MSNBC host of “The ReidOut” and political analyst Joy-Ann Reid sat down with The Daily Iowan and KRUI on KRUI radio station Sunday afternoon, where she spoke about her take on Iowa politics and the importance of being a strong writer .
Reid also shared tips on how to speak to relatives who have different points of view than you do and her experiences with the changing journalism of the 21st century.
Read DI and KRUI’s interview with Reid below. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
The DI/KRUI: How do you think journalism has evolved over the past ten years?
Reid: That’s a great question. I think one of the ways it’s evolved over the past few decades is that it’s broken. The audience is extremely automated. So people don’t consume huge amounts of information from different sources. They focus on the sources of information that confirm what they already thought. I think unfortunately there is a narrowing of American thinking and that the American type of palate is for information.
Also, I think people are reading less. Online news used to be mostly long-read long-written articles in the New York Times, Washington Post, etc. They still exist. But for now it’s short reading. They are very short information bytes. It’s a lot more video and audio, and people seem to have just given up [and] somehow lost the patience to actually read a long article. I think we’re getting less information. In a way we’re getting more investigative information, investigative journalism, I think it’s gotten better. But I definitely think the narrowing of the American palate has been bad for journalism and bad for the country.
DI/KRUI: You touched on that a bit in your talk today, but of course you went to Harvard. Can you tell us about your experiences at both a predominantly white institution and an Ivy League school?
Reid: Yeah, it was hard because I came from an 80 percent black town where 80 percent was black and the other 20 percent was mostly Mexican… there wasn’t much variety. And then I went from there to New York where there was literally every type of person you could imagine and we were the only West Indian family too. There were four African families… and my mother was the only West Indian person. So there was no variety.
And then I went to this college where there were all kinds of people, all kinds of very wealthy people. I was a public school kid. A lot of people with private education and it was very, very difficult to adjust to, both because of my own personal issues, depression, my mother’s death, but also just because I’ve never been around so many rich people. I’ve never been near so many white people who are in the vast majority. I was used to being the majority. And you’re not in a position of supreme trust anymore, both because you kind of live in this upside-down world where we, you know, black people, ruled this city, but not Cambridge. It’s quite the opposite.
And for the first time in my life my academic credentials were questioned. People asking my SAT scores, wondering if I was intelligent, wondering if I was inferior, people wondering if I belong there, that had never happened to me before. I had this incredible academic confidence and confidence in my intellect. And it was the first time that I actually had this challenge. So it was very difficult.
I have a good friend who was transferring to Howard University for a year and she didn’t want to come back because it was exactly the opposite experience for her to be in a mostly black school where there was constant validation and a total lack of Confirmation we got at Harvard. It was a tough environment.
I’m not sure I’d have to do it again if I chose this school for myself back then, but I’m glad I went because it was a series of hurdles I had to overcome. Because this is the world, the world I grew up in wasn’t the world. It was kind of a bubble. And it was probably good for me to be thrown into the deep end of a PWI where I could defend my intellect. I could defend my testimony. I was able to give back and see through as much as I could.
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DI/KRUI: It was recently announced in Iowa that it is no longer the nation’s first country on the Democratic National Committee’s primary calendar. How do you see this shift from politics and national politics?
Reid: I’m sorry, Iowa. I like coming to the caucuses. It’s fun to sit in the caucuses. But basically they are kind of anti-democratic. Because originally, when the country was formed, caucuses were simply the high men of the community who came together and made decisions about who the nominees would be. There was no public referendum. If there were referendums, they were just a proposal. It was not until the 1960s that one of the parties actually chose their candidates by popular vote. And the referendum is, you know, people actually vote. It wasn’t like that. They were all caucuses.
The states that have retained the caucus system, I think, are retaining an anti-democratic norm, because to spend all day making your caucus choice, you either have to be retired, you have to be self-employed, or you have to it’s really rich. Because if you don’t have to go to work every day, how do you make time for it? Not you. So it excludes poor people. She excludes young people. It excludes people who have nine-to-five jobs. It’s too exclusionary to really be used to select a candidate for me. And I think it distorts what the party really wants when you expand it.
So I think it was the right decision to move the caucus to a state that has an area code that at least has the ability for anyone, aside from voter suppression, to vote that way, and I think Iowa’s particular Space in the system was also distorting because this state is not diverse. And so you weren’t really the Democrats, especially for the Democrats, it’s different for the Republicans because it’s very conservative on the Republican side. So as a party, it’s very white on the Republican side. So it was the party that could actually be more representative. But for the Democrats, which is the party of multiracial people and the younger people, it needs to start in the state where there are more multiracial people. Well, South Carolina isn’t the youngest people, some are older blacks. But I think that’s just more representative, so I think it was the right decision.
DI/KRUI: What do you think of Critical Race Theory and what do you think are the consequences of legislation trying to ban it?
Reid: I think trying to ban critical race theory is like trying to ban skipping because you think banning skipping will stop suicide because people are jumping off buildings. So if I ban jump rope, I will stop suicide. Critical race theory has absolutely nothing to do with what they are trying to stop. Attempting to bend critical race theory is what people do when they’re afraid to utter the word 1619 project. What they’re really afraid of is the 1619 Project…they’re not afraid of critical race theory because literally no child learns critical race theory.
Critical Race Theory… talks specifically about how racism has affected the way laws are not only written but enforced. It’s all about the law. For example, in critical race theory, it would be if I study the percentage of whites and blacks who smoke weed and then compare that to the percentage of whites and blacks who get arrested for having weed, and I went through and Structurally, whites and blacks smoke weed equally, but blacks are eight times more likely to be arrested for it. And those arrests are 10 times more likely to kill the rest in the source. I am now dealing with the early stages of critical race theory because I am talking about the law.
If you’re not talking about the law, that’s not critical race theory. So if you say critical race theory, now I’m going to ban this book by Toni Morrison, well, you’ve now left critical race theory. You are now in the jump rope stage where they are trying to stop you from jumping off a building. These two things have no other relationship than that they both involve jumping. So I guess it’s a buzzword.
Trying to ban critical race theory is stupid because they will still teach it in law school. And in high schools, it has real consequences. I have recently interviewed a number of students including white students, black students, Latino students, Asian American students in Tallahassee, and I have also interviewed students in Florida on my show who are being criticized for these bogus prohibitions of critical race theory the Denied Opportunity to Take an AP African American Studies Course… These students have been denied enrollment in a course they wish to attend. It’s not just black kids who want to take this, a lot of people want to take it.
I interviewed the teacher who teaches the class. His students love the lessons. And so now you’re saying that these Florida kids and kids and other states where they’re trying to ban classes are going to be less attractive to colleges. They’re going to want to come here, to the University of Iowa, they’re going to compare it to a kid in New Jersey who has this amazing AP course and gets a F. These five will make you want to come to school. So if you deny people AP classes, not only are you potentially costing them an opportunity to go to the schools or colleges they want, but also to save money.
I took four AP courses in college which saved me so much money because I was able to get in as a freshman who was almost a sophomore because I got so many college credits. These college credits will save you money. So they literally make students less attractive, dumber and less knowledgeable. For what? Because he thinks that can make him president, governor.
And there are many governors like Glenn Younkin, who you know, who guides and bans books by Toni Morrison. How does that help anyone? First of all, if you ban it, it’s like telling children not to drink. It’s like telling children not to smoke. The best way to get kids to smoke and drink is to tell them not to. So you tell the kids you don’t want to read this book. You know what will make kids do it? Read this book. So you get the opposite of what you want. They will not prevent children from being awakened. Children have always been more alert than their parents. You have always been more liberal than your parents. This is counterproductive and harms the country.