, these republicans over there don’t give a damn about that, and we do,” the Democrats don’t get that 90-95 percent, nearly monolithic black vote without which they cannot win at the presidential level. They have to constantly talk about race and racism, and they have to go after people like Candace Owens, Larry Elder, Walter Williams, Clarence Thomas, Herman Cain, and Allen West, because they reflect the antithesis of what the Democratic Party stands for.
The Democratic Party stands for “you are a victim, and we’re here to help you.” Black conservatives are saying, “Not only are we not victims, but many of your policies are hurting the very people you claimed to help.” Take the minimum wage. Study after study has shown that what it does is cause employers to defer hiring decisions, reduce the hours of people’s jobs, or raise prices on the very people who are going to be buying things in the inner city that don’t have a great deal of money. These things are counterproductive.
The welfare state is counterproductive for the reasons that I just mentioned. You’re incentivizing women to marry the government and allowing men to abandon their financial and moral responsibility, and that’s why we have this 70 percent out of wedlock birth rate right now.
Not doing anything about illegal immigration hurts. George Borjas, the Harvard economist, has probably done more work on the impact of legal and illegal immigration than maybe any other economist. He says no question that unskilled, illegal aliens compete for jobs that otherwise would be held by black and brown unskilled Americans and puts downward pressure on their wages. We’re not even having that discussion.
For a black conservative to raise these kinds of issues, instead of igniting a healthy discussion about whether or not we ought to be advocating tighter borders and whether or not we ought to be voting for the party that does that, people like myself are denounced as Uncle Tom and sellouts. The word that I dislike the most is not Uncle Tom, not bootlicker, not bug-eyed bootlicker, not bug-eyed foot shuffling bootlicker, not coconut, not Oreo, not the Antichrist. I’ve been called all those things.
The word that I fear the most is being called wrong. Rarely am I called wrong. Am I wrong about my assertion about the welfare state and the proliferation of kids being raised without fathers? Am I wrong about the competition posed by unskilled illegal aliens to black people? Am I wrong about government schools producing kids that cannot read, write, or compute at grade level? Am I wrong about these things? If I’m wrong, show me how I’m wrong. When you call me an Uncle Tom, it shows that you have no ammo, and we’re not having the discussion that advances the best interest of the people you claim to care about.
Mr. Jekielek: So the name-calling is a way to just stop the discussion.
Mr. Elder: Shut the conversation down, because they need to have that power. That’s why Joe Biden recently said to a black interviewer, “If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black,” [on “The Breakfast Club”] Now, people criticized him and he apologized for making the statement, but all he was doing is articulating a basic premise of the Democratic Party, that if you don’t think a certain way, you’re a sellout. If you don’t think a certain way you lack compassion for your own people.
… Last year, Ayanna Pressley, who’s one-quarter of the so-called “squad” publicly said, “We don’t need any more brown faces who don’t want to be a brown voice. We don’t need black faces who don’t want to be a black voice.” What does that say? The same as what Joe Biden said, that there is only one way to be black. That [way] is to be left-wing and vote for the Democrats. It is a standard position for the Democratic Party.
I’ll give you a more glaring example. In the mid-1990s, there was a proposition in California called Proposition 209 to get rid of the use of race and gender in public admissions to colleges and universities. In government hiring and issuing contracts, you can’t use race as a factor, and it passed overwhelmingly in California. It was led by a black man named Ward Connerly, who happened to be married to a white woman. Ward Connerly was a small businessman who didn’t like the whole idea of the set asides for black people, so he campaigned and successfully got rid of race-based preferences.
He had a political opponent named Diane Watson, who later on ran for and got elected to the US House of Representatives. At the time, she was a local lawmaker. She said this publicly, Jan, publicly: Let me tell you why you support this proposition. You’re married to a white woman. You have no ethnic pride. You don’t want to be white. You hate being black. Then when she was asked about it by reporters, she said: That’s right. I said it, and I don’t take it back. To this day, she never took it back. Holy David Duke, who can say something like that publicly and get away with it? She did, because she’s a democrat.
The democrats don’t want to colorblind society. They want to color-coordinated society, and they’re the ones who do the coordinating. That’s what’s going on here. This is a complete rejection of MLK’s message of a colorblind society. They don’t want that. They want to have the power to determine who gets what and where and why based upon skin color, not based upon diversity of ideology, based upon skin color.
Mr. Jekielek: … In the film … there’s this, I think probably we could call him the main character, Chad, right? I love watching his kind of journey throughout the film. He’s talking about looking at democratic versus the republican platform and so forth. But the concepts you’re talking about are much deeper than party right?
Mr. Elder: They are, and that is why the viciousness is so over the top. The man you’re talking about is named Chad, and Chad has a contracting company. He is not a politician. He doesn’t have sharp elbows. He’s not angry. He’s not in your face. He’s just a regular guy, trying to make it in America as a small businessman. He’s religious, and he said one of his friends encouraged him, because he was saying such anti things about the Democratic Party, to read the platform of the Democratic Party and the platform of the Republican Party. He had never done that, so he took him up on the challenge. After he read both platforms, he said: Damn… I’m Republican. I believe in low taxes. I believe in less regulation. I believe in personal responsibility.
The movie is about the reaction he got from friends and family who didn’t say, “what caused you to rethink your assumptions? What material have you looked at?” He was denounced by friends and family as an Uncle Tom and a sellout. The movie simply follows his life, his career, his journey, and what caused him to begin to rethink some of his assumptions. All the movie asks is: in America, don’t you have the right to have your own opinion, especially if it’s a well thought out opinion? Why would you … be denounced because of your race, as reflective of a sellout, of somebody who’s an Uncle Tom, who wishes bad things to happen to fellow members of his own race? What is the logic behind that? Why is this going on? Isn’t this hurting the country? That’s what the movie asks.
Mr. Jekielek: Larry, something … that struck me as really bizarre recently is the removal by HBO Max of Gone with the Wind, possibly one of the most famous films of all time, out of rotation extensively, because it’s racist. What are your thoughts?
Mr. Elder: It’s part of what some people call the cancel culture. I don’t call it that. I call it the revenge culture. [It’s] the idea that you’re going to go around and find all the things that offend you with the sensibilities of somebody living in 2020. It’s absurd. The film was made in 1939, the year that all these amazing films came out. It was considered to be cutting edge in cinematography, cutting edge in dialogue. At the end of the film, when Clark Gable says “Frankly, [my dear,] I don’t give a damn,” that shocked people. No one ever used the D word in movies before.
I didn’t see the movie until I was in my 30s. The reason I never saw it was because I never really wanted to. I knew that it was a movie that portrayed the South in kind of a beautiful way and the mansion in kind of a beautiful way, and I thought it probably soft-pedaled slavery. So for all those reasons, I, Larry Elder, was never interested in seeing it. Also, it was a long movie. I have a short attention span… . I know my mother loved the movie. My father, as far as I know, had no opinion of it one way or the other. I know my mom liked it. Now the reason I saw it is that I was dating somebody who told me it was the greatest film she’d ever seen. I said, I’m surprised that anybody black feels that way about it. She was like “Oh, I think it’s a moving movie. I love the story. I love the way the South used to be, and it’s about how it changed because of the Civil War,” and I said okay, so I watched it. The film is long. I thought it was an entertaining film and an enjoyable film. I wasn’t offended by it. I didn’t think it romanticized slavery, but it certainly did not take a harsh condemnation of it.
Why anybody would find that so offensive that it would be taken out of rotation and apparently going to be replaced with a disclaimer that some of these images are offensive is beyond me. We know some of the images are offensive. You want to take out Tarzan, because the white guy swinging through the jungle on a vine basically runs the place? When do you want to stop doing that kind of stuff? I understand that Obama’s mom’s side owned slaves. His father’s side came from an area of Africa where there was a great deal of slave trading. I don’t know whether his family was involved in it, but certainly the people from that part of Africa where his dad is from were involved. You could argue that Obama has his hands involved in slavery on his mom’s side and on his dad’s side. Should we remove Obama’s name from every building around?
It is sickening. I understand there’s a movement to get rid of the Washington Monument, get rid of the Jefferson Memorial because both Washington and Jefferson owned slaves. You know, nobody owns slaves now. The whole reparations movement is, in my opinion, an attempt to extract money from people who were never slave owners to be given to people who were never slaves.
What is the purpose of all of this? Is it going to make the 70 percent of black kids being born outside of wedlock go away? Is it going to do something about the 50 percent dropout rate in some of our inner-city high schools, and the fact that many of these kids who do graduate cannot read, write or compute at grade level? Is it going to solve the fact that among young black men, 25 percent of them have a criminal record, either arrested, in jail, on parole, or on probation? Is it going to solve any of these things?
If the goal is to make black people feel better about themselves, we already feel good about ourselves. Look at self-esteem tests over the last thirty years. Every single time I’ve seen any of these tests, it almost always shows black people have higher self-esteem than white people, much higher self-esteem than Asians. Black girls have much higher self-esteem than white girls who are obsessed with a barbie doll image. Black girls are far more realistic about the variety in their body shapes and feel much more confident about who they are. If the goal is to make black people feel better, mission accomplished. So I’m not sure what the purpose of it is other than revenge, getting back.
That’s why I believe O.J. Simpson was cut loose. One of the jurors years later was interviewed. Her name was Carrie Bess, and she was asked about the verdict. She said, and I’m paraphrasing: I voted not guilty because of Rodney King. The filmmaker was gobsmacked. In the whole film, the filmmaker never said a word, but this one he couldn’t help himself. He said, did the others feel that way too? You hear him saying [it]; you don’t see him, but you hear his voice. She said: 90 percent of us did. Revenge for Rodney King.
This is revenge for slavery, revenge for Jim Crow, revenge for every slight that you ever felt that you received. It’s called the revenge culture, not the cancel culture, and that is what this is all about. It’s absurd. When and where does it stop? Perpetuate the notion that I’m somehow a victim? I’m not a victim.
Mr. Jekielek: What is the connection between this revenge culture that you’re describing and the victim culture that actually features very prominently and Uncle Tom?
Mr. Elder: Well, it’s all the feeling that because of the historical past of America, because of slavery, because of Jim Crow, black people are unequal net worth. All these things are true. The question is, in order for you to get more, is it appropriate morally, legally, and politically, to accuse somebody of having benefited from slavery from Jim Crow and therefore as a beneficiary owes you money? “You should pay me something.” That seems to be what the ethos is. All a state can be is just in its own time.
Obama was elected in 2008. I’m old school, Jan. I used to get the LA Times, The New York Times thrown to my house. The next morning, I go get the newspapers. On the front pages of both newspapers were big color pictures of black parents hugging their kids saying, “I can now for the first time credibly say, you can be anything you want to be. I can now say it and mean it. I’ve always said it.” They said it, but never really meant it.
Mr. Jekielek: This was with the election of President Obama.
Mr. Elder: Yeah, “I had my fingers crossed when I said [you can be anything you want]” All these parents pretty much said that. I remember reading it and saying to myself, “Wow, what would these parents have said had Obama lost?” My mother always told me I could be anything I wanted to be, and I always believed her. I think we’re hurting our kids by peddling this notion that you’re a victim, by peddling this notion that you should exact revenge on people who did nothing whatsoever to you, because it’s then taking time and energy away from things we ought to be doing.
I recently posted on Twitter, a graph showing the amount of homework done by Asian kids, the amount of homework done by white kids, the amount of homework done every night by Hispanic kids, the amount of homework done every night by black kids. Now, what does this have to do with institutional racism? How is a white bigot preventing you from doing two good hard hours of homework every single night, which is what the Asian kids are doing?
There’s a correlation between how much work you put into something and what you get out of it. They certainly understand that when it comes to sports. You frequently will watch black kids being told by their coaches “Hit the boards! Hit the boards! Hit those free throws! 500 free throw shots every day.” [They are] doing these kinds of drills all the time, but you don’t find the same kind of discipline when it comes to math and science and English and literature. We get the connection between hard work and sports. We don’t seem to get the connection between hard work and success in life. This is the kind of thing that I’m hoping the movie will create a healthy dialogue about.
Mr. Jekielek: Larry, this is fascinating, what you’re describing. You contend, as the film contends, that there’s no such thing as systemic racism. But I’m finding myself thinking, as you’re talking just now, that maybe it does actually exist, but in a different direction than people typically think.
Mr. Elder: Well, that’s an excellent point. I have said that there is systemic racism, but not the kind of systemic racism that you think. [An example is] when you compel a parent to send a kid to my former high school Crenshaw High School, where there was a front-page LA Times article a couple of years ago, noting that only 3 percent of the kids at my former high school can do math at grade level, and where Ice T told me he attended … because he wanted to go to a Crypt’s school. [Crypt] is the name of the gang that controls that school. What responsible parents send their kid to a school where only 3 percent of the kids can do math at grade level and by the way, a school that is run by the Crypts? The answer is nobody would, but you are mandated to send your kid there, because of the way our public education system is set up.
The Republican Party wants to give that urban parent a voucher, so that parent can take their kid to a school that the kid can get in. Now, if you’re mandated to send your kid to an inferior, underperforming government school, it seems to me that is systemic racism. If you are incentivizing women to marry the government, and allowing men to abandon their financial, moral responsibility and causing a proliferation of black kids being born outside of wedlock, with all the attendant social ills, that is systemic racism. If you are doing nothing about policing the border so that more and more illegal aliens come to America and take jobs that would otherwise be held by unskilled black and brown workers and put pressure on their wages, that is systemic racism.
But that’s not what the left means when they talk about systemic racism. They’re talking about hostile anti-black attitudes that allegedly pervade America when again, the data shows the contrary.
Mr. Jekielek: Speaking of this victim culture, victim mentality, one of the things I noticed in the film was that Carol Swain describes how she only learned that she was poor and disadvantaged while in college, which through my mind for a loop.
Mr. Elder: From a liberal professor she said.
Mr. Jekielek: Yeah.
Mr. Elder: Who told her when she said something that the professor didn’t like, “Well, you’re never going to be able to do something about the fact that you’re black.” She was kind of surprised by that since this person purported to be a liberal. If you think about the policies of the left, they really are suggesting that you as a black person really can’t measure up. Why after all, would you want to lower the required SAT scores for a black person, unless you feel the black person can’t score high enough on the SAT on his own. It is very condescending.
I was on a plane ride once with a man who was a prominent Democrat politician in Cleveland when I lived there. He was a commissioner. I’m not gonna say his name. We were on the plane together having a couple a couple of pops; he had more pops than I had. I asked him, “Don’t many people in your party really feel that black people can’t compete on their own? That’s why you support affirmative action.” I don’t believe he would have responded the way he did had he not had a couple of pops. He said, “Yeah, I know a lot of people that really believe black people just really are inferior. They’re not good enough, therefore we have to change the rules.” I’m not sure he would have said that he’d been sober, but he said that.
That really is the assumption, isn’t it? We have to change the rules. We don’t adjust the basketball hoop for white people. We don’t make the race longer or shorter for white people. Why are we changing the rules over here for black people? When I get on an airplane and I see a black pilot, I don’t want to know about affirmative action. I want to make sure that this guy aced his pilot exam, and he’s there because he’s the most competent pilot that I could possibly have. When you wheel your mom into the ER room and you see a black doctor, do you want to think in the back of your mind: Did he get into medical school because he was black? Did he get through because he was black? These have real-world consequences. We ought to be talking about the best and the brightest. We ought to be determining who gets what based upon the content of their character and not based upon the color of their skin.
Mr. Jekielek: That’s really interesting, because it makes me think of another element in the film, where you’re talking about Booker T. Washington, who is frankly someone that I just wasn’t aware of until a few years ago. Bob Woodson, who I recently had on the show and of course features prominently in film, argued that post slavery under Jim Crow, black America actually did pretty well for itself. It’s remarkable, using this ethos of Booker T. Washington.
Mr. Elder: Booker T. Washington wrote a book called Up from Slavery in 1901. Now think about that, that’s 36 years after slavery. He was born a slave. If you read the book, he’s more optimistic about the future for black people than some of our so-called black leaders are right now. His argument was to work hard, put time into it, and become a value to your community. Once you do that, people want the best and they will come to you, and it will be the path towards your door.
He had an ideological opponent named W.E.B Dubois who felt that we ought to be pursuing integration with white people. Dubois became a communist, renounced his American citizenship, and is now in my opinion a historical footnote, whereas Booker T. Washington’s Tuskegee Institute still exists, and his philosophy of hard work and accountability, in my opinion, is what we all ought to be embracing, no matter your race in America.
Mr. Jekielek: There’s all these characters in the film. Let’s say that a lot of us maybe aren’t so familiar with Walter Williams, Thomas Sowell, Clarence Thomas. I hope every American knows who Clarence Thomas is.
Mr. Elder: Well Jan, there is a reason a lot of blacks don’t know who Clarence Thomas is, don’t know who Walter Williams is, and don’t know who Thomas Sowell is. The most prominent publication for blacks historically has been Ebony Magazine. I cannot remember a time when the current issue of Ebony Magazine was not on the coffee table in my parents’ house. That’s how influential it is to us. They had a feature every year called the 100 most influential black Americans, and we’d have people in there like MLK and so forth. Because so many blacks became so prominent, they had to upgrade it to the 100 plus most influential black Americans. That’s what it was last time I checked.
Every year absent in the list of the 100 most prominent black Americans is Clarence Thomas; absent is Walter Williams; absent is Thomas Sowell. Now Clarence Thomas is only one of nine members of the Supreme Court. By definition, he’s influential, yet he’s not in this publication. Thomas Sowell was described by David Mamet, the playwright, as America’s most important contemporary philosopher, who he credits with helping to change him from being a brain dead liberal. Walter Williams to my knowledge is the first, and I think only, economics chairman of a non historically black college or university. Both Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams collectively have probably written about 60 books. Most black Americans don’t know who they are in part because of the way they are treated by the black media that completely excludes them and acts as if they don’t even exist, and it’s an absolute outrage. I addressed that to some extent in this film.
Mr. Jekielek: Let’s talk about Black Lives Matter. This is important to me. On the face of it of course black lives matter. They matter to me; I hope they matter to most Americans. Then, of course, there’s Black Lives Matter, the organization. I won’t even say the movement, because I think a lot of the people in the movement are for black lives matter, the concept right? I know you’ve studied Black Lives Matter quite a bit. Can you kind of give a thumbnail of what this group is about?
Mr. Elder: Well, the whole movement didn’t start because of Ferguson, it started before that, but it certainly got a big spin because of Ferguson. It was a movement that started based upon the assumption that the police are engaging in systemic racism against [black] people. If the premise is bad, the movement is bad, and the organization is bad. The premise is bad, and the movement is bad, and the organization is bad.
The organization, by the way, is not just about black lives matter. One of their principal statements refers to Israel as an apartheid state and to the Palestinians as oppressed. It’s a left wing movement that’s hostile, in my opinion, to the values that made this country great. It’s built upon this phony narrative that the police are out to get black people, when in fact, the studies show the opposite. Now it’s one thing just to have a stupid point of view. Lots of people have stupid points of view that are harmless. This is harmful.
It causes young black men when they’re stopped by the police to become far more confrontational than they otherwise would be. After all, why not be confrontational? If you believe the man pulling you over is going to do you ill? Why be cooperative? I understand that. It also causes the cops to pull back and become less proactive, because they are afraid of being called racist. So what happens? Crime goes up in the very same area that the Black Lives Matter activists claim that they care about. It’s undermining the country, it is inconsistent with the best interest of black people, and it’s built upon a lie.
Mr. Jekielek: So what would you say to the millions of people of all different shapes and stripes and colors that do care genuinely about black lives and feel there’s an issue at this point. We saw them on the streets peacefully protesting and so forth.
Mr. Elder: Most of them were there with the best of intentions. They’re just wrong, watching too much CNN, watching too much MSNBC, or reading too much New York Times. Read some conservative publications. Read Heather Mac Donald. Probably nobody has done a better job of assembling all the data on police and police interaction with civilians, then Heather McDonald. Read the police public context survey.
That’s something that the DOJ does every three years. They asked over 60,000 Americans “In the last year, did you have contact with the police? If so, tell me about your contact. Were you verbally abused or physically abused? They can’t find any evidence whatsoever of a pattern of abuse against black people. It’s not like the government doesn’t care about this. They’ve been looking at it.
There’s a study that came out during the Obama administration called Race and Traffic Stops, something like that. It was published by the National Institutes of Justice, which is the research arm of the DOJ. They tried to find out whether or not black people were being pulled over because of racism. They found out 75 percent of black motorists admitted that they were stopped for a legitimate reason. The other big takeaway is that you name the offense, whether it’s speeding, driving without a license, driving without your headlights, or driving without an expired tag, a black motorist was more likely to do it. Again, isn’t this good news to know that the disproportionate cases of blacks being pulled over has to do with behavior and not because of racism? Again, that study came out in 2013.
There was an allegation years ago that the police were [specifically] pulling over a black motorist on the New Jersey Turnpike. The then Governor Christine Todd Whitman ordered a study. The study came in, and they found out officers couldn’t even tell the race; the cars are going too fast. The reflection of the light at night, forget about it. You can’t even tell who’s in the car. They concluded that the reason black people were being pulled over, is because the faster the speed, the more likely it is, it’s a black driver driving. She didn’t like the results. She complained about bad methodology and hired a different group. [With a] different methodology, [they received the] same result. [Racism is] not there. The data just do not support that. Isn’t this good news?
By the way, it doesn’t mean there aren’t bad cops. When a cop kills somebody, no matter his race or her race, that should be investigated by the feds. They have awesome power, and they should be watched, but the idea that there’s some sort of systemic pattern simply is not borne out by the data. If it were, I wouldn’t say what I said. I don’t want the police to have a free rein and go after black people any more than anybody else does. It just isn’t there. You’re making things worse.
Mr. Jekielek: So tell us a little more. When is the film coming out?
Mr. Elder: The film called Uncle Tom is coming out on June 19th. We’re putting it online. Go to uncletom.com and be the first in your hood to get some Uncle Tom merch.
Mr. Jekielek: So, it’s a provocative name.
Mr. Elder: It is.
Mr. Jekielek: It is. As I said, I’m not even sure I should use those words.
Mr. Elder: Well, it’s a provocative name, and the reason I’ve called it that is because we are often called Uncle Tom. By the way, a lot of people have never read the novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe. Uncle Tom was actually a hero of the book. The villain was a guy named Sambo. So whenever anybody calls a black person Uncle Tom, it tells you they never read the book. It tells you something about their education K-12 and why we need vouchers.
Mr. Jekielek: Any final words before we finish up?
Mr. Elder: The final word would be this, the movie is not a vindictive film. It’s not an angry film. It’s not a film that says, “How dare you?” It’s a film that simply takes you on a journey of what happens when a person without any kind of political vendetta, without any kind of anger simply suggests that maybe, just maybe, I should be thinking about a different party than the one that my race has traditionally supported. It talks about what happened to this gentleman because of this, and it raises a very important question: why can’t we have a healthy discussion in the black community without dissenting views being denounced as coming from an Uncle Tom?
Mr. Jekielek: Larry, it’s such a pleasure to have you again.
Mr. Elder: My pleasure. Thank you for having me. Thank you for allowing me to borrow your audience.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.