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CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Hello, everyone, and welcome to “Amanpour and Company.” Here’s what’s coming up.
The engine of the global economy is stalling. As China slows down, what will be the cost to the rest of us? Nobel Prize winning economist, Paul
Romer joins to.
Then, do labels divide society? Author and Islamic reform campaigner, Irshad Manji, certainly thinks so. Why she believes how we define
ourselves can eclipse the truth.
Plus, historian, Davarian Baldwin, traces the history of a racist relic that’s made an unwelcome return.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I’m Christiane Amanpour in London.
The Chinese economy is slowing down and we could all be in big trouble after years of extraordinary growth that helped the world recover from the
2008 crash. Today, the Chinese government predicted its worst economic growth in 30 years.
At their annual meeting of the National People’s Congress, they blamed that on the trade war with the United States to a large extent, which was seen
$250 billion worth of trade tariffs slapped on Chinese exports by President Donald Trump.
The Economist Paul Romer who won the 2018 Nobel Prize for his innovative approach to sustainable economic growth is here in London exploring how to
keep achieving growth that is more than just about GDP, more than just about stuff, rather growth that’s also about meaning and purpose and social
cohesion and dignity. It’s a fascinating theory that he said when he joined me here in the studio.
Paul Romer, welcome to the program.
PAUL ROMER, WINNER OF THE 2018 NOBEL PRIZE IN ECONOMICS: Thanks for having me.
AMANPOUR: Congratulations on the Nobel.
ROMER: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: And obviously, everybody is trying to get their head around what would it take, what does it mean to really have economic growth and solve
some of these problems, which, of course, such huge political disruption.
So, first and foremost, all eyes are always on China. It’s had a huge meeting, it’s annual National Congress, where they said for the first time
that growth is significantly slowing —
AMANPOUR: — and they proposed a massive 300 billion tax cut to try to spur growth. I mean, it sounds —
AMANPOUR: — very Trumpy and I don’t know —
AMANPOUR: whether I’m correct. But will that work? What do you see? What are you looking for in this whole equation?
ROMER: Yes. So, the most important thing to remember is that tax cuts do not give you more growth. The Chinese understand that. They also
understand that they’re on a trajectory where they’re slowing from 10 percent growth, 6 percent, 6.5 last year, maybe 6 this year. And
eventually, their growth are a little converged to 2 or 3 percent like the rest of the countries when they catch up with us.
So, that’s slowing is not the problem. What they’re worried about is that they could see an increase in unemployment this year. And a tax cut can
help you reduce unemployment. So, tax cuts for temporary reductions unemployment, sure. But not for faster growth.
AMANPOUR: So, that’s a very political demographic thing that they’re looking at. I mean —
ROMER: Well —
AMANPOUR: — are they worried about political instability with — well, what is it?
ROMER: So, they’re very concerned about political instability. But, you know, in any of our economies, we understand that a big increase in
unemployment is very damaging in people’s lives, very disruptive. So, if you can stabilize the economy to avoid those disruptions for workers,
everybody’s better off.
AMANPOUR: Given that they’re talking about this kind of thing right now, and you put it in perspective, I mean, from 6.5 to 6 percent growth, I
mean, it’s still very healthy growth.
ROMER: It’s high, yes.
AMANPOUR: But many economists are already predicting that what happens in China will sort of affect the rest of the world. People are wondering
whether there will be a knock-on effect and a hit on global economic growth.
ROMER: Yes. You know, there could be some truth to that but I think it’s a distraction because what it facilitates is this excuse that, “Oh, what’s
happening in our country is out of our control. It’s because of something that happened in China.”
And if we’re worried about an increase in unemployment in one of our countries, we need to do something like cut taxes just the way China did.
So, we shouldn’t blame things on them. We just (INAUDIBLE) what do we want, how we’re going to get it.
AMANPOUR: Obviously, the United States is involved in a trade war with China.
AMANPOUR: So, they’re locked in this.
AMANPOUR: Where do you see it ending up?
ROMER: Yes. So, first, there’s a separate military kind of rivalry that’s emerging, but that’s different from economic affairs. Now, the trade war,
one of the reasons people want to start a trade war is that they feel like China is our enemy in the United States. So, China is U.S.’s enemy.
So, they want to harm the Chinese economy but that’s just a foolish way to shoot itself in the foot, if the United States takes that stance because if
the United States tries to harm the Chinese economy, the Chinese will try and harm the U.S. economy, and nobody’s going to come out ahead in that
kind of encounter.
Now, there’s another reason why some people are trying to say we should rethink the trade with China, and that’s because some people in the United
States have gotten huge gains from the trade, others have not enjoyed the same benefits. So, they’re saying, “We need to redress this imbalance,”
but it’s not realistic to say, “We’re going to use a treaty with another country to solve an internal problem.” So, that’s a problem that people
should address with an internal policy in the United States.
AMANPOUR: Do you see President Trump signing a good sort of trade deal, a good resolution with President Xi? They’re talking about meeting in Mar-a-
Lago, having another summit.
ROMER: I don’t know any of the specifics of where this is going. But the outcome has to be an agreement that both sides will benefit from and that
both sides will support.
AMANPOUR: So, you won the Nobel along with a fellow economist, William Nordhaus. And the academy, when giving you the Nobel, praised several
things, particularly your research into sustainable growth.
AMANPOUR: Let’s talk about that.
AMANPOUR: Is that about the environment? Is that about climate? Is that about a whole new sort of green economy? What exactly are they talking
ROMER: Well, the key to understanding this is to put ideas alongside of objects. The reality is, we’ve got a fixed amount of objects, mass on
Earth, and if we’re going to have improvement, it can’t come from more stuff, it’s got to be from new discoveries, new ideas about how to get
value from stuff.
AMANPOUR: So, innovating?
ROMER: Innovating, discoveries. So, ideas turn out to be different from objects in interesting ways and my work was trying to combine these two.
Now, there’s an instinct many people have had which is that more value always takes more stuff, we’re going to run out of stuff, growth can’t be
sustained. That’s just wrong. We’ve had huge success getting more value out of just things like copper and silicon and we can make these incredible
devices with those things, there’s many other things we can figure out to make like that, but that’s more value from a fixed or smaller amount of
So, it’s possible to sustain growth even when there’s a scarce set of resources around the world. We can even sustain growth when we know that
we can’t keep putting more and more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
So, Bill has worked a lot on what were the mechanisms that we could use, like a carbon tax to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and then we can have
more material goods and do it without harming the environment.
AMANPOUR: Explain that to me because carbon tax, everybody — well, a big sector of the economic elite believe that this was going to be the
AMANPOUR: But then they showed us the politics of it and the polls. And for instance, I think it is Washington State where the majority of people –
AMANPOUR: — believe that something should be done but they didn’t believe that they should be stuck with a carbon tax. So —
ROMER: There’s a — yes. There’s a nuance there that’s important. If you ask what will be the value of that carbon tax, it’s — the value comes from
the innovation it induces. So, if you say, “We’re going to have a high tax on admissions of carbon or of uses of fossil fuel in the future,” that will
induce a bunch of innovation right now. Let’s figure out a way to avoid the tax and produce electricity in a different way.
Some people have tried to use a big carbon tax right away as a kind of a shock or get a big step forward, and that’s produced political backlash.
What I think can work here is an agreement that we start with a very modest carbon tax but we commit to make it grow steadily as — it gets steadily
bigger as we move into the future and then we can count on the market to do what it’s good at, which is avoid paying taxes. The carbon tax is a tax we
don’t want the economy to pay.
AMANPOUR: So, you’re saying do it slowly —
AMANPOUR: — until you don’t have to do it anymore?
ROMER: No, keep —
ROMER: — you keep raising it higher and higher to the point where nobody is using the fossil fuels, nobody is emitting carbon, nobody pays any tax
because we found renewables and other ways to provide electricity.
AMANPOUR: So, innovate our way out of having to pay that tax?
ROMER: Yes. And we can do that by starting with a small tax right now without generating a lot of shock for people.
AMANPOUR: And why is that so difficult to convince politically? Because certainly, the current U.S. administration does not believe in this kind of
stuff at all.
ROMER: Here, I think one has to be patient. This is a problem that’s been getting worse for, you know, more than a century, it will continue to be
problem in the future. Those of us who produce suggestions about ways to address it, mechanisms, we just have to be patient, keep — going to
beating the drum on this.
At some point, the chance will emerge for the politicians to say, “OK. Now is the time to do this,” and that will come. We just have to keep
persisting but it’s not a good idea for the people who are worried about this to get more and more alarmist and say, “We need a bigger and bigger
tax right away,” because that just scares everybody off.
AMANPOUR: So, is that what happened in France with the fuel tax and those increases and things like that? How do you assess what happened there?
ROMER: Yes. I was talking to somebody who was knowledgeable about this last night. This person was saying, “Look, the quality of life for people
in the rural areas is pretty high and the amount of money at stake here in this diesel tax was pretty low.” This is suggesting there’s something else
going on. It’s something about dignity, about respect, about participation, about inclusion. I don’t think it’s a sign that these
people couldn’t afford to pay a diesel tax.
AMANPOUR: So, inclusion, dignity, all of that.
AMANPOUR: You know, you say that governments and policymakers have a key role to play and I’ve spoken, you know, a month or so ago to a writer,
Anand Giridharadas, who is the author of the bestseller, it’s really gone viral and he —
AMANPOUR: — took Davos by storm and he’s been doing a lot of work, you know, on this, “Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World.”
This is what — this is a little of what he told me. Let’s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANAND GIRIDHARADAS, AUTHOR, “WINNERS TAKE ALL”: And the story young people have been told is, if you see a problem, start an ice cream company that
gives back, start Toms Shoes, start a social enterprise, start a double bottom line fund at the bank. And a lot of my book events, a lot of older
people and a lot of — particularly women in their 70’sand 80’s will come up to me and say, “What happened to my children and grandchildren’s
generations understanding of change? Why do they think that Toms Shoes is change? In my generation, when we saw a problem we got on a bus and
registered people to vote in Mississippi. Why do these people think shoes are going to work?” Right.
I think we sometimes don’t realize in our age how much the idea of change itself has been hijacked and watered down.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: I see you nodding.
AMANPOUR: Break that down for us.
ROMER: If you think about the big investments that previous generations have made, the ambitions that they pursued, there is something kind of
small about what we’re considering and talking about now. And I think one of the reasons is that we’ve felt like somewhat we have to delegate change
to private firms. Private firms are not going to make the big sustained investments that really dramatically change the quality of life.
I mean, think about the United States, we had this big investment in a new university system in the 19th centuries but then paid off in a big way in
the 20th century. I think what’s happened is we’ve lost our faith in the government’s ability to do something bright, we’ve lost our faith in the
ability of politicians to agree to do something like that, and we need to restore that faith and that confidence and insist on it because we can’t
ask, you know, some volunteer effort or some for profit firm to do what is really the job of the government.
AMANPOUR: So, you’re talking about the universities in the 19th century, but in the 20th century we had the New Deal with FDR —
AMANPOUR: — which paid —
AMANPOUR: — kept paying off. And now, we see the new crop of Democrats who swept the —
AMANPOUR: — House talking about the Green New Deal.
AMANPOUR: I mean, is there a direct line? Is that the kind of big investment and change you are talking about?
ROMER: I think that’s what — that wing of the Democratic Party is trying to invoke. It that an ambition — and bring together, not just addressing
climate change but to address this problem that there are many people who feel like they’re just excluded from the benefits that can come from this
So, I think it’s appropriate for us to be more ambitious and — but also to look back at the things that worked in the past. The investments and
universities in the United States just can’t be underestimated as a force that drove — is still driving new growth.
But think about other things during the Great Depression and the new deal, there’s a program called the Civilian Conservation Corps that made sure
that — and at the time it was just men but young men who were kind of had lost direction,, couldn’t figure out what to do, often works depressed, it
took them, put them into a kind of work environments, even living environments, doing things like living in camps, tending the forests with
kind of former military officers as the leads.
And this was not only very good for those young men, it paid some income that was typically given to their family rather than mostly to the men
themselves, but it was also a very popular program. It’s the most popular program from the new deal. So, we should be thinking about how to make
sure that there’s a chance to work for every young person and that young people don’t just withdraw.
AMANPOUR: And you’ve talked about big investments, what sorts of investments along these lines are we speaking about, are you talking about?
ROMER: Yes. Well, a brand-new university system. What have we done recently that was big is the land grant universities or the
transcontinental railroad or even the Interstate Highway System? Another one is, when in 1811 there were some visionaries who said, “You know, this
entire Island of Manhattan might turn out to be a city,” and everybody scoffed at them and that would be a sevenfold expansion, how could it ever
get that big. They went ahead and planned for it. And lo and behold, in 100 years, they’d built it all out and then they did another sevenfold
expansion in the surrounding boroughs.
So, where’s the ambition today to do something is big is that again?
AMANPOUR: What would you do?
ROMER: Well, I think the places where this would be in huge demand is the developing world. There are billions of people who want the opportunity
that cities can provide. And throughout the world, we should be trying to encourage that chance and be as ambitious as people were in the 1800 and
saying, “We could build a huge new city and it’ll take a while but people will have a better life when they live there.”
AMANPOUR: People in the developing world, but isn’t that the problem because people in the West have said, “Listen, globalization has been great
for the developing world but we’re with the losers.”
AMANPOUR: How would that help people in the United States, for instance?
ROMER: So, in the United States and I think in Europe too, we really need to focus on this problem of workers whose jobs have gone away and who need
to find not just a source of income but a source of dignity and feel like they’re respected, feel like they’re members of the community. I think
work is central to that and we need to find ways to make sure that everybody has work they can do, because everybody can contribute something,
we just got to find out what it is and make sure they do it.
AMANPOUR: So, that’s almost directly opposite to what people are talking about, this universal basic income, nobody should be working.
ROMER: It sure is. Yes. No, I think the thing we should talk about is something like a wage subsidy. If the job that’s available for this person
wouldn’t have a market compensation that’s very high, we should subsidize that job for that person. So, instead of a tax on work, we should have a
subsidy for work that could be progressive in the sense that subsidy goes away and then the rest of us pay an income tax.
But this idea of saying, “We’re going to just put these people at the pasture because they’re useless and we’ll just give them some money to live
on,” this is just inhuman and it’s stupid, it’s wasteful. People — everybody can do something valuable.
AMANPOUR: But also, it goes to that dignity, that desire for a purpose and to be part of —
AMANPOUR: — well, the workforce but the community.
ROMER: Yes. And we put them out to pasture on a UBI, they’re going to be wearing vests of some color and they’re going to be burning things down in
a few years because people don’t want to be treated as if they’re — you know, they’re useless.
AMANPOUR: Fascinating, really. Paul Romer, thank you very much indeed.
ROMER: Well, thanks for having me.
AMANPOUR: So, in a moment, we’re going to move from talking about global growth to growth of our society’s, a more healthy growth. We’re going to
be talking to Irshad Manji who’s the author of “Don’t Label Me.”
But first, perhaps no group has been labeled or stereotyped more in the United States than African-Americans. And racist practices from the past
continue to haunt us politics today. The most recent example being in Virginia where the governor, the attorney general, the Senate majority
leader are all embroiled in scandals involving blackface.
So, why does this painful legacy still exist? Davarian Baldwin is an author and professor of American Studies at Trinity College Connecticut.
He’s written extensively on slavery and race relations and he sat down with I’m Michel Martin to explain the history of blackface and why it continues
to rear its ugly head.
MICHEL MARTIN, CONTRIBUTOR: Professor Davarian Baldwin, very thank you so much for talking to us.
DAVARIAN BALDWIN, PROFESSOR OF AMERICAN STUDIES, TRINITY COLLEGE: Thank you for having me.
MARTIN: So, who would have thought we’d be talking about blackface —
BALDWIN: Not me.
MARTIN: — in 2019.
BALDWIN: Not me.
MARTIN: So, how did blackface start?
BALDWIN: Iterations of blackface or blacking of the face goes back to 1600 in Europe. But then it does begin, in terms of our current understand the
blackface, blackface minstrelsy, begins in the northeast and then travel south.
It’s primarily most well-known in the 1830s and 1840s, particularly Thomas Rice and his piece, Jim Crow, which is where we get the name for policy,
the separate but equal. And so, that’s where it takes on kind of an explosive significance in American life, both north and south. It was in a
peculiar Southern institution.
And I argue that blackface minstrelsy was the reality television of the 19th century, everybody was engaging it.
MARTIN: Really? OK. Well, then back up a little bit tell me more about Thomas Rice and how did this start. I mean, he was a Vaudeville
BALDWIN: Yes, he was a Vaudeville entertainer. I guess (INAUDIBLE) for me is that this was the kind of primary mode of entertainment in that time
period. So, from more kind of working class, kind of vaudevillian style of performance up to reenactments of Oselow and, obviously, like Uncle Tom’s
Cabin, all this kind of pattern or standard theatrical performances have blackface versions.
And so, this is something that was pervasive throughout kind of American performance history in America, blackface minstrelsy.
MARTIN: For how long?
BALDWIN: Oh, up until 1960s.
MARTIN: To the 60s?
MARTIN: OK. And —
BALDWIN: It was on television.
MARTIN: OK. But into what end though? Because I think that some people, if they’re honest and if they have good memories, will remember that Judy
Garland appeared in blackface, Jody Temple —
MARTIN: — appeared in blackface at one point. African-Americans, I think, I feel confident in saying, experience this as demeaning.
MARTIN: But was it intended to be demeaning to your knowledge.
BALDWIN: Yes, yes, very much so. So, if we define and understand blackface minstrelsy, it is this theatrical performance where primarily
Non-Black actors put on dark make up, using the form of grease paint, burnt cork or a shoe polish in order to lampoon, make fun, caricature Black
people. That was the intent, to represent Black people as being buffoonish, lazy, feeling, ignorant, afraid of their own shadows. And
particularly, also, Black women as being manly, mammy like, unattractive and/or oversexed.
And so, we found as historians and scholars that you had some key themes within blackface minstrelsy primarily in one period in the 40s and 50s,
1840s and 1850s, and then at the turn of the 20th century, this idea — at least two powerful strands, one was that Black people were happy — happier
during slavery — you know, under slavery, be happy, the plantation darkie trope. And the other one is a strain that says that Black people were
unfit for freedom.
And so, particularly around the 19teens and 20s, you had a certain genre, the blackface minstrelsy, where you had a number of images of Black people
being unprepared or unable to deal or adapt to modern life, particularly freedom.
And so, for me and for scholars that have studied this, we found that blackface minstrelsy did a lot of work for White America. For White elite,
it did the work of kind of, if you had to perform or present yourself in a very restrained or dignified way, in performing or in being entertained by
blackface, you could engage in buffoonery, a bawdy behavior, drunkenness, kind of sexually explicit demeanor.
If you’re a working-class White, performing or being entertained by blackface minstrelsy allows you to establish a bit of difference or
distinction with African-Americans who might have had higher stature economically or who might be competing with you for job opportunities or
for social standing.
And so. blackface minstrelsy did a lot of work for various White social groups within America.
MARTIN: Part of the reason that we’re talking about this is that these racist yearbook photos emerged on the medical school yearbook page —
MARTIN: — of the Virginia governor, Ralph Northam. And then, (INAUDIBLE) who is a Democrat, who, I think, sees himself as a progressive.
MARTIN: And then, it emerged that the attorney general, who also sees itself as of progressive, also says that he appeared in blackface at least
on one occasion in 1984.
MARTIN: How do you understand that?
BALDWIN: Well, I mean, if we take this one case, so the Virginia case, and you have the governor, the attorney general and the Senator majority leader
who were all engaged in blackface minstrelsy or was editor and looked the other way —
MARTIN: Right. No. Just to clarify, the Senate majority leader edited a year book in which there —
MARTIN: — appear a number —
BALDWIN: Probably more.
MARTIN: — a large number of these photographs. But going back to the timeframe, 1984.
BALDWIN: Sure. I mean, for me personally, as just a person in America, I remember growing up in the 1980s in the Midwest and there were kind of a
number of blackface slave auctions at White fraternities and sororities in Midwestern Big 10 Schools. That was pervasive.
MARTIN: And what was the purpose of these?
BALDWIN: Entertainment. That’s what it is. That’s what it is.
MARTIN: So, set the scene for me. So, you’re saying that White students would put on blackface —
BALDWIN: Blackface. And then —
MARTIN: — and then pretend to be so —
BALDWIN: — engage in the slave auction, pretend to be soldoff.
BALDWIN: Yes. And so, then, as I said before, you have these moments, continual moments, where there’s a high moment about blackface minstrelsy
and then there’s a claim of racial innocence, “Oh, we didn’t know. We didn’t understand.” And then blackface performances change and offed
themselves. And you have another high moment.
And so, in the 80s it was the slave auctions. In the 90s, it was the pimps and hos parties. Even at my own institution at Trinity College, in 2006,
there were pictures that were expose about that word based on a pimps and hos party, individuals wearing gold chains and wild animal print clothing
and one gentleman was — had his whole body covered in dark make up and then had a plastic prosthetic over his private parts. So, that — if that
doesn’t tell you what his intent was or what his anxiety is, I don’t know what does.
MARTIN: So, what happened to this? So, what you’re saying is, so then it was — first, it was the slave auctions then it was pimps and hos —
BALDWIN: And hos party.
MARTIN: — now it’s rappers.
BALDWIN: Now, it’s tribute, paying tribute to Black people.
MARTIN: Oh, I see.
BALDWIN: So, I love Kurtis Blow, this is one of the gentlemen in Virginia said. So, we were engaging at hip-hop. Mark Herring who —
MARTIN: Mark Herring —
MARTIN: — the attorney general.
BALDWIN: Right. We — it was tribute. And then Ralph Northam, the governor, said it was Michael Jackson. And so, it was tribute. So, again,
at every turn, when it gets exposed, there’s a shift in the rationale from slave auctions, pimps and hos parties to tribute, attempting to kind of
take away or strip away the racial meaning of it.
But I said before, I grew up in the 80s, the same time period as these gentlemen, and in a very multi-racial community and we all love Michael
Jackson, for example, talking about Ralph Northam.
MARTIN: Thriller came out the same year that this —
MARTIN: — year book was produced and it was —
BALDWIN: Right. So —
MARTIN: — you know, one of the biggest albums in the world.
BALDWIN: So, people of Latino background, African-American background, White background, we all love Michael Jackson. But in a multiracial space,
no one felt the need to put on a dark make up to be Michael Jackson. You might have worn the glove or the hot water pants or the jacket, but the
fact that individuals like Ralph Northam, who is White, stop him from actually reenacting the moonwalk at the press conference, the fact that
they feel emboldened to engage in these activities says — it is shows that blackface is just a symptom of a larger sickness.
MARTIN: And what is that larger sickness?
BALDWIN: White supremacy.
MARTIN: White supremacy?
MARTIN: That’s your — tell me more about that. Why don’t you say that?
BALDWIN: So, I say that because these — a lot — so many of these performances are taking place within all White spaces, whether it be
medical school or predominantly White space. A southern medical school tied to a military college or a predominately White fraternity or sorority.
Just in 2015, Sigma Alpha Epsilon had this chant about never letting a Black person into their fraternity or sorority.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Then a couple years later, Delta Delta Delta sorority, they got on the line on social media, it had blackfaces and said, “I’m a N word.”
And then, the next day at the protests, a gentleman walked down in the middle to protest in blackface.
So, my point is that these things are happening in predominantly White spaces and in some White space that are saying, “We have a history of not
being exclusive on class grounds and racial grounds.” And so, these spaces that are cultivating young people in terms of who are they going to be in
the future, these are going to the movers and shakers, the leaders of our future and the social and mentoring space of these organizations are
producing a predominately White space.
MARTIN: OK. Well, unpack the White supremacy argument for me from in here.
MARTIN: For example, particularly as it relates to this idea that it’s paying tribute or it’s not a big deal.
MARTIN: You’ll recall that the former Fox News anchor, Megyn Kelly —
MARTIN: — who then went to NBC and had this highly publicized talk show, that became that sort of the pivot point for her —
MARTIN: — and ultimately, ended her career at NBC where she said she didn’t understand what the big deal was.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MEGYN KELLY, AMERICAN JOURNALIST: She dresses Diana Ross and she made her skin look darker than it really is and people said that that was racist.
And I don’t know, I felt like who doesn’t love Diana Ross. She wants to look like Diana Ross for one day. I don’t know how like that got racist on
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARTIN: What’s the big deal?
BALDWIN: Well, tell me — this is a rhetorical question, I guess, but tell me why the need to put on black makeup to pay tribute? As I said before, I
engage in tribute to Michael Jackson. I didn’t lighten my skin.
These activities are taking place in either all White or predominantly White spaces. The litmus test for me is that, OK, to do this in the Black
space, if this is just tribute, if it’s innocent. You know, better than to engage a blackface in a multi-racial space. That says either consciously
or subconsciously something is going on and you know that it’s wrong and you’re engaging it.
I mean, if it was innocent and just or a just performance and tribute, why wouldn’t you do it in front of Black people? Why would it be in a
semiprivate all White spaces?
MARTIN: Could it be about asserting that I can do whatever I want?
MARTIN: Could it be about that?
BALDWIN: Well, sure.
MARTIN: I could do whatever I want. You can’t tell me what I’m allowed to do.
BALDWIN: Right. But it’s not that neutral. It’s also saying that, “You, Black people, can’t tell me how to represent you.”
MARTIN: What about the people who say, “Well, I don’t mind if Black people put on a White face, like there was some Wayans brother’s movie where they
BALDWIN: Sure. “White Chicks.”
MARTIN: “White Chicks.”
MARTIN: — where they performed in very elaborate makeup as I recall.
BALDWIN: Prosthetics, facial prosthetics.
MARTIN: Why can’t I do the same? Why do you say to that?
BALDWIN: What I say to that is that if that’s your choice, if you want to make a decision about what offends or doesn’t offend you but that doesn’t
give you the license to tell me what should or should not offend me.
Especially, I call this a false equivalency, blackface and whiteface, because there is not a history of whiteface minstrelsy that had backed up a
system in institutions to look at and to articulate and target white people as being inferior, that gave them an inferior education, inferior policing,
inferior housing. There is no such system. So this is a false equivalence.
MARTIN: What do you say to people who say, “Well, I just didn’t know. I didn’t know that it bothered you. I didn’t know that it had this
relationship to demeaning black folks, to portraying them in this basically subhuman light.” What do you say to people who says I just didn’t know?
BALDWIN: Well, see, the problem with that is that blackface stopped being on television to the same degree during the 1960s during the Civil Rights
Movement. So there was a shift in the conversation. We get to the 1980s, most of these gentlemen around my age, 40s or 50s, I just have a hard time
believing that they didn’t know in that climate.
I would really want to have a conversation with them about where — I mean this — going goes back to my point. If you are in these spaces that
confirm that standpoint, that’s a problem, right. So for example, with Gucci, with the blackface Balaklava.
MARTIN: Let’s just back up and for people who are not aware of this.
MARTIN: What are we talking about here? Are we talking sweater that —
BALDWIN: So we’re talking about Balaclava sweater that goes up to right below the nose. It’s a black turtleneck that goes up there. Like a
Balaclava like for skiing or winter.
MARTIN: With big white red big lips.
BALDWIN: But it has a mouth cut out with big red lips around it.
MARTIN: And they say they didn’t know.
BALDWIN: Right. And so my argument to this or my response to this, OK, if we take all sort of that you didn’t know, that means you have the wrong
people around you. That means you need to diversify your leadership.
That means you need to engage in more diverse spaces. You need to do more than just selling clothing to black people because we buy Gucci. You just
start engaging —
MARTIN: But I don’t.
BALDWIN: Well, black people do.
MARTIN: OK. OK.
BALDWIN: OK. By we, I mean black people, right. We are not averse to buying Gucci. They need to — these leaders, these — the fashion
designers need to be immersed in the people who they’re selling to. That your leadership should be reflective of the world in which you’re living
and engaging. If — I find it very difficult to see or to understand how they couldn’t see that that comes from this history.
MARTIN: This is my question to you then. What do you think should happen now? I’m told that colleges and universities particularly in the south,
although — and from your reporting and research indicates that this perhaps should go more deep.
MARTIN: It should go nationally, are now looking through their yearbooks to see what else is in there. You can see the governor of Virginia
Governor Ralph Northam deeply apologize. And he said that he’s now going to engage in a process of kind of listening and hoping to be an agent of
Others say he should just go. He needs to go away. What do you think should happen now?
BALDWIN: I’m not sincerely certainly there should be an across the board firing in these cases when this happens. But what I do think is that the
search in the yearbooks, that’s not really addressing the issue. Because as a historian, there are all these issues. I know it’s there.
Who’s that for? Finding these books is not for the people who are targets of black minstrelsy. It’s for the people who come from the community of
those who are performing it. This kind of racial healing conversation, I think that should be part of it.
I think also part of it should be that, OK, you need to change your cabinet. You need to enact policies that reflect or reconsider
understanding of oppressed and minority groups in this country.
As I said before, you know, the blackface minstrelsy component is one component. It’s a symptom of a larger issue, I say white supremacy. But
we can’t get so caught up in the individual blackface performances and lose sight of the fact that there are people like Steve King in Iowa who are
saying, “I don’t get this whole white supremacist, white nationalist problem.” And he’s able to hold his positions in Congress, leadership
positions for 10 plus years.
MARTIN: I want to ask you more broadly though as an educator, do you think that this is an issue of education, of a lack of knowledge —
MARTIN: — about the deep. You don’t?
MARTIN: No? OK. Simple. No. OK. What is it?
BALDWIN: I think that, as I say to my students, you mention education, racism is not about ignorance. It’s about knowing things in a certain way.
And so what I mean by that is that it’s not that you don’t know what’s going on, it’s that you want to understand these people in a particular
And so when — in 2006, when they had this pins and holes party, it’s not that they don’t know who Snoop Dog is or who these rappers are, like the
tributes. They have a fond affinity for these groups. It’s that when they want to go out and they perform or be these people, they
make certain choices.
They pull from the American past to put on a private part prosthetic to cover their bodies in black, to hold a 40 ounce, to put on a gold chain.
These are decisions that are being made about who they understand black people to be. It’s not about ignorance.
MARTIN: What would make this better. What would fix this?
BALDWIN: I mean for me it goes back to the question you asked about white supremacy in terms of these individuals and where it takes place. So most
of these, not all of them, but most of these performances, exposures are happening in semi-private predominately white spaces, fraternity,
sororities, social clubs, medical schools that are predominantly white.
These are the spaces that are cultivating our next generation of leaders. And those — their perceptions of black people are going to impact how they
write policy, how they engage in policing, how they think about housing, how they think about political decisions, policymaking. And so that’s
where we need to go.
What are your decision-making process? What’s your decision process? How does your performance of blackface or your understanding of black people
going to shape how you distribute resources, power, advantages, benefits?
That’s where it’s structural. That’s where I would argue that we need to go.
MARTIN: You’ve said that this isn’t about education. It’s about empathy.
BALDWIN: For sure.
MARTIN: What do you mean by that?
BALDWIN: So what I mean by that is, for example, if you see black people as human beings, you will know, you will — I think you will believe that
this is the wrong thing to do. It’s wrong to lampoon, to caricature, to mock, to make fun of that community as a people, right.
And so, for example, a perfect case study or example of this is, for example, with the opioid and the drug crisis. In the 1980s, when drug use
and drug dealing was seen as predominantly black and poor phenomena, it was dealt with as a criminal issue.
People were being — a whole generation of black and brown people were locked up. People of my family, people that we might — may know were
locked up and that changed the dynamic of that community.
As we move to the present and the drug crisis is happening in predominantly rural areas and predominantly white youth through opioids, the response and
the approach to the drug issue has moved from criminalization to a health crisis.
Now, police officers are carrying ad campaigns and they think about individuals. I say the reason why it’s shifted is because these officials,
et cetera when they see these young people embroiled in the drug crisis, they see their children, they see their sisters, they see their brothers.
And so, therefore, it requires a shift in approach.
And so to bring it back to blackface minstrelsy, if, in the same way, we saw black people as humane as our brothers and our sisters, as our
neighbors, as our coworkers in real robust ways, we would know that this is wrong to do. And so I think that that does matter, that empathy, that
sense of that when I see you, I see myself. That’s critical.
MARTIN: Davarian Baldwin, thank you so much for talking to us.
BALDWIN: Thank you very much for having me.
AMANPOUR: And that was a clarion call to recognizing our common humanity to see and hear and listen to all our brothers and sisters.
And now, let’s turn to our next guest, Irshad Manji. And we’ll talk more about what Professor Baldwin just said. She is the Islamic reform
campaigner who first rose to prominence after 9/11 with her book, “The Trouble with Islam Today”.
Now, though, she’s taking on the habit of labeling in her new book which is called, “Don’t Label Me”. It argues that when people automatically define
anybody, for instance defining her as a woman, a Muslim, or a gay person, that undermines what she calls honest diversity.
It is heavy and heavy stuff and Irshad Manji is joining us now from San Francisco. Irshad, welcome back to our program. We’ve spoken many many
times, particularly when you really created a story, we’re going to get to it, with your take on reforming Islam right after 9/11.
But I wonder because your book Don’t Label Me is almost a perfect way to follow Professor Davarian Baldwin there. What did you take from his
deconstructing the blackface dilemma?
IRSHAD MANJI, FOUNDER, MORAL COURAGE PROJECT: Right. Well, obviously, he is absolutely right about the need for empathy. Empathy humanizes one
The problem, Christiane, is that when people talk about the need for empathy, they often only mean empathy for me. What I would ask if I were
in conversation with Professor Baldwin is, do you also bring empathy to the person who actually did not know what blackface is?
Not everybody is occupying spaces in which they have that kind of understanding or knowledge but there are many people in this country who do
want to understand. And instead of berating them, instead of lecturing them, instead of telling them we need to have a conversation but then
bringing only a monologue to them, we also have to listen to them and ask what experiences have you had that bring you to this point now.
Without listening, we will only make the other more defensive. And therefore, the message of empathy simply will not go through.
AMANPOUR: OK. So if I’m not mistaken, you’re basically questioning the notion that people don’t know how offensive blackface is and there are some
who genuinely don’t understand the history and don’t know that it is not paying tribute. Especially, as he said, when you’re not in a black space,
you’re in a white space taking on this trope.
I’m interested that you sort of question the fact that some people don’t know it because you talk about this very aspect in your all — in relation
to your own self and to your own book Don’t Label Me. I mean, for instance, you know, you’re Muslim, you’re gay, and you say nobody owns the
truth, more often not, labels, it clips the truth. What do you mean by that?
MANJI: Correct. What I mean is that when we assign labels to other people, whether that label is racist or whether that label is progressive,
we are reducing people to something less than they actually are. Christiane, you and I well know, as people who have been thought of
belonging to minority groups that all of us are so much more than meets the eye.
You know, Professor Baldwin, for example, is not just a professor. He’s not just somebody who studies history. He is so much more than that.
And so if we’re really going to recognize common humanity, we first have to recognize that everybody is what Zadie Smith once defined as a plural,
meaning that we all are multifaceted, that each one of us, including the loathe, straight white guy, has many sides to him or her.
And therefore, rather than again simply making statements to one another, we’ve got to be interested in each other’s back story. And the way to do
that is to enter into conversation, real conversation, not lecture —
AMANPOUR: So —
MANJI: — and in entering that conversation, to say — to ask ourselves rather not how can I change that person’s mind. Because the moment we get
into a conversation asking that question, we are tempted to treat that other person like an object, as if that person needs to be fixed or handled
or manipulated in some way.
No. Ask not how I can change the other person’s mind, ask what am I missing about the other person. And when we do that, when we’re interested
in the other person’s story, then their emotional defenses come down and they will be more likely to give us a hearing.
AMANPOUR: So I’m going to ask you about emotional decisions because that’s a big part of what you write about. But what was it that brought you
therefore to this phase of your, you know, cultural and social analysis? What did you feel was not being recognized or listened to when you wrote
Don’t Label Me?
MANJI: Well, Christiane, you know, I write in the book at that the label Muslim, it leaves many people to all sorts of conclusions about who I
actually am. For example, there are some people who have decided that because she’s a Muslim, she must be a stealth Jihadist.
There are others who say because she is gay and a Muslim, she must be corrupting the faith of Islam. And still, others who say because she is a
reformer who is also rather gay and Muslim, she must be giving the other haters of Islam a cover. Because now they can say, “Who, us, we’re haters
of Islam?” No, no, no, we love this gay Muslim.”
So in other words, there are all kinds of people from across the ideological spectrum who take labels that are assigned to me and to you and
to anybody else and decide based on those labels alone, I know who she is. And frankly, that only leads to distorting humanity.
AMANPOUR: So I was — I’m really interested by a lot of this and I want to dig down into it, particularly the Islam part of this because it is still
such a hot button issue. All these year or years after 9/11, it’s still resonating but also the emotional way that you’ve identified people making
so many decisions based on emotions.
And you do talk about that. So give us some examples because you’ve talked about the research which shows for instance that like-minded people who
validate their own opinions, you know if you’re surrounded by them, you’ll feel this chemical high a victory. So there’s that. And then there’s the
sort of broader emotional component to all of this.
MANJI: Right. Christiane, this may be actually the most important point about the politics, not just in the United States but in so many parts of
the world that are ripping our societies apart. You see, we human beings think — and I use that word in quotes, “think” first and foremost
And from a biological perspective, the easiest emotion to have is fear. Now, put that on top of the fact that we are all these days immersed in
digital technologies that are deliberately designed to amp up our emotions. And then add to all of this the fact that very few of us have ever been
taught to be aware of the emotions that are coursing through us. Let alone be taught how to express them constructively.
When you take all of that together, it is a fraught cauldron. And no wonder, therefore, labels become tools with which we can indulge our
emotions. Why? Because labels are an easy peasy way of avoiding reflection, especially self-reflection.
This is what makes labels so addictive, the chemical high that we get when we surround ourselves with people who we can label as just like us. It
makes labels make that kind of chemical high addictive but also dangerous. Because then, by surrounding ourselves with people who we assume are just
like us, we’re actually not seeing their full humanity.
And moreover, we are in scants, in bubbles that then stop us literally seduce us from walking away from those who we truly need to understand,
whether that is so-called white people who need to understand why blackface is a mockery of African-American pain or whether that is African-American
people who also need to understand why so many white people in these United States feel humiliated by constantly being called racist or misogynist or
homophobic when the reality is that the people who are throwing those labels onto them have no idea who they are as individuals. Everybody is
AMANPOUR: I want to know how you think it sort of worked out since you wrote your first couple of books, particularly right after 9/11, talking
about the need to reform your own religion and at a time when the world was really trying to come to grips with what is this Islam that certainly
people like Mohamed Atta and/or the hijacker of 9/11 and Osama bin Laden perpetrate.
So “The New York Times” said of you, “As a Canadian Muslim, Irshad Manji never eats pork, never drinks alcohol, and regularly reads the Koran.
Otherwise, she is Osama bin Laden’s worst nightmare.” Do you think you have what turned out to be? I mean do you think your campaign for reform
has shaken up that part of that, you know, that thinking enough?
MANJI: Christiane, I would be arrogant to put it all on my campaign. The fact of the matter is that there are plenty of reform-minded Muslims in the
world today. And what I’d like to believe is that by being among the first young Muslims to step out openly and say that the way our faith is being
practiced in mainstream circles needs to be looked at critiqued and reconciled with individual rights and basic humanity.
I’d like to believe that what that did is give a voice to all of those other reform-minded Muslims out there who at the time didn’t feel that they
would be backed up. Today, there are plenty of reformist voices and thank goodness for that.
I’ll quickly give you one story. You know, I’m a research fellow at the University of Southern California. And very recently, I did an event there
called “Forbidden Questions About Islam” in which I invited the most politically incorrect questions that you — that one has about Islam with
no judgment about the person who’s asking those questions. Well, afterwards, it was a large group of young Muslim women in hijab who stuck
around for about three more hours wanting to ask politically incorrect questions.
The point is that there is a hunger, a thirst among the new generation to be able to openly debate and discuss and dissent without worry of how
they’re going to be judged simply for being searching Muslims. And I’m happy to say that more and more, not enough for, you know, for reform to
become mainstream, but more and more, we’re seeing those spaces open up. And I for one am very proud to have been part of that effort.
AMANPOUR: So I mean it seems incredible that right in the middle of a sort of a labeling, and account labeling in Congress, it’s all around
Representative Ilhan Omar and she does wear a hijab and she is one of I think two Muslim women, Muslim-Americans who’ve been elected in the State
And let’s deconstruct what’s going on. She’s being accused of anti- Semitism. She — Democrats says that she should not need to pledge allegiance to a foreign country and she was referring to Israel. So she’s
being criticized on both sides of the aisles for being anti-Semitic.
President Trump tweeted, “Representative Ilhan Omar is again under fire for her terrible comments concerning Israel. Jewish groups have just sent a
petition to Speaker Pelosi asking her to remove Omar from Foreign Relations Committee. A dark day for Israel.”
You know, what on earth is going on? Do you construct or deconstruct her comments as being anti-Semitic or was she speaking the truth that was
simply about who she pledges allegiance to and had nothing to do with criticizing Jews?
MANJI: Christiane, as with calling somebody a particular label, it is not either or. When I am Muslim, I am not either a Muslim or a resident of the
United States. But my point is that one can be doing both at the same time. We’ve got to bust out of the either-or kind of thinking because life
is so much more complex than that. And so it is with Representative Ilhan Omar.
Listen, you know, she has said things that tapped into negative stereotypes about Jews. At the same time, she is raising important questions about the
role of big money in politics. Now, if she was empathetic towards Jews, she would learn to recognize what are the stereotypes that historically
have been put on them and avoid indulging in those stereotypes while still asking the very important questions.
When she apologized to the Jewish community shortly after the first uproar around her comments, she recognized, at least she said in her statement,
that the role of big money in politics doesn’t just implicate any particular demographic community, such as Jews, rather we also want to be
asking about the role of money in an effort to, you know, continue allowing guns in the United States to freely be distributed.
For example, she said the NRA, the National Rifle Association, also needs to be questioned. Politicians who take their money also need to be
MANJI: — for their voting record on gun control. So her overall point should be well taken.
MANJI: It’s high time that somebody had the guts to ask those kinds of questions openly. Can she do it without pushing anti-Jewish stereotypes?
Yes, she can. And yes, she should.
AMANPOUR: And in her defense, she has said, “I’ve not mischaracterized our relationship with Israel. I’ve questioned it and that has been clear from
my end” to what you’ve just said Ishad.
Irshad Manji, thanks —
MANJI: And I —
MANJI: And I accept that.
AMANPOUR: Yes. Thank you very much indeed. Fascinating conversation.
That’s it for our program tonight.
Thanks for watching Amanpour and Company on PBS and join us again tomorrow.