BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Dick Gregory, author of "Callus on My Soul," where did you get the name for this book?
Mr. DICK GREGORY, AUTHOR, "CALLUS ON MY SOUL: A MEMOIR:" I got callus on my feet. No, I just--I was thinking that your feet is made by a universal god force and your feet--a fourth of all the bones in your body is in your feet. Now if someone would have told me that when I was a little child, I never would have wore tight shoes just because they look good with the outfit. I think a fourth of all the bones.
And so I got to thinking--I used to look at these old black men. And then once I became famous and could travel, I noticed something about old Jewish waiters in New York City. I mean, it looked like the shoes they wore, the high tops, it looked like it had soup on it from the first day 40 years ago.
But I noticed all the shoes had holes and little cuts, and--and they was turned up. And--and then I realized, thinking of those old black men and women who had calluses who didn't know there were such a thing as a foot doctor, OK? And you notice that they would cut the shoe.
And then I realized when I look at them old shoes, they would start wearing out from the inside. And then one day, it dawned on me, there have never been a shoe that a human have made that could wear out a pair of God's feet. So if you wear a tight shoe, you get a little rub, then you get a blister, then you get a corn, then you get a callus. And thinking that a callus will wear a shoe out--and I realized that black folks, oppressed folks--we have a callus around our soul. And if you don't cut that shoe, the shoe will be wore out from the inside.
Now the significance of this is I have no control over that. I don't care how much I like this shoe, there's a universal god force that says, `You can't rub me like this, without me reacting.' And so I'm saying to America that we have a callus around our soul, and it have nothing to do with me being polite or trying to peacefully co-exist. See, there's nothing I can do in my automobile--I'm so busy, I can't stop for gas. When it runs out, it stops.
And I think in America, no one in the history of this planet have made the progress that we African-Americans have made in a 30-year period. Now let me say this again. In the history of this planet, there have been no one to make the progress that African-Americans have made in a 30-year period, in spite of black folks and white folks lying to one another, not being fair, not being honest.
In some kind of way, racism is so fragile. Racism is a punk. For instance, you and I driving down the highway. You have your grandchild; I have mine. The cars steer and turn over. Three black militant talking `Cracker this' and `Cracker that' and three Ku Klux Klans come over, and both of--groups is lifting that car up. And I do not see your Klan sheet, nor do you hear the word `Cracker.' That's how fragile.
I used to hear black men coming back from World War II and talking about how nice things was during war. And I was too young to understand how fragile racism is. And they talked about when they was over in the front line of battle, how they smoke off the same cigar, the same pipe, eat out the same food. `And then after the war was over and they took my gun, they called me a nigger and I was back.'
Well, at that point, I was too busy listening to old folks talk than to realize what they were saying, whether they knew it or not. Racism, prejudice is so fragile that you can suspend it. So anything I can suspend is not real in the first place.
LAMB: Where do you live today?
Mr. GREGORY: I live in Plymouth, Massachusetts.
LAMB: Why Plymouth?
Mr. GREGORY: I think that the Pilgrims are going to come back again. I got some Indians. We're going to stop them this time. Say, `Hey, wait. Hold it. Wait a minute. Wait.' No. No, it's very interesting. I have 10 children, and I was looking for a place to raise them because, you know, coming up poor, coming up in a ghetto, coming up in a racist system, you have so many things to do that you can see that it never dawned on me there was things that you couldn't see that will kill you just as fast, like polluted water, polluted air. You can't see, smell or taste or feel radiation.
And--one day I was arrested in Chicago for a demonstration. And in the process of my arrest--I would always go to jail. And I said, `Well, I'm not in jail for committing a crime, so I don't think I should be punished. I don't mind going to jail, so I'm not going to do no work detail.' And that would aggravate people who was even--thought what you was doing was right, but `now you're on my turf' and so I wouldn't do anything. And it saved my life, you know.
That's why I say this movement owed me nothing. You know, I came through--the awful thing about being poor is you get hung up with wanting to get from here to there and don't know what they went through. You see this luxury, but you don't know if it was an insurance fraud. You don't know if a wife or a husband died in a plane wreck, and that's how the money--you just see the luxury, and you want to get there.
And I'm laying in bed in jail, and I'm not asleep. I'm fasting. I always refuse to eat when I go to jail or drink any water. And laying there, I had this vision that Chicago was on fire. And it was kind of interesting because I always felt there was something wrong with Mrs. O'Leary's cow. I mean, if you think about how sexism affects our society today, can you imagine what sexism--when did--where did she get them cows from? I mean, Mrs. O'Leary's cow? So I used to do a lot--it's just--what happened is Mr. O'Leary got drunk and went out in the barn and milked the bull by mistake, you know? That's what caused the fire.
So I'm thinking that--when I'm there, I see this vision that Chicago's on fire, but I don't see no flames. And I'm kind of--I see this guy standing at the door--a white guy--with a little smirky grin on his face, and so I come out of it and I--and I really want to tell myself I'd been sleeping. And I hadn't been.
My wife was in the hospital having our 10th child. And when I got out of jail, I just realized I had to get out of Chicago. Something was going to happen. I didn't know what it meant Chicago's burning, but there's no flame. So we moved from Chicago. And we lived in a fantastic neighborhood, one of the fine neighbors in America because it's the University of Chicago, Hyde Park, Kenwood. And they used to run ads in Newsweek, you know, listing Dick Gregory, bah, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah. It was the highest per capita, educationwise, of the people who lived there.
But I noticed something, just snooping around, looking at news. Right a block from where I lived--and it's a fine, incredible neighborhood--about 200 days out of the year, whatever they used to call the code for bad air day, that area would have it, you know? It's right--you've seen it. The lake is across the street. And so we got out.
Now how did I get to Plymouth, then I'll come back and finish Chicago. I wanted to find a farm. I wanted to find a place where the children could have fresh air, clean water and--and grow--grow a little plant or something. Nothing serious, you know? I tell people I was making too much money to be a farmer, you know?
So I had some friends looking, and I looked at so many places so fast, I thought I was moving to Providence, Rhode Island. And I went—I had told the lawyers--and I'm thinking I'm buying the house. I didn't know it's leased, and they kept saying--you know how you—you hear what you want to hear?
So Lil got out of the hospital with baby number 10, and we packed up everything. And it was under protest. And you see, I never understood why parents, especially fathers, get uptight with their children because every scheme in that house was financed by me. `I'm going to argue with you? I'm going to yell at you? Just get me a good book and sit in front of the refrigerator. And at some time that day, you will come that way because that's where all the food is, and then you will find out whose food this is. And then I want to know why I have to call you so many times and you don't hear me.'
So we head out and nobody's laughing. No one. And we get there--I'm at the wrong place. There's a lake. I can't swim, Lil can't swim. So they rebel--seriously rebel. And--and I didn't care, except I'm so embarrassed. I'm at the wrong place. So I take them in town and check them in a hotel, so I can gather my thoughts. So I go--can you imagine 400 acres around a lake? I go and have a guy come put a fence up, quickly put a fence up. `Now you're protected.'
So we come back, we move in. And, you know, no one stays angry long so then they--but all at once--I have children born and raised in Chicago. Then on the way to the playground when they visit friends, they walk through dope pushers, prostitutes, people cussing, taverns, bars. We get to a farm and they're scared of butterflies, man. They're running, `They're going to get us!' Say, `No, no. Your problem we just left.'
So--I carried my son to Mexico one year. He's four years old. And the area I go to had no electric, no lights. They didn't want it. They just said `We're just rural.' Nothing. You're just there. And you lived in a hut. Xalapa, Mexico. And he runs in hollering and screaming, `They going to get me.' And--and--and I run outside. And I'm not one of these fathers that will run outside just because that's my boy. I can tell the way he was hollering, it wasn't nothing serious. And I told all my children, my wife, `If anything happens, you know, seriously, call the police.'
I'm not--I'm not a pit bull. Somebody don't wait till I come home. Call the police, you know? So I go outside, it was stars. Stars. And I felt so bad. I was born in 1932, no pollution, just lay out on your back with a piece of straw in your mouth, you know, in the city, and pick out the Big Dipper, `That's mine and this is yours,' see shooting stars.
LAMB: What city?
Mr. GREGORY: St. Louis. So now, 1963, I have a child born in a city and have never seen a star, huh? Too polluted? Too many lights? Too bright? That didn't bother me. What bothered me and made me cry, I was born seeing stars, and I've been so busy in the rat race and the hustle and the bustle, I never even thought that they left. Oh, huh? And I really was ashamed. You know, it's one thing never having something. It's another thing you have something, that book sitting on your lap. And then all at once, it moved and you didn't know it was gone.
And so all of these led me into--the only rule I set when I was looking for a place was, `Find me a place an hour from a major airport,' because at that time about 80 percent to 90 percent of my work was college lectures, and 80 percent of all colleges is east of the Rockies. And so long as I'm an hour from the airport, I'm—and Plymouth is an hour from the Boston airport. That was the only criteria I had. So we get there, and had 400 acres. Everybody's happy.
I felt bad. My friends say, `You growing anything,' you know? And I said, `Oh, this is a rich boy farm.' It's just a--you know, it's a--it's manicured. It's--I had the old Liggett Myers estate, you know. President Cleveland used to go up, and it was a horse farm. And they have all of these huge places, and it was just gorgeous. And so we planted a garden. That was the first time I really ever played father. We out digging in the dirt, and it started growing. You see a little onion come up. And then all at once, we ordered a swing--you know, the whole swing, the whole apparatus from Sears & Roebuck where the--all the--everything the children play with, right?
And out of 400 acres--when I got back home--out of all the places for them to put that, they put it in the garden. So I said, `Well, we—I might as well give up. There's no farmers. There's--there's no rural. This is--I'm in trouble.' I mean, we've got 400 acres. The only place was--I said, `Oh, God, help me. Please, help me.' You know? And so that's how I ended up in Plymouth.
LAMB: You've been married to...
Mr. GREGORY: But wait. Let me--please, let me do this. About three years later, just thumbing through some research, I see something in one of these, like, secret reports that one of the highest, strangest forms of bone cancer deaths anywhere on the planet is in this area where I used to live. Huh?
LAMB: Chicago or Plymouth?
Mr. GREGORY: Chicago. Not just Chicago, Hyde Park, Kenwood, huh? So I'm saying to my wife, `Lil, wait a minute. This is the vision, this strange bone cancer.' So I check it out and I find out that Stagg Field, 55th and Cottage Grove, is where they split the atom. I used to pride myself on showing friends, you know, `This is where the atom was split.' And they found it was still radiated. They cut Stagg Field down, and it's a track. I used to tell people in, `The radiation is still there,' I said. You know, I'd go way over to the ghetto where people's lights and gas was cut off, and I'd bring their turkeys over and just put them in the trunk of the car and sit there at Stagg Field for a while and they'd be done. You know, the radiation is still here.
Well, here's what we found out. Sixty-five years ago, nobody knew about nuclear waste. Where did they dump it? Well, when they got ready to build new buildings, the University of Chicago, they dumped it in the cement. And that was the vision. Chicago is on fire, flames are not there. And I just wanted to finish that. That's the reason I left Chicago. Second, right behind that, because I couldn't tell anybody that. They'd think you're crazy. So I had to really blame it on, `Let me find a place that's not as polluted and fresh air.'
And then the children ended up--they loved it. There's something about nature, there's something about outside, there's something about--and yet, I still don't understand Idaho, Utah, some reactionary people. See, I grew up in a city where I believe that if you get around nature, you'd be close to God. As I go around the world and see beautiful places and you see that meanness and that--and then you can go into little conclaves where you would never expect you could find love. And--now you can find love.
LAMB: You spent how many years at Southern Illinois University?
Mr. GREGORY: I spent four years at Southern Illinois University.
LAMB: In Carbondale?
Mr. GREGORY: In Carbondale, Illinois. And I think everything I am today, I'd have to trace it back to that. I mean, I can go further to my mother, to the neighborhood I grew up in, but it's like cooking a stew, and you've just got the water hot and the season in it, but you haven't put the rest of it in. Well, that's what I was like before. See, I'd never been around white folks. We had a rigid segregated pattern where I didn't see you. I went to all-negro schools.
LAMB: In St. Louis?
Mr. GREGORY: Went to all-negro movies. See, we didn't have a segregated movie where you sit downstairs and I sit upstairs. When you had to go buy clothes at the big department store, you couldn't try them on. You say, `Well, my shoes--my feet's a size whatever.' How--how'd I know what size it was? They would take the money and then they'd throw your shoes and your change back out. The stores you could go into, you couldn't try nothing on. So if you was buying a hat, you couldn't try a hat on. And once you bought it, there was no such thing as you bringing it back.
Mr. GREGORY: Because you were negro and white folks didn't want to put on no clothes that you had had on. And it's kind of interesting how racism works. Because I wouldn't mind putting on--see, that's the horror about racism. Not only am I at the blunt of it, but it makes me the nice person. It makes me start believing that you superior, that you cleaner than me because I don't mind putting on a hat you had on or a pair of shoes. But here's a system that minds me.
And so coming out of that, only white folks I knew were the ones you worked for or the ones my mother worked for. They never called her Ms. Gregory or Ms. Lucille. It was Lucille. The little children called her Lucille. And, you know, coming out of a respectful area, which I don't--I don't go along with that today, where if you was a child, you referred to adults as Mr. or Mrs. Well, if Hitler walked in the room, I'm going to tell a grandchild of mine, `We thought he was dead, but refer to him as'--and even in the Bible, where it says, `Honor your mother and father,' I scratched that out of mine when I was a little boy. I said, `Honor your mother and father if they're honorable.'
You have a lot of problem with folks who's really into the Bible and Christians. And I have to put a visual picture. If I, as a father, raped a three-year-old, a six-year-old and a five-year-old and took an ax and chopped them up, are my children still supposed to honor me because I'm their dad? I don't think so. And-- so just seeing how disrespectful they were to my mother--she didn't feel that way. She was talking about putting food on the table and feeding us. And then she would take, like, mashed potatoes--and I've said to my brothers, I said, `You don't see--them rich white folks don't eat no'--see, nobody with money eats leftovers. We eat leftovers, and it was some kind of something like they taste better the second day, you know? `Girl, you haven't had no turkey till that second day. And you got--but why you have to put so much mayonnaise on it? You know, so much--using it?'
So one day--I used to always talk back to my mother. And she was fixing food, and I saw this food that she had taken from these white folks' house and put it in a--hide it. And she demanded we say the blessing. So I said, `I'm not praying over stolen food.' And she goes, `Who said that?' And I always wondered why parents do that. They--that's giving you another chance. And so naturally I'm not going to say it, you know, because my mother would attack you. She was a nice, sweet lady, but she took nothing--`I said who said that?' And everybody look at me.
`No child of mine will sit at this table and eat without praying over food.' `I don't pray over stolen food.' `What do you mean by that?' `You're taking this food'--see, I was heavily influenced by movies. John Wayne, Humphrey Bogart, those were my heroes. And I used to want to be like them, man. They wouldn't take nothing off nobody. I know if Humphrey Bogart's mother had took some mashed potatoes that the white folks wasn't going to eat the next day, he wouldn't pray over it.
Now it'd be nice if my mother knew they wasn't going to eat it and was taking it, but she was hiding it. So she hit me, you know. And then I kind of looked--my mother had a lot of sense. Man, she be--she be hitting you, but she be listening if you be talking back to her. And I say, `If you come downstairs in the basement and pray over what I stole, I come back over here and pray over what you stole.' I said, `I'm a better thief than you. I just can't justify mine through religion.' And she heard me. And then I was sorry I said it. She-- just sit right down and hugged me and she started crying.
LAMB: How many kids were around that table?
Mr. GREGORY: Oh, it was--it was--it was all of us, but when the whooping started, ain't nobody around.
LAMB: How many are there--were there in your--brothers and sisters?
Mr. GREGORY: It was six of us. Four boys...
LAMB: No father.
Mr. GREGORY: No father.
LAMB: Big Prez.
Mr. GREGORY: Big Prez.
LAMB: Where was he?
Mr. GREGORY: Oh, I like him now. He's my hero. He was average movie dude, man. You know, he was--big money.
Mr. GREGORY: Presley. I'm born in 1932. In the early '40s, Big Prez made $60,000 a year. Can you imagine that kind of money in them days? He was a master chef, master chef. I mean, if he got off the boat in England, it would be a violation not to go check in to see if his service was needed at Buckingham Palace. When I got ready to go to college and--I was talking to him one day in between--periods he'd be gone and come back. He said, `I don't know what you're going to college for. My sauce man makes $60,000 a year.' Now he's 50, a black person, $60,000? Well, I didn't realize these hotels, just the sauces that you have, these are--certain people just make those up. And so Big Pres was never there and my mother loved him. God--I mean, just outright loved him.
Just--now the--I could relate with that because I'd see that in the movies, you know. And remember, everything in the movies was white folks. And I never seen a mama or a queen in a love scene. And the first time I saw two people kissing passionately was not my mother and father. It was two white folks in the movie. So locked in my subconscious mind, the epitome of love is something lighter than me. Now the reason I didn't say white folks is because that might explain that yellow thing. And to you light-complected folks--now don't get upset. Hey, that whole light-complected--but I can have a light-complected woman and I don't violate this white man. And in the black community, there's some black women that's lighter than white women, and so I can have one of those and don't violate the whole peace of that.
And so thinking of the house, him not being there, and that's why today I detest the problem in the black community: no black man at home. We ain't home when we home. You know a white racist system that tortured us all day long--I'm not talking about now. I'm talking about then. They goose you in your butt and rub your hair for luck and all of the--how much poon tang did you get, boy? And you have to tell them, because you couldn't tell that white man that I was home with the flu over the weekend.
The automobiles that black men drove was better than the automobiles than the white men drove because racism meant that I didn't have to pay as much dues as you. You got to come to work in a suit. I just wear a uniform. You have to go to Florida, go skiing and do this. I didn't have to do all that. So I would put that little piece of change away, so I had a brand-new Cadillac before you knew what they looked like. White folks was buying Chevys. We was buying Cadillacs but we couldn't take them to work. We'd have to drive them and get out six blocks before work, because even if you wouldn't, I just believed that if you saw me with that car I would be fired.
And that was the atmosphere that I grew up in. And so to be told the problem there's no man at home--but then I get grown one day and realize Hitler had a mother and father--hello. Jack the Ripper had a mother and father--hello. And Queen Elizabeth make $300 million every 24 hours, just interest on her money. Oh, that's big paper and she lives in this huge Buckingham Palace with Philip, and they might not sleep together but they've never been separated, no scandal, and you can't find no more dysfunctional children than hers.
So that whole thing about--and then I get to thinking, the Mafia, now, you tell me about family values. You can't find family--oh, mama mia, you can't find nobody closer. But they don't care about nobody else. So when you sit and look at all of these myths that a white racist system--first, it is impossible for me to be a racist. There's a lot of black folks that's not even aware of that. I can dislike you because you're white. I don't have to know what you are. That's prejudice. I can dislike you because you're Jewish, because you're Irish Catholic. I can dislike you because you're Hungarian. That's prejudice. The word `racism' means the ability to control somebody else's fate and destiny. And regardless of what type of dislike I have for you, I do not have the power to see to it that your children go to bad schools. I do not have the power to see to it that the bank will not give you a mortgage, and that's the difference. There's a big, big difference in that.
And so that atmosphere, coming up in that atmosphere, that it opens up little cracks in your head where you say well, maybe if I'm a good athlete, they'll like me, hmm? Maybe if I'm a good--and then you grow up one day and you look at the other side of this now because I'm with you every day and you're with me every day, so those tales work both ways. I believe that all white men have little bitty pee-wees. I mean, I've never seen them, but man, there was a whole lots of white men who think mine was hanging down to the ground. And that might be the only thing I hate giving up with integration, that I had to go to the toilet with you. And I remember one time I called my wife. It got me in a state of shock. I said, `Let me tell you about this white boy that just peed next to me.' All the myths went out.
So as a child, there was white folks that said all niggers got tails. Well, how would you know? They happy. The closest you ever come to a black woman was my mama, who you call `Gal.' And she was always happy. Even when she was sick, you didn't know it because she had to go to get the money to come back and feed us. And now I've taught my children death is better.
There's something in God that say before you let a system reduce you below the dignity that I gave you just so you can feed your family or pay the rent or the house note or send them to college, death is better. And it's that group of black folks and white folks who died that keeps that light, that light going, so now today it's so much different because nobody can sit and tell me about them white folks. They have to have a name. What's--what's his name? Because I know too many. I see too many. And then that whole myth, that growing up, I believe they was redneck crackers, ignorant. Then one day I get enough sensibility to realize a white dude who can't write--read and write do not make policy. But we didn't ever thought of that.
I thought the president of Harvard University, the president of AT&T, I thought that's what God meant for humanity to be about. Again, it's the money, it's the class, it's the way you look. And then we also put a--the same way white folks would put a--what a nigger looks like, we also put what a redneck cracker looks like, and it didn't like a white gentleman in a tie or--we even knew what he talked like and what he sounded like and the whole thing. And so today, you hear a lot of people in the black community talk about integration. And I just say, `Well, I'm just thank God I don't have no serious power,' you know.
See, God really knew it--when he--has put me here normal, make me a good guy, don't give me no power, because Jesus Christ, if I'd have been on that cross with some serious power, them white dudes would have had heads about the size of lemon, humps in their back and club feet. So I just say, `God, just give me no power, but just give me the ability to run.' See, I want the right to be scared. I want the right to get out of here. Don't let me--and I explained that to my wife and my children. `You know, don't see Dad. You all see something, you all get to getting, you know. Don't worry about me. I'll catch you.'
And one of the jokes I used to tell, me and my wife had been married two weeks. I'm walking down the street and she called, said a guy walked up and touched her butt. So I start stepping. And she had an attitude, `I can't believe you let this guy touch my rump and do nothing about it.' Well, I said, `I thought you knew him.' Right then--we just been married two weeks. I'm kind of, you know--did you say, that's my husband now. She said, `Well, I don't know him. Now what you going to do?' `We going to get out of here before he touch mine, he that crazy,' right?
And so it was that--that whole having no power, reacting to fear. Now to sit and see white folks that'd die for you, you sit and watch white folks on TV that will stand up. I mean, it's still catching me off-guard to read The Wall Street Journal and they say the attorney general designate, he should not be the attorney general. And--and--to look at the editorial where they're talking about—he lied on this black man, this judge. And it's kind of interesting because then he says `Well, he don't want to give nobody the electric chair.' Seventy-three percent of the cases that came before this black judge he agreed, capital punishment. So that's not the part that you get when you just listening to one side.
And that's the great part about where we going now. The sad part is if you would go and get all your major papers and had a computer that could snatch a word out like C-SPAN and just scan it, and say, `Well, in the last five years, how many times have that word C-SPAN showed up in the papers?' and you could pull it out. Well, if you could go in the last 50 years and get all the major white papers in America and say `When is the last time--how many times will you see the word "racism" in The New York Times, The Washington Post, St. Louis Post Dispatch in the last 20 years.' It'd be a few times and most of the time it would be referring to us: `That's a racist statement,' and the whole thing.
And so when you stop and think of how that affects me coming out of parents that just wanted to be liked, and so I want to be liked, coming out of parents that don't want to rock the boat, so I don't want to rock the boat. And--and then all at once the boat starts rocking, and you know, it's kind of interesting when I look at the Clarence Thomas--I mean, there's always been Clarence Thomases. What alienates us so bad is that he made it through our struggle. If you go to Colgate and look at the days when Adam Clayton Powell--all of them went to them type of schools, they look like you. They were light complected, see no dark black men at them institutions. It was the civil rights movement that fixed it so he could go to that type of school and sit on the Supreme Court today, unqualified.
And I got to thinking, people call me and ask me about folks like Armstrong Williams and--and I say `Well, here's how you have to look at this--two ways. I have a right to go crazy, and a white racist system can run me crazy. That's legitimate. So there are some Negroes out here that are seriously crazy. They should be pitied, not censored. But there's some out here that know the right thing to say to tune into this web in a lot of racist white folks' mind and give them aid and comfort. And if Clarence Thomas wasn't doing that, he wouldn't be on the Supreme Court. If Armstrong Williams and that type wasn't doing that'--now I don't blame white folks. I blame them on black women. See, now, I teach my granddaughters.
You see, if you look at the Clarence Thomas type, about 98 percent of them are black, thick jaws, nappy hair, wide nose. They look very Negroish. But they couldn't get a sister go to a prom with them when they was in high school, so they grow up, marry white woman and hate us all. So I'm trying to start a campaign to say to the sister, `You don't have to kiss them, but please go to the prom with them.' We cannot have another generation of this.
Now here's the painfulness of the Clarence Thomas. When I think about one day when we sit down and really write the history. Now Clarence Thomas will never be on the stamp, but Malcolm X is because fair people sit and listen to Malcolm says and think, `I would have said the same thing.' There was not one black person in the room that made the decision that Malcolm X would be on a stamp. It was white folks that made that decision.
Now all of these white folks who they think like them--you see, and then they attack people like us that say, `Well, there's more than one side.' But they--we grew up with black Republicans, huh? Martin Luther King's mother and father was Republican. Jackie Robinson was a Republican. All the honorable people in the black community that would take time to talk to you, that would say you should do this, son, you should do this. I heard you all making too much--those were Republicans that told you about going into business, about get a good education.
This new thing out here is a trick, it's insulting to us who have a lick of intelligence, a lick of sense. There's so many great Re--Fletcher, that vote what we know now as affirmative action is a Republican. When I think about brother Bob Brown, who sit right next to Nixon--a Republican. When I think about Homer Cotrell, these beautiful black business folks that would never stoop.
So I do two things now. See, here's how you deal with this. When you see the Clarence Thomases and them, and the Armstrong Williams and them, who would do a whole column if three black cops--three white cops was killed by a black dude, but when white cops kill black folks you don't hear from them. There's something wrong with that. When the white press come out and said after a survey we found out that 63 percent of people in certain areas of the Midwest that applied for loans did not get them, although white folks with lesser jobs, less--you don't hear from them. And so what they're doing is on the backs of the decent white folks and black folks. It's almost like a chump that didn't go to war talking that war game because it make the people feel good at the Veterans Affairs. And he's laying up in the VA hospitals and he's getting all these benefits and the people in the VA hospital is so nothing, they're so glad to hear somebody talk war talk it never dawned on them that he's never paid those dues. He was never there.
And so consequently, when you hear that and you see that and you read that and you feel that, I say forget that this is the year 2000 and make believe it's 1930, and make believe that's not a black person you hear. Make believe this is not America's Nazi Germany and make believe that wasn't television. It's radio. And that's a Jew saying the same thing to make the Germans feel good that they're saying, trying to appeal to that mentality of the white folks, and then you get the right picture. Now if that Jew had gone crazy, then that Jew should be censored away and treated--not censored. But if that Jew is doing that, that's the same way.
And then when I listen to them today and I think about Branch Rickey, wow, man that's scary. Here's a black man that grew up in a black neighborhood come up through the womb of a black mother who has been oppressed and misused. And here's a white man that never had a black mother, that under all normal circumstances have no reason to relate or put his job on the line, and he says `I have to do it.' And then you start putting it into writing. And what he did with Jackie Robinson changed the whole world.
I remember that day April the 15th, 1947. Something came over me that made me forget about Alan Ladd and Humphrey Bogart and Clark Gable. Them was my--man, them was my partners. When Clark Gable say, `Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn,' the black folks, man, we were saying that for the next three years. The teacher say, `You got your homework?' `Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn,' right? But all at once this day, something happened. I didn't realize the significance of it until grown, and realized the role that sports play in the psychic of human beings, and realized that here in the civil rights movement there was people saying, `Well, what do they want?' But all at once, this is America's game. This is not football, man. This was America's game, and here, not just a black cat that came up, but would come through. And you just felt so good. You felt human. And it wasn't a Joe Louis, because Joe Louis' time had passed.
Here's a guy--we didn't know Jackie Robinson ...(unintelligible) UCLA. We didn't know because of the way racism affect us. He sounds white. We think that's the way you should sound. And he don't walk like a sharecropper. We didn't know he was from California. We just know--and what it was is here's a dark man that fits everything in our psyche that a white man would except that he's just chocolate. He didn't sound Negroish, he didn't walk Negroish. He didn't sound Southern. We didn't know that he wasn't. And so all at once, this excitement, this excitement. And then things start breaking down. And I'm sure one day when--100 years, 200 years from now when people sit down and start running an honest trail, it will be that.
Joe Louis is very interesting. Very clever what they did with Joe Louis. Racism was so bad that Dick Gregory, you cannot get in there and hit that white man in the face. They'll run you out of here and they'll raise your hands. So if you go back and you look at all Joe Louis' pictures after a fight--now you can't tell him he can't do it for blacks, but after all of Joe Louis' fights, you never saw him doing this. That's why when Ali did it, it meant so much to me. Joe Louis could don't that. He just say, `Well, Mama, I sure is glad I win. Won me another one, Mama.' And that didn't threaten no one at all.
And so all of those made the steps clear for someone else. And then you sit and you listen and society's been so warped, and then I look at America today, the most Christian, the most religious. Nobody talks about family values like America, and yet with 6 percent of the world's population, 79 percent of all the world's hard drugs we use. What God are we praying to? We consume more alcohol as a nation than almost any nation in the world. Every four seconds you and I have been sitting here a woman in America has been beat up by her boyfriend or husband. We're not talking about strangers. I'm talking about somebody in the house with me. And so all at once you sit and you say, `Well, wait a minute.' And then you see how this corrupts the fabric.
In other words, if you ask someone, `What do you think of when you hear the word "God"?' And it's amazing the different things that people say. They say `He's my father, I think of the Son, I think of the Holy Ghost, I think of Jesus.' ... just—what do you think of when you hear the word `father?' And it's kind and loving, and `I think of the creator, I think of my father.' I say, `Well, how can you in a Christian praying society let a handful of evil old degenerate pimps take the Mafia syndicate hoodlums, the scum of the Earth, and name them godfather and it didn't bother you?' That's scary. Godfather? That didn't bother you? And then glamorize it. And we sit to the movie and we couldn't get enough of their glamour. Why? Because in a country that's so spiritually whipped, if you've got a nice suit on, remember, the Mafia never looked bad, tailor-made. They were cool, man. But if we could ever visualize the Mafia, just a little rough necks with some tattoos on and no money and stealing cars. It's one to steal a car as a business, it's another to steal a car because you ain't got one. We would not tolerate that.
And so when you stop and see what Branch Rickey did--that's that little flame. You know, it's kind of interesting, but I use the example because we've all been guilty of it. You walking across the house with a candle and sometime your swiftness creates too much wind and it almost put the candle out, and all you do is stop, slow up and cup it, as long as you just cup it, and that flame go--that's what the civil rights movement was doing, it was cupping this candle. And it started flaming and it started going and fair-minded people sit and watched. And today, you see this--this mix.
And when I left home to go to college, that's the first time I met a white man as a white man, my coach, my professor, and the reason I say nothing changed me, the stew really got mixed at that white racist college, and I don't think there could have been any more college that was more racist than Southern Illinois University that admitted Negroes. There was some that were worse, but they wouldn't let us in. And I got there, and I heard a white professor, Dr. Ross, say to a white girl in speech--she said, `Nobody want to hear what I've got to say.' And he told her a story of when the whole cotton crop was wiped out and the boll weevils and the economy of America was about to fall and we'd been destroyed as a nation and they didn't know what to do, so they brought this group of scientists in from the South and the North, and they brought a black scientist with them named George Washington Carver. He couldn't ride on the train with them--he had to sit in the Negro section--and he couldn't stay here in Washington, DC, with them, he stayed in a Negro home.
And after two weeks they couldn't find the answer and somebody remembered oh, God, George, we forgot he's here! So they decided that the con--it was going close the next day as a failure at 12 noon and they'd let him on at a quarter to 12, and he spoke at a quarter to 12. Now here's a white professor at this college telling this white girl this who says, `Nobody will listen to me. I have nothing to say.' And he said, `At quarter to 12 he started talking and at midnight they sent out the third time for sandwiches. At 6:00 in the morning, they were still there. He had the answer. So, Miss Brickbauer, if you have something to say, they will listen.' I had a white man, and I'm sitting, and I walked out. I'm not talking about a movie, I'm not talking about a script. I'm talking about a white man that said, `If you have something to say,' and a white coach that told me I was the fastest thing that ever came down there. Phil Coleman, he was nice in cross-country, but I had the glamour. I was the third-fastest half-miler in the nation when I went in. Never see anything--plus, I was from the city. You know, I didn't take no stuff off white folks. You know why? Because I didn't know none. I did--nobody'd ever taught me how to behave. I hadn't been around them.
So I get there, and he would pull me over. Never told me, say, `Behave yourself.' He said, `Dick, take deep breaths,' the way a father takes when he's seriously talking to your boy. He says, `Dick it's just going to be for a few minutes.' He says, `Take you some speech courses and some foreign languages, and when you get out of here, this'--and he talked to me the way them old black Republicans used to talk to me. And that was the atmosphere and a group of us blacks came together and we changed Southern Illinois University. And I would daresay today, you can't find too many colleges in America that has as high a percentage of blacks as SIU--black vice president, Gale Sayers became the first black athletic director of a major—all that came from the seed that we planted, because we thought more of that college than just to come through and suck all the milk out this breast while I'm coming through. We wanted to leave something, not just for other Negroes, but as an institution.
And we sit down and we talked, and we said, `Here's what this institution's doing for us. What are we going to do for it? Well, we're going to kick its booty and we're going to bring it down.' And we came together one day--125 years, no Negro ever has been outstanding athlete of the year, so we went in. They got mad and kicked us out. So then we decided that we quit. You know what they told us? `So what, we can get some more.' So I got on the phone and called Central Michigan-- not Central Michigan, Michigan Normal in Ypsilanti. I said, `Hey, I'm Dick Gregory and all the Negro athletes, we're thinking about quitting. If we quit, will you take us?' They said, `Sure.' So went back and told the coach, and that night they made me outstanding athlete of the year.
That's when I realized bargaining--same thing with the Theta Xi variety show. A black person had never won it in singing, dan--nothing. So we just bought 50 tickets and went in and locked the door. And I got up, danced, bug-danced, sang, went ba-da-da-da-da-da, and took the trophies. And that's how we beat it down, and beat it down. And one of the fine institutions--not perfect. Won't be perfect until the next group comes in, decides that we're going to change it.
And that's what I wanted this book to reflect. I wanted a book that 100 years from now when black folks and white folks from all over the world sit down and want to look at the movement, they'll have a document. I had no hidden agenda when I put this together. When you see me on the front of that cover there, behind them bars, I have a suit and a tie on. You can never wear a tie in jail because you can commit suicide. They take your shoestrings. That, without saying it in the book, that said `America is in jail,' and I'm looking through the bars at America, and I hope you liberate yourself and I hope you're ready for this parole. My nephew took that picture. I was doing a movie and one of the scenes was in jail, so before I put my costume on--Mario Van Peebles--I was doing that. And then we thought hey, this would make a--and one of the things that I would like to say to you out there is all of you should write a book. Not a book that's going to be sold. It might. But just sit down, because you are somebody--and just sit down.
What I was able to do because of the advance and Shelia Moses, I said, `Here's what I want. I've got 13 books out here, and I don't want you to rewrite with me another book that's the same thing.' Certain things will never change. I was born October the 12th, 1932. I will always be born. That have to be it. When I first wrote my first book "Nigger," I was looking for white man, not a black man, not me, to write it with me, because the message I had in my first book, black folk didn't need to hear it. White America needed to hear it, who had never been around a Negro doctor or a Negro schoolteacher or a Negro principal. And so I wanted to put my life in his head, let him spit it out, so it would have the--this time, I wanted black folks and white folks and humans, and Shelia Moses was that person, that I said, `Go around the world, interview whoever you have to interview, and then come back with the skeleton, and then we'll put the meat on the bones,' and we ended up with "Callus on My Soul."
LAMB: This is the cover of the book. Our guest has been Dick Gregory and the book is "Callus on My Soul." Thank you very much.
Mr. GREGORY: Thank you, brother.
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