Jordan and his guest, trial lawyer and social justice activist Toussaint Romain, discuss effective tactics for speaking truth to "crazy." Romain shares some meaningful family history and what motivates him to keep fighting for the cause every day.
Nickolas Jordan: Ay, Yo. I’m going to let y'all know I am crotchety. I am crotchety, it’s true. I have not become jaded in my work at the university. Not jaded, that’s not what I mean. I’m still very hopeful, but I am crotchety. I can be cranky. I have been involved in the work of inclusion and social justice throughout my entire career rather by something I want to do or something I am roped into doing, oftentimes because of the color of my skin and because of the personal responsibility that I feel to be involved in the fight, but I have become crotchety about it. If you ask any of my colleagues friends on campus. If you ask any of them, you know, “Jordan, will you come and help us out with this? Jordan, will you come and be a part of this? Jordan, will you come do this?” Nine times out of 10 I say, “No.” I tell them, “Nah. I don’t want do that. I’m not doing that.” I’m not doing that not because I don’t think it’s important, but because I have for me only four things that I want to contribute to. I think the rest is a distraction and that’s a part of the being crotchety. So, unless it’s about policy change, curriculum change, retention and graduation rates of minoritized students and hiring practices ... unless it is involved directly in those four things, then I am usually not going to be there. I can think often, occasionally I’ll go in and speak to the Black Student Association and they are a great, fantastic bunch of students. I love them. Fantastic. I’ll have a talk with them during one of their meetings and then they’ll talk about an event that possibly they’re having, which is great. They’ll talk about a fundraiser, or they’ll talk about a dinner or gala and that’s fantastic they’ll do those kinds of events, but they’ll ask me, you know, “Hey, Jordan, are you going come out? Are you going do something?” “No. No, I’m not going to do that.” Not because I don’t think it’s important, but just because it is not involved in those four things. So, unless it is connected to one of those four things, Jordan usually ain’t going show up. Jordan is going to be at the house, and I make that clear. Like, I make no bones about that. And why it matters now is my guest on the show this week, my guest was Toussaint Romain and great man, really great man. He was here on campus, on Appalachian’s campus for the “Say What?” event. It’s a series of events talking about free speech on campus and all of that other great stuff. And I was not going to go. In fact, I had no interest in being there, not because I don’t think what he does isn’t important, but simply because I just, it didn’t have anything to do with me and those four things. It’s a program and programs are great, but those aren’t, in my mind, necessarily about the change. So, when they approached me to, you know, interview him on the show, I was like, “Yeah, great! Sounds cool. I’m in.” So, I went. And let me tell you, I was shocked. Not shocked by what he said but shocked by just kind of how it impacted me. I have become kind of old in this and I have only been doing it here for seven years, but when I watched him, I heard him talk about the things he was talking about , it moved me. I heard him talk about his grandmother; it moved me. It energized me. I have had a crisis of confidence several different times, you know, being involved in leadership, you know, and inhabiting the world I inhabit in the skin that I inhabit it in. And I’ve had those crises of confidence, and watching him, watching this man move the room, talk about his grandmother, talk about moving a mountain one pebble at a time, that got me, that got me. And I decided, I decided in that moment that, you know, I can’t be tired. I can’t be tired. I can be crotchety, but I need to show up. I need to show up. So, BSA, I’m going to reach back out to you. I’m going to come to your program. That’s on me. I’ll do better. I’ll be less crotchety.
Y’all enjoy Toussaint Romain.
Toussaint Romain: Feels good. Feels good, I mean.
Nickolas Jordan: Yeah, it’s good.
Toussaint Romain: Can you turn the bass off in Jordan’s mic?
Toussaint Romain. He’s trying to talk with that bass. You know, you listen to my voice and my voice don’t have that bass. It’s all good.
Nickolas Jordan: So, welcome to the show Toussaint Romain. How are you, sir?
Toussaint Romain: Man, thanks for having me. Glad to be here, Jordan. I'm doing well, doing well.
Nickolas Jordan: Good.
Toussaint Romain: I’ve been at App State, so it's a good place to be.
Nickolas Jordan: Good. How's your trip been so far?
Toussaint Romain: Man, it's been good. And you know, I was driving up yesterday from Charlotte. So, I'm driving up this big mountain, and you know, it was, it was raining and then there was a big old mist and my car sort of disappeared in the mountain. Then I'm like above the mist, like above the clouds.
Nickolas Jordan: That’s a good metaphor for this place, man. You can disappear in the mist as you get up here. You can disappear a bit in it. I feel that.
Toussaint Romain: Yeah, but you know, I mean App, Appalachian has really thrown out the red carpet, man. I feel the love. Great conversations yesterday at dinner, right? And then good, you know, a keynote opportunity and interaction. Good breakfast. I mean, so it's, it's a good place, man. It's been a really welcoming and warm place.
Nickolas Jordan: Bro. Bro. So I, I just, I got to get started with this.
Toussaint Romain: Please, let’s do, let’s go.
Nickolas Jordan: I'm going to be totally honest, man. I'm jaded when it comes to this place, and we've had some of this conversation already at a dinner previously. We had some of this conversation, man, but I'm jaded. And not, not because I don't think the work is important, but because I'm tired. Because I'm tired for a lot of different reasons, and you know — just tired. And so, when it comes to events like this, when it comes to events where we have speakers that come, and you know, and, and, and do their thing —
Toussaint Romain: Yeah.
Nickolas Jordan: — I am often wary of that. Because often from my perspective, one of the things, at least, from my perspective, one of the things I see happening is we put on the show and then we can point to that like we've done something around inclusion, social justice and inclusive excellence, all those things. And so we point to that and say, “Oh, look what we're doing. We spent a little money. Look at this, look at this.” But so, for me, I've gotten to this stage where sometimes I just straight boycott stuff. Like I'm just not, I'm not doing that. I’m not doing that. Not because it's not important, but just because I don't want to contribute to the show.
Toussaint Romain: Right, right.
Nickolas Jordan: And so, so, when I went and heard you speak last night and heard some of the things you were talking about, the first thing that struck me, the first thing that struck me is that, bro, you are unapologetically you.
Toussaint Romain: Yeah.
Nickolas Jordan: Can you talk about that some? Like what? How, how?
Toussaint Romain: Yeah.
Nickolas Jordan: How does that happen?
Toussaint Romain: Yeah, yeah. So, so, bro. You gave me some layers in that question, right? So, I first want to back up, if I can, and share it and say I also get tired. Right? I don't attend the panel discussions like I used to because we are just talking about stuff and I'm tired of talking.
Nickolas Jordan: Done, done.
Toussaint Romain: But, what I would say, though, is when friends and people that I trust who are doing the work reach out to me and say, “Hey, will you be a part of this work?” I know I'm not showing up for entertainment purposes. I'm showing up because there's an intentional, deliberate plan in place to move us forward.
Nickolas Jordan: Yes.
Toussaint Romain: So when my friend Paul Meggett called, reached out to me and said, “Hey, Toussaint, we're considering, would you consider?” Man, I know him. I know the work that he's doing. I know the work he did in Charlotte, and so I said, “Hey man, let me know and, and if, if you need me up there, I'll come.” And so, I knew I was coming because it was for non-entertainment purposes. It's not just having a fancy negro up on the stage having the show and dance. It was let's really talk about some substance, so we can move forward.
Nickolas Jordan: Which, which universities like this one and others can be guilty of.
Toussaint Romain: Well, yeah, I mean and, and, and, and yes. We'll leave it at that. Yes. We'll leave it at that. What I will say, though, you know, unapologetic man, we got to stop sugarcoating things —
Nickolas Jordan: Yes, sir.
Toussaint Romain: But, I've recognized that folks are looking for the truth. Right? Folks want to hear it. Now, they don't, won't ever say out loud, “Please speak to me that way.”
Nickolas Jordan: Yes. Yes, sir.
Toussaint Romain: “I enjoy this beating, and this verbal abuse.” I mean, no one's going to say that, but once we realize that it's truth and it's unfiltered, unadulterated truth, and it's something that's helping us move to a better place, that's what we're lacking. Partly because, my friend, we have only two other groups. We have those that are of the PC nation. I must be politically correct in everything I say, which means don't say anything. And then there are just those, I'm not sure what term to call them, but those who are just insulting and angry. Right? Like you can ask this president a question and he's going to call you stupid and say, “You know, you're a racist.” But I'm asking you a question about words that you used. Right? And you're calling me these names. So, either I'm going to be called names by some people, or I'm not going to say anything at all, but I think we're starving. We’re anemic as it relates to truth. And all I'm doing, my friend, is just speaking truth.
Nickolas Jordan: You are. And, and I've heard similar words from other folks before who cannot do it, who cannot do what you do — cannot stand in front of a group of all white faces and talk about, you know, do the play on black supremacy, you know, and I probably should let you explain that.
Toussaint Romain: Wait, black supremacy? What you talking about? There ain't no black supremacy.
Nickolas Jordan: Because it's a, it's a, yeah, probably should explain that a little bit more, not, not actually a thing. But who can stand up in front of a sea of white faces and tell the truth and the way that it is … but, but, you know, who will talk like they can and say that. So, so, my question for you, man, it's like where, where did you learn to do that?
Toussaint Romain: Wow, wow.
Nickolas Jordan: How did you get that? What, what part of you, what part of your history, your family, your place, taught you that?
Toussaint Romain: So, it's a, it's a conglomerate, man. It's a lot of different folks. I think in truth, for me, everything goes back to my grandmother. She was born in 1915. She, you know, lived through everything, and she raised me and my siblings while my parents were working. I would sit at her feet and learn about the creation of airplanes, like the creation of television, like fireside radio conversations, right? Cell phones, and she got to see the first president of African-American descent become president, and she died at the age of 96. But I remember, man, she would still sit in front of the radio in her room listening to NPR.
Nickolas Jordan: Oh, yeah.
Toussaint Romain: And just her ability to tell me the stories. And I fell in love with World War II. My grandfather, who I never met, fought in the war. He got a Purple Heart. So, her ability to tell stories was great. And then, my family is West Indian, so I'm from the islands. Dad’s from the, from the Caribbean, and my mother is as well, and my grandmother is too. So education is the end-all be-all, and so, for them, they demanded that we read and that we had educations. And so, I read, and I read three books a month, still.
Nickolas Jordan: Three books a month?
Toussaint Romain: Three books a month, man.
Nickolas Jordan: Wow.
Toussaint Romain: Three books a month. An autobiography, I try to hit. Some kind of, you know, business or skillset thing, and then also just some kind of, maybe a spiritual book with something that's really edifying me in other ways and learning different things about different people, and everything has a story. And so, if you realize, last night, all I did was put together a story, and tell a story, and there's a kid inside of all of us — we like stories.
Nickolas Jordan: Yes, we do.
Toussaint Romain: You know, and so we'll really listen to those stories, and at the end of the greatest stories is always some message. So really, that's what last night was about. But it's something that I learned and really got a chance to learn from my grandmother, and a quote I'm reminded of is that “The greatest classroom in the world is at the feet of elders.”
Nickolas Jordan: At the feet of elders.
Toussaint Romain: So, I'm learning from my elders, and now it's my turn to share those stories … in a classroom-like setting. But man, it's fun to do. I’m also a trained speaker for lack of a better term.
Nickolas Jordan: Sure, sure.
Toussaint Romain: I'm a trial lawyer, you know, I've had more trials than most attorneys in the nation. I'm also a college professor, so I get to speak in front of classes —
Nickolas Jordan: I could see that up there, man.
Toussaint Romain: — I’ve been teaching for eight years, right?
Nickolas Jordan: You had that flow, had that flow. Me and one of the folks in the crowd were talking about the cadence of it. Sounds like a good preacher. Sounds like a good preacher.
Toussaint Romain: Well, I could be up there as a professor, because I had to call out one student in particular last night. I'll leave the name unannounced on the show, but when I called him up to speak about what he and his group had been talking about — right? — he had a beard and glasses and he didn’t have … he hadn’t been doing what the assignment was, so we had to get on him a little bit. But no. But yeah, you know, I enjoyed and … you've been in the classroom. You know how that interaction really goes, right? To be able to be interrupted but stay on tune, or stay on message.
Nickolas Jordan: And roll with it.
Toussaint Romain: Right. Yeah.
Nickolas Jordan: Roll with it. What are, you talked about those, you know, telling the good stories, and I want to connect that back to the tired thing. I'm curious for you, sir, what are those stories and who do they come from that, that you kind of go to when you're tired?
Toussaint Romain: Hmm. Well, I mean, I just think of the unnamed people in those stories, right? I remember there's a story of, of an unnamed little girl. Dr. King and this photographer, who Dr. King had commissioned to work with them, were marching. The police, during this particular march, got unhinged and began to hurt people. Had dogs, sticking people, were shooting folks, you know, were getting hit by water hoses, and this photographer sees this little girl fall to the ground being hit in the head — head is bleeding, skull is fractured. And he runs to her rescue to help her out. He’s screaming, “Help! Help!” Come on, somebody help me! Help! Help!” Right? And, and Dr. King breaks rank and runs back to this photographer, grabs him by the arm, and yanks them up, bends back over, picks up his camera and shoves it in this man's chest and says, get to work.
Nickolas Jordan: Wow.
Toussaint Romain: Dr. King returns to the recess where he had been, and this photographer gets back to work. And then some time during this melee or afterwards, you know, this photographer finds Dr. King and he says, “Hey, Dr. King. What was that about? Right? This little girl had her head busted open by these police. I was just trying to help her.” And Dr. King said, “Your job was to take pictures.” “But Dr. King, I was trying to help her.” And Dr. King's response was, “Well, it's your job to take pictures so that the world can see, so that the world can help her.” You asked me what keeps me going. I see that little girl. She's the unnamed little girl. I see that little girl who had her head busted open by police because she was marching and walking for equality. Hadn't committed any crime. Hadn't done anything that was bad. Was a little girl being attacked by a grown man in an authority role. I see her, and that's why I can't get tired. I know you see her too. So, sorry man. You can't get tired anymore either, right?
Nickolas Jordan: Yeah.
Toussaint Romain: I mean, but it's taxing and —
Nickolas Jordan: It is that.
Toussaint Romain: — I just don't know what the alternative is. What, do you quit?
Nickolas Jordan: Well, I ain’t going to quit.
Toussaint Romain: I mean, but that's the only real … I mean, if, if we're going to be about busyness, or if we're going to be about leading, if we’re going to actually be executing in our lives, then either I'm going to get up and do the work I got to do, or I'm not. Right? There really can't be anything in between because then I'm going to be angry and frustrated trying to clean my room, right? Or I'm just going to clean my room and be done and go move on and watch TV and play video games, or I'm not going to clean my room and to sit in my room and let mom yell at me all night, right? But living in that in between, that gray area is where most Americans are, most tired people are. We're frustrated. We don't like what's happening. But the truth is it's because, my friend, we just don't realize … we don't know that we — let me not be as blunt because I know I'm speaking to the audience here, right?
Nickolas Jordan: Please, be blunt! Please do that.
Toussaint Romain: And let me say, let me say it this way — in every audience, right? Whenever I'm speaking to large groups, and I’ve spoken in a very large groups and small groups, whenever I'm speaking to an audience, there's always three kinds of people. There are folks in this audience who have no idea what I'm talking about. They're not woke yet, right? So, my presentation, in some ways, wakes people up. Like last night's presentation really had some folks understanding race, power and privilege in a whole new light. There's a second group, folks who are woke but just don't know what to do. So, they're a little frustrated. Like I, I'm woke, I know racism is a real thing. But man, I am a librarian. What can I do to change racism? And there's this frustration because, man, in life I was told to get this degree, to go here and get that job, and now I'm here, now married and I have kids. I have all these accomplishments. I'm in a place where I should be able to change things, but I'm not. And it's that constant “everything I do yields no return” and there’s a frustration. I would dare say that's where you are right now. You know the issues, right? You see the problems. Whether it's personal, in your own life and family and everything else, or it’s what you're seeing, you know, existentially as far as to everyone else's life. You see the problems, but what can I do about it? Then there's this third group, which is where I'm at, which is where you're getting. OThis third group, this third group, this group of one, two, three, or three, two, one, ABCs, like Michael Jackson used to sing. Is this idea, is the simple idea that, I'm woke and now I'm doing something about it. And I may not be solving racism as a whole, right? But as my grandmother used to say to me, you know, “Baby, how do you eat an elephant?” I don't know, Nana. And she would say, “Bite by bite. Spoonful by spoonful. How do you move a mountain?” Nana, I don't know. As I mentioned last night —“One pebble at a time”. And so, what if I can remove the pebbles of racism? One pebble at a time. And let me throw this at you.
Nickolas Jordan: Yes, sir.
Toussaint Romain: Does my black life matter?
Nickolas Jordan: Yes, sir.
Toussaint Romain: Thank you, brother. Most people would just sit there and pause for a second. But yeah, my black life matters. My black life matters. But let me ask you this. Will my black life matter in 4,000 years? No. I'm going go ahead and cut you off. Now you're trying to think about it. No, no, no one's going remember Toussaint Romain in 4,000 years. Brother, if I was to ask you to tell me someone from your own family 200 years ago, I doubt you'd be able to do it.
Nickolas Jordan: Nope, I couldn't do it.
Toussaint Romain: So, 4,000 years, you know, my black life … it won't matter then. So I’m having to ask this question a little differently. The question should not be, does my black life matter? What I'm asking myself now is, will my impact matter? What can I do today that's going to change tomorrow, next week, next week, next month, next year, next decade, next century, and then whatever thousand it is, right? And if I realize that I can do something today that's going to impact folks a thousand years from now, well, let me say this from a reverse role: What have people done 100 years ago, 50 years ago to help me and you be on the campus of Appalachian State University sitting in a very nice plush room? Sitting here with, you know, suit and ties on —
Nickolas Jordan: Awards and stuff around, art on the wall.
Toussaint Romain: — Look, I mean, like 3D artwork on the wall, right? I mean, let's be honest, we're only where we are today because of someone's impact yesterday. Don't I want my kids? Don't you want your kid to be further along than you and I? So how are we impacting?
Nickolas Jordan: Yes, sir.
Toussaint Romain: Today, right? And that's where you're getting. You're doing it. You just don't have the right attitude —
Nickolas Jordan: You got a lot of faith in me, bro. You got a lot of faith in me. I might be a lost cause, I might be a lost cause —
Toussaint Romain: As you sit here at the microphone talking to me about the issues that are relevant.
Nickolas Jordan: But I do want to talk to you about that work piece, and one of the things that really struck me last night in the presentation was your slide, when you were speaking about what you do when crazy is coming at you, when people are spewing their bile, their vitriol at you, you know, all those things, and you know, your response, and I'm simplifying now, so I'm asking you to please clarify, you know —
Toussaint Romain: Yeah.
Nickolas Jordan: — But it to don't respond, don't respond to that. And I struggle with that. I struggle with that because I'm a believer that when crazy comes at me, when crazy comes at me and whatever — particularly around context of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, all of those things — but specifically race, because I inhabit this skin, that, you know, and I'm not talking about in the, in an online forum or anything like that. I'm talking about, you know, this kind of thing is happening, I hear the bile and I had this opportunity to speak back against that. Like I'm going to, you know, rare up and I'm not going to back down. I'm going to be in that gap. Like no, bro, you're not just going to be able to say that, like, that's just not going to slide, that's not going to come through my way and me and just be silent. So, I struggled with that. Like, can you help me get there? Help me get there. How is it? What do you mean? Can you say more about that truth?
Toussaint Romain: So, I can. But let me do this maybe through a rhetorical way. Or the Socratic method way if I can, right?
Nickolas Jordan: Sure.
Toussaint Romain: By forcing you to answer the question.
Nickolas Jordan: Yes sir, please.
Toussaint Romain: What are you hoping to achieve when crazy comes at you?
Nickolas Jordan: Shift.
Toussaint Romain: What do you mean? Shift of what?
Nickolas Jordan: Any perspective. Small shift. I think about that, the metaphor of the seed that you used to throw the seed at somebody. You never know what they may be willing to catch in that moment. So, my hope is that, my hope is when I come back at you, you are able to hear it somehow in a way, maybe not in that moment, but perhaps later down the road you'll be able to hear it. You'll be able to … “Oh, that's what that n**** was talking about.”
Toussaint Romain: Sure, sure.
Nickolas Jordan: Like, you know, like maybe that, that will create some change. And not a, you know, I don't expect you to be different and understand differently or totally just because I said something, but maybe —
Toussaint Romain: Good. So, let me ask you then, because I agree. I, I see exactly where you're going. That sounds really great in theory. Have you ever done it? Have you ever spoken to crazy and crazy said, “Ohhhhh, my man!” Can I say my man? Have you ever seen it?
Nickolas Jordan: I have never seen it. No, sir.
Toussaint Romain: So, so let me, let me stop you there again — Socratic method. So if you've never seen it, you can hold onto the principle, in theory. But if the principal doesn't work in action, it's not effective.
Nickolas Jordan: But what about hope man?
Toussaint Romain: Well, there is hope. I didn't say don't ever do it. I just said at the moment as the question was, if someone is using belittling words or insulting words, how do we address it at that moment were the key words? You don't. When protesters were out there yelling and screaming because a black man had been shot and killed by the police, and police officers were there in riot gear ready to cause and do more harm. Dude, we're not having any kumbaya moments coming to an agreement, that's not that moment. If you've ever been in an argument —
Nickolas Jordan: Many times.
Toussaint Romain: There is a cycle to arguments. Sometimes there's just yelling and screaming. And you just got to, you know … let me explain. Main, ain’t no explaining, right? Because everything you say is going to kind of be … and so what I’m learning is that there’s a cycle to arguments. We got to let people just vent sometimes. Because when folks get a chance to vent [incomprehensible sounds of frustration] and if you just let them vent, they're going to vent and then all of a sudden they're going to be like, “Alright, now that that's out. Hey man, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have vented at you like that. What were you trying to say?” Or, “What do you think?” And it's that moment that I will win every person to me or to the argument that helps advance the cause for both of us. But I can't while the person is yelling at me. It's sort of like this. You used the word opportunity. I have an opportunity to talk to crazy. That's no opportunity. If you're applying to be the next quarterback for the Carolina Panthers, that opportunity doesn't exist for you or for me, right? We're not coming out of college. We're not in the draft. You can send in your resume, a couple photo shots of you like Napoleon’s uncle, you know, throwing a football, I mean, you, you could do all that, but it's not going to be an opportunity for you because it's not an opportunity. So why are you calling when crazy comes up to you and offers an opportunitys? Is it maybe more your arrogance?
Nickolas Jordan: Could be.
Toussaint Romain: Is it maybe the source of your frustration?
Nickolas Jordan: Could be that too.
Toussaint Romain: Now, what if I kept applying to be the next center for the Charlotte Hornets? Right? And never get called up. Man, I got the Jordans on, you know, I jump like Mike, man, I got no jumpshot. I’m, you know —
Nickolas Jordan: I could do it, I could do it.
Toussaint Romain: I couldn’t, I suck at basketball, right? But that would lead to so much frustration if my hope was in that. And I don't want to use scripture or Bible too much, but there is a particular Bible scripture that says, “Don't throw pearls before swine.” And we oftentimes think, well, it's all about the pearl and how what I'm sharing is the pearl is so valuable, and it is, and swine are these dirty rotten animals and I don't … and swine I guess are, I mean I love bacon, for the record.
Nickolas Jordan: Me too. Me too.
Toussaint Romain: But, I want to get into just the visual of that. What I think that scripture means is swine have no idea how valuable pearls are. They have no… it looks like another pebble, or might even get lost in the mud, in the mire of things. And crazy won't recognize how valuable the words are that you're sharing with them. It's going to get lost in the mud. So, maybe we shouldn't throw the pearls at them until they're able to understand how valuable what you're saying actually is. And when it comes to people, when I'm yelling and arguing, it's only about me. When I'm in a calmer moment and I'm ready to hear you and recognize what you're saying, then it's about you. And it's only when it's about you that I'll accept and receive what you're trying to say to me. And that civil discourse does not exist in our political industry or, or environment. It doesn't really exist on the streets of protest because both sides are yelling, “Listen to me.” I mean the Women's March. You know, even the Charlottesville white nationalist terrorists groups or whatever you might want to call them, you know, they're yelling and screaming, you know, “Hey, listen to us.” Everyone's trying to be heard, but no one's listening. And I don't think we need to engage that until it's time for us to be able to listen, and then at the same time, to let them be at a place that they can hear what we're trying to say. I hope that makes sense.
Nickolas Jordan: It does.
Toussaint Romain: So, it's more of a not yet, not just don't ever.
Nickolas Jordan: OK, and that I can work with. That I can chew on a bit and I, and I'm going to take that part, especially about the, you know, when you're yelling back and forth, who was that about? Is that, could that be connected to arrogance and things like that? Maybe it is. Maybe it is. I fully, I fully will take that on.
Toussaint Romain: But let me, let me say a little about that, and I don't think it's a bad arrogance. What I mean by arrogance is you're right, and you know you're right, and know the other person is wrong, right? And so you're trying to prove that you're right. That doesn't win any argument unless you're a lawyer in court, but even then, right doesn't always get justice.
Nickolas Jordan: Yes, sir.
Toussaint Romain: So, it's less about right in these kind of conversations, especially as it relates to freedom of expression, freedom of speech, has to do less with being right and more with let's make this thing work because you and I have to live together. We don't agree on a thing, but we have to coexist. So, let's maybe agree to disagree or maybe let's recognize where, what we're both saying and then we'll realize who we are, and then let's make this thing work. You know, it's funny, man, I can sit down with anybody in the nation, have conversations about things that we both agree are right or wrong, and we'll agree on 90 percent of most things, but as soon as we put labels, political labels or ideological label — liberal or conservative, or libertarian, republican or democrat — then all of a sudden we have all this division, all of this divide and there's a great divide between us. But when we just talk about the issues in a sane way, right? Then we're recognizing that we're both wanting the same things. So maybe if we can change the arrogance of “I'm right” more towards “let's get it right” so that we can work together in order to accomplish —
Nickolas Jordan: I’m right to get right. I like that. I like that. I'm right to get right. I like that.
Toussaint Romain: I didn't say “I'm right to get it right.” I said “Get rid of ‘I'm right’ period.”
Nickolas Jordan: Get rid of — that’s what I mean, changing right period. Yes, sir. Yes, sir.
Toussaint Romain: I'm right to get right.
Nickolas Jordan: So man, I mean, this is, this is, you got the mic. You got the mic. This is what’s your truth, man. Can you share that? What is, what is your truth?
Toussaint Romain: Hmm. Yeah. It's an … interesting question. I think that question varies day by day. Some days I don't give a fuck.
Nickolas Jordan: True that.
Toussaint Romain: Some days I get to be the angry black dude. Some days I'm a man of faith and I'm believing and trusting in God. Some days you know, I'm the super athlete. Other days I can't move a muscle because I'm laying in bed rest of the day. Some days I'm on my A game, man, I'm speaking in ways and moving mountains that feels like other days I can't seem to make anything work. So, what's my truth? Well, that's my truth. And if I could learn to live with that, then I’ll learn to live with myself. And if I can recognize that that is all that's needed to make it forward, then I get to be comfortable in dealing with life. You know? It seems that everyone’s reaching for some finish line, right? When I was in college, you know, for me it was going to law school. Then I went to law school — check. But then it was check like, well, all right, well I got to do what's next? Well, now that I finished law school, I mean, I was married, still married — check. But now I’m married and a lawyer, I don't feel like I've arrived yet, so, what's next? Oh, let me get kids — check. Let me do this — check. And I have all these checks, man. I have all of these checks, man. I have all these checks, and I feel like they're all bouncing because they don't provide any real value or give me, you know, the, the, the substance that I need to pay it forward. I don't really feel like my accomplishments really amount to much. But I realize as I'm getting, as I’m accumulating these checks and realizing these checks aren't that valuable that, you know, there's more merit and just having friends.
Nickolas Jordan: Yes, sir.
Toussaint Romain: Alright. And then being able to sit down with my buddies in fellowship, right? And saying, “Hey, listen. We're at this campfire. We're hanging out. Man, I had a heck of a day. Or man, or man, I had a really good day.” And just feeling that tribe, right? And feeling that ability to relate, and as we have that tribe, then after we're finished with our moments and just relating with each other, I think the truth is we can get back up, right? And go back and, and go on this journey some more. It's a tribe that we could call quest, where we get a chance, right? To have sort of an electrical relaxation where we had a chance to kind of have some, you know, scenario discussions where we get a chance to say, you know, what, to what, to what sort of whatever we for what and what we want to say. For those of you that don't get it, these are all references to the group called Tribe Called Quest and their most wonderful songs that they've produced, but it's being able to have that kind of moment and that kind of connection to where you and I did not think about the stress we’ve been going through for the past five minutes. We didn't think about what we left outside when we came in here to this studio to do this podcast. We didn't think about any of the other problems, successes or not. We just had a moment to bond and connect.
Nickolas Jordan: True that.
Toussaint Romain: And it's like, man, he gets it. I get it, right? And finally I would say there's this phrase, as my truth is concerned, from a poem called “If” by Rudyard Kipling, I could spit the whole thing for you, but there's a line in this poem that basically says, “To meet triumph and disaster and to treat those two imposters just the same.” As a former NCAA Division I athlete, man, I've won some amazing races in my life. As a public defender, representing individuals who can't afford attorneys, I've lost some really horrible cases in my life. I've lost some track races, and I've won a lot of jury trials, right? They're all imposters, man. You know your bank account, if you have a lot of money in it it might make you think you're a triumph. Your bank account, you may have no money in its. It may make you think you're a disaster or a failure. That numerical value is an imposter because it doesn't change who you are. Right?
Nickolas Jordan: True that.
Toussaint Romain: And so recognizing the imposter syndrome, that we all live with, and putting, you know, our value and things that are just irrelevant, successes and failures, understanding that we have to be on this tribe called quest and recognizing, “Man, I'm like a rollercoaster. I'm up or down, and I can't control what happened.” It's not like I'm like, all right, today I'm checking this card out. Nah, it’s just whatever comes to me comes to me, and dang it, I had that thing all day long, if not all week long, if not all month long, matter of fact, I might've had a whole year.
Nickolas Jordan: Yes sir. Yes, sir.
Toussaint Romain: But, being able to deal with that and recognize it, man, that's truth, for me.
Nickolas Jordan: Yes, sir.
Toussaint Romain: Because I still have a mission to go do. If it's triumph and disaster, you know, success or failure, then I can't measure that anymore because those are imposters. You know what? There's a little girl who got her head beaten in by the police. She needs to be remembered. I need to get up and I need to go do this work so that this kid tomorrow will have opportunities that she didn't. What's my impact today going to be to impact those kids a thousand years from now? As long as I can remember that and get to my truth and away from all the boxes that we put ourselves in, then I get to do some work.
Nickolas Jordan: Much respect, much respect.
Toussaint Romain: What about you, bro? What's your truth? If I can force you to put it on the air.
Nickolas Jordan: No, I don't, I don't mind that at all. I don't, I don't believe in much, man. I don't believe in much. I don't hold anything one way or another with strong conviction where I believe that I am right and someone is wrong, so much so that I will push you in a way that makes me want to get you to bend to my truth. The only thing I believe, man, is just love and violence don't exist together. That's the only thing I believe. Everything else in my life is fungible. I cannot say that I love you and be violent with you. I don't, I can't do those two things together. So, we talk about being a country that loves one another and all that. Well, we can't be violent with each other and claim that love. That's the only thing I have. Everything else, everything else I can have a conversation about, I'll be honest. I'll be honest.
Toussaint Romain: Yeah, no, I love it.
Nickolas Jordan: So man, I'm going to get my tired ass back out on the battlefield and I’ll see you back out there, man. I know I'm tired, I am, but I'll be back out there with you.
Toussaint Romain: I think you're trying to convince yourself you're tired. But that something inside is like, “Yo, let's go fight.”
Nickolas Jordan: I'll be back out there, and Mr. Toussaint Romain, thank you so much.
Toussaint Romain: Brother, thanks for having me, man. This was awesome.
Nickolas Jordan: Appreciate you. Appreciate you.
Toussaint Romain: Yeah, yeah, much respect.
What do you think?
Share your feedback on this story.
About Appalachian State University
As the premier public undergraduate institution in the state of North Carolina, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The Appalachian Experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and to embrace diversity and difference. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Appalachian is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System. Appalachian enrolls more than 20,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.