CNN anchor Chris Wallace asked Cosmos star Neil deGrasse Tyson about the importance of his visibility to other people of color, but Tyson turned it around and asked “How important is it for white people to see me where I am?”
Neil DeGrasse Tyson Turns Tables on Chris Wallace Race Question: ‘How Important Is It For White People To See Me Where I Am?’
The latest interviews from Wallace’s series Who’s Talking to Chris Wallace feature NFL legend Terry Bradshaw and famed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson
In his interview with Tyson, Wallace brought up representation and the challenges of being a “young Black kid from the Bronx becoming an astrophysicist”:
CHRIS WALLACE: You talk about your journey and you’ve used this phrase as “the path of most resistance.” A young Black kid from the Bronx becoming an astrophysicist. How tough was that path and how important do you think it has been for people of color to see Neil deGrasse Tyson in the place that you occupy?
NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON: I will invert that and say, How important is it for white people to see me where I am? That’s a way more important force operating, especially if that is the community that wields resources and opportunities. And if you see a Black homeless person in the street and you never saw a Black academically achieved other human being, you’re prone to say, “Oh, that’s just their lot in life.” But now you’ll see me and you’ll see the Black homeless person and you have to like, deal with that. It’s like, “Oh my gosh, there but for the lack of opportunity goes,” you know, you get to…
CHRIS WALLACE: A lot of people.
NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON: A lot of people. So I just want to put that front. It was a path of most resistance because, yes, I was also physically fit and athletic. And you see a Black person who is that, particularly in the day, it’s “you should be an athlete!” And that just simply fulfills people’s bin that they would put you because they’ve never seen your kind do anything else. And my father, who was active with the civil rights movement and a sociologist, he had way worse life encounters than I did dealing with society. And he was never bitter. He said, these people don’t know better. That’s how they were raised. Have a conversation. Show them what’s possible. And so I’ve carried that with me ever since, I’ve never been bitter. It just is. And I’ll deal with it. Of, it’s it’s force to have me achieve that much more to the extent that that ever becomes visible and will matter to anyone.
Watch the full exchange above via HBO Max and CNN.
Who’s Talking to Chris Wallace drops new episodes Fridays on HBO Max, with a highlights show on CNN Sunday night.
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