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PAULA ZAHN NOW
Skin-Deep: Racism in America Part II
Aired December 13, 2006 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: And hi, everybody. Thank you for joining us.
Tonight, we're going to continue our in-depth examination of racism in America.
Last night, we used actor Michael Richards' racist rant as a starting point to look at the racism between whites and blacks that seemed be hidden deep inside so many of us.
We wanted to start a dialogue. And we certainly did just that. We have been flooded with e-mail from all sides.
John from Weaver, Alabama, wrote: "I can sit at almost any bar in Alabama, and, within 30 minutes, hear the N-word. I'm white, and not from here originally. Racism is alive and well here."
From Dave in Hobe Sound, Florida: "There are many areas where whites are in danger. Yet, I never hear about blacks being racist. The race card is getting very old."
And from J. Meadows in Sacramento, California: "I'm glad to see you're doing an episode on racism. I think it's something most people don't feel comfortable talking about in mixed company."
Now, because of that strong response, tonight, we're going to spend the hour digging deeper on some of these issues. We're going to take you inside a Ku Klux Klan meeting, and see what draws so many young white men to this culture of white supremacy.
And how would you feel if you couldn't send your children to your neighborhood schools because of the color of their skin?
We also got a lot of e-mail from people in the town of Vidor, Texas.
One of our stories, reported by Keith Oppenheim, focused on racism in that town's past.
This e-mail from Brian (ph) in nearby Beaumont summed it up: "Just as you were running that story on Vidor, Texas, CNN coverage in this market went off the air. It was off the entire piece about Vidor. Just wondering if the locals got scared of the report. Please, check into this. I know I will."
Well, the cable company is owned by our parent company, Time Warner. And, today, we sent Keith Oppenheim back to the area to find out what happened.
And he joins me now with what he has learned.
Keith, would did you find out?
KEITH OPPENHEIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're at the local Time Warner Cable offices here in Nederland, Texas, to find out just what happened last night.
And, first of all, I should say, Paula, that the story that I wrote for last night's racism special about Vidor, Texas, and the history of racism there in the past and present was expected to be controversial.
In fact, there are regional newspapers and local television stations that were planning on getting reaction from Vidor residents once the story aired.
The problem here was, it didn't.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OPPENHEIM: Take a ride...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OPPENHEIM (voice-over): This is a recording of CNN's Tuesday night cablecast in the Vidor, Texas, area.
Thirteen seconds after our story on Vidor began...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OPPENHEIM: ... this small city of 11,000 people...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OPPENHEIM: ... the signal dropped, and local viewers saw only a blue screen for nearly six minutes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL ERIC DYSON, PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA: ... created to justify white supremacy...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OPPENHEIM: Picture and audio returned after the Vidor story was finished.
Some Vidor residents thought the timing was fishy.
VERNA BERTRAND, MANAGER, GARY'S CAFE: Well, I would say it was blacked out on purpose, and just not showed here. OPPENHEIM: Others thought worse, that the story had been censored.
PAUL BYARS, RESIDENT OF VIDOR, TEXAS: I think there was someone in the office there who decided that Vidor, Texas, and this area ain't going to watch it. So, they hit the button.
OPPENHEIM (on camera): There are people out there who have the perception that this, what happened here, was censorship. What do you say to that?
GEORGE PERRETT, SPOKESMAN, TIME WARNER CABLE: It was a simple mistake. That's all it was.
OPPENHEIM (voice-over): George Perrett from the regional Time Warner Cable offices took us to the technical operations center where the trouble happened.
PERRETT: We slide it in. You hit right here.
OPPENHEIM: Perrett told me and CNN engineer Ray Schulz (ph) that a technician was trying to fix a totally different problem. The cable shopping channel, QVC, had gone off the air locally.
Perrett said, when the technician tried to swap out the faulty piece of equipment, he inadvertently unplugged a strip that powered the equipment that was broadcasting CNN and the Lifetime Channel.
PERRETT: Plug is right here. When you slid it in on top of this rack, you obviously hit these cords, knock this plug out.
OPPENHEIM: The story got plenty of attention, front page of the main newspaper in Beaumont, Texas, the larger city next door...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... aired last night on CNN during a special on racism.
OPPENHEIM: ... and on local talk radio, where staff wondered if the community would accept the cable company's explanation.
AL CALDWELL, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Everything has a conspiracy theory, no matter what it is. And I guess this one will have its own conspiracy theory. I think it has got enough legs to -- to fly, at least for -- for probably a week or so.
OPPENHEIM: And, by the way, Paula, off camera, I did speak to the technician who made the repair. And he said he had no idea that a story about Vidor was coming up. And he also said that he was -- had no intention of creating any sense of censorship, that that was not his plan at all.
And, by the way, there were some people in the area who did see the story, either on satellite, or on CNN.com, or on local television stations. Some felt the story was unfair and overemphasized the level of racism in this community -- back to you.
ZAHN: All right, Keith.
And to make our -- give our audience a chance to make their own assessment, we're going to replay, for the folks who missed your story last night on Vidor, Texas, that story right now.
Here is the original Keith Oppenheim piece that triggered so much reaction.
OPPENHEIM (voice-over): Take a ride to Vidor, Texas, and you will find a town that looks like many others in America. But, just below the surface, you will soon find this small city of 11,000 people carries a dark past, a past that, in some ways, still haunts the present.
BEAMON MINTON, ORANGE COUNTY, TEXAS, COMMISSIONER: They were trying to live down something from 40, 50 years ago. And, once convicted, you're a convicted felon. You know, you -- you can't ever put that aside.
OPPENHEIM: Forty to 50 years ago, Vidor had a reputation as a sundown town, where it was said African-Americans were warned not to be caught after dark.
Charles Jones lives in Beaumont, the bigger city 10 minutes from Vidor. He told us, when he was 19, a Vidor policeman intimidated him and his friends when their car broke down at night.
CHARLES JONES, BEAUMONT, TEXAS: He said: "Well, let me tell you something. You boys better hurry up and get out of here, because I'm going to go to that next exit and come down and come back around, and you better be gone."
OPPENHEIM: Vidor also had a reputation as a haven for the Ku Klux Klan. Blacks stayed away.
LISA ARDOIN, RESIDENT OF BEAUMONT, TEXAS: When I was growing up as a little girl, me and my two sisters, we was very afraid of Vidor.
OPPENHEIM: In 1993, the federal government tried to break years of segregation, and brought a handful of black families into Vidor's public housing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: God bless Vidor.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: God bless Vidor!
OPPENHEIM: In response, the Klan marched. And the march had its intended effect. Within months, the few black residents pulled out. And African-Americans were left with a deep impression that, while racism is more under the surface, it still lives in Vidor.
WALTER DIGGLES, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, DEEP EAST TEXAS COUNCIL OF GOVERNMENTS: They think that that's a racist town, and, when you go through Vidor, you better be very careful. And -- and most -- most blacks still refuse to stop.
OPPENHEIM (on camera): Is this a racist community?
MINTON: Definitely not.
OPPENHEIM (voice over): Orange County Commissioner Beamon Minton and Vidor Mayor Joe Hopkins spoke to me about perceptions of Vidor.
JOE HOPKINS, MAYOR OF VIDOR, TEXAS: The vast majority of our citizens are not racist, would welcome anybody here who's a good, solid citizen.
MINTON: We don't have a Klan. We haven't had a Klan here in about 30 years.
OPPENHEIM: In fact, the two men said, Vidor is trying to change its image. Last year, the school district posted a billboard that included the face of an African-American girl as a way to attract black families.
Currently, in a school district of nearly 5,000 students, only 13 are African-American.
Still, some residents are resistant. At a local cafe, this woman told me she would welcome blacks to Vidor, then added this:
PEGGY FRUGE, RESIDENT OF VIDOR, TEXAS: I don't mind being friends with them, you know, talking and stuff like that. But, as far as mingling and eating with them and all that kind of stuff, I mean, that's where I draw the line.
OPPENHEIM: If racism lies just below the surface here, it's only part of the story. Vidor has changed somewhat. It's no longer a city that actively shuns blacks. But, like many other places in America, Vidor has fallen into complacency, and, as a community, either lacks the motivation or isn't quite sure how to escape its past.
Keith Oppenheim, CNN, Vidor, Texas.
ZAHN: And that was last night's controversial report.
Today, some local news stories in East Texas called it yet another story dealing with Vidor's past and -- quote -- "negative attention for Vidor."
So, we thought we would invite Mayor Joe Hopkins of Vidor to confront the image about some people have about his town.
Mr. Mayor, thanks so much for joining us.
HOPKINS: Thank you.
ZAHN: Is your town racist?
I -- I can honestly say that I do not believe that the city of Vidor is a racist community. In a town the size of Vidor, between 11,000 and 12,000, there are going to be some folks who have racist biases and who express them. And I think that would be true in any community across the United States. But to say that the community is racist is wrong.
The community, as a whole, is doing what we feel like we can to make sure that everybody feels welcome in Vidor. We -- we welcome them to -- to live here, to shop here, to work here, to be educated in our schools. We want them to know that -- that they're welcome, and they're going to be treated in a very nice manner.
ZAHN: So, how many blacks, Mr. Mayor, live in your town today?
HOPKINS: I honestly do not know the answer to that.
The only answer I could give you is, I presume not many. We have, someone told me today, 13 African-American children in our schools, out of a school district of about 4,500. So, it would indicate to me that there are not a lot of black families living in our area.
However, we -- we would love to see more folks move to Vidor. And we don't care what color they are, ma'am, only that -- that they're good citizens. And -- and we would love to have them here.
ZAHN: Well, let me ask you this. Why do you think so many blacks told Keith Oppenheim that they don't even want to stop while they're driving through your town, because they're intimidated, and they don't feel welcome, and, in some cases, they don't feel safe?
HOPKINS: Well, if you -- if you go back and listen to those comments, most of those came from something that happened to them 30, 40 years back.
If you say to them, "Were you mistreated in today's Vidor; were you harassed in any way in today's Vidor?" I honestly think the answer would be, no, they weren't.
I think it's unfair for somebody to say, well, I heard that this happened to somebody back in the 1950s or the 1960s, so I know that that means Vidor is a racist community.
It doesn't mean that it is today. It meant that it might have been back then. And, in fact, I -- I would not dispute that Vidor had earned a racist reputation back in -- what I would call in the old days. But people have changed. And, especially in Vidor, the people have changed.
Their outlook on racism is not what it used to be. It is, I think, as -- as forward-thinking as any other community in the United States. ZAHN: Mayor Joe Hopkins, we have got to leave it there tonight. Thank you so much for joining us. Appreciate your time.
HOPKINS: Thank you so much for inviting me. Thank you, ma'am.
ZAHN: Our -- our pleasure.
Still ahead on "Skin-Deep: Racism in America," more viewer e- mails reacting to last night's special on hidden racism. And a little bit later on, a startling look into a Ku Klux Klan meeting, and how white supremacist groups are targeting young men for recruitment into a culture of hate.
ZAHN: Our special hour continues, "Skin-Deep: Racism in America."
Coming up: What would you do if your kids were barred from the school down the block just because of their skin color?
Welcome back to our special on hidden racism.
As we mentioned a little bit earlier later on, we got a ton of provocative e-mails from people who watched our shows last night. We did a special on racism as well.
So, let's look at some of them with our "Skin-Deep" panel, Roland Martin, executive director of the prominent black newspaper "The Chicago Defender." He also happens to be the author of "Speak, Brother: A Black Man's View of America." Also joins us, Republican consultant Reverend Joe Watkins.
Great to have both of you back with us.
ROLAND MARTIN, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "THE CHICAGO DEFENDER": Glad to be here.
ZAHN: I want to give you a chance to respond to some of the e- mails that we got in response to last night's special.
This first one comes from Doris in Glendale. She writes: "Are only whites prejudiced? Can blacks also be prejudiced? This is a serious question that I have never heard asked before."
MARTIN: Well, the answer is yes.
I mean, you can have prejudiced feelings towards someone based on...
ZAHN: You can.
MARTIN: Yes, you can. You can.
ZAHN: It is -- I mean, this is the truth. This is the reality... MARTIN: Absolutely. African-Americans...
ZAHN: ... in America today.
MARTIN: ... can be prejudiced, absolutely.
ZAHN: Can be. But they are, aren't they?
MARTIN: Right. They are.
And, so -- and, so, it's a matter of how you grew up, what is your perception about life, how you look at others. Now, when you begin look at who is racist, that's: Do I have control? Do I have power over somebody else?
So, therefore, can I deny you a job? Can I -- will I refuse to higher Paula Zahn at "The Chicago Defender" because she's white? I have control, because I'm the one who is doing the hiring, as the editor. Now, if I do that, then, yes, I am being racist, because I am controlling -- you have an opportunity for a job.
So, yes, African-Americans are prejudiced. There are people who do not like whites, who do not -- who have certain stereotypes. Yes, they exist.
ZAHN: How prevalent do you think that attitude is among blacks?
REVEREND JOE WATKINS, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: Well, there are a lot of black people who are bitter, of course, because they have been treated badly. And some of those folks are racist because of the fact that they haven't been treated well.
But it's never right when it happens. Whether it's a black person or a white person practicing racism, it's always wrong. And just because somebody has treated you badly doesn't mean that the way you respond to it is by disliking them, hating them or treating them badly.
ZAHN: What about the idea that one of our guests suggested last night, that you perpetuate the sense of victimhood?
WATKINS: Well, that -- that -- that's a thought as well.
You know what? I'm a Christian guy. I'm also a pastor of a church, as you well know. And Christian people, Protestants and Catholics, almost daily, say a prayer that's almost conditional, where we say to God on a -- on a daily basis, we say, father, forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us -- the whole idea being that, when people do wrong to you, you forgive them. And that's something that has to be considered in all of this, that people do you wrong, but you have got to forgive them.
ZAHN: Let's move on to two other e-mails, because I want to get your reaction to them.
From Brenden in Colorado: "Racism is an excuse, period. I know that blacks are far more racist than whites."
From Ben in Oklahoma: "We whites cannot have a TV station called BET."
ZAHN: "How many blacks would scream racism if we had a white entertainment television network? Who's the racist here?"
MARTIN: I -- I mean no dis...
ZAHN: You laughed, but this is...
MARTIN: No, I...
ZAHN: ... a serious question.
MARTIN: It is a...
ZAHN: There are a lot of people...
MARTIN: No. No.
ZAHN: ... who feel that way.
MARTIN: It's -- it's a serious question.
ZAHN: What about white pride day?
ZAHN: You have Black Pride Day.
MARTIN: I mean no disrespect to him when it comes to that, but the fact of the matter is, MTV, for years, would not show any videos of African-Americans. And, so, were it not for protests, they wouldn't show it.
With all due respect, how many African-Americans do you see on cable television host their own show? And, so, when you look at television today...
ZAHN: How many women do you...
WATKINS: I'm waiting. I'm waiting.
ZAHN: How many women? How many women...
MARTIN: I'm waiting to see a brother on one...
ZAHN: How many women on cable TV anchor shows after 4:00 in the afternoon?
MARTIN: And that's precise...
ZAHN: Not many.
MARTIN: And that's precisely my point.
Because of gender bias, because of sexism, because of racism, you still have control being centered and being -- in a certain number of hands. And, so, when you see mainstream media, when you see how we project stories, you are seeing it, frankly, through a white lens.
When Selena is shot and killed, we don't necessarily cover her story, because we don't know her. But, if it happened to Garth Brooks, trust me, it would have been wall-to-wall coverage.
ZAHN: All right. One last question, this one from Axel in New York. He says: "I believe that most people are over the race issue. For the most part, it's not about race, but about attitudes. You want to be treated as a human being, you should act like one."
WATKINS: Well, that's a very forward way of thinking.
I mean, the whole idea, I think, in America is for us to move forward. You have got to know the history. You have got to know what happened in the past, because you don't want to make the same -- as a society, we don't want to make the same mistakes we have made in the past. But guess what? Once you know what the past is, we have got to move forward.
And you know who is making history with regards to what happens with race in this country? All of us are right now.
I mean, Paula, when you talk about this whole issue of forgetting racism, when I am walking into a restaurant, and someone -- someone says, "Give me a glass of water."
"I'm sorry. I don't work here."
You are looking at me simply as somebody who you think is a waiter, or who is trying to get your car as a valet. And, so, when somebody projects that, I'm not walking around going, well, I hope somebody white doesn't ask me to get them a glass of water. But it happens.
People -- someone will say -- I graduated from Texas A&M University -- "Did you play football?"
"No, I didn't play football at Texas A&M. So, let -- can I go to college just to go to college? Do I have to play football?"
And, so, when you carry that around, you reinforce those views. And, so, therefore, you don't look at somebody African-American as simply, yes, a human being. You look at them as, well, he may have played football player. He may be a rapper.
ZAHN: Plenty more to address with both of you. Roland Martin, Joe Watkins, stay right here -- plenty to talk about straight ahead.
When we come back: a culture of hate -- shocking videotape from inside a meeting of the Ku Klux Klan.
Also: an astonishing demonstration of racism on the phone. What happens when a black man and then a white man try to rent the same apartment?
We will show you. We have cameras on both of them.
ZAHN: Welcome back to our special look at racism. We're exploring how much lies just beneath the surface.
But many civil rights groups say the in-your-face type of hate is on the rise today. Just today, in Los Angeles, four alleged white supremacists were charged with attempted murder in the stabbing of a black man. Police say they were on their way to a white power rally.
Our Alina Cho gained rare access to a meeting to one of the most secretive and feared white power groups in America, the Ku Klux Klan.
UNIDENTIFIED MALES: I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America...
ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): July 24, 2005: This is the new face of the Ku Klux Klan.
UNIDENTIFIED MALES: ... with liberty and justice for all white men.
CHO: This videotape is a rare look at the inner workings of the KKK. Its members are younger. The movement is growing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: White power!
UNIDENTIFIED MALES: White power!
CHO: Just ask Jarred Hensley. At 23, he is the second most powerful Klansman in the state of Ohio, a grand titan the Imperial Klans of America, the largest faction of the KKK. Hensley dreams about an all-white America.
JARRED HENSLEY, IMPERIAL KLANS OF AMERICA: All-white neighborhood, all-white cities, you know, good values.
CHO: He joined the Klan as soon as he turned 18. Like most new members, he was intrigued by what he saw on the Internet.
HENSLEY: This is our Web site. CHO: White supremacist Web sites, which serve as recruiting brochures -- the Internet allowed Hensley to connect with other white supremacists at events like Nordic Fest, an annual festival held in Kentucky, dedicated to racist music and ideology.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We stand for a better world. We stand for the white race and all things at all times.
MARK POTOK, SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER: There is a whole subculture that comes with this world.
CHO: Mark Potok, with the Southern Poverty Law Center, says the number of hate groups in America has grown from 600 to 800, a 33 percent jump in the past five years.
POTOK: The fact is, these groups continue to grow. We see more and more neo-Nazi type incidents in high schools and even middle schools.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: White power!
POTOK: For me, it's -- it's a worrying phenomenon. I don't think the country is doing well, in terms of race relations. And, in fact, I think a strong argument could be made that we're really going backward in many ways.
CHO: At this Klan meeting, members take part in secret handshakes, prayer.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: God save our race.
CHO: Even fund-raising.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's important that none of us forget about the Aryan Baby Drive.
CHO: All for the white race.
And the Klan of today is changing. The new Klan is starting to join forces with neo-Nazi skinheads. Now, above all, even blacks, they hate Jews.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hitler inside of the Swastika right here.
CHO: They also worship Adolf Hitler.
(on camera): What about the Holocaust?
HENSLEY: The Holocaust, it's completely false. I don't believe that six million people died at all.
CHO (voice-over): Hensley believes Jews and other minorities are taking jobs from whites.
(on camera): Are you saying you think I should leave? HENSLEY: I think you should go, you know, build in your country, in a country -- you could have been born here, but you're not originally from here. Just like we wasn't, but we built this country.
CHO (voice-over): He wants to build an all-white America, his land of opportunity, his dream for his 3-year-old daughter.
HENSLEY: See, in my eyes, this is what's beautiful, is, like, you know, white -- just white kids, white values, and nice home, nice land around.
CHO: Alina Cho, CNN, Middletown, Ohio.
ZAHN: As our special continues: a startling look at discrimination based on nothing but how you sound on the phone.
Also: the battle over race in schools. How would you feel if your children couldn't go to the school down the block simply because of the color of their skin?
ZAHN: As we continue our special look at racism, we uncover another kind of discrimination that runs skin deep in America even today. Just a few years ago, statistics revealed that New Jersey State Troopers were guilty of profiling by stopping mostly black motorists.
But as Jason Carroll explains in this next report, profiling may not just exist on the highways. Amazingly, it can also happen when black callers pick up the telephone.
JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): James Robinson believes he was denied an apartment because he says he has what linguists call an African-American dialect.
JAMES ROBINSON, APARTMENT SEEKER: And this is a sign that was posted out front and I got the number that you see at the bottom. And that's when I made my call.
CARROLL: Robinson was told at first he'd reached an answering service. Then, he said, something else odd happened.
ROBINSON: Then I hear the voices muffled in the background and she was telling the woman I was on the phone inquiring about a two- bedroom apartment. And the other woman said, what does he sound like?
CARROLL: Robinson says the woman then told him nothing was available and hung.
ROBINSON: I just kind of sat there for a moment and just kept rethinking the whole conversation over and over.
CARROLL: Suspicious of his treatment, Robinson decided to conduct an experiment. He had a Latino friend call and then an African-American friend call the building. Both were told nothing was available. Then, Robinson reached out to one of his white friends.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She said we do have some apartments available.
CARROLL: Robinson took his findings to the St. Louis Equal Housing Opportunity Council. The EHOC conducted their own investigation, finding similar results, and filed a complaint on Robinson's behalf with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights.
An attorney for the building told CNN, "There is no evidence of any discrimination on my client's part. The building in question is racially mixed."
(on camera): Would you call it a subtle form of discrimination or no? Maybe that's just my words. What do you -- how do you qualify it?
KATRINA COMBS, FAIR HOUSING COUNCIL: It's very subtle, extremely subtle. It's not like it used years ago, where you had signs in the yard that said, "For Whites Only" or "No Coloreds Allowed".
CARROLL (voice-over): So, to keep tabs on voice profiling, the EHOC constantly run tests. On the day we visit, a white and black tester called a different building where another complaint has been filed.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you looking for yourself?
CARROLL: Both are asked about employment and the type of apartment they need. But the black caller is told he needs to check out the area first.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, you can you stop by seeing the area and if you like it, then you can call us and we can show you the apartment.
CARROLL: He's then asked more questions never asked of the white tester.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How much approximately -- I don't want to know exact -- but approximately how much you are making every month?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I make about $31,000 per year.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And never had any problem?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. No. I've never been late on my rent.
CARROLL: The white tester is told of the apartment's amenities, never mentioned to the black caller.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And it has washer and dryer in it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dishwasher also.
CARROLL: In the end, the white caller is offered an appointment to see the unit. The black caller is never contacted.
ROBINSON: You know, it's pretty much a shame. You know, that the person is not even given the chance to at least apply.
CARROLL: Jason Carroll, CNN, St. Louis, Missouri.
ZAHN: And we have an update for you on James Robinson's story. The St. Louis Equal Housing Opportunity Council says the Missouri Commission on Human Rights has closed his case, saying no discriminatory acts had happened. But Robinson can appeal that decision.
We're back with our panel now, Roland Martin, Reverend Joe Watkins. Also joining us now, Melanie Campbell of the National Coalition of Black Civic Participation.
Welcome. I'm glad to have you join us.
So what is the message to black people tonight about this kind of profiling? You either assimilate and you speak, what would it be, white person's language, is that what you'd call it, or be discriminated against? I don't know the difference between the white person dialect and the black person dialect.
MELANIE CAMPBELL, COAL. ON BLACK CIVIC PARTICIPATION: I don't, either.
The fact of the matter is, I'm from the South. I'm a Southerner. Some people say I'm not from the South because I'm from Florida, but I spent 20 years in Georgia, so I'm kind of confused. I'm live in Washington, D.C. People say, you from the South. White people from the South sometimes sound like black people from the South. So sometimes it's geographic. And in some cases, people can pick up some dialects. But at the end of the day, it's about the impact of the racism, whether the subtle messages being sent when someone makes a phone call and they are discriminated against for housing or for health care or for whatever the issue may be or education around the subtleties of racism. It's all about the impact of racism. People get tired of hearing it about other things.
ZAHN: You would consider -- black people also profile for white voices.
ZAHN: ... is a white person on the phone. MARTIN: Somebody will call and like, it's a white woman on the phone. It's basically how someone sounds, that's simply what people do.
You asked the question about assimilation. You really don't necessarily have that choice, because if the mainstream culture says, this is what you're going to have to do in order to go here, then you make a change. Earl Graves, who owns Black Enterprise, he has forbidden dreadlocks from being worn by one of their interns, because he said, we don't want anything to get in the way of a potential client doing business with a black enterprise. So there's a certain look that they have in terms of how your hair is going to be, what you wear. There are some black men when they go on job interviews, they shave their beards and their mustaches...
ZAHN: Do have you a problem with that?
MARTIN: ... to get a different look.
I have a problem with that. I got a serious problem with that.
ZAHN: Do you think it's selling out?
MARTIN: I won't call it selling out, but it's a matter of taking the individuality away from someone and also saying, wait a minute, there are different people and so, therefore, I can...
MARTIN: Well, I'm going to have a beard now. Come on.
ZAHN: Wait a minute. Can't you make the same argument about a white person going in for an interview? You know, they got a scruffy beard, they shave it off, they wear clothes on an interview that...
WATKINS: The hope is we're heading toward the day when people will look at folks based on their qualifications and who they are and what -- the value that they add in a particular job.
ZAHN: But that's not happening today.
WATKINS: Wait, sometimes it happens. Not always. I mean, you see now more African-American CEOs of major companies than you've ever seen before in history.
ZAHN: Yes. But how many of them are running Fortune 200 companies?
Two, maybe three.
WATKINS: The numbers are not large, there's no doubt about that. But there is some forward movement, which means that it's opening up a little bit, which is a good thing. That means there's progress being made. And we've got to celebrate that, too.
ZAHN: How do you stop this profiling? Or is it unrealistic to think you ever can?
MARTIN: No, it's not unrealistic. And what has to happen is the individual has to recognize when they themselves are making a decision based upon those racist feelings. You got to check yourself when Michael Richards said, it came rushing out of me, you have to stand back and say, wait a minute, what's inside of me and how can I control it and change it?
But it starts with the individual admitting that it's in there and saying let me acknowledge it and see when it's coming and say that's not how I should be acting, that's not how I should be responding.
ZAHN: all right. I want you to stay right there. Plenty more to talk about on the other side. We'll continue this conversation in a minute or two.
Our special hour on racism continues next with a Supreme Court controversy. We're going to go to a city where some kids can't go to the closest school because of the color of their skin, in some cases, having to drive three hours to get to a school their parents don't even want them to attend.
Also ahead, we're going to check in with some other schoolchildren and hear their views on racism. I went to a couple schools here in New York and you might be surprised by what they had to tell me about living in this population.
We'll be right back.
ZAHN: As we continue our special, exploring racism that lies just at the surface, we look at school busing, an issue that has inflamed racial tensions for decades. Right now, all over the country, millions of kids are denied spaces in their neighborhood schools.
Instead, they're bussed to schools far away. Do you think that's a fair price to pay for court-mandated racial integration? Well, parents in Seattle and Louisville don't think so and they have taken their case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Justices must now decide whether race should be a factor in public school placement. Senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin has us look at how some Louisville families have been dealing with busing.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST (voice-over): It's just past 6:00 a.m. at the DeBois (ph) house.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Seth, hey.
TOOBIN: Seven-year-old Seth is not a happy camper.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're going to make the sacrifices that we need to get what we feel like is best for Seth.
TOOBIN: That sacrifice means up to three hours a day on a public school bus to a magnet school in a mostly black neighborhood. But with the mostly white student body. It's because Louisville officials with the court's approval came up with a plan that mandated most schools had to have at least 15 percent, but no more than 50 percent black enrollment.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He doesn't know anything different. He's went there since he was 4-years-old. He's in the pre-K program.
TOOBIN: While Seth heads west to a class in a predominantly urban neighborhood, 16-year-old Howard Brim goes east to Ballard High School (ph) in a predominantly white suburb. Different direction, same three hours on a bus.
HOWARD BRIM, LOUISVILLE HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: Kentucky's motto is, education pays. You're going to have to do things to get it.
TOOBIN: He's up every school day at 5:00 a.m. and takes public transportation. Howard says the school nearest his home doesn't offer the kind of education he's receiving now.
BRIM: What works 20, 30, 40, 50 years ago is not going to work now.
TOOBIN: The long trek of both boys is much like Louisville's own journey. Schools here were once segregated by law. The supreme court's 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling made that illegal, but Louisville was slow to change. 1975 began a quarter century of federal court oversight in Jefferson County.
Back then, these black students pelted with rocks. Teddy B. Gordon is an experienced civil rights attorney who has in the past represented blacks in discrimination cases. Now he will oppose the diversity plan before the Supreme Court on behalf of some white and black parents.
TEDDY B. GORDON, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: Its about acts of discrimination that white kids who want to go to their neighborhood schools that are better performing schools are denied entrance into that school solely because of their color.
TOOBIN: The debate will continue, but Seth's bus ride is finally over. 9:00 a.m., time to learn. But his bus is the last to arrive at Brandeis (ph) Elementary. It's a math/science magnet school with competitive spots, 32 percent of its students are African-American. Seth doesn't see the racial divide. None of the children we spoke with in Louisville see it, but he has little idea how much it took to get him where he is now and how much it may take to keep him there.
ZAHN: That was senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin reporting. Let's get straight to our panel now. Roland Martin back with us, Reverend Joe Watkins and Melanie Campbell. You certainly have to understand the frustration of these parents having to wake these kids up at 5:00 in the morning, being shipped to a school dozens of miles away when this neighborhood school is two blocks away and their kid can't go there because they're the wrong race.
WATKINS: Isn't that a shame?
ZAHN: Do you get that? Do you understand that?
WATKINS: I do. The idea is, it would be great -- I think what parents want, whether they're black, white, red or yellow, is a great education for their kids. I know that's what I've always wanted for my kids, is a great education for their kids. That's what everybody wants. It's just a shame that it's a lot more tricky than it was 20, 30 or 40 years ago.
ZAHN: Doesn't this inflame feelings of hatred that cut both ways?
CAMPBELL: Well, I don't know that it's about hatred. I think kind of, it's about having the right information about what's going on. Education still goes along economic lines.
When people have to bus themselves across town whether you're black or white, it's an economic issue. The way our public system is set up in this country, it's around the dollar, The tax dollar. How is our education funded in this country? And if we change some of those things, then maybe we may not have to go across town. Maybe you can go right there in the neighborhood.
ZAHN: Parents complain that their kid is being shipped off not to a school very far away, but a school that's inferior because they're white and because there's a formula in a place that the school district has to honor.
MARTIN: To answer the question, yes, it does inflame. It inflames people's feelings on this whole issue, but the key point the young man made was that the school that he was going to offered a different and a better education.
That's what the real issue is. I went to magnet schools my entire primary and secondary life, and so if I can go to magnet school, went to journalism high school, it made it better. That's his concern. It's the concern of white parents and black parents that we have quality schools whether it's in a black neighborhood or a white neighborhood, that's the real issue. But when that white school has a better education and better resources, you bet folks are going to want to go to it.
ZAHN: All right, so one of the solutions we've all agreed upon is better educational opportunities for our kids. A lot of people who watched our show last night were fascinated by all the issues. They want to hear even clearer-cut solutions to that. Name one.
CAMPBELL: OK, disparities. When you talk about economic disparities, affordable housing is one issue. Access to quality education. Access to being able to go to higher education.
The two things in America, poverty still is down racial lines. More African-Americans in poverty than white Americans and Latinos fall right in that same category. When you talk about education, quality education, we still are not getting the kind of quality education. We're in a global society in this world and so we have a diverse country, but we're not maximizing its potential making sure everyone is qualified to get a good education.
ZAHN: Has affirmative action perhaps let some of those people down? Isn't that what affirmative action was supposed to correct?
WATKINS: Well, that was corrected.
ZAHN: Is there a failing?
WATKINS: No, it came into being under the Nixon administration, interestingly. And I'm a product of affirmative action. I got a chance to go to a great private school because people at that school wanted to level the playing field. Middlesex school, great school in Concord, Massachusetts, they wanted to the playing field and give African-American kids who couldn't afford to go there the chance to get a great education. I got a great education because of that.
ZAHN: All right, but why is the divide still so deep today? What is the excuse? What is the reason?
MARTIN: Because we first of all don't want to have the conversation. You asked about solutions. The most segregated hour at each week is the 10:00 hour on Sunday. And show what do you do? You do what Reverend Edward Meeks (ph) in Chicago did, of Salem Baptist Church. He got with one of his white pastors and said, you bring your entire congregation to my church. I'm going to bring my congregation to your church.
ZAHN: Do you want me to come to your church, reverend?
MARTIN: I would love it. But that is very important. Also on your job, learn to get out of your comfort zone. Actually begin to have a conversation with black co-workers. Learn about them. Go to a black bookstore. Go to a Hispanic bookstore. Say, wait a minute, I don't necessarily have all the information but let me get out of my comfort zone and realize there is a world out here besides the one I live in.
ZAHN: You've got 30 seconds left. At the end of the day, are a lot of people out there rolling their eyes and saying, this is just pie in the sky. Dialogue, dialogue, dialogue, where is that going to really take us?
WATKINS: No, I think the change begins with all of us, every single one of us and what we do is what is changing history as we speak. The most important thing I think as far as to realize is that it's important to treat each other the way you want to be treated. That's the most important thing. MARTIN: And Paula says, my wife is an ordained minister, my wife would say, faith without works is nothing. And so if you want to deal with the issue of race, but you don't want to do the work, then we'll continue to have this conversation 20 years from now.
ZAHN: And we're going to continue to have a lot more of these conversations on this show. We've all learned a lot about each other and I would like to go to both of your family's churches.
WATKINS: All right. Bring your dancing shoes.
ZAHN: You got them. Hope I could keep up.
Roland Martin, Reverend Watkins, Melanie Campbell. Thank you very much for joining us tonight. I appreciate your time.
When we come back, the future of racism: my conversations with schoolchildren on their feelings about race. Wait till you hear what they have to say.
You'll see when we come back.
ZAHN: During this special hour, we have taken a very close look at how racism is alive and well in this country, lurking just beneath the surface in some cases. But this country has also made some incredible progress over the last 50 years. And recently, I met some fourth graders who gave me great hope that, perhaps, the next 50 years could be better.
ZAHN (voice-over): We went to three very different fourth grade classrooms in three very different neighborhoods. What we found in each was, in a word, optimistic.
(on camera): What are the first three things that you think of when you think of a white person?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Friendly.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nice.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And happy.
ZAHN (voice-over): At this public school in Yonkers, New York 78 percent of the students are African-American and Hispanic. They say they've been taught to value each other.
(on camera): And what would be the first three words that come to mind when you think of what defines a black person? UNIDENTIFIED MALE The same, probably the same.
ZAHN: So you don't see any difference between white people and black people?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
ZAHN (voice-over): At the Grace Church School in lower Manhattan, where tuition is $26,000 a year, where there are just two black students in a class of 43, we heard much the same.
(on camera): When you hang out with your friends, do you ever spend time with black children?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sometimes. I mean, I don't look at people of their color of their skin, I look at people, what's inside of them. And that's all that matters.
ZAHN: Do you think much about your being black and Oliver being white? Do you spend much time thinking about that?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't really spend time thinking about that.
ZAHN: So, you have white friends?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
ZAHN: You have black friends?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
ZAHN (voice-over): These children in a Chicago public school, black and white, live together, learn together, they say, in harmony.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're humans and just because we're in different forms doesn't mean that we're not the same.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sometimes, people would say, oh, why do you have a black friend? I'd say, it doesn't matter, really. They're just different skin color.
ZAHN (on camera): Do you tend to hang out with black kids or white kids?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It really doesn't matter because I hang out with anyone. I hang out with white people and black people and many kind of people.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Like if Samantha was my best friend, I wouldn't say that I wouldn't be your friend if she was black because that's not how you treat a person.
ZAHN: Who taught you that? UNIDENTIFIEDD FEMALE: I kind of just know, like my parents and everyone always says, don't treat people differently because they're black.
ZAHN (voice-over): The question, of course, is whether those lessons will last. Based on what the children told me, there seems to be a pretty good chance of that.
(on camera): Do you consider racism a bad word?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, not really a bad word, but racism itself is a bad thing. It's wrong.
ZAHN: So, what do you want America to learn from your experience here at school and your experience at home?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think they should learn that everybody should be treated the same way. They shouldn't be judged by the color of their skin.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't judge them by their skin color, judge them by how they act.
ZAHN: And wouldn't that be one great thing, if in 50 years, these children still have such positive feelings for each other and still are able to live and work together.
Coming up on "LARRY KING LIVE", remembering actor Peter Boyle. "Everybody Loves Raymond" stars Ray Romano, Doris Roberts and Brad Garrett join Larry at the top of the hour.
We'll be right back.
ZAHN: And that wraps it up. For all of us here tonight, thanks so much for joining up. We're going to continue this dialogue in the future with more specials about intolerance and racism. We're going to explore how these issues affect people from other races and religions in this country and look at how we can reconcile some of those, in some cases, big differences.
Let us know your thoughts by sending us an e-mail at now@CNN.com.
Again, thanks for joining us tonight.
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