Fighting for Civil Rights, Then & Now with Dr. Ron Daniels | Bob Herbert’s Op-Ed.TV

Fighting for Civil Rights, Then & Now with Dr. Ron Daniels | Bob Herbert’s Op-Ed.TV


♪[Theme Music]♪>>>BOB HERBERT: Hi. I’m Bob
Herbert welcome to OP-ED.TV. We seem to be in a period
of great ferment if not turmoil in the United States right now.
We’ve had a terror attack in California and mass shootings
have become a standard feature of American daily life. Ordinary Americans fearful
are stocking up on guns. Meanwhile protests have
erupted across the country in response to police shootings.
Many of them captured on video and some of them
clearly indefensible. And we are in the midst
of a presidential election campaign the likes of
which I’ve never seen. Donald Trump is
ahead of the G.O.P. pack with his bombastic
and often offensive rhetoric. Nothing seems to
way out for him. What does it all mean? We’ll try to sort that out
with a longtime veteran of America’s political and
civil rights upheavals, Dr. Ron Daniels, a former
head of the Center for Constitutional Rights
who is now a distinguished lecturer at CUNY’s
York College in Queens. Dr. Daniels, how are you?>>>DR. RON DANIELS:
Great to be with you.>>>BOB HERBERT:
Thanks for coming. I really appreciate it. So you’ve seen quite a few
presidential campaigns and I think you were a deputy
campaign manager for Jesse Jackson in 1988 and ran
for president yourself as an Independent in
1992. Have you ever seen a presidential campaign like
this one?>>>DR. RON DANIELS: No. This
is- I’m an unconventional analyst so I don’t usually
fall in the conventional pool but who would have ever
thought that Donald Trump would be leading in the
polls the way he is now. I mean this is the most bizarre
campaign I have ever seen. It’s bizarre but it’s also
frightening because what it says is there is a
significant segment in the American political elected,
American electorate, who is attracted
to this rhetoric. The more Donald Trump
doubles down on fear and ignorance and racism and
all kinds of things the more people, not people,
there’s a sector of people who like him. It’s interesting
because people were speculating as to what his
ceiling might be. Maybe 25% of whatever. Now after the attack
in Paris as well as in California and his
doubling down on Muslims and bombing the H out of
people and this kind of stuff, he’s gone up 10%. He’s now
standing at about 36%. I mean this is a very
frightening phenomenon in American society.>>>BOB HERBERT: I mean
I had assumed like many other people in the
beginning that Trump could not get the G.O.P. nomination. If I were going to bet right now
I’d still bet that he wouldn’t get it but I would not
say he can’t get it. What’s your sense of that?>>>DR. RON DANIELS: Well the
problem is even he doesn’t get it it sounds like
he’ll determine who gets it and what that means is
somebody is going to have to move so far to the
right they won’t embrace maybe everything he says
but he’ll be so far to the right that whoever is
nominated may not be electable in the
general election. Plus there’s always the
threat that if he’s not treated right he may
decide to run as an Independent and
that would also, as a third party candidate
and I would not rule that out. But I guess you know all
of that for me the most fearful part about it is
how is it you know when we analyze it how is it that
we could have someone like Donald Trump who he
probably shocked himself.>>>BOB HERBERT: He never
expected to do t his well.>>>DR. RON DANIELS: And I think
it’s an indictment on the American educational
system to some extent. I think it’s also an
indictment on you know the whole notion of what
America ought to be and so that’s scary because there
are people who somehow feel that it’s slipping
away. So people are very desperate and very
very- and that’s frightening.>>>BOB HERBERT: And I
think it’s made worse by the fact that these are
difficult economic times so you have young people
difficulty finding jobs, parents worried
about their kids, can’t afford to send
their kids to college, I think things are you
know the American dream is slipping away. And they
look for scapegoats.>>>DR. RON DANIELS: Well, they
do look for scapegoats and this gun culture certainly
is also frightening. I mean from the moment
that President Obama was elected, boom, up
went the gun sales. Southern Poverty Law
Center pointed out that you know the fact that
there was a black family in the White House was
something that people there’s again a, not
the majority of whites, but a certain sector just
could not in fact stand the idea that there’s a
black family in the White House and every time
President Obama talks about sensible gun reform
gun sales go through the roof. And this is you know I
mean the question is at the level of civilization
if you look at what’s happening in all of
the Western industrial societies you know you
don’t have this kind of gun culture, this kind of
wild wild west culture and so you know people
talk about American exceptionalism
and I say yes. You know everybody else
in the Western world has sensible gun laws except
the United States of America. There’s all these
exceptions that America has and yet people are
beating themselves on the chest. Pregnancy leave.
Sick Leave. I mean paid leave. I mean all of these things
that are sort of standard fair for many Western
industrial countries everybody has them.
I mean health care is another example except the
United States of America.>>>BOB HERBERT: It seems
to me that all of these issues spotlight the
importance in a society like ours of voting
that the way to fight back against demagoguery, if
you want to do something about guns in
this society, if you want to something
about the economy, I mean, it’s so important
and yet we have very low voter turnout rates
in this country and especially in
non-presidential election years. You have taken, I
think I’m more than one occasion, groups of
youngsters to Selma, Alabama to focus
on this issue. Can you talk about
that a little bit?>>>DR. RON DANIELS: Yeah, but
let me just say about your question. I often say the
biggest political party in America today is not
the Democrats, it’s not the Republicans,
it’s non voters and that’s another indictment on our
educational system and the way in which things are
configured because every other major Western
industrial society you know voter turnouts here
are in the neighbor of what, 70%, 80%, 90%. In
America if you get 52%, 53%, oh God! It’s big. But yes I
do take, I have taken two groups of students to
Selma, Alabama. Early, a couple of years
ago, I took president, Dr. Marcia Keizs,
my president at York College, there along with 9
students and it’s was because I think it’s
important for people to understand history to
retrace history and of course Selma and the
Voting Rights Act is arguably the definitive,
the most important, most powerful Civil
Rights Act or piece of legislation, that
sanctioned the Civil Rights movement ever because it
opened up the right for people to vote again
particularly in the south with the protection of federal
marshals and federal troops if necessary. And it was
paid for on Bloody Sunday. It was paid for by the
sacrifice of so many heroes,
sheroes and heroes, not only black but if
you look at Viola Liuzzo, Reverend James Reeb
and others so I- >>>BOB HERBERT: Some of
these names are actually getting lost to history.
I mean, people don’t recognize those names anymore.>>>DR. RON DANIELS: They don’t
and that’s why we go and then Jimmie Lee Jackson
and so forth so I go for my own personal renewal.
But I always wanted to in my role as distinguished
lecturer at York to take, because that’s a part of what
my portfolio is by the way, is this to take the
experiences I have share those with students so
I’ve taken students to New Orleans where they could
see what happened with Katrina and it’s a
part of a conference. I’ve taken them to
Howard University. I’ve taken the
students Haiti. And so but my dream was
always to have a group of students go to Selma. And so
we took 9 one year but on the 50th anniversary we took 40
students went and they had an incredible experience. I mean
they had a chance to just, well even the 9 students
who went by the way, they went, unfortunately
it was a bad time because it was the gutting of the
Voting Rights Act but they met the lawyer, young
lawyer who argued the case before the Supreme
Court. They had a chance to see Vice President Biden,
Attorney General Eric Holder. I mean so it was just an
incredible- and of course Amelia Boynton, you know,
some of these- who was then still alive. She just
recently passed away at 110 years old or so and so it
was an incredible experience but these students also went
and when they came back we challenge them to
say, well look, not only is it
important that you go. But what are you doing just
here on York’s campus? And I must say that a
number of them actually became involved in
student government. Some of them have now
become elected to the Student Government
Association and they’re doing quite well so it was
an incredible experience.>>>BOB HERBERT: So you
know you touched on it, you’re taking these
youngsters to Selma, at the same time the voting
rights in this country are under fierce attack
both on the Republican Party in general and from
the Supreme Court. Talk about that and why
that’s occurring now.>>>DR. RON DANIELS: Well I think
you know unfortunately the South never got over it
and particularly the right wing extremists in this
country haven’t really gotten over the civil
rights movement and the gains that were made and
so when you have voted suppression laws taking
place and it’s a part of a generalized pattern.
So if you look at Pennsylvania where they push for
the voter ID law. I mean they came
right out and said it. They weren’t even hiding
it. In the last election we don’t want these black people
and people in the Democratic Party who are so inclined we
don’t want, we’re supporting Romney. So they said openly what
is the real covert motive->>>BOB HERBERT:
Right. Sometimes it slips out.>>>DR. RON DANIELS: Right.
That’s the motivation and so voter suppression is about the
Republican Party and right wing extremist because the whole
voter ID law and voter fraud is you know is a solution in
search of a problem.>>>BOB HERBERT: Exactly. There
is essentially no voter fraud in this country. It’s
so tiny as to be irrelevant.>>>DR. RON DANIELS: But on the
surface it kind of sounds like well people
ought to have ID.>>>BOB HERBERT: And we’re
getting used to showing ID at the airports or going
into government buildings and that sort of thing.>>>DR. RON DANIELS: But there’s
no question about it that this is the motivation
and for, and it’s a part of the retreat. When you
have Roberts and the Supreme Court who say, well
you’ve got elected officials now and they’re in office and
everything is fine. Well the fact of the
matter is you still have racial gerrymandering
going on in the south and it’s done in a way to
again restrict black votes and by the way
the provisions, the pre-clearance
provision, there were many many states who
passed it. It’s not as if in fact you know it was
being used in an onerous way. Not so at all but you do
need that protection when you have situations in
the south and other places where in fact there are
overt efforts to suppress->>>BOB HERBERT: And we saw
that immediately after the Supreme Court ruling where
in a number of states they just immediately went to
restrict and suppress the vote.>>>DR. RON DANIELS: And so what
we have to do really is continue to educate
and we have to take on, it has to be a kind of
resistance mentality because even in the last
election when they floated a number of these a voter
suppression laws on radio and television everything
we took on a kind of ain’t no one going to turn
up around mentality. That almost has
to be perpetual. We have to be saying if
they moved- because what they do is, you know Bob,
they’ll move the voting places to some, it was here
close, then they move it way out in the country
somewhere. And we’ve got to say it doesn’t matter.
We went across that bridge. We can go to
that voting place. We’ve got to create this
kind of mentality that we will march on ballot boxes
no matter what to defend, to protect and defend our
interest but not only our interest, but the interest
of poor and working class people in general. I mean
that’s the kind of proposition certainty that
Martin Luther King put forth.>>>BOB HERBERT: It seems
to me that when you talk about racial issues in
this country you almost have to talk about it on
two tracks so if you talk about what life was like
for African-Americans in the 1950’s and 60’s obviously
it’s tremendously different now and much better.
By the same token after President Obama was
elected in 2008 there was all this talk about post-racial
America and that sort of thing. And that’s got to be the
furthest thing from the truth. So talk about what
conditions are like for African-Americans now
in the United States.>>>DR. RON DANIELS: Well first
of all it was always an illusion to think that America
made enough progress, and it was progress, to
elect an African-American president, I never thought
I would see it in my lifetime->>>BOB HERBERT: Nor I.>>>DR. RON DANIELS: But
Indira Gandhi, here’s how I often put it,
Indira Gandhi was elected the first woman
prime minister of India. That certainly did not
meet at all that all the systemic structural issues
that face women in India have disappeared
because they’re so deep. They’re so deeply embedded
in terms of sexual inequality as a
part of the culture. So when we look at black
America today and this is one of the things I think
is very serious while we have a president in the
White House we’ve been saying that there’s a
state of emergency at what I call America’s dark
ghettos. And I use those words deliberately, you would
be familiar with that because that’s Kenneth B. Clark’s
you know classic work and we talked about the
urban inner city areas. In these urban in a city
areas you know you have a combustible call in
dysfunction that reads something like this;
you have disinvestment, which a lot of people
don’t talk about anymore because you know.
Model cities, war on poverty, all of the great society,
they don’t exist anymore.>>>BOB HERBERT: They don’t
exist anymore and then you look at the
African-American community and you see skyrocketing
unemployment rates for example especially
among young people.>>>DR. RON DANIELS: Absolutely.
And then you couple that with deindustrialization. The
economy has changed so these two phenomena have made for
really very desperate conditions in urban
inner city communities. And so just here in New
York for example according to the community service
society study a couple of years ago I doubt that
these numbers have changed very much. When you look at
African-Americans and indeed Latinos who are
thirty years and under the unemployment
rate is like 50%. I mean this is like, this
is a state of emergency.>>>BOB HERBERT: And
it doesn’t get much attention.>>>DR. RON DANIELS: It doesn’t.
And the problem is we’re in a small government era when
people are talking about contracting government
when we really need to be expanding to meet
some of these needs. And a part of that is
that the public sector, public sector solutions
have been attacked, and so years ago there was
a program that people have forgotten about, you
and I know about it, was called CETA, the
Comprehensive Employment and Training Act. It was
followed by something called JPTA, Joint Partnership
and Training Act. These were government
programs, which in the summers sometimes they say, oh, there’s
all this stuff brewing in the ghettos and so forth. It’s
going to be a long hot summer. You remember that?>>>BOB HERBERT: Sure.>>>DR. RON DANIELS: And
then the headline, Government Creates a
Million Public Sector Jobs so they would actually create
a million public sector jobs. So young people could
come and they could get a little training, they’d
get involved and so forth. They’d get a little money
for their school supplies and their school clothes
and that it would be cool. Now as a young
radical I’d say, oh these are co-optation programs.
God I wish we had these things because these programs
don’t exist. And the same thing revolves,
and so let me just also say that another part of
this dilemma and problem is this emergency has
been this war on drugs. And you follow
that as well.>>>BOB HERBERT: Absolutely.>>>DR. RON DANIELS: They’re
targeting rather than finish the unfinished civil
rights human rights agenda. We got policing.
We got the war on drugs. And as Michelle Alexander
has pointed out so incredibly it’s
really been a caste system developed because of
people’s inability to escape because there
are no jobs and yet the subterranean
economy, the turf fights, battles all around,
dealing with the drugs in the community and now
weapons and guns that we usually didn’t have and so
all of the sudden you have this explosive prison jail
industrial complex and people are trapped in
these communities because they can’t come back and
get a job, they can’t come back and even live in public housing,
they can’t get scholarships. So it is a state of emergency.
Two Black America’s. One doing quite well but
the other is catching, as Malcolm would say, more
hell than ever before.>>>BOB HERBERT: What I
think it’s interesting you talk about the war on
drugs and I remember the demonization of the people
who are involved in drugs and there were the crack
babies that were going to grow up and become these
monster teenagers and all that sort of thing. But now
we’re seeing similar problems with drugs and in many cases
hard drugs in the white community, which is the
sort of thing that happens in distressed economic
times. But the approach is quite different. The approach
now is to be more sympathetic. To figure out, all right,
what do we need to do now to help these folks make
their way through this scourge kind of thing.>>>DR. RON DANIELS: It’s a
public health framework and it should have always been
seen as a public health framework->>>BOB HERBERT: So now we
see the compassion that we didn’t see when they
were African-Americans.>>>DR. RON DANIELS: And what do
you see now I must say that for different reasons
we do now see after years of work and I must give
credit to Open Societies Foundation, Drug
Policy Alliance, Ethan Nadelmann over there, have just done this
incredible work helping to redefine these issues. Get
people to see them differently. There is a lot of progress
being made and this is good for African-Americans
in particular because we have been the targets. If
you look at marijuana use for example in a lot of
cities but Washington D.C., A.C.L.U. lawyers committee
did studies, you’ve got Georgetown University,
George Washington University, you know they’re
lighting up right?>>>BOB HERBERT: When I
moved to New York from New Jersey in the 1970’s I was
on the Upper West Side and I had white friends
who would have their pot delivered, somebody would
come in an automobile and deliver it to them. There was
no chance that there would be any police
surveillance or arrest.>>>DR. RON DANIELS: But
in these studies, study after study, the
white kids are smoking and the black kids are smoking
and the black kids are getting arrested and black
kids are going to jail- >>>BOB HERBERT: -And
getting their lives ruined.>>>DR. RON DANIELS: And the
other side of this that becomes problematic it’s beginning
to change somewhat is that this differencing in
policing where really white America didn’t get
a clue about this because the white kids weren’t
being arrested so they see the police differently
than the black community where there is profiling,
where there is the war on drugs, where all these
things are happening that don’t get experienced
in the black community. Eric Garner, people got
a chance to see that. A lot of these things
now because of the cameras people are seeing them. And
so they’re saying wow that’s really happening. Yes. We know
that this has been happening for years and years
and years and years. So there is some perceptible
slow changes that are being made on a bipartisan
basis. Part of it has to do with the fact that
it’s too expensive. That’s what the
Republican’s are saying. We’re saying it’s wrong
on the basis of our values and our principles but at
the end of the day even when we end the war on
drugs if we can reach a new kind of way of doing
policing we’ve got to be able to invest in
our communities.>>>BOB HERBERT: You know
you mentioned policing and I want to ask you about
the protests that have been sort of breaking
out around the country for quite a while now. But there are
protests on a lot of fronts. There have been protests
against police violence and misconduct but there
have also been protests by low wage workers,
about their pay and their working conditions and
stuff. We’ve seen a lot of protests on college campuses
around the country pushing back on some of these issues.
Can you talk a little bit about those protests and compare
them or contrast them with the protests that we saw let’s say
back in the 1960’s and 70’s.>>>DR. RON DANIELS: Well the
protests in the 1960’s and 70’s particularly in
terms of the civil rights movement the barriers seem
to be much clearer in that regard because you were
really talking about the inability to actually go to a
lunch counter or get on a bus and those kind of things. The
process we see particularly in African-American
communities now are in some ways are more subtle
in the sense that you’re on a college campus for
example and there are things that are happening
to you that make you feel uncomfortable or like
what’s happening at Princeton University where
you’re awakening to the fact that Woodrow Wilson or
whatever. Or the police the profiling issue or what
not in the white community in the 60’s of course
it was mostly against the war. That was the big issue,
the Vietnam protests, and African-Americans were
involved in that as well. Today what I see is a
really multifaceted movement that’s
really pushing back, on the one hand against
gross and equality and I think the Occupy Wall
Street movement is very much responsible for
drilling into our popular consciousness the idea of
the 1% and this tremendous inequality and so now
you have even outside of unions even people who may
not even be part of unions but is part of the broad
working class movement supported unions fighting
for a living wage you know within the society.
The restaurant work, the McDonald’s, Wal-Mart’s,
and pushing back very strongly, which I think is a very
encouraging kind of thing. The idea of a living wage. And
then on the other hand you have people now beginning
to use economic sanctions, the ability to withhold
patrons as they did in Chicago, they say, well wait
a minute. They did it in Montgomery and it was
effective, why can’t we use our buying power to demand
justice? Had a conversation with
Reverend Jesse Jackson just the other day and he
was telling me that the march down the miracle, I
mean the Magnificent Mile, on Black Friday, resulted
in a loss of one billion dollars in the
Chicago economy.>>>BOB HERBERT: That
will get your attention.>>>DR. RON DANIELS: It’ll
get your attention. So I think there is, the
issue becomes in some ways with black lives matter,
which is an incredible movement of young people
who are just coming alive, you know, we were on these
campuses we were saying the same things. We
don’t feel comfortable, there’s not enough, you know,
and they’re experiencing the same thing. Raising some of
the same kind of questions. The issue becomes both
for black lives matter and Occupy Wall
Street, can you have a multi-dimensional approach
and by that I mean can they also say we
have to take power? We have to become involved in
the electoral political system. It’s unseemly somewhat.
Whatever it is but there’s a space there that makes
decisions about our lives. And there’s been some
hesitancy to do that even in our generation there
was some because it was pretty straight forward. It was
a capitalist political economy, it’s bankrupt. How could you get
involved in it? You’ll be messed- but that’s
like, that’s the radical->>>BOB HERBERT: But if
you really want profound change->>>DR. RON DANIELS: You’ve got
to get involved in that. So it’s the mass
movements in the streets, which are incredibly
important and powerful. South Africa. We saw
that with Nelson Mandela, the ANC and all those groups.
You saw that in the 60’s and 70’s. The march
on Washington. But also at the end of
the day it’s also that electoral political system. And
it’s also using whatever tools that are available to you
whether it’s economic sanctions, it’s boycotts, it’s
disruption if necessary, all within a certain
non-violent framework. All those things work
so it’s not either or, it’s using all of those
tools behind a vision of what you want to become in
terms of changing America. And quite frankly I’m pretty
optimistic right now with these young people. I think
they’re doing a pretty good job of raising the right
kinds of questions and you know they may make some
mistakes here and there and we’ll be around to
help whisper a little bit and say, why don’t you try?
Why don’t you try that? But I think
we’ve got a shot.>>>BOB HERBERT: Then let’s
stop on an optimistic note. I really appreciate
it. We’ve run out of time.>>>DR. RON DANIELS: We’ve
run out of time?>>>BOB HERBERT:
Let’s do it again. I was going to ask
you so you’ve now said, yes. I think that’s great.
We’ll have you back. Thank you so much
Dr. Ron Daniels.>>>DR. RON DANIELS: My pleasure.>>>BOB HERBERT: We’ll be
back in a moment with a final word.>>>BOB HERBERT: More than
two thousand unionized steel workers in western
Pennsylvania have been locked out of a sparkling
1.2 billion dollar steel rolling mill by their employer
Allegheny Technologies. Residents of the area,
about twenty miles outside of Pittsburgh, have been
told that the new mill would provide hundreds
of new well paying jobs. But now the company wants
to impose, among many other concessions, a two
tiered system of compensation in which new workers will be
paid much less than today’s workers and their benefits
will be far less robust. The company’s president
told the New York Times we’re faced with a once in
a generation opportunity to bend the cost curve on
a major part of our costs. In other words this is their
big chance to stick it to the next generation of American
workers. They see it as a good thing for those
young Americans, your children and grandchildren,
to be worse off economically than their parents
and grandparents. Talk about a perversion
of the American dream. That’s all for now.
See next time. ♪[Theme Music]♪

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *