Jan 13, 2017
Nov 28, 2016
USC Professor Dr. Todd Boyd talks about Louis Armstrong, Armstrong's love of weed and his feelings on Eisenhower. This segment is featured on History Channel's Night Class.
Nov 17, 2016
Was Barack Obama a liberal president?
Dr. Boyd: Well, these terms are all relative. If you compare Barack Obama to Donald Trump, he seems especially liberal. If you compare him to Karl Marx, perhaps not so much. I think of Obama as a Democrat who had some liberal tendencies, but more often than not he tended to be a Democrat who had a more moderate approach in his manner and temperament. Obama seemed early on to reject the assumptions some people had that he was overtly to the left – ‘liberal’ is maybe not the best way to encompass what he represented on the political spectrum.
If we go back to Obama’s entrance on the national stage, in 2004, when he gave that famous speech at the Democratic convention when he was running to be the senator from Illinois, his said there was no red America, no blue America, but one America. It was not a liberal speech – it was a Democratic speech, a speech which suggested that he could bring the country together. Democrats are generally thought to be more liberal than Republicans, but I think Obama saw himself as a pragmatist – maybe a liberal pragmatist, but he seemed uncomfortable when the conversation became too leftist. I think he’s a bit annoyed with the left, actually, and he demonstrated that frustration on numerous occasions.
When the Senate wouldn’t confirm his Supreme Court pick, what he did was, I think, typical Obama. They weren’t going to confirm anybody, but he put forward a moderate to make it look like he was trying to be reasonable. Someone more closely identified with the left would have said: I’m going to put forth the most idealistically leftist candidate I can, because they won’t confirm them anyway. But Obama decided to play the game, and it didn’t make any difference. One of the things that makes it hard to label him a liberal is that he seemed to be chasing the approval of conservatives for a significant amount of his presidency.
When I look at Barack Obama, he’s a guy who has had to negotiate two competing racial identities in terms of his own background. His entire life, he had used his personality to bridge divides, and he had been very successful in doing that. But realised, a bit late in his presidency, that not everyone was open to being charmed by him. His pragmatism – that’s who he is. The only election he ever lost was to Bobby Rush, a former Black Panther, when he ran for Congress in 2000. During that contest, many people saw him as this Ivy League-educated outsider who wasn’t part of the community – and in many ways wasn’t black enough.
He became much more assertive and aggressive in the last two years of his presidency, which I think were the strongest for that reason. We started to get a better idea of what his real passions were. That moment when he said he wasn’t getting any co-operation from Congress, so he would do what he could on his own, through executive orders, on issues like immigration.
He’s a Democrat, and he’s associated with liberal politics, but I’ve never seen him as a dyed-in-the-wool liberal like Bernie Sanders.
The Question asks Dr. Todd Boyd:
Even after Obama, does race still determine America's choice of President?
It comes down to this. A bunch of people woke up one day and saw that America had elected a black president. Maybe they were asleep, maybe they were distracted, but they woke up, America had a black president, and they didn’t know how this happened. And a lot of those people have now made the correction to what they saw as a mistake.
So race is as pertinent a factor now as it was the day Obama got elected. We can’t ignore the fact that we’ve had these real high-profile incidents where police have killed African-Americans during Obama’s presidency – it’s not, to me, lost that this happened during the reign of the first black president. A lot of people don’t want to admit it, but what animated a lot of Trump supporters was racism.
You can tell yourself it's not racism, it’s economic anxiety. I’m sorry: the people who voted for Trump in droves have never used the phrase ‘economic anxiety’ in their life. The people who were shown at those rallies chanting ‘Jew-S-A’, ‘Kill the bitch’. . . these people embraced racism, sexism and homophobia, and they don’t want to feel bad about it. They want to do it and feel proud to be Americans in doing so. Trump gave them that opportunity.
I know a lot of people don't like it when you criticise his supporters. People were angry at Hillary Clinton when she called them 'a basket of deplorables'. They are deplorable, and they hold deplorable ideas, and Trump appealed to this. And it is especially pronounced in the era following the nation's first black president. It's not a coincidence, at all.
Nov 16, 2016
USC Professor Dr. Todd Boyd talks about the first black heavyweight champion of the world, Jack Johnson, who defied conventions at the height of the Jim Crow laws.
Night Class is a late-night programming block that takes viewers on a journey through historys unforgettable moments on History Channel.
Nov 10, 2016
“...a framework of technology and recording as a way of looking at the evolution of popular music” - L.A. Times
Episode 1 airs November 14th on PBS.
Nov 7, 2016
Dr. Todd Boyd provides insight in NFL Film's new documentary, Jim Brown: A Football Life, premiering on the NFL Network this Thursday, November 10, 2016.
Watch the trailer for Jim Brown: A Football Life