Tag Archives: racism

Jamie Foxx

Jamie Foxx: “Music took me everywhere.”

Tim Ferriss is well known for his top-selling books, including The 4-Hour Work Week, The 4-Hour Body, and The 4-Hour Chef. Tim also hosts a very successful podcast, The Tim Ferriss Show, where he regularly interviews successful, interesting, and knowledgeable people. In December 2015, Tim posted his first interview with Jamie Foxx.

Ferriss and Foxx spent two and a half hours together in this interview, covering a wide range of topics. One of the most interesting topics to me was Foxx’s musical background, how he got started, and how it helped him become who he is today. I’ve transcribed this portion of their interview here:

Tim: Now, you mentioned getting into music, but it seems like, from what I’ve read of you, that music, in some ways, came first.

Jamie: Music did. Music did. When I was a kid, my grandmother made sure that I took piano lessons. And, you know, that’s tough for a little boy in Texas — you know, play Für Elise, and Chopin, and Mozart

Tim: And we’re not talking about Houston…

Jamie: No, we’re talking Terrell, Texas. And I love my city. My city was dope because it was only twelve thousand people, so it was, like, literally, twelve to fifteen families. So we all knew each other.

But you know, for a little boy playing at that time, the other kids didn’t understand.

“Yo, man, why you doin’ that?”

“My grandma want me to do this,” you know. So I — there were sometimes I was belligerent, like, “Why you want me to do this?”

She said, “The reason I want you to learn classical piano is because I want you to be able to go across the tracks and play your music.”

So people listening across the tracks, or on the other side of the tracks, for a southern city, was — the tracks in a southern city separates the city. One side is black; the other side is white. So in our city, the south side, the south side of town was where all the black folks lived. The north side of town is where the white folks lived.

So she said, “I want you to be able to go on the white side of town and play classical music.”

So she taught me how to play classical music — a lady by the name of Lanita Hodge taught me how to play classical piano, and I literally would go on the other side of the tracks and, you know, like start playing for wine and cheese parties, and things like that.

But my grandmother took it a step further, too, because she was able to see the future. Here’s a lady with an eighth grade education, she had her own business for thirty years — she had her own nursery school business.

She says, “When I say ‘across the tracks,’ I don’t just mean in Terrell and those people over there — I mean the metaphoric. Like, ‘across the tracks,’ like meaning everywhere in the world.”

See, she said, “Because music connects you to the whole world.

So in doing that, I would connect with other people on the other side of the tracks who, you know, in a southern city, in Terrell, we were a little behind the curve when it came to race relations. Let’s just say it that way without, you know — I don’t want to demonize my home town.

But there was that, “Who’s the little black kid?”

And my grandmother would be like, “Don’t…” You know, “Just play…”

Tim: Do your thing.

Jamie: And when I would play, you know, a lot of that, you know, broke up. I remember even, like, being armed with just my music in sort of that racial setting, sometimes. Like there was a time when there was a Christmas party…

Tim: Were these paid gigs?

Jamie: Yeah, I’d make like ten, fifteen dollars. You know what I’m saying? At that time, it was a lot of money. And I played for the church. So, playing for the church, I would make, like, $75 a week. So, if you count that up, that’s like $300 a month…

Tim: Real money.

Jamie: That’s real money at thirteen, fourteen. My grandmother would take the money, though.

[Southern grandmother voice] “Hey, give me this money.”

[Normal voice] “What you doin’ with my money?”

She said, [Southern grandmother voice] “You ain’t payin’ no rent, you gonna give me this money.”

So, but I remember at that time, being armed with just my music. And there was a Christmas party that I was supposed to play for — myself and my best friend, who was seventeen, and I was sixteen at the time. And here’s a little bit of the racial misunderstanding, shall we say.

I went to play for the guy at Christmas time, maybe it’s like December 17th. And we show up — it’s two little black kids on the white side of town. And when he opens his door, and he sees two little black kids, he says, [male Texas accent] “What’s goin’ on here?”

[Normal voice] I said, “Well, I’m here to play for your Christmas party.”

He said, [male Texas accent] “Well then why are there two of you here at the same time?”

[Normal voice] I said, “Well… [clears throat] …I don’t have a license, so he drove me. Uh, is there a problem?”

[Male Texas accent] “Yeah, there’s a problem — I can’t have two n*****s in my house at the same time.”

[Normal voice] And I was like, “Ah, well…”

You know, I was sort of used to the racial misunderstandings…

And I said, “Well, is there any way he could wait outside or wait…”

[Male Texas accent] “He can’t wait on the street. Starts at 6:30. Now you’ve gotta make your mind up, man.”

[Normal voice] So I told my boy, “Listen, just come get me at 8:30.” Which was pretty late for kids at that time.

So I go in, and he says, [male Texas accent] “Where’s your tuxedo?”

[Normal voice] And I said, “Well, you didn’t tell me to have a tuxedo.”

So we go into this room which looks like a bedroom, and I’m looking like, “Why does he have clothes hanging up in his bedroom?” But it was a walk-in closet. I ain’t never seen anything like that. I was like, “Man, we can make a split-level condo out of this!”

So he gives me a Brooks Brothers jacket that has patches on the elbows. I’m like, “Oh, shoot! High falutin’!”

Well now I’m really playing. But as I’m playing, uh, they were doing, the grownups there, they were doing, uh, racially misunderstanding jokes. I’ll say it like that.

And my grandmother taught me something at that time. She said, “When you’re in a setting like that, there’s a word I want you to remember — it’s called, ‘furniture’.”

I said, “What’s that?”

She said, “You’re part of the furniture. So you don’t comment on what’s being said. You play. That’s what you’re there for, and you let these people enjoy their…”

And the lady of the house felt bad. She said, [female Texas accident] “I just wanna apologize to you for what they’re saying.”

[Normal voice] I said, “Oh, no problem.”

She said, [female Texas accident] “Can you sing something for us?”

[Normal voice] And I was like, “Sure, I can sing something for us.”

And this was the song that I sung…

[Starts playing piano and singing]
“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire,
Jack Frost nipping at your nose.
Yuletide carols being sung by a choir,
And folks dressed up like Eskimos.
Everybody…”

Anyway, so as I’m singing, I remember watching those white guys — old men — some of them faculty at my school, that had just said something, you know, probably not — I don’t think it was that they meant harm harm, but it was…

Tim: They’d have to resign today.

Jamie: Yeah. And they look, and they go, they immediately change. “Wow, man, that’s good. You know any other songs?”

And I sat and did about maybe like a six song set. And I saw what my grandmother talked about — that music cracked them in half. They saw a different me.

And then afterwards, he gave me a hundred bucks! And I’m like, “Shoot, call me n***** every day! I got a hundred dollars! I’m rich!”

And what was interesting was, I went to give him the jacket back, and he was like, “No, I, I, I can’t take it back.” So there was still a little bit of residue left over.

But I saw what the music did, and I remember when my boy showed back up, I said, “Listen, it was a cool gig, I got paid, but I gotta get out of here.”

I said, “Because I’m too smart for this. I need to go elsewhere.”

And I did. I changed my major — well, I changed the college that I was going to go to. I was going to go to another college in Texas and study music. Instead, I came to California — San Diego — to study music at International University.

What was interesting about that was that — being in Texas, it was blacks, whites, and Mexicans. When I got to International University, it was 81 different countries represented at that school. All connected by music and other things. Music and sports.

And the music arena at that time was high-end, strict child prodigies from Japan, child prodigies from China. I had a Russian music teacher, and I had a Yugoslavian music theory teacher, so it was — it was really “across the tracks.”

But because of that, and because of Estelle Talley, and Mark Talley, you know, picking me up every weekend to go play music, man, it set me on a, like I said, a crazy, wonderful journey.

And so the music was first.

And, you know, my college was interesting. I didn’t know anything about Jewish, Palestinian — I had no idea. I was at the student center, and there was this argument going on, you know.

I said, “What are they arguing about?”

[Middle Eastern accent] “Oh, my brother, they are talking about the Gaza Strip.”

[Normal voice] I said, “What is that?”

And they said, “You know, the Jewish occupation, the this, the that,” and I got a quick history lesson on that.

I got a quick history lesson on people from Argentina.

Or I would see a person who looked black, and I would be like, “Hey! What’s up, brother?”

And they would, [French accent][Foreign garble].”

And I’d be like, “Oh, where you from?”

And they’d say, [French accent] “Paris.”

And I was like, “Wow, they got black people from…?”

So, that music gave me not only an opportunity to share, but I was able to be educated about other people, because we studied Texas history. And studying Texas history is interesting. Like, if you study Texas history, if it didn’t happen in Texas, it didn’t happen. So when you look at, like — if this is your society bar, but when you think about politics, and what they know about across the sea, and what they know even about on the next block, or what they know is different in Texas from New York — that’s the reason that politics is so interesting, is because the people don’t necessarily have educations of other people.

Which is why I think that once we start opening up a little more, and traveling a little more, because — what is it, less than how many percent, less than five percent of Americans have passports and things?

Tim: A small number, yeah.

Jamie: So, anyway, that music, like I said, took me, took me everywhere.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr. on Nonviolent Resistance

For a few years now, I have been intrigued by the writings and teachings of Martin Luther King, Jr. And now, in light of so much violence we have seen recently around the world, I wanted to share his writings on nonviolent resistance.

From the beginning a basic philosophy guided the movement. This guiding principle has since been referred to variously as nonviolent resistance, noncooperation, and passive resistance. But in the first days of the protest none of these expressions was mentioned: the phrase most often heard was “Christian love.” It was the Sermon on the Mount, rather than a doctrine of passive resistance, that initially inspired the Negroes of Montgomery to dignified social action. It was Jesus of Nazareth that stirred the Negroes to protest with the creative weapon of love.

As the days unfolded, however, the inspiration of Mahatma Gandhi began to exert its influence. I had come to see early that the Christian doctrine of love operating through the Gandhian method of nonviolence was one of the most potent weapons available to the Negro in his struggle for freedom. About a week after the protest started, a white woman who understood and sympathized with the Negroes’ efforts wrote a letter to the editor of the Montgomery Advertiser comparing the bus protest with the Gandhian movement in India. Miss Juliette Morgan, sensitive and frail, did not long survive the rejection and condemnation of the white community, but long after she died in the summer of 1957 the name of Mahatma Gandhi was well known in Montgomery. People who had never heard of the little brown saint in India were now saying his name with an air of familiarity. Nonviolent resistance had emerged as the technique of the movement, while love stood as the regulating ideal. In other words, Christ furnished the spirit and motivation, while Gandhi furnished the method.

One of the glories of the Montgomery movement was that Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, and others all came together with a willingness to transcend denominational lines. Although no Catholic priests were actively involved in the protest, many of their parishioners took part. All joined hands in the bond of Christian love. Thus the mass meetings accomplished on Monday and Thursday nights what the Christian Church had failed to accomplish on Sunday mornings.

In my weekly remarks as president of the resistance committee, I stressed that the use of violence in our struggle would be both impractical and immoral. To meet hate with retaliatory hate would do nothing but intensify the existence of evil in the universe. Hate begets hate; violence begets violence; toughness begets a greater toughness. We must meet the forces of hate with the power of love; we must meet physical force with soul free. Our aim must never be to defeat or humiliate the white man, but to win his friendship and understanding.

In a real sense, Montgomery’s Negroes showed themselves willing to grapple with a new approach to the crisis in race relations. It is probably true that most of them did not believe in nonviolence as a philosophy of life, but because of their confidence in their leaders and because nonviolence was presented to them as a simple expression of Christianity in action, they were willing to use it as a technique. Admittedly, nonviolence in the truest sense is not a strategy that one uses simply because it is expedient at the moment; nonviolence is ultimately a way of life that men live by because of the sheer morality of its claim. But even granting this, the willingness to use nonviolence as a technique is a step forward. For he who goes this far is more likely to adopt nonviolence later as a way of life.

It must be emphasized that nonviolent resistance is not a method for cowards; it does resist. If one uses this method because he is afraid or merely because he lacks the instruments of violence, he is not truly nonviolent. This is why Gandhi often said that if cowardice is the only alternative to violence, it is better to fight. He made this statement conscious of the fact that there is always another alternative: no individual or group need submit to any wrong, nor need they use violence to right that wrong; there is the way of nonviolent resistance. This is ultimately the way of the strong man. It is not a method of stagnant passivity. The phrase “passive resistance” often gives the false impression that this is a sort of “do-nothing method” in which the resister quietly and passively accepts evil. But nothing is further from the truth. For while the nonviolent resister is passive in the sense that he is not physically aggressive toward his opponent, his mind and emotions are always active, constantly seeking to persuade his opponent that he is wrong. The method is passive physically but strongly active spiritually. It is not passive non-resistance to evil, it is active nonviolent resistance to evil.

A second basic fact that characterizes nonviolence is that it does not seek to defeat or humiliate the opponent, but to win his friendship and understanding. The nonviolent resister must often express his protest through noncooperation or boycotts, but he realizes that these are not ends themselves; they are merely means to awaken a sense of moral shame in the opponent. The end is redemption and reconciliation. The aftermath of nonviolence is the creation of the beloved community, while the aftermath of violence is tragic bitterness.

A third characteristic of this method is that the attack is directed against forces of evil rather than against the persons who happen to be doing the evil. It is evil that the nonviolent resister seeks to defeat, not the persons victimized by the evil. If he is opposing racial injustice, the nonviolent resister has the vision to see that the basic tension is not between races. As I like to say to the people in Montgomery: “The tension in this city is not between white people and Negro people. The tension is, at bottom, between justice and injustice, between the forces of light and the forces of darkness. And if there is a victory, it will be a victory not merely for fifty thousand Negroes, but a victory for justice and the forces of light. We are out to defeat injustice and not white persons who may be unjust.”

A fourth point that characterizes nonviolent resistance is a willingness to accept suffering without retaliation, to accept blows from the opponent without striking back. “Rivers of blood may have to flow before we gain our freedom, but it must be our blood,” Gandhi said to his countrymen. The nonviolent resister is willing to accept violence if necessary, but never to inflict it. He does not seek to dodge jail. If going to jail is necessary, he enters it “as a bridegroom enters the bride’s chamber.”

One may well ask: “What is the nonviolent resister’s justification for this ordeal to which he invites men, for this mass political application of the ancient doctrine of turning the other cheek?” The answer is found in the realization that unearned suffering is redemptive. Suffering, the nonviolent resister realizes, has tremendous educational and transforming possibilities. “Things of fundamental importance to people are not secured by reason alone, but have to be purchased with their suffering,” said Gandhi. He continues: “Suffering is infinitely more powerful than the law of the jungle for converting the opponent and opening his ears which are otherwise shut to the voice of reason.”

A fifth point concerning nonviolent resistance is that it avoids not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. The nonviolent resister not only refuses to shoot his opponent but he also refuses to hate him. At the center of nonviolence stands the principle of love. The nonviolent resister would contend that in the struggle for human dignity, the oppressed people of the world must not succumb to the temptation of becoming bitter or indulging in hate campaigns. To retaliate in kind would do nothing but intensify the existence of hate in the universe. Along the way of life, someone must have sense enough and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate. This can only be done by projecting the ethic of love to the center of our lives.

In speaking of love at this point, we are not referring to some sentimental or affectionate emotion. It would be nonsense to urge men to love their oppressors in an affectionate sense. Love in this connection means understanding, redemptive good will. When we speak of loving those who oppose us, we refer to neither eros nor philia; we speak of a love which is expressed in the Greek word agape. Agape means understanding, redeeming good will for all men. It is an overflowing love which is purely spontaneous, unmotivated, groundless, and creative. It is not set in motion by any quality or function of its object. It is the love of God operating in the human heart.

Agape is disinterested love. It is a love in which the individual seeks not his own good, but the good of his neighbor (1 Cor. 10:24). Agape does not begin by discriminating between worthy and unworthy people, or any qualities people possess. It begins by loving others for their sakes. It is an entirely “neighbor-regarding concern for others,” which discovers the neighbor in every man it meets. Therefore, agape makes no distinction between friends and enemy; it is directed toward both. If one loves an individual merely on account of his friendliness, he loves him for the sake of the benefits to be gained from the friendship, rather than for the friend’s own sake. Consequently, the best way to assure oneself that love is disinterested is to have love for the enemy-neighbor from whom you can expect no good in return, but only hostility and persecution.

Another basic point about agape is that it springs from the need of the other person — his need for belonging to the best in the human family. The Samaritan who helped the Jew on the Jericho Road was “good” because he responded to the human need that he was presented with. God’s love is eternal and fails not because man needs his love. Saint Paul assures us that the loving act of redemption was done “while we were yet sinners” — that is, at the point of our greatest need for love. Since the white man’s personality is greatly distorted by segregation, and his soul is greatly scarred, he needs the love of the Negro. The Negro must love the white man, because the white man needs his love to remove his tensions, insecurities, and fears.

Agape is not a weak, passive love. It is love in action. Agape is love seeking to preserve and create community. It is insistence on community even when one seeks to break it. Agape is a willingness to go to any length to restore community. It doesn’t stop at the first mile, but it goes the second mile to restore community. It is a willingness to forgive, not seven times, but seventy times seven to restore community. The cross is the eternal expression of the length to which God will go in order to restore broken community. The resurrection is a symbol of God’s triumph over all the forces that seek to block community. The Holy Spirit is the continuing community creating reality that moves through history. He who works against community is working against the whole of creation. Therefore, if I respond to hate with a reciprocal hate I do nothing but intensify the cleavage in broken community. I can only close the gap in broken community by meeting hate with love. If I meet hate with hate, I become depersonalized, because creation is so designed that my personality can only be fulfilled in the context of community. Booker T. Washington was right: “Let no man pull you so low as to make you hate him.” When he pulls you that low he brings you to the point of defying creation, and thereby becoming depersonalized.

In the final analysis, agape means a recognition of the fact that all life is interrelated. All humanity is involved in a single process, and all men are brothers. To the degree that I harm my brother, no matter what he is doing to me, to that extent I am harming myself. For example, white men often refuse federal aid to education in order to avoid giving the Negro his rights; but because all men are brothers they cannot deny Negro children without harming their own. They end, all efforts to the contrary, by hurting themselves. Why is this? Because men are brothers. If you harm me, you harm yourself.

A sixth basic fact about nonviolent resistance is that it is based on the conviction that the universe is on the side of justice. Consequently, the believer in nonviolence has deep faith in the future. This faith is another reason why the nonviolent resister can accept suffering without retaliation. For he knows that in his struggle for justice he has cosmic companionship. It is true that there are devout believers in nonviolence who find it difficult to believe in a personal God. But even these persons believe in the existence of some creative force that works for universal wholeness. Whether we call it an unconscious process, an impersonal Brahman, or a Persona Being of matchless power and infinite love, there is a creative force in this universe that works to bring the disconnected aspects of reality into a harmonious whole.

Martin Luther King, Jr. – I Have a Dream

In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I post here the famous “I Have a Dream” speech, given by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. on August 28, 1963.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon of light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

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Bob Jones, Sr. – Is Segregation Scriptural?

On Easter Sunday, April 17, 1960, Bob Jones, Sr. preached this sermon. He was reacting to Billy Graham’s recent trip to Africa where he held integrated meetings and spoke out against apartheid. On that Good Friday of 1960, Billy Graham released a statement urging Southern clergy toward racial reconciliation. Bob Jones preached this sermon in response to that.

Bob Jones Sr

Bob Jones, Sr.

NOTE: I must admit up front that I am a graduate of Bob Jones University, and yet I absolutely hate this sermon. It is not based on Scripture; it has horrible theology; it is ignorant; it lacks a correct understanding of history; it rambles and repeats — it has to be one of my top “worst sermons ever.” And to think he used an Easter Sunday to preach this. I hate having this on my blog, and my stomach churned while typing it, but I don’t want people to lose sight of this sermon and the horrible racist history of Bob Jones University.

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Martin Luther King, Jr. – Letter from a Birmingham Jail

I am posting today the content from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” both because I want to honor him by sharing his message, and because I personally learn best by retyping content.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

16 April 1963

My Dear Fellow Clergymen:

While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities “unwise and untimely.” Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.
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