C.A.: To what extent is Barack Obama favourable to affirmative action?
R.K.: I think that what I'm saying about affirmative action is very much in line with his thinking. I think that he feels it is a good thing but I think that he also feels that one needs to be careful in the way in which one structures it. I think that he is very attentive to the idea of making it fluid and flexible so that it not only includes people of colour. What about poor white people? There are plenty of poor white people in the United States who need assistance and he'd say: let's assist them too. Let's not forget about people of colour, they have been historically disadvantaged, let's make a special effort to assist the black community, but white people need assistance too and he's very careful about that.
C.A.: You wrote in one of your books, Sellout, that many of your black students at Harvard believe that they have a duty towards the black community. Would you say that a majority of African Americans believe that Barack Obama has a duty towards them?
R.K.: Yes, I believe that a majority of black Americans believe that he has a duty toward them. I also think that that same group recognises that he is president of the United States of America, and the United States of America includes all Americans. I think that they have a complicated feeling about Barack Obama. They do feel that he should have a special feeling toward them and at the same time they recognise that he is president of the United States and that it would be improper for him to act in a way which suggests that he has more loyalty toward them than toward any other group of Americans. It's a complicated feeling that they have toward him. I think in fact that most black Americans want him to comport himself in a way that is consistent with the way most Americans think that a president of the United States should act. Many black Americans would be disappointed in him if he acted with a degree of partiality towards black Americans which made other Americans think that he was acting unfairly. I think black Americans want him to be a successful president of the United States, and in order to be a successful president of the United States, he's going to have to be president for all the people. I think that if he succeeds in doing that, black Americans will applaud and say: we are thoroughly proud of him.
C.A.: Has he already been accused of being a sellout? I suppose he has.
R.K.: Yes, some people say that. He was accused of that during the campaign and he always will be. In the United States, there are some black Americans who feel that America is such a racist country that any black American who is successful would necessarily have had to sell-out. You do have that camp, but it's marginal. I think that many black Americans recognise that change has occurred in the United States. There is more opportunity in the United States now, for all sorts of people, that there has ever been. The most important single person in the United States is a black American that was elected by a voting population that is three quarters white. Black Americans are aware of that. There are some that denigrate Barack Obama and say that he had to be a sellout in order to win the election but that is not representative of the beliefs of the majority of black Americans.
C.A.: Did you get a chance of hearing or reading the text of the State of the Union Address since yesterday evening?
R.K.: I have not. I will see it later today but I have not seen it yet.
C.A.: Then let me quote what Barack Obama said yesterday. At some point in his speech, he said that he promised "a complete and competitive education to everyone". Later on he said that he would "eliminate education programs that don't work". As a teacher, do you believe it is possible to assess education, and on what criteria? Do you think that the word 'competitive' can be applied to education?
R.K.: I must say that I regard with considerable scepticism the statement that you've just read. The fact is that the United States of America is a huge country and education in the United States is mainly a local endeavour. I don't think, as powerful as the president of the United States is, that he is going to be able to influence education in the way that Barack Obama suggests. I don't think that it is possible. Maybe it's not even desirable. I admire and support President Obama tremendously but I take those statements with a big grain of salt.
C.A.: Just one last question. What do you think Barack Obama can bring to the black community now that he has been elected, which is already a huge step forward? What can he do about the problems of the black community now?
R.K: Well, I think that the problems that confront the black community in the United States are to a very large extent the same problems that confront other Americans. There's an unemployment problem in the United States. If there is a general unemployment problem, that problem is going to be even more intense for black Americans. The best thing that he can do, as far as I am concerned, is to work on unemployment. Black America is all across America. I don't think that you can handle one problem apart from all the other problems. Black Americans need jobs, black Americans need health care, black Americans need security, black Americans need peace. These are the things that all Americans need, so I hope that Barack Obama will advance policies that address in a good way all of these huge issues. If he does that, he will be good for black America, he will be good for America, he will be good for the world.
Pour citer ces ressources : Randall Kennedy / Clifford Armion. 02/2010. "Interview de Randall Kennedy ".
La Clé des Langues (Lyon: ENS LYON/DGESCO). ISSN 2107-7029. Mis à jour le 3 octobre 2013.
Consulté le 2 février 2015.
Url : http://cle.ens-lyon.fr/anglais/interview-de-randall-kennedy--87085.
Pour citer ces ressources :
Randall Kennedy / Clifford Armion. 02/2010. "Interview de Randall Kennedy ".