A Pakistani-American Family Is Caught in Some Cultural Cross-Fire


September 9, 2009

For Khulsoom and Salman, hard-working immigrant Muslims from Pakistan, life in the American suburbs in the post- 9/11 era is not working out the way they had planned.

Their oldest son is an unmarried playboy, and their daughter has become a student activist who wears a head scarf as a sign of her newfound religious fervor and is dating a devoted Muslim who happens to be an African-American. And now their younger son, the good, obedient son, comes home on a college break and announces that he is abandoning premed courses to become a history teacher so that he can help correct the misinformation being spread about Islam.

“You will get the blessings of my work,” the younger son tells his parents.

“We have enough blessings,” his mother says. “You can bless us by becoming a surgeon. You like kids? Become a pediatrician. Teach them Islam as you give them their lollipops.”

This family is at the center of “The Domestic Crusaders,” an envelope-pushing play that opens on 9/11 at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe and runs for the next five weekends. When the family reunites for the younger son’s birthday, conflicts erupt over everything from biryani to sex roles to Middle Eastern politics to airport security checks to racism.

The play was written by Wajahat Ali, a young Pakistani-American who grew up in Fremont, Calif. He started writing it in the weeks after the terrorist attacks as a paper for a college class taught by the poet and playwright Ishmael Reed.

The actors, all South Asians, are playing roles that echo their own lives. Some will be performing while they are fasting for Ramadan.

Very few dramas about the contemporary Muslim experience in America have made it to the stage. Muslims from Pakistan, India and Bangladesh have been slow to embrace writing and acting, which was not considered a viable profession by the older immigrant generation. Mr. Ali and the actors in “The Domestic Crusaders” are among a younger group interested in mining their experiences for theater. These are dramas not about terrorism or war, but about the cultural cacophony that ensues when you drop three generations of a Pakistani family into Silicon Valley.

“In the older generation there’s a hesitancy to support artistic endeavors,” Mr. Ali said. “They respect the holy trinity of doctor, engineer and dubious businessman who somehow makes a lot of money. And now finally, lawyers are acceptable, but only if the lawyer has a lot of money.”

He said that his “aunties,” the community’s doting busybodies, were not interested in finding a match for him even after his play was staged at the Berkeley Repertory Theater in 2005 and won some acclaim. “I’m the only playwright in history who got no play for writing a play,” he said.

But when he graduated from law school in 2007, he said, “my mom got all these calls from the aunties saying, ‘So, have you found anyone for Wajahat yet?’ ”

The play was born of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in 2001. Mr. Ali, then a 21-year-old undergraduate at the University of California, Berkeley, stopped going to classes and spent the next three weeks organizing rallies and forums with friends to respond to what they saw as a growing tide of vitriol about Islam.

When Mr. Ali finally showed up for his English class, his professor, Mr. Reed, pulled him aside. Mr. Ali thought for sure that he had failed the class. But Mr. Reed told him that if he wanted to pass he had to write a 20-page play.

“I said, “Do a family drama,’ ” Mr. Reed recalled in an interview. “That’s how immigrant playwrights have always dealt with these issues. I told him, read Eugene O’Neill’s ‘Long Day’s Journey Into Night,’ and Arthur Miller’s ‘Death of a Salesman,’ about a Jewish-American family. You write about a Muslim-American family.”

It took Mr. Ali more than two years to finish “The Domestic Crusaders,” with Mr. Reed prodding him along. Mr. Reed proposed that his wife, Carla Blank, a choreographer and director, become the director and dramaturge. It played in Berkeley and San Jose, to ethnically and religiously mixed crowds. Now it will be staged in New York, a Muslim-American play with a South Asian cast, a Jewish American director (Ms. Blank) and two African-American producers (Mr. Reed and Rome Neal).

“Take away the religion, take away the Islam, take away the politics, the Arabic and the Urdish,” said Mr. Ali, referring to the Urdu/English hybrid words that pepper the play. “What remains are universal themes like sibling rivalry, expectations of parents, conflict between the generations.”

Getting the production to New York has been a communal effort, with Muslims across the country pitching in. Mr. Ali made appeals for contributions at small gatherings in six cities in the last year, scraping together $31,000. The actors are essentially volunteers, receiving only $300 each for the entire run. Mr. Ali’s mother consults on costumes.

After a rehearsal last week, on an upper floor of the Nuyorican, the actors, still in character, jumped into a debate about whether the mother in the play would expect the daughter, who is in law school, to stop working when she had children. Some of the men in the cast insisted that Pakistani mothers are tradition-bound, but the actresses playing the mother and the daughter, Nidhi Singh and Monisha Shiva, said they thought it was more complex.

“I sacrificed my master’s degree for my children,” Ms. Singh said of her character, the mother, “so of course I am proud that my daughter is going to be a lawyer. I just want her to learn how to cook, but it doesn’t mean I want her to stay home.”

Adeel Ahmed, 21, is cast as the younger son, also 21. Like his character, Mr. Ahmed disappointed his parents when he abandoned premed in college. He wanted to study acting and, as a backup, sports management. When he told his parents, his mother took off her slipper and slapped him three times with it.

Now she has begun to accept his choice, Mr. Ahmed said, and is even helping make props for the play. Last week she sent over to the theater a toy box she had made from a cardboard carton and pillow covers cut from a shimmery golden quilt.

Obama Scolds Black Fathers, Gets Bounce in Polls


It’s obvious by now that Barack Obama is treating black Americans like one treats a demented uncle, brought out from his room to be ridiculed and scolded before company from time to time, the old Clinton Sistah Souljah strategy borrowed from Clinton’s first presidential campaign when he traveled the country criticizing the personal morality of blacks and wooing white voters by objecting to what he considered anti -white lyrics sung by rapper Sistah Souljah. Continue reading



Wajahat Ali



ALI: Geradline Ferraro just resigned from the Clinton campaign. She’s been passionate and vocal in her belief that Obama has played the “Race card,” and his “Race” is the main factor for his success. Comment?

REED: As I told Jay Marvin,while being interviewed by Air America yesterday morning, Geraldine Ferraro said that if Obama were a black woman – echoing Gloria Steinem,who began this line of thought, or a White man he would not have advanced as far as he has. My answer is that if Ferraro and her husband were black, they might be in jail. Her husband lied about his association with the Gambino crime family, and Mrs.Ferraro has also been accuse of involvement in shady dealings over the years.

“Black men being ‘lucky’ as she said,is one of the most ancient of stereotypes. Surfaces from time to time in vapid movies like ‘The Green Mile.’ Rub on a black man and you get lucky in love. Black men have been viewed as fetishes. Southerners sent their slaves to gold mine for them in California because they were considered lucky. Finally, after all the smears aimed at Italian- Americans, ‘white’ Mrs. Ferraro should be the last one to push mean spirited stereotypes against Blacks.

ALI: There’s this book a lot of my White, progressive friends like talking about. The Black slaves owners –

REED: Oh, yeah. They love that. It’s Ernest Jones’s book. It’s very well written. He’s got a Black man who buys his family from a slave master. Then, his son chooses the slave master as a mentor. This is the image that is popular. Not Whites as amphetamine addicts or living in trailer cities, which are hidden in states like Nevada ,Texas and Alaska, but as mentors, missionaries, people helping Blacks improve their grade scores in a country where even if Blacks weren’t present would be backward, academically.

Sure, they’re re-writing the plantation history, they’re re-writing the Civil War to glorify losers like Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis. Their defenders argue that they fought for states’ rights not slavery, but after the war, deprived of their human assets, both men had to live in relative poverty. Lee was saved by his fans appointing him to the presidency of a university. Jefferson Davis became an insurance salesman. Now, they’re re-writing the slave trade. So, now, the version is that Blacks hi-jacked the slave ships that [were] stranded off the Coast of Africa, helplessly, and demanded by gunpoint to be brought here, because they heard the slave masters were lonely. Not only did Blacks sell, themselves into slavery, according to this revision, but were the slave masters who greeted the ships when they arrived. But the few Black slave owners, mostly those who had “bought” members of their family, didn’t commit the kind of atrocities committed by White slave owners.


Thirty five thousand males were used in medical experiments and cruel and painful gynecological experiments were performed on slave women to make them more satisfying sexual partners for their masters. I doubt whether any of these Black slave masters sold their children for a profit, which was the practice of White masters who sired children by Black women, such children “swarmed” The Virginia countryside according to Joel Williamson in his book, “New People.” It’s all there in “Medical Apartheid” by Harriet Washington, which just won the National Critics Circle Award – I was shocked! An examination of those corpses found in New York City, which was a big slave port, in the African burial ground, shows that the slaves were treated like pack animals.

Your White progressive friends want to buy guilt free post race products. They want to avoid intellectual challenge. And, so, they like “blame the victim” books. But what do they have to be guilty about? Most of their relatives came here after Emancipation and didn’t participate in the “pernicious institution.” As Romain Gary said, they’d rather identify with the Scarlet O’Hara’s wanabee aristocracy than with their first generation immigrant forbearers about whom they are ashamed. One study holds that of all of the racial groups, Whites are those who have the least information about their ancestors.


ALI: Is this a means to not confront the horrors of one’s own history?

REED: Well, they’ve got people from other groups in on it now also. There’s always been Dinesh D’Souza who grew up in India, where there’s a rampant problem about child sexual slavery. He and William Simon jumped on the late President James O. Freedman, when he accused the far right campus Dartmouth Review and its brown shirted punks who were caught in an evil stunt. The Review carried the passage from Hitler’s “Mein Kampf,” Hitler’s political autobiography, on its masthead on the first day of Yom Kippur, the most solemn Jewish holy day. The passage read in part, “By warding off the Jews, I am fighting for the Lord’s work.”


The Anti-Defamation league, [after] a three-month investigation, concluded that this “was unquestionably an anti-Semitic act.” Dinesh D’Souza charged President James O. Freedman of seizing on the incident to try to destroy the paper. He called it “a criminal act of sabotage.” Turns out that President Freedman was right and that it was an inside job performed by one of the right wing punk editors. Dinesh also outed gays at Dartmouth. Every time somebody pisses in the hallway of the projects, D’ Souza earns a dollar. AOL has given D’Souza a blog where he can rant against Blacks every day. AOL should provide someone like George Curry or Dick Gregory or Herb Boyd with equal space: tough minded black intellectuals. Not these namby pamby mind doubles. I’m considering canceling my AOL account as a protest.

ALI: D’souza also never tackles the caste system.


REED: Yeah. You’re not going to get him to talk about that. And you’re not going to get him to talk about his role in defaming the former president of Dartmouth.

ALI: Let’s talk about the media. Here are some popular examples of media content and personalities that have gone mainstream and are successful: Oprah. Will Smith. Jamie Foxx. Tyra Bank. Tyler Perry. The Wire. Barbershop. American Gangster. So, why complain now? You guys have made it.


REED: The Wire – you know, [ David Simon and I] have a running controversy for years. It all stems from a telephone call I made to KPFA [Pacifica radio] when he was a guest there in the 90s. [Chris Welche’s show]. He was going around the country with a Black kid from the Ghetto to promote something called The Corner – it was all about Blacks as degenerates selling drugs, etc.

ALI: Was that HBO?

REED: Yes. HBO does all this kind of stuff. I called in and told Simon, “You’re using this kid.” Later I said it [was] like Buffalo Bill going around the country exhibiting Indians. He got really pissed off and went to the New York Times, where he has a supporter there named Virginia Heffernan, another Times feminist who, when it comes to Black Urban Fiction, can’t tell the difference between the real and the fake; she’s his supporter. She said that George Pelecanos, David Simon, and Richard Price are the “Lords of Urban Fiction,” when the Black Holloway authors like Iceberg Slim can write circles around these guys when it comes to Urban fiction.


Simon, Price and Pelecanos’ Black characters speak like the cartoon crows in those old racist cartoons [“Heckle and Jeckle.”] Henry Louis Gates knows this about “The Wire,” yet his right wing blog, The Root, carries an ad for “The Wire” today and a glowing article about this piece of crap. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is an intellectual entrepreneur all right. He condemns my work as misogynist yet supports Simon’s Neo-Nazi portrait of Black people. “The Wire” and novels by Price, Pelecanos, should be submitted to the Jim Crow museum at Ferris State University – this is the website: www.ferris.edu/jimcrow/, where they can have a honored place alongside of some of Robert Crumb’s Nazi cartoons.


When I was researching my novel Reckless Eyeballing, I attended a lecture sponsored by the San Francisco Holocaust Museum, March 26,1984. The program said that the stereotypes about Jewish men in the Nazi media was similar to that about Black men in the United States. I thought, what on earth are they talking about? And then I went out and examined some of this junk, especially the cartoons in the newspaper

Der Sturmer – see Julius Streicher Nazi Editor of the Notorious Anti-Semite Newspaper Der Sturmer by Randall l. Bytwerk. I was shocked. Jewish men were depicted as sexual predators, raping Aryan women. They were exhibited as flashers. Both Bellow and Phillip Roth’s books include Black flashers. Jewish men especially those immigrants from Russia were depicted as criminals. Jewish children were seen as disruptive, a threat to German school children and so on. If any one looks at this stuff for example, you’ll find a perfect match for the way that David Mamet, David Simon, George Pelecanos, Stephen Spielberg and Richard Price portray Blacks. They are very critical in their projects about the way Black men treat women, yet none of them has produced a project critical of the way that men of their background treat women.


ALI: Ok, so you’ve mentioned Simon, Pelecanos and Price for fake “Urban fiction.” Spielberg, I’m assuming is for the “The Color Purple” and perhaps “Amistad.” But why Mamet?

Mamet is another hypocrite. His idea of Black man is a pimp who abuses women [Edmond,2005], yet his play Oleanna (1994) ends with a White professor slapping an uppity feminist, at least the version I saw at San Francisco’s ACT. Of course, there’s an old tradition of this. Joel Chandler Harris, who created a multi billion dollar industry, everything from his books, to Disney’s “Song of the South” based upon the Uncle Remus stories. He got his start by transcribing the stories of slave Informants. I’m sure that none them got a dime. Richard Price, who has made a fortune writing fake ghetto books, says he takes a cab into the ghetto, transcribes Black speech for a brief time and returns home. His fake ghetto books have bought him a townhouse in Gramercy Park and home on Staten Island while P. Lewis, author of Nate, one of the best African American writers since Richard Wright, had to self publish his book and sell his books in subways.

Price got a million dollar advance on one fake film book based on a paragraph outline and is able to seduce gullible White reviewers who know less about ghetto life than he. The New York Times has devoted more space to Price’s tourist, ghetto writing than to any Black writer in history. Even Morrison. I’m sure that his ghetto sources like Chandler’s slave informants didn’t get a dime either. Why are they so hard on Margaret Seltzer for her fake ghetto book for which she received a one hundred thousand dollar advance and yet have Virginia Heffernan and Michiko praise Richard Price for his fake ghetto books?

Virginia Heffernan

Constance L. Rice, co-director of the Los Angeles of the Advancement Project, told the Times that Seltzer might have been influenced by David Simon’s fake ghetto series, “The Wire.” It figures. Isn’t this sexism? Isn’t this a double standard? They’re hard on this young woman for her fake ghetto book, yet praise these White guys for theirs. So there’s a big market in downing Black men.

In 1899, Joel Chandler Harris even took on a persona of a fictional, Black woman, Aunt Minervy Ann, to scold Black men, a genre that’s been recycled for money in recent times. Phillip Roth uses his Black women characters to make anti intellectual remarks about Black history month, begun by a man who reached intellectual heights that Roth will never attain. [Reeds reads the following]

“Carter Godwin Woodson began his education at the age of 20. Finished high school in two years. He graduated from Berea College in 1903, a year before Kentucky passed a law prohibiting interracial education. He taught at Frederick Douglass High School in West Virginia. He taught in the Philippines from 1903 to 1907. He received a master’s degree in European History. He submitted a thesis on French diplomatic policy toward Germany in the 18th Century. He studied at Harvard University with Edward Channing, Albert Bushnell Hart, and Frederick Jackson Turner. In 1912,Woodson earned his PhD in history, completing a dissertation on the events leading to the creation of the state of West Virginia after the Civil War broke out. After teaching at Howard University and West Virginia Collegiate Institute, in 1922 he returned to Washington to direct the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History full time. In this role, he founded the Journal of Negro History. In 1926 he launched the annual celebration of Negro History Week.”

ALI: What’s your beef with Phillip Roth? The establishment and critics love him, and he is quite successful and thoroughly celebrated.

REED: Roth is a petty bigot and his ignorant remarks about black culture expose him as a buffoon to scholars the world over.] Feminists swoon all over him. When Esquire asked him what feminists would say about one of his books, he answered, “Fuck the feminists.” His wife Clarie Bloom said that he has an “irrepressible rage toward women.” I guess when it comes to this privileged White racist feminist movement they respect someone who treats them rough: John Wayne. Frank Sinatra. Phillip Roth.

Like the feminists at NPR who are so hard on the brothers. When Frank Sinatra died they were crying on the air. According to his biographer, the fearless Kitty Kelly, he once shoved a woman through a plate glass window.

ALI: It’s amazing how all the best selling Urban Ghetto writers – they’re all White.


REED: Right. “The Lords of Urban Fiction.” What I can’t understand why Blacks can’t achieve royal status when it comes to forms that they have largely created? I mean there’s a White King of Rock n’ Roll, there’s a White King of Jazz, how come we can never achieve titles of royalty in these fields we are supposed to prevail in? They held a so called Rock and Roll Hall of Fame the other night, where White judges credit people who resemble them with the invention of Rock and Roll. I didn’t even see blacks in the audience. There would be no Rock and Roll without Ike Turner, James Brown, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Allen Toussaint,etc. Fake ghetto books and fake ghetto music. Elvis Presley, whom they idol, is merely a karaoke makeover of James Brown and Chuck Berry. Anyway, David Simon goes to the Jewish Weekly and said he’s made all this money, but he can’t enjoy it because of criticism by people like Ishmael Reed. He told Virginia Heffernan, I think that’s who it was, she said he said I was against him because he was a White man writing about Black people.


We’ve given awards to White writers over the years, many years, who’ve written about Black life .

ALI: White writers writing about the Black experience is OK then? So, that wasn’t the problem?

REED: Of course not! He’s the one who is against White writers writing about the ghetto. Amy Alexander, who worked with Simon at The Baltimore Sun said that he got all pushed out because another White reporter was assigned to cover the ghetto. He feels it’s sort of like his gold mine where he has staked a claim and that all ghetto stories and humans are his property.

I’m not against White writers writing about Blacks as long as they are as objective as say James McPherson writing about an Irish American janitor in his brilliant short story “Gold Coast.” I use non-fiction work written by Whites in my research. It’s indispensable. That wasn’t the problem. I said that “The Wire” was a cliché! It’s like my writing a series about Jewish life and casting all of the characters as inside traders.

They never printed this discussion in the NYT, so I wrote a response to The Jewish Weekly where Simon said that he couldn’t enjoy the loot he’s made for showing Black as depraved individuals because of criticism by people like Ishmael Reed. To their credit, The Jewish Weekly published it. So I said he ought to do something new like write a new series about the family of a suburban, illegal arms dealer who’s bringing guns into my neighborhood.

So, the Times had a story about Simon’s ghetto informants, who, like Chandler’s slaves, provided Simon with his material, but, who, I doubt, will get a share of his royalties which must amount to millions. One was a recovering heroin addict and the other did some wretched thing like armed robbery. Their problems made the front page of the NY Times(Aug.9,2007), of course, in what must have been one of the longest stories in the Times history! Then, they made the society page later [Aug.19, 2007] because they got married and Simon was their best man.

How does the Times treat White pathology? They reported an epidemic of heroin addiction in the Philadelphia suburbs [March, 20,1995], which included emergency admissions and overdoses; these White people in the suburbs were doing heroin like it was going out of style. I counted the words: the article consisted of 200 words. “Heroin Epidemic” in the back section. Out here in California, the typical drug addict is a housewife or suburban White woman.” [Reed reads a newspaper]

Few experts would have suspected that the biggest contributors to California’s drug abuse, death and injury toll are educated, middle-aged women living in the Central Valley and rural areas, while the fastest-declining, lowest-risk populations are urban black and Latino teenagers. Yet the index found exactly that. These are the sorts of trends we need to understand if we are to design effective policies,” wrote Mike Males on Jan.3, 2007 in The New York Times.

Think that HBO will do a series about this? Like a “White Wire?” Richard Price, who creates projects which cast blacks as junkies and dealers is a former cocaine addict himself. They could hire him to write it. Write about something he knows about.

ALI: I’ve read White addicts are unfortunately succumbing to Meth and prescription pills at extraordinary rates.


REED: That’s right. Another California study counted 30,000 substance abusers who are pregnant are White woman. So, The Wire paints the picture of drug addiction, drug dealing, and drug abuse as being a specifically a Black issue.

Now, I hate to say this, but I know somebody has got to say it and somebody has got to do it. I confronted Richard Price about his role in The Wire on a panel held at Ax En Provence, and his friend, I won’t mention his name – a very famous writer – and members of this New York delegation, Price’s buddies, jumped on me for pointing this out. My friend, whom I have known since the 70s, said that I was bringing up a local issue before international audience. The International Herald Tribune, which was on sale at the conference, had a full-page display ad for “The Wire.” This hateful material travels the globe. A few years ago, CNN, America’s Der Sturmer, ran a story about Black parents being so low down that they abandoned their children and the children had to eat rats. I was at a University in Wisconsin at the time and the mother of a student from South Africa called to see whether the story was true. She had seen it all the way over there. The story was untrue. The children lied. CNN never corrected the story.

Now at this French conference, I was thought of as an angry Black nationalist, when my questions to Price were polite. When Price began his career, writing terrific books like “The Wanderers,” I was one of his supporters and he has acknowledged this. But some where along the way he decided to go for the money. I said to Price why are you dealing with these people: Pelecanos and Simon? You’re a great writer. Why are you hanging out with George Pelecanos? You read Pelecanos’ Soul Circus: it’s got Black people talking like what you hear on Klan website: Nigger Watch. I heard Pelecanos on a radio show out here and he went into all of these stereotypes about Black men that have been around for a few hundred years. So his writing about Black life is a real fox guarding the chicken coop situation.

ALI: And Pelecanos is a White guy?

REED: Yes. I recorded a episode of “The Wire,” all about Black kids selling drugs Here’s the typical line that Simon puts into the mouths of his Black characters: “Hey, I’m gonna put some whup ass on you!”

So, I told Price’s defender, famous novelist, why don’t’ you look at the first episode [of The Wire] – I have a recording. He came back and said, “Yes, these are White guys trying to be White Negroes who are putting Amos and Andy lines in the mouths of Black people.” He said that Price had to do it because he’s in debt. Here is Price helping Simon to diss Black people, while he has admitted to cocaine addiction himself. He could have been a great novelist. He went to Hollywood instead.


ALI: You know, you’ll get a lot of heat for this, right?

REED: Well, you know, this is something that should be brought up: why are they promoting the same images of us that were promoted against minorities in Nazi Germany and set them up for the camps?

ALI: You think there’s no self-reflection there?

REED: They don’t know their history. They’re a generation that doesn’t know their own history. I’m sure that a previous generation of Jews who published radical newspapers and journals would be critical of Simon’s projects. These were left wingers who suffered casualties in some of bloodiest strikes in American history. They were red baited Black balled and lost their jobs. They helped to create a safety net that helped millions. They supported the drive for the emancipation of Black people. They were lawyers who went South risking their lives to defend Blacks who were victims of Jim Crow justice. They were among the first to publish great Black writers. They were writers who were Black balled in Hollywood. The Rosenbergs were executed by the government. This generation of Jews would be ashamed of people like Simon and Price. They would turn over in their graves and be disgusted at these people who are cheapening people who can’t fight back, who can’t tell their story, for money.


ALI: What are some of the other stereotypes of Jewish men in the Nazi press?

REED: It was all about Jewish men [accosting German women]: that was the favorite theme of the Nazi newspaper. That the only reason Jewish guys went to the medical profession was so they could be gynecologists to examine German women. Der Sturmer printed cartoons of Jewish men lunging at half naked German women while grinning, lecherously.


ALI: What about Gates charge that Blacks are the last of the anti Semites?

REED: They have a funny way of showing it. When Joesph Lieberman ran for president, he was the first choice among African American voters, and when Sharpton entered the race, Lieberman was the second choice So, a comet must’ve passed the Earth and all the Blacks suddenly changed their minds! The Times promised to follow Gate’s op-ed with one about the racist attitudes of some Jews against Black people; it never appeared. If one ever appeared I’d suggest that it challenge some scriptwriters, novelists, producers and directors who are peddling Der Sturmer type portraits of Black people. I walked out on American Gangster this evil piece of dreck. Defenders of this junk say that these movies give Black actors jobs. So did “Birth of a Nation.”

ALI: You couldn’t take it?


REED: First movie I ever walked out in my life. Remember, when they did this Fallujah type attack on the projects? When, they ran in there and blew all these Black people away in the projects? Like Fallujah or something. And, they always get a Black guy on the side of the White invaders so the scene wouldn’t appear to be so racist. This movie like “The Color Purple” and “What’s Love Got To Do With It,” were written directed and produced by White men.

ALI: However, to be fair, I read both Alice Walker and Tina Turner protested certain depictions in those movies.

REED: Both Alice Walker and Tina Turner objected to the way the Black guy in Purple and the way Ike Turner were portrayed. Tina Turner said that the film was unfair to Ike. The Times called Turner an Ogre in their obituary of him and Yahoo News said that his name was synonymous with domestic violence, yet Paul McCartney’s ex says that he beat her even when she was pregnant. Turner is condemned. McCartney gets a knighthood and Starbucks.

Think that White feminists in New York will picket Starbucks like they wrote letters objecting to a dying Ike Turner’s receiving an award? I doubt it. As for “American Gangsters” about the life of a man, a despicable drug dealer, who conned Denzil Washington into believing that he was close to Bumpy Johnson, the Harlem gangster, Bumpy’s widow recently published a book saying that this character made it up and Bumpy thought of him as a jerk. The guy who wrote the script also wrote “Schindler’s List.” Think that he would [know] better than to participate in such a vile product. The producer, Ridley Scott, I think also was involved with Training Day another evil piece with which Washington cooperated.

ALI: We’ve talked about White writers speaking for Black culture. The movie Crash, which you and I have discussed in private, won Best Picture as you know. They said this movie shows how “we have moved and can move beyond race.” When I saw that movie, I thought to myself, “I’ve never met a Persian guy like this crazy, gun wielding Persian in this movie. I’ve never met Black people who talk like this in real life.”


REED: Yeah, well, I mean they have some kind of fixed picture assigned in their mind about whom we all are, where we’re like cartoonish figures – they can label us that way. I objected to Crash – I thought it was terrible. I think Black intellectuals see too deeply. That’s the problem. It’s a cause of anxiety, because we see things differently.

My generation of writers has been prone to premature illness and death, especially the women. When Black male writers meet it’s like a session of the American Diabetic Association. Given all of the anti-Muslim propaganda that’s being disseminated by the American Nazi media, you have to be careful. It can stress you out.

As a pioneer you might feel alone. But already your example has inspired a new generation of Pakistani American writers so you won’t feel isolated. And your artistic career is supported by your parents, which is rare.

ALI: Well, we’re writers. We do what we do, and we just try our best.

REED: Your play “Domestic Crusaders” [www.domesticcrusaders.com] should be ranked with family dramas written by Tennessee Williams and Eugene O’Neil, but given the present anti Muslim hysteria aided and abetted by the Clintons, there are obstacles between you and Broadway.

You just have to be patient, because Americans are fickle. And what constitutes the enemy is always changing. Believe it or not, at one time Blacks were the favored model minority over Asian Americans. You’ll be joined by some who feel the way you do. Frank Chin, the yellow Malcolm X, never got this support. He calls Chinese Americans the Uncle Toms of American ethnic groups. He’s paid for his defiance of assimilation and the “go along to get along” policy of some ethnic groups with his health.

My problems with mostly White feminists are minor in comparison to his. They tried to destroy Frank in a controversy over a film that was written by a White man, who bashes Chinese American males, the same White script writer who wrote the screenplay for a Black male bashing movie.

I can’t understand why minority feminists who produce these products don’t hire feminist writers, directors and producers. This John Wayne syndrome is something that should be looked into.

I reached the age of 70, because I have cultivated an association of multicultural intellectuals who are informed and alert to whatever “tricknology” that’s laid on us by the powers that be. These include White ethnic intellectuals- people who know their roots- as well as Native American, Asian American, Hispanic and Black intellectuals. These are thirty, forty-year associations with some of the best minds around. Minds that are ignored by the media. And so, while the Black Middle class fails to see the insidious propaganda that’s coming down – they give films like Crash awards – my friends and I are so in tune that we might call each other and comment on an event at the same time. Cross wires. When this most recent fake book came out where the writer said she was half Indian, my friend Gerald Vizenor, a Native American short story writer novelist and critic, said that he recognized the fraud right away.

Like on Oscar night, which has become a White supremacist pageant, and where Tina Brown’s “Invisible” White women soak up the 3 or so hours, and where they give awards to films like Crash or Monster’s Ball or Training Day – all films that denigrate Blacks, my phone is ringing off the hook from my friends who see this thing the same way as I.


In the Crash, you’ve got a pathological cop who at the end justifies police brutality. He tells the naïve, young cop that you’re going to end up the same as him. He’s the most sympathetic character in the movie. So, the naïve cop ends up murdering this Black kid and tries to cover up the evidence. It sort of justifies police brutality and the planting of evidence which is what happened in the O.J. case. You had that psychotic cop [played by Matt Dillon] molesting this Black woman – you know, fondling her. The feminists should’ve been outraged by this movie, but they don’t care about Brown women. They don’t give a damn about them. I read these articles by some Black and Brown feminists pleading, just begging (in whining, begging voice), “Oh, please don’t exclude us, oh White women feminists from your movement.” Some years ago, White and Black feminists clashed so at a convention in Akron Ohio that the Governor’s wife had to intervene.

ALI: You have 35 years of academia experience at U.C. Berkeley, which for better or worse, is seen as a bastion of radicalism, progressive thought, and flaming liberals. Is it truly a P.C.U? Is it a politically correct university bursting with progressive thought? What’s the reality of academia regarding the professors and students it produces in terms of “enlightened” thought?

REED: I think if you look at the curriculum its emphasis is on something American intellectuals call “Western Civilization.” Which is a term I never hear when I go to Europe. I’ve visited Heidelberg, one of the oldest universities in Europe, and they teach African American literature. You go to the University of Bologna and they teach American films. I attended a conference in Paris in the 1990s at the Sorbonne where the late scholar Michel Fabre introduced African American literature. Scholars fromall over the world attended such is the interest in African American literature outside of the United States. Unlike the reviewers at the daily Times, these scholars know the difference between the real and the fake.

I ‘ve studied Japanese and visited Japan several times. In 2004, I traveled with a group of musicians called Conjure, a group that’s been performing my songs and poetry [Conjure Cds are available at Amazon.com.] and premiered a song that I wrote in Japanese “Azabu Kissaten De,” [at the Blue Note in Tokyo.] Before that I visited an academic group in Kyoto, which is devoted to African American literature. When you travel abroad you come to the conclusion that American education’s aim is to keep citizens ignorant about the world; it’s based upon a White settler fantasy that superficial knowledge of the traditions of a few European countries- for them, the mainland- makes you smart, a theory that even the European intellectuals don’t share. So am I opposed to something these people refer to as “Western Culture?

Not hardly. The Jazz Diva, Cassandra Wilson, just recorded my song, “The Prophet of Doom” about the Greek myth of Cassandra. Tom Hull of the Village Voice voted the CD “ Sacred Ground,” produced by Justin Time records and featuring David Murray’s Black Saint Quartet, as one of the top Jazz CDs of 2007. For me Greek myths are among many cultural resources that I draw upon.

For my anthology of short fiction, Pow Wow, out later this year from De Capo, I examined the tradition of magic realism in the Southwest United States. New York critics didn’t have to go across the border to find magic realism. I’m waiting for some scholar to tell me why Chango, a Yoruba God, shows up in Mexican American literature. Explain that to me. Stop playing it safe with yet another paper about Joyce, Faulkner, and the one or two token blacks in the canon. Explain west African Yoruba figures appearing in Southwest, Carribean and South American literature. And if they’re going to do another paper on Zora Neal Hurston, do Tell My Horse, a book that they won’t touch with a ten foot pole.

In terms of students, I’ve been very pleased with some of the students. I think 98% of my students were White for some reason. Our class introduced them to a different perspective of American writing culture, American history and the arts. I think that’s been very beneficial. Some of my students said the classes they took from me were their best experience in college. It’s because it opened them up to a global experience instead of just a restricted view where if you are acquainted with twenty or so books by White males you have depth. Not that I excluded works by White men. But I used works by authors of other backgrounds as well. Some of my former students have become well known novelists, poets, editors, journalists, members of the foreign service who are experts on the local cultures and whose work is hampered by these dumb campaign contributors who get ambassadorships.

ALI: I recall during our class back in the day, none of them knew what the Crusades were.

REED: Well, in one of my last semesters, the only student who could identify John The Baptist was a Chinese student. When I taught a class in 1974, I did a lecture on the Japanese incarceration and other books having to do with an American history that was hidden from students in grade and high school. And a lot of my White students at that time dropped out –a lot of them dropped out, because they had never heard of the Japanese incarceration or some of the other works. They were hurt. I was among the first to teach John Okada’s “No No Boy,” and Rudy Anaya’s “Bless Me Ultima,” in an American classroom. What we did was to open up these hidden corners of American history and culture. Like, you’ve done this – writing is the only instrument we have to compete with this multi-billion dollar propaganda aimed at your groups, aimed at us. It’s the only way we can talk back. That’s why I say, “Writing is Fighting.”

ALI: Why do we always keep hearing about the Western Canon? Harold Bloom always talks about it, for example, and he even mentions one of your books as one of the top 500 books in the Canon. Why is the Canon so resistant, according to us ethnic writers – and some disagree with us on this point – to acknowledge multicultural authors?

REED: They’ve always been afraid of an uprising from below. That’s deep in the American psyche. In the 19th century, it was the Native Americans: they were going to take over. Then, it was Blacks for a while. The groups that threaten them change and usually vary. There’s this book out now about how they use “fear” to win support, and it’s usually about protecting White women. That’s why the Clinton ad was so successful.

Though the commentators, who are unfamiliar with American history saw the ad as clever, this kind a political attack has been used for over one hundred years. Ex confederate agitators used the oldest of dirty tricks suggesting that if you have Black men enfranchised, no White woman would be safe. It was the theme of D.W.Griffth’s “Birth of a Nation.”

Roger Ailes dug this thing up from the old confederate cemetery of political campaigns and used it against Dukakis. And so there’s a link between Mrs. Clinton’s use of the image of the vulnerable White woman to win votes and the campaigns waged by ex confederate officers. You examine that ad. First we see a White girl. This scene is lit up like the manger scene in the Christmas pageant. Then we get darker children whose are cast in shadows. This was Mrs. Clinton’s kitchen sink second Willie Horton moment but instead of Black men who are the threat, it was dark Islamofacists and people with middle names like Hussein.

Of course many White women voters in Texas and Ohio, who want to be liberated but at the same time protected, fell for it. They always do. Her thing about Obama and Islam which she tried to connect. Is she going to be like Isabella if she takes office, a real possibility since she and her husband are using thuggish tactics against Obama like the gangsters they are. Is she like Isabella going to expel all of the Muslims from the country? Susan Faludi in her excellent book The Terror Dream: Fear and Fantasy in Post-9/11 America claims that some frontier White women were less than deferential toward men. That they were not fragile beings having to be constantly protected from dark men. She mentions the case of Rebecca Bryan Boone, who was the “primary supporter” of the Daniel Boone family. “ She was a skilled markswoman-she was said to have once shot seven deer in a row while perched on a tree-and fended for herself and her family while her husband was out on his extensive hunting expeditions, which, fabled as they became, yielded little income.” It was male writers like John Filson, who demoted women like Rebbeca Boone to “dependent” helpmates, according to Faludi.

ALI: White men protecting White women from dark men?

REED: Yeah. I mean read the American Nazi Bible, The Turner Diaries: the one that inspired McVeigh to bomb the Federal building. They said they need their guns because there will be an uprising where Black men will take their women, and the Jewish men will pimp them. That’s as honest as you can get. These guys put it right out there! Ma Clinton is subtler.

ALI: You think this plays out within academia?

REED: Oh, absolutely. I think the fear of the uprising from the bottom. But, I think they might be trying to accommodate that. When I think about Obama, I think about the Roman Empire, how the Romans, when the empire was on the decline, chose some of the assimilated bright ones from amongst the barbarians to help save it. People who had been formerly cast as barbarians: Germans.

So, there might be an accommodation. They might want to enlist the bright ones from among what they consider to be the American barbarian population- people like Gates and Obama to save the empire. But the racist attitudes of some elements in the White working class, and these White trash gangsters Ma and Pa Clinton are getting in the way. Because they can’t fight ‘em all. They can’t fight all Blacks in this country, they can’t fight Mexican Americans – they’re more worried about them then they are worried about us because their birth rates are going through the roof and about to overtake both the Black and White populations. They can’t fight what they call Islamo-fascists. So, there has to be an accommodation, some kind of deal made. Obama is the ticket, but these ignorant fools led by people like Rush Limbaugh can’t see a good thing when it’s right there in front of their eyes.

If they want to keep up this fantasy of a triumphant European civilization going they might elect him president. Of course, when you go to Europe and travel – I’ve been there many times – it’s more complex than that. I have my students write a poem about a myth that is neither Roman nor Greek. There are a lot of European cultures they know nothing about: Finland, Iceland, Northern Europe and Eastern Europe and you get different myths and oral traditions. I was in Hungary a few years ago and visited the parliament.

They had a picture of Hungary’s founder. He was dressed like Bin Laden. The Hungarians like many so called Europeans entered Europe from Asia. In fact, it would be accurate to call Europe, West Asia.

They recently tried to construct a European museum that would have a central myth. And they couldn’t agree on Ulysses. The Greeks, I mean, didn’t consider themselves part of Europe, they consider Europeans barbarians. You go to Luxor, Egypt, where the Greeks were, and you see obviously there was some race mixing. They were closer to Africa than to Europe.

ALI: Last question: You’ve been writing now nearly 50 years. You look back on your body of work. You must think to yourself, “I came out of the era of the ‘60’s, where we wanted progress. Trying to push things forward.” So, you look back on it and ask, “Did anything I do with my work – did it push things forward?” Can you look back and say, concretely, “This! This piece – this made a difference?”

REED: Some people say I’ve influenced people’s work, their style. I think I influenced a lot of the African American males, experimental male writers, the younger generation. Like Colson Whitehead, and others, he said I influenced his work. And my “Neo-Hoodoo Manifesto,” published in 1969, in the Los Angeles Free Press, which was the idea of turning away copying establishment models and trying to find something indigenous, well, they’re launching an exhibit that will travel around the country my Manifesto: the De Menil Foundation in Houston. Also, I’ve tried to find new forms of narrative: like playing the piano. We’ve got our CD out and planning to make more. It’s called “For All We Know.” Guest artist is David Murray. With theatre, I think, and I mean you know this yourself, you see a more immediate response, since the audience is there.

ALI: It’s more visceral.

REED: Yeah, right. That’s different from writing poems or novels.

ALI: Is your poetry or your novels the form that has really changed things, you think?

REED: I think the novels. The novels probably. The non-fiction.The plays raise issues that are ignored in other forums. Look, I have Black guys who tell me they put my books on their bed stands to read at night like something for guidance or information. That really pleases me a lot. I think my work has changed some things. It’s changed me.

Wajahat Ali is Pakistani Muslim American who is neither a terrorist nor a saint. He is a playwright, essayist, humorist, and recent Attorney at Law, whose work, “The Domestic Crusaders,” is the first major play about Muslim Pakistani Americans living in a post 9-11 America. His blog is at https://goatmilk.wordpress.com/. He can be reached at wajahatmali@gmail.com

ISHMAEL REED: Exclusive Conversation PART 2 OF 3: “FAKING THE HOOD”


Wajahat Ali

Waj, did you see this? Did you get my email? The New York Times story about the fraud – the White woman lying about her life in the ghetto?” asks an excited and passionate Ishmael Reed, Pulitzer prize nominated poet and author, about the explosive revelation concerning Margaret Seltzer’s faked “ghetto memoir” “Love and Consequences.”

Replying that not only had I received it, but also read the piece with great interest, the MacArthur Genius continues, “Look at this. See? This is what I’m talking about. This is what we talk about. But, when I say it, everyone thinks I’m crazy.”

Due to the enormous, international interest generated by part 1 of our originally scheduled, 2 part exclusive interview, the most in depth Reed has given in nearly 15 years, we chatted again for nearly another hour over the past week. As always, Reed, defiantly unique and perennially blunt and opinionated, had things he “needed to get off his chest.” This series has now been extended by another segment (to be released within the week.)

Like before, when conversing with Reed, sometimes one’s role is simply that of a conductor or active listener; by asking the right questions – hitting that pulsating nerve – all one can do is sit back while the the pugilistic writer jabs and hooks. Sometimes the most simple and direct questions (as you’ll see in this piece) yield lengthy and passionate responses, mostly loaded punches aimed squarely at the alleged hucksters, hypocrites, liars, and frauds Reed feels perpetuate and peddle dangerous stereotypes and artificial half-truths for sake of self profit and self adulation. In this episode, Reed takes on Amiri Baraka, Hillary Clinton, Elitist feminist divas, W.E.B Dubois, and the New York Times.

The bell rings: Round 2.

ALI: Most people characterize you as part of the Left; one who is mostly critical of the Right. People couple you, politically, with Amiri Baraka [controversial and influential African American poet and writer], as two figures who came from the ‘60’s movement. How accurate are both these assumptions?

REED: I wasn’t part of any sixties movement. I’m skeptical of movements. I’m part of the times that I’m in. Right now, it’s 2008. As for Baraka, he and I have disagreements. I mean, he becomes a demagogue when there’s an audience. He’s a nice guy in private. I mean I like the guy; he’s a terrific writer. I’ve published two of his books. Baraka is one of these fundamentalists who is prone to idol worship. Once he selects an idol, then you can’t criticize the idol. For example, he said Steven Cannon and I should be murdered because of what we said about Malcolm X. The death threat was printed in a magazine called African American Review, edited by Joe Weixlmann, which has received more foundation support than all of the Black literary magazines combined. And what did we say about Malcolm X?


I said, “You can’t criticize Malcolm X, because now he’s a holiday.” I mean, no sense of irony! I mean, this is what happens with these ideological extremists: there’s no sense of humor or irony; although, he’s a great satirist. But, we were on panel at NYU in Nov., and I reminded him of some of these statements. The New York audience –

ALI: They love him, right?

REED: Oh, yeah, they love him. He’s very charismatic. They think somebody being murdered because they’re critical of Malcolm X – that’s amusing to them. I was challenged to a fistfight before a NYU audience; I don’t know what it is about Manhattan. I was challenged to a fistfight by Margo Jefferson, the Pulitzer Prize winner, New York Times writer, who is part of a feminist clique at the Times, which believes that Black men are the principal threat to the women of the world. The clique is headed by Michiko Kakutani, who is hard on Black guys but is worshipful of misogynists like Saul Bellow and even wrote a tender tribute to him. Bellow’s ex wife said of him, “He who thinks evil, is evil.”

You could understand why Kakutani was duped by this fake gang book written by Margaret Seltzer [Love and Consequences, which was exposed as a complete and total fraud by Ms. Seltzer’s own sister just last week in the NYT.] This middle class White woman who convinced her editor and publisher that she was half Indian and had some connection to a Black family and Black gangs [Seltzer’s fraudulent memoir claimed she was raised in a street gang environment by “Big Mama,” an overweight but loving African American woman. She was, in fact, raised comfortably in the suburbs.]


The cover of this mercenary opportunistic book shows a Black adult and child. Michiko fell for this fake because she is always prepared to believe the worst about Black men. So are other Times feminists, Janet Maslin and Virginia Hefferman and some of the sisters there who are always putting down Black athletes and award a lot of features to black women playwrights and novelists who trash Black men, the big money maker these days.

Any Black woman writer who takes it to the brothers gets lavish coverage there. Movies and novels, which include the ancient stereotypes about Black men are used to launch national discussions about Black misogyny in the pages of the Times. Now if these feminists took on the misogyny of the group to which the Times men belonged to, they’d be fired.

“Bastard Out of Carolina,” [which was a novel and later television movie] about a White man committing incest didn’t begin a nation wide parlor discussion. In fact, Ted Turner, whose network CNN slimes Black men all day, tried to block it. It took Angelica Houston to support the project. The Times held a panel recently about the oppression of women all over the world. It was moderated by a White woman and the panel was composed of three Black women, including Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and Bob Herbert, the token Black male writer at the Times who apparently believes the same thing: That world misogyny is a Black male problem.

I sent an email to him complaining about the composition of the all Black panel. The composition of the panel implied that it was a worldwide problem stemming from the behavior of Black men. I pointed out to Herbert the problems that women have in China, where female infants are murdered, and where millions of women have been infected with HIV – which is being covered up by the government; the millions of women and girls and children forced into sexual slavery in southeast Asia, eastern Europe; the fact that American shelters are full of abused Arab American women.

In some countries, women are stoned to death for committing adultery and honor killings go on even in the United States. Recently an Egyptian American father killed two of his daughters for dating men from an outside group. A two-day story. Had these men killed White girls, the story would still be covered, especially if they were White girls murdered by Black men. You know, the suspects in the Natalie Holloway case were originally Black hotel workers. CNN ran their being arrested around the clock. Even when they were exonerated, CNN kept running the footage. The only difference between Jonathan Klein, CNN president, and Julius Streicher, the Nazi Propagandist, is that Streicher was hanged at Nuremberg.


ALI: Wow –

REED: You have to hand it to Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni and Bharati Mukherjee for writing about misogyny in the Indian community. Apparently, that takes guts. An issue that D’Nesh D’Souza and Sudhir Venkatesh are ignoring. They’re too busy making money by entertaining people like Steven D.Levitt of the Times with ugly portraits of Black project dwellers. Venkatesh also got a big send off by the Times by people who don’t know the difference between the real and the fake.

So oppressive it is among Egyptian American families that women writers from that group, no matter how talented, are afraid to talk about it. A brilliant young Egyptian American writer was about to expose this problem in a novel: it would have been a major success because the writer had a remarkable, special talent. A New York agent flew out here and talked to her. She went to the Provincetown workshop and Squaw Valley writers’ workshops where she was praised. She withdrew the novel because she felt it to be an embarrassment to her community. Many ethnic women writers feel this way, and so they pile on Black men, who become pinch hitters for the male chauvinism of others.

Maybe if this writer had published her book and brought attention to this problem, this tragedy involving these two Egyptian girls would have been avoided. In some communities there is such a thing as arranged marriages. If I told my daughters whom to marry, they’d probably send me to a nursing home.

ALI: (Laughs) Definitely.

REED: I asked Herbert why the Times was placing all of the blame for world misogyny on Black men and not for example addressing abuse of White women in the United States, something we’ll never hear about as long as upper class White males control the media. A SUNY study reports that 90% of American White women interviewed for the study said that they had been abused by their fathers, husbands and boyfriends. The woman who conducted this study expressed surprise that this went on in stable middle class households.

Every Times man that I have written to has replied to my letters and emails. I reminded Sam Roberts, who is thrilled by the information that White middle class families in New York are breeding, that he once wrote that Blacks were “prone to violence.” He’d forgotten. Herbert didn’t answer. He’s rare for the segregated media: a Black columnist. Sort of like an Intellectual Panda; so high and mighty that he doesn’t respond to reader’s questions.

ALI: OK, let’s back up for a moment. Let’s go back to the fistfight story. Why’d they threaten you with fisticuffs in New York?

REED: Now why did Margo Jefferson challenge me to a fistfight to the cheers and encouragement of the women in the audience, the type who are always complaining about men battering women? I was on a panel with light skinned Blacks and a famous gay science fiction writer, who were complaining about how Blacks are against gays and light skinned Blacks and how intolerant Blacks are of different groups. My position was that Blacks were among the most humanistic, tolerant groups in the country and that across the street from my house in Oakland was one inhabited by White gays. They even had the gay liberation flag flying from the house. When I touched on racism among Gays and Lesbians, a phenomenon recorded by the late author Audre Lorde and film maker Marlon Riggs, the gay host of the show on which I made this remark, on KPFA, Berkeley, started screaming and yelling.

The guy became really agitated. He’s Italian American, who takes it to the fellas every chance that he gets. Once, I pointed out to him that I had published an issue of my magazine featuring Italian American women writers, and they were complaining about Italian American misogyny. I asked him was he going to do a show about it? He didn’t answer. Got all agitated.

None of my Black neighbors burned a cross in front of the Gay liberation house. I also pointed out that Kathleen Cleaver was on a NYU panel the night before and that she is so light skinned that she could pass if she wished and none of the panelists that previous night – who were darker than she – gave her any problems.

Kathleen Cleaver, former member of the Black Panthers, what ever you might think of her, is an icon among some Black activists and intellectuals, regardless of her being light skinned. Jefferson was furious because one of her friends, a light skinned woman, was a panelist. Jefferson was one of the first who labeled me a misogynist in Newsweek in the 70s. The majority of Blacks have White ancestors something that’s not discussed because it would make the nouveau Whites people who eighty years ago were referred to as a separate race, less White.

Two of the great leaders of the past – Booker T. Washington and Frederick Douglass – had White fathers – who deserted them. Now Ms. Jefferson, who is hard on me and the fellas, wrote in the Times that she has nocturnal, erotic fantasies about John Wayne. What’s up with these feminists? Do you see these double standards these feminists have? They dream about John Wayne, but they’re hard on us [Black men.] (Laughs.) So, I reminded her that John Wayne said, “I’m all for women’s liberation as long as they have dinner ready when I get home.”

It’s like Hillary Clinton, Gloria Steinem’s candidate, praising John McCain, an old time, corny, White, belligerent, Alpha male stereotype – kind of like a growling Popeye – over Barack Obama, who pushes the politics of reconciliation and soft diplomacy, a tactic used by the Chinese in Africa, where they have been successful, while the American air force incurs resentment by bombing African civilians. Some of the leaders of the Chinese government are engineers and so they’re aiding in the building of the infrastructure in some African countries. When McCain sings “bomb Iran,” doesn’t Ma Clinton, who is running as an example to young White women, Gloria Steinem’s candidate, realize that many of her brown Iranian sisters will be murdered in such an event? What kind of woman’s solidarity is that?

So, Jefferson challenged me to a fistfight, and the women in the audience loved that! These contradictions are fodder for my fiction and non-fiction. My work holds up the mirror to hypocrisy, which puts me in a tradition of American writing that reaches back to Nathaniel Hawthorne. In Haitian mythology there is the figure Ghede, who in West Africa, is Iku, whose role is to show “each man his devil.” He’s represented by a figure wearing a top hat and smoking a cigar. That’s my gig. Showing movements like this – what fundamentally corrupts exclusive feminist movements – its devil.

ALI: Talk to me about Baraka. The original question (Laughs.)

REED: O.K., let me get back to Baraka.


Howard University holds something called “Heart’s Day,” an all day ceremony in which a writer is honored. I was the recipient of this honor. It’s a wonderful ceremony that Eleanor Traylor chair of English at Howard University organizes for writers. Writers from around the country came to pay tribute to my work. It was very flattering.

Baraka gets up there and rehashes some encounter we had forty four years ago, when I was a young writer and told him that I thought his early work to be weak. It was so elliptical; it was inscrutable. He was influenced by the downtown art scene. Compare his book “ Dead Lecturer” with his breakthrough “ Black Magic,” a brilliant work which came about as a result of his coming in contact with Black nationalists. He said himself that his previous downtown art scene writing was weak. He came into contact with writers like Askia Toure and Charles Patterson. The change in his style was dramatic. He never forgot my remark. At Howard he laced into me about my calling W.E.B DuBois, his idol, a Nazi. I didn’t call him a Nazi.

In an essay I wrote I posed the question, “Was W.E.B DuBois Pro Nazi?” W.E.B DuBois was the guest of the Nazi government under a fellowship arranged by a man who was Pro Nazi and who had dined with Hitler. During the trip there, he was wined and dined by Nazis and said that the Hitler dictatorship was necessary. According to Clarence Lusane, author of Hitler’s Black Victims, Du Bois “spoke highly of Hitler’s private secretary and party leader,” Rudolph Hess.” DuBois said that, “Germany did not yet show any trace of racial hatred,” during a time when a crack down on Blacks living in Nazi Germany had begun. Lusane concludes that, “Du Bois’s love for Germany seems to have clouded his usually sharp reading of racism.” Well, he might not have been a Nazi, but he seems to have admired the Nazi regime at one point.


ALI: What year was this?

REED: It was during the ’30’s. [Dubois] also was into this “Talented Tenth” stuff, where he said he was aligned with Margaret Singer of the Eugenics movement, and believed that lower class Blacks shouldn’t breed.

[Reed gets a book, finds the correct page, and recites this lengthy quotation by Dubois]

The low incomes which Negroes receive make bachelorhood and spinsterhood widespread, with the naturally resultant lowering, in some cases, of sex standards. On the other hand, the mass of ignorant Negroes still breed carelessly and disastrously, so that the increase among Negroes, even more than the increase among Whites, is from that part of the population least intelligent and fit, and least able to rear their children properly.”

“There comes, therefore, the difficult and insistent problem of spreading among Negroes an intelligent and clearly recognized concept of proper birth control, so that the young people can marry, have companionship and natural health, and yet not have children until they are able to take care of them. This, of course, calls for a more liberal attitude among Negro churches. The churches are open for the most part to intelligent propaganda of any sort, and the American Birth Control League and other agencies ought to get their speakers before church congregations and their arguments in the Negro newspapers. As it is, the mass of Negroes know almost nothing about the birth control movement, and even intelligent colored people have a good many misapprehensions and a good deal of fear at openly learning about it. Like most people with middle-class standards of morality, they think that birth control is inherently immoral.”

“Moreover, they [“Negroes”] are quite led away by the fallacy of numbers. They want the Black race to survive. They are cheered by a census return of increasing numbers and a high rate of increase. They must learn that among human races and groups, as among vegetables, quality and not mere quantity really counts.”

DuBois wrote this in “Black Folk and Birth Control.” Birth Control Review, Volume XXII, Number 8 (New Series, May 1938, the “Negro Number”), page 90. If this idea had been carried out, both Jesse Jackson, Ishmael Reed and others born to poor single mothers would have been removed from the gene pool!

Why can’t DuBois’s social Darwinist ideas be brought up? People like Baraka, who think like these holy roller fundamentalists, who are so worshipful of the icon of the moment that they can’t see straight. I have enormous respect for Barak’s writing; he’s unique, but obviously, he gets carried away sometimes. Ralph Ellison was right when he said that Baraka “bores from within.” He calls himself a Communist, yet he’s a member of the American Academy, which is about as establishment as you can get. Wait till they read my new book on Muhammad Ali. They’re really going get mad. Bigger Than Boxing, out later this year by Harmony Books of Random House; it’s the most balanced book written about the boxer, but it contains some surprises.

ALI: Why do you think one can’t criticize these iconic figures?

REED: You can’t criticize them, because once people like Baraka latch on to some one who is bigger than life, an icon, then it becomes very dangerous to do so. I asked Joe Weixlmann why he would print a death threat like that in light of the fact that there are all of these armed ideological nuts wandering around loose. He said that for him, to “ice” someone means to reprimand them. Recall, Baraka said that we should be “iced. This from an editor of a Black magazine. A self appointed caretaker of Black lit – doesn’t know what “iced” meant.

I don’t know why people always compare us [Baraka and I.] I was never part of the Black Arts Repertory Theater or the Black Arts Movement; people who claim that I was are wrong. I was downtown. I was living in Chelsea when they were operating in Harlem. I said they were “goons” at the time, because I knew all of them. I was roommates with 2 of the guys who were influential in forming the Black Arts philosophy. I called them “goons,” and Baraka took offense at that. But if you read his autobiography, the night we went up there for a fundraiser, he talks about how he wished that some violence would happen to us. How do you like Baraka as a gracious host? I participated in two fund raisers for the Black Arts Repertory Theater and then, on the occasion of the second one, we, who had gone up to help out, were threatened.

ALI: But, wait, you guys are also friends, right?

REED: Yeah, we’re friends. Just like Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier are friends.


ALI: (Laughs.)

REED: The cultural wars of the sixties are over. I’ve reconciled with those who were my critics and opponents years ago. I was at odds with some those who were Black nationalists. Yet when feminists attempted to end my career and leave me as literary road kill, it was the Black nationalists who came to my rescue. Gwendolyn Brooks, the great poet, got me a George Kent Award in the late eighties. Do you think that Ms. Brooks would give an award to someone who hated Black women, the lie that was circulated throughout New York and reached all the way down to Martinique where I was a guest Professor? The lie was circulated by people who don’t read my books. How do I show my hatred for Black women? Most of the recent titles that I have published were written by Black women. All are available at Amazon. Karla Brundrige’s “ Swallowing Watermelons,” 81-year-old Jerri Lange’s award winning, “Jerri, A Black Woman’s Life In The Media,” an award-winning book. “ Under Burning White Sky,” by Haitian poet, Boadiba, “New and Collected Poetr[Poetry]” by Kathryn Takara of Hawaii, “16 Short Stories by Nigerian Women,” edited by Toyin Gabriel Adewale. This book came about as a result of my trip to Nigeria in 1999. This year I’m publishing “Maggie 3” a novel by Alison Mills Newman. Alison’s first book, “Francisco”, which I published in 1974 was our first book. It was praised by Toni Morrison and William Demby. Since then, she’s raised five kids. This is her second novel.

ALI: How about this classification of Ishmael Reed as a “Leftist liberal” and very anti-Right wing?

REED: You know, it depends on the issue. Like these criminal operations on my block, I’m very “Law and Order” about this. These are sort of like neighborhood tyrants and neighborhood fascists. The other neighbors can’t exercise because of their activities. They had a big shootout on the block last year. I wrote about this in Playboy. We closed down one operation by pestering the officials downtown and getting a restraining order against the gang leader who was responsible for armed unsavory elements entering our neighborhood.

But of course, these youngsters get assistance from the outside, something that’s not covered by the media, which covers up White pathology. The illegal guns come in from the suburbs. Some Whites and Asian Americans rent out properties to criminal operations. These absentee landlords really don’t give a rat’s ass about us. Seventy percent of the Johns who come into our city to buy sex are from the suburbs, yet the police crack down on the Black prostitutes, some of whom are children.

The economy for prostitution in Oakland is larger than the drug economy. For the thirty years that I have lived in this ghetto neighborhood, I‘ve seen a steady stream of Whites coming into my neighborhood seeking vice. In fact, Jerry H. Bryant has even mentioned it in his book,Born in a Mighty Bad Land: The Violent Man in African American Folklore and Fiction” that the police have traditionally given tacit approval to Black neighborhoods as centers for vice, while they look the other way. This is something that you won’t see on CNN, Whites contributing to Black pathology.

85% of the Oakland police live outside of the city. At a meeting the other night, I told a bunch of them that they can’t attend to our problems because they spend a lot of time commuting. Police should live within the city, not motor in like some occupying force. The police force should look like America. It’s not that Blacks don’t need police protection; they don’t want Mark Furhman. The media influence the perceptions that the country have of Blacks, Muslims and others and the police are influenced by these perceptions. On a typical CNN day, the Blacks are in orange jumpsuits and handcuffs and the Whites are shown performing altruistic deeds. They have colored mind doubles conveying this news so that it won’t look so obvious. In their tough love speeches to Blacks, Obama and Gates fail to mention White complicity in the miserable state of what they call “the Black underclass” as well. If Gates did, he’d lose money. If Obama did, he’d lose votes.

ALI: Is it an unfair to label you?

REED: Blacks, Yellows, Browns and Reds don’t label me. Many of the writers from those groups view things the way I do. It’s usually some White commentators and critics, who are insulate from the rest of us. Well, I mean they do that to all of us. The thing about White supremacy is that it is so arrogant, that it doesn’t believe it has to investigate anything. It just applies labels. Seems that the educational system would encourage the learning of different languages and the understanding of different world cultures that they must deal with.

These ignorant people are making cruel jokes about Obama’s middle name Hussein. Half the people who are keeping the worthless dollar afloat and the American economy afloat are named Hussein. How do you think that the people named Hussein, who are holding American bank notes, feel about these simpleton’s ridiculing the name Hussein?

Ma Clinton and her husband, two of the worst demagogues to come along in American history – she makes Eva Peron seems benign- told “Sixty Minutes” that she didn’t know whether Obama was a Muslim, joining in on the disparagement of the faith. Her husband probably wouldn’t have his library were it not for people with the name Hussein. Wait until the names of the donors to Clinton’s library. I’ll bet there will be some Husseins on the list. Shameless Ma Clinton challenges Obama on Farrakhan’s endorsement, yet her husband has said some nice things about the NOI leader.


In the old days, they used to send in Marines and all that stuff and shoot up people. But now, other people have missiles, too. Europe began bombing Muslim countries in 1911. So, now they have to get Obama to get out there and negotiate with all them, because he has this Muslim name and everything. Obama is someone who can forestall the collapse of the Empire, yet Ma Clinton someone whom the novelist Carlene Hatcher Polite would call a “brat woman” and her cut and shoot machine, will get the nomination with the help of the segregated media which upholds the markers set by the Clinton campaign. I heard Howard Kurt[z] – so called media critic – on Air America today. He’s so in the tank for Clinton it ain’t even funny. He is one of these guys who were kissing up to Don Imus all the time. Now it’s all about her winning in Pennsylvania. They’ll give the nomination to her because they believe that the Latino vote will make up for whatever Black defections occur in the general election.

Many of these Latinos have African heritage and are passing for White, when the Whites would like to get rid of them. Alejandro Murgia, the great short story writer, author of the brilliant book, “This War Called Love,” says that a lot of them straighten their hair so they won’t look so Black. They’re what people used to call Creoles. When Jack White interviewed me for an article that appeared in Time magazine, I predicted that in twenty years Blacks would view the days when White racism was the only variety they had to deal with as the “good old days.” When I was a director of the Coordinating Council Of Literary Magazines, I nominated some Chicano writers to be directors. The Whites on the board said that there needed to be more Whites.


I told them that the Chicanos considered themselves to be White. The Whites laughed. Of course, these Whites had only received Whiteness within twenty years of that particular meeting as a result of gains made by the civil rights movement. Fortunately, members of the younger Hispanic generation, enrolled in colleges, are moving away from Hispanic racism, but Immigrant Mexican gangs are making a sport out of murdering Los Angeles Blacks. They are a product of a Mexican culture whose representations of Blacks in the media harkens back to the 19th century. People with white lips, etc.

ALI: Let’s try to make peace with your feminist critics. In the end of your novel Reckless Eyeballing, the protagonist holds up a White flag, which I’m assuming, was a truce with your “beef” with the feminists. Can you now let them go? Have they let you go?

REED: This so-called “beef” with the feminists I’m supposed to have is promoted by a handful of media and academic White men and White feminists who don’t criticize their abuses of women. In the African American Review recently a White male critic yammered on and on about my misogyny and made a bizarre comparison. Said that I was like somebody in a Toni Morrison novel who was heading toward a convent full of women with a shotgun only to turn around half way realizing that I had been fooled.

Why does he say this? Because a character in my novel “ Reckeless Eyeballing” is a White feminist who promotes Black male hating theater projects. The character was influenced by an unpublished novel written by Black feminist Michele Wallace in which a White feminist manipulates Black male hating Divas.

In the Village Voice, Michele identified this woman as Gloria Steinem. Toni Morrison also identified Steinem as someone who gets White women to buy Black male hating books. He called me paranoid. Imagine the reception he’d get if he appeared before a women’s studies conference and called Toni and Michele “paranoid.” This piece of trash was published by the new editor of the review, a Black feminist who is aligned with Gates.


There are more feminists who defend me against such attacks, then those who make the attacks. Those who make the attacks, those are handful maybe 3 people who are Black divas, and White feminists have more access to the media than by Black feminist supporters, some of whom I published early in their careers or even discovered them. I was the first to publish segments of Ntozake Shange’s classic “For Colored Girls….”

She defended me before some White SF feminists who were trying to persuade her to attack me. Gwen Carmen a Black feminist magazine editor defended me against two White feminists who successfully kept me off of a National Writers’ Union panel. J.J. Phillips, author of the classic “Mojo Hand” defended me in print against a critic named Jackie Stevens, who said that I was a misogynist because Henry Louis Gates said so. Joyce Ann Joyce the great critic defended me against these charges in her book Warriors, Conjurers and Priests. Thulani Davis, Jill Nelson are my allies. National Book Award winner poet Lucille Clifton was a housewife in Buffalo before I introduced her poetry to Langston Hughes, who published them.

So I get criticized as a misogynist because the Black feminists who defend me don’t have as much access to print as the handful of White men and White feminists who label me that, people who are silent about the misogyny that goes on in their groups. I think Michele Wallace’s comments about my book, “Reckless Eyeballing” is one of the criticisms that they’re always quoting, critics who ignore my Black feminist defenders. Michelle told me that the women at the Village Voice who belonged to another ethnic group were always encouraging her to attack Black men and the hysteria created by White feminists at the Voice contributed to the conviction of the kids in the Central Park case. They were innocent. Michele said that she didn’t mean for her criticism to end the reading of my books by White feminists. She was the Master of Ceremonies when I received the Langston Hughes medal at City College.

Bell Hooks said that White feminists told her that she should write for them in order to become successful. Hooks said in print that White feminists she talked to had a different standard for me than they had for White male writers. Fortunately, I don’t have to write for feminists. Incidentally, one of the events that led me into media criticism occurred when Roger Rosenblatt did a PBS commentary about Black male evil, when the rape of a stockbroker occurred in Central Park. At that time it was thought that the perpetrators were Black kids. He compared the alleged rape with Satanic rites, the atrocities committed by the Nazis and Pol Pot. Now get this. I timed each segment. There was more footage about the kids falsely accused of raping this stockbroker than that devoted to the other atrocities, which led one to believe that their crime was worse. My complaint was printed in my book “Another Day At The Front” and the producer of the MacNeil Lehrer report, Michael Saltz, which carried this editorial, asked my publisher at the time, Addison Wesley, to make me apologize publicly. Fortunately, I had taped the program and sent the tape to my editor at the time, Don Fehr. He sided with me. Now that it has been revealed that a great injustice has happened to these kids, I doubt whether Saltz will do a follow up and a public apology. I also wonder will The Chronicle of Higher Education apologize? They took his side of the argument against me.

ALI: Who were these other ethnic White feminists?

REED: Yeah, ethnic women who were silent about the abuses of women in their background. I mentioned this in a piece in Counterpunch, where I talked about abuses against Jewish women in the United States and in Israel. I discussed Celtic misogyny, African American misogyny, and Jewish American misogyny. I didn’t get a single letter from Irish and Black guys because a lot of them know that as far as women are concerned, they’re wrong. Guess who wrote the letters? Jewish guys wrote angry letters.

They denied that misogyny exists the Jewish ethnic group. They said Jewish women who are battered are those who marry out or who are married to Black men. So, I supplied them with a bibliography the length this floor about abuses against Jewish women in the United States and Israel. When Barbara Lubin tried to discuss the abuse against Israeli women by Israeli soldiers, the KPFA Pacifica host cut her off. The host, a feminist, was more interested in the abuse of Arab women by Arab men. So it’s a topic that is off limits. I mentioned a British Study that reported that one third of the AIDS cases in South Africa were the result of transmission during intercourse, the rest were caused by unsanitary conditions, sharing needles in hospitals, poverty, etc. A KPFA feminist who does the news, went on the air after me, and her voice shaking with rage, said, “ALL CASES ARE CAUSED BY SEXUAL PREDATORS!!”

During my first visit to Israel in 2000, the reported incidences of men murdering their wives was the highest in the West! In fact, when I was there the feminists picketed the Knesset over this issue. And Ehud Barak, the Prime Minister at the time, had to make a statement about it. Over here, what do some of these women do? They attack us.

It’s like the old slave tale where two Black slaves are encouraged to fight each other, and one of them goes among the spectators and slaps the slave master’s wife. And the other slave – his opponent – runs away thinking, “Man, my opponent must be really bad!” They’re like the Black guy who slaps the slave master’s wife instead of dealing with their real opponent.

I mean, see, we’re decoys. That’s my challenge to them: Susan Browmiller, Steinem and all of them who think Black men are the model of misogyny, they should attack some of these abuses that some Jewish feminists say are being covered up. I read Lillith, and I read these Jewish feminist magazines. Betty Friedan was a battered wife. She had to apply makeup on to cover up the bruises, the lumps. Ike Turner didn’t cause that! So, who did it? So, these are the women who substitute the Black men for the men they are really upset with, the patriarchy they are really mad at, because they don’t want to give any ammunition to the Christians.


I tried to take a comic look at the hyped conflict between Blacks and Jews in my novel, Reckless Eyeballing, which was criticized and even boycotted by women, White feminists, who hadn’t even read it. It was led by Emily Toth and took place when I visited Louisiana University at Baton Rouge. The boycott fizzled when someone challenged them if they had read the book, and they hadn’t read it. Michiko Kakutani the New York Times critic, who like I said was just taken in by this fake gang book “Love and Consequences,” said that “Reckless” was a major disservice to my career, because I didn’t go along with the feminist formula for successful fiction which is: all the women are good and all the men are bad.

They concluded that the character Termonisha in the book was based upon their Saint, Alice Walker, when the character was based upon a character in Scott Joplin’s Opera, Treemonisha, an educated woman who is in conflict with the HooDoo men on the forest. Men and women at the Times are Eurocentrics who know little about Black culture. That’s why they can’t distinguish between the real and the fake.

ALI: Many consider Alice Walker a hero here.


REED: That’s because she seen as a writer who takes down Black men for which there’s a big market. Especially among millions of White women who are afraid to criticize men from their groups and who are accused of racism by Black women feminists. Though White feminists who have been appointed to lead the feminist movement by the media patriarchy pretend that all is peaches and cream between Black and White feminists, once in awhile dissent gets through the media Black out – no pun – of Black feminists. Annette John-Hall of the Philly News, just the other day wrote:

Well, well, maybe being in the kitchen is the place to be. By throwing the kitchen sink – and then some – at Barack Obama the other night, solutions-not-speeches candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton rose from the dead in power red.”

“Adoring throngs of women chanting ‘Yes, she will’ cheered their sister on as she vowed to win back the family home. You know, the big White one.”

“My house was quiet. The kids were sleeping safely. And then my phone rang. I picked it up, after the first ring.”

“Every time I look at Hillary, I can’t shake the feeling that she reminds me of all the White women who have ever mistreated me in my life.”

“That would be my 50-something friend, Tina, calling from Dallas.”

“Apparently flashing back to some of the White women bosses and coworkers who held the door open for each other – and slammed it on her.”

“Thirty years later, she is still getting training, working on that make-or-break experience. Like Hillary, 35 years could be her magic number.:

“Tina cut to the heart of why many Black women haven’t overwhelmingly cast their votes in bra-burning solidarity for the ‘Lifetime of Experience’ candidate.”

“I’ve heard that same resentful sentiment expressed by plenty of other older Black women. I guess we’re not the ones they’re talking about when they refer to Hillary’s core base being older women.”

“Women’s liberation didn’t lift up Black women. It helped keep them down.

This view of Clinton is missing when commentators discuss Clinton’s receiving the women’s vote. For the media Black, Latinas, Native American and Asian American and South Asian women are near women, or provisional women or sub women.

Tina Brown, in a Newsweek article, edited by a man who said that Billy Graham looks like God must look like, blue eyes, etc., didn’t have these women in mind when she wrote about “Invisible Women,” meaning White women, supporting Clinton. White women invisible? She must be crazy. You go to the newsstands and most of the magazines have covers featuring White women in various poses. The millions of underclass White women, the kind they try to hide, the ones you see on the Jerry Springer show, haven’t been helped by this elitist feminist movement either. They and minority women are the ones who are invisible.

I mean isn’t it odd that Gloria Steinem and others are backing a woman candidate who voted for a war against a country that led to the death of thousands of Ms.Steinem’s Iraqi sisters? Does Tina Brown agree with Ma Clinton’s decision? (This is the same Tina Brown who assigned Gates,Jr. to do a hit job on Minister Louis Farrakhan, but when approached by FAIR to criticize Marty Peretz of “The New Republic,” for his remark that Black women are “culturally deficient,” refused to take a stand).

Did Ma Clinton cry when she heard that five hundred thousand children died because of her husband’s sanctions against Iraqis? Madeline Albright, with whom she posed recently said that these deaths, which including those of Ms. Clinton’s Brown sisters, were worth it. Maybe Black and Brown feminists are correct when they say that the White led feminist movement is a narcissistic thing, which doesn’t really care about the fate of their brown, Black and yellow sisters. Their sisters in Iraq and Iran. How do they show their sympathy?

Not by supporting a candidate who is going along with the destruction of Mesopotamian Civilization. Supporting a candidate who surrounds herself with Generals to show how tough she can be against Arab and Persian men and women.

Typically, the feminists blames the condition of Muslim men on Muslim men. Not on White men who are committing atrocities in Iraq. Like the recent bombings on the outskirts of Baghdad that left hundreds of people buried beneath rubble. Did CNN report this? No, they’re too busy keeping up with the antics of Paris Hilton and people who, in the old days, we’d call tramps.

The feminist position on Iraq: if they’d only let Muslim women wear makeup that would make them look like circus clowns instead of Burqhas. Do you see how dizzy is this White elitist feminist movement? One that has destroyed the left. Ma Clinton just gave Bush the go ahead to bomb Iran which would cause the death of thousands of their Brown sisters.

Of course, Walker is not responsible for the Times feminists and others who took an individual character from her book and used that character to indict all Black men, the kind of collective blame that is aimed at Palestinians each day and against the Jews for centuries in Europe where pogroms were organized. But when she called Black men evil in the New York Times magazine section, I found that to be a little over the top. A few Black feminists, hand picked Divas have been given space to take down Black men in the Times magazine section, which in the past got into trouble for showing a photo of a Black woman fellating a john with a baby tied to her back. Even a Black Times editorial writer, Brent Staples complained.

This was a book of photographs which exhibited Blacks taking drugs which like “The Wire” suggests that drugs are a problem for Blacks – exclusively. On the other hand, the Times printed a study that shows crack to be a suburban problem as well. The New York Times coverage of Africa is a disgrace. Their idea of Africa coverage was a story printed in the magazine section about cannibalism the Congo. The editors of the magazine section have participated in the cover up about misogyny among White men. They printed Alice Walker’s interview with David Bradley in which she called Black men evil. They printed “a Black feminist manifesto” by Kristol Zook. But no feminist manifesto written by a woman who belongs to a member of the group that edits the magazine section has appeared. The cover up continues.

ALI: What do you think about modern, popular forms of African American entertainment like Tyler Perry and his work?

REED: I don’t know about his stuff, but who knows, maybe he’ll get a lot of people to read? I think the White critics, for now, they call the shots. In fiction, they are trying to push us back to “refried Faulkner” to erase all the experimentation that took place in the 1960’s. In the theater, they are trying to push us back to the ‘30’s. The plays that they praise favor social realist aesthetics.

ALI: Just “dancing darkies?”


REED: That too. Oversized Black women belting out show tunes and jiggling their body parts. I’ve written six plays and all of them have roles that are challenging for Black women actors. Not a single prostitute or crack addict. Right now these people who defame Black men but are silent about the oppression of women in their communities are trying to find a successor to Alice Walker. Make some money. Katori Hall wrote a play where Black men were responsible for pushing Black women to the back of the bus not the Montgomery Bus company. I mean, someone is going to write one saying that a Black man shot Martin Luther King. But her play didn’t get the heft or kind of promotion, so maybe this trend is over. Here again people who are not Black directed the play and her mentor is a White man who views himself as a Black Diva manufacturer. A Diva maker.

(To be concluded in the next segment, where Reed takes on “HBO’s: The Wire,” White writers talking for Blacks, “The Lords of Urban Ghetto,” Assimilation, The movie “Crash,” American Academia, and “The Western Canon.”)


Ishmael Reedp22574wbhar.jpg

The First of an Exclusive 2-Part Conversation with WAJAHAT ALI

“Hey, Waj. Come on in. Did you bring your mom’s Biryani?” asks an eager and excited Ishmael Reed, the MacArthur Genius recipient, Pulitzer Prize nominated author and all around, all-star, controversial rabble-rouser.

Sorry, mom couldn’t make it this time. She asked for a rain check,” I reply and see Reed’s anticipation and grin fall for a moment.

“Well, it’s ok, no problem. Next time. Hey, does that Pakistani joint on San Pablo in Berkeley still serve goat? I think we’ll go get the goat special. Here, come on in to the kitchen, let’s do this.”

Entering the Reed household is like stepping foot into a delicate and vast Archival section of a genius-madman’s library. A wondrous display of books – running the gamut of diversity from novels to poetry to politics to sociology – somehow elegantly juxtaposed to African, European, and American art sculptures and paintings. Then, there’s the papers, including newspapers, reports, journals, and essays, piled on top of one another like a carefully constructed Jenga puzzle ready to blow over at the threat of a loud, inappropriate violent sneeze or negligent and thoughtless sway of a reckless hand gesture. Boxes of books and decades old papers, no doubt a culmination of research Reed uses for his novels and polemical essays, line the stairwells and hallways. This is a house is where documents come to retire: a senior citizens home and Valhalla for pugilistic evidence.

An open laptop sits on Reed’s kitchen table which is currently sharing space with nearly a dozen books and short stories Reed is reviewing and editing for an epic short story Anthology he is publishing in the Summer: Pow Wow: A Century of Short Fiction from Then To Now. The television is on; it’s CNN covering the Democratic Primaries.

“Ok, Waj. I’ll give you 1 hour. Let’s go.”

And so, we sit for nearly 2 hours, where I quickly realized my role in this conversation was to simply sit back and let Reed do what he does best: rhetorically combat, as he does with his writings, all the intellectual con men, self serving politicians, racist academics, poisonous prejudices and stereotypical misconceptions, in his highly unorthodox, extremely controversial, but always entertaining voice.

This is the first part of a two part exclusive: the most in-depth interview Reed has given in nearly ten years. The bell rings: Round 1.

ALI: People say Toni Morrison referred to Bill Clinton as the first “Black President” –

REED: I was the first one. April – wait, I have it here.

ALI: In the Baltimore Sun, right?

REED: Right. Mine was in April 19th 1998. Toni Morrison’s remarks, which were similar to mine, incidentally appeared in the New Yorker in October, 1998. I think that’s just coincidence. But, I was the first. However, Jack White of Time magazine says he was the first, but nowhere in his article does he specifically refer to Clinton as the “black president.” He says Blacks treat him as one of their own, but he doesn’t specifically refer to him as a “black president.”

ALI: What about his personality made you characterize him as such?

The Black President

REED: In my article on Counterpunch, I said he comes from a tradition of Southern demagogues. He’s got this Anglo, Yale background. He went to England to study. So, most don’t recognize him as a Southern demagogue. I belong to something called the Calhoun House at Yale; I’m a Calhoun Fellow. John Calhoun was a Southerner. They named a House after him. I mean, you can’t get any more Southern than Calhoun; he was for nullification. Harvard, where I’m a Signet Fellow, even contemplated casting aMemorial for Confederate soldiers who attended Harvard.The black students countered that if they were going to do that they should also cast a memorial for the Japanese Admiral who led the attack on Pearl Harbor. He also attended Harvard. So Southerners have graduated from both Yale and Harvard: Clinton, and Calhoun.

ALI: Calhoun was a secessionist, right?



REED: Right, a secessionist. They are another type of Southern demagogues. I mention them as those who hang out with Blacks and are friendly with Blacks like Huey Long. But, basically, they are segregationists. They pal around with African Americans – just like Jefferson Davis did. His biographers say Davis pal’d around with his Black help, but when the Union troops invaded his property, a black slave told them where (Laughs.) where his papers were. There was a Union spy, a black woman, who stayed in the Jefferson Davis household throughout the war. In fact, she’s been cited in the Museum of Military Intelligence. Unfortunately, her relatives destroyed her diary.

So, the idea was that Clinton hangs out with Blacks, is familiar with Blacks, and picks up some of their style. Sort of like an Elvis Presley figure. But, who uses race as a wedge issue when he campaigns for whites.

ALI: Don’t you think that was a foreshadowing comment in 1998? Because, now we see the polls suggest Clinton’s presence is a major reason for Hilary’s downturn and Obama’s upswing especially in the Southern states with Black voters.

REED: When he first ran, I appeared on a radio program, and my fellow guests Playthell Benjamin, an African American intellectual who wrote a book on W.E.B Dubois, and Paul Robeson Jr., son of the famous singer, said I should stick to creative writing only and writing novels; because, they were all backing Clinton.

I said Clinton had character problems. This was on the basis of the Sister Souljah incident [Clinton criticized rapper Sister Souljah for her “racially charged” rap lyrics] where he again used a Black audience to send a signal to Whites. Obama does the same thing. Obama goes to Black churches and preaches “personal responsibility.”

Now, Whites have been the most subsidized group in the history of the United States and maybe the history of the world, while Blacks were enslaved and were the assets of Whites. Slavery, [we were] like property. Native Americans were driven off their land. Lincoln even took part in the Black Hawk campaign against the Native Americans in Illinois. While they were being exterminated and driven off their land, Whites were collecting assets. The Great Society programs were for Whites. Two thirds of those who gained from the War on Poverty were White. I mean Marlon Fitzwater, former Reagan aide- when he talked about the Los Angeles riots, where the typical rioter was Latino, and the Whites burned down Korea Town but they blamed on Blacks . He said the riots were a result of the Great Society programs, pushing the myth of Black dependency, when 80% of the people getting Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security are White.

Also, the mortgage tax write-off is benefiting Whites to the tune of trillions since the FHA has discriminated against Blacks for many years. They have come around, half-heartedly, only recently. My mortgage was just sold to Wells Fargo; they will not give up records about their lending to African Americans as well as Whites. So, African Americans who have the same credit or better credit are charged higher interest rates than Whites. That’s been documented: the Center for Responsible Lending, another place people can go to. Contray to newspaper myths, two thirds of those homeowners who have been caught in this sub prime mess had good credit. They went to the sub prime predators because they were denied loans by red lining banks.

So, I’m in the position of backing White businesses and homeowners because of my mortgage is at Wells Fargo. So, they use my money to finance White businesses and White mortgages. So, we’re out trillions of dollars over the years for financing White industries. In other words, why doesn’t Obama and Henry Louis Gates and other “post race” intellectuals and politicians preach “personal responsibility” to Whites?

ALI: Is Obama’s decision to move “beyond race” a convenient form of skirting the race issue? Is he an icon of a modernized society that has evolved in its racial consciousness, or is all this dirty laundry being hidden under the bed?


REED: My friend Gerald Vizenor, a hip, you know, Native American writer; we were hanging out yesterday. He was emphasizing that Obama has a White, Irish mother and a Black, Kenyan father; Obama isn’t what you call “traditional African American.” So, part of Obama’s appeal is that he’s not one of us, not to say he’s not “Black” enough, I mean that’s a ridiculous argument.

I mean anyone who is dark skinned in this country who speaks English is a nigger. (Laughs) That’s it! Period! You know the “Average White person” doesn’t parse things, they lump things; they’re lumpers. If you’re dark skinned, then you’re Black. My friend Emil Guillermo, Asian Week, said that on the basis of yellows and browns voting for Clinton in California that yellows and browns should form an alliance. I advised him that if China shot down another American spy plane, Whites on the west coast might agitate for yellows to be incarcerated, which was the talk show gab after China brought one down a few years ago.

Many Whites can’t tell the different yellow groups a part. As for what the ignorant press calls “ Latinos,” millions of them have Black ancestry, a fact that’s being ignored by the stupid cable talk about the Latino – Black divide. I had dinner with a famous Puerto Rican poet and two Puerto Rican scholars on the lower East Side in Nov. I had them in stitches as I told them a joke that comedian Paul Mooney tells. He said that Cubans and Puerto Ricans are Negroes who can swim! He didn’t say Negroes. While the “Latino” journalists argue that Latinos support Black candidates, the all White cable panels ignore this. MSNBC’s expert on race relations is Pat Buchanan, a guy who defended a concentration camp guard and brought Charles Murray’s Neo-Nazi tract about Black inferiority to the attention of Richard Nixon. A couple of days ago in a rant where he was joined by Tucker Carlson about how White men are the victims, he implied that no Blacks fought in the Civil War. I sent a correction to MSNBC pointing out that 186,000 Blacks fought on the Union side alone. I get called a crank for writing such corrections that are for the most part ignored, but until Blacks get something like the Anti-Defamation League, the media have to deal with me. <!–[endif]–>

I think a lot of Obama’s support emphasizes the fact he is European and African, but he’s not really what one would call a “traditional” African American.

ALI: Is he an exotic?

REED: I don’t know if he’s exotic. I like the guy. I think he’s a real inspiration. For once, African American kids, especially the boys, are able to see someone handle intellectual combat. Like Jesse Jackson or Sharpton. Instead of the way they restrict us to athletes, or entertainers, or criminals.

ALI: Here’s a recurring criticism of you: Why is Ishmael Reed always so angry? Why does he hate White people? Why does he always play the “blame game”? Why can’t he move beyond the past?

REED: They’ve been calling African American male writers “angry” for over one hundred years. I mean I get most my information about what’s happening in the United States from reports and studies, which are often in conflict with what you read on the editorial pages, or handouts from right wing institutions like the American Enterprise Institute. When USA Today issued a report about single parents contributing to the lack of assets among Blacks, they sought Robert Rector’s opinion. He’s from Heritage or American Enterprise. He once advocated that strychnine be place in the narcotics supply so that addicts might be identified. The Right Wing pretty much runs the editorial pages. The Black spokesperson they choose are sort of like, what I call “mind-alikes” or “colored mind doubles.” They reflect the reality that the editorial board approves of.

ALI: Can we name names?

REED: The Washington Post just set up a blog for Henry Louis Gates, who calls himself an intellectual entrepreneur. Gates [An African American critic and intellectual] is someone who spends a lot of time preaching “tough love” to 35-year-old grandmothers living in the projects when studies I’ve read suggest that multi generational welfare families are rare. There are so many people making money off of projects in Chicago. I’ve suggested that the project dwellers do what Indians do for tourists on reservations; like set up food stands and souvenir shops and things, for all these invaders from PBS and HBO, who are all coming there and making money from entertaining White audiences with the misery that goes on there. Like the television show The Wire, and writers like Richard Price, who has made millions from what he calls “ forays into the ghetto.” They even have hired an Indian to do it: Sudhir Venkatesh wrote “Gang Leader For A Day,” a book that resulted from him hanging out with a project gang. He and Scott Simon were laughing it up a few weeks ago on NPR about the antics of some deadly stupid gang that was terrorizing project dwellers. I’d like to get Venkatesh’s views on the oppression of Indian women in India in Indian households, or how some Indian women are imported for the purpose of sexual slavery. I’d like to get D’Nesh D’ Souza, who has made millions performing circus acts like mocking Black English, to comment about the thousands of Indian children in India who are sold into sexual bondage. These guys know where the money is. Putting down Blacks, so hard to do.

But, Gates takes after these 35- year-old grandmothers in the projects, but from what I’ve read, multigenerational welfare recipients are rare. It’s like Reagan coming to power with the “Welfare Queen,” but Lou Cannon, his biographer, says no one has ever been able to locate this woman. Reagan, of course, had Alzheimers I think in perhaps his first term or second term. So, he probably saw it in a movie or something, because he often mixed up movies with reality. Ok, so he takes after those people instead of the predatory laws.

Gates thing is the “underclass.” All the social problems are derived from the behavior of the underclass. I’m sure Obama feels the same way: their personal behavior is a cause of their plight. Why don’t they take on the medical profession that is still experimenting on African Americans? There is a book called Medical Apartheid, which was nominated for a National Book Award, that talks about these experiments. The Tuskegee experiments were the tip of the iceberg.


Or, the so-called psychiatric profession testing dangerous anti-psychotic drugs on poor, Black patients, Hispanic patients, and indigents. Or, why doesn’t he take on these predator lenders like Wells Fargo that have put Africans Americans out of $90 billion dollars due to these foreclosures and lending? But, they go after people who can’t fight back and the kind of people their sponsors go after.

ALI: Who are their sponsors?

REED: Washington Post is the blog’s sponsor. Gates is the leader. McWhorther – John McWhorther is there too [African American linguist and intellectual.] He works for an outfit which sort of flirts with Nazi science –the Eugenics movement: The Manhattan Institute. They sponsored Charles Murray.

ALI: Author of The Bell Curve?

REED: Right, The Bell Curve.

ALI: He’s a Harvard guy.

REED: If you read William Shirer’s Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, one of Hitler’s big advisors was a Harvard man. Richard J. Herrstein was the co-author of Bell Curve, worked with Charles Murray. Herrnstein was also at Harvard. Charles Murray is Scots-Irish. I was reading Ralph Ellison’s biography and he was writing about White immigrants trying to “get over” at the expense of Blacks. For generations comedians have made jokes about Scots-Irish in the South inter-breeding. “I am my own grandpa” and all that stuff; you know, because they all were marrying their first cousins. I think Jerry Lee Lewis married his first cousin, too. I think there’s a book by Kevin Phillips, American Cousins where he mentioned the Scots-Irish were apparently people who liked loose women and were, you know, “backward.” These are stereotypes of course, but here we have a Scots –Irish intellectual perpetuating stereotypes. Manhattan Institute is the kind of organization that sponsors Eugenics.

They thought John McWhorther was so good they brought him from California to Manhattan, and they brag about being able to give their fellows enormous publicity, you understand? McWhorter is on C-Span everyday it seems and has a show on NPR where he blasted me and a number of black intellectuals without our receiving equal time. He said I was jealous of his being on All Things Considered. I once had a commentary on All Things Considered during Bush 1’s term. I was fired after I did a commentary predicting that the Willie Horton campaign would come back to haunt Lee Atwater and Bush. Maybe they find someone from the Manhattan Institute more to their liking. So, here I am on 53rd street. In the ghetto of Oakland with no foundation support and spending my own dime. I go up against John McWhorther, one of whose sponsors is Chase Manhattan Bank. They set up a debate between the two of us after I called him “the Black front man for the Eugenics movement.” During the debate, he expressed ignorance of the Institute’s history. He never heard of William Casey, the CIA Director, who founded the Manhattan Institute. Casey might have been indicted for Iran-Contra had he not died. Do you think he was interested in welfare for African Americans? No. So, these guys are interested in this quack Neo-Nazi, Eugenics science.

When I debated McWhorther, he said the Institute severed their ties with Charles Murray. Not so. Recently, the Manhattan Institute sponsored Charles Murray in one of these IQ debates at the Harvard Club in Manhattan . So, I guess McWhorther doesn’t know what’s going in this organization that is pushing him out there to say African Americans are their own worst enemy.

The Washington Post blog called The Root or something has Malcolm Gladwell, this guy who wrote “The Tipping Point.” He’s on there with Gates and McWhorter. This guy, now this guy, has a really great con game going in the “post race” hustle; one of the best con games going. He was telling White audiences on C-SPAN that the cops who beat up Rodney King and those who shot Diallo in New York didn’t do it out of racism or racist motives. They did it due to an “autistic moment.”

ALI: What’s an autistic moment?

REED: I guess their senses were scrambled, or they were confused, whatever. So, I wrote him a letter saying, “You know the guys that beat up Rodney king, those cops? They made a lot of racist comments on their way to the beating. Referring to King as a “Gorilla In the Mist.” He wrote me an email saying, “Yeah, I knew that. But, I didn’t have time to go into it, because I was on television.”

So, these are mind doubles. These are intellectual entrepreneurs. So, if you’re on the left wing and you gave them money, then they are your mouth piece. But, the right wing has more money, I mean, they’ve got billions. They’ve got William Scaife, a billionaire. The right wing has enormous resources and so they are able to control the so called National Dialogue on Race so that it reflects their ideas.

ALI: Right, the Scaife Foundation.

REED: Yeah, Scaife Foundation is the one that almost destroyed Clinton. Scaife is the guy who put money behind Proposition 209, the anti Affirmative Action bill. They do the same thing with you guys [Muslims], I mean what you’re up against Irshad Manji [self proclaimed Muslim Refusenik and author of “Trouble with Islam Today”] and others like that, right? The American Enterprise Institute brought this woman from the Netherlands to slime Islam, but I guess she didn’t work out [Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the disgraced Dutch politician turned author who found monetary and academic shelter with the AEI.] She returned to the Netherlands where she has some link to far right politics. She received enormous publicity because of the American Enterprise Institute.

ALI: Yeah, I called them “the Info-tainment Circus.”

REED: Exactly.

ALI: We both have a lot of “European” friends, “White” friends, and many times when we talk about race, naturally, they get offended and say, “We’re not racists. You’re making assumptions about us, just like we make assumptions about you.” So, let’s discuss this concept of “Whiteness.” Why does the “ticket” to mainstream “Whiteness” entail turning around and beating up other minority groups. For example the Scots-Irish you mentioned, Catholics, Jews, now even some mainstream gay and lesbians do this. Why is this part of the bargain?

REED: That’s to win over the mainstream. You know, Barbara Smith, one of my critics, she is a Black, professional lesbian, she went to Washington D.C. gay pride parade, and they told her to “Get lost” because they were trying to mainstream. They weren’t interested in “Black” issues. These aren’t the first ones to use the underdogs or unpopular groups to “get over” and “cross over.” The American labor movement has done that, the feminist movement had done that, a whole bunch of movements who have to scapegoat African Americans and unpopular groups like immigrants, White immigrants in the 19th century, to “get over to mainstream.” Gloria Steinem tried to win points for Hillary Clinton, a millionaire, wife of a former president whose feminist supporters say has run up against a glass ceiling. She said that being a woman is more of a barrier to success than being Black. I went into a health foods store the other day and couldn’t shop without this Asian American clerk hovering over me. I complained to the storeowner about being treated like a shop lifter. She didn’t deny the racial profiling. She told the over eager clerk that I was a regular customer and that he didn’t have to do it to me. I wonder does Ms. Steinem or Mrs. Clinton receive this kind of reception when they shop?

This is a problem that Obama faces. Wall Street wants him, Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, J.P.Morgan are his contributors, and these wealthy people are beyond countries. Some of them don’t even live here anymore. These multinationals, some of them, they’ve been around, they are more sophisticated than the average American, they’ve seen diversity. So, they’re saying, “We need this guy to represent our interests.” Because, this whole 1950’s Country Club, Bush type image is not going to work anymore. I mean, those types of guys can’t go anywhere, I mean they can’t even travel places anymore. Bush, I mean, he can’t go to Spain or he might get arrested. (Laughs.) So, what they need is this really pretty, dark face. When Bush traveled through Africa he was confronted with questions about Barack. It must have got to him because he started attacking Barack when he returned. An Obama election would be an enormous boost to the capitalist system, which seems on the verge of collapse. I could see enormous crowds turning out to greet him as he fronts for the system. If he went to Baghdad he’d receive a ticker tape parade and even the Taliban would turn out to get a glimpse of him.

ALI: As long as he’s not too dark though.

REED: (Laughs.) Yes, that’s right. Not too dark, not too this, not too that. But this sort of pastiche or assemblage, or like how the world looks now, right? It’s a dark skinned world. European population is being decimated, and you see all these people going to Europe. I was in Vienna and I said, “Europe is becoming a dark continent.” (Laughs.) Because in Europe, you see dark skinned people: Arabs, North Africans, Africans. I mean if you go to the Champs-Elycees, man, you think you’re in Lagos or something.



Wall Street has to get the white working class to go along with Obama.

ALI: Are they, you think?

REED: I saw some shifts going on in the last Primaries where some were coming around to Obama. It might happen. And, you know, about this “angry” thing they label me. The White critics I mean. I’m writing a piece about my friend the late Bob Callahan, who unlike so called “Whites,” knew where he came from, you know. He didn’t dismiss us as angry or “politically incorrect.” He read our history, and he explored African American culture; he published Zora Neal Hurston. He had a different point of view than some of these people just dismiss us as being politically correct, or angry, or in a rage and all this kind of stuff. They’ve been saying for over 200 years that African American male writers are angry or have a chip on their shoulders.

ALI: Let’s talk about writing. You’ve said before, “Writing is Fighting.” As you know, Miles Davis compared his musical exercise to the discipline of boxing. In fact, he said he respects good boxers so much, because they require and possess an intelligence; that, there’s a “higher sense of theory” going on in their heads. He compared it to his solitary exercise of performing.

REED: Miles was also a boxer.

Miles Sparring

ALI: Right. So, we have this whole concept of boxing, writing, fighting. Why this philosophy of “boxing” as writing?

REED: I think I have a pugnacious style. My style is not pretty. I don’t use words like “amber” or “opaque.” (Laughs.)

ALI: Or Chrysanthemums? (Laughs.)

REED: (Laughs.) Yeah, yeah. My stuff is direct. Critics have compared my writing style with boxing all the way back to 1978 when my first book of essays appeared: it was compared to Muhammad Ali’s style. Others have compared my style to Roy Jones Jr. and Mike Tyson.


As a writer, you explore all kinds of different emotions. My latest poem is about a tree in my backyard, which is from the Tropics. I’m trying to explain how it got there. I had a meditative poem about watching out over the Golden Gate Bridge from a mountain.

It was published in The New Yorker. I think when I write essays I’m out to do on the page what we can’t do in the media. We don’t have billions of dollars that are available to these people who do what amounts to a propaganda attack on us. We’re being out propagandized. When I look at the newspapers, I’m furious. Because I can see where the interpretation of who we are and how people from the outside define us.

My friend Cecil Brown is very upset because the SF Chronicle is doing a Black History Month series and it’s all White male writers! I mean they assign Black History Month to all White writers with all these African American writers in the Bay Area and in California? I mean I’m here and I’ve written for them. And of course, they wrote about the kind of black image that appeals to them: Athletes and Entertainers. Not a single scientist, or inventor. I was down at Lockheed Martin, addressing the Black employees: Engineers and Scientists. I told them that a lot of the space equipment used by NASA was invented by Black scientists, yet when Mailer wrote that dumb book about the moonshot he said that Blacks were jealous of this White achievement.

The formula for sending a shuttle into space and bringing it back was devised by a Black woman scientist.

Cecil also said he was pleased that there was a Hollywood writer’s strike so all these demeaning images of us would at least disappear for a while, for at least 3 weeks. Because, I mean the Writer’s Guild is only like 2% African American. I think there’s probably, what, no Pakistani American writers?

ALI: I think there is 1.

REED: Well, probably, he’s the one saying, “We all ought to assimilate.”

ALI: Or, he might try to hide it.

REED: Yeah, hides it. Right. So, that’s all we have. All we have is writing. Sometimes it’s very effective. I mean I’m organizing my neighborhood block with emails, because we have criminal activity on our block. Instead of the old days, where we had to confront these people, now we can do it through emails and cyberspace.

I did a book called “Another Day at the Front” which was my first critical book about the media, and I got on Nightline. I was able to challenge some of these assumptions of African Americans and their culture.

Another Day at the Front

ALI: Is writing a solitary experience? Is it shadowboxing in a sense?

REED: Not for me. I have T.V. on all the time when I’m writing. I have music on. I’m engaged with the world. If the phone rings, I answer it. I’m not the kind of writer who sits around 8 hours a day writing. I’ll write in the morning, and sometimes I’ll get up 4 in the morning sometimes and do this Anthology I’m working on. (PowWow releasing this Summer by De Capo Press). I’m learning a lot. I wasn’t really a short story person, but now I’m reading about 140 short stories and there are a lot of good ones out there. I’m reading stories from different groups – like from the 19th century immigrant perspective which is really overlooked. In this country, it’s not good to be “ethnic.” Although, T.S. Eliot said, “Not all ethnic writers are great, but all great writers are ethnic.” I mean Eliot was the head of the modernist movement!

I don’t know about this solitary stuff. I mean I do plays and they are collaborative. My last play was called “angry” by the New York Times. Even though every line could be footnoted. I got a great review in the Backstage which is a theatre trade magazine, but the Times guy said I was “angry” about a lot of things. But, I mean, what was I angry about? I took on 2 issues. One was the pharmaceutical industry using African Americans as guinea pigs and colluding with psychiatrists, who get $40,000 kickbacks, and how they use these drugs in Africa for testing. They are fully aware of the bad side effects when they produce these drugs. The other issue is how think-thanks front these people like McWhorter to push this line that “all of African American’s problems are self inflicted.”

Shelby Steele, for example. You see Shelby Steele? Nobody knows about Shelby Steele, African Americans don’t know anything about Shelby Steele. They put him up there, the right wing does. He just got $200,000 last year in May from the Bradley Foundation, who funded Charles Murray too, and they had a ceremony at the Kennedy Center. I bet there were many mink coats and limousines pulling up there, because they’ve got a lot of money.

This is what we’re up against. See, our intellectuals don’t know what we’re up against. They think this is all about getting on the Bill Maher show. There is an orchestrated campaign that is tied to the Eugenics campaign. I just had a dialogue with John Rockwell from the New York Times, because we’re in the same anthology together. I said, “Look, the Eugenics movement came out of the United States.” “Where? Where? Where?” he said. So, I had to send him a book on this.

Ward Connerly, I mean, all these people. Connerly got money from Pioneer Fund, whose founders praised Hitler. So, there is something going on behind the scenes.

It kind of explains [Hurricane] Katrina. Where people think, to put it bluntly, “These people are sub-human. So, let ‘em drown.” Or, as Hitler did – he burned them up. Here, we let them drown.

ALI: Let’s talk about Mumbo Jumbo your most famous novel. Many say this novel was about the forces of “rationalism and militarism” versus the forces of “the magical and the spontaneous.” Today, we find extremist groups rooting themselves in piety, religion, spirituality and faith. In the 1972 version of the novel, Abdul Hamid, a Black Muslim fundamentalist, burns the “Book” which contains the “key” to these ancient traditions of magic, dance, and creativity. If Mumbo Jumbo took place in the 21st century, who would burn the “Book”?


REED: I think there are fundamentalists all over the world. I think all religions have fundamentalists who have different interpretations of scriptures that are very vague. These books are written in metaphor, they are written with symbolism. A lot of it is outdated and tied to the times in which the text was written. So, you can do anything you want to with religion. Unfortunately, in the world today, we have dogmatic people entering into politics. I don’t think the two mix. But, we always believed in separation of church and state. But, I predicted there would be a theocracy in the 80’s in my book The Terrible Twos, where I had a preacher running the White House in 1982.

You see, I think when you’re an independent intellectual you’re going to get it from all sides. I get it from the Left, the Right, the Middle. When I proposed that people said it was silly, but now we have Huckabee and Bush, and others. I mean they’re all still players. But, when I said it, they thought it was silly.

(To be continued next week, where Reed discusses his volatile friendship with Amiri Baraka, his issues with HBO’s The Wire, his ongoing feud with his feminist critics, and White academia’s resistance to multicultural voices.)