Randall Robinson

Randall Robinson

The Life of an Activist

Discover one man’s crusade for justice.


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Black and White

In his 1999 autobiography, Randall Robinson said, “Blacks and whites understand almost nothing of each other in America.”

Do you agree? And to what extent have things changed? 

Neal Collins
03/22 at 02:06 PM
from Buckinghamshire, England

Having grown up in South Africa, what becomes apparent is that the gulf between black and white is so often down to class rather than colour. The rise of a black middle class in South Africa and the opening up of schools, restaurants, cinemas, bars, nightclubs etc since democratic elections in 1994 has certainly enabled colour-blind friendships and relationships of all kind to emerge.

In the US these barriers have been down for many years - and never really existed some states. Yet still there exists alienation and anomie between the races. I suspect that’s down to spending power, access to jobs, living in different areas which force black and white to lead very different lives.

I think things improve all the time, led by sport and music rather than business or church, with race-free relationships more likely to emerge between people with common goals and raw talents.
One look at the modern South Africa shows the miraculous changes which have taken place. I suspect some states in the US have changed beyond recognition in terms of race too.
But we are a long way short of harmony. I would argue that, in parts of Britain now, race is less important than culture. There is more “fear” from the the average Briton towards those of Eastern European descent Romanians in particular, often Poles too) than there is towards the older immigrants from Asia and the Caribbean.
I cannot speak for the US, but the change in popular television programmes, pioneered by the BBC’s use of black newsreaders and reporters, has helped promote a colour-blind attitude from the younger generation.

I have watched it work far quicker in South Africa, where black role models were once non-existent.
My answer Mr Robinson? Sport. Kids who play sport together from an early age learn to achieve as a team. Colour, culture, language counts for nothing.

What do you think?





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Randall Robinson is an internationally recognized activist and acclaimed author. Listen to him discuss his advocacy on behalf of Africa and the Caribbean. Learn about his contributions to such pivotal events as the end of apartheid in South Africa and the restoration of Haiti’s first democratically elected government.

Download the transcript.

For a captioned version of this interview, go to YouTube.


Penn State Law Professor Randall Robinson is an internationally acclaimed author whose interests focus on the use of foreign policy to achieve social goals and racial equity.

Robinson founded TransAfrica, which seeks to influence U.S. foreign policy towards Africa and the Caribbean. He also established the Free South Africa Movement, which pushed successfully for the imposition of U.S. sanctions against South Africa and was instrumental in ending apartheid.

Robinson’s public advocacy on behalf of the people of Haiti spurred a multinational operation that restored Haiti’s first democratically elected government to power. He is the recipient of numerous humanitarian awards.

More about Robinson


Dickinson School of Law and School of International Affairs


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