I think we have to face right in the center of the hurricane, if you will, Martin Luther King, Jr.'s foibles and faults. I think that we do no good to ourselves and do no honor to him by pretending that he did not fail, that he did not wrestle greatly and, at times, surrender to his own sins and his own faults and failures.
I think public intellectuals have a responsibility - to be self-critical on the one hand, to do serious, nuanced work rigorously executed; but to also be able to get off those perches and out of those ivory towers and speak to the real people who make decisions; to speak truth to power and the powerless with lucidity and eloquence.
George Bush ran a campaign where he bragged about being an anti-intellectual, dismissing his Harvard and Yale pedigree, pretending he was an American every day, ordinary everyman, and as a result of that, played up his fumbling speech because it signified that he was a good guy. That is deeply and profoundly anti-intellectual.
When white supremacy becomes institutional, it begins to harm the very people who are not simply outside of it because of their race, it begins to harm the folk who look like the folk who want to be in charge. Martin Luther King, Jr., understood this, Malcolm X understood this, James Baldwin really understood this.
The methodologies of examining hip hop are borrowed from sociology, politics, religion, economics, urban studies, journalism, communications theory, American studies, transatlantic studies, black studies, history, musicology, comparative literature, English, linguistics, and other disciplines.
If you take a guy like a Barack Obama, who's raised millions of dollars from the most donors in the history of this nation, it suggests that there's a deep and profound hunger for a new politics to come forth. And a guy like him has been able to mobilize that and to reach certain parts of the hip-hop generation.
White supremacy is the conscious or unconscious belief or the investment in the inherent superiority of some, while others are believed to be innately inferior. And it doesn't demand the individual participation of the singular bigot. It is a machine operating in perpetuity, because it doesn't demand that somebody be in place driving.
Hurricane Katrina overwhelmed levees and exploded the conventional wisdom about a shared American prosperity, exposing a group of people so poor they didn't have $50 for a bus ticket out of town. If we want to learn something from this disaster, the lesson ought to be: America's poor deserve better than this.
Speaking out against rap music is useless, and it's futile. The reality is there's criticism for everything, but Jay-Z is one of the most remarkable artists of our time of any genre, and as a hip-hop artist he carries the weight of that art form with such splendor and grace and genius.
New Orleans invented the brown paper bag party - usually at a gathering in a home - where anyone darker than the bag attached to the door was denied entrance. The brown bag criterion survives as a metaphor for how the black cultural elite quite literally establishes caste along color lines within black life.
I think that Michael Jackson, just as an entertainer, as a figure who embodies the contradictions of black identity and the possibilities of R&B music in the '70s and '80s, will continue to be one of the most recognized and formidable human beings that we've ever produced in our tradition.
Jeremiah Wright is one of the greatest prophetic preachers that black America has produced. What I find striking is that many white brothers and sisters miss the fact that there would be no black church if the white church wasn't political and racist in refusing to worship with us.
There are huge divorces and divides and chasms in black America between the have-gots and the have-nots, between the monied and the poor, between the educated and the non-educated. And there are huge and growing chasms daily. And I want to say that it's not simply about generation. It's about genre.
I think that not only do saints make poor role models, they are incapable in one sense of identifying radically with those of us who are mere mortals. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s mortality says to us that here's a figure who got up every day of his life facing tremendous odds and yet overcame them.
I suppose that I inherited the same vocabulary and world view as most black Christians do, most Christians in general, to be sure. It was heterosexist in the sense that it took the heterosexual orientation as the norm from which to start as the given. And everything that fell outside of that was not acceptable.
Martin Luther King, Jr., would have been the last person to have wanted his iconization and his heroism. He was an enormously guilt-laden man. He was drenched in a sense of shame about his being featured as the preeminent leader of African-American culture and the civil rights movement.
I didn't get to college until my 20s, because I was a young father on welfare and had to take all kind of jobs to support my young son. There's what frames my view on the topics I discuss on my shows, and the average person relates to that. No matter how many degrees I have now, I lived that life, and that comes through to the people watching.
You cannot hear the name Martin Luther King, Jr., and not think of death. You might hear the words 'I have a dream', but they will doubtlessly only serve to underscore an image of a simple motel balcony, a large man made small, a pool of blood. For as famous as he may have been in life, it is - and was - death that ultimately defined him.