Professor Wilfred Reilly and Author of Taboo: 10 Things You Can’t Talk About, Discusses His Career and Contribution to Red White and Black
Live from Music Row Monday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed Professor Wilfred Reilly from Kentucky State University to the newsmakers line to highlight some chapters of his book Taboo and his contribution to the bestseller Red, White, and Black.
Leahy: We are delighted to welcome on our newsmaker line, Professor Wilfred Reilley of Kentucky State University and author of a great book, Taboo: 10 Facts You Can’t Talk About. Welcome Professor Reilley.
Reilly: Oh, thanks for having me. Good to be here.
Leahy: Your name keeps coming up because you also were a contributor to the book Red White and Black. You’ve got a couple of chapters in that book. We talked earlier today with Bob Woodson about that. And that book is published by the Emancipation imprint of Post Hill Press. You are prolific, Professor Reilly.
Reilly: Well, yes. I mean, as an academic, I try to write as often as possible, and I think this was an important topic to write about. Bob Woodson, obviously, is one of the organizers for 1776 Unites, which is kind of the Black business and social science community’s response to The New York Times 1619 Project, which, frankly, just got a lot of things wrong.
And there was a collection of essays that was put together as part of the launch of 1776. I wrote one about the positive side, essentially, of American history. I mean, obviously, we’ve reframed this including some of my ancestors.
We beat the Nazis. So it’s important to remember that. And when Bob called and asked if I would be willing to have that essay and another one included in this book, Red, White and Black, I said, yeah, of course, I’d be honored. And I will say that book, when it dropped, was number one in the world.
We’re definitely tracking it against, say, Ibram Kendi’s project or the book from 1619. And, of course, all the other volumes out there. But I’m glad to see it’s doing well. And it’s still out there right now. It’s available on Amazon and pretty much anywhere else you might buy a book.
Leahy: Yeah, it’s got very good ratings on Amazon.com. Your personal history is fascinating to me. You have a Ph.D. in political science, I guess, from Southern Illinois, and a law degree from the University of Illinois. Why did you decide to become a University Professor instead of a practitioner of law?
Reilly: Well, I’ve done a bunch of different things. I’ve also been a coach, although briefly. I worked in the sales and trading floor environment, which is probably the setting, honestly, where I’ve been the most financially compensated, even including training in the law and so on down the line.
But I wanted to teach. I enjoy academia, at least leaving aside politics. And so we’re not especially severe in my school, but I like teaching kids. I actually teach in a historically Black college that’s located in Appalachia.
So there’s a good chance to genuinely help people and a lot of those other things. I graduated from law school when I was 22, and I actually was very glad to get an acceptance or get an offer from grad school.
So I didn’t have to immediately move into some intense legal field, white-collar criminal prosecution, or something like that at that age. And most of the other things that I did, I was a canvas manager, as I said of working on those sales and trading floors.
I did those while I was going for the Ph.D. because I don’t like the taste of Ramen noodles all that much. (Leahy chuckles) You’re generally expected to teach. It’s not a bad job in and of itself, and that’s what I ended up doing.
I went out on the job market and I was lucky enough to get four or five different offers and ended up accepting one in the state university system in Kentucky. I may take the bar in Kentucky so that I’m available as a practicing attorney, but I don’t think that’s going to be my focus for at least the next decade or so.
Leahy: So the other book from 2020, Taboo: 10 Facts You Can’t Talk About, what are some of those facts and why can’t you talk about them?
Reilly: Most of the time the book looks at sort of cancel culture, which is this idea that there are all these things that everyone knows that you’re not supposed to say. So I just break them down going through these chapters that white privilege, this is one of the facts that are almost meaningless in the univariate, since there are a ton of things what your ‘social class’ is, how attractive you are, and is your father present, and if you’re under 25, that predicts where you’re going to go in life much more than your race.
The opening chapter of the book is just called The Police Aren’t Massively Murdering Black People, and it breaks down some of the things Black Lives Matter, as the movement says, and compares them with reality.
In the most recent year on record, the total number of unarmed brothers, unarmed Black men shot by police officers was 18. The average person who leans left politically, by the way, thinks it’s between 1,000 and 10,000.
That’s a major study from the Skeptic Research Center. So I found out that this just isn’t true. We all oppose police brutality, but the movement is based on simple dishonesty, to say the least.
There’s a chapter that looks at the actual rates of interracial crime, violent interracial crimes are incredibly low. The person most likely to kill you is your ex-wife. About three percent of crime. But when it does occur that’s actually about minority on white. There are all these different taboo topics. Why immigration should probably be merit-based.
There’s a chapter on IQ. There’s a chapter taking down the alt-right and looking at some of the things the right gets wrong. So the whole idea of the book is to give people ammunition in the sense of what are the actual facts around these public debates people keep screaming about.
Is what, for example, Mr. Cuomo is saying on television, is that accurate point by point? Very often we find out it’s not. And again, that’s a book that did pretty well, because I think a lot of people wanted to see. And it’s written from a center-right perspective, but fairly unbiased.
I think a lot of people wanted to see what is the actual data around all these issues that I’m told we can’t discuss. Where I’m told I just have to kind of listen sympathetically. Are the people doing the talking being honest? No.
Leahy: Professor Wilfred Riley, Kentucky State University, here’s my question for you. How is it that you developed the intellectual courage to talk about these things? What is it that gives you the ability to talk about them? And what kind of pushback do you get?
Reilly: I think the question itself is interesting. One of the things for me, I often jokingly say men’s events and so on. And I grew up in real America. That’s kind of accurate. I grew up in a blue-collar Black-Irish-Italian neighborhood in Chicago and moved to a similar neighborhood in Aurora.
I know that I have other employable skills, jokes aside. Going back to blue-collar but skills I picked up as a young man. I lived a fairly normal less. As you mentioned, I went to law school before grad school and so on.
So when I entered the academic exchange of ideas, I did so as a taxpaying citizen. I’d already worked for good pay. I was kind of a center-right politically. I was an adult. I got to hear some of these things that I think many people heard at age 17 or 18 and think about them logically.
And a lot of them struck me as kind of nonsensical and left the idea that your race matters more than whether you’re born rich or poor. That I remember being something I found just an idiotic idea.
And I kept asking for proof of that. Has anyone tested that? There are a bunch of potential docs here. Has anyone gone out in the field and looked at that? I think that that was my approach. And as I said, one of the chapters in the book looks at some of the alt-rights claims as well that diverse societies don’t work.
My one line here we’ll go back to ancient Rome they do 98 percent of often non-diverse societies. A lot of the things people say, picking up those methodological, as they’re called skills from academia later in life struck me as being very poorly defended.
Another one from the left, the concept of white fragility. This is Robin DiAngelo. White people get very angry and defensive if you criticize them about bad things white people have done like engage in racism.
I don’t think that’s a white thing. I think that’s universal. If you were to accuse a bunch of Latinos, for example, to bring up high rates of illegal immigration in the Latino community. Or if you were to criticize a bunch of Black people unprovoked about lower SAT scores or something, you’d get some anger and some yelling.
A lot of this didn’t strike me as based on reality and I think I was able to see that because I came to it a bit later in life from a fairly stable position. And I think that’s true of a lot of very original thinkers.
Thomas Sowell was a sharpshooting instructor in the Marines before he went to college. And he initially went almost as a joke. But he turned out to be one of the brightest students. And he went from Howard which is a top school to Harvard which is probably the best in the country.
And so he came out as the sort of very well-formed, veteran, conservative academic. So again, we need to diversify the universities in a real sense, ideologically and some. But that’s where I came from.
Leahy: Does the fact that you teach at Kentucky State University, a historically Black college rather than an Ivy League school, give you more freedom to express your views?
Reilly: Probably it does. One of the things that someone said jokingly during a KSU golf event about a year and a half back was if everyone’s a well-off Black guy, it’s hard to feel too much white guilt.
And that is a humorous comment. But it’s also true. I think, where you see the most hysterical restrictions of speech, this sort of thing, that doesn’t tend to be the great Black schools like KSU or Centre or Morehouse.
It doesn’t seem to be the military sort of institutions, Texas A&M or the Citadel, any of the place, the community colleges, the places that draw from just sort of normal American citizens. It tends to very specific, sort of upper-middle-class, almost entirely white institutions without criticizing these. The schools in Portland and Portland State or Evergreen obviously, I become internationally famous and the Claremont Colleges.
So I think that that idea of guilt or that my ancestors descend or something like that, you don’t see very much at an HBCU where most of the professors are going to be Black. So you’re going to have Black Republicans and Black businessmen, and so on down the line.
I think it’s assumed that even your white colleagues obviously wouldn’t be racial bigots, so they wouldn’t be teaching at a Black school. So, yes, that probably helps a little bit. It’s hard to call me a Nazi.
Leahy: (Chuckles) Professor Wilfred Reilly, author of Taboo: 10 Facts You Can’t Talk About. Come on down to our studio here. We’re not too far away. Frankfurt, Kentucky, down to Nashville. Not too far. Come on in-studio someday and talk with us then.
Reilly: Sure. I’ll definitely get in touch when I’m in Nashville.
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Photo “Wilfred Reilly” by Wilfred Reilly.