Anders Walker ’98 | The Burning House: National Library Week Celebration

Anders Walker ’98 | The Burning House: National Library Week Celebration

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JENNIFER BEHRENS: So I think
we’ll go ahead and get started. Thank you all so much
for coming today. My name is Jennifer Behrens. And I’m the associate
director for administration and scholarship here
at the Duke Law School. And on behalf of the
Goodson Law Library, I’m so pleased to
welcome all of you to the eighth annual
Alumni Author event. This series began in 2012 as
a celebration of both National Library Week and the Law
School’s reunion weekend. We’re a little late on both
of those things this year, but that’s OK. Our speaker this year
is Anders Walker, who received his JD, as
well as an MA in History in the class of 1998, and
is now the Lillie Myers Professor of Law and
Associate Dean for Research and Engagement at St. Louis
University School of Law. Today Anders will be
presenting his recent book, The Burning House– Jim Crow and the Making
of Modern America. You can find it,
as well as his 2009 book, The Ghost of Jim Crow– How Southern Moderates Used
Brown v Board of Education to Stall Civil Rights, in
the library’s alumni author’s collection, which is now
shelved by call number all throughout the library. The Ghost of Jim Crow is
also available as an e-book to the Duke community. Before we get started,
I need to take a moment to thank a few people who helped
make today’s event possible. First and foremost, the law
library’s business manager, Sue Hicks, for her assistance
with this event planning and logistics, our
events office and media services staff, and
of course all of you for being here today. Here with us to
introduce Anders Walker and to provide a few
introductory remarks about his work is
our own Jim Coleman, Duke’s John S. Bradway Professor
of the Practice of Law, Director of the Center
for Criminal Justice and Professional Responsibility,
and Co-Director of the Wrongful Convictions Clinic. Thank you, Jim. JAMES E. COLEMAN,
JR.: Thank you. This is really special for
me to introduce Anders. I knew him back when he
was a student here at Duke working on his master’s
degree in History. I have no idea how I
got involved in that. But I did. I enjoyed reading what he
was writing at that time. And I think that his
writing has evolved to where it is today in
a very interesting way. I think the book that he’s
going to talk about today offers some really important
insights into southern history, the Jim Crow period, segregation
in the United States. And rather than looking
just at all of the reasons that those things have been
legitimately denounced, also looking at some
of the positive things that came out of
it by necessity. And this book talks about
that, about the diversity that was born in segregation,
the cultural advancement, accomplishments of African
Americans during that period which were important,
and which contributed to the diversity of America
that often are ignored, and particularly ignored in our
discussion about integration, about Brown, which said that
segregated education was inherently bad for
black children. At the time of
that decision there were people who pushed back
against that notion, primarily because it seemed to negate
the cultural advancements that had been achieved and
were being achieved and that were being ignored,
but that contributed to American culture. What Anders has
done in this book is to talk about
that period, talk about some of the reactions
of a whole range of writers, southern writers, black
and white, pushing back against the Brown decision. And basically, suggesting that
integration wasn’t all that great, and might, in fact– there might be a
high price to pay for the attempt at integration. So I’m going to leave
my remarks here. I really– Anders
sent me an article that he wrote that sort
of pulls from his book. And I read it, and
it was as excited as I’ve ever been reading
a law review article. I wanted to go out and
get this book and read it. One of the things
that it does is it sort of recasts
Justice Thomas in a different light in some
of his opinions in education cases. And I’m sure Anders
will talk about that. Let me just say he is the Lillie
Myers Professor of Law at St. Louis University School of Law. He’s been there since 2006. He got his JD here at Duke,
as well as his Masters of Art in History. And he got a PhD
from Yale University. He’s also been voted teacher
of the year so many times at St. Louis University that
I’m sure if he ever retires, they will rename
the award after him. So welcome back to Duke, Anders. [APPLAUSE] ANDERS WALKER: Thank you. Good afternoon. It’s great to be back. I learned criminal
law in this room. Professor Beale
was my professor. Let me begin in 1978. Supreme Court Justice
Lewis F. Powell, Jr., declared diversity to be
a compelling interest, the first time the court had
ever recognized the concept. In the same opinion,
Powell also closed the door on affirmative action. It is far too late, wrote
Powell in Regents versus Bakke, to argue that the guarantee of
equal protection to all persons permits the recognition of
special awards, entitled to a degree of
protection greater than that accorded others. This comment was
a bit of a puzzle. The term special awards
came from Reconstruction, when President Andrew
Johnson called an end to the Union Army’s
effort to reform the South after the Civil War. Powell seemed to be calling a
similar end to civil rights, rejecting the idea that the
University of California could take affirmative
measures to address past or present discrimination. And yet, even as he closed the
door on affirmative action, he endorsed diversity. Why? Quote, “a farm boy from Idaho
can bring something to Harvard that a Bostonian
cannot,” argued Powell. “Similarly, a black student can
usually bring something that a white person cannot.” This was not a uniquely
southern view to be sure. Nor is it Powell’s alone. The plaintiffs
had argued as much in their brief in the case. However, Powell’s
endorsement of diversity at the same time as he
invoked the South’s struggle to end Reconstruction raised the
intriguing possibility that he was elevating a particular form
of diversity, a version hostile to government efforts
aimed at achieving equality like affirmative
action, but appreciative of racial difference
nevertheless. A version that, it occurred to
me, might come from the South– Powell, a native of
Richmond, Virginia. But there are many
Southerners of his class, and this is really an
intellectual history of educated Southerners who grew
up in Jim Crow, who were not George Wallace types. Robert Penn Warren
was such a person. He argued for a similar
concept as early as 1929. He was probably the most
articulate, eloquent expository of southern pluralism. Warren chose not to
describe racial segregation as a repressive
legal regime, so much as a place where African
Americans could thrive, free from the influence of whites. To make his point,
Warren borrowed an image from an African
American folk tale about a rabbit who
outsmarts a fox. In the story, brother of Brer
Rabbit is captured by the fox and begs not to be
cast into a tangle of prickly, scrambling
shrubs, the briar patch. Of course, Brer Rabbit
refuses to confess that he, like other rabbits,
grew up in precisely such an environment, and could
easily negotiate the thorns and escape. For Warren, the motif
described Jim Crow. Just as Brer Rabbit
considered the briar patch a place of safety, so, too, did
Warren liken racial segregation to a haven, a legal
refuge that allowed African Americans to develop
their own traditions, their own institutions,
their own culture, their own creative
self-expression apart from whites. This, on its face, sounds odd. Particularly today,
we review or we remember Jim Crow as a system
of repression, full stop. Many have written
off the briar patch as a ruse, a type of
charade to simply defend Jim Crow, a case for
segregation veiled in a celebration of culture
that was duplicitous. However, evidence
exists to suggest that whites in the South, like
Warren, took a genuine interest in diversity and in African
American artistic expression. It’s important here
to go to artists, to writers, people
who are generally interested in cultural
production, not necessarily people who are
working for votes. In the winter of
1926, for example, African American intellectual
and civil rights leader James Weldon Johnson wrote
a white professor at UNC named Guy
Johnson on the topic of African American
vernacular music. Weldon Johnson was
born in Florida and had already enjoyed
national acclaim for composing a popular
tune entitled, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” later
celebrated as Black America’s national anthem. Executive Secretary of the
NAACP in New York, James Weldon Johnson merged art and
politics by dedicating himself to the political and
cultural dismantling of negative racial
stereotypes, including negative cultural portrayals of
African Americans in literature and film. He did this by recovering
authentic African American folklore and music. Of course, gathering black
southern folklore in New York was a challenge. To aid him in this project,
James Weldon Johnson enlisted UNC
professor, Guy Johnson. On January 29, 1926,
James Weldon Johnson wrote Guy Johnson
the letter noting that he was working on a book
recovering black secular music. And that the white
North Carolinian’s first-hand knowledge and
nearness to the source material would not only be of
great assistance to him, but might in fact prove
invaluable to the project. Guy Johnson had been studying
African American folklore in the South. He studied it seriously. It wasn’t a ruse
for segregation. This was his topic
of academic inquiry. Guy Johnson traveled
to New York. Imagine this. He left Chapel Hill on a
train, went to New York City to meet with James
Weldon Johnson, one of the key figures in
the Harlem Renaissance. He brought with him a
collection of melodies that he had transcribed in
African American churches in North Carolina. James Weldon Johnson took
down copies of the melodies, and then sent Guy Johnson
back to procure more. So Guy Johnson is working
for James Weldon Johnson as a type of folklorist. “If you can give me an
idea of what kind of songs we should look
for,” wrote Johnson from Chapel Hill
to New York, “it’ll expedite my work considerably.” At the top of Weldon
Johnson’s list was music that qualified as
authentic African American folk songs. And this was a time
in American history where it had become very
popular for people in the North to write about the South
in the southern vernacular without any real
connection to the South. So songs like
“Suwannee,” for example, were popularized,
but not authentic, and often portrayed
African Americans in a stereotypical light. Al Jolson was an
example of this. 1927, he came out with a talking
movie about plantation life where he is dressed
in blackface. James Weldon Johnson
was outraged that people like Al Jolson,
even though Jolson was, many claim,
pro-civil rights, that Al Jolson was
the representative of African American art. James Weldon Johnson wanted
a true African American art. That Guy Johnson aided James
Weldon Johnson is a story that has not been recovered before. But I think it
underscores the idea that Southerners took
culture seriously, at least, educated elites. Though Guy Johnson
possessed little interest in civil rights– he did
not endorse civil rights or desegregation– he did
believe in promoting culture, including African American
culture, something that both James Weldon Johnson
and Alain Locke thanked him for Alain Locke wrote to
Guy Johnson thanking him for his contributions. Alain Locke also
was a pivotal figure in the Harlem Renaissance. Both Locke and
James Weldon Johnson spent the 1920s engaged heavily
in promoting black writers and artists, a campaign
that would contribute to what the New York
Herald Tribune declared in 1925 to be a Renaissance
of black art music and letters in Harlem. Now, the Harlem Renaissance is
often associated geographically with New York. I argue it’s really a
Renaissance of the South. It’s southern African
American culture. That African American culture
was valuable and worth documenting was a point lost on
the Supreme Court of the United States. In 1954, the court cited a
study by Swedish sociologist named Gunnar
Myrdal, who declared that the solution to the
American dilemma of race was full assimilation
of African Americans into mainstream white society. Black institutions, black
traditions, and black culture, argued Myrdal, should
be done away with, for they were at best inferior,
at worst, pathological. Myrdal was brought
to the United States by the Carnegie Corporation
because he was from Sweden, a non-imperial nation. And Myrdal was
charged with providing a frank, objective study
of racism in the South. Myrdal does that. He documents lynching. He documents disenfranchisement. He documents the humiliation
that went with Jim Crow. But then he misses
the idea that there may be something valuable in
African American traditions, institutions, and
cultural practices. He’s Swedish. He doesn’t understand diversity. He believes in assimilation. Everyone should wear clogs. Everyone should shop at IKEA. Everyone should
drink buttermilk. And even today, Sweden is
struggling with diversity. And Swedish socialism, which
Myrdal was really central to, was very much based on a
homogeneity in Swedish culture. And so Myrdal looks
at the South and says, I know what the answer is. It’s IKEA. Everyone should
just be the same. African American intellectual
and writer Ralph Ellison disagreed. Ellison made this clear in a
scathing review of Gunnar’s study, American Dilemma, in
1944, which as he saw it, portrayed African American
life as simply a reaction to the dominant white majority. How, asked Ellison, can
a people live and develop for over 300 years
simply by reacting? Ellison was reluctant to
the African American culture as pathological, and
challenged Myrdal’s claim that white culture
was somehow better. Noting, for example, that
radio advertising, Hollywood, and lynching were all
products of white culture, and that African Americans
stood little to gain from embracing these things. Quote, “why, if my culture is
pathological,” asked Ellison, “must I exchange it for these?” Such thinking reemerged in
his novel, Invisible Man, as Ellison’s unnamed
protagonist declared that his lowly position
in a basement in New York boasted more positive
energy than Times Square. Quote, “my hole is warm
and full of light,” began Ellison’s hero. “I doubt if there is a
brighter spot in all New York than this hole of mine. And I do not exclude Broadway
or the Empire State Building.” New York’s most
iconic locations, argued Ellison’s
narrator, are quote, “among the darkest of our whole
civilization– pardon me– our whole culture.” Ellison, too, looked at
African American culture as a source of inspiration
and authenticity. Precisely because
African Americans were shut out of white
culture due to segregation, condemned to its basement,
as Ellison put it, Ellison felt they had gained
a critical perspective on America’s shortcomings,
developing instead their own counterculture that
boasted much of great value enriched us. Now, in my next
project, I’m going to argue that it’s not
just counterculture. It actually is American culture. It’s just American
culture ahead of its time. Ellison argued there’s much
of great value and richness in the black South. Such richness needed to
be recorded and broadcast, argued Ellison, not erased. Rather than assimilate,
Ellison recommended a change in the basis of American
society that would not only incorporate African American
culture into American identity, but highlight it. It would rewrite the
narrative of the United States along African American lines. Other black
intellectuals agreed. None more vocally than
Zora Neale Hurston, who wrote a famous letter to
the Orlando Sentinel in 1955. In that letter she said, I
regard the US Supreme Court as insulting, rather
than honoring my race. Balking at the presumption
that African Americans wanted to rub shoulders
with Caucasians, African Americans wanted
opportunity and resources, she argued, not intimacy. Quote, “since the days of
the never to be sufficiently deplored Reconstruction,”
lamented Hurston, “there has been
current the belief that there is no greater
delight to African Americans than physical
association with whites.” Not true, she maintained. The very idea was
an insult to blacks. Quote, “no one seems
to touch on what is most important,”
she argued, “namely, that the whole matter revolves
around the self-respect of my people.” Black self-respect, she
argued, precluded the notion that African Americans wanted
anything to do with whites. Those who supported
integration, she argued, should look to
Native Americans, who had fought valiantly for
their own traditions, their own lands. As much as the
Supreme Court tried to argue that African Americans
were damaged by Jim Crow, in other words, Hurston
argued that African Americans were fine on their own. It was whites who suffered
from shortcomings, not least, a perverse
pension for repression. Now, Hurston and Ellison
are both very clear. Resources are important,
access to opportunity, and the end of
humiliation, which was central to Jim Crow– the
end of terrorism, violence. These were all things
that needed to happen. But not necessarily
the elimination of African American
culture or traditions. Quote, “the idea
of human slavery is so deeply grounded
in European history,” wrote Hurston, “that
the pink toes,” which was her term for white
people, “can’t get it out of their system. To illustrate, she cited the
British colonization of India. If the English people
were to quarter troops in France, argued
Hurston, they would be occidentally execrated. However, the British government
does just that in India to the glory of
the democratic way, and are hailed as not only
great empire builders, but leaders of civilization. Such pretensions
bothered Hurston, who felt that southern
whites dressed their cruelty and violence in the garb
of cultural superiority. Hurston was joined,
surprisingly, by the South’s most preeminent
man of letters, William Faulkner, who penned
a novel in 1936, that cast the white
South and white America in negative terms. Styled, Absalom,
Absalom!, the book told the story of a white
planter, Thomas Sutpen, who flouts civility and managed
to selfishly construct a huge plantation
in Mississippi, only to then marry an
evangelical preacher’s daughter named Ellen Coldfield, and
produced two children, Henry and Judith. The marriage, in
Faulkner’s telling, symbolized the marriage
of rapacious capitalism– Thomas Sutpen, who builds this
plantation in Yoknapatawpha County– and evangelical prohibitionism. There was neither
wine or whiskey at their betrothal
dinner, wrote Faulkner. The couple are ultimately
undone by interracial progeny. One day a stranger appears
in Yoknapatawpha County who befriends Henry and courts
Judith, the Sutpen’s children. Just as they prepare to
welcome the stranger named Charles Bon into
their household, Bond reveals two secrets. One, he reveals that he is the
long lost son of Thomas Sutpen, and therefore, he is Henry
and Judith’s brother. Two, he reveals that he’s black. Henry, citing not the incest,
but the miscegenation, promptly shoots him. Not visibly black– Thomas had an interracial
relationship in Haiti with a woman who was light-skinned– Charles Bon reflected
the paranoia in the South over racial purity, a paranoia
that Faulkner likened along with rapacious capitalism
and evangelical Protestantism to a burning house. Faulkner calls Sutpen’s
plantation, Sutpen’s Hundred, a burning house. Faulkner wanted more
than anything a drink. He couldn’t get one in
Oxford, Mississippi. I was there this summer. Allegedly, he had
connections with bootleggers. He would purchase
bootleg whiskey and bury it in his garden. He viewed the direction
the United States was going in the 1920s as extremely
repressive, extremely focused, and paranoid on
a vision of race, of Anglo-Saxon Protestant
supremacy that was actually limiting his own liberty. And so Faulkner
makes a turn away from white civilization
and society, not completely dissimilar
from Hurston and Ellison. He, too, says, what
exactly are we doing here? Remember, the ’20s
endorsed prohibition. The ’20s endorsed eugenics. The ’20s endorsed sterilization. The Supreme Court
sanctioned sterilization in Buck versus Bell. And we were marching down
a road that James Whitman, in his new book,
Hitler’s American Model, and Tim Snyder
in Black Earth, argue actually inspired Germany. Adolf Hitler, in Mein Kampf,
wrote about the United States and how it was a model
for what Germany could be, a Teutonic nation that used
strict immigration restrictions and bans on interracial marriage
to maintain racial purity, meanwhile commanding
a continent. And this becomes Germany’s
dream in World War II. Faulkner recoils at this. And he sees, like Warren,
the United States going down this totalitarian path. They see diversity,
racial pluralism, as a possible way out of this. No one sensationalized
the idea of white America as a burning house more
famously than James Baldwin, a prominent novelist
and essay writer. Quote, “there is
certainly little enough in the white man’s
public or private life that one should desire to
imitate,” observed Baldwin. In an essay to his
nephew, “for,” as he said, “white people cannot in the
generality be taken as models of how to live. Rather, the white man is himself
and so are native standards, which will release him from
his confusion and place him once again in
fruitful communion with the depths
of his own being.” Baldwin expressed doubts about
Myrdal’s view of assimilation into the white mainstream,
suggesting instead that whites were flawed, their
civilization compromised. And that only when African
Americans had achieved unconditional freedom
would the country endure. Further, it would be African
Americans, not whites, to lead the country’s
salvation, to be bearers of its aspirational ideals. In part, because only they
could lead their white peers to discover their
buried moral conscience. This proves controversial. Flannery O’Connor was outraged. Quote, “the kind
I don’t like,” she wrote, “is the philosophizing,
prophesying, pontificating kind of African American, the
James Baldwin kind,” who were humiliating southern
whites like herself in prominent literary
magazines like The New Yorker. The journal had
published Baldwin’s essay to rave reviews, prompting
Baldwin to reissue it, along with the letter to his
nephew in a small book entitled The Fire Next Time in 1963. The title hailed from an
African American spiritual, and alluded to the
second coming of Christ, something that O’Connor,
a devout Catholic, did not take lightly. Yet, behind O’Connor’s
anger at Baldwin nestled a variety
of ideas about race that resonated oddly with
Baldwin’s own claims. For example, O’Connor published
a story in the Suwannee Review just before she excoriated
James Baldwin that portrayed African Americans
as inhabiting a higher moral plane than
whites, a notion that Baldwin himself had advanced. In her story, O’Connor described
a vision of a vast swinging bridge extending upward
from Earth to Heaven, upon which trudged a possession
of souls reminiscent of Matthew 2016, where Jesus of
Nazareth had declared that the last on earth would
be the first to enter paradise. Whites were not
first in the line. They were in the back behind
quote, “bands of blacks,” who magically outranked
whites, despite or perhaps because of their
social prestige. The same provided a
startling glimpse of Jim Crow through a biblical lens,
essentially inverting the theory of white
supremacy by suggesting that those who enjoyed
white privilege were morally
compromised, while those who occupied the lowest
social positions in the South were closest to God. O’Connor’s vision paralleled
Robert Penn Warren’s notion of the briar patch and
Ralph Ellison’s metaphor of the invisible man’s
basement full of light. So the book is largely
a literary study trying to get at the
intellectual history of southern elites. The story of the South has been
heavily focused on politics. And that is usually meant
a focus on populists. Now, my first book
on southern moderates got into some of these themes. But politicians are often not
the most eloquent expositors of a society’s values. Writers are. So writers, especially
in the South, are trying to explain
what their world is like and how they live
with themselves. Now, Robert Penn Warren gets
very interested in this. And in 1964, he starts to
interview civil rights leaders. He interviews Dr.
Martin Luther King, Jr., one of the most renowned
proponents of integration. Warren interviewed King on
March 18, 1964, in Atlanta. He asked the
minister about quote, “the pull on the one hand
toward black traditions or black culture, and the
pull on the other hand toward white culture,”
as Myrdal had endorsed. Now, this was not
one of the themes– or not one of King’s
regular themes, to be sure. He had endorsed
Myrdal positively. But King conceded
Warren’s points about African
American traditions. Remember, King came
from the black church. He acknowledged it actually
was an issue, the question of culture in the South. But he believed that
civil rights and pluralism can coincide. One can live in American
society with a certain cultural heritage, explained King,
African or what have you, and still absorb a great
deal of mainstream society. African Americans who
rejected their culture, however, suffered for it. “Often,” King said,
“black individuals who reject psychologically
anything that reminds them of their
heritage find themselves with no cultural roots.” So King, in many ways,
has a more modern idea of equality and diversity
coinciding, something that I think most Americans
today would agree with. Southerners, especially
white southerns [INAUDIBLE] Lewis F. Powell, Jr.,
weren’t convinced that equality and
diversity could coincide. Powell seemed to think that
equality and diversity might be diametrically opposed. Warren, however, was
happy to hear from King that he understood
and appreciated the rich history of
African American traditions in the South, which, of
course, King appreciates because he’s a minister. This was a point that Warren had
been trying to make since 1929. There’s this history of Warren
and that he abandons the briar patch. He becomes a civil
rights activist. I argue that’s not
necessarily the case. Warren does come to understand
that there is injustice in the South, but he never
abandons his position on a pluralist
culture in the South. He never gives up on diversity. Now, he appeared to have an ally
in King, of all people, whose public writings and speeches
seem to stress assimilation, a dreamscape where the
sons of former slaves and the sons of
former slave owners would attend the same
schools, play the same part, sit down together at the
table of brotherhood. Warren’s questions teased
out a different dream– a society in which
black and white might sit down together,
perhaps at school or work, but might go their
separate ways. Of course, this was not what
Gunnar Myrdal had imagined, since he found African American
culture to be pathological. But Warren sensed correctly that
this aspect of Myrdal’s thought was not something even
Dr. King ascribed to. After reading Warren’s
interview with King, Eudora Welty wrote to
Warren praising him. “My thanks are late
in coming, but they’re warm as can be for your book.” So one of the things
the book does, is it actually– it recovers
conversations between people. Warren and Ellison
sit down together at the American
Academy in Rome in 1956 and have this huge
conversation about pluralism. And Ellison says, look,
Warren, I don’t really like you or your people. But I do respect
the fact that you understand I have some important
cultural contributions here. And I, too, am a pluralist. So there’s debates. They’re not all
of the same mind. But there are a lot
of interconnections and interactions between
these intellectuals who are trying to think about
diversity before it’s really a thing. It’s Lewis F. Powell, Jr.
who makes diversity a thing. They’re more likely to refer
to these things in terms of pluralism. “My thanks are late
in coming, but they’re warm as can be for
your book,” gushed Welty to Warren on
August 22, 1965. “It’s so good and I’ve
read it with such care, deep interest,
profound admiration, and I may say, some anguish– for you, us, the subject.” Welty then proceeded to write
a short story about life in the south, a tale
of a white doctor who treats African
American patients. The story talks about
how the white doctor entered African
American communities and felt a sense of
spiritual renewal. He talks about the
African American church. He talks about the
close-knit relationships that African Americans
had with each other and with the whites
in the South. And Welty, in many
ways, is trying to tell a story to adults that
another writer, Harper Lee, told much more
successfully to children. Southern writers like
O’Connor, Welty, and Warren all viewed Harper Lee
as a children’s author, kind of a YA novelist. Lee, however, is probably the
best, most renowned proponent of cultural pluralism that
we have with us today. She wrote To Kill a
Mockingbird in 1960, about a white lawyer who defends
an African American client. The lawyer, Atticus Finch,
in his closing arguments made a case for pluralism. He claimed that Tom
Robinson would never have been put on trial if
Mayella Ewell had not lured him into her shack to try to seduce
him, thereby crossing the line and violating the sacred
code of the South. Lee sets Ewell and Robinson
up as a counterpoint to Atticus and Calpurnia. Calpurnia is Atticus’s servant,
who raises two children with him, Scout and Jem. Calpurnia’s name is the name
of Julius Caesar’s third wife. She is the proxy
wife to Atticus. Atticus’s name is an
allusion to ancient Greece and to platonic
love, to the idea that the races can work
in close harmony together, so long as they adhere
to the code of the South, which is segregation. And in one scene,
which is a recurring trope in southern lit,
Calpurnia takes Scout and Jem to her church. And at her church, Scout and
Jem are surprised that Calpurnia speaks a different vernacular. There is a different liturgy. There are different hymns. And Scout says, this
is something amazing. I’ve never seen it before. I didn’t realize it
existed in Maycomb. It’s Lee’s way of saying,
this is the South. It’s pluralist. It’s diverse. And my story is about
how the races get along. Sadly, for her, the book
was quickly picked up as a civil rights manifesto. She then fell silent for
decades until her book, Go Set a Watchman was
released, where we all learned that Atticus Finch
actually was a segregationist. But I argue that’s
there in Mockingbird if you read closely,
the narrative about this crossing the line, why Tom
Robinson is put on trial, and why Atticus and Calpurnia
sail off into the sunset together. Now, let me bring all this back
to a lawyer who in many ways modeled himself
after Atticus Finch. Lewis F. Powell, Jr. believed in
diversity within institutions, but also across institutions. So in some key opinions,
including an opinion about the University of
Mississippi for Women, Powell argued that
there could be diversity across institutions. This could mean that
even institutions that might want to remain
homogeneous, like all women’s colleges, could provide
diversity of options for people who
wanted to experience a different form of pedagogy. When he writes
Regents versus Bakke, I argue that he has
this notion of diversity as a core American value. It has nothing to do with
equality or affirmative action. It really does have
something to do with liberty. Powell sees diversity
and liberty as linked. He is very afraid of the
centralization of state power. He fought in World War II. In 1958, he goes to the
Soviet Union with the ABA. He’s shocked at what
the Soviets were able to do in a very short
amount of time– industrialize. And he’s also alarmed
at the way in which they controlled culture. He saw the Soviet
Union as totalitarian. He saw Nazi Germany
as totalitarian. He saw Richmond as a land
of liberty, ironically. And part of that liberty
was its diversity, its disaggregated
landscape, something that Heather Gerken called
second-order diversity. So the takeaway from this
book, I think, for Con Law, is we tend to think of diversity
as first-order diversity. We have diversity,
or we accept race in admissions in
higher education, in order to facilitate
cross-racial understanding, in order to bring
students together in the same classrooms. Well, that’s certainly possible. But there’s also another
form of diversity that Gerken calls
second-order diversity. And that is
majority-minority spaces– black spaces. Now, there’s recent
sociological data to suggest that even at
majority white schools, African Americans benefit from
both forms of diversity, i.e., integration in classrooms,
but also, their own spaces, where they’re not subjected
to microaggressions, implicit bias, and often, or
sometimes, outright hostility. This type of diversity
has been operationalized or departmentalized in
things like black studies. Black studies is
not something that has been talked about in any
of the litigation on diversity, including the current case
by the Students for Fair Admissions against Harvard. But I argue, we should recover
this vision of diversity, separate institutions,
separate spaces. This is what Powell
was also talking about. It wasn’t just integration. He actually didn’t really
believe in integration. And if we add this to
first-order diversity, we have another argument
for why race should be considered in admissions. I think this could be relevant
to the Students for Fair Admissions versus Harvard case. And I think it actually
describes the way that diversity works. Yes, we can benefit from
interracial interaction. But we can also
benefit from things like African American studies. And here in the interest
of full disclosure, I’ll conclude I have a PhD
in African American studies. And as a white student,
the only white student, in a set of classes, my
pedagogical experience was actually quite profound. I learned things about
the United States that I had never heard of as
a minority who sat silently in class while the majority
decided, or dissented by decided, as Gerken
puts it, turning the tables on the majority,
told a very different story about the United States. And so, I personally
benefited from the fact that there was black space at
Yale at the departmental level. That’s not mentioned
at all in any of the litigation on diversity. But I think it’s important
one, for majority students like myself. Two, it’s important for
minority students who have a place where
they can seek support from having to constantly be
subjected to the majority, and all of the things that
second-order diversity rather than first-order
diversity, accomplishes. Let me end there. And I look forward
to your responses. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] JAMES E. COLEMAN, JR.: OK. So we now have
time for questions. Yes? AUDIENCE: Thanks so much
for your talk, Anders. I’m interested in
the latter point that you were
making about Justice Powell and his
understandings of liberty. So Powell goes to
the Soviet Union. He sees Soviet censorship,
[INAUDIBLE],, Soviet censorship. But in the 1960s, he’s
on college campuses. And he sees the radical 1960s. And he sees a way in
which, for at least Powell, liberals sort of created a
small ideological spectrum that liberals silenced the
voices of conservatives and moderates. I’m interested in
thinking about Powell, and how did his
conceptions of liberty deradicalize college campuses
by putting the ideas to put more voices in a particular space,
so more conservative and more moderate voices. Did his conception of diversity
seek to sort of deradicalize the radical college
campuses of the 1960s and 1970s as a racial moderate? ANDERS WALKER: That’s
a great question. That brings Federalist 10
to mind, which is faction. And so maybe Powell thought we
just bring everybody together and it’ll moderate the voices. Powell was very concerned
about the radical left. And it became a
little histrionic. So he is often quoted
for this memo he wrote, it’s kind of a secret memo
in the defense of business, you might say, [INAUDIBLE]
private sector. And so, I haven’t
thought about that. But it’s possible
maybe he thought this would be a moderating
force, a way to kind of bring different voices together. But I think he also– and he said this. He supported things
like same-sex education. And deep down inside,
I think he also supported same-race education. And I think it’s Powell
and Thomas that end up sparring over diversity,
where Powell says, we want diversity in classrooms. That’s a legitimate
pedagogical goal. And Powell says, you know what? That’s actually just a ruse. You’re just going to use
African American students so you can improve the education
of your white students, but the African
American students are actually going
to be subjected to hostility, microaggressions. Better for them to go to
historically black colleges. I think Powell
would have said, OK. That’s fine. You can also have
historically black colleges. You can just have a desegregated
educational landscape. You can have Baptist
schools, Methodist schools, secular schools, Catholic
schools, women’s schools. And he saw the more that
you allow the private sector to diversify, the harder you’re
going to make it for capture. So let’s say liberals then
captured the government. If you create a private
space, Powell then believed, well, that’s going
to preserve liberty, much more than some kind of a
political reform agenda. So it’s a structural argument
that might go to your point. I hadn’t thought about that. But I think he does see
this as kind of a firewall to what’s happened in
Germany and the Soviet Union. JAMES E. COLEMAN, JR.: Yes? Sara? AUDIENCE: So one of our
former students, Reggie Whitt, wrote a PhD or SGD or
some kind of thesis at the Catholic
University in Rome about the African
American Catholic– development of separate Catholic
religious practices in music and so forth in the South. He’s an African American
Benedictine monk. And they sent him
over to Rome to study. And his argument
was that in addition to having regional
dioceses and bishops, there ought to be an
African American bishop that would take all of
these churches, rather than having
them be homogenized. If they had their
own very valuable distinctive religious
practices, traditions, music, and so forth– how does that fit
into your thesis? I mean, is that a
sort of similar idea that there is this diversity
even within something as top down as the Catholic church? ANDERS WALKER: So,
that’s interesting. In Regents versus
Bakke, Powell said, there’s no such thing
as a white majority. Whites are just a
conglomeration of minorities, which is an odd claim. But he then
distinguished himself and Anglo-Saxon Protestants
from Celtic Irish [INAUDIBLE].. And Protestants in the South had
long viewed the Catholic church as a centralized
authoritarian institution. And they had fought
long and hard to stop that church
from spreading its message in America. And this yielded prohibition. It yielded the
second Ku Klux Klan, which reemerges as a nativist
Protestant evangelical group that starts to
burn the cross in 1915. During Reconstruction,
it’s really former Confederate officers
and [? enlistees ?] [INAUDIBLE] an insurgent war. But I think the
Catholic church was viewed by people
like Powell as that’s exactly what we don’t want. However, we will
allow Catholic schools to operate in the United States. And I think Powell
would have said, sure, let’s diversify the church. But there is a history of this
Protestant, anti-Catholicism that really viewed it as a form
of centralized authoritarian rule. JAMES E. COLEMAN, JR.: Yes? AUDIENCE: So Anders, I
wonder if you could– you have kind of alluded to the
new project you’re working on. And I wonder if maybe you could
talk a little bit about how it comes out of this,
and the kind of arguments that you’re making there. Because I think that takes the
argument that you’re working on and that you’re laying out
in this particular book over this level
that makes us think about culture and
African American life in the South in a
very different way. Can you just a little
bit about that or– ANDERS WALKER: Sure. So there’s been a
lot of talk recently about racial nationalism,
reemerging United States. And the new project’s going
to go back to the 1920s. And it’s a rethinking of the
so-called Progressive Era and the so-called Jazz Age. The 1920s, from a regulatory
standpoint, was remarkable. We had legal prohibition. We had eugenics. We had very strict
immigration standards. All of these were
tied into a larger vision of an Anglo-Saxon
Protestant nation. Woodrow Wilson identified
Anglo-Saxon Protestantism, including the common law,
as heritage of England and the ancient Germanic
tribes that traveled to England and conquered it. The common law went along with
Anglo-Saxon Protestant ethics, a work ethic, that
created capitalism. Max Weber in 1905 gives
captains of industry and conservative
judges really a license to kind of promote
business in the name of Anglo-Saxon
Protestant civilization. So race and capitalism,
and law and reform, things like prohibition–
progressives were on board with racial
thinking in the 1920s, was a very different
America than the Jazz Age that we remember. African Americans who
were dismissed out of hand, segregated, are
the first to really start to cobble together a vision of
America that is aspirational and not linked to race. It begins early on with people
like Frederick Douglass. But then it really
starts with the patriots who went and fought in World War
I, African Americans who fought for their country, even
though they can’t vote, they’re discriminated
against and segregated, start to talk about America
in aspirational terms that we would recognize
today as very familiar. Yes, America is an
aspirational nation that is founded on principles
or ideals that have nothing to do with race. In the 1920s, this would
have been anathema. Everyone believes in race. And not only did
they believe in race, they were actually quite
excited and positive about it. Racial thinking was
scientifically endorsed. Racial thinking was progressive. In the Scopes
Trial in Tennessee, evolutionary biology is
touted as advanced thinking and much better than
creationism, which was for backwoods hillbillies. But the book Civic Biology
that was being taught was actually all about race. It was about the five
races of humankind. And the white race was superior. And the other races
were inferior. And white people had a duty
to advance civilization. All this comes to a
halt, I argue, in 1929. So most historians argue it’s
World War II that changes our thinking about race. I argue it was actually
the stock market crash. With the stock
market crash of 1929, Anglo-Saxon Protestants
are left holding the bag. If their work ethic guaranteed
capitalism, what happened? How can capitalism
go into a free fall if Anglo-Saxon Protestants
were at the helm? And Protestants didn’t
have an answer for this. And FDR, when he
arrives in office in ’33 doesn’t talk about his
Anglo-Saxon Protestant heritage. He goes back to the Mayflower. He’s like, no,
we’re going to talk about immigrants and the poor. And he starts to try to come
up with a new narrative. That narrative will
be civil rights. It’ll be Harry Truman
who is cribbing from African Americans who have
really already put together a vision of the United States
that is completely new. Today the irony is
the Americans who are most convinced and
committed to the idea that we are not a racist
nation are conservatives. Conservatives will
fight tooth and nail to say we’re not a white settler
nation founded on principles of white supremacy. Madison and Jefferson
were aspirational figures. Well, that’s kind of
the discourse that started to emerge in
African American circles, including people like
Frederick Douglass, who argued the Constitution
doesn’t sanction slavery. And at the time it
was viewed as odd. Of course it sanctions slavery. Slavery is a
categorical good in 19– or 1840. But African Americans
really started to hone the idea that
America is a nation founded on aspirational,
egalitarian ideals. And everyone then
starts to go back to Thomas Jefferson’s
Declaration of Independence. And yes, he does say, all
men are created equal. But I think anyone who knows
anything about Jefferson knows who that means. And that was a type
of usable past. Then, it became very important
to the early civil rights era which starts
during World War I, or it starts during
slavery, frankly. But it starts to pick up steam
during the ’20s and the ’30s. The ’30s we often view as a
low point in American history. I view it as a high point. It’s a moment where we reassess. What are we doing exactly? Are we becoming a white
nationalist settler nation founded on Anglo-Saxon
Protestant ideals? Or are we something else? And we reassess as capitalism–
and because capitalism fails, we come up with a new vision
that’s much more progressive. AUDIENCE: And so is the reaction
in the aftermath of the New Deal and the Fair Deal and
the kind of civil rights agenda of the ’50s and ’60s. So we’ve been in a period
that have for the last 30, 40 years or so that
tried to reassert in its own particular way that
earlier Anglo-Saxon vision. Is it privatization? And, I mean, I don’t
know, the kind of– the policies, the
particular policies of the last 20 or 30 years? ANDERS WALKER: Absolutely. So there’s been a lot
of history on this, on the legacies of
Jim Crow, redlining, the suburbanization of southern
politics, the move of Democrats and the Republican Party,
dog-whistle politics. And all of that I
don’t disagree with. But what I’m doing
is really working on an intellectual history. So the United States in 1925
was explicitly about race. And Woodrow Wilson is
very public about it. He watches Birth of a
Nation and says, my God. This is truth
written in lightning. And we were headed down the
same road that Germany was. And what’s interesting is
that Germany in the ’30s veers towards
racial nationalism. We veer in the
opposite direction. Why? Because capitalism fails. And Protestants had
always been arguing that they could handle it. The Nazis ride into power using
the rhetoric of socialism. And Anglo-Saxon Protestants
had never relied on that. So Nazism works in a weird way. Because they double down
on this class argument. Yes, we wanted a
classless society. That’s what Hitler promised– a
classless society for Germans. But Protestants in
the United States said, we don’t want
a classless society. We’re Protestant. We’re elect. And our blessing is
clearly demonstrable in our financial success. And that thinking just
comes to a crashing halt. And so the ideology fails. And then we oddly come up with
a much more inclusive vision of the United States. And certainly, by
the time the Nazis really get rolling
in World War II, then I think terms like
Anglo-Saxon quickly disappear. And so that is true. Historians are absolutely right. By the time that we learn what’s
going on in central Europe in the bloodlands, then we
start to distance ourselves as fast as we can. And that doesn’t mean
that people don’t continue to adhere to racist views. But the way– this is
Braudelian– the way ideas work is they have an afterlife. And so, if you tell your
children something, let’s say, race is good. It doesn’t necessarily matter
what the federal government is saying. I mean, Harry Truman can be
talking about racial equality. But if your oral history is, no,
we’re Anglo-Saxon Protestants. And we built civilization,
things that we’re still seeing echoes of today. This is Richard Spencer,
the guy who washed out at Duke, who wants to create a
European homeland peacefully. And he knows– the reason he
probably washed out at Duke was we had that. It was Europe in the 20th
century that committed suicide twice. And it was the United
States that saved it. And that thinking is
something we have to address. We have to address
racialist thinking. It’s a theory. And if you don’t read Tom Sugrue
or Kevin Kruse or Joe Crespino, you might think, oh, well,
race explains everything. Race is pretty much the answer. It’s like a simplistic theory. And that’s always
going to reemerge. And it’s something that I think
education, every new generation of undergrads come
into SLU, we’ve got to re-educate them on this
is the history of the country. This is what happened. They’ll be like, well,
wait a minute, you know. There’s all this crime. And race seems to explain it. And so, that’s kind of
the odd thing about racism is it’s a very easy theory
for people to grasp. It’s a very simplistic theory. And like, gender
and other things like that, it’s
something that then keeps reconfiguring itself. AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE]
question about Thomas Wolfe in 1930s going to get all
these accolades for his awards in Germany because he’s a
bestselling author in Germany. And then he gets
there, and he discovers what’s really going on. Or he says he discovers what’s
really going on and writes, I Have a Thing to
Tell You, which is more or less I
think his attempt to try and distance himself
from his popularity in what appears to be to him a
frightening totalitarian nation. I just wondered if you
had looked at that at all. I know he’s not as well regarded
as most the other authors that you’re talking
about, pretty much autobiographical and local. But it’s an interesting read. In that book, he’s being feted
and– or in that section, he’s being feted and
celebrated for a work that he’s written about, say,
growing up in North Carolina. And yet, at the same time, he’s
seeing what a repressive regime It is, and he’s horrified. And he’s initially excited to
be glorified, going overseas. And then he sees
what’s going on. And on a particular
train ride when he observes a person being
basically pulled off the train and detained and arrested
and subsequently taken away for the crime of exporting
currency from Germany, he begins to see the
anti-Semitism in all this. He begins to, I think,
think about the impact of his writing. And arguably, his
writing certainly is very much from a white
supremacy perspective, very much the Anglo-Saxon
Protestant perspective. Are there other
southern writers, I guess is what I’m
asking you, that have had this realization that
their fans are something that’s a little bit
detestable, and they may have had a change of heart? Or do you think that’s something
that an artist typically goes through? ANDERS WALKER: So one of most
interesting finds on Powell, and this is a thread in a lot
of these writers, is in 1972, Powell addressed a meeting
of the ABA at San Francisco. It was a prayer breakfast. And Powell stands
up and he says, I want to talk about
the beautiful society. And everybody thinks,
the beautiful society, he’ll talk about the
new left or the SDS. And he says, it’s
Fiddler on the Roof. And he talks about Tevye,
who’s living in central Europe. And he’s trying to
maintain his traditions. And he’s trying to keep
his daughters from marrying outside the faith. And he says, this is
what we in the South have been trying to do. We’re not Nazis. And this is pretty recurring. Southern elites didn’t affiliate
themselves, for the most part, with Nazis. They said, no, we’re more
like the ancient Hebrews. And we are trying to preserve
our ancient traditions and our ancient cultures against
this totalitarian federal government who is
steamrolling us. And oddly, Zora Neale
Hurston, her last work was on Herod the Great. And Hurston has been written off
as someone who lost her mind. When people read the Orlando
Sentinel letter they said, oh, Hurston’s lost her mind. Why isn’t she on board
with civil rights? Answer– because
she’s a pluralist. And so in Herod the
Great, she tells the stories of the ancient Jews
and how King Herod preserved Judaic culture and traditions. And Hurston’s argument
is pretty clear, that minorities can often be
the bearers of a special truth. And that their traditions
and their culture can be very important and
very necessary to preserve. And that’s what she’s
doing in her work. She’s preserving African
American culture. Powell’s preserving
white culture. And Robert Penn Warren’s got
this great line where he says, you know, Jews and Southerners,
we’re all the same. We’ve all been misunderstood
and discriminated against. And there’s this
recurring kind of trope which is Southerners’ view
themselves as a minority or put upon or trying to
preserve their traditions, not totalitarians. And they really see
the federal government as much more akin to what’s
happening in Germany than what they’re doing. JAMES E. COLEMAN,
JR.: That’s it? JENNIFER BEHRENS: I
think we can stop there. JAMES E. COLEMAN, JR.: Yeah. Shall we– any other questions? Then, we’ll stop there. Thank you, Anders. [APPLAUSE]

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