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Barnes and... A Conversation with Grif Stockley

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STEVE BARNES: HELLO, EVERYONE, AND THANKS VERY MUCH FOR JOINING US. GRIF STOCKLEY. HE IS ONE OF THOSE WHITE GUYS WHO WON'T LEAVE IT ALONE. IT BEING RACE. BLACK-WHITE. BORN IN MEMPHIS HIS FAMILY SOON MOVED TO MARIANA GRIF WOULD SETTLE IN LITTLE ROCK AND OVER THE SUBSEQUENT DECADES LAW AND LITERATURE HAVE BEEN PUT TO WORK IN THE SERVICE OF A THIRD JUSTICE AND A HALF DOZEN NOVELS AND NOW A THIRD WORK OF NON-FRICTION GRIF STOCKLEY HAS TRIED TO KINDLE THE BEST IN US BY ADDRESSING THE FLAMES THAT TOO OFTEN REPRESENT THE WORST OF US. PIGMENT. TO OUR DETRIMENT HE SAYS WE ARE RULED BY RACE. HAVE BEEN FROM TERRITORIAL DAYS TO THE 21ST CENTURY. GRIF STOCKLEY, WELCOME.

GRIF STOCKLEY: DELIGHTED TO BE HERE, STEVE.

STEVE BARNES: CONGRATULATIONS ON THE NEW WORK.

GRIF STOCKLEY: THANK YOU.

STEVE BARNES: RULED BY RACE FROM DETONTE FORWARD EVEN NOW.

GRIF STOCKLEY: I THINK SO.

STEVE BARNES: HOW DOES IT --

GRIF STOCKLEY: WELL, IF YOU START FROM SLAVERY AND YOU COME FORWARD IN OUR PAST ALL THE WAY TO THE PRESENT, YOU ARE LEFT WITH AN INESCAPABLE CONCLUSION THAT WHITE SUPREMACY HAS BEEN PART OF OUR PAST AND PRESENT FROM SLAVERY. AND IT'S BEEN IMPLEMENTED OVER THE YEARS IN A NUMBER OF WAYS. AND BEGINNING WITH SLAVERY. BUT ALSO THROUGH RAPE AND MURDER AND TERROR AND EXPORTATION AND DISFRANCHISEMENT AND LITERALLY STEALING MONEY THAT WAS INTENDED FOR BLACK EDUCATION THROUGH DISCRIMINATION. THROUGH ALL OF THE ABOVE. THAT'S BEEN OUR RACIAL HISTORY UNFORTUNATELY.

STEVE BARNES: BUT RULED EVEN NOW IN THE 21ST CENTURY.

GRIF STOCKLEY: WELL, WHAT I MEAN BY THAT IS IT DETERMINES WHERE WE LIVE, WHERE WE GO TO SCHOOL. WHOM WE MARRY. WHO OUR FRIENDS ARE. WHERE WE GO FOR RECREATION. WHO WE GO TO LUNCH WITH. WHAT WE TALK ABOUT. IT JUST DOMINATES OUR LIVES. AND IT'S EASY TO PRETEND LIKE THAT ISN'T GOING ON. BUT THAT'S THE REALITY.

STEVE BARNES: IS IT AMELIORATETIVE AT ALL THAT IT'S NOW DEFACTO INSTEAD OF DEJURAE.

GRIF STOCKLEY: WELL, TO SOME EXTENT. AND THAT -- I DON'T WANT TO MAKE IT SEEM AS IF THERE ARE NOT FRIENDSHIPS. THAT THERE HAS NOT BEEN PROGRESS MADE. BUT ALL TOO OFTEN WE ARE STILL RULED BY RACE.

STEVE BARNES: WHAT DO YOU SAY TO THOSE WHO WOULD ARGUE: WELL, THE FACT THAT IT'S BETTER AND GETTING BETTER. INFEWERIATING AS THAT MAY BE TO ANY -- INFURIATING AS THAT MAY BE TO MANY BLACK PEOPLE.

GRIF STOCKLEY: IT WOULD BE INFURIATING IF YOU HAD TO LIVE THROUGH IT AND HEAR THAT OVER AND OVER AGAIN. AND BECAUSE THAT'S KIND OF THE QUOTE WE HAVE SAID THROUGHOUT OUR HISTORY THAT PROGRESS IS BEING MADE. AND TO SOME EXTENT PEOPLE HAVE BOUGHT INTO THAT WHEN IN FACT SO MUCH OF WHAT WAS GOING ON, EVEN DURING THE 1957 CRISIS AND AFTERWARDS WAS THAT THERE WAS NO INTENTION TO INTEGRATE IN A MEANINGFUL SORT OF WAY. THAT WE THREW UP ROAD BLOCKS TO KEEP FROM HAVING OUR SCHOOLS INTEGRATED. AND THAT -- WHETHER YOU CALLED IT FREEDOM OF CHOICE OR PUPIL ASSIGNMENT PLANS, DURING THAT DECADE AFTER 1957 UP UNTIL THE UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT RULE THAT THERE HAD TO BE A UNITARIAN SCHOOL SYSTEM WE WEREN'T IN GOOD FAITH AND YET PEOPLE WERE TALKING ABOUT WELL WE'RE MAKING PROGRESS WHEN IN FACT WE WERE MAINLY AVOIDING ANY KIND OF MEANINGFUL INTEGRATION. AND THEN ONCE IT HAPPENED, YOU SAW ALL THIS WHITE FLIGHT. SO IT'S PRETTY HARD SELL SOMETIMES.

STEVE BARNES: IF IT SHAPES US TO THIS DAY, IF IT DOES NOT RULE OR SHAPE OUR ATTITUDES, WHATEVER, AND CHARACTERIZE OR ALTER OUR POLITICS, LOOKING BACK WAS THERE ANOTHER OPTION GIVEN CENTURIES OF ATTITUDES, CENTURIES OF LAW. WAS THERE ANOTHER WAY? WAS THIS INEVITABLE? DID WE HAVE TO EVOLVE THIS WAY.

GRIF STOCKLEY: I MEAN THAT'S A HARD QUESTION TO ANSWER PROBABLY. BUT I MEAN JUST GIVEN WHAT WE ACTUALLY DID, IT SEEMED INEVITABLE. ONCE THAT DECISION WAS MADE THAT WE WERE GOING TO HAVE SLAVES SO WE COULD HAVE A COTTON KINGDOM. AND ONCE WE STARTED GOING THROUGH THAT PERIOD AND STARTED DOMINATING AFRICAN-AMERICANS, IT SEEMS LIKE, WELL, GOSH, AFTER THE CIVIL WAR WHY DIDN'T WE CHANGE OUR BEHAVIOR? IT WAS JUST ONE OF THOSE ISSUES THAT SAID: NO. LET'S KEEP ON DOMINATING FRAENS AND -- FRAENS AND EX -- AFRICAN-AMERICANS AND EXPLOIT THEIR LABOR AND YOU RAISED A GOOD QUESTION MORALLY WHY DIDN'T PEOPLE QUESTION WHAT WE WERE DOING. AND I THINK THAT'S A QUESTION THAT STILL HAS NOT REALLY BEEN VERY WELL ADDRESSED BY HISTORIANS. AS THE WHOLE MORAL ISSUE OF WHAT WE'VE DONE TO AFRICAN-AMERICANS IN ARKANSAS FROM SLAVERY TO FORWARD. TO THE PRESENT.

STEVE BARNES: MORE OF AN ORIGINAL SIN.

GRIF STOCKLEY: WELL, THAT'S ONE WAY -- DEFINITELY ONE WAY TO LOOK AT IT. BUT AT SOME POINT WE HAVE TO COME TO TERMS WITH WHAT OUR HISTORY HAS BEEN. AND IDEALLY THERE WOULD BE A POINT WHERE WE WOULD BEGIN TO RECONCILE. WE WOULD BEGIN TO REACH OUT AND SAY: YOU KNOW, THIS IS WHAT WE'VE DONE. IS THERE NOT ANY WAY TO ADDRESS WHAT WE'VE DONE? AND I MEAN ONE WAY TO DO THAT IS TO BEGIN TO APOLOGIZE FOR WHAT WE'VE DONE. BUT I THINK AS SOON AS SOMEBODY THROWS THAT WORD UP, WHITES BEGIN TO THINK: WELL, YOU'RE REALLY TALKING ABOUT REPARATIONS AND THAT STAIRS PEOPLE TO DEATH. WHEN IN FACT -- IT SCARES PEOPLE TO DEATH WHEN IN FACT WE ARE NOT EVEN TO THAT POINT. WE HAVE TO ADMIT WHAT WE'VE DONE. WE HAVE TO ADMIT WHAT THE PAST HAS REALLY BEEN LIKE. AND THERE'S SO MUCH OF THE PAST THAT WE STILL DON'T KNOW.

STEVE BARNES: EVEN STILL.

GRIF STOCKLEY: EVEN STILL. BECAUSE SO MUCH OF THE WAY OUR RACIAL HISTORY HAS BEEN WRITTEN, IT'S -- AS A SCHOLAR FROM NORTH CAROLINA HAS SAID, IT WAS TO ARCHIVE WHITE CIVILIZATION. AND WE LOST ESPECIALLY IN THE 19TH CENTURY A LOT OF OUR BLACK HISTORY BECAUSE NOBODY WROTE ABOUT IT. AND THAT'S ONE OF THE TRAGEDIES I THINK FOR ALL OF US IS HOW MUCH AFRICAN-AMERICAN HISTORY HAS BEEN LOST. AND FRANKLY, IT'S STILL CONTINUING TODAY. AND I'M AS GUILTY AS ANYBODY. THE BOOK I'M WORKING ON NOW IS ABOUT THE FIRE AT THE NEGRO BOYS INDUSTRIAL SCHOOL THAT OCCURRED --

STEVE BARNES: AS IT WAS CALLED THEN.

GRIF STOCKLEY: RIGHT. IN 1959. AND THIS WAS AT THE SAME -- YOU KNOW THE SAME ERA OF 1957. INCREDIBLY NOT ANY HISTORIANS WROTE ABOUT THAT. THE FIRST THING WE KNEW ABOUT IT 50 YEARS LATER WAS ONE OF THE BROTHERS OF ONE OF THE VICTIMS ENDED UP GETTING A STORY DONE BY THE ARKANSAS TIMES. AND YET I'VE BEEN WORKING IN THIS AREA FOR YEARS. AND I DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT IT. AND I THINK ONE OF OUR SOLUTIONS IS WE'VE GOT TO SOMEHOW GET BLACK ARKANSASIANS TO START WRITING MORE HISTORY THAN WHAT WE'RE DOING NOW.

STEVE BARNES: RECORD -- OFFER UP FAMILY DOCUMENTS.

GRIF STOCKLEY: UNFORTUNATELY.

STEVE BARNES: SOCIAL MATERIALS.

GRIF STOCKLEY: AND THAT IS ACTUALLY FINALLY BEING DONE. YOU KNOW, I WORKED AT THE BUTLER CENTER FOR ARKANSAS STUDIES. AND WE GOT A PROJECT. WE'RE ON A GRANT FROM THE WINTHROP ROCKEFELLER FOUNDATION. IT'S A RULE BY RACE PROJECT. AND WE GOT AN ORAL HISTORIAN WHO IS DOING THAT. EVEN AS WE SPEAK. AND HE'S AN AFRICAN-AMERICAN. AND THAT'S PART OF OUR PROJECT. SO THAT IS ONE OF THE THINGS THAT WE'RE DOING. BUT WE HAVE TO CONTINUE TO DO THAT THROUGHOUT THE STATE AND OTHER PLACES HAVE DONE THAT. ARKANSAS STATE, THEIR OTHER -- THERE ARE OTHER ORAL HISTORY PROJECTS BUT IT'S REAL IMPORTANT TO DO THAT.

STEVE BARNES: AS ONE OF THOSE WHITE GUYS OR WHITE FOLKS WHO WON'T LEAVE IT ALONE, RACE, WHO IS DEMANDING THAT LET'S EXAMINE AS NEVER BEFORE OR LET'S NEWLY EXAMINE OR LET'S JUST EXAMINE PERIOD THE WHOLE MATTER OF PIGMENT IN OUR CULTURE, WHERE DID YOUR PASSION COME FROM? YOU WERE BORN IN MEMPHIS. SPENT TIME IN MISSISSIPPI.

GRIF STOCKLEY: YEAH, WE ACTUALLY WERE LIVING ABOVE TUNE CAN A. I JUST HAPPENED TO BE -- TUNICA I JUST HAPPENED TO BE BORN AT THE BAPTIST HOSPITAL IN MEMPHIS. I SPENT TWO YEARS IN MISSISSIPPI. AND DADDY SOLD THE FARM AND PLANTATION AND WE MOVED TO MARIANA BUT I WAS RAISED IN OBVIOUSLY A VERY SEGREGATED CULTURE. AND THAT AFFECTED ME. I MEAN EVEN UNTIL I WAS 17, I MEAN, I WAS A MEMBER OF OUR SENIOR CLASS PLAY. WE PUT ON AN OLD-FASHIONED MINUTE STRAL. AND NOBODY -- MINSRA NOBODY QUESTIONED THAT. WE JUST DID IT. OUR SENIOR CLASS SPONSOR SAID THAT'S WHAT THE PLAY IS GOING TO BE.

STEVE BARNES: THE BLACK FACE --

GRIF STOCKLEY: OF COURSE THIS WAS FIVE YEARS AFTER CENTRAL HIGH, THE CIVIL RIGHTS' MOVEMENT WAS IN FULL BLOOM. I MEAN SNICK HAD COME INTO LITTLE ROCK THE STUDENT NON-VIOLENT COORDINATING COMMITTEE AND WE WERE HAVING A CIVIL RIGHTS' MOVEMENT ALL AROUND US ABOUT THE CONFORMITY OVER IN THAT TOWN OVER IN EASTERN ARKANSAS THEN WAS SO GREAT THAT IT WAS EASY NOT TO COME TO TERMS WITH ANY OF IT. WE JUST ACTED AS IF NOTHING WAS REALLY EVER GOING TO HAPPEN AROUND US WHEN IN FACT THERE WAS GOING TO BE A BASICALLY TEN YEARS LATER WE HAD -- OR EVEN LESS THAN THAT IN MARIANA WAS THE WORST BOYCOTT AND ARSON. IT WAS IN FACT ONE OF THE WORST THINGS THAT HAPPENED IN ARKANSAS WAS THAT PERIOD IN MARIANA WHEN THERE WAS A BOYCOTT AND BUSINESSES WERE DESTROYED AND THE COUNTY LOST $5 MILLION.

STEVE BARNES: DID IT TROUBLE YOU AT THE TIME?

GRIF STOCKLEY: ACTUALLY NO. I MEAN I GREW UP IN AN ENVIRONMENT THAT WAS SO SEGREGATED THAT CALVIN SMITH, FOR EXAMPLE, WHO I WRITE ABOUT IN THE BOOK, WHO WAS ONE YEAR YOUNGER THAN I WAS GREW UP FOUR BLOCKS AWAY FROM ME IN MARIANA. AND I NEVER KNEW WHO HE WAS. HE WALKED PAST THE HIGH SCHOOL EVERY DAY. AND AFRICAN-AMERICANS AT MOTEN HIGH SCHOOL HAD USED BOOKS. THE FACILITIES WERE TERRIBLE. IT WAS -- BUT IT WAS THE WAY THAT THE SOUTH WAS. AND WE ACTED AS IF IT WAS JUST THE MOST REGULAR THING IN THE WORLD TO LIVE IN THAT KIND OF ENVIRONMENT.

STEVE BARNES: WAS THERE A MOMENT, THOUGH, IN YOUR LIFE OR A SERIES OF MOMENTS WHEN YOU JUST SAID: MY GOD, THIS IS BAD. WHAT ARE WE DOING HERE?

GRIF STOCKLEY: YEAH BUT --

STEVE BARNES: AN EPIPHANY.

GRIF STOCKLEY: WELL I DON'T KNOW IF IT WAS AN EPIPHANY. I WENT TO SOUTH WESTERN AT MEMPHIS AFTER COLLEGE. AND IT WAS A VERY IDEALISTIC TIME. I ENDED UP JOINING THE PEACE CORPS BUT IT WAS BECAUSE WE HAD PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEER RECRUITERS COME ON CAMPUS. AND FINALLY -- WELL I CAN TELL YOU IT'S A SORT OF EPIPHANY IT WAS DURING 1960 -- I GUESS IT WAS '64. AND IT WAS DURING THE -- WE HAD A MOCK VOTE ON THE CIVIL RIGHTS COMMENDATIONS ACT. I WAS A MEMBER OF THE YOUNG REPUBLICANS. AND IT DAWNED ON ME WHEN I WAS ONLY -- THE ONLY ONE THAT RAISED MY HAND TO OPPOSE THE -- THEY WERE -- THE YOUNG REPUBLICANS WERE VOTING TO OPPOSE THE CIVIL RIGHTS ACT. ANYWAY, I WAS THE MINORITY OF ONE. AND IT DAWNED ON ME THAT MAYBE, YOU KNOW, MY VIEWS WERE NOT QUITE THE MAINSTREAM ON THAT CAMPUS AT THAT PARTICULAR TIME. AND I BEGAN KIND OF A JOURNEY TO I GUESS WHERE I AM NOW.

STEVE BARNES: BUT YOU HAD ALREADY BEGUN IT OR YOU WOULD HAVE POSED IT.

GRIF STOCKLEY: RIGHT. I MEAN IT WAS AN EVOLVING KIND OF THOUGHT PROCESS. WATCHING THE CIVIL RIGHTS' MOVEMENT. I MEAN I BEGAN TO READ THE PAPERS. AND BEGAN TO TALK ABOUT IT. BUT I MEAN IT TOOK A WHILE. IN FACT, I HAD TO GO TO COLUMBIA IN SOUTH AMERICA TO REALLY INTERNALIZE WHAT POVERTY WAS EVEN THOUGH LEE COUNTY AS YOU KNOW WAS ONE OF THE POOREST COUNTIES IN THE COUNTRY. BUT WATCHING PEOPLE OVER IN SOUTH AMERICA, KIDS -- I MEAN, YOU KNOW, LITERALLY WITH HOLES IN THEIR TEETH AND THE DISTENDED STOMACHS, I MEAN THAT BASICALLY RADICALIZED ME AND MADE ME REALIZE THAT THINGS WERE GOING TO HAVE TO CHANGE IN THE UNITED STATES PRETTY QUICKLY I THINK.

STEVE BARNES: WELL, THE RADICALIZATION IS RELATIVE.

GRIF STOCKLEY: OH, CERTAINLY.

STEVE BARNES: BUT YOU KNOW YOU HAD -- SOME PEOPLE THREW ROCKS OR BOTTLES, YOU THREW LAWSUITS.

GRIF STOCKLEY: YEAH, CERTAINLY.

STEVE BARNES: AND OTHERS OF LIKE MIND. AND THAT OBVIOUSLY HAD SOME EFFECT. I MEAN, IT HELPED TO CHANGE THIS COUNTRY. BUT WHEN YOU HEAR THAT IN THIS -- AND WE'RE TAPING OUR PROGRAM ON THE MORNING AFTER BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA RAISED HIS HAND. WHEN YOU TALK -- HEAR PEOPLE TALK ABOUT HE IS A POST RACIAL PRESIDENT AND WE ARE NOW A POST RACIAL AMERICA WHAT GOES THROUGH YOUR MIND.

GRIF STOCKLEY: I WISH I FELT LIKE IT WERE TRUE. I MEAN I HAVE SOME REAL DOUBTS THAT WE'RE THAT MUCH FURTHER ALONG IN ARKANSAS THAN WE WERE BEFORE THE ELECTION. AND IT'S GOING TO TAKE SOME -- IT'S GOING TO TAKE A WHILE. AND YOU KNOW YOU REALLY WONDER WHAT IS IT ABOUT ARKANSAS, IS IT EDUCATION, I MEAN WHAT IS IT THAT WE CAN DO TO FURTHER THIS CONVERSATION? BECAUSE IF YOU LOOK AT THE RESULTS IN ARKANSAS, I THINK JAY BARTH KIND OF HIT IT ON THE HEAD IN TALKING ABOUT THE OTHER. AND HOW WE PERCEIVE AT LEAST SOME OF US DO THAT THIS WHOLE ENVIRONMENT IS -- THAT WE'RE NOT REALLY ALL THE SAME. THAT WE'VE GOT PEOPLE IN THE STATE THAT WE LOOK AT. AND JUST MAKE NO CONNECTION WITH THEM. AND SOMEHOW THROUGH EDUCATION OR SOME WAY WE'VE GOT TO OVERCOME THAT IN THIS STATE.

STEVE BARNES: ARKANSAS OF COURSE WAS ONE OF THE STATES THAT -- AS A MATTER OF FACT IT MAY HAVE BEEN THE LEADER IN THE STATES THAT SURGE REPUBLICAN. JUST SURGE REPUBLICAN. IN THE BALLOTING OF 2008. DELIVERING A SHARE OF ITS VOTE TO THE REPUBLICAN NOMINEE THAN IT DID TO MR. BUSH IN 2004. IS THERE ANY WAY TO GAUGE, TO GUESS, TO CALCULATE HOW MUCH OF THAT WAS RACE BASED?

GRIF STOCKLEY: AND I DON'T -- NO. I DON'T KNOW THE ANSWER TO THAT. I KNOW WHAT IS DISTURBING IS WHEN YOU READ STATISTICS LIKE, WELL, PEOPLE DIDN'T -- OR PEOPLE THOUGHT THAT HE WAS A MUSLIM. OR THERE ARE ALL KINDS OF MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT WHAT OBAMA WAS. AND TO ME, IT'S REALLY HARD TO EXPLAIN HOW THAT CAN BE IN A SOCIETY THAT HAS AS MUCH INFORMATION FLOATING AROUND AS IT DOES. I MEAN IS THERE SOME KIND OF WILLFUL MISUNDERSTANDING OF YOU KNOW WHAT HIS BELIEFS WERE. I'M STILL TROUBLED BY THAT. AND I DON'T KNOW WHETHER IT'S THE FUNCTION OF LIVING IN AN AGE WHERE MAYBE YOUNG PEOPLE HAVE MORE ACCESS AND ARE MORE COMFORTABLE WITH TECHNOLOGY OR SOMETHING. BUT WE'RE NOT DOING SOMETHING RIGHT IF SO MANY PEOPLE STILL HAVE SO MUCH MISINFORMATION ABOUT PEOPLE WHO THE REAL DIFFERENCE TRUSTEE COLOR OF THEIR SKIN.

STEVE BARNES: TECHNOLOGY LENDS ITSELF HANDILY TO MISINFORMATION.

GRIF STOCKLEY: WELL, IT DOES. AND THAT COULD BE A FACTOR, TOO. BUT I MEAN WE'VE GOT TO DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT TO MAKE PEOPLE GET ON THE SAME PAGE. AT LEAST OF THE BASIC FACTS ABOUT PEOPLE LIKE OBAMA.

STEVE BARNES: WHAT SHOULD PEOPLE COME AWAY FROM THIS -- WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO DO WITH THIS PARTICULAR BOOK?

GRIF STOCKLEY: WHAT I'M REALLY HOPING -- AND IT'S DAWNED ON ME IN THE COURSE OF I MEAN LITERALLY IT'S THE FOURTH BOOK. I'VE WRITTEN A HIGH SCHOOL TEXT RACE RELATIONS IN THE NATURAL STATE. THAT WAS PART OF THIS PROJECT. AND IT'S BEEN APPROVED BY THE ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION. WHAT I'M HOPING PEOPLE WILL DO IS NOT JUST CONSIDER THIS WHAT I CALL THE BIG BOOK. I MEAN IT'S OVER 500 PAGES LONG. IT'S GOT OVER 1300 END NOTES. IT'S NOT TO CONSIDER IT A REFERENCE BOOK. I MEAN IT'S VERY WELL INDEXED. THEY DID A GREAT JOB INDEXING IT. BUT WHAT I WANT PEOPLE TO UNDERSTAND IS THAT IF YOU DO START READING THIS BOOK AT THE BEGINNING AND START WITH SLAVERY AND COME FORWARD TO THE PRESENT, YOU SEE WHAT WE'VE DONE THAT WE HAVE IMPLEMENTED WHITE SUPREMACY IN A NUMBER OF WAYS AS I'VE ALREADY SUGGESTED. BUT IN EACH ERA OF ARKANSAS HISTORY, THERE HAS BEEN IMPLEMENTATION OF WHITE SUPREMACY BY ONE MEANS OR ANOTHER. AND THAT HAS CONTINUED LITERALLY UP UNTIL THE PRESENT BY OUR UNWILLINGNESS TO REALIZE THAT THERE'S A LOT OF RACIAL HISTORY THAT WE STILL HAVEN'T COVERED. AND I'VE MENTIONED THE FIRE AT THE NEGRO BOYS INDUSTRIAL SCHOOL. AND HOW IF YOU LOOK AT THAT, AS LATE AS 1950S, YOU SEE THAT THAT FIRE, FOR EXAMPLE, REALLY IS A METAPHOR FOR THE OWE PWLIT RATION OF RACIAL HISS -- OWE PWLIT RATION OF RACIAL HISTORY JUST AS THOSE 23 KIDS LOST THEIR LIVES THAT OBLITERATED THEIR CONSCIOUS BUT IN SOME WAYS IT DID OUR KNOWLEDGE OF IT. BECAUSE HISTORIANS DIDN'T WRITE ABOUT IT. I MEAN WHAT WE HAVE TO DO IS COME TO TERMS WITH THOSE INSECURITIES AND FEARS IN ALL OF US THAT MAKE US A AVOID LEARNING ABOUT THIS. AS PAINFUL AS IT IS. AND IT'S PAINFUL FOR BLACKS AND WHITES, TOO, STEVE. EVERYBODY THAT I'VE TALKED TO THAT'S READ THIS BOOK THINKS, YOU KNOW, I DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT THIS. THIS IS HORRIBLE. AND IT IS HORRIBLE. THERE'S SO MANY INSTANCES IN THERE OF TERRIBLE THINGS THAT HAVE HAPPENED.

STEVE BARNES: ARE THE MECHANISMS IN PLACE FOR THAT DIALOGUE? WHAT'S LACKING? MECHANISMS OR WILLINGNESS? BOTH.

GRIF STOCKLEY: I MEAN, IT'S BOTH. IT'S VERY HARD TO DO THIS. TO SIT DOWN AND HAVE THAT RACIAL CONVERSATION. AND YOU REMEMBER THAT BILL CLINTON IN HIS SECOND TERM WANTED TO HAVE A RACIAL DIALOGUE AND HAVE THESE TOWN MEETINGS. AND PEOPLE -- IT DIDN'T WORK. IT WAS JUST TOO DIFFICULT. PEOPLE ARE AFRAID OF BEING CALLED RACIST WHEN THEY POINT OUT DYSFUNCTION IN AFRICAN-AMERICAN LIFE AND NOBODY WANTS TO HAVE THAT CONVERSATION. AND YET I THINK IT'S ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL THAT WE DO IT. AND THE BOOK I THINK HELPS PRESENT INFORMATION THAT WE NEED TO BE TALKING ABOUT. BUT AT SOME POINT WE'VE GOT TO TRY TO COME TO RECONCILIATION.

STEVE BARNES: IS THERE A BRIGHT LIGHT?

GRIF STOCKLEY: WELL, I MEAN, THE ELECTION OF BARAK OBAMA IS THAT I THINK. HERE IS SOME OTHER BRIGHT LIGHTS, TOO. I MEAN THE FACT THAT WE'RE HAVING THIS CONVERSATION IS ONE. BUT THE RECOGNITION BY PEOPLE LIKE DR. JOEL ANDERSON THAT RACE HAS BEEN OUR BIGGEST PROBLEM AND THE ULAR DOES A WONDERFUL RACIAL SURVEY EVERY YEAR. MAYOR STODLAU HAS RECOGNIZED THAT RACE IS THE BIGGEST PROBLEM THAT WE HAVE. I'VE GOT A PLUG -- A PLAY THAT I'VE DONE AT THE WEEKEND THEATER. IT'S GOING TO BE DONE IN MARCH AND APRIL. WE'RE DOING A PLAY CALLED TRUTH RECONCILIATION THAT I'VE WRITTEN THAT IS ABOUT THE ISSUES THAT ARE IN THIS BOOK. AND SO I THINK WE CAN BEGIN TO HAVE THIS CONVERSATION. BUT IT'S PAINFUL.

STEVE BARNES: WELL, IT'S INTERESTING THAT -- YOU MENTION MAYOR STODLAU ANY MAYOR, ANY GOVERNMENT EXECUTIVE TODAY IN THESE TIMES ESPECIALLY YOU COULD GO TO HIM OR HER AND SAY WHAT'S THE NO. 1 PROBLEM AND YOU SAY REVENUE. WE DON'T HAVE THE MONEY TO RUN THE CITY. THE CITY IS DELIVERING CITY SERVICES AND YOU SAID IT'S THERE, IT'S RACE. IT'S IT'S WOVEN INTO EVERY PROBLEM WE HAVE.

GRIF STOCKLEY: IT IS NOW BECAUSE OF WHITE FLIGHT AND LITTLE ROCK IS ON ITS WAY TO BECOMING A MAJORITY BLACK CITY. IT'S GOING TO END UP LIKE JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI. AND -- IN TEN YEARS. -- AND THEN IT'S BAD BUT IT'S SOMETHING THAT PEOPLE NEED TO THINK ABOUT IT'S WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO TO START THIS CONVERSATION AND START DEALING WITH IT. AND PART OF IT IS JUST THE ESSENTIAL MISTRUST. BUT IT BECOMES REAL EASY TO UNDERSTAND WHY AFRICAN-AMERICANS MISTRUST WHITES ONCE YOU READ THAT BOOK AND REALIZE THROUGHOUT THE HISTORY IT'S BEEN ONE THING OR ANOTHER ALL THE WAY THROUGH SCHOOL INTEGRATION AND THEN IT WAS BLACKS THAT LOST THE JOBS AS TEACHERS, THEY LOST THEIR JOBS AT PRINCIPALS AND WHAT DO THEY HAVE TO SHOW FOR IT? IT'S A VERY DIFFICULT CONVERSATION THAT WE'VE GOT TO ENGAGE AND ONE OF THE WAYS I END THE BOOK BECAUSE IT IS A DIFFICULT BOOK IS I TALK ABOUT KIND OF THE ODYSSEY OF OLE NEIL. AND OF COURSE OLE NEIL FOR THOSE OF US FROM MARIANA WAS SORT OF THE DEVIL INCARNATE OVER IN EASTERN ARKANSAS BECAUSE HE WAS SUCH A MILITANT CIVIL RIGHTS FIGURE. AND YOU WATCH HIS CAREER -- AND THAT'S BEEN ONE OF THE BRIGHT SPOTS I THINK IN ARKANSAS. YOU WATCH A MAN BECOME THE PROSECUTING ATTORNEY OVER THERE. WATCH A MAN BECOME A JUDGE. WATCH AN AFRICAN-AMERICAN BECOME ON THE ARKANSAS COURT OF APPEALS. AND HE'S A REMARKABLE I THINK EXAMPLE OF SOMEBODY WHO IS LITERALLY MOVED INTO THE MAINSTREAM. AND THERE'S -- I KIND OF END THE BOOK WITH HIS FRIENDSHIP THAT DEVELOPED OVER THE COURSE OF TIME BETWEEN HIM AND A FORMER ENEMY. BJ SMITH. I'M BLOCKING ON HIS FIRST NAME. IT'S NOT BJ. BUT -- JB SMITH. HE GREW UP IN -- OR LIVED IN MARIANA, I'VE KNOWN HIM FOR YEARS. AND THEY WERE ENEMIES. BUT THEY CAME TO TRUST EACH OTHER BECAUSE THEY BOTH CARE ABOUT EASTERN ARKANSAS. THEY BOTH WANT TO SEE IT DEVELOP. THEY BOTH SAW WAYS TO WORK ON THAT TOGETHER. AND THEY ARE BOTH GOOD FRIENDS. AND ONE IS CONSERVATIVE AND PROBABLY ONE IS LIBERAL. BUT THEY'VE LEARNED TO TRUST EACH OTHER. AND THAT'S ABSOLUTELY CRUCIAL.

STEVE BARNES: THE AUTHOR GRIF STOCKLEY, THE BOOK IS: RULED BY RACE. THANK YOU FOR THIS, THANK YOU FOR THE BOOK. THANKS FOR YOUR PASSION. JOIN US NEXT TIME. [MUSIC]

AETN.org > Programs > Barnes and... > Barnes and... A Conversation with Grif Stockley