Video: Town hall: Changing the conversation about race

updated 4/16/2008 6:18:10 PM ET 2008-04-16T22:18:10

ANNOUNCER:  From MSNBC, "A Conversation about Race" from Crampton Auditorium at Howard University in Washington, DC.

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LYNDON JOHNSON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT:  This graduating class at Howard University is witnessed to the indomitable determination of the negro America to win his way in American life.

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BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS ANCHOR:  President Lyndon Johnson here at Howard University 43 years ago addressing the graduating class of 1965.That summer, Johnson signed the historic Voting Rights Act into law but the president's message here that day was simply passing laws was not enough.  He said the time had come to ensure real opportunity for African Americans and to end racial Americans once and for all.It seems like such a long time ago.

This is Howard University today.  Founded just after the Civil War to educate freed slaves, Howard is now one of the leading universities in the country with a student body of 11,000, Howard not only produces more African American PhDs than anywhere else in this country, it proudly sends hundreds of volunteers every year to help situations like what happened in the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina.

We've seen a powerful film tonight.  It deserves a powerful conversation coming out of it and to all our guests, let's make this a free fire zone, shall we, where we can go ahead and some things may be uncomfortable.  Some things people aren't used to hearing or saying. 

But we'll give it a shot.  It's time to introduce the panel that joins us onstage.

Tom Joyner a lot of you know, of course, as the host of the "Tom Joyner Show", founder of the Tom Joyner Foundation.  Mike Barnicle has been a journalist for several decades.  We won't say how many.  He is an MSNBC analyst and "Boston Herald" columnist.  Malaak Compton-Rock, founder and director of the Angel Rock Project.  More important, she is a citizen and a mom and I have a feeling we're going to hear from that side of her tonight.  Michael Eric Dyson, a noted author, of course, Georgetown University professor.  We'll talk about his latest book along the way tonight.

A lot of you know Tim Wise from his lectures, from his writings.  He is an educator on antiracism in this country and we'll hear a lot about that I imagine tonight.

Mike Barnicle, you're a white guy.

MIKE BARNICLE, MSNBC ANALYST:  I am.

WILLIAMS:  What do you think should change about the conversation?  In the spirit of the movie we've just witnessed, what should change?

BARNICLE:  Well, I think the biggest thing that ought to change and it's been discussed for years and it never changes.  When we use the word "conversation" it always ends up in an argument.  And there should be an extended conversation about the most important aspect of life in America, race.  Something that really hasn't been addressed as a conversation, I feel, for my lifetime.

WILLIAMS:  Tom Joyner, there is such wisdom buried along the way in that film that we pick up as we watch it.  From Daisy.  To David's uncle.  To David having the presence of mind standing in the slave quarters to say, "I am what they were praying for at the end of the day."  What is your takeaway from it that you leave this hall with tonight?  What do you think it ought to prompt?

TOM JOYNER, "THE TOM JOYNER SHOW":  I think that what we're doing right now is the first step and more of this.  We talk about things like this on my show and other black media services like the "Tom Joyner Morning Show" and Black America Web and black newspapers.  We have this conversation all the time but we're talking to ourselves and we need to have a conversation like this with mainstream media like MSNBC so that it opens - you serve mainstream.  I serve black America.  If we can get a conversation from black America on mainstream I think it helps all of America.

WILLIAMS:  Michael, the quote from Martin Luther King about the grandsons of slave owners and the grandsons of slaves, this is the film that he never knew would be made.  This is the story since we have just commemorated the 40th anniversary of his assassination, this is the story that came from the speech.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY:  Well, there is no question.  I think that Martin Luther King Jr., 34 years old, invoked a vision of America that he said was deeply rooted in the American dream and what he did is narrate that dream against the backdrop of the nightmare and I think film interrogates some very serious issues that are resonant in not only African American life as Tom has indicated, but should be taken seriously as Brother Barnicle said in the mainstream.

And I think that it's incumbent upon us to deal seriously and honestly and openly with the issue with race.  But let's be honest.  Most of us can't.  When we saw the rift, for instance, with the Jeremiah Wright comments, a Howard University graduate and a brilliant preacher, when he made those comments, it ripped the veil from many white Americans who had no idea that they had kicked out in politics the black church so that they subordinated their theology to their politics, began a black church which then became preoccupied with the conditions under which black people could be free, using their religion as a prism through which to view the landscape.

And finally, what's interesting, I find that Brother Wilson's film and the question the ended with especially provocative, because I want to flip the script a little bit.  Dubois said this, "People come to me all the time and ask what does it feel like to be a problem?"  He said, "We have two warring ideals, two unreconciled strivings locked in one dark body whose dogged strength alone kept it from being torn asunder."

So I don't want to just simply ask the question, "What's wrong with black people?"  We can look at the history of white supremacy, social injustice economic inequality and see that the hostility of American culture in one sense in terms of race has worked against the flourishing and proliferation of good social, stable societies for African American people.

The question we have to ask, what's wrong with the pathology of a people that would demonize human beings who otherwise have no other interest but living in existence and I think that's right.

TIM WISE, ANTIRACIST ACTIVIST:  If I may.

When the producers did the pre-interview with me, probably like many of us up here, they asked me the question, what's wrong with black folks?  And I thought what in the world are you asking me that question for.  The question for me as a white man is exactly the one that Mike just brought up, which is what is wrong with the dominant culture?

My answer, sort of tongue and cheek to what's wrong with black folks to the producers was nothing that the end of white supremacy won't stop.  And what I meant by that is that the system of white supremacy is at the root of both the internalized oppression and internalized inferiority complexes that some black and brown folks manifest.

But it is also, and this is important, at the heart of the internalized superiority that many of - I've been white a long time, you and Mike, a little bit longer, and in that period of time, what we all know is that we, those of us in the white community, exceptions duly noted, have been the ones who haven't wanted to have this conversation.

It's like having a book club with people, some of whom have read 400 pages and the rest of us have read the preface and now we're supposed to get together and have a conversation.  And that conversation ends up sounding like this.  Why can't we have white history month?  Right?  Which is absurd because we have several.  They go by the tricky names of May, June, July, August, September and any other month that we haven't designated and so this is the problem.

Now, we as white folks have if we are willing to go back to it.  A tradition of allied ship (ph) with black and brown peoples.  We have a tradition of resistance in the abolitionist struggle, in the civil rights struggle.  It is time for those of who are white to decide we're going to be in this skin, and we have no control over that, or whether we're going to be of this skin.  We are in it, we are not of it, we are made of more than that and better than that and the question is can we stand shoulder to shoulder with black and brown folks, have this conversation, take ownership of our piece of it as they take ownership of theirs.

BARNICLE:  ... on this panel and one of the themes of this documentary has to do with education, the lack of education, public school education in the United States of America, but there is an educational component in the documentary that if you were not to watch it, if you were to listen to it and you were to hear the description of families being separated in cells, of fathers crying out for their children in other cells, of wives being separated from their husbands and never seeing each other again, if you were not to see it, if you were to hear it, you would immediately think it was the Holocaust.

And does it occur to anyone here in this panel or in this audience that one of the basic components of this problem for us, all of us might be that white people simply don't know black people in this country.  We don't know each other.  It strikes me as having lived almost all of my misspent life in the North, that when the two David’s meet there is an ease to their greeting and their relationship that occurs in North Carolina that does not occur in the North.

In the North, it's, Tom go ahead in front of me, please, and I feel good about myself.  I let you in traffic on the way to work in the morning so I'm not a racist.

JOYNER:  Right.

BARNICLE:  But in the South, in the South, with all of its component parts, with all of its history, there is an ease to the relationship that does not exist in places like Cleveland, Boston, New York.  It's an odd thing.

MALAAK COMPTON-ROCK, ANGEL ROCK PROJECT:  That has to do with manners, though.  The Southern people really have good manners.  My husband's folk are from South Carolina and I spend a lot of time down there and the manners are absolutely beautiful but we don't know what's going on behind the manners.  I'm so happy ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Do you know in the North?

COMPTON-ROCK:  I think we - we don't have the manners.  We allow it to show.  But what you said in terms of education is so important because this is a piece that needs to go into schools and they need to go into inner city schools and they need to go into black schools, but you know what, they need to go into white private schools as well.

Every child needs to see this done.

WILLIAMS:  I was going to ask you as a fellow parent of two children.  Joe Klein in "Time Magazine" just wrote that our kids' generation is the first - I want to get this right - "blissfully colorblind American generation in the history of the public."  Do you buy it?  Do you agree with that?  What does that get us ...

COMPTON-ROCK:  No, I don't buy that.  But I will tell you this. 

Because of the anniversary of Dr. King's death, they're speaking about it in my children's school.  They're three and five.  One of the parents got very upset about telling the truth and thought that at five years old they were too young and so she wrote a very long e-mail and I wrote her back and I said, "My daughter, who is African American, is best friends with an Israeli child and your child who is an Italian America.

If it wasn't for Dr. King they wouldn't be in school together.  So let's talk about that first."

My children live in a society where they have friends of all colors and races but they do ask about it.  Today Zara (ph), three years old, asked me why her hair wasn't as long as Naya's (ph) hair.  Her best friend, whose hair is probably down to here.  And I said, well, you do have long hair and she said, but no, mine is puffy.

Now this is a child who, I have told her how beautiful she is how gorgeous her skin color is.  From the day she was born, how beautiful her puffs were, that mommy couldn't wait to have a child with Afro puffs and at three years old has been to Africa three times and played with little African children who look just like her.

But still, today, she asked me why wasn't her hair the length of Naya's (ph) and I want it to be.

WILLIAMS:  What do you attribute that to?  Is there something to credit or blame and to Joe Klein's point, you've watched it change at least in your lifetime.

COMTPON-ROCK:  I credit it to the media and what our children see on television and in still magazines and billboards and everything around that what is white is beautiful and I know that David Wilson did the black doll test again ...

WILLIAMS:  We're going to get to that.

COMPTON-ROCK:  Are you? OK.  And it's astonishing that even today when children look at black dolls they don't think positive thoughts, they think negative thoughts.  In my household I have dolls of all colors and races and always have and nothing gives me greater pleasure than to see my children make believe with an Asian doll and a black doll and white doll and they're all family.

But absolutely it's the media, it's the images that they see, it's the lack of discussion, it's the lack of films like these in school, and it's the lack of that parent who is friend of mine but being uncomfortable that Dr. King was talked about to five year olds.

BARNICLE:  You know, Brian, to your question posed from Joe Klein's question or his assertion that our kids belong to the most colorblind generation ever.  Our kids do but there is a component out there, a large number of kids, don't.  And you also have to mix the issue of race now with the issue of class.

And you have in too many schools in this great country of ours, public schools that are disgraceful for poor whites and poor blacks, forced to fight for the same small share of a meager and inefficient and ineffective educational pie that when they get out of school guarantees them no shot of the larger economic pie that our kids have a big slice of because they're our kid.

DYSON:  What's interesting when Joe Klein talks about the blissful colorblindness of society, there are certainly moments in the evolution of American consciousness around race where we talk about transcending race. I think we've got three options.  We can translate race into the idiom of color and be obsessed with it.  We can think we're transcending race by denying the lethal intensity of a history that is uncomfortable but the mother can't approach or we can try to transform race which means we acknowledge the brutal history, the bloodshed in the racial trenches and the warfare and try to come to a conclusion of the matter by saying, let's be honest and open about it.

I think the myth of neutrality and objectivity is just that.  It is a myth.  Nobody sees colorblindness.  When people think they are doing you a favor to say, you know, I looked at you and I think you're articulate and insightful and you have a PhD from Princeton and I don't see your color.  Dang, I do.

But what's interesting is that the pretense that we mustn't see color is a difference between not seeing blackness and not seeing race. I don't want you to transcend my blackness.  I want you to transcend the bigotry you have about blackness, the blindness that you have about whiteness and what that might mean.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What Mike is speaking to that I think a lot of white Americans don't understand, when white folks say, oh, I don't even think of you as black and they think that's a hip, sort of liberal, progressive thing to say instead of understanding the subtext of that comment as in, it's a really damn good thing I don't, because if I did you'd be in trouble.

In other words, it's about saying there's still something wrong with blackness.  A lot of the conversation about Senator Obama transcending his race really is about transcending blackness.  No white politician is ever asked to transcend race or whiteness.  No white politician, who can't even get the votes of 15 percent of black people is ever asked to transcend whiteness because whiteness, you see, isn't something to be transcended, it's something to be aspired to be in a system of white supremacy, whereas blackness is something to graduate from.

We have to get to a day when that's not the case.  Colorblindness - not only is Joe Klein wrong, it isn't the point.  The point is not to be colorblind.  Julian Bond says it best.  He says to be blind to color is to be blind to the consequences of color.  If color has consequences and people resolve not to notice the thing that is provoking the consequence, then how do we solve the problem?  We don't.

WILLIAMS:  Tom.  You wanted in on this.

JOYNER:  I think there's something that's missing here and it's something that I didn't see in your film, David Wilson, was an apology and if we're going to try to fix this problem of race, it has to start first with an apology.

COMPTON-ROCK:  I disagree.  I disagree because ...

JOYNER:  Apology for the system that brought us here and enslaved us.  Slavery was a Holocaust.

COMPTON-ROCK:  It was a Holocaust and I think it should be talked about like that just like the Holocaust is.

JOYNER:  And we can't go to the next step and the step beyond and the step beyond and honestly solve the problems of race until we start with an apology and we have never gotten that.

WILLIAMS:  Were you unaffected by the wisdom of Daisy at age 97 who looked at David and said, you know, that was in the past and I found her view, for all of 97, very in the present, here and now, forward thinking.  You're saying that the conversation can't advance ...

JOYNER:  Until we start with an apology.  And I didn't see that and you asked him about reparations but you didn't ask him, do you apologize?

WILLIAMS:  Who did it come from and what did Bill Clinton do during his presidency.

DYSON:  Bill Clinton did talk about on African soil issuing an apology for slavery but what's interesting about the apology is that it gets into what Brother Barnicle said which is about the personal.  In other words that we can have intimate relationships and you talk about the difference between the South and the North.  The seductive character of that is to believe that interactions with individuals will change. 

But we're talking about individuals, and institutional mechanisms.

So even though, I think what Tom's point is this.  We live in the United States of amnesia.  We're addicted to forgetfulness.  So we don't want - if you have an argument with your wife and y'all get into it and you get home and act like ain't nothing happened and everything is cool, first of all you might be in the wrong room, not the bedroom but the couch.  But secondly, you have a kind of accumulated tension.  Not only do you not apologize, you keep on going on as if things are fine and you refuse to engage it.

But I think this is important, too.  The structure is important.  Dubois, to bring him into this conversation again, said, it's not simply about educating people about social difference and racial difference, it's also about engaging the structural differences.  When Brother Wilson asked the question, what's wrong with black America and Brother

Tim said nothing that the end of racism won't solve, the question is how- many white Americans can't get enough Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, the past.  It is ever with us.  Obsessed with it.  John Adams...

WILLIAMS:  On HBO.

DYSON:  But when it comes to African American people, get over that.  No, we don't want to get over the Declaration of Independence, we don't want to get over the Constitution, we don't want to get over the Bill of Rights.  You can't even deal with the president without being predicate (ph) of the past.  Talking (ph) said the past ain't even past.

So the reality is how do we acknowledge consciously the centrality of the past, argue with that past, deal with that past, and then go over that obstacle that is there like the 800 pound elephant in the room.  That's what we've got to do.

WILLIAMS:  Malaak, you were saying, "No," when Tom talked about an apology.

COMPTON-ROCK:  You know I'm of the feeling of Daisy.  I think what she said was brilliant.  I worked in an area of Brooklyn called Bushwick with all the crime rates, all the poverty rates, all the single parent, lot of drug addiction that David talked about happening in Newark.

And I worked with children who have to come to the Salvation Army Bushwick Center for food, for tutoring because they would be latchkey kids, to keep them off the street.  And I am in a position right now where I'm working to update a computer lab and update a library, which shouldn't be called a library because there's no books and put in an art room against a system that will fund midnight basketball going till midnight but the computer lab which is outdated can only stay open from 3:00 till 6:00.

So for me, my reparations, keep the computer lab open from 3:00 p.m. till midnight.  Allow the boys to play basketball if that's what they want to do but so many of them can do more and are not given the opportunity.  So I don't think we need an apology.  I think that we need our government and we need to put money and resources into our children.

BARNICLE:  I've got to tell you, my wife and I, we're the parents of seven children.  OK?  And they're all comfortable and six out of seven are in good shape and I play the odds, OK, with regard to kids.

If I were a black parent in this country I would want an apology.  But I would want the apology for the failure, systemic failure of the educational system in this country in urban America.  I would want an apology for the political system in this country that through the best of intentions in the mid 1960s created a client state of African Americans dependent on their vote automatic, they're going to come to the polls, two years, four years, let's up the food stamp appropriation, let's do this, let's up the welfare appropriation.

But never, never really concentrating on the foundation of the issue, one of the foundations of the issue.  Public education in this country, it's a disgrace.

WILLIAMS:  On that point, as we change topics tonight, you'll see guests come and go, we're going to take a break, and when we come back, it is 60 seconds of videotape.  It is what you heard referenced earlier.  It's the doll test.  It's hard to watch but it should be part of the conversation we're having tonight here at Howard University in Washington.

We'll continue right after this.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And why is that doll pretty?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Because she's white and she has two eyes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Which doll is the ugly doll?  Why is that doll ugly?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Because he's black.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS:  We are back at Howard University.  You'll notice on the panel some new faces.  We're going to take a look at some new subjects in our conversation.  I'm joined to my left by the chief of police here in Washington, DC, Chief Cathy Lanier.  We're also joined by Kevin Powell, known to many as a writer and activist and now to the subject at hand.

Kenneth Clarke came to fame in part because of an experiment he started in the 1930s showing black children, dolls of different skin tones.  This test has been updated for the purposes of the long version of the film we saw edited for television tonight.  What you're about to see, so many people find revolting and heartbreaking.  But it's a part of this conversation that we're going to include tonight.

Again, 60 seconds of videotape.  Join us in watching it.  We'll talk about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Which doll is the black doll?  Which one is the white doll.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  That one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Which doll is the pretty doll?

Which doll is the nice doll?

Which doll is the bad doll?

Which doll is the nice doll?

And which doll is the bad doll?

And why is that doll pretty?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Because she's white and she has two eyes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Which doll is the ugly doll?  Why is that doll ugly?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Because he's black.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Which doll looks most like you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Like me?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yeah, which one looks like you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  That one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  OK.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS:  Kevin Powell, there was a writer a few years back who called the doll test another example of pornography.  How did that come to happen?  How did that situation come to happen?

KEVIN POWELL, ACTIVIST:  Well, first of all, it's an honor to be here.  David Wilson's film talked about the legacy of slavery and there's no way we could talk about where we are in 2008 and that doll test without talking about the legacy of slavery, the notion that white skin, white hair, white facial feature, body types are superior and black bodies all across the board are inferior.

When I am watching that clip just now, I'm thinking about all the black children just like Sister Malaak, I live in Brooklyn, I work in Brooklyn.  So many black and brown children feel that they are inferior, that they are unattractive in 2008 because of the notion of, as Tim talked about, white supremacy.  The notion that this is a superior race of people, this is what we're taught in the school system.  Unless you actually incorporate black history, Latino history, Asian history, the contributions of all different types of people into the curriculum, you're going to continue to have children thinking that white doll is more attractive than a black doll. Video: The controversial race-based 'doll test'

It goes back to the issue of education.  When I say education, not just the public school system, what we see in the media, what we see on the cover of magazines, the kind of images we see in videos, oftentimes you don't see darker complexioned women in the music videos.

I mean, it's across the board.  So even on these college campuses, be it a black college campus college like Howard or a historically white school, even there you will see this notion of black history or Latino history being marginalized unless you have a Dyson at your school and so that's where it comes from.  This is not something that's new.  This is rooted in the founding of this country.

WILLIAMS:  Professor Dyson, how do you begin to reverse the choices those children make in that videotape?

DYSON:  Well, I think it's evident that what Mr. Powell just said is extremely important.  Legacy.  When we talk about legacy, we're talking about an accumulation of time and history that works either for or against a particular consciousness of the people.  And when we see America, when we see that, the internalized self hatred that you don't even think a doll that looks like you, that reflects your images are beautiful but beyond that, there is a moral assessment there, too.

What is the bad doll?  What is the evil doll?  And it's also associated with the darkness, the Dark Continent, the dark child, the dark person that I see in the mirror and so we begin to perform the pathology and act the self hatred.

There's a term called "soul murder" and one of the things slavery did, Orlando Patterson, a sociologist talks about social death, the walking dead, people who are physically alive but internally their spirits have murdered.  And I think what we have to do here is to revive them.  We have to bring them back to life and what you have to do is to educate at home. It's very critical that parents begin to transmit the virus of self-confidence.  That's number one.

But number two, when we look around the media, Malaak talked about the media, it's interesting to talk about a culture where we don't see high-achieving people.  We see now a Barack Obama, we see Oprah Winfrey, so we see genius, black genius articulated in the public sphere.  But children have to see people on the local level, they have to see schoolteachers.  They have to see police people.  They have firemen.  They have to see people in their lives working together.

Then, finally, this is another thing that people miss about the strength of our religious institutions, especially the black church.  When all of society was putting us down, telling us we weren't anything, the black church uplifted the virtue of black people, articulated a vision of our souls' enhancement not only by God, and we have to perform the acts of love.

As Brother Powell said, when we see dark skin, black women who are being demonized because they don't have the right noses or the right lips except when they appear on a white woman if you get collagen shots or enhancements for the behind now when you have them naturally appearing in black women, they are demonized.

So we have to learn to love to perform the acts of love.  As Brother Powell said, when we see dark skin, black women who are being demonized because they don't have the right noses or the right lips, etc. when they appear on a white woman if you get collagen shots or enhancements for the behind now, when they have them naturally appearing in black women they are demonized.

So we have to learn to love.  When you see a sister, you say that this sister is the living embodiment of God's imagination.  You've got to understand that you've got to affirm a young black child as a living embodiment of God's light.

So I think what we have to do is to fight that on all fronts and then embrace that love in a very serious way within our own homes and insist that the societies in which we live begin to acknowledge that.  Because Barack Obama becoming president doesn't mean the next day that racism will be destroyed, inequality will be destroyed, it means that we have a better chance.

Or if he can be president, then we can be a scientist, we can be a physicist, we can be an engineer, and dark-skinned black people and light-skinned black people have to overcome the hatred.  I don't know if you know about this but there are many light-skinned black people who think they are superior because they're closer in hue to white America.

And darker-skinned black people are demonized.

COMPTON-ROCK:  (Inaudible) that people within our community, the African American community, are afraid to talk about and don't want to admit.  I am an alumni of Howard University - I proud alumni of Howard University but even Howard has been touched by the light-skinned, dark-skinned thing.  There was a time when you had to submit a picture and you couldn't be darker than a paper bag.

So, you're right, when we have to bring it back to slavery because there were house slaves and there were field slaves and the house slaves tended to have children with slave masters, they had lighter skin babies and were able to work inside because they were prettier.  Then they possibly had another baby and there were getting into quadroons and octaroons and the perception that the closer you looked like a white person, the prettier you were.

And the field slaves felt that and this condition is still within the African American community today.

WILLIAMS:  And here you are at home with your husband, better known to the folks watching us tonight as Chris Rock with two beautiful girls and you've told them as we've established, they're beautiful from the day they were born, as I imagine the parents of the children in the doll test have, too, and it turns out that's not enough for self esteem.

COMPTON-ROCK:  It's not enough but I am different kind of parent.  I don't shield my children from the world and obviously their father is a different kind of father so he doesn't either.

So these are two children that we are fortunate enough to have taken to Africa, who have played in shanty towns in South Africa with children who looked just like them.  I am working on a program called Journey for

Change right now where I'm bringing 30 children from Bushwick, Brooklyn in August to South Africa for numerous reasons.  A, I want them to volunteer and serve.  B, I want them to, instead of being on the receiving end of service, to be on the other end of giving, to travel because travel we know opens up your eyes.  To be on the continent.

I remember when I landed in Abidjan, Ivory Coast for the first time working for UNICEF and the feeling I felt as an adult to be on the continent and then also to understand that the children that we're actually going to be working with are so poverty stricken.  They are AIDS orphans.  And to come back here with hopefully a greater appreciation and understanding of your culture, where you're from, and have it manifest in your life even if you live in Bushwick, Brooklyn.

Kids need to know where they're from and they need to know their history.  I do not shy away from talking to my three and five year old about slavery.  I think there is a way you can talk about it, obviously,

I won't talk about it like I would a 13 or a 14 year old but my childrenknow about slavery.  My children know - I've taken them to all the historic houses.  They've been in slave quarters.  They know what they look like and they understand the light skin, black skin issue.  I've talked about it.

Because if we don't talk about it in our culture, this is a really horrific thing that goes on in our own culture.  We put our own selves down because of the way we look.  So how in the world are we supposed to...

WILLIAMS:  Mike Barnicle and then I have to talk to Chief Lanier.

BARNICLE:  In terms of what you're discussing and you say kids need to know where they're from and I absolutely agree with you.  And with the chief on my right as you were speaking, as the three of you were speaking, I was thinking back to I don't know whether it was 1986, 1987, juvenile court, Boston Massachusetts, young kid, just about 16, assault and battery with a gun, weapon.  And the juvenile court judge says to the kid, you're just a couple of months from being 16 and you're going to walk out now because if you were here in four months it would be House of Corrections for you which is an adult prison.  So I'm not going to send you to the House of Corrections now because you're under 16.

The kid looked at the judge and he said I don't care where you send me, just don't send me home.  And the level of expectation among too many black kids of street level.  We wonder about the doll test, you wouldn't wonder about the doll test if you saw a sidewalk on a Saturday night, Southern Avenue in Anacostia, Blue Hill Avenue in Boston, parts of the Bushwick section in Brooklyn.  You wouldn't wonder for a second why they do that with the doll test because their level of expectation, their level of self-esteem is so low that they are a nation of the walking dead at nine, 10 years of age.

DYSON:  They're connected, right?  They're connected to the individual and institutional.

BARNICLE:  Yes.

DYSON:  The obvious problem is, the reason the internalization of the self-hatred comes is because they expect that they will become imprisoned because they are, they will be over-incarcerated ...

BARNICLE:  Their brothers are gone.

DYSON:  The point you were making about education.  If you give twice as much money to an institution in suburban America and twice as less, let's put it that way, to the post industrial urban centers, then the fact is you're giving $1,000 per student out there and $100 here, who is going to have a better education, better access and therefore self-esteem?

If you're hit on the back of the hand to go to jail if you're white - go to detention, but if you're black you're sent to jail, that's a huge structural disparity that reinforces the psychic self determination that leaves to self hatred.  So the both are related.

WILLIAMS:  Thirty seconds and then we have to involve Chief Lanier in this conversation.

POWELL:  I have got to jump into this.  I sat in the audience when the question was raised, what's wrong with black people?  And I understand the question was meant to be provocative but I had a huge problem with it because in the 1960s we kept saying the Negro problem.  That's the same thing.  It wasn't the Negro problem.  It is not black people today.  The problem is what is wrong with American society that we're having this conversation another generation that says you were talking, and I know you meant no harm, but for me it's offensive to talk about they and these young people.

I work with these kids every single day in Brooklyn. I am a community activist.  This is my fulltime work and I know what's going on in the school system, what's going on in the prison-industrial complex, where we see this pipeline from the schools to the prison system.  I know what's going on with HIV/AIDS in central Brooklyn which is the highest in the country for black America.

The reality is there are no resources there.  We understand those have been shifted off to the Iraq War and I think what ends up happening is we have these conversations about these black kids, these Latino kids, these black and brown kids but no one wants to take ownership for the fact that we have a nation that has completely abandoned the most vulnerable in the society.  That's the real issue.

COMPTON-ROCK:  That's what we need.  We need this money to come into the community.  Without - I worked with a particular organization, the Salvation Army, without this Bushwick Center I can't even imagine where these kids would be.  After 3:00 when they come out of school if this place wasn't open till midnight.

But we need more resources, it needs more funding, it needs computers, it needs ...

WILLIAMS:  Let's ask ...

COMPTON-ROCK:  I'm sorry.

WILLIAMS:  Let's ask the chief, and what a unique job as the head of the Metropolitan Police Department in this city.  As you sit here, you're kind of halfway watching your city and the officers. Do you have - and there's any number of ways to go in this conversation, an operating thesis where race is concerned, what all that means, the fear of your officers.  The fear among your officers.  We can come at this any number of ways.  How do you approach your job?

CATHY LANIER, D.C. METRO POLICE CHIEF:  I think all of the discussion here tonight has been absolutely on cue.  I think talking about strategically what needs to be done in the country about education and where funding needs to go has all been exactly where it needs to go.  But it's really a lot more messy than that. 

And what I deal with is a lot more in the weeds and what the reality is, and I think it was alluded to a little bit earlier is, is that there are two big issues here.  When I walk into a community the first thing that people see in a neighborhood where I police is not my race.  They see my uniform.  And it symbolizes something to everybody right off the bat.  To some people it symbolizes fear and oppression and to some people it symbolizes hope and help.

And when I walk into that community I've got about 30 seconds to define what this uniform means to somebody or to change whatever their perception is and the reality is it's not just the education.  That's a critical piece of what's missing.  But we are lacking social services, economic equality, human services, mental health services.  There is so much lacking and the real tension in our communities right now between one community and the next is economic.

We right now in Washington, DC, development is just unbelievable how the city has turned around.  You have a public housing complex that now has a 340 unit multimillion dollar condominium put up next to it, there are rich black and rich white people moving into that condominium.  And those people in those condominiums have a different culture that they're used to.

So they're going to complain about you and your public housing complex because it's still there next door and you're going to complain about them and there's a tension.

What I liked about what David said is David said as a kid, just as a very young child he said, I looked around and I saw my environment and I knew that I didn't want to be there.  And all you need to do is find the right ways and the right people to reach and find one David.  Find one David and give him that hope.

And once David comes out and becomes what he is today, that creates the self-esteem for the next David.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  But the problem is there are many less Davids that are being created and many more white Davids that are being presumed.  You can look at the president of the United States and see that mediocrity may be the characteristic of a young person ascending without an enormous amount of talent whereas it takes an exceptional black child to achieve what an average white child might achieve.  And that has to do with the things you talked.  Structural disparity, structural inequality.

And furthermore, the Pew Report did come out to suggest what you say is true.  Many black people are now feeling what you say is true.  More black people are saying they feel more in common with their white peers economically then they do this devastated inner city.  But here's my problem with the black elite.

The black elite has internalized the pathology of self-hatred by demonizing the poor, putting the colossal foots on the necks of vulnerable poor people without reaching out to help them.  I think that's an issue we have to deal with.

Chris Rock, her husband said being black in America is like this.  Your uncle sent you to college but he molested you.  I mean, that's the tension between acknowledging the greatness of this country, the grand design of opportunity that is open to all if you fit in a certain narrow vision of what is appropriate.

You get a great education, you're still being in one sense dissed.  So the question is how do we overcome with incredible education, loving each other, I think love is very critical, but also challenging a system that distributes wealth, that distributes resources and you talk about public policies and social resources that segment America, segregate

America.  We've seen the re-segregation of America at schools where black and Latino kids go to schools now that are predominantly black and brown which means they are starting off poor.

They are concentrated poverty.  White kids by and large don't experience concentrated poverty which means you have a poor house, you have a poor neighborhood and you have a poor school.  They usually live in a much more mixed neighborhood.  Black people don't have that.  I think if we get rid of that, then we begin to have an opportunity that opens up for everybody.

BARNICLE:  Let's throw the real thing, the real hand grenade on the table.  How many young black men arrested this evening, say, or tomorrow evening by the DC police have fathers that they know?

LANIER:  I'd say on average, and I say this publicly all the time.  Our communities are run, and particularly our most poverty, crime-ridden communities are held together by mothers and grandmothers, period.  The majority, I would say, 75 to 80 percent of the children that are involved in criminal activity don't have a father or a man at all, a father figure at all.

BARNICLE:  We were talking about resources and money.  Sorry, Brian, don't mean to do this, but how much money do you throw at that problem? What is money going to do to that problem?

WILLIAMS:  Where does the change come from?

DYSON:  I have a response to that but the point is the reason the fathers are not there - we can look at it say father absence which is critical, fatherlessness which is critical, but you ask the question a patriarchal society where men are told that you should be able to take care of your families and if you don't you're not a real man and yet if you do a study by Diva Pager (ph), a sociologist at Princeton.  She said you could be a white guy with a prison record in New York and have a better chance of getting a job than a black man with a college education.

And I'm telling you that devastates - I'm not saying that black men shouldn't be responsible.  I work with this young man right here who has every year on Father's Day an enormous challenge to African American men to step up to the plate so we do that internally.

BARNICLE:  If the three of us go into the Apple Store, they're going to follow you, not me.

DYSON:  And it makes a difference how fathers can show up and be responsible.

WILLIAMS:  If you were king how would you go about fixing the problem that gives the chief the statistics you quote?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Real basic for me is someone who comes from an inner city environment, grew up without a father, single mother, welfare, food stamps, that's my life growing off, and seeing many people, as David was talking about in the film, disappear, is an overemphasis on locking these young people up.  There are good police officers out there, I will say that, but there is an overemphasis all across the country on locking these people up.  It is a failure of the public school system.  There needs to be funding there.

There is a funding of social programs.  If you come to Eastern Brooklyn tonight young people out on the streets will say to you, there is nothing for us to do other than be out here in the streets.  That's Anacostia, that's South Central L.A., that's East Oakland, that's all over this country.

And what we end up getting caught up in is this notion that we're policing the community.  The reality is I even think when we saw that doll test, that doll test should be applied to police officers, white ones and black and Latino ones because Shawn Bell was shot at 15 times by the police. 

One of the police officers was white, but one was black and one was Latino so even black and Latino people internalize the notion that a black man or a Latino man is dangerous so it all goes back to the history of racism in this country and that's never dealing with it.  What we're doing is talking about tangents, what social programs we need to put in place where the root of it all to me is the history of systemic racism that manifests itself in all these pathologies that we're talking about.

LANIER:  Let me just correct one thing.  I don't want to make the assumption that because there's not a child present that a child cannot be successful no matter what the obstacles.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (Inaudible)

LANIER:  I had a single parent myself, raised by a single parent.  I think what is critical in our communities is when you have a single parent raising children, one, you have to have one person that loves you, cares about you and tells you will make it.  And we do have it but that single parent has to work, has to provide and has to take care of everything else and that leaves a void of leadership and guardianship in that child's life which is fine in the beginning but when they're teenagers and they come home from school and there is no guardian and they are in those communities, it's exactly that issue.

COMPTON-ROCK:  Putting money into neighborhood resources.  Putting money into the neighborhoods you work in, into resources that those children can take advantage of when their parents are working other than sports or rapping.  Give them computers, give  them books, put money into the schools.

WILLIAMS:  Now that we have injected gender.  We have race, of course, here, we have entertainment media, we have talked about crime and education.  Take another one of our breaks.  We're going to change out some people, change the subject a little bit.  Among other things, does Hollywood, does the popular media get the roles right?  Men and women, when our conversation from Howard continues.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Forty-two point four percent of black women have never been married.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I read that article.  It didn't say we're never going to get married.  It just said we haven't yet to.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  OK.  So when is it going to happen?  In the afterlife?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS:  We are back and our conversation is going to take yet another turn.  We're going to bring in some perhaps preconceived notions and some media portraits of the conversation we've been having.  And we have some new members.  Reverend Soaries is here, First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens.  A man known to many of the people in this room, as is Kriss Turner, a screenwriter and we're going to see a little bit of her work in a second.

A few years ago, Kriss saw a report that 42 percent of African American women, shall we say, of age, are unmarried, most with no hope of marrying an African American male.  It has, you could say, affected her work, the major motion picture, "Something New."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Forty-two point four percent of black women have never been married.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I read that article.  It didn't say we'd never get married.  It just said we haven't yet to.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  OK.  So when is it going to happen?  In the afterlife?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Well, even if 42.4 percent of us never get married, that still means 57.6 percent of us will.  That's a substantial greater percentage.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Thank you, Miss Numbers Queen.  However, those odds are completely against us.  It says the phenomenon is most acute among African American women who are educated professionals.  Judge, accountant, bankers, pediatricians, that'd be us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS:  You ask the question where are the men and you do it through your art form.  The question came up in the last segment.  We're glad to have you.  Take a whack at the answer.

KRISS TURNER, FILMMAKER:  I don't have an answer.  The answer that I came up with was we may have to look outside of our race and we may have to focus on the person and love and take the dream that we might marry this black man that looks just like our fathers and just open our hearts to love and pray that God brings us something fabulous.

WILLIAMS:  Well, Reverend Soaries, that brings God into it.  That brings it into your wheelhouse and the film depiction of course is one thing but behind it is that very, very serious question and who do we see about that?

REV. DEFOREST SOARIES, FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH OF LINCOLN GARDENS:  Well, I think the question that I heard being asked by Dave when he asked what's wrong with black America was really what happened to black America.  See, this film suggests that we were prisoners of war but we won, we're here, we fought back, we resisted.  And I think the question we have to answer while we're waiting for our apology, while we're seeking reparations, we've got to answer the question, what happened to the black people that worked all day in the fields but still raised their children?  What happened to the black church that taught freed slaves how to read?  What happened to the black community that had capacity and courage and faith and persevered?

The reality is in spite of all the systemic problems that we still face, things are still better now than they were then which means that we should have the capacity now to resist and fight and build like we did then.  If Frederick Douglass could learn to read at midnight by candle, then even in inferior schools we can learn to read.  So we need to do both ends (ph).  We have to fight the system but we have to continue to build ourselves.  What you heard on the last panel was a representation along with Brother Powell of people who understand the systemic problems but aren't waiting for the system to solve our problems.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Let me say a lot of the work I do now is around black male development.  This is I'm passionate about and we challenge ourselves as black males, we're clear about the fact that we go to Howard University, go to schools all around the country, be it a black school or white school is seven to one, 10 to one ratios so I understood why the sister made the film but by the same token we need to also take into account that coming out of the civil rights movement there is certain economic opportunities that existed for black females that didn't exist for a lot of black males.  That's not to get into a battle of sexes.  We want to leave that in the 20th century.  But that's the reality.

We've got to talk about the reality.  We've got to talk about the reality of heroin in our communities in the 1970s, crack cocaine in the 1980s, the explosion of the prison-industrial complex that began in the Reagan era, that accelerated through the years of Bill Clinton as president of this country and you see in 2008 there is this incredible discrepancy between professional black women who may not see comparable mates out there.

So to me the issue that is what has happened over the last 40 years, and then on top of that, the fact when you look at a lot of our leadership, there hasn't really been a lot of development of black males around our communities with a few exceptions.  And so that's why this conversation is being had on a different level, not just well, who are these women going to marry?

I don't have a problem with a sister marrying a white brother, Latino brother, Asian brother, that's your prerogative.  Love is love.  But let's not act as if there's something that hasn't happened to black males over the last 40 years in our country, not that it's worse than black females but it's certainly something distinctive that's happened at least to the fact that even in this audience at Howard, there's mostly black women out there now.

WILLIAMS:  Mike Barnicle, you - we're going to get to another educational point in a moment and you touched on this earlier.  As long as we have a two tier conversation in this country, Tom Joyner was right.  This gets talked about on Tom Joyner's radio show every day.  What matters is who's listening.  Is that not correct?

BARNICLE:  Well, that is correct.  Tom Joyner talks about it each and every day.  We do programs like these and yet the conversation doesn't take place on the crosstown bus in Philadelphia next week on the way to work, the day before the primary.  The conversation doesn't take place really in the offices of this country.  The conversation doesn't take place on the factory floors in this country because there's a tension between the races in this country.  That has existed as long as my white life has existed.

I pray that it would lessen, I think it has lessened a bit over the last 15 to 20 years but certainly not enough to give people the degree of comfort to talk about the issue the way we've been talking about it here this evening.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And the reason is because the people who have the power only need to know themselves.  The people who don't have power must know people in power just to survive the people in power.

The analogy is, we sit on real estate, none of us know anything about the indigenous people who occupy this land before we came here.  We don't know their religion, we don't know their names, we don't know their social structures and to the extent that we are so arrogant that we think we can occupy land that belonged to other people and not know who they were, the analogy is that people who are powerless, in this case, African Americans, we study white people, we understand white people, we know white people, we are bilingual.  We speak us and them.

But white people can survive and prosper without knowing us at all. And as long as that's true there will be no conversation.

WILLIAMS:  Mike?

BARNICLE:  I think part of the difficulty is within the last 10 years, certainly, the effects of being so politically conscious in this country has rendered the media rather neutered the media in terms of pushing this discussion further.  Our editors, our producers, our news chiefs.

WILLIAMS:  Ooh.  Can't say that.  Don't say that.

BARNICLE:  You'll piss them off, and it's them.

WILLIAMS:  And it's easier not to say it.

BARNICLE:  Right.  Let's move on to the fire (ph).

WILLIAMS:  I want to bring in someone tonight who is not governed by a set of rules like that.  Professor Carr, where are you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  These are your people back here.

GREGORY CARR, HOWARD UNIVERSITY:  Brian, before - I should say, on behalf of the staff, the faculty, the students of Howard University, we want to welcome you all.  I think that's probably one of the things that we want to push the envelope about a little bit.  The fact that we're not represented on the stage is another 800 pound gorilla, but I'm sure we're going to get to that, but please ...

WILLIAMS:  Forgive me, professor.  I wanted to tell our viewing audience, Professor Carr, professor of Afro-American studies here at Howard as you might ...

CARR:  All right, we're in the conversation now.  Let's see what he's going to ask.  Go ahead, Brian.

WILLIAMS:  I wanted to hear your slice in the role of education in the conversation we are having here from your perspective at Howard University.

CARR:  Sure, Brian.  I think - first of all, I am deeply disturbed by something that is very fundamental.  You are all on a stage that has been occupied for the last several decades by some of the most important human beings on the planet.  Every day on the campus we convene a conversation with African people from around the world and this isn't an exclusively black institution, so we have folks from all over Europe, the United States, as well.

That conversation, however, does not revolve around an axis of black pathology.  In other words, a conversation about race is one thing.  But not just to help - the culture of African people is somehow pathological.  I knew my father, this brother here, Brother Phoenix who helped make the film, knew his as well.  He went to Stillman.  I went to Tennessee State.  We work in black institutions.  Those institutions survived the enslavement process.  We are extinctions of African people even as we contribute to the culture in America and every other culture in the Western Hemisphere.

I guess what I'm saying is part of the education process is socialization.  With all due respect, one of the reasons why young people may pick white over black is because all the images they see, including sometimes their parents reinforce the idea that the culture that they came into is somehow pathological.  But that doesn't mean that we are.
Video: Race discussion: What's the first step?

I don't know what single - with all do respect, I don't know what a single parent home is.  Because if a man is not present in the physical home, there are men in the community.  In other words, what we have to understand is that we cannot continue to have this conversation about race that revolves around the axis that presumes that the culture of black people is somehow inferior because what that does is set up solutions that somehow requires us to neuter, to erase ourselves.

And last thing I'll say because I - at this moment in addition to saying that I hope as we continue this conversation you all come back to

Howard, you have an open invitation, that we might be able to occupy one of the chairs, is that - the last thing I'll say is that - and this is with all due respect to Professor Dyson and a lot of people like him is we work here every day.  We have some of the brightest minds on the planet.  One of the reasons why we convene the way we do and often under the radar in America is not, with all due respect to Tom Joyner, because we're not part of the mainstream.  What we call the mainstream.  What we call the mainstream perhaps is the Eurostream.  We are the mainstream here.

And often we can't have honest conversations in this country about race because so many of us, and by us I mean people of African descent, are spending time translating and apologizing and explaining who we are to other people rather than allowing ourselves to have an internal conversation that moves into the larger United States society and more importantly, the model of Howard University leadership for American and global community, the larger global community, because that's really where African people have always been.

Our allegiance to American and American citizenship goes without question.  We died in every war.  We fought in every struggle.  However, and Dr. King said this in the "I have a dream" speech which I called the bounced check speech because he opened that speech with, "We come to the capital of the United States with a promissory note that has been returned insufficient funds."

But Dr. King talked about going beyond national allegiances.  That's why this sister who was 97 years old said God is the payoff man.  In other words, her allegiance is to family and to a spiritual, cultural posture that transcends the American state.  Until we do that, we really can't have an honest conversation about race in the United States.

So I'll stop there and hope that you can continue.

WILLIAMS:  Thank you, doctor.  Have at it.

SOARIES:  For me as a clergyman, for me as a father, for me as a man, the most poignant moment in that film was when David A and David B took communion together.  And whether you're Christian or Jewish or Muslim, that communion reflects a transformed heart.  It reflects a humble spirit.  And the only reason the reconciliation that could occur did occur between David A and David B was because they bonded spiritually.

And when we talk about faith and we talk about values and we talk about the future and we talk about Dr. King, we're talking about transformed hearts.  There's got to be a conversion experience to go from supremacy to normalcy and to go from inferiority to power.

WILLIAMS:  Chief, where do you go, what gives you hope in the future.  What do we look to feel good?  I want to ask this to you and Kriss.  What do you go to for a positive influence these days?

LANIER:  I get positive influence from the people I interact with every day.  I see some of the most incredibly powerful people that are powerless.  There are people that I interact with every day that survive in conditions that you and I would never be able to survive in and they not only survive but they thrive.  But we need to level that playing field and a lot of those people just need one break, one opportunity to level playing field.

But the strength that they have to get where they are and survive in the way they're surviving is if we level that playing field and bring what it is that we need to bring, whether it's to the economy, leveling that playing field with social services, human services, giving them the opportunities that everybody should have.  So that they have the same opportunities everybody else has.

They will survive and they will thrive because from struggles you become strong and these are people that are strong already so I think that there's a lot of hope, we've just got to hope that we all come around as a society and our community, I think, especially our faith-based community has been very strong in pulling our community together.

But we're not there yet and I think a lot of this really is going to be about us having that conversation where it says, we're going to all work on this together, because there are people that right now if given the opportunity will pull us all in the right direction.

WILLIAMS:  Kriss.  Same question.  Where do you go to find a glass that's half full and not half empty because by nature a lot of the conversation tonight has been focusing, dwelling on the negative, the problems?

TURNER:  A lot of prayer.

Things are getting better.  They're just getting better.  I'm thrilled with the positive images that we're seeing within our own community.  This program.  I guess my concern and this is not to answer your question - this doesn't answer your question, rather, but that the people who need to see this program see this program because it's not us.

Because I think we kind of know what we're doing.  The Howard audience and - but reaching into our communities and supporting them and showing them what they can be and it - hiring more police officers is really - doesn't seem to be the key because it doesn't seem to be a deterrent to crime.

I'm just very concerned.  I don't know.  I really don't have the answer to that but I do have hope, is I think that slowly but surely things will get better because they're just going to flat line and we're just going to jump start it.

POWELL:  Let me put it this way as an activist.  I love black people but I love all people.  Part of the reason I can say that is because I travel around this country extensively and so I can't - I'm at a point in my life now where I agree with Dr. King.  You have to be rooted in love and a sense of God and life has to reflect God so if I'm in South Dakota or Idaho and a white sister or brother comes up to me or a Latino sister or bother or a native America sister or brother and they want help as well, I've got to respond to them.

But to speak to Dr. Carr's point, what I am getting at, Dr. Carr, with all due respect, is I hear you loud and clear but the thing for me and the black community is there's - I didn't use the word pathology, maybe you heard it from someone else.  What we've got to deal with is the fact that when we look in the audience of Howard University, if we look around the country at what's happening with black males, what's happening with black females, our leadership has failed us miserably across the country - across the - no, and I'm not talking about you, brother.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (Inaudible)

POWELL:  Let me finish.  Let me finish my point.

WILLIAMS:  Let Kevin finish his point.

POWELL:  Here is what I am getting at.  Black people in 2008 have got to be sophisticated enough to have a critique of the largest systemic problems which we've been talking about up here but we also have some internal work to deal with.  For me, looking at the last 40 years as we're talking about Dr. King, when you look at activists, you look at intellectuals, you look at some of our ministers, not Brother Soaries, not him.  You look at some of the other folks who call themselves leaders, there has been no plan for black people in my opinion for at least the last 35, 40 years which is why we're having these conversations.

So where we've got to go in 2008 is as we have a critique of the system which we've got to keep pushing the things that Dyson said, also how we're going to begin to make sure that the sisters and brothers who went to my school Rutgers University, who go to Howard, not only graduate but are the cream of the crop in terms of intellectualism but they actually come back to the communities the way Dr. King did with his PhD at 26 years of age, at 38, 39 years of age, the last thing he did was work with working class people in Memphis, Tennessee.

So part of the challenge for us as young people who are college educated is not to get - just relish in our genius but are you going to take that genius to Anacostia in DC.  That's the key thing.

WILLIAMS:  Professor Carr?

CARR:  Kevin, I couldn't agree with you more and my mom used to say when you open your mouth, put your brains on display.  I guess what you indicated with your comments is you might be unaware of the type of work that goes on in communities.  You work every day in Brooklyn, right?

Let me finish.  What I'm saying is ...

POWELL:  Don't take it personally.  I'm talking about all of us watching in TV land.

WILLIAMS:  Where we're using time we don't have.

CARR:  I understand that.  But I'm not taking that personally as an individual.  I'm taking that personally institutionally.  What I'm saying is that this is how, this is the legacy of historically black  colleges - I understand.  But going forward and addition - no, well, I'm saying, going forward, in addition to a systemic critique, what we see is a solution being posed.

In other words, if you look at curriculum -- and I know you've got to go to commercial break.

WILLIAMS:  I want to bring both Wilsons up for a final word for a goodbye and I - I got a whole network on my shoulders here saying we've got to go to break so we can bring both - luckily, we can continue this in this hall and hopefully where you are long after this.  So Professor Carr, my everlasting apologies.

We're going to hear a final word from both David Wilsons when we continue from the great Howard University in Washington, DC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS:  We're back and it's a hot night in Washington, DC.  We've done our level best tonight to facilitate a conversation, a conversation after all was the goal of our filmmaker David Wilson who joins us with David Wilson and David, you wanted to say a few final words.

DAVID WILSON, FILMMAKER:  I just don't want - there is something I don't want to be lost in this whole night.  What we tried to do in this film is set an example where the average black man and the average whiteperson could feel comfortable and have a starting point, an example in which they can interact with each other in race.  A lot of what we heard tonight was very academic and a lot of Americans don't exist on that level.
Video: David Wilsons on their hopes for the future

So I think we have to be realistic.  Until we interact as regular citizens I think we can't deal with those bigger academic issues.  This is something that, like I said, involves average Americans and so that's what we're trying to inspire, the interaction between average white and black Americans.

WILLIAMS:  David, this conversation started with you in a way.  You were the first recipient of the phone call and I guess it's fitting that you'll have the final word tonight.

DAVID WILSON, FARMER:  I think that we've heard a lot of different perspectives tonight and everyone has their legitimate concerns.  I felt and related in prior conversations that it may not be so much as to what I think because it can polarize just like a lot of comments tonight will polarize.

But I think that each person watching this on TV, that's here tonight, needs to look introspectively into their own psyche and realize why they feel the way they do.  Is it legitimate?  Can there be room for change?  Whether it's education, whether it's economic, whatever it might be, but people will have to individually make these decisions on their own and not depend on someone else to make it for them.

WILLIAMS:  Well, thank you, both of you for starting the conversation.

If you're watching this live tonight the conversation continues live after this broadcast.  If you're watching this weeks or months from now in a school or a church, the conversation is now up to you.  It should keep going.  That was our purpose tonight, to our filmmaker, to our audience, all our experts and to you, thank you for being with us from Washington.

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