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tv   Amanpour on PBS  PBS  April 5, 2018 6:00am-6:30am PDT

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. welcome to amanpour on pbs. tonight, 50 years after martin luther king jr.'s assassination, whill itake to rekindle the dream? isk william a former obama official who helped mentor an initiative for young black men and civil rights activist who is in memphis joining the 50th anniversary commemoration there. plus, we talked with the publisher of dr. king's paper, trayvon carson, he joins us from stanford. ♪ ♪ "amanpour on pbs" was made
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possible by the generous support of rosalynn p. walter. good evening, earn, and welcome to the program. i'm christiane amanpour in london. 50 years ago on the balcony of the lorraine motel in memphis, a man who had dedicated an entire life to non-violent protest was brutally assassinated. america's most famous civil rights leader martin luther king jr. cut down at the age of just 39 and eerily, just one day after he delivered his final and prophetic speech in which he worried about his own survival and that of his movements. >> i looked over, and i've seen the promise land. i may not get there with you, but i want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promise land.
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i have seen the glory of the coming of the lord. >> and indeed in the 50 years since his death there has been undoubtedly been progress in black america. there is a black middle class and the country has elected its first plaqblack president and t came this anguished reaction on the night of donald trump's election by the renowned political commentator van jones. >> this was a white lash. this was a white lash against against a changing country. it was a white lash against a black president in part and that's the part where the pain comes. >> dramatic words indeed. a year before he was killed, martin luther king jr. worried that, quote, the vast majority of white americans are racists, either consciously or
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unconsciously, and my two guests tonight are well placed to discuss all of this and william jawando is an attorney on the obama white house on the initiative called my brother's keeper designed to help young black men climb up the ladder of life and he is now running for local office in his home state of maryland, and also brie newsom who came to national attention when she removed the confederate flag from the grounds of the south carolina state house and she's a civil rights activist and she joins us from memphis where she's been attending the commemoration of dr. king. welcome, both of you, to the program on this 50th anniversary which is actually a sad day. can i ask you, brie, what it means to you to be a black american today. you heard us, quote, what dr. king said a year before he died. >> i would say there are some things that are new and then there are some things that are very familiar in the history of america. we have a long history in this country of taking two steps
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foar andne step back. we've seenrogress with the elecon oth nation's first black president and we've also seen steps taken backward. mass incarceration and the incident after incident of police brutality and so these are the same conditions that are contributing to what we see now and in some ways, the things that are now and in a lot of ways what is old is new again. >> we'll dive into the specifics we'll talk about in a moment and you worked in the obama white house, the first black president and it stunned everybody, but it was a moment of great hope. you heard what van jones said on the night that president trump probably even surprised himself by winning that this was a white lash. so given your experience in the white house and now, what does it mean to you? what does it mean to be plaque in america today? >> to be black in america is to know that you are in a precarious situation in that
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freedoms that have recently been won or acquired with progress that has been made could be taken away in an instant, think of the post-civil war reconstruction period where you had state senators and congressmen who were african-american and how that was snatched away violently so through lynchings and through jim crowe laws in segregation and so the step backward that brie was talking about is the story of being black in america and so you have to remain vigilant and you have to remain aware, and i remember i was working in ohio when president obama was elected in the campaign and i was so e lated and we won ohio and we knew we won the presidency and i walked outside and a middle-aged wide person was taking his trash down the driveway and said to me, i guess racism is over now, kind of disgruntled and so i knew even then that we were going to have a tou time ahead, you know? and that's really what it is to
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be black in america. to be sober and understand history and to be pushing forward even when you have some success. so let's take this excerpt of a speech that dr. king made about a year before he was assassinated and these are very pointed comments that he made about the state of society for blacks in america. >> let us be dissatisfied until the tragic walls that separate the outer city of comfort from the inner city of poverty and despair shall be crushed by the battering rams of the forces of justice. let us be dissatisfied until the dark yesterdays of segregated schools will be transformed into bright tomorrows of quality and integrated education, let us be dissatisfied until men and women however black they may be will be judged on the basis of the content of their character and not on the basis of the color of
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their skin. let us be dissatisfied. >> it's really an amazing rallying cry. so brie, you mentioned the issue of segregation and new reports today show that the promise of brown versus board of education and linda brown who was the center of this who whe center just died last month and yet we hear reports that schools are going back to segregation in part of the south. >> yes. absolutely. in my hometown of charlotte, north carolina, which at one point was heralded for its efforts to bus students and to integrate the schools, what we now see is that the school system is as segregated as it was in the 1960s and it's important to recognize, that it was not that people embraced the idea of integration and there were people that moved forward and there was always a consistent effort to re-segregate and what we have is
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a de facto re-segregation and it's a false understanding of what happened in the '60s if we think it ended in victory and everything that we are doing now is reaping the benefits of the '60s civil rights movement. >> william, i want to pick up with you on the issue of economic justice. the i have a dream speech in washington was as much about economic dreams that martin luther king had as about integration. so i was stunned -- i was stunned by the content of a recent report that suggests that even a young black man, a boy who grew up in a well-to-do black family living next door to a well-to-do black family, despite the father or the parents' wealth, that boy and particularly boy is likely to end up poorer than his white neighbor. >> if you're in 99% of american communities and if you're a
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plaque boy y plaque boy, you will have a consistent income gap from the white male peer even if you were born in the top 1% of families as an african-american boy, you have just as much likelihood of being incarcerated as a white boy born in a household making $36,000 and if you're a millionaire black boy, your chance of being incarcerate side the same as a household who has 36,000 and you're just as likely to fall out of the top income brackets as you are to stay, if you're an african-american boy and just stunning data and it's also, once you control for every other circumstance and the excuses that have been used, family structure and household income and level of education and you control those thing, that gap is still there and it shows us in really stark terms the legacy of institutional racism and discrimination. >> just to -- not too put too fine a point on it, but lafkly
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paul ryan, the house speaker says anyone can work their way up out of their situation. this is not a race thing. it's a poor thing. poverty knows no racial boundaries and the study is it does debunk that theory. >> oh, it does, and it's something that we as african-americans knew for a long time because we experienced it, but this puts hard data if you take a wide boy and a black boy with the same income bracket and same level of education and same level of circumstances there will be an ince gap of ten points or more all of the way up the economic ladder. i wasfortunate, and i am one of the rare, and i'm in the 1% of the african-american boys that made it to the top and i'm a rare story and we need to make sure that we change policies so i'm not such a rare story. >> brie, you came to prominence when you decided to remove the confederate flag from the state capitol in south carolina and
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this was after dylan roof shot up a church of worshippers and you even recited the lord's prayer as you were being arrested. was there anything of dr. king going through your mind at that point? >> yes. absolutely. in the lead-up to the time that i scaled the pole, i was aware of the dangers that i faced really even more so than being arrested and my primary concern was a vigilante coming by with a gun and that was my greatest concern and i reflected very much so on king, on non-violence and civil disobedience on the kind of courage that it took for everyone who participated in the movement to do what i did, and i also recognized that the rights i have today i wouldn't enjoy were it not for people who exercised what they exercised in the time of which they lived. for me it was important at that time. there was south carolina processing the casket of pi
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pinckney through the streets of south carolina and the state flag of south carolina was at half-staff and the confederate flag was at the top of the pole and that moment encapsulated everything when we had been saying black lives matter. to your point about economics and racism, part of with why i became involved in the modern movement and i grew up in a solidly middle class family household and i'm the third generation in my family to graduate from college. what i recognized, however, when the u.s. supreme court struck down voting rights in 2013. when i saw the trayvonartin case unfold, was there no level of education. there was no level of income that could shield me from racism, that could protect me from being the next trayvon martin or protect my child from being the next trayvon martin and the violence, and the latest tragic headline is stephon clark in california. you heard from the white house, i believe they called it a local
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matter and the press spokesperson at the white house. william, i want to ask you, because again, it really matters to boys. i hear and i read the chilling reports that fathers have to have the conversation with their kids as young as 11 years old how to behave in white neighborhoods or if you're going to pass white law enforcement. you're the father of girls and was that conversation ever had to you and the fact that it was so necessary is terrifying. >> well, that's a conversation that every black parent has with their child or parent of black children has with their child boy or girl and it's something that will need to be continued, unfortunately, for a long time. dr. king said that the soul of the nation cannot be redeemed until we eradicate racism in all of its forms and when brie
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climbed the pole and pulled the flag down that was a sample of racism in all of its forms and when we are dealing with the police-involved shootings and when we're dealing with economic justice issues and wide disparities between black boys and their white male counterparts. these are all messages and so these conversations will need to happen continually in black households and they will, but we will also need to make sure that we're continuing dr. king's mission and continuing to put policies in place that get at the heart of these types of things. we're not helpless to this. it's implicit bias and training is required and necessary for law enforcement officers who when they see a black boy are much quick toer to pull their g from data and research than they are when seeing a white boy. there are things we can do. we're not helpless to the data. one of the things in the report that we talked about earlier is that one of the bright spots
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even though 99% of america black boys do far worse economically than white boys, out of the 1% is even if you don't have a father in the home which was my case for much of my early life, if you have fathers or mentorlike figures in your community you benefit and have a better chance of moving up the ladder and that's why program it is like my brother's keeper which i was proud to kick off at the white house are so important. >> what do you make of the anger amongst the community and the black lives matter community after the shootings at parkland when a white school was targeted or a mostly white school was targeted in a mostly white neighborhood and there was a mass mobilization and a huge amount of celebrity money pledged and emma gonzalez, one of the faces of that movement has reached out and spoken about yes, how we need to both be in this together, both communities. how does that sit with you, brie? >> i think it's important to
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recognize anger is often a secondary emotion to hurt. i think that what many of the black lives matter protesters have been expressing is a deep sense of hurt. >> what has been expressed by young people and not only black lives matter ptest and black youth have been protesting over the issue ofun g violence and they've been protesting over the issue for years and has nothing to do with the students in parkland and what they're speaking to again is how pervasive racism is and that racism is so pervasive that it manifests in how people show empathy for people. another example recently is the bombings in austin. we had a white terrorist sending bombs through packages in the mail and there seemed to be as much or even more empathy for the terrorist than for the black victims, and so again, it's really just highlighting the pervasive, really insidious nature of racism in america.
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>> and christiane, if i can chime in on that because brie is hitting such an important point, racism is so embedded into every institution in this country, just give you two examples. when tamir rice was shot within ten seconds of a police officer pulling up to him in ohio park, the officer called in we just shot 18-year-old with a gun and tamir was 14 years old. there's data from the american psychological association, when people see young black boys they think they're four to five years older than they are and they think they're a threat and dangerous. i'll give you another example, the opioid crisis going on in the country right now. african-americans and because of racism we're not doing as bad in the indicator because it's shown that doctors because of this lack of empathy that we're talking about prescribe painkillers to african-americans
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at a much lower rate because they've not gotten hooked and because they think we have a higher tolerance for pain and they're pervasive and they're a part of the legacy of transatlantic slave trade to today are so embedded into our system that we have much, much more work to do to break those things down and make sure that we're moving forward and understanding our biases. >> much work to do, and thank you so much to both of you on this anniversary. william jawondo, and brie newsom, thank you so much for joining me. >> thank you for having us. and martin luther's famous dream for america resonated all over the world. indeed, many said the dream died with him that awful night, april 4, 1968, when news of the assassination in memphis reached robert f. kennedy who was campaigning for the presidency over in indianapolis he knew that he would have to try to keep the peace. so he went to a black neighborhood there to share
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their grief and tried to inspire hope that the dream was still possible. here's some of what he said that night. >> it is not the end of violence. it is not the end of lawlessness, and it is not the endf disorder, but the vast majority of white people and the vast majority of black people in this country want to live together, want to improve the quality of our life and want justice for all human beings that abide in our land. >> do they, though, all these years later? we turn now to the historian and professor of american history clayborn carson. he was at the famous speech on the mall in washington when he was just 19 and later, king's widow asked him to publish his papers. professor carson joins us now from stanford university. welcome to the program, professor. >> good to be with you. >> i just wonder what goes through your mind all these years later as you heard those
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words of robert f. kennedy, you know, 50 years later. >> i think that for me, it was hearing the same news. there was a deep sense of loss. i had actually left the country in 1967 for a variety of reasons, but partially to -- because i refused to be inducted into the military, and so when i came back in 1968 it was a shock because in the states martin luther king was assassinated and then back in los angeles a couple of months later, robert kennedy himself was assassinated. so it seems that i was returning to a country that was coming apart, and it was -- it was a shock and the years that
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fo werllowed an indicationf how much hadn't changed because of civil rights reforms. >> you were 19, as i said, when that famous speech on the washington mall took place. you were there and then how did coretta scott king, martin luther king's widow, choose you to gather, edit and publish his papers? >> well, when i entered the historical profession i wanted to focus on the question of how does change take place, and i wrote a book called in struggle which was about the emergence of grassroots activism during the 1950s and '60s in the south. so i think i was a bit surprised when she called and asked me to edit martin luther king's papers because i had always emphasized the bottom up approach and he, of course, was the main national
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leader of the movement and that after talking with her she'd heard about me from another historian who was her adviser, and she felt that because of my background of being in the movement and studying the movement for civil rights reform in the 1960s that i would be an appropriate person to look at martin luther king and for me it was telling the other part of the story. >> i wanted to talk about another part of the story, and that is that, you know, we read, of course, and toward it is the end of his life there was pressure from the more militant side of the black rights movement and that at one point dr. king who was a committed integrationist had said and espoused the notion of temporary sprattis separatism and tell me about that and how was he about that as a cure for what wasn't
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happening in the integration front? >> well issue the thing i discovered about martin luther king that is most important is how consistent he was throughout his life. i don't think he ever went over to being a separatist. he was simply saying that we have to recognize the reality, and many black people are segregated. his own organization was an organization primarily of black, baptist ministers and the churches that they pastored were pretty much black churches. they had very few white members. that was a matter of history and choices and i think that's still the case as he pointed out that sunday morning is the most segregated hour in american society. so we have to look at american
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societas it real make it into something that was his ideal. the last book he wrote was where do we go from here? and he wrote that after the passage of civil rights laws and he said that we have, as a nation, we have to decide whether we're going to be a community and really come together and that's what he meant by integration was not just on the surface, but at a deeper level or there's going to be chaos. >> we're still pondering, obviously, the chaos or community. >> i don't think we've answered his question. >> right. finally, you along with others like the poet maya angelou chose the words that were going to be on his memorial, the big white statue that's in washington right now. what were the words that you chose? what was particularly meaningful to you? >> the well, the words that were supposed to be on the side of
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the -- of the memorial were the opening words of the i have a dream speech where he talked about the promissory note and the promise that the nation had made in its own declaration of independence that there were these inalienable rights of the purst of life, liberty and ppiness. and i thought of the monument as martin luther king looking acro across the tidal basin at thomas jefferson and talking to the architects of the republic and saying that you have not lived up to this ideal that the justified the creation of the united states, and i think that that was his primary message throughout his life is that we have these ideals as christians and religious people, as americans and perhaps throughout the world, we have these ideals
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that we profess, but we're not living up to them. >> all right. >> and i think that's always the job of the minister. >> indeed, and it's good to leave us with that thought that ideals are there to be realized. professor carson, thank you so much, and on this 50th anniversary commemoration that is it for our program tonight. thank you for watching "amanpour on pbs" and join us again tomorrow night. ♪ ♪ ♪ >> amanpour on pbs was made possible by the generous support of rosalynn p. walter. ♪ of rosalynn p. walter. ♪ ♪
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