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THE VAN JONES SHOW
Van Jones Talks to 2020 Presidential Hopeful Julian Castro; Jeff Bezos Says That The National Enquirer is Trying to Blackmail and Extort Him; Every Democrat Running for President in 2020 Flocks to South Carolina, Which Has a Reputation for Making and Breaking Campaigns. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired February 9, 2019 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[19:00:00] VAN JONES, HOST, THE VAN JONES SHOW: Good evening, I'm Van Jones. Welcome to The Van Jones Show. We got a packed show for you tonight. We got 2020 Presidential hopeful Julian Castro in the building. I know you guys are happy to meet with. He's going to be here, amazing guy.
Also it has been awhile but I got back in my van, yes, van, in a van and this time I talked to a handful of black voters in Columbia, South Carolina. Tonight you are going to get surprising insight into the issues they actually care about and the issue that they don't care about at all. So we're going to get to that but first let's talk.
It's been another crazy week of head spinning headlines from a black face to blackmail, okay? You know, you got the world's richest man, Jeff Bezos saying that the National Enquirer is trying to blackmail and extort him.
He's quite a wrong guy to be messing with, they're going to find that out and then you got the state of Virginia, government in complete disarray because of black face, it's a total crazy mass. We also had a polarizing State of the Union speech from our Republican President and perhaps an equally polarizing proposal from our congressional Democrats.
A lot of them want a Green New Deal, some people call it 'saving the planet,' other people call it socialism, okay? So you got a lot happening all at once and with all these you know, high speed, hot button issues coming at us every minute like you know, tennis balls coming out of the machine, it's easy to just get overwhelmed, get triggered and go to our corners.
And I'm as guilty of this as anybody else most days. But we got to remember a very important word from our school days, that word is 'nuance' okay? You got to slow things down sometimes, you got to pull it apart, we got to learn stuff together.
For us, this word's socialism. That immediately since people run into the corners especially older voters who remember the Cold War, the Iron Curtain, the Soviet Union but that's not what these younger voters are talking about.
When they say socialism, most of time what they really mean is, they want to be able to go to college without being in debt for the rest of their lives or if they get sick, maybe see a doctor. Now most older voters, they went to college when it was much, much cheaper or even tuition free and they've already got socialized medicine, it's called Medicare.
So rather than let the socialism word drive us apart, let's keep in mind, many young voters are simply asking for things that their grandparents already have or once had. Does that mean, we're headed toward Venezuela? I don't think so. See everything is not so black and white, even blackface is not black or white.
Now look, obviously white people painting their faces and acting out black stereotypes is always racist and terrible, fine. But all offences are not equal. In Virginia the Attorney General is facing calls to resign because he came forward and admitted that he painted his face like a rapper when he was 19.
Okay, look, dumb, offensive, he was a teenager. Teenagers do dumb stuff. As a fully grown man, he came forward, he admitted it, he apologized. We all make mistakes, all you can ask the people is to own their screw ups and to learn and to grow.
That is totally different though from the Governor of Virginia. He was a 25 year old medical student, not a teenager and it wasn't just black face. Somebody in the picture was wearing a Klan hood, okay? That's a terrorist organization.
Then he apologized but he never explained whether he was the guy in the Klan hood or the black face. Then he took the apology back and said, well, never mind, I wasn't in that photo, I got confused because there was this other thing where I painted my face like Michael Jackson and then his wife had to tell him not to moon walk at a press conference.
Okay, now that guy probably should not be the governor of a state, okay? Nuance, okay? Difference. I would also argue that even President Trump sometimes deserves a more nuanced view. Now that's a tough assignment because of the awful incendiary stuff that he sometimes does and says and honestly, during the State of the Union, I was furious with Trump because I saw him undermining his humanitarian appeals on criminal justice and cancer by tossing out all this nasty anti-immigrant red meat.
It seemed like he was trying to blame every crime in the country on undocumented people when undocumented people have a lower crime rate than the rest of us and I hate that stuff. You cannot unite and divide at the same time so I just let Trump have it. But Trump did something important at night which I did not acknowledge.
When he paid tribute to two formally incarcerated people in the gallery. Ms. Alice Johnson and Mr. Matthew Charles. In fact, Trump set an example for everybody in the country, when he looked up at Matthew Charles and he said this.
[19:05:00] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES: Thank you Matthew. Welcome home.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JONES: Now that may have been the first time, a U.S. President has ever done that for somebody coming home from prison, okay? So in those moments honestly, I don't know how to both denounce bad stuff he does while still acknowledging and encouraging some of the good stuff.
That may require more nuance than even I'm capable of, but I want to keep trying to figure it out and we've all got to keep trying to figure it out and anybody who wants to be President next, really has got to be good at nuance. Let me see, if my next guest has any ideas for us.
He's a former kid mayor of San Antonio, he was Obama's Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and he is a twin like me. Please welcome to the Van Jones Show, Julian Castro.
Brother, my brother, look at this guy. The young folks like you. The young folks like you.
JULIAN CASTRO, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT: I have to admit, I have never been called a kid mayor but I was young, I was young. Good to be with you.
JONES: Listen, not only were you a young mayor, you were young cabinet official, you've been a leader your whole life but why do you want to get involved in this mess now? I mean, are you (inaudible) as well to run for President in the middle of this insanity?
CASTRO: Oh, I know, you know the other day I was talking to my brother, he said you know you're running for President very crazy time. I think that that's an understatement but for me, it really is about the fact that I have been so blessed like you have, like a lot of folks here have, to have had great opportunity in this country.
And that didn't happen by accident that happened because there were certain things available in this country like good public schools and the opportunity to go to college and then pursue a career and I want to make sure that those same kind of opportunities are there for families across the United States.
And I have a track record of getting things done as a mayor and there's a cabinet member and I have a strong vision for the future of the country that hopefully we'll get to chat about.
JONES: Yes, well, I mean you saw the State of the Union speech from Trump. I mean what did you make of what he's up to in that speech?
CASTRO: Well, you know, here's the thing, every State of the Union, it doesn't matter which President it is. They say nice words so you know, going in that you're going to get nice words. The difference with this President is that we have seen time and again that his words don't match his actions.
You know, see you can't unite the country if he constantly uses the language of division and I believe that people feel like he's in so much to divide the country.
JONES: Yes, well, here's somebody who is tried to be a uniner. This issue of immigration, how would you resolve this?
CASTRO: Well, I'm hopeful because I think there are places where they can compromise. The Democrats have mentioned several types of investments in the budget that they're willing to make in things like more personnel at the border, better technology and also securing the ports of entry.
Folks may have seen that about a week and a half ago. We had one of our largest busts of Fentanyl at the Arizona border and that didn't come you know, through the desert. There's not a single thing that a wall would have done. Where it we came from was a port of entry and when you do a better job there, so my hope is that they can compromise there.
JONES: Well, what what's your ideal vision and I mean, if you - if you're President of the United States, you get the Republicans and the Democrats together, what would work for America? You were a mayor in San Antonio, a lot closer to the border than Washington DC, I mean what do you think would actually work?
CASTRO: What would work is the blueprint was in 2013, there was comprehensive immigration reform legislation, they got 68 votes in the Senate so Republicans and Democrats, if it had been put to a vote in the House, it would have passed.
But it wasn't so you know, that would include making sure that we have personnel, technology at the border that can continue to ensure that they're good and secure, it would also include and earn pathway to citizenship for dreamers and for the other 10 or 11 million people who are here if they're otherwise law abiding. I think that we can do that, I think it's a false choice to think that that in order to have border security, we have to be cruel, the way that this administration has insisted.
JONES: Do you think that I mean, you know, you're being calling the Latino candidate and Kamala's being called the black girl magic candidate and Corey's the black hen. Do you think that all this sort of demographic pigeon-holing is destructive?
Is it something you embrace? I mean, how do you think about your roles of maybe the first Latino nominee or President? You know, that's one of the - one of the - both opportunities and challenges of this particular cycle because I know that there's special meaning for the Latino community that I'm running for President.
[19:10:00] You know, I know that they're a lot of parents out there who can tell their little boy or little girl, hey look, you can do it because he's doing it. At the same time, I've always believed that whenever you serve in office, you have to serve everybody and so I'm proud of my background.
I do think that there's going to be special meaning in my candidacy but I'm also aware that I have to have policy proposals and a vision that includes everybody.
JONES: Do you think Trump would actually like to run against a person of color, do you think that helps because he was getting people angry about Obama, Obama isn't even running.
CASTRO: Oh yes, I mean you know, it's he was a birther.
CASTRO: I can only imagine as a Mexican-American, the things that they're going to come up with for me.
JONES: Exactly, yes. I mean, how do you turn that - he might think that you're his dream opponent, how do you turn that into a nightmare for him?
CASTRO: Well, number one I'm going to win Florida, I'm going to win Texas and I'm going to win Arizona so - that's 78 electoral votes that will speak very loudly to him. All right? 78 electoral votes. So I think that I can - I believe that I can go if I'm the nominee and that I can get back places like Michigan and Wisconsin and Pennsylvania and also go, get Florida, Texas and Arizona which we've not been able to do.
JONES: Yes, well first you got to win in primary and right now, you know your name recognition is not very high. I think like 60% of people still don't even know who you are. How does that make you feel? Is that like bad for yourself?
CASTRO: No, you know, I see that is opportunity because the people that do know who I am have a favorable impression of me so I think if I just keep doing interviews like this, I knock on doors, and do everything that you do in a campaign, I'm very confident that by the end of the day, I'm going to pick up a lot of momentum.
JONES: You served with Biden. What do you think about him? There seems to be a clamoring for him to get in. Do you think that that clamoring for him to get in means that people in the party don't want the younger face, they don't want the young progressives, they might want somebody more centrist and established. How do you read the Biden fever that's going on?
CASTRO: Honestly having been in the administration and seeing up close his work, I have tremendous respect for him. I think he's had a just a fantastic legacy of public service. I get the sense out there that people want a new generation of leadership. I traveled a lot over the last few years and especially during these last two years supporting candidates in the 2018 cycle and I don't - I don't say that as anything personal against one person.
The sense that I get is that people want a new generation of leadership and in this race, you know, just speaking for myself, I believe that I'm going to bring a vision for the country that represents the future.
JONES: Do you think that Biden should maybe sit it out? CASTRO: I wouldn't say that.
JONES: Why not?
CASTRO: Because if he wants to run, he certainly has a track record of accomplishments, he served as a Vice President. I think so many people respected, he would be a fantastic candidate. So if he wants to run, he should.
JONES: Now, you mentioned Vice President. On Jimmy Kimmel, you said you don't want to be the Vice President and you had some sting to it. Was that? Oh wait, how did this - oh wait, did something happen? The last time they were running your name -
CASTRO: Well, I mean, because I went through the Vice Presidential selection process last time and you know, I wrote a little bit about this in my book last year that that is the craziest process because you're supposed to pretend like you don't care.
You know, you're not even under consideration but also in politics what I've always enjoyed is fundamentally, politically, you're going out there and you're asking the people to support you. In that VP process, you're counting on one person basically to make a decision about who they're going to choose.
JONES: Like dating.
CASTRO: It is not my type of politics. Yes, I mean that's not what I'm into so -
CASTRO: What I said was I've kind of been there and done that and I'm running for President.
JONES: Do you think Hillary Clinton made a mistake not picking you?
CASTRO: I wouldn't say that. It's hard to tell, you know.
JONES: I think you think she did. Okay, we got a lot more to talk about when we come back with Julian Castro including what do you think about the influence of socialism on the Democratic Party and something that he and I actually have in common that has shaped both of our lives. We'll talk about that when we get back.
[19:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
JONES: Welcome back to the Van Jones Show. We're with 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro. Now look, I want to get into a tough topic. Donald Trump has said you know, the Democrats now becoming a socialist party.
And I think a lot of people are saying, it's just a bunch of rhetoric. But in the Latino community, you have a lot of people who have had real experience with real socialism, whether it's you know, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba, is this going to be something that if he makes it stick, can cost us with the Latino community or is it just a bunch of hype.
CASTRO: No, I think it's - I believe, it's just another tactic to divide people. Also, what people are proposing is not socialism, socialism is where the state controls the means of production. When people say there should be tuition free college, as you have mentioned, the fact is that the generations past had tuition free college.
CASTRO: When they say somebody should have universal healthcare coverage, well, the fact is that if you're in the military or you're an older American, you get Medicare, Tricare, we're not doing anything that we haven't been doing for a long time.
JONES: Yes, it's fine with mean like we already give kids free education, kindergarten, first grade, second grade, third grade, 12th great but if you give it to them in 13th grade, it's communism. I'm like, hold on second.
CASTRO: Well, you know what Van, the people that should have the most interest in more folks getting to go to college or you know entrepreneurship program or training program are the people that believe in the private sector because you know what, we're going to get out-competed in my China and India and all of these countries that today are producing tons and tons of young people that are getting higher education.
If we don't keep up with that, then we're going to fall to second or third place.
JONES: Well, I mean, I hear your passion on education, let's talk about Medicare for all, that's another big topic that's come up. People think that you know, we're going to wipe out the insurance industry. When you say you're for Medicare for all, what are you talking about?
CASTRO: What I believe is that we should have a system where anybody who wants to be enrolled in Medicare can get it. People have asked for instance, well, can somebody still have a supplement plan or private health insurance and countries do this differently.
I believe we can have a system where if somebody wants their own insurance plans that they can have it but here's what I don't believe.
[19:20:00] I don't believe that your ability to get health care when you need it, should be determined by somebody's profit motive and so everybody should have the access to healthcare and good healthcare when they need it.
JONES: You know, you and I have something in common in that we're both twins. When you have a roommate, that's one thing but when you have a womb mate, that's a whole different level of - what's the impact of having this kind of shared journey with somebody as close to you as he is. CASTRO: Oh as you know, there's nothing else like it. It sounds corny but that that is a bond unlike any other bond because you grow up in a way where people see you as the same person a lot of times, where you're kind of fighting, we were, for your own identity.
But at the same time, you almost have somebody in life that God has given you, that is perfectly made for you and understands you and I'm convinced that I wouldn't be who I am or where I am if I hadn't grown up with Joaquin as my twin brother.
JONES: So did you guys have like a fist fight to figure out who's going to run for President?
CASTRO: Well, I'm a minute older so I get first shot.
JONES: I'm four minutes older.
CASTRO: There you go.
JONES: That's right.
CASTRO: There you go.
JONES: That's right.
CASTRO: He knows his place.
JONES: Yes, yes. And also, you're a dad.
CASTRO: I am.
JONES: You're a father. You've got two little kids.
CASTRO: Yes, my wife Erica and I have a girl Carina that's about to turn 10 in about five weeks and we have a son, Cristian who turned four on December 27th.
JONES: You know, that must have been tough, you got in the middle of their tender years, put them through this ringer, what was that conversation like in your home?
CASTRO: Well, that was the hardest part of making a decision to run in the first place because to miss time with them when they're so young and these are the great memories that you're supposed to have later on.
But you know I'm doing this because ultimately I want the world and this country to be a better place for them and for other children like them and their children and also I get back to San Antonio you know, I'm trying to be disciplined by making sure that I spend time at home.
CASTRO: Because you know, it's one thing to go out and campaign but you can't forget what your priorities are. JONES: The good thing is about you, you've got such good training in being able to be an active and as a parent because of your mom. I mean, your mom is a legend -
CASTRO: I do, that is true.
JONES: - in your hometown. Talk a little bit about your mother and what it was like to grow up in a household that the whole thing was about making change.
CASTRO: Yes, well, so I grew up with my grandmother that had come over from Mexico and my mother. My mother had been a hell raiser when she was young, she was involved in the old Chicano movement which is basically the Mexican American civil rights movement and so when we were growing up, she would drag us to rallies and speeches and marches and all of that.
And mostly what I took from that was that there was a value in participating. A lot of people grow up and they think you know, all of those politicians, they're all crooks or you can't trust anybody and I'm not saying, I never thought that. But I took from her that if you want to make a positive change in the world, that you got to get up, you got to get active, you got to do something.
And the blessing of growing up in the generation that I'm growing up in and certainly a younger generation is that we could actually run and win. My mom ran for city council when she was 23 years old in San Antonio under the Slate called the Committee for Body of Betterment.
None of them won because of the times. 30 years later I became one of the youngest city council members ever elected there at 26 because of the progress that her and so many other people had helped make possible.
That's the blessing of what they gave us.
JONES: All right, well, look, I mean, you're building on a beautiful legacy and I think you're 100% right. As the country gets to know you better, it's going to be a blessing for all of us. Julian Castro. Appreciate you being here.
Good luck in your campaign. Now, look, coming up next, I'm going to get in my van, I'm going to South Carolina where a bunch of his competitors have been hanging out recently. I'm talking to a group of black voters about what they are looking for in a 2020 candidate. I'm going to take you there when we get back.
[19:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
JONES: Welcome back to the Van Jones Show. Look, every Democrat that's even thinking about running in 2020 seems to be flocking to South Carolina, really for good reason. It's an early primary, it's called the first in the south and it's got a reputation for making and breaking campaigns.
And the black voters there are a key constituency. Now South Carolina is also had to deal with a number of high profile racial tragedies from the police killing of Walter Scott to the massacre of nine people at Emanuel AME church by a white supremacist.
No, I was there after that tragedy in South Carolina and people really came together and they took down the Confederate flag from the state capital so I want to go back and check in with the black voters in Columbia, South Carolina. I got in my van, yes, Van in the van and I got some of their thoughts on 2020 and how we've progressed as a nation on the issue of race, take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JONES: Thanks man. South Carolina. Here we are in Columbia, South Carolina, big battleground state for the Democrats. You already had so many candidates and could be candidates coming through here, why? Because this is the first state in the whole primary process where the Democrats looks like a Democratic party.
Big black vote, very diverse and whoever wins here will probably go on a run through the South.
DR. KARI-CLAUDIA ALLEN, DEMOCRATIC SUPPORTER: Well, hello.
JONES: Welcome, welcome, welcome. Good to see you.
CLARENCE DAVIS, REPUBLICAN SUPPORTER: How are you doing?
JONES: Get into the van.
CATHERINE FLEMING BRUCE, DEMOCRATIC SUPPORTER: All right.
JONES: So for the Democrats in the car, anybody catch your eye yet? In Democratic primary. We have like 483 people running, right?
JONES: Anybody that stands out?
ALLEN: I think Kamala Harris is just black girl magic like #blackgirlmagic. She is amazing. I mean but I love Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand.
[19:30:00] JONES: You only name women, you didn't name one dude.
ALLEN: I did.
JONES: And why is that important to you?
ALLEN: Yes and no. I think that women have been long overdue for our voices to be heard but I will not vote for someone just on the basis of their gender or their race. I want to hear, how connected they are to the needs of the people and if they're really talking about real reform, working across party lines.
JONES: So would you say that Beto or Bernie or a Biden could not get your vote.
BRUCE: I think, I would definitely support person of color candidate. And if the policy that the other person puts forward is significantly better and it's going to impact people of color better, then I would look at that but I would like to see people of color have a shot at making this thing to happen.
JONES: What about Biden?
DAVIS: If he gets to the Democratic primary, he poses a serious threat as far as electoral college is concerned.
JONES: Biden does, why?
DAVID: Yes, he's working class. I can see him pulling, possibly pulling Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, the Wisconsins of the world.
ALLEN: I think we need someone who knows how to work across the aisle. I mean when you have a 35 day government shut down, somebody needs to figure out how to talk to someone -
JONES: What's wrong with Donald Trump from the perspective of a conservative black voter in South Carolina.
DAVIS: The divisiveness, the divisiveness, I mean, there are opportunity - windows of opportunity for instance is Charlottesville. Where you didn't have to give some sterile response to what took place there and when we went to World War fighting Nazis.
I mean, white supremacy, that needs to be buried, dead and buried, those are vestiges of the past. But they're vestiges of the President which still haunt African Americans. And they haunt folks like me and we're not going to - we're just not going to tolerate.
We're not going to support someone that we basically are afraid of and there are a lot of people in the Republican Party who do not have those views. Now where we have faulted is in being silent.
BRUCE: But you know, you have to be outspoken on policy, not just on the issue of white supremacy. If you have policies that have racist impacts and you continue to support those policies, then you're not going to be able to eradicate what needs to be eradicated.
JONES: I mean, if it comes down to just Trump versus a Democrat, what should we all do?
DAVIS: I have no clue.
BRUCE: Well, I guess that leaves the rest of us to do what we need to do.
JONES: How do you as a doctor see this issue of Medicare for all?
ALLEN: I'm in support of something that will get my patients more healthcare, healthcare access and coverage. I had is 63-64 year old who would get her blood pressure under control, diabetes under control, everything is going well and then she had to retire but was not old enough to qualify for Medicare which kicks in at 65.
And so then she's going without healthcare coverage until her 65th birthday and we're seeing that a lot. You know, we're seeing patients who will - who have to struggle with taking their blood pressure medication one month and taking their asthma medicine the next month.
JONES: Whenever my Republican brothers and sisters talk about this, they say we can't afford to do this, we can't afford to do that, we're already spending more money than everybody else and getting worse outcome so why is that not a persuasive argument to try some different?
DAVIS: I mean, we've got some issues but you keep Medicare for all, we can't. You can't just- number one, you can't displace an entire industry in this country. You're going to displace - you're talking about displacing 500,000 or million people.
And now you're talking about the government being in the insurance business, well, although it already is, but it's being bloated, that's just - that just can't happen. We can't afford that.
JONES: I know you're in favor of not only Medicare for all, but you're also in favor of a free tuition.
DAVIS: Free educate - free college tuition. I just - first of all, it's not going to happen, second of all, it's not going to work. How are you going to pay for that, who's going to pay for what?
BRUCE: Jeff Bezos.
DAVIS: You can't penalize somebody for their success.
BRUCE: Well, why does it have to be looked at as a penalty?
DAVIS: Because it is a penalty. You're going to tax him about 70%, just because he's a multi-millionaire.
ALLEN: It's his civic duty, if I vote, we pay taxes.
[19:35:00] DAVIS: But he did give it back, he built an empire, he built a company, he built a company that employs people, he built a company just as you all touted earlier, that give - that provides healthcare. He did give it back.
ALLEN: So what's the enticement for increasing wages? So we have these billionaires and their workers are barely meeting the poverty line.
DAVIS: There is going to be - and there's always going to be in this country, a situation where you're going to have to pull yourself up by your bootstraps, that's never going, that's not going to change, that's just the nature of the beast as it relates to capitalism.
JONES: I came to South Carolina after Mother Emmanuel massacre. There was a huge hope that when people came together as they did that people would stay together. It does not seem to me that people have stayed together.
DAVIS: And people haven't just split apart. I mean, all you have to do is - if you look at what Governor McMaster is doing right now, he's focused in rural South Carolina as it relates to education.
Those - that's predominately black, part of whatever happened during that flag is a result of us now looking at more equity as it relates into the funding of education in South Carolina.
JONES: What did that flag mean to you when it was up and what does that flag mean to you coming down?
DAVIS: To me, it meant white supremacy and racism because it went up for that reason in 1966.
BRUCE: It meant American home grown terrorists. That's what it means. You know, it means that there are people who will continue to threaten your existence, that you don't belong as a black person. That you're a second class citizen.
ALLEN: But you know, once it came down and the you know, legislature decided that it was going to remain down, I think it was a signal that they were ready to keep moving forward.
JONES: Even though you guys may vote for different people in the primary, you do have unity as South Carolinians that something beautiful did happen here to bring the flag down and to help people and that's going to keep going forward.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JONES: Coming up, you know the Virginia Democratic Party is incomplete meltdown mode because of the scandals and serious allegations going on. The state's governor and the Attorney General are admitting to dressing up and black face in the past. How does this issue keep coming up in politics and pop culture? And why is black face so offensive, we're going to break it down when we get back.
[19:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
JONES: Welcome back to the Van Jones Show. The Democrats are in complete disarray right now in Virginia. For the moment, I want to put aside the sexual assault allegations that were being made against Lieutenant Governor. He's denying those, that's a very important conversation for another time.
But right now I want to focus on the controversy over black face surrounding the governor and the Attorney General, it's actually a much bigger issue, a broader issue, whether it's you know Megyn Kelly or various college fraternities and sororities getting busted for racially tone deaf parties.
Or even the designer Gucci was forced to apologize this week for a sweater, people said, looked like blackface. This just keeps coming up and keeps coming up. I've got two of the nation's premier experts on the issue here to cut through all the outrage and the noise and give us some real context on what's going on.
So we got Dwandalyn Reese, she's the curator of music and performing arts at the Smithsonian institution's National Museum of African American History and Culture. We also have Rhae Lynn Barnes, she's an Assistant Professor in the Department of History at Princeton University, got a book coming out called dark college.
Give them a big round of applause for being here. Really, really, really appreciate it. Now, I think a lot of people are getting the note or the message that maybe something is wrong with black face but they don't really understand why. What is wrong with people putting shoe polish on their face, pretending to be black if they were not?
DWANDALYN REECE, NATIONAL MUSEUM OF AFRICAN AMERICAN HISTORY AND CULTURE: Okay, well, it's all about knowing the history of blackface minstrelsy which started in the 1830s and what it was is white performers putting on a stage show, darkening up their face with burnt Cork, grease or whatever they had at disposal and caricaturing African American culture and beliefs and traditions.
They would create stereotypical characters like the maim trickster, portray African Americans as lazy, unintelligent, thieves. And in that caricature, it was really a painful way of objectifying African Americans and depriving them of their humanity.
JONES: So all the stuff that we don't like from you know, we think about segregation, this is a big part of the culture of segregations putting down African-Americans. Now you got people, I think dumpster diving, trying to find folks' yearbooks and stuff.
This just maybe the tip of the iceberg, what we're seeing in Virginia. How deep is this? How pervasive is this history of black face caricature and stereotyping of African-Americans?
RHAE LYNN BARNES, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY DEPARTMENT OF HISTORY: Incredibly pervasive. So I've actually been studying this for about 13 years. Specifically, the relationship between political power and Jim Crow America and amateur blackface minstrelsy.
And one of the things that I discovered in my research is these celebrities and they were truly global celebrities in the nineteenth century, blackface performers, after the civil war in 1868, joined together with a group of politicians and also publishers and in 1868 in New York City, they found the benevolent protective order of the Elks.
Their original name was the Jolly Corks which is a reference to blacking up and performing in blackface and why this is significant is the Elks club essentially becomes America's largest fraternal order by the mid twentieth century, about 1.5 million members.
REECE: I think what's important to point out aside from talking about the politicians in that long history is how popular blackface minstrelsy was, it was like the first form of popular entertainment. [19:45:00] So it's really ingrained in the American psyche and so the
presence you know, beyond politicians you know, people in schools can tell all countless kinds of stories of how people performing in blackface probably in the 1980s and maybe on to the present day where we have numerous instances of that.
So it is so ingrained in American performance style, that its pervasiveness has such as a harsh impact.
JONES: When you see these images coming up all the way to the present day, is it painful?
BARNES: Of course one. I mean, they're incredibly - they're meant to humiliate African Americans and also we're focusing a lot about race but they're also in drags so they're also meant often be humiliating for women, especially women in power and one thing that I've been working on in my research for a long time is talking to women who in the 1950s and 1960s, African American mothers were at the front lines of school integration.
How to start a new campaign to essentially eradicate black face from school curriculum? They would finally get their child into an integrated school and be horrified to discover that their child was having to read little black sambo or perform in an amateur blackface minstrelsy.
And so when we talk about sort of radical civil rights, you have all of these African American mothers who are having to go up to principals and school teachers and say, look at me, I'm a human being, I'm not this racist caricature and look at my child that you're teaching and think about how this impacts us.
JONES: And for you I mean, do you feel the same way about these images when you see them, just at a personal level?
REECE: I have a visceral response.
JONES: What is it?
REECE: It's sadness, a sense of humiliation or reminders of the past and the present and how pervasive and dangerous these images are to the existence of African Americans even today and how pervasive they are and how sadness comes from people not having the empathy or the ability to understand why these images are painful.
And how it really has affected African Americans throughout history in this country.
JONES: Well, I mean, what do you think about people you know, like Megyn Kelly, at what point is it okay for people who don't understand, at least ask the question, obviously, you know Megyn Kelly should have known better, the politicians should have known better and -
BARNES: And it is important too - so Megyn Kelly was expressing confusion because she said, well, I'm trying to do this as a form of appreciation and that's a really common questions that I receive from people that I'm trying to honor somebody like Beyonce and JayZ and it's like, well, we all love Beyonce.
We all love Diana Ross, that's who they were specifically talking about but when you physically put on this make up, you're evoking this really long and upsetting and dark tradition and that's what I really want students especially to be able to be exposed to and understand.
REECE: The empathy and understanding is key and you raise the issue, you have to ask the question. If you don't understand, you have to ask the question. You have to be open to hear the answer and you know as tired of some of us may be addressing it.
JONES: I'm sure.
REECE: And we do get tired, we have to be generous in explaining why this is painful.
JONES: We live in the United States of Amnesia half the time and so you know people are sometimes in their own little bubble with what they're doing but when your bubble runs over somebody else and somebody else's history then that's the time for us listen to each other.
I cannot tell you much I appreciate your expertise and your scholarship, give them another big round of applause.
Now listen, coming up, Alexandria Ocasio Cortez just rolled out her plan for a Green New Deal, it's already causing some controversy even within her own party. I'm going to tell you what's in that proposal and why it's getting so much attention when we get back.
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JONES: All right, this week Senator Ed Markey and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez rolled out their plan for a Green New Deal. Now their goal is to address climate change and economic inequality at the same time. Now some of this is not brand new, in fact it's something I worked on when I was in charge of green policy in the Obama White House.
I even wrote a book more than ten years ago called the green collar kind of me, explaining how government could invest in green infrastructure projects which would create new jobs and curb climate change but the new proposal from the new Democrats is a little bit different and a little bit bolder, take a look.
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JONES: Calls for action on climate change are pretty mainstream, at least they are on side of the aisle.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES: I don't believe it.
JONES: But you got a whole new generation of young environmentalists who are fed up and frightened about the planet, they're going further, they want a Green New Deal. What is that? Well, think back to high school and the new deal you learned about when FDR rolled out in the 1930s, a program to boost the economy and provide jobs to people who were suffering under the great depression.
Supporters of the Green New Deal want to replicate that success with the added mission of easing climate change.
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS, (D) CALIFORNIA: I support a Green New Deal.
JONES: Now, they're getting some help from some congressional Democrats.
ALEXANDRIA OCASIO CORTEZ, U.S. REPRESENTATIVE, NEW YORK: Today is also a day that we choose to assert ourselves as a global leader in transitioning to 100% renewable energy.
JONES: Their preliminary plan is pretty bold. It calls for a major reduction in the use of fossil fuels with the goal of switching to 100% renewable energy by 2030. That means making every home, business and factory energy efficient using green technology like wind or solar.
Another goal, working to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from manufacturing, agriculture transportation and other industries. The plan calls for a just transition for all workers especially in coal country and mining towns where fossil fuel companies provide most of the jobs.
That means free education, training and a job guarantee program to ensure that there is a living wage position for everyone who wants one.
SEN. ED MARKEY, (D) MASSACHUSETTS: This is the new climate democracy of the people, by the people, for the planet.
JONES: Now opponents and skeptics have some pretty major concerns especially how is the government going to pay for this? They say the proposal can create economic chaos and push the country ever closer to socialism.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is going to spend trillions of dollars that we don't have, over a couple decades. It would totally destroy the coal and fossil fuel industry.
JONES: But supporters disagree on the price tag. They point out the cost of inaction could mean we don't have a planet to live on. They also point out the program could be paid for by tax hikes on the super wealthy and cutting spending elsewhere.
Their goal is not just to reduce carbon emissions but also to stimulate the job market, reduce inequality and boost the economy in low income areas that are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
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JONES: So look clearly this is a moon shot and the devil's going to be the detail but it sure feels good to live in a country where we can dream big again. Thank you for watching. I'm Van Jones of the Van Jones Show. Peace and love for one another.
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