John Ridley on Charlottesville and the Legacy of Racism | WBEZ
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The New Yorker Radio Hour

John Ridley on Charlottesville and the Legacy of Racism

John Ridley has been active in in film and television since the nineteen-nineties; he also has seven novels under his belt, as well as a play and several graphic novels. And, since the release of “12 Years a Slave,” for which he wrote the screenplay, Ridley has emerged as one of Hollywood’s strongest voices on issues of race. This year he came out with the series “Guerrilla,” a fictional account of a couple in the black-power movement of the nineteen-seventies; and “Let It Fall,” a documentary about the Rodney King verdict and the years of tension leading up to it. Yet, despite the recent resurgence of some of the most glaring examples of racism in America, Ridley tells David Remnick that he’s committed to a view that the nation can change for the better, and that to be honest about racism need not lead to despair: “I absolutely want to work on things right now where the hope is not so aspirational—it is there, it is underscored a little bit more.”

Plus, hostility toward identity politics—nurtured by Steve Bannon and others—helped propel the rise of Donald Trump. But that feeling is not only to be found on the right. The Columbia professor Mark Lilla, a Democrat and a self-described liberal, has been saying very much the same thing: that vocal opposition to racism, and support for gay and transgender rights, have been costing Democrats election after election all over America. “We cannot do anything for these groups we care about if we do not hold power—it is just talk,” Lilla tells David Remnick. “Our rhetoric in campaigning must be focussed on winning so we can help these people. An election is not about self-expression—it’s a contest.”

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