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Sharing Stories of Abuse; COVID Crisis in India; Interview With Sen. Todd Young (R-IN). Aired 2-3p ET
Aired April 29, 2021 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR.
Here`s what`s coming up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are all the remains of human beings.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): Death and despair, as COVID ravages India. With the government facing criticism, I asked top ruling party official Narendra
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: America is on the move again.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
AMANPOUR: President Biden sells his ambitious agenda. What do Republicans think? I ask Indiana Senator Todd Young.
Then: everyone`s Invited. Survivors unite on a platform for women to share their stories of misogyny and sexual violence. I talked to founder Soma
Sara and feminist writer Kamilah Willingham.
CORNEL WEST, PROFESSOR, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: Classics force us to come to terms with the most terrifying question we could ever raise, which is, what
does it mean to be human?
AMANPOUR: Making the case for the classics. Prominent philosopher Cornel West tells Walter Isaacson why studying the great thinkers is critical if
we want to avoid a spiritual catastrophe.
AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, everyone. I`m Christiane Amanpour in London.
India`s COVID cases keep climbing. A new unenviable world record was set today, when the country reported nearly 330,000 new infections. Grave
diggers and crematoriums are overwhelmed by the number of bodies.
The Indian government is facing heavy criticism for prematurely declaring victory over COVID and for allowing political rallies to take place,
despite the pandemic.
Even today, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for state elections in West Bengal to proceed in line with COVID protocols.
But help is on the way. Oxygen and equipment from the U.K., Russia and Singapore arrived today. And aid from the United States is expected Friday.
Narendra Taneja is the national spokesman for Modi`s ruling BJP Party, and he joined me earlier from New Delhi.
I asked him about the potential danger of elections continuing amidst this crisis.
NARENDRA TANEJA, SPOKESMAN, BHARATIYA JANATA PARTY: Well, these were regional elections which had been going on the last one-and-a-half month.
It was not just one date. There were several dates, and it was in various state assemblies, which were over, by the way, this evening, about three
hours ago. It`s all over.
But that was planned a long time in advance by Election Commission of India, which has a constitutional authority, reporting only to Parliament.
So, government has nothing to do with it. There was no way the government - - the government couldn`t give them direct instructions, because they are autonomous. They don`t report to the government.
But ever since this became clear that this wave was very strong and it was spreading fast across the country, our party started appealing to the
people, as well as to potential voters, that stay away, take all precautions, use virtual platforms, and use other platforms in order for
communication both from the political side, from the people`s side.
Some people listened, and some didn`t, unfortunately. And that, in some cases, might have been kind of a spreader, super-spreader. But these
election were in the area which are not so severely affected. But many parts of the country are.
And it did send out a kind of message that -- as if the whole COVID was over, the threat of COVID was over. That was a bit unfortunate. But, as I
said, that was not at the hands in the government.
And in -- even in most cases, the elections happened in the area which were not that severely affected at the time the election actually commenced.
AMANPOUR: Right, but now they are.
So, Mr. Taneja, let me ask you this. If you say it is not the government, and it`s not your party, will you then hold the Election Commission
responsible for letting these rallies and thing take place?
I am asking you because it has come under huge, huge criticism. And this week, the Madras High Court has accused the Election Commission of being
singularly responsible for the second wave, and the chief justice even saying that official should probably be booked on murder charges for
letting these rallies take place.
Will your party, your government then hold the Election Commission responsible?
TANEJA: Well, as you know, the honorable Madras High Court did efforts. We have read the judgment, their view.
And we have also heard the views of several other platforms, judicial, media, think tanks, universities, intellectuals, so forth, and also some
politicians. We have heard that.
But as we said, that`s -- the Election Commission of India is a highly revered institution, highly respected. And they took the decision that they
took. And we, as a political party, for the -- all political parties in India, they had no option to go along with it.
And now, fortunately, the elections are over and that`s behind us.
AMANPOUR: But what`s not behind you, obviously, is this is this surge, this second surge, which is, as you have explained, pretty much out of
You need everything. You are accepting help for the first time in 15 years. So, let me ask you about your party`s responsibility and your prime
As you know better than I do, there was a resolution adopted by your party in February which said: "It can be said with pride that India defeated
COVID-19 under the able, sensible, committed and visionary leadership of Prime Minister Modi. The party unequivocally hails its leadership for
introducing India to the world as a proud and victorious nation in the fight against COVID."
Now, you are, in fact, home to 18 percent of the world`s population. And I just wonder whether that was just a little bit too early to be celebrating,
a little bit like President George Bush when he said mission accomplished, when certainly it wasn`t in the Iraq War.
Do you regret that? Would you change that?
TANEJA: Well, I wouldn`t go for any comparison with President Bush and so forth.
But, yes, I`m -- the enthusiasm or optimism that was there in the language of resolution probably should have been more restrained. And many of us
thought that language was a little bit too optimistic at that time.
But, at that time, the situation in the country was very different. There were -- the number of cases was very small. Of a country of 1.38 billion,
there were hardly 10,000 cases per day.
AMANPOUR: BJP chief minister in Uttarakhand state has said: "I invite all devotees across the world to come to Haridwar, take a holy dip in the
Ganga. Nobody will be stopped in the name of COVID-19, as we assure the faith in God will overcome the fear of the virus."
This is a pattern, Mr. Taneja. This is a pattern of your government constantly urging people to go out, your party officials constantly urging
people to go out. And anybody can see that these mass gatherings, whether it was in February or now, are super-spreader events.
TANEJA: Well, it`s not really correct to say that basically was indication of any pattern in the party or the government or, for that matter, Republic
Yes, the chief minister of that particular state you`re referring to did make that statement. Many of us disagreed with him on that very -- that
very day. And, of course, the chief minister of that state should have been more cautious, more careful.
But -- and many, many within the party, within the government and India as a whole didn`t agree with him. And the people -- that was a religious
congregation called the Kumbh fair. It happens every 12 years, has been happening for thousands of years, 7,000 years, and so forth.
But that said, at the same time, the chief minister should have been more careful, should have consulted scientists and doctors before making any
But whether the event was super-spreader, spreader, definitely, thousands of people came out of their congregation sick and had to be treated.
AMANPOUR: And, finally, let me ask you about data denial, because you seem to be putting all the onus on certain chief ministers, certain people.
But let`s face it. You`re the party in power. These are your party members.
When you said that it was perhaps too early to declare victory, you said perhaps the situation was different at that time. But I have been talking
to epidemiologists and scientists and statisticians who say that there`s been an amount of data denial in India, that, actually, for every case,
there`s exponentially more cases, and, for every death declared, there are exponentially more.
Listen to the epidemiologist who spoke to me from the University of Michigan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BHRAMAR MUKHERJEE, UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: So, one in 20 cases are being reported in India, and there is massive heterogeneity
across the different cities in the rural areas in terms of this reporting structure.
For deaths, I will have to say that India has a very poor death recording system anyway. One out of five deaths are medically reported. But COVID-
related deaths, we estimate that underreporting factor between two to five.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Are you concerned now that you could be actually sitting on a problem that is two to five times as big as you`re saying it is?
TANEJA: Well, I`m sitting in New Delhi as I speak with you, and New Delhi, the epicenter of the second wave of coronavirus.
I`m in the middle of it. My son was down with COVID. He has just come out of it. I have lost three friends the last 10 days. I probably know better
than the lady you just -- you interviewed from Michigan.
I can tell you that I -- we, sitting here, know better about the ground situation than people sitting in Michigan or in other parts of the world.
But I still respect that is science. That is their view. And I respect it.
But the reality here, when it comes to data, right now, the government, we are very busy handling the situation, saving lives, mobilizing equipment,
organizing the oxygen that people need, and making sure that we can basically protect our people from the second wave.
So, that`s our primary focus in terms of, we are a huge country. There are more people living in India than the whole of Africa. In terms of cremation
grounds, graveyards in different parts of the country, of course, we have the data, and we are collecting data. But all that will be reconciled once
we are out of the woods.
Right now, our focus is more on, how can we save lives and how can we mobilize more oxygen? How can we mobilize more medicines for our people,
and make sure that we get rid of the second wave as fast as possible?
That`s our primary focus. Political criticism, other kind of commentaries, people are entitled to do that, but our focus right now, being the
government, being the ruling party, if you want to tame -- honestly, yes, of course, we are in power. We are the government in India.
So, of course, responsibility is first and foremost ours, good or bad, whatever it is. And it is our responsibility. And we are trying our very,
very best. But this did come as a surprise. Today, a lot of people are saying that you should have done that, we knew in February.
But, at that time, scientists, doctors, they were all more or less of the same view. Politicians, we politicians formed the opinion that we are
getting -- we were more or less getting out of COVID situation. We -- our views are basically coming out of the kind of analysis, the kind of
reports, feedback we were getting from scientists and doctors, including those living outside India, but India, but living outside India.
But, evidently, something went wrong. Evidently we were hit by a tsunami. As you know, when a tsunami hits you, then you -- very often, you are not
aware of that. And in most cases, 80 to 90 percent reasons could be external.
We don`t know. We don`t want to blame anybody. All we know is that, yes, we are in power. We are responsible. This happened. We are now -- our focus is
,how can we save lives and how can we make sure our people are protected, as international aid support is coming?
And we are in touch with various countries. And we are very grateful to countries and the people who are extending support to us. Fight is
basically our focus and -- and our focus is, how can we basically now defeat COVID, and how can we overcome this?
And I can share with you that we will overcome it and we shall overcome it very, very soon.
AMANPOUR: Clearly, Mr..
TANEJA: ... of the people.
And, Mr. Taneja, obviously, the world is looking very sympathetically at your country and hoping for the best for all the people there. Thank you so
much, indeed, for joining me.
TANEJA: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: And, as we said, American aid is going to be delivered starting Friday.
And now: President Joe Biden is in Georgia today, giving a nod to the state that helped Democrats clinch both the White House and the Senate.
Those victories allowed Biden to push forward his ambitious agenda, which he laid out last night in a speech to a joint session of Congress.
The president says America is badly in need of a revamp, especially if it wants to compete with China.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: We`re in competition with China and other countries to win the 21st century. We`re at a great inflection point in history. We have to do more
than just build back better and build back -- we have to build back better.
We have to compete more strenuously than we have.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And President Biden`s first 100 days has brought much better news on the U.S. economy, which soared in the first quarter.
Here to respond is the Republican Senator from Indiana Todd Young, and he`s joining me now from Washington.
Senator Young, welcome to the program.
Can I talk to you? I`m really interested in this bipartisan situation. You heard President Biden clearly tie the big investments that he`s making to
competitiveness, to be able to, as he said, compete for the 21st century, particularly against China.
You yourself are also leading an initiative. It`s called the Endless Frontier Act, a bipartisan effort to really invest hundreds of billions of
dollars, government dollars, in tech and other related fields.
So do you see there that there is connectivity between both aims? Do you see that you can work with the president on this piece of the pie?
SEN. TODD YOUNG (R-IN): Well, thank you for having me on, Christiane.
I do see real opportunities to work together as it relates to our national security and, most especially, as it relates to our resistance to the
Chinese Communist Party and their violation of international rules and norms, and the threat that they pose to our allies and to the United States
In fact, on this issue in particular, we need to show unity, because the Chinese Communist Party is sending a message right now that the U.S. is
divided on so many fronts. And when it comes to investing in key technologies, as we did in the wake of the Cold War, so that we might grow
our economy at a more rapid rate and be able to harness many of those technologies to empower our war fighters to deter any sort of conflict.
I think it`s essential that we come together. That`s why I have co-authored the Endless Frontier Act, and why I think it stands a great chance of
support from Republicans and Democrats alike when it comes to the floor, I hope next month.
AMANPOUR: OK, so that`s really interesting. You have just identified America`s chief challenger, competitor as pointing to the very thing that
has pretty much stymied the United States for too many years now, this division, this fracturing and partisanship. And they`re using it against
So I wonder whether, especially now, people like yourself have got to gather more and more Republicans to -- if you -- if, for nothing else, than
to face down the enemy, so to speak, because a new poll from CNN just showed that Americans overwhelmingly support bipartisanship; 87 percent say
it`s desirable in Congress. But expectations are low; 60 percent see bipartisanship as -- quote -- "unlikely" in upcoming legislation.
So what do you make of that given, what you have just told me?
YOUNG: Well, what I make of it is that bipartisanship consists of both political parties coming together, making accommodations wherever
necessary, but, in the end, focusing on really big and important objectives of the American people.
In this instance, it is preventing China from ripping off our intellectual property and continuing to prey on our workers and businesses and resisting
their military encroachment and the threat that they pose to keeping open the sea lines of communication for trade of the goods that we export and
So, we`re going to have to come together around this issue. And bipartisanship, make no mistake, it`s not an end in and of itself. But it`s
a way to get things done. And, oftentimes, when we work together, we crowd in the best ideas, we leave aside the worst ideas. And when it comes to
investing in 21st century cutting-edge technologies, there`s a lot of overlap.
So, on this issue at least, I have high confidence that we will come together. And, frankly, Christiane, we need to come together, because the
Chinese are watching us. The Chinese are watching whether or not we can come together as it relates to resisting them, their value system and
And our ability to attract allies, our ability to resist the Chinese moving forward will depend on using this moment in history as an opportunity to
become a better version of ourself, and on ensuring that our values prevail.
And that typically happens through economic growth and investment in our strategic capabilities, which gives us more leverage to bring a country
like China into a position of better behavior.
AMANPOUR: So, I mean, I assume you must be pleased to see that the economy, the Commerce Department said, has soared for this first quarter on
an annualized basis, and much better than it was doing towards the end of last year in the final quarter.
So, just to follow up on what you say...
YOUNG: Well, I am pleased.
YOUNG: I think -- I think it really bears emphasizing and reminding the American people at every turn that the only reason our economy was down in
the first place was because of the gross irresponsibility, the recklessness of the Chinese Communist Party.
It is they who cannot be trusted. It is they who are disunifying so many countries across the world. They have created this carnage and this drop in
economic growth. And we`re emerging from that, which is wonderful. But now we need to work together to supercharge the economy.
This should be a bipartisan issue. And that`s what the Endless Frontier Act is all about.
AMANPOUR: Yes, I mean, obviously, COVID and the pandemic had a big role in the economy as well.
But let me ask you this, because you are, for want of a better word, a Lugar Republican. He was your mentor, the late Senator from Indiana Richard
Lugar. I`d interviewed him in the past. He really had bipartisan success on many issues, especially of foreign policy. And we`re discussing that now.
But, also, I want to ask you how to interpret that in domestic policy, because, despite the intense polarization, what President Biden laid out
last night and what he`s been doing certainly for his first 100 days has significant support across the United States, clearly highest support
amongst Democrats and independents, but also support amongst Republicans.
And I just wonder whether that matters to -- I mean, to you, of course, but you hear some slightly less bipartisan Republicans just sort of sort of
dumping all over that, right?
YOUNG: Well, let me...
AMANPOUR: But it`s popular with the people. What the president is doing is popular with the people.
And to be a viable party, you have got to be -- you have got to do -- you have got to make measures that they relate to.
What the president is saying is popular with the people, polling of some of his priorities that he announced last night, like family leave, and housing
affordability, and pre-K, and childcare, and training and retraining all our workers, so that they can meaningfully participate in this dynamic
economy, all of these things are very important to Republicans and Democrats alike.
Unfortunately, unfortunately, President Biden has talked about these categories. But he`s not really consulted with Republicans. We saw this
with the $1.9 trillion so-called COVID relief package that, in the end, had a whole lot more to do with provisions unrelated to COVID.
We`re seeing this again with the proposed $2.5 trillion infrastructure package, which they`re now branding something else. It`s not mostly
infrastructure. And so the more the American people learn about this, the more they`re going to want us to work together, as you say, in a bipartisan
fashion to advance the advertised priorities, which, indeed, are popular among the American people.
AMANPOUR: So I wonder whether you think the White House has heard what you have been saying.
Obviously, a lot of Republicans have said President Biden campaigned on talking about bipartisanship, but now he`s not listening to us. Look at
these things that are passed with entirely Democratic votes.
So, Anita Hill, who is his senior adviser, said today there isn`t, in fact, a specific timeline for congressional Democrats to -- quote -- "go it
alone" on Biden`s sweeping infrastructure proposal, so clearly indicating and saying, frankly, that they want to give a lot more time for
negotiations with you, with the Republicans.
That`s good, right? I mean, that`s a hand across the aisle.
YOUNG: Well, that`s great. That`s really encouraging. I`m happy to hear that.
I will note that the last time I went over to the White House, was invited into the Oval Office and discussed the $1.9 trillion package, myself and
nine other Republicans brought a counterproposal. We thought that that was going to be the beginning of a negotiation and were led to believe that.
The following day, the so-called reconciliation process was initiated, allowing Democrats to push through the $1.9 trillion package. I only say
that as a word of caution. I hope that doesn`t happen again.
The American people really do want us to work together and find common ground on some of the priorities I have identified before, by the way, all
of which I have developed concrete solutions in each of those categories. So let`s hope that -- let`s hope that the words are met with deeds, and
that we can really work together and show unity, not just as it relates to confronting communist China and the threat they pose to us and the rest of
the Western world, but also on these domestic issues, which are so important to the lives and livelihoods of all Americans.
Well, listen, thank you so much for joining us. It`s really good to hear you on this issue.
And, of course, I meant Anita Dunn, not Anita Hill. Anita Dunn is the senior adviser for President Biden.
Thank you very much, indeed.
Now, before President Biden spoke of the many challenges in front of him, he addressed the history being made on the podium behind him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: Madam Speaker, Madam Vice President.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
BIDEN: No president has ever said those words from this podium. No president has ever said those words, and it`s about time.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Yes, Kamala Harris and Nancy Pelosi are first in the line of presidential succession. It is historic for women.
But the fight to be heard and respected continues around the world. On a digital platform called Everyone`s Invited, thousands of women have shared
their stories of sexism, misogyny and sexual violence.
Soma Sara is the founder. And she`s joining me from here in London. And with me from Los Angeles is Kamilah Willingham, an activist and writer.
Welcome, both of you, to the program.
And I just want to start by asking you, Soma, just to give your experience and what led you to create this platform Everyone`s Invited.
SOMA SARA, FOUNDER, EVERYONE`S INVITED: So, I started this platform back in June, after having many conversations with friends about our experiences
through our teenagers and university.
And it was, sadly, revealed that so many of us have had these experiences of sexual violence and rape culture growing up. And when I talk about rape
culture, I`m talking about a culture where things that aren`t normal are actually normalized.
So, this is a wider culture, which includes behaviors such as sexual harassment, misogyny, sexism, the derogatory sexist comments. And it`s when
things like the nonconsensual sharing of intimate photos and sexual harassment is normalized, this can actually act as a gateway to more
extreme acts of rape and sexual assault.
So it was actually after I shared my own experiences of this culture on my Instagram, and I was immediately completely overwhelmed with stories from
everyone I knew really reaching out to me saying how much they resonated with everything I was saying about rape culture, and also began sharing
their testimonies of sexual violence and abuse and harassment.
So, in response to this viral moment of stories, which I shared on my Instagram, I decided to create a more permanent platform called Everyone`s
Invited of all survivors to share their stories and to raise awareness.
AMANPOUR: So, let me turn to you, Kamilah, because you shared your experiences, as -- at Harvard law school back in 2011 on a documentary that
actually was aired by CNN called "The Hunting Ground."
Tell me about your experience. And are you surprised, heartened by the response to Everyone`s Invited?
KAMILAH WILLINGHAM, FEMINIST WRITER AND ACTIVIST: Yes.
Well, I was a law student back in, yes, 2011. I had just turned 25. And I went out with friends and, like, crashed at my place and woke up to being
sexually assaulted by a classmate. And I did all the things that I thought were the right things to do. I reported it to the police. I reported it to
my school. I tried to hold out hope that at least one of those processes would deliver justice.
And it failed. Both systems failed. My school actually -- or, at least, professors at my school were very retaliatory towards me, especially as I
started speaking out. And the criminal justice process was a dead end that was mainly re-traumatizing.
And seeing the response now to Everyone`s Invited some five years after I spoke out is really heartening. I guess any platform that gives survivors
an opportunity to speak out in a way that feels safe, I love that people can speak out anonymously and still have such an immense impact.
I also love seeing that our society seems more open to hearing these stories. And whenever we get this flood of so many stories, it`s really
hard to deny that we have a problem and that there are people we are failing to serve in our society.
AMANPOUR: I have to read the legal response from that person in your case.
Harvard did suspend the accused, who denies any wrongdoing. And he was tried in 2015, and he was convicted of non-sexual assault and battery
against your friend. He was cleared of sexual assault. And following the trial, Harvard reinstated him.
So, rape culture and activism, it`s obviously -- I mean, I want to hear from both of you what exactly it means, because it`s a very, very strong
Soma, you started to talk about it. What exactly does it mean? And what does it look like, the culture?
SARA: So, I`m talking about a wider culture, where everything in this culture is actually interconnected, so all the experiences and all the
behaviors, as well as the deeply entrenched sexist and misogynistic attitudes and beliefs that actually inform this culture.
So it`s really everything, from the sexual harassment. This could be groping at a Christmas party or at a club. It encompasses the image-based
abuse, which is a consequence of the rise of social media and technology.
So this includes things like upskirting, the nonconsensual sharing of intimate photos, as well as also encompassing the serious criminal acts of
rape and assault. It`s really important to point out that it`s an incremental culture. And one thing leads to the next.
And these are -- it`s about dehumanizing behaviors. And when an individual is dehumanized, you just can`t respect them. And that`s when they become
vulnerable to violation. So, it`s not just about the most extreme acts of rape and assault. It`s really about everything else within the culture.
It`s about the victim blaming, the barriers to reporting, the failures of the wider system that allow the most extreme acts to exist and thrive
without any repercussions.
AMANPOUR: I want to play this part of an interview that I did -- I conducted with Laura Bates, who as you know, probably is the founder of the
Everyday Sexism Project, and she`s written, you know, books about this. Here`s what she told me about this issue that you are talking about now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAURA BATES, FOUNDER, EVERYDAY SEXISM PROJECT: It is very common in schools for me to hear young people say things like, rape is a compliment,
really, it is not rape if she enjoys it. To have this idea that foreplay, that for girls crying is part of foreplay. That`s another comment, a direct
quote from a teenager.
Many young people accessing from a very young age really quite extreme and misogynistic online pornography. In the U.K., for example, we know that 60
percent of young people have seen it by the age of 14 and that a quarter are 12 or younger when they first see it. I would imagine that those
statistics are similar in the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, I want to ask you both what kind of steps you think can be taken to basically avoid this kind of teaching of certain members of
society, certain boys who basically get, apparently, according to the research, a lot of their sex ed from pornography. And we`ve just seen that
in the U.K. there has been a survey by the think tank Higher Education Policy Institute that 58 percent questioned said, students should have to
pass a test to show they fully understand sexual consent before starting university.
Kamilah, can I ask you about that? How does that strike you? Because often, obviously, university is the first-time people go away from home. And they
get lessons, obviously, certainly now, in freshman week. But this is about being taught before and actually passing a test so that you actually
recognize what consent means.
WILLINGHAM: Yes, I think it`s a really interesting idea. And if it`s the first time we are having real conversations about consent is in the context
of university admissions when we are, you know, concerned that somebody is going to rape someone, we have failed and we are doing it way too late. I
think these conversations have to start much earlier with comprehensive sex education and a broader cultural destigmatizing of talking about sex in
I also think when you talk about rape culture, it`s really important to acknowledge that its foundations, it`s rooted in patriarchy and systems and
beliefs in male dominance and what that means about the roles of the genders. And so, if we are brought up in a society where sex is thought of
as something that women are supposed to guard and give up and men are supposed to take it and it is their job to dominate, already our
conversations about consent are going to be skewed because we also have to recognize the role of coercion.
So, I think the idea of a test is interesting but it makes me uncomfortable because it does set people up to fail if we are not also making a real
effort to talk about these things as early as elementary school.
AMANPOUR: So, let me ask you, Soma, because you have actually taken your platform and your concerns and the fact that, you know, so many thousands
of people have come onto the platform. You have taken it to schools. You talk to the head master of Eaton, which is a very prominent private school,
boys` school here in the U.K. And I just want to play this soundbite and then I want to ask you your experiences from what you have tried to tell,
you know, those in charge.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Schools are actively and aggressively not wanting to tell the truth about what`s going in their campuses because the first
campuses to do so will be, you know, the kinds of known as the rape campuses where they actually have a rape problem. That, you know, rape is
happening on all college campuses and there are perverse economic and reputational incentives to hide those numbers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And that, again, is from "The Hunting Ground," which Kamilah was part of. But when you took it to Eaton or wherever else you might have
done, what did they say?
SARA: You know, I think, you know, it was really important for us to try to emphasize that this is a culture that exists across the board. It exists
in all schools, in all universities, in all of societies. So far, we have had a really encouraging response from schools and universities across the
U.K. who have been having a very lively dialogue with their students. And we are very pleased to see it going on so far. But there is a lot more work
to be done. But, again, I would really like to emphasize that this is a universal culture. It`s everywhere.
AMANPOUR: I just want to read from your platform. Basically, you know, the instruction -- you are urging, don`t be bystander. Call it out, take action
to stop it from happening. If you witness misogyny and sexism, challenge it through conversation and do this with empathy and understanding, not anger
and rejection. That is really interesting, Soma, because you obviously also hear from a lot of boys who are also trying to figure out, you know, how to
deal in this situation.
And instead of being, you know, canceled for a mistake -- I am talking about a mistake, not a violent act, not a criminal act. You know, how do
you think boys and girls, men and women, need to discuss this maybe between themselves or make each other -- make them understand that this is not the
way forward anymore?
SARA: Yes. Everyone`s invited. We are really keen on emphasizing the importance of empathy and understanding and reconciliation. I mean, it`s so
important that we are trying our best to listen to each other, listen to survivors and listen to all sides of the story. We don`t believe in
criminalizing young people and ostracizing or cancelling people because I don`t think that really moves us forward as a society.
And you know, when you point the finger and play the blame game and you narrow it down to an institution or a demographic or an individual, you are
actually really limiting the problem and making it seem like it only exists there when actually, it is so much deeper than that. It is in the
foundations. It`s in the structures. It`s everywhere.
AMANPOUR: All right. Well, listen, thank you so much, both of you, for sharing your experiences and making awareness so much greater. Soma Sara,
Kamilah Willingham, thanks for joining us.
And, of course, if you have been affected by this issue or know someone who needs help, do contact your national domestic and sexual abuse helpline.
And we continue now with the importance of education. Cornel West is a philosopher, scholar and civil rights activist whose searing speeches have
educated and inspired many. And here he is speaking to Walter Isaacson about why classics must remain in the curriculum as well as Biden`s first
WALTER ISAACSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thank you, Christiane. And Dr. Cornel West, welcome to the show.
CORNEL WEST, PROFESSOR, UNION THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY: Blessed to be here. And I salute you for your illustrious career. My brother, 50 years ago we
arrived at Harvard at the at the same time, but we are still going. We are two blessed brothers, I tell you.
ISAACSON: Well, that`s one of the things you`ve always taught in your lessons, is to remember each morning how blessed you can be. You have just
written an op ed piece with a partner decrying Howard University and other places that are minimizing or getting rid of the classics department. Why
is teaching the classics so important?
WEST: You know, my brother, I am thoroughly convinced we are living in a moment of spiritual decay and moral decrepitude in the American empire. We
have got come up with counter-veiling forces and counter-veiling weights against rule of money, rule of mediocrity, rule of military might, rule of
narrow conformity and rule of indifference and callousness. And best of the classics of any civilization, any empire, any culture, has to do with
trying to convince us to involve ourselves in a quest for truth and beauty and goodness. And then for some of us, like myself, as a Christian, the
ISAACSON: You talk about spiritual decay and you say it`s a normal decline and it`s a deep intellectual narrowness that`s crept in. How do the
classics help us push back against that?
WEST: Exactly. The classics force us to come to terms with the most terrifying question we could ever raise, which is what does it mean to be
human? You have got to examine life as not a life but human (INAUDIBLE) line 38A. And what does that human mean? Well, comes from the Latin word
which means burial, we are despairing creatures, we`re vanishing organisms on the way to bottle the extinction. And therefore, question becomes, who
will we be in the meantime? What virtues will we enact? What kind of visions will we pursue? What kinds of values will we try to embody?
And once you raise the question, what it means to be human, then you begin to see on one hand like Shakespeare and Dante have told us, like Toni
Morrison and John Coltrane have told us, it`s dark in our history. Most of our history, the history of domination and oppression, it`s a history of
hatred, it`s history of contempt, it`s history of fear-driven cruelty.
But what is the best of our history? Counter-weights against that. And that`s everywhere you look. Every civilization, every continent, every
race, every gender, every sexual orientation. And once you come to terms with that, then the next question becomes, how do you become equipped? What
kind of spiritual and moral armor do you have that allows to you think critically, that allows you to open yourself up to others that allows you
to act courageously.
ISAACSON: What did Frederick Douglass learn from both reading the classics and engaging in conversation with the great western cannon of thinkers?
WEST: Well, I think he was already a freedom fighter because he did not want to be a slave but he was able to come to terms with languages because
he was -- he had foreign languages. He had languages -- an African backdrop when he -- in the United States, he had learned these European languages,
English language, and the French, and the German. And in those languages, he was able to tease out, as can anybody, even though he is very
distinctive in many ways, an eloquence.
And what is eloquence? Sister Quintella (ph) say, eloquence is wisdom speaking. What is wisdom speaking? Having the courage to learn how to die
and to learn how to die by questioning your assumptions and presuppositions. Any time you let certain assumptions and presuppositions
go, that`s a form of death to be -- to allow you to be reborn, to allow you to grow, allow you to develop, allow you to mature. And we live in an
empire, my brother, in many ways it has grown powerful, grown rich, but hasn`t grown up.
F.O. Matthiessen used to say that America in some ways would be distinctive because it would move from perceived innocence to corruption without
mediating stage of maturity. And so, we begin with this nation that we`re innocent. No other nation believes that they`re innocent. How can you be
authorizers of devastation of indigenous people and African slavery and view yourself as innocent?
James Bowen said that innocence itself is the crime before you even commit to crime. You need to grow up. This is not Peter Pan. It is not Disneyland.
You have got to be mature. And it`s possible for any human being to be innocent and naive, to be mature and separate childishness from
childlikeness. Childlikeness is a sign of maturity. Childishness, you need the grow up.
ISAACSON: To what extent did Martin Luther King gain that maturity by being part of this conversation with the ancients, with the classics, with
the western heritage that you now say is under assault at some universities?
WEST: Well, I mean, Martin Luther King Jr. of course, learned it from coming from people who have been hated for 400 years and still tried to
teach the world so much about love. And it goes from Martin King to John Coltrane, "A Love Supreme," James Baldwin`s love soap essays, Toni
Morrison`s, "Beloved." He comes from the people who have been traumatized for 400 years but still at our best decided to become wounded healers
rather than wounded hurters.
It came from the people who have been terrorized for 400 years all the way up to Brother Floyd himself, all the way up to Brother Andrew Brown, all
the way up to Breonna Taylor. But the best of our response has been what, to call for freedom for everybody, not terrorize others. Not create a black
version of the Klu Klux Klan. The black people had opted forward creating a black version of Klu Klux Klan, there have been in a civil war every
generation. There have been terrorist cells in every chocolate section of the city. No. It was a tradition the virtues of a vision that embraces all,
that is predicated on the humanity of each and every one of us, each one, each human being made in the image and likeness of a god that gives us a
value, a worth, a sanctity, a dignity. That`s been the best of black leadership.
And once that black leadership is reduced to just a quest for dollars and smartness rather than justice and decommitment to love and compassion, then
you lose the best of the black tradition. You see I argue, Brother Walter, that the black freedom tradition has been the level in the American
democratic health. We`ve seen that it in the last election. We`ve got 58 percent of our white brothers voted for Trump. 53 percent of our white
sisters voted for Trump. One for the black vote, for the most part, especially the black sisters` vote that we`d have Trump again. We could
have a neofascist America.
So, the best of black folk has always been one of broadening the expansion of not just rights and liberties but of the quality of our relations to one
another. So, it`s also about the (INAUDIBLE), that great concept that comes from the genius of Hebrew scripture, that loving kindness to be spread to
orphan and widow and fatherless and motherless, to be spread to the weak and the vulnerable. And if you give up on that, then it becomes simple
(INAUDIBLE), might makes right. If you give up on that, it just becomes a matter of survival of the slickest. If you give up on that and push the Ten
Commandment away, you only end up with the 11th commandment, thou shall not get caught, (INAUDIBLE) by any means and make as much money and status and
spectacle as you can, you lose your democracy, you lose your soul.
It might be above the greatest play ever written about the American empire, which is Eugene O`Neill, "The Iceman Cometh." What does it profit to the
nation to gain a whole worth and lose its soul?
ISAACSON: How do people who are not part of the western tradition take back being having their voice be part of the western tradition in the
WEST: Oh, you challenge it. Because keep in mind, it`s wonderful, wonderful formulation by the Great Henry James. You know, he wrote a letter
January 12, 1901 to Robert Louis Stevenson. He said, no theory that -- no theory is kind to us that cheats us of seeing. No theory is kind to us that
cheats us of seeing. You know, what did he mean by that? What he meant by that was that, in fact, every theory has a certain limitedness and
narrowness, and the aim is to broaden what we see so that we are not short sighted, we`re not myopic. And I would add, to feel more deeply so that we
are not caught in forms of indifferent.
You know, the great rabbi, Abraham Joshua Heschel, say, indifference to evil is more evil than evil itself. He`s absolutely right. He`s absolutely
right. So, then when you see more broadly and feel more deeply and then act more courageously, lo and behold, you access the best of who we are. And
even when we have the best of who we are, we still have our limitations. We have our faults. We have our foibles. That`s why democracy itself is
approximate solution to insoluble problems.
You are never going to get away the hatred, the insecurity and the anxieties that go hand in with who we are as human beings, but we`re going
to have mechanisms of accountability, vis-a-vis, the most vulnerable, that`s democracy. That`s why voices from below can merge to try shape the
destiny of a nation.
ISAACSON: In the January 6th insurrection on Capitol Hill, some of the people wore Greek helmets and carried flags that said, you know, molon
labe, meaning come get our weapons. It was almost like they were at the Battle of Thermopylae. They were channeling the classics for white
supremacy. What did you think when you saw that?
WEST: Well, I mean, one, my brother, as a black man in America and as a revolutionary Christian, I am never surprised by evil and never paralyzed
by despair. So, any tradition can be used in a vicious manner. Any religion can be used in a vicious manner. Any institution can.
And there`s no accident that there is a whole host of resources in the classical tradition of the west or any other civilization that lends itself
to interpretations grounded in the hatred and the agreed and attempt to dominate others. Yet, those same traditions also are open to being used and
deployed bring in -- call into question, to critique, to undermine hatred and greed and domination.
And so, it`s like the Klu Klux Klan. Here, they have got my Jesus at my cross and they think they are Christians. Well, there is a long history of
Christians who have been involved in form of hatred and greed and promote structures of domination. I shouldn`t be surprised. But that doesn`t mean
that those ugly versions of Christianity somehow exhaust the best of prophetic Christianity what Dorothy Dave (ph) is about, what Martin King
was about, what Fannie Lou Hamer was about, what Philip Berrigan was about.
Say, it would you true with Judaism. What Rabbi Asher was about. It would be true with secular traditions of (INAUDIBLE) with Mariel Roadkaiser (ph)
was about, what Malcolm X as a prophetic Muslim was about. Those are forces for good at their best.
ISAACSON: You were not a supporter of Joe Biden when he ran for president. You supported Bernie Sanders. Now, that we are 100 days into the Biden
administration, have you revised your assessment of him and maybe think that he could be a little bit like Lyndon Baines Johnson and surprise us,
especially on the issue of race?
WEST: I think that Biden is going to surprise us. He surprised me. When he went in, I -- my view was that he was tied with four crimes against
humanity, Mass incarceration, unleashing Wall Street greed with the Glass- Steagall Act Repeal, with the invasion and occupation of Iraq and Israeli occupation. All of those he would not say a critical word about in any
substantive way. And in many ways, he was the architect and supporter of this.
And coming into office, he hits the issue of Yemen, and Afghanistan, head on. Relief Bill. Infrastructure Bill. Deeply concerned about police
brutality. Talks about white supremacy. Talks about Jim Crow. He reminds me very much of LBJ who started out as a white supremacist who Jim Crow (ph)
and ended up one of the major forces for good against white supremacy. That`s why you never give up on people. You never know which way they`re
headed. You never know what kind of change they can put forward.
If Biden continues in this way, he`s going to be very much like LBJ and will be a much stronger force for good against white supremacy on ground
than Barack Obama was. Now, Barack Obama had the symbols. He`s brilliant, he`s black, he`s poised and so forth. Didn`t have the courage. Didn`t have
the willingness to fight that Biden does when it comes to this issue. When it comes to a variety of issues.
So, who would know? Who would think that Joseph Biden from Scranton, Pennsylvania could become such a force for good for progressives? Now, I
still have criticisms and until he hasn`t moved on the Middle Eastern issue the way I would like and the relation to what`s going on in Haiti right
now, very critical in terms of the dictatorial rule and his unwillingness to call it into question. So, there`s a number of things I continue to put
pressure on, and I will continue to put pressure on any elected official politician no matter what color. But it`s always in the name of moral and
spiritual issues linked to spreading asset to the most vulnerable in any society.
ISAACSON: What was your reaction to the conviction of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd that might have helped get further along on
police reform and even race issues?
WEST: I was just glad to see that they had a fair trial and a policeman went to jail. It`s just so rare, as you know, my brother, that a policeman
actually goes to jail when they shoot down so many of our fellow citizens. And as you know, over 1,000 fellow citizens are shot down every year,
disproportionate black and brown, but not exclusively. You have got a lot of white brothers and sisters who are shot down as well. This is arbitrary
power deploy. That`s what democracies are about.
How do you curtail and attenuate the use of arbitrary power, especially when it is tied to the state? You can`t do that if you don`t have a serious
democracy, you see. That`s why black folks for most of the time we`re here, we`ve been victims of American democracy, as Malcolm X said, because the
arbitrary of power of white supremacy has been so vicious against us.
So, I was glad to see it. I just hope it`s not an isolated incident and I hope that it can become much more institutionalized in terms of fair trials
and ensuring that people are not able to use arbitrary power, especially violent power against fellow citizens, especially those who, historically,
have been so hated and terrorized and traumatized like we black folk.
ISAACSON: You talk about the importance of education and that education can help us emote, help us cry. Let me express my condolences, you just
lost your mother, who was a great educator. Tell me about her.
WEST: Yes. Well, mom, you know, she was kind of walking truth, beauty, goodness and grounded in the holy because she believed fundamentally as a
Christian woman, as a black woman coming out of Jim Crow, Louisiana, born in Crowley, Louisiana. That`s my roots. Just like New Orleans for you, my
brother. That she wanted to open herself, to empty herself, to donate herself, to give here herself, to make the world a better place.
She understood if the kingdom of God is within you, then everywhere you go you ought to leave little heaven behind. And any time somebody sees me,
they see her because her afterlife at work in part in my life, trying to leave a little heaven behind. It could be Socratic heaven, it could be
prophetic heaven, it could be a little Richard Pryor, comic heaven, but it`s some kind of heaven to empower somebody to make the world better
(INAUDIBLE), to mend the world, to make sure you leave it just a little more sweet and joyful than when you found it. That`s mom. That`s Irene B.
West. Nobody like her. One of a kind.
ISAACSON: Dr. Cornell West, thank you for joining us.
WEST: Thank you, my dear brother. Salute you. May God bless you and your family, too, man.
ISAACSON: Same to you.
AMANPOUR: And finally, we have heard a lot about the abuse suffered by domestic workers in Persian Gulf states. Now, some of them are using TikTok
to bring that to light. Like Brenda Dama from Kenya whose videos about her struggle as a housecleaner in Saudi Arabia has gained nearly a million
AMANPOUR: Now, most foreign domestic workers in that region are employed through a sponsorship system that gives their employers almost total
control over them. Through TikTok, they can share their frustrations and maybe start trying to help change the system.
That`s it for now. Thanks for watching and good-bye from London.