Laura Flanders: LF
Scot Nakagawa: SN
Transcript of video:
LF: My guest is Scot Nakagawa, he’s senior partner at ChangeLab, which is a grassroots institute for racial equity. He’s also a long time activist in the LGBT movements, and the fight the right campaigns of the 1990s, and, he’s just started a blog, racefiles.com. Scot, it’s great to have you. You’ve moved to New York, we’re glad to have you, after been working in the west for many years. You’ve also launched a blog that if people read it today, it’s called Race Files, if people read it today, they would see a lot of discussion on anti-Black racism. We’ve been talking about Asians, but, you’re focused a lot on lifting the oppression of African Americans. Why? Why has that been a priority for you for so long?
SN: Well, lifting up the oppression faced by African Americans I believe is really critical, to address the issue of race in general in the United States. And so I really see it um, as, uh, you know, something that I have believed is important because I believe that my liberation is tied to the liberation of African Americans. I believe that the liberation of people of color in this country in general is tied to the liberation of African Americans and of all people of color. I see African Americans, or at least anti-Black racism, as the fulcrum of white supremacy. So, if whiteness is the lever, and white privilege is the lever, um, that anti-Black racism is the thing that gives that lever power. It’s the rock underneath the —- [Scot makes up and down hand gestures]
LF: Explain that historically, why so?
SN: Well, I believe that race is an idea, that was constructed originally in order to justify the enslavement of African Americans or of Africans. And, um, that, historically, we have, as a country, um have created a set of legal codes, created a constitution, created a federal system, all in order to accommodate slavery. And, in each generation as we did so, that we continue to build on this idea of African people, or African descended people, as this permanent other. That a threat, a you know, a group to be exploited, and that have um, built an entire politics around that notion.
LF: What do you think is the legacy of that, for the possibility of creating some new economic relations, as people are constantly trying to do, and i think particularly right now?
SN: Well I think that we need to now, deal with the fact that, for the most part, without perhaps being able to articulate it, white people in america view white privilege as something that has a real cash value. You know, it’s worth money. It has historically been worth money. You know historically, you could sue someone for saying you were Black if you weren’t, and get a cash settlement, but you couldn’t do the opposite. You couldn’t sue someone for saying you were white if you weren’t. Because that would be considered, to your advantage. So you know, there is this perception, that there is a cash value associated with whiteness, and I think that where we see people fighting over issues like Affirmative Action get put on the table. This notion that somehow by having that privilege eroded, that your economic status will be instantly affected by it. And so I think that that’s one problem. I also think that we have another problem, it’s more of a social, ideological problem. Um, I think, you know, that the history of villyfy-ing people of color, particularly Native Americans and African Americans, has had the intention of causing African Americans and Native Americans in particular, to be viewed as less than human by white people, to in other words be dehumanized. But it had the opposite effect, and really dehumanized white people, in the sense that their understanding of what it means to be human is limited by race. You know, it’s very difficult for people to understand what are human needs, if they are defined in terms of race. You know, we have much more in common than people would like to imagine. But we continually limit ourselves in understanding how we are to serve our society, and to see how the various needs of different people in society, regardless of race, are connected to one another.