I give a speech to the black freshmen at Harvard each year, and I say, 'You can like Mozart and ice hockey...' - and then I used to say 'golf,' but Tiger took over golf! - 'and Picasso and still be as black as the ace of spades.'
I rebel at the notion that I can't be part of other groups, that I can't construct identities through elective affinity, that race must be the most important thing about me. Is that what I want on my gravestone: Here lies an African American?
Well, certainly one of the ironies of the success of affirmative action is that the middle class within the black community no longer lives within 'black community' by and large.
We can revolutionize the attitude of inner city brown and black kids to learning. We need a civil rights movement within the African-American community.
You can say I had a severe case of 'Roots' envy. I wanted to be like Alex Haley, and I wanted to be able to... do my family tree back to the slave ship and then reverse the Middle Passage, as I like to put it, and find the tribe or ethnic group that I was from in Africa.
The African American's relationship to Africa has long been ambivalent, at least since the early nineteenth century, when 3,000 black men crowded into Bishop Richard Allen's African Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia to protest noisily a plan to recolonize free blacks in Africa.
I want to get into the educational DNA of American culture. I want 10 percent of the common culture, more or less, to be black.
So when you do your family tree and Margaret Cho does hers, and... Wanda Sykes and John Legend... we're adding to the database that scholars can then draw from to generalize about the complexity of the American experience. And that's the contribution that family trees make to broader scholarship.
So many people of color who made major contributions to American history have been trapped in the purgatory of history.
Lincoln had a tremendous capacity for personal growth - more than any other American President.
It turns out one of my ancestors fought in the Continental Army, so I was inducted into the Sons of the American Revolution.
In America one drop of black ancestry makes you black.
Ever since I watched 'Roots,' I've dreamed of tracing my African ancestry and helping other people do the same.
In America one drop of black ancestry makes you black. In Brazil, it's almost as if one drop of white ancestry makes you white.
All of the guests on 'Faces of America' were deeply moved by what we revealed about their ancestry. We were able to trace the ancestry of Native American writer Louise Erdrich back to 438 A.D. We found that Queen Noor is descended from royalty, and that's before she married King Hussein of Jordan.
You notice patterns. White guests often are mortified - that word again - when they learn their ancestors owned slaves. But I've never had a black guest who was upset to learn about white ancestry that probably involved forced sexual relations.
Patriotism is best exemplified through auto-critique. When you're willing to stand up within the group and say, 'It is wrong for Black people to be anti-Semitic,' or 'It is wrong for America to discriminate against persons of African descent and made them slaves and based its wealth upon free labor,' it's crucial to say that.
I think that the roots of racism have always been economic, and I think people are desperate and scared. And when you're desperate and scared you scapegoat people. It exacerbates latent tendencies toward - well, toward racism or homophobia or anti-Semitism.
People don't realize what a brilliant politician Lincoln was. Looking back, we want to ascribe a level of providence to his every decision but he was a cunning and calculating politician; from the cultivation of his image as a hayseed from Illinois, to his ability to keep this country together under dire circumstances.
I think that the implication of King's assassination has not been fully appreciated.