"The state of safety and civil rights progress for black Americans today" PBS NewsHour 9/22/2016
SUMMARY: Charlotte and Tulsa are the most recent in a long list of cities that have mourned and protested deadly police shootings against black Americans. Gwen Ifill speaks with author and activist Andre Perry; Rashad Robinson, executive director of Color of Change; and Vanessa De Luca, editor-in-chief of Essence Magazine about what these acts of violence suggest about life in the black community today.
GWEN IFILL (NewsHour): Charlotte and Tulsa are the latest communities grappling with an ongoing, enormous debate over police shootings, protest violence and social justice.
It's become a long list, New York, Chicago, Minneapolis, Oakland, Baton Rouge, Ferguson. Each incident sparks a renewed and wrenching conversation within communities of color.
We explore some of that now with Rashad Robinson, executive director of the racial justice organization Color of Change, Vanessa De Luca, editor in chief of “Essence,”a magazine for and about black women, and Andre Perry, an author, activist and educator.
Welcome to you all.
This has been a week. We reported about it last night on the NewsHour, where we were talking about this brand-new museum that is opening in the Mall, lots of rejoicing, lots of excitement about that, upbeat, and, at the same time, the same conversations turn to what's happening in Charlotte, what's happening in Tulsa.
Rashad Robinson, there is a dichotomy at work here. What do you see?
RASHAD ROBINSON, Executive Director, Color of Change: I think there absolutely is a dichotomy.
And it speaks to this idea of that not mistaking presence for power, that just because we are seeing progress, progress for black folks in this country has never been on a linear sort of line. We have seen, you know, steps ahead and then steps backwards.
And while we see huge steps forward — I got to see a sneak peek of that museum last night, and it's beautiful. It speaks to sort of all our hopes and aspirations and also shows all of the struggles — while, at the same time, the presence of a black President, the presence of black billionaires doesn't necessarily change the rules, the rules of policy, the rules of culture, the written and unwritten rules that govern us.
And so we're seeing so much of that bubble up, that alone doesn't change structural…
GWEN IFILL: Well, let me just move on, because we have a lot of people to — lot of things to talk about here.
Vanessa De Luca, are we moving forward? Are we stalled? Are we moving backward?
VANESSA DE LUCA, Editor in Chief, Essence: I mean, I think we're at a tipping point, right?
There is so much to be celebrated, certainly with the museum, but if you look at our day to day, there is so much more that needs to be done in terms of accountability, in terms of seeking justice, that we can't ignore.
So there needs to be — we're parallel-pathing our way through this time in our history. And we cannot afford to erase anything. Certainly, the museum is about not erasing our history, and certainly we want to make sure, in all of our protests and all of our questions that are raised about what's going on in our community right now, that history is also not erased.
GWEN IFILL: Andre Perry, eight years of a black President, did it change anything or did it set us back in some ways?
ANDRE PERRY, Author/Activist: No, it certainly, in the sense that when he was elected, the day after, the country, at least many people of it, felt that they had to take the country back, it was a marker in which we heard to — that people felt they had to regain a foothold, that they lost their America.
But we clearly understand that having a black President doesn't equate to progress for black people. I just want to throw out just a few statistics.
The U.S. is the only developed country in which maternal mortality is on the rise. Three to four times the rate of black women die at the rate of white women. Funding for schools has actually widened between rich and poor districts in at least half of the states in the country.
In my state and home city of New Orleans, one in seven black people are on prison and parole. So I would never quibble with anyone if someone said desegregation did me no favors.