Faith, Family and Justice
Pele grew up Mormon. Michael grew up Baptist. This week, the couple discuss how they bring their religions into their blended family. Later in the episode, they are joined by Dr. Eddie Glaude, the chair of the African American Studies department at Princeton University and a religious scholar, to consider how religion and blues-soaked hope can influence their lives, their parenting, and their pursuit of a world filled with more justice and love.
[02:18] Michael Bennett: What’s on your mind today? We’re about to talk to a great guest, Dr. Eddie Glaude. And we’re kind of talking about religion in America. There’s so many different types of religion, and the role that religion plays in society. You grew up in the LDS Church, which is different from where I grew up in a Baptist church.
[02:37] Pele Bennett: Which is a big question, because we have three children. So people do ask us, knowing that both sides of our families are rooted within the church, so they always want to know, how does that work in our household? Do we have a side? How we communicate with our children religiously.
[02:56] Michael Bennett: It’s like taxes. Like you pay your taxes. It’s like you pay different levels of taxes, but all the taxes go to the same place. That’s kind of how I feel about religion a little bit. I feel like we’re all praying in a different manner using the King James version or this version. But mostly, we’re all praying to God. Religion has changed a lot since we grew up. In America, in general, I feel like especially in school, because I remember in school like a prayer was like the first thing that we did like before we started school.
[03:27] Pele Bennett: Oh wow. What do you mean like before — because usually it’s the anthem.
[03:33] Michael Bennett: The Pledge of Allegiance, which sounds crazy when you think about it.
[03:38] Pele Bennett: Also, standing in a classroom of 20 kids.
[03:44] Michael Bennett: If people took a picture, they’d probably think that was communist shit. We’re all standing there at attention. “I pledge allegiance to the flag.”
[03:53] Pele Bennett: But you learn it so young that it just comes out so easily, like you’re not even thinking of what these words mean. The history of it. Like you don’t really know what you’re doing is just an act.
[04:04] Michael Bennett: It’s the Pledge of Allegiance.
[04:07] Pele Bennett: Exactly. You’re giving yourself up.
[04:12] Michael Bennett: That’s where they start breeding nationalism, I think at the beginning, at that level. But it is very interesting, though, because religion is very something that a lot of couples have to deal with, especially in the way that America’s changing. Like you really could be a Baptist who’s married to a Hindu lady. You had to decide how are you going to raise your family?
[04:34] Pele Bennett: But I think it’s up to the couple.
[04:37] Michael Bennett: It is up to the couple. There’s no standard of how you do it. I don’t think so.
[04:40] Pele Bennett: Can you do both? Or do you have to do one?
[04:42] Michael Bennett: I think personally that you put both in front your children.
[04:47] Pele Bennett: You let them pick?
[04:48] Michael Bennett: Like when you divorce, you put the baby at the back or put the baby at the back in the beginning. Tell the baby to run to whatever. Whoever the parent the baby goes to. And that’s how I feel about religion, whichever person, whichever one they’re driven to, which one they feel.
[05:00] Pele Bennett: I do think that as a parent, your responsibility is not necessarily to lead them in a direction, but to lead them with all the information. So let them know both sides. All the information, if they have questions, makes you answer them thoughtfully and then let them as they get older to decide which they feel best fits them.
[05:18] Michael Bennett: That’s true. I remember the first time you went to my church, you were shocked. And I was shocked the first time I went to your church. You were like, “there’s a lot going on here” when we went together. Because the LDS Church is a lot different. And I was shocked, too. I was like, this is really professional. The first time I went to Pele’s church, everybody was dressed like Little House on the Prairie. Everybody had little bobbed haircuts. They would knit stuff. I was like, OK. But I did like how everybody was nice, though. The Mormon Church, everybody’s nice. They’re like Chick-Fil-A to me. You been to Chick-Fil-A? They’re never mad. You been here all day serving waffle fries and you’re still not mad?
[06:11] Pele Bennett: But I do think that we both bring different aspects of both sides to our children. And then it’s kind of when my parents are in town, they’ll take the kids with them to church. Your parents are in town — I don’t even think it has to be either or, though.
[06:28] Michael Bennett: It’s like people who like two different types of teams, but all like the Lakers.
[06:31] Pele Bennett: That’s why. That’s why. What if your child doesn’t pick either of them? And I think that’s where it comes within the home to teach them of both sides. But I think it’s OK when your child is like asking questions of another religion because it’s curiosity. All you want to do is learn and know, and I feel like that’s where their growth will come when they start to bring it within. And they’re just comparing. And that’s when you’re having conversations with them, you know, on different thoughts or different things that they’ve heard. I think we should be open-minded.
[07:03] Michael Bennett: Today, we’re talking to Dr. Eddie Glaude, chair of the Department of African-American Studies and the professor of religion at Princeton University, about his expertise in black politics, religion in changing society and the role of black athletes, but also all athletes play in the political climate of America. So is it true that you left home to attend Morehouse, to go to college at 16? That’s kind of young. At 16 I was still, you know, running through the fields. And you were thinking about Morehouse.
[07:29] Dr. Eddie Glaude: You were busy lifting engines and things like that, right? Yeah, I did. I left home and went to Morehouse at 16. You know, Morehouse had what they call an early-admit program that they started as a result of the World War — I think it was World War II — when a lot of black men had gone off to fight in the war. And so they started admitting younger students. And so Martin Luther King Jr., for example, was in early-admit. Maynard Jackson was an early-admit. I’m in an august line of folks who came through that program. So it was really interesting. I was running away from home, but I ran to college instead of into the streets.
[08:11] Michael Bennett: I’m from Louisiana, right. And I’m not gonna talk bad about Louisiana and Mississippi, but they have their history. And it hasn’t always been a pretty history, hasn’t always been so that people can really be proud of. But what was it like growing up in Mississippi? Like were you eager to enter a place like Morehouse to pursue something that changed the way you grew up?
[08:32] Dr. Eddie Glaude: I’m from a small town called Moss Point and, you know, named after the moss that dangled from magnolia trees. And it’s called the River City as its nickname. And so it’s really beautiful. But Moss Point is majority black, it’s about 70 percent black. It’s the labor force for the town right next to it, Pascagoula, Mississippi, where the former senator Trent Lott’s from. So I grew up in an environment that was — it wasn’t segregated in any formal sense, but there was a kind of de-facto segregation and interesting sorts of ways. And because I was, you know, involved in politics at a young age, I was crossing kind of racial lines in very interesting sorts of ways that a good friend of mine, she was a neighbor down the street who went on to become an endowed professor of law at the University of Southern California, told me that she remembers me and her little brother going off to Boys State. And hearing some white woman saying that the problem with me, Eddie, was that I didn’t know my place. And that has something to do — and I didn’t know my place — and that has something to do with my dad. You know my dad — how can I put this? My dad didn’t suffer white folks easily. And you know, just to be honest, you know, when we moved into — you know, he was a postman and he had an opportunity to — he knew he had some precocious kids, and he moved us into this neighborhood, I think we were the third black family to move in the neighborhood. And somebody shot out our back window. And my dad responded with his 12-gauge and blew off the limb of a tree and said, shoot back here again. I mean, he was not a man who allowed anybody to diminish him. So I grew up in an environment where there was a sense of, you know, you stand up for who you are. You be proud of who you are.
[10:16] Dr. Eddie Glaude: And I grew up in an environment that was basically black, you know, fish fries on Fridays. You know, brown liquor, you know, I mean, it was just the blues. Listening to B.B. King and Bobby Blue Bland, at least the old folks were. It was a nurturing environment for me. And then my sister graduated valedictorian of our high school and went off to Spelman and then came back home and said, you know, you act like you too white. You need to come to Morehouse. I said, all right. I want to get away from daddy anyway.
[10:49] Michael Bennett: You know what’s so funny, though? Athletes, sometimes growing up is that we never really heard about like the black colleges as far as like sports. And it’s funny because there are so many great black African-American players who went to African-American schools that we just didn’t know the history of that. It’s like the first thing that came to us was go to Texas A&M or LSU or Alabama, like, it wasn’t like go to Morehouse or go to all these different places, which I just find it interesting. And I always think to myself, like, if I didn’t play sports, would I have changed that experience?
[11:20] Dr. Eddie Glaude: Yeah. You know, a lot of our folk — I mean, you know, when I was growing up, you know, people were so proud of Walter Payton. I think he went to Jackson State. Doug Williams went to Grambling, I think. And so, you know, there was a period time where these, you know, predominantly white institutions weren’t available to us. I remember, you know, when I was in high school, Bear Bryant walking into a cafeteria, because we had at the time, we had a powerhouse high school football team. You know, the Wonsley brothers. So Otis Wonsley played with the Washington Redskins. George Wonsley, who played with the Colts, Nathan Wonsley, who played with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. All of them came out of my high school. We were kind of like a farm team for Mississippi State and Ole Miss. And then those who didn’t go there ended up going to Jackson State, Southern, Morehouse. You know, going to HBCUs. And so it’s really remarkable when I look back on it. My little small town on the coast of Mississippi, man. You know, the people who’ve come out of that place, the place that they think just full of people who don’t have any ambition, when in fact, when you look at it on the ground, you know, it’s just some amazing folk who come out of there.
[12:31] Pele Bennett: Yeah. Growing up, my family, they are first-generation coming over from the Polynesian islands. And so we were in Biloxi, Mississippi, a lot of our years. We toured and we performed in the casinos. They didn’t know — we weren’t black or white, so they didn’t know what we were. So, you know, there was a lot of different things that happened. But just being in Mississippi is definitely a different culture where I grew up in Houston. What was your experience as you were going to be elected for the youth governor of Mississippi? What I want to know is how did you feel that you were able to take that role on?
[13:22] Dr. Eddie Glaude: You know, it was real, as I said, you know, I was able to cross certain kinds of boundaries because of my involvement in politics. I guess I had a good head on my shoulders. And I had been you know, we had this thing called the YMCA youth legislature at the time, and they would invite young students from across the state to come in and we would take over state government for three days. And it happened to be the case that I was elected youth governor from statewide. Right. And I remember the newspapers, the Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, saying that Mississippi youth were generations ahead of the state because they had elected this black governor. But what was so fascinating about the moment is that I didn’t really have a developed political sense about the world. You know, I understood, you know, racism. I understood white supremacy viscerally, intuitively. But I didn’t have an analysis at that point. And I remember as a young man, you know, before I went off to college, I was able to go to the Democratic National Convention in San Francisco, the ‘84 convention where Jesse spoke, when he ran in ‘84. And Mario Cuomo gave his Tale of Two Cities speech. And I was sitting on the front row. This country boy from Mississippi just soaking it in. And I remember being in an elevator and Jesse Jackson walking into the elevator. And again, I’m just a country boy from the coast. So Jesse Jackson walks in. he’s towering over me. And he asked me where I was from and what I was doing. He just told me to keep struggling, keep working, keep evolving in some ways. That wasn’t his language, but he just kind of set the bar so high.
[15:00] Dr. Eddie Glaude: So in that moment of being elected youth governor at the time and then going to the Democratic National Convention at the age of 15, I just kind of got a sense that my world was so much more expansive than Moss Point. And it’s something that I’ve come to articulate now, as I’m in my 50s. The world is always conspiring to make you small. And then the question is whether or not you’re going to be complicit. And so in the early days of my life, I was able to imagine myself in the most expansive of terms. So I wasn’t contained or constrained by my little hometown. In fact, that was the fuel that in some ways propelled me for, if that makes sense.
[15:48] Pele Bennett: That’s beautiful.
[15:50] Michael Bennett: People don’t realize how big Jesse Jackson is, Jesse Jackson is a big-ass man. Jesse Jackson big as hell. He walk up on me now, I’d be like damn. People forget that he was an athlete. It’s funny, though, because like — I’m skipping ahead but like Jesse Jackson, he got a sense of religion with politics, too.
[16:22] Dr. Eddie Glaude: Yeah. You know, he’s a preacher. He comes out of the King tradition. Yeah. So, you know, member of the National Baptist Convention. Absolutely. Absolutely. He’s Reverend Jesse Jackson.
[19:30] Michael Bennett: Is there a role in the church in the modern black world, because I feel like when you look at Malcolm or even Malcolm being a Muslim he still had a connection to the community. But then you look at Martin and you look at everything he did from the bus boycott was through the church. I grew up in the church. I don’t see that church having the same impact politically that they used to when they were risking that. You know, James Cone talked about it in the lynching tree, too. But at the same time, I just don’t see that that’s being used the way it is now. And that kind of scares me a little because I feel like if we look at who Jesus was and Jesus was a risk taker when it came to religion and it feels like we’ve fallen short of that risk taking ability to be able to go out and say what we really believe and use the church in a way not just for prosperity, but for change.
[20:20] Dr. Eddie Glaude: You know, it’s a complicated story to tell, Michael, about the role of black churches and black politics. And I say that because, you know, we tell the standard story that, you know, black churches have been at the center of black politics. Right. And we tell that story as if it’s inherent to black religious life. And in fact, what is inherent, what is really singular, is that black churches are independently owned by black people. So they were, naturally, organizing spaces. They were our institutions. Right. It didn’t mean that the gospel that was preached from the pulpit was necessarily radical or not. It just meant that that space was singularly ours. So it made sense that people were organizing and mobilizing in those institutional spaces. But there’s always been a kind of tension within African-American religion, man. And that tension has, you know, people who are in scholarly terms, people who have their priestly function and people who have their prophetic function. The priestly functions, folk just simply thinking about your soul, trying to make sure you’re right with regards to dogma and with regards to God. That prophetic function has something to do with how do we make real the gospel in the lives of folk, that Matthew 25 religion. And so as early as 1903, you can read in Dubois’ Souls of Black Folk in that chapter of the Faith of the Fathers, where Dubois says churches are differentiating, some into institutions that are more entertaining, that are more for — and he’s talking in 1903. So you’ve always had in some ways this element in black religious life of churches that weren’t on the front line. And what we need to understand, I think, is that the prophetic is always in the minor key. It’s never the dominant key. So when we look at it today and we see all of these churches so preoccupied with, you know, sowing seeds and prosperity gospel, as you mention, you see people like Creflo Dollar and those sorts of folk and you say, what the hell is going on? Looks like Reverend Ike wanted Dr. King lost. But then when you look closely and you go to local churches, you see some churches out here, thinking Freddy K. Haynes’ church in Dallas. They’re actually on the frontlines doing work.
[22:44] Dr. Eddie Glaude: So, you know, it varies. So one of the things I’ll say really quickly, though, is that black life is so much more complicated now. You know, even from when your grandfather was growing up. Who’s more known now? Oprah or Beyoncé or the local pastor? Who’s more influential? So because of the nature of black life being so complicated by market forces, by consumer forces, by a range of things, the black church isn’t a center of black life like it once was because there’s so much else happening.
[23:18] Pele Bennett: I wanted to know, because of Michael’s stance politically in the field, I have a question I want to know because right now, like, sports and politics, they’re saying it doesn’t coexist. But religion does on the field. You know, we can talk about — we have Bible studies. We move to each group. I go to the Bible study. We can be very open — the women, specifically, we can be very open about our views religiously. But we don’t talk politically. Why does religion — why is there like a there’s no barrier there. But when we come political, there’s a wedge?
[23:51] Michael Bennett: My perspective, I feel like people only want to talk about the the given side of being in a religion. We have to dig deeper into where we are as human beings. And I think sometimes we don’t really want to do that because it comes with a risk. We’re actually taking a risk of saying what we really believe in and people don’t really want to do that. It’s like because if they say, oh, we want to pray on the field, every time we pray at work, I say I don’t want to do the prayer as a group because I don’t feel that this sanction is holy. And I feel that the way that the gospel’s preached inside the locker room is something that’s just habitual. It doesn’t really have no sources behind it.
[24:25] Dr. Eddie Glaude: Well, you know, it’s OK for folks to kind of get all excited when Tim Tebow would get on his knees and point up. You remember that, right? He’s not even in the league anymore, but, you know, everybody is excited because it doesn’t threaten anything. You know, folks forget that, you know, Jesus was put on the cross by Rome. He was challenging principalities and power. So there’s a way in which the gospel can be understood to unsettle power, to unnerve those who hold power. So what happens when you have a particular voicing of religion in public space that is, how, shall we say, comfortable with power. It’s comfortable with Rome.
[25:07] Dr. Eddie Glaude: So part of what I think the question that you’re asking is why is it the case that religion is sanctioned, but a kind of political voice isn’t? That’s because the way in which religion is being articulated, voiced in that moment, poses no threat to the order of things. And so if there is a voicing of the gospel — and I heard this and your point, Michael — that really seeks to instantiate justice and love in the arrangements of our world, then it unsettles. So if you were at the end of a game saying we want to pray in the name of Jesus that we have justice in our criminal justice system, that we address racial inequality, then suddenly Jesus talk will be unsettling for some folk. It’s a little bit more than just getting on your knees and expressing your piety in front of thousands of people. So I think, you know, how can I put this? I want to be that moment, if I want to bear witness as someone who is a believer, I want to be that person that asks, what’s wrong with those people? They must be drunk. Something about their behavior is not in alignment with the order of things. Trying to account for the fact that the way in which you occupy space and time disrupts those who seek power. And to hold onto it no matter what.
[26:28] Michael Bennett: I think that makes a lot of sense because I feel that being a Christian, you should understand the sense of persecution that comes along with it, because I feel like it’s always been along that line. And I feel that sometimes when we make statements, we don’t want to have any persecution, but we want to be able to live vicariously through what Jesus did. But we don’t want to live in that world where you have to become more than just the flesh. And I think sometimes that’s the issue that I have with it, because nobody wants to be Job. Everybody want to be Solomon. Nobody want to be Job. Nobody want to get tested the way that Job did in his life. And I think that’s where for me, this feels faulty whenever I go through this.
[27:09] Dr. Eddie Glaude: The point I’m trying to make here is what does it mean to bear witness to the gospel? A gospel that is fundamentally about the least of these. So when you take a knee and folk are OK with it, you might need to say a little bit more.
[27:22] Michael Bennett: And it goes to that. You grew up seeing the role of the black athlete, we’ve had John Carlos on the show. I think you want to pay homage to the people who came before us. And what do you see in this public discourse, this political discourse, on politics in the future of America? What is the roles that athletes in general, not just the black athletes, but athletes in general who have a platform, what is their role in being able to speak up on the issues that are current in this America.
[27:50] Dr. Eddie Glaude: You know, I mean, it varies. I think all of us have a responsibility to give voice to our aspiration for a more just and loving world. What does it mean to have a platform? You have your particular platform, Pele has hers, I have mine. What does it mean to take advantage of the resources we have to ensure that the least of these, that the most vulnerable among us, can not only dream dreams, but to make those dreams a reality? I think the reason why people look — black people in particular look to athletes is because not only do they have platforms, they have resources. What does it mean for us to be able to leverage our power, to leverage our brand, to leverage our assets, our skills, to really bring pressure to bear on arrangements that really do our people in? And I think if we use justice and love as our model, as our guiding principle and value, then no matter who we are, no matter where we are located, we’re going to live lives to instantiate justice and love in the world as best we can. So my responsibility is to always put that in the forefront. And part of what the athlete, what he or she has to grapple with, is that we live in a world that is so defined by selfishness and greed and narcissism. Donald Trump, as I’ve said before, is just a reflection of us. And so many people are just so preoccupied about just collecting their cars, buying their, you know, big houses, you know, just collecting material toys that they’re not in some ways dedicating their lives to love and justice. And it seems to me that what we have to fight against is this temptation to be just simply navel gazing. Just to be preoccupied with our own, with our own selves. So we’ve got to fight that battle against selfishness, greed and narcissism, it seems to me. But, you know, I can go on and on. Sorry.
[30:01] Pele Bennett: But also if you’re not an athlete. So you’re just, with social media because it’s so big right now and it is a platform for other people who whatever it is that they do in their career or profession — how do they use social media with activism in a positive way of reaching out to people? Because you get the news now so quickly, but also people are, you know, putting out information so quickly, their opinions are swaying different ideas. So how is it done correctly?
[30:29] Dr. Eddie Glaude: You know, it varies. Social media is almost like — social media has become — how can I put this — like micro-reality shows. You use the platform simply to project the image of yourself. And it seems to me that that’s not — for some people, that’s fine. Do you. But, you know, for some of us, I look at these — the smartest way to think about social media, at least to me, is the distribution of distribution. We can begin to push information to various publics. We can begin to create conversations with people whom we may never see. And so there’s a way in which you can really build the conditions for a much more informed electorate, much more informed public so that we can do the kind of work we need to do. And, you know, I was on the ground to see what they were doing in Ferguson. I saw how they used social media to organize there. I saw how Black Lives Matter used it. And then I also saw how social media worked to disorganize it. And how it played a negative role in interesting sorts of ways. So I guess the main thing is to be deliberate. What are the values animating? Why are you on on social media in the first place? Why are you doing it? What is the point? And it could range from the kind of basic social things that we want to do, to the basic organizing and justice work we can do. And you just have to be deliberate how you approach it.
[31:58] Pele Bennett: Right. And I think we always reevaluate, like within me and Michael’s relationship, our family, the kids, we reevaluate what we’re doing, why we’re doing it. And I think what you’re saying on social media is do a clean sweep. You know, if you’re using social media as just scrolling for, you know, nonsense. But if you really are being intentional in what you’re wanting to learn and read about and listen to, then do a clean sweep of that and clean that up.
[32:21] Michael Bennett: That’s true. Because right now, actually, I was working on this song or poetry or whatever. It’s a rap song. It’s really like am I worthy of this love? Talking about are people really worthy of the love that they’re receiving on this Instagram and Twitter, Facebook and they don’t really know what to do with it because, like you said, they’re projecting something that they really aren’t. They don’t really let you know about their pain. They will really let you know what they suffer from. So I don’t feel like there’s no clear vision. I do agree with you about that. But I do have a particular question, though. I know your son was questioned by the police in college, and that’s a terrifying experience for a lot of people in America when it comes to their black or brown child or of people of color. How did that make you feel? And what is the reality of being a black man and having a child and having to put them into the world and thinking about what is going to be their reality? I’ve got three daughters and I was always scared. Like, even though I want to say it, I always feel like it feels like it is almost dangerous sometimes to be a black male in America.
[33:23] Dr. Eddie Glaude: You know that personally from your own experiences. So when my son called me and told me that, I had to think really quickly, because, you know, first thing is you want to just choke somebody. You know, you want to hurt someone because they’re threatening your son, threatening your son. But, you know, the main thing, though, for me was how do I in this moment keep this from turning inward for him? Because what happens in these moments when society tells us that we’re less than, when they police our bodies, when they exact harm. What happens sometimes is that hatred and anger turns inward and it begins to corrode the soul. And so part of what I didn’t want him to do in that moment was to become embittered where the anger would in some ways limit how he imagined himself. And so, you know, when the police stopped him and put their hands on the gun and told him to leave. And he was like, yo, and I was like, just imagine how many times that happens to someone on Stuyvesant Avenue. Just imagine how many times that happen to somebody in Cabrini Green when the projects were up in Chicago. Just think about what happens to folk in the Delta and Mississippi. So part of what I wanted him to do was to turn outward, right. And so the rage instead of the rage taking root in him, the rage becomes the fuel for this commitment to justice and love. To become other regarding in that moment and not self-obsessed. With your own wound and pain. Cornel West told me something one time that I’ll never forget. He said we’re all wounded. The question is whether or not we’re gonna be a wounded hurter or a wounded healer. And so in those moments when my child was faced with the kind of bitter racism of the United States, what I wanted to do with that wound was to say, OK now, let’s make sure you come out of this experience with the aim of being a healer and not a hurter. And so you get angry. I’m worried about him. He’s 23 and I’m still worried about him. He’s 6’2”. And he’s just like, you know, he’s walking around with dreads in his head, even though he’s a Brown graduate, doesn’t matter. You know, I’m still worried about him. As my mother told me, I won’t stop worrying about you until they put me in the ground.
[35:50] Dr. Eddie Glaude: And so it’s like a black tax. White people don’t have to go through this, they don’t worry about this ever. So the main thing, though, is to then, you know, James Baldwin said, you know, whatever the Negro problem is, it’s this problem, he says — I’m paraphrasing him here. He says, our problem is trying to keep what the world says about our children from taking root in their souls. And so we have to work day in and day out so that our children won’t believe what the world says about them. And that’s at the heart of my parenting. Because as crazy as my dad was, as much as I wanted to leave home — I remember when I was in the fourth grade and Miss Davis was messing with me and I was only black kid in the class. And I jumped up and I said, “you are racist!” and I ran out of the class.
[36:46] Michael Bennett: You said it like Eddie Murphy or like Richard Pryor?
[36:51] Dr. Eddie Glaude: I said it like Richard Pryor. And I ran. And I thought I was gonna get killed by my dad because my dad could just look at me and I would cry, you know? And I thought he was gonna — I thought he was gonna break my sternum. And he said “if anybody ever says something like that to you again, you do the same thing.”
[37:13] Michael Bennett: He empowered you.
[37:14] Dr. Eddie Glaude: Exactly. So in the midst of a world that’s constantly bombarding our children with the belief that they’re not valued as much as other people because of the color of their skin our task is to make them believe that they are kings and queens, that they don’t come to power, they come to conquer, that they walk this planet straight-backed. And if I say that I’m out here fighting lions with a switch, the next thing I’m gonna say is that I’m winning. You see? It’s a different way of being in the world. I’m not a recipient of your charity, you are gifted by my presence in the world. And I just wanted to impart that in my son in that moment when he was so full of rage that I was worried that it was gonna choke the life out of his soul.
[38:01] Michael Bennett: I really don’t think people really understand it like what it feels like to be African-American in America because they don’t really understand. It’s a rich history, but it’s also been plagued, too, with so much hardship. So a lot of time people tell us to get over stuff, but it’s hard to get over something like when you can’t find your last name, like that’s a big issue. Like not being able to trace the origin in the world, that’s to me, a big issue. And just to think about, you know, when I look at something like putting a muzzle on somebody. You look at something like that, it’s just so much stuff has happened over this time. And it’s just constant variables that things that keep perpetuating the hate behind just being the color of your skin or whatever. And I just feel like it’s hard to voice that sometimes without people feeling like, oh, there they go again with that same old story. They’re not taking advantage of the opportunities. It seems like there’s always somewhere you always being suppressed or oppressed in some type of way. I just feel like sometimes when you grow up and you go through all that, it is hard to keep your dignity. And unless you have a parent to surround you that can really put that into you, put that seed into your soul lke James Baldwin said, there’s no way of really defeating it, because every time you turn on the TV, you see people look at you being diminished. And for me, I feel like as a parent, it’s difficult for us sometimes, but at the same time, we continually fight to keep pushing. It is never ending, too, because it’s also your kids, but it is also yourself, too, because you are also dealing with the image of being who you are as an individual, you being a woman of color, me being a man of color. There’s always something that we’re fighting. There’s been times where people have come to our house to fix something and people ask Pele if she’s working there. Like, this is my house. What the hell is wrong with you?
[39:46] Pele Bennett: That happens to me all the time. They’ll say, can I speak to the owner? And I’m like, you’re looking at her. “What? You own this?”
[39:55] Dr. Eddie Glaude: It happened to me today! But, you know, you said something earlier that I just thought about. You know, there they go again. There they go again. Right? You know, it’s interesting that, you know, they can’t believe what we tell them about what has happened to us and what is happening to us. Because to believe us is to confront who they are, honestly. And you see that this is important because the illusion, the illusion of innocence is at the heart of the lie. So America, and I’ve said this before my work, America is like Peter Pan’s Never Never Land.
[40:35] Michael Bennett: Not the one that Michael Jackson had.
[40:36] Dr. Eddie Glaude: It’s similar! But the point is Never Never Land is the place where lost boys don’t have to be responsible for nothing. You can put a bullet in in the general of Iran and then say, don’t, don’t do nothing. I just did a review of this book called Wilmington’s Lie. A massacre in Wilmington, North Carolina in 1898. Where literally white supremacist at gunpoint, took over local government, ran black people out of their homes into the swamp, killed over 60 people, at least that’s what they reported. Just literally with the idea that black people were overrunning government, that they were Negro domination, threatening white supremacy. Right. This is not like it was, you know, in the 1700s. We could talk about Tulsa. We could talk about Elaine, Arkansas. Right. Whenever white America feels as if it’s threatened, we’ve experienced the brunt of their violence. And then when we tell that story. “There they go again. There they go again.” No, no, no, no, no, no. All of this has to do with the need to preserve a kind of innocence so they don’t have to be responsible for the lies and the violence and the death that has been such a crucial part of this country’s history.
[44:01] I don’t want to skip over the part that you’ve got a new book coming out. Beginning Again: James Baldwin’s America and its Urgent Lessons of our Own.
[44:09] Dr. Eddie Glaude: Yeah, that’s my dog. That’s my man. I just love Jimmy Baldwin.
[44:14] Michael Bennett: When you think about James Baldwin, it’s just crazy. Just the power of what he could do with words. You look at Muhammad Ali and see what he could do with his fists. But this man could do that with words. They would not just cut beneath the skin that we could see, it would cut the flesh. What is your book going to be about?
[44:32] So in some ways, what I was trying to do is to figure out — so Jimmy lived long enough to see them kill Martin. He lived long enough to see that the hopes of the civil rights movement were betrayed. And there’s a line that comes out of his last novel, Just Above My Head — and I’m paraphrasing — he says, you know, when the dream was shattered and people scattered, some lost their minds, some died, some went to jail. And he says, you know, responsibility isn’t loss. Responsibility is abdicated. And if one refuses abdication, then one begins again. And so Jimmy is writing in a moment when the country has turned its back on the civil rights movement, the white backlash has happened, and he sees Ronald Reagan on the horizon. He sees, in other words, all the things that will lead up to Trump today. And so I wanted to write about how he responded to that moment of betrayal, because we’re living in a moment of betrayal of our own. And so most folk will go and read Jimmy’s The Fire Next Time. And I’m like, no, no, no, no, go read No Name in the Street, the book he wrote in 1972. And it’s a book that is like, you know, if The Fire Next Time is the prophecy, No Name in the Street is the reckoning. And so I wanted to use that book as a frame for thinking about our current moment. So it’s not a book about Jimmy, it’s a book where I’m thinking with him. And trying to find resources to keep my head up in this dark moment where the country has turned its back on its promise once again.
[46:14] Pele Bennett: I would like to know other sources, you know, that you use personally for hope and optimism in the craziness that’s happening right now.
[46:24] Dr. Eddie Glaude: I think it’s really important to make a distinction between hope and optimism. You know, optimism, I don’t have a lot of that. I’m from Mississippi. You grew up in Houston. You know what that I-10 corridor blues sound is? B.B. King has a line where he says nobody loved me but my mother, but she could be jivin’, too. So it’s a blues-soaked hope. It’s a hope that the boy says and souls of black folk is a hope not hopeless, but hopeful. You know. So where do I find this blues-soaked hope? I find it in us. We’ve seen dark times in this country. I mean, we’ve experienced the country at its lowest points. And what I do know is that my faith in human being’s capacity to respond in the darkest of the hour is the faith that I have. I’m constantly trying to be able to — I’m cultivating my ability to see beyond the ugliness of now, to imagine an otherwise where human beings can be treasured, where everyone can, no matter their zip code, no matter who they love, no matter the color of their skin, will be afforded dignity and standing in a society that values human beings as opposed to money and things.
[47:52] Michael Bennett: So question. You know both Michael Eric Dyson and Cornel West. And you’ve written with both of them. But my question would be: who would be the better rapper?
[48:05] Pele Bennett: I was not expecting this.
[48:06] Michael Bennett: Cornel West would not be on beat, but his shit would be really deep. Michael Eric Dyson would be really good, but his shit would be like, what did you say? That shit did not rhyme.
[48:14] Dr. Eddie Glaude: No, no. Neither one of them need to be rhyming. You need to understand your limitations. It’s like the uncle coming to the cookout in his shorts. You need to put on some long pants. You don’t walk around in shorts.
[48:29] Michael Bennett: Pele got a uncle, he from New Zealand and he’d be wearing some shorts. I’d be like, bro. My daughter’s like, “uncle, why you got gross shorts on?” His shorts be so short. He has a tattoo on his leg he like to show off. He’s fearless. All right, so we got we got like this thing we like to do, just quick questions. Yes or no, you can say why you say yes or why you say no. So the first one is morning sex or night sex?
[49:10] Dr. Eddie Glaude: Morning.
[49:12] Pele Bennett: Start your day off.
[49:14] Michael Bennett: You’re the first man that’s said morning. Most everybody’s been saying both.
[49:21] Dr. Eddie Glaude: I’m a different dude. Start your day off with a smile.
[49:36] Pele Bennett: Let’s see. How about your drinks? You prefer wine or hard liquor?
[49:40] Dr. Eddie Glaude: I’m an Irish whiskey guy.
[49:45] Michael Bennett: Kevin Hart or Richard Pryor?
[49:48] Dr. Eddie Glaude: Richard Pryor.
[49:50] Michael Bennett: Kevin Hart kind of redundant with his stuff. Kind of gets kind of boring instantly.
[49:53] Dr. Eddie Glaude: Richard Pryor is the father.
[49:57] Pele Bennett: How about your vacation. Do you like to relax at the beach or go on city tours?
[50:02] Dr. Eddie Glaude: Relax at the beach with a good novel in the Caribbean.
[50:29] Michael Bennett: Sports team: Mississippi State or Ole Miss?
[50:38] Dr. Eddie Glaude: Mississippi State. You wouldn’t catch me for rebels. No, no, no. Johnny Reb. Oh, hell, no.
[50:48] Pele Bennett: All right. What about some food? Crawfish or a po-boy?
[50:51] Dr. Eddie Glaude: Oh, that’s a hard one. Oh, God. How could you ask me that question? Oh, my God. love sucking heads and eating tails.
[51:07] Pele Bennett: This is a family show.
[51:10] Dr. Eddie Glaude: That’s what we call it. Hey, you from Louisiana.
[51:19] Michael Bennett: R&B or the blues?
[51:22] Dr. Eddie Glaude: Depends on what kind liquor I’m drinking. If I’m listening to the blues, there has to be some, you know, some whiskey. I’ll go with the blues. Bobby Blue Bland, too.
[51:40] Pele Bennett: A great book or a great movie?
[51:42] Dr. Eddie Glaude: Great book. I’m a nerd.
[51:47] Pele Bennett: I always say a great book is also a vacation. Because mentally, you get lost. I love it.
[52:00] Michael Bennett: James Baldwin or Toni Morrison?
[52:05] Dr. Eddie Glaude: Oh. Well, you know, Toni says she found language in Baldwin. He taught her what the English language could do, so I would have to go with the master. I’d have to go with Jimmy. Although I love Toni. That’s like crawfish and a shrimp po-boy,
[52:25] Pele Bennett: I think you’re setting his day up. He’s like, I know what I’m going to do this week.
[52:28] Michael Bennett: First we have sex. Then I’m gonna have some crawfish. Sit on the beach. Read my book. Throw on some Richard Pryor. This is a vacation.
[52:46] Michael Bennett: I want to thank you, I know you are busy. You got a lot going on. I’m always grateful for you. Take the opportunity to bless me and Pele with your voice. It is the voice of the century. You know, being able to articulate the way that you do is like nobody can really commit you any type of way because you got that armor on. That is something I appreciate. I appreciate everything you do.
[53:14] Dr. Eddie Glaude: Man, I appreciate y’all. Thank you so much for the opportunity and continue to model what you model. And you know what you model? You model deep and genuine, abiding love. Thank you so much.
[53:27] Pele Bennett: That’s it. That’s it. That’s the end. You don’t have to listen to Michael anymore. But come back next week for me on another episode of Mouthpeace with Michael and me, Pele Bennett.
[53:36] Please subscribe to us or like us on anything that you’re listening to. Apple, Stitcher, Spotify, whatever you’re listening to get away from your family, whoever you don’t want to be around. And make sure you rate us or give us a comment. Even though we don’t give a fuck about your comments, give us a comment. Mouthpeace is a production of Lemonada Media, which you can find online on all social platforms @LemonadaMedia. You can follow me on social media, @MosesBread72. I love bread, and biblically, I always thought I was Moses.
[54:06] And you can follow me on Instagram at @pelepels. Mouthpeace with Michael and Pele Bennett is executive produced by us, the Bennetts. Our Lemonada Media executive producer is Eli Kramer, and our producer is Genevieve Garrity. Our assistant producer is Claire Jones and our audio is edited by Brian Castillo. Thank you to our ad sales and distribution partners at Westwood One, and to all of our sponsors for making this show possible.