By Sagar Jethani
Ishmael Reed is a prolific poet, novelist, playwright, songwriter, cartoonist, and cultural critic. His work spans nearly 50 years and has been recognized with numerous distinctions and awards. Reed argues that Americans misinterpret the election of Barack Obama as evidence that the nation has finally moved beyond racism. PolicyMic’s Sagar Jethani spoke with Ishmael Reed to discuss the role that race continues to play in the national discourse.
Before Barack Obama began his first term in 2009, you said that a lot of people were going to be disillusioned because of his centrist and conservative views. Five years later, how does your prediction stand up?
I think it stands up pretty well. Obama comes from the Democratic Leadership Council, which was organized to stop Jesse Jackson and to distance the party from African-American issues. That’s his background.
Is it possible to assess Barack Obama’s presidency in purely political terms, or is race always a factor?
It’s always a factor. The president is like that Catholic priest in The Exorcist: as a result of his presidency, all the demons of American racism are rising from the sewer. I was born in the South. My grandfather was stabbed to death by a white restaurant owner in 1934, and the doctor treating my grandfather said: “Let that nigger die.” When I hear people like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell talk, I think of night riders, nooses, and bloodhounds. They will never cooperate with a black man in that office. If you look at blogs where people can make comments about the president anonymously, you can see the sickness in the American soul. White racism may one day prove to be the country’s downfall.
- Synthesis Homework (ata2bps.wordpress.com)