February is Black History Month. The Epoch Times interviews best-selling author, attorney, and talk show host Larry Elder about his unexpected views on black history, “institutional racism,” and what he sees as the primary issue affecting black Americans today.
Elder had a difficult relationship with his father, who faced racism growing up in the American South under Jim Crow laws. Their path to reconciliation, chronicled in Elder’s books “Dear Father, Dear Son: Two Lives … Eight Hours” and “A Lot Like Me: A Father and Son’s Journey to Reconciliation,” was important in shaping his worldview.
We discuss Elder’s views on contemporary racism in America and how he sees it contrasting with the racism of the not-so-distant past. He also explains why he believes President Donald Trump’s approval ratings in the polls have been rising among black Americans.
Jan Jekielek: I thought to have you on “American Thought Leaders” because it’s February, and I think every year since I guess the late ’70s it’s been Black History Month. And I imagine your thinking about Black History Month is a little bit different from the norm. So I would love to hear your thoughts on it.
Larry Elder: Well, I must tell you, I’m not a fan of having a Black History Month. I’m a big proponent of history, and I think every month is Black History Month. When I was in high school we had a history book where the “achievements of notable blacks” was on one page, both sides. And that was the extent of our black history. And to me segregating history in one month ignores the other 11 months when blacks have made contributions to America. So I find the whole thing kind of condescending. I understand the intent, the intent is to show black people that we embrace the achievements of black America. We’re sorry for slavery, we’re sorry for Jim Crow, we’re sorry for the years where we didn’t emphasize the achievements of black achievers. I understand the intent, but the whole thing to me seems rather condescending. Where is the history month for Hispanics in their contributions, where is the history month for other groups who’ve come to the country and made contributions? It’s really rather silly.
Blacks are Americans. We have been here from the beginning of this country, we fought in every war, and we are as American as anybody else except with the possibility of Native Americans. And so I find the whole thing kind of condescending. But, yes, every month because of black history I’m often getting phone calls for interviews, and the central question is: Has the dream of MLK, of a society that’s colorblind—where people are judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin—has that been achieved? And my answer is: to the extent that is humanly possible, yes. This is a great country. There are 330 million people in it. By definition, you’re going to have some idiots. Eight percent of Americans—believe it or not—believe Elvis is still alive. Four percent believe if you sent him a letter, he will get it. So, I don’t think you’re ever gonna get to zero racism, zero sexism, zero bigotry in America, but to the extent that a multiethnic country can be assembled with a constitution—where the rights are given to you by higher power rather than government—hell yeah, we’ve achieved that dream to the extent that it’s possible.
Jan Jekielek: That’s an amazing thing, an amazing thing to hear. And I’m wondering: At least until not long ago, certainly racism was a big issue in America. I know that your father, in fact, experienced it and I’ve heard you talk about that. So, how have things changed and what’s the time frame for that?
Larry Elder: Well, I was born in 1952, and in 1952 Jackie Robinson had been in the major leagues just five years. There were still 13 states where it was illegal for a black man and a white woman, or a white man and a black woman to marry. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was 12 years away. The Voting Rights Act was several years away. MLK gave an interview around 1964, I believe it was, and he was asked about race relations, and he said: I’m astounded at how quickly things have changed, and I believe that in about 40 years time we could actually expect there to be a black president. It was almost exactly 40 years from the time he had that interview when Barack Obama was elected and in four years re-elected. This is a very different country than the country that my mother and my father were raised in.
My father was born in 1915 we think. We know the year; we don’t know the date because my father was the product of an illegitimate woman and he had no idea where his father was. My dad was born in the back of the room, not uncommon in those days. She couldn’t pick up the family Bible and write his birthdate down, which is what normally people did in the South. So, my father knows the year. When he went to school he was asked by the teacher what his birthdate was to enroll in school, and he said he had no idea. So she wrote down May 25, which is her birthdate. So, I told my dad he has a 1 in 365 chance of that actually being right. So, my dad comes home at the age of 13. He began to quarrel with his mom’s then-boyfriend. His last name Elder is not the name of his biological father; my last name Elder is not the name of my biological grandfather. My dad has no idea where he is. No idea, never met him.
My dad’s mom had a series of irresponsible boyfriends, each one more irresponsible than the one before. My dad comes home at the age of 13, has a fight with the boyfriend, his mom sides with the boyfriend, throws my father out of the house—never to return. You’re talking about a 13-year-old black boy, Jim Crow South, at the beginning of the Great Depression. He walks down the road—never comes back home. Took whatever job he could—ultimately he became a Pullman porter on the trains. They were the largest private employer of blacks in those days. So, my dad came to California on a run one time and it was sunny and people seem less racist, and my dad made a mental note that maybe someday I’ll relocate to California.
Pearl Harbor—my dad joined the Marines. I said, “Why?” He said, “Two reasons: They go where the action is and I love the uniforms.” So my dad was stationed in Guam. He was in charge of cooking. He was a staff sergeant. The war is over, he goes back to the to the South—to Chattanooga where he had met and married my mom—and he wanted to get him a job as a cook, which is what he did in the service. He goes to restaurant to restaurant to restaurant and they tell him, “We don’t hire n*****s.” My dad goes to an unemployment office in Chattanooga. The lady says you went to the wrong door. My dad goes out to the hall. He sees “Colored Only,” goes through that door to the very same lady who sent him out. My dad came home to my mother and said, “This is B.S., I’m going to L.A. where I had been years earlier. I will get me a job as a cook and I’ll send for you.” My dad comes out here, walks around for two days, knocks on the door, and every time he’s told: You have no references. My dad said, “I cooked for them during the war.” “You have no references.” My dad said, “I’ll cook for free for two weeks—just write me a reference.” They wouldn’t even do that. So, they treated him the same way in L.A. as they treated him in Chattanooga; they were a little more polite about it.
He went to an unemployment office—this time just one door. The lady says, “I have nothing.” He says, “What time do you open?” She said, “Eight-thirty.” “What time do you close?” “Five o’clock.” My dad sat in the chair for a day and a half. He took the first thing that came in. She called him up, she said, “I have a job. I’m not sure if you’re going to want it.” My dad said, “I’m sure I’m going to want it. What is it?” She said, “A job cleaning toilets at Nabisco brand bread.” My dad did that for 10 years. He took a second job at another bread company called Barbara Anne Bread cleaning toilets, cooked for a family on the weekend, and went to night school two or three nights a week to get his GED. That’s why the man was so grouchy and so surly all the time. He never slept. You try getting one or two hours of sleep a day and have a household full of three rambunctious boys and you come home tired and you see what kind of mood you’re in. That’s why we were always afraid of my father.
So, my father and I had this big fight when I was 15 years old. He had a cafe and I had to work for him. My father was grumpy to work for. And I came home once and I said, “The next time my dad yells at me in front of people I’m leaving.” So, I’m 15 years old and my dad yelled at me in this restaurant. I walked out. It was an act of defiance nobody had ever done with my father. My father came home. He was furious. He said, “Why did you leave?” I said, “Dad I got tired of the way you spoke to me.” And he said, “You don’t walk out on me.” He balled up the 10 dollars he owed me. He threw it at me as I lay on the bed. He walked out of my bedroom. We didn’t speak for 10 years.
Fast forward—I go to college, I go to law school, I moved to Ohio. I had this big fancy job with a big fancy law firm. I’m 25 years old making real big money and I cannot sleep. And I know it has something to do with an unresolved issue with my father. So I told my secretary, “Cancel all my appointments.” I’m flying to L.A. I didn’t want my parents to know I was coming because I didn’t want my dad to prepare for this “summit.”
I walk into the cafe at 1:30. We close at 2:30. I said, “I want to talk to you.” I’m 25 years old at this point. We have not talked in 10 years. My dad was shocked to see me. He said, “Should I put your books in your bag in the back Larry?” I said, “No, Dad. I am only going to be here for five or 10 minutes. I want to tell you something. And I figured my dad was gonna tell me that I was an ungrateful son. Maybe then I could sleep.
So, my dad sat down. I promised I wasn’t going to tee off on him and tell him everything he’d ever done to me that bothered me—but I did. I talked 10 minutes nonstop. I think your audience gets a little idea of how I can go. So, I was going for almost 10 minutes—every spanking, every whipping, every slight, everything. Then I was done. And my dad said, “Is that it? You didn’t speak to me for 10 years because of that?” And I said, “Yeah,” and my dad then told me the story about his father, [that of] Elder not being his name—the first time I’ve ever heard it. And my dad and I talked for eight hours. And during this time my dad told me about the jobs he took, the racism he experienced.
He had been married twice before. The first time the father and mother marched my dad and his new bride to court and had the marriage annulled because they thought my father as a school dropout wasn’t good enough for the girl. The second marriage, the woman cheated on him. They were married eight years. My dad always wanted children. He said she couldn’t have children—plus she cheated on him. I had no idea he was married twice. I am learning all of this, and as he’s speaking my dad is getting bigger and bigger and bigger, and I’m getting smaller and smaller and smaller.
He even told me one weekend he and my mom were quarreling so much he left, and he got an apartment and he was going to move out. He said he couldn’t sleep because he didn’t want the same thing to happen to his sons as happened to him. And he came back after just one weekend. He said, “You don’t remember that.” I said, “Dad given the way I felt about you I was probably happy you were gone, but no I don’t remember.” And my dad said he couldn’t do that to us. So, he got bigger and bigger and bigger. For the first time I saw my dad cry—when he talked about Elder. I didn’t know he was capable of doing it.
So, by the end of the conversation, I’m crying and I said, “Dad, I am so sorry.” He said, “Don’t be Larry. Just follow the instructions I’ve always given you and your brothers. Hard work wins. You get out of life what you put into it. Larry, you cannot control the outcome, but you are 100 percent in control of the effort. And before you bitch, moan, and whine about what somebody did to you, go to the nearest mirror, look at it, and say, ‘What could I have done to change the outcome?’ And finally, Larry, no matter how hard you work, no matter how good you are, sooner or later bad things will happen. How you respond to those bad things will tell your mother and me whether or not we’ve raised a man.”
I wrote a book about this eight hour conversation that’s called, “Dear Father, Dear Son: Two Lives … Eight Hours.” It’s called, “Two Lives … Eight Hours” and “Dear Father, Dear Son” because after we had this conversation I go back to Ohio, my father wrote me a letter. He never wrote me a letter [before]. And it said, “Dear Son …” So, I wrote him back and I said, “Dear Father …” And from that point on we had a wonderful next 35 years. Arguably, my dad and I became closer than my mom and me. And if anybody ever had a reason to be angry at the world, angry at the white man, picking up a gun and being a revolutionary—it’s my dad, it’s that whole generation. But my dad and many of the other members of his generation, the greatest generation that Tom Brokaw talks about, didn’t feel that way at all. And I asked my father why didn’t you get angry, why weren’t you mad at the world. He said, “I look at where things are now. The opportunities that you have, Larry, versus the lack of opportunities I had. How can I be mad? This is not the same country. Take advantage of the opportunities that you have in front of you.”
Speaking of which there was a poll in 1997 done by Time magazine and CNN. And it’s one of the last things I mentioned when I was on CNN—maybe this is why I’m not invited back anymore. But I reminded them that they did their own poll at the time, it was about 20 years ago. Black teens and white teens were asked about racism. And not too surprisingly both of them thought it was a major problem in America. Although, white kids thought it was a bigger problem than black kids did. Then the poll, though, asked this—and you never see this—they asked the black teens “Is racism a big problem, a minor problem, or no problem in your own daily life. Eighty-nine percent said minor or no problem in my own daily life. In fact, more black teens than white teens said failure to take advantage of available opportunities is a bigger problem than racism. That was 22 years ago before the election and re-election of Barack Obama.
So, let’s knock it off. I’m not saying racism has gone away. It hasn’t. But in order to make it out of poverty to the middle class both think tanks on the left and the right say the same thing. The Brookings Institution is a left-wing think tank. Heritage is the right-wing think tank. They both said, do three things: finish high school, don’t have a kid before you’re 20, get married first. If you follow that formula you will not be poor. If you don’t follow that formula there is a better than even chance that you will be poor. So, this is what these so-called black leaders ought to be telling our black kids. Work hard, get an education, stay focused, learn how to speak standard English, and if you decide to have a child make sure you get married before you have that child. Instead, that’s not what we’re hearing. We’re hearing racism, racism, racism, racism, unconscious racism, institutional racism, systemic racism—and it’s all nonsense. These things have all been studied by the federal government.
Are the police mistreating black motorists unfairly? There was a study that came out in 2013 when Obama was in office called “Race and Traffic Stops,” put out by the National Institutes of Justice, which is the research arm of the DOJ. And they looked at black motorists. Seventy-five percent of black motorists admitted that they were stopped for legitimate reasons. And it turns out, according to this study, that the differences in stoppages (and there were) had to do with differences in levels of offending.
Similarly, some years ago, the state of New Jersey was accused of racism because its troopers were disproportionately pulling over black motorists on the New Jersey Turnpike. The Republican governor was ordered to do a study by the government. They did. Turns out that they couldn’t find the racism. At night especially, you couldn’t even tell the race of the driver and in the daytime, the reflection was such that often the troopers couldn’t even tell the race of the driver. And it turned out the faster the speed, the more likely it was that the black driver was driving. Well, nobody liked the study. Nobody liked the results. So, she ordered a different study, different methodology, different people—same conclusion. The troopers were not engaging in racial discrimination. Now, wouldn’t you think this would be good news. Instead, they kind of shoveled, they put the report in the bottom drawer, and that was it. They didn’t talk about it anymore.
In the ’90s, the federal government looked at the top 75 counties to find out whether or not the police were arresting people, unfairly sentencing them longer, unfairly—they couldn’t find the pattern either and that was in the ’90s. It’s just not true. And you know it’s not true because if it were true there’d be class action lawsuits, and there’d be an incentive for them because under certain circumstances you can get triple damages. And so all these black lawyers are around, all these civil rights groups, ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union), the Southern Poverty Law Center, and you guys can’t find a class action lawsuit to confirm the institutional racism that you claim exists? It just isn’t true. The data are not there.
Jan Jekielek: This is stunning information for a lot of people out there I imagine.
Larry Elder: I’ll add a couple other things. There is a black economist at Harvard named Roland Fryer. He’s considered to be so brilliant. He is the youngest tenured Harvard Professor in Harvard’s history. And he assumed that the police were disproportionately using deadly force against black motorists, black suspects and did a study to confirm that. He said it was the most shocking findings of his career. Not only did he not find the pattern, he found that the cops were more hesitant, more reluctant to use deadly force on a black suspect than a white suspect, probably because they were afraid of being accused of being racist and afraid of being being made a cause célèbre and losing their pensions. And that tracks another study that was done by Washington State, same thing. They found that the cops were more hesitant, more reluctant to pull the trigger against a black suspect than a white suspect even though a young black person is seven or eight times more likely to be a victim of a homicide than a young white person. It just isn’t there. The Washington Post—no right wing organization—looked at the numbers of police killings in recent years, about a thousand of them, 500 them were white, 250 of them were black, around 16 unarmed black men were killed, more unarmed white men were killed.
When I gave a recent speech before the Ohio State football team at the invitation of the coach I talked about these studies. And I said according to the New York Post there are about 16-17 unarmed black men killed and in recent years we can always name the unarmed black people who were killed—Eric Gardner out in New York, Freddie Gray died in a police van in Baltimore, Michael Brown, of course, in Ferguson. There are a number of high-profile cases where unarmed blacks were killed. There were more unarmed whites killed in that year, and I said name one. Nobody can name one because when a black person gets killed in comes Van Jones, in comes CNN, in comes MSNBC. When a white person gets killed nobody gives a rip.
I was in Fresno about two, three years ago, and when I was there a 19-year-old white kid was killed, unarmed. He was driving erratically, pulled into a gas station. The police said show me your hands, show me your hands. He made a move as if he’s going toward a firearm. They blew him away. It was a one-day story. CNN covered it one day. Nobody else, to this day, I’ve not seen any kind of follow up. That is undoubtedly going to be a lawsuit, but nobody cared because he was the wrong race. But if it is a white person it advances the narrative that the man is out to get you. The police are engaging in racial profiling so that advances that mean, but this doesn’t work. It doesn’t fit the script.
Jan Jekielek: What you’re describing to me sounds incredibly disempowering to black people in America. Do you agree with that?
Larry Elder: I agree that the reaction to what I just told you by a lot of blacks to me is confusing and confounding. I would’ve thought it’d be good news. Instead, I’m attacked. I’m attacked as somebody who doesn’t understand what’s going on in the inner city even though I was born in the inner city, raised in the inner city. My father was a janitor. We didn’t have money. I know what’s going on. I got arrested by the police one time when I was in my 20s, and it was mostly because I was mouthing off and officer didn’t like what I said, but I was mouthing off and I escalated it. I didn’t have to. I think there was a problem on both sides. I advocate the use of body cams, dash cams, not so much because it will confirm the lack of racism, but what it really does is confirm that a lot of blacks and other people are making false charges against officers.
In Rialto here in California—it’s a city of roughly 68,000 people—a few years ago the chief ordered all the police officers to carry body cams and dash cams. They didn’t want to, but they did reluctantly. Turns out officer use of force declined almost 50 percent, complaints against officers fell almost 90 percent. People stopped lying. They stopped challenging the officers. As a result, officers didn’t need to use as much force as they used in the past. The officers didn’t behave any differently. Their training was exactly the same. People behave differently and as a result officers responded to the different behavior differently. The dash cams did not prove that cops were misbehaving. What it proved is that motorists and suspects were lying on them giving you the impression that cops were misbehaving.
Jan Jekielek: So, Larry from what I’m hearing you’re saying there has been this history of very severe racism and mistreatment against blacks in America for generations. But sometime recently there was some kind of profound change, perhaps with the civil rights movement and it’s a completely different situation. That’s what I hear you arguing. When did this happen and how can you account for so many people feeling this racism or at least saying that this racism is seen. There’s some black Americans like the former attorney general saying that it’s a pernicious thing. How do we account for all this? I’m trying to understand here.
Larry Elder: Well, I think the civil rights movement went off the trail when it went from demanding equal rights to demanding equal results. You have people like Eric Holder, the former attorney general who gave a speech when he was in office and referred to America’s pernicious racism. That’s the word he used, which he thought was every bit as bad as the old fashioned racism, and in the speech he gave three examples of what he called pernicious racism. None of them hold up.
The first example he gave was that black criminal defendants get longer sentences than do white criminal defendants for the same crime. And that’s true. The U.S. Sentencing Commission studied that and said that black criminal defendants get a sentence usually anywhere from 12 percent to 20 percent longer for the same crime. What the commission also said, however, is that the reason for the differences in sentences is because judges take into consideration at the time of sentencing arrest records whether you’ve been convicted or not. And it turns out the average black criminal defendant has a longer arrest record than the average white criminal defendant. And as a result said the sentencing commission the judges give a longer sentence for legitimate reasons.
The second thing that Holder said is that black boys are disproportionately kicked out of school compared to white boys, in a given school. That’s also true. But it’s also true they misbehave more. Jesse Jackson, some years before, filed a lawsuit against the all-white school board Decatur Illinois because about several kids had been kicked out of school—black kids after a football game for fighting. Turns out the kids collectively had missed like 400 days of school. They weren’t model students. And Jesse Jackson filed a lawsuit accusing the school board of discrimination. They defended themselves by pointing out: Look around the country—whether it’s the Oakland School Board, predominately people of color, or another school board where there’s some people of color black boys were disproportionately kicked out no matter the racial composition of the school board. And that’s because they were disproportionately acting out.
The third thing that Eric Holder argued was an example of pernicious racism is a growing push in some states for voter ID laws. Well, it turns out the Supreme Court allowed voter ID laws to go into effect. They said they were legal. That people had a right to make sure that the integrity of the voting process was guaranteed, and the person that wrote that Supreme Court case was John Paul Stevens—the most left-wing Supreme Court justice up there at the time. Furthermore, if this voter suppression is taking place, please explain how in 2008 when Obama ran for the first time in American history blacks voted at a greater percentage of eligibility than did white voters. So, it’s just not working—if it’s designed to suppress the black vote it certainly isn’t working. And as I said, liberal judges have said it’s perfectly OK to impose voter ID laws and those kinds of things to make sure the voter is who he or she says he is. So, if that’s all you have you don’t have very much. Voter ID is pernicious racism, longer sentences, pernicious racism. Disproportionately larger number of black boys being punished in school is pernicious racism. None of the facts hold this up. And if that’s all you have, we’re in pretty good shape now.
Jan Jekielek: Why are we constantly hearing about racism being the most important, perhaps, by some people’s estimation, the most important issue in America today?
Larry Elder: It is my opinion that we constantly hear about racism and racial injustice and those kinds of things because the Democratic Party needs black people to remain angry. Because the Democratic Party has not won the white vote since 1964. Blacks vote often around 95 percent or so for the Democratic Party, and the primary reason blacks pull the lever for the Democratic Party is this perception that racism remains a major problem in America. Most black voters, by the way, have no idea about the racist history of the Democratic Party. I didn’t know when I was in high school that Democrats founded the Klan. I didn’t know when I was in high school that Democrats voted against a 13th amendment that freed the slaves, the 14th Amendment they gave slaves citizenship, the 15th Amendment that at least on paper gave slaves the right to vote. Democrats voted against all of that stuff. I didn’t know when I was in high school that more Republicans, as a percentage of the party, voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 than did Democrats. I didn’t know that. I didn’t know that Everett Dirksen a Republican of Illinois got an award from the NAACP for how he helped to shepherd the civil rights bill through Congress. I Didn’t know that Al Gore’s father participated in what was then the longest filibuster to prevent the bill from ever coming on the floor.
I also bought into that notion that OK, Democrats used to be racist, but then Republicans switched places with them in the ’60s. I bought into that until I found out that of all the Democrats who voted against the Civil Rights Act in the House, of all the Democrats who voted against the Civil Rights Act in the Senate only two switched to the Republican Party—one of whom was Strom Thurmond. George Wallace who stood in front the school door as a Democratic governor saying segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever. He died a Democrat. Robert Byrd who was a Kleagel, that means a recruiter for the Klan. He died a Democrat at 100 years old in the Senate. Most of these guys never switched parties. It is a lie.
The reason the South became more and more Republican is because the Democratic Party became more and more left wing—became anti-Vietnam, anti-war, pro-abortion, and the South became increasingly uncomfortable with their allegiance to the Democratic Party, especially since Jim Crow had fallen. If Jim Crow was falling why are we in bed with these with these Democrats. What’s the point? And so the South became more and more Republican for a reason that had nothing to do with racism. But that was the line that was fed by so many people and so many blacks to this day believe that.
Jan Jekielek: So, what do you make of some of these recent movements like, for example, Blexit, specifically, is encouraging people to exit from the Democratic Party. We have Kanye West saying, I like how Candace Owens who originated Blexit thinks, and you know causing a big stir. What do you make of these and why do you think the impact will be?
Larry Elder: It’s about time that black voters began to rethink their allegiance to the Democratic Party. In 1940, 87 percent of blacks live below the federally defined level of poverty. By 1960, that number had fallen to 47 percent. That’s a 40-point drop in 20 years. That’s probably the biggest economic expansion over a 20-year period of time in the history of America for blacks. This is before the affirmative action, before set aside, before the war on poverty. In comes the war on poverty, and black poverty pretty much begins to flatline as poverty in America begins to flatline. In other words, had the government not intervened and not, in my opinion, incentivized women to marry the government and allow men to abandon their financial and moral responsibility, the country would be far better off.
The number-one problem facing the black America today is not racism. The number-one problem is the growing number of black kids who are raised without fathers. Around 75 percent of black kids today are raised without fathers. And forget about Larry Elder, Barack Obama said a kid raised without a father is five times more likely to be poor, nine times more likely to drop out of school, 20 times more likely to end up in jail. That is far and away the biggest problem facing this country. And in my 25-year broadcasting career, I’ve tried to get Jesse Jackson on my show. He won’t come on. I’ve tried to get Al Sharpton to come on. Won’t come on. Minister Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam to come on. He won’t come on.
But one of these so-called black leaders did come on my program. His name is Kweisi Mfume. At the time he was head of the NAACP, and I said to him: Mr. Mfume as between the presence of white racism or the absence of black fathers, which poses a bigger threat to the black community? And to his credit, without missing a beat, he said the absence of black fathers. That is far and away the number one problem facing this country. And people like Barack Obama, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and Farrakhan, they know from firsthand experience what I’m saying is true.
Obama, as you know, wrote a book about his father—about the fact that his father wasn’t in his life and how much angst that caused him. Jesse Jackson’s mother was impregnated by the married man who lived next door. And in those days it was rare for you to be raised without a father. Jackson was raised in South Carolina, and according to a book called “Thunder in America” Jackson was taunted by kids saying: Jesse ain’t got no daddy, Jesse ain’t got no daddy.
Sharpton had a nice middle-class life until his father abandoned the family and then down to the ghetto he went. Farrakhan’s mother was estranged from her husband, had a boyfriend, took back up briefly with the husband, got pregnant, didn’t want the boyfriend to know, and tried to abort Farrakhan with a coat hanger.
So, all three of these men oughta know the pain of not having a father in their own lives, and rather than talk about that they talk about racism, racism, racism. I’m not a shrink, but I would argue that the fact that they had no fathers probably prevents them from seeing the tremendous progress in this country in the last 30 years. Jackson ran for president in 1984 and again in ‘88 and now we have had a black president. My God, he cried the night Obama got elected. I’m old school. In those days when Obama got elected I got The New York Times and The L.A. Times thrown to my house. Both of them had front page pictures of black parents hugging their kids saying the same thing. Now, for the first time, I can tell my son he can grow up to be anything he wants to be. And I said to myself: And if Obama had lost what would you have said? My goodness, Obama didn’t need to have a black president exist before he ran. What makes you think I need to see somebody black do something before I think I can do it.
Some years ago there was an Olympic skater named Debi Thomas. She was the first Olympic medal winner who’s black. And she was asked over and over again: Who’s your role model, who’s your role model, who’s your role model? She’s finally said, “I don’t need to see somebody black do something before I think I can do it.” She now, by the way, is a doctor. That was her goal all along.
So work hard, get an education, don’t have a kid before you’re 20, get married before you have your kid. Think tanks on the left and think tanks on the right will tell you the same thing. That’s the formula for success. That’s what these so-called black leaders ought to be telling black people, but they’re not. They are telling black people that you’re a victim, you’re a victim of this, you’re a victim of that, you’re a victim of this. Meanwhile, in their own homes do they tell their own children that? No. They tell their own children to work hard, get an education, study, do your homework, stay focused, and you’ll be just fine. They don’t preach what they practice. That’s what a lot of these so-called black leaders don’t preach what they practice.
Jan Jekielek: This just struck me. Why is the black community disproportionately affected by this breakdown of the family? Because I understand the statistics are, from what I recall, quite different, for example, white families or even Hispanic families. Why?
Larry Elder: You know in 1890 or so there’s evidence to suggest that a black kid was slightly more likely to be brought into the world with a mother and father under one roof than a white kid. What’s changed is the War on Poverty. Literally, Lyndon Johnson sent welfare workers knocking on doors in the inner city at uprising women of the availability of welfare provided there was no man in the house. It changed the culture, it changed the attitude towards welfare, it made it more acceptable, and a disproportionate number of blacks began to buy into that. And that’s what I think happened. It is a neutron bomb dropped on this country. Seventy-five percent of black kids are now raised without fathers. Nearly 50 percent of Hispanic kids are raised without fathers. Twenty-five percent of white kids are now raised without fathers.
When I was in college in 1970, five years earlier there was a report called, “The Negro Family: A Case for National Action” written by John Patrick Moynihan who later on became a senator from New York, a Democrat. At the time, 25 percent of blacks were born outside of wedlock. He said: This number is horrific. We’ve got to do something about this. It’s going to have an impact on crime, on dropouts, on someone’s competitive ability to compete in a world. And now that number is almost three times bigger. Twenty-five percent of white kids are now born outside of wedlock, again a product of the welfare state. What we’ve done, as I said earlier, we’ve incentivized women to marry the government, we’ve allowed men to abandon their financial and moral responsibility.
Jan Jekielek: Another question. We have these generations of terrible mistreatment of black people. Are some reparations due?
Larry Elder: On the issue of reparations, only about 5 percent of white Americans have any sort of generational connection to slavery—that somebody in their family owned slaves—even during slavery in the South. Most people, most white people didn’t own slaves. They were expensive, hard to keep. Ran away. Only a small percentage had more than a handful of slaves. That does not minimize the horror of slaves. All I’m saying is when you figure out who owes what, it’s kind of hard for a white person whose family never owned slaves to be told you owe reparations just because you’re white.
Many people have come to this country well after slavery was over. And what about all the people in this country, more blacks and middle class than non-middle class, should they get a check. Should Oprah Winfrey get a check? Who should pay that check? And what about all the other things that happen to people. Japanese were put in relocation camps. There was discrimination against Chinese. There were laws against Chinese. In California, Japanese couldn’t own farm land. Should we go back and try to correct everything that’s ever happened.
All a state can be is just in its own time. There are no slaves walking around right now, and no slave owners walking around right now. Why should somebody who was never an owner of a slave be responsible for something that was done by generations earlier before? It’s just not fair, it’s not right.
After slaves were freed there should have been some sort of reparations. There weren’t. One of the reasons there was no war over slavery, in England for example, is when they abolished slavery there were reparations paid to the slave owners, not to the slaves. Think about it: If slaves were assets, property, which is what the Supreme Court ruled blacks were, and suddenly you’ve taken away their property, to whom do you owe the reparations? You owe the reparations to the person from whom you took away the property, but slave owners got no reparations in America. So, you wanna play reparations? Why shouldn’t they get reparations? Slavery was legal. Like it or not, it was legal. And so the Supreme Court ruled that slaves were property. And so I, as a white person, legally held property, it was taken away from me after the war. But I got no reparations. So, you want to play that game? You really want to play that game? I don’t think they do.
Jan Jekielek: It just struck me. Everything you’re saying, and I think you alluded to this a little bit earlier in our conversation, there must be a lot of people in the black community and of course beyond that, they really don’t like what you’re saying or like you personally.
Larry Elder: You know there are a lot of people in the black community that hate my guts. When I first started on radio 60 Minutes came, and they wanted to do a segment on me and they did. And all these black people were saying all these horrible things about Larry Elder, and they got what they wanted. About three or four years later, five years later, 20/20 came to do a thing on me, and they said we want to talk about the hatred towards you in the black community. I said, “Well, it’s still there, but it’s not like what it used to be.” And they said, “Really?” And I said, “I’ll take you to some places.”
We went to a place called The Serving Spoon which is a restaurant that a lot of blacks go to. And they stood outside the door, and they asked people what they thought of me when they came out, as did 60 Minutes. When 60 Minutes did it: He’s an SOB, he’s a bigot, he’s self-loathing, can’t stand him. And this time they went, “Well, I don’t agree with the brother, but I got to say, you know, he’s making a lot of points.” And they didn’t get what they wanted.
I can tell what happened. It happened about two or three years after I’d been on the air. There’s a restaurant not too far from where I work that I like to go to. And I’m walking down the street to go to the restaurant, and there are a couple of black guys sitting on a wall smoking cigarettes. “Larry Elder!” one said, “I hate you … and I love you! Come over here!” So, I went over and we had a talk. And he goes, “Let me tell you something about you. When you first started on the air, I used to hate your guts, but then I started listening. And the more I listened, I said, you know, this brother is making some good points. You’re like castor oil—it don’t taste good going down, but it’s good for you. Keep it up.”
Jan Jekielek: This actually speaks to a very serious issue. Is this 95 percent that you’re saying is committed to a certain political orientation shifting as a result of, say, some of the work you’re doing or Candace Owens or what Kanye West said and others of course?
Larry Elder: I think things are shifting for a couple of reasons. People like Candace Owens, the Blexit movement, Kanye West has made it OK for you as a young black person to think about becoming a Republican without being ridiculed. That is a big, big deal in and of itself.
The other thing is Trump. Trump has done two things. The first thing is Trump has made illegal immigration an issue. You ask black people how they feel about illegal immigration, you’re going to get a whole different attitude than you get about how white people feel about illegal immigration.
There’s an economist named George Borjas. He’s probably done more work on the effect of legal and illegal immigration than maybe any other economists. He says no question that illegal immigration, especially unskilled illegal immigration, takes away jobs from black people and brown people living in the inner city who are also unskilled and puts downward pressure on their wages. Black people know that.
There’s a wonderful movie in the ’70s called “Car Wash.” It was about a day in the life of a car wash in the inner city—not too far from where I live. And most of the workers there were black. Go to that same car wash right now and most of the workers there speaking Spanish. My suspicion is they are here illegally. Those jobs have been taken away by illegal aliens.
The other thing that Trump has done is, you look at polls, most black and brown families living in the inner city, they want vouchers. They want the ability to say: I’m not going to send my kid to a school like Crenshaw High School which is where I graduated from. About which there was a front page article in the L.A. Times a few years ago that said only 3 percent of kids at my former high school can do math at grade level. That’s not a typo, 3 percent.
Now, if you’re living across the street from that school, you don’t have any money, you’re mandated of course to send your child to that school. What responsible parent would send their kid to a school where only 3 percent of the kids can do math at grade level—if they had an option. Nobody would. What Trump wants to do is give parents an option.
Betsy De Vos is the secretary of education. She’s a strong proponent of choice in school. And while education should be a local function, at least rhetorically, she can talk about the need to have parents have choices. They’re very popular when parents get choices. There’s a program in New York City that’s oversubscribed, and the results have shown that when parents are able to choose a school for their kid, the dropout rate is better, reading math scores improve, and parental satisfaction is through the roof. There are very few programs like that, however, around the country, but those that have had them when you’ve looked at the results—they work.
What is the party that wants to tell inner city parents: Look, if you don’t want to go to a bad government school we’ll give you a voucher, you can go somewhere else. The Republican party. What party is the party saying: Too damn bad you’re mandated to go there because of their relationship with the teachers union. The Democratic Party. So, why it is if the route to the middle class is first to get an education and the Republican Party wants to give you a quality education versus the Democratic Party refusal to do so, why it is that that alone does not cause more black voters to rethink their allegiance to the Democratic Party is beyond me. And then you add that this president want to do something about illegal immigration.
It seems to me that that’s a no brainer to think about why am I still pulling the lever for a party that is incentivizing women to marry the government, that will not allow me to send my kid to a better school, and doesn’t give a rip about the competition posed by unskilled illegal aliens. I’m going to rethink my assumption to the Democratic Party, and it is happening.
According to the NAACP, 21 percent of blacks are now supportive of Donald Trump. That’s a mind boggling number. That’s almost three times the support that he got. According to Rasmussen, the number is even higher. Even Gallup is putting that percentage of blacks supporting Trump at a higher percentage than the percentage he got when he got elected. And that’s pretty extraordinary when you consider he’s been called a racist every day for the last two years.
Jan Jekielek: So you don’t believe that?
Larry Elder: Do I believe President Trump is a racist? No, I don’t. If he’s a racist he’s a bad one. If you’re a racist why would you want vouchers to give parents a better chance of getting their inner city kids a better education. If you’re a racist why would you want to do something about the illegal alien competition for jobs and for wages, that open borders create. If you’re a racist why is it that Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, John Johnson, the former head of Ebony magazine—the leading black magazine in the country—all did work with Donald Trump after the 1975 consent decree that he entered into in which he settled a class action lawsuit brought by the government claiming that he was discriminating against black and brown tenants. He entered into that decree—Donald Trump did at the age of 28 running his dad’s business. It’s often brought up as an example of Donald Trump’s past racism. But as I said, all these civil rights leaders still did work with him after that, so they weren’t bothered too much by it. I don’t know why I should be.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.