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“Christopher Cornelius” is the nom de guerre of a black American international humanitarian aid worker who has put years of service in some of the world’s most dangerous places: Pakistan, Afghanistan, West Africa, Kenya, the Balkans, Cambodia, Sudan, and others. He is uncomfortable with developments in racial politics back home and has an original take on the situation. We have that “conversation about race” that the US race commentary pundits have been promising for years — but never actually ventured to have. We could have covered even more territory, but as it is, this is a long interview for this podcast. Christopher Cornelius continues to work in dangerous lands overseas and is concealing his identity to protect himself and his wife. We spoke over Skype from his current perch in East Timor.

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About James Howard Kunstler

View all posts by James Howard Kunstler
James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency and the four-book series of World Made By Hand novels, set in a post economic crash American future. His most recent book is Living in the Long Emergency; Global Crisis, the Failure of the Futurists, and the Early Adapters Who Are Showing Us the Way Forward. Jim lives on a homestead in Washington County, New. York, where he tends his garden and communes with his chickens.

16 Responses to “KunstlerCast 276 — That Conversation About Race We Were Supposed to Have”

  1. Walter B April 8, 2016 at 12:21 am #

    I don’t know where you found this fellow James, but you had better put him back where you did and quickly or Barak Obama and Al Sharpton are going to start losing income fast! But seriously, and unfortunately, this lack of fatherly leadership is and has been a pivotal problem for not only the black community but has grown to be a problem for ALL communities today. Bill Cosby used to fly this flag (at least until he was squelched) and rightly so and every time it has been raised it is rejected by the media and TPTB. I understand that they are profiting substantially from the status quo rather than the solution with their Legal System and the Prisons For Profit. Perhaps that is why they will not allow it to change. A damned shame if you ask me.

    As for Mr. “Christopher Cornelius” himself, I applaud him for overcoming a huge societal burden to become a serious asset to mankind and I wish him all success and happiness in his endeavors. Thank you James for sharing his story with us.

  2. dantesque April 8, 2016 at 9:58 am #

    Multiple narratives can be true at the same time. Yes, we have, in some cases, police outright murdering young black men because of perceived threats. Yes, we have, for various reasons, racial disparities in sentencing. I could go on and we could argue about each point or each case. But you get the picture. All that stuff is real in my opinion and shouldn’t be discounted.

    However, this brave young man points out the elephant in the room, the major narrative that Black America should also be discussing – the dysfunctional black subculture and broken families that are the root cause and the reason why so many young black men end up in confrontations with police and the criminal justice system in the first place.

    As a young white man fresh out of high school, I too had a lot of bad influences and made a lot of testosterone/drug fueled mistakes. At a low point, I ended up spending a month in county jail.

    But that month in jail scared me straight. I never ever again wanted to lose my freedom. I was ashamed. My parents were ashamed. Outside of my meth-addled group of “friends”, I was branded a loser. Really? You were in jail? What’s wrong with you? Are you stupid?

    If I were black, would I have had that kind of community shaming? Would my father be around to lecture me, bail me out, try and set me on the right path? Do most blacks mock ghetto attitudes the same way most whites mock redneck attitudes? These are the kind of uncomfortable questions we need to be asking.

    • Frankiti April 13, 2016 at 5:26 pm #

      “Do most blacks mock ghetto attitudes the same way most whites mock redneck attitudes? These are the kind of uncomfortable questions we need to be asking.”

      No. Because ‘the street’ carries more weight in the black community, and it does because black people were kept, restricted, from their place at the table for so long be it voter disenfranchisement, laws against marrying non-blacks, laws against riding on busses, that a counter culture evolved independent of the established system (good grades, college, daddy makes a call, good job, buy house, raise family, repeat). If we can never be a part we need to survive apart. Rednecks, or rural whites, are mostly willfully ignorant and or socio-economically depressed. They had/have the opportunity to move up without skin color as a limitation, but culturally are satisfied buying junk food at wall mart, working menial jobs and watching cars make left turns for entertainment. Whites hold no respect for them because they are not rebelling against institutionalized racism… the case for this for blacks may be diminishing as more barriers are broken. We shall see.

  3. routersurfer April 12, 2016 at 7:44 am #

    Thanks. A lot to unpack. In the end we still have the same question : What kind of society do we want and who is a part of it? I read a paper awhile back that tried to make the case that at or below 100 IQ points (+- 6 ) people do not really understand what they read. They just fill in what is bouncing around in the old hat rack. Think about that. If it is true, how can people learn except by doing? What can you do in a world based on Tech ? Maybe we are really hard-wired for a World Made By Hand. Best wishes to both you and your guest, Jim.

  4. Frankiti April 12, 2016 at 6:19 pm #

    Really good interview. Mr. K is truly an extraordinary listener, perhaps it has something to do with his past as a reporter. He let Cornelius give sufficient background and just tell his story without interruption. Something I appreciate particularly after listening to Terry Gross (doesn’t pay attention and gets hung-up on the trivial) or On Point’s Tom Ashbrook (constantly interrupts and attempts to finish his interlocutor’s sentence or worse, summarize his or her point). Cornelius told an incredible story and emphasized time and time again the importance of stepping away and experiencing things outside of the bubble. The vital importance of real travel (not tourism), cultivating experiences, and having an open mind. If only more people were afforded the opportunity to seriously step away from the US bubble and experience the world. Quickly they will learn and experience that kindness and evil are individual traits. That people are people. They will also learn how incredibly awful it is for a majority of the human population outside of the western and developed world. Awful.

    Most blacks in the USA have been Americans from the beginning, they have been here since the country’s inception and before. Longer than most descendants of the immigrant waves of the late 19th and early 20th. Their history IS American history. Yet people get hung up on race. It’s all economic. It’s social. It’s cultural. When your culture is destroyed, your society is destroyed, and your chances for economic betterment are restrained, what have you? The incredibly strong and gifted can and do overcome… sometimes. There is one solution, and it’s enlightenment often coming through tacit knowledge, experience, travel, and contemplation. People need to start honestly thinking.

    • chipshot April 13, 2016 at 6:15 am #

      Travel requires $, something most black people don’t have.

      • Frankiti April 13, 2016 at 5:16 pm #

        Traveling, leaving your little world, costs nothing. If that means leaving the mean streets of Chicago for the clean streets of rural Georgia on a bus, it is still travel. It is still an escape. It is still a learning opportunity. If it means a backwoods hillbilly redneck leaving for the big dirt, a la John Rocker, and actually experiencing different faces and places, it is still a step forward.

        • Frankiti April 13, 2016 at 5:17 pm #

          should be big city…

  5. thwack April 13, 2016 at 11:07 am #

    Travel requires $, something most black people don’t have.

    No, no, no,

    we have money; sometimes a lot of it; but we ain’t tryin to spend it getting dirty or going without a shower or clean clothes for days on end…

    Black people don’t like camping because it reminds us too much of being homeless.

    Look at it this way; only recently in this country did black people start to get “clean” inside, white collar jobs; we are not trying to spend money to get dirty, bit by mosquitoes, dodge bugs and poisonous things…

    White girls wanna go camping; black girls wanna go to the casino.

    Just sayin.

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  6. thwack April 17, 2016 at 3:38 pm #

    Travel requires $, something most black people don’t have.


    However, more important than money, recreational travel requires knowledge and foresight that no matter the unfamiliarity of your destination, you carry the CONFIDENCE you will not be subject to abuse and harm.

    Even black people with money often don’t have that because in this system there isn’t anything concrete for a black person to anchor themselves to except the very system responsible for much of their mistreatment.

    When I was 12, all my white friends DECIDED to get BB guns for Christmas; I wasn’t allowed to get one and was not really provided any reasons.

    It was only after I became an adult and my parents were dead that I realized they were simply afraid of what could happen if a young black male was seen walking around the neighborhood with what appeared to be a rifle?

    Their inability to tell me the truth generated much anger and resentment because I felt they were unjustly denying me a male right of passage enjoyed by my white friends who were less
    responsible than I. (the next year they all DECIDED to get shot guns for Xmas)

    Black parents think they are protecting their children when they lie to them; but they are actually confusing them; not intentionally, but in order to protect their own EGOS.

    It works like this:

    Black parents cannot tell their children the truth about racism without discrediting themselves in the eyes of their children. Think about my above scenario? I could have ended up going to all the white parents in the neighborhood to ask for permission to get a BB gun?

    Ironically, all the white people would have said “yes”

    “doesn’t every boy get a BB gun for Christmas?”

    Ruling by fiat over children is the way some black people compensate for their lack of real power. I even suspect some black parents sabotage their own children out of fear they will grow up to one day realize their parents weren’t that smart.

    • Precipitous Decline April 21, 2016 at 1:53 am #

      Thanks for this podcast. I think I have listened to most of Jim’s podcasts but this is by far the best one yet. Christopher Cornelius’s” exploits overseas as a humanitarian worker are fascinating in itself but the brutal honesty about the race situation and the alienation of men in American society, particularly African American men bring the cause of many or America’s social ills. Let’s just say, it is illuminating. Part of this problem has to do with feminism as well as the welfare state. I hope to hear more perhaps in future podcasts and one day read that book that “Christopher Cornelius” is sure to write. I’m sure “Christopher Cornelius” could write several, already.

  7. AHtheHumanity April 22, 2016 at 5:18 am #

    I enjoyed this podcast very much mostly because it is a black man in complete agreement with a white man, and a christian in agreement with a jew and a lower income class in agreement with a higher income class. Also, it tells the reality of what it’s like to LIVE other places far away from the U.S.A. and outside of a military base or embassy. As of this posting we have one of the most successful white male internet entrepreuners being imprisoned in an embassy representing one of the most economically disadvantaged countries on the planet; guess who? Anybody bother to look up his background? What motivates people like him and Chris Cornelius and Mr. Kunstler to expand their world view to as many eyes as possible? Personal profit? Approval? Personal satisfaction?
    Also as of this posting we have the deaths and besmirching of a pile of very CULTURALLY influential African Americans. History will form an opinion of these men as drug addled sex offenders despite their more positive and touching contributions. The most salient point of the whole discussion is it takes both sides of the color line to allow this kind of degredation.

  8. teddyboy46 April 25, 2016 at 3:50 pm #

    the pod cast was great. I worked around and with Blacks all my life and never had a conversation about race with them. It answered a lot of questions I always wanted to ask and I am surprised he was treated so shabbily in Africa. I hope you do more of these podcasts.

  9. brimstonian May 11, 2016 at 12:11 pm #

    This was a fantastic post. Am interesting common thread is control. Whenever you accept money from another party for “free” you are giving them power over you. Whether you are accepting welfare, accepting political donations, or accepting federal funds at the town and state level, you are giving power to those who control that flow of money.
    black culture has been heavily impacted through this in terms of welfare however, all cultures in America have fallen victim to this trap. Money gets pulled from schools who don’t follow the desired policies, states are threatened by the federal government.
    Self sufficiency is one of the most effective steps you can take at any level. It removes the ability of other individuals and / or organizations to directly exert control over you buy controlling critical resources

  10. NorthernSpy June 21, 2016 at 12:02 pm #

    This was an incredible podcast and would be extremely enlightening to all Americans.

    The only problem with it was the introduction of current politics and the denigration of Trump. There was no need for such an inflammatory, ignorant description and that comment highly degraded what was probably Jim’s best podcast.

    Also, it’s interesting that right after dropping the H bomb on Mr. Trump, Jim goes on to describe how we need to bring manufacturing back. Gee, did you know that only one candidate is discussing exactly that?

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  11. Croon November 30, 2017 at 3:43 am #

    hi there! It’s great site. so many topics and opinions. I used to read, basically washingtonpost but now your site one of my favorites. Thank you!