Mychal Denzel Smith - How Black Men Learn to Behave in "Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching"

August 10, 2016 - Mychal Denzel Smith 08/10/2016 Views: 6,438

"Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching" author Mychal Denzel Smith talks about fighting systemic racism and examines how black men are taught to behave. (5:00)

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My guest tonightis a New York Times

best-selling authorwhose book is called

Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching:

A Young Man's... A Young Black Man's Education.

Please welcomeMychal Denzel Smith.

-♪ -(cheering, applause)

-Welcome to the show.-Thank you for having me.

No, man, thank-thank youfor being here.

-Uh, I'm a fan of your writing.You are... -Thank you.

you are quite the anarchist,I would say.

You're-you're one of those, uh,those people who is not afraid

to advocate for radical changewithin a system. But, um...

Let's, I guess let's goto the beginning of the story.

How you got into writing.

You, uh, were a 25-year-old man.

And living in a worldwhere you had witnessed

one of the most notoriouspolice shootings,

uh, at the time.

And... you decidedto write a book,

'cause you wantedto connect with millennials.

You know, I'm 25 years old,

and we're all seeing the deathof Trayvon Martin

circulate through social media,

and it's not as ifthis was new, right?

In 2009,we had what-what's sort of

the modern-day Rodney Kingmoment for a lot of us,

when Oscar Grant, uh, hiskilling was captured on video

and it was passed around,uh, through Twitter and stuff.

So, it was... it's not as ifthis was a new phenomenon.

Uh, but that-that momentgalvanized a lot of people,

and I think it was becauseyou-you had a generation

that turned out to votefor Barack Obama.

Like, young black peopleshowed up in record numbers

to vote for Barack Obama.

They turnedtheir political energy

toward the electoral system,

the ideas of hope and change.

And here's-here's the thing,

here's the history that we weretold was over happening to us.

And so all of these thingscome and-and converge,

uh, and I knewwhat the conversation

-was gonna be about-aboutafter Trayvon died. -Yeah.

It was going to be aboutthe ways in which, you know,

we-we teach black mento comport themselves, right?

Like, the ways in which they'resupposed to avoid being killed.

But that-that-that one...

it-it denies the humanityof those people

that we're supposedto be caring for.

And that's-that's-that'ssomething you've really tackled

in the book, which is, uh...which is beautiful to see.

Y-you're talkingabout your own life experiences.

You are a young, black man.

And at this time, you were 25when you started writing.

Was there a part of youthat genuinely did not believe

you would see 25?

Oh, absolutely.

Now-now, there's people who say,

"Yeah, but that's because,

"you know, you-you young,black men, it's the gangs.

-You're-you're in the gangs."-Right.

-And that's certainly-The gangs with their pants

-a part of the-the-the violence-and the guns.

that surrounds us,but we have to examine

where-where doesthat violence come from

and what-what is the-theroot causes of that, right?

Like, we're-we'renot examining poverty.

We're not examining lackof e-educational resources,

not examining the,you know, uh...

the lack of mental healthresources in our communities.

I also, you know, came of agepost 9/11 and the Iraq war.

Like, I thought maybe

I could get sent off to warand die there.

I thought, you know,police officers-- they're...

And then, you know, GeorgeZimmerman kills Trayvon Martin,

and now you have to worryabout people

who think they're police officers.

So, there's all of thesedifferent elements at play,

uh, contributingto that-that-that-that anxiety,

uh, that your lifeis-is devalued in a way

that it could end at any moment.

You-you talk about, uh,

I think it was marine recruiterscoming up to you.

You know,in the book, you told...

-I think you were workingat Walmart at the time. -Yeah.

Uh, it's a really,really funny story about...

(Mychal laughs)

-About how I cursed them out?-Mychal... Well-well, also...

Cursing them out, but Mychalhad to, um, worked...

You-you had to packa lot of watermelon.

-Yes. Yes.-And so you say...

Like, it was one of my favoritelines in the book,

where you said, uh,"I was... I was...

"I defied the stereotypeof a black man

'cause I hatedthe (bleep) out of watermelon."

-(laughing): I hated watermelonat that moment. -Yeah.

I love watermelon now,but I hated watermelon then.

Why...? You know what's...Can I be honest?

I don't under... 'causein South Africa, in Africa,

there is nothing negativeabout loving watermelon.

-I don't understand.-(laughter)

I was just like, "Yeah, but whywouldn't you love watermelon?"

-Why wouldn't you lovewatermelon?! -I don't...

-Watermelon is delightful.-But I don't understand

-how that even became a slur,how... -It is refreshing.

Why would you not lovewatermelon?

And also, you cannot tell me...

It's associatedwith the minstrel shows.

You cannot tell methat the watermelon industry

is propped up onlyby black people in America.

-Someone likes watermelonsomewhere. -(laughter)

Yeah, but, yeah,everyone loves watermelon.

-Everyone loves watermelon.-Everyone loves watermelon.

-That's... -There you go.

You say you wantyoung people especially--

everyone-- but young peopleto read this book

and go out thereand (bleep) it up.


That-that was your quote.


Do you think Donald Trumpread your book?


'Cause it feels likethat's what he's trying to do.

Uh, I'm trying to stay away

from Second Amendment people,myself, so I'm...

Because they gota powerful vote.

They got a powerful vote,my friend.

Smart choice.

Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching

is available now.Mychal Denzel Smith, everybody.

(cheering, applause)