On Interviewing A Racist

photo of Al Letson
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Talk to Al Letson, host of Reveal, for any length of time about radio and, inevitably, you’ll learn a life lesson. Al recently laid a doozy on me. I got goose-bumps.

Last November, Al interviewed Richard Spencer, a self-avowed white nationalist. Given that Al is African-American and his world-view is diametrically opposed to Spencer’s, I wondered how Al prepared for the interview and how he remained so calm and polite as they talked.

To prep for my interview with Al, I talked with Leila Day. Leila is a reporter for KALW in San Francisco and she’s also my teaching assistant at the Transom Story Workshop this spring (and next fall, too!). Since Leila is also African-American and has interviewed racists, I wondered what she thought I should ask Al.

She said “Ask him this. What should be my mantra be as I sit in the car, my heart pumping, afraid of what I’m walking into and what might happen when I’m going to interview a racist?”

So, I did. That’s when I got goose-bumps.

Listen for Al’s answer and a lot of valuable insight about interviewing people you don’t agree with on this HowSound.

For further listening, Al interviewed Spencer a second time about his family’s cotton farms. Another remarkable story.

*photo of Al Letson by Tiffany Manning

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