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Post #3 Fool Me Once: My Conversation with Brian Walker

It is my pleasure to share a portion of my conversation with Brian F. Walker, educator and author of Black Boy, White School. Brian and I met almost a decade ago when our families lived on a New England boarding school campus. His wife Ava and I worked together as administrators at the school (my wife had left the year before to start a private psychology practice), and Brian worked for a different prep school in town. Brian and I quickly realized we had a fair amount in common. We grew up in northeast Ohio; our wives hail from the Caribbean; and all four of us, Black folk, have worked at some point for prep schools in New England.

I have always been fascinated by Brian’s take on the world. I appreciate how writers observe and then describe the world we jointly occupy in ways that open your eyes to something new. And even though we had grown up no more than 40 miles from each other, I had gone to public school, and Brian had left East Cleveland to attend boarding school in Maine, something I had always threatened to do as a teen. Twenty-five years later, we found ourselves together, feeding our kids dinner in the dining hall of a prep school.

In this interview segment, I asked Brian if he could describe his relationship with America. For many years, I have struggled to do this for myself. It is always helpful to hear from another Black man, especially one who shares many of the same regional and cultural touchstones with which I am familiar. As much as I have loved growing up in Northeast Ohio and then moving to and living in New England, there has often been the sense that the joke might be on me. No matter what I would do, I wouldn’t quite belong. Brian’s passionate response to the question of our relationship to America centered me, assuring me that I am not alone.

Thank you for reading,


C.L.Greene II ____________________________________________________


Brian Waker and Ava Archibald

Interviewee: Brian F. Walker

Age: 55

Place of Birth: Cleveland, Ohio

English Teacher, Buckingham Browne & Nichols School and Author of Black Boy, White School.

Current Location: Boston Suburbs, Massachusetts

Interviewer: Charles L. Greene II Executive Director, The Big Black Man Project.



C.L. Greene II: I wonder if you would talk a little bit about your relationship with America.


Brian Walker: It's an abusive one. I'm not trying to knuckle drag here. A lot of times, I feel like that kid with a parent that is abusive. You just want the parent to love you. And you love that parent so much that you see all of the good stuff that they can do. And you try to rationalize it when they fuck up. For a very long time, I was trying to rationalize it. It’s like Charlie Brown and America's been Lucy, pulling the football.


I was looking back, man, and I'm not that good at math and numbers and things like that, but it seems to me that every 20 to 25 years or so, something happens that shocks the nation. I’m talking about race. And it makes us say, “We're really going to get it now. We really understand, and we are turning a corner.”


I can only speak for myself. I have gone for the Okey-doke. When they set up that football, I get set to kick it. I think part of it is because I've been fortunate enough to have real acquaintances and real friends from many different racial and ethnic backgrounds. And I feel like, ‘If we can do it, shit, why can't everybody?’ So I get duped into believing the same way that people at Fox News do. You hang around with a bunch of like-minded people who see things the way that you do, and the next thing you know, you start to say, “Hey, this the way the world is. Yay!”

And then some shit happens. (laughter) And it smacks us down again. It’s like Lucy pulls the football again? It's the Okey-doke again. And it's funny because this time, I don't feel like we have turned a corner. I'm not going for it. And it's not even like I'm actively resisting. It's just all I see is gloom. In terms of my relationship, I think this country is dead already. I posted on Facebook that maybe we are stubborn cells in the still growing hair of a long-dead Colossus. We fake it that this country is still alive. And you know how hair keeps growing on a corpse? This place is fucking doomed.


It’s not the fact that we get a guy like Trump in the White House. It's the fact that he would be just another crazy dude shouting in the old Harvard Square. Not Harvard Square now because he would be arrested (laughter) but the old Harvard Square with the pit and the hair and all of that stuff.

But now he's got all of these people out here rationalizing? It hurts me that people I know, they're not waving the Confederate flag, and they're not saying, “KKK all the way,” or anything like that, but they rationalize. To me, you can't be on the fence. How can you be undecided right now? You are not undecided. You are just looking for an excuse to go ahead and quietly vote for Trump, which is what you wanted to do anyway. You can't be undecided. What he has done is expose this country for what it truly is, what has always been. The fact is that we have these racist roots, that we were built on it, and we have got an infected fucking tree right now.


It was stupid for us to think that it would ever grow and really prosper. We never went back to address the original sin.


And as much as black people crowed about Obama, I wasn't even doing backflips over Obama. I was teaching a journalism class at the time, and I smelled a rat when I saw Wall Street’s bailout. They were about to make off like fat cats with Obama's plan. And that's what happened. Wall Street gave him a lot of money, so he had to do them a solid. Okay, he's just the politician. And then he's bombing all these black people all over the world. Drone strikes, and he doesn't want you to know.


Why can't we apologize? Why can't the country apologize? Why can't a president officially apologize for slavery? You've got this stain upon which we've been built. Our capital was built by slaves. The White House was built by slaves. The wealth that we were able to amass as a country and grow so quickly was built by enslaved people. We never addressed it.


I got to go to Germany and visit Dachau. They don't run away from it. You can’t wear a fucking swastika over there without getting beat down. But we want to have monuments for our Confederate people. We are exposed for what we have always been, but we have never, ever addressed.


I'm a huge fan of truth and reconciliation, but that's never going to happen here. That's why we left. That's why I wanted out. That's why I was so pissed when Hurricane Irma brought us back here. Because I would have stayed there, somewhere, anywhere. But this is a fucking Devil's Hole, man. And we're stupid to think that it's anything but


C.L. Greene II: In the midst of all that, and knowing what we are, knowing that it is unlikely that we're going to get truth and reconciliation, what are your hopes and dreams for the future?


Brian Walker: That we continue to procreate brown babies. I'm being honest, man. We need more black and brown people from other cultures and other countries to continue to find their way here so that this country can become the melting pot or tossed salad really because you want to have all these different flavors. You want to be able to appreciate the tomato, right? You don't want the tomato to become a lemon or just another piece of lettuce.

I think the thing that will finally do it is when we get more elected officials of color and more people of color in this country than white folks. That's when I think it's going to happen.


I was at a neighbor's house, and his friend from Sri Lanka was there. We were talking about this, and I was all gloom and doom. He said to me, “Take heart. You should rejoice! These are the death throes of white supremacy. This is it burning out. This moment is them realizing that they are soon to be outnumbered. These are their last desperate attempts to hang on. Putting a guy like Trump in office is their last desperate attempt.” I was like ‘Okay.’ But maybe it's Lucy. Maybe Lucy has got a Sri Lankan accent now, and she just stuck the football out for me again.


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