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The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Julian Bond: The IGC, Jay-Z and 'colored' people

By Hazel Schaeffer

Last Thursday The Mac Weekly’s Hazel Schaeffer had the opportunity to interview NAACP chair Julian Bond when he visited Mac prior to the speech he gave at the IGC’s dedication. Bond is on the Advisory Board of the IGC and is connected to Mac through his wife, an alum. Bond is a formidable figure in the civil rights movement. He served on the Georgia legislature, gained national prominence at the infamous 1968 DNC in Chicago, and ran for president in 1976.The Mac Weekly: You seem to have found your calling in a broad spectrum of fields including law, politics, activism, organizing and education. Why did you choose to devote yourself to such an array of interests, and do you believe they are all intricately linked?

Julian Bond: Yes I think they are intricately linked, at least the approach that I and many others have taken. I’ve been interested in civil rights all my life and civil rights touches on all those things. You can’t advocate for civil rights unless you use the law, you can’t advocate for civil rights unless you use the education system and/ or educate yourself, and on, and on and on. It’s not that the spectrum is so large, it’s that the single narrow topic I’ve chosen to focus on touches on all these broad things.

How would you describe your role on the Institute for Global Citizenship’s Advisory Board?

Well I’m on the Advisory Board, which means I give advice. Whenever they ask me for advice, I give advice.

What is something that they’ve asked you about?

I knew you would say that. They haven’t asked me for any advice.

You attended a historically black college. Today, black youth are still highly underrepresented in higher education. What do you see the role of historically black colleges in educating black youth being now in changing that statistic?

Well they played a role in the past when opportunities were limited for black young people. If you lived in Georgia, you could only go to Morehouse College, Savannah State College, Albany College, Fort Valley State College, Spelman. Today, the universe is open to you. So you choose one of these schools because it offers something different for you. It’s like a young woman choosing a women’s college knowing that opportunities for leadership are greater for her there then they would be at a coeducation college. So a black student chooses Morehouse College because the opportunities are greater there for him then they would be if he went to the University of Georgia. The rationale for choosing College X over College Y is maybe slightly different now, but I think it’s really the same thing: I’m choosing a place that will celebrate me. Why would you go to Macalester instead of the University of Minnesota? I bet [the U] has many, many more courses to offer. But Macalester has a kind of intimacy that you can’t find at the U. So if you want 100,000 courses you can take, you go to the U. If you want a close-knit relationship with your teachers and your colleagues, you should come to Macalester.

Should an institution like Macalester that is not historically black- you might even say historically white- play a similar role for black youth and people of color?

Well I think it can play that role. I don’t know enough about Macalester to intelligently answer that question, but it could play that role. Schools like Macalester, which are like my alma mater, because of their size, are special. You know everybody, they know you, you get to do everything, the opportunities for you are greater then at one of these mega universities. It’s possible for Macalester to play that role, and whether it does or not, I don’t know.

A lot has changed in the 100 years since the NAACP was founded. That said, have you or your predecessors ever considered changing the ‘C’ in the name of the organization to use more current terminology?

Yes we have, and I did myself at one point, but I realized how foolish I was. Because in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, we think colored people come in all colors. Anybody who shares our values is more then welcome, so I give no thought, and we give no current thought, to changing the name.

This year the NAACP celebrates its centennial anniversary. How would you say its mission has changed since its founding?

It has two answers. One is that the mission hasn’t changed at all. We were founded to fight racial discrimination; 100 years later, we have conquered much racial discrimination, but we haven’t conquered it all. We still try to conquer racial discrimination. The different answer is, the world around us has changed, and we have more tools and more ways both to pursue our old mission, and there are new missions we can pursue. When I was growing up in Atlanta, many, many years ago, I wasn’t aware of any Hispanic people. I wasn’t aware of any Asian people in my environment. Today I know that the United States if full of all kinds of different people, and they have different concerns and complaints. [The NAACP] is coming more and more alert to these concerns and complaints and is trying to find new ways to coordinate our activities with the activities of the groups they belong to, so we can mount a common challenge against these complaints they have. So that’s just one way our mission has changed to a slight degree. But down at the bottom we still fight racial discrimination. That’s what we do.

Before Obama’s election, you were quoted saying you didn’t believe it was possible to have a black president in your lifetime. Are there any other civil rights milestones that you had previously thought were impossible that might not be any longer?

I’m not sure if these are civil rights milestones, but I never did think that black figures would achieve the degree of prominence that some black people have in America today, particularly entertainers, athletes, those kinds of persons. I never dreamed that Jay-Z would be as popular or as rich as he is, and I’m happy for him. Now, that’s good news, but better news would be if people very unlike Jay-Z, but people who are hard working, everyday regular people, were able to go and do and live in a way that was absolutely free, which he can do because of his wealth, but they can’t do because of the color of their skin. That would be the better news.

You’ve taken a very progressive stance on gay rights. Does gay rights fit under the larger umbrella of civil rights?


How would you gauge your organization’s success so far in conveying that message to its supporters?

It’s been mixed because most of our members and supporters are African American. They tend to be very conservative on these kinds of social issues. Many are tremendously religious, and their religion instructs some of them that homosexuality is wrong. I think we’ve tried to approach it by that, “I’m not asking you to give up your religion, I’m asking you not to impose your religion on other people.” We have mixed success with this because you know some religious people think they can impose their religion on everybody. And they can’t.

My questions end there. Anything else you’d like to add?

No, but when you leave I’m sure I’ll think of something.

Well, I would love to hear about being asked to run for vice president.

One reason that happened was because Senator Eugene McCarthy, from Minnesota, was running for president. I seconded his nomination at that convention [Chicago 1968]. He and the people that were supporting him wanted to make more noise about the terrible brutality going on at that convention-Chicago police beating people in the streets. So they thought, “If we nominated someone for vice president, that person gets two seconding speeches. We can use this occasion to talk about this, because otherwise, you had no way of talking to the delegates.” So they seized on this idea of nominating me. [The nomination] came to nothing.

You also ran for president.

Yes, in 1976. I was in the Georgia legislature for 20 years, but
that was the highest I ever got. For some people, that wasn’t very high. For some people, it was too high.

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