Nick Lemann is the Dean of the Columbia University School of Journalism and a former New Yorker staff writer. While at Harvard – where he graduated in 1976 – Lemann served as President of the Crimson. He has worked as a reporter and editor at The Washington Monthly, Texas Monthly, The Atlantic Monthly and The Washington Post, focusing primarily on national affairs.
Lemann is the author of The Promised Land: The Great Black Migration and How It Changed America, The Big Test: The Secret History of the American Meritocracy, about the SAT, and most recently, Redemption: The Last Battle of the Civil War, about the failure of Reconstruction. At Columbia, where he was hired as Dean of the Journalism School in 2003, Lemann implemented a two-year curriculum and has focused on teaching alternative journalistic mediums in the Internet age.
Nicholas Lemann: Well I’m like a lot of people. I’ve been very surprised in the last couple years at the enormity of the backlash against immigration . . . illegal immigration, or even just immigration period. That really took me by surprise, as it’s taken Governor ___________ by surprise, and President Bush by surprise, and so on. And I personally think yes, there’s some prejudice in that reaction, and it’s obviously directed primarily at Latinos. So in a way that’s impossible to prove, I think that the Black-White relation is more charged than the Latino-White relation. There’s just . . . There’s a lot going on there, but I can’t sort of scientifically prove that. I think it’s a lot of things. It’s history. It’s mostly history. It’s to some extent just looks based. You know that if you’re White and African-American looks “differenter” than a Latino. But I think it’s mostly historical.
Recorded on: 11/30/07