I'm the descendant of enslaved black people in this country. You could've been born in 1820 if you were black and looked back to your ancestors and saw nothing but slaves all the way back to 1619. Look forward another 50 or 60 years and saw nothing but slaves.
I just want to be really clear about this: Anyone who has read Colin Powell's biography – there's an entire section where he talks about experiencing segregation. Colin Powell did not appear when he became head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. That's not how it happened.
When I see Bruce Banner becoming the Hulk, it's only a picture. My imagination has to do some of the work there, to impute feeling and everything. We're talking about something that's so surreal, it's just not possible within the world as we know it. So that requires a form that is not so literal.
Somebody once told me, black people, in and of themselves, are cosmopolitan. There's cosmopolitanism within the black experience. There's an incredible amount.
We've got in the habit of not really understanding how freedom was in the 19th century, the idea of government of the people in the 19th century. America commits itself to that in theory.
I was born in West Baltimore, lived in a situation in which violence was everywhere.
I feel some need to represent where I'm from. But ultimately, I think my only real responsibility is to – as much as possible – interrogate my own truths. This is to say not merely writing what I think is true, but using the writing to turn that alleged truth over and over, to stress-test it, in the aim of producing something readable.
The lives of African-Americans in this country are characterized by violence for most of our history. Much of that violence, at least to some extent, you know, done by the very state that's supposed to protect them.
I love living around black people. Home is home. We suffer under racism and the physical deprivations that come with that, but beneath that, we form cultures and traditions that are beautiful.
When people think about reparations, they immediately think about people who've been dead for 100 years.
I love America the way I love my family – I was born into it. And there's no escape out of it.
I do understand how hate eats at the soul and how to purge yourself of hate.
The two endorsements I'm most proud of come from Isabel Wilkerson and Toni Morrison. The latter is the greatest American fiction writer of our time, and the former is on her way to being the greatest American nonfiction writer of our time.
I constantly write about my safety walking to and from school, and then I would come home at night, and I would cut on the TV, and I would watch a show like 'The Wonder Years,' or I would watch, you know, some other show like 'Family Ties.'
I feel sorry for people who only know comic books through movies. I really do.
I was about 13 or 14 when I heard Malcolm X's speech 'Message to the Grass Roots.'
There are African-American families around this country – a large, large number of African-American families – that operate out of complete fear that their kids are going to be taken from them and will do anything to prevent that.
Outside of hip-hop, it was in comics that I most often found the aesthetics and wisdom of my world reflected.
One of the things that's really, really present in 'Between the World and Me' is, I am in some ways outside of the African-American tradition.
I wasn't the biggest Captain America fan, but increasingly, I see him as a great character. Winter Soldier really got into what it meant to actually represent America.
I would say as a journalist, I would envision travelling to other countries that have had to reckon with their past and see how they've done it: what worked, what didn't work, finding characters that would tell the story of how that process was done.
It meant something to see people who looked like me in comic books. It was this beautiful place that I felt pop culture should look like.
The country in which reparations actually happen is a very different one than the one we live in.
I didn't start off as a journalist; I started off as a poet. My ambition was to practise poetry. Then I found journalism, but that other voice never fled from me.
When I see the Confederate flag, I see the attempt to raise an empire in slavery. It really, really is that simple. I don't understand how anybody with any sort of education on the Civil War can see anything else.
We look at young black kids with a scowl on their face, walking a certain way down the block with their sweatpants dangling, however, with their hoodies on. And folks think that this is a show of power or a show of force. But I know, because I've been among those kids, it ultimately is fear.
It's very hard to be black in this country and hate America. It's really hard to live like that. I would actually argue it's impossible to fully see yourself.
The plunder of black communities is not a bump along the road, but it is, in fact, the road itself that you can't have in America without enslavement, without Jim Crow, terrorism, everything that came after that.
It's kind of selfish to say that you're only going to fight for a victory that you will live to see.
The relationship between violence and nonviolence in this country is interesting. The fact of the matter is, you know, people do respond to riots. The 1968 Housing Act was in large response to riots that broke out after Dr. Martin Luther King was killed. They cited these as an actual inspiration.
My dad always associated information with liberation. He was very much in that Malcolm X tradition.
I enjoy the challenge of trying to say things beautifully. The message is secondary in that sense. Obviously, I have something that I want to say that's very, very important to me – but the process of actually crafting it is essential.
'White America' is a syndicate arrayed to protect its exclusive power to dominate and control our bodies.
We have this long history of racism in this country, and as it happens, the criminal justice system has been perhaps the most prominent instrument for administering racism. But the racism doesn't actually come from the criminal justice system.
When you write, you're inside the project. You can't really think about the reception. It has to be worth it even if no one reads it.
I think the body is the ultimate thing. The soul and mind are part of the body. I don't think there is anything outside of that. Your physical self is who you are. Some people feel that that is reductionist, but I don't think it is. It's just true.
There isn't a dude outside my dad who had greater influence on my life.
I haven't checked, but I highly suspect that chickens evolved from an egg-laying ancestor, which would mean that there were, in fact, eggs before there were chickens. Genius.
I just think that if one is going to preach nonviolence and one is going to advocate for nonviolence, one's standard should be consistent.
We are all losers in comparison to Malala Yousafzai. But we are not all geniuses. Like me.
When you read a comic book, there's a space between what's happening on the panel and what you have to literally see in your mind. That's not true of movies, where you see everything.
There's a kind of optimism specifically within Christianity about the world – about whose side God is on. Well, I didn't have any of that in my background. I had physicality and chaos.
We want to believe racism is an artifact of the past, and if you have a political massacre, that contradicts that.
Superheroes are best imagined in comic books. The union between the written word, the image, and then what your imagination has to do to connect those allows for so much.
In comics, you have to imagine what happens. I really loved it; I loved collecting. I loved following the adventures and figuring out what was going to happen next. I was a huge X-Men fan; I was a huge Spider-Man fan, and, to large degree, I remain one. It's literature for me; it's art.
It's hard for me to view Baltimore outside the context of what Baltimore has always been in my mind: a violent place.
I think at places like 'Slate' or the magazine where I work, there was a really poor record of hiring African-American writers. It was really that simple. And I think with the proliferation of the Internet and Internet media, it has been a little harder to maintain that gatekeeper position.
My father was so very afraid. I felt it in the sting of his black leather belt, which he applied with more anxiety than anger, my father who beat me as if someone might steal me away, because that was exactly what was happening all around us.
The country in which reparations actually happen is a very different one than the one we live in.
One of the things we tell ourselves as African-Americans is if we work hard, play by the rules, we do start back a little ways, but if we can be twice as good, somehow we can escape history and heritage and legacy.
You may not be able to change the course of government, but you can achieve some peace. And books were the path to that. I grew up in a house where books were everywhere.
I think riots happen when communities are under pressure for long periods of time. That's not a mistake.
The soul is part of the body. The mind is part of the body. When folks do physical violence to black people, to black bodies in this country, the soul as we construe it is damaged, too – the mind is damaged, too.
The essential relationship across American history between black people and white people is one of exploitation and one of plunder. This is not, you know, necessarily about, you know, whether you're a good person or not or whether you see black people, you know, on the street, and you're willing to shake their hands and be polite.
The president of the United States is not a king. You know? Barack Obama was elected by the American people.
You can't tolerate anybody attempting to threaten or intimidate your body. You must respond with force.
The African-American tradition, in the main, is very, very church-based, very, very Christian. It accepts, you know, certain narratives about the world. I didn't really have that present in my house.
African Americans are one of the oldest ethnic groups in this country. We been here since the beginning. Before the beginning.
People know things and have a remarkable capacity to act in their individual immediate interests all the time.
I feel like my job is to look at the world and to report what I see, to write what I see as honestly and directly as I can. I don't want to cut it or make it easy, but be as direct as I can.
When people who are not black are interested in what I do, frankly, I'm always surprised. I don't know if it's my low expectations for white people or what.
My belief is in the chaos of the world and that you have to find your peace within the chaos and that you still have to find some sort of mission.
There are plenty of African-Americans in this country – and I would say this goes right up to the White House – who are not by any means poor, but are very much afflicted by white supremacy.
It was mostly through pop culture, through hip-hop, through Dungeons & Dragons and comic books that I acquired much of my vocabulary.
Forgiveness is a big part of – especially post-civil rights movement – is a big part of African-American Christianity, and I wasn't raised within the Christian church; I wasn't raised within any church.
You can oppose reparations all you want, but you got to know the facts. You really, really do.
There was no United States before slavery. I am sure somebody can make some sort of argument about modern French identity and slavery and North Africa, but there simply is no American history before black people.
As an African-American, we stand on the shoulders of people who fought despite not seeing victories in their lifetime or even in their children's lifetime or even in their grandchildren's lifetime. So fatalism isn't really an option.
If I wrote a Jewish superhero, he'd have awesome time-traveling powers. I'd call him Doctorow.
I think a lot about the private emotions of black people – what we feel and yet is rarely publicly expressed.