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THE VAN JONES SHOW
Proof that Our Justice System Doesn't Work the Same for Everybody; Interview with Democratic Presidential Candidate, Mayor Pete Buttigieg; Extreme Right Wing Violence in the U.S. and Around the World; Interview with Derek Black, a Former White Nationalist; Why and How Are So Many Young White Men Being Drawn into White Nationalism? Aired 7-8p ET
Aired March 30, 2019 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
VAN JONES, CNN HOST: Good evening. I'm Van Jones. Welcome to THE VAN JONES SHOW. I am so excited about tonight's installment. Look, at last count, I think we had like 300 Democrats running for President, maybe 3,000, but one hopeful is having a big moment right now. He's a U.S. Navy veteran. He's a Rhodes scholar. He's also a young mayor working to revitalize his hometown of South Bend, Indiana. Tonight you're going to hear from Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
But first, let's talk. We've got more proof this week that our justice system doesn't work the same for everybody. First, you've got President Trump who claims total vindication in the Russia investigation. Well, hold on. Turns out Bob Mueller's actual report is almost 400 pages, and all we've seen is a four-page summary put together by one of the President's political appointees, and even Trump's Attorney General Bill Barr acknowledged that Mueller stopped short of exonerating the President on the question of obstruction. So let's see the full report, please.
But the mere fact that Trump trash-talked a prosecutor the whole time and didn't get charged with anything - let me tell you something, don't try that in the hood. If an ordinary citizen repeatedly, publicly insulted their district attorney, they would get like 20 additional charges and have to plead to something. So if you got power, our system treats you very differently.
And speaking of power and celebrity, I don't even know what to say about Jussie Smollett in that case. All the charges are now dropped. The record sealed. Now look, Chicago cops have been accused of some shady stuff in the past. But they swear they've got tons of evidence that proved the actor's claim of being a hate-crime victim is totally bogus.
But like Mueller, the Illinois State Attorney's office says they're not exonerating Smollett, but they're not charging him or anyone else. So he gets a break for what appears to be a massive hoax because he's accused of a non-violent crime, doesn't have a long rap sheet, et cetera. OK. But the problem is most Americans don't get the same special considerations from the justice system.
Consider this. We've got a woman in Texas serving five years in prison right now for voting. You heard that right. Crystal Mason had been convicted of a felony. She served her time. Since she didn't realize it was illegal for her to vote in Texas, she was arrested after casting a provisional ballot in 2016. That's right, a provisional ballot, meaning her vote may not have even counted.
Also, this week, I worked to right the wrong that happened to Demetrius Anderson. He served time and got out of jail 13 years ago. Since then, productive member of his community, two jobs, an apartment, a member of his local church. But last week, he got handcuffed and taken to court and told he might have to serve an additional 16 months behind bars. Why? Because someone made what seems to be a clerical error and freed him a little bit early years ago.
Now, fortunately, after a major social justice movement and some national TV appearances, it appears the case has been resolved and Anderson won't have to go back to jail. But it shouldn't have taken all that. It shouldn't have been so hard. We need a fair system that gives every American an equal benefit of the doubt. And that's why I've been working so hard for a bipartisan criminal justice reform.
And speaking of common sense, my next guest just might be one of the most reasonable and level-headed candidates we've seen so far in the 2020 race. He's also the youngest. Here is my interview with Pete Buttigieg.
JONES: My man!
MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG, SOUTH BEND, INDIANA: Thank you.
JONES: Hey, hey. Look at this.
JONES: Oh, they love this guy.
JONES: Look, I'm not --
JONES: You are having a moment, sir. You are having a moment. Look, CNN is calling you the hottest candidate in this race. Scarborough, after you came on his show, basically compared you to Barack Obama himself. How does it feel? I mean, three weeks ago, almost nobody knew who you were outside of Indiana, and now people are beginning to come around. How does that feel?
BUTTIGIEG: It feels great. I'm trying not to let it go to my head --
BUTTIGIEG: --because I'm the same person I was three weeks ago, and --
BUTTIGIEG: --more importantly, I need to make sure I stay the same person for the --
BUTTIGIEG: --for the road ahead. But it's reassuring to know that when we get our message in front of people, they respond. People are excited about the idea of generational change. They're excited about a new vocabulary for Democrats in defending our values. And whether we're in the early states or whether we're making the rounds in the media, just seeing that powerful response has been so motivating and so reassuring.
JONES: Did it show up in the fund-raising? Did it show up in crowd size? I mean, how is it - is it getting to you? Do you know that something's changing? Can you feel it?
BUTTIGIEG: Oh, yes. You can definitely - if I can explain it, well, first of all, just as I travel, more and more people are coming up to me. And often when people know you're running for office, they come up to you and they talk about themselves. They talk about their stories and what it means to them.
BUTTIGIEG: And that's just gone through the roof. The fund-raising is great. We could always use more --
BUTTIGIEG: --if anybody feels motivated, go to peteforamerica.com and lend a hand.
BUTTIGIEG: But - but that's been picking up. And more than anything, there's just this - I don't know - this intangible energy that you can just feel --
BUTTIGIEG: --when I walk into a room.
JONES: This is a generationally different campaign in that there's so many people running, and people they have a big moment and then they just go down. Are you scared a little bit? I mean, a few weeks ago, somebody else was the flavor of the month. Are you scared that when you announced, you might then get the pinata treatment? BUTTIGIEG: Yes. I mean, definitely the better you're doing, the more
people are going to decide to take you down a peg. But that's just politics. That's how it works. And you shouldn't be in this field unless you're ready to defend your record and explain your values. I think really the way you survive the flavor-of-the-month period - or with 20 of us, it's probably a flavor-of-the-week period. But the way you do it is through substance. You're going to make sure that you're putting forward something that others aren't or at least that you've got a fresh and different vocabulary that can reach people who maybe have tuned us out.
I'm really worried, especially coming from the industrial Midwest that our party has trouble reaching people who actually believe in our values. They just haven't heard from us in a while. And I think coming from that part of the country as well as the generational background that I have and the background of being a Mayor, which just puts you in a different head space, I think, than if you go to work in Washington every day, I think that just might create a way to reach people differently even if the values are pretty consistent among all of us who are looking at this race.
JONES: It is interesting because you're talking about that industrial heartland, some of the people who may not feel as comfortable with the Democratic Party. Yet some of our candidates, like yourself, like Beto, like Biden, they continue to almost have to apologize. Bloomberg says that all the white guys are on an apology tour because of this kind of demographic challenge inside the party. Do you think it's tough to be a white guy in our party reaching out to those Midwestern industrial voters at the same time the base of our party looks very different?
BUTTIGIEG: I think what can create a promise, if we think we've got to choose one or the other. I mean, if - if reaching out to white working class voters has to mean walking away from our commitments on racial and social justice, we shouldn't even be here. We have to be able to build a coalition that knits these forces together.
JONES: I agree. That's just easier said than done. I mean - and it seems like the tripwire is so easy to set off. You've got to apologize for white privilege at some point. I mean, how are you going to handle doing what you just said needs to get done?
BUTTIGIEG: Yes. In some ways, if you're a white candidate, you need to be thinking and talking about things like white privilege. It's - I don't know that it's an apology tour. It's an honest engagement in good faith among people who've had radically different experiences but largely shared interests. We've got to figure out a way to use identity as a basis of solidarity. Right?
Right now, identity as a means of division is being mastered by this White House. We're in a moment of peak white identity politics. And it's being used to divide us across the working and middle class, to divide us regionally, to divide us on partisan lines. It's never going to be easier. It's always easier to use political rhetoric to make people feel small and afraid and less kind toward others. It's harder to use political rhetoric to make people feel big-hearted and secure and forward-looking. But it can be done. And then that's one of the reasons to get into this in the first place.
JONES: And is that why you - is it because of all the division that you saw that you felt like even at such a young age you need to get out there?
BUTTIGIEG: Yes. It's not like I grew up thinking hard, I'm going to wait until I get to 37 and then it's like boom. Right?
BUTTIGIEG: It's more the - the real moment that, I think, calls for something completely different. And I think you can tell that by the fact that there are so many of us. The fact that you've got somewhere between 10 and 20 people looking at this, and no one's been able to command even a decisive plurality. I think it tells you that voters in the party and in the country are looking for something completely different, in many ways, for that reason. I think the generational piece is an advantage.
We've got a lot of leadership. I'd be 39 at inauguration. That's the same age of the President of France. I think that's slightly older than the Prime Minister of New Zealand who's just become, on the world stage, as a remarkable leader.
So I think it's less a question of "Are you old enough?" and it's more a question of "What do you have to say?"
JONES: Another question, I think, a lot of people have been trying to answer is the VP question.
JONES: Do you feel like it's important to have a woman, for instance, as your VP or a person of color as your VP? How do you - how do you deal with that as we try to get all the excitements together and all the change together?
BUTTIGIEG: Yes. I think it's a healthy conversation to have. I would feel presumptuous saying anything about who my VP would be before anywhere near the nomination.
JONES: Before you've been announced as President?
BUTTIGIEG: But I do think what we know is that our party needs to be - and our country needs to be led by faces that reflect its diversity. And that includes gender diversity, racial diversity. Our ticket should reflect that. Our leadership, more broadly, should reflect that we worked very hard to establish that in my administration back home. We're working on building a campaign team that reflects that. And I think that's fair game to ask anybody --
BUTTIGIEG: --who wants to lead a ticket, especially if they turn out to be white and male.
JONES: Yes. Yes. Good.
JONES: We're in the situation now where I think the Democrats have always wanted to see ourselves we are the party of inclusion, et cetera, maybe saying the Republicans are not. But now this question around anti-Jewish sentiment --
JONES: --has hit the front pages. And you had Donald Trump saying that the Democrats are actually an anti-Jewish party.
BUTTIGIEG: So the President is, I think, using as he often does, these kinds of divisions and stereotypes in order to break our coalition. Look, it's not like the President cares about anti-semitism. This is somebody who literally couldn't even condemn like straight up, outright, Jews will not replace us neo-Nazis. Let's not take his cue on issues like anti-semitism.
JONES: But he does have a Jewish daughter, he has a Jewish son-in-law, and he's got Jewish grandkids. So I think when he speaks about it, he does have some ground to stand on, you know.
BUTTIGIEG: I don't know. It sounds like I have a lot of black friends. Like - OK, but --
BUTTIGIEG: But he's still making excuse for neo-Nazis. Like - so - but this isn't about him. This is about us. And we need to find a way in this country to debate policies in Israel to recognize that supporting Israel can still include being critical of the Israeli right wing, but also we absolutely have to make sure that it never slides into these anti-semitic stereotypes, things that echo some of the worst of what we've seen. And being held accountable for that is a healthy thing.
JONES: You are a small town Mayor in a red state, and people voted for Trump and you in your town. What do you know about Trump voters that the rest of us don't know that you're able to see through some of this crazy stuff and still appeal to them?
BUTTIGIEG: Well, I think there's a sense of hostility to the system, to the economic and political system that we live in. And that part of what's motivated some of these voters is not wrong. Don't get me wrong. I'm not making any excuse for some of the explicit appeals to racism that were made and in some cases worked.
But at the same time, we've also got to recognize that if we come off - if he's saying the system is rigged - and the way he's saying it is twisted and not really true, but there's a kernel of truth in there - and we look like we're the ones saying, "Oh, no, the system is perfectly fine," then we've got a problem.
And Democrats are already, I think, experiencing this temptation to say, first, you know, "This is chaos, the White House is chaotic, we can't go on like this, it's tearing us apart." That part is true. But then, second part that is tempting us to say, "Therefore let's go back. Let's go back to normal." The problem is normal wasn't working for a lot of people. Over decades, when Republican and Democratic Presidents have let us down, and Democrats can't take it back to the '90s any more than conservatives can take it back to the '50s.
JONES: Look, I - we've got a lot more to talk about with you when we get back. Mayor Pete says we can't look for greatness in the past, we need to focus on the future. I want to talk with him about what he thinks the future looks like, when we get back.
JONES: All right. Welcome back to THE VAN JONES SHOW. I am here with a Presidential hopeful and the Mayor of South Bend, my brother, Pete.
Now, listen. You are the author of a new book. It's called the "Shortest Way Home: One Mayor's Challenge and a Model for America's Future." And even though you're very young, you've done so much, and you've been through so much. Tell us something that you learned as Mayor, a tough thing that happened to you as Mayor that you learned from that could help you be President of the United States.
BUTTIGIEG: One thing I learned about and I write about a little in the book is the importance of the symbolic power of an office. This is not what I ran for mayor for. I actually kind of wanted to push all that stuff off to the side and just do policy. That's why I ran. I came out of the consulting world. I wanted to measure everything and have everything be in terms of things I could count. And that's part of my approach to government even now.
But what I learned is that actually that symbolic stuff that I used to hate, the kind of ribbon-cuttings and just kind of appearances where it didn't seem like there was a lot of substance to it other than just standing there, actually there's a lot of power in that too. And I write about a situation where I found myself at the scene of a homicide.
It was the next day, and what I didn't realize - I was just trying to figure out this same location, there had been two different incidents. I was trying to understand what had happened there. So I just went quietly one morning there and inadvertently was there as family members of the victim were starting to gather. And I began to - I was sweating.
In a way, I didn't want to talk to them because I didn't feel like I had the skills to talk to them. I didn't know anything about grief counseling or psychology. What do I know about how to make them feel better? But the conversation that developed was actually really beautiful, and it was when I realized it wasn't so much about me and what I had to offer and my skills, it was that I was the city.
As the Mayor, I was a walking symbol of the fact that the city cared about what happened to that family. And again, it's that symbolic stuff. It's not a policy. But it really matters, and you can tell when we don't have it in an office that we need it.
JONES: You've been talking a lot about change. You talked earlier about white identity politics and people being divided, et cetera. But you've never had a country try to do what we're trying to do. To be a democratic republic, it's literally doing a demographic flip--
JONES: --from being a clear majority to just being plurality (ph) or maybe even smaller. What can someone like you offer to a country going through something like that?
BUTTIGIEG: I think it's incredibly important to, again, lean on the kind of moral authority of an office as well as the policies. I mean, there's some specific policies that need to be undertaken in order to deal with, for example, racial patterns of inequality in this country. But it's also about expressing the fact that our country welcomes and embraces that diversity.
And part of that - one thing I read somewhere that I think is really smart is that people don't resist change as such. They resist loss. And they're afraid of changes when they think they're going to lose something. And especially at this moment when we've been sold this very zero-sum view that makes, for example, people in a majority feel like their well-being somehow depends on staying in that majority, which just isn't going to happen. For example, for white America, and belonging to a generation that is more diverse than the generation after mine will be still more diverse than that. But that doesn't have to harm anybody.
JONES: I think what's resonating is your intention. Like, you clearly want to be a healing force in the country. And I think people really want that in your fresh approach. I think what sometimes is discordant, though, for some of the things Democrats were saying is these almost alarming proposals. Like, for instance, if people are already feeling demographically challenged and then - but at least they count because the Electoral College gives them some kind of a place and a thing, you're saying "throw the Electoral College out," --
JONES: --which is very scary for people because they're thinking, well, jeez, these guys are going to come in, they're going to change the rules, they're going to rig it for themselves now. Why would you say "throw out the Electoral College?" Why don't you just say "I'm going to go and get those industrial states we lost last time and don't worry about it?" BUTTIGIEG: There are two reasons why I think it's important to talk
about that. The first is I think it's a good policy. A risk of sounding simplistic. I think in a democratic republic, person who gets the most votes ought to be the person who wins. And --
BUTTIGIEG: --states don't vote. People do. And the reality is this doesn't even benefit small states systematically. If small state like Wyoming is left out the same way as a big state like California because it's so liberal or a medium-sized state like Indiana where I live because it's so conservative, that most years campaigns don't even bother to talk to us. So just that simple idea of one person, one vote, I think, is the right thing to do.
But the other reason - and I'm under no illusion about how difficult it would be to do that. But the other reason I bring it up is precisely because I want to remind everybody that structural remedies are an option, that one of the most elegant features in our constitution is its self-healing mechanism where you can amend it to make sure it keeps with the times. And so whether it's on that issue or making sure that we reform the Supreme Court is not about making it more to the left. It's about making it less politicized.
JONES: Let's talk about the technological changes. I mean, you've spoken to the fact that you think that automation and artificial intelligence may wipe out a bunch of jobs.
JONES: I mean, so you're setting yourself up as kind of like Mayor Pete versus the robots. OK? So, how are you going to win that fight?
BUTTIGIEG: So the thing is the robots are coming with or without us. One of the things we've got to realize is that automation and artificial intelligence are only going to pick up speed in our lifetime. And we've got to have a way of getting ahead of those changes before they wreck us.
I'm from a community that revolved around the auto industry until the '60s. And when those factories left, it brought our city to its knees. We didn't really see this one coming. So shame on us if we don't do something about it. Now, the answer that's being sold out of the White House to deal with change is we're going to stop it. There won't be any change. We're going to make America great again.
JONES: But what'd you do?
BUTTIGIEG: Well, part of it's through policy. It's things like making sure that your health care doesn't depend on your workplace, especially if you're going to go through 12 workplaces in your life. But the same also with things like benefits, retirement benefits, need to get decoupled from this assumption that's no longer true that you can count on one workplace for the rest of your life.
But it's not just policy. There's also something deeper, and that comes back to the sense of belonging I was talking about. We need to make sure people have a source of identity. And there are some really good answers for where you get your identity. It could come from family. It could come from faith. It could come from community. But if we don't, that's when some really ugly answers come in that will fill that void.
JONES: We're going to go from the policy to the personal. OK? I want to talk to you about some of the lessons that come to you from your late-father and also from your new husband dealing with the national spotlight and so much more - when we get back with Mayor Pete.
JONES: Welcome back to THE VAN JONES SHOW. I am here with Mayor Pete Buttigieg. First of all, you just got married like in the - within the past year.
JONES: This is not a good idea for a honeymoon. I don't know why --
JONES: How is your husband adjusting and dealing with this level of spotlight in the first year of your marriage?
BUTTIGIEG: He's pretty good at rolling with it, and I'm lucky for that. I mean, frankly, he's one of the best things I've got going for me.
BUTTIGIEG: I mean, obviously, I love him, but also he's grounded. He keeps me grounded. And he has a real sense - I mean, even when we started dating, he's a teacher--
BUTTIGIEG: --coming to a new city because he lived in Chicago and I kind of convinced him to move to South Bend. And you're dating the Mayor --
BUTTIGIEG: --and white.
BUTTIGIEG: But he was really alive to the ways that we could use our visibility to help people, to make people feel better just by showing up at their event, things like that. And he's taking that same attitude on the trail. And he definitely got more than he bargained for. I mean, he sometimes reminds me about our first date. We were not talking about this being in the future. (LAUGHTER)
JONES: What was it about him that stood out to you before you started dating? I mean, what appealed to you?
BUTTIGIEG: He's got this really quick wit. You can tell if you follow him on Twitter. You'll see what I mean. And - I mean, first I was on this - the very millennial thing, but I met him through this app called Hinge, like talk to your Facebook account. And as soon as I saw the picture, I just saw there was like this light. There was just something in his eyes. Like, I got to meet this guy.
JONES: Yes, yes. OK.
BUTTIGIEG: And - and then I did. And he was just - I was trying to keep up with him. And what I found is that I'm still trying to keep up with him in a lot of ways.
JONES: That's awesome. Hey, listen, is that - you've got--
JONES: You've got people like cheers going (ph) behind you by the way.
JONES: That's beautiful stuff, beautiful stuff. You got to have some small Buttigiegs at some (inaudible) like --
BUTTIGIEG: Yes, I hope so. I hope so.
BUTTIGIEG: Right now, it's Truman and Buddy. These are our rescue dogs. So --
BUTTIGIEG: Truman is this - it's kind of like a lab and beagle mix, and then Buddy came into our life, another rescue. Buddy is interesting. He's a puggle. He's got one eye. He's on a kind of weight-loss journey right now.
BUTTIGIEG: Very food oriented. But a wonderful kind of yin to Truman's yangs.
JONES: The rest of the world sometime is not as loving a place.
JONES: If he's going to be the first husband, you've got countries like Saudi Arabia, you've got countries like the new head of Brazil --
JONES: --who may not be as welcoming. Have you thought about that? And how you're going to deal with that?
BUTTIGIEG: Yes. It's a challenge. And yet, I think it's one example of why American moral authority, even today, is so important because other models are being held up right now. But I believe that if American interests and American values are understood to be inseparable from each other, then when we show leadership, people respond.
And that includes when we show by an election that we are an inclusive country, whether that's about an LGBT leader or in some other way, that other countries' leaders would actually be, to some extent, forced by world opinion to make some advancements. It's one of the things that's at stake right now. If America is not trusted, is not respected, then it won't matter what we have to say about that or any other human rights issue.
JONES: That's right. That's right. You lost your father very recently as well. It's just such a - so much change happening to you --
JONES: --in such a short period of time. How are you dealing with that? Just - I lost my mom last year.
BUTTIGIEG: I'm sorry.
JONES: And it's just - it's - you're doing well for a few days in a row, and then sometimes it catches you when you don't expect. I mean, how are you managing that loss in the middle of all this?
BUTTIGIEG: Yes. The problem is, with grieving, is it simply takes time --
BUTTIGIEG: --and not just the passage of time, but you have to spend time reckoning with loss. And it's still pretty fresh. It was about a couple of months ago that we lost dad.
BUTTIGIEG: I still - it's funny, sometimes I'll be reading something about him, like from a remembrance and think like, oh, I got to send this to him, he'd love it. And the only thing I know how to do is to kind of keep that relationship alive through what I'm doing, through my words and my actions and to try to - to try to make him proud.
JONES: Yes. Well, I don't think there's any doubt about that. Most people who've gone to Oxford, who've gone to Harvard, when they talk to people, they sometimes they condescend. They don't mean to, but it happens.
JONES: You don't condescend. Where does that come from? Is that from your dad? Is it from your mom? Is it from your faith? Help me understand that because it's such a beautiful thing to watch.
BUTTIGIEG: Yes, certainly all of those things. So I think my parents made it clear that they loved me, but I'm not supposed to go around thinking I'm special more than anybody else. And my faith, at least my understanding of my faith, is about humility, the imagery of Christ when the divine comes to earth as being in a servant mode. It comes from my community, a community that I think just wants you to keep your feet on the ground. It comes from my relationships. My husband who will never let my head get too big because we've got laundry to deal with at home.
And more than anything, maybe the experience of being Mayor, actually, and the role that you have there. And lastly, I'd say my military experience where it was kind of an unusual situation for me. I was actually already Mayor when I got deployed in the reserve to Afghanistan. So I went from Mayor to lieutenant. And over there, I was taking orders a lot more than I was giving them.
BUTTIGIEG: And also learning how to trust people who are radically different from me with my life and how to live up to them trusting me with their lives. And nothing is more humbling than that.
JONES: Well, listen, I sometimes despair that our oldest President is our maybe least mature, but it looks like our youngest candidate is our most mature. And I wish you well, well, well.
JONES: --Mayor Pete.
Coming up, we're going to get into this whole disturbing rise of white nationalism. We just saw it in those attacks in New Zealand. It's also on the rise here in our own country. We're going to hear from a guy who was once a rising star in that hateful movement. He was actually raised by leaders of the Ku Klux Klan. He's now renouncing his past and working to end racism. Find out how he went from being a hater to a healer when we get back.
JONES: All right--
JONES: Welcome back to THE VAN JONES SHOW. We continue to see examples of extreme right wing violence in the U.S. and around the world. This week, in California, a mosque was set on fire. Police are investigating that as a hate crime and graffiti left at the scene referenced the horrific deadly attacks on two mosques in New Zealand earlier this month.
And just days ago, the U.S. Department of Justice says it busted a violent white supremacist gang in Alaska. 18 people were charged, several with gun trafficking, kidnapping and even murder. The President is still having trouble saying that white nationalism is a growing threat, but his own FBI says that hate crimes are on the rise.
So I recently spoke with a young man who has unique insight into the white nationalist movement. His father was a leader in the Ku Klux Klan and his godfather is David Duke. But the experiences in college profoundly changed him, and he ended up denouncing and apologizing for his past views. Take a look at my interview with Derek Black.
JONES: Look, man, it takes courage to change anything, to change your whole world view takes a lot of courage. Help us understand before we talk about that, why do you think all of this is happening now? What is behind this appeal for white nationalism in America?
DEREK BLACK, FORMER WHITE NATIONALIST & GODSON OF FORMER KKK GRAND WIZARD DAVID DUKE: Coming from that background that I do, it's always been happening, it's always been - I mean, sometimes not on TV, but it's always been there. There's always been people who were saying those things you saw at Charlottesville. There's always been politicians who were saying the things that Donald Trump says now. They didn't get as much support. And I think we didn't pay as much attention to them as we probably should have.
JONES: You actually were able to run for office and win using some of these kind of dog whistles. One of the dog whistles that you found effective when you were part of this movement to mainstream these ideas?
BLACK: Yes. I ran for this little committee seat - a Republican committee seat in South Florida right across the water from Mar-a- Lago, Donald Trump's house down there. So he's always been in my life.
BLACK: And I went door-to-door, and I said stuff like, "Don't you think the signs in Spanish are kind of undermining your culture? Don't you think that people of color who live in that other neighborhood, don't you think there needs to be more police for people like that?" Like, these kind of messages, really similar stuff to what Trump said on the campaign trail, and people would react to it as long as they didn't hear the word racist, as long as they didn't hear "I'm a white nationalist" and you didn't say that sort of stuff. These are things that they viscerally reacted to. And that was what the white nationalist movement was saying. I would just try to figure out ways to say it that didn't freak them out so much.
JONES: And you were able to get just normal regular people who would never say "I'm a white nationalist" --
JONES: --to resonate with you and vote for you.
BLACK: Yes, yes. And I've got, I think, 62 percent of the vote saying that stuff.
BLACK: It was a small election, but I was trying to demonstrate in 2008 before - a couple months before Barack Obama won the Presidential election, I was trying to demonstrate that these kind of talking points were effective.
JONES: What were some of the things that you were raised to believe as a child growing up in a KKK sort of a family?
BLACK: Yes. My family pioneered taking white nationalism mainstream. All right? My dad and David Duke were friends from the times they were teenagers in the '60s, and they worked together the whole time. And when David Duke ran his campaigns and was successful in Louisiana in the late '80s and the '90s, my dad was helping run the campaign. And then after that, my dad started the first white nationalist website and took white supremacy online.
BLACK: Yes, Stormfront, and created the largest community for decades. And so I grew up with this community around me and the leadership and the people who were running the organizations who all had a belief that white nationalism was only marginalized because - because people didn't want to be called racist. And if they could get over that, if they could say stuff, if they could sanitize it just enough, then they could win elections. They always believed that if they could just get the right message and the right person that people would respond.
JONES: But you as a child, what were you being taught?
BLACK: Beliefs of white nationalism is that race is absolutely scientifically real and that it predicts all the stuff about people like black people commit crimes and white people are smart, and all of this like stupid stuff that they back up with fake science.
JONES: I want people understand, for you to make the change that you made is a big deal because, again, you ran for office. You had a child's version of Stormfront.
JONES: You had a radio show. I mean, you were going hard. Some of the ideas that were being espoused like ending birthright citizenship --
JONES: --prioritizing European immigrants over everybody else, building a wall, calling minorities criminals, that stuff is now coming from the very top. How does it feel to hear ideas that you and your family helped to develop suddenly now being broadcast from the very top of our society?
BLACK: It's - it's terrible, right? I - after I renounced it, I renounced it five or six years ago, and I spent about three years thinking I would never have to talk about it again because obviously people understood that racist ideas needed to be pushed back and we needed to move forward and that we were moving forward. And I realized basically in 2015 with the Presidential election that that was so naive and that the ideas that white nationalism that my family that I had pushed forward had created ways of talking about it. They got a lot of traction.
BLACK: They could get a lot of traction. And I started seeing tweets by the President that used the same phrasing that I had figured out how to use online in the early 2000s and thinking about that I could put out ideas that we as a white nationalist community could put out ideas and even if I renounced it, you don't take the ideas back. They still bounce around. They still get picked up. People still--
JONES: How did that make you feel?
BLACK: It's terrible. There are things that continue to happen in America that I feel a little bit responsible for, and I don't know exactly how much, and I don't know exactly where to place the blame and what to do about it. And I just try to push back against racist ideas as much as I can now. And - but it never feels like I have balanced the scale.
JONES: Yes. Is Donald Trump a white nationalist, as best you can tell?
BLACK: He's not a white nationalist in the sense that I think we should reserve that term to talk about that actual movement. The people at Charlottesville were white nationalists. They're deeply anti-semitic. They believe that there's a Jewish conspiracy. The shooter at the synagogue in Pittsburgh was a white nationalist. He was reading white nationalist stuff. And Donald Trump is not that.
JONES: What would you call Donald Trump? How do you see Donald Trump?
BLACK: Donald Trump is a person who is at times buying into and at times I think opportunistically using the fact that white supremacy is the legacy of America, and it's naive of us to think that it's gone. We all carry around these sort of ideas about wealth, inequality being OK when it's so imbalanced from white people and people of color or that incarceration affecting people of color that's - that's just how it happened. Like, thinking that that's just normal America is buying into a white supremacist legacy. And we get really uncomfortable talking about that, and Donald Trump, at the base level, is capitalizing on that.
JONES: We're going to have more from my interview with Derek Black when we get back. Why are so many young Americans embracing white nationalism, and what role does social media play? That's next.
JONES: Welcome back to THE VAN JONES SHOW and my interview with Derek Black, a former white nationalist who left that movement. A question so many us have, why and how are so many young white men being drawn into white nationalism? Unlike Derek, most new followers, they don't grow up with a parent in the Klan.
The suspect in the New Zealand mosque attacks wrote in his racist manifesto that he came from a regular family and had a regular childhood. How do you go from that to killing 50 people in a mosque and calling them invaders? Well, I did some research and I created this explainer. Just a warning, some of these images are disturbing. I think it's important for us to look and understand what's going on.
JONES (voice-over): The conventional wisdom was that racism was going to die out with the pre-civil rights generation.
CHORUS: Whose streets? Our streets.
JONES (voice-over): But the folks who were marching in Charlottesville were not old men in Klan hoods.
CHORUS: Jews will not replace us.
JONES (voice-over): Most of them appeared to be millennials.
The man convicted of running over and killing protester Heather Heyer was just 20 years old at that time, and James Alex Fields Jr.'s racist views were not a secret. He told classmates about his love for Hitler. He made racist comments toward other students.
(on camera): But few suspected that Fields might commit murder. Also --
(voice-over): --no one predicted that 21-year-old Dylann Roof would shoot and kill nine black churchgoers in Charleston in 2015, even though Roof had expressed racist views online, calling black people inferior and Hispanics "our enemies."
Experts say actually there is not that much difference between those radicalized into white nationalism and the people who pledge allegiance to ISIS.
(on camera): Both groups primarily attract young men who lack purpose and who are looking for meaning in their lives.
(voice-over): They might feel angry and alienated from mainstream society. These young men are often self-radicalized online through YouTube videos, social media or web forums.
(on camera): And to make matters worse, many white nationalists actually feel bolstered by what they're seeing now in the cultural and political mainstream.
(voice-over): President Trump says he's not a racist, but his hesitance to condemn racist, his dog whistles, and his own policies on immigration are cheered on by white supremacists all over the Internet.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You also had people that were very fine people, on both sides.
JONES (on camera): And some Fox News anchors regularly promote anti- immigrant and anti-diversity views.
TUCKER CARLSON, HOST, TUCKER CARLSON TONIGHT, FOX NEWS: How precisely is diversity a strength?
LAURA INGRAHAM, HOST, THE INGRAHAM ANGLE, FOX NEWS: The America that we know and love doesn't exist anymore.
JEANINE PIRRO, JUSTICE WITH JUDGE JEANINE, FOX NEWS: Think about it. Omar wears a hijab. Is her adherence to this Islamic doctrine indicative of her adherence to sharia law, which in itself is antithetical to the United States constitution?
JONES: It's very alarming to me to see the highest levels, even anchors at Fox, speaking that way. Does it alarm you?
BLACK: Yes. It's really, really alarming that my family watches Tucker Carlson Show once and then watches it on the replay because they feel that he is making the white nationalist talking points better than they have and they're trying to get some tips on how to advance it.
JONES: So what changed you?
BLACK: Looking back on it, I have realized that it was a change of community. It was - that I thought I understood my community and who mattered and who I was responsible for, and I didn't think going to college would change that because I thought we were just right, I thought there was nothing that you could disprove about it.
And being in college, especially the first semester before anyone knew my own background, and realize there's all these people who are marginalized and attacked because of what I'm saying means that it's absolutely hypocritical to think that I can espouse something that makes their life worse and still feel like I have some connection to their well-being, I have some responsibility to them, and, like, that - that was a conflict that was ultimately impossible to resolve.
JONES: It's interesting the way that campus responded to you was mixed.
JONES: Once they found out who you were and your family background and your beliefs and your radio show, some students marched against you, they shut the campus down, they said get this guy out of here. Other students wanted to kind of argue the points with you. And other students, including Jewish students said, "You know what? We're just going to befriend this guy."
JONES: "We're just going to be this guy's friend." How did that land in your world?
BLACK: Yes. It was surprising. I showed up to the first Shabbat dinner that I got invited to by a guy Matthew Stevenson (ph) who I already knew during that period. And I thought it would be a one-off thing. I thought it was possible that maybe people at the dinner will argue against me or kick me out or something like that. And I was kind of ready for that. I was ready for arguing because I was used to arguing. I was used to talking to journalists about white nationalism and saying why it was right.
But what happened was I ended up spending two years coming back to the thing every week or every week that he had it. And that outstretching of hand when they knew that what my family was saying was against their community was making - had actively made their lives worse in like tangible ways because Stormfront had espoused anti-Semitism for years and years, and that they still kept inviting me. And they still kept having dinner with me even though that was always there.
JONES: So that push and that pull made a difference. Can we stop this? I mean, do you think that there's a way to begin to arrest this thing and roll it back?
BLACK: I think the only answer that I've come to is some version of education. And I don't want people to take my story and say, OK, we should invite Nazis to dinner. There's a place for that, obviously. Like, it'd be hypocritical for me to say, "oh, what is the point of outreach?" Right? But I think the first thing you can do is to assert what your values are. And I don't - I still don't think we do enough of that.
JONES: Last question. Do you miss your dad?
BLACK: I miss having a really close relationship with my family. And like - and to their credit, over the years since I've renounced, we've gotten to a point where we can text, we can call up and back a few times. I try stay in touch in that way. But I really hate that the family relationship is based on you believe this and then you're a member, and you don't and maybe you don't belong. There was a real question about whether we would be able to stay in touch in the days after I renounced. We had conversations about whether I should be a part of the family. Like, that's really unpleasant. That's - that hurt a lot. JONES: Look, it takes real courage and real integrity to make any kind
of change and especially a change that can cost you your family. And the fact that you're willing to do that, I think, gives a lot of people a lot of hope and lot of encouragement.
JONES: Derek is a great lesson that meaningful change is possible. I want to thank all of my guests and I want to thank you for watching. I'm Van Jones. This is THE VAN JONES SHOW. Peace and love for one another.