Donald Trump’s legal troubles, combined with the passionate devotion of his loyalists, have made him one of the biggest wild cards in the history of presidential politics. But this Republican primary cycle has also been rocked by one of Trump’s self-proclaimed biggest fans, Vivek Ramaswamy. The right-wing entrepreneur who said yes willing to spend more than $100 million of his own money on his bid and has made ending affirmative action and limiting U.S. military aid to Ukraine a centerpiece of his campaign as enough of a contender that he was on the receiving end of the majority of attacks in the first presidential GOP debate (the one Trump skipped).
If elected, Ramaswamy, a graduate of Harvard and Yale, would become the youngest president in history and the first Indian American to hold the office. Known for his attempts to show off his rapping skills on the campaign trail (until he was asked to visit rapper Eminem’s label) he spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about race and Hollywood, the film where he and his wife Dr. Apoorva Tewari disagrees, and has now paused plans to fund a remake of American historythe 1998 film starring Edward Norton and Edward Furlong as brothers in a family torn apart by racial violence.
What is your favorite movie of all time?
I love Gladiator And The Dark Knightand I like Interstellaralso by Christopher Nolan.
What’s a movie your wife loves but you hate?
That Reese Witherspoon movie, Legally blonde. She finds it very funny.
And not you?
No. It’s not that good.
GOP strategist Karl Rove once credited this The Cosby Show paving the way for America’s first black president. Do you believe that diverse representation on screen has an impact?
One of the shows I like is in that vein The Jeffersonswhat I watched as a child. The Jeffersons And South Park are two of my favorite shows. Those who look honestly at culturally sensitive topics are important to spark honest conversations and do so without limitations.
Do you think you are personally affected by the various images on the screen?
You mean being represented by a (certain) minority group? Not really. Part of what we need is to create enough fairness in storytelling so that people from different backgrounds can participate in all aspects. Diverse is not just your genetics. There are many types of diversity, such as being able to see common threads and stories related to values among the people depicted on screen. And I think sometimes we can fall into the trap of thinking that just because someone looks like you that that will build a connection with the audience – and maybe on a superficial level that can be true sometimes. But I think it goes much deeper if you can go beyond the surface and create a work of art, a movie, a film or a show that really touches on the common values that the audience shares. I don’t think that is being done enough at the moment.
Gran Torino (the Clint Eastwood movie about a white Korean War vet’s friendship with an American Hmong teenager) was very good in that regard, because I think people connected with the main characters in that movie… It’s a connection that every American felt for those two characters. I think we’re too late for a modern American History American history told… the story of the bond between two brothers is something that is timeless and familiar, regardless of whether they are black or white or whatever… Before I ran for president, I thought about taking on something like this.
About producing a new version of American history?
I don’t have the skills to be actively involved as a director or producer, but to be involved as an executive producer or investor, that’s something I was quite interested in.
Donald Trump recently discussed you as a possible choice for vice president, but called some of your rhetoric controversial. Meanwhile, his own rhetoric — including around COVID — has been credited with increasing hate crimes against the Asian community. Do you think you and Trump have a responsibility to ensure that the rhetoric you use does not inspire people to racially motivated violence?
I’m not going to speak for anyone but myself. Yes, is the answer to that question of course as a leader. But I think part of what is resulting in an unfortunate wave of racism in all directions, and racial tension in all directions, is the absence of honesty. I think telling people that they can’t scream, that they can’t even talk… that they have to bottle up their emotions and that they can’t say certain things manifests itself in all kinds of ugly and unpredictable ways. the route. On the contrary, I think we need to have open, honest, and raw conversations about identity.
How does your recent comment that Massachusetts Democratic Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley is a “modern grand wizard of the modern KKK” during a campaign appearance in Iowa fit into that?
I compared her message to it, which is an important difference (the reference is to a 2019 statement by Pressley that Democrats “don’t need any more brown faces that don’t want to be a brown voice”).
Do you think that using the rhetoric you used, comparing someone who is non-violent and may have said things that are controversial to an organization whose worldview led to thousands of rapes and murders, crosses the line and makes it difficult for people to hear your message? that we should have a civil and honest conversation?
I don’t think this crossed the line and I hope it doesn’t make it harder for people to hear my message, although it is my job to make sure it doesn’t. My problem with her comment wasn’t that it was controversial. My problem with her comment was that it was downright racist and ugly and exhibited some of the same kinds of ugliness as the Klan’s worldview. And I want to say one thing that goes to the heart of your question: If the Klan had been a modern force in American life, I absolutely would not have made that analogy. Because then we would have a bigger problem in this country now. But my point was to tap into the memory of how toxic that was… I mean, the Ku Klux Klan is no longer relevant in the United States today, but there was a time when that wasn’t true.
But I want people to remember that as bad as that was, it was normalized at the time. It was part of the culture. Today, people like Ayanna Pressley are the ones who have an equal impact on culture and on corporate America, on diversity, and on our intellectual culture. So we need to wake up and say: just as it was wrong to passively accept a culture that was dominated by another form of racism a century ago, we need to wake up to where that racism exists in modern times, namely say that if you are a certain skin color, you should shut up, sit down and do as you are told.
Given that we are conducting this interview after a recent shooting of black Americans in Jacksonville, should you use different language to get your point across?
No. I hear your point and respect it. But I reject your premise. Because our shared goal is that we don’t want more racially divisive violence or behavior in this country. And yet I fear that unless we are able to honestly have an open, real, raw dialogue and debate about what I think is actually driving some of that racial discontent in this country – which is a new version of making sure that people seeing eachother. others based on their genetic traits – we’re in for much worse. Perhaps as uncomfortable as my comment made this week for some people, it will spawn some of the conversations we’re not having.
Senator Tim Scott has spoken openly and passionately about the many times he has been racially profiled by law enforcement, even the Capitol Police, throughout his life. Do you think he’s telling the truth about those experiences?
Certainly. I have no doubt that he is.
If that is the case, how can we solve problems like racial profiling within certain institutions, such as law enforcement, if the position of some conservatives like you is that the problems are not systemic or institutional?
Racism is individual animus. When we talk about systemic racism, it almost dilutes what real racism actually looks like. I don’t think racism is a top 50 problem in the United States today, but that’s different from saying it doesn’t exist. But I don’t think it’s a top 50 problem…
For all people, including black people?
For everyone. What worries me is that in the name of racism, it provides an excuse to solve the problems that hold many Americans back, including Black Americans.
So how would you address the problem of racial profiling within the Capitol Police without addressing systemic or institutional racism?
I think the reality is that the last burning embers of racism are burning out in this country. We have to let that play itself out. But by pursuing more race-conscious policies, we are inadvertently and unintentionally—and some with the best of intentions, I grant—throwing kerosene on the last burning coals. And it hurts me when I see that happening in this country. It is a muscle that will slowly atrophy itself into irrelevance if we let it. We are almost to the Promised Land and yet I think that as you get closer to the Promised Land and you become more obsessed with racism when it is actually at its lowest ebb, we risk fueling the problem. It’s like an immune system that becomes overactive once the virus is cleared. You end up killing the host himself and I think that’s really what could happen in this country.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Keli Goff is a longtime political reporter and Emmy-nominated producer of the documentary Reversed Roe and a writer Mayor of Kingstown, and just like that And Black lightning.