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Corporate America Gets Called Out For Mishandling BLM; Should Schools Reopen This Fall?; The N-word In Academic Settings; U.S. Parents With Newborn Stuck In Ghana. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired June 13, 2020 - 09:00   ET



MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: Corporate America gets called out I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia. Last week, I began by observing that Americans were struggling to find the right words in reaction to the killing of George Floyd. The same can now be said for business.

On Thursday, America's number one coffee chain came under attack after an internal memo barring Starbucks employees from donning Black Lives Matter gear was published by BuzzFeed. The retail giant said wearing pro-BLM pins or t-shirts would violate its dress code policy because the accessories advocate a, quote, "political, religious or personal issue." #BoycottStarbucks began trending. Some saw inconsistency where Starbucks has long supported LGBTQ rights and not only has allowed the wearing of both pins and shirts, but has handed them out.

On Friday after the story went viral, Starbucks reversed its guidance and announced a new BLM t-shirt. It was a design in the company tweet that read as follows, "Until these arrive, we've heard you want to show your support, so just be you. Wear your BLM pin or t-shirt. We trust you to do what's right while never forgetting that Starbucks is a welcoming third place where all are treated with dignity and respect."

Meanwhile, Mota Skates, a Michigan-based roller skate manufacturer, came under fire for posting this, the images of a venn diagram. The top of the image reads, "Believe it or not, it's OK to be all three." The three circles then read, "Outraged by George Floyd's death, does not condone looting and rioting and supports good police officers." The word "me" then written in the middle of all three circles.

The image was accompanied by a caption that read, "Black Lives Matter. It's sickening that would ever be in question. Division and fighting makes it worse. We stand for justice and peace. United we stand, divided we fall." Well, to critics, the juxtaposition was too reminiscent of All Lives Matter.

Founders Doug and Julie Glass then said this, "Mota Skates sincerely apologize for our ignorance regarding the Black Lives movement. We are working with others in the community to better ourselves in support of BLM. We will continue to reach out as we navigate this very sensitive matter. We understand this is not enough and we will continue our support to the best of our knowledge and provide more information regarding our actions in the upcoming days." On "New York Magazine"'s food blog, it's called "Grub Street," under the headline, "Fast Food Companies Still Don't Care," several restaurant chains were called out for what were described as empty tweets that didn't go far enough. Burger King shared a, quote, "Cringey, all-lowercase riff on the company's slogan -- 'when it comes to people's lives, there's only one way to have it, without discrimination."

"McDonald's, meanwhile, published a mustard-yellow square and the names of black victims of police violence. 'They were once one of us,' the post reads. Popeyes quickly deleted a tweet that said, "We are nothing without black lives," then reposted it with additional words sharing their commitment to," quote, "'Foster an environment where equality for black people is a priority."

"Papa John's," described as, "Yes, that Papa John's, shared a statement from its CEO saying, 'Our hearts go out to our black employees." And Taco bell shared a message from its CEO Mark King, "We don't tolerate racism or violence against black people."

The extent of substantive change that will come from George Floyd's death, it remains to be seen. It might include new statutes like abrogation of qualified immunity or the banning of the chokehold or an increase in African-American pay equity statistics and an uptick in African-American positions in the upper ranks of businesses and professions or it might take the form of better racial attitudes expressed in polling or perhaps we'll expand our own social circles.

But one question in the short term is this -- Do businesses have an obligation to support Black Lives Matter? And that is today's survey question at

Joining me now is Don Peebles. He's the founder and chair of The Peebles Corporation, a multi-billion dollar venture that is the largest black-owned real estate development company in the U.S.. In 2009, "Forbes" listed him in the top 10 of wealthiest black Americans. He has served on the National Finance Committee of President Barack Obama and is the former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. Mr. Peebles, welcome back. You get to go first. Do businesses have an obligation to be supportive of Black Lives Matter?

DON PEEBLES, FOUNDER AND CHAIRMAN, THE PEEBLES CORPORATION: Yes, businesses have an obligation to be supportive of Black Lives Matter, but let's think about what Black Lives Matter means. It means black ambition matters, it means black access to economic opportunity matters, it means black dreams matters, it means black education matters. So it's a broader perspective and yes, businesses have an obligation to create a fair and equitable environment and that has not been done in this country and the statistics show that.


SMERCONISH: Do they need to voice it? And I guess there's a second question of to whom do they owe a duty -- their stockholders, if they're publicly traded, or to the public at large? You know, what about the argument that says we're in the business to make widgets, not to be politically or socially involved?

PEEBLES: Well, I think that's a myopic view of what capitalism means. I think our founding fathers, when they founded this company based on a capitalistic democracy, they looked at capitalism to play a vital role in the expansion of the American way and the American dream and so businesses have a broad role.

One of them is a commitment to fair opportunity and expansion of our economy and in order to accomplish that, they need to look at taking some affirmative steps to the community that actually helped build this country and that means that African-Americans need to have a fair and equitable opportunity.

Think about this. The average household net worth for a black household in this country is $17,000 versus the average household net worth for a white family is $171,000. So you have this tremendous wealth disparity and businesses have an obligation to help close that wealth disparity by providing fair access to capital, equal access to opportunity.

You mentioned Starbucks. How about more African-American franchisees? How about these other companies, Papa John's, more black franchisees, making an effort to make sure that the ownership of their businesses and their franchises reflect the population demographics of the communities that they're actually selling to.

SMERCONISH: In "The Washington Post" coverage of the Starbucks controversy, there was a comment that caught my eye. I'll put it on the screen and read it aloud. Someone regarded the change of heart as being, quote-unquote, "Stupid. Not that I go to Starbucks, but when I go to a business, I expect to buy a product or service.

I don't want statements or politics from the company or the employees. Work is not the time or place to express the political or societal views of the owners or staff." Don Peebles would say what in response to that thought process?

PEEBLES: Well, I don't think that Black Lives Matters and the agenda for Black Lives Matters is a political statement. I think that is a fairness statement, that's an American statement, that's a human rights statement and so I understand that businesses do not want political messages like wearing a Biden or a Trump t-shirt, but I don't know if saying -- just as much as wearing the American flag in a store, I mean, I think that black lives do matter and that is not a political message. So I don't see the point in that perspective. I think that it's, again, a narrowing and simplistic approach to what the agenda is for Black Lives Matter.

SMERCONISH: Right. So that is your response to the slippery slope. You are able to distinguish between Black Lives Matter and the 2020 presidential race or the LGBTQ support that Starbucks has embraced versus wearing a MAGA hat or a Joe Biden button?

PEEBLES: Yes. Absolutely and I don't believe, by the way, that any party has a monopoly on fairness either. I mean, I think the end of the day, what Americans want and why you're seeing these protesters be reflective of our population -- I mean, you see as many white protesters as you see African-Americans and in some protests, you see more whites and that's because the system -- this capitalistic system in this country has grown unfair.

Wealth is so concentrated in a small group of people that even young whites know that this system is stacked against them in terms of them pursuing their dreams, so they're more empathetic now to African- Americans and the plight that African-Americans have been going through for centuries.

SMERCONISH: Give advice to a friend of mine who asked me the following question this past week. An employer of 20 to 30 people having nothing to do with public policy, truly the classic, you know, widget-maker and he said that one or two of his employees had come to him wanting to know, well, what's our position on the current controversy and essentially what are we going to do about it? You would have said what with your wealth of corporate experience?

PEEBLES: Well, what our position is is that we're an American company and we're based on fairness and so the premise of our business and the premise of the environment that we operate in is fairness and anyone who doesn't get access to fairness, that's a detriment to our businesses and we ought to focus on that and what companies ought to do is they ought to do like what our company does.

Our company's tagline is affirmative development. That means that we take aggressive steps to include all aspects of our society in the business opportunities and we think that the buildings that we build should be built by people reflective of the population demographics of the communities that we build in. Same thing about other businesses.

I mean, women and minorities are an essential part of this country and in many instances are the majority of a -- of a population and women are a majority of this country and so businesses have an obligation to provide access fairly to these people who have not had them before.


And the reality is every measurable statistic proves that this system is not fair when it comes to providing opportunities for women and it's not fair when it provides opportunities for African-Americans and it's business' obligation to do something about it. We can't delegate this to politicians. Look what's happened to us already.

SMERCONISH: Don Peebles, thank you for coming back.

PEEBLES: Thank you very much, Michael, for having me.

SMERCONISH: What are your thoughts? Tweet me @Smerconish, go to my Facebook page. I'll read some responses throughout the course of the program. Catherine, what do we have? Facebook, "The question should be why wouldn't businesses support it?," Keith Romero weighs in.

Your opportunity to weigh in is right now. Go to my website at and answer this week's survey question. Do businesses have an obligation to support Black Lives Matter? Don Peebles just made the case that the answer is yes.

Up ahead, should schools reopen this fall? My next guest says, for many, remote learning is no substitute for classroom education. His answer is yes.

And a professor at the University of Oklahoma compared using the N- word to the term, "OK, boomer." Many found that not to be OK. Is it ever appropriate to use the N-word in an academic setting?




SMERCONISH: We're already halfway through June and many parents are still wondering are my kids going back to school in the fall? Is it safe? According to a CDC report, 80 percent of those killed by COVID- 19 were 60 or older. The young, thankfully, have been largely spared. The COVID-19 fatality rate in the U.S. for anyone younger than 19 is so low that it's calculated as 0.0 percent.

According to "The Washington Post," in Denmark and Norway, students have been back in school since April 20 with no increase in COVID-19 cases. My next guest argues the U.S. must be creative to get kids back in the classroom. His "Bloomberg" opinion piece is titled "Schools Should Open in Full This Fall." They serve too vital a function to stay closed and remote learning is a disaster. Joining me now is Joe Nocera, "Bloomberg" opinion columnist who covers business. So Joe, what do you envision for the fall?

JOE NOCERA, BLOOMBERG OPINION COLUMNIST: Well, in the best case scenario, kids would go back to school five days a week, teachers would go back to school five days a week, school personnel would go back to school five days a week. There would be -- there would be precautions. In South Korea, students wear masks and they have plastic shields in front of their desks and they practice social distancing, but they're in school.

You know, my argument is pretty simple. If you do one of these things where only 10 kids are in a class or, you know, you're in school two days and you're out of school three days, you can't reopen society because the society can't function if kids aren't in school.

SMERCONISH: Right. That seems to be an argument that puts business first. Hey, we better send the kids off to school because we need the parents back in the workforce.

NOCERA: Well, that's true. I understand that argument, but there's a couple things I would -- I would argue. Number one, you know, an economy that doesn't function has enormous damage to people in terms of being out of work, in terms of depression, in terms of rises in domestic violence and abuse and just in terms of sheer, you know, misery, more homeless people, on and on and on and on.

The other point to be made is that the risk of a child catching the -- getting infected is so small. It's infinitesimal, especially deaths. I mean, it's just -- it's an extremely rare event. More kids die from, you know, slipping in the bathtub than from COVID. Now, the argument then goes ...


NOCERA: ... they'll infect their parents or they'll infect their teachers or they'll infect their grandparents when they go home. The jury's still out on that in terms of the studies. It's hard to know if that's true or not, but the important thing is, Michael, we've been given this huge break in that there's these control groups out there.

There's Denmark, there's Germany, there's Norway, there's South Korea, all these countries that have opened their schools already. We should be watching them intently, watching what they do and watching what the COVID rate is for them and if their rate does not go up, then we should be able to do what they do and have the same result.

SMERCONISH: OK. In your piece, and you've just addressed it in part, you anticipate what I'm sure many are thinking as they watch this. I'll put it on the screen. "Whenever I've talked to friends about the importance of reopening schools, the pushback is always the same. Kids may be asymptomatic, they reply, but they'll spread the virus to more vulnerable adults when they go home." What about the teacher? What about the bus driver? What about the cafeteria worker?

NOCERA: Right. Well, I would argue a couple of things. Number one, we don't seem to mind when Amazon workers are called essential and they put themselves in a lot more danger than a teacher would, but yet teachers are not essential? I don't -- I don't really understand that. Number two, as I said -- as I said before, there is not -- we don't have proof one way or the other that kids spread the disease. I mean, I know people where the child -- and they're sheltering in place, the kid winds up having COVID asymptomatic and the parents don't get it, you know?


So there's no -- we don't yet know, but what I'm saying is keep an open mind about this, don't make your decision right now about what to do about school, but watch these other countries and follow their example if they're able to open schools without an increase in COVID (ph). That's the -- I mean, why would you do anything else?

SMERCONISH: Quick final question if I may. Are you surprised that there hasn't been more of a movement among parents who share your view who are saying on a local level, hey, we want our kids back in school?

NOCERA: I'm not and I'll tell you why, Michael. I've gotten a lot of e-mails from people saying you're right, you're right, you're right, but I can't say that because if I say that, I'll be viewed as, you know, a baby killer or somebody who doesn't care about kids.

It sends a -- it sends a bad signal to people around me and I'll be attacked and vilified and so people are afraid to speak out about this even though many, many people agree with me that that the risk is so minimal that schools should be open and we haven't even talked about ...

SMERCONISH: Joe Nocera ...

NOCERA: ... the disaster of online learning (ph).

SMERCONISH: Joe Nocera, thank you. Appreciate you being here.

NOCERA: Thanks, Michael. Always a pleasure.

SMERCONISH: Let's see what you're saying via social media, Smerconish twitter and Facebook pages, Catherine. "Michael, would you send your kids back to school in September? Fabrizio, here's your direct answer -- yes. Mine are older. Mine are older, one who graduated from college 10 days ago, two weeks ago, one who is a rising sophomore, one who is in grad school and yes, I'm -- send them back. I, you know, wouldn't send them against their will, but I'm prepared for them to return.

And by the way, the second of them is scheduled to go overseas for a graduate program. I question -- and I'm not critical of the decision because we didn't know then what we know now.

I hope when all is said and done, when the dust settles and we're beyond COVID-19, that we will look at the decision to have dispersed them to begin with because I questioned whether it was wise to send thousands and thousands of students on airplanes and disperse them when in fact the data now suggests that they're not the necessarily ones we have to worry about. Perhaps they should have stayed on campuses. I'm tongue-tied. That's what I'm trying to say. So yes, that's my answer.

Don't forget to answer this week's survey question at Do businesses have an obligation to support Black Lives Matter? I hope you're voting.

Up ahead, this baby, Vernice, was born to a surrogate for an American couple in Ghana on March 23rd. Due to the pandemic, the family, like so many others around the globe, still doesn't have permission to travel home. I want to talk to the parents about that situation.

And at Stanford University, a law school professor paused his class Zoom recording to read an 18th century quote that included the N-word. Should it no longer even be mentioned in academia? We'll talk to a Harvard Law professor who says sometimes we need to give voice to the N-word.




SMERCONISH: The history of the N-word has arguably made it the most hurtful, divisive word in the English language. Is it ever acceptable to use that word within the context of education? There are many recent instances where professors have been criticized for their use of the N-word in a classroom setting. Several of these have occurred at Stanford.

A few weeks ago, a student told "The Washington Post" that Stanford University law professor Michael McConnell read a quote attributed to Patrick Henry from an 18th century debate in Virginia, but first he paused the Zoom video recording. The professor told "The Stanford Daily" newspaper that he gave a warning and then read the quote which included the N-word. He then resumed recording and turned to other topics. As a result, the law school said its faculty voted to require instructors to participate in training on diversity and inclusion.

However, first year law student Andrew Ezekoye, the only African- American student in the class, wrote in an e-mail to the dean that he had not been offended by the professor's use of the word. That's according to "The Stanford Daily." The e-mail was circulated among Stanford's law school faculty and with student's consent, but was then later leaked to students.

In it, he wrote that, quote, "Scrubbing the word from the quote would have made Patrick Henry appear damn near saint-like. He was not. He was a flawed human being, a woefully flawed human being at that. The unvarnished quote got that point across. I was not anywhere close to being offended. Honestly, to suggest otherwise not only is annoying, but is tiresome. I can make the distinction between gratuitous offense and pedagogically necessary material. This was entirely the latter."

In December, "The Stanford Daily" reported that a history professor drew backlash after repeatedly saying the N-word when quoting from tobacco advertisements. This professor told the newspaper that he aimed to demonstrate the racialist marketing used by the tobacco industry and labeled his slide as "racist brands."

In April, an assistant professor in race and ethnicity studies class played a clip from the NWA song "F the Police." She then read portions of the lyrics which contained the N-word from the slide. She later apologized. And at Wake Forest, the dean issued an apology to students after a historian of American free speech quoted portions from a Supreme Court case that included the N-word.


The professor also wrote students to say he regretted causing any pain.

In March of 2019, "Inside Higher Ed" reported that University of Chicago law professor Geoffrey Stone said he would stop using the n- word in a lecture on the fighting words doctrine. Several other similar classroom incidents have taken place across the country, including UCLA, Emory Law School, Ohio State.

Of course, there have also been instances where professors' use of the n-word of the own volition without actually quoting source material. Like in February when a University of Oklahoma professor compared the use of OK boomer to the n-word.

But let's focus on the ones that we've laid out where the word appears to be used in context. These incidents came to light as students voiced their concerns over being subjected to any use of the n-word during lectures. One of the central themes of students' arguments is that it causes unnecessary pain.

Stanford Law School faculty signed a letter to students that included the following agreement, "I recognize that open, intellectually rigorous, accurate discussions of racism, slavery, segregation, police brutality, and the law's complicity in all of these can be conducted without speaking the term even when the term appears in a relevant text."

My next guest sees it differently. Randall Kennedy is the Michael R. Klein professor at Harvard Law School where he teaches courses on contracts, criminal law, and the regulation of race relations. He was awarded the 1998 Robert F. Kennedy Book Award for Race, Crime, and the Law.

Professor, thank you so much for being here. You asked the question in a dear colleague letter. Is it acceptable to enunciate for pedagogical reasons a racial epithet that some find to be deeply upsetting? You then answered that question. Please summarize.

RANDALL KENNEDY, HARVARD LAW PROFESSOR: Sure you should be able to enunciate the term nigger for pedagogical reasons. I mean, in the instances that you mentioned in your introduction you had teachers who were seeking to drive home as vividly as possible, the depth and the centrality and the influence of racism in American life.

And one of the ways in which these teachers sought to do that was to quote from important figures in American history, Patrick Henry, and one could go on with many others. And they quoted these figures using -- truly using in the bad way the term nigger.

Well, that's bringing home a point that all Americans should know about. They should know about and hear about the centrality and the ugliness of racism. Well, how can you really grasp that without hearing and grasping this word which is the paradigmatic racial slur in the American language?

SMERCONISH: So, you just sort of -- I'm jarred by the fact that you just said it here. We didn't converse in advance as to whether you'd actually use the word. Did you just do that for pedagogical -- did you just illustrate the very point you're trying to make?

KENNEDY: I hope so. I mean, I wrote a book called "Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word." The fact of the matter is that this is an issue that has come up time and time again.

And, you know, what do you do, if you're teaching a course about the second reconstruction and you are reading Martin Luther King Junior's wonderful letter from a Birmingham jail? He uses the word nigger there, what are you going to do? Are you going to bowdlerize Martin Luther King Jr. and stick in the term n-word and basically erase what he wrote?

What are you going to do if you are teaching James Baldwin? There was a professor in Minnesota who was disciplined because a student read James Baldwin. And they talked about James Baldwin's language.

Now James Baldwin deployed the term nigger and there was some upset at a student enunciating the term. Well, it seems to me that people should be able to understand the difference between the racist use of this epithet and a pedagogical deployment of the epithet in order to really reveal the problem of American racism.

SMERCONISH: So, let's define then the context in which Professional Randall Kennedy thinks it is appropriate.


Is it narrowly confined to the classroom setting?

KENNEDY: No, it's not necessarily. I mean, a lot of learning takes place in classrooms. But, you know, just suppose you're at dinner. Education takes place -- take place in lots of domains of American life.

It seems to me the important point here is, the use of the word to demean people, insult people, terrorize people, that's terrible. That should be condemned.

On the other hand, if you are in a discussion and you are talking about the way in which -- until relatively recently there were politicians who routinely used the infamous n-word to refer to black people. And if you were -- you know, if you were sort of talking about this and saying, you know, until relatively recently, there were politicians in the United States Congress who would use nigger. And if you were to say that over dinner, would it be right for somebody to condemn you for having made a statement, the purpose of which was to underline the problem of American racism?

Racism is obviously a big problem in American life. And it's really good that people are concerned about it. And want to address it. And want to stamp it out. That's a great thing.

But we also have to have a sense of proportion and be able to make distinctions. And there's a big distinction between using it nigger to demean people, insult people, threaten people. And deploying it, using it to reveal the truth about racism in American life.

SMERCONISH: A quick final question. I think I know the answer, based on what you've said, but I want to hear you say it. Is the race of the speaker, in the context you've identified, irrelevant?

KENNEDY: I think so. If you're making a good point, you're making a good point, whether you're white, black, red, doesn't matter, brown. A good point is a good point. And it would be a terrible thing in American culture if you erected a race line with respect to who can say what.

SMERCONISH: Professor, thank you for being here.

KENNEDY: Thank you.

SMERCONISH: Let's check in on your social media reaction. Tweets and Facebook comments.

Smerconish, what's wrong with just using the expression n-word, I can never see a valid use anywhere ever by anyone.

I wonder, John, if you typed those words before listening to Professor Randall Kennedy's entire explanation. Because his point is having read some of his work outside the context of that discussion, he thinks it's important to give voice. In other words, he doesn't say use it. But give voice. In other words, his argument is that sometimes, there's no substitute in an academic setting or some other pedagogical reason to actually say it.

Look, I can tell you this, I obviously knew the conversation we were about to have. I did not know that he was going to use the word. And when he did, as I described it, I found it jarring. I froze, sitting here, evaluating in my mind the propriety of what he had just said. But he was illustrating the very point that he was here to make which is this is so abhorrent that sometimes it needs to be said.

I want to remind you to answer this week's survey question at

"Do businesses have an obligation to support Black Lives Matter?"

Still to come, you'll hear the story of Steve and Zara Wilcox and their daughter Vernice who was born on March 23rd. They live here in Philadelphia but because of the pandemic they've been stuck in West Africa for months with no clear path home. We're about to find out why.



SMERCONISH: For months an American couple has been unable to return home from Ghana with their new baby in part because of the pandemic and they're just one of many such stories.

Steve and Zara Wilcox who live here in Philly arrived in Ghana, West Africa on February 25th to meet and bring home the baby about to be born by a surrogate using in vitro fertilization. The surrogate had been unable to obtain a visa to come to America. Vernice Tallo Wilcox, born on March 23rd. The Wilcoxes immediately applied for a passport for her intending to remain in Ghana for four weeks. That's the conventional wisdom for when it's safe to fly with a new born.

But now thanks to complications caused by the pandemic it's about to be 12 weeks with no end in sight. Turns out the sweeping travel restrictions due to the coronavirus have disrupted adoptions and surrogate births around the globe. As of mid-May in the Ukraine alone there were 110 surrogate newborns stranded with one official estimating it could be 1,000.

Steve and Zara Wilcox and Vernice join me now from Ghana. Steve is the founder of Design Science. That's a company with locations in Philadelphia, Chicago and Germany. Zara is a French teacher. So, welcome to the Wilcoxes. Why are you stranded?

STEVE WILCOX, AMERICAN TRYING TO BRING NEWBORN HOME FROM GHANA: Well, at the moment, we're stranded because we can't get a passport from the embassy. We're in this Kafkaesque situation where the embassy says you have to -- it's a consular (ph) section of the embassy. They say you have to do a DNA test which they didn't tell us until seven weeks from the time we contacted them anyway.


So, we then went to a DNA lab and said, OK, we'll get a DNA test. And they said, well, the embassies aren't doing DNA tests. So, we're -- and in fact, they are not.

So, when we got back to the embassy, they said, oh, yes, we're not doing tests. So, we said, let me make sure I understand, you're giving us a requirement that we can't meet because of you. Well, yes, we'll get back to you. So, here we are.

SMERCONISH: We saw the reaction from the State Department trying to, you know, rattle the cage and help you break free of the situation. I'll put on the screen what the State Department said.


SMERCONISH: All determinations regarding the transmission of citizenship are made in accordance with the Immigration and Nationality Act. In order to transmit U.S. citizenship to a child born abroad, there must be, among other requirements, a biological relationship between the child and the transmitting U.S. citizen parent or parents.

Is there a biological relationship in this case?

STEVE WILCOX: Yes, of course. This is my daughter. And, you know, I was even there -- I was in the operating room for the birth. And since we used in vitro fertilization, we have documentation, as I said several times, if you do it -- if you conceive the old-fashioned way you have no documentation. Here, I have actual proof that she's my daughter.

And in fact, the State Department Web site says that DNA is only necessary when you don't have adequate documentation. And I don't know how you could have more documentation than we have but here we are in suspended animation. Still waiting to even hear if we can do a DNA test.

In other words, the beginning of the process of the several week process can't even start until we get the word from the embassy. Or unless they finally tell us that they're going to waive it. We applied -- we officially applied for the -- they let us come in and apply a week ago -- a little over a week ago but we still have heard nothing. So here we are, we don't even know when we're going to hear.

Zara, is she always so well behaved?

ZARA WILCOX, AMERICAN TRYING TO BRING NEWBORN HOME FROM GHANA: She's a very good baby. She sleeps well, eats well.

Now she has a (INAUDIBLE) and so I have to apologize just in case. She wants to be part of the interview. (INAUDIBLE).

SMERCONISH: Listen, I'm happy to -- I'm happy to shine a light on your predicament. I know that there are many similarly situated. I also know from all of our back and forth that it's been very hard if not impossible for you to get specific answers from the embassy about your case, instead of just a word salad that applies to every circumstance. So, hopefully, you'll come home soon, and we wish you all good things.

ZARA WILCOX: Thank you.

STEVE WILCOX: Yes. Thanks a lot, Michael. We appreciate it.

ZARA WILCOX: Thank you for doing that for us. Thank you.


ZARA WILCOX: We really appreciate it.

SMERCONISH: See you soon.

Still to come, your best and worst tweets and Facebook comments. And we'll give you the final results of the survey question at

"Do businesses have an obligation to support Black Lives Matter?"



SMERCONISH: Time to see how you responded to this week's survey question at

"Do businesses have an obligation to support Black Lives Matter?"

What did you say? Here are the results. We had nearly 13,000 vote. Fifty-five percent saying agreeing with Don Peebles who was my lead guest saying 55 percent, yes, they do have that kind of an obligation. He was careful to distinguish Black Lives Matter from a political cause like taking a position in the say Biden or Trump camp.

What came in, Catherine? What do we have on that issue or anything else?

Smerconish, it's extortion now. Support them or get your business destroyed. It's obvious bigotry.

I don't think that anyone was threatening Starbucks with getting their business destroyed. There was a social media reaction definitely that caused them to reevaluate their position. They put it in the category of support of the LGBTQ community. I know a lot of critics online say it was a purely political move to protect the bottom line.

What else do we have?

Smerconish, you're going to let that guy say the n-word like five times on CNN air? Education takes place in a lot of domains in life. Where did you find this guy? Sounds like a racial apologist.

Well, Adam, here's where I found him at the Harvard Law School. He's one of the most esteemed, widely published academics on exactly this subject. You know, there was a -- we call them in the business full screen that I never got to where he explained in a dear -- put it up on the screen, Catherine, if you have it.

He explained in a dear colleague letter why he thinks it's acceptable to enunciate for pedagogical, meaning teaching purposes, that racial epithet. "I do quote the term out loud in an effort to drive home to audiences the pervasiveness of anti-black prejudice and more specifically, the way in which this troublesome word has been an integral part of the soundtrack of American racism."

My point is this, nothing could be more opposite a gratuitous use of the word than what you heard from Professor Randall Kennedy.


I didn't know he was going to say it and I bristled when he did. But I think that was a large part of the reason why he did because if he doesn't say it, he doesn't think it's got the same sting and he wants that word removed.

Coming up, the Sesame Street crew is back for a new family town hall about COVID-19 and staying safe this summer. Have a great weekend. See you next week.