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Paula Zahn Now
Skin-Deep: Racism in America
Aired December 12, 2006 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: And good evening, everybody. Thanks so much for joining us.
Tonight, we have a very special hour for you. We're going to take you on a national journey tonight to look at a problem most of us would like to think vanished ages ago. We were all reminded of it after "Seinfeld"'s Michael Richards was caught on tape in that unforgettable, astonishing racist verbal assault on African-Americans in a comedy club audience.
The rant may have exposed the racism inside one man, but it has also made us curious: How much racism is there in all of us, just under the surface, that we're really not aware of or willing to admit?
Take a look at this new CNN/Opinion Research poll that we commissioned. Eighty-four percent of blacks, 66 percent of whites believe racism is a serious problem. Now, there are many different kinds of racism aimed at many different groups. Recent instances highlight that. And we will deal with them in future hours. But, tonight, we're going to focus solely on one aspect of it: white vs. black.
Today, long after the civil rights era, a more subtle style of racism has taken hold. We will explore where it hides and how it emerges.
We will see my interview with Oscar-winning actress Whoopi Goldberg on the racism she has faced in her life.
And will show you a test that you can take that reveals the hidden prejudice inside just about anyone.
But we start tonight with a disturbing outburst that riveted America's attention on this issue and sparked a national dialogue that will continue tonight.
Here is Ted Rowlands.
MICHAEL RICHARDS, ACTOR/COMEDIAN: Hey!
RICHARDS: Who wants to have some fun?
(LAUGHTER) TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For many people, Michael Richards went from kooky Kramer to...
RICHARDS: Do you really want to have fun?
ROWLANDS: ... to a ranting racist.
RICHARDS: And what happens when you interrupt a white man?
HARVEY LEVIN, MANAGING EDITOR, TMZ.COM: He's this goofy, lovable character. And that's all people know. And, suddenly, you see what looks like a monster on stage in living color. And it was stunning.
ROWLANDS: The night of the tirade, there were almost 300 people in the crowd. One caught the incident on their cell phone. Richards had been told he wasn't funny by a group of black audience members. Instead of brushing it off, he started screaming words of hate.
RICHARDS: He's a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) He's a (EXPLETIVE DELETED)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my God.
RICHARDS: (EXPLETIVE DELETED) Oh.
ROWLANDS: The rant was so disturbing and racist, it offended not only the people in the club, but thousands of others that saw the cell recording.
DARRYL PITTS, AUDIENCE MEMBER: He offended every African- American in this country with what he did.
ROWLANDS: Richards had a lot of trouble explaining what he had done. People at the club that night say, when it was over, even Richards himself seemed stunned by what he had said.
JAMIE MASADA, OWNER, LAUGH FACTORY: And I could see in his eye a tear, that his eyes, both of his eyes, were teary. And he just was, like, in a state of shock.
ROWLANDS: For days, Richards' rant made headlines around the country, serving as a reality check on racism against blacks in America, and forcing many people to look in the mirror and ask if what came out of Michael Richards was inside of them.
AL SHARPTON, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We still have to deal with race. And it brings race back to the dinner table for discussion, because it's not just some guys in white sheets 50 years ago down South. There are people that you and I accept every day that still harbor some very serious racist feelings.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN")
RICHARDS: I'm very, very sorry.
(END VIDEO CLIP) ROWLANDS: A few days later, Richards made his first apology on national television, which was awkward, and, to many, out of touch with the community he offended.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN")
RICHARDS: Said some pretty nasty things to some Afro-Americans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROWLANDS: African-American leaders were demanding much more, saying that Richards needed to specifically address their community with an apology.
NAJEE ALI, DIRECTOR, PROJECT ISLAMIC HOPE: The fact that he joked how African-Americans were lynched, with a fork stinking up their rear end, is something that I'm not prepared to say, I accept your apology. I think there more needs to be done.
ROWLANDS: Richards did appear on Jesse Jackson's radio show. Ronald Hasson, who is with the NAACP, was also on that show. He says, the racism that came flowing out of Richards' mouth is lying beneath the surface of many people.
RONALD HASSON, NAACP: We believe that this should be the conduit that -- which we can come forward to America, and say, we're going to end some of this hatred. We're going to begin to heal, not only a Michael, but help to heal society.
ROWLANDS: Michael Richards declined to be interviewed for this story. According to his publicist, he's getting treatment. But, after the Jackson radio show, he did say this about getting help.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's your next step?
RICHARDS: Personal work, deep personal work.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As in therapy, psychiatry, what?
RICHARDS: Yes, to get -- to get to the depths of my -- of anger, the issues of anger.
ROWLANDS: Anger and rage is the problem, not racism, according to Richards. But, given what he said in his tirade, to many, that simply doesn't add up.
TOM O'NEIL, SENIOR EDITOR, "IN TOUCH WEEKLY": On one hand, you have got to really give Richards a lot of credit for taking the blame. He didn't say, "I was drunk," or, "I was just kidding, and the joke went wrong." He admits he meant those words. But where he blows it is, he says, "Look, I'm not a racist."
Sorry. If you say those things, you're a racist.
ROWLANDS: It's unclear what this will do to Richards' career. He's supposed to voice a character in an upcoming animated film. The company behind the production had no comment about Richards' involvement.
O'NEIL: Michael Richards' career was probably over with before his racist rant. Now it's probably dead, whatever hope there was left. Maybe somebody is going to cast this guy into a role that he would have never gotten in a million years. You could believe it more if he plays a dark character, because he seems like a dark person. So, ironically, this could be a boost to his career.
RICHARDS: We're doing comedy here. And...
ROWLANDS: It's clear that the image of Michael Richards as Kramer has changed dramatically. The question is, to what extent will this image end up being a lasting impression?
RICHARDS: ... you cheap (EXPLETIVE DELETED)
ROWLANDS: Ted Rowlands, CNN, Hollywood.
ZAHN: And a verbal attack like that by a celebrity, caught on videotape, of course, is rare.
But, more often, modern racism hides in 1,000 places, and reveals itself in 1,000 subtle ways.
ZAHN (voice-over): Four decades after the civil rights era, you're still likely to find racism lurking most everywhere.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, it's there, yes. It's always there.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If I'm standing next to somebody, you know, they might check their back pocket, just to see if their wallet is there.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, it's very much alive.
ZAHN: Yes, racism is still alive, just waiting for a chance to surface.
MICHAEL RICHARDS, ACTOR/COMEDIAN: He's a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) He's a (EXPLETIVE DELETED)
SEN. GEORGE ALLEN (R), VIRGINIA: This fellow here, over here, with the yellow shirt, macaca, or whatever his name is..
ZAHN: So, if many Americans are still racist, what are the differences between race attitudes today and those of years past?
DR. JACK DOVIDIO, PSYCHOLOGIST/RACISM EXPERT: Contemporary racism, it's not conscious. So, people are not aware they have it. It's not accompanied by feelings of dislike. But what happens is, it gets expressed in subtle, indirect and rationalizable ways.
ZAHN: Like this scene from the movie "Crash."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "CRASH")
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Man, that woman in there poured cup after cup to every single white person around us. But did she even ask you if you wanted any?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: Up to 80 percent of white Americans have racist feelings they may not even know about it, according to professor Jack Dovidio, who has researched racism for more than 30 years.
DOVIDIO: We have reached a point where racism is like a virus that has mutated into a new form that we don't recognize.
ZAHN: This type of stealth discrimination reveals itself in many subtle ways, like in buying a home.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Through here is the kitchen.
ZAHN: Real estate agents often steer whites away from integrated neighborhoods, or steer blacks into predominantly black neighborhoods. That was the finding of an undercover three-year investigation in 12 metropolitan areas by the National Fair Housing Alliance.
SHANNA SMITH, PRESIDENT AND CEO, NATIONAL FAIR HOUSING ALLIANCE: The whites, just regularly, were shown more homes. More appointments were made for them. And follow-up phone calls, follow-up e-mails, and literature was mailed to the white testers.
ZAHN: Racism can also speak loudly over the phone.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi. I read your ad in the paper about the apartment for rent.
ZAHN: As James Robinson says he learned when he called to rent an apartment in this Saint Louis building.
JAMES ROBINSON, APARTMENT RENTER: And I hear the voices muffled in the background. And she was telling the woman I was on the phone inquiring about a two-bedroom apartment. And the other woman asks, "What does he sound like?"
ZAHN: Robinson was turned away. But, when a white friend called the same building, the answer was different.
JIM LADD, FRIEND OF JAMES ROBINSON: She said, we do have some apartments available.
ZAHN: Robinson says he was a victim of linguistic profiling, a type of discrimination in which race, gender and economic status are inferred from a person's voice.
KATINA COMBS, SAINT LOUIS EQUAL HOUSING OPPORTUNITY COUNCIL: It is very subtle, extremely subtle. It is not like it used to be years ago, where you had signs in the yard that said, "For whites only" or "No colors allowed."
ZAHN: And, even today, racism can be a huge factor in getting a job. Turns out, if you have a name like Emily o'Brien or Neil McCarthy, you're much more likely to get a callback from a potential employer than if your name is Tamika Williams or Jamal Jackson.
Those actual names were used in a study in 2001 and 2002 by the University of Chicago, and it found that white-sounding names got 50 percent more callbacks than black-sounding names.
CALVIN SIMS, WRITER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Normally, it would be very different for me to walk out to the sidewalk and to get a cab.
ZAHN: You also see racism shift into high-gear on the roads, says "New York Times" writer Calvin Sims, who wrote a recent article about all the New York cabs that refused to pick him up.
SIMS: If a cab passes you by, obviously, it's frustrating. It's degrading. And it -- it's just really confusing, because this is akin to being in the South and being refused service at a lunch counter, which is what happened in the '60s and '70s.
ZAHN: A new CNN poll finds that 51 percent of blacks say they feel they have been a victim of discrimination.
So, have we come as far from these days...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Often, they faced fire hoses.
ZAHN: ... as we could have? And will Americans ever get rid of this hidden bias just under the surface?
ZAHN: And joining me now, four people who have a lot to say about this, Paula Rothenberg, a writer, lecturer, author of "White Privilege: Essential Readings on the Other side of Racism," John McWhorter, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute -- he's the author of "Winning the Race: Beyond the Crisis in Black America" -- professor Michael Eric Dyson of the University of Pennsylvania -- his upcoming book is called "Debating Race" -- and Jared Taylor, editor of "American Renaissance" magazine." Some recent headlines include "Building White Communities," "The Hollow Debate on Race Preferences," And "What Do We Owe Blacks?"
Good to have all of you with us tonight. Welcome.
ZAHN: I want to start off with you, Michael, by looking at some of this polling that we did for this special tonight.
Check out this first one. Once again, when we asked if racism in America is a serious problem, 84 percent of blacks said yes. Sixty- six percent of whites said yes, as well. But, then, when we asked the question, are you racially biased, 88 percent of blacks said no. Eighty-six percent of whites said, we do not consider ourselves racially biased.
What does this disconnect expose about both blacks and whites, and racism?
MICHAEL ERIC DYSON, PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA: Well, I think, first of all, it suggests, as your piece has already, I think, eloquently talked about, that racism has changed over space and time.
The DNA of bigotry, the DNA of prejudice have changed. The outward symbols and signs of revulsion to another race have pretty much gone underground, except for the Michael Richards events and except for police brutality and the like.
What it also suggests is that racism has different fronts and different faces. Most people would say, that other guy over there, he's a racist. That other person over there, they're a racist. If we scapegoat Michael Richards, and believe that he did something that was so extraordinary and outside the circle of common parlance in America, then we locate the problem in him, and it's not in us.
If we don't say that racism is a broader field of racial sentiment that people appeal to -- Michael Richards said he had never said those things before that night. And, yet, something got in him. Was it a racial holy ghost of, you know, racial animus that got into him, and he began to speak in different tongues?
I think that racism is so pervasive in the society that, even when you -- don't have internalized it, you can begin to spew it back out.
ZAHN: And racism that rests both in blacks and whites?
DYSON: Well, yes. There's no question. I think bigotry and prejudice are in every race.
To say racism, I think racism suggests that you have political power in a society to reinforce your viewpoints as the status quo. Black people, by far, have not had that, though they do have prejudiced...
ZAHN: All right.
DYSON: ... prejudiced beliefs. It's not equal to me.
ZAHN: Now, John, you have a view that is at odds with what Michael is saying here.
And -- and you wrote in a recent article about the Michael Richards tirade. And you said, for a tragic number of black people, exaggerating the role of racism in their lives is the only way they know of feeling important.
So, are you blaming this lingering covert racism on blacks, for -- for hyping it...
JOHN MCWHORTER, AUTHOR, "WINNING THE RACE: BEYOND THE CRISIS IN BLACK AMERICA": No, no.
ZAHN: ... and not whites?
MCWHORTER: No, no. It has nothing to do with blaming anybody. And it's not that I'm blaming black people for hyping the racism.
I'm saying that this is an unfortunate byproduct of years of slavery and segregation, that there are people -- and it's not just a few -- who, because they find it difficult to feel important, because of the way the black soul was beaten down, end up resorting to this sort of response to racism. The way I feel about racism is very similar...
ZAHN: Using it as a crutch?
MCWHORTER: Using it as a crutch, and using it as an emotional support.
Everything that Dr. Dyson said is true. But the fact of the matter is that, when we're talking about how to save black America, it's unclear to me there why we fetishize the persistence of racism, for one quick and simple reason. There has never been a human society where there weren't the sorts of subtle racist biases that we're talking about.
And there's not a single indication that any of us knows how there could be a society where there was none of it. So, it gets to the point with me where we have to talk about black strength to get beyond those sorts of things, because I think we can make the best of ourselves, despite the fact that there will be some discrimination over the phone...
ZAHN: All right.
MCWHORTER: ... and some names called.
ZAHN: But, Jared, you fervently feel that society spends far too much time talking about white bias against blacks, and not black bias against whites?
JARED TAYLOR, EDITOR, "AMERICAN RENAISSANCE": Well, let's take, for example, this case of Mr. Richards.
In effect, black people have told white people: Here is a word you may not use. We can use it, if we like, but you better not use it.
And how have whites responded? They have said: Yes, sir, we will not use this word.
And, now, whites are the ones who are very careful about what they say. They can't risk offending blacks. They can't use a two- syllable word, for fear of losing their jobs. What does this tell us, despite the fact that blacks can use words like "cracker" and "honky"? I won't be thrown off the set if I use those words. They can use those words like that with impunity? What does that say, really, about the racial power relationship in the United States there?
DYSON: I'll tell you what...
TAYLOR: White are...
DYSON: I'm sorry.
TAYLOR: Whites are the ones who are, in effect, intimidated, and are walking on eggs, for fear of possibly offending blacks. And I think the idea that racism explains the failures of non-whites is hugely overdone.
ZAHN: Are you intimidated by that, as a white person, Paula?
PAULA ROTHENBERG, AUTHOR, "WHITE PRIVILEGE: ESSENTIAL READINGS ON THE OTHER SIDE OF RACISM": I -- I tell you, I -- I don't know what planet some of these comments are coming from.
White privilege is everywhere in this society. It's the other side of racism. And it is pervasive. People can't see it, because it's invisible, because it is everywhere.
What, after all, doesn't the fish know? That it's all wet. White people are the fish. And white privilege is the water. And we are immersed in it and submerged in it.
The best definition I ever heard of privilege came from Molly Ivins, where she said, George Bush was born on third base, and he thinks he hit a triple.
Well, white people were born on second base, and they think they bought a double.
DYSON: Can I say something?
DYSON: Can I say something in response to Jared's comment?
When he talks about "cracker" and "honky," there is not a history of systemic discrimination that has been imposed by African-American people, where the use of that term had a corollary advantage in the larger society.
So, no black person would lynch, rape, castrate, or murder. However, the use of the N-word that Mr. Jared Taylor claims that white people have been blocked from has been associated with a history revulsion against black people and the systematic attempt to undermine and subvert their authority and their presence in America.
ZAHN: Jared, you get...
DYSON: So, that way, that bigotry and bias is quite different than the word "cracker" and "honky."
ZAHN: You get just about 15 seconds. We got to move on.
TAYLOR: I think the notion that whites somehow benefit from white skin privilege because of the presence of non-whites is crazy. That suggests, if non-whites suddenly disappeared, whites would be shooting themselves because they couldn't enjoy this privilege anymore. I think it makes no sense at all.
ZAHN: OK. We got to leave it there for the moment.
Paula Rothenberg, thank you so much for being with us tonight.
The rest of you will stay right here. We will be coming back to you in just a moment.
Still ahead, though, as we continue our special hour, "Skin-Deep: Racism in America":
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PEGGY FRUGE, RESIDENT OF VIDOR, TEXAS: I don't mind being friends with them, you know, talking and stuff like that. But, as far as mingling and eating with them and all that kind of stuff, I mean, that's where I draw the line.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: A starting look at whether anything has changed in one Texas town with a racist past.
And, then a little bit later on, my interview with Oscar-winning actress Whoopi Goldberg on her personal experience with racism.
But, as we go to a break, a look at what students around the country think about racism today in America.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: Do you tend to hang out with black kids or white kids?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It really doesn't matter, because I hang out with anyone.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I hang out with white people and black people and many kind of people.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Like, if Samantha (ph) was my best friend, I wouldn't say that I wouldn't be her friend if she was black, because that's not how you treat a person.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: "Skin-Deep," our special on racism in America, continues with an important question: Do you know anyone who is a racist?
We're going to take a look at this CNN/Opinion Research poll we commissioned for this hour. Forty-eight percent of blacks and 43 percent of whites told us, yes, they do know someone they consider racist.
Of course, racism isn't as visible as it used to be. In a town like Vidor, Texas, once called a sundown town, blacks were warned, don't even think of staying here after dark. That was years ago. Still, Vidor, today, remains almost all white. So, has anything really changed at all?
Keith Oppenheim takes us on a Vidor reality tour.
KEITH OPPENHEIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Take a ride to Vidor, Texas, and you will find a town that looks like many others in America. But, just below the surface, you will soon find this small city of 11,000 people carries a dark past, a past that, in some ways, still haunts the present.
BEAMON MINTON, ORANGE COUNTY, TEXAS, COMMISSIONER: They were trying to live down something from 40, 50 years ago. And, once convicted, you're a convicted felon. You know, you -- you can never put that aside.
OPPENHEIM: Forty to 50 years ago, Vidor had a reputation as a sundown town, where it was said African-Americans were warned not to be caught after dark.
Charles Jones lives in Beaumont, the bigger city 10 minutes from Vidor. He told us, when he was 19, a Vidor policeman intimidated him and his friends when their car broke down at night.
CHARLES JONES, BEAUMONT, TEXAS: He said: "Well, let me tell you something. You boys better hurry up and get out of here, because I'm going to go to that next exit and come down and come back around, and you would better be gone."
OPPENHEIM: Vidor also had a reputation as a haven for the Ku Klux Klan. Blacks stayed away.
LISA ARDOIN, RESIDENT OF BEAUMONT, TEXAS: When I was growing up as a little girl, me and my two sisters, we was very afraid of Vidor.
OPPENHEIM: In 1993, the federal government tried to break years of segregation, and brought a handful of black families into Vidor's public housing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: God bless Vidor. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: God bless Vidor!
OPPENHEIM: In response, the Klan marched. And the march had its intended effect. Within months, the few black residents pulled out. And African-Americans were left with a deep impression that, while racism is more under the surface, it still lives in Vidor.
WALTER DIGGLES, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, DEEP EAST TEXAS COUNCIL OF GOVERNMENTS: They think that that's a racist town, and, when you go through Vidor, you better be very careful. And -- and most -- most blacks still refuse to stop.
OPPENHEIM (on camera): Is this a racist community?
MINTON: Definitely not.
OPPENHEIM (voice over): Orange County Commissioner Beamon Minton and Vidor Mayor Joe Hopkins spoke to me about perceptions of Vidor.
MAYOR JOE HOPKINS, VIDOR, TEXAS: The vast majority of our citizens are not racist, would welcome anybody here who's a good, solid citizen.
MINTON: We don't have a Klan. We haven't had a Klan here in about 30 years.
OPPENHEIM: In fact, the two men said, Vidor is trying to change its image. Last year, the school district posted a billboard that included the face of an African-American girl as a way to attract black families.
Currently, in a school district of nearly 5,000 students, only 13 are African-American.
Still, some residents are resistant. At a local cafe, this woman told me she would welcome blacks to Vidor, then added this:
PEGGY FRUGE, RESIDENT OF VIDOR, TEXAS: I don't mind being friends with them, you know, talking and stuff like that. But, as far as mingling and eating with them and all that kind of stuff, I mean, that's where I draw the line.
OPPENHEIM: If racism lies just below the surface here, it's only part of the story. Vidor has changed somewhat. It's no longer a city that actively shuns blacks. But, like many other places in America, Vidor has fallen into complacency, and, as a community, either lacks the motivation or isn't quite sure how to escape its past.
Keith Oppenheim, CNN, Vidor, Texas.
ZAHN: And I want to turn back to our panel now.
Joining us this time around, Roland Martin, executive editor of "The Chicago Defender," one of the nation's best known African- American newspapers -- also back with us, John McWhorter, Michael Eric Dyson, and Jared Taylor.
ZAHN: So, you're the last one loaded in. You get to go first here.
How common or prevalent do you think that attitude is of that woman, that just basically said she draws a line at mingling with blacks?
ROLAND MARTIN, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "THE CHICAGO DEFENDER": Well, it exists. And we live in denial.
And, so, anybody who has studied the history of America has to understand that race, as Dr. Dyson said, is in the DNA of America. And, so, we have tried to ignore it. It was -- when -- when the Constitution was created, the whole issue of race surrounding that.
And, so, if you think that -- if you have a crack in your foundation, you are going to have problems with your house, no matter how gorgeous the house is. And, so, if race is in the foundation of America, you're going to have problems, until you actually address it and deal with it. And we have never truly dealt with it in America. We have sort of jumped over it. We have sort of went around it. We never confronted it head on, because we're scared to deal with it.
ZAHN: Do you not think we have tried to confront the issue of racism in this country, John?
MCWHORTER: Roland, the civil rights movement, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the fact that a national network is doing this show that we're on, I don't think that we can honestly say that we haven't confronted it.
MARTIN: Actually, we can, John.
MCWHORTER: Things aren't perfect, but we can't say we haven't confronted it.
MARTIN: I will give you an example.
The reason South Africa is going to be a much better country on the issue of race relations, because they have a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, where the entire nation dealt with the horrors of apartheid. And, so, whether you were white, whether you were black, they confronted it.
What we have tried to do is, we have said, look, we don't want to really talk about it. Pass a law. It will all be well.
MCWHORTER: What would it do for the black ghettos right now if we had this conversation? MARTIN: No, no, no, but -- but it's not necessarily what would it do for the black ghettos.
MCWHORTER: I'm concerned with those.
MARTIN: You have -- you have to confront the reality, though, of how people respond to race.
MARTIN: So, for instance...
ZAHN: All right.
MARTIN: ... when I walk into a store, and this guy tells me, hey, give me a glass of water, and I got linen and sandals on, I don't even work here, you tell me how that person isn't affected by race. It's a reality, John.
MCWHORTER: We have got bigger problems.
ZAHN: All right.
ZAHN: Do you think we are in a serious case of denial, as Roland has just said? And where is the accountability on both sides here? We know that blacks harbor hate for whites.
ZAHN: You can't measure it in proportion to maybe perhaps what whites feel towards blacks. That's a very difficult thing to measure.
Well, first of all, the state of denial that we live in, or the United States of amnesia, choose your poison. We live in a -- a state of persistent denial about dealing with race.
Dr. McWhorter is right. We have come to grips with the fundamental structures of racism, to be sure, in terms of their outward expression.
DYSON: But the internal demons that have yet to be expunged and expelled in the American soul are there. And, furthermore...
MCWHORTER: How could they be...
(CROSSTALK) DYSON: ... when you talk about -- when you talk about black vs. white, and that some black people harbor hatred in their hearts, all human beings certainly do.
But, Paula, I would make a distinction. There's not a functional or moral equivalent between the aspersion that black have toward some whites, and the white aspersion, dispersion, toward blacks.
The reality is, in this country, laws were made and created to justify white supremacy, white skin privilege. Those two are not equal, even if you have bigotry. That's like saying about women, you know, some women don't like men. But the history of male supremacy in America is so fundamental that the laws and the courts have not been built around women's perceptions of men, rather, men's perceptions of women. Let's not make these functionally equivalent, as we acknowledge both.
ZAHN: Jared, let's talk about these perceptions.
And we're going to put another result of our polling up on the screen right now that revealed 40 percent of blacks think that whites dislike them, with nearly as many whites who believe that blacks dislike them, too -- an awful lot of distrust going around.
What's going to change this picture? Or do you want this picture to change?
TAYLOR: I -- I think that we're grappling with basic human nature.
I think race is the most natural extended family all people have. And it is natural to have a fellow feeling for one's tribe. I think...
ZAHN: Do you view yourself as a separatist?
TAYLOR: I'm not a separatist. I believe in complete freedom of association.
I don't think that the people at Vidor should have been forced to live with a group that they didn't want to live with. I think also...
ZAHN: Some would view that as racist.
MARTIN: Jared, Jared...
TAYLOR: Hold on. Hold on. Hold on.
MARTIN: African-Americans were forced out.
TAYLOR: Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait. No. No, no. No, no. Let -- let me finish here. (CROSSTALK)
MCWHORTER: I don't want to hang out with those people, myself.
ZAHN: You wouldn't want to live in Vidor?
MARTIN: They were forced out, Jared.
TAYLOR: No, no. Wait a minute. Let me finish. The housing -- the housing project there had been all white. Someone decided that's no good, it's got to be integrated. So, we're going to bring black people in there because we know that they're not wanted.
MARTIN: Jerry, Jerry. No offense. I'm from Texas. I was there. It wasn't they said we want blacks to live there. African- Americans were not given an opportunity to live in that public housing complex. And so what was taking place in Chicago -- in New York in the 40s and 50s was taking place in Vidor in the 80s and 90s. Those African-Americans were denied to live there.
TAYLOR: San Francisco, right about that same time, they -- Asians were taken out of black housing projects because the blacks did not want them there. Burglaries, attacks, assaults. The blacks had their housing project. They wanted it to stay black. That is natural.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But the law should support such separatism?
TAYLOR: That's right.
ZAHN: We've got to leave it there. Plenty more debate to come. Roland Martin, John McWarder, Michael Eric Tyson, Jared Taylor, thank you all.
When we come back, my interview with Oscar-winning actress Whoopi Goldberg.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WHOOPI GOLDBERG, ACTRESS: I could stop saying the n-word tomorrow, but my intent is what I have to really work on. Just because you're not saying it doesn't mean you're not thinking it.
ZAHN (voice-over): Now she says racism is always there. And then a little bit later on, a test you can take that could reveal prejudice deep inside.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
We'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
ZAHN (on camera): More now of "Skin Deep", our hour-long look at racism in American.
Comedian Michael Richards flung the issue into America's living rooms by repeatedly shouting the n-word in his tirade at an L.A. comedy club.
Oscar-winning actress and comedian Whoopi Goldberg has used it, as well, in her stand-up routines. And earlier, I spoke with her about that word and how racist she thinks America is today.
GOLDBERG: It's beyond inherent in our society. It just is part of our everyday life. And things slip out of people's mouths all the time, including my own.
I could stop saying the n-word tomorrow, but my intent is what I have to really work on. Just because you're not saying it doesn't mean you're not thinking it. So, if you leave it unchecked, you see -- I would rather know what you're thinking, and then maybe we could work it out.
ZAHN: How aware are you, in your daily life, of the color of your skin? Is it something you think much about?
GOLDBERG: Not as aware as probably my brother is.
ZAHN: Why is that? Because he's not famous?
GOLDBERG: Because my brother's a black man and he's not famous and he drives a really nice car. And he has been pulled over in Los Angeles. He doesn't live in Los Angeles.
ZAHN: So, the assumption is, by law enforcement...
GOLDBERG: What are you doing?
ZAHN: ... that he's stolen a car?
GOLDBERG: Well, you know, they want to know why you have that car. They want to know why you have that, better safe than sorry. He earned it. It's his car. Why should he be nervous about driving around in his car, afraid that an officer who pulls up and sees him in this fabulous car, is going to make him, as one did, get out of the car and get on the ground?
Now, you don't see a lot of white folks on the ground when they pull them over. It's kind of interesting.
GOLDBERG: You know, why not? Is it racism? I don't know.
So, I don't think about it until somebody makes me aware of it in some weird way.
ZAHN: And does that happen on a daily basis?
GOLDBERG: Yes, yes, yes.
ZAHN: Like what?
Tell us. Here you are, a highly successful performer...
ZAHN: ... whose performances have bridged the white world, the black world and yet, you still are offended on a daily basis?
GOLDBERG: Well, it's not so much that I'm offended, Paula, but I realize that we have a long way to go. People will say to me, you are so articulate.
ZAHN: And to that -- that's a code word for, man, you've got a brain and the rest of them don't?
ZAHN: Is that what they're telling you?
GOLDBERG: Why wouldn't I? I'm not sure what they're telling me. I'm not sure what that means.
ZAHN: But you think that's what they're telling you?
GOLDBERG: I think that they're telling me they don't know any black people that they can talk to.
ZAHN: You can't think back to any searing memory you have where you thought, man, that just isn't right? Why did he say that?
GOLDBERG: No, because, you know, the truth of the matter is the racism that I feel is not blatant. It isn't obvious. And that's why it's hard to determine what it is because you want to give people the benefit of the doubt, and say maybe they -- maybe I heard it wrong. But you know what you hear. You're pretty smart.
ZAHN: So it's a subtlety of language? It's the tone?
GOLDBERG: It's much subtler, absolutely. Tone and subtler language. And you know, here's the thing. My mom and I, years ago, were on Madison Avenue. And this is just after everything had happened and we were like kids in the candy store. We went in and out of all these stores, blah, blah, blah. We had the greatest time.
We split up. And she went into a clothing store where she was followed around by this woman. Now, there were several patrons in the store and my mother said, can you come over here? There's just something I'm interested in. And so the lady proceeded to tell her why she couldn't afford it. Now, I came and said, mom, what's going on? Oh, oh, is this your mother? Oh. And my mother says, you know what? I can't afford anything in this store.
ZAHN: Good for her.
GOLDBERG: Good for her, but why did she have to go through that, you know? Is it racism? Can't tell. But I know something's wrong. Something's really wrong.
ZAHN: Whoopi also told me that she thinks more and more people are not afraid to speak up and say that racism is wrong.
When our special "Skin Deep: Racism in America" continues, are you prejudiced? Most of us would say no, but you're about to see a test -- and you can take it with us -- that reveals bias hidden deep inside just about everyone who takes it.
And a little bit later on, two of the nation's best known civil rights leaders, the Reverend Jesse Jackson and the Reverend Al Sharpton will join us.
We'll be right back.
ZAHN: And welcome back to our hour-long special, "Skin Deep: Racism in America." As we've seen tonight, most of us think racism is a serious problem, but take another look at this CNN Opinion Research poll we mentioned a little bit earlier on. A vast majority, 88 percent of blacks, 86 percent of whites, don't consider themselves racially biased.
We're willing to admit it's a problem, but not take responsibility for it.
Clearly, what we say about ourselves is often just wrong. Three university psychologists came up with a test designed to reveal prejudice in the subconscious mind. And we asked nine volunteers, Caucasians and Asians, mostly students, to take it for us.
Now, we want to be clear, the test does not determine if you're a racist, but it does show whether you have a preference for European Americans or African-Americans. And the results are unsettling.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And then I want you guys to go as quickly as you can while trying to make as few mistakes as possible.
ZAHN (voice-over): Curiosity filled the room as our group of nine volunteers got final instructions from a researcher with the project Implicit Test.
(on camera): How do you think you'll do on this test? What do you think this test will show?
ALEX KASSL, TEST VOLUNTEER: Maybe, like, it will indicate that I have a preference. But just I have maybe a preference does not mean that I have anything against the other side. I think I'm a very open- minded person.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Proceed at your own pace. Go ahead.
ZAHN (voice-over): Here's how it works. First, a series of faces appeared on the screen. Working as quickly as possible, the testers typed specific keys to identify the faces as either European American or African-American.
The next phase, word association. Positive and negative phrases appear. And the testers had to quickly group words like love, evil and pleasure.
Things got more challenging when the two tasks were combined. The direction and placement changed about every 15 seconds to ensure randomness.
Harvard psychologist Mahzarin Banaji helped design the test.
PROF. MAHZARIN BANAJI, HARVARD: The test makes a very simple assumption. The simple assumption is that when two things come to be associated with each other -- in our experience, repeatedly, black and bad, white and good -- these things, if they are repeatedly associated, tend to become one.
ZAHN: Depending on the speed that they made these associations, the testers ultimately fell into one of seven categories, revealing a slight, moderate or strong preferences for European Americans; a slight, moderate or strong preference for African-Americans; or showing no preference for either race.
After about 10 minutes, the test was over. The results? The majority of our group had a preference towards European Americans, and, like most people who have taken the test, had a harder time associating African-Americans with good words.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your test shows that you have a strong automatic preference for European Americans.
KASSL: I'm actually really bothered by this, because I actually -- I like to believe that I have a very open mind and that I judge people by their unique characteristics rather than these general preferences.
JULIE GENSON, TEST VOLUNTEER: I just think it's how quick you can process information. I don't know if that means any -- that I have these type of preferences.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So why are you embarrassed?
AMY GILSTEIN, TEST VOLUNTEER: If it's accurate, I have a really strong bias, and I always just wanted to -- you know, I always try to treat people as individuals. And it's just kind of -- I don't know. I feel like my parents are watching and they're disappointed in me.
ZAHN: Banaji says these preferences can affect our everyday decisions without even knowing it.
BANAJI: Do I decide that I want to hire a black applicant or a white applicant? Do I pull my gun a little bit faster when somebody before me is black or white? As a teacher, do I call on a student who is black or white? The implicit bias does tend to predict these sorts of behaviors.
ZAHN: Many in our small test group questioned the validity of the test. And even though some were disappointed with the results, the overall test scores of the group fell in line with the researcher's larger pool of testers.
Seventy percent of all test takers favor European Americans over African-Americans, with more than half showing a strong to moderate preference.
The majority of our group showed a moderate preference.
Only one of our test takers showed no preference.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, the reason why you're not only surprised but disappointed by this is you view yourself as a much more open, tolerant person?
KASSL: I do. I do. And this very much bothers me. And I'm not going to let a test tell me that I have a strong preference over the other, because I think I judge people as unique individuals.
ZAHN: So, if you want to take the bias test, go to our Web site, CNN.com/paula, and look for the link to the test. It will take you probably about 10 minutes or so to do it.
In a moment, we're going to talk about this and more with two of America's major civil rights leaders. Honored to have both of you with us tonight, the Reverend Jesse Jackson and the Reverend Al Sharpton. We'll be right back.
ZAHN: We've talked a lot about issues in tonight's special and I want to turn now to two of this country's most prominent civil rights leaders, the Reverend Al Sharpton, the Reverend Jesse Jackson. Who gets the higher billing tonight?
REVEREND AL SHARPTON, CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER: Reverend Jackson.
REVEREND JESSE JACKSON, CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER: Al.
ZAHN: Such a democracy here tonight. I want you to help us as we close out this show tonight, understand some of the inconsistencies in the polling information that we've gotten. On one hand at the top of the show, we showed that the majority of blacks and whites in this country believe that racism is a serious problem. And yet when you ask the question whether America is ready to elect a black president, 65 percent of whites say yes, 54 percent of blacks say yes.
Are they pretending? Or are these the real deal?
JACKSON: Some people poll higher than they behave. Racism is a feeling. It's a behavior. It is learned behavior. But more than that, it is a power relationship. It made slavery abandon the race question, was whites had the privilege of being white, the power to subjugate blacks, was the power relationship. That's why Dr. King would often say that if the blacks are beside the whites on the bus, I hope he has an attitude to accept me. He must not have the power to put me off the bus.
ZAHN: Where are we today, though?
SHARPTON: We're still there.
ZAHN: I mean, you have seen in this show, example after example of racism that's not hiding under the surface.
SHARPTON: Yes, but I think the problem is that at one level, we can deal with people's feelings. At another level you've got to deal with the institution of power.
It's bad if you dislike me, but it's worse if you can deny me a job or a bank loan or you can deny me a corporate contract. And I think that if we just have racism at a diner, who's going to sit somewhere level, and not deal with our ability to have equal opportunity or equal protection under the law with police behavior, we miss the point.
ZAHN: But one of our guests was saying that life is not fair, and that all of the stuff we're talking about is drama, this woman in the diner.
JACKSON: It's one thing to have just this woman in the diner who has obviously a lot of problems, more than just race. To me, that's superficial racism. She's kind of sick.
But when Harold Ford is running this awesome race for senator of Tennessee, and Republican Party leadership determines it can win by using the white woman/black man lure and wins that way with power. When Jesse Helms is in a race with Harvey Gantt and uses that -- someone is using that power to use the black hand pushing the white hand back.
I mean, look at TV. There's not a single black show host, except Tavis on PBS, all day, all night, all white. That's institutional blockage. A report just came out, UCLA last week by Dr. Robertson of UCLA Law School that 69 percent of all roles in Hollywood are written for white male, 8.9 percent for blacks. So that's not name calling, superficial racism, that is the institutional lockup.
SHARPTON: And we're doubly unemployed. I mean today, blacks are still doubly unemployed to whites. Blacks are still denied bank loans four times as much as white. We still go to jail. So it's the institutional. I can take somebody not wanting to eat with me more than I can that I'm going to go to jail five times more likely or I'll have a bank loan denied. That is the racism we can legislatively deal with.
ZAHN: But you also know that there's Supreme Court decisions that are coming that can have a dramatic effect on affirmative action.
ZAHN: You also know there are many white Americans out there that believe that affirmative action is nothing more than reverse discrimination.
JACKSON: But you see, here's the problem. Affirmative action is majority white issue. It's white women and women of other hues, times seven. So if you put a white female face on it, it's less objectionable.
But this is not a minority versus majority. The jobs in Michigan, the 2004 jobs, it didn't go from white to black, it went from here to yonder. My concern is that there is a current of hope. When Deval Patrick, governor of Massachusetts, that's a current of hope.
The response that Obama is getting, that's a current of hope. There's always an undercurrent that is so violent and you don't drown from the current. You drown from the undercurrent.
ZAHN: Will we ever be a colorblind society? Is that even feasible?
SHARPTON: But we don't need to be colorblind. We need to be color-respectful. Because if I've got to be blind to respect you, that still means that if I realize who you are, then I still have some racism.
The problem is when you reconcile your polls, there are a lot of whites who could vote for a black. The question is, can they deal with a question of equality, equity in a society? So I could vote for a black for president as long as he doesn't act too black. But I'm going to vote against civil rights or voter rights. So we still have the lingering problem of race respect.
ZAHN: You're an experience guy, I need a 20-second closing thought on what America needs to do to continue this dialogue that will change anything in a meaningful way.
JACKSON: To work in the meaningful way to unlearn the learned behavior that is the center of our culture. We can overcome this sickness because it's learned behavior. We learn it, we can unlearn it. And in the end I think 40 years after the Human Rights Act, through all of this, we're getting better.
ZAHN: Boy, does that man hit a cue. We've got two seconds. SHARPTON: Unlearning it, legislate and protect, equal protection under the law and equal opportunity. So while you all are in school learning how to get along with everybody else, don't impact my way in a disproportionate, unequal way. While whites are being educated, we are still being discriminated against.
ZAHN: Reverend Sharpton, Jackson, does this count as church tonight?
SHARPTON: A little bit, say amen.
ZAHN: OK, Amen. Reverend Jackson and Reverend Sharpton, thank you. We're going to take a short break, we'll be right back.
ZAHN: We hope our Skin-Deep special surprised you and made you think about your own racial tirades. Michael Richards' tirade made headlines of course, but also triggered a national dialogue about racism and discrimination. And we hope this is just the beginning of our examination of race in America. And in the future, we're going to try to look at attitudes toward other races as well. Thanks so much for joining us tonight, so glad to have you with us. We will be back, same time, same place tomorrow night. We hope you'll join us then. Until then, have a great night. And "LARRY KING LIVE" starts right now. Good night.
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