Culture Wars/Current Controversies

Interview With Professor Adolph Reed

By Matt Taibbi

Funny, outspoken, and original, the political science professor and author talks race, class, liberalism, and Robin DiAngelo on Useful Idiots.

Last May, the Democratic Socialists of America invited the longtime Yale, Northwestern, and University of Pennsylvania professor Adolph Reed to speak to the New York City chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America.

As the New York Times later pointed out, it seemed a natural fit. Reed is a Marxist who campaigned for Bernie Sanders and throughout his career advocated for Democrats to move leftward. He once said of Barack Obama that his brand represented “vacuous to repressive neoliberal politics.” The DSA should have been his home base.

The New York chapter didn’t see it that way. Reed was planning to argue that it was an error to focus on the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on black Americans. He believed the focus on race overshadowed class disparities, made multiracial organizing problematic, and undermined the effort to counter problems like wealth inequality.

This, some D.S.A. members said, was a provocation. A coalition within the D.S.A. The group’s “Afrosocialists and Socialists of Color Caucus” said allowing Reed to speak was “reactionary, class reductionist and at best, tone deaf.” In conjunction with D.S.A. leaders and Reed himself, the event was canceled, in an absurd episode the quick-witted Reed dismissed as a “tempest in a demitasse.”

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