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tv   Democracy Now  LINKTV  January 14, 2022 8:00am-8:54am PST

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01/14/22 01/14/22 [captioning made possible by democracy now!] amy: from new york, this is democracy now! >> the war seems to be over but the situation has ever been worse. this has nothing. there's no health care, no school, no income. all income is gone. amy: as afghanistan faces what
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could become the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, we will look at how more afghans may die from u.s. sanctions than at the hands of the taliban. we will speak with jan egeland of the region refugee council and dr. paul spiegel who recently returned from afghanistan where worked with the world health care organization. >> people are sufferg beyond belief. many hospitals are hardly functioning. there is not enough food, not enough medicions. there's a lack of clarity of where the money can go to ensur people will be able to be treated. amy: then as the nation heads into the martin luther king holiday weekend, tim's by democrats to pass major new voting rights legislation appears to have stalled. we will look at a stunning new documentary titled "who we are:
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a chronicle of racism in america." >> i was 11 years old in 1968 and to my young eyes, we had been on a path toward racial justice that was amazing. there was a civil rights act, the voting rights act. we were winning on buses and at lunch counters. and then april 4 happened. and king got shot in the neck and it felt like the whole thing just rled back. amy: the film is based on a talk given by longtime aclu lawyer jeffery robinson. he will join us come along with the filmmakers emily and sarah kunstler. all that and more, coming up. welcome to democracy now!, democracynow.org, the war and peace report. i'm amy goodman. democratic senators kyrsten sinema and joe manchin have rejected a plan by their party's leaders to change senate rules
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to allow passage of two major voting rights bills. speaking from the senate floor, senator sinema said she would not vote to change the filibuster even as she claimed to support the john lewis voting rights advancement act and the freedom to vote act. >> there is no need for me to restate my long-standing support for the 60 vote threshold to pass legislation. there is no need for me to restate its role protecting our country from wild reversals and federal policy. amy: sinema was joined later on thursday by west virginia joe manchin, who said he, too, would oppose a change to the filibuster. their opposition all but dooms the prospect the 117th congress will pass voting rights legislation. president biden reacted to the news. pres. biden: i hope we get this done. the honest got answer is, i don't know whether we get this done. amy: senate majority leader chuck schumer said the senate will delay a scheduled january
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recess to take up voting rights legislation on tuesday, one day after the martin luther king jr. holiday. the supreme court has struck down the biden administration's requirement that workers at large private companies get vaccinated against covid-19 or be tested weekly. the court's conservative majority ruled the occupational safety and health administration overstepped its authority when it ordered the mandate, affecting some 84 million private sector employees. in a dissenting opinion, breyer, kagan and sotomayor wrote -- "today, we are not wise. in the face of a still-raging pandemic, this court tells the agency charged with protecting worker safety that it may not do so in all the workplaces needed." in a separate 5 to 4 decision, justices upheld a vaccination requirement for medicare and medicaid providers, covering about 10 million health care
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workers nationwide. as the covid winter surge continues, president biden said he would make another half-billion rapid antigen tests available for free to u.s. households. the white house had already announced the purchase of 500 million tests in december, but those kits have not yet been distributed. here in new york city, mayor eric adams said thursday he's discussing plans for a temporary remote learning option with the united federation of teachers as . adams had vowed to keep classrooms open when he was sworn in just two weeks ago. up to a third of students in the nation's largest school district have been absent from classrooms this week. the fbi arrested the leader of the far-right oath keepers militia thursday, charging him and 10 others with seditious conspiracy over the january 6 insurrection at the capitol. prosecutors say 56-year-old stewart rhodes organized a plot to oppose the lawful transfer of presidential power by force. they charge oath keepers under
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rhodes' command spread out in a military formation inside the capitol looking for house speaker nancy pelosi while a heavily armed quick reaction force stood by at a hotel just outside of washington ready to take action. encrypted messages sent by rhodes to other militia members read, in part -- "we aren't getting through this without a civil war. prepare your mind, body, spirit. it will be a bloody and desperate fight." rhodes is a former u.s. army paratrooper. meanwhile, the house committee investigating the january 6 riot has subpoenaed officials at four social media companies -- youtube, facebook, reddit, and twitter -- saying they contributed to the spread of misinformation that led to the insurrection. the republican national committee is threatening to prevent future candidates from participating in presidential debates, accusing the commission which oversees the process of bias. jaime harrison, chair of the democratic national committee,
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tweeted in response, "republicans can't win a fair fight and they know it." u.n. secretary general antonio guterres has made an impassioned plea for the u.s. and the world bank to release billions of dollars of afghan assets that were frozen after the taliban takeover in august. guterres warned thursday that afghanistan faces economic and social collapse, with some 8.7 million afghans now teetering on the brink of starvation. he also called on the international community to step up and fund the u.n.'s $5 billion humanitarian appeal. >> freezing temperatures and frozen assets are a lethal combination for the people of afghanistan. rules and conditions that prevents money from saving lives and the economy must be suspended in this emergency situation. international funding should be allowed to pay the salaries of public sector workers and
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deliver health care, education, and other vital services. amy: we'll have more on the crisis in afghanistan after headlines. tensions over russia's military buildup on the ukraine border remain high after diplomatic lks failed to achieve any concrete resolution to the crisis and to russia's demands that nato curb its eastward expansion. russia said friday it is giving u.s. and nato until next week to respond to its demands. on thursday, russia's puty reign minier suggested its military could deploy to venezuela and cuba in response to escalating tensions with the u.s. meanwhile, russian-led troops have started withdrawing from kazakhstan. a violent crackdown on protests this month killed at least60 protesters and saw some 10,000 others arrested. british royal prince andrew has been stripped of his military titles and royal patronages amid the ongoing sexual assault case against him.
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earlier this week, a u.s. judge ruled a sex abuse lawsuit against andrew can proceed after his lawyers tried to get it dismissed, citing a deal between the plaintiff virginia giuffre and jeffrey epstein. giuffre has accused prince andrew of raping her when she was 17 years old. australian immigration authorities have for a second time revoked a visfor serbian tennis star novak djokovic, who has refused to be vaccinated against covid-19. this comes just three days before the start of the australian open tennis tournament. an invesgation found djokovic provided false information on the documents he gave to border officials during his entry to australia last week. he is appealing the decision. visit our website democracynow.org to see our coverage of the plight of refugees under the same immigration detention center in australia where djokovic's was initially held. new data show 2021 was the sixth hottest year on record with
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global temperatures rising about 1.5 degrees celsius above the pre-industrial average. this is national oceanic and atmospheric administration scientist russell vose. >> the last seven years have been warmer than anything we have seen before. each of the past four decades has been warmer than the decade preceding head. it has been a steady increase in mperatures since really e te 19th century. amy: at least 25 countries set new annual temperature records last year. here in new york city, several protesters were arrested thursday for blocking traffic during a climate rally demanding governor kathy hochul and state lawmakers take action to avert climate catastrophe. protesters are demanding passage of the new york build public renewables act. the legislation would combat environmental racism, require the new york power authority to provide only renewable energy and power to customers, and would create tens of thousands
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of green union jobs. it's been over three years since new york lawmakers last approved a major climate bill. and new jersey governor phil murphy has postponed a key vote on a contract to build a $180 million gas-fired power plant in newark. murphy called for a more thorough environmental justice review and robust public engagement process. the governor's decision is being celebrated by community organizers in newark's ironbound neighborhood who've warned the power plant would worsen the already poor local air quality and exacerbate the climate crisis. organizer maria lopez-nuñez spoke on democracy now! earlier this week. >> majority black and latinx are working class, immigrant communities, deeply affected by the issues. despite all of our social economic issues from immigration issues, housing issues, we still fight to make sure we are bettering, knowing we helped
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build a park along the river. we have a vision for our community. th is all we are asking for. not anything extra, we're just asking for a chance to fight for clean air and clean water. amy: to see the rest of her interview, go to democracynow.org. and those are some of the headlines. this is democracy now!, democracynow.org, the war and peace report. i'm amy goodman. ♪♪ [music break]
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amy: the beatle's "i'll follow the sun" covered by ronnie spector. the girl group icon and leader of the band has died, the ronettes passed away wednesday from cancer at the age of 78. this is democracy now!, democracynow.org, the war and peace report. i'm amy goodman. this week the united nations launched a nearly $5 billion aid appeal for international donors to afghanistan. u.n. humanitarian affairs and
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emergency relief coordinator martin griffiths said without immediate assistance, a full-blown humanitarian catastrophe looms in afghanistan. >> a million children potentially suffering severe acute malnutrition. a million children. the figus are so hard to grasp when they are this kind of size, but a million children in afghanistan at risk that kind of malnutrition if these things don't happen is a shocking one. amy: meanwhile, in washington, d.c., the congressional progressive caucus is demanding the biden administration lift economic sanctions imposed after the taliban overran afghanistan in august. the caucus tweeted if the current u.s. economic policy toward afghanistan continues, "there could be more civilian deaths this year than there were in 20 years of war." for more, we are joined in oslo
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by jan egeland, secretary general of the norwegian refugee council. and in baltimore, maryland, we are joined by dr. paul spiegel, director of the center for humanitarian health at johns hopkins university's bloomberg school of public health. he returned last month from a five-week visit to afghanistan as a consultant for the world health organization. his "washington post" opinion piece is headlined "hospitals are collapsing in afghanistan. at this rate sanctions will kill more people than the taliban." we welcome you both to democracy now! dr. spiegel, just recently returned from afghanistan. explain exactly what is happening there and how that relates to u.s. sanctions. >> thank you, amy. what is happening is there is a country in freefall come economic freefall, which is affecting all aspects of their lives, particularly on the health situation most all
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salaries stopped and paid on august 15 when the taliban took over the country. while there has been some now salaries being paid for basic health care, the hospitals are not -- the salaries are not being paid, health care workers are still coming but there is no medicines, no heat, and what we're seeing is people cannot even afford to get to the hospitals even if there were medicines to be had. amy: talk specifically about the west's appach to the taliban right now. >> we were told to call them the defective authorities -- defacto authorities. in the west, they have hard-hitting sections that do not allow any funds to go to the defacto authorities but in a broadway it which means
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government run hospitals cannot receive money, government run schools cannot receive money. technocrats are not able to receive money. so you have a health care system, particularly the higher levels because there are some differens in the lower levels that are not receiving funds whatsoever, and these are civil servants, just like in the u.s. and other areas, that are required to ensure that health care services, educational services are running and everything is falling down. it is not just the sanctions, but also a huge issue in terms of the banking system, the central bank, and a massive the quiddity problem. so even when i was there and we work paying pouliot workers and measles workers to try to get vaccines, there was insufficient money in the country to actually pay these people to do their jobs. amy: in terms of the population, the u.n. reports afghanistan's population, nearly 23 million
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people, are facing extreme hunger. at least a million children are at risk of dying of starvation? >> yes. i would add it is -- the crisis is already happening. it is not as if we can stave off or prevent this from happening. what we need to be able to do is minimize the incredible negative effects we are seeing. there has been a drought, food insecurity, and all this has been exacerbated due to the economic crisis and due to the lack of u.n. and ngo's being able to pay people in the field, particularly anyone related to the defacto authorities, because of the very strong u.s. sanctions. amy: i want to bring jan egeland into this conversation, secretary general of the norwegian refugee council. you ha been to afghanistan scores of times since, what,
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back to 1996 when you were deputy foreign minister of norway in afghanistan. can you talk about how the situation today compares and what you think needs to happen? >> there hasn't been this kind of a dramatic collapse in the economy of afghanistan within months ever before i think. what happened really in august when the taliban took over and the nato countries went for the door was they left behind 40 million civilians come the same 40 million civilians they had defended with a trillion dollar military campaign over the past 20 years. same women and children come the same doctors and nurses and teachers and someone. what we have seen and i have
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1400 colleagueon the ground, relief workers on the ground. what we have seen now is it is not the taliban that is holding us back, it is the sanctions, there is no banking at all, and the teachers and nurses and doctorare not being paid because the salaries are sitting in washington and it is with the world bank. the u.s. and the other members of the world bank are not releasing this money. so a lot of things have to happen tomorrow less we ll see epic loss of life. amy: on thursday, u.n. secrary-general antonio guterres called for a suspension of rules blocking the use of international funding in afghanistan. some $9.5 billion in afghan central bank reserves remain blocked outside the country, mainly in the united stas, in response to taliban rule since
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august. guterres also addressed the taliban. >> as i appeal to the international community to step up support for the people of afghanistan, i make an equally urgent plea to the taliban leadership to recognize and protect fundamental human rights , and in particular, the rights of women and girls. across afghanistan, women and girls are missing from offices and classrooms. a generation of girls is seeing its hopes and dreams shattered. women scientists, lawyers, teachers are locked out, wasting skills and talentd that will benefit the entire country and the world. no country can thrive when denying the rights of this population. amy: to be clear, he was calling for the lifting of the blocking of the sanctions against
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afghanistan. jan egeland, if you can talk about the taliban and also the u.s. approach. >> well, number one, the taliban , we need to actively engage on all levels so that there is gender equality in afghanistan, commensurate with other islamic countries. we are doing that. i met with the taliban top leadership at the end of september. it was only a few weeks after they took over. i brought up the need for them to have the same freedom of movement as the male colleagues have. no male guardianship ever be needed to accompany that and i got a yes in my meetings in kabul and then we have negotiated with where we operate. we have started with schools for girls and female teachers now in
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all the 14 provinces, but we have not yet gotten a secondary education. and we need to fight for that, really. but it would be the ultimate insult to these girls and their mothers if they have to starve and freeze to death before we are getting through to all of the local taliban commanders on these issues. so that is the message to the u.s. we have never held money back from starving people because there has been discrimination from the authorities. i constantly hear the phrase "no dissent" to the taliban. the funding is going to international organizations, the united nations, international nongovernmental organizations, local nongovernmental organizations directly to the
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people with full operational freedom at the moment. amy: i want to get dr. paul spiegel's response to ned price describing the u.s. as the world humanitarian leader for the afghan people. at this point, would you agree? >> yes. there providing a tremendous amount of money still to afghanistan. the problems that we are talking hundreds of millions when billions are needed. the issue is, in my view, is gate nds to be twofold. there needs to be sufficient liquidity in the system. when you get into the details, it is complicated because the afghani, the currency, there isn't sufficient supply so it needs to be -- there needs to be more printed money cing into the country.
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my concern is that is going to take far too long. it needs to be done very, very quickly. on top of that, i would say in terms of the u.s. can still provide humanitarian assistance. it needs to be significantly more. as jan egeland said, it is not a black-and-white situation. it is no good to ensure women have equal rights if they are dead. it is such a severe situation right now that the priority of humanity must take over while ensuring there are sufficient safeguards that money is not going to the taliban and taliban leadership. right now the communication of where the money can go is unclear. and there such an clarity that many organizations, most organizations, are very anxious to provide money to civil servants, to hospitals, to government-run schools if that does not change immediately.
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amy: dr. spiegel, your response to the progressive caucus demanding the biden administration lift economic sanctions imposed after the taliban took over? the congressional caucus tweeting if the current u.s. economic policy toward afghanistan continues, "there could be more civilian deaths this year than there were in 20 years of war." what has been the biden response to the progressives? >> i would nuance the idea of saying lifting sanctions versus ensuring there is sufficient humanitarian exceptions as we have seen in venezuela and in yemen, amongst other countries. so whether it is completely stopping the sanctions -- i think that is a political decision. regardless whether it is stopped, there can be very clear humanitarian exemptions to be able to ensure or at least -- the money flows, and the people are able to undertake interventions.
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since our returned -- i returned around mid-december -- the biden administration has made clear some of the humanitarian exemptions. i have spoken to the field and what they have said is there is more clarity but it has t yet trickled down to let say to the field and the operations, number one. but there needs to be i would say more clarity than the biden administration is providing since december, particularly to ensure that funding can go to some of the technocrats in the ministries. because even if funding can go to the united nations and the nongovernmental organizations, the miniries themselves are functioning, are thelue of how authorities and others respond to humanitarian emergencies. for example, when i was there, there were six concurrent disease outbreaks yet the surveillance system is hardly functioning. if you want to know about what
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is happening in covid, for example, with covid in that country, the disease system is not being funded and it is extremely difficult to know what is happening and prepare accordingly. amy: jan egeland, two quick final questions. juan: is the norwegian refugee council, organization, pushing norway and all of europe to open its doors wider for afghan refugees? also, have spoken to the head of the world bank, the u.n. secretary-general. what have been their responses and what are your demands to them? >> i wrote to the world bank president and the secretary general when i came back from afghanistan and at the beginning of october. the question was, can you please release world bank health money which is sitting there for the doctors and teachers and so on,
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the public sector people, and through u.n. trust funds? the u.n. is really funneling the salaries. the answer back from the secretary-general was, yes, i can, we can, the u.n., and some trust funds have been set up and some of the public sector work has already been provided with some toner money. the world bank said, well, we will do it as soon as amber states say yes. -- member states say yes. it is still not there. they u.s. is the leader in the international financial institution. the u.s. also has to tell the risk of the global banking system that they can start again to transfer money and set banking on both sides. we cannot transfer new region aid money -- norwegian aid money to kabul at the moment.
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we have to truck it over and then contribute into the downward spiral in the afghan economy. it is not rocket science to do these things. it has to happen tomorrow -- actually, next week we are meeting virtually with the u.s. treasury. we will be very clear, please, go ahead and give the green lights to all of these places. we are asking europeans, including norwegians come to open doors for afghans who may flee? yes. unfortunately, europe is specializing in european championship of barbed wire eruption at the moment, so i am not too optimistic. my own country has declared there will be a sizable quota for refugees. when i was in iran, the afghans
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there tell me all of the latives in afghanistan have given up. they are wandering toward the border of iran and many will come here, many want to go to europe. i think will be a desperate situation. one thing that has happened now, we have to re-create -- if not millions. they will meet barbed wire. amy: jan egeland, thank you for being with us, secretary general of the norwegian refugee council. and dr. paul spiegel, director of the center for humanitarian health at the bloomberg school of public health at johns hopkins university. next up, as the nation heads into the martin 13 holiday weekend, attempts by democrats to pass major new voting rights legislation appear to have been stalled. we will look at a stunning new documentary titled "who we are: a chronicle of racism in america." stay with us. ♪♪ [music break]
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amy: lara downes performing "troubled water" by margaret bonds. bonds was one of the first black composers to gain recognition in the united states. this is democracy now!, democracynow.org, the war and peace report. i'm amy goodman. as the nation heads into the martin luther king day federal holiday weekend, democrats have been dealt a major blow in their effort to pass new voting rights legislation. on thursday, democratic senator kyrsten sinema and joe manchin announced she would not support changing senate rule to prevent republicans from using a filibuster to block the legislation. senate majority chuck schumer had promised a vote on the rule changes by martin luther king day, which is on monday, but that will not happen. on thursday night, schumer adjourned the senate until next week. civil rights groups have been
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leading the campaign to strengthen voting rights on the federal level as republicans have passed laws in 19 states over the past year to make voting harder, especially for people of color. we turn now to look at a stunning new documentary titled "who we are: a chronicle of racism in america." the film centers on a talk given by jeffery robinson, the former deputy legal director at the aclu. this is the film's trailer. >> ♪ >> i make this statement to you, and erica was founded on white supremacy. used to say, jeff, that is an extreme statement. what i would say to you, don't believe a word i say about it. all you have to do is go look. >> they were treated as family. >> i don't know if he can be reached, but if no one tries come he definitely won't change.
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>> this very spot. everybodneeds to know what happened because it is part of our history. >> america has demonstrated its greatness time and time again and america is one of the most racist countries on the face of the earth. those two things are not mutually exclusive. virginia passed a law and enslaved persons debt while resisting a master is not a felony. would you look at those words, please, think about the videos you have seen in the past 10 years? it is still not a felony. >> we want our confederate memorabilia removed. >> we have to save lives. >> this is too big of a story. >> this is who we are in america.
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amy: the trailer of the new documenty "who we are: a chronicle of racism in america" featuring attorney jeffrey robinson. in a moment, he will join us along with the filmmakers. but first, another clip from "who we are." >> i was 11 years old in 1968, and to my young eyes, we had been on a path toward racial justice that was amazing. there was the civil rights act, the voting rights act. we were winning on buses and at lunch counters. we were seemingly, to me, at a tipping point where we were eith going to roll forward with his incredible momentum on racial justice or we could roll back. and then april 4 happened. and king got shot in the neck. it felt like the whole thing just rolled back. because then came richard nixon
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and the war on drugs. we are 50 years later now. once again, young activists in america are making americans take a look in the mirror in terms of our true history of race and racial prejudice. once again, the young activists are calling us to account. once again, america's having to look at issues of race dead in the eye. once again, we are at a tipping point stop and the question for all of us in this room is what are we going to do about it? amy: in excerpt from "who we are: a chronicle of racism in america." we are joined now by jeffrey robinson, who wrote the film and is the featured subject in the film. we are also joined by the directors emily and sarah kunstler, who have made a number of films together, including a documentary about their father titled "william kunstler: disturbing the universe."
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jeffery robinson, i want to begin with you by reading a quote from martin 13 junior from 1964. he wrote an article for the nation as activists were pushing passage of the civil rights act. king wrote -- "there are men in the senate who now plan to perpetuate the injustices bull connor so ignobly defended. his weapons were the high-pressure hose, the club and the snarling dog. theirs is the filibuster. if america is as revolted by them as it was by bull connor, we shall emerge with a victory." "it is not too much to ask, 101 years after the emancipation, that senators who must meet the challenge of filibuster do so in the spirit of the heroes of birmingham." dr. king continued in that piece, invoking the powerful memory of the four young african american girls killed in the racist bombing of the sixteenth street baptist church on september 15, 1963, and two more youth killed in rioting that
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-- in the protest that immediately followed. he wrote -- "there could be no more fitting tribute to the children of birmingham than to have the senate for the first time in history bury a civil rights filibuster. the dead children cannot be restored, but living children can be given a life. the assassins who still walk the streets will still be unpunished, but at least they will be defeated." those are the words of the reverend dr. martin 13 in -- martin luther king in 1964. he could havgiven this speech on the floor of the senate today. jeffery robinson, if you could respond to that and then under the context of the whole subject of your film? >> i think this is one of the very interesting things, what you have just read would likely be banned in any number of
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states that have "anti-crt laws" and this is the danger of trying to erase the facts of our history. we cannot look back and say, wait a minute, we have here before. we he been at this exact place before and if we don't learn from wt happened then, we are doomed to take the wrong path as we go forward. the entire purpose of this film is to ask people to take a long, hard look at our actual history of white supremacy and anti-black racism. that is something that has been really erased from the common narrative and creation story about america, and this film and the who we are project is intent on getting it back. getting it back for all of us. amy: let's bring emily and sarah
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kunstler into this conversation, the directors and producers of this remarkable film "who we are." talk about how you got involved. it is premiering this weekend. >> thank you, amy. i heard jeffrey speak and it was that -- emily hates when i take this, it was a kid tuning education seminar. emily says it sounds boring. i expected it to be boring. the topic was the history of racism in america and i expected to know it already. that is the hubris. i want out of that room and i could not look at anything the same way ever again. jeffrey's talk changed my life. i am a film maker and i make films with my sister and i knew having left that room having had that transformative experience, there was certainly a film there
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and really felt an obligation to help jeffrey bring his talk to the widest audience possible. i called emily and said, i know you're doing for the next five years. at that time -- that is when t project started. amy: i want to go to another clip of the documentary "we are." >> this is what luck looks like. i have worked as hard as anybody in this theater to get where i am today, and i'm proud of that. but i am lucky. i was not the smartest kid in my hood. the only reason i did not get crushed by that ball when king got shot as i had parents who figured out some way to get their kids into a situation where they had a better chance to succeed. and if that's what it takes
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to have a legitimate chance at success, having unicorns for parents were just having dumb luck, is that really a country that you want to live in? when you hear words, when you're the concept expressed of white privile, i am begging you to think about that in different way. white privilegeoes not an you have not worked hard. it does not mean that you have not overcome obstacles. it means that you walk to the world differently than the black and brown people in this country. it does not take away from your hard work or your accomplishments at all. it simply says this playing field is not level. amy: that is jeffery robinson, the main subject of this film " who we are" dealing with racism in america. as you talk about your growing up, jeffrey, if you could elaborate on that?
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also, talk about your son and how he inspired you as well, your son who is also your nephew. >> well, in 2011,y sister-in-law who lived in york ssed away and she was a single mom raising my nephew along with her other. my sister-in-law passed away in april and my mother-in-law passed away later that year. so matthew was 13 and he moved from new york to seattle. i wife and i did not have kids. all, we did. there is a 13-year-old young black male in my house. i had been a criminal defense lawyer for decades, working on issues of racial justice that entire time. it got very, verpersonal. i was scared, so i started to read. i don't really know what i was looking for, but i know what i found. what i found were all kinds of
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facts about the history of white supremacy and anti-black racism, a role those two things played in the founding of our country and going forward from there. i wish she -- i was shocked. i grew up in memphis, tennessee, born in 1956. i did not have to read about the civil rights movement, it is what i walked into when i left my home. my older brother and i integrated a catholic school and a memphis in 1963. despite having one of the best educations in america, i was finding out this material in my 50's. after gathering this material over a period of time and being kind of overwhelmed by it, my training as a criminal defense lawyer kicked in and one of those precepts is if you have a huge amount of information that is really confusing, put it into a timeline to see what happens.
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when i saw what happened, the reaction that sarah described upon hearing my talk was the reaction that i was having. i felt ashamed and ignorant because i did not know this. i did not know the context of this information from all of my training and education. after i forgive myself, i figured i would lay my teachers because i needed somebody to blame. but then i figured, how can my teachers teach me something they were never taught? that is why i started this presentation and that is why i formed the who we are project. i believed america has to have what william burroughs would call a naked lunch moment with our true history. burroughs described it as a moment when everyone has to look at what is really on the end of their fork. amy: let's go to another clip of "who we are."
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this is about the u.s. constitution, about policing, and white supremacy. >> no freedom for a run away because slaves have to be returned to owners on demand. people have said the folks who wrote our constitution were brilliant. i agree with that. they were brilliant and they were sneaky, too, because they said 70 may try and amend the constitution and get rid of article one, section nine. so in article five, they said you cannot amend article one, section nine until 1808. this is so important concept of white supremacy was to people who founded the country when they were talking about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, they saw that as being completely consistent with enslaving people. the law picked a side. if you read the historians, they
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will tell you that modern-day police departments were originally formed, especially in the south, in slave patrols. i am not saying modern-day police officers are members of the slave patrol. they are not. there are law enforcement officers all over america who are fighting for racial justice and constitutional and decent policing in our communities. what i will tell you this. people in my community from my great great great grandfathers on down have had a reason to fear that badge because the people wearing it and the weapons and guns that they carry were used to oppress us. so the next time you're wondering, why is there such animosity in the black community when it comes to policing? why is there such concern? it is in our dna. amy: that is jeffery robinson,
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the main subject of "who we are: a chronicle of racism in america." it is premiering this weekend in theaters around the country as "the new york times" critics, jeffrey, the kind of conversations you have right now with her nephew as you talk about the police? >> the conversations right now with my nephew or very difficult because -were very difficult because he was 13 years old. he had just lost two parent figures in his life. he was moving from new york to seattle, washington, living with uncle and auntie who are now mom and dad. the conversations were very complex. the conversation about policing was a version of the same conversation that my father had with me. and when my father had that conversation with me, he told me
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it was the same conversation that his father had with him. there is a clip in the film where i call my parents unicorns. believe me, they were. but they were not unique. there were black unicorn parents all over america who were making their way through the landmines and the roadblocks to give their kids the opportunity to have a better future than they had. so i think the thing that i connected to hear is the fact of the importance of our history. because erasing our history means erasing all of those things that literally are some of the root causes of why america looks like it does today. amy: emily kunstler, you and your sister sarah have long worked on films that deal with racial justice. i was with you on a panel to do
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with the central park five, a case that your father was deeply involved with. talk about what jeffery robinson come his speech in the way you have framed it. you have done something very unusual. for people listening on the radio, they will hear him speaking. for people watching, they will see the images of the times he's referring to but you also include so many clips of the historic moments throughout time that he refers to. >> well, jeff's speech on its own, his presentation is totally riveting. we felt so lucky to be able to work that as the basis of this film. but we really wanted to bring this to the largeest audience possible. in order to do that, we had to bring it out of the realm of the powerpoint presentation.
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jeff travels to give his presentation we will travel with him. a few producers in the camera person in the sound percent all in a 15 passenger van. we would find stories of people who would bring different aspects of his presentation to live. so we could have a real emotional hook the real human experience for our audience. we knew that would be crucial to make this into a film. that and incorporating jeff's story to the film as well. there's is a very personal story about his personal experience of racism and his family in their lives. amy: what most struck you? what were some of those stories? >> the trip to memphis i think was a very powerful experience for all of us. getting to go to jeffrey's home that had been purchased for jeff's family by a white family
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because jeff's family was unable to purchase the home. visiting his school and meeting with his best friend and his best friend's older brother, which was also jeff's coach, and learning about something jeff had never even heard of before about an experience of racism that he had been shielded from by his coach. those were experiences when there was not a dry eye in the room. it was a very powerful moment. amy: jeff, that moment where you begin to break down, where you learned about what was really behind a story you lived when you were just playing basketball. >> yes. i should say that -- i want to say when emily was describing that my parents could not buy their home, not that they could not buy their home it was just that the sellers would not sell to them.
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that is why the white family got involved and the folks sold home to the white family thinking that is who they were selling it to come up with a white family was actually buying it for us. e incident you're talking about with my coach dick,

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