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Remembering Former President Of South Africa F.W. de Klerk; Interview With Andrew Forrest; Interview With Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani; Interview With University Of Pretoria Political Science Senior Lecturer Sithembile Mbete; Interview With Post-Apartheid Truth And Reconciliation Commission Former Executive Secretary Paul van Zyl; Interview With "Wore Racism" Author John McWhorter. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired November 11, 2021 - 13:00 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.
ALI BAGHERI KANI, IRANIAN DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): The party that's supposed to return to JCPOA is the United States, not us.
AMANPOUR: Trump pulled America out. Now Biden wants back in to the Iran nuclear deal. Talks are set to resume with the new hard-line government in
Tehran. And I speak to their lead negotiator, Ali Ali Bagheri Kani.
BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: You have to bridge the gap between where we are and where we need to be if we're going to cut emissions in
half by 2030.
AMANPOUR: I'll ask Australia's billionaire mining titan Andrew Forrest about his green conversion, and if he can help bridge that gap as
governments try to bang out a final climate agreement.
F.W. DE KLERK, FORMER SOUTH AFRICAN PRESIDENT: I have made a profound apology for the injustice caused by apartheid.
AMANPOUR: A peacemaker passes. I look back at the complex legacy of South Africa's last apartheid president, F.W. de Klerk.
JOHN MCWHORTER, AUTHOR, "WOKE RACISM": As long as you're showing that racism exists, then whether or not you're actually helping people who are
other race is less relevant.
AMANPOUR: Walter Isaacson speaks with John McWhorter about his controversial new book, "Woke Racism: How a New Religion Has Betrayed Black
AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London, where Iran's deputy foreign minister and top nuclear negotiator,
Ali Ali Bagheri Kani, met with British officials today as negotiations are set to resume later this month.
The 2015 nuclear agreement which prevented Tehran from developing a weapon is hanging by a thread, after the Trump administration abandoned it and
reimposed widespread economic sanctions. And while the Biden administration says the United States stands ready to rejoin the agreement, Iran is now
ruled by a more hard-line regime, which wants those sanctions lifted immediately, and guarantees that the U.S. will not pull out of the deal
I sat down for an exclusive television interview with Minister Kani at the Iranian Embassy here in London.
AMANPOUR: Deputy Foreign Minister, welcome to the program.
KANI (through translator): I'm very happy to be here. Thank you for having me.
AMANPOUR: So, you are also Iran's chief nuclear negotiator. How important is it for your country to reenter the JCPOA, the Iran nuclear deal with the
United States and the other signatories?
Is it a priority?
KANI (through translator): In the name of God, the compassionate, the merciful, as far as JCPOA is concerned, we were within JCPOA. And we are.
What was actually violated, and it was United States that violated it, and also the resolution, the United Nations resolution. The party that's
supposed to return to JCPOA is the United States, not us.
In the same way, Europe hasn't shown any commitment to JCPOA either, although they have remained part of it. We have shown our commitment to
JCPOA. Therefore, returning to JCPOA has to do with Europe and the United States.
AMANPOUR: OK, but it takes two to tango, as they say in the Anglo-Saxon world.
And you have -- in response to President Trump pulling out of the JCPOA, Iran has increased its enrichment of uranium. And that is of great concern
to the other powers that are still your partners in the JCPOA.
So, there is also no confidence in the verification, because the IAEA, the U.N. verification agency, tells me and tells the world that they don't have
the access they need.
I spoke to the director general in Glasgow, and he said, without verification, there is no deal. This is what he told me.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAFAEL GROSSI, DIRECTOR GENERAL, IAEA: The problem is, without us, there is no agreement. And I don't say it with any arrogance, please.
It's simply, we need to verify. Without verifying, how are the powers that be going to walk into a negotiation without knowing what is the real
situation on the ground? It's obvious. It's a no-brainer.
AMANPOUR: What do you need?
GROSSI: We need the access which is commensurate with a nuclear program of such sophistication and ambition.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KANI (through translator): As far as our nuclear activities are concerned, they are under the supervision of IAEA
All our nuclear activities currently are within the commitments towards NPT and also the additional protocol. And there is not any difference or
violation. There is not any activity that is not being supervised by IAEA.
Therefore, there should not be any concern within our -- about our nuclear activities. And the claims that are being made vis-a-vis this issue, they
are of political nature.
AMANPOUR: Well, actually, the director general, Mr. Grossi, told me his role is not political. It's merely technical. They are the verifiers.
So I'm not there. I don't know what you're doing. But will you give them more access, as they require right now? There was an idea that maybe the
director general would come to Tehran, would go to visit your key sites. It hasn't happened. Will it happen and when?
KANI (through translator): There is not any obstacle when it comes to the trip of Mr. Grossi to Tehran. Coordination is taking place currently,
actually, in relation to the visit.
AMANPOUR: So, as you know, the reason we ask is because the rest of the world believes that whether you say you are strictly within compliance of
the NPT, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, your JCPOA, you have enriched uranium that you have.
And they're very worried that it could be status quo ante, in other words, that Iran could be close to having enough enriched uranium to make a bomb.
You say you don't want a bomb and that warhead technology is not under way.
Do you understand the worries of the international community? And are you prepared to assuage those worries by being 100 percent transparent?
KANI (through translator): None of our current nuclear activities are against or in violation with the NPT. There is no cause for concern by the
international community as far as our nuclear activities are concerned.
AMANPOUR: Let's broaden it out.
As you know, and as we all now know, this negotiation to get the U.S. back in and to get Iran back into compliance has taken a long time. The talks
broke off in the summer. It appears that you both, you and the United States, and maybe the rest of the international community, have conflicting
and colliding demands.
KANI (through translator): The main issue in front of us is actually the return of the United States to its commitments within JCPOA.
This is the issue. Therefore, the main issue in upcoming negotiations is actually removing all the illegal sanctions against Iran that have been
done by the United States against the Iranian nation.
AMANPOUR: Just so that I'm clear, you want removal of sanctions before a deal is concluded or as part of that deal being concluded?
KANI (through translator): It should be part of it. But the issue of removing sanctions should come to some sort of conclusion before these
sorts of negotiations.
AMANPOUR: Can I move on to Afghanistan?
We have been hearing terrible reports from Afghanistan. Iran is one of the country's taking the most refugees. We understand that something like 5,000
desperate Afghans enter Iran every day. You have already had 300,000 since the fall of Kabul. And that's in addition to the two million over the years
during these troubles in Afghanistan.
How serious an issue is it for Iran to meet their humanitarian needs?
KANI (through translator): I would like to refer to this issue.
The Afghan issue currently is a symbol of an obvious failure of the strategic policies of the United States in the region. The same way that
the maximum pressure policy failed against us, their policy in Afghanistan, which was also a clear strategic policy, also failed in Afghanistan.
The Americans were thinking that, through military power and military might and equipment, they could ensure security in Afghanistan. They were
thinking that they can actually make sure there is development and stability there in Afghanistan through their approaches and to establish
But, after 20 years, we can see that, in Afghanistan, there is not democracy, nor development, nor security and stability. The Americans went
back to square one. My trips when in Europe, one of the main issues I have been discussing is this very issue, that we should provide for the basic
needs of the people of Afghanistan, and also to provide for the basic needs of Afghan refugees, who have had to leave their country and their homes,
and are within Iran.
We should provide for their basic needs, so they do not face any problems. So, the upcoming situation is going to be very difficult. And we have to
cooperate, so we can actually deal with some of these problems.
AMANPOUR: Back to the JCPOA and the very real concerns about human rights, and particularly the individuals that Iran has captured and imprisoned
currently, including dual nationals, such as Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.
Her husband is on day 19 of a hunger strike outside the Foreign Office. And you will likely walk past him when you go there for your meetings later
after this interview.
Will you speak to him? And the British government has been urged to insist that Iran releases their nationals, including Nazanin, as a sign of
goodwill before going back into these talks. When will you release Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe?
KANI (through translator): If people are accused of anything, and if there are judgments against them, and there are decrees by the court, if they
have an Iranian nationality, they are considered as Iranian nationals and dealt with accordingly.
Therefore, if somebody has nationality of another country, that person is not going to enjoy any additional entitlements, nor will they actually
suffer from any lack of privileges.
AMANPOUR: I asked you what you would say to her husband, who's going to be outside?
KANI (through translator): If there are demands vis-a-vis my responsibilities, my roles, I'm happy to talk to them and to listen to
AMANPOUR: Mr. Deputy Foreign Minister, thank you for joining us.
KANI (through translator): Thank you very much. Thank you and your colleagues.
AMANPOUR: Now, Nazanin's husband, Richard Ratcliffe, met with the Foreign Office minister today after her talks with Kani, but he was visibly
distressed, we're told, that there was no real breakthrough on Nazanin's case.
Next: a climate change convert, someone who made his fortune in mining, the Australian billionaire Andrew Forrest. He's been selling his awakening and
his vision at the COP summit in Glasgow, as well as to his own thousands of employees back home.
Turning steel mining green, which is one of the world's most polluting activities, would be a major breakthrough, say influential climate
And Andrew Forrest is joining me now from London to talk me through how he plans to do it.
Welcome back to the program. And you have been at COP.
Let me just start by asking you how you plan to do it, because you have now pledged that your companies will go to net zero by 2030, which is a full
two decades before your government says that it will pledge to go to net zero. What and how are you going to do it?
ANDREW FORREST, AUSTRALIAN MINING MAGNATE: Well, Christiane, it's what we are doing right now, I think, which really matters.
I mean, I trust a little bit what a person says. I trust them completely what they do. So we are converting our big trucks to the first hydrogen
fuel cells. We have converted the first huge heavy-haul trains to ammonia. And we have converted a ship's engine now to also green ammonia.
We announced only last night that we purchased a ship and we're retrofitting that very large ship to be able to run on green ammonia. So we
are doing it right now. These are steps which have been taken years, if not decades before other members of the industry, but we feel we can, so,
therefore, we must.
AMANPOUR: So when you mentioned hydrogen, and you mentioned specifically trucks, is that because the transportation part of your business, is that
because that is the biggest emitter? Why are you focusing specifically on the trucking part of it?
FORREST: Trucking and shipping, we will burn soon, Christiane, a billion liters of diesel a year and more than that in our ships.
So if we can hit those two twin global warming massive problems with technical solutions -- and we can argue with governments all over the
world. There is no time anymore for excuses, and there's no credibility for excuses.
We have proven in our commercial operations, which are competitive, which must make a profit to stay alive, that it can be done, it has been done,
and, therefore, all of us can do it.
AMANPOUR: So, look, one of the world's leading climate experts, Michael Mann of the United States, says that what your company is planning and what
you're planning, he says, it's critical to addressing the climate change in the window we have.
But, of course, that is also reliant on whether you can actually achieve -- because the challenges are huge. Let me just read some of them, especially
with the hydrogen-powered trucks.
Current technology allows the trucks to run for about 20 minutes. You need 20 hours. And making green hydrogen is energy-intensive. This is what "The
Financial Times" says.
Fortescue, your company, will need to produce at least two to three times Australia's entire current electricity supply to hit its production
Do you have the time to get this right and to make good your promise by 2030?
FORREST: Well, Christiane, we're doing it right now. That's -- what we're talking about is 200 gigawatts of electricity being planned for Australia,
and not just Australia.
We have projects being planned now in 20 different countries. Yes, I'm aware of the enormity of the challenge. And so is my entire team. Like, I
gave 200 really bright women and men our mission to turn the first mining truck green. And I gave them six months. And, Christiane, they did it in
And at the same time was that 130 days, they started commissioning a train and a ship's engine also on green hydrogen and green ammonia. So it's kind
of heartbreaking that this hasn't been done before, when it's taken 130 days to start what I believe is the green industrial revolution, or at
least, Christiane, to rip out the mat from anyone denying it can be done.
AMANPOUR: You know, I have asked several of the industry leaders, and I'm asking you because you're an industry leader in your field there, do you
regret not doing this earlier? And what was the moment that caused your sort of -- we have called it a green awakening, a green conversion.
I mean, you had to go to your own company, strap on a microphone, and announce to them that actually climate change is happening much quicker
than any of you all thought, and they needed to get with the program, and that it would be good for you economically and for them job-wise.
But do you regret not having it done earlier, not having done it earlier?
FORREST: Look, I think regret is a soft word.
I was tearful about it. When I saw how quickly we were able to convert a track engine, a ship engine, a train engine to green ammonia, how we were
able to start making green iron, how we could start making green cement, it's been an emotional journey.
But, Christiane, I took this terribly seriously. We started investigating, studying the miracle molecule, as I call it, about 11 years ago as a
company. We then licensed technology to be able to transport it. And then I sent myself back to school, Christiane.
I did a Ph.D. in Marine ecology. And, there, the overwhelming evidence that we are heading towards a point which science has proven is there -- what
science has not yet proven, and it will, Christiane -- it will prove when - - we only haven't because the data coming out of the fossil fuel sector is so unreliable because of elements like methane, which they barely measure.
But we proven that there's a point where natural -- natural methane emissions -- and methane is so much more dangerous than carbon -- natural
methane emissions, which is just liquid natural gas. Let's not forget that. All methane is, is LNG. That natural methane emissions will start from the
ocean and from the terrestrial environment naturally, and, when that starts, Christiane, there is nothing which mankind can do from that point
to stop the perpetual warming of the world.
We have to step back from that cliff. I know I have got the arrows in the back. I'm the first big industry player to step out and say I'm going fully
green by 2030. I'm sailing ships. Next year, I'm driving trucks, trains next year out of our huge warehouses into the field all next year, onto the
oceans, all next year.
But we don't have time to wait, Christiane. And do I say, yes, we can make this commercial, yes, we can make a profit from this? Absolutely. Because,
if I don't Christiane, no one else will follow. We need to prove it's commercial.
But I'm really fascinated about turning points in people's evolutions on certain issues. And so I want to ask you, because you came on my program
now nearly two years ago after these -- or during these terrible wildfires that ravaged your country. And a lot of your green initiatives, you have
publicly talked about since those wildfires.
And, at the time, though, when I was trying to push you on this, you were telling me that the science on wildfires is not yet properly in.
So let me just play our little exchange. And then you can talk to me about your conversion.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FORREST: I have done a Ph.D. in Marine ecology. I know the science must be done. We must take it out of this football field of politics and have peer-
reviewed science, the best universities and technologists around the world, and lay out on the table.
AMANPOUR: What do you -- what do we want peer-reviewed science about?
I mean, you have heard from Tim Flannery. You hear from James Hansen. You hear from all the major NASA and global scientists, who are unanimous.
There might be a small percentage of deniers still.
FORREST: So, Christiane, I...
AMANPOUR: They are unanimous on the science.
FORREST: Christiane, the science has so far to go.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So the scientists have consistently said that climate change increases the frequency and the extent of these extreme weather events like
But when you look back at that, was that your sort of road to Damascus moment?
FORREST: Look, Christiane, I do remember that fabulous interview.
I'm -- look, you were speaking very specifically about the Australian bushfires, which I was very personally involved in. We have fought
Australian bushfires as the Minderoo Foundation and supported people who've suffered from those bushfires and wildlife for years and years, ever since
the Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria.
And those disasters have occurred now. There's a -- there was a political football at the time. But I'm certainly here to tell you, global warming is
a precipitating event for wildfires. You cannot rule out, because people have been tried and found guilty, as you can't rule out massive fuel loads.
But the overwhelming factor -- and I'm not getting pinned to say it was the only factor. I think that really deminimizes the science. The overwhelming
factor, not the only factor, which has been pushed on, was global warming.
FORREST: And I'm here to say that is all part of my journey. And it's a journey which I have become more and more convinced on the closer and
closer I have come to this subject.
AMANPOUR: OK, so this is now really important again, because you have called out -- and you sort of touched on it in our conversation just now.
You have called out some of the big, major fossil fuel companies for not doing enough and for greenwashing. And you know that your own government,
as I said, it's put its net zero targets for 20 years after you have announced yours for, but no plan to limit fossil fuels.
Given where you are and how powerful you are in the industry, would you seek to persuade your government, which has one of the worst records in the
world on fossil usage and emissions and this and that, to change tack as well?
FORREST: Yes, look, Christiane, I have, and I will continue to do so.
I advocate really strongly against fossil fuel subsidies. People have to point out, hey, but you're a big beneficiary of fossil fuel subsidies. I
say, exactly. If someone wasn't a beneficiary, they wouldn't have the credibility to argue so strongly against them.
I have argued strongly that opening up a new coal mine or even a methane mine, which is all a gas plant is, a methane mine, opening up new ones is
an anathema. It's a contradiction. It's actually not taking the livelihood of our kids, ourselves seriously.
So, yes, I'm very public on this. And I will be strident. I do believe, I really do believe that green hydrogen is the practical, implementable
solution which this planet needs, with the Anthropocene right needs right now to stop global warming.
And the danger is what you correctly described as greenwashing. When the fossil fuel sector comes through and says, hey, we can -- we can do
hydrogen too. Look over here. It's hydrogen.
Yes, the molecule is the same, but the journey of getting the molecule there, if it's chockablock full of carbon and far worse, Christiane,
methane, i.e., gas, then that has just made the problem a whole lot worse by extending the life of their mines, the life of their deposits, and
saying, hey, don't worry about that. It's hydrogen.
Well, my very strong contention around the world to every leader on this planet is that, if it's not green, if it's not renewable, it's a farce. The
only hydrogen we should be going for right now is green hydrogen. Everything else, we should be moving away from.
AMANPOUR: Andrew Forrest, thank you very much indeed. And we will keep following up and seeing how you're doing. It is really important. Thanks a
Now, today marks the passing of F.W. de Klerk, the last president of apartheid South Africa. In 1990, he freed Nelson Mandela and facilitated
the transition to democracy and majority rule. However, for many, his legacy is a complicated one, as I myself discovered when I spoke to him
almost a decade ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: I'm offering you the opportunity, as the person who helped dismantle apartheid, to say whether or not you believe that it was also
morally repugnant today, in retrospect.
DE KLERK: I can only say that in a quantified way.
Inasmuch it trampled human rights, it was and remains -- and that, I have said also publicly -- morally indefensible. There were many aspects which
are morally indefensible. But the concept of giving as the Czechs have it now and the Slovaks have it, of saying that ethnic unities, with one
culture, with one language, can be happy and can fulfill the democratic aspirations in an own state, that is not repugnant.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Well, that equivocating provoked a storm of criticism at home at the time. And then he later quickly said that apartheid was morally
unjustifiable, unacceptable and offensive.
My next guests are Paul van Zyl, a social philanthropist who was executive secretary of South Africa's post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation
Commission, and Sithembile Mbete, political science lecturer at the University of Pretoria. And they're both joining me now.
Welcome to the program.
Let me start by asking you, Professor Mbete, what you make of the legacy of F.W. de Klerk and, as the world sees it, having at least facilitated the
end of a repugnant regime and the beginning of a chance for democracy and majority rule?
SITHEMBILE MBETE, POLITICAL SCIENCE LECTURER, UNIVERSITY OF PRETORIA: Thank you so much for having me, Christiane.
I think F.W. de Klerk, yes, was the last party president in South Africa. And he started the process towards democratic -- democratization and
negotiations with the ANC and with Nelson Mandela.
But I think that he did this and what his legacy will be that he did this by -- because he was forced to, not because of any moral transformation or
fundamental change in the views that had kept him as a member of Parliament for the National Party from 1972 and a member of cabinet from the late '70s
until he took over as state president in 1989.
And so his legacy is, he will be remembered for starting the process towards the end of formal apartheid, but I really think that it ends there
because he has died with his secrets of all of those whose deaths he ordered while he was the state president and the deaths that he knew about
while he was a member of the State Security Council throughout the 1980s.
AMANPOUR: So that is really interesting, the way you put it. He died with his secrets.
And for that, I want to go to Paul van Zyl, because the whole idea of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was to give those members of the
apartheid regime, even those who had committed crimes against the black majority, a chance to explain and to apologize.
What was your experience with F.W. de Klerk before the Truth and -- at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission?
PAUL VAN ZYL, FORMER EXECUTIVE SECRETARY, TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION: Well, Christiane, I was part of a team that prepared the
questions for F.W. de Klerk when he appeared before the Truth Commission.
And it's important to kind of recognize that what we did for a considerable period of time before that was gather evidence, both from victims of
torture and disappearance and assassination, their loved ones, and through amnesty applications that were made from members of the security forces,
both the people who were the trigger-pullers and the people who were the intellectual authors and gave the commands.
And what emerged from that process was a widespread pattern of torture across the length and breadth of South Africa, people held in detention
under the security legislation at the time, the state of emergency, and the many thousands of people subject to torture, and then also a series of
state-sponsored hit squads that targeted, assassinated and disappeared opponents of the apartheid regime.
And the people who were involved in this were not just trigger-pullers. They went all the way up through the chain of command, from the people who
did the killing, through regional, national, and the top members of both the police and the military, right into the Cabinet.
And so, in the conversation that we had with F.W. de Klerk when he appeared before the Truth Commission, we invited him to reflect on the
responsibility of the apartheid state, and he himself personally, as somebody who had been, as your previous guest indicated, a member of
cabinet for a long period of time.
And I think what was disappointing for many people is that he failed to recognize that it is simply implausible that you could not be in the
cabinet of the apartheid state for the period of time that he did with this number of widespread crimes being committed. Not the act of a few rogues.
Not bad apples. Not people out in front (INAUDIBLE) and not know about it.
And also, to the extent you didn't -- weren't directly responsible for ordering those crimes, clarified to the security forces that this was
unacceptable. You may not torture people, you may not abduct people, you may not disappear them. And I think F.W. de Klerk he failed that basic
test. And I think he also failed a broader test to unequivocally say that apartheid was a crime against humanity and an evil and reprehensible
system. He instead said, it was impractical. It was unworkable. It provoked anger. And when the government discovered that it was unworkable and
impracticable, they moved away from it. And that's a very big moral difference.
AMANPOUR: It is really actually quite fascinating as a student of history to see how he kept trying to answer that question, withdrawing from it, as
you saw with me, and then -- and I'm going to play this for you both and for our viewers, to ask you, Professor Mbete, what he said just a few days
now before his death. He, again, came out to try to make an equivocal last statement. Here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
F.W. DE KLERK, FORMER SOUTH AFRICAN PRESIDENT: Since the early '80s, my view has changed completely. It was as if I had a conversion. And in my
heart of hearts, realized that apartheid was wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Wow. I had not seen that video. That's a dying man trying to make good his legacy. Professor Mbete, what's your reaction to that?
MBETE: It's exactly as you say. It's a dying man trying to impact or influence his legacy. Indeed, the last controversy that F.W. de Klerk was
in about the moral repugnance of apartheid was just last year where he refused to say on national television that apartheid was a crime against
humanity. And he said that, you know, crimes against humanity are genocide, and apartheid was not that. It was not on that same level. And again after
a few weeks or after a week, his foundation put out a statement retracting it.
And so, while he was healthy, while he was well, while he was an active member of public discourse, he refused repeatedly to say that apartheid was
a crime, that apartheid was morally repugnant and to express the regret that he seems to express in this video that was recorded a few days before
And Antjie Krog, who is the famous South African poet and writer, who earlier last year after his remarks about apartheid not being a crime
against humanity, she pinned a really powerful essay where she spoke about F.W. de Klerk always being a master of political strategy.
And all of his actions from the release of Nelson Mandela and the unbanning of political parties, of the liberation movement, to his decisions to
participate in the negotiations and the referendum to his participation in the government of national unity, all of these were politically strategic
decisions, but not bounded in any moral change or transformation. And I think that this video is a political strategy too.
AMANPOUR: So, let me ask you because, you know, nobody and nothing is perfect. And obviously, the legacy of the apartheid regime has continued to
plague your country. These entrenched inequalities still exist, obviously, and have only been, you know, exacerbated or at least illuminated by the
But let me ask you both. You know, your own president, Cyril Ramaphosa, who was a major antiapartheid campaigner and a big friend of Nelson Mandela
said that, de Klerk played a key role in ushering in democracy to our country. He was the leader of apartheid largely discredited, but we, as a
human being, it's important for us South Africans to pay our condolences and allow him to rest. OK. So, that's from the president. Nelson Mandela at
one point also acknowledged his "courage" in doing what he did.
I guess just, Professor Mbete, and also to Paul, but let me ask you first, Professor. There are many flawed historic characters. Mikhail Gorbachev is
one of them. But history will record that he, for all his flaws, ushered in, along with Ronald Reagan, the end of the Soviet Union and that
dictatorial tyrannical communism. Do you at all give that space to F.W. de Klerk, Professor?
MBETE: Certainly, if F.W. de Klerk was instrumental in bringing about the end of formal apartheid and the decisions that he made as the state
president may have started the process to get us here. And I think that is a matter of historical record and to be recorded as such. But I don't think
that we should then impart some moral intention behind those actions that in many ways were forced by circumstances of history.
AMANPOUR: And finally, very briefly to you, Paul. You have also been in transitional justice for most of your career. And the legacy, as I touched
on with the professor, is one of deep inequality right now. How do you see it from the outside and what might make it better? Including, you know, the
ANC hasn't exactly delivered what they said that they were going to deliver and there's plenty of corruption there to go around as well.
VAN ZYL: Well, I think, you know, on the passing of F.W. de Klerk, it is useful to kind of have a moment of reckoning. I fully agree that the
transition would not have been possible without him. And I think you have to give him credit for his pragmatism and for his realism and for his
appreciation that apartheid was unsustainable and defensible.
But I think the pragmatism that allowed him to negotiate the end of apartheid with Nelson Mandela was not matched with an equal moral
And that moral reckoning is important because he failed to give, in my judgment, white South Africans a pathway to be able to reckon with their
own political guilt and their own political support for that system. He essentially said, we had the system. It didn't work. And then, we
negotiated a new system and we hand it over. And that failed to build a bridge and a ladder, which I think is a legacy that endures today.
AMANPOUR: It's really fascinating. Thank you both so much. Paul van Zyl and Professor Sithembile Mbete from the University of Pretoria. Thanks for
Now, continuing the discussion on race from South Africa to the United States, John McWhorter is a bestselling author and a linguist and he's out
with a new book, which is called "Woke Racism." And he believes that issue has become like a religion. Here he is with Walter Isaacson discussing his
theory and solutions for a more just and equitable America.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALTER ISAACSON, CNN HOST: Thank you, Christiane. And Professor John McWhoter, welcome to the show.
JOHN MCWHORTER, "WOKE RACISM," AUTHOR: Thank you.
ISAACSON: You have this new book out, "Woke Racism." And in many ways, it's a discussion of the anti-racism that people like Ibram X. Kendi have been
preaching. In fact, I use the word preaching advisably because you call it a religion. You make it as if it's gone way too far and become too
dogmatic. Explain your thesis.
MCWHORTER: Well, when I say that it's a religion, what I mean is that we're not talking about a sociopolitical program. We're talking about a frame of
mind that often is impervious to reason beyond a certain point with the idea being that you have a central commitment, which instead of being to
assert your faith in Jesus, is to assert that you know what racism is, to assert that you know that racism still exists after the 1960s. That's the
And the idea is that as long as you're showing that you know racism exists, then whether or not you're actually helping people who are of a race is
less relevant. And to the extent that anybody questions you on this, you say that it's complicated and look over their shoulder. And then, there's
also, just think about white privilege and original sin.
The parallel between the way those two things are processed or supposed to be processed as almost eerie. White privilege is thought of not just as a
fact, but as something that a white person who is ahead of the curve is supposed to eternally reflect about, feel guilty about and assume that they
will never be free of until they are dead.
And finally, there's the intolerance, the degree of intolerance. So, especially lately, especially over the past couple years, although this has
been long incoming, there's an idea that with a certain kind of person, a certain kind hyper woke person, there's a prosecutorial quality. If you
don't agree with them, it's not that you get yelled a little, that's one thing. It's that you are fired.
You are stripped of your honors in some way. You are not supposed to be within polite society. You have to be pushed out a window. That
prosecutorial aspect of things where people who are in disagreement are treated as if they almost smell bad, what that is, even though we don't use
the word, is that people like that are being treated as heretics.
ISAACSON: Glenn Youngkin, the Republican, just recently won the governorship of Virginia, pushing against critical race theory being taught
in the schools and that got into a whole debate of what does he really mean by that. Tell me what is your thinking about how this is involved in
schools these days and why parents are pushing back.
MCWHORTER: Critical race theory starts as these obscure ideas in legal journals decades ago. Nobody is saying that that's what's being taught in
schools. However, a descendant of that, an educational philosophy that is explicitly based upon the tenants of those articles has definitely made its
way into educational circles.
And what it means is that many truly well-minded teachers think that what students should be taught is that white people are potential oppressors,
that black people are potential victim white oppression, that you should think of there being white and black cultural traits, and specifically that
white cultural traits tend to be bad and black ones tend to be good.
And there's an idea that the soul of education should be to alert children to these power differentials and to thread that kind of idea through the
teaching of just about any subject. Now, some people might agree with that philosophy. Some people would think that what the soul of education should
be in a modern western society is to teach kids to be informed leftist radicals. And I don't say that as a slur. You might defend that.
However, I think most people are not going to think that that's what school is supposed to be for. And that's what this battle is. The idea that
there's no CRT in the schools, I think a lot of people really think that it's claimed that legal doctrine that only grad students (INAUDIBLE) is
being taught in fourth grade. If that's what you think it's about, then certainly you think that the right is just dog whistling. That's not what
parents are upset about.
CRT has been extended to a whole education school philosophy that I'm not sure a lot of people are aware of, but it's very real and it is affecting
how kids are being taught in a great many school districts across the country. Including Virginia. That's what the issue is about.
ISAACSON: Do you think it's a good idea, though, that people like myself or my kids or whatever, understand a little bit more about the white privilege
we have had?
MCWHORTER: You can understand some. I wouldn't mind a light dusting of that being given to kids. I believe it was given to me. I went to quaker schools
when I was a kid. And a lot of the teachers there were, you know, anti-war, leftist people.
We got some of that. And that was part of an education. And an education should involve learning about slavery and Jim Crow and racism, that's fine.
It's just that us versus them notion, that idea that the entire foundation of the nation has been kind of a shell game or a crime spree.
I don't think that's what kids should be taught. That's something you should start leaning about in college. And even then, as one of many
opinions. And so, one of my children who is nine has learned about Sir Joyner Truth and what she went through in school.
Good. But she's not being taught that the American experiment is a joke or that she with her brown skin needs to be wary of the blond kids in her
classroom. If she were being taught that, I would write a column about it very quickly.
ISAACSON: Do you think systemic racism exists and there's a problem in the society?
MCWHORTER: I do think that there are racial inequities in society. I'm not crazy is about calling it racism, but I know that that process is going to
continue. Those inequities need to be battled against. But the problem is, that as often as not, fixing those things is not a about battling racism.
So, even if racism calls the things, fixing it today is not going to involve battling the racism that dismays us all. Language plays a trick on
us in these things.
But for any instance of systemic racism, my attitude is not, oh, just let it be or black people need to try harder. No. I'm a very interventionist
thinker. But I think that we tend to focus on bias to an extent that goes beyond what the actual evidence in society suggests.
And we tend to extend the bias analysis beyond what I think logic or even compassion can truly accommodate. There are things we need to do, but I
think we are offered an oversimplified and often rather inwardly focused agenda as to what you actually do about them.
ISAACSON: What do you think is the greater problem? The racism that you say still exists in our society or the accesses anti-racism movement?
MCWHORTER: It's getting to the point where it's the latter because the anti-racism movement teaches us to look into ourselves. The anti-racist
religion that I write about is one where your job is to show that you know racism exists. Not to try to do anything a about it, but just to show.
And so, a San Francisco Museum of Modern Art curator can be fired for using the word reverse discrimination. He gets fired. That did nothing. That
language policing did absolutely nothing. There are people in San Francisco who are very poor, disproportionately brown.
They need real help. What did it help to fire this curator because he didn't seem to be sufficiently hip to the precise scriptures of hyper woke
gospel? Nothing. The new movement encourages too much of that kind of signposting and kabuki, this idea that you -- and it is literal virtue
signaling. Signaling to one another, signaling to America that you have virtue, as opposed to doing what civil rights leaders 50 and 60 years ago
did, which was to get out on the ground and improve conditions for actual black people who need help.
Now, the people in question will tell you that all of this awareness raising is necessary before anything can happen in society. And I ask why.
Who said? Because the way this often put is as if that case has been impregnably made. But nobody expected white people to sit in prayer circles
and think about their complicities before the civil rights victories of the '50s and '60s.
And if you tell me that they need to do that now before we can make any further changes, once again, notice how there's a lapse in the
argumentation there. Why? Now, maybe somebody can tell us why it is that we can't have any further change until people feel really, really, really
guilty. But it seems to me that we can turn black America upside down it with some basic interventionist changes without hoping that white
psychology can ever be so perfect.
ISAACSON: So, isn't is there some value to people evaluating themselves, saying if intentionally or unintentionally some their thoughts may have
racist roots? Isn't that how we make progress?
MCWHORTER: It is definitely important that people evaluate themselves as white people have been being told to do since the 1960s and doing it. The
question is whether they need to do it more. So, yes, all of that evaluation is good, but people were doing it quite a bit before it white
fragility came out.
The big question is, do people need to do it more? And I suggest not. And to the extent that someone would disagree with me, the issue is that that
needs to be discussed. The idea is not simply to accept that we need this particularly stringent sense of one's complicity as a prelude to change in
the world. Because I ask why? And to the extent that question hasn't been answered, we need to start having more constructive conversation.
ISAACSON: Let me read something from your book. A sentence near the end of your book that I found very interesting. You say that racism refers not
just to prejudice, but to social inequity. Racism is also a matter of the past as well as present attitudes and policies.
Something this protium (ph), this layered and timeless must be ever restrained as much as possible. In some ways, it sounds like you're saying
what some of the people on the other side are saying, that we have engrained in our society layers of systemic problems that come from past
and present racist attitudes.
MCWHORTER: Sure. Here's the thing. Every summer there is a grievous rash of killings of one another among black boys in big cities. It's not among
white boys, it's among black boys. Talk about disparities. Way too many more black boys get killed in cities every summer, once it gets hot and
people are outside than boys of other colors. It's a problem.
But if what your thought is racism. In a way, it's almost callous. Because what will solve the problem, and there are people who are working on
solving that problem, is not making white people less racist, nor is it solving some problem in society where in some subtle way racism is keeping
resources away from black people that they should have. And in general, just the idea of racial disparities, whatever it is, why those boys killing
each other and how can we stop them from doing it? The answer to that question is not when I see disparities, I see racism.
You can see how if anybody is thinking that, it's almost as if they are less interested in solutions for real people than in displaying that they
know about something. That's the discrepancy that I'm talking about. I'm concerned with the same things everybody else is. The question is, what do
you do about them other than sitting around and talking about how you know that racism didn't end in 1966.
ISAACSON: Well, the last quarter of your book really is about solutions. Ideas that it you have, including on the war on drugs. Tell me when you
think the solutions are.
MCWHORTER: It is not it is fix the police. The reason I say that is not because I'm not aggrieved about police but because there are 18,000 police
precincts and you have to work on each one of them. I don't see how there's going to be a magic want about that. I want something faster than that.
Therefore, the war on drugs is -- has destroyed black communities for almost 60 years. And what it creates among many other things, including way
too many encounters with the cops, is that there is a standing black market that a black guy from an underserved neighborhood with crummy schools and
very few resources can join in order to make half of a living after he leaves high school. It's there. There's a black market where you can give
people hard drugs.
And if you'd rather do that than take the risk of finding legal employment when you're not used to leaving your own world, you're not sure where that
would go and you lived within very narrow horizons for no fault of your own. Chances are you go to prison.
You might be killed. And if you're in prison, if you have had some kids before, you're not going to be there for them. The kids then become you.
You come back to the community. You've got no job skills. You're possibly addicted to something because prison was such a terrible place. Your life
is over. That is such a common trajectory for a certain kind of underserved black man.
It would change completely if there were simply no way to make that living. I completely understand why somebody might choose that, but if there were
no way to make that living, I've been arguing this since 2005, that same guy would go get legal employment.
And yet, might start a show store, although you can do better than that, especially if, and this is one of my other points in the book, you have a
celebration of vocational education and you make it so that he can get a two-year degree, probably for free or close to it, and something where he
can work with his hands and make a thoroughly decent middle class living.
And this is the sort of thing we tend not to think about. We think he's supposed to go to college. No. College is nice but it's not for everybody.
So, if we just take the men out of a situation where it's tempting to do something that kind of gets you by but probably ruins your life, but, you
know, who among us think about what's going to happen in a month and get back to vocational education, black America would turn upside down in 20
years. And the change that needs to be made is to end the war on drugs.
ISAACSON: What good do you think will come out of the book? I noticed at the beginning you say, this is not reason for these people or these people.
What was the purpose of the book and what do you hope will happen?
MCWHORTER: The purpose of the book was to unite left of Center America behind an agenda that will really help black people and to discourage white
and black people from supposing that our moral job is to listen to the hard radical left telling us that if we disagree with their view on what we need
to do or not do, we are white supremacists.
Because the modus operandi is that if you disagree with people like that you get called a white supremacist on Twitter. That scares most people to
their socks. And so, most of us are pretending to agree with that certain kind of person because we're afraid of them.
Those people think that they have found the answer, the solution to black people's problems. They think that battling power differentials in a
symbolic way is a necessary beginning to changing society. I think most of us disagree.
And I wrote this book to ask people to start asking a spine and telling these people to sit down. Not get out. I wrote this book because I wanted
there to be a book by yes, and openly admit, a black person, saying that the way these things are going is not the only way it can be. Now, I know
that some people are going to say that I am a reverse racist. That I am not -- that don't like myself. That I'm a white supremacist. And you know what,
a great many black people agreed with me.
It should be important to note. I'm saying something that I think is very ordinary that you don't get to hear from enough because of the
overrepresentation in the media and an academia of people, both black and white, who think in the way that I'm talking about. This is a voice from
the bottom, in a way.
And I just hope that some people can see that there are different ways of looking at how we get past race than, for example, people calling you white
supremacists on Twitter to get what they want. That's not what social progress is supposed to be.
ISAACSON: Are you concerned that some of your arguments are beginning to be co-opted or used by the far right?
MCWHORTER: That's a valid question. And I think that we could also ask people who are on the very hard left, are they concerned that some of their
views will be used by the very hard right to caricature what the left think? And the answer is yes, they will. And so, yes, some of my views will
But I can only answer that question with a question. Does that mean I shouldn't have my say? Should I express myself in a way where I do so much
qualifying and hemming and hawing that I don't really say much of anything at all that anybody can gleam and therefore, I might as not have said
anything at all? I'm not going to do that. So, that's the answer to your question.
ISAACSON: Professor John McWhorter, thank you for joining us.
MCWHORTER: Thank you, Walter.
AMANPOUR: And that's it for now. Thank you for watching and good-bye from London.