S2 E11: Danger

June 28, 2017

For hundreds of years, the white-dominated American culture has raised the specter of the dangerous, violent black man. Host John Biewen tells the story of a confrontation with an African American teenager. Then he and recurring guest Chenjerai Kumanyika discuss that longstanding image – and its neglected flipside: white-on-black violence.

Photo: A police car near a mural of Freddie Gray in the Baltimore neighborhood where he lived. Photo by Matt Roth for the New York Times.

Download a transcript of the episode.

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23 comments on “S2 E11: Danger

  1. Michael Lehman Jul 2, 2017

    When John facetiously said concerning the toll of slavery “I can hear some people saying, here they go again…” my mind said what makes any of us think that this subject shouldn’t be brought up to every generation from now until this country no longer exists?

    • Pete Haskell Dec 17, 2017

      As Morgan Freeman said when asked what do we do about racism stop talking about it I’m going to stop calling you a black man when you’re going to stop calling me a white man we are not Latino African Asian Americans were only Americans

    • Tress Sep 1, 2020

      i wonder if people would say that line to others (Jews, First Nation). i mean… people are living with the effects of the causes of inhumane actions, and that trauma is continuously being compounded on daily with fresh trauma that will have effects further down the road into our next generations. one thing i have learned is that… not talking about it doesn’t work. so we talk about it continuously b/c people are living through it continuously. we talk, we learn, we understand, we gain wisdom in order to act in a way to get rid of the very thing we’re talking about. we’ll stop talking about it when it ceases to exist.

  2. are there transcripts available for Deaf/hard-of-hearing folks?

  3. gwen bottoli Dec 9, 2017

    Thank you so much.

    We so need this story repeated and studied by all; especially by our children; so they can better lead us forward.

    I totally agree about the importance of “taking action” and not staying stuck in the “feelings”. I can get confused about the “how to be most effective” part, and need to remember to stay out of that somewhat disabling place, and just keep going. We don’t know exactly what it will look like, nor can we be assured that we will see the end of the nightmare–but our struggle is what redeems us!

    Thank you, thank you for your gentle clarity and direction.

  4. Pete Haskell Dec 17, 2017

    Unfortunately a discussion needs to be head around crime and African Americans the Department of Justice and FBI have crime statistics every year and it turns out black people commit a disproportionate amount of crime 13% of the population is 50% of the homicides

    • Shawn Jan 18, 2018

      Pete Haskell, I don’t think you can back that claim with any credible sources.

    • Noam Brown Jan 21, 2020

      Commit or are charged with? Big difference.

      • K Kim Jul 9, 2020

        Yeah and black neighborhoods are also over policed. So if that’s true, that has something to do with it

    • This is because Black people disproportionately live in poor, urban neighborhoods. Violent crime is highly correlated with poverty, and to a lesser degree with population density. Rates of violence among poor, urban Whites are almost identical to the rates among poor, urban Blacks.

  5. Now a days we have all sorts of delicious Plant Based Ice Creams coming out across the USA.

    SADLY : I can see how if I was born into a WHITE family in 1800 GA,
    I could have tragically been taught to “whip slaves” – like I could have been born into a farm family and to taught to tragically “milk cows”. (I was taught to HUNT and FISH inn this life – for which I am ashamed)

    Black children can be taught to be racist to whites – the same as whites are taught to be -to blacks. Sometimes KIDS growing into adults are taught to be ANGRY to those from “races other than their own” – especially when they may be led to believe that the “other race” are ALL to blame for their disposition. (it may not just be elders, yet peers in gangs perhaps who promote these bad motions)

    We should NOT blame all blacks for violence of ONE BLACK(few blacks).
    We should NOT blame all whites for violence of ONE WHITE(few whites).
    Most violence as they note in podcast is : “same race on same race”.

    Mr Phoenix – places something in perspective about COMMONALITY in his recent Oscar speech, tying together : Racism, hate toward gays, and speciesism…

    WHEN MORE AND MORE people who champion those and other similar VALID come on to that common page ~ that is a powerful movement which will RISE to victory in brilliance …

    Hope in continued progression to better days for all.

  6. Tanya Lasuk Apr 18, 2020

    Thank you for this series. I appreciate the showcasing of Dr. Kendi and Dr. Painter and the other scholars and commentators on whiteness. I also deeply appreciate the story on the Minnesota 38 – a history know mostly to Dakota people and not many others.

    In this episode 11, I was startled at the comment that blacks account for half of the violent acts in the US. I would change that to blacks account for half of the convictions for violent acts in the US. I’m sure three years on you see the important distinction and possibly that was what you meant to say in the first place.

    In 1967. A classmate in my sophomore English class was convicted of murdering two little girls. I was sure he didn’t kill anyone and everyone else seemed to believe he did. A few years ago, I looked up the details of the case and came across the obituary of the the famous liberal lawyer who was my classmate’s defense lawyer. The obituary mentioned the lawyer was proud that he had convinced the father of my classmate to pressure his son to confess, since without it they would not be able to get a conviction as there was no evidence. (DEFENSE lawyer, yes)

    40 to life for being black and afraid.

    After 20 years in prison with a spotless record, he was released only to be returned to prison at the petition of his neighbors in the city he moved to on release. He had done nothing wrong, they just didn’t want him around. In 2015, he was again released with a spotless prison record. In December 2018, his parole was violated because his girlfriend’s eight year old slept overnight in his home – once. (If you want, I can send you the links to the newspaper articles.)

    I used to think this was a single instance from the bad old days. Today, I volunteer in my local medium/minimum security prison, leading nonviolent communications classes. I’ve learned most people are in prison because they had no money to fight their conviction. They take a plea bargain and often the plea doesn’t map to what was actually done. And, of course, people of color usually have longer sentences with less likelihood of release.

    • Erika Fitz Oct 12, 2020

      Yes; there are too many of these stories. The story in “Just Mercy” is another, but one of too many.

  7. Brian K Freeland May 25, 2020

    Interpersonal hatred through exposure to systematic violence is the untold American story for many Black Americans, and those that think that the Willie Lynch Letter is pure myth are culturally mistaken.

  8. Kaili Jun 11, 2020

    First off, I’m a white American woman. This story that John tells about going into a primarily black neighborhood and having a confrontation with a teen with a knife seemed like just an interesting story at first, but it is something I found myself contemplating. I think it caught my attention because some of the things he said about what he was thinking while walking through the neighborhood was admittedly something I probably would have thought too…if I was a white man. I felt caught when he said that he thought he would get a pat on the back for walking through the neighborhood he did, instead of deciding it wasn’t safe. I thought, if I was a man I’d think I was proving myself to be open and free of prejudice too. It created a conundrum from my point of view. How were we suppose to overcome racism if it’s ok to say, “oh no, I won’t go in that neighborhood because it’s a black neighborhood”

    Then I thought about the fact that black people probably don’t feel safe in a lot of places. It’s more about human nature and our tendency to feel comfortable with people who are like us and be suspicious of people who are not. It would be an understatement to say that black people have been in a whole lot more of these uncomfortable situations. For them it isn’t just about being around people who don’t look like them, it’s about people who are in power using that power against them, physically, mentally or financially. In many parts of the country, black people have been pushed into certain neighborhoods and so now that is home. Correct me if I’m off base in my white thinking, but maybe the black people in that neighborhood in John’s story were thinking, “that guy could go anywhere else in this town, why does he have to come through our neighborhood, our home?”

    I wish I could call up Chenjerai and ask him what he thinks about my thoughts too.

  9. Art Stine Jul 9, 2020

    Seasoning. Today the word is “grooming.” Human traffickers (the slave owners of our day) groom a girl, boy, woman, and/or man think that their only value is to have sex for money. The methods used are vile and designed to “break” another person. Crazy sad.

    • Carol Aug 14, 2020

      Serial rapists also “groom” or “season” their intended targets. The term “season” as it is used here breaks my heart.

  10. Susan Jul 21, 2020

    I have a problem with “toy guns.” Period.

  11. Mary Beth Jul 24, 2020

    When I tell people I went to University in Detroit, MI and was mugged, the first question I ALWAYS get is…. was he black?

    • Carol Park Aug 14, 2020

      That drives me crazy. My rapist was white. They always are.

  12. Joanna Jul 25, 2020

    I would like to see memorials of John Lewis.

    Mr. Floyd never deserved to die or be treated and unfortunately he lost his life to police brutality.

    I would encourage you to do research on his previous records on domestic violence and aggression.

    I would never expect to be treated by police in this manner. I would also never to expect to be treated by Mr. Floyd in his past charges.

    I think it is always important to look at things from a 3 dimensional view. Perspectives, low income neighborhoods and the struggle to inspire in academia. Allowing students to find ways to be expressive, creative, be safe and motivate them during a time that is restrictive due to the Covid-19 epidemic.

    My favorite poet Dr. Maya Angelou
    wrote the most inspiring poems and I teach them every year.

    And I Still Rise YouTube it

    Love Liberates YouTube.

    Your Cuz,


  13. David Reich Nov 20, 2020

    I was 18. My high school classmate and I had taken a wrong turn in San Francisco looking for the Fillmore Auditorium on a Saturday night. We were on our first road trip from home in an upper middle class neighborhood in Los Angeles. As soon as we realized we were lost, we were cornered by a group of a half or dozen black men with knives older and much street wiser than us. We escaped without our money and watches. It was frightening and I felt and carried since then my vulnerability to the core. I have always been conscious of the disparity between our cultures. And I’ve never carried any animosity toward those young black men who attacked us when we were so young. I’ve even thought about the probability that most of those men are probably dead now. Yet, I never, as John said in this piece, ever told or remembered this story in a deeper way than I’ve just shared. I realize now from the image John described of the scale holding in its containers the bodies of white men killed by violence over the centuries in America one one side, vastly outweighed by the bodies of black men killed by violence on the other. And now understanding better the impact of that violence that is carried through each generation until an honest national reckoning and decision on reparations begin our healing.