In Conversation with Prof Kevin Brown: The Essence of African – American Culture Is Resistance Against Racial Oppression

by Vidya Bhushan Rawat & Prof Kevin Brown

Kevin Brown

Prof Kevin Brown is an African American, who teach law at the Indiana University, US and who is inspired by Dr Ambedkar’s struggle for the untouchables and other marginalized sections of society in India. He has been a regular visitor to India bringing the African American, Hispanic, religious minorities in United States to directly interact with the Dalit students and academics to understand their issues and commonalities between race and caste. Social activist Vidya Bhushan Rawat talks to Prof Kevin Brown

VB: Prof Brown, what inspired you to understand the Ambedkarite movement in India?

KB: I want to start by noting that I was born the evening of October 13, 1956.  If you adjust for the time difference between India and the United States, then as Dr. Ambedkar was leading the conversion of Dalits to Buddhism, my mother was in labor delivering me.  So, in a way, I was fated to learn about Dr. Ambedkar and the Ambedkarite movement in India.

From a more recent perspective, I applied for a Fulbright Scholarship to India for the academic year of 1995.  Fulbright Scholarship is a program that was established in the United States by an Act of Congress.  The Fulbright Board that governs the program is composed of three member appointed by the President of the United States.  One part of the program awards funds for overseas research or lecturing to American Scholars on a very competitive basis.  Because the best scholars throughout the country apply for Fulbright awards, it is a very prestigious award.

At the time I applied, I only knew one Indian national.  But, he happened to be the son of a former justice of the Indian Supreme Court.  What is more, he worked with my ex-wife who was employed at Cummins Engine Company in Columbus, Indiana.  The Dean of my Law School also knew the Justice and had earlier invited him to speak at mylaw school, Indiana University Maurer School of Law.  While I did not meet the Justice when he was in Bloomington, Indiana, he was obviously familiar withmy Law School.  Between my academic record at the time and the recommendation of the former Justice, I had one of the strongest applications of any scholar who applied for a Fulbright for India.

Since the Fulbright Board members are presidential appointees, they created a Subcommittee of Scholars to analyze applications and make recommendations for which scholars should receive an award.  The Fulbright Board’s normal practice was to approve all of the recommendations made by the Subcommittee.  And, this happened the year I applied, with one exception, mine.  Even though I applied in 1995, two years after the inauguration of President Bill Clinton, two of three Fulbright Board members at that time were appointees of George H. W. Bush, the 41st President of the United States.  The Bush dominated Fulbright Board rejected my selection by the Subcommittee because “they did not want a black man with a white wife talking about race in India.”  But, the State Department employee that was responsible for the Fulbright scholars going to India that year was an African-American female.  When my application was rejected, she investigated and found out what happened.  So she held on to my application and waited until President Clinton appointed his other 2 members to the Board.  Once he did, she resubmitted my application and I was approved.

I ended up delaying accepting my Fulbright to India for a year because I went through a messy divorce with the same woman who put me in touch with the son of the former Justice of the Indian Supreme Court.  So my Fulbright commenced in December of 1996.

I was initially assigned to the National Law School of India University in Bangalore.  There my office was next to that of Professor Japhet, the only law professor of Dalit descent on the faculty.  He and I talked about the comparisons and contrasts of the African-American struggle and that of Dalits often during the six weeks I stayed in Bangalore.  On the second weekend after I arrived in Bangalore, Professor Japhet invited me to join him at a rally in Mangalore where he was going to speak.  The rally was one of Dalit Christians who wanted to change the Indian constitution so that they would be eligible for reservations.  There were over 80,000 people who attended the rally.

As an African-American two aspects of this rally stood out.  There was just one sign over the speaker’s podium that came from the Civil Rights struggle of African-Americans in the 1960s, “We Shall Overcome.”  And one of the three speakers that day started his speech by saying, “I am a Dalit Panther, we take the name Panther from the struggle of the African-Americans in the United States because we are one with their struggle.”  While Japhet had indicated that Dalits knew about the African-American struggle, this was incredible confirmation of that.  The sense of pride that I had in knowing that our struggle was known by another group struggling against their oppression was overwhelming.  It was at that point that I decided to learn what I could about the Dalit struggle.  That determination led me to the writings of Dr. Ambedkar.

VB: How much are African American responsive to DrAmbedkar’s struggle and philosophy? How could Ambedkar’s struggle be useful for the African American people?

KB: America is separated from Africa and Europe by the Atlantic Ocean and from Asia by the Pacific Ocean.  America is also a country that was settled by British, Irish and Germans who were mostly interested in creating a culture that was different from that which existed in their home countries.  Because of this, American culture has primarily privileged what occurs in the United States over what occurs in the rest of the world.  As products of American culture, African-Americans are also primarily focused on our struggle in the United States.  When we as African-American people think globally, we tend to think about Africa, not Asia.  As a result, Dr. Ambedkar is not well known by African-American intellectuals as well as our general populace.  One of my life long goals has been to spread knowledge of the Dalit struggle and Dr. Ambedkar to African-Americans.

For those African-Americans who are familiar with Dr. Ambedkar’s struggle and philosophy, they are very impressed.  Simply put, Dr. Ambedkar may be the greatest human that has ever lived.  His understanding of the Dalit struggle and application of ideas from other countries to that struggle is extraordinary.  But, what is impressive is how well he theorized the problems of Dalits at that time.  However, I must note that Dr. Ambedkar’s philosophy is far more relevant for Indian society than American society.

VB: How do you look at Gandhi Ambedkar debate from an African American view point? Is there any parallel between it King-Malcom X ideological conflict?

KB: My personal view is very different about Gandhi from an African-American viewpoint.  From an African-American viewpoint, Gandhi is connected to the non-violent protest movement of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.  Reverend King often referred to the fact that he adopted his non-violence philosophy from Gandhi.  Thus, when African-Americans think of Gandhi, we tend to think of him as a role model for Reverend King.  As a result, Gandhi is held in high regard by African-Americans, despite the very racist views that Gandhi expressed about blacks while in South Africa.

Unlike most of my people, I am very aware of the Gandhi-Ambedkar conflict.  At the core of African-American culture is a struggle against racial oppression.  From that standpoint, Gandhi’s stand on separate electorate for Dalitswas most unfortunate.  That move substantially undercut Dalit political power to this day.  And political power has been a huge help to the African-American struggle for equality.

Both King and Malcom X saw the American system of segregation as a fundamentally evil system.  They also saw whites as the oppressors of African-Americans.  Thus, they agreed about the evil of the system and who were the oppressors.  What they disagreed about was the possibility that whites could be redeemed.  King believed it was possible to change the hearts and souls of whites so that justice for African-Americans could be obtained in an integrated society.  Malcolm X, like the Nation of Islam, saw whites as irredeemable.  For him the solution was not integration with fundamentally flawed oppressor, but “complete and utter separation of the races.”  Thus, Malcolm X’s solution for the African-American struggle was for separate and independent black communities as an interim step on our way to a separate nation for African-Americans in the southeastern part of the US.  As African-Americans, we understood the debate between King and Malcolm as a debate between integration and separation.

Gandhi believed that it was possible to reform Hinduism, but maintain the caste system.  It was the hierarchy that he desired to eliminate.  Ambedkar instead felt that Hinduism could not be reformed, but needed to be abolished.  If you analogized this debate to that of King and Malcolm X, then where King and Malcolm were debated the ability to reform the basic characteristics of white people, Gandhi and Ambedkar were debating the ability to reform the basic character of Hinduism.  Gandhi would say about Hinduism what King would say about white people, there is a need for reform, but reform is possible.  Ambedkar would say about Hinduism what Malcolm X would say about white people, the character is too corrupt to be reformed.

VB: Gandhi’s statue has been removed in Ghana University campus. There was a campaign against it. What is your opinion on it?

KB: I think that is a very positive development.  From an international point of view, Dalits must inform the rest of the world of their struggle.  Caste Hindus have controlled the international image of the caste system.  They typically discuss how things have changed in India and how caste is not very important anymore.  They talk about reservation and how much Dalits have advanced since Independence.  Because this is the typical story that caste Hindus tell, it is imperative for Dalits to publicize their experiences, perspectives and realties as much as possible.

From an African-American point of view, it must be pointed out that the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade was a conspiracy of black African rulers and Europeans.  Estimates are that only about 1 to 2 percent of slaves were actually kidnapped by Europeans.  The African rulers sold us to the Europeans.  Thus, Africans also bare a very large part of the blame for black slavery in the New World.  Even so, there is a strong feeling of kinship between African-Americans and Africans.  So it is helpful to African-American understanding about the oppressive aspects of Gandhi’s philosophies as applied to Dalits that Ghana University has decided to remove Gandhi’s statute.

VB: America and India are two biggest democracies of the world. Both claim to be victim of ‘terrorism’ but both have deeper issues behind their back. America’s un-comfort with racial issues are visible while Indians hate to talk about caste? Is there any similarity among the ideological and commercial interests of both the elites here and in your country?

KB: Yes there are similarities.  Whites in the United States are fond of saying that America use to discriminate against blacks, but not anymore.  The current problems of race have little to do with discrimination which has largely been eliminated.  In addition, while there are racially conscious whites who conceptualize themselves as members of the white race, the majority of whites in the United States see themselves as individuals, not as members of a white race.  For the majority of whites, their moral beliefs are based upon the idea that everyone should be treated as an individual.   When it comes to unchosen characteristics, such as race, ethnicity, and gender, to the extent possible, these characteristics should be transcended (ignored).  Thus, they too condemn those whites who make the white race something that should be recognized and honored.  As a result, racial conversations are often very uncomfortable for the majority of whites because it forces them to talk about individuals as members of racial groups and not as individuals.  For them, this is a moral violation, because it denies a person their individuality.

When I tell Caste Hindus that I collaborate with Dalit intellectuals, they are quick to tell me that the evils of untouchability have largely been eliminated, especially in the urban areas.  I am told that for purposes of employment, the only thing that matters is ability to do the job not caste.  They tell me that there are no dietary restrictions and that people can live wherever they can afford to live.  Thus, like whites, Caste Hindus seem reluctant to admit the continuing impact of caste based discrimination on Dalits.

As for commercial interest, American governmental views about India are primarily based on American interest.  From that standpoint, trade between the two countries is most important to Americans.  Thus, challenging India’s oppression of Dalits is not a major concern.  However, America’s individualist culture can’t help but see the Indian caste system with its oppression of Dalits as fundamentally unjust.Americans will understand India’s caste system against the background of how they understand race and ethnicity.  Caste Hindus who talk about caste differences and who speak negatively of Dalits because of their caste status will sound morally reprehensible to almost all Americans.  Most Americans will instantly equate discrimination based on caste or untouchability with the conscious racism that was so prevalent in the United States through the 1970s.

VB: Martin Luther King seems to have more acceptability among the American elite than Malcom X. Is it because Malcolm X’s One nation Islam theory was too difficult for the Christian world to digest?

KB: Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X have become 2 of the most well-known historic figures of the Civil Rights Movement.  This tends to obscure the reality that very fewAfrican-Americans are or have been Muslims.  The figure is less than 1 percent.  So the Nation of Islam never had a very large following among blacks in the US.  In fact, the Nation of Islam has lost much of its little appeal to the Black Community in the past decade.  The Nation of Islam’s embrace of Islam clearly harmed their mass appeal to the Black Community.  Christianity is the pre-dominant religion followed by blacks in the US, which is adhered to by about 85% of blacks.

But, the Nation of Islam had other problems in the 1960s that prevented it from being appealing to a large segment of the Black Community.  The basic plan of the Nation of Islam for black liberation was for the creation of a separate homeland for blacks in the southeastern part of the United States.  But, the idea of a separate black homeland in the US never had much support among blacks.  I would doubt that more than 1 in 100 saw it as appealing in the 1960s or beyond.  Blacks of the 1960s had experienced decades of segregation.  The Nation’s plan was simply a more aggressive brand of segregation.  Since blacks were finding themselves oppressed within their separate black communities, many felt that moving to a separate black homeland would simply make oppression worse, especially one within the territorial boundaries of North America.  Blacks in the 1960s were embracing integration as the way to black liberation.  So, the Nation of Islam was offering to increase the very segregation that blacks were already trying to overthrow.  As a result, the Nation of Islam and Malcolm X were actually pushing a far more conservative agenda for black liberation than was Reverend King at the time.

VB: Is America witnessing the same ideological gap between the whites and blacks as we have seen in India between the Dalits and caste Hindus? The resentment against hegemony and dominance is growing among the marginalized sections in both the country. What is your take on this.

KB:This is a much more difficult and nuanced question.  The American culture is steeped in individualism.  It is also steeped in racism.  The racism is something that African-Americans reject, but the individualism is something that any individual can choose to adopt.  Thus, there is much in American culture that says to the individual black person that you can be successful, even if blacks in general cannot.  Indeed, it would even say that you have no duties or obligations to other black people just because they are black.  It is your choice to help in that struggle.  American hegemony of individualism allows for successful blacks to enjoy much of what America has to offer as long as they are not too upset about the group based problems of blacks. In addition, America is a preferred country for immigration.  As a result, we have seen a substantial increase in black immigrants from the Caribbean and Africa over the past 50 years.  All of this is changing the nature of what it means to be black in the US, and, correspondingly, the nature of the African-American struggle.

In India, the dominant culture continues to view a person as a member of their subcaste, at least for purposes of marriage.  Marriage is also viewed as the merging of two families.  The result of these beliefs is that the caste system continues to be strong even in the face of a rapidly modernizing Indian society.  In America, marriage is viewed as a contract between two people.  The individualism of America also means that we don’t typically have arranged marriages.  Individuals are to find their own spouses.  With that being the case, individualism means that interracial marriages involving blacks are much more common in the US than inter-caste marriages involving Dalits.

One of the things that Dr. Ambedkar pointed out in Annihilation of Caste is that inter-caste marriage could substantially alleviate the problems that Dalits face.  The problem was how to bring it about.  But, the individualism has helped to increase interracial marriages involving blacks in the US and that increase is one of the factors that is changing the nature of the African-American struggle.  Since the 1960s, much has changed with regard to the racial and ethnic ancestry of American society, including that of blacks.  As time passed, the objections to interracial dating and marriage between blacks and whites began to wane.In 1958, for example, only 4 percent of whites approved of interracial marriage with blacks.[1] However, in its 1967 decision of Loving v. Virginia,[2] the US Supreme Court struck down anti-miscegenation marriage statutes, which prevented such marriages, throughout the country. This decision and other societal changes led to more acceptance by Americans of interracial sexual relationships.  By 2003, the Gallup poll showed that 70 percent of whites and 80 percent of blacks approved of such unions.[3]The portion of those who accept interracial marriage continues to increase during the twenty-first century.[4]This is especially true among younger adults, the ones in their prime reproductive years.According to a 2010 Pew Research Center report, almost all Millennials (18- to 29-year-olds in 2010) accept interracial dating and marriage.The Report notes that 92 percent of white and 88 percent of African American Millennial say that they would be fine with a family member marrying someone outside of their group.[5]

The greater societal acceptance of interracial dating and marriage also increased its frequency.Figures from 2010 show that about 9 percent of married blacks were married outside of the race.[6]The percentage of black males who marryoutside of the race continued to be significantly higher than black females, 12.5compared to 5.5 percent.Interracial marriages also made up a much larger percentage of new marriages by blacks than existing marriages.Thus, among 2010 newlyweds, 23.6 percent of black males and 9.3 percent of black females who married,married outside of their race.[7] And, according to a 2015 Pew Research Center Report, 19 percent of blacks who married in 2013 married a person of a different race, including one in four black men.[8]  The increasing numbers of mixed-race couples is now embraced by many advertisers of products and services.  Thus, it is no longer uncommon to see a commercial on American television with a black/white interracial couple. And many television programs also include interracial couples.

Increased interracial dating, cohabitation, and marriage have also increased the percentage of blacks with interracial parents.According to the 2010 census, 7.4 percent of blacks[9] (up from 4.8 percent in 2000[10]) indicated another racial category, over two and a half times the 2.9 percent of the American population as a whole.[11]As one might expect, the younger blacks are, the more likely they are to be multiracial. Census figures from 2012 show that the portion of mixed-race blacks between the ages of 20 and 24 was only 7.9 percent.[12]However, the portion of mixed-race blacks among blacks between the ages of 15 and 19 was 8.9 percent, between 10 and 14 years it increased to 10.9 percent, between 5 and 9 years to 15.0 percent, and for those under the age of 5 it was 19.1 percent.[13]

In addition to the increase in Black Multiracials, the ethnic ancestry of blacks has also changed significantly since the advent of affirmative action. The emergence of independent predominatelyblack nations in the Caribbean and Africa, globalization, and changes in American immigration law, starting with the landmark Hart-Cellar Act of 1965, led to substantial increases in the percentages and numbers of foreign-born blacks in the United States.The percentage of blacks whowere foreign-born increased from 1.1 percent in 1970,[14] to 4.9 percent in 1990,[15] to almost 10 percent in 2012.[16]Since 1960, the number of foreign-born blacks in the United States has also increased over thirty-fold to almost 3,900,000.[17] As a result, the percentage of younger blacks in the United States who are either first or second generation black Immigrants is also on the rise. Whereas only 2 percent of black children are foreign-born, approximately 12.7 percent of black children under the age of 18 have at least one foreign-born black parent.[18]However, this percentage is on the rise because of the significant increase in foreign-born blacks in the country and the possibility that foreign-born black women will to continue to have more children than native black women. For example, foreign-born black women bore approximately one out of every six black children in 2004.  In Massachusetts where one out of every three blacks is currently foreign-born, since 2008 a majority of black babies born there have been to the immigrant mothers.[19] It is important to realize that these Black Immigrants are not descendants of those who were enslaved in America.  Thus, they do not feel as connected to the struggle against racial oppression in the United States.  As time passes, the percentage of blacks who do not trace their entire ancestry to blacks who were enslaved or segregated will become the majority of blacks.

What this suggest is that we may be seeing a redefinition of “blackness” in the US.  For a long time race was a socially ascribed character.  For example, according to 1960 census figures, 88.8 percent of all Americans were classified as white and 10.6 percent as black.  Latinos did not exist as a category.[20]  Rather, they were classified based on their race.  Thus, as the Civil Rights Era dawned, 99.4 percent of Americans were either black or white.  With the one-drop rule used to determine a person’s race, one drop of black blood makes you black, it meant that anyone with color was normally presumed to be black.  A person’s race was, therefore, readily apparent.  But, now Latinos, Asians, and Multiracials make up over a quarter of the American population, twice the percentage of blacks.  In addition, many light skinned blacks are indistinguishable from Latinos, South Asians, Middle Easterners, and Multiracials.  And, unlike Indians, Americans don’t have many other ways to determine a person’s race without asking the person directly.  But, for mixed-race individuals, they can give different answers.  For example, I brought a light skinned young man with me to India whose father was white, but his mother was Haitian.  When he is asked, “what are you?” he can truthfully say any of the following:  “I am white,” “I am Haitian,” “I am black,” “I am African-American,” “I am multiracial,” “I am biracial,” or “I am just me and my race and ethnicity should not matter.”

What this means is that it is no longer possible to tell the race of a growing percentage of American people based on their physical appearance.  This also means that for a growing percentage of Americans, race is becoming a matter of self-identification in any given context.  But, this requires a redefinition of American thinking about race, because all of our previous ideas were built upon the firm convictions that race was an immutable characteristic that one is born with, not a matter of personal identification that can change with the contexts.

So to respond directly to your question, there are an increasing number of people with some African ancestry who do not feel connected to the historic struggle against racial oppression.  For them, the dominant American hegemony rooted in individualism is far more likely to be acceptable.  Thus, we may be watching the process by which the dominant individualistic hegemony of the US succeeds in attenuating the group based cultural force of African-Americans as it dissolves our Community.

VB: Do you think caste and race are similar term? If not then what could be an international mechanism to address the caste discrimination issue?

KB: While I believe that Dalits and African-Americans can learn a tremendous amount from each other, I don’t believe that caste discrimination based on untouchability is the same as race discrimination.  But, as I noted above, any American will draw an analogy of caste discrimination to race discrimination.  Americans have no other way in which to comprehend caste discrimination.  Also, because the international condemnation of racism is stronger than it is against caste discrimination, Dalits are correct at arguing that these two concepts are the same despite the differences.  If caste discrimination is labeled race discrimination, that label will bring with it additional international pressure on India for change.

It is the primacy placed on the individual in the United States and the west that makes the grouping of a person with people who share a similar involuntary trait so problematic.  This is true whether the trait is race, ethnicity, or caste.To discriminate against someone because of their skin color, ethnicity or caste in the United States is inconsistent with the fundamental belief of a secular liberal society with the fundamental belief that the value of human life lies in self-determination.

The oppression of Dalits is tied to Brahminism, which is still the predominant form of Hinduism.  Because this system has such deep roots in Indian soil, it will not be easy to disestablish it.  This is a system that will not reform itself from the inside, but must have outside pressure exerted on it.  International condemnation is, therefore, very important.

VB: What do you think about the Parliamentary system of Indian democracy when you compare to US model. In terms of representation it seems Indian model seems to be far superior to America as the number of Dalits in our power structure is much more than the number of blacks in US congress but it seems in terms of entrepreneurship, culture, presence in literature, art, music,and sports  is definitely far superior to us. What could be the reasons?

KB:This is an interesting question.  My understanding is that the first loyalty of most elected members in India is to the party, as opposed to the people.  Where as in the US, individuals are elected to represent a geographic area.  Because of that the interests of the people in their geographical area are the politician’s paramount concern.  So there are about 40 blacks in the House of Representatives (the Lower House of Congress), yet virtually all of them are elected from predominantly black legislative districts.  Thus, they all represent the interest of the Black Community in Congress.  Also, all but 1 or 2 of the black members of Congress are members of the Democratic Party.  In fact, non-white voters made up over 40% of the votes that Hilary Clinton received in the 2016 Presidential elections.  In contrast, some 90% of the votes that Donald Trump received were from white voters.  However, since the elections in November of 2016, the Republicans are in control of the central government and two thirds of the state governments.  So the power of the black elected officials in the federal government and many state governments will be limited for the next few years.  But, when the Democrats are in power, blacks tend to wield a considerable amount of legislative power.

I think another major difference between Dalits and African-Americans is the black experience of segregation.  Slavery is a far closer analogy to oppression based on untouchability than is segregation.  Thus, when comparing Dalit progress since Indian independence with that of African-Americans, the starting point for African-Americans should be the late 1860s, not the 1950s.  Because we were in separate autonomous communities during segregation, blacks had to diversify our talents.  We needed black doctors, lawyers, accountants, newspapers, movies, musicians, actors, banks, insurance companies, stores, teachers, and other business people to serve a predominantly black clientele.  What this meant was that we were developing business and professional skills within our own communities.  So we had separate schools where our children were taught by caring black teachers.  We also had a network of Historically Black Colleges and Universities where our people could pursue higher education taught by predominantly black faculties.  This period of segregation was very valuable to the Black Community, because it put us in a much better position to take advantages of the opportunities that became available during the Civil Rights Era.

VB: What is the position of blacks in various government jobs in America? Are the transnational corporations ready to accept them as equal partners? Is there any wage gap between blacks and whites?

KB: Due to the lingering prejudice in the private sector, black professionals tend to be overrepresented among governmental workers.  So the government, especially the federal government and state governments where blacks exercise considerable political power are important employers.  Black complaints about discrimination in employment are the same whether we are discussing transnational corporations or American corporations.

Yes, there is a wage gap between blacks and whites.  There always has been, and likely always will be.  The median household income of blacks in 2012 was $33,321, which was only 58.4 percent of white family income and 48.4 percent of Asian family income.[21]  With respect to per capita income, black earnings of $19,267 are only 57.6 percent of white and 60.4 percent of Asian per capita income.[22]  The 2012 unemployment rates for blacks (13.8 percent) was more than twice that of Asians (5.9 percent), nearly twice that of whites (7.2 percent), and significantly more than that of Hispanics (10.3 percent).[23] A much larger percentage of blacks also live in poverty. The poverty rate in the Black Community stands at 27.2 percent, in contrast to Hispanics at 25.6 percent, Asians at 11.7 percent, and whites at 9.9 percent.[24] The disparities in poverty rates are even higher for blacks under the age of 18. Over a third of black children, 36.7 percent, live below the poverty line, in contrast to Hispanics at 33.8 percent, whites at 18.5 percent, and Asians at 13.8 percent.[25] Beyond racial differences in income levels, black families also have considerably less accumulated wealth than white families.  According to an April 2013 report issued by the Urban Institute, in 2010 the average white family possessed $632,000 in wealth, compared to $98,000 for the average black family.[26] In other words, the average white family was more than six times wealthier than the average black family.

VB: Why is the discrimination against blacks in America growing during the past one decade? Is it because people are asking for their rights and standing with their head high? Is it because President Obama has been very forthright and has reminded the country about the dangers of racial barriers? Are the American whites now feeling threatened with more political social expressions of the blacks?

KB:I don’t think I would agree with the statement that “discrimination against blacks in America has grown over the past decade.”  All Americans are confronted with evidence of the weakening hold of racial discrimination against blacks, because they encounter very successful black individuals on a daily basis.In Disintegration: The Splintering of Black America, noted black journalist Eugene Robinson pointed to several recent divisions that now exist within the Black Community.[27]Robinson not only pointed to emergent groups of mixed-race blacks and foreign-born blacks, he also noted a small elite group of blacks with enormous wealth, power, and influence. He called them “Transcendents.”[28] Thus, Americans live with the reality that Oprah Winfrey is on the list of the wealthiest Americans[29] and that a number of blacks, including Robert Johnson, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Bill Cosby, have amassed substantial fortunes.[30]Blacks have run or run some of the most powerful corporations in the world including: Ursula Burns, President of Xerox Corporation; Stanley O’Neal, former Chairman/CEO of Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc.; Richard Parsons, Chairman of Citigroup and former Chairman/CEO of AOL Time Warner; Don Thompson, President of McDonald’s USA; Ronald Williams, Chairman/CEO of Aetna, Inc.;[31] and 2012 Republican presidential candidate Howard Cain, the former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza.Black athletes like Tiger Woods, Kobe Bryant, and LeBron James are among the most highly paid marketing personalities in America.[32] More than one hundred blacks are presidents of traditionally white universities.[33]A black Miss America or Miss USA is no longer a major news item.[34]In 2014, therewere forty-three black members of the House of Representatives[35] and three served in the Senate in 2013,[36] the most in any given year in the history of the United States. When David Patterson succeeded Eliot Spitzer as Governor of the State of New York in March of 2007, for the first time in American history, two blacks were serving as the chief executive officers of their respective states.Patterson joined Duval Patrick, whom the voters of Massachusetts elected in 2006 and again in 2010.[37]Most notable of all, Barack Obama ascended to the seat of power in the White House as the popularly elected 44thPresident of the United States.  He was elected not once, but twice.

Obama’s election was certainly a turning point for America.  But, it helped play into a narrative in the US that blacks have made tremendous progress.  Certainly that is true, however, as you can tell from the economic statistics noted above, we still continue to lag behind on important economic measures.  I actually think that whites in America are feeling far more threatened by Hispanics that blacks.  This is especially true in politics.  It is the Hispanic population that has grown tremendously in the US.

VB: Why have the blacks been living in ghettoes in US? Is there any historical relationship with that? The capitalist model does not seem to care for their mixing up with white population?

KB:When thinking about the historical experience of the Black Community, it is important to keep in mind that up to 1860 about 93% of them lived in the South where slavery was legal.  Of those who lived there, 94% were slaves.  But, some of the slaves were house slaves, so they actually lived with their white owners.  Because of slavery, there was a need for the white community to keep a watch on blacks.  So blacks were not subject to totalsegregation in the South.  In contrast, free blacks in the North tended to live in separate neighborhoods, ride in separate stage coaches and railroad cars, go to separate schools and be buried in separate cemeteries.  Simply put, segregation was a doctrine that grew up in the North before the Civil War.

Capitalism was important in regard to slavery because it was a system that made it profitable to employ slaves in economic activities that were labor intensive.  For the US, that turned out to be the production of cotton.  The overwhelming majority of slaves were employed in the growing and marketing of cotton.  But, capitalism doesn’t demand or require segregation along racial lines.  In fact, when there is a good reason to do so, many people can overcome their racist sentiments.  Capitalism and the pursuit of material wealth can provide those good reasons.  So, even though the economic system of the US as a result of slavery was based on race, racism is not a necessary aspect of capitalism.  Racism can exist with or without capitalism.  I don’t believe that the way to eliminate racism is to reject capitalism.  Racism needs to be fought on its on grounds.  Plus, by eschewing making money means that a group is losing out on a very important source of social power.

VB: Do the black suffer from ‘outsider’ complex or the Christianity has killed the rebellion spirit inside them?


The process by which a people define themselves and are defined by others is dynamic.Cultural identity is not fixed or static; rather it ebbs and flows as history unfolds.[38]The American motto E Pluribus Unum(out of many one) is an apt description of the historical black experience in the United States.The best estimates suggest that about 4 percent of the ten to twelve million Africans brought to the New World landed in what would become the United States.[39] Scholars estimated that 72 percent of the African base of U.S. slave population arrived during the colonial period.The Chesapeake Bay area had received all of its Africans by then, and the states in the North had received 98 percent of their total.[40] Although some Africans came from the east coast of that continent, most came from a region in West Africa between the Senegal River in the north and the Congo in the south.[41]They came from coastal areas, inland forests, villages in the shadows of mountains, and riverside towns.Some were from advanced nations with long traditions of kings, courts, and well-defined civil societies.Others were from small clans composed primarily of family members.Some were farmers or herders, others were fisherman, craftsmen, and soldiers, and some were even slaves.These Africans came from different ethnic and kinship groups that held different cultural and religious traditions, but in the United States they were melded into one people.Many scholars estimate that 15-30% of Africans imported as slaves were Muslim. The majority of the remaining practiced indigenous forms of worship. All, however, were converted to Christianity.

As time passed those brought directly from Africa died off.Hampered by misconceptions about their mother country, faulty information, incorrect conjectures, omissions of historical facts, and inaccurate oral traditions, the ability of North American–born descendants of those Africans to identify with various African identities weakened. As they weakened, a new collective AfricanAmerican identity emerged.[42] Scholars typically point to the 1820s and 1830s as the time of the creation of the separate African-American identity.

Without question, the central feature of the AfricanAmerican experience in the United States was the treatment of an individual as an involuntary member of a historically oppressed racial group. Until the institution of affirmative action programs, blacks in America came face-to-face with laws, customs, and social practices designed to restrict or confine their social, political, economic, and educational rights and opportunities.As noted black scholar W.E.B. DuBois summarized it, “The So called Negro group . . . while it is in no sense absolutely set off physically from its fellow Americans, has nevertheless a strong, hereditary cultural unity born of slavery, common suffering, prolonged proscription, and curtailment of political and civil rights. . . . Prolonged policies of segregation and discrimination have involuntarily welded the mass almost into a nation within a nation.”[43]

Race was the dominant feature of the historical experience of AfricanAmericans, and it will help to recognize two different aspects of that experience.One aspect involved what it meant to be a victim of racial discrimination.With regard to the descendants of the soil of Africa, for much of America’s history, dominant American culture was deeply invested in notions of white (or at least Anglo-Saxon and Teutonic) superiority. Thus, dominant American cultural attitudes had clear concepts of what it meant to be black and imposed those notions on dark-skinned people.From this perspective, AfricanAmericans were viewed as passive objects that were moved around by whites for their purposes rather than as people with their own wills, hopes, and desires,who influenced their own destiny.This aspect also presupposed that blacks were inferior or substandard in some important ways to whites.This belief obscured the injustice of the discriminatory treatment that blacks experienced and made their subjection appear as the natural order of things.By imposing upon black people a system that required their servitude and treated them as menials, their actual condition made them inferior.Thus, one aspect of the experience of historical discrimination is the experience of what it means to be “raced” or branded as inferior.[44] But, this aspect of the historical experience is not the true African-American culture.

Against the background of racial dominationthe descendants of the sons and daughters of the soil of Africa were melded into one people.  Out of the uniting factor of racethey shaped a counterdiscourse to how mainstream American society viewed and treated them. They actively engaged in a collective struggle that resisted white supremacy.Commenting on this, Mari Matsuda noted that “Black Americans, the paradigmatic victim group of our history, have turned the Bible and the Constitution into texts of liberation.”[45]From the perspective of the counterdiscourse, blacks are not viewed as inferior, but as oppressed.Thus, in contrast to the “raced” aspect of the historical experience of blacks was the active experience of a group who did not control the visible reins of power, but still served as the architects of their own struggles against the conditions of their oppression.This counterhistorical experience was limited by and responsive to the racial oppression imposed on the Black Community.Nevertheless, this counter narrative of resistance to racial oppression represents what I would call the true African-American culture.

In sum, the experience of the history of discrimination against black people in the United States is like a two-sided coin.On one side, race was, and is, the immutable characteristic that formed the basis of the oppression of blacks.On the other side was the Black Community’s collective effort to struggle against its oppression. But, the true African-American culture is the part of the experience that embodies the fight against racial oppression.  Thus, at our core, African-Americans are warriors engaged in a constant battle for our racial liberation.

VB: Are Americans afraid that a new Malcolm X might influence the black psyche. Will Martin Luther’s attempt to get acceptability have more acceptance among the black population or they would have more from the likes of Muhammad Ali ?

KB: It is important to understand that blacks in the US are overwhelmingly Christian.  Today, Muslims make up less than 1% of the Black Community.  Thus, despite how important Malcolm X appears to us looking back into the past, during his life he was not highly regarded by blacks outside of New York and Chicago.  In fact, Spike Lee did an autobiographical movie about Malcolm X in 1992 that became a movie that virtually everyone in the Black Community saw.  Malcolm X gained more of a following as a result of that movie than he had before 1992.  Thus, to address your question directly, “no, Americans are not afraid of a new Malcolm X.”

I also want to point out that you have the wrong impression of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.  He is without question the most significant popular leader of blacks in our history.  For the time of segregation, Reverend King was a radical who was considered a major threat to the racial socio-economic structure.  Unlike the Nation of Islam and Malcolm X, who preached separatism, Reverend King’s anti-segregation, pro-integration movement was a direct attack on the white power structure.  It was King, not Malcolm X who led the fight for voting rights for blacks.  So between King and Malcolm X, King posed a much greater threat to the white power structure.

VB: What is your solution to the current crisis that America faces? What could be the repercussions if the issue is not resolved? Is there any message for the African Americans as well as the whites in America to learn from DrAmbedkar’s middle path doctrine of Buddha ?

KB: Beyond racial oppression, the problems of the Black Community include poor education in the urban areas, mass incarceration, a lack of jobs in our communities, a breakdown of the black family (some 2/3 black children grow up in single parent households and mass incarceration of black men contributes to this), and inadequate job opportunities (mass incarceration contributes to this as well).  But, there is a very significant and powerful black middle class.  So in total the Black Community in the United States is more powerful right now than we have ever been.  All of our major problems are ones that people in the Black Community are working on, but they are huge problems.  Given that the driving force of African-American culture is this collective resistance to racial oppression, we will continue to work on our problems no matter what.  As we continue to say to our young black people, “Lift others as you climb.”

One of the things that struck me about my time in India and my understanding of Indian religions, especially the doctrine of reincarnation, was how different it is from the religions that Americans practice.  Americans are generally committed to the idea that we live once and only once.  That means that whatever one does or wants to achieve, they have to do it or achieve it now, in this life.  Added to this is the fact that America has always been an anti-traditional society.  This is a country founded by people who were trying to escape the traditions of Europe.  Thus, Americans do not hold on to the past, but are future oriented.  They live with one foot in the present and one foot in the future.  This creates a far greater sense of urgency than what a society that believes in reincarnation and tradition will produce.  Thus, there is a much more rapid pace of change in the US than what exists in India.  Almost as soon as something becomes standard, there is an effort to change it.

If America has a problem it will be that the pace of change comes too quickly to develop the cultural or mental thought forms to deal with it.  Our technological advances will literally evolve in such a way that it leadsus into a crisis that we cannot get out of.

I say this to say that DrAmbedkar’s philosophy was developed for the soil of India, not America.  America is a country that is founded on notions of individualism, equality, and liberty (defined as the ability of the individual to pursue his or her own determined desires).  The American culture does not see “fraternity” as a concern.  In America you do not have to feel any kind of special concern for your fellow person, only refrain from interfering with their right to pursue their own plans and purposes.  Individuals will find companionship with like-minded individuals, not with strangers or humanity as a whole.  Except in times of war, Americans don’t really worry about some under arching concept that unites all of us.

In addition, it is hard to truly convey the difference in the time horizons of Indians compared to Americans.  America is a country that is less than 250 years old.  There are only a handful of buildings on this continent that have existed for over 300 years, none of them outside the east coast.I live in the middle of the country and never see a structure that is over 150 years old.  So the Indian mind lives with relics of the past as part of the landscape of the present that the American mind does not.  We don’t have places of worship or traditions that go back several hundreds or thousands of years.  In fact, most American Christians are Protestants.  This is a form of Christianity that has only been around for 400 years, not two millennia.  For the American, the 1950s are so far in the past that it is difficult to see its relevance today.  The result is that Americans are not likely to embrace philosophies developed by Dr. Ambedkar.  The American mind simply believes that the conditions of the 1930s, 40s, and 50s have changed to a point that those philosophies are not relevant today.

VB: Are you seeking more or should I say, fair, representation of blacks in police and military of the US. Is representation more important than the understanding of the issue? Do you think that the white officers are unable to understand the psychology of blacks.

KB: We are not seeking fair representation in the military.  Simply put, the American military is an external force.  So it is rarely involved in the policing of black neighborhoods.  The percentage of blacks in the American population is about 13%.  We make up 16% of the males in the Armed forces and 31% of the females.  Blacks are, therefore, overrepresented in the military.  There is a sense that America’s military is less racist than the general population.  President Truman announced the desegregation of the military in 1948.  It became the first major organization to desegregate.  In addition, because of the need to have soldiers depend upon each other, racism in the military undercuts its effectiveness.  And the American military is a volunteer fighting force.  Blacks often find jobs in the military more appealing than whites because our opportunities for other jobs are not as good as theirs.

The percentage of blacks among the police offices of the country is about 12%.[46]  So we are slightly underrepresented among police officers.  This underrepresentation is exacerbated by the fact that the police are more likely to police our neighborhoods than those of whites.  But, I would suspect that in urban areas, the percentage of black police officers is higher than the national average, but less than the percentage of blacks living in the urban areas.  Nevertheless, there are a significant number of black police officers.

Our problems with over policing and mass incarceration stems from that reality that whites have always had negative attitudes about blacks.  But, generally, they saw blacks as subservient during slavery.  Coming out of slavery blacks were viewed as lazy, lacking in intelligence, lacking in motivation, dirty, and inferior, but not prone to violence.   While black troops were important in the Union war victory during the Civil Way of the 1860s, by the end of the century whites had once again subdued the Black Community.  Thus, the change in the view of blacks, especially males, as prone to violence changes in the 1960s.  First, while America has a long history of race riots, the first ones where blacks were the ones rioting, as opposed to whites, did not occur until the 1960s.  Second, in the 1960s America saw the rise of militant Black Nationalist movements like the Black Panthers, the Nation of Islam, the Black Stone Rangers, and the Soledad Brothers.  At this same time, America was also experiencing the changes to society due to the proliferation of television sets.  One of those changes was that American football became more and more popular.  Thus, Americans started to increasingly be exposed to images of big black male athletes who were coming to dominate America’s favorite primary spectator sport, a sport known for its violence.  In addition, from 1910 to 1970, blacks left the rural south where their ancestors were held as slaves for the urban north.  Conditions in northern cities were very different than the rural south.  These areas required different personality traits to thrive.  Blacks in urban areas were more aggressive than the ones in the rural areas of the South.  As blacks migrated from the rural south to the urban north, a new sense of black militancy developed.   So I am most persuaded by the scholars and historians who argue that the stereotype of black males as dangerous and violent people developed in the 1960s.

In the Black Community we have law abiding people and criminals.  So just because you are a black police officer doesn’t mean that you aren’t concerned with the destructive potential of black criminals.  As a result, what we as blacks are fighting is the dominant American attitude that sees black males as dangerous and prone to violence.  It is this cultural idea that allows all Americans, including black ones, to be afraid of black males.  So the problem that we have with the policing is not just a black/white problem.  It is more a police/Black Community problem or an American problem.

Unfortunately, I don’t really think that America will end its association of black males with violence.  As I noted, beyond the images that Americans see about black criminals, black males are associated with violence in our most popular sport.  Thus, Americans are constantly exposed to threatening images of black males.  I believe that the most likely way that police killings of black males will be resolved isthrough the development of non-lethal ways for the police to subdue people that are as effective as shooting someone with a bullet.

VB: The recent killings of black youths clearly suggest that the incidents were result of prejudices prevalent in the minds of the American whites against the blacks. What would you suggest to the people so that these prejudices are done away with?

KB:It is important to understand that the killings of black males by the police is not a new occurrence.  The only time this wasn’t a problem in the US was when blacks were slaves.  Therefore, killing one of them (us) was destruction of someone’s property.  So this has been a problem since abolition.  What is different today is that the issue has received so much publicity because of the ubiquitous presence of video cameras.

Once an idea like blacks are prone to violence takes ahold of the American consciousness, it takes on a life of its own.   For example, according to Bureau of Justice statistics, violent crime rates, which include homicide, robbery, rape and aggravated assault, have fallen by more than 50 percent between 1993 and 2013.[47]  This, however, has not led to a decrease in the sense that America is a place where violent criminal behavior is rampant.  I, therefore, think that the best we can do is constantly attempt to combat the notion that black males are prone to aggressive and criminal behavior.  But, I would also suggest that blacks buy their own car video cameras and record their interactions with the police to the best of their abilities to do so at the time.

VB: In the popular political discourse Martin Luther always come near to Gandhi and not Ambedkar who should have been there. What do you think is the reason? Is Martin Luther ideologically closure to Gandhi or because both were religiously inclined people, they suit well to the ruling elite.

KB: Much of the American image of Gandhi is a product of the 1982 movie entitledGandhi, where Ben Kingsley played him.  In that movie, Gandhi is portrayed as a protector of the Dalits.  In American culture, Gandhi is viewed as a major spokesperson for the Dalits. 

The connection of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. with Gandhi comes from King embracing the philosophy ofnon-violence espoused by Gandhi.  Simply put, Reverend King did not appreciate the Dalit struggle, he was more focused on the colonial struggle of India against the British.  But, King was aware of non-violence.  So the connection of Reverend King with Gandhi is a connection that King himself made.  Frankly, I don’t think that this is a connection that can be severed.  Dr. Ambedkar can be revered on his own, but I would not seek to try and connect him with Reverend King.

I have said this before, but I think it needs to be repeated.  You seem to have an image of Dr. King that sees him as a spokesperson for the dominant white community.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  I have included a link to Dr. King’s most famous speech, the I Have a Dream Speech.   I would suggest that you read the entire speech.

It is also important for everyone to realize that Dr. King was assassinated in 1968 while he was planning the Poor People’s March on Washington DC.  His goal was to bring 1 million poor people to Washington DC to advocate for a Trillion Dollar program to attack poverty in the United States.  In today’s dollars, his program would cost $7,000,000,000,000 (Seven Trillion dollars).This was something he was doing after having successfullyobtained Congressional legislation to outlaw discrimination in federally funded programs, housing, and public accommodations and securing passage of the Voting Rights Act that gave the vote to most blacks in the southern part of the US for the first time since the 1890s.  King was correct in thinking that the late 1960s was a time to try to eliminate poverty.  President Lyndon Johnson actually declared a “War on Poverty” during his State of the Union speech in January of 1964.  Because of that, there were several major pieces of Congressional legislation that was passed in the 1960s to benefit the poor.  But, Johnson’s War on Poverty was sidetracked by US spending on the Vietnam War.

The revolutionary aspect of Reverend King was muted in the conscious effort to re-describe him in terms that made him more acceptable to mainstream American society.  This occurred during the 1980s, because when many advocated for making his birthday a national holiday.  A country cannot create a national holiday for a person who was committed to restructuring the socio-economic order of the society.  It seems to me that India may be doing the same with Dr. Ambedkar.  I have noticed over my 20 years of coming to India how his images have proliferated.  He is increasingly being embraced as the architect of the Indian constitution as opposed to a relentless critic of Hinduism.  To the extent that he seen as the architect of the Indian constitution this becomes a conservative image to Dalits.  It suggests that Dalits should accept the structure of Indian government because it is what Dr. Ambedkar’s work produced.

VB: How can we bring together the victims of caste system in Indian subcontinent and victims of racial discrimination in America and Europe.Is it important to bring them together and what purpose will it solve.

KB:Hopefully by now, you know I am a strong believer in Dalit/African-American cooperation and alliance.  I believe that we can learn a tremendous amount from each other.  Comparing our struggles and our solutions helps each group gain a better understanding of the nature of the struggle that each group is engaged in, as well as possible strategies and policies to employ.  I have studied and taught about the struggles of African-Americans and Dalits, but also blacks in the UK, blacks in South Africa, and Palestinians/Arab Israelis in Palestine.  From this, I have learned many lessons.  Issues of oppression and subordination are local.  They are tied to a particular history of a particular place.  The form of oppression that Dalits struggle against, is, different from what African-Americans struggle against.  The dominant Hindu culture of India if very different from the secular individualist/white supremacist culture that African-Americans struggle against.  Consequently, your solutions may not be ours and ours may not be yours.  But, we can understand our different struggles better as we look at them against the backgrounds of the other groups that are fighting oppression.

More importantly, African-Americans benefit tremendously from learning about the Dalit struggle and the fact that you know so much about our struggle.  Generally speaking, African-Americans are not aware of how well-known our liberation struggle is among so many different people in the world.  This is a very empowering concept for us.  For Dalits, the ability to publicize your struggle on international arena is crucial to its success.  There is a limit to what Dalits can accomplish without pressure being exerted on Hindu believes from outside.  Thus, trying to let as many people know about the discriminatory conditions that Dalits face has to be a major aspect of the Dalit struggle for liberation.African-Americans can be very powerful allies in spreading that the word of that struggle.  I also think that we can both draw inspiration from the realization that we have brothers and sisters who share in the experience of oppression and the desire for liberation.  And, if may very well be that we can find joint projects to work on that would advance our common interest.

VB: America has a museum for African American. I think it is a great tribute to the people there who devoted their lives to build modern US. Do you think, India need to make a similar museum to honor the Dalits and accept that it has wronged them for centuries?

KB: What is important for African-Americans is to make sure that our tradition of struggle against our oppression is passed on.  The African American museum is very much a part of making that occur.  But, the museum was funded by private money, not government money.  Among the major contributors of the museum were Oprah Winfrey ($21 million), Lilly Endowment (head quartered in my home town of Indianapolis of $20 million), Robert Smith ($20 million), the Andrew Mellon Foundation ($12 million), The Atlantic Philanthropies ($12 million) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation ($10 million).[48]Since the museum was financed by private money, not public money, it does not represent a statement that America or Americans accept that they have wronged black people for centuries.

In some real way, the American culture doesn’t allow the acceptance of white collective responsibility for the oppression of people of color.  While some whites think in terms of whites as a group and recognize a debt that they owe to right the wrongs of their group’s past, most white Americans have a strong individualist ethic.  What this means is that the son is not responsible for the sins of the father and the father is not responsible for the sins of the grandfather.  In other words, Americans can say that individuals in the past oppressed black people, but that doesn’t mean that they are being oppressed today or that today’s individuals bear any responsibility to alleviate the oppression done in the past, even if that oppression continues to have negative effects in the present.

Like African-Americans, Dalits are engaged in what may be a perpetual struggle, or at least one that will last for centuries, against their oppression.  There are no easy fixes or quick solutions.  But, a necessary aspect of success in that struggle is the need for Dalits to continue to cultivate a spirit of resistance to caste based oppression.  If there is a museum developed for Dalits, it should be dedicated to the concept of a struggle against Dalit oppression and the justice of the cause of Dalits who struggled against their oppression.  I have been toRashtriya Dalit PrernaSthal and Green Garden in Noida.  A Dalit museum should be along the lines of this place, a museum to glorify the resistance to caste based oppression.

VB: What do you suggest as biggest challenge to Dalits and blacks in our times and how can they cope with it whether it is political battle or socio cultural fights. Do you think conversion is a potent weapon or you go with those who suggest Dalits don’t need any religion?

KB: I have pointed to the biggest challenges for blacks already.  The main problems facing the Black Community, (or portions of it) are not ones that religion or religious conversion will solve.  The Black Community tends to focus primarily on material differences as the basis of our oppression.

I agree with Dr. Ambedkar, the problem that Dalits have is rooted in Hinduism.  Dalit liberation is tied to either the significant reform or collapse of Hinduism.  I can’t see much in Brahminism that benefits Dalits.  But, I would not suggest that Dalits ignore religion all together.  Religion has the ability to provide people with meaning for their lives.  Secularism is often tied to consumerism, especially in capitalist countries.  This means that you have to find the meaning for your life primarily in material things.  And for people who do not have a lot of economic resources materialism is not likely to be the best place to find meaning for one’s life.

The larger Dalit question is the conversion to Buddhism as opposed to say “American Style Christianity.”  I understand Ambedkar’s desires to keep Dalits within the Hindu fold when he decided which religion for his conversion.  Also, the Christian religious groups that operated in India at the time were of European origin, not American.  But, Europe does not have the same tradition of anti-traditionalism that you find in the US.  Nor is equality and individualism as deeply rooted in Europe as it is in America.  Dalits converting to American Christian groups, especially the United Methodist, would be cultivating very powerful allies.  Admittedly, that would mean losing the benefits of government reservations and other benefits that Dalits receive as long as they remain in the Hindu fold.  So there would be a tremendous cost to be paid.  It might very well not make sense to consider such a conversion at the present.  But, there may come a time when the Indian governments have done away with reservations.  If so, then it would be time to reconsider religious conversion of Dalits.

VB: How do you react to Donald Trump in America? Is it the defeat of inclusivity that brought Obama or that he was talking about? How are African American people feeling at the moment? Are they feeling more insecure today?

KB:Certainly the election of Donald Trump is a significant blow to the African-American cause and to inclusivity.  According to exit polls, of those who indicated who they voted for,Hilary Clinton won 92% of the black vote, 70% of the Latino vote, and 71% of the Asian vote.Clinton, therefore, won 77% of the non-white votes.   In contrast, Trump won 61% of the white vote.In fact, while Trump won the white male vote 2 to 1, he won the white female vote by 10%.  So there is much in Trump’s election to suggest it was a white/colored people election won by the whites.  But, it should be noted that Clinton received nearly three million more votes than Donald Trump.

There isno question that Trump’s election will negatively impact our struggle for at least a generation.  We have already seen the Trump Administration nominate a conservative white Supreme Court justice and try to dismantle the Affordable Care Act that extended health coverage a large number of people in the black and Latino communities.  Trump’s tax proposals will benefit wealthy Americans at the expense of the poor and middle class.  His budget cuts are directed at programs that serve the poor, while increasing military spending.  But, at least to this point, the Trump Administration has been racked by scandal, failure, and chaos.  One possibility is that his election is the last real attempt of the white, Protestant, heterosexual, conservative Americans to stem the tide of change.  It could be that this is how the old order that has dominated American society since before its founding finallyfalls.

So for African-Americans there is a feeling of dejection, but there is also a strong sense of hope.  We have become reenergized to actively resist our oppression.  We didn’t do as much of that during President Obama’s administration because he generally had our best interests in mind, subject to the limitations of his need to be President to everyone.  So it may be that this is the darkest part of the night that occurs before the dawn.

VB: Do you think Trump’s anti-immigration law will adversely impact America’s growth as well as its vast diverse inclusive culture. Is it done to protect white hegemony in the United States?

KB:With the Great Depression, immigration into the United States would probably have fallen anyway in the 1930s; Congressional immigration reforms of the 1920s assured that it would. For forty years after the passage of the Immigration Act of 1924, Congress seldom turned its attention to overseas immigration reform.[49] During this time, the percentage of foreign-born Americans fell to its lowest level on record. In 1970, just over 9.6 million foreign-born people resided in the United States, constituting only 4.7 percent of the population.[50] In contrast, the portion of foreign-born Americans stood at 13.2 percent in 1920[51] and 12.9 percent in 2010.  As I noted earlier, this immigration also included the first truly significant waves of black immigrants in the country’s history.  The percentage of blacks who were foreign-born increased from 1.1 percent in 1970, to 4.9 percent in 1990, to almost 10 percent in 2012.All of these changes have substantially reduced the percentage of non-Hispanic whites in America.  As of 2015, they constituted only 61.2% of the American population (yet they made up 71% of the 2016 electorate) with Latinos making up 17.4%, and blacks 13.3% and Asians at 5.6%.

So yes, the 2016 vote was an effort to maintain white hegemony.  Now, it could be that this was the last dying effort by whites in America to do so.  We will begin to get a sense of whether the 2016 vote will be a reassertion of white hegemony or the last dying effort with the 2018 elections.

VB: Do you feel that fears of Hispanic, blacks and other migrants particularly Muslims in America are real and how do we face them? What would be the biggest challenge for these people and what are the ways to fight it out.

KB:There are fears of all 3 groups, but the fears are different.  There is a genuine apprehension about Muslims.  And, there isn’t much of a Muslim/Black or Muslim/Latino alliance.  Theoverwhelming percentage of blacks and Latinos are Christians.  If you look at the words of the American Declaration of Independence it says,

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness(emphasis added).— That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

For the American psyche, happiness is what the person is to seek in this life through his self-determination.  So Americans have a very difficult time understanding people that are willing to kill themselves for a religious cause.  And, Americans are not aware enough of how polices of our government are harming Muslims in their own countries.  Thus, the fear of the Muslim is the fear of a fanatical person who will do anything, including committing mass murder, for their religious beliefs.  Before 9-11, this fear of Muslims was not deeply rooted in the American consciousness.

For the Latino, there is a sense among whites that so many of them have come into the country that they are taking over.  Their percentages of the US population have increased dramatically sense 1980s.  People who are as old as I am, remember when we didn’t separately count Latinos.  We might have had Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, and Cubans, but they were seen as white ethnic groups, unless they were too dark.  The dark ones were simply viewed as black.  But, now, Latinos make up 17.4% of the American population.  They, even more so than blacks, make whites feel that their country is changing demographically.  So the fear of America no longer being a white country is in large part related to the increasing numbers of Latinos, and to a lesser extent, Asians.

The American government is ultimately responsive to the will of the people, even if the will of the people can be manipulated.  We will see a shift in American politics as the demographics change.  Thus, it is critical for minorities to vote.  There will be a change in the interpretation of American law that will follow the political change by a few decades.  Such changes can improve the functioning of American government on behalf of racial/ethnic minorities.  The other strategy I would suggest minority groups pursue is wealth building.  Because America is a society committed to materialism, minority groups will do this as a matter of course.  In America, money is power.  The more a group has, the more political and judicial power they can amass.  So anything that would improve a group’s economic conditions is worth pursuing.  This would include educational achievement.

VB: Do you believe that the protests by African American community in the past few years for their rights, inclusion actually consolidated the whites to vote to Trump, a pattern that we witnessed in India too. The more we talk about the rights of the marginalized who have been historical wrongs, the bigger the risk of consolidation of the other people. How do we fight it democratically?

KB: I have responded to this earlier, but, to restate, yes, I do believe that part of the reason Trump won such a high percentage of the white vote was because he was coming after a black President.  After all, Trump received over 60 percent of the white vote, yet he lost the popular election by nearly three million votes.

But, the American presidential election was more than about blacks, it was also about Latinos and Asians.  If you go back to say, 1980, Latinos were 6.5% of Americans, Asians were 1.5%, but whites were 83.7%.  In 2015, single race non-Hispanic whites make up just 62% of the American population.  And, the projections are that white children under the age of 18 will be less than half the children in the United States by 2020.  Blacks at that time will be 13.5% of those under 18, with 25.7% Hispanic and 5.4% Asians.

The white majority may have sensed the changing demographics and voted for Trump as an effort to stop the trend of the “browning of America.”  We can expect that the Republican Party will use its legislative powers to reduce immigration of people of color, deport as many people of color as possible, and adopt restrictions on voting that are intended to reduce the number of people of color who are voting.  So in the US, the way to fight it may simply prove to be a matter of time.

VB:  A large part of radical Dalits in India were influenced by Black Panther movement in the United States. Dalit Panthers were born in 1970s and it influenced a whole lot of generation. Unfortunately it also passed away very fast. Many ideologues in India termed Dalit Panthers influenced with the ideology of left too. What is the status of Black Panthers movement in the United States now. Does Marx-ism or communist ideology could make any influence on the Black Panthers or black movement in the US. If not why ? Do you think religion particularly Christianity played a bigger role in Black liberation movement than Marxism who rarely spoke of racial discrimination in Europe and America ?

KB:The Black Panther Party (BPP) was a very influential group.  There were over 40 party affiliation groups throughout the country.  Everyone in America is familiar with the current “Black Lives Matter” movement directed at curtailing police violence of blacks in their community.  The BPP also had similar origins.  It was a self-defense organization to protect the Black Community from police violence.  But, it developed into more than this.  It sought to attack problems that were common to poor urban Black Communities such as inadequate housing, poor education, and lack of economic opportunities.  The BPP preached a message of self-empowerment and self-help.  The BPP also became active in the political process.  Its influence would be felt in the 1980s, particularly in Chicago, where Harold Washington became mayor.

But, the BPP became the focus of governmental efforts to destroy it.  There was a fear that it would be an incubator for revolutionary and Marxist inspired rebellion by the Black Community.  After all the Oakland branch of the BPP, which was the original branch founded in 1966, began to patrol the streets of Oakland with guns openly displayed.  At the time it was legal to carry weapons as long as they were not concealed.  So Panther members would converge on the police who pulled over black residents to observe what the police were doing in order to protect black citizens.  In 1967, armed Panther members went to the California Legislature in Sacramento.  This led then-governor Ronald Reagan, a Republican, to call for gun-control legislation. “Anyone who would approve of this kind of demonstration must be out of their mind,” Reagan said.  But as Bobby Seale said, the BPP wasn’t about guns, it was about empowering the black community in the face of a racist system.

The BPP developed a 10 point program to empower black communities.  The points advanced included basic demands for self-determination, decent housing, full employment, education that included African-American history, and an end to police brutality.  The BPP instituted programs to provide free breakfast for children, food banks, health clinics, and education outreach.  Unfortunately, attacks and political assassinations by the police and the FBI substantially reduced the effectiveness of the BPP by the 1980s.

The problem with Marxism for the African-American community is it tended to treat racism as a product of capitalism.  But, blacks know that racism can exist with or without Marxism.  Thus, Marxist ideology tends to underplay the very thing that the African-American community is fighting against.  While there is certainly disagreement, most in the Black Community are attempting to compel America to share the wealth of our society more evenly as opposed to adopting a new economic system altogether.

There is no question that religion was more important to the black struggle against oppression than Marxism.  From the black leaders of slave rebellions such as Nat Turner, Demark Vesey, and Gabriel Prosser to Martin Luther King Jr and Reverend Jesse Jackson, Christianity has always been at the center of the black struggle.  Many, if not most, of the leaders in various black communities are ministers.  And, blacks have always found comfort and the strength to endure oppression in the message of the Bible.

VB: You spoke of different identities and assertion by the Blacks. There was a time when people were called Negros and that was considered to be offensive. Then came the Black identity assertion in the form of Panthers. Now the most acceptable term was African American. How and why these perceptions of nomenclature changed over a period of time. Secondly, not all the blacks in the United States are from African origins, many of them are from the Caribbean. What is the basic difference between the two communities?

KB:The term “Negro” was the Portuguese word for “black.”  So it was a nomenclature that was imposed on us.  Up through the early 1960s, calling us “black” was considered an insult.  This was in large measure due to the negative connotation that American society placed on the word.  But in the 1960s, along with the Civil Rights Movement, we had a “Black is Beautiful” Movement.  This wasn’t the result of the BPP, but a much larger movement by the Black Community.  We sought to change the definition of the word “black” from something negative to something positive.  Thus, we embraced the term “Black” as what we wanted to be known by.  In the late 1980s, in order to make a stronger connection with our homeland, we began to refer to ourselves as “African-American.”  So both the term “Black” and “African-Americans” were terms that we embraced.

Even though blacks from the Caribbean did not arrive in the US directly from Africa, they were part of the blacks transported during the TransAtlantic Slave Trade.  I would, therefore, consider those from the Caribbean to be from Africa as well.

There was not much voluntary immigration into the US by blacks from the Caribbean until 1900.  Then there was a large influx, who primarily went to New York City.  Marcus Garvey, the leader of the largest movement encouraging blacks to immigrate to Africa in the 1920s, was from Jamaica.  Malcolm X’s mother was born in the West Indies.  Stokley Carmichael is also a descendant of West Indians.  So many leaders in the Black Community have ancestral connections to blacks from the Caribbean.

Of late, however, there has been a tremendous influx of black immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean that I have already discussed.  This is the first time in American history where we have had such a large number of voluntary black immigrants.  Foreign-born blacks have their negative experiences with racism in the United States. However, many foreign-born blacks may assert an ethnic identity in the United States as opposed to a black identity in order to make a case that they are ethically different from African-Americans. In addition, having grown up and matured in their countries of origin, Adult Black Immigrants do not have the same extensive years of experience with the historical discrimination encountered by blacks in the United States. Even when Adult Black Immigrants encounter or address racism, many of them do not experience the same psychological, sociological, and philosophical reactions to it. This is because they do not come from a line of ancestors that grew up in the United States.

Adult Black Immigrants encounter conflicting sociological forces in the United States. They come to a land with a long history of voluntary immigration, yet they also come to a place where their race places them at the bottom of a racial hierarchy. As a result, Adult Black Immigrants do not fit within the historic traditions of voluntary immigrants from Europe or within the historic traditions of blacks in the United States.Adult Black Immigrants tend to have a more optimistic and positive outlook on their conditions in American society than African-Americans. In addition, because Adult Black Immigrants mature in their home country, they do not bring with them to the United States the oppositional aspect to mainstream American culture that developed in the African-American culture with the history of resistance to racial oppression. Also, most foreign-born blacks come from countries with substantial black majorities, so race does not play nearly as important of a role in their psychological and emotional development as it does for African-Americans. Coming from countries with substantial black majorities, Adult Black Immigrants are familiar with seeing blacks wield significant economic, political, and educational authority. This may provide them with the empowering expectation that success in society is not tied to race, an idea that African-Americans with their experience growing up in the United States find more difficult to embrace. Finally, the reasons that Adult Black Immigrants come to the United States militates against them having experiences rooted in the history of racial discrimination suffered by blacks.Adult Black Immigrants come to America for many of the very same reasons that other immigrants come to America. These reasons reflect a desire to improve their social, economic, political, or educational standing. They wanted to make a better life for themselves, and they realized they could make more money in the United States or receive a more valuable education than they could back home.  Engaging in a collective struggle against racial oppression of African-Americans is not very important to them.  They would rather focus on helping their families and friends they left behind in their countries of origin.

VB: You mentioned to me that a fairly large number of black children are mix race now. Americans have grown into individuals and hence at the end of the day these racial divisions will disappear. Do you think so with people like Donald Trump in power, there seems to be a feeling of white revivalism.  In India the situation is different and perhaps more difficult because here the mix marriages are very few and that too face social ostracisation. You have been married to a white woman too. Did you ever face the perceptional differences and challenges during your marriage period with the white woman. Was your break up with her purely technical or simple like any other or was it ideological.

KB: I do think that over the long haul, American individualism has and will continue to weaken the importance of race.  This is especially true as the percentage of mixed race Americans and blacks increase.  However, many whites will continue to hold on to the notion that “pure whites” are superior.  So the racism will not completely disappear and will linger as an important force for centuries.

Yes, of course I experienced obstacles being married to a white woman.  One of the more compelling issues with the Black Community today is the lack of marriageable black men, especially for highly educated black women.  Over the age of 25, black women constitute 55 percent of blacks.  You must further reduce the pool of eligible black men by those who are in prison.  Nearly 1 million black men are behind bars.  Add to all of this is the fact that black men are 2 to 3 times more likely to date and marry outside of the race than black women.  The more education a black person has and the more money they earn, the more likely they are to marry or date outside of the race.  Since the early 1990s, 2/3rds of black college graduates have been women.  All this means is that for black women there is a shortage of black men and this is most severe for the well-educated black woman.  So for black women to see a professional black man with a white woman, is an added insult.  Most of those who objected to my marriage to a white woman were black women.

The other thing that the lack of black men means is that for black women they are increasingly presented with the reality that to find a potential husband or mate requires that they look outside of the race.  Thus, we can expect that the percentage of black women dating and marrying outside of the race will increase over time as well.

VB:  How do you rate India as a country since you have been travelling to this country for long. The African students have always complained that they are victim of racial discrimination in India. In your interaction with Indians in United States and in India, have you ever come across incidents where you have felt to be discriminated against or made to feel embarrassed about your identity or colour of your skin.

KB: Unfortunately, India has a terrible race problem.  I often deal with Indians who are prepared to discriminate against me because of my skin color and race.  Normally that changes once they learn that I am American.  The fact that I am American means that Indians treat me much better than they treat Africans.  But, Indians treat whites much better than anyone else.  In truth, this is something that I have also noticed in my many trips to Africa as well.

I have had dozens of conversations with Africans in India over the past two decades.  Every one of them has complained about the discrimination that they experience in India.  Indeed, few of them find their time in India to be enjoyable.  In truth, I seriously doubt that I would have visited India 17 times if I were African.

VB: The Civil Rights Movement in the United States succeeded with the participation of a significant number of the whites activists, intellectuals and human rights defenders. They were part and parcel of the entire movement and accepted with open arms. Ofcourse, every movement is related to the history, geographical and cultural context too but would you suggest that such solidarities and support strengthen the movement and can have positive impact in the historical struggle of the Dalit movement in India.

KB: Yes!!  Dalits need allies in your struggle.  Overcoming the oppression that Dalits face is something that cannot be done alone.  The challenge is to make sure that Dalits do not comprise their goals of liberation as they look for allies.  Not all allies will be helpful.

[1]SeeKim Williams, Mark One or More: Civil Rights in Multiracial America 89 (2008).

[2]Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967).


[4] In the General Social Survey conducted in 2002, only 10 percent of Americans and 4 percent of young adults objected to interracial marriage.See Michael J. Rosenfield, CCF Briefing Paper: Interracial Marriage 40 years after Loving v. Virginia (2007),.

[5]See Pew Research Ctr. Publications, Almost All Millennials Accept Interracial Dating and Marriage (2010).

[6]See Paul Taylor, Wendy Wang, Kim Parker, Jeffrey S. Passel, Eileen Patten & Seth Motel, Pew Research Ctr.,The Rise of Intermarriage:Rates, Characteristics Vary by Race and Gender 11 (2012).

[7]Id. For black men, these represent substantial increases from the 15.7 percent figure in 2000 and 7.9 percent in 1980.While it also increased for black women, the increase went from 7.1 percent in 2000 and 3.0 percent in 1980.See Jeffrey S. Passel et al., Pew Research Center, Marrying Out: One-in-Seven New U.S. Marriages is Interracial or Interethnic 11-12 (2010).With respect to blacks having a white spouse, more recent statistics show a similar trend.In 2010, 8.5 percent of married black men had white spouses, an increase from 6.6 percent in 2005.U.S. Census Bureau, America’s Families and Living Arrangements (2010), available at, only 3.9 percent of black women were married to white men, an increase from 2.8 percent in 2005.Id.According to a recent N.Y. Times article, intermarriage between blacks and whites “make up 1 in 60 new marriages today, compared with fewer than 1 in 1,000” a half a century ago. Sam Roberts, Black Women See Fewer Black Men at the Altar, N.Y. Times, June 4, 2010, at A12.

[8]Wendy Wang, Interracial Marriage: Who Is ‘Marrying Out’?, Pew Research Ctr., June 12, 2015, available at

[9]SeeKaren R. Humes, Nicholas A. Jones & Roberto R. Ramirez, Overview of Race and Hispanic Origin 2010, 6 tbl.2 (2011).

[10]See, United States Multiracial Profile, (date last visited, April 29, 2014).

[11]See Overview of Race and Hispanic Origin:2010, 8 (2011)..

[12]According to the 2012 Census Bureau figures, of the 3,588,000 individuals between the ages of 20 and 24, who were classified as Black Alone or in Combination, 3,303,000 who were Black in Combination.Thus, the percentage of Black in Combination to total blacks was 7.9 percent (285,000 (3,588,000 – 3,303,000))/3,588,000.For Black Alone or in Combination see U.S. Census Bureau, tbl.1. Population by Sex and Age, for Black Alone and White Alone, Not Hispanic: 2012 (Numbers in thousands).For Black in Combination see U.S. Census Bureau, tbl.29. Population by Sex and Age, for Black Alone or in Combination and White Alone, Not Hispanic: 2012 (Numbers in thousands Civilian non-institutionalized population). Then subtract the totals of Black Alone or in Combination from the total for Black Alone.

[13] For ages 15 to 19, the corresponding figures were 8.9 percent (322,000(3,624,000 – 3,302,000))/3,624,000); For ages 10 and 14 the corresponding figures were 10.9 percent (384,00 (3,511,000 – 3,127,000))/3,511,000); for ages 5 to 9 the corresponding figures were 15.0 percent (532,000 (3,545,000 – 3,013,000))/3,545,000); for under the age of five the corresponding figures were 19.1 percent (718,000 (3,769,000 – 3,051,000))/ 3,769,000).Id.

[14] Campbell Gibson & Emily Lennon, Race and Hispanic Origin of the Population of Nativity: 1850 to 1990 (1999).


[16]U. S. Census Bureau, The Black Alone Population in the United Stats: 2012 tbl.7. Nativity and Citizenship Status by Sex, for Black Alone and White Alone, Not Hispanic:  2012 (2012)..


[18] Jeffrey S. Passel, Demography of Immigrant Youth:Past, Present and Future, inThe Future of Children 19, 30 (2011).

[19]See Mary MederiosKent,supra note 15, at 4. (asserting that the figure drops to just 13 percent of black children if only non-Hispanic blacks are considered).  For Massachusetts statistics see, Maria Sacchetti, The Changing Face Of Citizenshipin the Boston Globe March 25, 2014.

[20]See Campbell Gibson & Kay Jung, Historical Census Statistics on Population Totals by Race, 1790 to 1990, and by Hispanic Origin, 1970 to 1990, for the United States, Regions, Divisions,and States, at tbl.1 (United States Census Bureau, Working Paper Series No. 56, 2002).

[21] Black family income was also less than that of Hispanic household income ($39,005). In contrast, white non-Hispanic household income was $57,009 and Asian household income was $68,636. See Carmen DeNavas-Walt, Bernadette D. Proctor and Jessica C. Smith, Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States:2012 Current Population Reports, 6 tbl 1, U.S. Census Bureau(Sept. 2013).

[22]See Historical Income Tables: People, Black CPS Population and Per Capita Income Table P-1B, U.S. Census Bureau, available at Per capita income for blacks is actually 19.4 percent higher than the per capita income of Hispanics of $16,125. See id.; Historical Income Tables: People, Hispanic of Any Race CPS Population and Per Capita Income Table P-1B, U.S.Census Bureau, available at The per capita income for whites is $33,434. Historical Income Tables: People, White non-Hispanic CPS Population and Per Capita Income, Table P-1, U.S. Census Bureau. For Asians it is $31,905. Historical Income Tables: People, Asian CPS Population and Per Capita Income, Table P-1A, U.S. Census Bureau.

[23]BLS Reports Report 1044 Labor Force Characteristics by Race and Ethnicity, 2012, 6 chart 4, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (October 2013).

[24]Table 3. Poverty Status of People, by Age, Race, and Hispanic Origin: 1959 to 2012, U.S. Census Bureau, available at

[25]Table 2. Poverty Status of People by Family Relationship, Race, and Hispanic Origin: 1959 to 2012, U.S. Census Bureau, available at

[26]Signe-Mary McKernan, Caroline Ratcliffe, Eugene Steuerle, &Sisi Zhang, Urban Institute, Less than Equal: Racial Disparities in Wealth Accumulation 1 (2013) available at The average wealth of a Hispanic/Latino family was $110,000. Id.Another measure shows for greater wealth disparities between blacks and whites.  According to the US Census Bureau statistics, the Household median value of white alone family household in 2011 was $110,500, in contrast for black alone it was $6,314. US Census Bureau, Wealth and Asset Ownership, tbl 1 Median Value of Assets for Households, by Type of Asset Owned and Selected Characteristics: 2011 available at

[27]Eugene Robinson, Disintegration:The Splintering of Black America (2010).


[29] According to Forbes Magazine, Oprah Winfrey was #141 on its list of 400 Richest Americans with a net worth of 2.3 billion. SeeForbes, The Richest People in America (Matthew Miller and Duncan Greenberg eds., Sept. 30, 2009).

[30] According to Forbes inaugural list of the Wealthiest Black Americans, after Oprah Winfrey comes Tiger Woods with a net worth of approximately 600 million, Robert Johnson worth 550 million, Michael Jordan worth 525 million followed by Magic Johnson worth 500 million and Bill Cosby worth 450 million. SeeMatthew Miller, Forbes, The Wealthiest Black Americans (May 6, 2009).

[31] For additional heads of corporations run by blacks see Ebony Power 150, Ebony Mag., May 2009, at74.

[32]See 100 Highest Paid Celebrities in the World:Power List 2011, (Oprah Winfrey #1, Tiger Woods #14, Kobe Bryant #24 and LeBron James #29) available at

[33]See Karin Chenoweth, African American College Presidents in Decline, Diverse Issues in Higher Education (July 13, 2007).

[34]Up to 2010, there had been at least eight black Miss Americas. See Joanne Fowler, Caressa Cameron of Virginia Crowned Miss America, People (Jan. 31, 2010),,,20340574,00.htm. The other seven were Vanessa Williams (1984); Suzanne Charles (1984); Debbye Turner (1990); Marjorie Judith Vincent (1991); Kimberly Aiken (1994); Erika Harold (2003) and Erica Dunlap (2004).  In 2012, Nina Meriwether became the sixth black woman to win the Miss USA pageant. The other 5 are,2008 Crystle Stewart; 2007 Rachel Smith; 2002 Shauntay Hinton; 1995 Chelsi Smith; and 1993 Kenya Moore.Crystle Stewart crowned Miss USA,The Daily Voice: Black America’s Daily News Source, April 12, 2008

[35] See Jennifer E. Manning, Membership of the 113th Congress: A Profile 7 (from Congressional Research Service) available at (date last visited December 15, 2013).

[36] Tim Scott was appointed on January 2, 2013, by South Carolina Governor Nikki Halley to serve out the term of Jim DeMint who resigned to run the Heritage Foundation.William Maurice Cowans served in the Senate from January 30, 2013 until July 16, 2013.He was appointed by Governor Deval Patrick to fill the vacancy left by John Kerry who resigned to become Secretary of State.Cory Booker, the former Mayor of Newark, was sworn in on October 31, 2013.He won the special election in October 16, 2013 to succeed Frank Lautenberg who died in office.

[37] There have been four black governors in America’s history. In addition to Deval Patrick and David Patterson; the other two were P.B.S. Pinchback who served as governor of Louisiana for thirty-six days in 1872-1873 and L. Douglas Wilder who was elected governor of Virginia in 1990. SeeSpitzer Successor will be Nation’s 4th Black Governor, CNN Politics, Mar. 10, 2008,

[38] See Ramón A. Gutiérrez, Changing Ethnic and Class Boundaries in America’s Hispanic Past, in Social and Gender Boundaries in the United States 37 (Sucheng Chan ed., 1989).

[39]Robert J. Cottrol, The Lingering Shadow: Slavery, Race, and Law in the American Hemisphere 5-6 (2013). For a discussion of different estimates of how many blacks were transported to North America see David Eltis, The U.S. Transatlantic Slave Trade, 1644-1867: An Assessment 54 Civil War History 347 (2008).

[40]See David Eltis, The U.S. Transatlantic Slave Trade, 1644-1867: An Assessment 54 CIVIL WAR HISTORY 347, 357-8 (2008).

[41]Id. at 347, 356.

[42] I distinguish this view of the struggle of African Americans against racial oppression from those who view the black perspective as one of victimology. See, e.g., John H. McWhorter, Losing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America (2000). When I discuss this liberation perspective, it is not as an embrace of victimhood. Rather, it is a desire to eradicate the victimization that is a result of historical racial oppression. As such, it is derived from a perspective that takes the struggle against racial oppression, not the effect of that oppression, as its primary feature.

[43] W.E.B. DuBois, “Three Centuries of Discrimination,” The Crisis 54 (December 1947): 362-63.

[44]See, e.g., Kendall Thomas, Comments at Frontiers of Legal Thought Conference, Duke Law School (Jan. 26, 1990), quoted in Charles R. Lawrence III, If He Hollers Let Him Go: Regulating Racist Speech on Campus, 1990 Duke L. J. 431, inMari J. Matsuda, Charles R. Lawrence III, Richard Delgado &Kimberlé W. Crenshaw, Words That Wound 53, 61 (1993); see also D. Marvin Jones, Darkness Made Visible: Law, Metaphor, and the Racial Self,82 Geo. L. J. 437 (1993)(arguing that racial categories are neither objective nor natural, but ideological and constructed. In these terms race is not so much a category but a practice: people are raced).

[45] Mari Matsuda, Looking to the Bottom: Critical Legal Studies and Reparations, 22 Harv. C.R.-C.L. L. Rev. 323, 335 (1987).

[46] See,

[47] Neil Howe, What’s Behind The Decline In Crime? Forbes March 28, 2015 available at


[48] See,

[49]See Richard A. Boswell, Racism and U.S. Immigration Law: Prospects for Reform after “9/11” 7 J. Gender Race & Just.315, 325 (2003). However, Congress did enact immigration reform measures that affected Mexican immigrants. See. Kevin Brown and Tom I. Romero, II, Social Reconstruction of Race & Ethnicity of the Nation’s Law Students: A Request to the ABA, AALS, and LSAC for Changes in Reporting Requirements, 2011 MICH ST L REV 1133, 1152-6 (2011).

[50]See Campbell J. Gibson & Kay Jung, Historical Census Statistics on the Foreign-Born Population of the United States: 1850-2000, at tbl.1, U.S. Census Bureau, Working Paper Series No. 81 (2006).





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Vidya Bhushan Rawat

Vidya Bhushan Rawat is a social and human rights activist. He blogs at twitter @freetohumanity Email: [email protected]

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