tv American Politics CSPAN July 25, 2010 9:30pm-11:00pm EDT
>> what recent discussions he has had with president obama on coalition policy in afghanistan. >> as the honorable gentleman knows, my right honorable friend the prime minister is currently in the united states discussing afghanistan with president obama during his visit. yesterday, as the honorable gentleman may have seen, they reaffirmed their joint commitment to the existing strategy, reflected on the bravery and shared sacrifice of united kingdom and united states armed forces in afghanistan, and agreed that the importance of progress on the political track to complement the military effort was essential.
soldiers have lost their lives in afghanistan, as have many from other coalition forces. opinion polls in afghanistan show declining support for western involvement there. if british troops are going to remain there for another five years, how many more are going to die, how much deeper is the civil war going to get and how much deeper are we going to be involved in conflicts in that region? is it not time to say that this strategy has run its course and that it is time, now, to withdraw from afghanistan? >> my right honorable friend the foreign secretary will be giving a statement on afghanistan imminently. i do not agree with the honorable gentleman's stance on afghanistan, but i admire his consistency in arguing his case. it is right that the coalition government have been crystal clear that we want our troops to come home as soon as possible. we do not want a single british serviceman or servicewoman to spend an extra day than is necessary in afghanistan. that is why we have been clear that we will not have soldiers in a combat role in afghanistan in 2015. however, i agree with the honorable gentleman that history teaches us that insurgencies cannot be defeated by military means alone. that is why we are pushing very hard for a new political strategy involving reconciliation and reintegration so that the political strategy and the military strategy are better aligned than has been the case in the past. >> my county of herefordshire has below-average household income, but our schools are the third worst funded in the country.
does the deputy prime minister share my view that it is time to rebalance public funding and give a fairer deal to our rural areas? >> i certainly agree that just because poverty in rural areas is sometimes more invisible than more visible poverty in some of our inner-city areas, it does not mean that we should not make real efforts to address it. it is a matter of concern that under the previous government a child from a poor family in an inner city area tended to get much more money allocated to their education than a child from a poor family in a rural area. that is why we are so determined to introduce a pupil premium that will provide extra resources to children from the most deprived backgrounds no matter where they live in our country. the british house of commons is in recess for the summer. c-span.org can find a video archive of past prime ministers questions. >> c-span is now available in over 100 million homes, bringing you a direct link to public affairs, politics, history and
nonfiction books. all as a public service. created by america's cable companies. >> next, a c-span video journalist speaks with the assistant labor secretary and a nonprofit court never about the needs of vietnamese fishermen on the gulf coast. this took place in biloxi, mississippi. what can you tell us what it is why your are here today. >> the secretary was here about three weeks ago and she made a commitment to the gulf coast that she was going to come back and she was going to make sure that the labor department's pre. we will hear the questions and work with each state to make sure that we get answers that
are tailored to these specific needs of the region that we are in. today, we met with vietnamese and this -- vietnamese fishermen. we have a long-term commitment to work with these folks. we had very frank questions and real frustrations with the process. we think that there are things that we can do immediately. we will not be able to fix everything immediately. we can make real improvements over a week's time and then we will be with these folks to iron out problems over the long term. >> i am with the mississippi coalition of the vietnamese americans. we are here to discuss and assess our needs but we are looking at long-term and short- term strategies to help people. these have been impacted by the oil spill. >> what types of strategies have
you discussed? >> right now, we are trying to understand how we can help these folks. the department of labour will be working with the state agency as well as the coalition to help out. the concern is that things are not working right now. they want to work in the oil field, but they cannot. right now, english is a barrier. maybe additional schooling, english classes. right now, we are looking at different avenues as far as trying to find out all the organizations of will be able to help out. -- that will be able to help out. of the 5000 vietnamese americans that have been impacted, 10% are working.
the 10% that are working, they are working in the oilfield. these boats are not designed to be here. they are designed to fish and shrimp and crab and oyster. they have a note on the boat and a note on their mortgages. this is a crisis. we are in a crisis right now. >> or the fisherman that were affected going to be satisfied with the process? >> that are frustrated. i think that they are going to feel much better when we actually get some changes done. i would not expect and to feel any differently. right now, we are just another in a series of people that have asked their opinion. it is up to was to get something done.
>> now, a discussion on race relations in america. from today's washington journal, this is one hour 20 minutes. continues. host: as promised, a discussion about race relations in the united states. we have three guests. we are joined by sophia nelson, political commentor and often, also the former president of the naacp, and leonard stinehorn, the author of the color of our skin. thanks for joining us today. let's assume that we all know about the narrative. we all know about the nuts and bolts of the story that have come out this week. what was the underpinning of that as far as race relations in the united states? what did we learn from that
whole topic in the time we have left? what did we learn from it? guest: we learned that the whole flap from last year is still with us. that race is still our unspoken. it is still with us and we don't like to talk about it. that's what we learned this past week. host: why are we still at that point? guest: that's a big question and i'm going to defer to my more esteemed wiser colleagues. i just don't know. on a serious note, i think that eric holder said it best when he said, and i know, we're a nation of cowards when it comes to talking about race. maybe coward was a little strong but we certainly like to believe that because we have a black president, i hear this all the time with my friends and peers who say are we still talking about this? we have a black president, we have a black first lady, we have black people running
corporations, we have blacks doing all these things. race is not an issue any more. and i think white and black really see this very differently. a book i would recommend to folks is, separate unequal black and white. and americans see things different and how segregated we still are. today's sunday morning i know when i go to church it will be largely an african american congregations and most churches will be very segregated. host: where are we in this discussion? guest: i think she's pretty accurate. due boys wrote the problem of the upcoming century would among other things be the race problem. and that's still the issue we've gone beyond 1900 and 2000 and we're still talking about it. this causes us to recognize that in the north they are able to get over the fact of 300
years of legal slavery, 100 years of segregation. if you don't acknowledge that, talk about it, and kind of wash it then you're going to always deal with it and we always end up dealing with it. now, in the shirley sherrod situation it was overreaction. the media overreacted, the naacp overreacted. the administration clearly overreacted. it's almost that we're so sensitive that all you have to do is hear that somebody is acist or said something racial that everybody has this reaction which is out of place, it's an overreaction, and in many essences it leaves buy heend casualties. but the bottom line is the issue doesn't really get discussed in a way that's logical where people are talking about it with some of the emotions removed. it's glenn beck versus the world. it's someone else saying that this person doesn't understand. and we find ourselves sitting at roundtables saying what are
we going to do? why are we still dealing with this? host: leonard you talked about the idea about having a hair trigger on some of these issues and finding a way to talk about it and the need to still talk about it. guest: i think we have to go back to the modern root going on and that's the southern strategy. when you look at what a conservative activist, the narrative of his little clip was white people are vims, black people have advantage of government and are sort of doing this to white people over time. that was the narrative of willie horton, the narrative of the southern strategy. that's been the narrative all along about conservative resistance to affirmtive action. that government advantages black people to the disadvantages of white people. so that's the narrative that he used. but what's happened is that the democrats over years were very gun shy about addressing that narrative ini about losing this
mythical white middle class of voters. so you see the obama administration's reaction as pulling away as if let's say due cackcass might have pulled away in 1998. i don't think the democrats have moved beyond their fear of the southern strategy right now. so i think that's an important part of it. but let's also remember another important thing here. that this incoming generation, young people are the most inclusive and diverse generation in our nation's history. and they're probably looking on this sort of whole scenario in washington thinking it's sort of an alice and wonderland thing coming out of the past, because their experience, whether it's in media, personal context, social lives and their cross ethnic and cross racial personal lives, they're saying this isn't tt america that we are living right now. so in terms of the hopeful side of all of this, we have to keep our eyes focused on where this next generation is going and how they internalize the norms that baby boomers and the civil rights movement struggled hard
to put in place in the united states. host: we have divided our numbers by location in the united states. our numbers are on the bottom of your screen. you can send us a twitter. generationly, do african americans are those concerned about race look at these issues, was the story of last week looked differently? guest: absolutely. i think if you're below 40 years old, maybe 35 and below, you see the world very differently than those of us who are 40 and over. my generation, my parents are the baby boomers and so they were the civil rights movers and shakers. my grand parents are the greatest generation. so i still have the vestages of their baggage, i like to say.
i have a book about the african american 21st century woman and it's called redefined and we talk about how -- michelle obama is pretty much i like to say the muse for the book. she is the person that shifted a lot of perceptions negatively about black women in this country from the 2008 campaign she was perceived as angry, unpatriotic, et cetera. that's how they made the cark that tur of her but it shifted. we did a lot of polling for this book. we found that, again, those of i guess you would call them jen y they have a very different perception of race, stereo typing. they see the world very differently than we do. so there's hope. i agree with you. host: in light of the hope that shirley nelson sees, in light of the political background that mr. stinehorn talks about, where do we go from here as far as discussions are concerned not only talking to generations but political strategy about these things?
guest: we've got to be frank and honest and stick to the facts. and the facts are that racism, sexism, antisem itism is wrong. that black bigotry, white baggetry, gay bashing, immigrant bashing, all these ways we try to put blame on somebody else always works against the best interest of our country. it depleets our ability to get to the greatness that is there. so if we keep focusing on the facts and run the discussion around that and let that be the litmus test, not what somebody said on a blog or website or what somebody says at a 6:00 p.m. newscast that's uncontrollable. it's got to be around the facts. people have discussions about race every day in communities that never get on tv. they have it at the corner store, they have it when they're meeting the postman, they talk about it on their jobs. we can't assume that it is such a situation where nobody talks about it. i think the people who should be talking about it are not. the bully pull pits are not being used except to react to
it. host: you mean the president? guest: well, the presidents got to be able i think free enough to talk about this. there's no real post racial america that came into being with this election. we move closer to that. but we are still a nation that has to find a way to get beyond the legacy of the past, and we don't do it by acting like it never existed. so to those who are younger who look at this and say what in the world is going on? i think there's got to be an explanation of how this conversation came about. why these things are still in the a lot of people regardless of their race or their region in the country. and we ought to be honest enough every time we can at least to recognize that there's no superior race, i mean, most of us are average. we have a few geniuses and a liberal sprinkling of fools. and if that's the definition of the different races. so we ought to focus more on our similarities, not so much on our differences. host: you said the president has to be free to talk about
it. does that mean he has to free himself to talk about it? guest: i'm certainly not going to tell the president what to do but i think he has the greatest leverage to talk about it. he has more leverage than george bush, bill clinton, ronald reagan. he is the nation's first african american president and sozz there's an expectation i think among a lot of people that of course if it has to be talked about hell discuss it in a reasonable way and help us as a nation to incremently move past it. guest: i actually disagree with my friend the congressman on this point. i don't think he is free to talk about it because he is the first black president and i think we saw that with the gates situation when he made that off the cuff comment about the massachusetts police acting stupidly, or whatever he said, a fire storm erupted. i think that's why he's been quiet. so i think that he has got advisers telling him, you need those independent white voters come the mid terms and come 2012 and if you isolate them by talking about race that's going
to be a problem. guest: but if we get elected just to figure out how we get reelected, we've got a problem. and i think he ought to be free nouf talk about ifplt now guest: we agree. he ought to be. guest: but this whole thing about advisers saying don't do this because, i never believed that you get elected to office to try to figure out what can i do to get reelected. it should be what can i do to make the nation better or my constituents better and lou do doy that. guest: i think to some extent he's caught between his own dilemma and contradiction. he would prefer to be that race to be not descriptive of his presidentssy. yet it seems to be defining and not descriptive in the country so the dilemma he faces is how do you become a president that race is incidental not necessarily a central part of his presidency. yet, at the same time, it remains an influential not just
an incidental part of our nation's culture right now. i think that's a very, very difficult dilemma that he faces. host: during the course of this conversation we will hear from calls and callers. thank you for holding on the line. we will get to you in just a minute. but to give a little context we want to show some clips of the speech that ms. sher odd said and also the president himself talking about these issues of race. >> the fact that so many people are surprised to hear that anger in some of reverend wright's sermon simply reminds thause the most segregated hour of american life occurs on sunday morning. that anger is not all the productive. indeed, all too often it distracts the attention from solving real problems.
it keeps us from squarely facing our own complicity within the african american community in our own condition. it prevents the african american american community from forging the alliances it needs to bring about real change. but the anger is real. it is powerful. and to pli simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races. in fact, a similar anger exists within segments of the white community. most working and middle class white americans don't feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. their experience is the immigrant experience. as far as they're concerned, no one handed them anything. they built it from scratch. they've worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pensions dumped after a lifetime of labor, they are
anxious about their futures, and they feel their dreams slipping away. and in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be see seen as a zero sum game in which your dreams come at my expense. so when they are told to bust bus their children to a school across town, so when they hear an african american is getting an advantage a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never commited, when they're told that their fears about crime and urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time. like the anger within the black community, these resentments aren't always expressed in polite company but they have helped shape the political land scane for at least a generation. host: quick thoughts on what he said then, what it means now. mr. stinehorn. guest: well, i think what he was trying to do is to cast a
wide net of common experience. what the congressman was talking about earlier. that we are in this together. we have to understand historical wounds. but be able to work together as a common americans irrespective of the color of our skin today. i think this is the same message that shirley sherod was actually communicating. the irony of this whole thing is that she really in that little situation was speaking in the exact same way that then candidate obama was communicating. we're in this together. we have to get beyond our internal anger, get beyond the past. host: ms. nelson. guest: i think justice harlemen said it best in the plessy decision. those who must be color blinde must first be color conscious. so i think you have to acknowledge that this is an issue and that has been, in the 21st century i think we see that there's a real disconnect. this post racial thing doesn't exist. and i think what candidate obama had to do, the reason he
has to because the speeches were so incindiary, he was trying to give a context for this is a 70-something-year-old man. he grew up in a segregated angry hostile america. and he is saying exactly what he said here, we need to come together and we need to stop being at each other and realize we do have a color issue. we need to talk about it. host: whan. guest: well, we are whole in this together. i know it's cliche. this is our nation. we want it to get better. we want our children to grow up in a community that is better. we want to make sure that all the hurdles are not as high for the next generation. and we would like to know that one day when we finally go to our graves that this nation will continue to be the greatest nation on the face of the earth because it has the greatest calling in the sense of equality. making sure that there are not barriers based on religion, based on race, based on sex. it is that context that we have
to live our lives. it is not always easy, but it's the greatest calling there is. and i think that this nation over the years, over the centuries has proven over and over again that it will find a way to get beyond hurdles but we only get beyond hurdles when we acknowledge them. because if you don't see the hurdle there's nothing you can do. host: north hollywood, california. thanks for waiting go ahead. caller: yes. i'm just calling regarding this sherod issue. first of all, i was under the impression that -- i know the congressman, i believe that's what he continues to bring up or some people to bring up glenn beck, like if glenn beck was the one who started this when he wasn't. you can't expect for everybody else to get everything right. i think these people need to get it right as well. again, he did not glenn beck
did not end up the day after. he was, continued to be on sherrod's side saying that what was said, you know, that he was on her side. and i really think that people need to pay attention. host: let's go to one more call and then we'll get some input. charles. caller: good morning. first thing for history before i make my two comments. obama is the first buy racial president, bi racial. ok. my first comment is. sleeveport, louisiana, is a killing field at night. black on black crime is completely out of hand. they are killing one another. the inner cities have got to do something about this. this is black on black crime. my next comment is, until republicans and democrats, we
cannot have a welfare state of unwed mothers rewarding them to have more babies, we're going to pay them more food stamps, more shelter, more hospitalization. we have got to get a grip on it. it is the unwed mothers, white, black, yellow, pink or orange. i don't care what color they are. host: he brought a lot of things. where would you like to start? guest: i think glenn beck is an interesting one. to some extent, irrespective of his individual activity in this situation, he is sort of a metaphor for the type of insendry media that we have, that somebody, that you have actual talk radio people, glennbecks of the world calling obama a racist saying thing that is are wholely imtestimony pratt, fanning the flames. that's what creates this sense
of hostility and aggression that we have in our society when what is perceived as a good common discussion gets tost tossed up into these fireworks. so this is why glenn beck, whether he was involved in this particular situation or not becomes a metaphor for some of the hostility and anger that we have in our cult tur right now. guest: i think to the first caller's point i'm not sure what she is getting at. i don't think any of us blamed glenn beck. i think in the second instance, however, he played to a lot of racial stereo types on the racial point. he is trying to say black people need to get their own house in order. black on black crime. we need to deal with some of our economic deprivation. we've known that for a long time. but that really misses the point of the larger discussion i think. you brought up a point earlier which i think feeds into this culture. he talked about nixon southern strategy and i would agree. but that now has moved to
democrats enal bracing it. because jim web had a piece that was so offensive i had to read it five times. because for a sitting u.s. senator to write a piece and say white americans are being deprived by the diversety programs and other efforts to right historical wrongs with african americans i agree with the piece about asians, hispanics and other whose have not traditionally been discriminated should not be the beneficiary but he forgets that white women are the biggest ben fish riss of o affirm tiff action. so i think we have scape goating and race baiting going on at the highest levels moonchingsed our leaders. that's my respect for him but i mean, it is concerning to me that as he says those in the bully pulity keep dividing us. not just thoys on the wacky tv shows but it's our leaders who think, i get an election coming up and i don't want angry white
voters taking it out on me. i don't want white voters thinking that they're disenfranchised. and the funny thing about web is he will expect 90% of the black vote and he'll probably get it which really makes me nuts after writing an article like this because it won't be talked about. host: how did you take senator web's peeze? guest: i haven't read it? guest: probably with a couple aspirin. she going to have to explain that. we're living in a different world. we're not in that world that he is in although there's a lot of people that wouldn't to drag us over back there again. i had to kind of smile when the lady said we're blaming glenn beck. he had nothing to do with this. he did call the president a racist and he has played on racial fears. so beck not with standing, the other gentleman from i think shreveport, last, said a couple interesting things.
the president is bi racial. he is also african american. his father is from american, the fatser is from africa. but this call about anger on black on black crime. i think we ought the be upset about all crime. not whether it's black on black. then we say we'll separate that out and not worry about the rest. all crime brings us down as a society. it has a greater effect i think when you're living in a black community and you see it being perptrate by people living there. so we've got to have a broader discussion about that. and the issue about unwed motsers. what about unwed fathers? here is one, i had four or five kids by the time i was 21 years of age, high school dropout, no where to go. didn't choose to abort. found myself a way to get working, taking odd jobs because i had a basic set of values that i think is missing in many instances among a lot of men. we were taught work hard, play by the rules, take care of your
responsibilities. and give back. and so this discussion just can't be about unwed mothers. it's got to be about unwed fathers. and how do we get beyond the mistake of having a child out of wedlock and how do you find a way to blilled a family on top of that? so i want to respond to that part of his comment. guest: and i thinks there a larger issue culturally. if we remain in america when we're all on our own, that it's not my problem, it's somebody else's problem. get your own house in order type of thing, then we're losing what unites us. if we don't see that it is my problem, that some young kid in aplashea or the inner city isn't getting a good education or isn't growing up with the right resources and support systems, then in the long run our country will lose. my kids, my grand kids' country will lose and will be in far worse shape. so what we don't want to be is some sort of third world country in which everybody lives behind a gate community
and thinks that their situation is the only one that matters and let the rest of them take care of themselves. that's the problem right now. so reorienting our culture in a way that gets us to looks across the table is the one we really need. host: i want to play a little bit of ms. sherrod's speech and particularly comments that she made that talks about this issue but also talks about the issue of class when it comes to race. let's list ton what she had to say. >> i couldn't say years ago i couldn't stand here saying what i'm saying, what i will say to you tonight. like i told you, god helped me to see that it is not just about black people, it's about poor people. and i've come a long ways. i knew that i couldn't live with hate, you know, as my
mother has said to so many, if we had tried to live with hate in our hearts we would probably be dead now. but i have come to realize that we have to work together. and you know, it's sad that we don't have a room full of whites and blacks here tonight because we have to overcome the divisions that we have. we have to get to the point where, as has been said, race exists but it doesn't matter. we have to work just as hard. i know, you know, that division is still here but our communities are not going to thrive, our children won't have the communities that they need to be able to stay in and live in and have a good life if we
can't figure this out, you all. white people, black people, hispanic people, we all have to do our part to make our communities a safe place, a healthy place, a good environment. host: how would you add on to those or what do you take away about the discussion of class race? guest: i think she is right. i think she is bringing up something we don't bring up enough, we tend to focus on black and white. we do forget the kids in aplashea and people in rural america and we need to remember them and i think she's the perfect poster person for that, if you will, because she comes out of rural georgia, the farmers. how our farmers have been through a lot in this country, black and white. certainly the black farmers, they had the big class action suit they won an award. but i think that we have left
behind a number of our people who are at the lower socio economic rung, because the elites, where we talk and we owe pine and we think, we have these raised up discussions. we don't get down to the down and dirty of dealing with what's really wlong in our country. host: when we look at discussions of race, are discussions of class intermeshed with that? or should they be? guest: of course. especially when the legacy of race has had an impact on the reality of class. you can't have a society for 350 years that enslaved people, took their sweat and labor, refused to allow them to buy homes. i mean, when you have the returning gis from world war ii and the black gis are the only gis who were told that they couldn't buy homes in levt town and it wasn't just there, it was everywhere, you had the issue of race and class completely intermingled. now, there's another factor in
all of this, which is in the last 30 years we have seen a greater disparity of wealth in our society. so we can talk about economic growth and talk about aggregate numbers and all that but those hide the fact that the rich have really gotten richer the middle have gotten squeezed and the poor haven't done that well. so we wha we haven't seen in this era of racial progress, which arguably nobody should be able to argue with that. we've had enomples progress. but we haven't had the type of economic progress and security that will give this sort of lower classes, the poorer people the opportunity and the hope to be able to raise themselves up. guest: well, one of the things that's so interesting about class is that the groups populate nowadays, regardless of color. and so wealthy people are not just wealthy and white. they're wealthy and black, they're wealthy and latino. and poor people are not just black but they're poor in all
those other categories as well. and everybody else is in this middle area. i mean, there's a great big middle area where we're all at. we're fighting for what we can get and we all recognize even though we don't talk about it that we are part of a situation where there are people above us and below us. so the class structure and the class separation becomes just as pronounced in some respects as it does race. it's an interesting dialogue and the fact that the two things overlap makes it more difficult sometimes to discern which is more problematic or which might be the area that requires the greatest attention. host: let's take a couple of calls. caller: yes. the characterization of blacks as a depraved culture is constantly perpetuated by the political right. but those who make such comments are involved in
context dropping. they don't see how making a living is extremely difficult for blacks and especially black men and has been exacerbated by illegal yl aliens. black men haven't had the legacy of taking care of their families like most in this country because of the extreme degree of discrimination. and this kind of situation can have all kipeds of ramifications. did you look at any group, i don't care if they're asian or european, arabs, you will find that they have a legacy of taking care of their families that hasn't been given -- that black men haven't been given the opportunity in this culture. and when they speak of illegal aliens, reagan let 10 million in here. and after that there's another 20 million. where are the jobs for the
blacks? host: one more call. arizona. go ahead. caller: i'm just calling in to make a comment and kind of a question i guess. asking about don't you believe that or probably be that the powers that be, they basically want us to be distracted or little trivial things such as race, which is of no importance, because the main thing is one we should be doing the will ofia shoosha, the savor, the savor that was, the father. and martin luther king did say that we should not be worrying about the outside of someone's skin but the inside, the character of a person. and i think that's very important. just worrying about the character because you definitely can. i mean, if you push yourself to do things you can achief anything. host: mr. steiner, he talks about it in terms of a distraction. guest: well, i can't imagine 400 years of history being a distraction when you talk about people being able to take care
of each other. there's a fascinating story about how white middle class grew in america. it grew because of manufacturing in urban areas. but in a terrible twist of fate at the exact moment that black people were getting civil rights, the manufacturing jobs began to pull away from the cities so the same ladder that white people were able to climb up to be able to become part of the middle class was pulled away from black people the moment black people got the rights to join unions, the right to become part of this middle class. so when you think about the rise of the underclass, the first siting that i saw of the word underclass was in 1964 by the secretary of the naacp and it was because he saw at that moment in time that the jobs were disappearing from the place where most black people lived. so if we wonder why there has been are so many problems in urban america over the last few decades and why those problems have led to all sorts of dysfunctional issues, you can
take it back to the roots of the time that black people weren't allowed to climb that ladder and the midder that they were there weren't any jobs left. guest: i think he raises a valid point about the role of the black male. it has its vestages in savery. however, if he we look through history black families were largely intact until you see this decline starting in the 670s. and at a pro-- 70s. a fabulous professor of african american studies said a black child born in slavery had a better chance of being with both his parents than one does today. and you think about the context of that, that our children, single heads of households, these are all issues i talk about in this book redefinition of what it means to be black in america and the issues we're grappling with, still rooted in many cases in the slavery and reconstruction and the aftermath. so i think his point is valid
about that but the question is what are we going to do about it? host: congressman. guest: i don't necessarily know what we're going to do. i can tell you we're not going to do it if we try to do it individually. it's not going to work. it's got to be an effort where everybody who is agreeable joins in and tries to change things. which gets back to the point about class again because it's hard to separate that out of this discussion, particularly now when you have wealth being acaccumulated by people not because of their race but in spite of it. yet when a factory closes and the lights go out and people lose their jobs, they don't lose them as black people or white people, they lose them as people who happen to be black, white, latino. when a baby cries for food at night, living in a household that's below the poverty level in this country, the baby doesn't cry in black or white or latino. the baby cries in lunger. so there is shthu of race,
class embedded within race that has to be part of the discussion. and the way out kind of like the way we got in. one shovel at a time. it's not a quick fix. but there clearly has to be efforts to mark our progress. and i'm not saying that shirley sherrod is an effort or a marking but i can tell you that every time something like this happens, we tend to be better not worse as a nation because we are forced to come to grips with thing that is we don't always want to discuss. joo host: wung of the things that came out is a little bit of her history, econcerning the farmer she was helping. guest: she was 17. her father was shot in the back by a white man. it was never found guilty. she could have been bitter the rest of her life and used that as an excuse. and what she talks about is how she overcame the legacy of her past and became a better person. host: thank you for the segway. here is a little bit about what she said.
>> i grew so much about moving north and getting away from the south, the farms especially in the south. and i knew that if on the night of my father's death i felt i had to do something. i had to do something in answer to what had happened. my father wasn't the first black person to be killed. he was a leader in the community. he wasn't the first one to be killed by white men in the county. but i couldn't just let his death go without doing something in answer to what happened. i made the commitment on the night of my father's death at the age of 17 that i would not leave the south, that i would stay in the south and devote my life to working for change. and i've been true to that commitment all of these 45
years. you know, when you look at some of the things that i've done through the years and when you look at some of the things that happened, i wasn't sure what my first two years, i know there's some here too i did my first years at fort valley but so much was happening at home and then i met this man here, i'll tell you a little bit about him, that i transferred back. and but two weeks after i was at school at fort valley they called and told me that a bunch of white men had gathered outside of our home and burned a cross one night. now, in the house was my mother, my four sisters, and my brother who was born june 6, and this was september. that was all in the house that night. what my mother and one of my sisters went out on the porch,
my mother had a gun. another sister, some of the stuff that you do it's like moving some of the stuff that happens through the years, i won't go into everything, i will just tell you about this. one of my sisters got on the phone because we organized a movement started june of 65, shortly not long after my father's death. that's how i met my husband. he wasn't from the north he's from up south though in virginia. but anyway, one of my sisters got on the phone and called other black men in the county and it wasn't long before they had surrounded these white men. and they had to keep one young man from actually using his gun on one of them. you probably would have read about it had that happened that night. but they actually allowed those men to leave. they backed away and allowed them to get out of there.
but i won't go into some of the other stuff that happened that night but i do know that my mother and my sister were out on the porch with a gun. and my mother said i see you i know who you are. she recognized some of them to tell you that she became the first black elected official just 11 years later. and she is still serving. she is the chair of education and she has been serving almost 34 years. host: you opened up discussion as far as her history. what can you add as far as what you heard? guest: well, it's just an eloquent story. it's an american story. it's overcoming the legacy of the past and becoming a better person. and so whether you're black or latino or white, i mean, we all have a story. that's the interesting thing about this country. we all have stories. we get better because of them or we shrink and get worse.
and she clearly got so much better. and i think it's a testimony to the fact that if you have values and you believe and you trust and you work hard and you play by the rules and you fight when you have to fight to make things right, things eventually become better in your own life and you're able to stand up and talk about nout where you came from but where you are now and why where you came from made such a difference in get wrg you are. host: she addressed the younger people several times in the speech. and we talked at the start about generational and how they view which. what can we learn from her history and what does it say to the younger generation? guest: let's mie away from race and class. let's talk about human beings and the fact that the past is something we all have. and power of forgiveness is incredible as human beings. and when i talk to young people all the time, i constantly say to them you could have a lot of bad things that happen in your life and your family and your history. but if you have the courage to
face those things and use it as a means to propel yourself forward, forgiveness is a powerful tool. irblely she could have said i'm not going to help this white farmer because all whites are bad. she didn't do that. and in fact, she went according to the couple over board to help them and to save their farm and they're actually friends. so she showed -- and i don't think anybody of us would fault her had she been bet bitter about her experience, having her father shot to death. i can't imagine what that's like. i'm not old enough to remember the civil rights movement or whatever. but i'm making the point that power of forgiveness is what we miss in this story and how fabulous it can propel you forward if you allow it. guest: it's interesting to me that her story of redemption and reconciliation only came about after there was a controversy involved that completely miss it had story. and this is the larger point here. that we see so rarely in the media stories of people
reaching out and working together. we will hear so often all the stories of people at each other's throats and the anger because the media reward outrage, they reward controversy, they reward drama rather than the types of stories of people working together on aday by day basis. plus, her story would probably never have been told if it weren't for this controversy. because when you look at the newspapers and you look at tv, you have minutes on tv and pages in the newspaper about wall street and high finance. you don't have any single reporters at major dailies any more having a regular labor union beat or a beat that deals with the rural part of america that shirley was part of. and telling those stories. so to some extent we have found this very skewed image of what america is if we just look at this media. it's an image of conflict, controversy, and an image that wall street is the decisive factor in america and not the stories of the average people
which we ought to know more about because that would humanize each other and allow us to have those interactions on a very personal basis rather than the basis of fear and conflict. host: good morning. thanks for waiting. go ahead. caller: i have a lot of respect for everyone on the panel and i believe everything what they're saying is absolutely true. just an observation. basically i think that as far as race goes in this country we've had the marches forward at great cost, great human cost, which i have nothing but deep respect for. and basically i'll say that with regard to moving it forward i believe that the paradigm is set up where you're not going to get any further because there's no open dialogue here. and i believe the administration is too afraid because you have an election coming up and they don't want to alienate white voters. but at the same time, who in the administration is running the political strategy? i just have to ask. that this is the a good opportunity to bring it up in a strategic way where they didn't have to be cuppable at the same time but by a loss of i guess someone was out to lunch or who knows what was going on. but whoever missed this
opportunity really did the country a disservice. the right wing in this count rirks and i won't say all plidges and all people on the right because i believe there's a lot of good people. but they've been running this campaign of race in code for the past two years. not in everything they do. but on a lot of issues. and i'm a white 43-year-old male and i see it. but the fact is that this has been going on for a while and they just got caught this time because this idiot. but at the same time the administration is sitting back not taking the whole that i believe they should to step out and represent the interests not just of black people, not just of poor white people but all of us as americans. i'll take my response off the air. thank you. host: all of you were nodding. who wants to go first? guest: i think obama as sort of a critic of his administration, i would say he has been more head of government than head of state. i think what he has done in fact is done a great deal for the average person in america. health care reform, credit card reform.
is the stimulus package which arguably saved mlings of jobs. we just don't talk about it because these jobs were lost. and the unemployment -- weren't lost. and the unemployment stayed the same when in fact it might have spiked up without the stimulus. but he's been sort of a somebody who sees government's role in terms of how you can regulate the worst excesses of capitalism and make sure that people are not harmed in that process. but it's head of government. it's policy leadership. it's not sort of the type of moral leadership that franklin roosevelt that talked about as essential to the presidency. so i think what is interesting is that obama got elected because he would be a good head of state and he flipped that has become a very good and effective head of government but not a good head of state. not the type of moral leader that people expected him to be. and i think that's where some of the discontent is coming from. host: the op ed section of the "new york times" talks about
this issue as far as race being too hot to touch. the writer says that in some ways mr. obama's elections seems to have somewhat confused the conversation. guest: i think we've got to get away from that for a moment. 57% of white americans did not vote for barack obama. 43% did. which was higher than clinton and gore got, by the way. they got 41%. so he did better with the white vote than both of his predecessors running before him. my point is 57% of any group is a large number of people so in that group you have a number as web points out in his piece, white america is not a mono litsdz. i agree. just like i don't think black america is. having said that, i do think race is too hot to touch. but this president is in a
uniquely difficult position because he's got to balance between not being seen as the black president. as you know, miley and a bunch of these guys got into a dustup four months ago about whether there ought to be a black agenda. and of course the white house doesn't want to deal with that because they don't want to be seen as the black president but the president of everyone. so i think he's in a difficult position. he should be more leader of state and this was a lincoln moment for him to address the nation and say like he did in philadelphia and talk about shth issue of race. but i think his advisers once again and david axel rod and rahm emanuel are running strategy to answer the caller's questions at the white house, i think that's fair to say and they're not wanting to deal with this because looking at his poll numbers free fall and i think that's a problem for them. host: you talk a little about it but the second type like we heard in 2008? guest: i don't know if one is
there, quite frankly. i agree that this was an opportunity. this wasn't something that was just bad that happened politically this was an opportunity to take a bad situation and to elevate the discussion, to elevate our nation and to give us focus and get beyond it. but in the absence of that it continues to drag along and drag along. here we are day eight or nine still talking about it. so what happened with wall street reform and the extense of unemployment benefits got kicked under the rug because people did not see this as an opportunity to take a dialogue to be to take leadership. and to from a statesman's position elevate the discussion in such a way that we felt better about it not worse. so i'm just a little conflicted there and i again go back to the fact that i have real problems when advisers want to suggest that you shouldn't do a, b, c or did because you won't get reelected. and i'm not saying the president is listening to adviseers but i know that they are talking about they talk to
guest: his moral leadership ultimately became the release that he spoke with shirley rashad. and that's not why he was president, but on the leadership role, and he's not filled that role. and even though his policies are popular, his numbers are disjoined. guest: look at the numbers, and then he owed an aapology, i will apologize for the president, they don't know what they are doing, i agree with what they both have to say. guest: the naacp's role in this?
i think that they overreacted and following the blog in this instance. i have met at the white house with every president since jimmy carter. and i can tell you there is one defining thing about presidents it's what they believe, and once they believe something, you don't deter them, and i believe that this president wants a better america and clearly wants us beyond this issue of race. and not to get the credit but helped in the process. but he's got to step forward and take the conversation and lead and then we will be reacting to what he said. and that's what we should, but not to glenn beck. host: tennessee valley, go ahead. caller: yes, i want to make a
statement, i mean when it comes to race relation in this country, we have to look the everything. we are the only race forced to come over here. and still forced now to even talk to each other about race. when it comes to the president, and i hear a lot of people, they don't call him president, they say barack or mr. obama. and dealing with the presidency, we know that he's just really a puppet figure. if it doesn't come from the advisors, like everyone is saying, if the poll numbers are down, it's time for us to ask the president and to get the government and for us as people to give an honest discussion about race. stop waiting for government to do it. host: caller thanks. guest: he's right, i think that
was mary matlin and her husband had a spat about race. and it was funny, why can't we just sit down at our kitchen table and i go to a black church and start the discussion on a microlevel. i think that's one part but that simplifies it. it has to be raised all the way up from the highest to everyone's kitchen table. and by all means we shouldn't wait and have a discussion about it now. host: he said that we are forced to talk about it. guest: interesting. guest: the last time that a president spoke about race was in 1965 i believe lyndon johnson. this is one of the most powerful races in nation's history and haven't had that leadership since way back then.
i agree that it has to come from the grass-roots and believe that it has to come from the top. i don't care who is our president, it's not just a black issue but an american issue. if we don't begin to have this conversation from the highest levels to the kitchen tables throughout america. then we are not doing our job. he had an opportunity to make this into a lesson and algory, and what we did right. and if he had framed the discussion in that way, we would see the discussions at the grass roots and people talking and breaking bread and at synagogues and rotary clubs, and people talking about these things. you have to take the leadership on top and it has to come from the white house. guest: i think what we are
ignoring on this discussion that the country doesn't know how they see this thing. i have talked with colleagues and they believe we have a black president and they have said, well, you got a black president, what is wrong. why are we still talking about this. there is a perception and i see you sophia, you are an attorney and where is this inequality. there is a difference in how this is perceived. and that's where the advisors need to come in, and you better watch this and you talk about race and piss off half the country, you will have a problem. that's real. host: let's take a break and look at this speech and the role of politics and how money plays into it. >> you know, i haven't seen such
a mean-spirit people as i have seen lately over this issue of health care. some (inaudible) thought we thought was buried resurfaced. we endured eight years of the bush bushes' and (inaudible) because of a black president. host: so the issue of health care and the issue of meanness and what she was talking about. congressman, how do you react to that? guest: well, i feel strange always reacting this morning. let give me a take, i believe that that mean-spiritedness is there and the double perception that you talked about earlier is there. because people don't have the same experiences.
and when they look at someone else that is not where they think they should be, and they get angry because you dare asked, especially a job and angry because they are in a situation they feel threatened. when i leave here and go back to baltimore and drive there, you will see the kind of poverty and deprivation that wants to make us all want to do something about society. to say how do you make things better when you have a black president, doesn't make sense to me. he could be polka-dot, it's in appalachia and poor black-and-white in baltimore,
it's everywhere. we can't assume that we have a black president and what are you crying about. people have to recognize take the president out of this, there is a systematic problem, you can't escape that we have immigration system out of control. and you can't get out of the fact that people are still seeing things in black-and-white, black-and-white. host: how do we change that? guest: it doesn't have to be any of our leaders, it doesn't have to be president obama but anyone talking about a central issue in our culture. i don't think there is anything wrong with the president saying look at what we have accomplished in our country. look at what we have overcome. look at how we challenged history and made progress on
pleuralism and race-ethic advantage. he could say that and still say, but we still have our work to do. and that would address the people that say, what is the problem, we have a black president. the problem is that any society is not erased by the fact that barack obama was elected. and there is nothing wrong looking at the positive things on race, and look at what you are, an inclusive generation. but also to say that we have our work cut out and these things we need to get done to be that perfect nation. >> one thing i loved in the speech, is this political part. and i don't think that this
naacf food fight, and they pass the resolution. guest: foolt fight. guest: yeah, but it went down from there and someone lost their job and having this discussion now. but because someone doesn't agree with policy. for example, the tea party people in this country have legitimate grievances and concerns. and we shouldn't smear them as racists. i called this out in the post on sunday, and i am glad they dispelled about the letter. but the naacp has a better charge in my mind of someone being a due-paying member and stopped. and that's another conversation for another day.
correct, we don't know who he are, and that's a casualty of how we came here and 300 years of slavery and 100 years of segregation. but we have been defined by circumstances, unlike our italian brother and irish, they came here for the better life. we didn't have that option. i am a direct generation of those slaves. and our familys are pieced together. and our pieces are scattered. i have been doing ancestory and found fascinating things. and my friends know their family tree, and know their legacy better than we do. host: congressman, you want to
assist? guest: yeah, i haven't been called a negro in a while but we grew up that way. there is an african-american comment, it's not what you call me but what i answer to. the gentleman didn't tell his race. and it has been talked about how to find a way to work together to stop pointing fingers. and he lead his country in a way that was clearly balanced and clearly without blame. now let me just if i might say one thing about this -- i will go back to the food fight that you talked about. which is an interesting term. and it was, you did it and i did it, and then got out of hand. i don't have a problem with the people on the left or right or conservative or liberal.
that has never gotten to me than other people, and the older i get, i am more conservative than i have been in life. we are better as a nation when we have different views that can debate the issues. because the people that want the leadership have something to choose from and as a barometer to figure how the who they want to lead them. and that's the good part that moves back and forth. it's the extremes that scares all of us. and one thing is clear and how you talked about ms. sharod and we have missed an opportunity to take something that was paramount and central and shape in such a way to make us better. this may be just an asterisk now
and a year before now it was last year mr. gates. if we allow this as an asterisk and be a lost moment and miss the opportunity to take advantage of this and help all americans understand who we are, and where we are going. host: it was a teachable moment from gates, what would we learn from that? guest: we should stop jumping to conclusions. everyone jumped to conclusions including the president. and saying that the police overreacted. we are in a society if someone puts it on a website and puts on a private publication, we react. than to sit back and understand
and then react. host: ben jones has a piece today in "the new york times" and talks about the influence of the internet. and said that the only solution is for americans to adjust our culture to new media and technologies to give us data faster than ever before. we don't have the wisdom in place to deal with it. in time we will it, public leaders will learn to be more transparent. we will teach our children not to rush to judgment. technology will evolve to better exposed. mr. steinhorn, do you agree? guest: i have students coming in with tons of information and not a lot of knowledge or culture. and when you have a media and
there is a food fight on the latest thing on what was said. without going to the original roots, and the source, that's where we have some of our problems. you are right, we have to step back and think and not react. newspapers used to wait on a story until they had named sources. now they are worry if they don't jump out with a story, someone else will take it and that news outlet will get the credit. we don't have the time to check things out and think them through. it's an obligation a all of us o spend the time of history. my hunch if we did a poll including african-americans about the history and slavery, very few people would know the actual facts and have the knowledge of what the history is.
it's incumbent on us as a society that talks about education and the media to make it deeper and full of more facts and wisdom. and that's what he is saying. guest: he makes a great point, context is everything. and as i wrote my book i spent time in a slave cabin and wanted to spend time as a black women of the women that lived there. and as i wrote that chapter, that chapter didn't make it into the book. and i was upset about it. and they said, you can't talk about that, everyone knows about that. but you have to talk about the hear and now. and you made an excellent point we don't want to talk about that and the fact is that everyone doesn't know it. if we did that poll and even looked at african-americans and white, i bet that the knowledge
poll would be the same. of not understanding the slavery in this country and back to the civil rights movement. guest: if i can make a comment about media. it was important to hit the story of the who, what, where, how and maybe the why, and then check it twice. these are not the days of walter cronkite, but the days of entertainment tonight. let's get it on tv, coming up at six, and guess what, no fact checking whatsoever. and this fact capturing serves as an incubator to happen over and over. and something is crazy about the facts and how do we get the next set of eyes watching tv and the next set of ears listening to radio station and that's what is
driving this. host: pennsylvania, good morning. caller: good morning, we live in a very reactionary white america. we live in a very media sensational america that happens to be white. black people we don't have the luxury of being racist, because we are too busy trying to catch up to white america. there is one america as a nation, and as a physical country. but there is black and there is white. and everyone's reality is not the same. we do have a black president. he's a man that happens to be black. and it's just sad that race in america it's a systemic problem. and once something is systemic, it's like disease.
systemic, it will take much, much surgery. it will take many things to make it whole again. host: thanks caller. guest: i would say back again to context, racism, people have thrown that word around so much i don't think that people know what it means. prejudice is the issue that we don't talk about. and what they call unconscious bias, that new theory you don't know that you have these prejudices because we live in white communities and black or whatever. racism deals with systemic oppression and regression and disenfranchisement. which again is slavery, jim crow, do the process. when we say that someone is racist, we don't know what we are talking about.
he may be a bigot but really racist. i don't want to have this discussion, but main street needs to be a part of this discussion. but i think you know what i am talking about, we have words messed up in this dialogue. guest: we have to go back and look at system, so much of politics was driven by the 60's and 70's. lyndon johnson said that when he passed the civil rights laws that societies would lose much to come. and when you look at white southerns, they were democratic because they liked the water projects, the power authorities and the farm subsidies. and all things that government brought their way.
they liked government back then. and now they don't like government, why? because government came in and was the standards for civil rights. they don't like government today because it was the agent that brought civil rights upon their culture. i am not saying that everyone in the tea party and white southerns have problems with prejudice. that's not the point, but the point is why we are in the roots we are today, and a lot has to do with the racial politics from the 60's and 70's and how politics, including richard nixon played on that to get the votes. we have to hold history accountable to have this discussion. guest: and how black politicians have used it to be elected. and it's wrong altogether, it doesn't elevate us, had keeps us
at each other's throats. we need more time, we really do. [laughter] because everyone is looking at this and saying, i have something to add. and they do have something to add. i hope this discussion leaves this studio into washington and people carry it on in their own ways and communities. because we have to figure out how to get better, not how we stay where we are. and take out the situation where you are democratic and republican and independent or conservative and liberal. the labels at some point in time, they mean something in what we think and want and believe to be true. but the larger question, do they move us to be a greater nation and into the future. host: we have one more caller
from north carolina, alexis. caller: thank you, and thank you for c-span. and i want to say, maybe i am an extremist, but i think there is a consortium going on to keep people from coming together. that started out with slavery and has evolved to poverty. there was a comment made that the gap between the have's and have-not's. i read recently it's quadrupled since the 1980's, the wealth gap between black and white families. and i think that spills over to politics because that is the way it's controlled. and so the perception is to make it continue that there is this
argument between the races. and at poverty level it's how am i going to get food on the table today. that's all they are concerned with. and there is a lot of camaraderie between black's and white's that are impoverished and next door neighbors helping how that fashions out. host: caller, thanks. guest: i am not a conspiracy theorists, and i think that humpty dumpty didn't jump but was pushed. there is something to keep people at this level of race, and not allowing a larger discussion to come about, how to create a more perfect union. guest: i would like to say to my fellow americans, and they watched this discussion and we
largely agree with each other and have different backgrounds. and one thing i would like to see us do, i don't believe there is a conspiracy consciously. i believe that race is the hottest ticket going. it has been as you mapped out. and johnson's worse fears came true and we know that nixon was a cynical and unhappy man and clearly sad. a guy that could have greatness he had have a different bent to his personality. we need to sit down and talk to each other. and you don't have to be afraid, no one needs to get a black eye, we don't need to call names. if you disagree, help me see it where you see it. and that's where we need to start.
guest: one institution that hasn't been talked about is labor unions. today the most integrated institution is labor unions and represent 9-10% of the economic employees. for people to get together and talk about these things on a common united front, that took place over labor unions for years. but the current incarnation is very inclusive. but they don't have the power that they once had. i don't believe in conspiracies and i don't know who pushed humpty dumpty, but it's true that the one institution that could provide a voice for people at the bottom. or in the middle of our socioeconomic culture, they had been routinely dismissed, dismantled and attacked.
that's one institution that didn't provide this venue. host: the book, color of our skin, and sophia nelson a commentary >> tomorrow on "washington gerald prante journalgerald on what tax provisions are set to expire in the end of year. tom harkin is tops about the 20th anniversary of the signing of the american with disabilities act. and then a lookit community banks with independent community banks association executive vice president steve verdier. that is live at 7:00 eastern here on c-span. >> c-span -- our public