Skip to main content

tv   Author Discussion on Race Law in Texas  CSPAN  December 12, 2020 1:47pm-2:35pm EST

1:47 pm
smith, thank you both so much and thank you to our audience. if you don't already have copies of why don't we riot you can do so by clicking the buy the book button on your screen and by purchasing the authors a book you are supporting the texas book festival independent bookselling. thanks again and take care. >> you are watching booktv and we are showing you programs from the recent virtual texas book festival in austin. up next, author discussion of race and law in texas. >> welcomeo the session of the 20 fifth annual texas book festival. today, we are pleased to address and discuss some very important books in reference to the criminal justice system. the authors being featured in
1:48 pm
this session include brittany barnett who has written a great work called knock at midnight, doug swanson, who has written a great work called the call to glory about the texas rangers and jamie thompson who has written a book the matters and hours when we had the police shootings back in 2016. great policing and deadly assault the group the nation, three tremendous works. i would like to begin by saying we want to encourage the audien to have comments and we would like to ask you to send kudos to the authors if you choose to do that, please click the ask a question button
1:49 pm
in the crowd chat, crowd cast, if you have questions. we will get to as many questions as we can. there is a button at the bottom of your screen. that is a by the book button. they are all great books and i'm sure many of you, please look at the bottom of the screen and you will have a by the book button. what i would like to do is introduce each one of the authors and have each one of them tell us about their book, the book is very important and we have a short period of time to go over them but i encourage everyone. i have read the books, purely outstanding works and they bring different pieces to the
1:50 pm
puzzle, questions relating to the criminal justice system. i will take them in the order they are in the program. i am the executive director of the texas naacp, private lawyer that does a civil rights practice and member of the national board of the naacp. brittany barnett grew up in the background many of her clients grew up in. she had issues in her home, and she started out, despite issues at home and after becoming a
1:51 pm
certified public accountant with a great future with one of the big five firms she decided to go to law school after being encouraged to do so by one of her colleagues who was about to embark on doing the same thing. recalling the cpa background she works with a great private firm after law school and having a job at the corporation, into contact with an individual that led her to work on trying, convicted of drug offense and had extremely long sentence but she thought was inappropriate and doing public service, that endeavor,
1:52 pm
started doing work as a volunteer, pro bono for nothing even as a law student and achieving great successes, their career in the corporate arena to become a participant in criminal justice reforms, this comes from one of the sermons by martin luther king, she extols the real horrors in our system and how they are good solid people that could be contributing to society, they are wrapped up in the system and for whatever reason they will be there for many years to come, a number of nonprofits to address those issues. the second person today will be doug swanson, a veteran investigative reporter and editor.
1:53 pm
he's now a professor at the university of pittsburgh school of journalism, he has won a number of awards for different publication and has undertaken a really enormous issue and that is the larger than life issue of the texas rangers in the state of texas. we know he has talked about details, the problems of issues, anytime truth is important, discussion on criminal justice reform after the tragic murder of george floyd. and from jamie thompson, litzer prize-winning reporter
1:54 pm
who covered the incident in dallas in july of 2016 and she has also wrten for the magazine, and written great work in terms of the different individuals who were involved in the actual incident there whereas we know five police officers were actually killed as a result, and looks at the lives of officers, their families, humanizes them and looks at the issues relating to one of the protesters there and one of the african-american physicians involved as a lead trauma surgeon when officers were brought in after they were shot and all that has changed,
1:55 pm
she uses one of the individuals, police officer, a negotiator, with the shooter that night, extensive conversations in many ways, in having the conversation. let me start out with the order that i went through and ask each one of you to describe your book so the public can understand what the book is and tell us in your ways how your book fits into the discussion about the need for reform in the criminal justice system. let's stt with miss barnett. >> good morning, everye. my book a knock at midnight is a memoir that follows my journey and understanding of justice in the courts, geus
1:56 pm
languishing behind bars and the transformaon of the definition of freedom is this. growing up as a young black girl in ral east texas i experienced a lot of challenges, having a mother addicted tdrugs and went to prison, experienced a l of love that was unconditional. that experience of having a mother in prison, suering caused by mass incarceration. an issue that devastates families. in the book i detail work with many clients to free them, in particular rnda jones a black woman from texawho was arrested, sentenced to life without possibility of parole for e first time drug offender. words began to follow people in casewho were serving life and
1:57 pm
through the book, that m clients are humanized ia way that is impactful on the page just as ey impacted me i real life. i wrote the book to edate people about the draconian nature of drug laws and how it impacts people, real people, real families with real stories and i am hopeful that being able to bring these issues to awareness is how it impacted families, spark a conversation and tackle change. >> thank you so much for that. now we will ask doug if he might discuss his book and tell us what it adds to the conversation. >> thanks to the texas book festival are having me. an honor to be here.
1:58 pm
we look at the entire 197 year history and as most of us know they are a colorful history celebrated for heroism, valor, justice, generally honorable disposition and rangers who exhibited that but to look at the underside of the ranchers, how they built their image and how it is a false image that the rangers were the army of texas's ruling class and engaged in official racial impression, gazed in -- engaged in blocking black children from enrolling in white schools, committed mass murder. one of the reasons this fits our current national conversation as i said before the rangers did not invent police brutality but they
1:59 pm
perfected on the texas mexico border nearly 1900s. when they killed depending on your source perhaps hundreds of mexicans and mexican americans perhaps thousands depending on who is counting this is very much a current issue and one that i think belongs with what we are talking about today. >> thank you. >> thank you for having me. i want to sadly say i have not won a pulitzer. i appreciate that. i wish it were true but not yet. my book is called stand off. it is the story of a black squad negotiator by the name of larry horton who found himself on the end of a narrow hallway trying to talk to a guy just killed by cops. it was a very unusual spot for a police negotiator to be in an
2:00 pm
negotiator is usually talking to someone from a safe place but on this night larry gordon, 20 or 30 yards from the heavily armed goodman who might change at any moment. trying to call down and talk to the guy and hear his story and understand why he has done what he has done. the backdrop, it happens in 2016. earlier police shot and killed sterling and philander castile. they were protesting about the continued violence against the violence of black men. the main character of the book is larry gordon, negotiator and one of the few black officers in the swat team so he has come
2:01 pm
to the job with his own complicated feelings about race. ..
2:02 pm
>> about that night and how the race played out in his whole life. it takes this one event and really tells it from a variety of perspective and the hopes that people might begin to see what happened from the perspective that's different than their own. >> okay. thank you. >> britney, you know, what's so apparent to me is that it seems like you have a gift in identifying the humanity in individuals. i mean, it cried out for me from the pages of your book with the different individuals where you would be able to take what appeared to be a horrible set of circumstances and not just put
2:03 pm
some facts out that were truthful that might show some problems with what can occur but you were able to show how horrendous things were and actually get the attention of different people. it seems to me that you were able to get the united states district judges and u.s. attorneys and going all the way up to the white house, different presidents to get communications or pardons and you're working and getting republicans and democrats to come on board with folks who are involved in -- in the drug trafficking in this country and you're able to have great success. how do you do that? seems like it's complicated and you have to spend a lot of time. you talk in the meeting where you have to have extensive meetings and you have to meet them before you represent them. can you tell us how that works and the way you do things the way you do because that's
2:04 pm
important and can be instructive to other people who are trying to help people that are in the system? >> yeah, absolutely. as i mentioned, having a mom in prison, you know, at any given day in this country over 2 milln children are an incarcerated parent and it's devastating when it's any parent father, but when it's your momma, there's a primal wound that comes that that i experienced. and they are paying deeply for them as in the case of sharanda
2:05 pm
jones. sharanda was set to die in prison and i don't think a lot of people understand that there's no parole in feral prison. people serving life sentences for drugs are never going to get out. and that's something that reason -- resonated deeplyith me. it buries people alive, and i wanted to really center the human component and it's so important with any clienthat i have that i get to know them for who they are. i send them get to know you questions, things as simple as what's your favorite color, prefers sun size and sunset, questions that seem really basic, but it really brought us close to go through this journey about sharanda calls it, walking
2:06 pm
through the value quali of a shadow of death. and so for me the human element is critical but it's most often ignored in the cversation. and there's so many inhe country that incarrates more people than any oer place in the world. there's so many of us who a just one or two people removed from the criminal justice system and i wanted tohare my story to show jt how dear this issue is to myeart from my own mother but also tough my clients who have become family for me and just to rlly use that human almost to show untapped genius that i see everyday behind bars and human capital that the nation needs to thrive and people suffering fro
2:07 pm
draconian sentences that are morally and economically indefensible and for me to do that effectily, i knew that i had to go for the heart. >> it seems like there was one of your clients, i think, that you've indicated had such a brilliant mind. i think you may have not used the term genius but i have to believe that he was a genius. i think he was the one that had wanted to talk with the judge and cited such a great narrative about american history to impress the judge and i think it may have been ultimately the federal judge that actually resigned from a lifetime appointment from the bench because he saw the horrors of putting such a good person behind bars but he had no discretion under the sentencing guidelines, so it seems like all of your clients that you preached in the book, seemsike you were able to find gre attributes there was great successes. you want to tell us about those because i think move been proven
2:08 pm
to be correct in terms of what they've done since they've been able to get free. >> yes, absolutely. i came across sharanda's case as law student in dallas and her case changed my life forever. and so i graduated law school and went to practice corporate law as you mentioned but i would work on sharanda's case pro bono at night, it took 6 years, gary, of hard work and i'm grateful that she was granted clemency by president obama after she served 16 years and 9 months of a life sentence. and these are situations where people who lives are being saved and it's something that i don't take lightly. it's privilege and honor to represent my clients and to know that i don't have the privilege to be partisan. my clients just don't care who is in office unless they are out of prison, as long as the laws
2:09 pm
are just and fair and so i work with different administrations, i represented johnson who received clemency from president trump a couple of years ago and recently was given a pardon as well. we are looking toward of continuing the work of putting people above politics. and through that, i think we would be able to make some true headway and to me it's beyond legitimate debate at this point that these nation's laws are unjust and unfair and barely targeting certain groups of people and in particularly groups of color and once we acknowledge it we are in a good place to move forward. we do have eternal group for the don, it's named after martin luther king sermon and that's
2:10 pm
his message in the book, is that the weary traveler knocking on his neighbor's door at midnight is simply seeking the dawn and that the dawn will only come. >> thank you so much. doug, i want to ask you in reference, it's such a high topic that you picked up in so many ways, you know, there are all the television shows about rangers and such incredible range d there were positive things in the book aut the rangers that i was even, the shooting that you talk about in '56 were young african-american male were murdered and the rangers actually found the culprit but ended up the person was convicted but given a suspended sentence so they didn't serve anyime in jail but at least they went out and found one so it's -- i'm curious what kind of response that you're getting preliminarily
2:11 pm
with the book because i think that -- you're kind of going after a midst that existed over centuries as you talk about. a couple hundred years, 200th anniversary. so what kind of response are you getting in reference to your book because you're already taking on an enormous -- >> well, i think maybe the best ca, if we go back to 1956 when naacp and brown versus board of education decisions wanted to integrate texas schools,o they started in mansfield, texas between dall and fort worth. and the governor chivers decided to send the rangers to keep the peace ding integration effort but the governor really wanted for the rangers to block integration and they were under integrations and block any student tryi to enroll in
2:12 pm
white school. that's just crazy. that's a crinal offense. trying to enroll in school but the rangers successfuy blocked tegration of this high school in mansfield and a weekater they blocked integration of the texarkana junior college. in the process, one of the raers, the man who was in charge of the scene, sergeant banks, h photograph went worldwide ofim standing outside of mansfield high school while to his left there was a black figure hanging from a news over the school, the photograph went all over the world. now a year later, banks was the model for statute of a texas ranger that later went up in the lobby of love field in dallas. he was a handsome guy andhat statute stayed in the lobby at love field on and off from 1960 up until this past june wn my book ce out and as soon as my book came out and pointed out,
2:13 pm
banks' role in the antiintegration efforts. >> it seems like what in reading your book, it seems for the centuries there was in the beginning, there was a desire for white sections to settle texas and they felt concerned with the engines that were here and -- and even those that were friendly, i think you mentioned that was it stephen f austin, there's no ways that indians could coexist here with white people and so that was almost like a decision from the very
2:14 pm
beginning of the formation of -- of settlements here in this state that there was going to be some kind of genocide and it seemed like you go through the book, you talk about year after year after year these -- these major incidents involving either african-american's or latinos that were killed and then many times there were whole-scale slaughters that you were able to come and get evidence of years after the fact and nothing ever happened. so this created a real revital that people may have been beyond the reach of the law. is that kind of accurate that really they were basically used to enforce things on the whim of those in power? >> it wasn't the whim, it was the introduction. -- instructions. >> you can look at the rio
2:15 pm
grande valley, ferment, revolution, world war i was started and the germans were trying to get a foothold of méxico, at the same time the land boom on the american side, texas side on the rio grande valley. many tejanos, texans of mexican decent had lived there for generations, had the property holdings going back to spanish land grants but the anglo settlers wanted that land, they would send in the rangers to force them off, burn them out, kill them, that was the rangers' role there and, no, of course, they weren't punished, they acted on behalf of the government and on behalf of the richland owners. they were their agents. >> you go to the current day. you tk about the -- i guess you talk in the book about initiatives in early part of last century and even later when you had governor alred to get
2:16 pm
elected who was a forward-thinking progressive type governor that tried to bring about changes and seemed like the changes were difficult to bring aut in a large-scale basis but i guess it's been changed quite a bit based on what you have ultimately discovered in terms of you're looking the last 20, i think you used 1990 or so as kind of a -- or maybe '88 when they had the first blk ranger. >> yeah. >> line of changes taking place. >> sometimes more professional trained moderate law enforcement force now but as you just mentioned, it was only in 1988 thanks to your efforts and others that the first african-american ranger was hired. 1998. the southwest conference football teams were integrated before that. that's very late. the rangers are changing but, you know, they came very late to
2:17 pm
this party and they are still changing and i'm hopeful as many people are that they will continue and they came about it very slowly. >> your book is incredible, they all are. so i would like to move to you, i think, you know, like everyone in this country probably i was somewhat just grabbed when the shooting was taking place and dallas was under siege and i could see some real negative things evolving, right, because you're wanting to have a good conversation, you wanted to see and advances ironically being made between law enforcement and even though crime had gone up. i know the stats and things but seemed like chief brown and the department were actually making inroads and developing better relationships with the minority communities up in the area and then you actually have this --
2:18 pm
this happen. so i'm real curious in terms of -- of one thing that you talk about a good bit in the book, you really seem to give great emphasis to gordons when he says, you know, all of us have good and bad within us. that there's not one all good and one all bad. i probably would have added that one has more shades than one than the other. that's probably what i would say. i'm curious if you saw that and how you assess the individuals that you looked at because the mom of -- of michael johnson was one of the persons interviewed, he was and i he's called x throughout the book and you had all the officers and you had different -- officers were all very different and some are conservative and then you had gordon who was unique and i love
2:19 pm
it again because you talked about how he was too black to be blue and too blue to be black. tell me how you look at the gradations of folks in the eyes of gordon's admonitions of good and bad. >> that's one of theppealing things that larry gordon, he sees gray in t world and similar to what britney said earlier that, you know, we are no defined by any one thing that we do and i think for gordon growing up, you know, he grew up in a poor neighborhood where a lot of his friends and older kids in the neighborhood that he looks u to sell drugs and so he always knew that, yes, they might be doing this act but he can see why they were doing it, sometimes to help their families, sometimes just for survival. so he knew people as people and then could also recognize they did good and bad things.
2:20 pm
and so i think that's really the spirit wit which he views the world and that's certainly the heart of negotiating, is that -- to vw people with empathy and really to try to understand that everybody is coming to situations with a variety of experiences and to really lean into that complexity of who we are instead of trying to reduce it to stereotypes and generalizations. >> one of the examples that gordon used when he was talking to you, i think you made the comment that, you know, this one officer is always critical of minorities and people of experiences and cheats on his wife almost every night. i thought he was really looking in a very balanced way in that regard. so in reference to gordon, one thing that really grabbed me was, you said he was open about criticism of the officers in t
2:21 pm
castile shooting, i don't know how he came down on sterling but i remember that in castile he was critical and in walter scott, he was critical of the police officers in that and outspokenn the department, but it seemed like he was still respected or well received by the other offices and is that true and how did he establish that because that's hard thing about having a conversation all for one and one for all and ems like he's not that. >> yes, that's interesting. you could say they are like brothers, they are more than that. they go into the situations where, you know, their on calls for 16, 18 hours somimes in the heat. they're in life and death tuations. they really get to kno each other in incredibly intimate ways and in some ways they act like the real housewives. there's a lot of gossip and
2:22 pm
there's a lot of arguing, they act like siblings and so i think larry felt very comfortable telling his teammates when he thought a shoing was a bad shooting. i d't think that was always appreciated in the unit. i think the police as a whole have a lot of sympathy with each other when ty are facing these very tense situations and having to make decisions really quickly. they are used to giving each other a lot of slack. i think larry's view would be that police would be respected more at large if they called out the bad shootings, if they said, you know, that was a really bad shooti and that should not have happened. sort ofhe blue wall hurts credibility in the long-term, so i think that, you know, it didn't always go over well when he would criticize other police officers but he -- he sort of felt strongly that those conversations need to be had and he was going to raise them sort of at the lunch table and get people talking about them.
2:23 pm
>> and, you know, i think one of the things you also used in the book and i think shows the example. you went to president obama's speech at the memorial service and you -- and you broke it down and you went through different parts where they seemedo be resounding applause and you got standing ovations and the police were standing and being very supportive but then he raised the issue of castile and sterling and tried to challen people to be part of the discussion and it seems like when he -- when he raised that from what i'm gathering from you, he lost a lot of the people who were there and it became a disconnect and there was conversations between officers, gordon and others after that occurred, so was that because people didt want to have the conversation or because of the place whereresident obama
2:24 pm
raised -- raised the issue. >> you know, oma was speaking to an audience large filled with police officers including women and children whose husbands and dads had been brutally gunned down in the streets, so i think that, you know, obama was talking about this national issues that is very important that we all engage andalk about. i think there was a lot ofnger in dallas thateople didn't feel like this particular gunman deserved a space in that conversation, that when he decided to murder cops, he sort of lost the right to be heard. th would have preferred that he talk about the officers whose lives were lost instead -- they felt like it became a platform r discussion of race. there were mixed feengs about la. larry gordon said he loved and agreed with mostly everything obama said and officers were offended, some of the widows
2:25 pm
walked about wanng to get up and leave in the middle of it. as the conversations are and continue to be, intense conversation to have. >> our question from the audience, we will go to those now and this is for each one of the panelists. there's a question of what other -- what books, documentaries, movies, films, et cetera, would you recommend that they look at beyond yours if people wanted to get more informed about the subject matter of the discussion referenced to the criminal justice reforms that you're focused on? so britney? >> i highly recommend murphy by stevenson and i recommend the
2:26 pm
new jim crow by michee alex alexander an very educational to really walk us through how we got here a i think that's important as we worko move toward to transform the stem. we have to completely reimagine what justice looks like. in order to do that, we have to really understand how this current system is flawed in its design. >> okay. >> doug. >> a recent book i thought was very good was the injustice never leaves you by dr. muñoz and i cannot remember her first name. i think it's margaret. it's ut austin now racial vialence -- violence of tejanos
2:27 pm
in texas and something that's been known about forever but swept off into the corners, into the historical corners and she does a really nice job of -- of bringing it out and making us look at it. >> indeed, her book talks about how latinos suffered the -- the hostility from the society because they tried to stand up for the african-american community when a number of african-americans were killed. that's detailed in the book in a couple chapts as well. but that is a greatook, jamie. >> i would say that one of my all-time favorites is a book caed ghettocide. a book she follows around homicide detectivives in la, but it really gets into the issue of when police don solve crimes in blackommunities, it really
2:28 pm
exacerbates the problems in a lot of levels. so we are sort of overpolicing in terms of drugs and neglectful of solving crimes that's impacted the community and it's a grease mix -- great mix of books with issues that she really illuminates in a powerful way. >> ic -- i think all of us after the tragic death, murder of george floyd, we had an incredible national debate and we know through the efforts of many organizations and young -- many young people, people of all agesnd races, we've embarked on what it seems like a national discussion although i'm seeing that there might be some -- some
2:29 pm
changes that -- that seem like they may have actually taken whole since the original indication of a national awareness that was created as a result of that tragic situation. what do you all think about where we are now and the discussion and whether or not the -- that we are ready because of the george floyd matter to have a better and more important national discussion on these issues. britney? >> yeah, i think we are in a great place to ve more national dcussions on these issues. i believe in transformation and after we witnessed the public murder of george floyd and i'm listening to the voices of the younger generation andhe black lives matter movement, you know, i'm encouraged and empowered because i believe that they see that transformation is possible. the question as you said, partly
2:30 pm
is america ready for transformation, and i think where we are now having these high discussions nationally about the issue of racial justice that has lead through the countries for centuries it's a really good starting pointnd my hope is that we take the conversations and turnhem into action. >> doug. >> well, speaking of the rangers, they've got a great opportunity here. their 200th anniversary is coming up in 2023nd surely this being texas there's going to be cebration and events and things like that. this is a tremendous portunity, i think, n that they are consulting me but i think the rangers have a gre opportunity here to confront their entire history, to talk about the issues that we are talking about now, to talk about their victims, to -- to confront
2:31 pm
their entire past, i think this wod make them appear to be a stronger organization, not weaker, it would invite voices from all over, it's a far more interesting story and bigger than that, it's a more complete form of justice. so i'm really hoping that the rangers andhe texas department of public safety take advantage of bicentenial to bring role into discussion, into the forefront. >> thank you. >> jamie. >> i guess i would say there's been a change of heart. i think there's been an emotional change in terms of how on how a lot of people see the issues, awareness and i think it would be interesting to see how and if and when that translates into action. i think a lot of interesting questions right now, a lot of people have expressed frustration on how policing has been conducted in america, to me
2:32 pm
some of the most interesting cities are the ones that are experiencing high crime, the murder rates are climbing and how the mood shift in the country translates to the streets of cities like chicago, baltimore, dc. i think it's going to be really interesting how -- how the cops try to keep the streets safe, how do we police drugs, how does -- how do policy change in light of emotional change that's been happening. so i think there's a lot more questions than answers really at this point. >> well, it's sadly i must say it's time to wrap up this session. i want to -- i want to say good-bye to everyone and thank you for actually being here. i want to thank the authors particularly for being here and all for the great work that they've put into each one of the books. i think each one of the books is an outstanding piece of work and brings a lot to the discussio
2:33 pm
i think each one has a different focus but they bring different truths and show complication of moving forward and having public discourse in reference to kinds of policies that we want to have and kinds of individuals tha we want to be. the suggestio and ideas that come through both in the work and that we've seen today are really tremendous. ii want to thank the textbook festival for putting this illustrious panel together and it's great and i encourage each one of you in the audience to consider purchase the books. i have read the books and i can stay they are outstanding. i couldn't put any of them down after picking them up. it's those kinds of books that really engage you and are are boring in no way, they are just tremendous works and i think you really accomplish a lot and
2:34 pm
thank you very much and look forward to seeing great things from each one of you in the future. i know that probably some of the works will end up on the stage too, they were that good. thank you very much. >> thank you, gary. >> thank you. >> thank you, guys, y'all be good. >> our coverage to texas book festival continues with robert draper who reports on george w bush administration questions going to work with iraq. >> i'm dav brown, produced by aust kut public media and houston public media kera north texas and public radio stations all acrosshe lone star state. this session focuses the new and highly acclaimed book by journalist and n york times best-selling author robert draper, to start a war. w


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on