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PAULA ZAHN NOW

Divided We Stand: Self-Segregation Out in the Open; Iran Announces Release of British Soldiers

Aired April 4, 2007 - 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: Good evening, everybody. Glad to have you with us tonight.
We are devoting a major part of this special hour to something that is rarely explored. After decades of struggle to overcome racial barriers in this country, there is still segregation everywhere. Think about it. We constantly voluntarily separate ourselves by race and culture. We do it in church. We do it at schools, where we live.

But is there a right or wrong? Well, we're going to explore that in a special part of the hour, "Divided We Stand: Self-Segregation Out in the Open."

But, first, there is a major breaking news story to talk about tonight. Iran is just about to release 15 British marines and sailors. As you probably know, they have been held captive for the past 13 days, as international tensions escalated and oil and gas prices soared.

Well, now it looks like everyone is stepping back from the brink of an even more serious international crisis.

Senior international correspondent Matthew Chance just filed this report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): After nearly two weeks as prisoners in Iran, the moment the 15 British sailors and marines learned of their freedom.

One by one, Iran's hard-line president bids them goodbye. With the world watching, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad takes each of them by the hand, accepting words of thanks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're very grateful for your forgiveness.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're delighted as this result here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were you expecting this in the last few hours?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no. It's come as a complete surprise.

CHANCE: This was Ahmadinejad's day of grand gestures. First, he awarded a medal for bravery to the commander of Iranian troops who captured the Britons. Then, with a final dramatic flourish, he presented what he called his gift to their country.

MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, IRANIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): And I announce their freedom and their return to the people of Britain. I request the government of Mr. Blair not to question these people or to place them on trial for speaking the truth.

CHANCE: Since their capture in disputed waters between Iraq and Iran 13 days ago, tensions mounted hour by hour. Iranians suggested that the British personnel might be put on trial. They were paraded on Iranian television, making staged confessions that they had in fact been captured in Iranian waters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I would like to say to the Iranian people I can understand why you are so angry about our intrusion into your waters.

CHANCE: Most recent images show the captives looking relaxed, evidence, according to the Iranians, the statements were not made duress.

But British officials strongly objected to the constant displaying of the captives on television, and warned they would increase the pressure on Iran if there was no early release. The British prime minister appeared relieved his government's low-key diplomacy has apparently paid off.

TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I'm glad that our 15 service personnel have been released. I know their release will come as a profound relief, not just to them, but to their families that have endured such distress and anxiety over these past 12 days.

Throughout, we have taken a measured approach, firm, but calm, not negotiating, but not confronting either.

CHANCE: It was far from calm in the pubs and bars where friends and family of the captured Britons celebrated news of their freedom. And there are thanks all around these anxious days are finally drawing to an end.

Matthew Chance, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: So, who are the biggest winners and lures -- losers, that is -- in this international drama?

With me now, an international security expert, Jim Walsh, with MIT.

Always glad to have you on. Welcome back.

JIM WALSH, INTERNATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST, MASSACHUSETTS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY: Good to see you, Paula.

ZAHN: Thank you. So, we got to see Matthew Chance describing Ahmadinejad preening and gloating today, particularly in the glare of all these television cameras. In the end, did he gain anything?

WALSH: Well, you know, in general, these sort of dramas usually end up in a draw, in which both sides up a end up a little worse than where they started.

In this case, Britain and Iran were both criticized through this last two weeks. And they both can claim that they got something. But, if you ask me, I think Britain comes out ahead.

Tony Blair was criticized for being soft by armchair quarterbacks both here and in Britain, but, at the end of the day, he showed that prudence and patience pay off, and he got his people back. And I think he's the big winner.

ZAHN: Well, let's let the audience hear a little bit more about how he approached this crisis. Let's listen in.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLAIR: Throughout, we have taken a measured approach, firm, but calm, not negotiating, but not confronting, either.

To the Iranian people, I would simply say this. We bear you no ill will.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: Well, certainly, he had to say that, that he bears the Iranian people no ill will, but couldn't he have been a little bit stronger when it came to the indictment of President Ahmadinejad?

WALSH: Well, you don't want to speak too soon, Paula, because those sailors are still not on British territory. He may offer a different set of comments once they're back in the arms of their family.

Again, I think he handled this well. It's been two weeks, but he got all his people back. Britain did not apologize. And, if you notice, in Ahmadinejad's press conference today, he said as much. He said, he had hoped that they would get an apology. They didn't get an apology. So, clearly, Iran did not get all of what they wanted to get.

They got some things, but they didn't get that. And, so, I think Tony Blair is quite happy with the way things turned out.

ZAHN: Jim, we have heard a bunch of different stories about how this deal came together. What do you think happened?

WALSH: Well, you know, all day, we have talked about President Ahmadinejad, all the pictures. He was at the press conference. If you ask me, I think the real question here is, where is the supreme leader? What did he do? In the Iranian system, the president is not the decider. The supreme leader is the decider. My own guess is that the supreme leader, at some point, said, hey, you know, let's stop the bleeding here. Let's put an end to this. He gave this issue to Ali Larijani, his chief negotiator, essentially signalling that he wanted a diplomatic compromise.

And, if you ask me, Ahmadinejad and the Revolutionary Guard really came out the losers within this internal battle about whether to hold on to them or whether to give them up. And, probably, Ahmadinejad was thrown a bone at the end by saying, well, you can make the announcement.

But, at the end of the day, it was the negotiators who got the green light from the supreme leader, not the hard-liners.

ZAHN: Right. And the hard-liners certainly got their wrists slapped in all of this.

WALSH: Absolutely.

And I think, you know, in the end, Iran started out in a position that was tactically strong. That is to say, they had the sailors. No one could force them to give them up. But their strategic position was terrible and getting worse every day -- a U.N. resolution condemning it, a European Union resolution condemning it.

And, the more and more this went on, I think it probably would have fed into anger on in Tehran among average voters, who want to see their economic situation improve...

ZAHN: Sure.

WALSH: ... and who are not interested in cause -- stirring up the pot and causing problems.

ZAHN: Jim Walsh, thanks for always making it clear to us.

WALSH: Thank you.

ZAHN: Appreciate it.

WALSH: Thank you, Paula.

ZAHN: And we're going to move on now, because we have a very important subject to bring out in the open tonight. Why is it that, starting in school, we Americans separate ourselves by race? I'm going to take you to a cafeteria where the dividing lines between blacks and whites are painfully obvious. Wait until you see what I saw when I traveled to Buffalo.

You're also going to be shocked when you see just how far colleges will go to help the races stay apart.

Our special report, ""Divided We Stand: Self-Segregation in America," begins in just a minute. Please stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Welcome back.

For the rest of this hour, we're taking a special look at why America is a nation divided. We call it self-segregation, because we separate ourselves from one another by race.

Now, I want to be clear. We're not making a judgment here. Watch the reports. Ask yourself whether it is good or bad, whether it's human nature or racism.

Well, whatever the reason, it certainly starts early. As an eye- opening way to kick off our special coverage, I recently visited a racially-mixed public high school in Buffalo. At a cafeteria where racial lines are clearly drawn, I asked students why they go separate ways.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I tend to gravitate toward, you know, people of my culture, because they know, you know, what I'm going through at home.

HEATHER, STUDENT: If I have a choice to sit next to a black person or a white person who I know, yes, I will sit next to the white person who I know.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don't really notice like, oh, I'm sitting with all black people until somebody says something to you. And then you look around, and you're like, oh.

ZAHN: When you walk into this school, it is clear just how racially diverse it is, the school made up of whites, blacks and Hispanics.

In the classrooms and in the hallways, you see all of these kids mix. But what happens here in the cafeteria is a completely different story. You see a huge racial divide.

Just look at this one table, all the white kids at this end eating together, and, then, at the other end of this table, all of the black students together.

JAMILA, STUDENT: Mostly, it's not a racial issue. We just sit with who we feel comfortable with.

ZAHN: So, we shouldn't read more into the segregation we see at lunch than what...

(CROSSTALK)

JAMILA: No. It's not like we hate each other because we're from a different race. It's just who we choose to sit with. JONATHAN, STUDENT: It just happens to break up by race.

We relate on certain things. We come from the same neighborhood. You know, we probably go to the same church. We like the same clothes. We like the same music.

ZAHN: Do you ever sit with white kids at lunch?

JONATHAN: When I go from table to table. I say hi. I don't necessarily sit there for my whole lunch.

HEATHER: It's more habit. If somebody sits with me, then they sit with me. If they don't, they don't.

ZAHN: Is there underlying tension?

HEATHER: No.

MYRON, STUDENT: White kids are intimidated by black people. The people like to sit with people they feel more comfortable and they relate to.

ZAHN: So, how much do you think race is an issue?

MYRON: It is somewhat, but not like a big issue.

ZAHN (voice-over): Big or small, it's an issue that mirrors the community they live in, Buffalo, one of the most racially segregated cities in the country.

(on camera): Can you completely rule out what role race plays in this?

KEVIN KAZMIERCZAK, PRINCIPAL, BUFFALO ACADEMY FOR THE VISUAL & PERFORMING ARTS: No, I can't. They weren't even aware that they...

ZAHN (voice-over): Kevin Kazmierczak is the principal of the Buffalo Academy for the Visual & Performing Arts.

KAZMIERCZAK: It certainly would be great if we could see more of an intermixing, you know, in the cafeteria. It would give us more hope for the future.

ZAHN: He knows firsthand just how hard that it to do. Two years ago, the school tried.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "I SIT WHERE I WANT")

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Black, white, black, black, white.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: For a documentary called "I Sit Where I Want," cameras followed his students as they tried to reintegrate their racially divided cafeteria.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "I SIT WHERE I WANT")

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everybody, we want you guys to mix up. Go sit next to somebody who is a different race.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: For a couple of days, they tried to get people to mix.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "I SIT WHERE I WANT")

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So get up. We're going to move you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I need you all to come with me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right over there, and then you two over here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. That's what I'm talking about.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: It worked short-term.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "I SIT WHERE I WANT")

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I liked it a lot.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I liked it a lot, too.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It went awesome.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: But, soon after the cameras left, the whites went back to sitting with the whites, the blacks with the blacks, and the Hispanics with the Hispanics.

BEVERLY DANIEL TATUM, PRESIDENT, SPELMAN COLLEGE: You would not expect that a one-time experience would necessarily change well- established patterns.

ZAHN: Beverly Daniel Tatum is not surprised. She wrote a back called "Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?" and says clustering by race is human nature.

TATUM: You can see it in corporate America, when you walk into the corporate dining rooms. You can see it in colleges and universities. Certainly, you can see it in lots of different contexts.

ZAHN: While Tatum thinks self-segregation can create a positive self-identity and racial awareness, it can also promote intolerance and racism.

TATUM: Particularly in an environment where there's a lot of racial tension is that it can continue to fuel that racial tension.

ZAHN: With new reports of racial incidents at the Buffalo Academy, principal Kazmierczak is concerned.

KAZMIERCZAK: We are hearing students saying, I was called this particular name which refers to my race.

It's not at the level where I'm sounding an alarm. But, certainly, it's something that we monitor all the time.

ZAHN: So, for now, he promotes diversity and tolerance in classrooms and school activities. As for the cafeteria, it remains divided.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And we have a special "Out in the Open" panel tonight. They will be with us throughout the hour to talk about self- segregation, Molly Secours, who writes a column on race relations for BlackCommentator.com, CNN contributor Roland Martin, Reverend Jesse Lee, founder and president of Brotherhood Organization for a New Destiny, and James Edwards, host of "The Political Cesspool" on WLRM- AM Radio in Memphis Tennessee.

Welcome, all.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: One of the most striking things about talking to these kids is the extent to which they downplayed the issue of race is why it is all the white kids sat together, the black kids, and Hispanics.

Do you buy that?

JESSE LEE PETERSON, FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT, BROTHERHOOD ORGANIZATION OF A NEW DESTINY: I don't.

You know, a lot of white Americans are afraid to talk about race and morality concerning black Americans, because...

ZAHN: But I was talking to black kids, too.

PETERSON: Yes. Well...

ZAHN: They said the same thing. They said, we want to be around kids that have something in common with us.

PETERSON: You know...

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: We're in schoolrooms with them all day long. Lunches are the little bit of time that we have to relax.

PETERSON: Yes, you do find that. People tend to be comfortable with folks that they know. But, when it comes to white and black -- the white-and-black issue, most black Americans are racists and resentful of white Americans. And, so, they don't real comfortable around white Americans. And, instead of facing their racism, they say, well, it's the white man. White people are racist toward us.

And white folks are fed up. They are afraid to speak up, for fear of being called racist. They are now afraid to hang around with black Americans because of the fear of saying the wrong things.

ZAHN: Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait a minute.

So, you're telling me these kids at this school in this racially diverse city are all racists, or just the black kids?

(CROSSTALK)

PETERSON: No. I'm not saying that they all are. But I am saying that most blacks are today. And we haven't dealt with the issue of racism from black Americans toward white folks, because blacks have been told that they can't be a racist by their -- quote, unquote -- "leaders."

And, so, racism within the hearts and minds of black folks concerning white Americans have not been dealt with.

ZAHN: All right.

Do you not like me? Do you not like James? Do you not like white people, Roland Martin?

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: First of all, the nonsense that Reverend Peterson is spewing is ridiculous.

Here's the reality. Folks live in areas where they live. So, they go to school. You have an understanding of where you're simply from. I went to Texas A&M. And it was interesting when students from large cities would sit with students from large cities. Students from rural towns would sit with students from rural towns. Texas A&M was 86 percent white...

ZAHN: Right.

MARTIN: ... when I was a student there. That is the reality.

Now, the issue is what happens when you only stay in that particular area. I don't buy this nonsense that they're racist. People are simply comfortable based upon circumstance, based upon where they're from, based upon culture, based upon knowledge.

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: That's what it boils down to. And so...

PETERSON: Roland is in denial, Paula.

(CROSSTALK)

PETERSON: Let -- Paula, let me say Roland is in denial. I wrote on article for WorldNetDaily.com looking for one strong white man, a white man that would speak up. And I received truckloads of e-mails from white Americans who said that: I am afraid to deal with black folks for fear of being called a racist.

I got it from preachers and non-preachers alike.

MARTIN: James.

JAMES EDWARDS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Paula, Reverend Peterson is absolutely right.

As a white American, I think that what's portrayed throughout the controlled media is that self-segregation is something that we should apologize for, when, in fact, the exact opposite is true. I think that it's perfectly natural and healthy that one would choose to associate with members of their own families, people with whom they share the same values and traditions and heroes.

There's nothing enriching for white schoolchildren to be bused across town to gang-ridden schools, in which they have to walk through metal detectors before they can report to class.

ZAHN: But that's not the point here. This -- this is a racially diverse school.

MARTIN: Right.

(LAUGHTER)

ZAHN: I mean, we're talking about a school that actually -- where they got rid of segregation years and years ago, by federal mandate.

(CROSSTALK)

MOLLY SECOURS, COLUMNIST, BLACKCOMMENTATOR.COM: Paula, the idea of white people are afraid to be called racist, first of all, we need to get over this whole thing of: Am I a racist? Am I not?

The answer is yes. You cannot grow up in America and not be racist if you are white.

PETERSON: Are you saying all white people are racist?

SECOURS: I'm saying all white people start off being racist. You cannot...

(CROSSTALK)

PETERSON: That's insanity.

SECOURS: You cannot...

PETERSON: See, that's the type of stuff that has been taught to the kids. (CROSSTALK)

SECOURS: Could I finish, please?

PETERSON: That's just -- that's ludicrous.

SECOURS: You cannot grow up in this culture without being racist.

Once you accept the fact that you have inherited it, you have -- it's in the air. So, when you...

PETERSON: So, do you agree with me that most blacks are racist to all whites today?

(CROSSTALK)

SECOURS: By the time I die, I will be less racist, but it's only to the degree that I work against being racist.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: But what about the reverend's point, that he feels that blacks are more racist towards whites towards blacks?

SECOURS: Racism equals prejudice plus power. Blacks in this country do not have power. They do not have...

(CROSSTALK)

PETERSON: You don't have to have power.

(CROSSTALK)

PETERSON: You don't have to have power. Paula, you do not have to have power to be a racist.

(CROSSTALK)

SECOURS: You have to have power to be a racist.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: OK.

PETERSON: White conservatives are discriminated against...

ZAHN: All right.

PETERSON: ... by liberal blacks, like this guy here. They're called Uncle Toms and...

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: All right. Hang on. Hang on. You got to hang on.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: James, you get the last thought. And then we will come back to all of you.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: Time out. Time out.

James, you get the last word. And then you all get to chime in after the break.

EDWARDS: Only liberal -- only liberal demagogues believe that human nature can be carried away on an integrated school bus.

There is nothing wrong with European Americans standing up for their cultures and their traditions. And you want that for minorities. Well, we want it for ourselves. And I think many white Americans are seeing through this charade. And I'm one of them that is beginning to speak out against it.

ZAHN: Do you consider yourself a racist?

EDWARDS: No. I consider myself a man who's proud of his cultural heritage.

ZAHN: All right.

We're going to take a short break. Hold your thoughts. Hold your fire. We have got a lot more to discuss here tonight.

And I want you all to join in on our conversation tonight. We have several ways you can do that. Log on to our Web site at CNN.com/Paula. Find our "Quick Vote" question: Is self-segregation bad for race relations in the U.S.? You can also drop us an e-mail, if that's easier for us -- or for you. The address is NOW@CNN.com.

We're going to move from high school to college, where students not only eat separately; there are entire dorms for separate races.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JENNIFER ST. PREUX, CORNELL UNIVERSITY STUDENT: The purpose of living here is just to learn more and be proud of being black.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: Some students say, that's great, but others call it racial idiocy. That's out in the open next.

And, then, a little bit later on in this special hour, "Divided We Stand," one of the most upscale neighborhoods you could ever find. Why are there hardly any white people?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: And welcome back. Tonight, we're bringing self-segregation in America out in the open.

During the civil rights movement in the 1960s, the song "We Shall Overcome" was almost like an anthem on many college campuses. And college students marched and sometimes died on the front lines on the fight for integration and equality. So, 40 years later, why do many schools have what are essentially segregated dorms?

We sent our Dan Lothian to an elite university in Upstate New York to find out.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN BOSTON BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): At Cornell University, Jennifer St. Preux lives in a dorm where race matters.

JENNIFER ST. PREUX, CORNELL UNIVERSITY STUDENT: The purpose of living here is just to learn more and be proud of being black.

LOTHIAN: Most of the students living at Ujamaa are black.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It keeps you together. And...

LOTHIAN: At the Living Center, Latinos.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many folks in the room immigrated to this country?

LOTHIAN: And at Akwe:kon, Native American.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It pays a lot of respect to native cultures.

LOTHIAN: There are others, too, dorms for special interests, like the environment and music. But it's the houses that focus on a particular race that have critics crying foul.

(on camera): So, you think this is self-segregation, what's taking place? I mean, you see it as that?

MEGAN SWEENEY, DIRECTOR, CORNELL UNIVERSITY COLLEGE REPUBLICANS: Yes.

LOTHIAN (voice-over): CNN Megan Sweeney says not too many people want to say that out loud.

SWEENEY: Well, if you're not for program houses, that, you know, obviously, you're racist or you're -- you know, you're against diversity, or you just -- you know, you're just not open to, you know, learning about other cultures.

LOTHIAN: Michael Meyers, who heads a coalition long opposed to program housing, says dividing a campus by race sends the wrong message about diversity. MICHAEL MEYERS, PRESIDENT AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NEW YORK CIVIL RIGHTS COALITION: This is just morally wrong. And it has to be objected to as racial idiocy. That's exactly what it is.

LOTHIAN (on camera): So, you think the way to really have diversity is for everybody to be basically living under the same roof?

SWEENEY: That's really where you learn to deal with people that maybe you didn't interact with, you know, growing up, or maybe you didn't learn about their culture.

LOTHIAN (voice-over): These program houses started popping up on campus in the '70s and '80s, when there were few minorities enrolled.

University administrator Susan Murphy admits the system may not be perfect, but says calling it self-segregation is wrong.

SUSAN MURPHY, VICE PRESIDENT OF STUDENT AND ACADEMIC AFFAIRS, CORNELL UNIVERSITY: For those students for whom that is their comfort zone, they use it as a jumping off point to the embrace campus writ large, and not as a place to isolate themselves.

LOTHIAN: St. Preux, a junior from Long Island, says, more than just a place to sleep, this cultural experience actually promotes diversity.

ST. PREUX: More of a learning -- living and learning center, not a segregationist type of institution.

LOTHIAN: Instead of isolation, some say it is more about inclusion.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Coexisting and respecting one another, while not interfering, nor forcing the other into a different direction.

LOTHIAN: In one weekend, Akwe:kon, Ujamaa, and the Latino Living Center sponsor provocative lectures, had dinners or showcased talent, all with cultural themes.

But, if promoting diversity across campus is the ultimate goal, is the wider student body even aware of what goes on inside these dorms?

MURPHY: I would be naive if I told you that most students who did not live there had been in one of them. In other words, I think we still have a challenge in helping any of the residents halls attract students outside the residence halls.

LOTHIAN: Sweeney fears, the controversy has already caused resentment among some students.

SWEENEY: So, it kind of creates this unspoken -- this unspoken barrier.

LOTHIAN: Certainly not what these dorms were built to do. Dan Lothian, CNN, Ithaca, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: So, you know what? When students finally leave school and start moving up in the world, self-segregation moves right along with them.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know of any white folks that live in this development.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: The next stop in our special hour, "Divided We Stand," one of the wealthiest, upscale and non-white suburbs in the country.

And we want to know what you think about self-segregation. Send our panel an e-mail. The address is NOW@CNN.com. They are looking at what you're writing right now.

Aren't you, Roland? Yes, he is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Welcome back to our special report, "Divided We Stand: Self-Segregation," "Out in the Open. Now we want to look at a relatively recent trend. African-Americans who once fled the South to escape segregation are now moving back down South. But now they're moving into black neighborhoods on purpose, deliberately choosing self-segregation for a better quality of life. We sent T.J. Holmes to one very affluent Atlanta suburb to find out more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

T.J. HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It has been called the "black Beverly Hills." Home to doctors, lawyers, judges, CEOs, elected officials and even celebrities. So who wouldn't want to live here? Apparently white people.

ROBERT BURROUGHS, REAL ESTATE ATTORNEY: I don't know of any white folks that live in this development.

HOLMES: This development in Lithonia, Georgia, just 20 miles from Atlanta, is filled with homes that cost from several hundred thousand to several million dollars. Over 80 percent of the population is black thanks to a slow and steady process of self- segregation that has seen African-Americans move in and whites move out a factor that Lithonia real estate attorney Robert Burroughs says appeals to successful black homeowners.

BURROUGHS: When they find that these are black communities, it ends up being a plus. It ends up being, often times, what may close the deal.

HOLMES: That helped close the deal for Cynthia Odum, who moved here from California.

(on camera): What were you thoughts when you drove down through neighborhoods like this?

CYNTHIA ODUM, LITHONIA RESIDENT: I actually -- I said, black people live in these houses? I didn't believe it.

HOLMES (voice-over): Cynthia's childhood friend Diana Clarkson also relocated here several years ago she says to get away from the constant racial tension she'd grown used to in her old neighborhoods.

DIANA CLARKSON, MOVED TO LITHONIA: People either assumed you were the nanny if you were pushing a stroller or you were visiting or somehow, you know, not supposed to be in the neighborhood. For the first time I wasn't asked really kind of ridiculous questions that I'd been asked in other neighborhoods I lived. And so there was an upside of just a comfort.

REV. MARK LOMAX, FIRST AFRICAN PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH: We have been called to be about life.

HOLMES: Reverend Mark Lomax leads an all-black church in this mostly black town and explains the self-segregation here as a struggle to fight the disrespect blacks feel elsewhere.

LOMAX: To this very day, many African-Americans feel that they have to become in some way white in order to be accepted in the broader culture. Lithonia represents a place where black folks can be who they are without apology. So it is a form of sanctuary because when you leave a place like Lithonia, you've got to wear the mask again.

HOLMES (on camera): Black folks have been fighting for years for integration and here we have a community that seems pretty much a segregated black community, by choice. Do you see any disadvantages to a community like that?

LOMAX: Well, you know, the downside is that we in America still haven't gotten over the issue of race. I mean, that seems to me to be one of the most persistent problems in this country, regardless of where you go. We have never gotten over the racial barrier, white, black, dark, light, even within the black community.

SARAH STREIFF, DEKALB COUNTY RESIDENT: We chose this neighborhood and this house to live in.

HOLMES (voice-over): Sarah Streiff says she wanted to break down those barriers, so she moved here with her family nine years ago and became part of Lithonia's white minority. Her son Micah (ph) stood out on his high school football team.

STREIFF: There were a lot of fears when we first moved here, like if Jeff were going out of town, I was really afraid to stay alone. I had a stereotype about it being somehow dangerous. And what I found was totally opposite. There's so much joy here and sense of community and helping each other out. HOLMES: So while blacks may continue to move to Lithonia and whites may stay the minority, Robert Burroughs believes his town sends a positive message about diversity, race, and self-segregation.

BURROUGHS: I think what black folks are saying is that I don't have to be with white folks to live in this kind of community. People want a nice place to live and a nice community to raise their children in.

HOLMES: T.J. Holmes, CNN, Lithonia, Georgia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: So we've got a question for you. Are most of your neighbors the same race and would you prefer it any other way? I'm about to bring back tonight's "Out in the Open" panel. If you want to drop us a quick e-mail, our address is now@cnn.com. And then a little bit later on in this special hour, we're going to church.

SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Why are people who are devoted to God divided by race? I'm Susan Roesgen in Dothan, Alabama. If God is color blind, why aren't we? The story coming up on "PAULA ZAHN NOW."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LOMAX: I don't think that that's what most people intended when they...

(SOUND EFFECTS AND MUSIC OBSCURING AUDIO)

LOMAX: ... this would become a segregated community. I think that (INAUDIBLE) talking about African-Americans moved into communities like Lithonia in the hopes that they would be welcomed. And it simply didn't happen. As African-Americans began to move into Lithonia and southeast DeKalb County, white people began to move out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: We continue our special hour now, "Divided We Stand: Self- Segregation" in America. That minister we just heard is talking about an affluent and largely black suburb just east of Atlanta, but it could be anywhere in America. Let's go back to our "Out in the Open" panel now. Molly Secours and Roland Martin, who think that self- segregation is natural, not always a reflection of racism. Also with us tonight, Reverend Jesse Lee Peterson who says blacks are often responsible for self-segregation and victimization, and James Edwards, who is a white separatist.

Welcome back. Now you have been highly critical of African- Americans. You think a lot of crime and poverty follows where they are. Take a look at that community. Is that a place where you could live? EDWARDS: Well, look, no, it absolutely does follow them and you know that it does. And I think CNN outdid themselves in finding the strong affluent black community, because that is certainly the exception and not the rule. Nine times out of 10, integration is a one-way street that runs directly through white neighborhoods. And I think that we've seen that throughout the last 40 years as the failed civil rights movement has manifested itself in our daily lives.

MARTIN: You know what, Paula, let me make something very clear. It is offensive for him to project this level of ignorance on national television. First and foremost, have you even been that you understand the community? You haven't.

EDWARDS: I have been (ph) amongst your people...

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: But you haven't...

(CROSSTALK)

EDWARDS: Absolutely.

MARTIN: Watch "your people," that's Ross Perot. Here's the whole deal with this community. You're dealing with African-Americans of a particular income level, OK? So you talk about self-segregation, it's not just based upon race. The piece laid out this whole issue of race, but it's also based upon income.

ZAHN: You heard what the minister said. He said very clearly, we fight disrespect almost everywhere. We don't have to be white in this community.

MARTIN: And people who live in that neighborhood also talked about when they lived in affluent white neighborhoods, when they walked their kids down the streets, people perceived them as being the nanny and they said they got sick and tired of that level of injustice.

So they said, wait a minute, I don't want to have to sit here and spend a million dollars on a home and somebody thinks I'm a nanny. That's offensive.

PETERSON: You have several dynamics going on in Atlanta. Out of Los Angeles, for example, many blacks are moving back to Atlanta because of illegal aliens -- the illegal alien situation in Atlanta. They're running blacks out of their communities.

Also, blacks are separating themselves because of their own hatred or resentment toward white folk. They don't feel comfortable and instead of looking at that, they're blaming white folks. I don't...

ZAHN: You think they're moving to Lithonia because they don't like white folks?

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: You saw that one white family, (INAUDIBLE) quite nicely...

(CROSSTALK)

PETERSON: Yes. And you heard the lady say that she was afraid to move in because we are so separated, thanks to the so-called civil rights movement, the blacks and whites are so separated we haven't really gotten to know each other. And so whites...

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: Wait a minute. They're separated because of the civil rights movement? Could they be separated because of what happened before? Oh, stop.

(CROSSTALK)

PETERSON: ... because Jesse Jackson and others have intimidated...

MARTIN: Now all of a sudden the civil rights movement sponsored the separatism.

(CROSSTALK)

PETERSON: If you disagree with...

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: OK. Let Molly jump in.

MARTIN: Yes, you said enough, Jesse, trust me.

PETERSON: Calm down, Roland.

SECOURS: I just want us to pay attention here, Belle Meade is a community in Nashville, very affluent community, 99.9 percent white, I would say. I've never heard of anyone saying this area is self- segregated. This is where white people live. This is where affluent white people -- but no, we deconstruct a neighborhood in Georgia because affluent black people are there and we're calling it self- segregation. We don't call that self-segregation in Belle Meade where white people live.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: But doesn't that have something to do with populations you're talking about, whites being the majority population.

PETERSON: Yes, ma'am.

SECOURS: But that's what I'm saying is, why do we deconstruct black people, why do we put them under a microscope and say, my goodness, look at these people, they would like to have a nice life...

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: New Birth Missionary Baptist Church is run by Bishop Eddie L. Long, that church now is 9 percent Hispanic. They now have an Hispanic worship service. What you're saying is Lithonia is becoming diverse. That church, 25,000 members right there in Lithonia. That's a reality. It's a reality.

PETERSON: I want to just disagree with one thing that he said. You know, crime does follow blacks who don't have two parents in the home.

EDWARDS: Absolutely. Absolutely.

PETERSON: Crime and violence and the lack of moral character, right?

MARTIN: Oh, so white folks don't commit crimes, right?

PETERSON: But where there are two parents -- hold on...

(CROSSTALK)

PETERSON: But where there are two parents you don't tend to find out of control crime.

(CROSSTALK)

EDWARDS: You're talking about self-segregation...

ZAHN: Stable families that...

(CROSSTALK)

EDWARDS: You're talking about self-segregation, but forced integration is not a path to equality. It's march towards totalitarianism. And all of these liberal talking heads that want to talk -- crow about the wonders of diversity, spend a week on the means streets of south Memphis and you'll graduate with a degree in race relations.

MARTIN: Wow.

SECOURS: This from the man who doesn't believe in integration...

MARTIN: The mean streets.

(CROSSTALK)

EDWARDS: I don't believe in forced integration.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: Hang on. Hold your thoughts.

MARTIN: I guess your neighborhood is really safe, huh?

EDWARDS: Yes, it is.

MARTIN: Yes, right.

ZAHN: Oh boy, OK. Hang on. Stay with me. The conversation -- I promise we'll continue on the other side. Save it. There's still some time to let us know what you all think. Go to cnn.com/paula to answer our quick vote question, is self-segregation bad for race relations in the U.S.?

And coming up next, we're going to go to church separately.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are the black church and the black people go here, we are the white church and the white church go -- crap, we are supposed to be about Christ.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: Next in our special hour "Divided We Stand," very strong feelings about staying apart while we worship God. We'll explain when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Martin Luther King was only 39 years old when he died and he was assassinated 39 years ago today. King used to point out that the most segregated hour in this country was Sunday morning at 11:00 a.m. when Americans go to church. Well, 39 years after his death, it seems that nothing has changed. We asked Susan Roesgen to visit some black and white churches to ask why.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROESGEN (voice-over): It's Sunday morning in the small town of Dothan, Alabama, 60,000 people, 140 churches. Sunday is the time to sing, to worship, and for many, a time to be with their own.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are the blue collar church and the blue collar people go here. We are the black church and the black people go here. We are the white church, and the white church go -- crap, we are supposed to be about Christ. Christ was about everybody.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll use the phrase that I've heard that I don't like. Why don't they go to their church? What does that mean? It's not my church, it's God's church. I know for some blacks to walk into a white church is uncomfortable. And if they can walk into a black church and be comfortable, that's what I want for them. And if a white can go to the black church and be comfortable, that's what I want for the white. It's not a competition, it's not a comparison.

ROESGEN: Meet two preachers, two churches. Both up against the same self-segregation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jesus is not our servant. He is our lord. ROESGEN: Pastor Van Gote (ph) leads Calvary Baptist, one of the biggest predominantly white churches in Dothan. Of nearly 3,000 members, just 45 are black. That's less than 2 percent. Nine years ago, there weren't any black members. But that was before the black church custodian fell in love with the white pastor's daughter. Janna's (ph) father, the pastor, had a startling confession.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It would have been OK with me if one of my sisters would have married an African-American, it would not have bother me. But when my own daughter married one, I found that I resisted that and I had to stand before the congregation and apologize and say, I have sinned. I'm sorry, forgive me.

ROESGEN: For some, Calvary Baptist is a mirror image of the nation's religious self-segregation. On the other side of town, you can see the same racial dividing line at one of Dothan's black churches.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stand on your feet and say, Reverend, I want to move into the supernatural power of God.

ROESGEN: Reverend Paul Holman (ph) leads the Greater Beulah Missionary Baptist Church. White worshippers occasionally visit, but all 1,200 registered church members are black.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What color are we going to be when we get to heaven? What features are we going to have when we get to heaven? It's your spirit that's going to heaven. And I dare not ask God when the angels are around heaven, what kind of features they should have.

ROESGEN: Reverend Holman and Pastor Gote both believe that changes racial stereotypes even in church will have to start with the younger generation. And one day, the child of the black church custodian and the white minister's daughter may worship in a church of many colors.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a different generation with a different outlook. And even those who have had to deal with prejudice are finding the joy of overcoming that.

ROESGEN: But for now, the question remains if God is color blind, why aren't we?

Susan Roesgen, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Back to our panel now. Molly Secours, Roland Martin, Reverend Jesse Lee Patterson -- Peterson, that is, excuse me, and James Edwards. So what is it, Roland, that whites don't get about the black church experience?

MARTIN: Well, it's not a question of that. the bottom line is...

ZAHN: But it is! And we're not there. We're not packing the churches with you side by side.

MARTIN: No, look, but here is the reality. Our churches come from our neighborhoods. Our neighborhoods typically are segregated. And that is the reality of it. Also different worship experiences, and that's what you have there. You do have people who do want to be honest about celebrating one God, but they want to be separate because they have different perspectives when it comes to worship.

ZAHN: Molly.

SECOURS: And why would be worship together? I mean, historically, we have to -- this self-segregation topic, we have to look historically on what this is about and how it got to be this way. Whites have always driven self-segregation and historically, African people had to hide their religion, their spirituality when they came here. So there has always been that separation and there was safety in segregation for it when this -- what you're calling self- segregation. That's about safety, that's about protection.

ZAHN: We wants to hear what you have to think about this. We asked you our quick vote question, self-segregation bad for race relations in the U.S.? Forty-six percent of you said yes, 37 percent said no, 17 percent says it doesn't matter. We should make it clear the results are not scientific.

What do you make of those results?

EDWARDS: Well, I don't know what to make of the results. I mean, obviously the people who tune into CNN probably would not be of a conservative persuasion for the most part.

But getting back to the churches, as a Christian...

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: It's not that we measure that by our...

(CROSSTALK)

EDWARDS: Well, no, but listen, listen. As a Christian, I've always been under the impression that it was the role of the church to bring people to the acceptance of Jesus Christ as their lord and savior. Not to preach the failed social gospel of cultural Marxism.

And I reject the term segregationist. I reject the term separatist. I'm a man who is proud of his ethnicity. Is Mr. Martin is black separatist because he is proud of his race? I don't think so, and neither am I.

MARTIN: No. I'm not a black separatist, I'm a Christian. And what I understand during Holy Week is that you cannot stand here as a so-called Christian and talk about walking in the footsteps of Jesus and daresay you are a separatist. That is absolutely against...

EDWARDS: I didn't say that, you did.

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: That is absolutely against what Jesus stood for.

(CROSSTALK)

PETERSON: Billy Graham was the first to say that the churches are separated on Sundays between blacks and whites. Well, white Americans need to understand that things are not going to change until they get over this false guilt that they have about the condition -- or concern in the conditions of black folks. They are going to have to get over the fear...

ZAHN: You're saying we white people feel tremendous guilt and that's...

PETERSON: Right. False guilt.

ZAHN: And that is what is hanging us up of fostering better relations between blacks and whites?

PETERSON: Absolutely. It's not your fault. So whites have to get over their fear...

(CROSSTALK)

PETERSON: Whites must get over that fear and start standing up and defending themselves...

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: Before we get to what happens, we've gotten a lot of e- mail and a lot of folks are really mad at you tonight, Molly. So I want you to respond to this one.

SECOURS: Oh, I hope so. That means I've done some...

ZAHN: They say -- Elizabeth: "I take great exception with the woman on your show," I hope they mean you, not me, yes, this is you that said this, "that said, if you are white you are born racist, I think it is ignorant to think that everyone white is born racist and I think it perpetuates the problems that we have with racism in this country."

SECOURS: I said you cannot be raised in this country and not be racist. That's what I'm saying is, we are raised as racists...

ZAHN: I don't believe...

(CROSSTALK)

PETERSON: Are you saying that you, a white woman, you are a racist?

SECOURS: Yes, I am. I am. I am becoming less and less...

PETERSON: Then you need to get over that. SECOURS: No, no it is -- I am.

PETERSON: Why are you a racist?

SECOURS: The work that I am doing...

PETERSON: Why are you -- simply because you are white?

SECOURS: Could I finish one sentence, please?

ZAHN: No, but why do you consider yourself a racist?

SECOURS: Because I...

MARTIN: Well, Jesse, let her talk.

(CROSSTALK)

SECOURS: So if you grow up in this culture, this is a white supremacist society. We were founded on white supremacist principles. The founding fathers had slaves. We have not gotten...

(LAUGHTER)

ZAHN: We're not living in the 1800s anymore, Molly.

SECOURS: OK. Look at the criminal justice system, why is it that 70 percent of the jail space is taken up by African-Americans?

PETERSON: Because they're committing crimes.

SECOURS: And they are 14 percent of the population.

(CROSSTALK)

PETERSON: They are committing crimes. They don't have attorneys to get them out of jail. That's why they're in jail.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: OK. James, OK, final word.

EDWARDS: The personal insult is the last recourse of an exhausted mind. Only European Americans are called racists for wanting to look after their cultural interests.

ZAHN: Final word from you, Roland, quick one.

MARTIN: To change this, you have to have black pastors and white pastors actually discuss what James Meeks is doing in Chicago...

(CROSSTALK)

EDWARDS: No, you don't need a pastor, you need a...

(CROSSTALK) MARTIN: Excuse me. Salem Baptist Church in Willow Creek, they are getting together with a congregation and saying...

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: ... this is how we break down racism.

(CROSSTALK)

SECOURS: ... for 400 years and I think it's time that we take a look at the results of that.

PETERSON: You need to get over your racism.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: Oh, it's so hard to cut off a reverend, but I have to. Someone has got to pay for this.

MARTIN: Are you sure he's a reverend, check the papers.

ZAHN: Yes, he is. All right. We'll be right back. Thank you, team.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: So tomorrow night, what's your pet worth? Even though pets are members of our families, why do America's courts consider them absolutely worthless? Not my dog, Nigel. We'll bring it all "Out in the Open" tomorrow night. In the meantime, "LARRY KING LIVE" is standing by. Thanks again for joining us tonight. Good night.

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