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Harvard Law Professor Randall Kennedy

He'll talk about the fears and controversies surrounding interracial relationships in the United States which is he subject of his new book, "Interracial Intimacies: Sex, Marriage, Identity and Adoption." He is also author of the book "Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word." Kennedy is a Rhode Scholar and he served as a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.


Other segments from the episode on February 17, 2003

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, February 17, 2003: Interview with Shirley glass; Interview with Randall Kennedy.


DATE February 17, 2003 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
 TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
 PROGRAM Fresh Air

Interview: Shirley Glass discusses her book, "Not `Just Friends':
Protect Your Relationship From Infidelity and Heal the Trauma of

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

Good people in good marriages are having affairs. That's the news
psychologist Shirley Glass delivers in her new book "Not `Just Friends.'"
She's a marriage and family therapist and estimates that in two-thirds of the
couples she's treated over the past 20 years, either the husband, the wife or
both were unfaithful. Glass has been studying infidelity since 1975. An
accomplishment that is probably not mentioned on her resume is that she's the
mother of Ira Glass, the host of "This American Life." In examining changes
in the nature of infidelity, Shirley Glass has found that today's affairs are
more frequent and more serious than they used to be because more men are
getting emotionally involved and more women are getting sexually involved.
Many affairs get started in the workplace, but they don't usually fit the old
stereotypical relationship of the boss and his secretary.

Dr. SHIRLEY GLASS (Psychotherapist): What I see happening in the contemporary
workplace is that men and women are working together as equals. They are
colleagues because women have entered what were formerly male-dominated
professions. And so these men and women get to know each other very well.
They have a lot of respect for each other, and they're working in an
environment where there's a lot of excitement, there's a lot of pressure. And
so they become very bonded, and they form deep friendships.

Unfortunately, because many people think that they're invulnerable to having
an affair unless they're in an unhappy marriage, they begin to imperceptively
cross these thresholds that lead them from a platonic relationship into an
emotional affair, and then that emotional affair often becomes sexualized, and
then you have something that's very threatening to the primary relationship.

GROSS: Now you write that there's a new kind of affair in which there isn't
necessarily even any sex. You call this, like, the new infidelity, affairs
that aren't even sexual. Well, how can that really be an affair?

Dr. GLASS: Well, I think the epitome of that is the Internet affair. And
when we say that there isn't any sex, what we really mean is there isn't any
physical contact, but there is a lot of sexual tension and sexual chemistry or
sexual sharing of fantasies or sharing of sexual attraction. So that this
emotional affair that doesn't have physical contact consists of an emotional
intimacy that is often greater than in the committed relationship. And once
that relationship becomes secret, then you have something that is much
different than a platonic relationship, because platonic relationships are
open to the committed relationship.

So, for example, somebody will come home from work or from school or from the
gym and they'll be talking about some new person that they've met, and they'll
share lots of information about this person and the fact that they went to
lunch together and they talked about the schools that they went to or whatever
their common interests are. And then it's as though this person disappeared
from the face of the Earth, because they stop talking about them and they stop
mentioning that they saw this person today or that they had lunch with this
person or they stopped after work and had a drink with this person. And once
that wall of secrecy goes up, that is a very important danger sign that you've
entered a very unsafe zone for your committed relationship.

GROSS: You know, when more women started working, a lot of people were
afraid, `Well, does that mean my husband will meet a woman in the office and
fall in love, and that will spell doom for the marriage?' and you're saying

Dr. GLASS: Yes, I am...

GROSS: That's a kind of scary thing to hear.

Dr. GLASS: I am saying that. In fact, in the clinical couples that I treat,
62 percent of the unfaithful men and 46 percent of the unfaithful women had an
affair with somebody they met at work. And a very interesting side piece of
that is that for women, from 1982 to 1990, 38 percent of the unfaithful women
met their partners at work, but from 1991 to 2000, it was 50 percent of the
unfaithful women who met their affair partners at work.

GROSS: OK. So you've established that a lot of infidelity starts at the
office, where two people are working together, they're very involved with each
other, and that develops into an emotional and then into a physical
relationship. Are there certain types of people who are most likely to get
involved in this kind of affair at work or with a friend?

Dr. GLASS: That's a very good question because what I see is that these are
not the typical philanderers. These are not people who believe that it's OK
to have a little bit of sex on the side, and these are not people who are
consciously looking for a relationship outside of their marriage because
they're so unhappy. And so these are pretty average people. In good
marriages, perhaps the marriages are stressed, perhaps they don't have a lot
of time to do fun things together, but you certainly wouldn't call these
marriages distressed or unhappy. I would say that many of these people are
naive. They're naive because they think they're immune to getting involved in
an extramarital relationship because they love their partner, they're good
people, and it's the naivety that keeps them from being alert to those danger

And the step into an affair from this platonic friendship is so subtle and can
take place over months or even over years that the person doesn't really
recognize what's happening to them. And so I don't think that there's a
particular type. I think the people who are aware of the dangers and who back
off when they feel those attractions and see those signals are certainly much
less likely to get involved this way.

GROSS: Americans have a deep belief in romantic love, love conquers all, and
you think of so many movies about how two people fall in love and they're
separated by war or catastrophe, and they climb mountains and ford rivers to
be united again. So does that romantic belief still apply when the romance is
an extramarital affair? I mean, if you really believe in the magic of love
and romance and finding your soul mate, if you believe you've found it outside
of marriage, I mean, should you still kind of, like, pursue it because it's
the real thing, you've found it at last?

Dr. GLASS: Well, you've really tapped into one of my buttons because I hate
those movies because I think they're so misleading. You know, love that is
going to last over the years is love that we grow into, that we grow to love
somebody, that falling in love may get us started, it may kick-start a
relationship, but it is so unreliable is a predictor of what's going to happen
to a couple long term. And so that's why so many of these affairs just fizzle
out when people have an opportunity to be outside of that forbidden zone. And
you mentioned, you know, the barriers and the war and the people that are, you
know, in the way. One of the things that we know about romantic love is that
romantic love is enhanced greatly by barriers, so that every great opera ends
with them dying. I mean, nobody goes on to just get married and, you know,
lead this loving, wonderful life after they've surmounted all these barriers
to get to be together. You know, all these great passions and great stories
always end as a tragedy.

GROSS: So are you saying that you would always advise somebody not to follow
that romantic love that they have found in an extramarital relationship?

Dr. GLASS: I would say that they're creating a fantasy that doesn't exist in
the real world, and what often happens is that, in their mind, this person
who's having this affair is trying to decide which relationship they want to
be in. And the affair may, at times, be the one that is calling them, and
yet, when their spouse finds out that they've had an affair and they realize
that they may lose their marriage, for some people, it's almost as though
they've been shocked out of a spell, and they come back to reality, and they
suddenly begin to see things in this affair partner that they know they
couldn't live with, that the only reason that they could maintain that
relationship as an affair is because they had the marriage to supply them with
the, really, sustenance of their life. So it's really like the marriage is
the bread and the butter and the affair is more like the icing and the
champagne. And then they realize they don't want to exist on icing and

GROSS: My guest is psychologist Shirley Glass, author of the new book "Not
`Just Friends.'" We'll talk more about infidelity after a break. This is

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is psychologist Shirley Glass.
She's the author of the new book "Not `Just Friends': Protect Your
Relationship From Infidelity and Heal the Trauma of Betrayal."

You've said that, most of the time, the affair doesn't last; that even if the
person leaves their marriage to be with the affair partner, in the light of
day, the relationship with the affair partner falls apart. I'm wondering if
that isn't always the case, though, and if you've seen people who you've
counseled who left the marriage, went with the affair partner and was able to
create a real long-lasting, good relationship, a better relationship than the
one they had in the marriage.

Dr. GLASS: I've seen a few relationships like that, and I must admit that the
ones I've seen are more in the community of the people that we socialize with
than I've seen in my practice. I think...

GROSS: Gee, what does that say, do you think?

Dr. GLASS: I don't know. That those people weren't in therapy.

GROSS: Right. That those people maybe really knew so certainly what it was
they needed to do.

Dr. GLASS: Yeah. But what I do see is that...

GROSS: Or maybe they saw a different therapist.

Dr. GLASS: Right. Right. I do see people coming into therapy whose
relationship began as an affair, and they have enormous trust issues, and many
times, they end up cheating on each other. And we...

GROSS: Trust issues because, like, well, if you cheated with me, you can
cheat on me, too?

Dr. GLASS: Exactly, exactly, 'cause the relationship began with cheating, and
so there's a lot of insecurity about that. Unless, you know, they both are
operating under the illusion that, you know, I've found my one true love and I
was with the wrong person, and then you're my soul mate, you know. And so if
they have that shared illusion, then those would be the couples who would
probably, you know, make it work. The divorce rate in first marriages is 50
percent. The divorce rate in remarriage, in second marriages is 60 percent,
and the divorce rate in marriage to an affair partner is 75 percent.


Dr. GLASS: Unless--there's an exception to that. An exception is if you
marry an old flame, then those couples have a very high stay together rate,
like 78 percent.

GROSS: Hmm. Do you believe in monogamy, that it's the...

Dr. GLASS: Oh...

GROSS: way to have a long-term relationship, as opposed to trying to
have a more open marriage and accepting that, from time to time, there will be
infidelities, but you can deal with that?

Dr. GLASS: I believe in monogamy. I have seen people in open marriages who
were devastated when their partner violated whatever their basic assumption
was. For example, in many open marriages, the assumption is that it's OK to
have sex with somebody else, but you can't get emotionally involved. And what
often happens is that one person becomes jealous or one person becomes
emotionally involved. And, you know, the O'Neills, who wrote the original
book on open marriages, did end up getting divorced. So, you know, I haven't
over time seen too many people who have been able to handle an open marriage
and keep their marriage intact. I recognize that there are some situations
where people stay in a marriage for reasons that don't have to do with loving
their partner. They stay in a marriage because they want to raise their
children or they stay in a marriage because there are so many financial
rewards from staying in their marriage, and then they get their emotional
needs or their sexual needs outside the marriage.

And by lowering their expectations, then they're able to stabilize their
marriage, but a stable marriage is not necessarily a happy marriage. One of
the interesting sidelights is that when women are looking for emotional
intimacy in their marriages and they say to their husbands, `I don't feel
we're connected enough or, you know, you don't share enough of yourself with
me,' and they're pursuing their husbands to get more emotional closeness,
their husbands often regard that as criticism, as being put down, and the
husbands withdraw. And the women keep trying and they keep trying, and they
get more critical, and they get more intense in their complaining, and it
becomes a vicious cycle. And at some point, they just give up, and they pull
away, and they say, `You know, I've had it. There's just nothing here.' And
at that point, they may be getting involved with somebody else. Well, the
husband thinks the marriage has improved because the fact that she's not
complaining anymore to him says that things are better.

And when couples come in for therapy, it's very interesting because I'll say,
`Well, how was your week?' and the husband will say, `Oh, we had a great
week.' I'll say, `Really? That's wonderful.' And he'll say, `Yeah, no
conflict.' And then the wife will say, `We had a terrible week.' I'll say,
`Well, how's that?' She said, `We didn't connect. We didn't talk about
things. We didn't stay up late and share our thoughts, and we didn't talk
about what's going on in our lives.' And so a marriage can look better when
the expectations become lower, but that's only a temporary situation.
Eventually, those marriages either crumble or they become aware that there's
something going on outside, and then they have to do something about it.

GROSS: Have you ever worked with a couple and felt, `You know, this marriage
really isn't very good; the person was probably right to have an affair and
they'd probably be better off with that person'?

Dr. GLASS: Well, I certainly have been with many couples where I thought that
they had very poor communication or that--you know, I don't understand how
anybody could live with that kind of conflict, but my bias is that if
somebody's unhappy in their marriage, the way to solve that is not by having
an affair. The way to solve that is to try to work on it in couples therapy
or to take a marriage education course and to optimize that relationship. And
then if the relationship isn't what they want it to be, then to get out of it
and then to look for a new relationship, because an affair just is a dirty way
to leave. It causes tremendous pain. It makes it very difficult for these
people to raise their children together afterwards because there's so much
resentment. And so it's certainly not a good solution to a bad marriage.

GROSS: When you are working with a patient, are you usually seeing them with
their spouse? If the issue is infidelity, are you usually seeing this person
as part of a couple or seeing them alone?

Dr. GLASS: More often, I'm seeing them as a couple, but certainly people will
come in to individual therapy because they're having an affair and their
partner doesn't know about it and they want to make a decision or understand,
you know, what's going on. And when somebody comes in, it's very reflective
because when somebody comes in individually then they're really working on
themselves. They're not working on the marriage. Whereas when the come in
with their partner, then they're working on the marriage. Usually when people
come in with their partner, it's after the affair's been discovered. And so
there's a lot of trauma that they're experiencing and a lot of very intense
emotions that they're going to need a lot of help with in order to recover and
to regain trust. And if the person who had the affair is ambivalent about
which relationship they want to be in, then the beginning of the therapy is
certainly, you know, very agonizing.

GROSS: What can you do for a couple like that?

Dr. GLASS: Which couple?

GROSS: Well, let's start with the couple where the person is unsure about
whether they want to stay in the marriage or be with the person they had the
affair with.

Dr. GLASS: Then we have to decide how open are we going to be about what's
going on in the affair, and if the involved person is willing to talk about
the affair in the couples therapy and not just in individual therapy, then
that's a much better sign than if they want a wall up around what's going on
in the affair. And one of the questions I'll ask the unfaithful partner is:
What are you sharing with your affair partner about the marital therapy?
Because if they're running to the affair partner and talking about what's
going on in the marital therapy and they're not talking to their spouse about
what's going on in the affair, then it's very clear where their basic loyalty
is and who's the insider and who's the outsider. And that's a--you know, when
I have a couple like that, then I usually think that the prognosis isn't very
good for them to stay together unless that shifts radically.

GROSS: If you find out your spouse has been having an affair, you'd probably
want to hear all about it and obsessively dwell on the details, and at the
same time, you wouldn't want to hear a word of it. So what advice do you
usually give couples about how much information to share about what actually
went on in the affair?

Dr. GLASS: I'm really guided by the betrayed spouse. When somebody finds out
that somebody that they have loved, somebody that they have trusted, somebody
that they thought was a good person, has lied and deceived them, then their
reaction is traumatic. And they experience the same post-traumatic reactions
that people experience when they are violated by someone that they trusted,
when a natural disaster happens, when a person who thought that they were
healthy finds out that they have a serious illness, because they lose their
sense of innocence and they lose their sense of invulnerability.

And one of the things that we do when we're traumatized is we try to make
sense of it and we try to understand what the story is. And so telling the
story, the affair, is the only way I know that people can get closure and it's
the only way that I know that people can rebuild trust. In terms of what
questions need to be answered, usually the betrayed partner has pages and
pages of questions. And then as a therapist, then I have certain questions
that I want people to think about because I think that they deal more with
meaning of the affair than just the what, where, when and how.

GROSS: Shirley Glass is the author of the book "Not `Just Friends.'" She'll
be back in the second half of the show. I'm Terry Gross and this is FRESH

(Soundbite of music)


GROSS: Coming up, more with psychologist Shirley Glass on trying to patch up
a marriage after an affair. Interracial marriage used to be illegal in 42
states. We'll talk with Harvard law Professor Randall Kennedy about his new
book, "Interracial Intimacies."

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross, back with psychologist Shirley
Glass. She's a family and marriage therapist who has studied infidelity since
1975. Her new book is about what she describes as the `new infidelity,'
relationships between people who form a deep connection at work and find
themselves crossing the line from a platonic to a romantic relationship.

When we left off, we were talking about the advice she gives married couples
on how to talk about the affair after it has ended. Glass says the questions
she thinks most need to be addressed have to do with the meaning of the
affair, not just the when, where and how.

What kinds of questions would you ask that deal with the meaning of the

Dr. GLASS: I would ask `How did you give yourself permission as you crossed
these various thresholds?' I'm looking for `What are the vulnerabilities?
Was it curiosity? Was it flattery?'--as you pointed out before--`Was it that
you felt your emotional needs weren't being met in the marriage? Is it
because everybody that you work with is engaged in these kinds of relationship
and it looks like it's an acceptable thing to do?' So we want to know, what
are the different vulnerabilities set the stage for an affair?

I want to know `What role did you play in that affair, with that other person?
What did you like about yourself in that other relationship? And what would
you like to bring back into your marriage? What did you give in that other
relationship that perhaps you aren't giving in your marriage? And if you were
giving more in your marriage, maybe you'd be more invested, and maybe this
marriage would seem more appealing to you,' because the more we invest in a
relationship, the more we feel. And so sometimes the affair looks better
because the person's making time for it, they get together, they look in each
other's eyes, they plan when they're going to be together, they share their
most recent triumphs and their disappointments. And if we did that in our
marriages, the marriages would feel a lot better.

So I'm trying to get at `What's the meaning of the affair? What was the
attraction of the affair? And what does it say about the marriage?' so that
we can use that information to build the marriage back.

GROSS: Let's take a hypothetical couple; one of the spouses had an affair
with somebody at work. What's your relationship to that person at work who
had the affair with the married person? I mean, do you want to hear their
side of the story? Do you want to bring them in for counseling with the
married couple? Do you think that the person who had the affair with the
person at work should keep the job and still be around this person?

Dr. GLASS: The only time that I have wanted to bring in the affair partner
was when somebody was ambivalent and kept going back and forth between the two
relationships. And it seemed like if we got all three people together, maybe
we could do something to break up that stable triangle, because the worst
resolution is to have one of these ongoing triangles that goes on for years
and, you know, with all the tensions and the promises and the broken promises
and the lying to this one and then the lying to that one, so that...

GROSS: Boy, how did that work out?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Dr. GLASS: Usually, if it was a man who was, you know, involved with two
women, the two women would be willing to do that, but the man wasn't, because
the way that you'd carry on a double life is to keep those parts of your life
separate, to keep them, you know, split. And that would be their worst
nightmare, would be to have these two women get together. And I did know a
woman who was in that situation with her husband and she insisted that they
have a meeting with the affair partner, and when they did, that really created
the crisis that ended his relationship with the other woman, that the other
woman could see that he really was devoted to the wife and, of course, she had
refused to believe that and believe that he was only in the marriage for the
sake of the family.

GROSS: What about the issue of going back to work if your spouse has had an
affair with somebody at work?

Dr. GLASS: It is so awful to know that your partner had an affair with
somebody at work, it's supposed to be over, and now every day they go to work
and they see this person. And so one of the things we talk about is that they
share what goes on when they see this other person and that they stop all the
contact and, you know, when you say `stop all contact,' people misinterpret
that. What they say is, `Well, I'm not having sex anymore,' but they may
still have coffee together or they may still e-mail that person or they may
still call the person on the cell phone to see how they're doing because
they're worried about them since they broke up with them. And stopping the
contact means stopping all kinds of personal exchanges. So if the affair
partner at work says, `Well, you know, how's the marriage therapy going?' or,
you know, `How are you doing?' or, `How's your wife handling this?' then the
person really needs to say, `I'm sorry, I'm not going to discuss anything
personal with you.'

And at the beginning, people do a very poor job of that because they feel
responsible for having hurt this person who cared about them. But as they
begin to put up thicker walls, then they can move back a few steps. It's
certainly better if they don't have to work together. In the olden days when,
you know, it was the powerful man and the secretary, then the secretary was
fired. In today's world, even in that situation, a secretary can't be fired
because she'll end up suing for sexual harassment. If she can be transferred
to another department, that's a good idea.

What sometimes happens is if the unfaithful partner really puts up a wall,
then the affair partner will on their own move out of that situation, because
it's too painful to be in this formal arrangement with somebody that you had
this very intimate relationship with; it hurts too much. And so they'll look
for another job on their own. But if they don't or they can't, then the rules
have to be very carefully understood. Just as when somebody has an Internet
affair, the rules about how we're going to use a computer have to be very
carefully understood.

GROSS: Have you seen a lot of marriages survive affairs?

Dr. GLASS: I've seen many marriages not only survive affairs, but I've seen
marriages really stronger and exceptionally intimate. Because if we can talk
about this very painful thing in a way where we show compassion for each
other--and the compassion isn't just for the person who's been betrayed;
compassion is also for the person who went down that slippery slope perhaps
without realizing it, who had unmet needs from their childhood that were being
acted out--and so if we are willing to open up all of those doors and look at
those issues and be understanding of each other and work through the pain
together, then we have a very strong relationship.

I mentioned before, Terry, that people suffer these traumatic reactions after
they find out about an affair, and so somebody may have flashbacks for months
or even years. And if their partner is supportive and comforting during those
flashbacks, then again you have a couple who are building something very
strong and very special in a situation that is certainly very difficult.

GROSS: Shirley Glass, thank you so much for talking with us.

Dr. GLASS: Oh, thank you so much, Terry.

GROSS: Shirley Glass is the author of the book "Not `Just Friends.'"

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: Coming up, Randall Kennedy on interracial love and marriage. This is

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Interview: Professor Randall Kennedy discusses fears and controversies
surrounding interracial relationships in the US

Interracial marriage was illegal at one time or another in most American
states. It wasn't until 1967 that the Supreme Court overturned the remaining
anti-miscegenation laws. But there are many whites and African-Americans who
are still uncomfortable with or even opposed to interracial romance.

My guest, Randall Kennedy, is the author of the new book "Interracial
Intimacies: Sex, Marriage, Identity and Adoption." His previous book was
about the changing meaning of a word that is a terrible epithet, but has
become almost a term of endearment in part of hip-hop culture. That book,
titled "Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word," has just come out
in paperback. Randall Kennedy is a professor at Harvard Law School, and
served as a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.

You're a law professor so, obviously, you researched a lot of the legal
aspects of interracial relationships. Now at one time there were 42 states
that banned intermarriage. What was the legal case for the state interceding
and making intermarriage illegal?

Professor RANDALL KENNEDY (Harvard Law School; Author): Interracial marriage
was viewed for a long time as a real menace. There were some people who
thought that it was against the teachings of the Bible. So, frankly, even in
the 1960s there were judges who said, you know, marriage across the race line
is against the teachings of the Bible. If God had wanted--clearly God did not
want people of different races to intermarry. That's why, you know, different
races were put on different continents, and it's only because of man's
intervention that people have been able to--different races have been able to
get together anyway.

The main thing going on, of course, was white supremacist, white separatist
notions, the idea that America should be a white man's country. And one way
of keeping it a white man's country would be to police the race line.

GROSS: How carefully were the laws enforced?

Prof. KENNEDY: It's difficult to tell, frankly, the degree of energy that was
put into the enforcement of anti-miscegenation laws. But one thing I did find
is that the private enforcement mechanisms were sometimes more in evidence
than the resort to criminal law. So, for instance, imagine the following
episode: a white man who has an estate, a wealthy white man, dies. He leaves
his estate to his wife. Well, let's imagine that the white man's brothers and
sisters get angry because, after all, the white man has died, he has this big
estate, they don't have any of it. They hire a private investigator, the
private investigator finds out that the wife's grandmother or maybe even
great-grandmother was colored. The brothers and sisters of the dead man then
go and challenge the putative widow's right to the estate. If she is
determined to be colored under state law, that means that she was never
legally married to the man; that means that she should not get his estate;
that means that the children that she has had with this man are now deemed to
be illegitimate.

But I found hundreds of cases of private enforcement. Often these cases would
be brought by resentful, angry relatives.

GROSS: Although there are no longer any anti-miscegenation laws on the books,
there are still certain prohibitions against adopting children of another
race. What are some of those prohibitions?

Prof. KENNEDY: Well, until recently there were states that had laws on the
books that required strong racial matching policies. For instance, in
California, until relatively recently, social welfare officials were directed
to search for adoptive homes of the same race as a child who was eligible for
adoption. Now those laws have been essentially superceded by a federal law
that was--two federal laws, actually--a federal law that was passed in 1994
and then a federal law that was passed in 1996--which prohibits race matching
by any entity that is taking money from the federal government.

But on the ground, race matching still exists. Throughout many areas of the
United States, probably most areas of the United States, there is still a very
strong inclination to try to place children of a given race with adults of the
same race for purposes of adoption.

GROSS: And...

Prof. KENNEDY: As you know, I'm quite critical of race matching for a variety
of reasons.

GROSS: What are your reasons?

Prof. KENNEDY: Yeah. Well, there are a couple. First, race matching has had
the consequence of condemning children to institutionalized care for long
periods of time, or for foster care where they're bumped around from one
insecure, you know, household to another. It seems clear to me that the
children need security in their lives, they need continuity in their lives,
they need someone who is going to view that child as, you know, their child,
and someone who's going to be willing to be a permanent parent 24 hours a day,
seven days a week.

A second reason is that I don't think that the state should in any way suggest
that the monoracial family is any way superior to the multiracial family. And
I think that that's an inescapable inference that is drawn when state policy,
you know, tries to create monoracial families, viewing them as more natural
than multiracial families.

Now as for the question of identification, you know, inculcating a correct
sense of racial identity, first of all, the whole question of what is a
correct sense of racial identity is itself very controversial. There are
probably all sorts of, you know, notions of racial identity. We have a
pluralistic nation, pluralistic country. We should applaud pluralism. And in
this context pluralism, it seems to me, means being willing to facilitate and
tolerate and encourage all sorts of family formations--multiracial and, you
know, any other sort of family formation that makes sense.

GROSS: Now I'm sure a lot of your readers wonder, `Well, is Randall Kennedy
married to a white woman? And is that why he wrote this book?' And...

Prof. KENNEDY: Yeah, a lot of people, I'm sure, will want to know that. I'm
married to a black woman, very happily married to a wonderful black woman, so
that's fine. I'm not making any claim that interracial relationships are
necessarily better than, you know, relationships between people of the same
race. All I'm saying is that people ought not feel embarrassed, ought not
feel bad, ought not feel ashamed if their affections carry them--you know, if
their affections cross the race line.

GROSS: My guest is Randall Kennedy. His new book is called "Interracial
Intimacies." We'll talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: Randall Kennedy is my guest. He's the author of the new book
"Interracial Intimacies: Sex, Marriage, Identity and Adoption." His previous
book was "Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word," and it's all
about the history of that word and the controversy over its uses.

Randall Kennedy, among the things that happened after your book was published
was that there was an episode of "Boston Public," the Fox TV series set in an
integrated high school--an episode in that series about the use of that word
in class, and I think, you know, the students had to read an excerpt of your
book in that class as part of their assignment. So I'm wondering if you saw
the episode, and what you thought of the episode, and how they handled the
controversy over the word.

Prof. KENNEDY: I did see the episode. I thought it was an excellent
episode--very complex. I thought that it allowed people with different points
of view to articulate those points of view with reason and with power, and
that's one of the things that made it a very compelling instance of

GROSS: Among the issues in that episode was, you know, does a white teacher
have the right to teach a class about that word; can white students use that
word since the black students are using it all the time in the context of
talking to each other and in quoting rap lyrics. And so, you know, every
point of view was represented within the episode.

Prof. KENNEDY: Right. And it was a very realistic rendering of controversies
that are ongoing all across the United States. And one reason why I know that
to be the case is that in the aftermath of the airing of that episode I got
hundreds of letters from across the country--from teachers and
students--telling me about, you know, controversies at their schools. I got a
lot of papers where teachers have actually asked students to write about that
particular episode or write about my book or write about articles in the
newspaper that talked about my book. That episode also helped garner my book
an audience that, frankly, I had not considered. I now hear from high-school
students a lot. You know, they write me, they send me their papers, they send
me questions all the time, because they were introduced to my book through
that episode on "Boston Public."

GROSS: So did they call you and say, you know, `We're using your book in one
of the episodes for this series; just wanted you to know'?

Prof. KENNEDY: Well, it was a little bit more involved than that. The
producer called and said that they were thinking about doing an episode
involving a controversy regarding the N-word. They heard about my book. They
said, `We'd like to read your book.' So I sent the book to them. Then a
couple of weeks later they sent me a draft of the script and asked for my
reactions to it. I sent back a little memo giving, you know, my reactions.
Then they sent another draft, and the second time around they said, `Listen.
We'd like to use your book as a prop in the show. We'd like to use your name
in the show. And, you know, is that OK?' And I said, `Sure, it's OK.' And
they went ahead and did the show, and I saw it and I really liked it. And
it's--like I said, it's certainly been helpful in spreading the word about my

GROSS: And have you been saying `the N-word' or using the full word when you
talk about it?

Prof. KENNEDY: Oh, I use the word `nigger.' I mean, you know--there is a
place for euphemism. I don't get mad when people, you know, use `the N-word.'
But, you know, the name of my book is "Nigger: The Strange Career of a
Troublesome Word." And depending on the context, I use `N-word.'

I mean, it was funny. I was on a radio show where the host of the show said,
`Listen. The station had a strong policy, no exceptions. Nigger could not be
pronounced on the show.' I went on the show. We spoke for one hour. It was
radio program. Never once was the word `nigger' used, although I did spell it
out for purposes of identifying my book. And we had a wonderful, wonderful

GROSS: Well, how'd you feel about that? Because obviously the purpose of
that policy is to protect you and other African-Americans from being offended
and from being intentionally or inadvertently insulted. But here you are
trying to kind of start an intellectual conversation...

Prof. KENNEDY: Right.

GROSS: ...about the use of the word, the origins of the word, the linguistics
of--you know, all this stuff, and you're not allowed to use it.

Prof. KENNEDY: Well, I argued. I said--on the show I said, `I think the
station's policy is not a good policy.' For one thing, when you make a word
or a symbol tabooed expression, you give it a certain allure, and I don't
think that this word should be given that sort of power. And so I'm against
the sort of policies that would--the policy of this particular radio program.
But I mention it because it was interesting to discuss my book on a program
where the title of my book could not be mentioned.

GROSS: Right. Part of your book was devoted to the word's use in pop culture
and rap music, movies, comedy routines. I'm wondering if you're finding any
more or less citings of the word since the publication of your book.

Prof. KENNEDY: Well, the book, you know, caused quite a stir, and there were
a lot of articles generated by the book itself. I think some people have
become considerably more self-conscious in the aftermath of my book. And, of
course, controversies continue. Recently in St. Louis a schoolteacher was
publicly reprimanded because she gave out to her class a chapter of my book.
It was almost, frankly, a parody of some of the things that I talk about and
discuss in the book. But that happens, and I'm sure it will continue to

GROSS: Was the teacher white or black?

Prof. KENNEDY: I do not know. I get the sense that she was white, but I
don't know that for sure.

GROSS: 'Cause I'm thinking maybe that if she was white the reason why she was
reprimanded might have been, in part, because some people think it's
presumptuous and inappropriate for a white teacher to pretend to have any
authority on this subject...

Prof. KENNEDY: Yeah.

GROSS: ...which is part of what the "Boston Public" episode was about.

Prof. KENNEDY: That's right. And some people do have that point of view, and
it's a point of view that should be opposed. This is a teacher teaching in a
public school. The authority that she has should be an authority that comes
not from her skin color, but from what she knows, the energy she brings to the
job, her effectiveness in trying to educate the upcoming generation of
Americans. That's where her authority should lie, not in what she happens to

GROSS: Well, Randall Kennedy, good to talk with you again. Thank you very

Prof. KENNEDY: Thank you so much for having me on your show.

GROSS: Randall Kennedy's new book is called "Interracial Intimacies." His
book "Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word" has just come out in


GROSS: I'm Terry Gross.

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