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U.S. Government Shutdown Enters Its Fifth Week; Interview With Former Special Envoy to the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS, Brett McGurk; Racial Inequality Still Persists. Interview with Rashad Robinson. Aired 1- 2p ET
Aired January 21, 2019 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:00:00] CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.
Unacceptable and a nonstarter, that's Democrats on President Trump's idea of a compromise to end the government shutdown. And amid the president's
controversial plan to withdraw troops from Syria, former envoy, Brett McGurk, says Trump's new policy will give ISIS a new lease on life.
Then on Martin Luther King Day, the president of "Color of Change", Rashad Robinson, tells our Hari Sreenivasan how restrictive us and how the
Internet can help achieve racial equality and justice.
Plus, the journalist and writer, Reniqua Allen, tells me why the American dream is dead, at least for Black Millennials.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
As the longest U.S. government shutdown in history enters its 5th week now, hundreds of thousands of Federal employees remain without work and pay.
Including, nearly a quarter of a million veterans who work for the government. One union says the former service personnel are among the
hardest hit by this furlough.
So, morals sapping news at home and also abroad in the field after four Americans were killed in a suicide blast in Syria last week, at the very
time the president is rallying to withdraw all U.S. troops from the country.
The decision has sparked several high-profile resignations from his administration. First, there was the defense secretary, James Mattis, then
Brett McGurk, who was the presidential envoy for the global coalition to defeat ISIS.
McGurk's work had spanned three administration. And now, he's written an op-ed, "Trump said he beat ISIS. Instead he's giving it new life."
I've been speaking to Brett McGurk who tells me the president's Syria policy is a total reversal of everything the administration had been trying
to achieve. And worse, that it strips the United States of any leverage with its partners and adversaries.
Brett McGurk, welcome back to our program.
BRETT MCGURK, FORMER SPECIAL ENVOY TO THE GLOBAL COALITION TO COUNTER ISIS: Christiane, thanks so much for having me.
AMANPOUR: So, we talked to a lot over the years when you were all sorts of different iterations of envoy, presidential envoy, basically, ISIS point
man over the last many, many years.
You have resigned and it was a very public letter and a public moment. But I want to ask you first, the consequences of the U.S. pullout, and we hear
today that the Turkish president has decided and has offered to be, you know, the security force for man Manbij, that famous town in Northern
What does that mean? Is that a good thing? Should the U.S. be happy that Turks are going to take over?
MCGURK: When we formed the coalition really in late summer, early fall of 2014, we started with about 12 countries, it has grown to 75 countries.
American leadership was really critical to that. And, of course, Turkey was a key partner in this. And our initial plan, plan A, if you want to
say that, was to work with Turkey to get a handle on this problem.
And I probably spend most of my time in the first year of my job and including when I was working with General Allen, most of our time was spent
in Ankara because most of the material coming to fuel the ISIS war machine, frankly, was coming across the border from Turkey into Syria.
So, we clearly identified that one of the things we want to do was to work with the Turks, a NATO ally, to control their border. And quite frankly,
it was very frustrating because Turkey did not take much action on the border.
So, we have worked very hard with the Turkey on -- in various ways and nothing has really worked out. And there's a number of reasons for that,
quite frankly. I think our interests in Syria in the fundamental ways really diverged. And when President Erdogan puts on the table, proposals
that might look good in concept, every time we send our best people, our best planners to really dig into what can actually we do together, it never
really pans out.
I'll just give you an example. The opposition groups, the Turkey supports that it would send, for example, into a safe zone are simply not groups
that the United States can really work with. I mean, they are very closely tied with extremist groups.
And if you just run -- if you just look at the northern tier of Syria and just run across what is now the Turkey border, in Idlib Province, that's an
area that we don't operate in, it is a really an area of influence for Turkey, it is really dominated now entirely by groups with ties to al-
Qaeda, all the border crossings with Turkey are controlled by al-Qaeda.
MCGURK: It's a very serious problem.
AMANPOUR: It is. I sort of see what you're saying. I mean, you're saying that that is not the solution to replace U.S. troops who are leaving.
So, let me wind back a little bit this tape to when you first heard that the president was going to be removing U.S. troops from Syria after all the
hard won gains that you described.
MCGURK: Well, first, we knew that President Erdogan wanted to speak with President Trump. And President Erdogan was saber rattling about sending
the Turkish-backed opposition forces and Turkish military forces into areas of Turkey where U.S. forces are operating. And we have been dealing with
this for a couple months.
So, our message to Turkey was just -- but do not send your military forces in because that's going to create a very serious situation and frankly, put
American lives at risk. So, that was the policy.
When President Erdogan called President Trump, this was really up ended, instead President Trump did not say that and he basically said, "Look, we
plan to leave Syria fairly soon," and then basically a green light. So, that just totally reversed everything we had been doing for a very long
I was in Iraq working with the new Iraqi government on making sure we sustain a very significant gains against ISIS when I was informed of the
call. I had a phone call with Secretary Pompeo and I came home to Washington to try to manage the fallout from this and I immediately got on
the phone with my coalition partners in capitals around the world and tried to explain what was happening, and it was just a total reversal of what we
had been telling them for a number of months.
AMANPOUR: And you did resign. To be fair, you were going to plan to leave mid-February but you brought that up to the end of December. And in your
letter to your colleagues you said, "The recent decision by the president came as a shock and was a complete reversal of policy that was articulated
to us. It left our coalition partners confused and our fighting partners bewildered." You've explained a little bit about that.
But when you say -- what was your -- what came out of your mouth? What was the first thing you said when you got the call that this was going to
MCGURK: Well, there are two ways to look at it. One was, "OK. The president has asked us to leave Syria. Let's try to figure out a way to
orchestrate this in a way that can still achieve all of our objectives in Syria." And all of our objectives in Syria include -- and again, these are
the instructions from the White House, so this is not policy, it's just cooked up in the State Department.
Our policy in Syria articulated by the White House national security adviser, John Bolton, and others, was that we would stay in Syria until,
number one, the enduring defeat of ISIS, that was the primary mission, that was my mission. Number two, we'll stay in Syria until all Iranians are out
of Syria, whether or not that was realistic, that was the stated policy articulated again from the White House. And number three, we would stay in
Syria until there was an irreversible momentum, was the phraseology, to the U.N.-backed political process in Geneva, which dealt with the Assad regime
in a civil war.
I frankly believe that if we are leaving Syria, as the president has now very clearly instructed, those objectives simply are totally unachievable.
Another thing that really concerned me, Christiane, is that asking a military force to withdraw under pressure or from a combat environment is
one of the most difficult things you can ask a military force to do.
So, if the orders are -- and these are the orders from the president to withdraw, that has to be the mission. The mission cannot be withdrawn and
do a number of other things, complete the ISIS campaign, which, of course, we want to do, keep the Russians and the regime out of the territory we
could -- we now influence, try to do some sort of engineering to allow Turkey to come in to replace us and another number of other things. that's
impossible to ask the few Americans on the ground to do. So, it's really a mission impossible.
AMANPOUR: Well, I mean, it just does sound absolutely awful. And I wonder, to before I get into more specifics about the particular fallout
that you were just referring to. How does it make you feel, I mean, as a person, as the ISIS point now seeing four Americans killed this past week
in the days after President Trump made his announcement?
MCGURK: Well, look, anyone who works on these issues were professional. I've worked across three administrations, Republicans and Democrats. I've
worked on policies I fully supported. I worked on policies I might have thought have been unwise but you always -- your voice is at the table and
you try to influence things based upon the facts and the analysis and you do the best you can.
So, in Syria, for example, we are not doing the fighting on the ground. Over three years in this campaign until just last week, two Americans had
been killed in action. And then tragically last week, we lost four additional Americans. That pales in comparison to the Syrian democratic
forces that have lost thousands of casualties in this campaign.
American taxpayers are not spending money on civilian reconstruction and then other types of those tasks, that's coming from the coalition that
we've built. So, it is a very sustainable low-cost high impact mission.
AMANPOUR: The kind of mission, Brett -- let me interrupt you. The kind of mission, presumably, that President Trump would love. You just -- after
the magic words, low cost, other people are paying the bulk of the money that it takes, as you've just described.
MCGURK: Well, again, to help design a campaign plan that was succeeding, and that was reaching a really critical phase and we were talking about the
longer-term transition, and to have it all up ended in a phone call with a foreign leader without any serious consultation with the National Security
team, with the secretary of defense and others, that's just not the way to run foreign policy effectively. So, this was a complete reversal and I am
concerned about the fallout.
AMANPOUR: One can say that the president has a fairly unusual relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin and that maybe he doesn't care so
much if the Russians fill the void that the U.S. is leaving. But he doesn't have a cozy relationship with the Iranians. And you just said, one
of the principle aims was to degrade Iranian influence as much as possible and the stated aim of the White House was to stay until Iran was no longer
a viable player there.
But Iran is staying and not only that, the president himself said, "Well, Iran can have it. You know, we don't want it. It's just sand and death."
I don't understand that policy, do you?
MCGURK: Well, Christiane, you hit on a good point. And this is -- there's a bit of -- you know, I'll be careful with my words. But there's a bit of
incoherence between the views of the president and the views of some of the most senior members of the National Security team, particularly in the
The views of the president, clearly, he's been very consistent. He does not want to be overly invested in the Middle East, particularly with what
the U.S. military power. The views the National Security advisor seem to be quite different.
And so, that is a divergence that makes our foreign policy, there's lens and element of incoherence to it. We hear about this from partners all
around the world, and that's something that ultimately, I think, they're going to have to address.
AMANPOUR: But it's still really weird because everything the president has done speaks to wanting to isolate Iran, whether pulling out of the Iran
nuclear deal, whether being so cozy with Saudi Arabia despite everything, including the Khashoggi murder, just because they partly see it as a
bulwark against Iran, and then to say that, that, "It can have it if it wants. We don't want Syria. It's just sand and death."
But, you know, you just mentioned being the presidential envoy, you're a presidential envoy for President Trump, did you ever meet him?
MCGURK: Well, you know, every administration is different. So, with President Bush, I was in the White House. If I wasn't overseas, every
morning we were in the Oval Office. President Obama, very regular exchanges. President Trump just runs the operation differently.
So, most of my interactions on Trump administrations were with the secretary defense, the secretary of state and our military commanders. I
was obviously involved in every major decision of the ISIS campaign. But in terms of direct interactions with President Trump, he pretty much
interacts with his cabinet secretaries.
AMANPOUR: So, that's a no basically, the president did not meet the presidential envoy to Syria?
MCGURK: Yes, that's right.
AMANPOUR: Are you concerned, as one writer has said, senior fellow at Brookings, the advent of a more unified and predictable U.S. foreign policy
is likely to weaken American influence and destabilize the international order. A deeply divided Trump administration was the best case for those
who believe in the United States post war strategy, defined by strong alliances, an open global economy and broad support for democracy, the rule
of law, human rights, all the rest of it.
MCGURK: Well, again, I just go back to my earlier point, there is a disconnect. And I -- just my own personal experience, instructions from
the White House, from very senior levels of the White House, to tell our partners, our allies, the Russians, our adversaries that we are staying in
Syria until these very -- these objectives are met, for example, until Iran is leaving Syria. That -- those are instructions that we were carrying
from the White House, and that was completely reversed by the president.
Therefore, I think we have to be very realistic about the situation in Syria. And number one, I think we have to be realistic that President
Assad is staying in place, this objective that somehow, we are going to work through a U.N. process to remove Bashar al-Assad, I think at this
point, is unrealistic. And if we continue to reach for unrealistic objectives, U.S. credibility will continue to be further diminished.
AMANPOUR: In other words, Assad wins and he gets it back. He wins and he gets pretty much all of Syria back.
MCGURK: Well, that's the consequence of our leaving Syria and announcing to the world we are leaving Syria. You know, Christiane, I also did a lot
of negotiations with the Russians on Syria. So, I kind of understand exactly where they come from. Those negotiations are very tough.
What gave us the leverage at the table was the fact that we are present on the ground and that we have influence over a significant portion of Syria.
And we actually drew lines on the map to make clear to the Russians, "You do not cross this line or you're going to have a very bad day." That gives
you leverage with the Russians.
And we are getting to the point where with the defeat of the physical caliphate, we would be able to sit down with the Russians in a very serious
conversation about the future of Syria. Announcing to the world that we are just leaving, basically, all of that leverage completely evaporates.
AMANPOUR: And just not to put too fine a point on it, the main reason that you stated at the beginning for the U.S. presence and the U.S. campaign and
the Coalition campaign was to defeat ISIS. And the president described ISIS as "defeated," that's a quote, and absolutely obliterated in terms of
But, of course, you know, many reports released late last year, including the Pentagon inspector general, the U.N., Center for Strategic and
International Studies, estimates that ISIS has 20,000 to 30,000 members in Iraq and Syria.
Is Iraq -- is ISIS defeated? Can the president leave Syria knowing that there will be no more threat from ISIS?
MCGURK: You know, Christiane, look, it's a great question. And in early December, Secretary Mattis and I met with all the military contributors of
our coalition, including many countries that had been attacked from ISIS out of Syria, and the unanimous view was that ISIS is not defeated, this
mission is not over.
I do not think there would be a single expert that would walk in the Oval Office and tell the president that this is over. And that is why we always
said that the mission was the enduring defeat of ISIS, not just taking away the physical caliphate but getting the arrangements in place to ensure that
a vacuum would not open in its wake. And that's why we were setting up the conditions at this very serious intense negotiation with the Russians,
which I think was setting up in a pretty good spot until, again, we throw away all of our leverage by announcing we're leaving.
And there's also a very serious risk to Iraq. This is, of course, one- third of Syria in which thousands of foreign fighters and suicide bombers pour from Syria into Iraq that we are now announcing to the world that we
are going to leave without having any plan for who is going to take our place.
So, again I think the consequences are quite serious, that's why I would recommend to the president to halt these orders, reassess the situation.
But short of that, I think we just have to face a very hard reality.
AMANPOUR: I mean, you couldn't make it up really, it just does sound very perplexing indeed for all the reasons that you state.
Can I just ask you to give me your postal analysis, opinion of what role Secretary Mattis played, and I don't just mean as a former commander, a
secretary of defense, but as somebody who, it has to be said, the rest of the world look to as a salutary influence on a president who is not versed
in military affairs or foreign affairs?
MCGURK: Look, Secretary Mattis is one of our greatest Americans. I had the honor to work very closely with him over the -- these last two years,
but also many times previously, really over the last decade. A combat veteran, spent a lot of time in war zones, that is actually very important
experience. You want to have people who actually know what it's like on the ground, know what this is like, know what we're talking about.
So, his voice in the room was just a critical and a stabilizing factor as the National Security team deliberated and made decisions.
And when President Trump came in, you know, we did a strategic review of the counter ISIS campaign, and we looked at elements in which we could
accelerate the campaign and we put a number of decisions to the president, and the president made those decisions, and those were good decisions.
That was a strategic review that was really run by my office together with Secretary Mattis and Secretary Tillerson at the time, and I think it was
actually done quite professionally and thoroughly.
AMANPOUR: And have you heard from America's allies and partners, particularly the ones who you have been talking to in the wake of this
MCGURK: There is concern about where this is heading. And I think, particularly, our allies in Europe that were prime targets for ISIS -- you
know, the attacks -- again, the attacks in Paris up to 130 civilians dead in the streets of Paris, those attacks came directly from Syria. They were
planned on Raqqa, they were organized in Manbij, they sent a terrorist combat team out through Syria to infiltrate into Paris, the same thing with
the Brussels Airport attack.
So, these are very serious threats they were emanating from Syria and these countries and capitals, all of whom have put their blood and treasure on
the line as part of our coalition under the umbrella of American leadership are extremely concerned about the decision that was just made and the fact
that, again, we don't have a plan for what's coming.
It's one thing to say, "Look, we should leave Syria, let's think of a plan." It's another thing to announce we're leaving Syria and then to try
to think of a plan later, and that's what's going on now and I think it is increasing the risk to our forces on the ground, it's increasing the risk
to our partners who are under threat from ISIS.
AMANPOUR: You know, you've laid it out very succinctly and you've sort of touched on the fact that, yes, of course, if we want to withdraw troops but
we should have a plan not do it vice versa.
But what do you say to the American people, to the president who ran on a promise of bringing back forces? These wars have been going on since 2001
after 9/11, you know, they're the forever wars, people in America are fed up with them.
MCGURK: Well, again, it's a great question. That was a drive -- that was obviously a driving influence within the Trump presidency, and President
Obama also, of course, had that, that comes from the American people and the experience of our country over the last decade. That is why, however,
we designed the counter ISIS campaign to address that.
And again, this element of a very low-cost, a very high impact campaign. Americans are not fighting in the streets of Syria, in Syrian cities and
towns, Syrians are doing the fight. Raqqa, which was the capital of ISIS through which -- under which all these threats were being -- these plots
were being hatched and launched, ISIS was taken down by Syrians without the loss of a single American life. So, we designed this campaign actually to
AMANPOUR: And, again. my head is spinning because I recall very, very, very, very clearly so many in the National Security field and also Trump
when he was running, is campaigning, were very, very critical of President Obama precipitously pulling out of Iraq. And what did that lead to, ISIS,
the rise of ISIS. And then what that lead to, reinserting tens of thousands, if not, you know, more U.S. troops.
I mean, we've seen this movie before.
MCGURK: In the Middle East, two things, presence matters and credibility matters. So, an American handshake has to matter and your presence on the
ground matters. And that does not mean, again, that we were planning -- or we should have planned to stay in Syria forever, for 20 years. It does
mean that we should have presence on the ground to help us in a negotiation with adversaries like Russia and our presence on the ground helps at the
table. And having been a diplomat at the table, you want to have that in the -- on your back.
Number one, the consistency of American foreign policy and the leadership behind you and presence on the ground, that is what a diplomat really needs
to get things done, and we just pull the plug on that.
AMANPOUR: It's really very perplexing with very, very potentially dramatic consequences. Brett McGurk, former presidential envoy for Syria and ISIS,
thank you very much indeed.
MCGURK: Thank you, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: Hard to know how one is going to navigate out of that very, very difficult tunnel now. But we're turning to a day of moral reflection
because America is marking Martin Luther King Day but no public holiday for Congress because of this continued shutdown.
However, Congress can claim an important marker. For the first time in history, African-Americans hold the same proportion of congressional seats,
12 percent, as their proportion of the population at large. And yet, while more than half a century has passed since Martin Luther King spoke about
his American dream, today, racial inequality stubbornly persists. In a moment, how it affects Black millennials when we talk to the author,
But first, those fighting for racial justice give us a reality check. Rashad Robinson is the president of the leading nonprofit "Color of
Change". And he tells our Hari Sreenivasan that we need to confront the cause instead of the symptom.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: For those unfamiliar with your organization, what does "Color of Change" do? What's its mission?
RASHAD ROBINSON, "COLOR OF CHANGE" PRESIDENT: "Color of Change" is a next generation racial justice organization. And we were founded after
Hurricane Katrina, in that moment where Black people were literally on their roofs, begging for the government to do something and were left to
And the theory behind the start of "Color of Change" was that the movement needed a new type of infrastructure to capture the energy and aspiration
and demands of Black folks in their allies at every race. Folks were giving to the Red Cross when they could be working for systemic change.
How could we pare technology and media and organizing together to build the type of momentum and power that did the thing that was really at the heart
of Katrina where no one was nervous about disappointing Black people, government, corporations and media.
And so, idea behind "Color of Change" is how do we translate these wide range of moments that are happening every single day in our society and
give people the ability to collectively take action and then translate that action into strategic, cultural and political change.
SREENIVASAN: Well, how do you do that? Is it public pressure? Is it private pressure?
ROBINSON: It's a mix of both. You know, private pressure, for us, only really works if there is this idea that public pressure is possible. And
so, sometimes we have to hold out the idea that public pressure is coming in, sometimes we can work behind the scenes to push our demands, sometimes
this -- it's about reward, sometimes it's about shame.
But all of that is about creating a sense that those who are in power need to know that there are consequences for racism, there are consequences for
behaviors that put our community in peril.
SREENIVASAN: One of the first instance I remember you guys coming on the field, so to speak, even post Katrina, was when you were able to exert
pressure on Glenn Beck. And looking back now, I mean, that was because of some of the comments that he was making, the divisive rhetoric.
Looking now -- and that was just 2009, and there were nine years after and we have nine-term members of Congress who are just starting to face
consequences for things that they have been saying. That episode with Glenn Beck, relatively speaking, seems tame today.
ROBINSON: You know, in some ways it does seem tame. I do think that some of this is ebb and flow. And I do think that while it's important in the
media culture to think about rhetoric, because media is often times about rhetoric, when we look at what's happening in our Congress with someone
like Steve King, I think it's important that folks are calling out his rhetoric now, although I think more journalists need to ask why now and why
not just Steve King.
But the larger question is not about folks in power and policymaker's rhetoric, but actually their policy. What are the impact of the policies
that they are putting forth, voting rights, civil rights, like these are all things from criminal justice and immigration that Steve King had a say
over. He was able to implement and move racist policies, policies that have deep impact on people's lives.
And so, I really hope that as we move this discussion forward and we talk about sort of the words that we're able to not just kind of have outrage
about those but actually go much deeper and be more clear that it's the policies that have the real deep impact on people every single day.
SREENIVASAN: Sometimes there's conception that racism is a generational issue, that it will die out over time, that it will move towards equality.
We have those images in Charlottesville, these were young men that were just maybe out of college or a little after that and with their faces full
tiki torch light.
ROBINSON: You know, the voting -- ever since Lyndon Johnson signed, you know, the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, you know, no
Democrats that, you know, needed Black votes has gotten a majority of the White vote.
We do live in a very deeply divided country, a long race. And I don't think we get around that by refusing to talk about it or thinking that it
will just change overnight. Far too often people, think about inequality as unfortunate, almost like a car accident. And I don't just mean people
who don't always agree with us on the issues, I mean, lots of people.
And so, instead of seeing inequality as unjust, and when you see any quality as unfortunate, so many of the solutions that people think about
are charitable solutions, let's send water bottles to Flint instead of working to actually deal with the pipes, let's clean up inner city school
instead of dealing with public education and making public education equal, let's deal with reentry --
SREENIVASAN: The symptom versus the cause?
ROBINSON: The symptom versus the cause. And so, part of the challenge that we've had over many decades is that we've worked to deal with a lot of
symptoms and not a lot of causes, and change hasn't actually happened. And in that sort of era, we haven't done all of the work to bring people along.
At the same time, they are powerful forces in the White House and they are powerful forces in the media, there are powerful forces in our culture that
have a lot at stake at keeping the status quo in place, at keeping the rules rigged and keeping us divided in order to do that.
And for people of good faith who are watching this, for people who are on the sidelines, you know, the fight to ensure that our democracy allows all
of our voices to be counted is not just the fight for Black people, it's not just a fight for people of color. The attacks that have happened. you
know, via racism on our education system, on our health system, on our environment, the way that racism has been used as a wedge has hurt all of
And the question will be is keeping racist status quo policies in place so beneficial to folks that people are willing to risk their own health, their
own environment, their own education and all the other things that have really begun to fall apart because racism has been used as a wedge to
breakdown the structures of our society, the ways that we insure that justice is actually served in our systems.
SREENIVASAN: One of the areas that you're focusing on is social platforms. What are you asking of them? What's happening there?
ROBINSON: Like many institutions that grow very quickly, there have to be rules of the road. And as we started to deal with platforms like Facebook
and watched how they dealt with law enforcement without any rules or regulations, often times bypassing kind of warrants and Civil Rights Law by
providing information to -- to law enforcement.
Really violating the pact that people that people thought they had about privacy with those platforms, the way that algorithms could be used to
violate the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Like you could put an ad on Facebook that said I only want to market this house to white people.
And -- and the way that race was weaponized during the 2016 election, really breaking down, you know, a whole set of trusts about how we think
about our elections and how we think about voting and democracy.
While we have been engaged with Facebook, really pushing them to do a Civil Rights audit and look at all their policies, put in some real structures
about how they think about policies and practices, we found out, via the New York Times, that while they were telling us sort of really great things
about what they were going to be doing and talking to us about this audit and hiring the people to do it, they had hired a P.R. firm to attack us at
the same time.
Employing this firm to sort of move these narratives about who was funding us and that we didn't have our own ideas which were sort of deeply racist
in this idea that like black people don't control their own ideas.
It was like many of the ways that the -- you know the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and Dr. King were sort of attacked in the `60s by
saying that they were puppets of some larger entity as if they didn't have their own ideas for fighting for their -- for justice.
And one of the things that we really need from both our regulators, members of Congress, those that invest in Facebook is to hold the largest
communications platform that the world has ever seen - one of the largest corporations out there accountable for basic practices around privacy,
around data sharing, around civil rights. And that is going to be incredibly important because they have so much access to so much of our
SREENIVASAN: You know, there was a now famous letter from a former employee of theirs, Mark Luckie. As he left the company, he had great
statistics on how much more engaged African-Americans are on Facebook, right.
All the metrics that Facebook wishes it had about other communities as well, but that it was also not a positive experience for so many of them,
because when they would post something, either the algorithm or other people were able to essentially create ways for that content to be
ROBINSON: Well, I mean that's one of the things that we've seen and it's not just that; it's organizations having their content blocked. You know,
many kind of forces inside of Facebook; conservative forces inside of Facebook have put this idea of conservative bias at the same level as civil
And you know, we often times talk about it is that there's left and there's right, and there's right and there's wrong. And so civil rights is somehow
a left issue now. And so, Facebook will do a training for their folks that are monitoring around the election and monitoring the platform around the
And the same day they do a training on voter suppression, they did a training on voter fraud, which is basically, you know, this, you know,
Donald Trump conspiracy theory that's been advanced by the right. It's like why don't you do a training on, you know, is the world flat.
And -- and the -- and the idea that they've -- they've put -- they've politicized civil rights to such a point where an ad for a pride parade and
a pride celebration becomes a political add and not just like an ad for people coming together is an example of many of the ways that Facebook has
to sort of recognize and all these platforms have to recognize they've got to have a moral rudder.
One of the bigger challenges that they've had, and this is really a challenge that they're trying to fight because of what's happening in
Europe is that these companies are trying to avoid any type of regulation at all costs.
These companies will have to think very clearly about how they engage in this upcoming 2020 election. Back in 2016 we forced many companies to
divest from the RNC convention because of the rhetoric of Donald Trump in the lead up to the election. All of the platforms like Google and
Facebook, we got on the phone with them and urged them to divest from the RNC convention. They told us that they were media platforms, that they had
to be at both conventions for both sides.
Now we've seen mark Zuckerburg go to Congress and say that they're not a media platform. So now what will their excuse be for enabling racism?
SREENIVASAN: There's also the power of traditional medial whether it's the news industry or really the entertainment industry. There's a relatively
small group of people in Hollywood that create an manufacture the perception of how life is or how life should be.
SREENIVASAN: So how does an organization like yours tackle that?
ROBINSON: You know, we really think a lot about this. We, a couple of years ago, opened and office in Hollywood and put real energy behind
focusing on these images with a larger idea that we do have to change culture.
Culture often times proceeds policy shift, and one of the - a couple of things that we really focus on is, you know, we've worked with UCLA and USC
on a number of reports to really look at both diversity and writers rooms, the writers rooms that create the shows and look at how these shows are
created, who's in the room, who's writing the stories that reach America.
And as a result, what are we missing as a result? And seeing a whole set of challenges in terms of access that black folks, that people of color and
women have had to being able to create and write and tell the authentic stories that are going to reach folks.
We're releasing a report that looks at crime on TV and all the crime shows and how they not only portray black people on those shows, but how they
portray a criminal justice system that is deeply unfair - that we've had folks on the left and the right say is deeply unfair.
But our justice system is often times portrayed on TV as just a set of individuals moving forward the law, that the heroes are the folks working
inside the system and everyone on the outside is a criminal.
You see often times these cases that start with a crime and end with a verdict within an hour when people - when what we really know is people are
often time lagging behind bars for months and months and years and years awaiting trials and often times are there not because they are guilty but
because they are poor, because they are black, and because they are not powerful.
SREENIVASAN: Here we are more than 50 years after the I Have A Dream speech and you talk about civil rights and you talk about voter rights.
Where are we in the longer arch of not even achieving the dream but in the process toward it?
ROBINSON: You know, I think that we're in a deep struggle right now. I look at many of the rollbacks and many of the ways that voting rights were
under attack during this past election in places like Georgia and Florida and elsewhere. I think about the work that we have to do to not just be on
the defense of.
So much of the work in previous decades was about defending and protecting the things that were won during the 60s. And as a next generation racial
justice organization, I really do believe that so much of our work has to be about what - what are the next generation campaigns, the next generation
policies that we are putting forth that will allow us to move forward in a more multiracial democracy, a more multiracial society.
And so, not just thinking about how do we protect things like the voting rights act, but what is the new voting rights act? What are the policies
in states around the country and federally that we need to pushto ensure that not just that we protect the vote, but that we make every voter count,
not just every vote count.
And for us at Color of Change were constantly sort of thinking about that and thinking about when we ask people to take an action on something that
they're outraged on, something that they're worried about, how do we translate that into a policy fight?
And the politics are not always going to be there. And so, some of that right now has to be about tilling the soil, about putting forward big
demands even though we may not yet have the policy but recognizing that we'll never get there if we refuse to actually be aspirational, if we
refuse to actually put forward what we really want.
SREENIVASAN: Rashad Robinson, Color of Change, thanks so much.
ROBINSON: Thanks for having me.
AMANPOUR: So daring to know what you want; it is perhaps not surprising to hear about a next gen approach to civil rights, when so many young black
people in the United States feel frustrated and disillusioned by the current state of play.
Author Reniqua Allen talked to dozens of black millennials from all over the United States for her new book. "It Was All a Dream," it's called; "A
New Generation Confronts the Broken Promise to Black America." And I had been speaking to her about those broken promises and the significance, in
fact, of her book's title. Reniqua Allen, welcome to the program.
RENIQUA ALLEN, AUTHOR: Thanks for having me here, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: So you've written this book, and it's getting a lot of buzz, and you particularly have sort of the millennial experience. What is the
significance of the title "It Was All a Dream?"
ALLEN: So "It Was All a Dream," it is a lyric from a rap song from the Notorious BIG when I was growing up as a young person in the `90s. And it
was about this rapper from Bed Stuy, a very poor neighborhood in New York City, having his dreams become realized.
He was making it; he had money all of a sudden, and through me, I realized that's something that didn't quite feel so possible anymore, as I enter my
30s and as I saw a lot of my millennials, peers, really struggling to have their dreams realized.
So I was wondering, is it all a dream? It was all a dream it felt like. You know, Barrack Obama, his presidency was ending, and people were still
really struggling. And while millennials I think, overall, struggle, black millennials were having a specific and unique time, and a hard time kind of
just dealing with growing up.
AMANPOUR: So let me - let me just get it straight, though. You - you're sort of on the cutting edge, in that you're one of the original, the sort
of the older generation of millennials right now.
So are you saying that, when you heard this song, and his experience, Notorious BIG, about this other rapper, things were looking like they were
better, and you feel now, they're not so good?
ALLEN: Absolutely, absolutely. I came of age - like you mentioned, I'm an older millennial, and when I came of age, things felt possible. Jesse
Jackson was running for president; that was a big deal. Our parents had, you know, endured affirmative action and had benefitted from affirmative
Our generation of parents were like the first people that really were in Corporate America. They were African-Americans who were, by all means,
kind of succeeding, even though a lot of them grew up with - with segregation, but our parents were doing well, by - by many accounts.
And all of a sudden, when we came of age, it didn't seem like that necessarily was the case, you know, Barrack Obama was just such a high,
high moment for a lot of young black millennials, but at that same time, we had to proclaim to the world that black lives matter, that our lives
There was a humanity that I think we still were fighting for, and it felt exhausting. We have cell phone technology now, right, so you can see a lot
of our pain and struggle everyday. We saw Mike Brown laying out; we see these videos of young black bodies getting attacked constantly, over and
over, people getting shot in the street. And that's a hard place to be still.
AMANPOUR: All right, so - so let - let me ask you, because I wonder. Well, you've obviously done a huge amount of research; you've written this
book. And I wonder whether you have synthesized why this is happening. And I'll just read one of your quotes.
You write, "Today, I laugh at my early `90s notion of making it, yet, at its core, it never really changed. My American dream was not to mess up;
my dream was to defy expectations, to be unpredictable, to do something better and something more than my ancestors." So I mean, you had those
hopes, what - what do you think went wrong, so-to-speak?
ALLEN: I mean, you know, student debt, college. What went wrong; I think America has always been hard for young black people. I think it's hard for
millennials, in general. You know, there was a piece just this week about millennial burnout from Buzzfeed. So I think it's hard for this
generation; I think there's a lot of uncertainty.
We don't have the jobs that our parents did. We have to get degrees if we want to just make it ahead a little bit. Those factory jobs, right, that
you could go to a high school and you know, have - and have a job on a factory line and be OK and have a home. That stability is gone, right.
So many of peers are freelancers; there's uncertainty. We have a lot of student debt. Those jobs, I don't anybody who's been on a job for 10
years, and I definitely don't anyone who's had a pension.
So I think that it's really difficult; there's a lot of uncertainty, and that's being passed down to this generation. And I think that is the
difference and the
ALLEN: All right, so many of my peers are freelancers. There's uncertainty. We have a lot of student debt. Those jobs, I don't anybody
who's been on a job for 10 years and I definitely don't know anyone who's had a pension.
So I think that it's really difficult. There's a lot of uncertainty and that's being passed down to this generation and I think that is the
difference. And then I should say I think the other difference is having Barrack Obama become president, right.
The idea of possibility realized. Obama was such a tremendous figure. And whether you like him or not or disagree with his politics; it was this idea
of yes, we can achieve. But then I'm looking at the world after and I'm looking at black America after.
I'm looking at how people of color in the country are being treated. I'm looking at what happened in Charlottesville. And after all that, after all
the excitement of having someone like Barrack Obama in the White House, where we are today, we feel more divided than ever.
It feels like we have to still fight and fight and fight for our humanity. And we still have Barrack Obama and Michelle Obama and their kids have to
do that and that's a hard, hard place to be.
I mean I don't want to say that many of us bought into this kind of idea that we were becoming a post racial society but even the young men and
women that I've talked to, some of them actually believed that.
They thought that we were going to be in a better place. And to see that America's not, it feels like we're actually in worse place than ever. And
that's -- that's a tough thing, I think, to deal with.
AMANPOUR: Well -- well it is. It's tough to hear you say it as well. You said, you know, to be in worst place than ever is really hard to you. You
say that and of course you do highlight the difference. The -- the actual factual difference.
And difference of opportunity between black and white millennials, which presumably mirrors the difference between black and whites in America
period. But let me ask you this because you quote in your book the current president, Donald Trump, who once said a well educated black has a
tremendous advantage over a well educated white in terms of the job market.
Now, I believe he said that in 1989 and he may or may not still think that. But do programs like affirmative action help. I mean first of all, what do
you make of that statement?
ALLEN: I think it's misguided, I think it was misguided in the 80s; I think it is misguided today still. I mean we know that this thing that is
white privilege, is like it's not made up.
Like being white in America does provide you with like a boost in society and whether you see it or not, it is a thing by virtue of people just
giving you the benefit of the doubt when you walk into a room.
Now that's not saying I grew up with a lot of privilege. Right, I grew up in the black middle class. I did not actually -- you know I did not come
from any slums or poverty. But I will say that programs like affirmative action, I think actually did benefit people like myself, my mom just
because we don't have the networks right that you might have had if -- Donald Trump's father.
I mean that gave him a huge boost and while a lot of Americans don't have that. They may have a friend or know a friend of a friend.
AMANPOUR: Let me just give you some statics that sort of go to what you're saying. The National Academy of Sciences last year said, you know, hiring
discrimination against blacks hasn't changed in the last 25 years.
If you're black or Latino, you have to work harder just to get an interview even if you are as well qualified as white candidates. I spoke with
William Jawando, who as you know was working in the Obama White House in the My Brother's Keeper program and he said to me even a year ago, similar
to what you're saying. Let's just play it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM JAWANDO: And 99 percent of American communities, if you're a black boy you're going to have a persistent income gap from your white male peer
even if you were born with the same economic circumstances. So if you're a millionaire black boy, your chances of being incarcerated are the same as a
white boy from a household that has 36,000.
You're just as likely to fall out of the top income brackets as you are to stay if you're an African American boy. So just -- just stunning data.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Is that consistent with what you're finding?
ALLEN: Absolutely. Absolutely. I mean one, my name is Reniqua. And obviously I have been able to break some of those, you know, barriers and
get job interviews. But you know just having a name Reniqua on a resume obviously is an impediment of studies have shown over and over and over
I mean my -- the -- the people that I spoke to in the book consistently said like so much that I actually was like tired of hearing it that they
said we have to work twice as hard. We cannot screw up.
And -- and you know they'll say that -- and I saw this myself that, you know, I saw my white colleague saying we didn't have to -- we didn't get
internships. We just kind of got drunk the whole time in college.
Whereas there's so many of these young black people having internship after internship having to consistency prove themselves on the workforce, to
their peers, to their bosses. So it's hard for everybody. Like this millennial generation has it rough.
ALLEN: It doesn't always matter about skin color. We have an uncertainty and an economic anxiety that I think we haven't had in the past, but on the
job front it is still hard even with a college degree and generally because we have more student debt. Black America does not have wealth.
We saw our parents become wiped out by the recession and it's actually quite outrageous when people say, well, it looks like an even playing
field, and I think that's like the hard part for me about this generation that, yes, a black man can become president.
Oprah's on television. There's east array (ph), there's black success out here, but like, you know, why aren't we getting it? And people don't quite
get it like those folks are like they exceptions.
AMANPOUR: You brought up Black Lives Matter. We have seen actually a sort of almost a culture in shift in some areas. You can see what's happening
in Hollywood - major black directors, major stories that they're directing.
You can see in editors of major cultural magazines and things are black or people of color and they're changing the tone of their editorial and
they're - what you see on the cover of these magazines. I wonder whether that strikes you as hopeful or how you analyze that?
ALLEN: Yes, I think it's absolutely hopeful, right? I think that people are recognizing that African Americans and also people of color like that
their voices in some ways do matter. However, and I say that with a very - with a qualifier (ph) that we're still not the folks that hold power. I
mean, a piece on Twitter - a picture on Twitter was just posted of reporters for another network, and it was no African Americans.
That is a huge oversight, right? You look at Hollywood, you look at the number of executives, and they're largely - and for television and film,
right, they're largely white and largely male still. So we have a long, long way to go.
You look at the people who have power even though, you know, despite Barack Obama in house (ph) and Congress and it's still largely white.
Particularly with this current administration, right, the people that are on the top that are millions, that are making success, like that power
structure still hasn't changed.
AMANPOUR: You do actually talk about a - maybe self-selecting solution, I don't know, but you describe this phenomenon which I found absolutely
fascinating and I didn't know about of so many black millennials actually moving from the north, which we all thought was the land of opportunity,
New York, and all these other states that once slave-holding states, and are moving down south. That I find fascinating. What is going on there?
ALLEN: I mean, I was sitting election night in New York City in a bar, and someone say, you know, we need to make American great again. And I don't
think it's solely about this administration or just Donald Trump or who's in the White House, but I think New York City, it doesn't exactly feel so
great and liberating anymore. I routinely get followed when I go out in a store in the Upper East side. And the south has like a different vibe.
There is a vibrant middle class. Their HBCUs for the people that I interviewed in this book. HBCUs were a huge, huge thing, and I mean,
historically black universities. It was a huge part of their identity and them coming to terms with themselves and their blackness. People felt in
ease with the south. Going back home they felt welcomed and they felt that race relations something, it was all out there. And so -
AMANPOUR: And also economic opportunities, right?
ALLEN: Absolutely, absolutely. I mean, you have - I think there's more black wealth. There's educated. There are more networks for people to tab
into. So people - really young black people are leaving New York and leaving other places and Chicago that were deemed the promise land because
I think it feels like weren't so - you know, they weren't fulfilling its promise, so why not go to places where it feels like hom?
AMANPOUR: Well, Reniqua Allen, thank you so much, indeed, for joining me.
ALLEN: Thank you so much for having me here.
AMANPOUR: Some sobering reflections there on the lack of structural change for the civil rights movement. Join me tomorrow for my interview with the
former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, as the parliament here struggles to unstuck the Brexit stalemate. He'll lay out the options facing the
country and why he would back a second referendum on E.U. membership.
But that is it for now. Remember you can listen to our podcast at anytime and see us online at amanpour.com, and you can follow me on Facebook and
Twitter. Thanks for watching and goodbye from London.