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Journalists always want rapid responses

Dear Tunomukwathi Asino,

Journalists always want rapid responses.  The following answers to your questions have been posted at my blog, where I express views on a variety of similar issues.

How long have you lived in Centre County? (if not born here, then What caused you to move here?)
I moved to State College in 1992 to become a Full Professor of History at Penn State University.  This is, however, a peculiar question.  The chances of a university professor’s finding a job in the city where they were born is just about zero.   I don’t know any university professors who work in the city where they were born.   I was born in Detroit, and I tried once or twice to get positions at Wayne State University and University of Michigan, but nothing ever came of these efforts.

My first job was at the University of Iowa, and I liked it there, but I was uncertain about my future, so I took a step down and moved to Southern Methodist University in Dallas Texas, where I became the first black member of the history department of that “lily white” institution, and I believe the first black senior faculty member ever.  Shortly after arriving at SMU I received a post-doctoral fellowship from the Ford Foundation, which made it possible for me to escape and live in England with my family for two years.   I did not find Dallas a congenial social or intellectual environment for my children, and we were all much happier living in Cambridge, England.

From there, I was able to move to Brown University because I had produced two books.  Then I went to Boston University, where I continued to publish.    During the eighties, I also served as visiting Fulbright Professor at the University of Vienna and Fulbright guest professor at the Free University of Berlin.  I improved my German and read 100 books in that language, meanwhile publishing two more books of my own.

What is/was your job?
I am a history professor, with interests in American, African, and European literary history, intellectual history, the history of political thought, the history of art, the history of theology, the history of classical music, Africana Studies, and opera.  I decided on my career at the age of 14.  I never seriously considered any other career, not even high school teaching or junior college teaching.   I always knew I wanted to be a professor at a major research university.

Did you raise children here? (how many)
I raised no children here.  My youngest son was 18 when I arrived, and he graduated from State College High School in 1993.   He received earlier portions of his education in England, Germany, and Austria and in public and in the private schools of Rhode Island.    My older son, who graduated from Yale in 1987, has never lived in Pennsylvania.

In your experience, has life changed for blacks in Centre County over the course if your time here?
I have seen no changes whatever in the status of blacks in Centre County during the 17.5 years I have lived here, but my perspective is extremely limited, due to the fact that my only tie to the community is the University.  I have only once been called a “nigger.”

Can you point to key moments or events locally or nationally during your lifetime that had a significant impact on your life?
President Dwight D. Eisenhower had the courage to invoke the United Nations Charter and end de jure segregation in America.  President Lyndon Johnson enforced affirmative action.  Without their leadership, this country would still be a living hell, dominated by the likes of Senator Strom Thurmond, Republican from South Carolina, the great hypocrite, who seduced a young black girl and secretly had an illegitimate child by her, while preaching segregationist doctrines.   Senator Trent Lott was rightly condemned for praising the evil racism practiced by Senator Strom Thurmond.

What is the most surprising thing related to being black that ever happened to you here? (this might be a good thing or a bad thing but follow up if necessary by asking how that turned out or what impact it had on the person)
I have had no surprises.  Everything has gone exactly as I expected.  I arrived here extremely well-advantaged, and have enjoyed a privileged and atypical life, unknown to most black people anywhere on this planet.

Is there more work to be done in the area of race relations here? If so, in what would you propose specifically?
I do not see any race-specific solutions to the problems of working-class black families, who earn less than $60,000 per year.  I call for a national program of industrial revitalization, like the New Deal of the 1930s, which combined capitalism with socialism to improve the lives of white, black and other peoples in the United States.   The best possible immediate solution to the problems of the working poor is a rebirth of American industry, but such a development is impossible without firm government support, such as the support that industry receives in China.  Only with a rebirth of American industry will it be possible to raise interest rates, raise taxes, and to increase government spending in the public sector, as Franklin D. Roosevelt did.  Industrial revitalization would also make it possible to have socialized medicine, with a private option, such as I enjoyed when I lived in England.

A good first step to improving the lives of working people – black, white, and other – would be to fire the fat cat senior executives who have been destroying the private sector, and working the puppet strings of Congress.  They are obviously inadept, and have constantly demonstrated their lack of public spirit.  Yet they claim that they deserve to be paid higher salaries than a dedicated public servant.

General David Howell Petraeus has a Ph. D. from Princeton, and he earns less than $250,000, although he is exceedingly more competent that most people in the private sector who earn 10 times his salary.  The executives in the private sector don’t know anything worhtwhile and they have nothing to offer.  They are the cause of our problems.  When will the American people understand that the emperor has no clothes?  The fat cats corrupt government, and manipulate media to elect officials who do not believe in medicare, social security, paying the national debt, or even supporting the military.  These are the same hypocrites who are currently destroying both the private and the public sectors of our economy.    The executives at Chase Manhattan and AIG ought to go out and get honest jobs, such as cleaning rooms at Holiday Inn.

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