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Life Post-Pandemic; Interview With Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor. Aired 3-4p ET
Aired March 22, 2021 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR.
Here's what's coming up.
TONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: There are a number of areas where we are fundamentally at odds.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): After tense talks with China, America's top diplomat heads to Europe. Ambassador Bill Taylor joins me on President
Biden's most urgent foreign policy challenges.
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: We should just be concerned about getting as many people vaccinated as quickly as we possibly can.
AMANPOUR: As normality edges closer and closer, are our minds ready to resume regular life again. Clinical psychologist Christine Runyan tells us
how to manage brain fog?
GEORGE TAKEI, ACTOR: The hate of Asians and Asian Americans is as old as American history from the time that the Asians started immigrating to this
AMANPOUR: The history of hate. Actor George Takei talks to our Hari Sreenivasan about his childhood in an internment camp and the anti-Asian
racism that persists today.
And, finally, in search of clean water, journalist and photographer Sanne Derks shares her powerful images of Cuba's water crisis.
AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrives in Europe today, the last leg of a round-the-world trip where he met allies in the Pacific and then
publicly and heatedly sparred with his Chinese counterpart in Alaska.
Talks in Brussels promised to be a lot friendlier. But the issues at hand could not be more serious. NATO officials will discuss the war in
Afghanistan, as President Biden is finalizing his decision whether or not to withdraw U.S. troops by a May 1 deadline, despite relentless Taliban
The NATO allies will also focus on Russia amid the current crisis in which Moscow has recalled its ambassador after President Biden seemed to call
Vladimir Putin a killer.
The Biden foreign policy team has its work cut out, as Bill Taylor knows all too well, because he's recently served as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine
and he's advised us envoy to NATO. Bill Taylor is joining me now from Arlington, Virginia.
Welcome to the program, Ambassador.
WILLIAM TAYLOR, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: Thank you, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: So, let's take all that and get your reaction and your perspective.
So, trip to Europe, really important. We have just set up this verbal fisticuffs with the Chinese, with Russia as well. What do you make so far
of the president's team and its tone and substance when it comes to these big issues?
TAYLOR: Christiane, I -- my sense is that Secretary Blinken and Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, and the president, for that
matter, have been very clear.
They have shown clarity in purpose, clarity in message, clarity in what they want to try to accomplish. And on this trip to Brussels, this will be
an opportunity to do that directly with U.S. allies. So, I think this is important, that clarity. It's important to show the humility.
And we have got plenty to be humble for. But it's important to be honest and direct and, as I say, clear about the message.
AMANPOUR: So, before I get to Russia, which is your bailiwick -- well, no, let me just ask you.
You say humility, but it looks like President Biden is kind of deliberately setting a tone, whereby he's going to be, I don't even want to use the word
aggressive, but, as you say, clear, but in a very robust way, about the challenges posed by President Putin and about the major competition that
China presents right now.
TAYLOR: I think President Biden has demonstrated that clarity. We have to remember that President Putin has seen presidents come and go. This is his
fourth transition of presidents. And we know about earlier transition that had views into Mr. Putin's eyes to see his soul.
We know about resets. We know about trying to better relations at the beginning of the last administration.
This administration is going to be clearer. It's not -- it's learned from previous experience and others' experience that it needs to be clear, not -
- I wouldn't say aggressive. I wouldn't say hostile. I would say clear. I would say very, very direct, which I think will be a better way -- a better
way to proceed with the Russians.
AMANPOUR: So, I'm going to play this little back and forth that created the issue whereby the Russians withdrew, pulled back their ambassador from
And, by the way, let me just say what the Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman has said, that irreversible deterioration is now the case in
relations with the U.S.
So I will ask you about that after I have just play these couple of sound bites to get your take.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: So, you know Vladimir Putin. You think he's a killer?
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Mm-hmm. I do.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So, what price must he pay?
BIDEN: The price he's going to pay, well, you will see shortly.
VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): When we evaluate other people and nations, it is always as if we look in a mirror. We always
see ourselves. We always pass on to another person what we ourselves are, in essence.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, Putin there throwing it back in Biden's lab, so to speak.
But you been in the room where it happens when it comes to the U.S., Ukraine, Russia, your whole neighborhood, for a long, long time. How do you
think that this is going to unfold? I mean, you say being very clear. But that's pretty -- I mean, is it -- sort of admitting that the president of
Russia is a killer, what does that do for relationships, and particularly on issues that you need to get some kind of cooperation?
TAYLOR: You're right, Christiane. We do need cooperation in some areas.
And we have seen that we can get that, even in the current circumstances, on strategic stability between the United States and Russia. This is
important for not just the two countries, but for the world.
And, as I say, we have seen that the current state of affairs before -- admittedly, before that comment that you cited, was that we could get
things done. The Russian government, the American government, the new American government, agreed on the extension of a very important last arms
control treaty, within weeks of the Biden administration taking over.
So, there are certain things, certainly, that we can deal with the Russians on that are important for both sides. And I don't think that those issues
will be hampered by the clarity and the direct nature of the conversation. We're not going to pull punches. We're going to say what we think.
This has been clear. And that, I think, is refreshing, helpful and may, in the end, be more productive.
AMANPOUR: So, what you're describing is kind of the way President Biden put it, the United States can chew and walk at the same time.
So, I think that's kind of what you're saying.
How does that differ, in your experience in that part of the world, with the Trump administration? Because there were sanctions that the Trump
administration put on Russia for a variety of issues. And yet there was a very friendly relationship verbally, and maybe beyond that, between the two
How does how does what this administration plans to do differ from the previous one, substantively?
TAYLOR: I think you're right that this administration will do it differently from the previous, as you would expect.
And the difference will be a coherence. The difference will be a single message coming from the president, from the national security adviser, from
the State Department, from the U.S. government. It will be a clear, coherent message. And that's important.
I think it's important for the Russians as well to hear that. I think this will be, as I say, more productive. You mentioned, Christiane, the
sanctions that we have imposed on the Russians for their behavior, in particular in Ukraine, where they violated all treaties and norms and
principles that have guided relations between governments and states since World War II.
They violated -- the Russians violated all those treaties when they invaded Ukraine in 2014. And, as you say, they -- that triggered a response. And
the response was economic sanctions, personal sanctions, travel sanctions.
And those sanctions might not be over. I mean, in the clip you played, there's a suggestion that there could be more sanctions. And, again, the
clarity, I think, is very important.
AMANPOUR: So, the question is, how effective are they?
And, again, you know the answer, because you have been able to take the temperature when you were in Ukraine. It was about Ukraine. All these
sanctions happened. Do you think it tempered Putin's behavior at all?
TAYLOR: I do. I do.
The Russians could have gone further in Ukraine. And, indeed, there were indications that they were thinking about going further. They invaded.
First of all, they annexed Crimea. But then they invaded Donbass in the southeastern part of Ukraine, and there was concern that could lead -- that
there would be more to come. There was concern that the Russians would go farther.
When they didn't get -- when we didn't sanction -- the United States did not sanction the Russians on Georgia in 2008, nor really heavily on
Ukraine, on Crimea, the Russians thought they might be able to go forward. But then, when the Russian -- when the Russians experienced the sanctions
that did come, little -- a couple of months after that invasion of Crimea and the beginning of the fighting in Donbass, when that when those
sanctions did come from the Europeans, as well as from the Americans, they hesitated.
They stopped. They have not continued that aggression. Again, they know that there are more sanctions possible. So, I do think that those sanctions
have played a role in actually Mr. Putin's behavior.
AMANPOUR: So, I want to ask you to extrapolate, if you possibly can, in what you're telling me.
And I just want to ask you for your informed perspective on this. Do you think the same will work with China? Or is China a completely different
kettle of fish?
Let me just play the back-and-forth between Tony Blinken and his Chinese counterpart a few days ago in Alaska.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLINKEN: The alternative to a rules-based order is a world in which might makes right and winners take all. And that would be a far more violent and
unstable world for all of us.
YANG JIECHI, DIRECTOR, CHINESE FOREIGN AFFAIRS (through translator): Isn't this the intention of the United States, judging from what -- or the way
that you have made your opening remarks, that it wants to speak to China in a condescending way from a position of strength?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, you can see it was pretty rare in the annals of Chinese-U.S. diplomacy, at least recently. It's public. A lot of it got more heated.
And now the U.S. has announced it is putting sanctions on two members of the bureaucracy who are involved, or at least who are in and responsible
for Xinjiang. The U.S. has called the concentration camps, the assault on the Uyghurs genocide.
Do you think -- and I asked another diplomat this -- that China is shameful? Can China be influenced by sanctions when it comes to something
like a violation of human rights and against the Uyghurs?
TAYLOR: I do think the Chinese care about how the rest of the world perceives them. I think they care about their status. It affects their
And so when the United States and other nations -- and, again, allies are so important, so important on sanctions and on many other things -- when
the United States and allies, when we take steps to identify problems, identify real crimes, that can affect the Chinese. I think they recognize -
- I mean, the response to that is an indication that they do.
Mr. Putin does the same thing. Mr. Putin responds about and is concerned about and has complained about the sanctions. So, that's an indication that
the Chinese may have the same kind of reaction.
AMANPOUR: So, that obviously brings me to NATO and the secretary of state's trip to Brussels, because we also hear that they're not just going
to do it as one country all on its own, as big as the United States is.
As you say, they're trying to get allies in place to bolster and have a united front when it comes to unacceptable issues like genocide against the
What do you think is the most important matter at hand for Secretary Blinken when he talks to his E.U. partners, with his NATO partners right
now? And how do you think it will differ in terms of actual partnership and results from the previous administration?
TAYLOR: I think your last point is exactly right.
It will differ, in that Secretary Blinken, like President Biden, has indicated that allies are important. And we know how alliances work. We
know that the NATO alliance most successful alliance in history. We know that the value of having those European nations and the Canadians together
with us for the range of concerns, the range of challenges that we face, is -- will make us stronger.
The Europeans know that being in alliance with us makes them stronger. So, I think that will be -- there will be a mutual understanding.
Now, it is certainly true, as you indicate, that the Europeans have been worried about the state of that alliance. And they will be reassured, I am
sure, about the state of the U.S.-NATO, U.S.-European relations going forward. And they will also be concerned that -- how durable it is.
So, there is something. There's an indication that we need to earn their respect, earn their trust, recognizing that both sides need each other. So,
I think that will go forward.
You asked about the most important issue facing Secretary Blinken when he's there. I would actually say two. One is what we already talked about,
reestablishing the credibility of the U.S./NATO/European transatlantic alliance.
That's first of all. But, second, I think the concern is, for NATO, about Russia. There is a concern that the hybrid warfare, that the kind of
actions that the Russians have conducted, whether it be use of chemical weapons, whether it be election meddling in Europe, as well as in the
United States, whether it be actions against their own people or actions against others -- 14,000 Ukrainians have died in the Donbass war with
So, that -- I would say that Russia poses a great -- a great concern for the alliance.
AMANPOUR: Yes, a great concern for the alliance.
I just want to ask you to sum this up, though. The president is going to be -- or, rather, the secretary of state -- landing in a Europe that has
literally managed to just, I don't even know what word to use, but the vaccine rollout, I mean, it is just unbelievable what's not happening in
Europe, where China has its own vaccine, which it's exporting.
Russia has its own vaccine, which it's exporting. Russia and China point to the United States. They say, don't talk to us about democracy. Look what
happened at your own Capitol. They say, don't talk to us about human rights. Look at the racism and the terrible situation for so many
minorities in the United States.
Sort of intellectually and in terms of ideals, does the U.S. also have to make up and the alliance for some lost time and lost groundwork, if you're
going to be able to face China and Russia successfully?
TAYLOR: Absolutely. Absolutely.
The United States recognizes that we have problems. We know -- we're not perfect. We know we have problems. The difference between knowing you have
problems and doing something about it, investigating it relentlessly, and time after time after time investigations on what went wrong, the
difference between that and denying that there are problems, denying the investigations, denying international scrutiny, that's the difference
between authoritarians and democracy.
Democracy, we don't pretend to be perfect. I mentioned humility. We have got big problems. We want to deal with those problems. We want to deal with
other people's problems in the way by forming an example, by providing an example of how democracy works and how democracy can deliver for its
You mentioned the vaccines. The United is -- has put more into the world fund, the international fund that help poor nations buy vaccines than any
other nation. That's important. And that's a demonstration of the kind of actions that the United States has to take to earn back the trust.
AMANPOUR: Really fascinating, because it's a critical turning point right now.
Ambassador Taylor, thank you so much for being on the program.
Now, more now on COVID and on vaccines. A long-awaited study in the United States shows that the AstraZeneca vaccine is safe and 79 percent effective.
Similar studies here in the U.K. show the same.
The results could reassure Europeans wary of the vaccine following mass, unfounded hysteria about its safety recently. Where the vaccine rollout has
been successful, back to normal is on the horizon. But, as we creep closer and closer to that, some are wondering, do I even remember what normal is?
Here to discuss that brain fog you may be feeling is, in fact, clinical psychologist Christine Runyan, who's joining us from Massachusetts.
Christine Runyan, welcome to the program.
So, can you, for the uninitiated -- I hope you can hear me OK -- explain brain fog?
CHRISTINE RUNYAN, UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS MEDICAL SCHOOL: Well, I think it's a basic that we forget sometimes that we are animals, that we
are creatures walking this Earth with these incredible, incredible brains that allow us to dream and create and function and imagine and all of the -
- makes sense of things.
But underneath the skin and in our bodies, we are really still operating at a very primitive and animalistic level, if you will. And so, when we
experience threat, which we all have done for the last year, our system responds in a very predictable and really exquisite way.
And it's a good thing that it does. It keeps us safe. It keeps us alive. But our system responds in a way that very quickly moves us from a place of
homeostasis, where we can have present moment awareness, where we can function well, we can relate to others, relate to ourselves, to a state of
either being very hyperaroused and activated, or, for some people, kind of shut down and detached to try to make sense of this threat and what's going
And so we have all been living under that state for a long time, and just now beginning to see hints of possibly being able to come out of it, and
will, in fact, have to do some relearning to be able to do that successfully, because our brains are thankfully changing all the time.
We know that through neuroplasticity. But they have changed in response to this year long of threat, of being a threat to others and being threatened
AMANPOUR: So that's interesting, because you say we will have to relearn in many instances.
Obviously, this idea of brain fog, I mean, it's been around clearly, but there's an article recently in "The Atlantic" which has put it front and
center. And it's called "Late-Stage Pandemic Is Messing With Your Brain."
And there's someone who said on -- on social media said: "It's like a television. There are days when I feel like I'm constantly scanning
channels, trying to find one that works. And my brain is just static."
Can it cause lasting damage, do you think?
RUNYAN: Well, I think, for some people, I worry that it may.
In fact, there's going to be some people who are highly, highly reluctant and have a lot of difficulty of coming out of this, even in the state of
mass vaccination and return to normal. There's going to be a sub-portion of the population that it's going to be extremely difficult for them to do
that for a variety of reasons.
And I think it's really helpful to acknowledge, and I like that article, to recognize the normalcy of what we have experienced in our bodies and in our
brains as a result of this pandemic, this global pandemic.
And in some ways, that is just our brains and our bodies trying to protect us and trying to tuck in a little bit. And for all of us, because this has
been a collective trauma, our window of tolerance, our ability to manage stress has shrunk for all of us. And for some, that shrunk a lot. And for
others, it shrunk a little bit, but it shrunk for all of us.
And so we're all going to have to relearn in some ways. We're all going to have to reorient once again to, how do you greet people, right? Is it safe
to extend my hand? Is it safe to receive your hand? We are all going to have to relearn this.
And I think we will and we can. We have millennia of evolution on our side to know that our brains will eventually adapt. But it's not going to be an
immediate process. And it's going to be a really individual process. There's going to be a lot of variability about people, how they are going
to come out of this, because the brain is -- the thinking mind is going to say, great, let's all get together, let's go to restaurants, let's do these
But your system, your primitive system, has a year of remembering threat and has a year of remembering that it's not safe. So you might be in that
restaurant, because it seemed like such a great idea to finally do that. But you may find that your system is very activated, and you're very
anxious, and maybe even forgetful or irritable, all the things that can show up when our system is activated.
And what my message to people is to understand and to know that that's really human. It's very normal, because it's very human, because underneath
all of this sophisticated technology, we are still quite animalistic in that way. And if we can honor that, if we -- we can be aware of that and we
can honor that, then we have the ability to work with it and to be compassionate, not just with ourselves, but to be compassionate with other
people who may be adapting in a very different pace or in a very different way.
AMANPOUR: So, when you say honor, you mean don't be too hard on yourself, and don't be too hard on others.
Let me just read you some of these stats. In the first half of 2019, the average share of American adults reporting symptoms of anxiety disorder or
depressive disorder was 11 percent. This is according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
But in January of this year, 2021, it was up to 41 percent. But you're saying, sure, you go from a year when you don't have a pandemic to a full
year when you are in full pandemic mode and all of that. So we shouldn't be so surprised by those statistics?
RUNYAN: I think we should neither be surprised nor too quick to pathologize that level of distress, exactly.
I think, of course, we have people experiencing these things. And we use those names of anxiety or depression because we now have ways to measure
that and to codify that. And I don't want to minimize anybody's distress, by any means.
But I do want to normalize that experience, particularly depending on the work that you have done or where you are in your developmental cycle,
right? A year -- losing a year of your life at 65 is very, very different than losing a year of your life, as you knew it, at 15.
RUNYAN: And so we have kids who are -- their job is to understand the social order of the world. And that has been disrupted at scale.
And so it's a really different experience for them. And we see rates in the teenage population that are extremely frightening that we have to attend
to, but not because it's abnormal, in some ways, because it's expected, based on what we have had to rapidly adjust to, in a really confusing age
of communication, where we're not all receiving the same information, we're not all believing the same information.
And you also begin to get, under that level of threat, a lot of tribalism, and a lot of people kind of going to their in-group and trying to figure
out their in-group by defining what group they're not in. And so you get a lot of divisiveness. Certainly, in this country, we have seen that en
I just want to ask you a quick question about some of the things that one might be able to do to lower that sort of stress level.
AMANPOUR: You have talked about taking deep breaths. You have talked about scents. You have talked about -- when I say scents, smells -- you have
talked about sound, also planting your feet on the ground.
Talk to me just a little bit about some of the simple things you could do to center yourself.
So, we can work with this body that we have at a biological level that doesn't require a lot of mental gymnastics, if you will, to change how you
think, necessarily, but to change your inner experience.
And so we can do that. There's a variety of different breath techniques, so just even simple deep breathing or belly breathing, something you can sort
of Google or YouTube. You can learn how to belly breathe, or what's called box breathing, to even out your breath.
All of those send a signal to your nervous system to turn on your parasympathetic or relaxation system. And that can really help settle,
things like -- yes, things like music, things like pleasant scents.
Essentially, our bodies are built to move towards things that are pleasant and life-affirming and move away from things that are unpleasant or
threatening. And so it's just creating any of these contexts that your body can intercept safety.
So, nature and seeing -- expanding your visual cues to take in things that are calming to you can be really helpful. Anything you can do in your body,
so simple yoga poses, any kind of grounding, like with your -- planting your feet on the floor, quite literally.
Placing your hand on your chest, particularly if you can have any skin-to- skin contact, that is a very primitive message to our nervous system of being tended to, any kind of--
RUNYAN: And we can do that for ourselves to create that touch.
AMANPOUR: Well, that--
RUNYAN: For me, poetry is one.
Yes. I'm sorry. I was just going to say, so other--
AMANPOUR: It's good advice. It's good advice.
I wish we could have more of this free psychology, to be frank, because it's really good advice. And I hope a lot of people take away a lot of what
you're saying, because a lot of people have said that, you know, weirdly, you know, the lockdown has kind of been a bit of a comfort zone to many
And they're kind of also worried about what happens when it lifts. But you've given good advice. Thank you so much, Christine Runyan.
Now, more of our look now into the hateful surge of anti-Asian racism with our next guest. Actor, George Takei, became a sci-fi legend when he starred
as Mr. Zulu in "Star Trek." But his road to success was not sure thing in the America he grew up in. As a young Japanese American boy during World
War II, he was sent to the famous internment camps along with his family. Here he is now talking to our Hari Sreenivasan about the history behind
today's anti-Asian attacks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christiane, thanks. George Takei, thanks for joining us.
GEORGE TAKEI, ACTOR AND ACTIVIST: Pleasure.
SREENIVASAN: As you look over the past couple of weeks and really months now, what's been going through your head?
TAKEI: Well, it's more than just going through my head. It is chilling. In fact, I would go even further there. It's a frigid wave that gone lieu the
Asian-American community. I mean, I may not have been attacked, but we have parents and grandparents and brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, and
we worry for them. I have a grandniece who just entered Brown University and I am terrified what might happen to her.
So, it is really a horrible situation that we have right now. Every moment, we are concerned.
SREENIVASAN: Now, what is interesting is you are one of the few people who are still alive who went through the internment camp that the Japanese were
put into. But when you talk to people like your --
TAKEI: Japanese Americans.
SREENIVASAN: Japanese Americans. Sorry.
TAKEI: We are not the enemy. I mean, we looked like the enemy. And that's why I chose the title of my newest graphic memoir, "They Called Us Enemy".
They being the United States. And not only the people of the United States, but the government of the United States saw us as the enemy.
My sibling and I were born here in Los Angeles. My mother was born in Sacramento, California. My father was born in japan. But he was brought to
San Francisco as a boy. And he was reared, educated, went to college in San Francisco. We were a Japanese-American family rounded up by the United
States government and put into made to United States concentration camps, barbed wire fence, sentry towers, machine guns pointed at us. And that --
it was not a Japanese prison camp. It was an American one. We were in the swamps of Arkansas. So, please get that term right.
I have always resented the term Japanese concentration camp or Japanese internment camps. They were American internment camps guarded over by the
United States army and guarding -- imprisoning American citizens who had nothing to do with Pearl Harbor other than looking like the people that
bombed Pearl Harbor.
But when Pearl Harbor happened, that terror swept up this country. We were all terrorized. And the country was swept up war hysteria with a toxic
element of racism. And the president was stampeded by that kind of hysteria and signed Executive Order 9066, which ordered all Japanese-Americans on
the West Coast, approximately 120,000 of us, which includes me and my family.
And I will never be able to forget that morning when my father rushed into our bedroom, woke us up. I was the oldest brother. A year younger, Henry,
was in that bedroom. He dressed us hurriedly. And we're told to wait in the living room while our parents did some packing back this the bedroom.
And so, the two of us were gazing out the front window. We saw two soldiers marching up our driveway carrying a rifle with shiny bayonets on them. They
stomped at the front porch and with their fists, began pounding on the door. We were terrorized. That is the history of America as I know it. And
that is part of my personal history.
SREENIVASAN: I apologize for misspeaking, sincerely. I asked the question partly because do you think that this wave is happening in part because we
are not connected to that history nearly as much as we should be?
TAKEI: I agree whole heartedly. The hate of Asians and Asian-Americans is as old as American history from the time that the Asians started
immigrating to this country, which started about in the 1840s with the first wave of Chinese laborers coming to the United States. And the
discrimination began from that point. Immigrants coming from anywhere in the world could someday aspire to become naturalized American citizens with
the single exception of immigrants coming from Asia. Simply because they were coming from Asia, they were denied naturalized citizenship.
In my hometown of Los Angeles, as early as in the 1870s, 1871, I think, when a white woman claimed that she was assaulted by a Chinese unanimous
and a vigilante mob quickly (INAUDIBLE), gored into Chinatown, dragged out 17 Chinese men onto the central plaza of our pueblo at the time. And there
is a great big tree at the center the plaza. They were strung up, lynched. Literally lynched in the heart of Los Angeles from a huge tree. And that
tree still exists. It's a gigantic tree today. But in 1871, 17 Chinese men were lynched in our town square.
SREENIVASAN: You know, in a way, there are a couple of different veins where Asian-Americans kind of just -- or umbrellas that Asian-Americans get
captured into. On the one hand, we are invisible. On the other hand, there's a sort of notion of the model minority that we're incredibly, you
know, crazy rich Asians successful, right? And both of those are kind of different traps that seem to lead to this.
TAKEI: Well, the term model American encompasses more than just that. We are studious. We are hard working. We are bright. We are good at
mathematics. And we succeed. But we don't call attention to ourselves. We don't speak out. We're silent.
For example, my parents' generation, who suffered the most, they endured the pain and the anguish of lost and humiliation and literally, you know,
innocent people being imprisoned. They -- my parents were the ones that went through the worst of it. That generation didn't talk about it with
their children because they felt they didn't want to inflict their children with the pain that they felt, which is an understandable parental concern.
But I feel it was wrong.
My parents did not feel that way. They talked to me. When I became, in my preteens, curious about our imprisonment, my father explained the me in the
appropriate language. And as I grew older, he introduces to me the idea of American democracy, being a people's democracy, it is a participatory
democracy and it is important for to us actively engage in the political process.
And when I was still a teenager, my father took me downtown to the Adlai Stevenson for President Campaign headquarters and introduced me to
electoral politics. And I am a gregarious type. I enjoyed that, but I was learning things at the same time. I got my father's message. We have to
participate. But most Asian-Americans didn't have the kind of parent that I had. And so, they were inculcated with the idea of holding it all in,
enduring the pain and surviving. And that's where that model minority concept came from.
SREENIVASAN: When you go back, I mean, there have been these incredibly horrible moments. I am still old enough to know about, you know, Vincent
Shannon (ph), what happened in Detroit when these two people beat him to death and didn't go to jail for it.
And -- but at the time, I didn't see a response like I am seeing now to the flurry of videos that are being shared, the stories that are being talked
about. I mean, is that a process of the fact -- is that a function of the fact that we have, you know, technology and media that will communicates
these things faster? Is there something that's changing in our mindset?
TAKEI: Well, in those days, in the 1980s, we didn't have the phone, the cell phone. And so, you couldn't send out Instagram pieces. But what
happened the Vincent Chin, and he was a China-American. But at that time, the impact of Japanese automobiles on the American automobile market was
producing a lot of layoffs in Detroit. And that was the anguish of the unemployed auto workers. And there happened to be a father and son combo if
And Vincent Chin was celebrating his bachelor party. Chinese-American. These guys were festering over Japan automobiles. He looked Asian -- I
mean, he looked Japanese to them. We are all the same. We look alike to them. And an argument broke out in that bar. Vincent Chin left. They
followed with a baseball bat and beat him to death.
So, it was -- but that galvanized the Asian-American community from the West Coast to the East Coast. I was living in Los Angeles at the time. When
the murderers were brought into court, the judge said he understood the pain of unemployed auto workers. He was there talking about these
murderers, but he understood their pain as unemployed auto workers and he gave them a slap on the hand, a fine, $3,000, and probation. It was
outrageous. And then they disappeared.
So, you know, they were getting away scot-free with a brutal, outrageous, racist murder. And I flew from L.A. to Detroit to speak at the rally there.
But it galvanized the Asian-American community. This was a whole different generation. We were not quiet. Throughout the nation, people came from New
York, from Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and we created a national surge of the Asian community opposing this kind of outrage.
SREENIVASAN: Do you think that this momentum right now is sustainable, that there can be any kind of a national infrastructure, a ground swell of
young Asian people, for example, running for political office, whether it is the city council or higher?
TAKEI: I know American history. Whenever there is an incident, a major incident, there is this swelling up, a surge of Asian hate. And then the
hate continues on in a slow simmer. I mean, things happen to the Asian- American community, but it's quiet. But now, this generation, not my generation, but generation after me is galvanized and they will be active.
And even when the issue sort of calms down, they -- hate crimes are happening. And the problem is, they will not recognize outrageous brutality
against Asian-Americans as a hate crime because a word wasn't used. An epithet wasn't used, go back to China, go back to Vietnam, terms that
The sheriff in Georgia is claiming it's not a hate crime because this guy had a sexual addiction. It is hypocrisy and incredible naivety to not
recognize that in the American mind, women, Asian women and sex are the same.
The problem, it's systemic racism that personified sex with Asian women, because we have a history of that. In fact, we celebrate that, you know, in
movies and Broadway musicals, the titled, "The World of Suzie Wong" or "Miss Saigon" is very familiar to us. They were very popular shows. It was
Asian prostitutes that were celebrated in those musicals.
And they were inspired by a 19th century story called "Madam Butterfly" which eventually became an opera. I mean, it's become the image that
America has of Asian women because of movies, stage plays and all the other, you know, constant television series that portray Asian or Asian-
American women as prostitutes. We have that history. It is systemic racism to say that a sex crime is not racist.
SREENIVASAN: George, I have got to ask. I mean, you have been engaged in the politics of America, in the conversations about civil rights for
decades now. There you were as a child, perceived as the enemy, regardless of the fact that you were born in the United States. Here we are --
TAKEI: As was my mother.
SREENIVASAN: Here we are decades later and there are still Asian-Americans second, third, fourth generation, who are born in the United States who
still are perpetually a foreigner.
TAKEI: Well, it's stopping now. We are electing one of us into very visible, vocal public servants. I saw Grace Meng -- Congresswoman Grace
Meng on TV recently. And we have in the Senate -- U.S. senate, a senator from Hawaii, Mazie Hirono, very vocal woman on the Judiciary Committee. We
have half a dozen Asian-American Congress people. We are in state government. We are now becoming part of America, speaking out in chorus
with the enlightened activist Americans throughout the country and we are making America.
You know, I did "Star Trek." And one of the mottos of the starship enterprise, which in itself was a metaphor for starship earth, the strength
in the starship lays in it is diversity coming together and working in concert as a team tapping the unique assets of each of those members of
that diversity. And so, we are becoming, at long last, a real part of the American democracy.
SREENIVASAN: George Takei, thanks so much for joining us.
TAKEI: Thank you very much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Such an important reminder. And finally, tonight, something most of us take for granted, water. On World Water Day, we look at the shocking
number of people who don't. Four in 10 people do not have enough safe drinking water and more than 2 billion human beings live in countries where
water is scarce.
In Cuba, which is after all a tropical island, some towns only have water two hours a day every five days. I am joined now by Dutch photographer and
anthropologist, Sanne Derks, who has been documenting this water crisis and Cuba's famous band-aid repair work.
Sanne Derks, welcome to the program.
I wonder what first got you involved in documenting this crisis, which very few people know about outside Cuba.
SANNE DERKS, DOCUMENTARY PHOTOGRAPHER: Yes. Exactly. That was my starting point, I guess. So, during previous visits to Cuba, I also noticed the
daily water struggles in the streets and I got fascinated by it, especially since I am from a country where we have an abundance of water. I am from
the Netherlands, and I want to know more about this.
So, I started to look into what are these struggles. And also, because I did not expect to be -- there to be a scarcity of water in a tropical
island. I mean, I would expect to have -- to see a lot of rainfall. And I - - yes, I didn't expect there should be some water issue.
So, I started it as a story. And then I went into it, I thought I need to go deeper. There is so much more to explore. And, yes, in 2019, the Cuba
approved a new constitution, and the right for clean drinking water was part of it. So, that was very fascinating. So, we --
AMANPOUR: And we have that picture, of course.
AMANPOUR: We -- you know, you have written -- you took a picture that actual shows that, the water tank in front of the capital. That was -- you
were saying, well, if there's a right, why isn't their running water?
DERKS: Yes. Yes. Exactly. There, it was very visible because there is -- yes, they have, yes, granted the right, approved the right for clean
drinking water in the constitution. And even in front of the capitol building, there is already a shortage and the water tanks have to bring the
So. you see there are lots of limitations and difficulties in guaranteeing the freshwater access. And I wanted to explore, yes, how you can execute
such a right when there were several limitations.
DERKS: So, that's what I did in my picture.
AMANPOUR: Let's see the next picture. You've got the rooftops which show a lot and, you know, proliferating blue water tanks. Tell me what has caused
this shortage of running water, and in fact, clean water.
DERKS: Yes. First of all, there is -- Cuba is also affected by climate change. So, there's of the lots of drought. There is not enough rainfall
for the growing population. And the water supply is dependent on the rainfall. But also, an outdated water system. So, also because of the U.S.
embargo, it's very hard to have things renewed.
So, there is a lot of -- water is leaking away through porous pipelines for instance. Even 50 percent of the water is lost through leaking pipelines.
So, of the little water available, even half of it is lost. So, that makes that there is not enough for water. And they try to tackle this also by
rationing the water. So, people don't have 24 hours of running water, but only on two hours or one hour depending where you live.
And during that time had he the water is on, people have to make sure they fill the water tanks on their roofs. So, that's why everyone has the blue
tanks on the rooftops.
AMANPOUR: Yes. So, that -- and that comes with its own problem because your next picture that we are going the talk about shows one of these
workers, I guess, who are trying to help taking a bucket full of little fish to one of these ladies who is trying to keep her water in her tank
clean. Explain that.
DERKS: Yes. Exactly. Yes. That was very fascinating to me also because, yes, you have still water, of course, in the water tank because it is there
for maybe a few days. So, on a tropical island, you run the risk that's tropical diseases will get into the water, especially by, yes, a vector-
borne diseases like mosquitos that transmit diseases like dengue and -- so, it is important that they eradicate the mosquito larvae from the water
tanks. And usually, this is done by poison or a kind of poison. It is coming from Venezuela, abatta (ph) it's called.
But since it has to be imported from far and it's very hard to get it in Cuba, very often it's entering in Havana and then it's very hard to get to
the east side of Cuba. So, at the east, this is (INAUDIBLE), there, I saw the health brigade, the people who are checking the hygiene of the water
tanks, are sort of going around with the little fishes and this -- instead of taking a chemical control, they use like a biological control, which are
fishes. So, they go. It's impressive. Because they go to every house, to every household, climb the stairs and put a few little fishes in the tanks
on the roofs of the people manually with a plastic beer bottle. And these, yes, fishes eat the mosquito larvae.
DERKS: Yes. So, it's --
AMANPOUR: And you also describe -- I mean, we know that Cuba has a history of jerry rigging all of these issues that it needs to fix itself for all
sorts of reason, you know, like they fix their cars up, and who knows how these, you know, 1950s cars are still running there?
And it is the same principle on trying to keep the water clean and safe. But you also talk about an army of workers who take on this task of just
delivering drinking water and, I guess, washing water to people's houses. And you've got some pictures of them. Who are all these people?
DERKS: Yes. That's what I started to do in the project. I tried to figure out who are all the different -- which are all the professions that are
involved in guaranteeing the freshwater access. And, yes, then I noticed that there is like a whole, yes, army of workers sent to the streets,
basically. So, who are all these people? It can be different people. But one of the groups that I was following is the health brigade.
So, you know, Cuba has a preventive health system. So, what they do is they send actively health professionals to the houses to check the water in the
tanks and to eradicate the mosquitos, to smoke out the mosquitos.
DERKS: So, yes.
AMANPOUR: Yes. We have got this amazing picture of fumigating. Sanne, I'm sorry. We are running out of time, but it is such a great story. And we're
going to end on this picture of the fumigating mosquito larvae in the water this the kitchen.
That's it for now. You can always catch us online and wherever you find us. Thanks for watching and goodbye from London.