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How Corporate America Can Change Inequality; Former Chairman and CEO, Time Warner, and Darren Walker, President, Ford Foundation, are Interviewed About Inequality in America; "Sitting in Limbo," a New BBC Drama; Britain's Racial History; Interview With Author Dr. Robin DiAngelo; Interview With Actor Patrick Robinson. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired December 28, 2020 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Black lives matter.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Black lives matter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: America's black community is worse off than white in every walk of life. How can Corporate America help change this? The Ford Foundation's,
Darren Walker, and former Time Warner chairman and CEO, Richard Parsons, joining me.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Open the door right now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) I'm arresting you on suspicion of being an illegal resident.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you talking about?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Shining a light on Britain's colonial legacy and the Windrush scandal at the very heart of it. Actor Patrick Robinson on his harrowing
new TV drama.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBIN DIANGELO, AUTHOR, "WHITE FRAGILITY: The mere suggestion that white lives have meaning will cause erupt in defensiveness.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: White fragility and unconscious racism. Our Michel Martin talks to best-selling author, Robin D'Angelo.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour working from home in London.
The protests that have erupted ever since the murder of George Floyd are not only about police brutality. Also, at the heart of making black lives
matter is economic inequality. Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1953 march on Washington was for jobs as well as freedom. But in 2020, by every metric,
black Americans are still worse off than whites and the numbers are staggering.
The median net worth of white households in America is 10 times that of black households. When it comes to income, the average white household
earns $71,000 while black households earn $41,000. And 8.1 percent of whites Americans live in poverty compared to 20.8 percent of blacks
So, is this a turning point and could Corporate America get on board and effect change? In their own rans as well, boardrooms, for instance, are
still overwhelmingly white, and just four of the Fortune 500 companies have a black CEO and all four of them are men. So, will this movement and this
moment lead to practical change to combat inequality?
Joining me now is the president of the Ford Foundation, Darren Walker, and Richard Parsons, the former CEO and chairman of Time Warner and the former
chairman of Citigroup.
Gentlemen, welcome to the program.
Let me ask you first, Dick Parsons, a former boss of mine as chairman and CEO of Time Warner. Your story and Darren's all too rare, the idea of black
Americans reaching the very, very top in the financial sector in Corporate America, even in philanthropic America. Just give me an idea, Dick, of how
difficult it was for you to get where you landed, at the top of the pyramid.
RICHARD PARSONS, FORMER CHAIRMAN AND CEO, TIME WARNER: Well, Christiane, first all, it's a pleasure to be back in your company and thank you for
I would say -- you know, I'd like to be able to say it was a struggle and I -- and, you know, I had to not only deal with the -- you know, with
competition, if you will, straight up on the business side but also navigate too as a black individual. For me it wasn't that difficult. It
seemed that I was built for this. And, you know, I thought back on it, and I would say one thing, I had great sponsorship, I had great mentors who
sort of paved the way for me and gave me the opportunity to show what I could do on a performance level.
And then, you know, I got in the door because of these people. Nelson Rockefeller was my -- as you know, my first major mentor, and you couldn't
have had a better one. And then several other folks followed in his train after he died, and they got me in the door. And once in the door, you could
do your thing. I think the problem that the great majority of my brothers and sisters, African-Americans, have is how do you get in the door?
AMANPOUR: Well, we're going to continue that, but I remember in 2000 when you became CEO at Time Warner, you said that this was just the beginning
and the wave would continue because that was the first wave of senior black CEOs. But it didn't continue, did it?
PARSONS: It didn't. And I was wrong. And it's still somewhat of a mystery to me why the wave didn't, but since I happen to know personally, you know,
dozens of African-American men and women who are super qualified and prepared to take that next step to the CEO position, and it just hasn't
AMANPOUR: All right. So, we're going to dig into that. Darren Walker, how -- I mean, it's also very rare to see a black president of a major
foundation, and you also had to struggle against the biases that you faced. And, again, why do you think there wasn't a wave that one was predicting,
perhaps, in 2000 when the first -- you know, the first level rose to CEO?
DARREN WALKER, PRESIDENT, FORD FOUNDATION: Well, thank you, Christiane. I was born in the bottom 1 percent of the population in the United States,
and I now am firmly in the top 1 percent. So, in many ways, I, like Dick, manifest the American dream in blackness.
But the problem that you've identified is that we do not have, at the highest levels of Corporate America, representation of African-Americans,
and that is in part because when you look at the boards of these corporations, you see very few African-Americans. And until there are
African-Americans on corporate boards, which is where the power rests, this is about power in the American economic system, and that power does not
rest with African-Americans, and it will not until and unless we see change at the board level.
When we see changes at the board level, you will see changes in the C suite. It is no surprise that two of those former CEOs who were here
(INAUDIBLE), Ursula Burns and Ken Chenault were at American Express and Xerox, and Vernon Jordan was their sponsor. As Dick says, as he knows so
well, you must have sponsors and you must have white sponsors, white people, white men especially, willing to champion your cause, and we do not
see enough of that in Corporate America.
AMANPOUR: OK. So, I'm going to dig down into that a little bit later when we talk about some of the solutions. But I want to ask you, Dick, because
you have said that Corporate America has not stood up as they could have done to address inequality. And I wonder whether you could just say whether
you think -- you've seen now a whole number of corporate, you know, leaders and corporations jump on the bandwagon of these protests. Do you think it's
genuine and do you think they're going to do the hard work that's necessary to actually make a change?
PARSONS: Well, let me unpack that question because there are different answers to different portions of it. I did say back when I was a CEO that I
didn't think Corporate America had stood up and really turned into the window (ph) to address this issue. And it was because, if you recall, you
know, 15 or 20 years ago, the mantra was the CEO's job is to, you know, enhance value for its shareholders, period, full stop.
When I used to say -- when I was the CEO, no, I thought we had more constituency than just the shareholders, and then those constituencies
included both our employees and our communities, many in the investment community would boo and hiss and say, you've got it wrong. Your job is to
create value for the shareholders. Well, I think, you know, we've arrived at the point now where the mantra is different and people are talking about
-- they're talking the talk.
AMANPOUR: Right. Well, will they walk the walk? So, I want to ask you, Darren, you mentioned how it's really important to get boards to be more
representative. You know that Alex Ohanian of Reddit, the co-founder, in the aftermath of these protests, he immediately stepped down from his board
and said that he wants his position to go to a black board member, and that's exactly what happened.
And I want to know what you think about that. He's married to Serena Williams, as we know, who is very vocal on the issue of equality and anti-
racism. And is that sort of a start or do you think -- I mean, how much -- how many ripples do you think there will come from that example?
WALKER: I think what Alex did is impressive and admirable, but the real solution is going to come when we have investors, an asset manager who say
to companies, we expect your boards to be diverse. So, we need to hear from people like Larry Fink at BlackRock, the leaders of the large asset
management firms who have power in our economy.
Just as we saw in the wake of #MeToo, a number of prominent people, including Mr. Fink, wrote letters to their company, to their investees,
directing them and letting them know that they would be accountable for and assessed by how quickly they brought women onto their board and took gender
into consideration. Now is time to do same thing with respect to race.
AMANPOUR: So, let me ask you because, again, you're head of the Ford Foundation and, you know, it's slightly different than Corporate America,
but you worked with Corporate America and you've pledged, I think, a billion dollars of money. Explain to me how it works, because you've taken
black lives matter very seriously, and in any event, you had steered the company, I think, or the foundation towards addressing inequality.
WALKER: Well, I am a member of a public company board, PepsiCo, and -- so I have a firsthand experience and an insider's perspective on this
question. But in regards to the Ford Foundation and the issue of the billion-dollar bond, we made the decision that it was time to invest more
money in racial work, to expend more money during this time of challenge for nonprofits, to give them financial resilience and the economic
durability to withstand this very difficult time post-pandemic.
But we believe at the Ford Foundation that one of the great challenges of our time is growing economic inequality. Inequality is bad for a democracy,
because it harms the heart of democracy, which is hope. Inequality asphyxiates hope. When we know that hope is the oxygen of democracy. So,
part of the challenge in America today is that we are seeing too many people who have been harmed by inequality, too many people who no longer
believe that capitalism is the best way organize an economy.
We should be concerned, we capitalists, that the latest Pew survey of young people under the age of 39 is that only 52 percent believe that capitalism
is the best way to organize an economy. We're almost at the point where half of young people do not believe that capitalism is the best way to
organize an economy, and that's very troubling.
AMANPOUR: I want to turn to Dick, because, you know, I want to ask you, Dick, about some of the proposals that have been made to try to address
some of this inequality. And, you know, for instance, there is a company which is basically saying, you know, how about instituting unconscious
bias, anti-discrimination job training, diversify hiring practices, supply chain and recruitment process, institute wage gap analysis, set
quantifiable goals for diverse work force.
Dick, are those the practical steps? I mean, you mentioned the mentoring and how you got in. Are those the practical steps that have to be taken
PARSONS: Well, let me answer that, I want to wheel back into the question that you had asked before I got -- my machine broke down on me. You know,
Corporate America is now -- and for the last several years they've been saying, oh, yes, we have more than just shareholders as a constituency, we
have employees and we have communities. And it's been, you know, a little bit of walking the walk, but not that much. This inflection point we're at,
I think now the corporations and Corporate America is sort of stepping up and saying, wait a minute, we've got to get real about looking after our
employee base and our communities.
And people are starting to put really substantial chunks of money to show that their -- you know, their head is where their heart is. So, the things
that you identified and the solutions are the beginnings of solutions. But let me say this, I think all those things are good, but they aren't going
to -- they're not going to result in a transformative kind of solution.
You know, I was around in 1968, which was the last time we had this kind of social upheaval around race relation issues. And it was a blue-ribbon panel
appointed by President Johnson called the Kerner Commission, right? And their conclusion at the end of looking at all of it, he said, you know,
what's this all about? So, they looked at it and did a (INAUDIBLE) study and they published the report that said, you know, this sort of social
disruption and, you know, community outrage is a result of, you know, racial discrimination that results in inadequate housing for blacks,
inadequate or poor education, police brutality, a criminal justice system that doesn't work properly from their perspective and isn't fair, and low-
wage jobs. Well, that was written in 1968. I could write that today. Still true.
AMANPOUR: Yes. Yes.
PARSONS: And while a lot of good things have happened, they haven't got at the core issue. And, frankly, the core issue is, you know, our system is
biased. Our system is based on -- our whole system is based on a series of racially based notions and narratives that tilt the system away from blacks
towards whites, and we got to get at that if we're going to have permanent transformative change.
WALKER: Christiane, if I may --
AMANPOUR: And we read the statistics -- yes, Darren?
WALKER: If I may to Dick's very good point, I think the Kerner Commission that he refers to was shell by President Johnson. He did not put his weight
behind it because the executive summary placed the blame on white America. And the president did not think that white America was prepared to accept
the burden for racism and the legacy for what we must name, and the name is white supremacy. And the legacy of white supremacy is with America today.
And what has happened in these last two weeks with the murder of George Floyd is that deniability is no longer an option for white America. Until
now, white people in America has been able to say that it isn't as bad as we say it is, or, we didn't see that person actually killed by the police,
so we're going to take law enforcement's word for it. Well, now we know.
And we saw a visual that in some ways is a metaphor for what we find in the black/white dynamic in America, a black man on the ground and a white man
with his knee at his neck who is asphyxiating him, who is literally taking the air out of his body as he cries for help. That is a metaphor for what
we see in America today.
AMANPOUR: So, then, that leads me to the next necessary question, because it is obviously the system that has to be altered, not playing around at
the edges, as you correctly say. And I want to ask you, then, to react to this. You mentioned Martin Luther King, Dick, but here is what he said in
that speech and in the language of the time, he said, the negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material
prosperity. In a sense, we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check that would give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of
And he also went on to say, that all the reforms that had been made, equal, you know, ability to sit at the lunch counter, go to school, this and that,
"did not cost the white system anything." There were no expenses, no taxes. So, Darren, do you think the white system will agree to the fundamental
redistribution of resources and the rest?
WALKER: I think that white Americans are in a moment of retrospection and reflection. Because I don't believe that white America wants to live in a
racist America. I think most white people in the United States believe in fairness and justice. And the ideals that are written in our founding
document. But we have not lived up to them.
And in order for the change that you are speaking of, Christiane, to happen, we privileged people, especially those of us who have benefited
from the bounty of this great nation have to ask ourselves now not what are we willing to give back, but what are we willing to give up?
PARSONS: Well --
AMANPOUR: Let me just ask you, Dick, I just need to ask you, I've got one last question to ask, because I think it's clear that without the protests,
none of this conversation would have happened, as awful, as awful as that - - as you say, you know, televisual lynching of George Floyd was. The protests in the streets forced this conversation, and I wonder whether you
can talk about that, because that's what happened in south Africa.
And you headed a company, Dick, where the majority of the -- let's say the creatives in the company, whether it is Warner Music or elsewhere, you
know, these were black artists. What if they withdrew their labor? What if they just decided to abuse their leverage? I mean, is it -- that's a real -
- what do you say about the protests and the leverage that the black community has?
PARSONS: Well, you know, you are usually spot on with your question. You know, about the protests, protests, the value that they bring is that they
bring attention to an issue, right? They don't necessarily suggest a solution, but they bring attention to an issue. And I certainly understand
the cause and nature of the protests here. I think it was Aristotle who said that the result or the reaction to injustice is anger. And with the
protests were sort of flaunting was the anger at the injustice that is (INAUDIBLE) was manifest.
Now, what's -- how do we fashion solutions that take us beyond the status quo, which is kind of incremental -- you know, incremental improvement
which three generations from now might get us where we want to be? How do we -- what do we -- how do we do something to bring that to this
generation? And you put your finger on it. The black community has power. Not as much as the white community, but it has some power, and it can
exercise some leverage.
And while I don't disagree with Darren that the average American black or white would prefer to live in a society that was -- gave everybody equal
opportunity and where the playing field was level, the reality of life is that whoever has power doesn't give it up lightly. I mean, they all fight
to keep it. So, I don't think that we can lecture or, you know, sort of encourage through moral persuasion white America to tilt the system.
I think that blacks have to not only organize themselves to be prepared when the day comes when they have full equal opportunity, but to use what
power they have to tilt the system. And we have power, as you say. I mean, black artists essentially define and lead the cultural evolution not only
in America but in the world. There's a lot of influential power there, and I think that's one of the reasons that so many of the protesters or what
you would call millennials or younger people.
Also, there are black businesses and businessmen and businesswomen who can exercise the power that they have to cause various structural barriers to
be lowered or eliminated in part. But I think this is not just a case of, you know, white America transferring more of the bounty, as Darren calls
it, into the black community. Housing is important, education is important, the most important. Absence of police brutality, all of those things are
important, but we need to exercise some power to encourage some other structural changes.
AMANPOUR: All right. Well, to be continued. Dick Parsons, Darren Walker, thank you both so much for these important conversations. Thank you very
Now, the solidarity protest here in Britain are also about addressing this country's own racial history. Recently, statues of slave traders have been
toppled. This one was thrown into a harbor. And an (INAUDIBLE) new BBC drama is tackling a different scandal, Windrush, about a generation of
British subjects from the Caribbean that had been wrongly detained or deported. The film, "Sitting in Limbo," starts with a story of Anthony
Bryan who has been settled and living in the U.K. since he was eight years old until one night there was a knock at the door. Here's a bit of the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Open the door right now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anthony Bryan, I'm arresting you on the suspicion of being an illegal resident.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you talking about?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On behalf of the Home Office.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What would be really helpful is if we could see your passport.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I lost my job.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you be willing to take a paternity test?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I lost my home. 50 years I've been in this country. 50 years.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Windrush scandal. One man's fight to prove he is British.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Patrick Robinson plays Anthony Bryan, and he's joining us now.
Patrick Robinson, welcome to the program.
Obviously, this film was shot way before the George Floyd killing and the national and international movement that that has sparked. How do you feel
about this happening and airing now?
PATRICK ROBINSON, ACTOR, "SITTING IN LIMBO": Well, it's serendipitous, I feel, because it was due to go out a lot earlier than it went out. So, I
suppose it's just -- the timing has been quite crucial to crystallize what's happening in the world, and obviously, this is just one story, one
scandal perpetrated by the British government.
AMANPOUR: So, tell me about it. What made you want to take this role? Tell me, you know, for viewers who might not know as much about Windrush as you
do, what was the heart of the matter that attracted you to this role?
ROBINSON: Well, the heart is because of it's what you may call my heritage. I am West Indian, I'm Jamaican, and I'm part of that troupe of
folk that obviously came to the U.K. in the late '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, and I'm one of the children of that generation, if you like.
So, it could have been me or my elder brothers and sisters that this could have happened to. It's just by chance that I got a passport in the, you
know, 1980s, and that was that. And that's kind of what says, you know, you've got a system in place which obviously everyone is not quite aware
of. If you think about people coming from the colonies, as it was then, that they didn't believe that they were part of Britain because it was
always stated that, you know, England was the mother country. And all the colonies, all the people, were the British subjects.
So, of course, it's something which hits home for me very hard, because it's part of my family.
AMANPOUR: You play Anthony Bryan, whose story is that he was here since he was eight, that he was -- you know, one day the police came and accused him
of being in this country illegally, when, of course, he wasn't. Tell me about your preparation meeting Anthony Bryan and why it was so difficult
for him to prove and have the paperwork that the bureaucracy would accept.
ROBINSON: Well, of course, it was like most jobs, you hopefully have an interview, and, you know, as far as I was concerned, when I read the script
going up to the part, it was something I really wanted to be involved in, because it was a story very much linked to my heritage, and you don't get
many of those stories in terms of the work, basically, you know, which features West Indian people in Britain.
So, of course, it was fantastic that they were actually doing this story, so everyone can see. And because it's a true story, it was really important
that everyone knew this has been going on and this is just one story that's been going on for years, if not hundreds of years, to be honest.
So, yes, it was very, very crucial for me to be involved, and like I say, it was incredible to meet Anthony and his partner, Janet, and his family,
because one of the things you realize is it was really brave for him to actually tell his story, because, you know, we're a proud people,
essentially, and it's like saying that you've failed if you're going to have to tell a story to everyone of how -- you know, how much injustice
you've had to deal with and, you know, maybe you couldn't cope, and that's what we've all been doing for 70 years, is coping and just dealing with a
situation where we are -- we don't have clarity or equality, and that even when we shout about it, it's not believed. We're just seen as people who
are angry, you know, which is a stereotype.
So, of course, it was really, really important to get this story and to show his strength and dignity and how, injustice-wise, when you think about
the system, it just highlights the system more than it highlights anything else in how it's biased, and it continues to be so. And, of course, it's
just one story out of hundreds, if not thousands.
AMANPOUR: Well, let me just clarify for people who might not know exactly what Windrush is. The Windrush generation is named after the ship that
brought them over from the Caribbean, and it was after World War II when the British government asked members of colonies and gave them British
nationality and told them to come here, please, and help rebuild this country after the devastation of World War II because there weren't enough
workers and employees here.
And then, of course, much later, they decided -- and this is really important, and this just -- I'd like you to talk about this. They created
this thing called hostile environment for immigrants. And on the back of that, a lot of Windrush families were deported and detained.
And it was all done in secret and very, very difficult. But a hostile environment for immigrants is what the Conservative government in the midst
of Brexit decided was how they were going to deal with immigration.
Can you just expand on that, just even that term?
ROBINSON: Well, a hostile environment basically says, let's ramp up what we're already doing.
And, of course, if you think about the folk of the Windrush generation, it's like it's just collateral damage if we're going to scoop those guys
up, too, and because it's just low-hanging fruit, as I have heard that phrase being used, that some of them will be gathered up and then deported.
But it will help in showing that we're trying to do something in terms of immigration for this country, because that's what most of the U.K. were
worried about with regards to Brexit, I believe, and that it was the immigration thing needed to be resolved, and that was one way of just doing
And the Caribbean folk, the West Indians who came to Britain and their generation, their offspring basically have got caught up in that. But it's
something that they obviously felt was easy just to implement and do. And now it's a big scandal because it's probably legislation that's illegal.
AMANPOUR: And, of course, the stats at the end of your film are quite shocking. Basically, 850 people were detained between 2012 and 2017; 83
were deported, despite having the right to live here in the U.K.; 13 people died before the Home Office apologized.
And there was 100 -- sorry -- 1,072 claims made to compensation scheme. Only 60 have been compensated, even after all the publicity. And I think
Anthony Bryan, who you portray, didn't get his compensation until practically the night the film was being aired.
ROBINSON: Apparently so, yes.
And I don't think it was all of the compensation. I think it was just an interim payment. But, of course, in terms of the percentage, yes, it's
something like 6 percent of the people who are due compensation have been paid.
And you think, well, they have had plenty of time to do that. But, sadly, it's nothing new in the great scheme of things. So, obviously, it's being
highlighted now, and so they're trying to do something, which is kind of a knee-jerk reaction in a way.
AMANPOUR: Well, I wonder, because we were just having this conversation with CEOs in the United States about what sort of moment in history this
So, I wonder what you think about the current environment. I mean, you know, you have spoken about your own issues, your own identity: "I'm not in
the club. I have had to have a thicker skin. My strange displacement is to be English, British, West Indian and Jamaican."
And you talk a little bit about some of the struggles you went through before becoming a household name here on TV.
But do you not think that this is a clarifying moment?
ROBINSON: I think it's quite an enlightening one, I feel.
I think there is a difference to it this time, because I can just go back in recent terms and think of 1993, when Stephen Lawrence was murdered, and
that was obviously seen as a racist killing, and how they wanted to try and do something about it.
And, a few years later, they did at first the Macpherson Report, which obviously investigated the police and how they do their thing, how they
work. And, basically, I believe they found that the Met Police was institutionally racist.
And, of course, I'm not quite sure when the report came out, and I'm sure they put forth some recommendations. But, to this day, I couldn't tell you
what -- which one of those recommendations have been implemented to say, oh, because of what happened in the early '90s to do with Stephen Lawrence
and Macpherson Report and the Met Police being institutionally racist, they put this in place.
I don't know what changes have been made where I can say, oh, that's made a difference. So, this is a new moment, if you like, which I think it's quite
brilliant, to a certain extent, because the tools that we have now, we have a phone in our hand, and basically we can use that to gain information.
And when you gain information, not only do you find out certain facts, some could be false, but you can then cross-reference and try and do more
research and go down the rabbit hole of one thing and find out that it is with that, that corroborates with that.
And then you don't just talk about it word of mouth in your little area, say, in Southeast London and the urban areas. You can talk to your friends
all over the country and then all over the world.
And I feel that it's the young people right now who are doing that,. And they have got the energy and they have the outrage, where they feel it
instantly. And so that is what's happening, I feel, which is an enlightening thing, because even when you go all the way down the road of
having protests, they're doing that in Bristol.
And in Bristol, basically...
ROBINSON: Oh, sorry.
AMANPOUR: No, no, sorry, sorry, sorry. I don't mean to interrupt you.
I thought the thing had dropped a little bit.
But let me -- I want to ask you, because you grew up -- or -- sorry, you spent some time in Bristol, and you have seen, like in America, statues are
coming down here, and particularly Edward Colston, the slave trader.
You obviously must have run into that statue on a daily basis when you were living there. And now it's come down, and they're going to put it in the
museum as a teaching moment.
What was it like living in a city where that statue, that name was all over the place?
ROBINSON: Well, yes, I worked and -- well, I lived in Bristol for four or five years, and obviously working on a project there, but I love the city.
And I ended up making a short film in Bristol about Bristol, and it's called "Monument." And it was basically telling the story of how there are
so many monuments in Bristol which represent the slave merchants and the slave traders and their philanthropic ways and basically giving money to
And my film was basically about, there are monuments to those guys, but there are no monuments that represent the slaves that actually did the work
and how the wealth was accrued and, you know, enriched by these wealthy slave owners.
So, that film was made in 1998. And, of course, in terms of being a short film, telling the story, it's about a bad journalist trying to get the
story out to the region, and he does. It's a...
ROBINSON: Anyway, so I did have shots of Ed Colston and a few others in a few other areas that highlights how Bristol is full of that. And that was
ROBINSON: So, for me to see Edward Colston, the statue, be pulled down, a wry smile and a small Pyrrhic victory that says, I was aware of that in
Bristol a while ago.
ROBINSON: And all it needs is education to try and help people to change.
And what have the protesters done? They have gone to Bristol. They didn't smash a shopping area. What they did was pull down the slave trader's
statue, and that to me, says, we're discerning. We need to know the truth.
And that ultimately leads me on to history where history is taught by the victorious. So we have, like, given -- been given a month to highlight
black history. And I don't say it is black history. It is history.
ROBINSON: We may kind of specialize and say, it's black history, but it's history.
But we're not learning history in school. The first time I knew about slavery was when I watched the series "Roots" when I was 12. And that's
when I knew that black people were slaves, because, of course, in terms of coming from the West Indies, my parents, they had enough time trying to
just be in the U.K. and survive and their children grow up without to be -- get into trouble or anything like that.
So, in terms of talking about what happened in the past didn't come, so history was quite important for me to know about my identity, hence why I
say education is the key, absolutely.
AMANPOUR: OK. Exactly. And this is an amazing moment.
Thank you so much for joining us, Patrick Robinson, "Sitting in Limbo."
Now, when it comes to racism, of course, most decent white people have the same visceral reaction: I'm not a racist.
But our next guest, Dr. Robin DiAngelo, argues that's, sadly, not true.
In her 2018 book "White Fragility," DiAngelo digs into unconscious biases and why white people are so defensive when it comes to talking about race.
Now "White Fragility" is right back at the top of the bestsellers list, as people seek to educate themselves.
And so we're airing an extended version of a 2018 discussion between DiAngelo and our Michel Martin.
MICHEL MARTIN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So, what's white fragility? That's the title of your book is "White Fragility," and the
subtitle is "Why It's so Hard for White People to Talk About Racism."
Why white fragility, and how do we recognize it?
ROBIN DIANGELO, AUTHOR, "WHITE FRAGILITY": The fragility part is meant to capture how little it takes to set white people off, to set us off into
So, for many white people, the mere suggestion that white has meaning will cause us to erupt in defensiveness. For many of your listeners, the fact
that I'm generalizing right now about white people will set off the defensiveness.
Individualism is a really precious ideology for white people, and we do not like to be generalized about.
My response to that is, I'm a sociologist. I'm quite comfortable generalizing about groups of people. Social life is observable and
describable in patterned ways.
And, yes, I'm an individual. I'm also a member of a social group, I have to be willing to grapple with the collective messages we're all receiving,
because we live in a shared culture.
MARTIN: So let's back up for a second and talk about how you got interested in this work and in this subject. I know that you're an
academic. I know that you're a lecturer and also you've done, what would you call it, anti-racist training?
MARTIN: Used to be called diversity training. Maybe it isn't called that anymore.
DIANGELO: I think of myself as somebody who came from practice to theory, rather than a lot of academics who go from theory to practice.
So, I applied for a job in the early '90s for a diversity trainer. That's what we called it at the time. I thought, of course, I'm qualified to go
into the workplace and lead people on discussions of race. I'm a vegetarian. How could I be racist?
DIANGELO: I had that really classic liberal, open-minded kind of idea about what it meant to be racist. And I saw myself, of course, as outside
of that and felt qualified. And I got the job.
And I was in for the most profound learning of my life. It was a parallel process. So, two key pieces were, one, for the first time in my life, I was
working side by side with people of color who were challenging the way I saw the world.
And part of being white is that I could get that far in life -- and I was a parent at that point. I was in my 30s, and never had I had my racial world
view challenged, one; two, definitely not by a significant number of people of color and not in any kind of sustained way.
And it worked like a mirror, right? I was like a fish being taken out of water. I would not have been able to tell you I had a racial world view,
because, as a white person, I was raised to see myself as just human.
Now, you're a particular kind of human. I'm just human. And if we're going to be talking about race, I expect we're going to be talking about your
race, not my race.
So, most white people have a very unracialized identity. So, that was the first thing. The second was going into the workplace, overwhelmingly white
employees who were mandated to be having these conversations, and the hostility was off the charts.
MARTIN: You tell some very interesting stories in this book.
For example, you talked about leading a seminar where 38 out of the 40 people in the room were white, and then one of the participants literally
pounds the table, yelling, white people can't get a job. And everybody who had a job there was white.
DIANGELO: It's a kind of delusion.
I think that some people have said when, you're used to 100 percent, 98 feels oppressive, right? I mean as a white person I was just raised to
expect the world to be mine in absolutely any field. I see myself represented. I see myself represented in all my teachers and my curriculum
and my heroes and heroines.
And so just even a suggestion that we need to make sure we're being fair and including other people seems to set the white collective off.
MARTIN: Tell me some of the things that you saw in these workshops that led you to this theory.
DIANGELO: It's a lot like water dripping on a rock, right? I didn't get it the first, second, third, but it's so consistent and so patterned that it's
like a script.
And after a while, you can just stand there and say, I can predict what this white person is going to say right now. And, sure enough, they say it.
So: I was taught to treat everyone the same. I have people of color in my family. I was in Teach for America, that I marched in the '60s. I taught in
a diverse school.
The evidence that white people give for their lack of racism is very revealing to what we think racism is. And everything I do is to try to get
us off the surface, which is all this -- all these narratives and get under there to the underlying framework, because despite all those narratives, I
was taught to treat everyone the same, I don't see color, our outcomes haven't improved.
By virtually every measure, there's racial inequality in this country. And by many measures, it's increasing, not decreasing.
And I think what's really clear, we are not post-racial, right? And so what's happening there, right? So, the question that drives my work is, how
do we pull this off? How do we insist that our race has no meaning in a society that is deeply separate and unequal by race?
How do we sit, those of us who are white, in such explicit segregation, and claim there's nothing happening here?
MARTIN: One of the things that I think some people might experience as deeply provocative is when you say that white progressives cause the most
daily damage to people of color.
DIANGELO: Well, why progressives are my specialty, because I'm a huge white progressive.
And what I mean by that is not so much Democrat, Republican. Any white person who sees themselves as not racist, less racist, who's thinking right
now of all the other white people that they wish were listening to this program right now because they really need it, that is a white progressive.
And I think we do the most daily harm, because we're more likely to be in the lives of people of color. And yet our identities are very much rooted
in this idea of ourselves being free of racism.
And so, if racism comes up, we're going to put all of our energy into making sure you see us as free of racism, and really rarely any of our
energy into what we need to be doing for the rest of our lives.
It certainly includes people who have conscious intent of harm, but most bias is actually not conscious. So, we have to change our understanding of
racism from an individual moment that may or may not have occurred to the system we're in and that is circulating 24/7/365.
And that changes the question from, is or isn't he or she racist, to, how is racism manifesting in this context?
MARTIN: You speak very frankly in the book about how you've stepped in yourself, if I can use that phrase.
MARTIN: Can you give an example of where you experienced your own white fragility?
DIANGELO: Used to be the co-director of equity for a large nonprofit.
And my other director was a black woman, so we were an interracial team. And our executive assistant was also a black woman.
And, one day, the company hired a Web developer to come in and design the company's Web page. And she set meetings up with every team to interview us
about what we did, so that she could design our page.
So, she calls the three of us into meeting with her. And I will call her Angela. And it turns out that she's also a black woman.
So, I'm in a room with three black women, two of which I'm very close to, and one I don't know at all. And she gives us a survey to fill out, and
it's tedious to me. It seems kind of template. It doesn't capture the nuance of what we do. So I pushed it aside and say: "Let me explain. We go
out into these different offices and we do these anti-racism trainings. In fact, Deborah here was asked not to come back when she went to such and
such office. I guess her hair scared the white people."
She has long locked braids. So, I want you to notice what I'm doing. Not only am I making a joke about a black woman's hair, which is a sensitive
issue, and I do know better, but I'm positioning myself as the cool white person, and they're all the clueless white people.
And I wish I could tell you that I recognized I was doing that. I didn't. Meeting is over. A couple of days later, the assistant, Marcia, comes to me
and says: "Angela, I was really offended by that joke you made about black women's hair."
And I immediately: "Oh God, thank you."
And I called Angela, and I said: "Would you be willing to grant me the opportunity to repair the racism that I perpetrated towards you in the
meeting last week?"
She said, yes. We sat down. We talked about it. And she said: "I don't know you. I have no relationship with you. I have no trust with you. And I do
not want to be joking about black women's hair in a professional work meeting with a white woman I don't know."
"I hear you. I apologize."
Then I asked: "Is there anything I missed?"
And she said, "Yes. That survey you so glibly shoved aside, I wrote that survey, and I have spent my life justifying my intelligence to white
On that, apologize, ask: "Is there anything else that needs to be said or heard that we might move forward?"
And she said, "Yes. If we're going to work together, I'm sure you're going to run your racism at me again. And so the next time you do, would you like
your feedback publicly or privately?"
DIANGELO: Well, I love her for that.
I said: "Publicly, in my case, please. It's really important that other white people see that I'm not free of this, but it gives me an opportunity
to model nondefensiveness."
And: "Are we good?"
And we moved on. And one of the things she said to me was: "This kind of stuff happens to us all the time. What has never happened to me before is
what you're doing right now, this repair. And I appreciate it."
And I think white fragility functions as a kind of everyday white racial bullying. We white people so often make it so miserable for people of color
to talk to us about what they're experiencing from us, to talk to us about the inevitable and often unaware racist patterns we're manifesting, that,
most of the time, they don't.
MARTIN: You said you don't want white people to feel guilty, which is exactly what I think some people listening to our conversation will feel
and will think that you want to evoke.
So, why do you say you don't want white people to feel that?
DIANGELO: Well, because it's -- you didn't choose your socialization. You didn't choose your conditioning. You were born into a society that set you
up in these ways.
You don't need to feel guilty, unless you're -- you know that and you're not doing anything about it, right?
So, I think the key -- guilt is a natural part of the process. But it's what you do with the guilt. If it becomes your excuse for not engaging any
further, then it's just indulgent, and you're just using it to protect your position.
If it motivates you to keep going, then it's useful.
MARTIN: You have a group of people who are resurgent at the moment, and you certainly see them openly discussing their view that they don't want a
meritocracy. They want a white -- a hierarchy with white people on top, particularly white males, I want to say.
How do you understand that?
DIANGELO: When I think about it, there's not one single thread. There are many threads.
And it's also what makes us so often irrational on this topic, because there's so many different things going on. Politicians have always been
able to manipulate the white collective through racial animus. Maybe some of your listeners are familiar with the Southern strategy, you know, that
coded -- back in the Reagan days, welfare queens, those kind of coded terms, dog whistle.
We're beyond dog whistle. And now you can just come out and, at the top of the hierarchy, in the highest office in the nation, is pretty explicit
MARTIN: What about...
DIANGELO: Go ahead.
MARTIN: ... the people who voted for Obama and then voted for Trump?
DIANGELO: I think that Obama, it was symbolic.
I think what Obama did was allow us to feel really good about ourselves under very narrow terms, right? If the word racism ever came out of his
mouth, I don't know what would happen, right?
He had to be the perfect black man, right, the safe black man. He's also brilliant and clear and educated. And so, also, at the same time, that
allows me to feel good about myself. There's also a little bit of challenge there in how powerful a black man he is, right?
And I would ask any white person who voted for Obama and sees that as kind of their evidence that they're free of racism to ask themselves, how did it
change your life on the ground? How did Obama's presidency change the lived experience for black people in this country day in and day out?
I don't think that it did. It was important symbolically, but mass incarcerations, school-to-prison pipeline, these things have not
diminished, right? In many ways, they've increased.
MARTIN: Do you see Trump as a reaction to Obama? And, if so, why?
DIANGELO: I see Trump as a reaction to Obama, because Trump gave permission to the resentment that was roiling under the surface.
MARTIN: Resentment of what?
DIANGELO: Of black advancement, of black uppityness, of, to use a Jim Crow analogy, you will step off the curb when I come down it. You will look me -
- you will not look me in the eye.
His racism is explicit and undeniable, and that that wasn't a deterrent, I think white people have to look really hard at. Why was that not a
deterrent to you?
In fact, I would wonder if it wasn't actually something that excited you and allowed you to indulge in, and not admit it.
MARTIN: When you say, though, give -- where's your -- you're a scholar. Like, where's your data? Like, what makes you say that?
DIANGELO: There's a kind of glee in the white collective when black bodies are punished.
When you think about the way football players are talked about, as if they, how dare they not be grateful, we don't tend to talk about white football
players in terms of, you should be grateful for what you have, right?
There's something really deep going on here. And Toni Morrison beautifully argues that white people need black people. There is no white without
black. I cannot be superior if you are not inferior.
And so there's a kind of investment in those positions. And it's the bedrock of this country, right? It's maybe buried in a way that it wasn't
in the past, but it sure looks like it's coming back up.
AMANPOUR: Michel talking to Robin DiAngelo.
And as her book flies off the shelves, here in the U.K., two award-winning authors have made history.
They are Bernardine Evaristo and Reni Eddo-Lodge, who this week became the first black British women to top the paperback charts, Bernardine Evaristo
with her Booker Prize-winning novel "Girl, Woman, Other," who joined us to talk about it on this program last year, and Reni Eddo-Lodge with her 2017
book "Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race."
So, congratulations, must-reads for anyone looking to understand and educate themselves about this important historical moment.
And that's it for us. Thank you for watching. Goodbye from London.