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Air Date: 2/19/21

The Root Presents: It’s Lit!


Ep. 22 - The Next Great Migration, With Charles M. Blow
Danielle ​Welcome to It's Lit, where all things literary live at The Root. I'm Danielle Belton,
The Root's editor in chief, here with the managing editor of The Glow Up, Maiysha Kai.

Maiysha ​Well, hello!

Danielle ​Maiysha, today, we're talking with someone who I've been a fan of for years.

Maiysha ​Me too!

Danielle ​Journalist Charles Blow. I know he's amazing. Charles has been an op ed
journalist for The New York Times since 2008, where he regularly writes about politics and
social justice. Before that, Charles worked as the paper's design director and was also
briefly the art director for National Geographic. What a multitalented person.

Maiysha ​I mean, my gosh.

Danielle ​In 2014...

Maiysha ​No big deal.

Danielle ​Exactly. In 2014, he published his best-selling memoir, Fire Shut Up in My


Bones, which won a Lambda Literary Award and was long listed for the PEN Open Book
Award. Now he has a new book out called The Devil You Know: A Black Power Manifesto.
And we're so excited to talk to him about it.

Maiysha ​I mean, manifesto, indeed. I mean, no one can ever accuse Charles Blow of not
being passionate about whatever he's talking about. Right. You know, but this book, he
makes such a convincing argument for, I think, something that a lot of us are really
resistant to, which is kind of considering this reverse migration as a point of power. I mean,
what do you think of that? Are you ready to uproot yourself from Harlem and take it on
down south?

Danielle ​You know, like, I've uprooted myself so many times. I...

Maiysha ​Fair.

Danielle ​...have lived in Texas, I've lived in California. I've lived in Washington, D.C. and
now I live in New York. I'm not ready for another move right now but when I retire, I'm
totally down to take back the south.

Maiysha ​I mean he makes a good case. He does. He makes a very good case.

Danielle ​He does, definitely. And so I think we should share this great case that he has to
make with our listeners right now. So should we just dive in?

Maiysha ​We absolutely should.

Danielle ​Hey, Charles.

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Air Date: 2/19/21
Charles M. Blow ​Hello, how are you?

Danielle ​I'm excellent. Welcome to It's Lit!

Charles M. Blow ​It's Lit.

Danielle ​Yes.

Charles M. Blow ​I need to get more lit.

Danielle ​I know.

Charles M. Blow ​I feel like I'm not lit enough. I'm just a flicker, right now.

Danielle ​Oh, we will get you lit by the end of this conversation.

Maiysha ​I don't know I think this book is pretty lit.

Danielle ​The book is on fire. It's literally burning down...

Charles M. Blow ​Wait there were so many tabs in that book. Like there is so many little—.

Maiysha ​I had lots of questions and notes. I was, I was you know.

Danielle ​We're going deep. We're going deep.

Maiysha ​Oh, yes.

Danielle ​So, Charles, it's so great to have you with us today. We love—.

Charles M. Blow ​It's great to be here.

Danielle ​Oh, thank you. We love having fellow journalists on the show and are really
intrigued by your latest book.

Charles M. Blow ​Oh, that's good.

Danielle ​But first, we have a little ritual that we do on every It's Lit episode since It's Lit is a
podcast about Black books and authors and writers and journalists. We begin every
episode by asking our guests to name at least one book they've considered to be, you
know, mind-blowing, life-changing, life-affirming. It changed your whole perception of what
a book could be. What was that book?

Charles M. Blow ​That is such a hard question.

Maiysha ​That's why we ask it.

Charles M. Blow ​Do people have like a million books? It's like, how do you...? What does
that even mean? That is so deceptive. OK, let's see...

Danielle ​You almost have to go back in time and remember, like, the first book that blew
your mind.

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Charles M. Blow ​Yeah because there's like different ones that did different things.

Danielle ​Yeah.

Charles M. Blow ​Alright so I'm just going to say, you know, let me just stay, play safe. I'm
going to say a Beloved by Toni Morrison. It is exquisitely rendered in every line. Every
paragraph is just like something extraordinary and beautiful. And you realize that this is a
genius when you're reading it. It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. You have to go
back and read a zillion times to know who's alive, who's dead, like what is happening. It
makes no—like I think I read it like three times. It makes no sense. But it's like I cannot
imagine how the editors were like, oh my God, this is a genius. I'm scared to tell her like,
do you think this...? So—.

Danielle ​It's art, it's art.

Charles M. Blow ​It is totally art. I mean, even though you may be lost, you also don't want
to question this genius who is doing this because how can a brain do this?

Danielle ​Exactly.

Maiysha ​That is like literally the best, like synopsis of Beloved I've ever heard. Like that
was dead on.

Danielle ​It is words as art. Yes. Abstract art.

Maiysha ​Mm hmm.

Danielle ​It's open to interpretation.

Charles M. Blow ​Exactly.

Danielle ​All that stuff. It's amazing.

Maiysha ​You are deeply affected when you leave it though.

Charles M. Blow ​Absolutely.

Danielle ​Yes, profoundly so. So, Charles, you just released your second book.

Charles M. Blow ​Yes.

Danielle ​The Black Power Manifesto, The Devil You Know, which came out on January
twenty-sixth.

Charles M. Blow ​Yes, last Tuesday.

Danielle ​Yes. In 2021, days, seems like, what, six months ago?

Maiysha ​I'm like, what year is it? I don't know.

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Danielle ​I know what is happening? But your book, it immediately became a Barnes and
Noble bestseller.

Charles M. Blow ​That's good.

Danielle ​It's amazing. So this is a really interesting book for many reasons. In fact, we've
heard that you really had no intention of running a so-called, quote-unquote, race book.
But that's exactly what The Devil You Know is. Part manifesto, part history on race in
America, a part persuasive essay as you make an unexpected and pretty compelling
argument for reverse migration of Black people to the south. Why this book right now?

Charles M. Blow ​Well, as you know, the way you write books is never right now. So it's
like three years ago that you have the idea and, you know, it just happens to come out in
the moment. And you hope and pray that the moment that it comes out, it is relevant then
the way you thought of it three years ago. Or longer than that. People have asked me,
what was the moment that you...That it rang to you, that this was the idea. And I was really
struggling because I didn't think of it that way, because I just remember one night thinking,
oh, this is a good idea. And I just start writing thoughts. And it became a book proposal
and I wrote for like three or four days, like four or five days. Very little sleep, very little food.
I just kept writing because it was in my head and, you know, once you get it through your
head you have to get it out, otherwise it'll be lost. And and I know I was pulling from things
that always, I had already written in columns and things, things that I come across in my
journalism. And it kept feeling like, oh, my God, you've been working on this book this
whole time and you didn't know it because you have all these things that tie into this
thesis. But it does occur to me that that's somehow before that or maybe, and it was in that
moment that this book about young white hippies migrating to Vermont with the express
purpose of changing the politics of that state was in my mind. And it was like fascinating to
me that they had done this, that they had you know, it was a germ of an idea by two Yale
college students. They published this tiny little article in the Yale Law Review. A more
famous author picked up that idea, published a big article in Playboy. And yes, people
people did used to read Playboy for the articles. It was actually a literary venue. And he
had written this thing that said take over Vermont. And on his urging, tens of thousands of
young hippies, white people packed their things and moved to Vermont. And they didn't
even have places to stay in, and they slept in the fields. They made communes, but they
changed Vermont from one of the most conservative states in the union to one of the most
liberal. In fact, in 2008, Vermont was a state in which Barack Obama won his largest
percentage of the white vote. And I was fascinated by this. And it occurred to me that, you
know, not that reverse migration was a new thing, it's a very old concept, but that thinking
of it not as Black nationalism, which is kind of separating us or having the United States
carve out a piece of the country and give it to us or somehow have an armed rebellion. But
thinking of it as using the constitutional tools available to you, breaking no laws, having no
armed insurrection, just using the tools at your feet, you could seize power. And that was
that was the turn.

Maiysha ​Yeah. I mean, you know, and it's interesting because it does kind of put a spin on
that whole, you know, the master's tools and the master's house kind of rhetoric that we've
heard for so long. And as you saw, you know, my for our listeners, my copy of The Devil
You Know is deeply tabbed. Like I have all these tabs throughout this book. I'm already
recommending it to people.

Charles M. Blow ​She ran out of tabs.

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Maiysha ​I, I, I went in.

Charles M. Blow ​She barely like raised it into the frame I could see over Zoom, and there
were like a zillion tabs. It was like it was like the fringes on Miss Shug's gown, there were
so many tabs.

Maiysha ​You know, I like to do a deep read, I like to take notes, I approach all of this
academically and you know, OK, so but on a non-academic note, you know, fun fact, you
and I used to be neighbors and in Brooklyn. Right. And we've both since made our primary
residences elsewhere. You returned south. You established a residence in Atlanta. I
returned to my hometown of Chicago. In fact, I live in my childhood neighborhood of Hyde
Park where you open this book. So that was really striking to me. And Chicago also
features heavily here as one of a handful of destination cities. I mean, obviously, it was in
the Great Migration that those of us who are descendants would be ostensibly leaving.
And I guess because I know Chicago to have a really insular and even clannish Black
community, I was a little curious and maybe even a little sensitive about the characters,
the characterization of destination cities as less hospitable than this more romantic version
of the South. So, you know, for those who have not read your book yet, can you explain
why you feel the South might be a more welcoming place for us as opposed to
Southerners looking at us like, why are you here, Yankee?

Charles M. Blow ​Right. So so one thing I want to make very clear to your listeners is that
it is, you know, it's not a seesaw, you know, this one is high and that one is low, but rather,
I'm making the case that racism is everywhere in America and anyone who's kind of
laboring under the delusion that, OK, my place is so much better because it's not as racist
as that place. Actually, that's kind of a fallacy. And I was trying to dismiss that fallacy and
have us start talking about, listen, this is everywhere. And it expresses in different places,
in different ways, in some places more detrimental to you than other places and laid those
arguments out. The destination cities are generally larger cities. The south, the big cities in
the south are still small places. The city of Atlanta proper is only 400,000 people. There
are eight million people in the suburbs around Atlanta. But the footprint of the city is
relatively small. And that is a huge contrast to places like New York, where there's two
million Black people alone, you know, like so they're smaller cities. So people who are
used to a certain amount of urbanity in destination cities will cling to that and say, you
know, I don't want to leave that. But what, even in those instances, I try I use New York as
an example that, you know, you look at that skyline, that's not a...you can't hardly find a
thing that was built by Black people, financed by Black people is a Black institution, is a
Black engine of economic prosperity. Nothing. And in fact, what you see, if you know, the
history of New York, is how Black people were literally chased up that island by hostility.
And they that's how they landed in Harlem. And so what I try to get people to do is reorient
their understanding of where they are. Is this place valuing who you are, what community
you come from, and making that central to the identity of the place and the city and its
politics and its power? Or are you an add on? Are you the spice? You know, are you the
place—are you the community where they can go and listen to some hip hop and then
recede to this suburban space or to their enclaves, their separate playing space? You
know, whatever the area or whatever, you know, because sometimes, you know, people
think of diversity. I'm speaking specifically of white America here as: can I go run out and
get a beef patty and get a fried chicken and a taco and a spring roll? You know? I mean,
and then I can come—So that's that's their concept of it, that you are the additive extra
spiciness, but that they don't have to live around you. You know, you said that you live in
Chicago, one of the researchers that I quote in the book is a woman who does sociological
research around Cook County. And she looks, I've used her research because it was

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fascinating to me how she chose to do it. It was real estate. And so you say whatever you
want to say about how much you value diversity and the people who don't look like you,
where do you buy your house? It's the biggest purchase you will ever make in your life.
When it comes time for you to put your money where your mouth is, literally, where do you
buy? And what she found was that what people were—they would say they wanted
diversity and they would always buy in places where they were the majority.

Maiysha ​Right. Which I mean, I think, you know, it's it's funny because I can both call
Chicago in its soul a very Black city, but also say it's extremely segregated. Always has
been. I worked on a sociological study here when I was still in college that Harvard was
doing and it was all about the segregation in Chicago neighborhoods. So I will not argue
that point. But I do have a case study that I'm curious about.

Charles M. Blow ​Go for it.

Maiysha ​You know, in my case, you know, my great grandparents left Mississippi and
they settled on Chicago's South Side, where obviously I still live. And, you know, I've
definitely had curiosity about what their life in their home states was like. And, you know, I
would say I've even fallen prey to that kind of romanticizing of the South. I call it the
HDTV-ing of the Confederacy, because I think there are more Black people watching that
than they give us credit for. But, you know, in the case of Mississippi, we're also talking
about a state which up until a few months ago had the Confederate iconography on its flag
and, you know, is currently debating a bill to penalize any school teaching of the 1619
project. And, you know, understanding that your goal I mean, the goal that you are
restating here, because, as you said, this has been a long argument, maybe, perhaps not
as eloquently stated as you have done here, but that the goal here is to be able to
influence state legislatures and local government to the point that these types of issues
become nonissues. You know, in the meantime, how do you realistically incentivize young
people and young families, you know, who would ostensibly make up this base to move to
places that have such a clear and stated disdain and disregard? And I understand, yes,
that doesn't mean it doesn't exist here in Chicago or everywhere else. But, just this like
kind of blatant just disdain for Blackness. And it's so deeply and proudly embedded in their
culture and policies.

Charles M. Blow ​OK, so but I would...So you wound the tape back to probably a, you
know, very recent case of the flag, probably a more recent kind of era around civil rights.
Let me rewind the tape back even further, maybe 130, 140 years. Mississippi is the Black
Power center of America. It is wealthy. It is because of cotton crop. It is where Black
people have one of the highest percentages of Black people in the country. So when the
enslaved people are freed, they are the majority of the population of Mississippi. People,
intellectuals, Black intellectuals move from the north to Mississippi because it is where the
power is. It is where things are going to thrive. In one of the first elections after the 15th
Amendment was ratified and Black people were given the right to vote, the Black voting
population of Mississippi far outnumbers the white voting population. In Mississippi, they
sent an enormous delegation of Black legislators to the state legislatures. Those
legislatures pulled aside their white counterparts to say, listen, we have two senate seats,
when we re-join the union, one of those has to be a Black person. And because they have
so much power, they say, of course. Well now they gave him the shorter term of those, but
they did send a Black guy. And in fact, Mississippi produces our first two Black senators
ever. The only reason that Mississippi is not today the thriving center of Black intellectuals
and wealth and power is because terrorists ran Black people out of that state. And we, as
Black people have to come to terms with is to answer this question: will—the terrorists won

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that round. Morally, can we allow that victory to stand? We don't have to, we don't have to,
but we keep saying, "Oh, it's scary, it's the boo-hoo, the horrible people are down there."
So that means you are not in the fight. That means you're not—Because what I'm
suggesting is a revolutionary act. No revolutionary act is without risk and it's not without
resistance. And either we can, you know, march every time someone gets shot by the
police, but have no real change in policies or any of the architecture that put those police
officers in contact with those young Black and brown men and women in the first place, or
we can say, no, no, no, we're about to change this whole thing. Right. And it's a choice we
make. And so we can make the choice. And I don't begrudge anyone who makes the
choice that they don't want to be, they don't want to be on the vanguard of that fight. But it
is a choice you are making, because what I am pointing out for you is that there is a path
to power. It is your choice whether or not you want to take it or not.

Danielle ​It is all extremely fascinating, and I have to admit that a lot of it resonated with me
quite a bit. I'm from St. Louis, Missouri, which is like someone put the south in the middle
of the Midwest.

Maiysha ​And then sent some of it over here.

Danielle ​Someone just plucked a little bit of Mississippi and just put it right in Missouri.
How'd that Mississippi get there?

Charles M. Blow ​On the train.

Maiysha ​I was gonna say, on the train.

Charles M. Blow ​On the train. On the chicken bone express.

Danielle ​Exactly. And unlike, Maiysha, like, you obviously love Chicago. I have a much
more complicated relationship with my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri.

Maiysha ​Let's not get crazy now.

Danielle ​Where there are a lot of African-Americans, but we don't have the same type of
power, like for instance, as a majority-Black city, there's only been two Black mayors in the
history of St. Louis. But my family, you know, also hails from the South and my parents
were from Texas and Arkansas, you know, who left. While they, you know, love their
communities, love their families, much like me not being too nostalgic about St. Louis, they
were not nostalgic about their hometowns either.

Charles M. Blow ​Yes.

Danielle ​So as African-Americans, we know that our legacy here in America, you know,
we know how our ancestors were brought here and forced to work in the South for
generations, then freedoms of that same land with an unfulfilled promise of even the most
basic resources.

Charles M. Blow ​Yes.

Danielle ​You're making a really strong argument here. But given the totality of our history,
what do you say to people who don't identify with the South as a homeland for Black
people or strongly feel the opposite?

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Charles M. Blow ​Well, I say, you know, I understand your feelings, number one. I don't
want to discount how people feel about...moving is not you know, it is not like some
whimsical thing that you're going to do, you know, to leave a community, to leave a family.
These are the same decisions that people made when they first migrated. They had no
idea what Chicago even was. Many of them had never seen snow. You know, they had
never seen sidewalks. So I understand that it is a monumental decision when a person
decides to move to a place that they are not familiar with. So I want to make sure I don't
discount that in any way. But I do say, take into account all the things that you think are
positive about where you live. Now, let me tell you some of the things that I think are
positive about the South. When Forbes looks at places where the Black middle class is
thriving, half of the cities on that list or southern cities. When people look at where
Black-owned businesses are most concentrated, the southeast is the place where they are
more concentrated. When they look at where median family incomes have risen most, with
all the adjustments involved in that, the south ranks incredibly well. When this MIT
professor looked at, you know, what real income gains have been made in the last 30
years, even among people who were, did not have a college degree, the South performed
incredibly well. The idea that you can't live comfortably here is a misnomer. In fact,
probably more comfortable because your money just goes so much farther. Right? Then
there is the cultural side of it. You know only 10 percent of Black people lived outside the
South before the Great Migration. For the vast majority of people who live in those cities
now, maybe a grandparent is buried in a grave in Chicago or New York or Los Angeles.
Maybe if they were part of the first wave. Our roots are just not as deep there. For 400
years that we have been on this soil, the majority of Black people lived in the south and
that has created in that space many, if not most of our longest cultural institutions. Be they
churches or historically Black colleges, our social service organizations, they exist there.
There is a primacy to your culture there. You may not have been privy to it, but once you
go to a New Orleans or you come to an island, you realize you're not the extra people.
Like you are it. Like this is your food. This is music that people like you created. And being
in space where your culture has a primacy is a beautiful feeling. And then there is the
political side of it, not just the power that I believe that we will gain if we take over states.
But right now there are 12 hundred majority-Black cities in America, 90 percent of them
are in the south. Maynard Jackson became the first mayor of a major southern city in
1973. That was because in 1970 was the first time Atlanta became majority-Black city.
Since then, if you go fast forward to now, almost every major city in the south has a Black
mayor. And these are young Black mayors. These are dynamic young people. You have
the opportunity to go around and talk to these young—I mean, they're, many of them
under 40. They're just dynamic young people in control of the decisions about Black
bodies and Black lives. I lived in New York for 26 years. Not any time during that period did
I have a Black mayor. The only Black mayor New York City had was David Dinkins 30
years ago before I arrived. How is that possible? You know, and so I believe all of those
factors are very compelling factors for moving. Weigh those. I say to your listeners weigh
those against your reasons for staying. And then weigh the possibility that you would be
able to possibly control a state government. There is a reason that the United States has
called the United States of America because half of the power in this country, is reserved
for the states. The Constitution makes very clear, any power not specifically assigned to
the federal government is reserved for the states. Much of what you march about, care
about, complain about is largely a state issue. Mass incarceration, largely a state issue.
The criminal justice system, largely a state issue. Health policy, educational policy, on and
on down the line. I am not suggesting to people that if you move south, you're going
to—and even if you, even if you create a Black majority in a state, that you are moving into
a utopia. If Black majorities who have control of state power created racial utopias, then

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every white person in America would be prospering because for the last 90 years, every
state except Hawaii has been majority white. Right now, as we speak, seven American
states are 90 plus percent white, surely all those people, white people are prospering right
now. No they are not. They still have crime. They still have income inequality. They still
have poverty. They still have struggle. What I am saying, though, is that in the aggregate,
people who do not have to suffer under white supremacy will do better than those who do.
And so some of me says this is an individual decision that each individual person has to
make. The other side of me though says, this is a community mission. It is not about
Charles Blow and whether or not he was comfortable in New York and Brooklyn. Part of
this is that I'm going to be fine, and by moving, I will help my whole community to be better.

Maiysha ​Well, I think that's a communal responsibility that, you know, we we do often lose
touch with. And if there's one thing that we can say, I would say, you know, I personally
believe about the last few years, I don't know that we can call them bright spots. But as
we've got as you know, we've seen the rise of Black Lives Matter and kind of a more
galvanized, unified voice around that, that there, you know, that community responsibility
is is a real discussion to have. And, you know, that actually brings me to my next question,
which, you know, when we—.

Charles M. Blow ​Tab number 833.

Maiysha ​That's right. You know, we just launched this podcast last fall. And since that
time, it's been really striking, like how many writers that we've spoken to who, you know,
had written books the year before. I know you were saying that this was a three-year
process for you, but a lot of these people had written and even published their books prior
to everything that happened with the pandemic. And then George Floyd and Breonna
Taylor and the protests and the uprisings and a lot of them found themselves in these like
recommended reading lists about racial justice and, you know, talked about how
bittersweet that was. And you were perhaps the first we have spoken to who not only
incorporated and was writing during, it seems that the events of 2020, but in response to
some of those events. So how did that inform your thesis and given the way, for instance,
that Georgia flipped? I'm assuming since this book went to press and then the insurrection
in the capital, is there any epilogue that you would add now? Is there anything else you
would say?

Charles M. Blow ​Well, actually, most of it was able to be incorporated. The only thing that
was not that I didn't know when we had to lock it up, really lock it up was the outcome of
the runoff.

Maiysha ​Mm hmm.

Charles M. Blow ​But it had already flipped. And what I kept seeing was not a challenge to
the thesis, but validation of the thesis or proof of how this could work.

Maiysha ​Mm hmm.

Charles M. Blow ​You know, I was just freaked out when Georgia flipped because, you
know, I knew that I knew the data there. I didn't expect it when I moved to Atlanta. I didn't
expect this would be the year. I wasn't pegging the thesis to the book to that in any way.
But the population, the Black population of Georgia doubles from 1990 to 2020 largely
because of reverse migration.

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Maiysha ​Mm hmm. That's true.

Charles M. Blow ​You know, and, you know, two things were happening here, the amazing
organizing by a whole host of people, most notably Stacey Abrams, who's a superwoman
in the story. And on the other hand, they just had more Black bodies to organize. You
know, and what was profound about this in relation to my theory was Black control of it, not
just you helped, but you are the majority of the coalition that flipped the state. Not you
know, I don't know what happened during reconstruction because there were no exit polls,
clearly, but I will always say at least since reconstruction, this is the first time that Black
people were the majority of coalition to deliver a state to a presidential candidate of any
party. That's what power looks like. That's what power looks like.

Danielle ​No, totally, totally, I kind of want to go back and talk about culture a little bit.

Charles M. Blow ​Sure.

Danielle ​Since, as you know, there's distinct cultural difference between northern Blacks
and Southern Blacks like—.

Charles M. Blow ​Absolutely.

Danielle ​I see it in my own family, you know, with me being from St. Louis and how
different my life was from my cousins who were raised in Arkansas. So you loosely
characterize it as progressive and passionate versus patient and pragmatic. For some
people, the call to, quote, go back to where we came from, end quote, might feel the same
as when racists tell us to go back to Africa, a place where we are more tourists and
appropriators than rightful residents. We know how gentrification has affected a lot of
formerly predominately Black enclaves across the United States. But we know Black
people can be gentrifiers, too. Like, for example, I moved to Washington, D.C. in 2009 and
there was palpable tension between those who were from D.C., born and raised there,
generations of family, dating back to building the literal city as slaves, you know, and then
people like me who were just like a bunch of like fancy pants nerds that just wanted to go
to parties at the White House. So there was a lot of tension there. And I was seen as a
gentrifier living in northeast Capitol Hill. You discuss how the economic opportunities for
Blacks are stronger in southern states and we should note, are largely advocating for us to
migrate to larger cities. But how do you account for how we might put a strain on
resources or even negatively influence the culture of these well-established enclaves?

Charles M. Blow ​Well, I don't I don't think a reunion of Black people and their divergent
factions could ever be a negative. Right? So it can, you know, if a lot more people are in
Atlanta, will traffic be slower? Probably. So that's, in fact, you know, the common refrain in
Atlanta when people say "I'm moving," they say, "we're full!" We're full. So but I discussed
this concept in the book that, you know, having lived half my life in the South and the other
half in destination cities, that differentiation that you describe was very clear to me that
there was you know, there was two Black Americas: the sons and daughters of the Great
Migration, and sons and daughters of the people who stayed in the south. And they were
kind of different culturally, but they were also, to me, complementary. That a lot of what I
saw as stressors on northern and western cities, I thought some of the answer to that was
that Southern sensibility could offer a lot of what was ailing southern cities, a lot of the kind
of activist radicalism of northern and western Black populations could actually infuse that
with new energy, in my mind, reuniting these two factions, drawing on the best of both, is
actually a curative action rather than a detrimental action.

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Air Date: 2/19/21

Maiysha ​So. You know, I'm going to ask this question just because I mean, there is a lot
to unpack here. And I got to say, you got me really thinking about it. And, you know, we
ask these questions not necessarily to challenge, but I guess also to kind of like clarify,
because, you know, I'm also thinking of what we just saw, you know, because I live in the
Midwest and I live in a, you know, very historically blue state, although there's Chicago
and then there's the rest of Illinois.

Danielle ​Yes.

Charles M. Blow ​Yeah.

Danielle ​Definitely.

Maiysha ​Let's make that very clear.

Danielle ​I went to school in downstate Illinois. Whoo.

Maiysha ​Listen, it's a, it's a whole, it's a different world, as they say. But we also know that
like one in three Black voters lives in what we know to be a battleground state, you know,
these include these nine southern states like Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, which is on the
border, and Pennsylvania, you know, in Iowa. And do you feel it's worth the trade-off to
abandon those states? Like I look at how tight, you know, Michigan and Wisconsin were,
and I'm like, you know, do we want to pull out? Do we want to divest from there?

Charles M. Blow ​Well, one thing that, one argument that I make around this point is to
always make sure that people know that when I say Black power, I'm not talking about
political party power. I am not trying to say Black power for Democrats. I'm saying Black
power for Black people. And when you are, you exist as a 15 percent of the population of
Illinois or are Pennsylvania or wherever, you are not the driving force that elects a
presidential candidate anyway. So when they lose, what do they say? Well, we got to go
find out what went wrong with the working-class white voters. Did they ask about the
people of Chicago when they lost? No. The entire year after Hillary Clinton lost, they
dedicated to focusing on and trying to figure out how to better please the fickle portion of
the electorate, the ones who can, who could figure out some sort of gym—mental
gymnastics that made them vote for Barack Obama in one election and Donald Trump in
the next, rather than the people who had shown unwavering devotion to them. That should
tell you all you need to know about how much power you actually have among that group
of politicians. Now you deliver a state which Black people have never done until Georgia
did. Now you're talking power because now they're trying to figure out how do we keep this
majority of the coalition rather than excite the 15 percent when the white people basically
split down the middle?

Maiysha ​I mean, but we are only 15 percent, barely 15 percent of the United States in the
first place.

Charles M. Blow ​We don't care about that, because when I just told you that there are
seven states right now with 90 plus percent white population who have no commitment
whatsoever, no obligation to further your interests. If you combine the population, all seven
of those states and they control 14 senate seats today, Black people are four times the
population of all those states combined. So if you're sure if you're—if you only if you're only
13 percent of the population there, they're only three.

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Air Date: 2/19/21

Maiysha ​Yeah.

Charles M. Blow ​And they control 14 senate seats. You've got to be strategic about
where you're going to aim your power and where you can get it.

Danielle ​No you're making like...Like Charles, you pretty much have like a believer out of
me, even though, like, I don't want to move from New York right now, but I wouldn't put it
past me to move into the south after I retire. Like, 'cause one, my money will go for way
longer there.

Maiysha ​Right.

Danielle ​And two, like I like the South. I enjoyed visiting it as a child. I'm a big fan of—.

Maiysha ​It is a beautiful place.

Danielle ​Yeah, it's gorgeous. I don't want to ever drive a car again, which is the
conundrum that I have.

Charles M. Blow ​I have made it a year without a car and I'm realizing I just oh my God, I
can't do it. I can't do it. So I, but I, OK, for all of my young green followers, I am only
looking at electric cars. There will be no...I'm going to keep my footprint as low as possible
and also use I don't know if I think there's some, something they say about used versus
new, I don't know. But I'm just trying to like, keep my footprint small. But I think I'm going to
have to have some wheels.

Danielle ​No, it's—I am from the rest of America. And I tell people in New York all the time,
like, you need to have a car, you can't survive.

Maiysha ​I don't know how I'm doing it in Chicago, that I'm doing it without a car. I think it's
because literally everything I need is within like a mile.

Danielle ​You'll never make it. The public transportation is designed terribly for a reason.
They want you to buy a car!

Maiysha ​I moved into the one area of Chicago that's like Brooklyn.

Danielle ​But, Charles, this was delightful. This was inspiring. This was, like, challenging. I
feel like, I feel like you've made me a believer, like, I'm down, let's do this.

Charles M. Blow ​Well, I hope so.

Danielle ​It's revolution time.

Charles M. Blow ​Or at least, you know, the publisher of of of the Chicago Defender is a
huge, he's a prototype for me because what he was doing was challenging people to think.
Challenging people to consider not everyone who read The Chicago Defender in
Mississippi moved.

Danielle ​That's true.

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Air Date: 2/19/21
Charles M. Blow ​But but many of them saw it and were inspired by it and said, why not?

Danielle ​Exactly.

Charles M. Blow ​And they did move. And so I hope that we start that conversation.

Danielle ​Yeah.

Maiysha ​Maybe it doesn't happen now, but maybe you do get a bunch of us who are like,
well, heck, I'm retiring anyway. Maybe we all go down there.

Danielle ​Exactly. Let's do it.

Maiysha ​Let's not get ageist and say it only has to be young people who change
everything, you know.

Danielle ​Exactly. Old people we're the ones that vote anyway. Everyone over 40, 50, 60.
We're the only ones who are actually [inaudible].So.

Maiysha ​On a train.

Danielle ​We can truly flip a state. Well, OK, we could talk about this forever. Charles,
thank you so much for joining us.

Charles M. Blow ​Thank you so much. I really appreciate it. Thank you guys for having
me.

Danielle ​Yes. It was amazing having you on It's Lit, and you have to come back.

Charles M. Blow ​Thank you.

Maiysha ​The Root Presents: It's Lit! Is produced by myself, Maiysha Kai, and Micaela
Heck. Our sound engineer, is Ryan Allen.

Danielle ​If you like the show and want to help us out, please give us a rating on Apple
Podcasts. It really helps other people find the show. If you have any thoughts or feedback
you could find me on Twitter at Black Snob or on Instagram at Belton Danielle.

Maiysha ​And you can find me at Maiysha on Twitter. That's M A I Y S H A, and at Maiysha
Kai on Instagram.

Danielle ​And before we go, we always like to talk a bit about what we're currently reading.
Maiysha, what are you getting into these days?

Maiysha ​You know, I would like to say I am more looking and perusing and actually I'm
kind of like dabbling here. I'm dabbling there. You know, lately I've been really into Black
Bottom Saints by Alice Randall. This is one of those books that, you know, it's not a long
book, but it's a ton of stories told about these incredible people in Detroit that made up this
Black pop culture in Detroit. And, you know, I live right across the pond from Detroit in
Chicago, so I've always had some curiosity about how they do it over there and their
history, because I know so much about our city's history. And this book is fascinating to me
and so many well-known names. So I've just been kind of, you know, coming back to it

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Air Date: 2/19/21
now and again. I loved that it's like told in these little vignettes because, like, you don't
have to, like, dive in and read the whole thing from start to finish. But what are you
reading?

Danielle ​You know, I'm currently reading Ida B. The Queen by Michelle Duster.

Maiysha ​Well talk about Chicago right there. Yeah.

Danielle ​Exactly. Exactly. Ida B Wells, an icon of journalism, Black journalism.

Maiysha ​I mean, she's our foremother mother, isn't she?

Danielle ​Yes, she is. She begat this. She begat all of this.

Maiysha ​That's right. That's right.

Danielle ​And so I, of course, as a Black history nerd am excited to dive into this slightly
more youth-oriented book about this legacy.

Maiysha ​Well, I'm glad the youth are learning about her because.

Danielle ​They need to.

Maiysha ​Yeah, they need to mean.

Danielle ​It's important.

Maiysha ​Absolutely. Absolutely.

Danielle ​And that's it for us this week. Thanks so much for listening. And we'll see you
next week.

Maiysha ​And until then, keep it lit.

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