Return to Transcripts main page
Fareed Zakaria GPS
Nationwide Protests Continue In The Wake Of George Floyd's Death; Anger In America Reverberates Around The World; America's Policing Problem; The Coronavirus Race Gap. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired June 07, 2020 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN ANCHOR: This is GPS, the GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE. Welcome to all of you in the United States and around the world. I'm Fareed Zakaria coming to you live from New York.
ZAKARIA (voice-over): We'll start today's show with the problem with American policing. George Floyd, Philando Castile, Michael Brown, Brionna Taylor. All African-American, all dead at the hands of police.
Why does this story never seem to change? I will talk to the former secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson.
Also, Bogota, Toronto, London, Paris, and down under in Auckland. Cities around the world have come out to protest the death of George Floyd.
How did the American anger go global?
And before the protests, there was the pandemic and COVID is killing African-Americans disproportionately. Harvard's David Williams explains why.
ZAKARIA: But first, here's my take. I've not been one to argue that the United States under President Trump is on the verge of turning into a tyranny, but it is clear that left of his own devices, Trump would act with little regard to law or precedent or the Constitution. As president he's shown a willingness to shut down investigations into his conduct, offer pardons to those whose law-breaking he approves of, punish media organizations and social media platforms that, in his mind, are biased against him.
Even many of his supporters will privately say, we need not worry about Trump because his excesses are always checked. But the American system of checks and balances does not work through magic. It needs its other leaders -- judges, bureaucrats, generals, above all, politicians -- to speak out and act when they see blatant abuses of power. Some have done so. Most recently senior military leaders, but one gaping hole remains. That is the one inside the president's own party. On Monday evening in
Lafayette Square in the shadow of the White House, police in riot gear descended upon a peaceful protest, which is explicitly protected in the Constitution, and disbanded the demonstration using force and weaponry, including pepper balls, smoke canisters and rubber bullets. The protesters were not violating a curfew or committing acts of violence so the police used brute force on law-abiding citizens so that the president could stage a photo op, holding a bible in front of a church.
When asked to comment on this dangerous abuse of governmental authority, which flashed across every news channel and Web site in the world, the president's allies had this to say. Senator John Kennedy wouldn't comment because he, quote, "wasn't there," unquote. One wonders if he will from now on only comment on world events at which he is physically president.
Several senators, Ron Johnson, Mike Lee, Bill Cassidy, demurred because they didn't really see it, in Johnson's world. Senators Rob Portman and Mike Enzi said they were late for lunch. A few Republican senators did break with the president, but others went out of their way to defend him. Ted Cruz, who used to describe Trump as, quote, "utterly amoral" and a "pathological liar," unquote, said the only abuse of power was by the protesters themselves.
In a brilliant essay in the Atlantic, the historian Anne Applebaum reminds us that collaboration is actually quite common. It is principal dissent that is rare. She invokes the nonfiction masterpiece "The Captive Mind" by the Polish boy Czeslaw Milosz which describes how collaboration provides a relief.
It means no more struggle with your ideals, no more internal turmoil. Once the collaborator has come to terms with his decision, Milosz wrote, "He eats with relish, his movements take on vigor, his color returns, he sits down and writes a positive article marveling at the ease with which he writes it."
Milosz could well have been describing Lindsey Graham who in 2015 said this about Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): He's a race-baiting, xenophobic religious bigot.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: Then in 2018 he announced on "The View" with a hearty chuckle that he no longer believed any of that. Applebaum notes that Milosz is one of the few writers to acknowledge the pleasure of conformity, the lightness of heart that it grants, the way it solves so many personal and professional dilemmas.
Explaining how Trump creates complicity, Applebaum cites a small example right from the start of his presidency. In the days after the inauguration, you remember he decided to insist that the crowds at his ceremony were larger than any before, though the evidence clearly contradicted him. Responding to Trump's speak, his press secretary then lied publicly and the park service altered photographs of the events.
Applebaum compares this action to the kinds of propaganda posters that the Soviet Union routinely put out, often about trivial matters which they knew their citizens would not believe. The point of the posters, she writes, was not to convince people of a falsehood. The point was to demonstrate the party's power to proclaim and promulgate a falsehood. "Sometimes the point isn't to make people believe a lie, it is to make people fear the liar."
We can see how this process has worked in the Trump presidency. It started with a small matter of the inauguration photographs but kept on going. He then made bogus claims that he actually won the popular vote because millions of people voted illegally, that China pays for his tariffs, that Alabama was at risk from Hurricane Dorian, that wind mills cause cancer and that he did not pressure the Ukrainian pressure to investigate Joe Biden.
As president, Trump has lied or misled almost 20,000 times by "The Washington Post's" count. And Republicans have repeated those lies. At first hesitantly but increasingly with a lightness of heart, marveling at the ease with which they can justify their acquiescence.
If the United States does descent further down a dark path, much blame will lie with these Republican leaders, Donald Trump's cheerful collaborators.
Go to CNN.com/fareed for a link to my "Washington Post" column. And let's get started.
Let me bring in the former secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, to talk about all of this.
Jeh Johnson, let me begin by asking you -- thanking you for coming on and begin by asking you, we've all heard the criticisms of President Trump. If you were asked, if he were to summon you to the Oval Office and ask you what he should do, what advice would you give him or really any president, what can presidential leadership do at a moment like this?
JEH JOHNSON, FORMER U.S. HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Fareed, thank you for having me on. Fareed, in my lifetime, I think the finest example of presidential leadership was March 1965, when in the wake of Bloody Sunday, Lyndon Johnson, a white southerner as president, went to a joint session of Congress and proclaimed, we shall overcome, and literally embraced the words of the Civil Rights Movement.
I would advise a president in office now to do the same. I believe there would be an almost exact parallel in history if our president went to the Oval Office, any other national podium, and embraced the grievance that many across America see and believe, Black Lives Matter. Now, for reasons you and I can debate for another hour, this
president, Donald Trump, is unwilling or unable to do that, but he's starting a point for national leadership in this circumstance is to acknowledge the grievance and acknowledge the validity of the grievance.
There are more specific solutions to policing an America that I believe need to be addressed state by state, city by city, but it has to start with national leadership recognizing the grievance and encouraging all other Americans to do so.
ZAKARIA: Do you know one of the things that I think people -- that fuels some of the frustration is a sense that, while this president has not, previous presidents have acknowledged these grievances. Of course, most prominently your president in the sense that the president under whom you served, Barack Obama, and I think people feel that -- at the level of Washington, at the level of national leadership, people seem to say, yes, there's a problem, but you have two black attorney generals, you had a black secretary of Homeland Security yourself, you had a black president, and somehow the day-to- day experience of an African-American when dealing with a cop, a prosecutor, a judge, a jailer, doesn't seem to change.
JOHNSON: Well, I think your question answers much of itself. In 2008 when Barack Obama was elected, we all believed that this was a moment in which we had made a major step toward a more appropriate union, and we did. The reality, however, is that no president in eight years or no secretary of Homeland Security who is black in three years or an AG in eight years can eradicate from every police department across this nation those with a racist heart and who exhibit this type of depravity that we saw in Minneapolis.
That is a continuum of an effort over multiple administrations. This administration, unfortunately, seems to want to take us several steps backward.
ZAKARIA: Do you -- when you look at this issue, you headed the agency that has the largest number of federal law enforcement officers. Would you -- would you accept the argument or the criticism that law enforcement in America has a systematic racism or systematic bias within it?
JOHNSON: Fareed, I think it depends upon how you define the question, how you define the term. Defined broadly enough one could say that there is systematic racism across every institution in America. Dependent upon how you define the term.
The way I look at the problem, I see not so much a matter of training, but the type of people we are recruiting to our nation's law enforcement. There is no level of training that could remove from the heart of this police officer who snuffed out George Floyd's life the level of depravity and perhaps, I'm almost certain, a racist attitude that we saw on the streets in Minneapolis. And so, I think we need to take a hard look at whether we are recruiting people who want to protect and serve, or we want to recruit people who are simply the neighborhood bully or the neighborhood bad ass.
And I think that's where the problem lies, along with reminding our nation's law enforcement that in some circumstances, you have to de- escalate a situation and not simply escalate the rising tensions that exist. Police officers, in my view, need to be encouraged every once in a while to use common sense and remind themselves, OK, I'm -- I have a chokehold on this individual, but what brought me to this moment was that a counterfeit $20 bill.
So what exactly am I doing here? Is it really worth it? And I used to say this all the time to officers in ICE, in enforcement and removal operations, that one incident has the ability to undermine your entire mission in a community in which you operate.
ZAKARIA: Let me ask you, Jeh, how do you think about this personally? And I want to read to you a quote from your grandfather, who's very distinguished black sociologist who became the president the Fisk University. And in it he says -- this is -- he's writing in '56, when he was still under Jim Crow in the south. "It's expected that Negro Southerners as a result of our limited status in the racial system would be bitter or hostile. Bitterness grows out of hopelessness and there is no hopelessness in this situation."
Do you think -- and then he goes on to say, "Faith is the ultimate strength of the democratic philosophy and the code of the nation, and has always been stronger than the impulse to despair." Do you think that, you know, young people seem to be saying maybe that your generation and your grandfather's generation we're too hopeful and not angry enough and that there should have been more anger and maybe despair and desperation?
JOHNSON: Fareed, I quote the words of Dr. Charles S. Johnson all the time. And I believe that to be true today in 2020. You asked me how I feel about the current situation personally. As a black man, of course, I'm outraged at the murder at the hands of our nation's law enforcement of another black man.
I think the better and more challenging question, however, is how do all the rest of us in this country feel, how does the soccer mom in Fairfield County, Connecticut, or the cattle rancher in North Dakota, or Lindsey Graham in South Carolina feel about this outrage?
Minneapolis is not a black problem. It is an American problem. Equality before the law is as American as the flag. And so we will have change when all Americans come to realize that this is a problem and that black lives do matter.
And so I take to heart my grandfather's words and I continue to believe in them as representative of the character and fiber of our nation.
ZAKARIA: Jeh Johnson, pleasure and honor to have you on, sir.
JOHNSON: Thank you, Fareed. ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, the protests against the death of George Floyd
have gone global. How did that happen?
ZAKARIA: It isn't just American cities that are protesting the death of George Floyd, it's London, Paris, Auckland and Perth, Cape Town, Nairobi, Rio and Buenos Aires.
How did the American anger go global?
Joining me now are Ben Judah and hopefully Nesrine Malik will join us shortly. They are both journalists and authors.
Ben, when you look at this, how do you square it with the idea of what we've been hearing about, which is this sort of decline of American power. Has America declined but somehow yet has the power to inspire?
BEN JUDAH, RESEARCH FELLOW, HUDSON INSTITUTE: I think it's very important to remember that a political empire and a cultural empire are not the same thing. And they've never been the same thing historically. Indeed, if we look back at the decline of the Roman empire, political decline sets in the Rome a good 200 years before the eventual eclipse of the dominance of Roman culture. One could say that Roman culture is still with us to this day.
What's very interesting to me right now is that as the face of the American political empire, which is very much in crisis, the old ideological west, is this caricature of white America, the face of American cultural power, cultural charisma and soft power, which is resonating around the world is the face of black America.
ZAKARIA: That's fascinating. And so, when you say, Ben Judah, that it's the face of the cultural power, you're thinking of social media, Instagram, all that kind of thing as having sort of inspired or facilitated these protests?
JUDAH: I a think key thing to remember is that this is a social media phenomenon. We live in an age of social media politics. We live in an age where politics has been dominated in a lot of ways over the last 15 years by sudden leaderless social media protests from Egypt to Russia to Ukraine to France, and Instagram as a platform is dominated by America, its charisma, its culturally American. And at the heart of that is black American talent, black American artists and celebrities, which millions of people around the world look up to.
So, if we look at Britain, France and Germany, these are all countries with roughly or just over 20 million active Instagram users. They've been exposed from the beginning to the protests and been inspired by what they've seen there.
ZAKARIA: Nesrine Malik, I think you're joining us from Cairo. Welcome. How much of this is an anti-Donald Trump protest, or is that reading too much into it? Does Trump figure into these protests around the world?
NESRINE MALIK, COLUMNIST, THE GUARDIAN: I think he does figure but only figures as a response, as opposed to a trigger. There's kind of two stages to the current wave of the protests. One was a spontaneous one that has no relation to Trump or the administration or indeed the sort of awakening of far-right energy in the U.S. at the moment.
But I think the response of Donald Trump and his administration and the security forces and the police has poured oil on the flame and has retriggered a much more intense reaction. So, I think there is a Trump angle, but it wasn't what triggered the protests in the first place.
ZAKARIA: Ben, is there a common element to these protests? You know, are they about Floyd, about racism in general? How would you describe it? Because it feels like a moment like the '60s where suddenly these protests are erupting all over the world.
JUDAH: Over the last five years we've seen a rise in far-right nationalism across many of the countries where protests are taking place. In many ways there's been a contest across the kind of greater Western world between national populists and between post nationalists cutting through our culture. And if we look at France where there have been large protests, this is a country where in recent polling Marine Le Pen is around 40 percent.
If you look at Germany, there's been a long run of high polling over the last few years of the AFD, far right party, and in the UK there's a big sense amongst the protesters that their voice hasn't been heard in a country that voted for Brexit. So, I think that there is a common awakening and desire to stand up amongst millennials and Gen Z against that wave that began in 2016 and may well have crested.
ZAKARIA: Nesrine, you're coming to us from Cairo and I'm interested in what that region's, to the best you can sense, response is because there of course you had this extraordinary protest called the Arab Spring that then turned into an Arab winter with civil war chaos and the return of dictatorship in many countries. Is there still hope there?
MALIK: Well, I mean, that's -- again, there's two parts to that, to the answer. One is the fate and the treatment of black people in the Middle East and North Africa is really poor. And in solidarity from this part of the world with African-Americans is to be taken with a huge pinch of salt. There's loads of issues with sort of Arab-on-black racism, particularly from Sub-Saharan Africa in North Africa.
The second part is that I think the Arab Spring's experience and what Ben was saying earlier about this sort of potential of social media to bring people together and be a revolutionary force I think is a really good solitary tale as to how we can get carried away in all these narratives about youth and technology and globalization, that are going to sweep away the old order, but what actually happens if the old order comes back fighting, you get a sort of dictatorship redux. And so I think the comparisons are not that many but that the one that
I think is accurate is that we need to be a little bit careful in overinvesting in the promise of social media and youth and technology because the establishment is actually far more powerful than all of these things put together.
ZAKARIA: Fascinating conversation. Nesrine Malik, Ben Judah, thank you for coming.
Next on GPS, some in law enforcement themselves admitted American policing today has serious flaws. What exactly is the problem and is there a solution? I'll talk to Shaila Dewan who covers policing for "The New York Times."
ZAKARIA: George Floyd was simply the latest high profile death of an African-American at the hands of police. These killings have led many to wonder what is at the root of the problem with policing in this country. My next guest has written extensively on the issue. Shaila Dewan is a National Reporter for "The New York Times".
Welcome Shaila. I wanted to start by noting some of your reporting in which you point out that Derek Chauvin, the officer who killed George Floyd, had 17 complaints about him, but had received only two reprimands - official reprimands and one verbal one.
I read somewhere else that when police officers are accused of this kind of misconduct and found guilty only 40 percent of the time of 45 percent of the time, do they actually get dismissed, because there's always an appeals process. So can you just explain to us quickly what are the protections that make it so hard to go after the police for misconduct.
SHAILA DEWAN, NATIONAL REPORTER & EDITOR, NEW YORK TIMES: There are so many protections in place for police. A lot of them are civil service protections. So, for example, these officers got hired immediately, but they have a chance to appeal that decision. And so that 46 percent figure you're talking about is actually the number of officers who were fired, who were then later reinstated through the appeals process. So that's one thing.
A lot of times these complaints are investigated by the police and an internal affairs division within the department, so it's not a fully independent review. When you try to see independent review put in place in the form of civilian review boards, you often find great frustration from the people appointed to those boards that their recommendations have no teeth, that they're ignored, and that they don't have a lot of power to actually police the police. So those are few of the things that are in place that keep police from being held accountable from this conduct.
ZAKARIA: We also hear a lot about police unions, which are actually growing at a time when most unions are shrinking. Explain how that how that works.
DEWAN: The unions have a hand in all of these protections, when you think about it, because their job is to negotiate contract provisions. And that includes protections like appeal, like rules about when and how soon officers can be interviewed after something happened. They give money to prosecutors who are elected, so they have some power there.
They have power in the statehouse for laws like one in New York that protects police misconduct - shields misconduct from public view. So the unions are quite often fomenting conflict between the rank and file and the leadership, that's kind of what they live on. And they are often great obstacles to reform - all types of reform. You've already heard the union chief in Minneapolis saying he's going to try to get those officers their jobs back.
ZAKARIA: You wrote a story last week saying --of titled "Facing protests over the use of force. Police respond with more force." And I think a lot of people watch these videos where the police seem to be dealing with peaceful protesters using extraordinary amount of force. And I'm always struck by this.
When there's this great onus on the protesters that they must always be peaceful and nonviolent, with which I agree. But then the police, in response to those peaceful nonviolent protesters, seems to use, what appears on the video, certainly to be an unnecessary, gratuitous, excessive use of force.
DEWAN: That's right. And I think this is one of those deja vu moments that is happening here, because not only are we seeing another black man die saying "I can't breathe."
But also after the Ferguson protests, the federal government reviewed the response and said that the police there unnecessarily upped the ante, escalated the violence and kind of created some of the unrest themselves. So we know this.
We already have learned this lesson and yet you still see the police responding with these phalanxes of cops in riot gear with their batons. And then, of course, you see these individual scenes play out of conflict between officers and residents that are very hard to watch.
And I do think that it's important to point out that mass crowd control and mass demonstrations are one of the most difficult, if not the most difficult, situation that police departments have to deal with. They have to calibrate how much force and what type of response is needed and crowds are very unpredictable. So this is not an easy situation. But we are seeing that lessons learned are not sticking.
ZAKARIA: Well, and to add to it all, there are 18,000 police departments in the country that would have to reform simultaneously almost. Shaila Dewan, pleasure to have you on. Really enjoyed your reporting. Thank you. DEWAN: Thank you.
ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, before the unrest over the death of George Floyd, the coronavirus, was taking up all of the headlines and our attention. Why that crisis, the pandemic disproportionately affects African Americans too. When we come back.
ZAKARIA: In early April, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards made a stunning announcement. He said that at the time 70 percent of the coronavirus deaths in his state had been African-Americans, who only make up about 30 percent of the state's population.
Today's nationwide numbers show great disproportionality. American - African-Americans account for 23 percent of all COVID deaths in the United States, even though they make up just 13 percent of the population. That means their death rate is almost double what it might be. The question is why?
My next guest David Williams has the answers. He is a Professor of Public Health at Harvard. Welcome, David. So explain simply what is it that is producing this disproportionate death rate for African- Americans?
DAVID WILLIAMS, PROFESSOR OF PUBLIC HEALTH, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: Thank you. Great question, and it's good to be here with you today. I think the important point to remember is that the pattern we see with COVID for African-Americans, we've seen for more than 100 years for every major leading cause of death in the United States.
So it's true for heart disease, it's true for diabetes, it's true for infant mortality, it's true for hypertension. Across the board, we see this pattern. So it's not a new pattern. It's just that COVID-19 has shone a bright light on a pattern that has existed for a long time, and we have not done as much as we could to make a difference.
What drives it? In virtually every country of the world, the strongest predictors of variations in health are income and education. African- Americans have markedly lower levels of income than whites. The latest data from the Census Bureau shows for every dollar of household income white households receive, black households receive $0.59; Latino households $0.72.
Importantly, the black-white gap in income today, that's 2018 data, is identical to the black-white gap in income in 1978. You heard me correct, I didn't misspeak. I said 1978, the peak year of the gains from the civil rights policies and the anti-poverty policies of the 60s and 70s.
Most of my students think we have made a lot more progress on closing the economic gaps in the United States. And as bad as the income data show, they understate the extent of racial differences in economic circumstances. Because income captures the wages, the flow of resources into the household. Wealth captures our assets, our economic reserves, our cash in the bank. And for every dollar of wealth that white households have black households have 10 pennies and Latino households have 12 pennies.
ZAKARIA: You said that in America, your zip code is a better predictor of your health than your genetic code, because the neighborhoods actually and their health and wealth matter a great deal.
WILLIAMS: That's correct. I'm not the only one who says that. Most public health experts in the U.S. today say that why do they? Why do we say that? Because where you live in these United States, for most people, determines where you go to school, determines the quality of education, determines your preparation for higher education, determines your access to good jobs later in life.
Where you live, determines the quality of neighborhood and housing condition. Determines the extent of exposure to physical, chemical toxic substances. Determines the quality of city services determines whether it's easy to exercise in your neighborhood and whether you have access to places where you can get fresh fruits and vegetables.
So most of the factors that drive health are powerfully patterned by place. In many metropolitan areas in the United States, there is as much as a 20 to 25-year gap in life expectancy from one neighborhood to another that's just a few miles away.
ZAKARIA: When we think about the kind of events of the last few weeks and you think about the lives of, say young African-American men in their encounters with law enforcement, dealing with the kind of inequities you're describing. You have done research that actually can almost quantify the level of stress that this kind of discrimination or inequity causes, and then how that stress impacts one's health.
WILLIAMS: That's correct. And I'll talk about three kinds of work that I have done. Number one, relevant to the current conversation. I, with other colleagues, published a paper two years ago, where we look at every police killing of African-Americans and whites in the United States, and over a three-year window. And then we looked at the mental health of the population in every state in the United States.
And we linked these two databases together. And we were able to document statistically that every police killing of an unarmed African-American led to worse mental health, not just for the family and friends, which would be understandable, but for the entire black population in the state in which it occurred for the next three months.
So we are showing the long-term impact and the community level impact on these. And importantly, it wasn't every police killing that did that. It was only police killings of unarmed black people that led to that outcome. It's the perception that that action was unjustified and unfair that seemed to be the aspect of it that drove these worsening mental health for the population. More broadly, I've done work on development measures to capture the stress of discrimination. These police killings - there are about 60 police killings of an unarmed black male on average each year. So there are lots of other things that affect African-Americans in their day to day life.
Let me tell you about one of the measures, it's called the everyday discrimination scale. And it captures the extent to which people are treated with less courtesy or respect and others, receive poorer service than others at restaurants or stores. People act as if you're not smart. People act as if they're afraid of you.
Little indignities on a day to day basis. But what the research shows? That people who score high on everyday discrimination have worse physical health, worse mental health. For example, pregnant women who report everyday discrimination during their pregnancy give birth to lower birth weight infants.
Persons who report everyday discrimination, high levels, have higher levels of high blood pressure, have higher levels of inflammation, have more rapid development of subclinical heart disease. One study finds that higher levels of everyday discrimination actually predicts premature mortality. The accumulation of these negative effects is literally killing people prematurely.
ZAKARIA: And I got to let you go at that - on that David Williams. Totally fascinating discussion and fascinating research. Thank you, sir.
WILLIAMS: Thank you so very much.
ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, you will hear the great insights into the roots of the black struggle in America from Martin Luther King. Wise words from more than 50 years ago.
ZAKARIA: My "Book of the Week" is Bryan Stevenson's "Just Mercy." We had Bryan on last week, and I've recommended this book before. But if you want to read this one book to help you think about the events of the past few weeks, this is the one I would recommend. It documents the unfairness of the American criminal justice system, but it does so with extraordinary balance and empathy and even grace. So wonderfully written book.
For the last look, I wanted to address a question that many people have asked me one way or another, especially people who live outside United States. The question is simple. Why is it that blacks seem to have such difficulty moving ahead in America? Don't other ethnic groups also face discrimination? Don't they also have to deal with poverty and exclusion?
This came to mind recently when I watched a short clip of Martin Luther King being asked that very question during a television interview in 1967. In two minutes, he brilliantly and eloquently answered the question.
He explained that blacks are unique and being the only ethnic group that was brought to America involuntarily in chains. They labeled as slaves until finally in 1865 they were freed. But even then, while a massive number of Europeans were coming into the country and receiving land in the Midwest and West, African-American slaves, despite having worked for 250 years in America, without ever being paid, received little to help them get on their feet.
I would add to this the willful destruction of the black family through much of American history. Because slaves were not treated as human beings but property, the law did not recognize their marriages nor even their rights over their children. Families were routinely and forcibly broken up.
After 250 years of slavery came 100 years of state sponsored discrimination, and then civil rights. But soon began what Michelle Alexander has called "The New Jim Crow," a system of policing and mass incarceration that has made it so that a black man in America has a one in four chance of being incarcerated in his lifetime. This is according to the sentencing project estimates.
Martin Luther King also put an emphasis on the psychological damage that was done. To maintain slavery and segregation there had to be an ideology of white supremacy, one that left lasting effects on both blacks and whites.
Here's King summing up his points.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARTIN LUTHER KING JR., CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT, LEADER: Emancipation for the Negro was really freedom to hunger. It was freedom to the winds and rains of Heaven. It was freedom without food to eat or land to cultivate and therefore was freedom and famine at the same time.
And when white Americans tell the Negro to "lift himself by his own bootstraps", they don't - oh, they don't look over the legacy of slavery and segregation. I believe we ought to do all we can and seek to lift ourselves by our own boot straps, but it's a cruel jest to say to a bootless man that he ought to lift himself by his own bootstraps.
And many Negroes by the thousands and millions have been left bootless as a result of all of these years of oppression and as a result of a society that deliberately made his color a stigma and something worthless and degrading.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: And that is why the situation for blacks in America is different.
Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)