tv Washington Journal Benjamin Chavis CSPAN January 16, 2023 10:00pm-10:43pm EST
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>> we are joined next by dr. benjamin chavis, who is the co-chair of the group "no labels." he launched his career early with dr. martin luther king national student coordinator in that state. welcome to "washington journal." guest: thank you, good morning, and happy mlk day to you. host: tell us about the focus of your organization. which you co-chair. guest: thank you. "no labels" has been around washington for about 12 years. it is bipartisan. we believe that democrats, republicans, and independents all work together, and one thing that capitalizes in washington today is the political divide. people think they can get something done by being on the extreme far-right or extreme on the far-left. actually, nothing gets done. one of the things i learned from dr. martin luther king, jr. was
his effort to bring diverse people who sometimes did not agree, that he brought them together so he could make progress. that is why i joined "no labels" as national co-chair with former senator joseph lieberman, and former maryland governor larry hogan. i'm happy to serve as the co-chair of no labels. host: do you think the political divide in the country has made that racial divide worse in the last few years? guest: absolutely. i think the political divide feeds the racial divide and the economic divide, feeds the social divide. there are so many divides in our nation, bill, but one of the things that dr. martin luther king, jr. preached was the love for our community where we start having love and mutual respect for one another. you need that now. host: i mentioned you began your career in 1963 as dr. king's
statewide youth coordinator for the leadership conference. , north carolina the southern christian leadership conference. how old were you and you started that position? guest: in 1963, i was 14 and i was learning how to drive. i was driving a car at 14, and 1963 is the year that dr. king gave his famous "i have a dream" speech in august of 1963. the important thing about what we learn from those years, bill, one year later in 1964, we got the civil rights act passed, but it only passed congress because of bipartisanship. it was republicans and democrats working together. that is what we want to see in 2023 and 2024. we want to see not all people at only working in washington but all the state legislatures , that defined this racial divide. again, as we celebrate dr. martin luther king, jr.'s
birthday today across the country the federal holiday, let us not only celebrate the memory of the past, but let's apply the learnings from the past. justice works. mutual respect works. racial harmony, racial justice works. all of these things that polarize people, the racism does not work. antisemitism does not work. hatred does not work. what works is when all americans are working together. host: our lines are open for your questions and comments for dr. benjamin chavis. democrats (202) 748-8000, republicans (202) 748-8001, independents it will mark 60 years for the" i have a dream" speech. do you think the state of the "i have a dream" speech is in america today?
guest: we have made great progress is america, but if dr. king could speak and address his speech from 60 years ago, he would say we are still not there yet. we are still evolving toward a more perfect union. have we made progress in 60 years? yes. but have we made enough progress? no. we need to keep fighting for racial justice, climate justice, environmental justice. we need to work on bipartisanship. that is why i am so excited about no labels and the caucus -- of the problem solvers in congress. we have bills because of bipartisanship. we got the chips bill because a bipartisan ship. i believe that we will do something with the debt limit coming up that we have to debate. hopefully, we would be able to solve that in a bipartisan way. we would have to fix social security and medicare. we have to do that in a bipartisan way. i am hopeful, but to answer your question, have we made progress? yes. but have we overcome that?
no. have everybody in america truly acting without discrimination of race or religion or discrimination of socioeconomic status? we still have a ways to go. host: some of your optimism is reflected in a recent piece of yours at the hill.com. what do you think dr. king can teach us today about healing the rifts in america? what areas that he preached about, talked about, wrote about do you think will help heal those rifts? guest: i think we have to learn from history, not repeat history. we have to learn about what happened in the civil war and that terrible divide. we have to learn from what happened in the post-reconstruction days, learn from the history of jim crow, we had to learn from the civil rights movement and we have to , learn from most recently look at what happened on january 6th, when the capitol was stormed by
the people for the first time ever. confederate flag was waived inside the united states capitals away have -- we have a way to go. and i think dr. king would say he is optimistic and that is why i am optimistic this morning. we had made great progress, we should push for further progress. we should not relax, relent, retreat, but move forward together. host: let's go to our callers, and we hear from joyce in portland, oregon. independent line. caller: hello? host: you are on the air, go ahead. caller: my question was that mlk day is a wonderful day to have, but every time we do this, you have all these people quoting from dr. martin luther king's "i have a dream."
i've heard many of callers come in. white callers also say it is not the color of the skin but the content of the character. that really bothers me because i don't think that they truly believe that. this man was trying to bring about hope and change to this country to make sure that everybody was included. all of us are immigrants, and all of us need to work together. he was putting his life on the line so that all of us and have -- can have the right to vote, that all of us would have the respect and care for each other. but just to throw these words out because it is his birthday, which is really on the 15th that they put it on the 16th, just to do this is an insult to this man and what he stood for. he wanted to unite the whole country. he wanted all of us to have a better life and a better situation. he fought for everyone.
it was not just for black people, but he fought for everybody. host: all right, joyce. actor chave is? guest: thank you for calling in. dr. king did believe in justice and inclusiveness. he did not believe in the political divide that is now going on. that is why i am working with no labels in a bipartisan, independent way. but i would also say it's ok for people to quote him but we have to do more than quote him. we have to strive to improve the quality of life for all of god's people without respect to race or skin color or so sunak -- socioeconomic circumstance. and i think that we made progress but as i said earlier, we still have a long ways to go. i am optimistic that young people today our
, intergenerational movement, the majority of americans want to see a better inclusive democracy. i just think that sometimes people from far extremes wind up getting media coverage. i think what we have to do is not only quote dr. king but his articulation of values, court values of integrity, mutual respect, loving one another rather than hating each other be guides that guide our actions, guide our public policy. we have to find ways that we improve the quality of life for all people, not only in america but all throughout the world. we live in an interdependent and intergenerational, multicultural world, and we have to show mutual respect for everyone. next up is jeff in california on the democrat line. caller: hi, yes. thank you for taking my call.
i think that dr. martin luther king jr., he really had a beautiful dream to bring all americans together, and we had civil rights leaders who were helping him on that journey. and that included a lot of white americans that joined in in that beautiful dream. and we had victories in the civil rights movements, we have people who are still vehemently against civil rights. my question is that how can we come together if people that
stormed the capital just don't want people to have equal rights and equal votes? host: thank you very much. guest: well, the people who stormed the capitol do not represent the majority of americans. they represent the extreme. that's why i am working now with no labels to carry on dr. king's dream in 2023 and 2024. there is a lot that polarizes us across the country, and what happened on january 6 was terrible, but is symptomatic of a deeper problem. we have to bridge the racial divide. we have to bridge the economic divide. we have to bridge those things that divide people that make us want to hate one another. it's terrible. i think if anything i have learned over the last 60 years
since dr. king made his famous "i have a dream" speech is that the dream has to be worked on. the dream has to be fulfilled, not just repeated in terms of how we articulate what dr. king said, but how we live what dr. king forecast, how we live the vision of people coming together. and that's why i cited in the op-ed article on the hill that we got the civil rights bill because a bipartisanship. we got the voting rights act of 1965 because of bipartisanship, and we got the fair housing act of 1968 because of bipartisanship. we just passed the infrastructure bill because of bipartisanship, and the question now facing new congress, divided congress, democrats, republicans, and independents will have to work together to make more progress. host: do you think of the year of passing the civil rights bill and the voting rights bill you
think the partisanship was as fierce then as it is today? guest: no. i think the partisanship was more civil. today, we lack civility. we lack mutual respect, and that's what we want to restore. i believe that working with senator lieberman and governor hogan and many others are fantastic because they are leading no labels also nancy jacobson. i think all of us are working together to help provide incentives for members of congress to work together across the aisle as well as state legislatures working together. keep in mind, the problem with america is not just in washington. it is also at the state legislatures. we all have to work together to improve the quality of life for everyone and leave no one out, leave no one behind. but how to uplift all of us together. so, i am an optimist because i
believe dr. kings dream is still alive. i believe that most people -- most americans still want to see our nation and our world as a better place for all. host: let's hear from dee calling from florida, republican line. caller: yes, good morning. i am afraid you may not like what i am about to say here about martin luther king. i am 87 about to be 88 years old. i lived in those times, and i do remember way back when martin luther king was there. we were all behind him. we were teenagers, young 20-year-olds. we lived. back then we lived. my family lived to doubt -- two doors down from a black family. we lived and worked around black people back in that time in pittsburgh, pennsylvania. we worked around black people and they worked with us. we had all the connection with these black people and we were all friends.
we had one black couple when my son was born later on in the year that they called him a lucky boy because he had both black and why friends that would help raise him. martin luther king made a mistake when he went out there for his ages and had all these black singers. oh my god, even today they are still out there today even on c-span you guys have them. all the black singers that would come on. we white girls, teenagers would go to dance to these guys. the only thing that was holding the black- host: i'm sorry we dropped the line. we go onto carol in wellington, florida. go ahead, on the independent line, go ahead. caller: good morning. mr. chavis, i am jamaican and i have been living in the states for about 13 years. my wife and i we made progress.
we live in a community where there are lots of white americans around, and what i am finding is that we live in such a divided society that lots of white people don't relate to the issues that lead people are speaking about. they don't understand these issues. so, when we talk about the challenges that black people are facing, a light of don't necessarily hate let people. they just do not understand. like we had on earlier, on the program's speaker saying that most of the problems related to the black family had to do with the breakdown of the family. the breakdown of the family is an important issue. yes, we need to take care of our family and keep the family together and make sure kids go to school and so on. but they will not acknowledge that when you have -- racism was not created by black people.
white people created the system of race to divide poor whites and poor blacks so that they remain in control. and to ignore the fact that this has been in place for hundreds of years, and so white people are in a position where when black people acquired power, they took it away. when blacks acquired property, they took it away. these are things that happened route history. do you honestly believe that it has nothing to do with the realities that we are facing today? we have two education systems, and we will never have an education system in america that addresses the issues of all americans if we are not offering poor people and black people who live in many of these ghettos or communities where they lack a quality education, if we don't put systems in place that these people can have opportunities to grow and develop. we will have a great problems. talk to the jews who lived in europe and the ghettos they lived in. let them ask lane to you how
impossible it was to get out of those ghettos. host: thank you. you will hear from our guests. guest: thank you very much. both of our calls were from florida. i am sorry the call dropped because i really wanted to address what she was talking about but this guy from jamaica i love his accent. a close friend of mine was michael. let me just address what he said. listen, we can point fingers or we can try to ascribe blame. the truth of the matter is we are all part of one human family. dr. came if he were alive today -- dr. king if he were alive today in 2023, he would not just repeat his "i have a dream" speech. he would apply the speech to the racial divide, and political divide, the opportunity divide , the economic divide that is current in our nation.
so, one of the reasons why racial strife exists, why racism exists is ignorance. we need a better education system not just for black people are white people are not just for latinos, not just for immigrants, not just for native-borns, we need a better education system for all people. we need to become more aware. it's just not about having racial tolerance. it's about embracing one another. dr. king believed in the beloved community. we have to love one another. we don't hate each other, stereotype another, we don't try to put you down because you look different, dress different, or you speak different, have a different accent. note, we celebrate. there is so much we have in common. we have more in common than what divides us, and that's what we need to be talking about with martin luther king junior day, what brings us together, not just what divides us but what brings us together. to me, what i do now with the
national newspaper association, what i do with no labels, what i do working every day of my life, i have learned a lot over the last 60 years six 1963, since the "i have a dream" to apply what dr. king said to our reality and try to change our reality. i am not pessimistic. i do believe that we have made progress, and i believe we will make more progress to the extent to which we all work together. host: to gerald here in the nation's capital, washington, dc, democrat line. hello. caller: mr. chavis, want to speak to you about the plight of young black men in america that we need to improve upon. i am an educator in washington, d.c., and i am standing by the fact that we are not doing enough to steer these quote
young minds quote to a great place. what they tell me about guns and violence is that in southeast, d.c. about 4:00 in the morning, someone in the community in the projects will find a bag of guns . the person who finds it will sell them to the boys in what we call the hood. it creates an air of violence that would not exist otherwise. these seekers need to be told. we need to have programming for young blacks to gain skills in technology and all these jobs that are available. they do not exist right now. we are losing a generation of not only black young men but white as well. please be on that. guest: thank you very much. the fact that you continue to be an educator, i want to salute you. don't give up on our young people. i know that you are not but i'm glad you raised the question. first of all, we don't and effects are guns in the black
community. where are these guns coming from? how have so many guns not just in southeast d.c. but south chicago or in the hood in houston or in south los angeles. i'm speaking to you today from l.a. in santa monica but i want to say something. the devastation and the self-destruction that goes on in some of our communities, particularly our poor communities, that is something that we have to work to turn around. i think our young people today are among the most talented and most gifted, are the most aspirational generation we have been blessed with. however, they need encouragement. they need to be embraced. a lot of times we think that well, we just need more law enforcement in these committees. it's not a law enforcement issue. we do need to work on restoring a mutual respect, love.
dr. king talked about the beloved community. he was not just talking about everyone being happy-go-lucky. no, it was about having not just compassion but having ways and means to reach out and help people improve themselves. our young people in what you call it the projects, they need an opportunity to get a great education, to get a good situation where they can generate income legally, not illegally. and they need some uplift, some hope, some push. over my years of working and i believe the civil rights movement today is needed more than a 1963 now in 2023. we need to work together. i'm looking forward to it when i get back to washington dc to going out to the southeast of the area where they have a lot gun violence and a lot of self-destruction. we need to stop it, but we need to speak about it in a way that does not put our community down. speak about it in a way that
uplifts us and encourages us to strive to be our brother and our sister's keepers. i'm optimistic because dr. king taught us a long time ago that we cannot afford to door hands up and say that the situation just happens. every situation can change but we have to work together to change it. and i believe that everything we are facing now with the new congress through the problem-solving caucus and through no labels, i think working together we are going to make some more change for the better for all of gods people in this nation and around the world. host: benjamin chavis got his dr. of minister degree at theological seminary in new york city. dr. jabez was not -- dr chavis
particularly martin luther king's example of entering the ministry of a political bend that caused you to follow the career you did. guest: yes, my undergraduate was chemistry, and i went back to school because of the influence that dr. king had all my life. it was the greatest decision to answer god's call to ministry, . howard university was my all modern and certainly we worked. the religious community i'm glad you mentioned that because i mention christians, jews, muslims, those of other faiths, we all need to work together. the beloved community is inclusive of all. there are a lot of things that are going on in america that we need to work on, but we need to work on them together. if black people only work on black people issues, if white people only work on white people issues, if latinos only work on latino issues, we are not going to make progress. we have to work together and all these issues. why? because there's only one human family. i believe in the oneness of lot and the oneness of humanity. host: out to new york, carmine
on the republican line. caller: the morning. what is disappointing to me is that people forget when dr. king spoke against racism, he was speaking against racism of any kind is not to be tolerated. president obama, while he was in office, he exemplified this by an incident that happened at hampton college in virginia, and i think it was mr. harvey. the incident was that a young woman had won the beauty contest for the college, but she was not black, sir. she was italian. evidently, somehow, the president got wind of this, and he was so moved by it that he
came to hampton college and gave the commencement address to prove that racism of any kind is not to be tolerated. i just wish that president -- i'm sorry. guest: you are right. it was hampton university and the president was dr. harvey at that time. the incident that you cited, exactly. president obama, president clinton, president bush, president carter, even president reagan during the 1982 convention, when we first got the martin luther king bill through congress group holiday, it was a bipartisan effort we had to work together. when you say you are opposed racism, you have be opposed to all racism. if you are opposed to anti-semitism, you have to be opposed to all anti-semitism.
you cannot be selective. equality is equality. justice is justice. fairness is fairness. integrity is integrity. love is love. there's no room in love or hatred. so, one of the things that i hope we spend this a federal holiday is figure out ways to help one another and work together, how to exhibit in our lives going forward what dr. king preached about 60 years ago, having that american dream, a dream where everybody would be treated fairly and nobody would be discarded against because of skin color, because of religion, or because of even sexual orientation. we have so many ways now that people are just cremated against peer we need to work to eliminate all forms of discrimination, all forms of hatred. let's work together. i'm optimistic because i believe that a problem-solving congress no labels and the bipartisanship has a greater chance of today in
america than ever before. host: we will go to rhonda calling for maryland. go ahead. caller: yes i am following your point about learning. i lived 44 years of my life in washington dc. [inaudible] would like to make a quick analogy between cyrus and [inaudible] dr. king in the sense that 25 centuries in between the two. cyrus abolished slavery throughout his empire. with the status of him being [inaudible] . host: we will have to let you go ron. it is breaking up a little bit.
it is hard to hear on the cell signal. we apologize about that. we will go to anderson indiana with connie on the democrat line. caller: hi to mr. chavez and to you. i would like to lodge a little disagreement with him when he said that the applicable divide is driven by racism. i think racism drives the political divide because only five members of the republican party are lack. 33% of the congress is white. --is black in crock -- in congress 33% represents most of . america's demographic. the gerrymandering that is done is carving out rich, white districts so that republicans can be reelected.
also, we saw on tv the long lines of college students who had to wait to vote where republican areas have missed -- mast with the polling -- mast with messed with the polling and the drop-offs and all kinds of things to restrict voting. and we have the reluctance of the laws to prosecute, to lift up immunity on police officers because of the violent against blacks. forbade officers. -- for bad officers. republicans will not vote against that, for that immunity to be lifted. in addition, nazism which is on the rise, is driven by racism. so i am kind of in opposition to your first statement about political positions.
host: all right, benjamin chavis, let's give a response. guest: thank you. i want to thank the caller, but i think that there is a misunderstanding. i did not say that the political divide is the only contributor to racism in america. if anything, it is the opposite. i think that we need to be careful in how we cast dispersions where we say one group is right and the other is all wrong. i think that is the problem with the absence of bipartisanship. we will not fix americans problems only with democrats. we will not fix america's problems only on republicans or independents acting on the law -- acting alone or blacks acting alone, or white acting alone or latinos acting alone or asian americans are pacific acting alone or native americans acting alone.
this divide is what holds us back. we need to bridge this. i think if you listen to what reverend dr. martin luther king said not only 60 years ago but listen to his words and how they apply to 2023, you will see i think we can transcend some of the racial divides and work together. we can heal the political divisions. in the cases that i cited, we got the voting rights bill, we got the fair housing act, we got the reefer -- recent infrastructure bill all because of bipartisanship. that's what i'm calling for for , more bipartisanship, more working together. democrats should not demonize republicans, and republicans should not demonize democrats, and we should not leave independents out. we all need to work together that is what dr. martin luther junior would say today. host: we have carolyn calling
from georgia, republican line. go ahead. caller: good morning. i want to say something about dr. king. he was a learned person. dr. king was able to think and reason very well. dr. king believed in doing things very well, and in one of his speeches he said, "if you're going to be a street sweeper do it so well that -- until you will be recognized." and also, i believe that it is all about reasoning and thinking. that is the reason we cannot get along, and i think that is the divide. the divide is among thinking and reasoning. i will hear people say "i , believe, i think," and that is -- and those words are 70% right, but you never hear them say "i read this, i studied , this, and came up with this conclusion." won't hear that. so the divide is among the
thinking and reasoning. it ought to be more emphasized in schools. i don't think it is emphasized. it is hard for a person to get along when they don't think alike. some people will be quiet and listen and whatever, but the thinking and reasoning has to be there. once we get good social skills so that people can get along and think and reason well and discuss things, that would help. but there's no need to even do it if they can't think and reason well. host: all right, carolyn. the broader point maybe the education system in this country. tells a little bit about your thoughts in terms of the racial inequities in the public schools in particular in this country. guest: we need a strong public school system. education is one of the keys to moving our country forward. i think every child, student,
every adult because i also believe in adult education, the caller mentioned the importance of reasoning and having a dialogue without trying to demonize a person. -- they may agree with -- disagree with. i am glad we live in a country in a nation where we can openly disagree without being disagreeable and hateful to one another. democracy means we don't always have to agree on everything, but there are some things we should agree on: improving the quality of life, having a great educational system for everyone, having equal opportunity,-financial literacy for people so they can learn how to produce a patent economic system fairly and equitably. all these are important we have to have intentionality. what i'm calling for is more bipartisanship. i am carting -- calling for more working together across the lines that have divided us. i'm calling for us to win more victories for all of god's people. that's why i come and celebrate
martin luther king jr.'s birthday today as a federal holiday, as a time for us to reflect yes, but also a time for us to apply learnings. i think we should learn from the past. i keep saying that. not repeat the past. those points where we were together were republicans, democrats, and independents were together, those are the points where we made great progress for all americans. host: cornell is on the independent line from washington. go ahead. caller: thank you so much for taking my call and good morning to all. i appreciate you letting me share my thoughts on the subject. martin luther king, i am so grateful for honoring a man of color because he made so many contributions to people of color and made so many contributions
to this nation. many of it is not being honored. to have a date where it is contribute to the honoring of a man of color was done so many great things. one of the things was the unification of our nation, and it is so important that we stay unified because the word of god tells us, and i am a pastor. the word of god talks about divided we fall, united we stand, divided we fall. i spent 12 years as a united states army medic. i think it's very important that we stay united and we unify because that will be the death of this nation. we are going to die from the inside, not from the outside. we talk about the enemies of china and russia. our own worst enemies are us because we won't come together. everyone is from somewhere else. everyone has a descendant from somewhere else. the only one that is supposed to be here as a native is a native american indians. of which i am a descendant. i just want to say that divided,
we have to come together. i am so grateful for the no labels concept. i am so grateful that we don't let stigmas and labels be put on people. i got in a car accident in 2017, and i was going to be the lord and i saw a sea of people of all colors. i remember in march move 13 speeches he said he had been to the mountaintop and seen where we were all unified together, blackmun, white men, china men, indian. we were all unified. host: ra cornell. we will hear from dr. chavis. guest: thank you. i first want to thank her for service to the country in the military. my father was a world war i veteran have personality for people who have served in the military. let me address what she was saying, yes a celebration of darden -- dr. martin luther king jr. is a federal holiday for all
not just some people. i think dr. king would be pleased that we have made progress since he articulated the "i have a dream" speech. but he also would be encouraging us to do more today and not to be satisfied with where we are. certainly, not to let us start falling backward. we need to go forwards. i think that our educational system needs to be improved. we need to have more opportunity for people to get themselves out of poverty. we need to work together to bridge some of the political divide in washington, in the state capitals. i actually have hope that this group called the problem solvers caucus that no labels established some time ago. think they we happy to help us this year and 2023 and on into 2024 to help make a difference. so i have come today more optimistic than i have been in recent past.
host: our viewers and listeners can find out more online at no labels that work and at no labels board -- @nolabelsorg is reviled the group on twitter. thank you for being with us this morning. guest: god bless, and happy martin luther king jr. day to all. >> c-span is your unfiltered view of government. we are funded by these companies and more. ♪ >> support c-span along with these other television providers giving you a front row seat to democracy. >>