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First of All with Victor Blackwell

DEM Strategists Share Blueprint For Winning With Black Voters; Mom: Adopted, Special Needs Son Facing Deportation To Haiti; Research: Racism Produces Subtle Brain Changes And Increases Risk Of Disease Among Black People. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired December 30, 2023 - 08:00   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: A war is not what deserves the most scrutiny, nor the days of cleanup. Instead, it's her follow up response when the questioner highlighted that omission. Today, why those nine words might be the most revealing and will the other second tier GOP candidates be able to capitalize? Michael Harriet is here on Haley and History.

Plus, the days of the symbolic fish fry and one time church visit are over. A strategist whose group is circulating that guidance in a new report is here to share how President Biden needs to revamp his approach to black voters. And an Indiana T, who was blind, nonverbal, has autism and cerebral palsy could be deported to Haiti at the start of the year. His mother says if he asked to leave, he might not survive there with us. I'm Victor Blackwell. Let's start the show.

What caused the Civil War? It is not a trick question. And it really doesn't matter who asks the question. Any response that does not mention slavery is the wrong answer. And asking you asking rather, what do you want me to say about slavery? That's the wrong follow up.

This week, Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley fumbled on all three points. And it created this striking moment at a campaign Town Hall in New Hampshire. Watch this.


NIKKI HALEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think the cause of the Civil War was basically how government was going to run the freedoms and what people could and couldn't do. Now I think it always comes down to the role of government and what the rights of the people are. And we -- I will always stand by the fact that I think government was intended to secure the rights and freedoms of the people. It was never meant to be all things to all people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the year 2023, it's astonishing to me that you answer that question without mentioning the word slavery.

HALEY: What do you want me to say about slavery?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No problem. You've answered my question. Thank you. (END VIDEOTAPE)

BLACKWELL: As the former governor of South Carolina, the first state to secede during the Civil War citing slavery, Haley has had to answer this question before. A day later, she did try to clarify her answer.


HALEY: Of course, the Civil War was about slavery. We know that. That's unquestioned. Always the case. We know the Civil War was about slavery. But it was also more than that. It was about the freedoms of every individual. It was about the role of government.


BLACKWELL: I want to talk about this with Michael Harriot, columnist at The Grio, author of Black AF History, The Un-Whitewashed Story of America. Michael, thank you for coming in.

MICHAEL HARRIOT, COLUMNIST, "THE GRIO": Thank you for having okay.

BLACKWELL: Okay. So when you saw this, and I want to say that the reason I wanted to talk with you, not only because of the book, but also you a few months ago wrote this kind of detailed history of Nikki Haley. What do we need to know that inform that answer?

HARRIOT: Well, we need to know that Nikki Haley is from South Carolina, which was the first state to secede but was it's also a Confederate embracing state, you know. The Confederate flag was removed -- moved from the South Carolina State Capitol until Nikki Haley was governor and she initially fought against it until nine black people were slaughtered in a -- in a Charleston church. So we need to know that to understand that Nikki Haley, first of all, she attended what we call a segregation Academy, a school that was named after an insurrection is weighed after the third. So those things inform Nikki Haley's view of slavery and the Civil War.

BLACKWELL: Yes. It's safe for me, initially here in the answer. And as someone who is live on television and sometimes misses a word screws up and answer the first answer to me, it was like, oh, well, she didn't say slavery. It's when the person said you didn't mention slavery. And she says, well, what do you want me to say about slavery? I mean, it's kind of like, well, why would I include -- include that? What do you want to hear about that?

HARRIOT: Right, exactly. And, you know, I want to be clear about this. That is identity politics, right? Like they would they like to talk about identity politics, when it, you know, relates to black people and Hispanic voters. But that's identity politics. That is playing the race card, also because Nikki Haley avoided the subject of slavery, to identify and to sympathize with a very specific kind of Republican conservative voter who's probably not even in New Hampshire, right?

Like that, she's talking about South Carolina conservatives. That was the political conservative reality that she grew up in. That's the landscape she used to pilot -- playing politics in. That was Donald Trump's administration that she served in. That was the South Carolina legislature that she served in that denied taking down the Confederate flag. That was the South Carolina that existed when she was governor. And that was the South Carolina that existed that led to a white supremacist killing nine people.


BLACKWELL: So Chris Christie is trying to capitalize off this. They are, I guess, the closest to one another still far behind Donald Trump in New Hampshire. And he says that she's just trying to, I guess, accommodate everybody with this. Let's watch.


CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: She's been having this problem for decades in terms of her answer about this. View back to running for governor in 2010, she said that the Civil War was about change versus tradition. She called slavery a tradition and change versus tradition. It's not change versus tradition, Phil, it's right versus wrong.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: She's asked a very simple question and responded with just a really incomprehensible word salad. This is not a candidate that's ready for primetime. Not that difficult to identify and acknowledge the role slavery played in the Civil War.


BLACKWELL: What do we need to know about I guess the history of her answers on this? Is this something that she is does often?

HARRIOT: Yes, she does that. She's been doing this since she's been in the South Carolina legislators. She has a history of doing this. And then you have to ask yourself, does this kind of person -- will this kind of person represent black people and -- and people of color when she's president, right? Like, what will she say, even when she's asked hard questions that's not about race? Will she just appeal to that certain constituency of Republican conservatives who embrace white supremacy who embrace that kind of tradition? Or will she stand up for the values that Americans believe in? Will she represent Americans and not just white Americans?

BLACKWELL: I wonder, though, and for people who care about this right? For people who are Republicans are right of center and they have a problem with this. Where do they go? Do you go then to Ron DeSantis who says, yes, slavery, but they are now blacksmiths? So they got some -- some skills out of it. We remember his controversy. Or do you go to Donald Trump, who says that, you know, immigrants are poisoning the blood of the country? What's the alternative if this is -- is, I guess, decisive for some people?

HARRIOT: Well, I guess if you're a Republican voter, you have to ask yourself, do you care about everybody in your country? Or do you care about these specific political issues? Because, honestly, if you're going to dismiss Nikki Haley, because of her views on race, then you can kind of dismiss all of the other Republican candidates too, because they have segments of this. They might not have fumbled it this badly. But this is what their party represents, right?

This is why these questions were asked, right? This is why this is a thing because they have denied the history of this country. They have denied slavery. They have denied Diversity and Equity and Inclusion. They have specifically engineered a platform that erases people of color and you have to ask yourself if you're a Republican voter, and you care about black people, are those two things incompatible?

BLACKWELL: Allright. Michael Harriot, thank you for coming in. I appreciate the insight there.

HARRIOT: Thank you for having me.

BLACKWELL: All right. We're now less than 48 hours away from a presidential election year. And there's already a tough mix of issues that candidates want voters to pay attention to. In January immigration will be out front in Washington when Congress and the White House pick up their funding fight again. Next year, the Supreme Court will have a role to play on the issue of abortion specifically access to abortion pills.

There's also plenty of anxiety about the economy despite good economic news. The Biden campaign appears to think that Bidenomics is the best way to connect with black voters. It was the focus of a speech the President gave ahead of the holidays in Milwaukee.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITE STATES: The fastest growth of black business ownership and over 30 years. Across the country, wages for workers are up black wealth is a record of record 60% since the pandemic. So many of you, look -- I mean, this is so from the bottom of my heart, we're just getting started. Black small business grow, everything benefits, the community benefits, everyone benefits, not a joke. And it gives hope, and prospects for people.

When you increase the middle class, the poor have a shot and the wealthy still do very well. The middle class does well and we all do well. That's what we call Bidenomics. And by the way, so far, we've created 14 million new jobs, more jobs in three years and any presidents created in four years.


BLACKWELL: Is that issue resonating with most black voters had a 2024. A group of strategist say they took notes on what worked in races in Michigan here in Georgia and what kind of outreach is actually effective.


Joining me now is one of those tragedies -- strategists I should say, Justin Kimon. He served as the statewide political director for Stacey Abrams 2022 campaign for Georgia Governor. And now he works with the Renegade Collective. Also with us is Andra Gillespie, Associate Professor of Political Science at Emory University and the person I go to whenever I have a poll related question.

Good to have both of you in. Justin, let me start with you, and what works because if you say what Biden is doing right now is not connecting and we've seen in polls a softening of the numbers with black voters and other demographics that he needs to win. What's wrong with that, and what is right with what you suggest.

JUSTIN KIMON, POLICY AND POLITICS FOR THE RENEGADE COLLECTIVE: So want to be clear, we're talking about what Democrats need to do in general, and this is bigger than what's going on next year in the 2024 election. We're looking at what's going to happen between now and 2045, when America is then going to be a majority-minority country. And so with that being said, we need early engagement with black voters. And we need an intentional strategy from the beginning of your campaign all the way throughout. And so no longer, we can't just accept the stop set to churches, and the fish fries --

BLACKWELL: And the fish fries, yeah.

KIMON: And all of those type of things. You have to have an intentional strategy. You have to go where the voters are. But it's more so about listening and paying attention. So when we think about investment, that word is usually tied to finances, but we're talking about investing your time in our communities, because we're not monoliths. And so investing that time in the community so that you can understand what the needs are. You can't prescribe something unless you understand what those pain points are.

And so what we're saying is just take Democrats in general need to take that time, spend more time in our community so that you can understand what the needs are, and then direct your policies and your statements and everything based upon that.

BLACKWELL: So we're two and a half weeks out from the Republican primary, but we're about 11 months out from general election. Is this if you look at the polls, five alarm fire, or is this something that needs a little more attention, as you look at black voters specifically?

ANDRA GILLESPIE, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL SCIENCE, EMORY UNIVERSITY: Well, it's somewhere in between. President Biden is going to have to put that multiracial coalition together in order to win in 2024. And given the fact that people are not particularly enthused about a rematch between him and former President Trump, you don't want to lose any votes. And so you have to do everything to touch voters. You increase voter turnout when you personally reach out to them and touch them. So I interpret this report as saying you need to do the effort of making sure that you're reaching voters, not in passive ways, not in indirect ways, but in direct and personal ways. And in some instances, reaching out to voters multiple times, particularly those who are new to the process so that they understand and that they're ready to show up and vote on election day.

BLACKWELL: Are you seeing any, I guess, increased urgency from -- I know you're not focused on the 2024 presidential campaign, this conversation is from the Biden Harris campaign.

KIMON: You can tell that there is a strategy that's in place. We can look at what was going on in October in September and the intentionality about spending time at HBCUs, and at homecomings and things of that nature. And those are great opportunities, but there has to be more. And it's not just about the presidential candidates and everything like that. It's about the down ballot races too, because there's a lot more at stake and a lot more that's going to be on the ballot than the President in 2024.

BLACKWELL: There's an economic message. And look, there's a good economic narrative that the White House has we know that their first ad that focused on young black men was about entrepreneurship.

KIMON: Absolutely.

BLACKWELL: But is that the best approach? Not a monolith. But is that the best approach into black voters? What does your report say? What do you all believe?

KIMON: I think we -- well, we believe that you have to have a multifaceted multi-pronged approach to it and having conversations about economics is extremely important. In the past when you -- when you're trying to connect with black voters, all the statements have been around legalization of marijuana and criminal justice reform. That does not speak to the totality of the black experience adding that economic piece and focusing on entrepreneurship is important because we know that that's how you -- that's the pathway to economic freedom. And once you have economic freedom, then you can have freedom across the board.

BLACKWELL: Andra, when some Democrats point out that these numbers are weak or soft, not just with black voters, Latino voters, young voters, again, the coalition that the President needs. There are others who say, here they go again. Either they're, you know, Chicken Little or even saw from Senator Fetterman who said that James Carville should shut the F up about the President's numbers. How long does it take to turn these around? I can imagine that it's not going to be you know, third quarter of 2024 where you can do it.

GILLESPIE: We're going to see tightening over the course of the year with polling and so polls are a snapshot in time and they reflect where people feel now. If the election were today, this would be a five alarm fire. These numbers are going to look different in September and then October.


I think the lesson here is that you shouldn't take black voters for granted. I remember years and years ago, working for a democratic pollster and talking to campaign aides were an unnamed congressional campaign who saw soft numbers among blacks and was like, whatever, they're going to turn out and vote 90% democratic. That's not always guaranteed. And even if they do vote 90% democratic, it's a question of do they turn out at rates that are going to allow Democrats to be able to win. And so if I were in the Biden campaign, what I would take from messages like this is don't neglect black communities. And don't think that you can just do some one off event in a community that doesn't actually touch people personally, just make sure that you have a sustained presence in communities where there are people who are knocking on doors, personally talking to people, because that's going to be the best way to increase voter turnout, and to guarantee that you actually maximize the turnout within this very loyal constituency.

BLACKWELL: Under looking at the polls and preparing for this conversation others, there's something that has always bugged me. And I think as we shift, and you know, the calendar for Democrats, South Carolina coming up first, as close as these margins are in some of these swing states, we see that white voters in polling are broken down college educated, with only a high school degree above 50,000, below 50,000. And then its people of color, or black voters, maybe though separate Latino voters. I feel like that we need to know more about these specific groups than we do. Why are all people of color lumped together? But we can tell you, you know, what a suburban white mother who makes more than $50,000 believes about a certain issue.

GILLESPIE: It's a statistical power question that's based on the sample size. So if you're doing a statewide poll that has a thousand respondents in it, if it's going to be proportional across the United States, what we're going to be looking at is about 130 of those respondents are going to be African American. That's really not going to give you a whole lot of statistical power to be able to do that type of granular breakdown. It's going to be similar when you're breaking this down, you know, state by state, depending on how large the black or the Latino population is, you might not actually have enough people to really say anything unless you aggregate. So, you know, what this is a call for is to make sure that when we're doing public opinion polling, that we're actually sampling large enough groups of people that you actually can do that type of granularity. And I think this also speaks to the necessity of having surveys that are just of African Americans and just of Latinos.

I know in my own field in political science, we have certainly suffered from this. And so my friends, largely at UCLA have created an election year survey for presidential election years, that has thousands of respondents of color to allow us to make those types of granular things. But we don't have the money to do it all the time, you know, in the same way that we would like to and you know, it's cost prohibitive, you know, according to news organizations.

BLACKWELL: Well certainly as we get deeper into the Democratic primary looking even at 2028, 60% of the Democratic primary voter base, there is black. So separating these different parts of the electorate, I think is necessary. Andra, Justin, thank you so much for being with me this morning.

KIMON: Okay.

BLACKWELL: A mother in Indiana says that her adopted son with special needs is facing deportation to words if he -- that he will die if the U.S. government sends him back to Haiti. She joins us to explain the ordeal. Plus a New Year new special from Dave Chappelle what topics the comedian is expected to tackle this time after the controversies of the last Netflix special.



BLACKWELL: Most people regardless of political affiliation agree that the U.S. immigration system is broken. And when I say immigration you might envision migrants crossing the border of 10,000, backlog asylum claims.

This morning, I want you to hear a very different story. It's about a teenager who's been in the U.S. for 15 years. He's been adopted by a loving family, but he could be forced to leave and he may not survive. His name is Jonas. He was born in Haiti. He's nonverbal. Blind, has autism and cerebral palsy. He came to the U.S. in 2008 on a medical visa and was eventually adopted by a family in Indiana. But his mother Rebekah Hubley says the documents necessary to allow him to stay were destroyed in the Haiti earthquake in 2010. Rebekah says she's tried for years to get all this sorted out. But then a couple of weeks ago, days before Jonas's 18th birthday, Rebekah says that she received the letter saying that if Jonas doesn't voluntarily leave the country before January 2nd, he may be deported. And a word now is that this would be a death sentence given what it takes to care for Jonas. She shared a video with us showing his morning routine. Here is some of what it's like.


REBEKAH HUBLEY, ADOPTED SON FROM HAITI FACING DEPORTATION: This is his bed looks more like a fortress. So, and it marks -- this keeps him super safe. These windows are Plexiglas like quarter inch. He's so strong. He's busted. He's 17, almost 18. They still change him like I would infant.

Good job. Step up. Good job. Step up. Keep going.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Okay. There we go. Good job, buddy.

HUBLEY: And now, I'm buckle him in. And we'd be on our way to school.


BLACKWELL: Well, CNN reached out to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services but we were told they will not comment on individual immigration cases. Rebekah and Jonas are with us now. Good morning to you.

Rebekah when I -- I read through the story, I couldn't believe that at some point somebody wouldn't come in and use some discretion and say this boy soon to be a man has to say in this country. You -- you knew you wanted to -- to adopt. You have three children. Your eldest is blind. So when you saw Jonas on an adoption page, you read that he was visually impaired. You knew this was your son. Brought him here, everything was fine. When did things start to go wrong?

[08:25:20] HUBLEY: So after, you know, going through all of the immigration process -- sorry, for one second, Jonas is just going to hop out here. Going through all the immigration process, they asked you for all sorts of documents and everything. And in June, they asked us for some, it's called RFP. Its request for evidence. And it was a request for something to prove that he had physically lived with us for more than two years. And legally, we had to have -- they requested like an original birth certificate from Haiti, which obviously that was destroyed those types of things. I had copies of all of that stuff.

But one of the things like when you go to the DMV, and they say, you know, you need these things to prove where you live for your license. Well, they gave a list of like six different things you could choose for, to prove residency. One was school records. And so I went down to the school, I got all the records. And it was on like five pieces of paper. Every single page was notarized. Everything was signed, documented, there was a staple. And when I put this packet together, descend into USCIS, I even put sticky notes on each, like small packet to show them what this was supposed to go for regarding the evidence.

And then when we get up got the denial letter, I was -- I was dumbfounded, because they said I only turned in school records for the '23, '24 school year. So that did not prove two plus years of residency, which has to be for this specific form. And I thought --

BLACKWELL: They just didn't flip through the pages and see the rest of what you submitted.

HUBLEY: Well we did not -- we turned over a page. I -- and it's one thing to say, oh, we need more evidence. But to then go from that to well, he's got 33 days to voluntarily leave the U.S. or, you know, face deport -- deportation. I thought, how is this? You know, USCIS says that they -- they go on everything individually and ethically and humanely. The actions are completely outside of their mission statement.

BLACKWELL: Well, Rebekah, I don't want people to think that this comes down to just from June to December. You've been working for years since he's been here renewing the visa every six months. And the documents that they need from Haiti, those aren't -- aren't available. Do you believe that it is realistic that you'll get to January 2nd, and that someone will come to take your son to return him to Haiti?

HUBLEY: I mean, that's -- it wouldn't even be a script in Hollywood. I can't imagine because it doesn't say like on January 2nd, you know, ice is going to come and deport him. But he has been out of compliance with Department of Homeland Security. He's out of compliance with USCIS. They can stop any forward movement with his immigration papers and then start deportation hearings. I mean, it's just, it's insane.

BLACKWELL: You wrote a letter in Jonas, his voice that you posted on Facebook, addressing President Biden and what you -- you and he have had it dealt with? Has there been any phone call, any response other than the expected or the letters that you've detailed saying that you're not in compliance? He's not in compliance, and he could face deportation. Has any person reached out and said, all right, we've got to figure this out.

HUBLEY: You would think so. But no, unfortunately, they have not. I really would love a phone call, but nothing's happened. It's pretty much been crickets.

BLACKWELL: So what is your next step, then?

HUBLEY: That's a great question. Our attorney, someone hired an attorney for us, thank God. And she did all of our submissions last week to petition to reopen his case, because in the denial letter, it also says that this cannot be appealed. And so she did all of that legwork, and then it was the holidays. And so everyone was gone. And we just wait. And they said it's going to be expedited.

Our senator and Congressman said that it's an expedition right now. But what does that mean for USCIS when you're waiting years for one document? What does expedition mean? I think they run on a completely different vocabulary timescale, maybe on a different planet than where we are.

BLACKWELL: Rebekah, I don't want to have this whole conversation about the work to keep Jonas here without you telling us about Jonas. Tell us about your son.


HUBLEY: Jonas is an amazing kid. Obviously with autism and different things, I was hoping he could be here beside me the whole time, but there's a lot of unpredictability. I say the only thing I can predict in Jonas is that he's unpredictable. But he's a happy kid. He loves his family. He loves his school. He gets to go to school every day. He loves -- when it's warm out, his favorite place to be is his we've got a big, enclosed trampoline in the backyard. His favorite thing is food. He eats --

BLACKWELL: Like any 17-year-old boy, his favorite thing is food.

HUBLEY: Yes. And so but, yes, times five.


HUBLEY: So he, you know what, he -- he's happy. I wish I could know what he was thinking. I wish I could know what he was -- what he wants all the time, but he's a happy boy.

BLACKWELL: We'll Rebekah --

HUBLEY: And he's safe.

BLACKWELL: Rebekah, listen, I hope that in the next week or two, someone will call you, they will see this and say that there's an issue with paper but he is with a loving family and has been for 15 years. We will stay in communication and update everyone as you try to resolve this. Rebekah Hubley joining us, trying to keep her son, Jonas, with her family. Thank you so much.

HUBLEY: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Coming up, new research on racism, trauma and the impact that you may not realize that dealing with discrimination has on our brains.



BLACKWELL: Well, racism has an impact on our mental and emotional health. We've known that for some time. But now researchers say that racism impacts our physical health too. A team of experts, they write that racism-related changes in the brain and their direct effects on coping may help to explain why Black people are twice as likely to develop brain health problems such as Alzheimer's disease compared with white people.

Dr. Negar Fani is one of the researchers looking into this. She's a clinical neuropsychologist and associate professor at Emory University here in Atlanta. Doctor, thank you for being with us. I was floored reading the findings of this report is that you can look at a scan of the brain and see the impact of racism, explain that.

DR. NEGAR FANI, CLINICAL NEUROPSYCHOLOGIST: It's pretty striking. So what we've been able to see is that there are functional and structural changes that happen in the brain over time with increased exposure to racism. And by that, I mean, there are different types of racism, the type of racism that I study the most is racial discrimination.

BLACKWELL: So when you say that the different types, we're not talking about overt slurs that have been periodically, we're talking about a continuous kind of systemic approach that impacts the brain.

FANI: Yes, absolutely. So I mean, I studied both. So it could be something that's very overt. But, you know, many times the type of racism that people experience are in the form of micro aggressions. So these are kind of subtle slights or indignities that people face on a day to day basis. And they may be verbal or overt or they may be covert, or implicit. They may be behaviors, so they don't have to be verbal. And they don't have to be intentional either. Many times people unintentionally engage in these kinds of behaviors.

BLACKWELL: So what are the changes? What do you see in a brain that's been impacted by racism?

FANI: Yes, so what we've been able to see is that there's greater activity in areas of the brain that are involved with vigilance for threat. So there is a greater vigilance that comes about as a result of being experiencing racism on a chronic basis. There's also greater activity in areas of the brain that are involved with coping and self- regulation.

So the parts of the brain that sort of put the brakes on our emotions and help us figure out what is our next steps, what we need to do next. And that's in the prefrontal cortex. And so our brains are designed to sort of use these regulatory areas of the brain kind of on a short term basis. But, you know, over time, we can't sort of engage in high effort coping and self-regulation, it wears down the brain. It degrades the brain.

BLACKWELL: What are the consequences?

FANI: So it can lead to increased risk for health problems down the line. And that includes problems like dementia's like Alzheimer's disease, which is twice as prevalent in black people compared to white people. But it can also influence, reflects the behaviors like emotional eating, for example, or using substances to deal with the distress that you feel.

BLACKWELL: So I'm wondering what then do we do with this? If the -- we have to cope, we have to find a way to self-regulate, we have to find a way to weather as this term I'm learning. What do we do if all of that is all we have?

FANI: Right. I mean, this is a real stressor that people face on a day to day basis. And I mean, what we need to do is obviously get rid of the racist.

BLACKWELL: Right? Yes, yes.

FANI: But on an individual basis, so something that I talked to people about as a therapist is mindfulness activities. So mindfulness is a practice that involves being more connected with your body in the present moment and this is a way of coping with stress, different types of stressors including racism-related stress. That helps you sort of validate your own emotional experience. So I think, you know, part of the stress that people experience is not just experiencing the slights or discrimination, but the kind of self-questioning that's involved with it, like, was that really race related? Is that discriminatory? And second, all the second guessing really engages these regulatory areas of the brain and that leads to this erosion. But mindfulness practices are involved with centering yourself in the present moment and validating and acknowledging your emotional experience, so you can move on.


BLACKWELL: Dr. Negar Fani, thank you so much for bringing this to us. It is remarkable that you can look at the braid and see the impact of racism. Thank you so much for being with us.

FANI: Absolutely.

BLACKWELL: Coming up, Ye puts out an apology in Hebrew for anti- Semitic comments ahead of what's expected to be a new album coming out in January. Van Lathan is here to react to that and more, next.



[08:45:17] MORGAN FREEMAN, AMERICAN ACTOR AND FILM PRODUCER: What do you dream about? Not the dreams you have in your sleep. The ones you hold in your heart. Don't be intimidated by the audacity of your dream. Be inspired by it. What happens to a dream deferred? Lucky for Dave, he doesn't know.


FREEMAN: The Dreamer.


BLACKWELL: New special from comedian Dave Chappelle is coming on New Year's Eve tomorrow to stream on Netflix. They say Chappelle gets into the incident back in 2022, where he was attacked while on stage in Los Angeles. He'll also have a take on the Will Smith-Chris Rock slap at the Oscars follow up to his 2021 Netflix special, "The Closer," which got a lot of attention, especially for featuring jokes that some believes were transphobic.

Let's talk about this with Van Lathan. He's the co-host of The Ringer's Higher Learning Podcast. Van, good morning to you. You know, I expect that he'll get into some issues more substantive than the attack in 2022 and his own slap. He's probably the only comedian people are waiting to hear his take on Israel and Gaza and serious issues as well. What's your expectation?

VAN LATHAN, HOST, "HIGHER LEARNING" PODCAST WITH VAN LATHAN AND RACHEL LINDSAY: Yes, I think that I think there are a lot of people that are waiting to hear him talk about some of the things that you just mentioned. I mean, Dave Chappelle's social commentary has become almost as important as his comedy over the last couple of years. So I think a lot of people are, they want to hear what he thinks on the stage about the slapper about the attack that took place in Los Angeles.

But, you know, over the last year, over the last couple of months, I should say since everything's happened, post October 7th. He's been doing comedy. And there have been reports of a lot of different incidents between -- incidences between him and people in the audience, of people actually taking issue with some of the commentary or the thoughts that he has about the way Israel's prosecuting the war.

So I think that he is going to probably lean in heavy in that. And I think that it's another opportunity for him to test the limits of what he can say on stage because the question is whether or not using the Dave Chappelle critical eye on that issue is a third rail on that. I guess we'll see when the comedy special drops.

BLACKWELL: Yes. Let's talk about Ye now. And I think a lot of people remember your words to Kanye when you were at TMZ. He's posted an apology. It was in Hebrew on social media. I'm going to read the English translation here. I sincerely apologize to the Jewish community for my unintended outbursts caused by my words or actions. It was not my intention to hurt or disrespect and I deeply regret any pain I may have caused. I'm committed to starting with myself and learning from this experience to ensure greater sensitivity and understanding in the future. Your forgiveness is important to me, and I'm committed to making amends and promoting unity. First, your reaction to the apology, the timing. He's got an album coming out in January.

LATHAN: Yes, so I'm down here in Baton Rouge visiting family. And the last thing I would do, as I sit here, literally on the campus of Jimmy Swaggart around me is poo-poo and apology. That's not a Christian thing to do. I'm a good Christian boy, I can't do that. However, I do think that Kanye West has a higher standard that he has to mediate. OK. It's not necessarily about him apologizing for anything that he said that was unintended, which I don't understand how it will be unintended. He seemed like it was pretty straightforward what he was saying.

He compared himself to Hitler, let's not mince words. He once again brought up Hitler. So I think what people want to know now from Kanye West is, are you a Nazi or not, full stop? Like, are you a Nazi? Do you love the Nazis? Or why do you keep bringing them up? Why do you keep trying to usher them back into popular consciousness and relitigate what happened in World War II? And by the way, this is not a question specifically for the Jewish community.

I am a black man. I would like to know whether or not Kanye West represents Nazis, white nationalism, white supremacy, national socialism, and all the things that Nazi -- the things that the Nazis still fought. I think it's fair question to ask from a guy that we've loved as much. So I'm not sure that apology quite gets there. But I'm hoping in the future, he can prove that he's not a Nazi.

BLACKWELL: Yes, I mean, the Anti-Defamation League, the leaders have said that they appreciate this apology, just like you said, but there has to be more than just this post on social media to prove that this is more than just kind of paving the way for a new album. Do you think that he cannot just professionally but personally I guess resurrect himself, he's not left the forefront. He's still been making music. He's still been out publicly but that he can be the Kanye of 05/08/2010.


LATHAN: It's interesting. We want that so badly for him. And it's profound in a way that there are certain people right now that are dealing with Kanye West forever. I get it, I understand it. But then there's another group of people, that it's deeply uncomfortable and disturbing to watch him in the state that he is in, like, we want Kanye West to be happy, healthy and full because he was that inspirational to us in the past. But certain things you flirt with, and they just, they stretch the limits of your patience. And I guess your humanity, right, you don't want to give humanity for inhuman acts and things and atrocities like that. So he's got some work to do on himself and for his reputation, you know.

BLACKWELL: Yes, that post not enough. Van Lathan, good to talk to you. Thanks for coming on. We'll be right back.



BLACKWELL: If you're thinking in 2024, I'm going to get my money, right let's do it, because although there's great economic news, it's been tough for some people. Michelle Singletary is here to set us up for a better 2024. She's a personal finance columnist at "The Washington Post" and author of "What to Do with Your Money When Crisis Hits: A Survival Guide." Michelle, good to see you again. And we talked in the break.

Before people start opening up these savings envelope plans and getting into these susuze (ph), we want to give them excellent advice. So I want to go through a couple of your tips. First, you got to look at your monthly bank and credit card statements. You can't fix something you don't know the details of. Walk us through it.

MICHELLE SINGLETARY, PERSONAL FINANCE COLUMNIST, "THE WASHINGTON POST": That's right. So, you know, oftentimes people know they're in debt, but they don't know how much or how much they spent through the year. So this is a good time as the new year maybe not this weekend after you party. But next Monday or Tuesday, I want you to go back and look at your credit card statements for the year, look at your bank statements, get out of highlighter and highlight all your spending right there in your face so you can see what was going on for the year. And you can stop lying to yourself because people will good about lying to themselves about their money.

BLACKWELL: That's true. That's true.

SINGLETARY: You don't think you are. But you're like I didn't really spend that much and you most certainly did.

BLACKWELL: You say embrace the debt, not just be aware of it, embrace it.

SINGLETARY: That's right, you got to hug it like that teddy bear used to have as a kid. So you want to carry it around -- I want you to carry it around because if you embrace it, and it's ugly, then you're going to face it and try to pay it down. So I want you to get those credit card statements and keep them on your desk not out of fear, but incentive to pay them down. So, you know, there was a lot of spending over this holiday, despite the fact that, you know, some people are still struggling. But I need you and the new year to look at that debt. And I want you to punch it like that bully that mess with you in elementary school.

BLACKWELL: Oh, well, hey, violence. But, yes, punch your debt. Punch your debt everybody. All right, so this was interesting. The Social Security statement, even for people who aren't near retirement age, they should check it?

SINGLETARY: Absolutely. You want to know what you're going to get when it's time for you to step out of working full time. And that also is incentive because if you look at that, and you think, I can't live off of that. Perhaps you will rein in your spending, try to say change some things in your life so that you can free up some money. You know, and I've -- every time I do this, people are like, well, what about those people living paycheck to paycheck, they can't save anything. I understand that. I used to be there. You know, my grandmother used to struggle. So I understand the struggle. But that might mean that you got to change some things in your life.

And you know I am about this victim. Maybe you have to live with somebody, maybe your kids stay home, all three of my kids -- year-old, those are living at home, not because they have debt. We have debt for them because they're saving. So when they launch, stay launched.

BLACKWELL: Well, that sounds great. Oh, you all living in one roof. All right, let's talk about retirement savings. How often are we supposed to look at our retirement savings?

SINGLETARY: I would say about once a quarter and you're going to be looking at it right now. And you're going to find, if you've been saving, and you would diversify, that 2023 ended on a high note, the Dow was up, the S&P was up, NASDAQ. So if you looked at your statement, you should be very happy. But maybe you're not putting enough in there. So you want to look and see perhaps your overbalance in some areas, maybe you want to 60, 40, 60 percent stocks, 40 percent bonds, but it up turned because the -- did so well.

So now is the time to look at it this time of year and then in another three months and then another four months, around that time. Because if you look at it every day, or too often you might get scared because the market goes up and down. And then you start making decisions based on things that are happening in and now when you should be --

BLACKWELL: All right, Michelle Singletary, always good to see you. Have a Happy New Year. I appreciate the good advice.

All right now if you need inspiration, if you need another example of why you have no excuse for not going back to school here she is, 101- year-old Sarah Simpkins. She just wrapped up her first semester of college. Ms. Simpkins told CNN affiliate WWBT in Virginia that she dropped out of college when she was 20. We're talking the early 40s after she got pregnant. Well since she has now raised 12 children, it's her time.



SARAH SIMPKINS, 101-YEAR-OLD STUDENT: Something I had to do, they're very grateful that God has enabled me to do this.


BLACKWELL: Ms. Simpkins finished her first semester with two A's, one B and a 3.5 GPA. And when she crosses that stage in May, she'll be 102 years old and a granddaughter will be there getting a degree of her own. Ms. Sarah Simpkins, I see you. Thank you for joining me today. Smerconish is up next.