Q&A with Joy Reid

The MSNBC television show host and political analyst Joy Reid sat down with The Daily Iowan and KRUI after her lecture at Hancher Auditorium Sunday afternoon.


Avi Lapchick

MSNBC correspondent and host of The ReidOut, Joy-Ann Reid, appears as a guest on KRUI-FM, a student-led radio station based in Iowa City, Iowa on Feb. 19, 2023.

Kate Perez, News Editor

MSNBC host of “The ReidOut” and political analyst Joy-Ann Reid sat down with The Daily Iowan and KRUI Sunday afternoon in the KRUI radio station, where she discussed her take on politics in Iowa along with the importance of being a strong writer.

Reid also gave tips on how to speak to relatives with different points of view than yourself and her experiences with journalism changing in the 21st century.

Read the DI and KRUI’s interview with Reid below. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

The DI/KRUI: How do you think journalism has evolved in the last decade?

Reid: That’s a great question. I think one of the ways it’s evolved in last decades is that it’s fractured. The audience is extremely automized. So, people are not consuming broad amounts of information from various sources. They’re zeroing in on the sources of information that reaffirm what they already thought. I think unfortunately, there is a narrowing of the American mind and that the American sort of palate for information.

And also, I think people are reading less. It used to be that online news was primarily long reads long written articles in New York Times, Washington Post, etc. Those are still there. But now it’s short reads. It’s very short bytes of information. It’s a lot more video and audio, and people just seem to have given [and] have sort of lost the patience to really read a lengthy article. I think we’re getting less information. In some ways, we’re getting more investigative information, investigative journalism, I think that has gotten better. But I definitely think the narrowing of the American palate has been bad for journalism and bad for the country.

DI/KRUI: You’ve touched on this a bit in your lecture today, but you did of course, go to Harvard. Could you tell us a bit about your experience at both a predominantly white institution and an Ivy League school?

Reid: Yeah, it was hard because I went from an 80 percent Black town where it was 80 percent Black and then the other 20 percent were mostly Mexican American … it was not a lot of variety. And then I went from there to New York where it was literally every kind of person you could think of, and also we were the only West Indian family. There were four African families…and my mom was the only West Indian person. So, there was no variety.

And then I went to this college where you had every kind of person all sorts of very wealthy people. I was a public-school kid. Lots of private school educated people, and it was very, very hard to adjust to that both because of my own personal issues, depression issues, my mom passing, but also just because I had never been around this many rich people. I never been around this many white people who are in the vast majority. I was used to being the majority. And you go from being in a position of supreme confidence, both because you’re living kind of this upside-down world where, you know, Black folk, we ran this town, but not in Cambridge. It’s kind of the opposite.

And having for the first time in my life my academic credentials questioned. People demanding to know my SAT scores, questioning whether I was intelligent, questioning whether affirmative action that I was inferior, you know, people questioning whether I belong there, that had never happened to me. I had this incredible academic confidence and confidence in my intellect. And it was the first time I actually had that challenge. So, it was very difficult.

I have a good friend who transferred for a year to Howard University, and she didn’t want to come back because it was just the opposite experience for her being in a predominantly Black school where there was just constant affirmation and the total lack of affirmation that we got at Harvard. It was a tough environment.

I’m not sure if I had to do over again if I would pick that school at that time for me, but I’m glad that I went because it was it was it was a set of hurdles that I needed to get through. Because that is the world, the world I grew up in was not the world. It was kind of a bubble. And it was probably good for me to be thrown into the deep end of a PWI where I was able to defend my intellect. I was able to defend my credentials. I was able to give back as good as I got and get through it.

RELATED: Joy Reid visits Hancher Auditorium, discusses path to professional journalism

DI/KRUI: It was recently announced at the Iowa is no longer first-in-the-nation in the Democratic National Committee primary calendar. How do you see this changing out of politics and national politics?

Reid: I’m sorry, Iowa. I love coming to the caucuses. The caucuses are fun to sit in. But fundamentally, they are kind of anti-democratic. Because originally when the country was set up, caucuses were simply the high men of the community getting together and making decisions about who would be the nominees. There were no public referendum. When there were popular votes, they were just a suggestion. It wasn’t until the 1960s that either of the parties actually chose their nominees through popular vote. And popular vote being the, you know, the people actually pick. It wasn’t like that. They were all caucuses.

The states that have retained the caucus system, to me, retain an anti-democratic norm because in order to spend all day picking your caucus choice, you either need to be retired, you need to be self-employed, or you need to be real rich. Because if you’re not needed to go to work every day, how do you have time to do that? You don’t. So, it excludes poor people. It excludes young people. It excludes people who work a nine-to-five job. It’s too exclusionary to really be used as a way to pick a nominee to me. And I think it distorts what the party truly desires when you broaden it out.

So, I think that it was the right decision to move the caucus to a state that has a primary, that at least has the possibility that everyone, voter suppression aside, can vote so, and I think Iowa’s special place in the system was also distortive because this state is not diverse. And so, you weren’t really you know, the Democratic, especially for the Democrats, for the Republicans it’s different because it’s very conservative on the Republican side. So as the party, it’s very white on the Republican side. So, it was the party that actually might be more representative. But for Democrats, which is the party of multiracial people and of younger people, it needs to start in the state where there’s more multiracial people. Now, South Carolina isn’t the youngest people, some are older Black folks. But I think that’s just more representative, so I think it was the right decision.

DI/KRUI: What is your take on critical race theory, and what do you think are the consequences of the legislation to try to ban it?

Reid: I think trying to ban critical race theory is, it’s like trying to ban jump roping because you think banning jump roping will stop suicide because people jump off buildings. So, if I ban jump roping, I will stop suicide. Critical race theory has absolutely nothing to do with the thing that they’re trying to stop. Trying to bend critical race theory is what people do when they are afraid to say the word 1619 project. What they’re really scared of is the 1619 project … they’re not scared of critical race theory because literally no child learns critical race theory.

Critical race theory … specifically talks about how racism has impacted the way that laws are not only written but enforced. It’s only about the law. So for instance, critical race theory would be about if I studied the percentage of white and Black people who smoke weed, and then I compare that to the percentage of white and Black people who get arrested for having weed and I went through and I said structurally, white and Black people smoke weed at the same rate, but Black people are eight times more likely to be arrested for it. And in those arrests are 10 times more likely to be killed in the source the rest. I am now engaging in the beginning stages of critical race theory because I’m talking about the law.

If you’re not talking about the law, that ain’t critical race theory. So, when you’re saying critical race theory, now I’m going ban this book that’s by Toni Morrison, well, you have now gone off critical race theory. You are now in the jump rope stage of trying to stop you from jumping off a building. These two things have no relation other than both involve jumping. So, I think it’s a catch word.

Trying to ban critical race theory is dumb because they’re still going teach it in law school. And in high schools, though, it’s having real consequences. I just recently interviewed a bunch of students, including white students, Black students, Latino students, Asian American students in Tallahassee, and I’ve also interviewed on my show, students in Florida who, because of these fake bans on critical race theory, are being denied the opportunity to take an AP African American studies course…These students were being denied to take a class they want to take. It’s not just Black kids who want to take this, a lot of people want to take it.

I’ve interviewed the teacher who’s teaching the class. His students love the class. And so, you’re now saying that these Florida kids, and kids and other states where they’re trying to ban the class, will be less attractive to colleges. They’re going to want to come here, the University of Iowa, they’re going to compare them to a kid in New Jersey who’s got this amazing AP class, gets a five on it. That five gets you helps you get into the school. So, if you’re denying people AP classes, not only are you costing them potentially an opportunity to go to the school, the colleges they want, but also to save money.

I took four AP classes in college that saved me so much money because I was able to come in as a freshman that was almost a sophomore because I got so many college credits. Those college credits save you money. So, they’re literally making students less attractive dumber and less knowledgeable. For what? Because he thinks that can make him president, the governor.

And there are a lot of governors like Glenn Younkin, who you know, is leading and banning Toni Morrison books. How is that helping anyone? First of all, if you ban it, that’s like telling kids don’t drink. That’s like telling kids don’t smoke. That was the best way to get kids to smoke and drink is to tell them don’t do it. So, you’re telling kids you don’t want to read that book. You know what that’s going to make kids want to do? Read that book. So, you’re getting the opposite of what you want. You’re not going stop kids from being woke. Kids have always been more woke than their parents. They’ve always been more liberal than their parents. It’s counterproductive and it’s hurting the country.