Dr. Carey Latimore moved to San Antonio in 2004 to take a job at the prestigious Trinity University. He teaches classes in the area of African American studies. He is leading the way to create an African American institute in San Antonio to document the past and provide a location for discourse on racial justice issues.
Justin Hill: Hello and Bienvenidos San Antonio. Welcome to the Alamo Hour, discussing the people, places, and passion that make our city. My name is Justin Hill, a local attorney, a proud San Antonionian, and keeper of chickens and bees. On the Alamo Hour, you’ll get to hear from the people that make San Antonio great and unique and the best-kept secret in Texas. We’re glad that you’re here.
All right. Welcome to the Alamo Hour. Today’s guest is Dr. Carey Latimore. Dr. Latimore is a professor of African American Studies and other classes at Trinity University. He got his PhD from Emory. He’s written extensively. He’s won many awards. He was recently tapped by the city to share some of his thoughts and some of his research regarding the Alamo Plaza project and some decisions on what to do with some of the surrounding buildings. We’ve asked Dr. Latimore to be on here. We asked previously to all of the protests in the city and some of the issues that have arisen since then, but the timing couldn’t be better. Thank you, Dr. Latimore, for being here today.
Dr. Carey Latimore: Thank you, Justin. It’s my honor to be here.
Justin: We had a fantastic conversation before we got to start recording which we should have recorded, but we’ll probably recover some of that but–
Dr. Latimore: And long time ago, too, we talked about a month or so ago [crosstalk].
Justin: Yes, for about an hour. It was a great conversation.
Dr. Latimore: And all this other stuff.
Justin: We were introduced through Dr. Lesh, who is your best man in your wedding, and as a friend of the show. I’m not going to kid, he’s probably the biggest supporter of what I’m doing here and I can’t thank him enough.
Dr. Latimore: Dave is a good man.
Justin: Yes, he is.
Dr. Latimore: I’m sure he’s listening to that too.
Justin: He will be listening. It’s funny, Dr. Lesh will give me opinions on what to ask and he’ll– I think with you, he was like, “Well, ask him how we met,” or– I can’t remember what it was, but he has to be part of everything. You’ve listened to some of the shows, every show we start with a top 10. I’ve read some interviews you’ve done with a newspaper, I’ve read some interviews you’ve done with Trinity’s Getting to Know a Professor. Basically, anything I could find, I’ve read, I’ve watched some videos, so I found a few things I want to talk about.
Dr. Latimore: That sounds scary though.
Justin: Well, the internet has a lot of things out there. Compared to some people, you’re fine, you don’t have anything that– There’s really not a ton out there.
Dr. Latimore: That’s good.
Justin: You academics, y’all’s researches and books that cost $10 to $50 a piece so I don’t–
Dr. Latimore: You’re right. This is true.
Justin: I tried to buy a Lesh book and I don’t get the Lesh special even though I know him, so I had to pay- I only bought the one that was $9, I’m not going to lie, I wouldn’t buy any of his other books. Were you at his books–?
Dr. Latimore: I was not. I had a class that night.
Justin: It was interesting. It was like a book release party for two books at once or something.
Dr. Latimore: That’s how Lesh rolls.
Justin: He did a reading of his book. It was hard to take it seriously, honestly, because I know Lesh socially, I don’t know him as an academic. I didn’t realize how austere and dry those events were.
Dr. Latimore: Lesh has a very powerful presence too.
Justin: He does?
Dr. Latimore: In the classroom, he is extraordinarily, and I’m not saying anything that he wouldn’t agree with, he has an extraordinary presence.
Justin: Yes, I believe that.
Dr. Latimore: There are some students who are afraid of him.
Justin: I believe that.
Dr. Latimore: Of course, then he’s very tall and he’s got that baseball background. People are not used to having their college professor being a former baseball player and drafted, I think in the first round or something like that. He’s a different–
Justin: He’s a real deal. I think that’s one thing that is always fun with hanging out with him because me and our mutual friend Tim, we just see him as our friends so we don’t give him any extra deference. That’s hard for him to take for the first 20 minutes. All right, so top 10, we’re going to get through some stuff, then we’re going to spend some time talking about your areas of research. I want to talk to you about your teaching philosophy. I think that’s interesting. I went to law school at Baylor which still employs the Paper Chase style Socratic method. You’re up on your feet, it’s in your face, and if you don’t know you get kicked out of class. It was a very intense environment. Let’s start with when and why did you move to San Antonio?
Dr. Latimore: Trinity University was the when and why. I did not know a lot about Trinity before I came here, but when I was at Emory University finishing up my PhD, one of the things that happens in academia is you have these hiring cycles. It’s really a year-long process that begins, really at the end of the summer. All of these universities really post their jobs is for history, probably around August or September. There are a couple of different places where we find out who’s interested in hiring somebody. I looked at these places and Trinity University was looking for a historian in my area. It was one of the six or seven universities that I applied to.
That happened, and then around October, I think the search theoretically, the application period ended, and in December, they contacted me saying that they were interested in having a future conversation with me at the American Historical Association meeting, which is these all academic fields have these huge meetings and there are thousands of people that will go. For the AHA, it’s usually in a very cold environment. When I say cold, I mean, they’re going to meet in Chicago, they’re going to meet in New York, they’re going to meet in DC, and it’s going to be the first week of January so you know it’s going to be cold.
You’re bringing all these people to DC or somewhere, some cold environment, and all of these people looking for jobs, in addition to all the things that they do at the regular meeting. I was just a young kid, I had never done a job interview before. I knew that there were probably about 10 other people that were interviewing for that same position, or 12. They bring you up for a half-hour long meeting. There was a table of about seven faculty members at Trinity there and I was this one guy, surrounded by these faculty members.
Talk about a power dynamic there. I’m sitting there, trying to ask questions right. I was so young, I probably didn’t even think about it at that time. They interviewed me. I got called back to a second interview the next day, they said, “We’d like to talk again.” I’m like, “Gosh, I guess I’m doing a good job.” I came back, they talked to me for about another 45 minutes to an hour, and then they said, “Well, you’ll hear from us at some point in time.”
In January, a couple of weeks later, I received a call saying, we’d like you to come to San Antonio and talk to us a little bit more. I got on the bus, no, not got on the bus, got a plane, came to San Antonio. Over a two day period, they took me around the university, they talked to me, I had to present my research and other kinds of things. Then I went home, they said, “Well, we’ll talk to you later.” I get a call, probably three weeks later, offered me the job.
Justin: What a process.
Dr. Latimore: It’s a long huge process, not just go and you find out the next day. Everything in academia is long-drawn-out. Getting a PhD is six or seven years, it’s long-drawn-out. Getting tenure long and drawn out. We make things seem much longer than they actually need to be, but that’s how I ended up in Texas.
Justin: What year was that?
Dr. Latimore: That was in 2004 when I started. Trinity is very similar to my undergrad, the University of Richmond. Small liberal arts, really pays attention to teaching, they care about research, a great university in a great city. Richmond is obviously different from San Antonio, but in many ways, Texas and Virginia, share some commonalities. Both states think that they are the state. We in Virginia [crosstalk]
Justin: I didn’t know Virginia had that chip on its shoulder.
Dr. Latimore: The Commonwealth of Virginia. When you are in Virginia, “We have the most presidents from our state,” the history of the state. When you take Virginia history in fourth grade, it is hammered into you, the prominence of Virginia.
Justin: They don’t have the Alamo though.
Dr. Latimore: They don’t have the Alamo, but we do have aspects of history, confederacy. Into the Revolutionary War was in– You got Cornwallis’ Cave and Colonial Williamsburg and all these aspects of Virginia. I think there’s a bit of arrogance to Virginians about who they are and the same thing about Texas. In Virginia, the biggest thing that people want to be is a FFV, which is the First Family of Virginia.
Justin: Oh, geez.
Dr. Latimore: It’s almost like, I guess the doors of the Alamo or the– People trace their history back to–
Justin: People that were at the Alamo.
Dr. Latimore: Exactly, people who were at the Alamo or these other families and major land grant families. These two states share some things in common. Trinity was in a place that was a really good place at that time and still is, very similar to where I felt my university was when I started as an undergrad at the University of Richmond. It was like going home in a sense. San Antonio is a really cool city–
Justin: I love it.
Dr. Latimore: – if you think about it. Trinity was my first choice of universities and I got my first choice. I guess the rest is the rest.
Justin: I don’t want you to get it because I don’t think I want to know, but what is the title of your dissertation? I always think those are fun to hear.
Dr. Latimore: Always a Minority: Antebellum and Free Blacks in the Civil War Era. I think that was the title of the dissertation [crosstalk].
Justin: That’s pretty normal. You hear some that are just off-the-wall.
Dr. Latimore: Always a Minority, then you have the colon and then the rest of them. Every dissertation topic is going to have the little cool thing, and then the explanation after the colon.
Justin: But you know what I’m talking about, some are just absurd.
Dr. Latimore: Mine was only 200 pages. Some of them are much, much, much.
Justin: How many footnotes?
Dr. Latimore: Hundreds, because you have to.
Justin: Yes, of course. What are your main sources of news?
Dr. Latimore: Lots of different things.
Justin: I started asking this because news has become such a hot topic.
Dr. Latimore: For me, it’s going to sound cliche, but CNN is a– For me, I always go through CNN. Then I do, in an odd way, I do searches. I’m interested in different subjects and so I do subject searches and find what’s there and look at maybe the historian in me looks at the provenance and where is that source coming from. Obviously, I’m looking at MSNBC. I’ll even check out Fox. For me, as many sources as I can get, that’s what interests me.
Justin: That’s my take on it.
Dr. Latimore: Of course, the Express-News, and of course, through Rivard, all those different–
Justin: Rivard was very clear to tell me that he reads the Express, like sanantonioexpress.com or expressnews.com, but not myessay.com. I didn’t realize those were so independent of one another.
Dr. Latimore: Yes, I never thought about that.
Justin: Yes, I didn’t either.
Dr. Latimore: I’m just finding the news because and I guess because of what I do and doing social history, African American social history, you’re finding whatever you can. It’s not always a treasure trove of research for you. You’re getting pieces and shards here in a bit there, and you bring it together, and then you evaluate it. I think that’s prepared me for the society that we live in now, in which you don’t always know the validity of a source unless if you test it.
That’s something that I try to do with my students is trying to help them move through the process of how do you evaluate sources? One of the ways of doing this is you find out where things are coming from. You look at it and compare it to other things. Who’s writing something? I think it’s the same thing that we had to do when we look at the news today because there’s a lot of news out there. [crosstalk]
Justin: There’s so much that’s not news that calls itself news.
Dr. Latimore: Exactly.
Justin: All right, hidden gems in San Antonio. We do this with everybody. For me things like the Tea Garden, the further out missions, those are some things when I first moved here, I didn’t know they existed. I think, “Oh, if you’re coming to San Antonio, you got to go away from that and go check out some of these things.” Do you have any hidden gems in San Antonio you recommend?
Dr. Latimore: Susie’s Lumpia House.
Justin: I’ve never even heard of this.
Dr. Latimore: It’s a Filipino restaurant in Culebra. Is it still open? With COVID, I always have to ask because I haven’t– You never known.
Justin: You reached around and asked your wife just so people–
Dr. Latimore: Yes, ask my wife who’s Filipino.
Justin: Just so you don’t look crazy asking the wall or something. [laughs]
Dr. Latimore: I’m always asking. I’m seriously doing that.
Justin: Susie’s Lumpia House.
Dr. Latimore: Yes, it’s on Culebra road.
Justin: Is that L-U-M-P-I-A?
Dr. Latimore: Yes. An amazing Filipino restaurant. On Saturdays, they typically offer a buffet, which I don’t know how that’s working with COVID these days, but they have some great–
Justin: Go-to dish?
Dr. Latimore: Chicken adobo.
Dr. Latimore: Yes.
Dr. Latimore: A-D-O-B-O.
Justin: Anything else?
Dr. Latimore: They have these great shrimp. There’s a word that they call it but I can’t think– Just whatever, there’s shrimp. Go for their shrimp. It’s really good.
Justin: All right. I’ve never eaten Filipino food in San Antonio.
Dr. Latimore: The pork adobo was good too if you like pork. I’m not a big pork eater.
Justin: Adobo is the sauce I assume?
Dr. Latimore: Yes. It’s vinegary. At this place, it’s more of a vinegary type salt base.
Justin: All right. Like the barbecue you’re used to.
Dr. Latimore: Yes, exactly. In Virginia, we do– Vinegar is very, which I guess is why Susie’s Lumpia, it reminds me of a [crosstalk] certain things.
Dr. Latimore: Now, some Filipino restaurants are a little more sweet-based than the vinegar-base depending on the island that they’re from. These people actually from the island of Samar. Which is a more centrally located Island.
Justin: Is there 100 islands in the Philippines? There’s tons of them, right?
Dr. Latimore: Thousands.
Justin: Inhabited hundred?
Dr. Latimore: Yes, and hundreds of languages as well.
Justin: Oh, wow.
Dr. Latimore: Each one of those islands often has their own language. I don’t call it a language, because sometimes we classify something as a dialect and it’s really a language. A dialect almost makes it sound like it’s not real and legitimate versus a language when we say that that’s something that’s different and distinct. I may have a southern dialect, but it’s a English language. These are real languages that are distinct.
Justin: Okay. What are you teaching currently?
Dr. Latimore: Currently, I’m on leave. [crosstalk]
Justin: When was the last classes you taught?
Dr. Latimore: The last of the semester that just ended, I taught the African American Experience since reconstruction. I also taught a course on the Old South, which looks at Southern politics, race, economics, really from the beginning– When I say the beginning, looking at a little bit of the indigenous population in the south, in the early period on up through colonization, through the Civil War.
Justin: Does the South cover Texas in your class?
Dr. Latimore: It does.
Justin: Do you consider Texas to be part of the South?
Dr. Latimore: I do.
Justin: All of it or the dividing line?
Dr. Latimore: It’s hard to cut up a state, but I do think that West Texas is not really southern.
Justin: It’s more the Southwest.
Dr. Latimore: It’s the Southwest.
Justin: East Texas is more the South.
Dr. Latimore: East Texas, you’ve got cotton. Although, you do have slavery in San Antonio. You have out in Wilson County and Seguin and all those that there– These are pockets there. There’s a different feel in Southwestern Texas than there is in Eastern Texas which is where you have a strong cotton base and stuff. As you move out from there to Dallas, and you see the migrations. African Americans after the Civil War certainly migrating in this area. Although there’s some stuff happening here. This is a south and west city. Texas is part of the Confederacy. It’s an interesting state.
Justin: Yes, it’s debated a lot. It’s discussed a lot. Whether we’re really part of the South.
Dr. Latimore: The question of this whole class is really, “Is there a South?” I think that there is, but it doesn’t start as. Throughout the class, I asked them questions of, “Is it a South now? Is it a South now?” As we move through the timeline, I think the students start to see, “Yes, now things are starting to develop agriculturally, politically, socially. There’s something that’s linking these people.” Because it must be something that’s linking people, obviously slavery.
There must be something that brings people to secede from something else. There must be something to secede from. There must be something aware this other group is pulling themselves further away. As the two sides of this coin are pulling away, what’s coalescing around to create something that can be identified when we think south?
Justin: Yes, slavery.
Dr. Latimore: Yes. When people say that the Civil War has nothing to do with slavery, I’m like, “Oh, really.”
Justin: [laughs] Who says that?
Dr. Latimore: There are some people. Growing where I did I know a lot of people who would say that it had nothing to do with slavery-
Justin: You’ll hear it on the news still.
Dr. Latimore: – had everything about taxes and Lincoln.
Justin: States rights.
Dr. Latimore: States rights, yes. Then you read the Cornerstones. Then you look at the Confederate Constitution and then you think about how the South felt for such a long period of time that people were trying to push in on them. You read Calhoun’s speeches that he was giving about slavery, a positive good as what John C. Calhoun says, “If we don’t stop this whole seed of abolitionism is going to really infringe upon us.”
Justin: I had no idea how much money those cotton plantations made in today’s dollars. I was reading an article and it said about today’s dollars, I want to say it was something like 80 million a year is what a moderately successful cotton plantation was doing back then. You start seeing how those families that have political power are looking at giving up 80 million a year. Obviously, it had to do with slavery. I just didn’t realize the dollar figures involved.
Dr. Latimore: Slavery the social system, but it’s also an economic system.
Dr. Latimore: When you go through census records, and the census records of that period, each of those 10 years, they’re going to show real property and personal property. The slaves are listed in the real property, and so they are real assets. If a person dies, and their assets have to be divided as a lawyer you know that includes slaves. These aren’t by law people theoretically, these are things. Even if you wanted to free a slave, you may not be able to do it if you have debts.
All of it is tied into this– Not to say that many people wanted to do that and get caght up by debt, but it is their money. It is their source and it’s where from many of these slave masters, where so much of their money is tied into. Slaves are more valuable than land, in a sense. Now, you have lots of lands that has large value, but those slaves have even more value per person if you think of per acre. Per acre is cheap, but per slave, that’s a different story. Even over the last 30 to 40 years of the Antebellum period, the number of slave owners gets smaller, but the percentage of the number of slaves that they own gets larger and so the wealthy slaveholders get more wealthy.
Justin: Just like anything else, they start to centralize.
Dr. Latimore: Yes. We start by income inequality. Slavery was a period in time of severe income inequality.
Justin: Yes, it is better. Well, every one of these is so great that that’s why I like it because I could talk. I could get into these rabbit trails for a long time. I think I’m going to go audit your class one day if that’s okay.
Dr. Latimore: Come on in.
Justin: Lesh just told me I can, but I think if you listened to his episode, he has a problem giggling when he’s around me. Did you listen to it?
Dr. Latimore: I did not. I will listen.
Justin: You should listen to it. I mean, he gets–
Dr. Latimore: You hear Lesh giggle?
Justin: He gets the giggles for a solid 10 minutes. You should watch the YouTube videos, it’s what you should watch because he’s on there giggling, yes.
Dr. Latimore: Lesh?
Justin: Yes. We have a different kind of friendship. Do you have any hobbies outside of your academic work?
Dr. Latimore: I like computer apps– I like my phone apps.
Dr. Latimore: Right now I am playing, let’s see here. What do I have on my cell.
Justin: Panda pop?
Dr. Latimore: No.
Dr. Latimore: Madden NFL and RBI 20 are the two that I’m working on [crosstalk]
Justin: I didn’t know they had those games on there.
Dr. Latimore: Yes.
Justin: Do you ever do Lumosity, the brain trainer?
Dr. Latimore: No, I do–
Justin: I like it.
Dr. Latimore: I like things that don’t make me think on–
Justin: Okay. Sometimes it gives me a headache.
Dr. Latimore: Yes. When I come home from teaching and researching, I want to play something like a old video game. The old Nintendo, Atari. I started with Atari 2600 or 2700. Then I went to Nintendo, Nintendo 16-bit after that, Super Nintendo, I did all of the video games.
Justin: I had the Sega Master System.
Dr. Latimore: I had Sega Genesis.
Justin: That was after. The first one was a Sega Master System that had a cartridge option, but also a card option, then I went into the Genesis.
Dr. Latimore: I was a game person. I remember that was probably, in addition to being a truck driver.
Justin: We’re gonna get there. [laughs]
Dr. Latimore: What I really wanted to do was also to work with Nintendo Power Magazine back in the day.
Justin: I remember, real thick magazine.
Dr. Latimore: Yes, it was a real thick magazine. And I always thought that I wanted to be one of these gaming people.
Justin: So did you love the movie with Fred Savage, The Wizard, do you remember?
Dr. Latimore: Yes.
Justin: And he gave us the secret way to get up in the dungeon and find the–
Dr. Latimore: I wanted to be a gamer.
Dr. Latimore: But it didn’t quite end up that way [crosstalk]
Justin: I love the idea that playing on your phone is a hobby. I’m going to use that in life, I’m not messing on my phone, this is a hobby. I’m going to go with that.
Dr. Latimore: I see it as a hobby now, my wife loves gardening and every now and then I help her out there, but I really see the games as the [crosstalk]
Justin: I’m with you. Okay, this is probably the most important question of your top 10. And then we’re going to speed through these so we can get into the meat. You put in one of the articles I read that, preparing for class, you like to listen to music, but also preparing for class, you listen to music, R&B is one of the areas, I don’t know enough, not going to get in there, but ’80s, ’90s rap was something you listed. Who are your ’80s, ’90s rap groups that you still go back to?
Dr. Latimore: LL Cool J.
Justin: Okay. All right.
Dr. Latimore: People think that he’s not as hard-hitting as some of the others. Some of the earliest rappers that I remember were probably Houdini, which comes out in about ’84, ’83, ’84, so this is kind of the beginning. Then you had Grandmaster Flash, he had a song called The Message which I really go back to, and now I even use in my course. But they weren’t cool as LL Cool J was when he came up with Mama Said Knock You Out and then you had the MTV Unplugged thing. LL Cool J for me just seemed hard, at that point in time when I was probably a 14 year old.
Justin: What year would that song have come out?
Dr. Latimore: Mama Said Knock You Out I think was ’89.
Dr. Latimore: Don’t hold me to it, but I think it was 1989 or ’90 somewhere in there. Music in that time period is changing as what we refer to as new jack swing. With Keith Sweat, Bobby Brown, you get a more hard-edge sound, music, that’s [crosstalk]
Justin: That’s more R&B though, right?
Dr. Latimore: It is R&B, but it’s linked with hip hop. And so the sounds are much more hard-hitting than say, the sounds of a Freddie Jackson, or a Luther Vandross, or a Whitney Houston which is much more pop-centered. So that later in the ’80s, through probably ’95 or whatever, that’s the period of time, which I’m listening to. LL Cool J is there, I was into Public Enemy. I was there [crosstalk]
Justin: Okay. I had a running list before you got here of what I thought you were going to say, LL Cool J was not on the list.
Dr. Latimore: I was into Tupac. Of course, MC Hammer wasn’t around [crosstalk]
Justin: [laughs] I had that on the list.
Dr. Latimore: It was really LL Cool J for me. I’m not going to lie, it’s probably getting me in trouble. But I also listen to 2 Live Crew, at that time.
Dr. Latimore: NWA, of course. My mother was the one who bought the 2 Live Crew.
Justin: Nice, way to go, mom.
Dr. Latimore: Well, she had to because I was too young and As Nasty They Wanna Be, that had the Parental Advisory so they would not allow me to purchase it. I told my mother, “I really want to listen to this,” and she was like, “Okay, we’re going to listen to this,” and then she said, “But if I buy this for you, we have to listen to it together.” We had this cassette tape, because it’s cassette tape at that time. We were in Newport News, which is about 50 miles from where I grew up, because I grew up in a rural area, there was no radio. No place to buy any CDs or cassettes there.
I had to go to Newport News, the big city. I had to listen to As Nasty As They Wanna Be with my mother alone, on a 50-mile return trip. And I could just see my mother driving and shaking as she was listening to the lyrics. We drive into the yard and I’m like, she looks at me and I look at her, we don’t quite know what to say to each other. I said, “What did you think about that, Mama?” I just heard a silence. She said, “It had a good beat. Let’s talk about the rest of it. The misogyny and everything.”
Justin: Did she let you keep the album after?
Dr. Latimore: She did. My mother is a music teacher. She never believed in censoring anything.
Justin: Good for her.
Dr. Latimore: That was important to her because she saw it as a teachable moment. She pointed out to me the things in it that she did not agree with and that she would hope that I would not repeat. But she also said that it was a perspective that I needed to understand.
Justin: Good, good for her. My parents let me listen to it too and watch everything and I’m still just, I’m ravenous with movies and music because they let me do it.
Dr. Latimore: Now, my father never said anything about it, he never listened to it.
Justin: Probably wouldn’t have liked it.
Dr. Latimore: Probably not.
Justin: Okay. We’ve gone through, we’re going to lightning round here real quick. Do you have a favorite Fiesta event?
Dr. Latimore: Taste of New Orleans.
Justin: Okay. I haven’t been in a few years.
Dr. Latimore: It’s been a couple years, but that’s my favorite.
Justin: What on earth is it about being a truck driver that was your listed chosen occupation if you were not a Professor? And if you watched Over the Top, the movie?
Dr. Latimore: I did, but that wasn’t the movie that did it for me. It goes back a few years, Smokey and the Bandit. Because my father, in addition to being a Magistrate was also a fiberglass boat repairs man. We had a lot of trucks that would come in to be repaired. You’d have these big trucks, these tractor-trailers, and I would go into the tractor-trailer and look around and play with the thing. If we were moving them around– My father move it around I would be in the tractor, on the tractor-trailer.
I think that growing up in that environment, and my County’s name was Middlesex, and we would say it was in the middle of nowhere. To get to a mall, it was over 50 miles. To get to say, a McDonald’s, it was 25 miles. A bowling alley was 20. Basically, there was nothing there, growing up. I always envisioned the truckers, as the people who got to see the world. That they would be on their CBs and they would talk and I guess I always dreamed about meeting different kinds of people and going somewhere.
Just the thought of just riding around the country. It was exciting to me and then Smokey and the Bandit, which of all its problems, everybody was watching when I was young. You just think of taking beer across the state lines or whatever they were doing in the first one. I love Trans-Am, I wanted a Trans-Am when I was a kid. I wanted those kinds of things and to drive a truck, was just the kind of lifestyle that I wanted to live.
Justin: There is that romanticism to it. But you also put in your interview that it was The Open Roads, See America, CBs, but you also put truck stops. Have you been to a truck stop lately? There’s very little romantic about a truck stop.
Dr. Latimore: But it’s not like that. You don’t see that in the–
Justin: Not in the movies.
Dr. Latimore: You don’t see that in the movies. I think when you grow up in a place where people would hang out at a local fish market and that’s what you would do on Saturday nights or Friday nights, or you would just go 50 miles, just going somewhere. I think most of us had a dream of just going somewhere. Not that we hated where we grew up, but we knew that there had to be something else out there and we wanted to seek it. Most of the people never really got out. Like my father, he was in Korea or my mother came from another area, but so many people never got outside of the three, four County area. We dreamed about that.
Justin: I think a lot of kids have those dreams. I grew up in a small town, and luckily, I got out but a lot of people don’t.
Dr. Latimore: It was also a simple– When you think about it, it was a life available, that was achievable. People where I grew up, many jobs were like fishing, oystering, truck driver was a little bit a step above that ever since farming. Those are very hard fields to enter, especially in the time period that I was growing up, our parents or grandparents. It was much easier to be a farmer then because you didn’t have to have huge swaths of land.
Dr. Latimore: Farming became much more mechanized, it became much more bigger. You had to have larger pieces of land, and so the people who were able to do it, they rented. They had their own land but they rented numerous other lots, and putting them together. That was a very expensive thing. You can drive a truck-
Justin: Yes, make your own hours.
Dr. Latimore: – and get good insurance, make your own hours, meet different people, talk on CBs, which I thought was cool. We had a CB when I was growing up. My parents had– Some of the cars we had, we had CBs. I just loved working on the CB.
Justin: My uncle had one and I thought it was so cool.
Dr. Latimore: Yes.
Justin: If you could ever get him to respond, that was super cool.
Dr. Latimore: Exactly. Exactly. Still, when I see a tractor-trailer, I love it. There’s just something about it, when I see them riding down, I love pulling and sit next to them.
Justin: The things that we loved as kids, we still love, yes. Well, I want to change gears and I want to talk to you about some different things. You and I had a long conversation prior to really all of this happening in the news. Generally, about what I want to talk about your areas of expertise and really at that time, I wanted to have you want to just have a discussion about San Antonio’s racial disparity or racial justice history to the extent and just have a discussion because I don’t think it gets talked about much in terms of San Antonio. You hear about it in terms of other cities.
In the meantime, we had the George Floyd incident, and San Antonio now has a nonstop protest going on. I’m not going to– Mr. Rivard correct me when I said riots. We really haven’t had riots. We had some windows broken and things like that, but San Antonio for the most part, we treat people with respect and we do our best to keep our city nice. I want to talk about a few things that I have noticed. I want you to correct me where I’m wrong, if and where I am wrong.
One of the things that I have noticed just generally with what is going on, seems to be the lack of clear messaging from protesters and from people in affected communities. Have you seen or do you see a lack of clear messaging? What do you think should be the purpose of this moment and opportunity in America?
Dr. Latimore: I think there is a message crystallizing, but I do think that there are different sides that have different interests and perspectives.
Dr. Latimore: I think there is a side of where maybe I think the majority lie, and that’s in what happened George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and all these other issues are just horrible. As a nation, we need to come together to do something about that, and that includes the area of policing, and how do we get a hold of what’s happening? Then perhaps maybe trying to understand what black men feel in that type of environment. I’ll talk about that as a second as an African American man.
I think there are some others who are talking about defunding the police and other kinds of issues. I’m not on that side, but I am on the side of accountability for police. I think that there are some things that we can do as a city. Of course, we have a contract and we have to uphold that contract, and so, I think we all have to recognize that we’re a society of laws and contracts and we have to fill those things, but then, maybe the next contract thing, there are things that could be done.
I would think that the police would want to do that to be accountable. There are some who would say police– The question is how do we make them accountable in a fair way as well? I don’t necessarily support initiatives that say that the community will assess cops. I’m uncomfortable with that with my own understanding of assessment in academia, student evaluations.
Dr. Latimore: They aren’t always– There are lots of things that go into those evaluations. If we do that, we have to make sure that it’s fair as well. Now, I think that there is a side of more of the protesters and I would say even beyond that, another group that goes beyond the protesters that perhaps really want a complete transformation of American society. I think that there’s already two competing issues or three or four many different ones. I think the interesting part will be figuring out how–
I think there’s a coalition growing around policing. I think there’s a coalition growing around the larger issues, which are income inequality, and that I’m glad to see that we’re now just not talking about income inequality in the abstract but specifically, looking at the fact that the black household basically is going to have about– White wealth is going to be probably about 10 times more than black wealth in this time. There are historical reasons why that exists and there’s a reason why it exists here in San Antonio. I think those are issues that maybe this is the point in time in which we can start to look at it, and maybe look at ways of alleviating those issues. Those are hard issues.
Justin: Very hard.
Dr. Latimore: Then there are other people who are talking of reparations, and I won’t go into reparations, but there are other people believe that’s a way of addressing historical inequities. There’s a lot of things going on because America’s interaction and race in America is so broad and so vast. it’s not a one-stop-shop. It’s not a simple answer. It’s pervasive. I think if you really don’t have race, you probably really don’t even have America. The reason why I say that is our founders talked about basically being enslaved.
They saw themselves almost as the slaves of the British. Well, when you think about what they saw, they would look out from their plantations and see people who were not free and then they come and write documents that talk about freedom. It’s, I think, part of our DNA. Whether we have ancestors who were slaves owners or not, I think it’s tied into the American DNA. The 13th, 14th Amendment, and 15th Amendments that we all rely on, really all about race. They are.
You look at so much. Even women’s rights was– The fight over that dealt with race too. You can’t disentangle just police violence from the broader issue. I think that that’s why it probably seems lots of different issues because it’s too much to attack in a sense.
Justin: That’s my question. Well, first of all, I want to point out, there’s one of the articles were you talk about how your personal story includes ancestors who were slaves, as well as ancestors, were slave owners, which I think people that go back far enough in America probably find that within their DNA. So, you have a different perspective. One of the things that I’m concerned about during these protests is the opportunity may be lost, because there is this scattershot approach.
I talk about in terms of, if you go on to YouTube and you just play whatever, a speech by Bill Clinton and you let it play, it takes more extreme videos every time. They’ve done studies. You end up in these communist videos if you do it. My concern is the defund the police, if I followed it correctly came from the de-militarize the police, which I think there’s a lot to be said about how we have structured our police department, like a military, but then it becomes defund.
Dr. Latimore: Right.
Justin: Then it becomes abolish, then it becomes some other thing. What my question for you is, it seems there’s a lack of leadership in the movement, and just personally, I don’t think Al Sharpton’s doing anybody favors by hopping up and being the voice of this movement. He has his own scandals and own history.
Dr. Latimore: Tawana Brawley being one of them.
Justin: Yes, and being a informant to the FBI. He’s got this long history of just being in the news because he seems to want to be in the news. Do you think there is a lack of leadership? How do you think this movement, because I want to say it’s community, I think there’s a lot of all races and backgrounds that want to see some change here. I think the movement lacks a clear voice. Have you noticed that? Do you think there is a clear voice that’s going to come out that I, maybe, I’m just not grabbing in my own mind? What do you think the problem is there?
Dr. Latimore: It’s a deep question, I’m going to try to get all the different parts. I think there’s a way in which the media has acted in this in which, historically, when we look at how the media acts, it tries to annoy a black leader. We don’t say who’s the white leader among white people or the Latino leader, but for the last 150 years, we’ve anointed sometimes people outside of the African-American community, anointed a person to be the spokesperson. I don’t know if that’s necessarily healthy, because then it allows individual egos and other kinds of things to dictate the direction of the movement.
Justin: Drown out the movement.
Dr. Latimore: Perhaps drown out the movement. I think that there is a coalition developing, that’s a very exciting coalition, that includes black, brown, white, all people around a certain number of core issues. Again, the police, what does it feel, the wealth gap? I think those are issues that I think have broad-based support and should be pursued. I think the other issues of defunding, demilitarization, those other things, those are issues that don’t bring people together, at this point. I think you should work on the things that you can actually accomplish. I come from the late ’80s and early ’90s and I do remember the issues with policing in the late early ’90s and it’s not just a drug issue. The drug was a part of the problem, but a lot of part of the problem was a lack of funding among police and because of that you had a lot of rogue cops. If you look at New Orleans, you look at DC, there were cops who were basically on the streets selling drugs, not to say that that doesn’t– But that was when you’re paying cops so little.
When I hear these kinds of things, you have to convince me that you won’t affect their ability to handle the job that they’ve been allowed to do. Now, the way that we criminalize certain areas, we can take a look at that. I think that there’s some growing consensus that we don’t necessarily rehabilitate in our nation we criminalize. I think that those are issues that have broader support than just hacking up everything and creating something anew. For me, I believe that you must try to build a consensus that’s the only way that you can actually enact real change. Blowing something up doesn’t necessarily– You don’t build a consensus over it, the consensus then moves to the other side and you lose the people on the edges.
Justin: Do you think there is a risk though with the way police departments have become sort of, when I say militarized I mean the access to armored vehicles, not just the SWAT, the access to tactical gear like they’re special forces in the military. I remember watching some of those riots in Ferguson and thinking, “That looks like a warzone, that doesn’t look like a police enforcement.” It’s sort of the Stanford prison experiment, if you put people in that position they either consciously or not take on a different role. Do you not think that is potentially a problem with taking away policing and turning it into almost a military action?
Dr. Latimore: Absolutely. I think since I would say the crack wars, you had this increasing militarization of the police. Even in cities like Los Angeles, you had police just knocking down buildings with tanks basically. I’m like, “Dang, we’re fighting wars that don’t have the kind of equipment that we’re using.” In that sense, when you have that kind of equipment, you are defining the other person as an enemy and then you can do with them whatever you want to do with them.
Certainly, the way that we do police work that should be taken a look at. To disband police or disband that and whatever that means I don’t go in that direction, but certainly looking at how we perceive policing, what we perceive as defending people. We need people to defend, if somebody is at my door you want to be able to call a cop or a police. You don’t want to hear, “Well, we’re having a high activity night,” or something like that, but we also don’t want to see a scenario in which it’s been amped-up to the point of where we feel like we have to go to war.
Justin: When I was a kid, I remember SWAT. SWAT, they were like the special forces and then it just seemed that a lot more of them looked like SWAT and a lot more of them had the equipment that SWAT had. All of a sudden, the guy walking around with a billy club was all of a sudden in full tactical gear. I’m definitely not for defunding or doing away with police departments either, but it seems to be there has to be some return to neighborhood policing on top. Honestly, I’m not saying that about San Antonio, but just generally you’re seeing this problem in cities. Especially some cities that have kind of militarized the police department.
Dr. Latimore: There has to be accountability too. We can certainly pull the police out and say that they have an accountability problem, but America in a sense has an accountability problem and the world. When you have people put into positions where they’re not held accountable by some standard, you got problems. The Catholic Church has problems, because of a lack of accountability. It’s not just the Catholic Church by the way, you have plenty evangelical churches that have people in positions of power that have placed themselves in a position where they will never be held accountable and they do whatever they want to do because for some people having power leads them to destructive behavior.
Justin: Right. I think within the context of San Antonio, this would be a good way to–
Dr. Latimore: Even professors.
Justin: Yes, it happens at all institutions and then especially when you have an institutional mindset about it. From a San Antonio perspective, I think accountability with the police departments are a really big thing because if you saw that recent study that came out, 70% of officers that get fired by the chief get reinstated due to the union contract, highest in America. I’ve had this discussion with many people and said, “Look, it’s contractual, we have to deal with that from a contract side.” From a community side, what do you think the community’s role is? Is that a voting thing? Do you think we should reach out to the police department? Is there a way to involve the community in the police union, to the extent that maybe they don’t ask for so much whenever they know it’s harmful to a community?
Dr. Latimore: I think now is a moment in which that can happen. The community exerts a lot of power in a sense through their vote and in this city we don’t vote, which is a problem. If the community is saying, “We need to do this,” but the community doesn’t vote and I’m not saying which side a person has to vote, but the fact that if you vote and people know you vote they’re going to be more accountable to you. I do think that tough questions need to be asked about the union and why do you feel this lack of accountability in this sense is necessary in this light? How do we find a way to come together in good faith?
Justin: It seems like some simple tweaks. I think I was reading that if there was just an independent arbitrator that was chosen that would fix a lot of it, but it sounds like the union gets to pick their own arbitrators and that’s problematic.
Dr. Latimore: I think when a new contract comes around, those questions have to be asked and the community has to push hard on specific issues. I don’t think that the push on defunding is going to work, but I do think that you should ask for these other things. I think there’s some type of a committee that should have some oversight, I don’t know if it really works, but there has to be oversight, there has to be accountability, and these things have to be baked into that contract. It should be expressed to them that this is good for them, because it will make their job easier. As a professor, I want to be held accountable, I want to do my job and I know that most cops probably do too.
Justin: I agree.
Dr. Latimore: My wife, she’s held accountable. She’s assessed and if she doesn’t meet the standard, then you are given things that you’re expected to meet before and if you can’t then eventually you will lose your position.
Justin: On the flip side of that, I think teachers like your wife are not protected enough in our state unlike a union contract for the police, which last I remember it was maybe illegal for teachers to unionize in the state of Texas. Kind of a flip-flop, teachers are held to a very high standard.
Dr. Latimore: We hold pilots to a high standard. If a pilot has wrecked five times or 16 times, I don’t think that they’re going to be allowed to get behind a– We have these kinds of background checks.
Justin: I would hope if they wreck once an airplane, that they’re out of the game.
Dr. Latimore: When a cop has a regular routine check, I want to be able to have faith that I know that that cop has been held accountable. I admit I tend to give them the benefit of the doubt, but as an African American man there’s always this place in the back of my mind. I would think that the union would try to recognize that and see, we can come near and we can work together on this because it will make their job easier because I’m not necessarily thinking of, “Do I have to run or will they shoot me in the back?” I think that those are the questions that can be raised that puts the onus on them, to explain why this is not necessary.
Justin: Because one video like that in a city makes policing harder, for all the policemen.
Dr. Latimore: Exactly.
Justin: Let’s talk about San Antonio. You’re very well known as a man of faith, you’re involved in the faith community on the Eastside. Mount Zion, I believe is the church you attend. Has there been any coalescing of the faith communities on the multiple different faith communities on the Eastside to come together and to create some clear messaging or provide support or any involvement, where there’s some to coming together of the faith communities?
Dr. Latimore: There has been, the Baptist Ministers Union has always been involved in these issues, Council Churches for Social Action is another organization that’s working. There are organizations I know they work closely with NAACP and others, there was a meeting I think last week with NAACP, the district attorney, Joe Gonzales. Javier Salazar is coming into black churches a lot of times. There is a lot of work that the black church is doing.
I think that as we move forward, I would expect to see more of that because I think that that’s an apparatus along with NAACP that is able to express a very clear message that can start talking about specific issues that just go beyond the more defund the police. I think there are issues that the
double ACP and probably the Baptist Ministers Union and others, I think you’ll start to see it there because right now I think it’s such a very saturated time period, but I think that really quickly, we’re going to start to see that, basically you’re not going to be marching every day. How long is that going to continue? Now, we have to come up with agenda items. I think that that’s when you’re going to start to see a much more centered thought of how do we harness what’s happened and go for things that are actually achievable.
Justin: Do you think this will be limited to policing reform or do you think that this opportunity will lead to a broader reform in terms of racial injustice?
Dr. Latimore: I would like to see it lead to a broader reform, but if it’s just police reform that’s progress.
Justin: It’s a victory.
Dr. Latimore: That’s huge progress. These are issues- I mean, if you look at the formation of the Black Panther Party policing was at the forefront of the formation of the Black Panther Party. This issue of policing has not been something that just arrived. My introduction to it was Rodney King.
Justin: I too.
Dr. Latimore: I remember that gravelly video, it seems so gravelly now compared to the- the videos so clear now, but–
Justin: Have you watched LA 92, The Netflix documentary on right now?
Dr. Latimore: I did not.
Justin: Go back and watch it. It takes you through all of it again.
Dr. Latimore: I knew what happened. I saw the Billy Clubs and I saw how unjust it was, and I recognize that that could be me, but everybody who’s older, African-American was talking about the same things. I talked to people and listen, they were talking about things like that happening here. If that is the only thing that comes out of it, then that is progress, but I also think that we have to look at the income gap.
We have to look at the ways that African Americans- the implicit bias things. It’s not fair that if you have a certain name that you’re less likely to get a job. It’s not right when somebody looks at you and they called the cops saying that you’re threatening them, like the person in Central Park, you’re saying put a leash on your dog, I’m scared, so then that’s contributing. If you do that, then what happens if the cops come there and they’re told that, “This person is scaring me.”
Justin: If he wasn’t videotaping, he probably would got arrested.
Dr. Latimore: Exactly. There is a policy aspect that can happen, but there also needs to be a personal accountability role that all of us must take. As a lawyer, we’ve passed hundreds of thousands of laws that dealt with race and that hasn’t changed a person’s heart. This is the first time I believe that people’s hearts have been opened. Maybe this is my religious meaning stupid, but people’s hearts have been open to having difficult conversations on race. There are people asking questions that I never thought would ask.
With George Floyd, let’s take a look at Rodney King to Trayvon Martin to George Floyd, and ask, what are the difference is. With Rodney King, I didn’t hear people saying that could be me outside of the real African American community. There may have been some, but I don’t feel a large groundswell of people saying, “That could be me,” and they identify with this person.
Justin: It also seemed that with Rodney King, there was already all of the rap and the music, and the stories about LAPD cops that were crazy anyway. People had that.
Dr. Latimore: [unintelligible 00:53:51] Rodney King came out too, there were some people said, “Well, maybe he did something.”
Justin: I remember my next door neighbor, who was a police officer. I was a kid and I remember saying something like that to me, whatever a kid says that makes you scared, as a kid, that’s bad as a kid. I remember him saying something along the lines of, “He deserved it because he had cocaine in his system,” something like that and he was a police officer. He was a nice man. There was no thought in his head that that was inappropriate.
Dr. Latimore: Even with Trayvon Martin, there wasn’t that a connection, I think. But for some reason in this moment, there seems to be a connection of where you’ve got people on the far left and the far right, from Pat Robertson to the far left, saying that what happened here was unjust.
Justin: Greg Abbott even.
Dr. Latimore: Greg Abbott yesterday, I believe or the day before. Then, on top of that, you have not just them saying that it was wrong, but that we have to find a way to heal what has happened. Even left and right, and I’m going to particularly talk about right. They’re talking about something needs to happen and it just wasn’t– I think it’s interesting. They’re not just saying, “This was just a rogue cop.” That’s the difference. It would be very easy to just say that.
Justin: That was the first talking point to be fair.
Dr. Latimore: Exactly, but now it’s changed.
Justin: It has.
Dr. Latimore: People said, “That’s just one rogue cop.”
Justin: Bad apple was the first thing.
Justin: [unintelligible 00:55:07] and he knew him or they had some relationship. They worked together, rogue. We can’t look at this and say anything more, but now people are saying, “This is something.”
Justin: I think it’s getting drowned out, is what I think it is, because when this first happened, I looked at Lindsey and I said, “They’re going to say, ‘Well, he was arrested in 1997 for this,’ and that’s the story. He was a bad guy. He deserved it.” I asked Brian, who you met, who’s a black gentleman. I said, “Why is this any different than all the others? Why is this a different experience?” He told me, he said, “It was the look on his face.” He said, “The guy was killing a man, looking into a camera with complete indifference.” Really think about–
Dr. Latimore: Yes, and for the long period of time, but then Rodney King was a long period of time too, but time has changed. We have a younger group of people who grew up with black people, who see black people as their friends who hung out with them. George Floyd, is not just some black man. George Floyd could be your best friend. He could be your boyfriend. He could be your uncle. He could be somebody- the person that you work with. I think that that’s how America has shifted a little bit, is that even though we are still segregated, we have, especially our younger people, wide range of friends.
There’s a lot of communication happening. When that happens, I think they’re saying, “This is some serious mess.”
Justin: We also have by standard too, have no skin in the game, who are completely innocent telling them, “Let the guy breathe.” You have outside perspectives, who have no reason to be in trouble with the police, who are completely innocent, informing the police what they are doing is wrong and they just don’t care. This thing had the perfect coming together of a lot of things. The biggest thing, I think, was like, you said, time, it was a long time where this guy is completely–
Dr. Latimore: Think of the privilege to be just– I don’t use the term privilege a lot, but you’re sitting on a guy’s neck, people around you taking videos of you and you’re just still doing. That’s power. Think of–
Justin: That’s power. It’s so much power that bystanders, like myself would be worried, they would be shot if they tried to help them man. That’s a scary amount of power for the police to have.
Dr. Latimore: I think America is asking, “Is this what we want America to be?” We talk about the constitution. We talk about the declaration of independence and we hold these truths to be stuffing, and all men are created equal, bam. It didn’t look that equal when no one felt that they had the ability to say, “Stop.”
Justin: The minute that guy was handcuffed, you alls job on top of him has done. At that point, he goes in the back of your car. If you’ve got a reason to arrest him- and legally, there are so many things that kick in the minute they handcuff him. They just ignore all of that. All those things they have been taught their whole career, for what? Forgery?
Dr. Latimore: The people wanted to stop it, but they had been so, “What do you do?” I think that maybe that’s why people are marching now, is because the people who were there that were video and all that they could do, that they hadn’t been so brow-beaten in a sense and convinced that you don’t do anything or else that’s you, that’s–
Justin: It’s an odd amount of power, judge jury and executioner.
Dr. Latimore: When we start to look at what happens in countries that we see as developing and the police systems that emerge in those countries, that’s what we expect there. I think for a large percentage of Americans, they don’t see that as America. I think for a certain segment, they understand.
Justin: Let’s talk about that, I think that’s a really good point, because I have a friend here who I think is a wonderful human being with a wonderful heart. He and I have this long discussion about, “That doesn’t happen in San Antonio.” I said, “Just take any black friend of yours and ask them how many times you get pulled over by the cops in any given year.” I asked Brian and he said four times in a normal year. I haven’t been pulled over four times in my life. The experience is just entirely different.
I want to talk more about San Antonio now. What do you think San Antonio’s focus should be to one, make sure that this doesn’t happen here, and two, create an environment to where my friend who has the world’s biggest heart has more empathy and understanding for what somebody else is going through, who happens to be a different skin color? I can tell them all I want, but unless they have a friend going through it or unless they’ve seen it, they don’t understand it.
Dr. Latimore: For San Antonio, a couple of things that we have that as a city would be good for us to move out of a cocoon. We believe that bad things happen outside of San Antonio, that San Antonio is this oasis in which we don’t have race problems. That’s untrue. There’s this feeling that San Antonio didn’t have racism and discrimination as much as other places. It may not have been like Birmingham, but historically if you go- there are instances of where police killed young black men. Historically, as you look up there were segregation laws in San Antonio.
There was a swimming pool law that was passed June 10th, I believe, in 1954. City council actually passed a segregation law on June 10th, June 19th, which is the day we celebrate the emancipation city council passed a segregation law. Now, they rescinded it a year later, but it was still passed. The Majestic Theater was segregated. There’s a long legacy of segregation here.
Dr. Latimore: Redlining in the 1930s really divided the city North, South, East, and West. Then, you have restrictive covenants that basically banned African-Americans or others from coming into those areas. The reason that we have the city that we have is because of the legacy of discrimination and it wasn’t just against blacks, it was against Latinos as well. Then, as we look at that, we also have to recognize that African-Americans are about 8 to 10% of the population, somewhere around there and a large part of that is military. Sometimes that plight gets drowned out, which I don’t think is right. I think that we should pay more attention to that and not just say that we all get along in San Antonio.
If you talk to African Americans, they’re not saying that, but there’s a perception in the city that that’s the reality. If you look at where African Americans are living, it’s a microcosm of America and the kinds of economic progress that we’ve had. Is it better here than in other areas? I don’t think so. I say there’s this image of San Antonio that we need to unpack to see the real San Antonio. There are not a lot of black professors in San Antonio. If you look at the black professional numbers, they’re not that high.
Really, if you look at San Antonio up to Austin, a lot of African Americans would say that that whole, as we talk about that corridor of being the corridor of great growth, it’s not a corridor that’s bringing in a lot of African Americans from outside. You might start to see over time, a percentage drop of African-Americans. In Austin, it’s already happening by percentage of people not moving, who are African American into those areas. We say that this is an area that’s developing business-wise. We’re creating all of these businesses.
The question is are these businesses that are actively looking towards hiring African-Americans or is this a city that African Americans are actively looking to move to? I think there are questions on both ends. There’s a perception, but it’s not a perception that African Americans have offered. It’s a perception that’s offered it on top of African-American
Justin: Is the answer to incorporate all communities together. Everybody knows the Eastside is the largest population of African-Americans in San Antonio. Does that create a scenario in which people just ignore the plight because they are in their own area and they have their own issues and their own problems? Would it be alleviated by making sure that opportunities were there for everybody to live amongst one another?
Dr. Latimore: You could look at it both ways. The reason that we have the council district system the way that we have is because of- and [unintelligible 01:04:16] all of those was, I guess, in the late ‘70s, a way of trying to give equal representation or trying to find a way for blacks on the Eastside and others to have representation, where you had district voting in people versus a citywide. I wonder, and I’m just thinking now, is that the city we still want. I’m not saying that it is, I’m not saying that it isn’t, but I think that we might want to take a look at, I guess it’s the charter that we have or however we elect districts, how we elect councilman, because African-Americans are not just living on the Eastside.
I’m not even sure that’s a majority district anymore. They’re living all around in the Northside and the North Eastside. You see a lot of African-Americans on those sides. I think that in some senses, that there’s this image of the black power structure still coming out of the Eastside. I think that there’s a large number of African-Americans who don’t have that access that are on other sides of the city that have contributions as well. Now, that didn’t quite answer the question that you were asking.
Justin: That’s fair though.
Dr. Latimore: But I would also think that in looking at kinds of jobs, we’re still a service sector city. If we’re going to move forward, we’re going to have to be a city that will attract– The Pearl is not necessarily the most place that’s going to attract a large African-American population.
Justin: I agree.
Dr. Latimore: I think that as we promote those things, and we should, there’s maybe a tone-deaf that that may not attract certain segments of our community, perhaps Latino and African American and Asian, perhaps. We need to be much more specific in our outreach and the kinds of people that we’re looking. We want all to come here. I don’t know if we make that a convincing case in the way that we promote the city,
Justin: As we move forward through this, I’m going to call it an opportunity to address some racial issues, where can people look? Either for guidance or what’s going on in terms of our own city. There doesn’t seem to be a strong voice that has come out in this discussion as it relates to San Antonio. Am I missing that? Is there one? Is there a group that has been tapped by the city to create these conversations and help or are we still swimming upstream a little bit?
Dr. Latimore: I think we’re swimming and I think that’s a large part because of COVID. People’s lives have been torn apart. The unemployment rate is horrible right now. For African-Americans, all of the progress, if we want to say that, it might take black wealth with COVID down to zero on average. How do you organize when you can’t meet, when you’re still socially distancing? As we start to come out of this, groups like the NAACP and [unintelligible 00:07:21] specifically say them, I’m also going to say the Black Ministers Union, I think you’re going to start to see them have a larger role.
But I think it’s very difficult for them as it is for anybody. COVID has run rough shot over the African American community. We’re twice as likely in a sense to catch this. I was scared. That’s one of the reasons why it took some time for us to get together. I think that when people are under those conditions, it’s hard to start to think long term, because how do you build the apparatus to do so?
Justin: The protests are making it to where we have to consider it. They’re loud enough, we can’t ignore it until the sickness is done.
Dr. Latimore: The question is what happens after? You cannot protest forever. At some point, we’re going to have to sit down. I’m not devaluing the protest at all. The protest, which is different from a riot and the other kinds of things, the protest have created really important conversations that we’re now taking in, but now’s the time to sit at the table and start thinking policy initiatives, but also think heart initiatives. I don’t think that policy and just the vote gets us out of the heart, because there’s a reason– You can have every law against the cop and he still could kill George Floyd.
It’s what changes a person’s heart. It’s that empathy. I talked about this a week ago. Studies show that Americans have less empathy for other people over the last 40 years. The ability for us to consider somebody else has dropped. Now, that’s not good. When you say that 40 years ago- we were 40 or 50 or 60 years, we were segregated. Maybe because of cell phones, maybe we’ve lost that human touch. Maybe that’s why the cop could stand over George Floyd and just choke the hell out of him and just look at a camera.
He doesn’t care one iota that’s a human being. The way that we talk about our politics, we have Republicans and Democrats just absolutely hating each other. People say, “I hate Republicans. I hate Democrats. I can’t date a Republican. I can’t date a Democrat. I don’t want to be around them. I’m going to defriend them on Facebook.” We have had a generation of defriending, lack of conversation across boundaries and it’s created a mentality of not being able to empathize with others and to work with others. Voting is important, go and vote. Changing the police contract, got to do that. Making sure there’s some type of accountability that has to happen, we need to work with the income gap, but you can’t do any of that unless if you have empathy.
Justin: You wouldn’t want to unless you felt empathetic.
Dr. Latimore: You wouldn’t want to. How do we deal with the income gap if people aren’t open to hiring people of different backgrounds for jobs and looking beyond a person’s name? Or looking at standards and saying, “Maybe these standards aren’t exactly fair or maybe I’m undervaluing a person’s contribution to this job because they are working on things that I’m not giving them credit for working on.”
That’s where the heart comes in. I think that we think about Martin Luther King and other black leaders of the past. All the great leaders, they didn’t just talk about laws, Martin Luther King and Gandhi, and all they all talked about a beloved community. That’s a legal aspect, is a political aspect, but it’s also a social aspect. A law can’t change a person’s heart, that comes from the person, that comes from the environment. That’s what I think we have a chance with here is that it seems that people empathize with George Floyd.
Dr. Latimore: I think that’s exactly right.
Justin: In a different kind of way that many did not empathize with Trayvon Martin or Emmet Till, or Ahmaud Arbery, and that of all of the things that have happened has been the thing that stunned me. People say, “What did you think when you saw?” I didn’t think anything. When I say I didn’t think anything, it’s not like I haven’t seen a video showing a black man get killed or beat up, but that’s where others have changed, I think, how we look at this.
Dr. Latimore: I hope so because after Sandy Hook, I thought that was going to change the discussion on guns and it didn’t change anything. I’m not saying I’m for this or for that, but it should have changed the conversation and it didn’t. I hope that this opportunity isn’t wasted by poor leadership, and I’m not even going to call leadership by loud voices getting in the way of the movement, because I think some of them are just people who have a platform and they’re going to make it about them.
I also hope it does not get lost in the people that say, “Give me an inch, I’m going to take a mile,” who now say, “We want to get rid of police departments entirely.” That’s not productivity so that’s my concern on this opportunity and I hope some leaders step up within this opportunity. We were talking before you got here, I was talking with Brian before you got here about how some of the big voices, African-American voices in elected politics are noticeably absent in this.
Kamala is kind of unnoticed, Tim Scott, kind of absent in these discussions where their voices probably are needed at this moment. I think that’s unfortunate, I don’t even know why that’s happening, but I think that it’s unfortunate that it is happening in this moment.
Dr. Latimore: I think so, I think we do– Moments don’t last forever, you only have a small opportunity to seize a time period. That’s what history tells us. If you go beyond that time period, the opportunity is gone. This is an opportunity, but we now have to step back and look at it, and evaluate it, and see what can actually be done and what can bring a consensus together, it’s got to be a consensus. I think there’s an opportunity to bring many cops along the way on this issue.
Justin: I agree.
Dr. Latimore: I believe it. I believe there’s a way of getting Greg Urban and others on board to do something. We’re all agreeing with that. Let’s see what we can get. Let’s not do what we did with healthcare in the early ’90s when we said, “If I don’t get everything I want it’s all gone.” That’s not healthy, we’ve got to help the people that we can help now.
Justin: The income gap, addressing that addresses people from all walks of life.
Dr. Latimore: Exactly, it’s not just a black thing.
Justin: That is not an African-American thing, it’s everybody.
Dr. Latimore: In the city, we’re one of the most unequal cities in this nation and it’s because of policies, and there’s a reason for it. Recognizing it and being intentional, and I know our mayor is and I know he has equity program, but all Americans should want a better America for all Americans.
Justin: COVID is highlighting that as well. There is a strange complements of events right now that if we don’t capitalize on it right now, when will we? Everything is accentuated, everything is highlighted. People can’t live off $600 a month unemployment and that’s what they’re expected to do right now.
Dr. Latimore: When you think about- the drug war should have shown us that you cannot dismiss a community and it not to spread to other communities. There was this feeling in the ’80s that that’s just what’s happening in poor, black and brown communities, or primarily black communities, it didn’t just stay there.
Justin: Same with HIV.
Dr. Latimore: Now, we have an opioid situation where it’s interesting of how our empathy has shifted from what happened during the crack years, but why do we only have empathy for people that look like us? We’re all connected. That’s why I often talk about my ancestry and it’s the ancestry of every American. We’re all mixed and there are many people who claim to be white, but got black ancestors that they don’t know about because black people crossed over so many times.
Why can’t we see ourselves as one body and one people that have different experiences that make us stronger? What affects me affects you, I may be more likely to catch COVID, but if I cough you’re going to get it. To think that we may not be empathetic or have compassion for somebody because they look different or we think that they are different, it’s ridiculous.
Justin: I agree with it.
Dr. Latimore: The COVID thing, I knew it was going to — Issues of diabetes, issues of high blood pressure.
Dr. Latimore: Hypertension.
Dr. Latimore: These are issues that are tied to class, socio-economic status, it’s tied to the lack of groceries in certain neighborhoods, it’s tied to stress. Sometimes people say, “Why aren’t you always talking about the issues?” That’s stressful to constantly be talking about George Floyd every day, that’s the burden that the African-American often is held accountable for, but the amount of stress that comes because of that has a contribution to a person’s health.
Race and racism has a negative effect on a person’s health because stress can cause hypertension, stress can cause you to be obese, stress can cause, I suspect, diabetes, so all of that is the implicit or the —
Dr. Latimore: The consequences of structural racism is the consequences of the America that we created. Do you think it’s not stressful for a person to be surrounded as a cop beats a person that looks up at you and you can’t do anything?
Justin: Everybody was traumatized.
Dr. Latimore: Yes, I think about Emmet Till’s mother, her son horrifically beaten, she opens the casket for everybody to see what the pain that that mother had to experience. She, in a sense, sacrificed her own son and feels, “Oh, you did a good job,” but I think about her heart and the consequences of that must have been to her heart. That’s why we should ask that. That’s why it’s better for us. Then, if I go to a doctor, and I do, but there is a likelihood that many doctors don’t think that African-Americans feel pain the same kind of way.
Dr. Latimore: Is that true?
Justin: Yes, that they can take it better. That’s one of the reasons that we had the opioid environment, that’s not– Some doctors have been found to be more likely to prescribe opioids to other people because of the feeling of that blacks have that ability, innate ability to handle pain. There was this thought that blacks didn’t catch certain diseases back during slavery.
Dr. Latimore: When COVID started, they discussed how nobody in Africa had. Therefore, they had some sort of secret source and or the hard drugs of chloroquine because of malaria.
Dr. Latimore: Now, African-Americans do have some protection against malaria because of the sickle cell trade when disease, which gives you some protection, but that’s a whole different thing and sickle cell is pain for the people that have to struggle through it. My mother had sickle cell. Eventually, she died because of it, but these are things that are in the African-American community that have existed and as a nation, I don’t think we’ve come together to say, “Let’s take this load off a little bit, it’s on all of us.”
We’ve contributed a lot. I think it’s now all of our responsibility to lessen that a little bit.
Justin: I think San Antonio is the type of city that wants to know how to get better and I hope we figure out a way to have this conversations, because I think people genuinely want to make the city better. Which is different in some cities I think. Here now, officially my longest episode ever, but I’ve really enjoyed this. I don’t want to end this just yet because there is an article on the paper I looked at.
I want to end with you just giving me a little bit of an idea, there was a plan at some point to create an African-American institute to sort of discuss San Antonio, to highlight some of its history. Sounds like it will even be a location for lectures and discussions. What is the plan, goal, or hope in the future, which you all can do?
Dr. Latimore: We hope that we can create a center that would be able to present African-American history and the history that people don’t know about all the time, and the people that people don’t know about. One of the things that we have with African American history is we think of the great people, but there’s a larger apparatus that underpins that. We want to provide some focus for that. We also want to talk about things in that maybe through public art and other ways that African-Americans have contributed and to show that to the city.
The center is not just a space, but it’s also an outside space for people to be able to see how the buildings were integrated and how the lunch counters were integrated in San Antonio, or should I say, desegregated and how schools were desegregated. There’s a broader story that I would hope that this institute would show, but also allowing for internships and other kinds of things that the students and others can have a way of actually being active in not just the past, but also creating that better future working with the city and working with other people.
The center is a broad idea, but yes, showing history, showing it an artwork, having a space that can host events, but also creating a space where we can actually do some work that makes these things better. Maybe we can have an apparatus that will allow for the cops to come to us or the union come to us and talk about these things.
Justin: Is the plan to have that somewhere downtown?
Dr. Latimore: Yes.
Justin: Okay. We talked to some unknowns for everything right now.
Dr. Latimore: There’s a lot of unknowns right now. That’s why I’m a little vague.
Justin: That’s fair enough.
Dr. Latimore: The plan is- it’s needed in the city. But I hope and I would expect that this can be done in a way that contributes something to the city. Just like everything else, the idea that I have for it is a positive center. We can’t always be just negative about our history. We have to approach it as far as what can we accomplish. This is the same thing that I feel about the protest right now. Let’s take the positive from this. George Ford was not a positive event, but let’s find a way to actually make something work for the benefit of people and to not just snatch defeat in a sense out of victory by trying to blow up everything in a sense.
The center is going to be about a place of creating solutions and finding and placing people in the environment where they can do that, and not just talk about the problems, but to act on them.
Justin: It’s great because I’ve heard and then I’ve heard people be corrected discussing Antonio in terms of, “We never had that sorted history that a lot of cities had.” You’ll hear some people say it. You’ll hear some people say it and then get corrected by somebody else. Really, there’s not a lot of great information out there on our history as it relates to race relations in San Antonio. It’d be a great addition to the city.
Dr. Latimore: It’s here, but at the same time, San Antonio is not going to be like Richmond, Virginia, or Birmingham. 8 to 10% is not going to– It gives a distorted view of what they’re facing because you don’t see them every day. Also, maybe African-Americans weren’t seen as the same a threat as they were in Birmingham or Richmond, or Winston-Salem or Greensboro or places like that. At the same time, we have a military population. One of the things that does temper the racial climate, at least on the surface, is you have the military. Military establishment provide really the first space where African Americans could have really good professional jobs because a number of executive orders allowed force those establishments and that be racist in the way that they gave jobs.
To keep government funding coming in, those bases had to be not racial in a way, or at least saying that they were and it provided an environment where you had some progress, but under that surface was this layer that existed throughout the South and America. Racism is not just a Southern problem. You have it out West. You’ve got it in the Southwest. You’ve got in the North. Boston certainly is not a racially liberal environment. Bussing was not an issue in the South as it was in the North.
We cannot look at San Antonio just say, “Because we don’t see hoses and dogs biting people that it doesn’t exist.” You don’t have to have those things to have race problems. Those things didn’t happen everywhere even in the South. You can’t use that as a comparison to say, “We don’t have a problem.”
Justin: That’s why it’d be great to have.
Dr. Latimore: The economics are still there. The living experiences are still there. When you talk to the older African Americans, talking to them off the record, there was some things that happened that were just horrific, but even they don’t want to say that openly.
Justin: Will those oral histories be preserved in the center if it goes up and going?
Dr. Latimore: Started to do a number of oral histories in which will be available to the public.
Justin: Are you recording them or writing them?
Dr. Latimore: Yes, recording. One of the things about recording is that you can get the feel of people’s pain in the way that they talk and you can feel it. When you write it, you can’t feel how a person is saying it. Also, sometimes when you listen to a person and you see a person, you can figure out where they’re going and what they’re not giving you. You follow them because it gives you a little hints. [unintelligible 01:25:54] never had any problems.
Justin: Where do you plan to publish those at?
Dr. Latimore: There’ll be at Trinity. Got to get them through Trinity in time when I put them all together.
Justin: Will you come back on, if and when, this Institute gets up and running.
Dr. Latimore: Of course.
Justin: Maybe we could actually bring this equipment do an episode there. That’d be awesome, actually.
Dr. Latimore: Absolutely. It’d be an honor.
Justin: All right. First of all, let me thank you for being the longest-running guest. Thank you for coming during all this.
Dr. Latimore: I maybe the most talkative guest. Is that what it is? I talk more than–
Justin: I don’t think, but the intent was not to have you come on and talk about George Floyd, the times here. Thank you for doing that. Our city has a lot of issues to deal with. but we also do well in terms of motivation, which is the important part. We want to be better.
Dr. Latimore: I agree with that.
Justin: Good. You have a totally different perspective. I’m glad you do agree with and I’m not completely tone-deaf. it’s important I’m not tone deaf, honestly. That’s going to do it for this episode. Dr. Lattimore, thank you so much for being here. This will be up next week for you.
For all of our listeners. It’ll be up today. You’re listening to it. Our guest wish list continues. Patty Mills, Shea Serrano, Coach Pop. We’d love to have any of you all on and we’ll see you on the next episode. [music]
Presenter: Thanks for joining us on this episode of the Alamo Hour. You are all what make this city so great. We hope you join us next week. In the meantime, subscribe to our podcast and check us out on Facebook at facebook.com/alamhour or our website alamohour.com. Until next time, Viva San Antonio.
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