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The Trial Of Derek Chauvin For The Murder Of George Floyd; Director And Playwright Talks About The "One Night in Miami" Film. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired April 8, 2021 - 18:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone and welcome to Amanpour. Here's what's coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you swear or affirm under penalty of perjury that the testimony you're about to give will be the truth and nothing but the truth?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Hanging in the balance justice, racial reckoning, and policing, all at stake in the trial of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd,
we get the legal and police perspectives.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, Cassius Marcellus Clay is the new heavyweight champion of the world, boy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, he is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Director Regina King and Playwright Ken Powers, talk about bringing four black icons to the screen for "One Night in Miami..." And --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DOROTHY BROWN, PROFESSOR OF LAW, EMORY UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW: So just because there's no box on your tax return that says race, it doesn't mean
race isn't implicated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Emory University Professor Dorothy Brown tells on Michelle Martin how the tax system impoverishes African Americans.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London. The trials so far of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd could trigger
wide ranging police reform and new training. The first week saw heart wrenching testimony from people who witnessed Floyd's death on the 25th of
May last year.
This week, prosecutors have been making the case Chauvin acted outside reasonable police procedure when he restrained Floyd. And today, medical
experts took the stand. Dr. Martin Tobin is a pulmonologist and he described a dramatic length the effort that George Floyd was making to
breathe while he was pinned down with Chauvin's full bodyweight on his neck.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. MARTIN TOBIN, PULMONOLOGY EXPERT: Over on the right image, you see his knuckle against the tire. And to most people, this doesn't look terribly
significant, but to a physiologist, this is extraordinarily significant. Because this tells you that he has used up his resources and he is now
literally trying to breathe with his fingers and knuckles.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: In other words, he's trying to raise his right side to get air into his right lung. The defense will have to answer all of this testimony
when it lays out its case, and so much is at stake. So, let's get analysis from former federal prosecutor, Laura Coates and the former police chief
Donald De Lucca of Doral, Florida, who is also president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police. Welcome both of you to the
Laura, can I ask you from the legal perspective because this is a court of law, obviously. He is charged Chauvin with second and third degree murder
and manslaughter. How far has the prosecution got to proving their case would you say now?
LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: They've gone very far. There's way, two key components here. One is whether the officer use an excessive amount
of deadly force that was not proportional or necessary in the light of the person no longer resisting, if at all. The second part, though, is about
the substantial causal factor of death.
The combination of these two points is what the prosecution has to prove that he was not entitled to use the deadly force he did. And when he used
that deadly force, applying that body weight to the neck of George Floyd and withholding aid this person, although they were in custody, and had a
duty of care that had to be performed, that this caused the death of George Floyd. It's the constant theme for the two murder charges and the
AMANPOUR: So, I want to get to what this incredibly dramatic medical witness said today, and that is Dr. Tobin. He basically said that, as we
know Chauvin kept his knee on the neck of George Floyd even after as he said, not an ounce of oxygen was left in his body. And another key part of
Tobin's testimony is as follows. Let's play this exchange.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have an opinion to a reasonable degree of medical certainty as to whether a person who had none of those pre-existing
conditions, a healthy person, would have died under the same circumstances as Mr. Floyd?
TOBIN: Yes. A healthy person subjected to what Mr. Floyd was subjected to would have died as a result of what he was subjected to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Now, I want to ask you, Chief De Lucca from a police perspective, because the defense is constantly trying to say that he had other
underlying conditions and that he might have died or did die or not because just of the need. What has been the significance of that exchange and today
is dramatic testimony for you, from your perspective?
DONALD DE LUCCA, FORMER PRESIDENT, INTL. ASSOCIATION OF CHIEFS OF POLICE: Well, you know, I've been in law enforcement for over three decades. And as
I've watched this today, the doctor clearly explained in great detail what transpired that the force use was definitely not necessary. It was
And when you hear him say, at this point, he takes his last breath. I mean, and you've heard the Chuck Ramsay's and others talk about this. He was in
control. When he says, I can't breathe, they could have turned him to his side. But I think this is going to do is open the eyes to law enforcement
across the country. We have 800,000 officers, 18,000 police departments that are watching this, this story unfold in front of them.
It basically says you're going to be accountable for what you do. And this has been broken down into the greatest detail I've ever seen.
AMANPOUR: Laura, from the perspective, you've got the wider world, I mean, certainly the whole world is watching this trial. I'm here in London. It's
being broadcast around the world, the U.S., and as the chief said, all the police departments around the United States. But inside the court, it is
the jurors and we understand that we're listening very intently to the medical evidence.
But I want to -- from your perspective, as a prosecutor, it's almost like the dynamic is flipped, the prosecution is getting so much cooperation and
testimony from the police, is that normally how it works in one of these trials?
COATES: Normally, you don't have this cooperation. You don't have a law enforcement official so eager to testify, again, so called one of their
own. There's this concept of a kind of a blue wall of silence here where you're going to protect or at least extend a benefit of the doubt to
somebody who is now the defendant.
But here, you've had law enforcement official after law enforcement official, sergeants, lieutenants, chief who are all testifying to the same
thing. You know how rare it is, for somebody to witness a traffic accident, Christiane, and have them all say that it was the same color light, every
person here is testifying to the same thing from a bystander to law enforcement agents, that this application of force was unreasonable, that
he was not one of our own, that he may have had the badge on, the uniform that day but he did things that were contrary to training. He knew better
and chose to do the opposite.
And it puts the real onus on the defense to try to explain the inexplicable here as to why, why the bare minimum amount of energy to take a pulse to
move one's knee off of somebody. Why was that not followed? And of course, remember, we're talking about somebody who is in the custody of the police,
which means that a duty of care is owed.
Imagine if you will, this person was in a jail cell and went into cardiac arrest or was an obvious physical distress, would we expect the jail guards
to turn a blind eye and say, we didn't cause it, so we're not going to help. These are the questions that have to be answered. And experts like
we've seen today who had the jury actually following along his demonstrative evidence talking about touch your neck here, feel the
pressure here. They were following along to such an extent that it drew an objection from the defense just to try to derail that moment, and they
still continue to follow along with this doctor.
From a prosecutor's perspective, this is exactly what you want to have. From the defense, you're wondering how you're going to defend not only
against a bystanders view of the video by an expert, who essentially showed us frame by frame, George Floyd taking his final breath.
AMANPOUR: And I want to ask you, Chief De Lucca, because, again, from the police perspective, usually and I'm sorry to say this, but usually in these
cases, police barely get prosecuted, often they get, mostly, they get freed, there's often a wall of silence, the so called blue wall, blue
shield. And yet that seems to have been ruptured during this trial perhaps for the first time. I just want to play for you what this week the chief of
the Minneapolis police testified Chief Arradondo.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHIEF MEDARIA ARRADONDO, MINNEAPOLIS POLICE: To continue to apply that level of force to a person proned out, handcuffed behind their back that in
no way, shape or form is anything that is by policy. It's not part of our training and it's certainly not part of our ethics or our values.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DE LUCCA: Well, I think you see very clearly --
AMANPOUR: I mean that's pretty devastating from -- yes, sorry, from your perspective as a former police chief, Arradondo was pretty, you know,
dramatically deliberate there in what he said that this was not part of our training.
DE LUCCA: Yes. He clearly drew a line in the sand. You know, he's raised the benchmark for all leadership in policing that this is the expectation.
You're going to call out your officers who don't think -- don't do things properly, you're going to hold them accountable. They're going to get
discharged for duty. And look where they are today.
You know, Laura talked about the blue wall. There is, it's a very difficult process and what's happened over the past year, because nobody really trust
that we're going to police our own selves. You know, this is that big pendulum is swinging back, just like after Rodney King events, change
behaviors, and that's what this is calling for.
So you see the duty to intervene now, the policies are written across the country and internationally that you just can't stand there and watch bad
things happen, or you're going to get in trouble or you're going to end up getting arrested. The blue line story is going to move. The good cops in
America wanted to hear that from Chief Arradondo speak up on their behalf that we can do what's right, and we're going to hold people accountable.
AMANPOUR: It's really -- I really want to, you know, press on this, because, unfortunately, like in the Catholic Church where, you know,
there's been so much abuse by the priest, by those in authority against children, and they have just been moved around from parish to parish from
church to church, that also happened in the police force. Again, do you really think that this will make a significant difference in this?
DE LUCCA: I think it's going to because there's call for national databases, national databases on use of force when officers use it. Now
there will be a place to check it. There's calls for officer readiness programs, to look at an officer from hire to retire, the analytics and data
that goes with it. There's calls for new ways to control people, less lethal types of force that we have to look at.
This is not going to go away. We can no longer say we're going to do things and not do them. People need to see action take place. And I think you see
it rolling out now and the police leadership is stepping in and associations are stepping in. It has to change behavior. Bad cops are now
going to be pulled out from the ranks. They're going to be identified early, in early warning systems. They're going to be called out.
So this tolerance for what we had was demonstrated in the streets of American around the world. We're no longer there. It's no longer, not yet,
we're -- we've got to move past this. And I believe we're going to get there. You know, I trust the leadership and policing to do what Rondo (ph)
did in this case, step up, step forward, and we'll move forward.
AMANPOUR: And Laura from your perspective --
COATES: And if I may.
AMANPOUR: -- you know, as a prosecutor and in court, yes, go ahead.
COATES: I was going to say and if we can't trust the different police departments to act, we do have this George Floyd police enjoy justice and
policing act that the Congress has already sought to try to have implemented and the President of the United States has demonstrated some
support for because the idea of having a patchwork system where each individual department is responsible for itself, and not having the ability
as you talk about the having the national database to know that if a problematic cop is just moved around from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, or
department to department, or unions and police unions are able to essentially shield and protect or you've got qualified immunity, which
would make it impossible to have the type of liability that you need to have to deter bad behavior.
Remember, no one hates a bad cop more than good cops. And so the idea of having justice and policing is at the local level, the federal level as
well. But then the criminal justice system comes into play here to try to round it out and essentially say, just as we tried to deter criminal
behavior, for people who are civilians, we want that same emphasis to be felt for police officers whose job it is to try to enforce the law and keep
our streets safe. And if they contribute to a lack of safety, they must be held accountable.
AMANPOUR: And I'm sure, I'm sure Chief De Lucca agrees with that. I mean, he said that. You know, it's also about protecting and empowering the good
cops to do their job and also to call out bad policing.
But, Laura, I want to ask you this because clearly in the first week, the prosecution went to great lengths to bring out George Floyd's previous drug
use. They had his girlfriend, they talked about a lot. They wanted to preempt the defense springing any surprise. Are they able to bring out,
what would be the circumstances of bringing out Chauvin's alleged 17 incidents of misconduct in the past and he's been moved around as well?
COATES: I mean, the idea of one's M.O., the reason you're bringing up the drug related statements for George Floyd if you're the defense is because
you want to provide an alternative theory for what caused his death. You want to show under Minnesota law that this was a substantial causal factor
that really preamps whatever Derek Chauvin could have done. Now they're not doing a good job at proving that of course, because the evidence is so
overwhelming and compelling at this stage in the trial.
But you also want to bring up if you're the prosecution, you want to show the M.O. for different reasons of the officer to show that he's been on
notice that his conduct in the past has gone beyond the reasonable use of force. Again, no one is articulating or suggesting that an officer cannot
use reasonable force to control or restrain a suspect who is not complying. But it crosses the line into excessive and criminal assault when you go
So, again, there's right -- there's a history of this sort of behavior by this officer, where he's been unnoticed, that his actions have run counter
to training, that he's known better and chose not to do better. This starts to buttress the actual case of prosecution to be able to round it out even
AMANPOUR: So finally, it was both of you and from your perspective, first Chief De Lucca. What do you think the defense can do to counter this
unbelievably compelling testimony that we've had from the medical experts?
DE LUCCA: You know, and Laura, I got it -- yes, and Laura, you said it best. And I want to compliment you. Good cops don't like bad cops. And
thank you for saying that.
I think on this, it's an uphill battle. This testimony today, this is not a split second decision where somebody decided to take a life or not take a
life. This played out over nine minutes and 29 seconds. I think it's going to be an uphill battle. And the good cops out there are watching what's
going to take place as are the American -- our country looking to what's going to happen here is accountability, going to be something that we
really mean and move forward with.
But I think the challenge is going to lie there in the months ahead, not just during this trial, what happens after this. And what is policing going
to turn to, to make itself better? What do we learn from this episode --
AMANPOUR: And of course --
DE LUCCA: -- in time?
AMANPOUR: Yes. Of course and that's so vital, a justice and what do we learn. Laura from your perspective, you've been in many courts situations,
obviously, on the prosecution side, what can the defense do to counter what we've just heard?
COATES: If I put on my defense counsel hat, what I would look to, to try to counter what this extraordinary medical expert has done is to point out
just how different the expertise of Derek Chauvin is compared to say, a pulmonologist who is able to literally write the textbook on so many of
And there's a moment in the trial where he talks about this phrase we keep hearing, which is if you can speak, you can breathe. Now, the pulmonologist
really refute that and calls it very, very dangerous. Lulling people into a false sense of security at the person is still OK. Well, Chauvin team is
going to have to the only thing they can and the straw they'll have to grasp that is, all right, well, if you were educated by this expert,
imagine what the officer was not privy to.
He was under this mistaken impression, this idea of this myth, this fallacy that there was, this such act was not to be believed. Now, whether you can
overwhelmingly persuade, it's a very high burden here for this defense, or the prosecution normally has the burden of proof. You have to counter this
extraordinary testimony. But that's one way they're going to try to do it and say, the expertise you're seeing here, look, my client didn't have and
the training was subjectively interpreted in a way that we want our officers.
Everything is not on the books. He had to be nimble. It's not a strong defense, though, but it's what they'll try.
AMANPOUR: It's so interesting in such high stakes. Laura Coates, Chief De Lucca, thank you both very much indeed for being with us.
Now, racial and social justice formed the heart of a new movie. It was set more than 50 years ago. "One Night in Miami..." is a fictional imagining of
the historic night that four legends gathered in a hotel room in 1964. Malcolm X, Sam Cooke and Jim Brown celebrating Cassius Clay later, of
course, known as Muhammad Ali, winning the World Heavyweight title that very night.
But in this telling, talk quickly turned to civil rights and the movement. Here's a clip from the trailer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You all are our bright and shining future.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need understand what is at stake here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything is not so black and white like you make it out to be.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But we are fighting for our lives.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, I know what's going on out there, right?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Now, the film has been nominated for three Academy Awards, and it marks the feature directorial debut of the actor and Oscar winning Regina
King. This week, I talked to her and the screenwriter, Kemp Powers, about the film in the context of George Floyd's murder, black male vulnerability
and cancel culture.
AMANPOUR: Regina King, Kemp Powers welcome to the program. You know, the film is amazing. It's getting great reviews, obviously, Oscar nominated.
Can you tell me what made you want to do this? It's your first, you know, outing as a director. What made you choose this story?
REGINA KING, DIRECTOR, "ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI...": I read this script and I felt like, here is an opportunity to tell a story from a perspective of
black men that we don't get to see in cinema so often, but we as black people, see and experience and know black men as we see them in "One Night
in Miami...", in our lives day to day, all the time.
And it was -- I just felt like, I can't play any of these roles, but I could definitely lead the ship. And when I met Kemp, we connected I think I
truly understood what his, the story that he was telling, the love that he has for himself, the love that he has for the struggle and the different
ways to approach how we will overcome that struggle.
AMANPOUR: OK. So it's really interesting, you're talking about love, because you apparently had told, I think, one of your collaborators and
agent maybe that the first film you would direct, you hoped it would be a love story between a black man and a black woman. But it didn't turn out.
It turned out to be this when you're describing it now as a love story.
So let me ask you, Kemp Powers, who wrote the screenplay, what is it about the love? I mean, we've already set up the premieres, take it from there.
KEMP POWERS, SCREENWRITER, "ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI...": Yes, well, you know, this, I was really thinking back to when I first found out that this was a
real knife. And one of the -- while I was doing a lot of my research, there was a wonderful interview I saw with Malcolm X where the news reporter, you
know, was asking him about young Cassius Clay before he became Muhammad Ali.
And Malcolm X describe cashes, I remember it vividly as an all American boy. And that really stuck with me. Because when you really look at all
four of these men, not only are they all American boys, they're evidence, they're basically the American dream writ large.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, Cassius Marcellus Clay is the new heavyweight champion of the world, boy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, he is.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I don't even have a scratch on my foot.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my goodness.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cash --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's wrong, Cash?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What -- Cash, what --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why am I so pretty? And I'm only 22 years old. There is no way I'm supposed to be this great.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
POWERS: But because they happen to be black. All four of these men managed to be somewhat outlaws or outliers. And I figured at the time that this was
happening, we're still dealing with segregation. Almost no one in the world understands what it's like to be one of them except each other. So what I
really wanted to do was just show us black men, as human beings. And I really wanted to tell this story about these four men and their friendship
and focus less on their achievements on their superhuman accomplishments. I wanted to focus on their humanity, because I felt like that was the thing
that made me feel connected to each of them as heroes of mine.
AMANPOUR: So before we get into the content of what you imagined that conversation to be, I want to ask you, Regina, because you won your Oscar
for "If Beale Street Could Talk" the adaptation of the James Baldwin book. And I around that film interviewed Director Barry Jenkins. And he said to
me then that black men have innocence and tenderness in their hearts. But we rarely see that innocence and tenderness rendered in the mass media, we
rarely see it, he said.
And I can hear you both talking about almost an overriding need to present that. So Regina, how did you do that for these four superhuman characters?
KING: Well, honestly, it started with the actors, you know, Kemp had already done the work it was on the page. So and then he had already done
all the research, he had already written the piece where the words were the star. And so it needed to be four actors that understood that, that
understood that the dialogue was the star, that understood that we're not doing impersonations of any of these men. I mean, this is one moment in
time in their lives and who are they in this moment.
AMANPOUR: So Kemp, can you tell us how much of it is real? The reality is that they were in that room, right?
AMANPOUR: Why were they all in that room? And did they discuss do you know any of the transformative civil rights and personal issues and professional
issues, obviously, that are contained in this film?
POWERS: Well, I mean, certain facts leak out over the years. I mean, I know that all they had to eat was vanilla ice cream. Certain fragments of
conversations I've gotten window (ph) I don't want to reveal to people. But ultimately, that wasn't really the point. The point was that like who they
were at that moment. I wanted to basically take everything that I was able to find in my research, and use it to create a characterization of each of
the men that was going to then have a conversation that was a conversation that black people, black people have been having since long before that
night, and have been having up to today.
And that conversation is what if any social responsibility do we have as black people in the public eye. These men, in many ways, represent some of
the clearest of very different ideals of how we how we go about being successful when we're black in America.
AMANPOUR: And one of you said, in the early 60s to be a free, unapologetic black man was quite a rarity, of which all of these four were unapologetic,
strong, determined, talented, young, young black men. And, you know, Regina, 50 years later, all these issues are playing out right now with
George Floyd, with the movement that his killing has sparked in the U.S. and around the world. And with all these attempts at social reckoning right
now, that's an incredible place for your movie to land.
KING: It is. It is. And the thing that's interesting, I think that this was also one of the things that connected Kemp and I from the beginning is that
we were discussing that this story that he's written has is -- will always be relevant. And it's unfortunate that it's relevant.
And then we shot the film. And we still owed two more scenes that we needed to shoot in L.A., and then the pandemic hit, and then Ahmaud Arbery and
then Breonna Taylor and then George Floyd. And we, as producers, came together and talked about the film again and how relevant it is. And we're
like, well, now it's urgent.
AMANPOUR: Where do you think the movement is? Where is society today? And again, we're right in the middle of literally an adjudication on that very
issue in a court of law.
POWERS: I mean, we're living through a crucible moment, no doubt. And you said it. We're right in the middle right now. I think that there are --
there have been volleys from both sides. I think right now watching what's going on with voting rights being under attack. No small irony considering
the Voting Rights Act, I believe was 1965.
So the fact that we are now in the in the midst of a real battle that can determine the future of our nation, and I don't have a clear answer, I like
to be the glass half full optimist and hope that, you know, we will come out of this stronger and united and better. But, you know, ultimately, the
lesson I think we all need to be aware of is that it takes vigilance, constant vigilance, or else any gains that we make can be lost. You know,
this is a -- this really has proven to be a bit of a pendulum swing.
AMANPOUR: Let me ask you, because at this moment, while we're trying to grapple with history and have a reckoning, there's also this sort of toxic
cancel culture on the left and the right in different formats, being exhibited. And Regina, one of the things you said about trying to cost and
trying to direct this film is that the audience knows so much about these four men that they're ready to cancel you out if you get it wrong. So I
want to ask you and Kemp to weigh in on the -- on cancel culture as its being exhibited on college campuses and just about everywhere right now.
KING: Kemp, do you want to go in first?
POWERS: Sure. I mean, that's a complex question. Because look at the end of the day, I feel like there are people out there who mean me harm. There are
people out there who if they had their way, I would not, not only not be where I am, I would not be around, period.
I've had very deep conversations with friends who have said that to them they think cancel culture is just a work but it's not real, that it doesn't
exist, that people aren't really being canceled. But then I know people who, from where I'm sitting, it seems like they are being treated
punitively based on nothing, based on -- even an accusation.
And again, we -- I think being as a black man and knowing our history in this country and when -- and there was a time not too long ago when even a
simple accusation could end up getting a strung up on a tree without proof, I'm a bit sensitive to the idea of going -- jumping to extreme conclusions
without evidence, you know, and also I feel very bad for young people and what this does to their desire to be engaged, because, thank God, I always
say like, thank God social media didn't exist when my generation was 16 and 17 years old, because I feel like every young person says and does dumb
things, that's actually part of the process of growth.
And we just came out of four very traumatic years, and instead of focusing on the gains that we've made, I feel like, at times, it feels like we are
feeding on one another, like allies are feeding -- people who should be allies are feeding on one another. I'm very glad that I don't share any
personal information on social media at all, because I'm sure, at some point, you come to offend somebody, you know. So, that's -- yes. That's as
much as I can say about it.
AMANPOUR: Regina, I want to ask you then about your next project. You've just signed on to play the great Shirley Chisholm who's the first --
America's first black congresswoman, and she ran for president in 1972. What do you want to bring out?
KING: When we were going out and pitching the project, a couple of the executives had never heard of Shirley Chisholm. And so, that in itself told
me -- told us that, yes, her story needs to be told. But it's not going to be a cradle to grave story. I think cradle to the grave stories are very
difficult because it's just so much life to put into one project, that was one -- in 2 hours, it's one of the things that was so attractive about "One
Night in Miami."
But that time, '72, again, it's an opportunity in my opinion to put up the mirror and say, look at where we were in '72. Look how far we haven't come.
We've got to do something. We've got to hold ourselves individually and collectively accountable if we really want to experience what equity for
all truly looks like.
In my experience, when you keep kind of holding that mirror up and people start to say, oh, well, yes, okay, so, I don't look like what I thought I
looked like. Then you can possibly change hearts or break open hearts, if you will. That is probably the biggest overall reason that I want to tell a
slice of life of her story. And she is the ultimate bad ass.
AMANPOUR: Yes. I was just going to say, she's just in amazing, amazing woman. Let me just move finally to you again, Kemp. Not shortchanging you
on this because you are a double Oscar nominee and -- for "Soul." And you co-directed that for Pixar, again, becoming the first black man to do that
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sorry, I zoned out a little back there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: You tell a fairly interesting and somewhat funny story about being brought in to, you know, give it authenticity and to inject some
soul, literally, into this character that was seeming to be flailing around before you got there.
POWERS: Yes. Well, I think the process of making "Soul" I think was a learning process for every -- all of us, for me, and definitely for the
people at Disney Pixar, because I think that if you, again, look at how films that have a certain amount of cultural specificity has been made,
even up until very recently, I think it was very possible to just kind of bring in a person from that group you're trying to represent in some minor
capacity, add a bit of seasoning and then send it out into the world.
But I think, thankfully, what Pete Docter let the folks at Pixar were trying to do, they were trying to both go deeper with this character and
really get to the humanity of this black man. And also, they wanted to represent a truly authentic slice of New York.
So, what they quickly learned when I came on board was that this was in the type of thing where I'm just going to be able to sprinkle a couple of
culturally specific references and call it a day. And it started with me first being writer and then being made co-directed, but it didn't just fall
to me, there were contributions. You know, we brought on board Kiri Hart, our executive producer was a black woman.
We created not one, but two culture trusts. One was just a collection of all the black Pixar employees that we would run every scene by and there
was an external trust of notables from Dr. Geneta Coal (ph) to Herbie Hancock, to Quincy Jones, and Quest Love.
So, it turned into this really kind of communal experience, and as proud of I am of what we did with "Soul," what I love is that Pixar now has
incorporated these culture trusts to all their films going forward. So, I love this -- you know, this spirit of actually getting it right not by
inviting token representation but by actually making the people you are trying to represent partners in the process, and I think that was a real
big difference in why, you know, "Soul" is really special to me as well.
AMANPOUR: Well, on both films both of you have done such amazing jobs on that level of not just storytelling but authenticity and relevance to all
of us. So, Kemp Powers and Regina King, thank you both so much for joining us.
POWERS: Thanks for having me.
AMANPOUR: And now, continuing our discussion on race, we turn to the American tax system. Our next guest, Dorothy A. Brown is a law professor
and nationally recognized scholar in tax policy. She chose this field because she believed that it was free of racism. But she soon discovered
how wrong she'd been. Her new book draws on decades of research and anecdotes. It's called "The Whiteness of Wealth: How the Tax System
Impoverish is Black Americans--and How We Can Fix It." And here she is explaining to our Michel Martin just how it works against black people.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHEL MARTIN, CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks, Christiane. Professor Brown, thank you so much for joining us.
DOROTHY A. BROWN, AUTHOR, "THE WHITENESS OF WEALTH": Thanks for having me.
MARTIN: So, Professor Brown, I was so looking for to this conversation, but to be honest with you, dreading it at the same time because the more I read
the more infuriated I became. I have been aware of your work for years, it's very unique. You're one of the very few people kind of looking at the
tax implications or the racial implications of tax code, and the more I read, more infuriated I got and I just wondered, did you have that reaction
when you are doing the research?
BROWN: Absolutely. And one of the goals in my book was for you to react exactly the way you did. So, the research showed me that no matter what
black Americans did when we engaged in the exact same behavior that white Americans did, tax policy advantaged white Americans and disadvantaged
MARTIN: So, let's talk through it because one of the things -- you know, walk me through it because one of the things that you point out in the book
is that some government policies are intentionally discriminatory, at least they have been intentionally discriminatory like federal housing
administration, housing laws. I think I hope by now that most people, educated people, realize that this program was intentionally discriminatory
against black people, that's where the term redlining comes from.
But you're saying that's not true of tax policy, in fact, the IRS doesn't even gather information by race. So, why do you say that it heavily
advantages white people and heavily disadvantages black people? Other groups too, but black people in particular. Walk me through it. And why
don't we start with the example that came from your parents, when you started doing their taxes.
BROWN: Every year I did their taxes, something seemed off. They combined, made about as much money as I did by myself. And they paid too much in
taxes and it was my gut feeling, compared to how much I pay, they pay too much. And I could never figure out why, I just knew there was a problem.
But when I read that report that said black lives contribute to 40 percent on average to their household, it hit me, my parents paid too much in taxes
because they were married to each other. The joint return did them in. And how did that happen? Well, one way to look at it is, as I put it, taxpayers
bring their racial identity onto their 1040.
So, just because there's no box on your tax return that says race, doesn't mean race isn't implicated because you, the tax payer, have a race and you
are operating in a society that has systemic racism. So, how did we get the joint return? There is this couple, Henry and Charlotte Seaborn. They were
a rich white couple, stay-at-home spouse, and they were one of the few taxpayers that paid taxes.
What? Before World War II, the only people who paid taxes were rich white Americans, basically. That's who paid taxes. And at this point, they paid
taxes and they didn't like it and they used their wealth to hire an attorney and challenge the law that required every person to file
individually. So, what we know of as the joint return didn't really exist back then. But they wanted to split their income if the sole wage earner
could have half of it taxed with to his wife, that unit would pay less in taxes. They couldn't do it under the law, but then they sued, it went all
the way up to the Supreme Court, and they won. So, because of the Seaborns, we have -- there are other, but to make it simply, because of them, we got
Congress in 1948 creating the joint tax return.
MARTIN: So, why does that disadvantage black people so profoundly and advantage white people so profoundly? I think it's important to say both.
Why is that?
BROWN: So, what the progressive tax system does is, let's take a household with $100,000 of income. If the wage earner makes hundred thousand dollars,
his last dollar of taxes is going to be taxed much higher, his last dollar of income is going to be subject to taxes much higher than his first
In fact, when you are in $100, 000, your tax bill is higher than if you earned $50,000. So, what the joint return does is, in effect, allow the
$100,000 household to be taxed like it only has $50,000. That's just a rough approximation, but it gives you a tax cut when you get married
because a stay-at-home spouse has no taxable income. Well, married black couples need two incomes in order to get to a $100,000 because.
MARTIN: Because with African Americans, it's more likely that both parties will work, right?
MARTIN: And it's also more likely both that party's incomes will be about equal?
BROWN: Exactly. And instead of being able to spread their income to a non- earning spouse, their income, in effect, is stacked on top of the other spouse and they don't get a tax cut. The law was changed in 1969, such that
not only did married black couples not get a tax cut the way single wage or white couples did, but their taxes actually increased, and they gave a
marriage penalty as a result of the taxing. So, the Seaborns still got a tax cut, but my parents, the Browns, wound up paying higher taxes.
MARTIN: You know what gets me about this is that for decades now, conservatives have been with haranguing black people around marriage,
right, mostly white conservatives but also some black conservatives, haranguing black people about their marriage rates. Saying, oh, well, see,
if you would only get married and do things the right way, then you would prosper. It's your behavior. And what you are saying is that even when you
do things the right way, you actually are penalized for it under the tax code.
BROWN: That's absolutely right because black Americans cannot do marriage the way white Americans can. Like we can't do homeownership the way white
MARTIN: Well, talk to me about homeownership. Tell me about that. Like why is another example where the tax code disadvantages some people and
advantages others? Because, I think, again, buy a house, you know, be a citizen, you know, get your pennies together, get your coins together, buy
a house, be stable.
BROWN: So, I want to talk about just the tax subsidies for homeownership. So, there are two that -- so, everybody knows about the mortgage interest
deduction, but I want to focus on to other provisions. One tjat that occur when you sell your home.
So, if you are married and you sell your home for a gain, up to half a million dollars of that gain can be received tax free. But when you sell
your home for a loss, there is no tax break associated with the laws. So, you say, well, that shouldn't matter because home ownership is the same
whether you're black or white, and it is not.
In fact, where is the most appreciation in homes? It is found in all white neighborhoods, or almost all white neighborhoods. Where do most black
homeowners live? In racially diverse neighborhoods or all black neighborhoods. So, black homeowners are, one, less likely to sell their
home for a gain because the market doesn't value their homes the way the market values homes of all white communities.
As bad as that is, it gets worse when we look at losses. Black homeowners are more likely than white homeowners to sell their homes for a loss. That
is nondeductible. So, we get -- black homeowners more likely to have a loss, no tax break. White homeowners, more likely to have a gain and large
gain tax free.
MARTIN: And why is that though? Because I think some people would hear that, they'd go, oh, well, maybe it's because there's more crime in an
African American neighborhood or maybe there are fewer amenities, that it isn't race, it's something else. What do you say about that?
BROWN: It's exactly race and there's research that proves this. So, first of all, white Americans prefer living in neighborhoods with very few black
Americans, that's number one. And what I often hear is the pushback is, well, Dorothy, it's not that they are that virulent racist, is that white
Americans are worried about their property values. And my response is, but it's the preferences of white homeowners that are damaging the production
of black wealth in their homes, and as a black homeowner, I don't really care whether you are virulent racist or you act like one, right. I am honed
by that. So, that's the first group.
The second point is research shows, and this is really interesting research, videos were done where they showed white and black people,
neighborhoods. It was the exact same neighborhood. The only difference were the actors hired to be in the video. There was the all-white video, there
was the all-black video, and there was a 60 percent white, 40 percent black people.
White viewers picked the white neighborhood over all the others. There was no crime. There was no bad school. It was the identical neighborhood.
Whereas black homeowners, black viewers hit the racially diverse or the all-black neighborhood. Their least favorite neighborhood was the all-white
So, white Americans who live in these virtually all-white no black neighborhoods like to think of themselves as we progressive and old stuff
happens, but when they are given pictures of a neighborhood with identical social amenities, they somehow are more comfortable with the all-white
MARTIN: But about college, for example? That's another thing that, you know, African Americans are all constantly sort of -- it's -- look, let's
just say it, are constantly sort of treated as if they don't value higher education. But when they pursue higher education, doesn't have the same
value. How does the tax code see that and is there a racial difference there?
BROWN: There absolutely is. And the first point is that -- 60 percent of black Americans who start college do not complete it. A lot of it because
we self-finance our college educations. We -- black Americans are more likely to graduate. And when we do graduate or when we drop out, have
higher debt loads than white college students.
So, what does our tax law do with respect to debt? Well, student loan debt very limited deduction. Only $2,500 of interest can be deducted. But if you
look at average debt loads, that means white Americans with lower debt loads can basically write off all of their student loans interests. Black
Americans, in the early years, cannot because their debt loads are so high, it's -- their interest on the debt is higher than $2,500.
MARTIN: So, we talked about how the tax code penalizes black marriage and black homeownership. In the book, you also talk about how it penalizes
black college graduates and the intergenerational wealth plays in that. Could you just talk a little bit more about that?
BROWN: Yes. Because once black Americans take their debt labor into the labor market, they face racism in the labor market as well. So, even if a
black American is lucky enough to get a job with an employer that provides retirement accounts, they are less likely to benefit, they are less likely
to participate in the retirement account. Why? Because they are sending money to their parents or their siblings and seeing that somebody's life
bill gets paid.
So, their money cannot stretch as far, so they can't participate in their retirement account the way their white peer can. And even if they do, they
are more likely to be forced to take an early withdrawal which comes with high tax consequences because there's some family emergency. So, even when
black Americans take that degree and get a better paying job, they are disadvantage because their parents suffered from Jim Crow and their
siblings didn't have the same opportunities.
MARTIN: You criticize both the political right and the political left for how they address these issues? Now, the political right, you know, you can
see, well, Republicans who are sort of -- or conservatives who sort of applaud black people are lazy or that they don't value education, OK, we've
heard that. But why do you criticize the political left on this point as well? You say they aren't doing their part either. Why is that?
BROWN: Because the political left likes to talk about historical race discrimination. They like to talk about FHA redlining. They like to talk
about how other white people discriminated, but not them. I want to talk about how they are discriminating against black people today when they live
in all white neighborhoods, right.
So, white -- the left, the political left ignores the systemic racism they benefit from today and the behavior they engage in today. So, that's my
beef with the left.
MARTIN: What would fairness look like? Because as you point out in the book, you can't put a box on your tax returns to say, OK, I've been
overpaying all these years, so give me my -- give me some of that back. That would likely be unconstitutional. So, what would fairness look like
BROWN: So, one of the things I advocate for is a wealth tax credit. Since I can't compensate black Americans with higher taxes because the Supreme
Court won't let me, I can compensate or decide to use tax credits for anyone with below -- in a household with below medium wealth. That's going
to disproportionately benefit black Americans because of the racial wealth gap, but it's also going to benefit white Americans, it's going to benefit
Latinx Americans, it's going to benefit Asian Americans, native Americans, it's going to benefit every household with below medium wealth. And there
does seem to be some momentum for talking about that. So, that would be one step towards fairness.
Of course, the other step, which is the big tax reform proposal that I make in the book, is let's get rid of these deductions and exclusions that
benefit white Americans. Let's just tax income the labor, the way we tax income from stock, like the Reagan Tax Reform Act in 1986 did. Let's only
have a living rounds deduction. So, depending on where you live would determine how much you needed to thrive.
We're not talking minimum wage, because in a lot of areas minimum wage will not help you survive much less thrive. We get this living allowance level.
If you make less than that, you get a refund. If you make more than that, then you pay tax at the price of tax.
MARTIN: Truly, honestly reading this -- I mean, I can't deny that you and I are similarly situated. I mean, look, let's just look at us. I mean, we're
similarly situated. You know, I'm a college educated, married, African American person, married to a wage owning African American man. I had two
married African American parents who did their best and you just -- it's so overwhelming.
BROWN: I wanted black Americans to understand they weren't doing anything wrong. That notwithstanding the message that maybe they were doing
something wrong, they weren't. But the system is designed for white wealth, not black wealth. So, until we fix that, then we need to be defensive
players in the system but we need to give ourselves a break and say, we're doing the best we can. We are managing to scratch out something in the
system that's not designed for us. I'm going to pat myself on the back.
So, for me, what was important it is for black Americans do have the tools to understand the system isn't designed for us and we didn't do anything
MARTIN: Dorothy Brown, thank you so much for talking to us.
BROWN: Thank you for having me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And that's it for now. Thank you for watching and goodbye from London.