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Interview With "Danger Zone: The Coming Conflict With China" Author Michael Beckley; Interview With Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti; Interview With "The Third Reconstruction" Author And Historian Peniel E. Joseph. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired September 20, 2022 - 13:00:00   ET




BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone. And welcome to AMANPOUR. Here's what's coming up.


ANTONIO GUTERRES, U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL: Our world is in big trouble


GOLODRYGA: The U.N.'s general assembly gets underway in the shadow of war. With the focus on Ukraine worries too about China and Taiwan. I'm joined by

Michael Beckley, co-author of "Dangerous Zone; The Coming Conflict with China".

Plus, liberated Ukrainians feel the ravages of Russian occupation. Our report from the ground on the devastation left behind.

Then --


ALBIN KURTI, KOSOVO PRIME MINISTER: I think we are safe, but this does not mean that we should not worry.


GOLODRYGA: Kosovo asks NATO for help amid threats from Russia and rising tensions with Serbia. Christiane sits down with Prime Minister Albin Kurti.

And --


PENIEL E. JOSEPH, HISTORIAN AND AUTHOR, "THE THIRD RECONSTRUCTION": There's always this pattern of progress but also followed by backlash.


GOLODRYGA: From Barack Obama's election to Black Lives Matter. Historian Peniel Joseph explains how America's recent struggle for racial justice

constitutes the third reconstruction.

Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga in New York sitting in for Christiane Amanpour.

Divides are growing deeper. Those are the words of U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres as he opened this year's general assembly right here in

New York. Looming large, of course, is the war in Europe. And while Ukraine is ratcheting up success on the battlefield, Russia looks to strengthen its

own hand. An announcement today that the separatist regions in eastern Ukraine will hold referendums on joining Russia at the end of this week.

President Zelenskyy's office says that it stems from a fear of defeat.

We've seen hints that even China is now worried by Russia's actions. President Putin promising to address China's, "Questions and concerns," at

a meeting last week which Xi Jinping. And China is at the center of its own battle. U.S. President Joe Biden infuriating Beijing saying once again in

an interview over the weekend that American forces would defend Taiwan from a Chinese attack.

So, just how worried should we be about the state of U.S.-China relations right now? Michael Beckley is a leading expert in this field and previously

worked for the U.S. Department of Defense.

Welcome to the program. Really important book that you've also co-authored the, "Danger Zone", that I recommend anyone who is interested in this topic

read. A lot of key takeaways. Let me -- before we get to those takeaways, start with the news of day. And your response to this announcement from the

Russian State Duma and we expect to hear from President Putin as well. The so-called sham referendums in eastern Ukraine, they're in the Donbas

region, perhaps in the south as well. In the areas there that are occupied such as Zaporizhzhia and other cities.

Talk about China's role in Russia's position. We saw a really uncomfortable Putin, it appeared last week, where he acknowledged Xi Jinping's quote

questions and concerns about the state of the war. There are questions about what impact and what leverage China has over Russia. What do you make

of this dynamic right now?

MICHAEL BECKLEY, CO-AUTHOR, "DANGER ZONE: THE COMING CONFLICT WITH CHINA": Well, I think China's been pretty hesitant about Russia's actions ever

since they began. Even though they announced this no limits partnership, I don't think Xi Jinping was happy that Russian no only then invaded Ukraine

but did so very badly and is losing the war and making conquests look very difficult and it's possibly considering escalation options.

I think China's also worried that if this war continues to escalate, China's a major commodities importer of the price of food, of all kind of

raw materials skyrockets. That's going to put even more pressure on a Chinese economy that is already struggling. And Xi Jinping is also where

that its rallying the west together in ways that could be applied to China later on.

GOLODRYGA: Yes, and we know that Putin has already spoken. We had anticipated to hear more from him on these upcoming referendums. He has not

addressed them as of yet. Of course, we'll continue to fall anything -- follow anything out of the Kremlin.

Let's move on to this, because you look at the dynamic at play there in the region. Russia continues to shop now not from China which he would prefer

to in terms of military technology but North Korea and Iran. So, China clearly aware of the sanctions and the consequences there if they do

cooperate with Russia. That having being said, your book amplifies this. There doesn't seem to be any resolve in -- or cooling of the tension

between the United States and China.


In fact, it is getting heated at a time when you say that China arguably has already peaked. When somebody here is that, they may view that as a

positive in terms of any conflict between these two nations. You say that is actually the opposite. Explain.

BECKLEY: It may be a positive in the long term because China won't be as competitive of a rival to the United States, 10 or 20 years from now. But

it also potentially makes China a more explosive near-term threat. Because what we've seen throughout history is that when rising power started slow

down, their economy slows. They start to become encircled by rivals. They don't mellow out. They try to better their way through these headwinds to

rekindle their rise to try to ward off potential rivals and to really just grab what they can while they still can.

And so, China's facing a number of major headwinds, economic, demographic, and strategic. And I think there's reason to worry that China may flex some

of the muscle that it's built up over the last 10 years during this moment of opportunity.

GOLODRYGA: And this is coming as Xi Jinping faces a crucial meeting of the communist party Congress in just a couple of weeks where he's expected to

get a third unprecedented term as leader. You talk about some of these challenges and headwinds facing the country. Just to give our viewers a

sense. You lay some out in the book.

Let's talk about the demographic problem. What the blame largely on the one China policy. And you say by 2050, nearly one-third of the country will be

over the age of 60. And this statistic really stood out that by 2025, according to some projections, sales of adult diapers will outpace sales of

baby diapers. You have this issue. You have water concerns. You have pollution concerns. Obviously, China relying on other countries for oil and

natural gas.

But some of the problems the country faces are Xi Jinping's own making, and that is economic slowdown. That's the zero-COVID policy. Is he at risk at

all politically internally? I know that we just mentioned he's probably going to get a third unprecedented term. But what -- internally, what

headwinds is he facing right now?

BECKLEY: I don't think he's at risk from being toppled. The political science literature makes very clear that personalist dictatorships, once

they've, sort of, ensconced themselves and they purged major rivals tend to be relatively stable. But it just sets up China for a very nasty succession


You know, Xi Jinping is going to be 70 next year. He'll be in these 80s but the early 2030's. And he's demolished what few norms of succession there

used to be in China's system. And there's no younger leader that really has the cachet to fill Xi Jinping's shoes. And he's looks very reluctant to

even designate a successor for fear that he would be creating a political rival.

So, even if China maybe politically stable on the outside for now. I just worry that over the next 10 years, they've really set themselves up for

what could be a very nasty succession battle. Because Xi Jinping has crushed many powerful Chinese families who were probably resentful. They're

probably jockeying for position right now. And so, when Xi Jinping starts to fade from the scene, I would expect a fair amount nasty of infighting

within the party.

GOLODRYGA: Let's turn to the issue of Taiwan, and necessarily as it reflects to the current dynamic at play there with the war in Ukraine. But

on what you focus on in this book, and that is the growing tension, militarily, between the United States and China. Why are you so concerned,

in particular over the next couple of years, in your book you lay out a potential war as soon as 2025?

BECKLEY: Yes, it could be -- I mean, so we worry about sort of the next 10 years simply because, first of all, Xi Jinping and all Chinese leaders have

always made clear that Taiwan will be reabsorbed one way or another. Up until about 2016, they relied more on peaceful means, mainly economic

overtures to Taiwan.

But what's happened is that strategy is clearly failed because the Taiwanese people have just become more and more determined to maintain

their de facto sovereignty. So, as these peaceful reunification options of options have dwindled, China is now been turning to military options. And

they've been, for the last year and a half, have been sustaining the most provocative show of force in the Taiwan Strait.

And we just worry that China has a potential window of opportunity because they're coming off of about a tenure period of churning out ammunition and

warships at a rate we haven't seen from many countries since World War II.

Meanwhile, the United States and Taiwan have been very slow to react to China's modernization. So, they're very vulnerable. But the United States

and Taiwan have plans by the 2030s to have their militaries much stronger and making the island almost unconquerable.

And so, if you're Xi Jinping and you've said, we are going to reabsorbed Taiwan one way or another, and you have this military window of

opportunity. We just worry that China might rush through it. And there's past historical cases where this is actually happened.

GOLODRYGA: Yes, and in terms of U.S. policy. The strategic ambiguity seems to appear to be a thing of the past. Time a time we hear result out of

President Biden when asked about whether the United States would come to Taiwan's defense militarily. Let's just play again on what he said over the

weekend in "60 Minutes".



SCOTT PELLEY, HOST, 60 MINUTES: Would U.S. Forces defend the island?

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: Yes, if in fact there was an unprecedented attack.

PELLEY: So, unlike Ukraine, to be clear, Sir, U.S. Forces, U.S. men and women would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion?



GOLODRYGA: So, National Security Adviser, Jake Sullivan, just today called that a hypothetical statement and said that when the administration's ready

to announce a new policy, they will. But it's -- I'm surprised, you know, it's not a coincidence that just today the U.S. and Canadian warships

transit the Taiwan Strait. And this was the statement released by the U.S. navy, the two ships transited through a corridor in the strait that is

beyond the territorial sea of any coastal state. The transit demonstrates the commitment of the U.S. and our allies and partners to a free and open


So, the Taiwan strait clearly at issue right now. Is the U.S. doing what they need to be in order to put off a potential conflict between the two


BECKLEY: My biggest worry is that the United States is talking very loudly but hasn't yet built up the big stick that it actually needs to defend

Taiwan. On the one hand, you have President Biden making these seemingly changes to U.S.-Taiwan policy.

Saying the U.S. has made a commitment to defend Taiwan, that would be new. The U.S. is sending high-level officials, most recently Nancy Pelosi and a

congressional delegation. You have legislation on Capitol Hill that would upgrade the relationship with Taiwan. But the United States, in terms of

its military preparations, still is very vulnerable because it concentrates most of its military assets on a couple of big bases on Okinawa, Japan that

are within range of Chinese missiles.

And so, people are worried about a Pearl Harbor style strike on those bases which would essentially cripple American military power giving China the

chance to have its way with Taiwan before the United States can potentially surge other forces from other regions or from the United States itself. So,

I just -- my biggest concern is that the United States is, sort of, poking this dragon but hasn't taken the steps it would need to make its own

military and Taiwan's military more resilient in the face of what could be a massive Chinese onslaught.

GOLODRYGA: Yes, and this dragon you talk about now has the world's largest navy. But we should also note that the China hasn't been involved in any

major military battles in many decades. So, that having been said, what does the U.S. need to do over the course of the next couple of years to

really beef up its position there in the east?

BECKLEY: The United States, the main thing is the spread of its bases. To have more bases so that China can't just wipe out the few baskets that the

United States has concentrated most of its eggs. And it also needs to stop relying so much on these big aircraft carriers that are increasingly

sitting ducks for China's highly accurate missiles. And develop what the navy has called distributed lethality where you have lots of different

sensors and shooters.

Basically. laying down a high-tech minefield around and near Taiwan. And Taiwan basically needs to do the same. Just -- to do, kind of, what Ukraine

has done in Europe by using these precision guided munitions. In Taiwan's case, mines, anti-ship missiles to turn itself into a porcupine that can

fend off a larger invader like China which would have to mass its forces and itself become very vulnerable if it were to invade or blockade Taiwan.

These plans are very straightforward. But it's just a question of political will and urgency to get them moving.

GOLODRYGA: Yes, I wanted to pick up on that point. On what if Taiwan is at all prepared militarily. Because as you note from a terrain standpoint, it

is more difficult for China to attack, even though this is a country that is half the size of Ukraine. But the question I have is the Taiwanese army

today -- the Ukrainian army of 2014 or the Ukrainian army of 2022.

BECKLEY: It's much more advanced than either of those. The Taiwanese military is extremely advanced. They have thousands of precision guided

munitions. They've been preparing for this conflict for decades. They've built giant shelters in mountains for -- not just for their civilian

population but for their military forces so that they can withstand a Chinese bombardment. And they've been training for this operation. It's

just there's a lot more they could do to become more resilient in the short term.

And the fact is they have a number of natural advantages. The fact that Taiwan is an island makes it much more secure than Ukraine because it's

just harder to move an army across a body of water. China's forces would be extremely vulnerable if they tried to launch an amphibious invasion. It

takes eight hours to get across the strait.

The Taiwan Strait itself is one of the most vicious areas on the globe. Sometimes there is typhoons, 20-foot waves. So, it's very difficult to move

an army there. And the same time, Taiwan can capitalize on the fact that modern technology makes it relatively easy for a smaller, weaker force to

wipe out big mast forces just because they are so vulnerable to these precision guided missions.

You've seen this on a smaller scale in Ukraine. Taiwan already has some advanced capabilities to do this on a large scale. It's just the question

of making it so clear to the Chinese that they don't even try this in the first place.


GOLODRYGA: So, we talked about military priorities that the E.U. say -- and you focus on a lot in the book. Let's also talk about larger issues. And

that is something that President Biden has repeatedly called on and that is the need to defend democracy over autocracy in the battle between the two

over the coming next years and decades ahead. Obviously, we have a lot of issues with our own democracy here at home. You begin this book by

potential conflict with China in 2025. We have another contested U.S. election. What needs to be done domestically here in the U.S.?

BECKLEY: I think there is a number of issues and there are no really easy fixes given that polarization is at highs that we haven't seen since the

Civil War. There are long term things the United States could do, like electoral reform that would incentivize voters to vote for more moderate

candidates. Whereas, right now the primary system and the first past the post system in which whoever gets the most votes wins and voters can only

choose one candidate really makes it hard to -- for moderates to get elected.

And so, both party caters to their base. And as a result, you have horrible polarization. I think there's a lot the United States could do with income

inequality which spurs a lot of this political polarization because it creates a -- it sets up a showdown essentially between the haves and the

have-nots. There are things that we, who are involved in analysis and the media can do to also try to not fan the flames of internal conflict.

But the problem is none of these are really easy fixes. And I don't know if there is really time just given that the timeline we're looking at for a

potential showdown with China. One where China becomes more aggressive. Not just militarily but trying to destabilize democracies, taking a page from

Russia's playbook, and trying to sow chaos through various means in democracies, including the U.S. As well as propping up autocracies around

the world.

We just think that's going to be happening in a big way over the next decade. It's going to -- these other issues within the United States, these

are decades long problems that need to be solved. But there's also this incentive to blunt China in the short term.

GOLODRYGA: And it is a major threat that you acknowledge so well and list out as well in detail in this book. Michael Beckley, thank you so much.

Such an important read. We appreciate your time.

BECKLEY: Thank you very much for having me.

GOLODRYGA: Well, after seven months of brutal occupation. Parts of eastern Ukraine are once again tasting freedom. But it is bittersweet. Russia has

left deep scars and devastating hardship in its wake. Correspondent Ben Wedeman visited new liberated Izium and saw the daily struggles of life

after Russia's retreat.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): Help arrives in Izium, bags of barley meal, tens of food. Waiting her turn,

Ineza (ph), shrugs off the tribulations of late. She's seen worse.

We survived World War II when I was little, she tells me.

Surgeon Oksana Karapetian hands out medicine. Sedative's are in high demand.

DR. OKSANA KARAPETIAN, KYIV RESIDENT AND SURGEON: We've got half of a year -- six months without any help. You can understand what do they -- just

imagine what do they feel.

WEDEMAN (voiceover): Liberation from Russia isn't the end of Izium's troubles. Much of the city was severely bombarded before falling in spring

to the Russians. There's no running water. No electricity. No heat. Crowds gathered to charge cell phones off an army generator and make calls. Ten

minutes for person. Using internet provided by a satellite connection.

Lubav (ph) and her daughter Angela are calling relatives. They want to leave. Winter is coming.

People will freeze, Angela warns. Older people won't survive.

They also fear the Russians could return. Nearby, the signs of their hasty retreat. Helmets strewn outside a house Russians shoulders commandeered.

Bread crumbs still on the table. Insects make a meal of fruit half eaten. On the edge of town, the remains of Russia's once vaunted army before a

monument harking back to a different time which now seems like the distant past. Natasha shows me a newspaper distributed during the occupation.

WEDEMAN (on camera): What did she think of him?

WEDEMAN (voiceover): I haven't thought anything good about him since 2000, she says. He destroyed everything in Russia. The paper does, however, come

in handy.


GOLODRYGA: That is what illegal occupational will due to citizens. Well, our thanks to Ben Wedeman for that report. Since Russia's war in Ukraine, a

growing number of countries are hoping to come under NATO's protective umbrella. Among them is Kosovo in the Balkans. It's faced an invasion when

Serbia laid claim to its territory back in 1999.


But led by the United States, NATO conducted a 78-day bombing campaign against Serbian military positions. Kosovo survived and became an

independent democratic nation. Just last month, Kosovo's prime minister Albin Kurti said there was an urgent need for further NATO troops in his

country due to the threats from Serbia and Russia. Christiane's spoke to him about the rise in tensions in the region just before the news of the

death of Queen Elizabeth.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Prime minister Albin Kurti, welcome to our program.

ALBIN KURTI, KOSOVO PRIME MINISTER: Thank you for having me.

AMANPOUR: Look, you know, there's 1,000 miles between Kosovo and Kyiv. And yet it appears that the after effects, the aftershocks of the war in

Ukraine, Russia's actions could be spilling over in your region. Do you feel that?

KURTI: It is possible because in the western Balkans, we have a client regime of Kremlin in Belgrade. Serbia has close ties with Kremlin. Which,

in one hand, are cultural and historical, and on the other are military and economic. There are 48 forward operation bases around Kosovo, 28 being a

military and 20 of gendarmerie of Serbia in the grand safety zone since august 2001. Ministry of defense of Russian Federation has an office inside

the ministry of defense of Serbia in Belgrade.

AMANPOUR: Well, you really do paint a picture of quite intense and potentially terrifying connections. You've called your neighborhood, you

know, a dangerous neighborhood, so is your president when I last talked to her. Just tell me if things were to get worse, how could, what you've just

described, affect Kosovo? That linkage between Russia and Serbia.

KURTI: Albania, North Macedonia, and Montenegro do recognize Republic of Kosovo as independent country. But Serbia does not recognize us. Also,

Serbia refuses to acknowledge, to admit crimes committed in the past. During the year's 1998 1999 when NATO intervened to stop Serbian genocide.

At the top of this Serbia, isn't a democratic country. According to Freedom House, they are hybrid regime which is a euphemism for autocracy. And the

despotic President Putin mentions us every other day.

That's why situation at the western Balkans is dangerous. But nonetheless, even though Kosovo is not a NATO, NATO is in Kosovo. And we are

strengthening our defense system with allocating more budget for Kosovo security force and with strengthening our police and our cooperation with

our NATO allies, especially with the United States of America. Therefore, I think we are safe but this does not mean that we should not worry.

AMANPOUR: You mentioned NATO in the United States. We read that not so long ago, the United States did a very dramatic flyover of all the countries in

the Balkans that are part of NATO and part of the E.U. -- in any event, U.S. allies. Was that reassuring?

KURTI: Yes, of course. Intervention of NATO in spring 1999 was led by United States of America. And since then, we rely very much on our security

in the United States. And the recent exercises in the Balkans or reassuring of U.S. commitment. But also, Kosovo security force participated last year

in DEFENDER-Europe 21, biggest NATO military enterprise in many decades with 330 soldiers. And we were among 16 hosting countries.

We look forward, also, to participate in DEFENDER-Europe 23 in order to show that we are aligned with the democratic west. But also, both Belgrade

and Kremlin to think why -- twice if they want to do something to us.

AMANPOUR: So, let me ask you about the specific local problems that have erupted in your region between Kosovo and Serbia. You, as a representative

of Kosovo, the Serbian President Vucic, came to an agreement to resolve what look like could develop into, you know, into some pretty big tension

over identity papers, vehicle license plates and the like. Would you say that this has solved this issue? Have you come to a lasting agreement with



KURTI: Serbia, 11 years now, was having this entry-exit document for all Kosovar citizens who are crossing the border towards Serbia. And we also

decided to introduce the same. We had some tensions because legal structures of Serbia were erecting barricades in the north of Kosovo. These

illegal structures were violating a freedom of movement. But under pressure of our government, KFOR, and international diplomacy, they had to be


And hopefully now, regarding car plates and regarding other things, we are going to continue with the principle of reciprocity. Either there will be

both sides introducing the same permissions or none of us. I prefer none of us because in this way, we would help even more citizens to smoothly cross

the border, be as pedestrians or with their cars. And in this way, to establish freedom of movement without discrimination.

AMANPOUR: But people listening might think this is all very petty. That this business of car license plates is quite petty. It obviously falls into

the bigger issue of independence, recognition and the like, and a permanent peace settlement.

You have said you don't want to mess around on the edges of this and -- because you're worried about the Bosniafication of the problem. Now, we all

remember Bosnia, that happened before, you know, the Kosovo intervention. When the Serb backed by the Russians, et cetera, decided to go to war in

Bosnia. Even now there are very, very, you know, serious dangers in Bosnia with the, you know, nationalist serves there trying to, in some way, break

away. Do you believe there is still this danger in Bosnia or has that been resolved?

KURTI: If it wouldn't have been for the support from Belgrade, I think that Serbs in Bosnia, Serbs in Montenegro, serves in Kosovo, they would all

integrate in respective countries. But it is Belgrade who pays people in all these countries in order to sabotage functionality of the state, to

disobey to the rule of law, and so on and so forth.

And I think that there should be more international pressure on Belgrade so they give up on doing subversive acts in our country. Just like Moscow has

these satellite parastates in the neighborhood in order to rant disfunction on its neighbors. Likewise, after disintegration of Yugoslavia, it was

Belgrade who tried to create autonomous entities within other states in order to control them.

And that has happened in Bosnia. Where the creation of genocide Republika Srpska is turning Bosnia ever since into a rather dysfunctional state.

Whereas, in Kosovo, we are not allowing the same to happen even though Belgrade would like reoccurrence of -- Republika Srpska inside Kosovo

similar to the one in Bosnia.

I'm always ready to listen for the grievance, complaints, for the respect of human and minority rights to all the Serbs of Kosovo. But I'm not

willing to engage into compensations for a state of Serbia for the losses that were caused by regime of Milosevic since they have committed genocide

in Kosovo. Only for the Serbian citizens, for families and individuals in order to make their life better.

AMANPOUR: So, I want to ask you finally. Coming to this agreement now that you have with Serbia with the good offices of the E.U. And given the fact

that your counterpart in Serbia, not the president, who's the Milosevic era information minister, Aleksandar Vucic, but the prime minister whose name

is Ana Brnabic. She made her first visit to Kosovo. And she talked about, yes, I will compromise in the spirit of peace and stability. Do you feel

you have a partner? Can we see a road to peace and stability in Kosovo and between Kosovo and Serbia?

KURTI: During talks in Brussels, I have always been constructive and creative. I have always laid out different proposals for solution.


And I hope that Brussels will appreciate this. And finally in the weeks and months to come, we will approach to a legally binding agreement centered on

mutual recognition. Kosovo's independence is being also confirmed by vast majority of the states in the world who do recognize us. But also, by

International Court of Justice. So, legal debates on our independence over.

What we have to fix is abnormal relations between Kosovo and Serbia. Unfortunately, Serbia is not a democracy where people who did not

participate in the atrocities of the '90s could lead the country. You have Prime Minister in Serbia but Serbia still is a one-man show. Their

president is the one who decides all of the time almost on everything.

However, I'm optimistic that with the help of the United States and European union, we can reach an agreement because vast majority of citizens

of Serbia do not care about independence of Kosovo and situation in Kosovo. They want jobs, they want justice, education, health care, like all the

citizens of the Balkans. But also, E.U. could help by accelerating the process of E.U. integration for all six countries of the western Balkans.

I allowed Prime Minister of Serbia, Brnabic, to visit north of Kosovo. And I hope that with these visits, they can see that Kosovo is a normal country

and Kosovo is more democratic than Serbia. And actually, it's also even more independent than Serbia because Serbia is dependent upon Russia.

AMANPOUR: Well, Mr. Prime Minister, thank you very much for this interview. And we will seek to talk to Prime Minister Brnabic of Serbia as well. It's

a very important situation. Thank you so much for joining us.

KURTI: Thank you.


GOLODRYGA: An important situation indeed. We turn now to a fresh look at a recent American history. Our next guest is offering a new interpretation of

the years between Barack Obama's election in 2008 and last year's attack on the Capitol.

In his latest book, historian Peniel Joseph calls the period, "The Third Reconstruction". And he argues that it amounts to a new struggle for black

dignity and citizenship in America. Here he is speaking with Michel Martin.


MICHEL MARTIN, CONTRIBUTOR: Professor Peniel Joseph, thank you so much for talking with us.


MARTIN: So, walk me through it. Your book -- your new book, focuses on the period between the historical election of Barack Obama in 2008 and the coup

attempt on the Capitol on January 6, 2021. This is a period that you called "The Third Reconstruction", that's the title of your book.

So, I'm going to ask you, just briefly as you can to walk me through what was the first and what was the second and why is this the third?

JOSEPH: The first reconstruction is from 1865 to 1898 and it's really a 33- year period after racial slavery where we see the reconstruction amendments 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments that end racial slavery, provide birthright

citizenship for all Americans. And provide black men with voting suffrage which later will be extended to white women in 1920 and black women in


So, that first reconstruction sees the highs of historically black colleges and universities, black churches, black women and men as leaders. And the

laws of the Klan, the laws of black codes, and convict systems and sheer cropping. So, on some levels, like W. E. B. Du Bois says, the negro has his

and her moment in the sun before being relegated back to a kind of slavery by another name.

The second reconstruction is from 1954 to 1968 the Brown Supreme Court desegregation decision all the way through the assassination of Martin

Luther King Jr. And in between, we see Emmett Till, Rosa Parks, Fannie Lou Hamer, the passage of the Voting Rights Act, Civil Rights Act, and

certainly the urban rebellions of the 1960s that lead to black power.

And this third reconstruction really is pivoted around four different points. One, is the rise of Barack Obama in 2007-2008. Two, is the rise of

Black Lives Matter, 1.0, after the murder of Trayvon Martin. And the third is the rise of MAGA and Donald Trump, Make America Great Again, and this

backlash to the politics of reconstruction.


And then finally, 2020, which sees really a juxtaposition, Michel. You see enormous positives with the Black Lives Matter demonstrations. More white

people protesting for racial justice than ever in the history of the republic. And then we see the disparate treatment between black and whites

and Latinx and AAPI because of the pandemic. We see the racial backlash when we think about the election of 2020.

And then finally, we see the January 6th insurrection and a coup attempt. That's really predicating on this notion that black people committed voter

fraud. And that idea of voter fraud goes back to the first reconstruction. We've heard about allegation of black people committing voter fraud ever

since they earned the right to vote through their participation in the civil war and as being abolitionists.

MARTIN: You know what's fascinating about your work is that you don't go -- come right out and say this. But you basically imply, you were not at all

surprised by January 6th. This kind of white ethnonationalist backlash in a way you're saying, really could've been predicted. That this is kind of

part of the cycle of history in this country. Tell me why. So, am I right? You really weren't surprised? And tell me why you weren't.

JOSEPH: Well, I think it's because these are unhappy patterns in American history. And so, their -- history does not repeat itself but it certainly

rhymes. And when we think about these unhappy patterns. We always face these juxtapositions ever since the first reconstruction where we have

supporters of multiracial democracy, including whites who are in solidarity with black people.

And then we have advocates of white supremacy who really fashion themselves as redeeming the south. They call themselves redemptionists. And for a long

time after the first reconstruction, for really almost about 70 years, the Redeemer South is the south of the Jim Crow.

It's the south of lynching. It's the south of black women and black people being marginalized, sexually assaulted. And that being codified in public

policy. Black women receive hysterectomies that are not voluntary. So, when we think about that period, there's always this pattern of progress but

also followed by backlash.

The second reconstruction, we see it where there is racial progress, voting rights, civil rights, but followed by racial backlash. This third

reconstruction, Obama in certain ways is not really just the beginning of a period, he's an end of a kind of racial consensus that occurred between

1963 in 2013.

And I think one of the most fascinating parts of this third reconstruction was that relationship between Barack Obama and Black Lives Matter. Where

there's, on some levels, deep admiration for each other. On another, deep wariness of each other. Because Obama believes in a very specific vision

and version of American exceptionalism.

That the movement for black lives led by black women challenged to the president's face, telling him that he was too idealistic. That they were --

Brittany Packnett tells him and organized it the first time she was several teargassed was in Ferguson demonstrating nonviolently.

So, what's so interesting is that Obama provides us a conception of citizenship from above. Barack, Michelle Obama, Sasha, Malia, which is

really beautiful and inspiring. But BLM provides us a conception of dignity from below. And these are the people who Derek Bell called the faces of the

bottom of the well. People who we often forget. Who are led by black women, by at times queer black women. People who are on the margins of society who

gave Obama a different perception of what was happening in places where hope and change was not enough to affect and impact their lives.

MARTIN: It's fascinating you say that Obama -- the election of Barack Obama wasn't the beginning of an era because that is really the way it was

understood and described, especially by -- I would say, the traditional legacy media. What you're saying this was actually the end of something.

Why do you say that?

JOSEPH: The and -- you know, Barack Obama is a very interesting figure. When we look at the period of 1963 to 2013, Michel, we can see that as a

50-year interregnum of racial justice consensus in the United States. And the specific dates are June 11, 1963, which is John F. Kennedy's racial

justice speech. All the way to June 25, 2013, which is the Shelby V. Holder decision where the Supreme Court really takes back Section V, the

preclearance section of the Voting Rights Act which really provided the teeth and muscle of the Voting Rights Act.

And that 50-year interregnum really provides the context, but not just the rise of Barack Obama and Michelle Obama. But really the rise of people of

color and women in politics, in business, in society.


We've never seen as much people of color and women have as much wealth and power and access to elite institutions than during that period of time.

What's so fascinating about Barack Obama is that people think his election in 2008 means an unfettered expansion of that period. When in fact, his

election really, in certain ways, hastens its demise because people are so upset. Including Supreme Court justices. The entire Republican Party.

But grassroots racial terrorists are so upset because what Obama finally does is really show that the idea of the dehumanization of black people had

always been an illusion. The idea that black people weren't ready for power, ready for leadership. Michelle Obama is very important here too.

Michelle Obama defies all stereotypes about black women. Black women's worth, their dignity, their beauty, and their exceptional abilities.

MARTIN: It's interesting. You said that she's almost as triggering to racists as -- or even perhaps, more so, triggering to the racists than

President Obama is. Why is that?

JOSEPH: Historically, we've really dehumanized black women. We've set up a world where black women legally could not be sexually assaulted. They could

be raped. They could not sit on juries. They were not valued in the same way as their white counterparts.

And so, Michelle Obama's really defiant brilliance becomes this implicit and explicit repudiation. Before we had Justice Ketanji Jackson, we had

Michelle Obama as the first lady of the United States. She becomes the face of women all over the world.

And in that way, she really repudiates this redemptionist vision of black women as mommy's (ph), as stereotypes, as Jezebels. The way in which black

women were portrayed, for example, in "Gone with the Wind". She repudiates all of that.

And that could -- that is going to paradoxically both inspire, really billions of people around the world, but in our country, produced a

backlash for people who want to, again, go back to the past. The lost cause. This ideology. And this narrative, really a story about ourselves

that says reconstruction was a bad thing. That the Klan were heroes who were trying to save virtuous white womanhood.

This is all a lie but it really has informed public policy. It's informed the way in which we do policing in this country. It's informed segregation

in public schools and in neighborhoods. So, Michelle and Barack Obama really pushed back against that.

And so, even though we thought we were getting a new beginning during this third reconstruction, alongside of the Supreme Court Shelby V. Holder

decision, we see the end of a kind of racial justice consensus that had really been hard-fought. Had been fought during the first reconstruction.

Culminates during the second reconstruction. But paradoxically, that era is closed during the third reconstruction. A politics of backlash that it's

not inspired by Donald Trump, but Donald Trump becomes the main mobilizer of a backlash politics that is really over 150 years old in this country.

MARTIN: You've made a point several times of take -- being very specific about highlighting the roles of African-American women in these movements,

in these black power movements, both historically and in the current moment. And in fact, you've dedicated the book to your mother. And I'm just

wondering why is this so important to you. You've been very adamant about that in our conversation as well as in your book. Tell me why that's so

important to you at this moment to highlight the contributions of women?

JOSEPH: You know, I have been in the black feminist space since even before starting formal school because of my mother, Germaine Joseph. And I'd write

about being on picket lines and being influenced by her. She was my first teacher and historian. She taught me about Haitian history and black women

in Haiti and what they did and how, at times, they written of the story.

People focused on men like Toussaint L'Ouverture that focused on Dessalines. And I always took that to heart. And by the time I went to

graduate school I was fortunate enough to be able to study under Sonia Sanchez, the brilliant iconic poet in human rights activist.

And I studied black feminism there. And I was blown away by really studying the works of black women, Maria Stewart and Anna Julia Cooper, Ida B.

Wells, Frances Harper. And the way in which black women's theorizing has expanded notions of democracy, notions of citizenship and dignity.


And too often, by not placing their story as central and as co-architects of these movements for black liberation, we really lose one half of the

story, and we get caught up in patriarchal swashbuckling notions of liberation and freedom and citizenship and dignity.

I think the reason why Barack Obama became president is that he told us one story about us. It's a beautiful story in 2004 and 2008 when it wasn't a

complete story. I think black women tell us this story about ourselves that includes black men, that includes white and AAPI, indigenous and queer

people. But I think it's a story that's very expansive that allows us to come closer to a unifying vision of American democracy.

James Baldwin said, we could achieve our country when we finally stop lying about the past. And that dehumanization of black people in the past. Really

no other group has been as dehumanized in a way as black women. And if we stop lying about that past and we allow the way in which they tell their

stories and their narratives to inform how we think about the present and future, I think we're going to be in a much better place to think about

achieving our country and building that beloved community that Martin Luther King Jr., Baldwin, and all of us are aspiring towards.

MARTIN: So, Professor Joseph, what I think I hear you describing in this book is a struggle over what story about ourselves do Americans believe,

right? Which is the narrative that Americans actually embrace about our history and ourselves, right?

And interesting because you start the book with one narrative. You start the book talking about the murder of George Floyd by the Minneapolis

police. And you say that, publicly, his passing irrevocably shattered myths of racial progress in a country that had elected its first black president

less than a dozen years earlier. Which is a pretty sour message. But then you conclude the book a couple hundred pages later by saying that, I

believe that the struggle for black dignity and citizenship can be achieved in our lifetime. So, why do you say that? What convinces you of that?

JOSEPH: Well, it's the work of the reconstructionists and the black activists, black women and men, and queer folks, who really transformed and

galvanized this country, not just in 2020, but over the last 150 years. We need to tell the truth about the country, of the beautiful and the ugly

parts too. The tragic and the glorious parts of that history.

And if we tell that story, we can actually find much more common ground because we're able to empathize with each other's highs and lows. And we're

able to actually, in that sense, from a more honest perspective try to fix what is wrong and the shortcomings in the country.

So really, the story that I believe is the story that we haven't yet fully embraced yet. The story that 1619 Project contributes to. That Angela

Davis, when she's writing about black women during slavery from a jail cell in 1971 contributes to. And that's a story about us that is a much more

complicated version than we ever have learned in K through 12 than we're ever honest and open enough to discuss which these other.

Because these eras of reconstruction are the areas where culturally we come and we determine a history, a narrative, a story about ourselves that leads

the kind of rough consensus where we say, OK, we believe this and we are going to institutionalize this. The last time we did this during the second

reconstruction, we came to a 50-year consensus that actually produced not just Michelle and Barack Obama, that's how we have all the successful black

and brown, and AAPI folks, and women in the country.

Because we told ourselves a different story about democracy. A story that all those people who have been excluded could be in this new story. They

could go to Harvard University. They could become news anchors and business people. They could become president of the United States. We've lost that

over this last decade.

MARTIN: Professor Peniel Joseph, thank you so much for talking with us today.

JOSEPH: Thank you, Michelle. I enjoyed it.


GOLODRYGA: Well, we turn next to an extraordinary individual. A relentless champion of justice in the United States. Stephen Bright is an attorney

fighting for those he calls, the poorest of the poor. Often against the death penalty. Poppy Harlow brings us his story.


TONY AMADEO, FORMER DEATH ROW INMATE: When you're on death row, that's when the clock really starts ticking. He just said, I'm going to do my best. And

yes, he saved my life.

SHANNA SHACKLEFORD, FORMER ARSON DEFENDANT: I was like, I'm not going to make it through this. I can't do 25 years in prison.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The people that we've represented have been the most desperate, the most despised, unfortunately. And the poorest and powerless

people in the country.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Stephen Bright is a lawyer. But for his clients, he is their last hope.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Catherine Julia Harlow.

HARLOW: I met him the day that I walked into his class at Yale Law School.

STEPHEN BRIGHT, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: Thanks to them and thanks to their work, both in Atlanta and here. There's one less person facing execution in

Georgia today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Listening to him talk is like listening to justice.

BRIGHT: If we don't do better, we are going to have to sandblast equal justice under law off the Supreme Court building.

HARLOW: What does the Southern Center for Human Rights stand for?

BRIGHT: Represent people facing the death penalty and represent people in prisons and jails with regard to unconstitutional conditions and practices.

I wanted to go where the problems were and where I could be helpful.

HARLOW (voiceover): He has argued for capital punishment cases before the Supreme Court and he won them all.

HARLOW (on camera): You've often said, people are always much more than the worst thing that they've ever done.

BRIGHT: Of course. Tony Amadeo is a perfect example.

AMADEO: I get up in the morning, make myself a cup of coffee. I think about my blessings, what brought me here.

HARLOW (voiceover): Tony Amadeo served 38 years in prison for his involvement in two murders.

AMADEO: I'm responsible for their grief, my family's grief. I'm deeply, deeply sorry.

HARLOW (on camera): How close was Tony Amadeo to being put to death?

BRIGHT: Well, he came pretty close. But we basically through, sort of, a Hail Mary pass by asking the Supreme Court to take the case.

HARLOW (on camera): He won in a unanimous decision.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The evidence discloses an intentional program of rigging the jury by the prosecutor's office.

HARLOW (on camera): Why do you represent people that you know have committed murder?

BRIGHT: Everyone has to be represented if the legal system is going to work.

AMADEO: If you talk about a champion for change, you're talking about somebody that makes an individual commitment for the betterment of other

people. I'm getting emotional.

BRYAN STEVENSON, FOUNDER, EQUAL JUSTICE INITIATIVE: I certainly wouldn't have been the kind of lawyer I became without his model.

HARLOW (voiceover): Civil rights attorney, Bryan Stevenson, started working with Bright right out of law school. He would go on to found the Equal

Justice Initiative.

STEVENSON: In a lot of ways, it does become, like, ministry. I think you can't actually appreciate the burdens of the condemned, of the poor, of the

marginalized, if you haven't tried to carry some of those burdens.

HARLOW (on camera): You have to let your heart be broken.

STEVENSON: Yes, that's right. Steve made it safe to love the people you represent.

HARLOW (voiceover): Someone like Shanna Shackleford.

HARLOW (on camera): What happened in 2009?

SHACKLEFORD: My house burned down. I ended up getting blamed. We lost everything, ended up homeless, and I was charged with first degree arson.

They offered me 25 years at first.

HARLOW (on camera): 25 years in prison?

SHACKLEFORD: Yes, and then --

HARLOW (on camera): For a fire you didn't set?


HARLOW (voiceover): Then you wrote a letter to someone.

BRIGHT: I received a letter -- just two weeks ago, I received a letter.

SHACKLEFORD: Oh my god, I hadn't seen this letter in forever. I've lost my job. I've lost my home. I've lost my dogs. And I will sleep in my car.

BRIGHT: I'm tired and I'm beaten and I don't understand how to fight this. It's been days now since I've eaten.

HARLOW (on camera): So, bright took on her case for free.

What happened at the charges?

SHACKLEFORD: They were dropped.

HARLOW (on camera): Dropped because he had done a few weeks of investigation.

SHACKLEFORD: And it was determined that was actually an electrical fire.

HARLOW (on camera): How long has it been since you saw him?

SHACKLEFORD: About a decade now.

HARLOW (on camera): Well, what would you say to him if you got to see him?

SHACKLEFORD: Thank you for saving my life.

HARLOW (on camera): We thought it would be nice if you could tell him yourself.

STEVENSON: Because of his teaching and influence, he is doing more than most people to make sure that that legacy is carried on by new generations

of lawyers and advocates. But nothing's ever quite as good as the original.


GOLODRYGA: What an incredible champion for change. And finally, a poet's call for action. As world leaders arrive in New York, to the U.N. General

Assembly, Amanda Gorman took to the stage urging action on climate change, hunger, and poverty. The 24-year-old rose to fame at President Biden's

inauguration. At the U.N., she read in new work written especially for this occasion called, "An Ode We Owe".


AMANDA GORMAN, POET: I only ask that you care before it's too late, that you live aware and awake. That you lead with love and hours of hate. I

challenge you to heed this call. I dare you to shape our fate.


Above all, I dare you to do good. So that the world might be great.


GOLODRYGA: So powerful. One can only hope that leaders are listening.

Well, that is it for now. Thank you so much for watching. And goodbye from New York.