BILL MOYERS: This week on Moyers & Company… Once upon a time in America.

KHALIL GIBRAN MUHAMMAD: History is the building block of all knowledge in our society. And it is the most important part of the most significant tradition that human beings have, which is storytelling.

BILL MOYERS: Welcome. Here comes the Fourth of July, number 236 since the Continental Congress approved the Declaration of Independence and riders on horseback rushed it to the far corners of the thirteen new United States -- where it was read aloud to cheering crowds. These days our celebration of the Fourth brings a welcome round of barbecue, camaraderie with friends and family, fireworks, flags, and unbeatable prices at the mall.

But perhaps, too, we will remember the Declaration of Independence itself, the product of what John Adams called Thomas Jefferson's "happy talent for composition." Take some time this week to read it -- alone, to yourself, or aloud, with others, and tell me the words aren't still capable of setting the mind ablaze. The founders surely knew that when they let these ideas loose in the world, they could never again be caged.

Yet from the beginning, these sentiments were also a thorn in our side, a reminder of the new nation's divided soul. Opponents, who still sided with Britain, greeted it with sarcasm. How can you declare "All men are created equal," without freeing your slaves?

Jefferson himself was an aristocrat whose inheritance of 5000 acres and the slaves to work it, mocked his eloquent notion of equality. He acknowledged that slavery degraded master and slave alike, but would not give his own slaves their freedom. Their labor kept him financially afloat. Hundreds of slaves, forced like beasts of burden to toil from sunrise to sunset under threat of the lash, enabled him to thrive as a privileged gentleman, to pursue his intellectual interests, and to rise in politics. Even the children born to him by the slave Sally Hemings, remained slaves, as did their mother. Only an obscure provision in his will released his children after his death. All the others -- scores of slaves -- were sold to pay off his debts.

Yes, Thomas Jefferson possessed "a happy talent for composition" -- but he employed it for cross purposes. Whatever he was thinking when he wrote “all men are created equal,” he also believed blacks were inferior to whites. Inferior, he wrote, "to the whites in the endowments both of body and mind." To read his argument today is to enter the pathology of white superiority that attended the birth of our nation.

So forcefully did he state the case, and so great was his standing among the slave-holding class, that after his death the black abolitionist David Walker would claim Jefferson’s argument had "injured us more, and has been as great a barrier to our emancipation as any thing that has ever been advanced against us," for it had "…sunk deep into the hearts of millions of the whites, and never will be removed this side of eternity."

So, the ideal of equality Jefferson proclaimed, he also betrayed. He got it right when he wrote about “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” As the core of our human aspirations. But he lived it wrong, denying to others the rights he claimed for himself. And that's how Jefferson came to embody the oldest and longest war of all -- the war between the self and the truth, between what we know and how we live.

So enjoy the fireworks and flags, the barbecues and bargain sales. But hold this thought as well -- that behind this Fourth of July holiday are human beings who were as flawed and conflicted as they were inspired. If they were to look upon us today they most likely would think as they did then, how much remains to be done.

With those contradictions of American history in mind, this seemed a good time to talk with Khalil Gibran Muhammad. He’s made them his life’s work. Muhammad grew up on Chicago’s South Side, a member of the first generation of African Americans born after the victories of the civil rights movement. He’s the author of this award-winning book, The Condemnation of Blackness, which brings the past to bear on race, crime and the making of urban America, and connects today’s headlines to their deep roots. He was teaching history at Indiana University when the New York Public Library asked him to head the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

KHALIL GIBRAN MUHAMMAD: I decided right after college that there was nothing more important to me than learning about African-American history and culture, really being able to learn firsthand the experiences and contributions that African-Americans have made to this country and to the world.

BILL MOYERS: The Schomburg Center is known the world over for documenting the history of all peoples of African descent, with a special emphasis on the story of African Americans. Among its ten million items are classic works crystalizing that experience.

KHALIL GIBRAN MUHAMMAD: There are many books in this collection that span centuries. I happen to be holding two of our oldest books. The first here is truly our oldest. It is published in 1573 by a poet named Juan Latino. This is the first known book of poetry written in Latin by a person of African descent. It's really quite a treasure for us.

The other book is a first edition of Phillis Wheatley, not only a great American poet, but as the first African-American poet to be widely celebrated in this country. She certainly proved that black people were capable of contributing real art and letters to the world.

BILL MOYERS: The Schomburg is a bustling place in the heart of Harlem. Students come and go, scholars spend long hours here, and everyday people come to pursue their particular curiosities. There are seminars, readings, and interviews with writers and historians. When we dropped by, Rachel Swarns of "The New York Times" was talking about her book American Tapestry, tracing First Lady Michelle Obama's family history.

RACHEL SWARNS: We actually know where this story ends, with Michelle Obama, with the first African American First Lady in the White House. But the question is where is began.

BILL MOYERS: With the Fourth of July approaching, I asked Muhammad to talk about celebrating the present without whitewashing the past.

BILL MOYERS: Welcome to the show.

KHALIL GIBRAN MUHAMMAD: Thank you very much, Bill, for having me.

BILL MOYERS: Why history? I ask the question because Henry Ford famously said, "History is bunk."


BILL MOYERS: And you clearly disagree.

KHALIL GIBRAN MUHAMMAD: I clearly disagree. And I think this is a moment with questions about what the founding fathers intended, when they established our system of government. How large it should be. The debate between Jefferson and Hamilton, about whether there should be central government or small country of farmer republics. This question of what our original history is has shaped almost every aspect of the American experience.

In other words, history is all around us. Whether or not it is an accurate description of what happened in 1776, for example, or what happened in 1865 is secondary to the point that people's ideas about the past, people's sense of memory about the past, shape their own sense of identity and shape how they imagine the world should be. And therefore, in my opinion, history is the building block of all knowledge in our society. And it is the most important part of the most significant tradition that human beings have, which is storytelling.

BILL MOYERS: But how do we know to trust the past or which part of the past to trust? Because as you say, history is storytelling. And we all tend to reach for the facts that confirm our story, confirm our narrative, our interpretation of the past. So how do we learn to trust which part of the past?

KHALIL GIBRAN MUHAMMAD: Historians, professional historians will be the first to admit that history is about interpretation. It's about taking a fragmentary record and crafting an argument and defending that argument based on evidence. It's very little different than what lawyers do or Supreme Court justices do when they try to argue the merits of a case.

BILL MOYERS: But when you hear someone invoke Thomas Jefferson, what image comes to mind?

KHALIL GIBRAN MUHAMMAD: I tend to think of Jefferson's ideas that gave birth to this republic with a whole lot of contradiction. And in that regard, I don't think of Thomas Jefferson as exceptional. The fundamental conundrum that was established in this country in spite of Thomas Jefferson's ideas about independence was that they resolved that slavery would exist after the revolution.

BILL MOYERS: And I, well, I ask that question, because it raises the argument, the story -- which story do you believe of whether this reflected their hypocrisy or their humanity? And therefore is an eternal reality that we want to do good things and we believe certain ideas and ideals, but we also act otherwise.

KHALIL GIBRAN MUHAMMAD: So it does. Contradiction is part of the human experience. We wrestle with it every single day, whether we admit it or not. Thomas Jefferson and half of the other slaveholders who were presidents, all lived daily contradictions.

They could literally look out their windows and see enslaved people in the land of the free and the home of the brave, so on and so forth. But the fact of the matter is that they had a great responsibility for building what would become American democracy. And in that regard, they failed miserably.

BILL MOYERS: Yeah, it took me a long time, long past college and even graduate school, to figure out that eight of the first ten of our presidents were enriched by their ownership of capital, land or slaves. We were never taught that these men actually created a government, a constitution designed to protect the further acquisition of property for the privileged classes. Which that just didn't get discussed.

KHALIL GIBRAN MUHAMMAD: Well, it's also the difference between an individual living a contradiction in terms of enslaving another as a proponent of freedom. And the ways in which those same individuals helped to build philosophical and ideological justifications for enslavement. And again, that's where things get a little trickier. So of course Thomas Jefferson penned "Notes on the State of Virginia" in 1787, which was effectively one of the first scientific arguments for why black people should be treated differently from whites, by virtue of their racial inferiority.

In other words, the scientific notion that black people were fundamentally different, whether it was in hair texture or in body odor, which is all part of Thomas Jefferson's analysis, gave birth to the enduring justification that even in America, even in a place that represented a tradition of republicanism in the world, the first modern democracy, that you could actually reconcile freedom and slavery, as long as the people who were enslaved were not equal citizens, were not made of the stuff of equal humanity.

BILL MOYERS: Well, then you had to construct a system that made sure they could never be seen to be equal members of society?

KHALIL GIBRAN MUHAMMAD: Correct. Well, that system was already self-reinforcing by the economic imperatives of enslavement. So you had the system that provided a modus operandi for reproducing inferiority. But you had to explain it still. And it was to that task that theologians, philosophers, scientists, eventually social scientists, journalists and politicians eventually weighed in and said, "This all makes sense. It makes sense because these people-- I mean, from a religious standpoint, these people are not of the same God even. That they represent a different species created by God to serve White men."

BILL MOYERS: And so when you were growing up in Hyde Park near Chicago and July 4th comes around, how do you celebrate July 4th? Did these conflicted images of the past, this evidence of this contradiction, did these play through your discussions, through your mind and your family discussions? Or how did you celebrate the 4th?

KHALIL GIBRAN MUHAMMAD: No, not in any way, shape, or form. We shot fireworks, illegally in Chicago, I might add. They were abundant in Indiana, so easy to get. And we had barbecue, just like any Americans. We listened to loud music. We played volleyball, softball, if we had access to a field.

I mean, that's one of the other amazing contradictions in Americans. Americans, black, white, Asian American, Latino American, want to believe in this experiment, want to participate in this experiment, don’t want to carry the baggage of the past. They don't want to live it. They don't want to breathe it. It's depressing.

And so most families cherish that holiday, whether they're black or white, as an opportunity to spend time together. Now if you went into a barbecue and you asked them, you know, "What's wrong with this scene?" in the stirring words of Frederick Douglass, who described the 4th of July in 1852 as "your holiday" as the ultimate contradiction between a country celebrating its freedom while enslaving 95 percent of its citizens.

They might pause and say, "Hm, that's a good point. Well, maybe next year we'll do something different."

BILL MOYERS: If you can remember, when you first heard the words "all men are created equal," do you remember how you reacted to them?

KHALIL GIBRAN MUHAMMAD: When I was old enough, and particularly in college, when these kinds of documents, you have time to critically engaged. You're being inspired to pay attention. I can remember having visible, a palpable sense that this wasn't true. That the framers had lied. That the words didn't match the reality.

And that was just a response. I didn't have a sense of history enough then to sort of unpack all of that. Because there was so much rhetoric of equality of opportunity. I mean, I can't overemphasize the point enough. I grew up in the 1980s, right? I mean, so this is, you know, John Wayne is the president as Ronald Reagan. And in all of that rhetoric of opportunity, all of the sanitization of what King's legacy had meant was part of the Zeitgeist of that moment.

And so to all of a sudden encounter those words in a moment of reflection and then to know growing up on the South Side of Chicago that everything wasn't all perfect and equal meant that there was work to be done. There was a reconciliation, a reckoning so to speak, that needed to take place. And for me, that was exciting. It was exciting to have the space and the opportunity when I got to graduate school to study it.

BILL MOYERS: Again, it took me a long time to learn that the man who wrote "all men are created equal," also wrote the words, "money, not morality is the principle of commercial nations." And so I ask you, the historian, is one more true than the other? Is it more true that all men are created equal? Or is it more true that money, not morality, governs our polity?

KHALIL GIBRAN MUHAMMAD: Well, if we use the benefit of hindsight, I think it's certainly, history has borne out that money not morality is the principle of commercialized nations. At the very moment of course when this country was building its political infrastructure, the set of ideas that would animate three systems of government, with checks and balances, with defined citizenship -- of course property was crucial to who would participate.

And so it took us another 100 years to enfranchise Black male voters. And then another 50 years after that to enfranchise women. So in that regard, history teaches us something about what the relationship between citizenship and property was, which was a contradiction. It wasn't about all men. And in that regard, even the gendered notion of equality--

BILL MOYERS: "We the people" did not include--


BILL MOYERS: --blacks, women, Native Americans, right?

KHALIL GIBRAN MUHAMMAD: That's right. Which is, even in this conversation, and let me say this very clearly, the fact of what happened to Native Americans in this country in the 17th century, the fact that it's still not part of the lingua franca of our conversations about this nation's earliest history is evidence of how little it is part of our secondary educational experiences and our colleges.

In other words, I am obviously a proponent of historical literacy that focuses in particular on African Americans. But even as I talk to you, even as we have this conversation about the Declaration of Independence, it's almost an afterthought to think about Native Americans.

It's almost an afterthought to think about how the 19th century the moment of the expansion of the frontiers of this nation, which really was an escape valve for European immigrants, who came here, whether it was from Ireland or whether they came here from Australia as English indentures, was built on the backs of land owned in the Indian sense by many tribes indigenous to this country.

I mean, it's just a moment to reflect upon how just starting with the question of "What happened to black people?" is not sufficient to understanding that at the end of the day, the very notion of settlement in this country was about procuring resources for the purposes of wealth accumulation. That was true for most who came to this country, maybe not true for a small band of Puritans who landed in Massachusetts, who imagined the recreation of a very special, religious community. But even that vision of American society didn't last very long. So it's certainly true, as far as I'm concerned, that over the last 225 years, Thomas Jefferson's second point about money-- has far outlasted and triumphed over the notion of freedom.

BILL MOYERS: The Declaration refers to Native Americans as savages. They were written out, as you say, of the story very early. Do you think it had something to do with the unconscious or even conscious understanding on the part of the white slave-holding property-seeking race that we were practicing genocide, we, the white race, were practicing genocide against these people? Maybe the word wasn't in currency at that time. But they were removed. They were taken to a reservation. They were enclosed. And that's where they spent the last 200 and some-odd years. Why did we write the Native American out of the story?

KHALIL GIBRAN MUHAMMAD: So first of all, our experience in the United States was already learning from the experience in South America, where indigenous populations, Taino Indians in various parts of the Caribbean Islands and in South America were first resistant to the encroachments of Europeans, eventually fought against them, and showed such valor in their fighting against European encroachment that there was no sense of incorporation or assimilation.

So their fighting spirit created a kind of contradiction of nobility, which was what eventually gave birth to the notion of the noble savage. That these were a people who were willing to die to protect their way of life. It was disease that wiped them out at the end of the day. That's what got the better of the indigenous populations.

So in that regard, the pure devastation that attended to the original settlement of Europeans in the Americas eventually gave birth to population loss that was akin to genocide by today's standards, but it was done by way of germ warfare. And really in an unintended way.

BILL MOYERS: Did anybody ever teach you, tell you that Chief Justice John Jay said, "Those who own the country should govern it"?

KHALIL GIBRAN MUHAMMAD: No, I mean, it reminds me of a quote that George Walker Bush used, which was that this is an ownership society and if you don't own anything, you don't have any say. He didn't actually say the second part. But he did describe America as an ownership society. effectively meaning that people need to be empowered through the privatization of formerly public services for the purposes of having a stake in it.

And this, of course, was evidenced by his attempt to privatize Social Security, right? But the bottom line is that because of the significance of money in politics, because of the increasing wealth inequality in this country people who don't own anything are often at the whim and caprice of political and business elites.

BILL MOYERS: Why do politicians whitewash history?

KHALIL GIBRAN MUHAMMAD: Because it helps them get elected. Why else do politicians do what they do?

BILL MOYERS: How does it help them get elected though? Does it mean-- you mean we the voters like our cream and peaches history?

KHALIL GIBRAN MUHAMMAD: Just like black folks like celebrating -- having barbecue and shootin' fireworks on the 4th of July without any, you know, sense of contradiction in that moment. People want to be happy. People want to celebrate. People want to feel a sense of belonging. And so when politicians craft stories that remove the ugly aspects of the past, which, you know, are really ugly. I mean, there's just no way around them. They are feeding that desire, that sense of belonging, that sense that we are a good people by nature.

BILL MOYERS: I read just the other day that 76 percent, three quarters of college graduates are unfamiliar with the Bill of Rights. And almost that many could not say who was America's arch-rival during the 40 years of the Cold War. So pretend I'm a freshman in your class at Indiana University, which you left to come to Schomburg. How do you plan to rescue me from my ignorance of the past?

KHALIL GIBRAN MUHAMMAD: Well, if I get to meet you, then I'm gonna encourage you to take a U.S. history course for starters. The problem is that our colleges and our sense of the public sphere are shrinking. Colleges and universities are giving increasing weight to the STEM fields. Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.

They haven't cut out the humanities. I don't want to overstate or say that there's a crisis, necessarily. But there is a sense that university presidents, particularly in state university systems, have to be responsive to state legislatures. And if those state legislatures happen to be Republican, there's a lot at stake when it comes to what is the appropriate history lesson to be taught to our children.

And I want to point out that in Texas, for example, a couple of years ago, there was a move by the then state regents to remove or to lessen-- the state's own history of civil rights activism, both statewide and nationally.

They simply removed certain individuals. So Cesar Chavez got less attention in the textbook. And Ronald Reagan and others got more. I mean, that, for practical purposes, in terms of number of words on page, for certain acts of history--

BILL MOYERS: And they wanted to diminish Martin Luther King's role and increase, enhance Newt Gingrich's role, right?

KHALIL GIBRAN MUHAMMAD: Right. So that in my opinion is of a piece. It's of a piece that both looks at the college as a place where history is less important to the fact of making money.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics produced a report just two years ago, in late 2009, where it identified the top ten growing fields for all Americans. Six of them were low-wage, entry-level service work, the preponderance of which were all in health care. Basically taking care of an aging baby boomer population. So what are we gonna do about that? And--

BILL MOYERS: You're not going to study history, though, are you?

KHALIL GIBRAN MUHAMMAD: Well, you are going to study history. Because if you don't recognize what's at stake for wealth distribution and the fact that money has been a motivating principle for shaping our society. Then people don't have a sense of personal responsibility for changing the reality that they live.

They simply accept it that inequality is a naturalized part of the society. And they will imbibe or accept anything that a silver-tongued politician will sell them. I mean, history is sufficient to making the point that you actually have to protect gains that have been made on behalf of something called justice and equality.

BILL MOYERS: Is that why--

KHALIL GIBRAN MUHAMMAD: The challenge is if they are historically illiterate then they cannot have, they don't have access to those -- that store of ideas. And that evidence of experience that will help them shape whatever they need to shape for this particular moment.

BILL MOYERS: So is that what you meant when you said recently that black history for young people is quote "life saving"?

KHALIL GIBRAN MUHAMMAD: Yes, that's exactly what I meant.

BILL MOYERS: But that black history begins with slavery, with irons, with lynchings, with auctions, with decades after decades of oppression and repression. How can you say it's life saving?

KHALIL GIBRAN MUHAMMAD: That's interesting. Because it doesn't begin with all of that. And we could debate the finer points of the character of what black history is, right? 'Cause that's what we're really talking about. What is it that most people conceive of when they hear black history? Well, there is that history of oppression. It is a unifying experience in the United States, in the American context.

But many people will argue that the cultures of Africa, many cultures, many tribes, many nations celebrated tremendous achievements by the standards of the world, of the 15th, 16th, and 17th, even into the 18th century before colonization. So depending on what it is you are trying to convey to a child, you can tell them that before the white man came, if you go to Timbuktu, you will see a thriving civilization.

You will see the invention of languages that preceded the lingua franca of the world today, which of course is English. That's one way of inspiring people. And that's one way of defining black history. But alongside that very trajectory that you just described, the one of struggle, of pain, of repression, is one of survival, of triumph, of creativity. And so part of telling the story of black history is to celebrate that ability to exist in a society that is working against you, is attempting to demonize you, and still be able to triumph over it, still be able to produce original forms of art, such as jazz music.

That's powerful. And that's empowering. But it's because of black people's political tradition, starting with political activism in the context of slavery to this day, that America actually is a more democratic society, is a society that has more equality than it did 200 years ago.

And that is also a powerfully inspiring history. Because were it not for black people, for example, in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War, the South might have taken another 50 years to have public education. It was because of black political representatives in state congresses in the late 1860s and 1870s that they passed legislation to establish the first public education systems in the South. That's a major contribution. And it demonstrates how important making real democracy is. And this country has, including many minority groups, including women, have to thank for that tradition of black activism.

BILL MOYERS: So I'm sitting there in the front row of your lecture at Indiana University, where you were teaching before you came to the Schomburg. And I just heard you say there's a thin line separating the past from the present. And I raise my hand. And I say, "All right, Professor Muhammad, if that's the case, what does history have to tell me about stop and frisk?"

I ask that question, because our brethren at WNYC, the public radio station here in New York, recently ran a series in which they reported that one in five people stopped last year by New York City police were teenagers 14 to 18 years old. Eighty-six percent of those teenagers stopped were either black or Latino, most of them boys. Last year, more than 120,000 stops of black and Latino; the total number of black and Latino boys that age in New York City isn't much more than that. 177,000 or so, which suggests that every teenage boy who's black and Latino in this City of New York is likely before he graduates to have been stopped and frisked by the police. So you're a historian. What does history have to tell me about stop and frisk?

KHALIL GIBRAN MUHAMMAD: It tells us that it's an old and enduring form of surveillance and racial control. So if we think about the moment immediately following the Civil War, there was the invention of something called the Black Codes in every southern state. And those codes were intended to use the criminal justice system to restrict the freedom and mobility of black people.

And if you crossed any line that they prescribed, you could be sold back to your former slave owner, not as a slave, but as a prisoner to work off your fine after an auction where you were resold to the highest bidder. It tells you something about the invention of the criminal justice system as a repressive tool to keep Black people in their place, from the very moment where 95 percent of the Black population became free. And it's still with us. It's still with us, because ultimately, as a social problem, crime has become like it was in the Jim Crow South, a mechanism to control black people's movement in cities. Just as Douglas Blackmon described in "Slavery By Another Name"--

BILL MOYERS: A great book, by the way.


BILL MOYERS: What happened to blacks after the Civil War, how they were freed.

KHALIL GIBRAN MUHAMMAD: Right. The invention of convict leasing as a mechanism to-- I mean, they had many sources, but one was an economic project to rebuild the South on the backs of imprisoned, leased African Americans sold to private industry. And the net simply widened, because there was a lot of money to be made in doing that kind of work.

In Douglas Blackmon's work, we learn how elastic were laws like vagrancy laws, intended effectively to empower any citizen and/or law enforcement official to check the papers of a black person moving freely along the world. And if you couldn't prove that you were currently employed, bound to a tenant farming contract or a sharecropping agreement, then you were by definition a vagrant, by definition a criminal, and subject to, in this case, convict leasing. So if you're a sharecropper and you're being cheated by the white landowner. And you tell him to go to hell and you step away. He can call the police and say, "This person left my property. And they don't have a job. They're a vagrant."

You get picked up, you're done. You're off to a convict lease. The point is that that elasticity, that ability to use the law as an instrument of control, the ability to use discretion is exactly what operates in the context of stop and frisk. It operated in New York. Stop and frisk as a explicit policy is not that old, but as an informal practice, "Condemnation" describes numerous instances.

It's happening in Brooklyn, in Harlem, in the 1910s and '20s and '30s. But here's the point. Today's stop and frisk, if you look at the form that a police officer fills out, the boxes create tremendous opportunity for discretion. So “furtive movements,” “suspicious behavior.” But probably the one that's most indicative of this is one box that says, "Wears clothes-- wearing clothing known to be associated with criminals."

What does that mean for an 18 year old black or Latino boy in New York City? He has sagging pants? Is that sufficient grounds for investigating whether or not he's a criminal or not, or carrying contraband? Does he have a white t-shirt? Is he wearing a backpack that could contain drugs? In other words, it's incredibly elastic. And it--

BILL MOYERS: Does that include a hoody in Florida?

KHALIL GIBRAN MUHAMMAD: It could include a hoody in Florida. In other words, it allows law enforcement, in this city, just like it did in the 1870s in Alabama, to have the widest berth of discretion to challenge a person, a black male on the streets, to ask them, "Where are you going? And do you belong here?" And as it turns out, if you don't have I.D., you can be subject to arrest in this city.

There’s a hallways monitoring program that the N.Y.P.D. uses to go into private buildings for the purposes of making sure that there's no drug dealing happening in those buildings. But as "The Village Voice" reported just a few months ago, a young man walked out in his pajamas to empty his trash.

He happened to come across an N.Y.P.D. officer. The officer asked him for his I.D., to prove that he lived in the building and wasn't a drug dealer. He didn't have one. He was fined. That's discretion. That's abuse of authority. That is the racial context. Because -- and here's where race really matters today. And I want everybody to be clear about this.

Why race matters today and defies the logic of Bloomberg, that this is really about saving black people. And this is a colorblind public safety agenda is because no white community in America would tolerate this kind of treatment in the name of public safety in its communities, period. You couldn't go into any East Side apartment or any West Side co-op anywhere in New York City, and start asking 17-year-old white boys for I.D., when they were out in their pajamas.

Why? Because their political power in this city and in other parts of this country is sufficient to get a politician to question whether or not that's the America that we want to live in. But when it comes to black and brown people, today as was true 100 years ago, they are subject to certain criminal justice policies. Those policies in Alabama lasted way into the civil rights era. And stop, question, and frisk, as informal practices, have been going on for over a hundred years.

BILL MOYERS: You have written a biography of an idea here. And the idea you're writing about is how blacks came to be singled out, nationally, as an exceptionally dangerous people.

KHALIL GIBRAN MUHAMMAD: Sure. Well, think about it this way, Bill. There's no moment in time, no moment in time exists where race is not a primary factor in the treatment of black people.

And so the crime issue, if we just equate crime or criminalization and racial stigma, there is no moment where race is not an organizing principle for how black people's behavior is defined in American society.

That's the problem. And so policies like stop, question, and frisk evolved not because they were invented in that moment, but because they continued in that moment. And immigrant communities got police reform. And black people got police repression.

BILL MOYERS: The South I understand, but in the North, a hundred years ago, in your home city of Chicago, blacks were only about two percent of the population, maybe four percent of the population. And yet, stop and frisk became very popular there.

KHALIL GIBRAN MUHAMMAD: That's right. And unfortunately, in the aftermath of Reconstruction, there was a meeting of the minds between progressives and white supremacists. And the meeting of the minds wasn’t as we might think it was, because this was also the same moment where people like Jane Addams and William Walling--

BILL MOYERS: Great progressive leaders.

KHALIL GIBRAN MUHAMMAD: Great progressive leaders started the NAACP. They were deeply concerned about political disenfranchisement and civil rights. But crime was the great exception. And in this one space, Southerners were far more influential in terms of telling Northerners that black people were not ready for citizenship, that they were not responsible for following the rules of society.

And Northerners took note and essentially developed policies and practices primarily policing of urban space. Policies like stop, question, and frisk helped to create the ghettos of Harlem, of Chicago, of West Philadelphia that were in their infancy at the turn of the 20th century. And it was only on the basis of criminality that progressives and other liberals said to those black communities that, "We're going to let you work out your own salvation. We're going to let you stay in these isolated communities until you exhibit the bourgeois behaviors of respectability and law abidingness."

And all of this may sound appropriate to viewers listening today, except that the same didn't hold true for European immigrants, who gave so much trouble to civic reformers. They didn't speak the language. They brought old world cultural traits. They were loud. They wanted to peddle their wares all over the streets. There were too many of them. They lived in really dense places. They were brewing wine and other liquors in their bathtubs. Some were extortionists going around collecting taxes and duties from small businesses. Well, they didn't say, "We're going to let you work out your own salvation." They said, "We've got to get in here and Americanize these people."

BILL MOYERS: That's what the progressive--

KHALIL GIBRAN MUHAMMAD: That’s what the progressive movement was about.

BILL MOYERS: -movement was about. Social welfare, public parks, job opportunities, social mobility, but not, you say, for blacks. They were penned off?

KHALIL GIBRAN MUHAMMAD: They were penned off. And they were penned off in a way that crime became the legitimate reason and rationale for that segregation. In other words, crime among immigrants and even native-born working class whites was understood to be a consequence not of their moral character or of their cultural framework, but in fact of economics and class.

So even Europe's peasants, even Europe's marginalized and dispossessed, who came here in search of opportunity, benefited from a civilizationist discourse, from a way of ranking the world's people that said, "Any European, no matter how dastardly or despicable has the stuff of Europe, has the stuff of civilization, with just a little bit of help, will be on their way to greener pastures." But black people were still understood, even in places like New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia as being fundamentally flawed in their nature.

BILL MOYERS: But you go on to say in the book that blackness was refashioned through statistics. That statistics about black crime were ubiquitous. But statistics about white crime were invisible. Was that deliberate?

KHALIL GIBRAN MUHAMMAD: It was over time. So it wasn't that way from the very beginning. The problem is that black people were enslaved. There was no point in tracking them statistically, because they weren't a population problem. They were enslaved. Well, once they were free, the demographers now turned immediately to statistics and said, "We've got to figure out how many babies, how many black babies are born each year? How many black babies die? What are the diseases that they die from?"

And eventually they turned to crime statistics. Their initial point in using statistics was not to celebrate the presence of black people, but to determine how much of a presence, physically, black people would have in the nation. And as it turns out, because enslaved people don't go to prison, they're dealt with summarily as plantation justice. Now as free people they're going to prison.

And in 1890, for the first time, a statistician looked up and said, "Wow, there's a disproportionate prison population of black people. They're 30 percent of the nation's prisoners. And they're only 12 percent of the nation's population. Well, as it turns out, if we just let them be, they will commit enough crimes and go to prison and we won't have to worry about the economic resources that have to be distributed amongst the Italians, amongst the Irish, amongst the Polish Catholic and now amongst the black people."

And so the very notion of refashioning their identity as a criminal identity was intended to be a mechanism to limit social resources on behalf of black communities. To effectively say, "Because they are criminals, they don't deserve even education."

BILL MOYERS: You're not denying that there were crimes.

KHALIL GIBRAN MUHAMMAD: I'm not denying that there were crimes.

BILL MOYERS: Black violence on violence. I mean, the book doesn't deny that. I want to make that clear to the audience. But that somehow the black criminal became a representative of his race.


BILL MOYERS: Right. "To think and talk about African Americans as criminal," you write, "is encoded deeply in our DNA."

KHALIL GIBRAN MUHAMMAD: Correct, but the question became, "Are we going to help black people like we help the immigrants?"

BILL MOYERS: And the answer was?

KHALIL GIBRAN MUHAMMAD: The answer was, "Because they are criminals, no." And that was a rationale rooted in racial logic. It was a rationale tied to sets of ideas that privileged Europeans as people who could benefit from the help of native white reformers, elites like Jane Addams, and black people could not. It effectively created the circumstances that gave birth to modern segregation in our biggest cities. So as those populations grew, the basic infrastructure remained the same.

BILL MOYERS: It was -- it's amazing to me, astonishing to go through here and find so much of the evidence you've collected. You have even President Roosevelt telling black college graduates in 1904 that, quote, "Criminality is in the ultimate analysis a greater danger to your race than any other thing can be." And one sociologist after another saying, "You blacks are your own worst enemies, because of your criminal--"


BILL MOYERS: "--nature." And that took hold in the ideology of dominant America, did it not?

KHALIL GIBRAN MUHAMMAD: And that's the same dominant ideology that we have today. I mean, it's not packaged in the same explicit rhetoric. But it has given birth to policies like stop, question, and frisk that Mayor Bloomberg has --consistently defends, Ray Kelly consistently defends. Policies such as mass incarceration.

We are still living with the same basic ideas and arguments about the relationship between black criminality and social responsibility, between segregation and public safety today as we were in the 1890s in this country.

BILL MOYERS: Here's the testimony of one of the most influential scholars of the time, Nathanial Southgate Shaler, a Harvard scientist and prolific writer on race relations. Here's what he wrote in 1884, quote, "There can be no sort of doubt that judged by the light of all experience, these people,” – blacks – “are a danger to America, greater and more insuperable than any of those that menace the other great civilized states of the world."

He wrote that in the "Atlantic" magazine. Here's Hinton Rowan Helper, arguing that America would self-destruct if it gave blacks the right to vote. He said "Negroes with their crime-stained blackness could not rise to a plane higher than that of base and beastlike savagery. Seeing then that the negro does, indeed, belong to a lower and inferior order of things, why in the name of Heaven, why should we forever degrade and disgrace both ourselves and our posterity by entering of our own volition into more intimate relations with him? May God, in his restraining mercy, forbid that we should ever do this most foul and wicked thing." Now this is not talk radio back in the 1884 or 1904. These are prominent scholars, Harvard, "Atlantic" magazine writing this. And you're saying that in some interior structural way, these sentiments still affect how we deal with each other today?

KHALIL GIBRAN MUHAMMAD: Absolutely. We've got the biggest prison system the world has ever known, a prison system, by the way, that came of age in this moment right after the end of the Civil Rights Movement. So at precisely the moment that black people have their second shot at equality in America, legally, legislatively, right? I mean, we could -- you know as well as anyone that we didn't need the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the '65 Voting Act if the 13th and 14th and 15th Amendment had really been sufficient to creating equality.

So right after that moment, even under Lyndon Baines Johnson, there is an expansion of federal support for local law enforcement on the basis that black people's crime is a danger to civil society. And again, all of this may make sense to a viewer and to a listener, if they didn't know that those same threats to civil society, posed by European immigrants weren't treated in a fundamentally different way. That's the point.

Crime in and of itself was not sufficient to justify a punitive, law and order political response or a set of ideas that exist today as they did then that saw black people's crime as evidence of some moral inferiority, some natural propensity to want to hurt people or to steal things.

For the European immigrant in the hands of a eugenicist, that was all true. "These people can't help themselves. They're a threat to society." But the progressives said, "No." And what's more telling about the progressives is they actually got rid of statistics. They stopped using the language of statistics, "15 percent of all crimes in this city are committed by the Irish, another 45 percent by the Italians."

They stopped talking that way. And saying that "These are the children of immigrants, who are becoming Americans. And we must help them. We must put them on the path to success." That's how they started talking to them. So much so, and this is an important point. By the 1930s, the federal government started collecting arrest data across the nation. And this information is produced quarterly and annually, it's called The Uniform Crime Reports.

So soon you will see in "The New York Times" the latest data, which tells us whether crime is rising or falling overall in our nation's cities. That was invented in 1930.

But here's the point. This is a really important one. Prior to that Uniform Crime Report, which nationalized and standardized arrest statistics, local arrest data was collected in Philadelphia, in New York, et cetera. And if you pull out an annual report, the page would look like this, tracking offenses by category.

Because it would say, "Italian, Irish, German, Scandinavian, Mexican," so on and so forth, all the way across. It'd look like an Excel spreadsheet today. By the 1930s with the federal government systematizing national arrest data and really becoming the most authoritative basis for understanding crime at the local level and national level, guess what it was? "Whites, Blacks, Foreign Born, Other." That was the for the first three years.

But 1933, it was, "White, Black, Other." So effectively, what it did was erase, it simply erased the category of the white ethnic criminal. Black became the single defining measure of deviance from a white norm.

So as long as blacks in that accounting showed disproportionate levels of any activity across those categories, white was always normalized. And in effect, it made invisible white criminality. We don't talk about white criminality. We don't talk about the white prison population. Nobody, no average person on the street can tell you how many white men are in prison or white men between the ages of 18 and 35, who are likely to spend time in prison.

Actually, the truth is the number is greater now today than it was 30 years ago, because the size of the prison system has also increased the number of white men.

BILL MOYERS: So this is how black criminality emerges along with disease and intelligence, the size of the brain?


BILL MOYERS: As a fundamental measure of black inferiority?


BILL MOYERS: With consequences down to the moment.


BILL MOYERS: So given the weight of history that you carry with you as a scholar and as a human being, given the heavy hand of history on our backs, how are you going to celebrate the Fourth of July? Seriously. Can you be unaware of all this when you're having that barbecue?

KHALIL GIBRAN MUHAMMAD: This is a culture of escapism. Let's not forget this. So I probably will go see some blockbuster Hollywood movie in the serenity of air conditioning and hot, buttered popcorn, and take the day off from the weight of history.

BILL MOYERS: Ah, America, right? Thank you very much.

KHALIL GIBRAN MUHAMMAD: Thank you for having me.

BILL MOYERS: Khalil Muhammad, thanks for joining us.


BILL MOYERS: That’s it for this week. At our website,, you’ll find analysis of the Supreme Court’s latest decisions – including their ruling on President Obama’s health care law.

That’s at See you there and see you here, next time.

Watch By Segment

Confronting the Contradictions of America’s Past

June 29, 2012

Bill opens this weekend’s Moyers & Company with a reminder that behind this Fourth of July holiday are human beings, like Thomas Jefferson, who were as flawed and conflicted as they were inspired, who espoused great humanistic ideals while behaving with reprehensible racial discrimination. That conflict – between what we know and how we live – is still a struggle in contemporary politics and society.

No stranger to the contradictions of history and their racial touchpoints is Bill’s studio guest Khalil Gibran Muhammad, head of the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and author of The Condemnation of Blackness. Muhammad and Moyers discuss the importance of confronting the contradictions of America’s past to better understand present issues of race and equality.

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  • Greg Johnson

    This was amazing.  One of the most complete and clear discussions on the African American in America that I’ve heard in a long time.  This guy is amazing.

  • Aliceiswalking

    Finally. A teaching on white priveledge and institutionalized hatred,aversion and delusion.AND the albeit brief mentioning of the genocide of native americans. Next up Bill Moyers and Company the truth on the tragedy of our Native ancestors.
    it is time to wake up and much thanks for tbis amazing scholar to lead the way out of denial into true freedom.the freedom Dr King was talking about.

  • Sufisue

    What a great show…I really learned alot. Thanks to Bill for such a well informed, thoughtful and intelligent guest. After suffering thru the usually boring, if not outright disgusting, mostly old, white men interviewed on Charlie Rose, Meet The Press, etc.etc. this was extremely refreshing.

  • davidp

    I have  always enjoyed reading and studying history.  After this great program…what do we white people have to fear.  Sometimes I think that all these terrible  things that are happening..the floods, fires and tornadoes may be nature´s  (or, G-d)way of recompense of what has been done to others.

  • Marioroberto Mm

    About the indigenous peoples of the Americas they were always consider to be less then human by the Europeans. It has being only about 300 years that the Vatican declared that in did they  were humans, not a sub species        

  • gregory marshall

    Please convey this to Khalil Gibran Muhammad, somehow:

    I am a 62-year-old white male, the sort who follows Bill Moyers, and I would like Mr. Muhammad to have my response to his appearance on the June 29 program:


  • Marioroberto Mm

    Just as blaks did not started in slavery, Latinos did not started in the strawberries and produce field, when the latino studies in Arizona, teach the students that they were descendants of great people, with an immense and great cultures possessing vast intelligence, they became empowered and started to do well in school, something that scared the school personel and politicians provoking them to shut down all Latino studies in Arizona 

  • Lenny Davenport

    This was a great program that help me understand and vocalize , black anger.

  • Anonymous

    I guess I can now stop complaining about Obama — that he operates on two levels, the rhetorical and the real, and never the twain shall meet.  Because Obama is just following in the footsteps of Thomas Jefferson.

    However, I do think it’s high time a new tradition were invented.

  • guest

    I like to think I’m informed. After seeing this show, I realize how much I have yet to learn. Thank you so much for this thought-provoking show.

  • Anonymous

    Deeply fascinating and important discussion. If everyone had learned about these bitter facets of our history in school, the country would be in better shape. 

  • Randydeanw

    I have a couple comments to make. Bill, I watch your show every week, and can’t wait to see each episode. I’m so very glad you’ve decided to come back to us this year. This show was excellent as always, and I feel like Mr. Muhammad gave the most compelling, and accurate summation of the black experience I’ve ever heard. The thoughtfulness and scope of his summation was indeed one of the most brilliantly comprehensive I’ve ever heard on the subject. Personally, although I have many “sticks in the woodpile” as they say down south, am a poor Caucasian American, and do not pretend to be able to understand the “Black Experience” in America, nor that of any one of color. But I would like to offer two very small quibbles within the context of profiling and criminality as it pertains to the immigrant population of poor Europeans in this country. During the “Progressive” period that the two of you were talking about, the police treatment of Italian-Americans at that time was pretty shameful. As was the characterization of those immigrants as “Wops”, which literally means “with out papers”.  The suggestion that Mr. Muhammad makes that Europeans were assimilated more quickly into America is absolutely true, but the segregation of those poor immigrants was vast, and as you well know, they were characterized as being people who had come here to take jobs away from Americans, in much the same way that the right wing in this country frames Mexican’s in their debates over immigration today. My point is that, those of wealth and property in this country have long used these tactics that Mr. Muhammad describes as a way of pitting the poor verses the poor  in an effort to keep the poor from climbing the economic ladder. This country was built and continues to be built on the exploitation of a minority group. The Slaves of the south, the poor immigrants from Europe and China on the railroads, and of course now with  the labor of undocumented  workers and so on. I believe that the treatment of Black Americans and the subsequent Criminalization of them is the most egregious and harshest treatment of any of these peoples by far, but I would like to say that one shouldn’t gloss over the treatment and Criminalization of other ethnic minorities in this country either. I am a poor “White Southerner” of all things, and you would certainly be right to assume that I have it better than poor people of color. But personally because of my station in life(I drive a beat up old work truck, etc.) have been profiled in the past year and a half on 8 different occasions, by the police. Most recently 2 days ago. Over the course of my lifetime, I have been stopped and frisked, and was once even pulled over by the gang police in Los Angeles after giving a co-worker a ride home, with a helicopter!!!! In that incident, I was yanked from the car at gun point by the cop on the ground, who then proceeded to smash my head into the hood of that car. I could go and on unfortunately, about different run-ins I’ve had with the police, but my only offense in that one incident had been driving with a tail-light out in a “Bad Neighborhood”. The upward mobility that exists in this country for the poor is a sham. And the criminality placed upon the poor, regardless of race, is deeply bound to the fabric of the American Experience….Again, I am not trying to quantify or diminish Mr. Muhammuds arguments about the criminalization of “Blacks” in America, as I truly believe that having a different skin color in America, makes it tougher than any other ethnic group to be able to experience this countries opportunities. But as a poor “White” American, I’d like to also offer these couple of anecdotes, because I do believe that being poor in this country is also a very tough “row to hoe”, in trying to enjoy the fruits of the “American Experience”…Happy 4th of July everybody!! 

  • Randydeanw

    For those of you interested in the Progressive era’s treatment of Italian immigrants during the 1910-20’s, I’d refer you to the excellent documentary “Sacco and Vanzetti” 

  • Cathycathy

    I believe Mr Muhammud was getting to your point at the end of the show. The new face of the victim of racism in america is continually becoming the poor of any “color.”  Charles Murray’s (“The Bell Curve” author) has been writing and speaking on the new white class of poor who have nothing in common with “regular” white America. Check out an article at from the March/April 2012 edition titled “New Form of Racism Emerging.”   Quote: “…a new form of racism is developing, directed against an emerging new class that includes ghetto “blacks,” the “illegal immigrant,” and the white, so-called  “trailer trash”. In other words, the class and cultural differences with the ruling class, not color, is emerging as the ideological basis for the savage economic assault against the poor.”

  • Rafael Cohen

    I do concur. This man is brilliant and his expositon of the nature of racism and segregation in America to this day is not only scholarly but intelligently said.

  • Maryannpreston

    Thank you Mr. Moyers for celebrating the July 4th. holiday by having Mr. Muhammad on to discuss the importance of confronting the contradictions of America’s past in regards to the history of slavery and to help us better understand the present issues of race and equality. This was a very needed discussion. 

  • Bvrly_wlch

    This was the finest hour of television I have seen in years. It was honest and thought provoking. 

  • Steve

    Superb and highly informative.

  • Atillathepun

    All the comments compel me to watch the video.  I’m sure it rises, deservedly, to the acclaim of all commentators.  I only wanted to make a point always omitted in such conversations:  i.e., savage and near genocidal warfare between Natives of the pre-European arrival period was hardly a rarity.  As an example, the Iroquois Confederacy was formed to prevent the total decimation of the five Nations through warring rivalry, turf battles over hunting grounds, etc.  Tribal leaders saw extinction in their future, so the five tribes formed the confederacy to ensure their own survival.  And I am part Cherokee.

  • Charley_sf

    Very eloquently expressed; top flight.   Politically loaded–but very badly needed.

  • Teachero

    Excellent episode.

  • Pctrainerbob

    Excellent program. I just happened to stop on PBS channel 10 in Milwaukee!

  • Joan

    opened up my mind.  thank you

  • Chrisbrown1979

    Episodes like these are the reason why I watch.

  • Christina Marlowe

    America’s [brutal] HISTORY is as important as any other variable in wealth and it’s distribution; Of Of course, America is a country that was literally built on the backs, on the blood, sweat and tears of slaves, mostly of African decent, but Chinese and others as well. When you focus on that dynamic, SLAVERY, another picture clearly emerges: African-Americans, from forced slavery, to the Sharecropping system that took it’s place, to the harsh and despicable Jim Crow laws, to wide voter suppression by terrorism, to the tenuous Civil Rights movement in the 1960’s, and on and on. Black Americans, for one, are a group that has been systematically oppressed, continually repressed and physically and psychologically brutalized ever since they were FORCED to come to this country as SLAVES. Today, the sordid facts and the horrible legacy lives on. There was a recent article that stated that White Americans hold TWENTY (20) TIMES more wealth than Black Americans. Gee, Really? I am SHOCKED!!To further my point, each year that I am able, I go to visit one of the most destitute regions in the United States, the ever-impoverished Mississippi Delta. There are hundreds of tiny towns strewn quite apart from each other, and in each of these tiny, dirt-poor towns, I find only fast food chain restaurants, local catfish, hushpuppies and BBQ shacks, perhaps a gas station here and there, a few general stores and several funeral parlors; no where have I seen a market filled with healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains.Many people in the Mississippi Delta, many, if not most of them, black, have been and still are left completely ignored and poverty-stricken with little access to a proper education, healthy foods, [affordable] health care; many live in lean-to shacks with no hope for a better future. The people of this region of Mississippi, the second poorest state in the union (Louisiana is the poorest), are largely ignored and there is always a severe lack of resources for them. How, exactly do you get ahead with those kinds of conditions??? Generation after generation, there is NOTHING to do BUT play & sing the Blues. And they certainly have MASTERED THAT.The people of this region of Mississippi, the second poorest state in the union (Louisiana is the poorest), are largely ignored and there is always a severe lack of resources for them. How, exactly do you get ahead with those kinds of conditions???  Or obtain VOTER I.D.s?!?!?So, it is with that that I say, once more, the drastic lack of resources for black Americans and now for most people in all of America today, thanks largely to three decades of continual DEREGULATION of ALL INDUSTRIES, is so vastly widening and spreading…And the criminal conspiracy on Wall Street that brought this country to it’s knees, along with the corrupt Kleptocratic U.S. government’s draconian cuts to ALL of the most crucial and the most fundamental aspects to any “civilized” society, i.e. education, health care, food and shelter, have utterly shattered so many lives it’s unspeakable. There are a lot of totally amoral and utterly unconscionable people; I say to you all:Only YOU are accountable for your ACTIONS, and, conversely, your INACTIONS, here on earth. NEVER look away from [HUMAN] SUFFERING.

    I, personally, do NOT believe in FORGIVENESS. One MAY NOT commit one horrible, atrocious act after another, over and over again, or conversely, actively deny FACTS through their own Willful Ignorance… and expect to be FORGIVEN (in the end or at any other time).
    That’s where this entire world has become so mean and so treacherous; there is no regard for other people, especially the poor, the needy, the downtrodden ones. Today, it’s all about promoting one’s own self-interest with myopic short-term (usually monetary) gains, all without taking into account a broader perspective on others, and just how our actions or inactions will affect those around us…That is SICK. My point is that these people, whether in Ethiopia or in Mississippi, for that matter, have NO ACCESS WHATSOEVER, to what I, for example, have had in MY life, for example; I was BORN, through SHEER LUCK ALONE, into a family that had a bit extra; a child of PRIVILEGE; I did NOTHING to DESERVE ANY of it, thus I have no ghastly sense of entitlement.
    I see very clearly that these people, the ones who have brought and continue to bring SO MUCH to OUR CULTURE, were born into a HOPELESSLY RACIST EMPIRE, TOTALLY AGAINST THEIR WILL…If you put yourself in THAT position and REALLY THOUGHT HARD about it, maybe you people would see things in a far brighter light…We need to reevaluate what is VALUABLE; and we MUST STOP RAPING PEOPLE!!!! And the Black people have been consistently RAPED; not just by America…think about it.And, by the way, in case you’ve not noticed, It is Now that now We Are ALL, SCREWED TOGETHER;  Black, White, Across the entire Spectrum, Together We are all Doomed and stuck in the Exact same system as some of your ancestors suffered through.  How Lovely.  Pay heed Y’All;  Today, Right Now, We ARE the Sharecroppers, Slaves, Working Poor, Imprisoned, Repeatedly RAPED PEONS…to the HA! “Masters of the Universe, (They All have enormous Short-Willy Complexes, you see),  I say to each and every one of these stupid-to-the-core, power-mongering, narcissistic, sociopathic, delusional and Rapacious BUFFOONS/APES.One more thing:I now know beyond any doubt whatsoever that, as Balzac wrote, “Behind every great fortune, there is CRIME.”  These cretinous billionaire “people” should be tarred, feathered, paraded around in dunce caps and handcuffs, and then summarily and unceremoniously EXECUTED, preferably HANGED, in a public square.  They are, each and every one of these CRIMINALS, the true dregs of society;  They offer nothing at all of value;  Rather they suck away at society and everyone that crosses their vile, reprehensible paths.As for Obama, I say to him:  Listen up, MAN…If you don’t hold the criminals accountable for their CRIMES, your precious “Legacy” will be pilloried by the FACT that YOU, SIR, are a LYING DEMON, cut from the very same cloth as your buddies in the Banks and on Wall Street that bankroll you.  Furthermore, you are, without any doubt, to quote Cornell West now,  “A black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs and a black puppet of corporate plutocrats.” To further quote West on Obama, “And now he has become head of the American killing machine and is proud of it.”  What a Disgraceful TRAVESTY.

  • Randydeanw

     Thanks so much!! I am familiar with Charles Murray’s work peripherally, but hadn’t seen any of these articles. Looking forward to delving into it. And the link you provided is a site I was unfamiliar with at all…again thanks!!!

  • Charles

    An excellent show discussing America’s struggle with racial equality and justice.   Khalil Gibran Muhammad gave good insight in the black perspective of Americas troubled pass with race.  However, Khalil, did not mention Ulysses S. Grant’s prosecution of the Ku Klux Klan and protection of African Americans with the U.S. military during Reconstruction.  President Grant’s signing of the 1875 Civil Rights Act giving blacks public accomodations.  Abraham Lincoln set the slaves free with the Emancipation Proclamation and the Radical Republicans passed the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments.  Whites did attempt to give blacks equality during Reconstruction. I believe in giving credit to those who led Reconstruction, including Charles Sumner, Amos T. Akerman,  and George Henry Williams.  Conservative resistance broke down Reconstruction efforts to give blacks equality under the law. Happy 4th of July.

  • Reta Richardson

    Most Americans who are “white” US citizens don’t want to be rescued from their ignorance of the true history of their country that really matters.  In fact, they reject it despite their claims that they are Christians and that the USA is a “Christian” nation and they sing “God bless America.”

  • Any Mouse

    I greatly enjoyed this episode. As always, Bill, your show is thought provoking. I’m glad you’ve returned to television.

  • Linda Lipscomb

    Didn’t anybody notice the omission of the status of women from all of the discussion?? For me, things remain much the same in the failure to acknowledge a heritage of second best, inability to vote, being treated like chattel, getting lower or NO wages for our work, low participation in government, banned from serving in many religious positions, with all of this crossing ALL color, national, ethnic and cultural lines.

    Complaining about this sounds like whining, so most of  us just push on, supporting our families, doing the housework, and producing the next generation. But I just couldn’t help thinking about it when listening to these two guys, both of whom I like, and for both of whom it was the furthest things from their mind.

  • serendipity

    Just the mentioning of the Klan is a testament of how the serious of this issue is not understood. Please do more research on why Lincoln was so interested in slaves had to do with ECONOMIC REALITY NOT COMPASSION!! Sorry this is extremely sad for people of all colors who are aware of the current racism that is getting worse everyday!

  • Galen

     Linda….  i totally understand, and well said.   women have very much have been dehumanized over the centuries also, and it is still happening to a lessor degree even in the 21st century.     this piece seems to be about race and its history, and how that looks in this century, esp since we have elected a black person as president.      i am sure Bill has touched on women bigotry in the past and will again.

  • serendipity

    Thank you for your comment. Stopped watching the boring interviews,,this was GREAT! Thank you Bill!!

  • serendipity

    Amazing! I immediately ordered the book online,,,I am checking now to see how to order this interview and make copies to give out to everyone I know for gifts! Please let us know how we can help Mr. Khalil? what can we do to get this message out? what can we do politically to help get the right people in office for true “equality and fairness”??

  • Song Weasel

    thanks so much for doing this show…it connects soooo many dots in our country, dots that are sadly blood red!

    this issue resounds further, particularly in states where ex-felons are disallowed the right to vote even after their sentences are finished…

    it has been and continues to be tough to break (in modern media industry parlance) “the branding” of african americans…a brand crafted and purposefully retained over the last 300+ years.

    frankly, as i listened, i realized that ultimately, whether one likes him or not, president barack obama has forced the hand of that “branding marketing machine.” mr.obama’s appointments to many high level positons of african americans and others to his administration is, i believe, making a significant difference.

    thank you, bill moyers and company…your series is so appreciated and so needed…you folks are just terrific!

    btw, shared and shared and shared…:)

  • Linda Lipscomb

     I am sure he has. And will.  But you know, Sally Hemmings would by some measures have suffered more due to her gender, than to her race. It’s a tough call, when you start comparing relative disadvantages. But 236 years of the presidency, and not one, NOT ONE woman as Pres or Veep?!? We are over 50% of the population. Hello!! We are not a minority. But rounding up the young women to back women in the last election was like herding cats….pardon the analogy.  Maybe they had it too easy on the backs of their mothers. Thanks for sympathizing.

  • Bill Marston

    Someone close to me, personally, began writing a historical novel on the premise that (in his informed opinion) that history, presumably misinformed by academic/liberal bias, has mistakenly focused on the oppressed-black-american. His premise is that the oppressed-nonblack-poor/indentured-class has been ignored and been subjected to diminishment in historically contextual influence on the history and current circumstance of American law and public policy.

    [Please do no ask me to ‘explain’ this, as it is not a premise I consider valid.]

    I am sending along this video

  • Anonymous

    Dearest Bill – Huge flaw by not discussing the racial prejudice
    problem as part of our human condition – xenophobia! and
    self esteem, and, and – all related to FEAR  – proof of which – All religions were founded by males and women are still excluded from their highest positions.

  • Rawlslincoln

    One of the best programs to reminder us  of American History.  This country needs more of these reminders by popular journalists who seem to lack such information, or they are restrained by their employers to not tell these truths.  Yes, indeed, the legal codes are still in place and I doubt as long as there is money in the hands of some the codes will remain.  This is very sad for America as a so called great nation.  

  • Anne

    I couldn”t stop watching it, what eye opener. I learned things I never knew about. I was enthralled. going to order the book for my granndaughter

  • Lolly Eggers

    I watched the show and enjoyed the remarks of Khalil Gibran Mohammad on how the public expects blacks to do criminal acts while not isolating any other ethnic group in our society.  Others also talk about the habit of police to stop and frisk young black men in many communitites and so regularly find evidence to using illegal drugs or other issues that would show up at the same rate it any other “ethnic” group was so monitored. The number of young black men in prison in our country is a tragedy.

  • Galen

     no problem and i am a guy.    but women never get enough credit, esp as world leaders.     Hilary will take care of that in 2016.      and yes, women have as many emotional problems as men if not more, but we (the world) need your voices much more…    take care!

    as far as sympathizing, try not feeling sorry for your gender, victimhood never gets things done…   stay positive and look for the light!

  • Wendeln_tb

    Another excellent report. 

  • Nate

    The inability to forgive is one of the reasons people can’t move beyond the travesties of the past. We are not responsible for the acts of our ancestors.  Until people let go, stop holding the sins of our forebears over our heads,  improvement in race relations will not happen. As long as blacks keep painting every white person with the brush of racism, how can we move beyond it?  Martin Luther King’s dream that his  children “will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character” must apply to all races. Let’s work toward a future, as dreamed of by Dr. King.

  • Shauntelle Modeste

     I agree! What an amazing way of articulating the truths of our country’s history. I had to watch several times it was so astounding.

  • Renata

    At the risk of starting a battle of the oppressed, I have to say that Sally Hemmings’ life and the lives of countless other black women were shackled by both race and gender.  We cannot be free unless both are removed.  The shackle of race, however,  had and has the greatest impact for black women; it not only shackles us but every (black) man in our lives: fathers, brothers, husbands, sons.  That prevents our families and communities from enjoying the privileges that white women take for granted and give them the freedom to focus solely on gender inequality.  The shackle of race also precluded black women from being fully accepted and embraced by these same white women as they fought for gender equality.  Beginning with the suffrage movement, black women were at best reluctantly accepted for fear that their presence would further alienate white men.  By no means am I diminishing the the fight for women’s rights; but for black women the intersection of race and gender prevents us from the luxury of focusing on removing only one shackle. 

  • Renata

    One the best episodes I’ve seen.  

  • Lionelboston

    Mr. Muhammad is “undoubtedly the epitome and consummation of the scholars scholar!” Mr. Moyers and PBS are to be congratulated and commended for their impartial continuous work of seeking and presenting truth regardless of its comfort-ability or where it leads. The Bill Moyers Show parallels John Winthrop’s “City on the Hill” as America’s best example of what broadcast news and reporting” should aspire to. Unfortunately for us, most other news media programs values are so low due to having their collective hands and minds in the pockets of the highest bidder. The Bill Moyers Show has always lived up to what I have come to expect and appreciate from a quality broadcast news agency; the example of reporting  truth and honesty especially in areas less traveled. This  show not only educates us with great and needed news and informational programs, it also gives us food for thought, thus, affording and challenging us all, especially and particularly, the still open minded to consider another school of thought where hope continues to flourish and thrive with the belief that someday, yes, “our egalitarian  collective humanity the world over is finally  achieved, whether rich, poor, or in the middle.” I continue to hope and dream that someday we as human beings the world over will give up war, poverty, greed, ignorance,  and realize that “all we have is each other and we need each other if the human race is to survive.” Besides, the human race is the only race that really should matter. 

  • Jaleel

    Loved the show for the information and history of the
    country towards African Americans.

  • Deejargon

    A captivating interview with Mr. Muhammad … He explains the sad truths very eloquently.

  • Iohimvaldana

    The perfect prerequisite for my 2012 4th of July celebration!    

  • Louise Warren

    A truly marvelous program which should be shown in every school in the United States, where Mr. Muhammad’s book, “The Condemnation of Blackness” should be required reading.This program should be part of the training regimen for law enforcement personnel as well. Thank you for bringing Mr. Muhammad to us.

  • MTJohn

     True, to a point.  But, forgiveness follows repentance and we have yet to repent – not just the travesties of our ancestors, but the travesties of our own generation.

  • RickReality

    The 4th of July is a lie.

  • Debra V. Clark

    This is TRUE AMERICAN HISTORY. Thank you for an exceptional program and HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY. While many African Americans see the contradiction in celebrating, for many of us it’s seen more as a day off from work and time to spend with family. I’m just saying.

  • Anonymous

    Great program, with excellent information and ideas from Mr. Muhammad.  We need to hear this kind of nuanced discussion of America’s conflicted past as a tonic to ward off the often mindless and jingoistic celebration of our American heritage and the “founding fathers”.  It’s worth remembering the experiment is not over, and our ideals are not fully realized.  It’s worth remembering, too, that some of the founders’ own attitudes were themselves antithetical to liberty and a true democracy.

  • Louis Mitchell

    What your hinting at is that gains in equality wouldn’t have been possible without the existence of whites working towards that goal …  Your right … I learned a lesson years ago when I came across a middle aged white man that had a GOP air about him … He marched with King … Judging everyone by their actual actions as opposed to prejudging should be the goal of all champions of fairness …There was a time when whites rejected shamed vilified and “called out” racists / racism … Sadly a new generation has been baptized into racism’s fold .. where once the racist espousing hate to others was almost pitied .. now those fools are suffered in the hallways of our largest corporations .. in all white smoke circles .. Heck every time there is more than one white and no minorities hate is being spewed … pull yourself up by your bootstraps and we will respect you …(NOPE)  finger waging , you lie, birthers, hating and disrespecting a man whose done just that. I’d be proud if my child graduated from college,law school = pure joy, and then for my child to serve  serve their local state and federal neighbors as president – they would be my hero not the victim of lies and hate 

  • Kenegbert3rd

    Excellent talk with Mr. Muhammad; unfortunately while watching, I was thinking  of an old Lenny Bruce routine in which he pointed out that America is all but programmed to need a group of people to look down on.   “If everybody’s equal, who’s gonna be the busboy at Ratner’s?” he said during his midnight appearance at Carnegie Hall in 1961.  “If the Venusians don’t show up soon, man, we’re screwed!  I mean, we’ll all be so beautifully equal… ‘I’m not gonna shovel snow, I’m not gonna do that…’ so who IS gonna do it?”‘  
         Just once it might be a worthwhile effort if we took our own best principles to heart (the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Voting Rights Act, etc.) and stopped allowing ourselves to play both sides, as certain Founding Fathers appear to have done.  Mr. Moyers is correct.  We need to recall that the Founders were not wax dummies approximating perfection.  They were men. White men.  Well-off white men.  Given some of Mr. Moyers’ quotable quotes from Thomas Jefferson and John Jay during this fine interview about the elites needing to run things (sound familiar?), maybe we need to build a country that they would have difficulty recognizing, but (after some reflection) might still be proud of.   

  • NoFreeLunch

    As an African American Woman, I understand your frustration, yet the framing of the discussion was around race, not gender. There are many more discussions to be had. If we included every subject needing to be discussed in a single conversation, there would be no opportunity for a digesting of the subject. Just another perspective to consider. The conversations are not over.

  • NoFreeLunch

    The issue of woman’s empowerment is a testy one for this womanist/feminist. By all accounts, women still do most of the raising of children. We certainly do all of the carrying and birthing of babies. If we want something different, we must DO something different. The problem in the last election wasn’t the “young” women, but the women who raised them. Yes, there is oppression, but there are also great numbers of educated women who buy into history and limitations, and second class status. As I told a friend (arguing the Christian viewpoint), woman was made from Adam’s rib, not his back, nor his butt. We stand beside, not behind. When women understand and accept our power and influence, our lives will change. We will raise boys who become men who respect women as equals. We will raise girls into women who expect and accept nothing less. We are the majority. It is time we stopped bellyaching and acted like it.

  • Gmorris

    Riveting discussion. Wonder why 13 didn’t given a better hint or indication that Moyers and Muhammad would be talking about Bloomberg’s Stop & Frisk in a perspective not included in all the statistical information about this abhorrent contemporary practice directed at People of Color.

  • Bcameron43

    Your show tonight (1 July 2012) was fantastic. Your guest Muhammad was charismatic and spellbinding. WOW! What a personality.

  • Jacqueline Henriquez

     My ” double jeopardy” became starkly apparent during the last election. Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. Firsts,  for me in two very significant and personal ways. Black and Female. The halls of my bondage. I suffer these daily. It is the weight, of said load, that’s at the base of black women’s  weight problems. The next time you look at a woman of color be reminded by the ” weight” she carries of her true load.

  • Jacqueline Henriquez

     NoFreeLunch…nuff said!!!

  • gelada413

    Wow…was that ever a mouthful! Feel better? 

  • Christina Marlowe

    Not much better, but it all helps a bit…Thank you.

  • GBurke

    Surprisingly not mentioned by either Bill or Mr. Muhammad is this remarkable myth-breaker withits excellent and prolific data:”Lies My Teacher Told Me– EVERYTHING YOUR AMERICAN HISTORY TEXTBOOK GOT WRONG.”by James W. Loewen (2 editions) I wish Bill could consider having this celebrated professor/author on his show.How deeply and wrongly conditioned our minds have been since square one, educationally speaking,needs to be fully understood. If not, the so called racial past could continue to contaminate us unknowingly for many more centuries.

  • Jacqueline Henriquez

     Thanks for your TRUTH.

    “We may have all come over on different ships, but we all in the same boat now”. 

    by: Whitney Young

  • Michael Pema Gedun McGraw

    As most of your shows are, this was a great one.  Thanks for bringing Mr. Muhammad to us.  As we draw nearer to our elections this fall, this presentation and discourse should remind us all of how we need to seriously reflect on our history and egage our resources to redirect our nations course from a plutocratic, racist based trajectory towards an arc of real equality, justice and democracy!  

  • Cathycathy

    Good suggestion. I went to a presentation he gave at the John A. Logan Museum in Murphysboro, Il. Wonderful. And some in the audience who are older educators, actually learned something. Let’s email Bill and request it.

  • Anonymous

    Bill Moyers and his interviews are a wonderful gift to us all. Can anyone give me a reference to his quote of Thomas Jefferson “money, not morality is the principle of commercialized natons”?

  • Denise Tuggle

    Thank you Mr. Moyers for bringing this eloquent man to the forefront and awaking our consciousness to the issues that effect out community and our country.  I have been informed and I will pass this information along.  

  • Izamora

    This program wasn’t broadcasts at the ususal time, so I may have missed it. Will it be shown again in the Bemidj, MN area?

  • Giruardo

    The truth,will come too bearwitness. Recycle

  • Bafricana

    Prof Khalil ruined an otherwise informative interview with his last comment – not celebrating independence day on July 4th but taking the day off to see the movies. What a shame. I hope he does not harbor hate for the US. If he does i wonder why. I imagine he prays 5 times a day as a devout moslem (his name identifies him) but cannot seem to see the contradiction in following the dictates of his religion that encourages segregation (even in the mosque) and treats black people as second class citizens (Janja weed/arabs and treatment of dark skinned Africans) and women as forever subservient to men. Need i say more. How many black imams have been allowed to give the call to prayer in the holy land since the founding of the religion centuries ago? (none). He should have tempered his response with a dose of humility  (while thinking of his religion and the fact that it has not made strides in centuries with regards to civil rights) and praised and celebrated the strides we have all made as a nation. Of course I’ll not comment on his not mentioning any of the suffering of Jews in this country during the course of the interview. 

  • Slimcoogan

    I’m so happy that Bill continues to educate us on a weekly basis.

  • Mike D

    Mr. Muhammad makes the critical point that black history is life-saving. History is written by the victors and the marginalized not only lose access to resources but to a sense of self. This results in a vicious circle of self-hatred, alienation and despair which the dominant group then uses as an excuse to further marginalize.

    Ironically, he told Tavis Smiley that as a young man he was apolitical and just wanted to get into business and make money. But his interest in black history was sparked by the Rodney King riots.

    We are well-familiar with the black warriors in the fight against racial oppression as well as the great musicians and artists. But in a culture dominated by science and technology, there is an urgent need for the young to hear more about black scientists and engineers eg. George Washington Carver.

  • Simply_beautiful2

    Simply Beautiful, very, very Powerful! I Loved the interview, it was the Most understanding of where OUR racial problems started and grew into, from the beginning our these United States until present.

  • Deborah Menkart

    So happy to see Khalil Gibran Muhammad on Moyers & Company, this is a great conversation to share and discuss. Another relevant book to the conversation is The Black History of the White House by Clarence Lusane. Moyers mentioned eight U.S. presidents owning and selling people — it was actually 12 in total (8 while in office).  Learn more in Lusane’s book: And while most people don’t learn this until college, if at all, here is a wonderful article about a 5th grade teacher who explored this topic with his students in response to a question they asked:

  • Unzu Lee
  • Salman Qureshi

    There is nothing wrong with not celebrating a national holiday – when the very idea behind it is a sham and a joke.   And why would he not harbor hate for a nation that oppressed his ancestors for centuries and that continues to shove the underlying causes for that era under the carpet by hiring PR firms to spin rhetoric about how dumerica is so far past its negligible racist period.   Let’s put a black guy in as president that will for certain allow us to show that this nation has turned a new chapter in its race relations history – all the while the minority communities in this very country have it worse than the year or decade prior.

    As for your diatribe about Islam and Muslims – you should first gather your facts and not assume that he is or isn’t a believer of one faith or another.
    By focusing on his religion which he never once mentioned in the entire interview – you show your apologetic nature for this country and its power structure.  And most certainly by injecting Jews right at the end – who are the end all be all of the suffering people this universe has ever seen.

  • redd

    I do not know which is more disgusting.  The eeking and ooking colored boy or the pathetic race traitor.   To coddle and pander these savage animals makes him one of them as well.  My only question is who muh diks who?

    Coloreds have no history and they have no inventions.  Everything they claim to have is stolen from humans.  They did NOT build the pyramids, invent peanut butter or, and this is my favorite one of all, were NOT majikal flyin gyptuns until the ebil YT stole their precious pineal gland. 

    There will be no “struggle and conflict” for coloreds if Jim Crow laws and segregation were reinstated so humans are protected from these feral beasts and the coloreds once again learn their “place” and would no longer dare to be “uppity”. 

    Read more about “uppity” coloreds at Chimpmania.  

  • Lynne Gray

    Thanks again for a great show.  I wish he had mentioned Darwinism and Ota Benga, the Pygmy, who was put in the Bronx Zoo in the early 1900s.  A google search on this provides a wealth of information.  I wonder whether white males are genetically programmed to be aggressive, power seeking and greed filled. Perhaps they are like the sparrows and starlings rather than the bluebirds and wrens.  All this certainly isn’t new and I don’t see it disappearing anytime soon.  

  • Otomis

    All I can say is Arizona. The statements made during the last 30 minutes of the program parallel perfectly the mindset and actions of the state of Arizona in the present day.

  • Otomis

    He did not say he was not going to celebrate the day. He said  he is going to do exactly as everyone else. He said he was going to take a day off from history and be in the moment.

  • Basaza

    you are a sad  person. I am sorry that you live with hate in your heart.

  • BorschtBlue

     I’m going to the movies too…it’s the American pastime. Do you really think sitting around next to a bbq and eating hot dogs is patriotic? That seems to be the option here.

  • BorschtBlue

    Muhammad was spellbinding, intelligent, well-spoken and charismatic. I could listen to him speak for hours. Thanks for another show of telling it like it needs to be told.

  • Acklike3000

    If you study and read history with out YOUR HATE you wouldnt think he has hate in his heart …..So you think that what u are a HATER

  • Deborah

    Muhammad has compressed in a brilliant analysis the founding
    of the United States based on an ideal rarely practiced.

  • Truelene Ivey

    Excellent program, and so revealing!  I wish I could have had Dr. Muhammad as my professor when I was attending college.  As a Black mother, I have made it a requirement that my grandchildren see his presentation, as I have it recorded on my TV.  Black history is revelant, and it doesn’t begin with slavery.  Thank you both Mr. Moyer and Dr. Muhammad.

  • Diane

    I’ll never think of the 4th of July in the same way again. 

  • StewartIII

    NewsBusters: Bill Moyers Marks July 4 By Repeating Myth That Jefferson Sired Children With His Slaves

  • KateD

    The segment reminded me of something I realized several years ago. On the TV news, I was always unconsciously aware that the race of any criminal being spoken of  was only mentioned if he were black. I just assumed that if race was not mentioned, then they were white.

    I became consciously aware of the double standard about 10 years ago because they started stating highlighting the race of suspects/perpetrators/criminals that were Hispanic as well.

    Still today, if a crime is on the news, more often than not, they say everything EXCEPT that the suspect is white, when that is the case, but they specifically mention it when the suspect is Hispanic or black. It creates a climate.

  • Jacqueline ballou

    Ms. Warren I believe this to be an excellent idea.

  • Jjaballou

    Charles,Please elaborate more on the 1875 civil rights act giving Blacks public accommodations.

  • Smithjr Jurnell

    i am an African American born in Louisiana, served my country in the US Air Force for 24 years, and Louisiana is still a sick society both black and white, we walk and talk around each other, but act so differently behind closed doors and on church on Sunday morning  some act like the biggest Christians on Sunday, the hidden hate is still alive, i enjoyed the interview, i have lived abroad, and found that in other countries overseas you are treated based on how you act verses your black  skin color.  I was treated exceptionally well in Italy, Germany, Holland, England, Belgium, and best of the all Netherlands where i was stationed for 8 years. So many lies since the discovery of America, one race empowered over another.

  • Xelathomas

    It’s interesting the Muhammad will say to Moyer, in regards to the Native Americans, “we learned….”  “we”  there is not “we” his people, Muhammad’s people, were not part of the “we” that made decisions about Indians.

  • Xelathomas

    Interesting that Moyer looks at Black History only in terms of White people.   As if there is not history of Black people untill White people came along.  Muhammad is very kind to Moyer.  He could have really exposed his ignorance and inately racist perception of himself and  Black people.

  • Mgllco

    You fail to realize that your freedom to express your views as the holiday being a sham, is exactly why you should respect it.  This is the only country that respects and embraces diversity.  I am sick and tired of people bashing America, and not paying homage to the fact that their ability and freedom to express themselves is exactly what makes the country a great one.  There are ignorant people everywhere, and there always will be.  Some people who are brought up by narrow minded parents will reflect those views and pass that on for generations.  All we can do as a free society is preach common sense and eliminate race in all discussions.  We should never forget the past, but harboring hatred is not going to eliminate racism in the fututre.  My children attend a public school that is very diverse, and I never hear them identify a child by their ethnicity, and that makes me proud, and also gives me hope for the future.   

  • Raushana Karriem

    Khalil Gibran Muhammad is the great grandson of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad.  His scholarship of our people’s history and his eloquence in articulating it would indeed make the Honorable Elijah Muhammad proud, as it makes the Afrodescendants proud who view this interview.

  • Kenegbert3rd

    Thanks very much to Khalil Gibran Muhammad for setting the pins back up on the truth of where African Americans really stand in the modern USA, and to Mr. Moyers for his usual excellent questions.  The last topic,  ‘Given the weight of history, how are you going to celebrate Independence Day?’ in which Mr. Muhammad noted America’s largely escapist-oriented culture (and that he would access same by going to see a blockbuster movie and sitting in a nice air-conditioned theater with a tub of hot buttered popcorn), was both heartbreaking and hilarious.  I have Muslim friends who occasionally mention how difficult it is to get their kids to pray and live according to the proper rules, etc., and I had to agree with them (just as Jewish and Christian parents have learned over the centuries…) that American culture is not always escapist by any means, but it is often as shallow as it is broad.  Makes it hard to adhere to the parts of human experience that take a little work to bring to fruition!  Nice, however, to see that Mr. Muhammad has come up with a worthwhile use for one of the bits we do sometimes decry.   However clearly we see America’s problems, we need to keep celebrating the good parts!  Even the good parts of the not-so-good parts.

  • Randydeanw

     Pulled over again last night on my way home from a gig…..sigh….I’m a musician, so I’m out late sometimes, but I didn’t realize the “Vagrancy” laws Mr. Muhammad  talked about were still in effect…..

  • jaymax

    This is true, I have a friend working in the Folsom Prisons who told me this several years ago. New prisoners coming in were listed as Black or Hispanic – no racial or ethnic identity used for others.

  • PortDalhousieArtist

    I have one question I ponder often, and do so with the greatest respect and in all seriousness: the narrative in this video is very compelling, but it doesn’t explain why black people the world over are at the bottom of educational achievement, at the bottom of the economic attainment, and the most heavily involved in antisocial behaviour, including violent crime.  If I am wrong, I would like to hear of the exceptions so I can investigate them further. In Canada where Jewish, Chinese and East Indian kids routinely finish at the tops of their classes, the blacks, mostly from the Caribbean come in last, and are the most likely to be starting of the criminal careers.  Canada doesn’t keep race statistics, so I have to rely on media stories and hearsay. Again, please disabuse me if I am wrong, and I hope there is a cogent explanation beyond genetic traits.

  • Mystictaste

    Insightful for those who know, Crisis for those who reject, the stigma of Black in America.

  • Kenegbert3rd

     So glad you mentioned this!  Good one.  Thanks, and w’as salaam.

  • Attygirl

    Thank you for doing this very valuable program, Mr. Moyers.  This was my facebook post for 74/12:  “I am patriotic. I love this country. I am the proud beneficiary of much of its progress. But I will NEVER forget. That is why every year, I pull out this speech from a man who means so much to me, and I read it, and I give thanks to the Ancestors, and I teach my children what I will never forget about the significance of this day to our people 150 not-so-distant years ago.

    ‘What to the American slave, is your Fourth of July?I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days of the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass-fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are, to Him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy – a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.’-Frederick Douglass, Rochester, Independence Day, 1852″

  • dman

     The founding fathers could imagine an ideal state of freedom, but not one in which everyone could be a part. Yet by expressing their ideal, they fueled every liberation movement to come, from abolition to feminism to civil rights to gay rights to immigration reform and a waay to late recognition of the suppression of the original Americans.

  • Bwprager123

    This undoubtedly worthwhile discussion is nonetheless pitched at an elementary school level, yet it’s felt to be necessary to assert that throughout American history, white suprematism and economic exploitation of the majority for the benefit of a class of wealth which dominates political power is the norm, as if we were uncovering a great hidden truth.  I am glad as  everyone is for the appearance of this conversation, but it does make one think of the Myth of Sisyphus. 

  • Thedude

    After viewing this interview, I cannot help but see a simplistic one sided approach to an endemic problem. I have little doubt as to the malevolent treatment of blacks in the United States, however, it appears that the thesis is that criminality was somehow imbued into the black psyche through the sheer will of rhetoric. That, or there is some masterful conspiracy to incarceate blacks in a collective effort to subjugate them. A casual visit to urban epicenters in Chicago, Philadelphia and New York and Newark will reveal to anyone willing to see the level of gang violence and activity, criminality to be sure, engaged in therein. Nobody is concocting these statistics, nor forcing or compelling anyone to engage inthis behavior. If the thought proces is that inner ciity gang activity is the black criminal equivalent to white criminal activity int the form of wall street fraud, that is an arguable point, however, to suggest that we simply act as if violent crime in the inner city doesnt exist or is overdramatized is farcical.

  • RebeccaM

     If you would like to learn more about the subject in question, lease read the following book: The  New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander.

     As someone that has worked in education and juvenile justice I often wondered the same thing. Ms. Alexander’s book clearly illustrates why African Americans many times have to work twice as hard to get half as far. Also, you may want to look at the research of the Education Trust based in D.C.

    Please become educated on this topic and spread your knowledge.

  • RebeccaM


    “Money, not morality, is the principle commerce of civilized nations.” Thomas Jefferson  is the actual quote you might find it a bit easier to locate the reference.

    I would be interested to know the referenced material as well.

  • LaurieJay

    I heard this episode on the radio and I thought it was brilliant.

  • Rick Belmont

    Latent fear of and prejudice against blacks is the reason why the extreme political right have been able to turn average, middle class, white Americans against President Obama as a scapegoat.

  • Vivian Calender

    First, I want to share that I was quite happy to see Bill Moyers back on television.   You’ve been missed.

    Your interview with Dr.

  • Anonymous

     You’re right.  The Democrats were fools to ignore the problem of an extremely high black crime rate.  Now the GOP uses “poor” as a code word for “black” or “illegal Mexican.”  And you wonder why so many working class whites are fanatically against legislation that would benefit them?

  • Anonymous

     I’m not sure what your friend means, but it is true that too much emphasis on a white/black dichotomy gives a distorted picture of U.S. history.

  • Anonymous

     But those inconvenient facts wouldn’t have supported Mr. Muhammad’s narrative of saintly blacks versus evil whites.

  • Barbara L. James

    Incredible interview.  So glad you asked  Mr. Muhammad how he would celebrate the Fourth of July….I loved his answer. We are so relieved to have you back of PBS and that you haven’t given up on the weight of history. B& B James 

  • lrmomma

    After a lifetime of working for social justice and equal educational opportunity, I have come to the age of 62 with some of the same concerns as PortDalhousieArtist.  While I understand and sympathize with Dr. Muhammad’s argument, my concern is that as long as the discussion is one of blame and making excuses, African Americans will continue to be trapped by their heritage.  As incongrous as it seems, their real freedom will only come through forgiveness.  It is the only doorway to Life with true abundance.  I yearn for the day when my beloved African American friends will move from anger and whining, no matter how erudite the argument, to turning and shining the light of their analysis on themselves.  Maybe then can some of the chronic issues of which PortDalhousieArtist speaks be opened, addressed and healed.  That will never happen as long as the blame is projected onto others, no matter guilty they may be.  I also suspect that if African American community would begin to accept some of the responsibility for these ongoing problems, they would likely find a new level of wider acceptance.  Also, like PortDalhousieArtist, please, please disabuse me if this is already occuring.

  • Savj14

    How can African American’s forgive the system that continuously reinforces the idea that they are criminals, welfare recipients, deviants, and subhuman individuals when white america doesn’t even ACKNOWLEDGE the points that Dr. Muhammad is making in the above program?    All over the world black skinned indivuduals are seen as “lesser”, from Europe to Asia and everywhere inbetween.  It has even made black skinned people to use skin whitening creams!  The disgust that others feel towards black has seeped into their own minds towards one another!  This is not about blame, this is about ACKNOWLEDGEMENT.

  • MLW

    Great Show Bill!
     I cant help but wonder and ask if this system isn’t being used against all of us who are not wealthy and not just minorities.

  • Phyllis

    Watching this hour show provided me with a new understanding of racial inequity in American history. Mr. Muhammad is so well spoken, knowledgeable, passionate and a great teacher. Thanks for providing your viewers access to his insights.

  • Dsheam33

    Dr. Muhammad, always explains matters aand situations in great detail.

    ——D’shea Kinta McRae, BLA, BLS, ALA

  • Seek2BLearned

    …a myopic historical view, oversimplistic critique, and gross misunderstanding of the dehumanization process on your part. The preponderant attitude that blacks were always able to move freely and prosper in America is a fallacy that most non-blacks cannot admit or fathom. Understand that as long as people are subjagated and deprived of the basic necessities they will be desperate and act accordingly. We are all doomed to tolerate their actions as long as we delude ourselves to thinking its all of there own volition.

  • Professionalsny4

    The same way the Jewish community has forgiven?

  • Professionalsny4

    Because every opportunity that you and other races have enjoyed have been very artfully denied anyone of African origin. Now please do not come back with sports figures or entertainers, oh and Oprah Winfrey(not to discount her achievements, she saw a crack in the door and pried it open) they have succeeded because they made other people rich.

  • Bill Doggett

    FASCINATING…..absolutely fascinating. I am posting this to my Facebook and elsewhere

  • ghetto intellectual

    Concur with much of the commentary, excellent show. I offer one point of correction: The caption reads “David Walker, 1848″–Walker published those words in 1829. His book, “David Walker’s Appeal,” was deemed seditious in parts of the Deep South. Some southerners issued a “dead or alive” proclamation against Walker who would die in Boston in1831 under mysterious circumstances. kzs

  • RevPhil Manke

    I believe Mr Jefferson felt differently as he aged and freed his slaves. He did not hold himself to past beliefs, knowing the mind as an ever modifying and dynamic processor of information. It is the foolish and hateful that would hold anyone apart from their ability to change their mind. The past is an illusion.

  • Anonymous

    Jefferson only freed a few slaves near the end of his life – most members of the Hemings family. He died with huge debts, due to extravagant spending habits. For one large loan, he used his slaves as collateral. As a result, almost all of Jefferson’s slaves were sold off at auction without even any regard to keeping children with the parents.

  • Anonymous

    This national holiday defines everyone who chooses to live in the USA. If it is a sham and a joke (and I heartily disagree) then everyone here (save for the Native Americans) has chosen a sham and a joke as their personal mantra and national identity… and I doubt that to be the case. If you live here, and don’t like it, please remember that you are free to leave. Once you leave, however, you may not have the freedom to post your views – as you do here. Please remember that. Your slot will most likely be filled by someone who wants to be a citizen of a country that tries very hard to be a free society. We will someday get there, despite naysayers such as yourself. My ancestors have been here since the Revolution, and fought in the Revolution and most of the “conflicts” since that time. They fought for you and me. They fought and died for freedom – yours and mine. How have you served to better this country or this world?

  • Anonymous

    Are you that void of common sense or just looking for an excuse for your poor voting judgment, just now realizing your bad choice. that man uses his race as a scapegoat,