- The Washington Times - Friday, September 15, 2000

Larry Elder, 48, has been an afternoon talk-show host with KABC Radio in Los Angeles since 1994. Known as the "Sage from South Central," he is a libertarian who opposes political correctness. Following are excerpts from an interview conducted Wednesday by culture page editor Julia Duin with Mr. Elder about his new book, "The Ten Things You Can't Say in America."

Q: How do people respond to you and your views as a black conservative?

A: The merits of an argument for some people are irrelevant. If you're a black man and you're opposed to affirmative action, and you feel that racism is no longer the major problem facing the black community, never mind the merits of your argument, never mind the polling data that shows the 93 percent of whites who'd vote for a black man for president, never mind the polling data that shows the majority of whites have no problem with interracial marriages.

Never mind that the blacks who now had to run for re-election in the South after the Supreme Court struck down those race-based districts that were created specifically so blacks could be elected. The ones who ran for re-election all got re-elected in the South even though there were cries of ethnic cleansing and [claims] that the black congressional caucus would be small enough to put in the back of a cab.

So when I [say] it ain't all that bad, they say you're an Uncle Tom, you're a bootlicker, you're carrying the white man's water. They don't deal with the merits of the argument because it has become so emotional.

Unlike other communities. Ronald Reagan, who was of Irish descent, had vigorous policy disagreements with Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill, also of Irish descent. They were yelling at each other. And then when the day was over, they were able to go to a bar and tell jokes.

Within the black community, you can't do that. Your integrity, your intentions, your heart are questioned.

Q: What do you think of your local congresswoman, [California Democrat] Maxine Waters?

A: I think Maxine Waters is perhaps one of the most irresponsible public figures in America. I don't question her heart, I question her head. This is a woman who referred to George Bush as a racist. This is the woman who justified the 1992 [Los Angeles] riots and said, 'No justice, no peace.' This is the woman who routinely refers to the Republicans as the 'enemy.' She is a clear and present danger, frankly, to common sense and to thoughtful discourse.

Q: You talked about white condescension toward blacks. How about President Clinton?

A: Oh, yes, he's a classic example. His whole approach to race relations is that it's the great white bigot holding black people down. He gave a speech which he then called the 'most important speech' of his presidency at UC-Santa Barbara where he talked about racism and that's where he announced that silly traveling advisory board and race show and town hall meeting thing that he did so we can all get together and talk about our differences.

When you look, however, at his administration he said he wanted an administration that looked like America when you look at the top 30 positions that have real power: the secretary of state, the chief of staff, secretary of defense, chief counsel, speech writer, press secretary, they aren't black.

Q: But he holds up [deceased Commerce Secretary] Ron Brown.

A: Department of Commerce? Tell me how important that is. What is that? I'd ask the average American to name another commerce secretary and I'm sure they couldn't.

Look at the [Clinton] policies, like minimum wage. And affirmative action. That's been a net negative for America and black Americans. Yet, there have been some blacks who have, quote, benefited from affirmative action but for the most part, the black middle class formed well before anyone thought about affirmative action. And there's no evidence it accelerated [anything]. But it has created a whole lot of division in the workplace. And created a sneaking suspicion that because you're a black guy with a degree and a good job and a good title, maybe just maybe you got there because you were black. That's head cheese in the psyche of a lot of black Americans.

Q: What do you think of the term 'African American'?

A: It's a condescending term. Jesse Jackson almost single-handedly got America to use that expression. You don't call Mario Cuomo an Italian American. Bill Clinton is of Irish descent. Is he an Irish American? Black people can trace their roots back to the founding of this country and before. Why would there be a hyphen here? I am an American who happens to be black. And I find that terminology silly and divisive and separatist.

I had a conversation with Dick Morris, the former aide to the president. I said, 'Dick, why does the president consistently use that expression 'African American'? He said, 'I never thought about that. You know, you're right. If I were referred to as a Jewish American, I wouldn't like it.' I didn't know he was Jewish. That's my point.

The support of affirmative action on the part of a lot of whites is condescending. I think with a lot of whites, if you put a polygraph on and asked them: Do you think blacks could compete if they didn't have preferences? I think a lot of whites would say, 'No, I don't think they could.'

Q: You've introduced a new word in your book: the 'viticrat' mentality. Where does that come from?

A: The viticrat mentality is somebody who blames all manner of problems on somebody else. Whether it's women blaming the glass ceiling for not getting promoted. Or blacks blaming racism for their inability to get promoted. Or blacks blaming racist lending officers for their inability to get a loan even though blacks claim they are credit worthy. It's a mentality that says, 'It's not my fault. Somebody else stopped me.'

Q: What do you think of Al Sharpton?

A: He's a card-carrying bigot. He's [former Ku Klux Klan leader] David Duke in black face. Here's a man who falsely accused a man of rape and was found civilly liable by a unanimous jury that included blacks and assessed a damage award of $300,000. He hasn't paid one dime. He hasn't apologized. Yet he hosts a town hall meeting between Al Gore and Bill Bradley.

When Al Gore and Bill Bradley were asked about that, they said Al Sharpton 'has grown.' This is a man who once called Jews "diamond merchants" and whites "interlopers"; who fomented an angry mob at Freddy's Fashion Mart, where a black guy set fire to the mart, killing a lot of people, including minorities. But he's 'grown.'

Well, if you apply that definition of growth, then David Duke has grown. He no longer is a member of the Klan, he has had plastic surgery, wears suits and ties and became a Republican. But David Duke gets zero tolerance. I think a lot of black people feel the same way I feel about Al Sharpton. But he does have a great deal of clout and power. How else do you get Al Gore and Bill Bradley to come debate at the Apollo Theater?

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