He's a popular Los Angeles radio talk-show host and a successful author, but Larry Elder's controversial views about race have earned him as many enemies as admirers.
Elder, who himself is black, says many African-Americans have become what he calls "victicrats" by blaming their problems on racism. "In the year 2001, racism is not our major problem," says Elder. "Personal responsibility is."
Not surprisingly, his message has angered a lot of people, and protests outside his radio station caused several companies to pull their advertising from his show.
His recent book, The Ten Things You Can't Say in America, is a response to his critics. The "10 things" include statements like, "The war on poverty encourages poverty," "Welfare should be abolished," and "Affirmative action should be abolished."
Critic: 'He's a Hustler'
Elder, who grew up in South Central Los Angeles, says he learned his most valuable life lessons from his parents. His mother was a maid, and his father a janitor, who, in his 40s opened a restaurant he ran for 30 years. "His affirmative action was his work ethic," says Elder of his father.
He says his parents taught him that race doesn't matter and with hard work, anything can be accomplished. He says this is especially true for his generation.
"My dad tells me that he only wishes he could trade places with me," says Elder. "That's how much better things are than when he grew up."
Syndicated columnist George Curry is one of many blacks who say Elder's views are ridiculous. "It's not even reality to say that race is no longer a factor in this country," says Curry.
Curry says Elder is a grandstander who uses provocative language to get attention. "He's a hustler," says Curry. "He's hustling his right-wing ideology, because he knows white folks like to hear that."
A few years ago, a group of African-Americans tried to get Elder taken off the air. They passed out flyers, picketed outside KABC where he worked and called him and the station racist.
The protesters had some success. Fearful of negative publicity for supporting an accused bigot, several advertisers pulled out of the show, and Elder's airtime was cut from four to two hours.
Race Double Standard
Elder says many blacks consider themselves victims of racism because that's what black leaders tell them. The complaints, he says, discourage young black people from working hard. "If you have victicrat mentality," Elder says, "you truly believe that you're going to be stopped by the powers that be at some point, [so] why try?"
Elder also claims there's a double standard in America regarding race and that blacks are in fact more racist that whites. Pro golfer Fuzzy Zoeller, he argues, made a racial slur to the press about Tiger Woods and lost $2 million in endorsements whereas a lot of black celebrities "make all sorts of hideous, racists stupid statements and never pay a P.R. price for it."
He points to director Spike Lee, who said he disapproved of interracial couples, and rapper Ice Cube, whose song contains racial slurs about Koreans.
Elder seems to have survived the criticism — some would say he's thriving on it. His book has made the best-sellers list, and after the boycott, his radio show was restored to four hours, and now he has a TV show.