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tv   Open Phones with Wesley Lowery  CSPAN  December 17, 2016 11:30am-12:01pm EST

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temporary halt on part of construction, still constructing other parts of it and the protesters are still locking down the equipment because it is not going to win completely. >> you can watch this and other programs online at ..ok. the authority is washington post reporter wesley lowery and again, "the washington post" author of this book "they can't kill us all", ferguson baltimore and a new era in america's racial justice movement. mr. lowery, where did did you get the title for this book? >> the title comes from a sign from a vigil after antonio martin. after the grand jury decision become two years ago now to not charge the officer in ferguson. one of the reasons we stuck with it, we thought it captured the ethos and feeling of so many of the people who had taken to the streets the last few years. there's been a shooting and seemed like it's happening for
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's one it wasn't one of the massive nights, but i remember seeing that and just, and making a note in my notebook that day that it captured a lot of the feeling that i'd been seeing and hearing from demonstrators. >> host: what was your experience in ferguson? >> guest: so i got to ferguson two days after michael brown had been killed. at the time i was a national reporter for the post covering politics, i was covering congress. a very different beat. and i happened to be free. i had a bag packed. i'd just gotten back from a trip to cover a senate race in michigan, and we were having a conversation around the office about, hey, you guys see what's going on in missouri, what's our coverage plan? i initially offered, hey, i can call some of the congressional c representatives, maybe they'll call for a federal investigation, get a d.c.-ish scoop, right? finally an editor said, well, could you go? could you get on a plane?
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i said, sure, why not? got on the plane, landed on the 11th in ferguson, missouri, for what i thought was going to be a few day assignment, i thought i would maybe get a feature story for the weekend and be back for sunday football, you know, that weekend at home. instead, i ended up staying two, almost three months. [laughter] almost full time. we had a ferguson bureau there. be as i was there, on the second or third day i was there, myself and another reporter were actually arrested during the coverage of the protests, and we were the first two of what would end up being dozens of reporters who at some point in time were taken into custody by police there. there was just this day after day of demonstrations, there were mass arrests, people being arrested at times indiscriminately, at times with cause. and that created a whirlwind, and i became one of the figures of the story. >> host: wesley lowery's our guest. you've heard our beginning conversation. if you would like to participate
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and call in, talk with him about some of the issues surrounding ferguson, the black lives mattel movement, etc. and some of the racial issues that the country has faced in the last couple of years, we want to hear from you. 202 is the area code, 748-8200 in the east and central time zones, 748-8201 for those of you in the mountain and pacific time zones. is this a black and white issue that we're facing, or is this a black and blue issue that we're facing? >> guest: well, i think in some ways it's both, because i think it's a black and blue issue that has began by our historic black and white issue, right? we know this is a country, as president obama would describe it, was founded with an original sin. we built in racial inequity into the very fabric of our nation, right? that's something we've spent hundreds of years -- some would argue we were very happy withh the way we had it, but we have
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since spent time trying to undo that and make up for that, right? but i do think there is a, because of that, there's a historic relationship between black communities and law law enforcement that dates back to the days when police officers were slave catchers, right? there's always been an historic relationship. it's interesting, the former chicago police superintendent gave a speech where he talked about so many of the policies whether it be during jim crow, whether it be people who were leading the lynch mobs historically have been police officers. the police have, for all of american history, been the face of physical oppression for black and brown americans. f so sometimes we talk about how can we rebuild the relationship or how can we restore when in reality we need to be talking about creating a new relationship because there's never been a good relationship g between black americans and the police. >> host: wesley lowery, cleveland, ferguson, baltimore, minneapolis, new york, charleston. we had a black president during that time. is that coincidental, or is
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that -- is there a connection? >> guest: i think, i certainly think there's a connection, you know? i think there is -- i think that cuts in two directions. first, you know, i do think it's coincidental in that we've seen unrest, and we've seen police shootings every year of our modern history. this was going on during the bush years, during the clinton years. we might not have been talkings. about it, and we might not have covered it as a media in the same way, but these issues have always existed. but i do think the presidency of barack obama activated a level of activism and politicalva anxiety that perhaps had not existed prior to him. and i think that worked in two different ways..ha you know, first, in the book i try to profile many of the young activists who have come to the forefront and become the faces of the protest movement. and so many of them had their entry into politics through the election of barack obama. they voted in 2008 for him or 201 for him, often for the first time. you're talking about 2 20-somethings, right? many of them canvassed for him.
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and i think very often this turn of phrase, this idea that we needed to have a black presidenr to understand the limitations of a black presidency, right? barack obama was elected on this mandate to change washington as we knew it, to bring us together. and in his dnc speech, he talked about we're not a black america, a white america, an hispanic in his election night speech he says we're not a collection of blue states and red states, we're a united states, right? but he was incapable himself of bridging this divide and bridging this gap. we know this, right? our politics is as divided as it's ever been if not more so. and i think because of that, because so many voters, especially young black people who had projected onto president obama this hope for a differentj country, this hope for a different world, for a politicss where outcomes and experiences would not be defined by race then became remarkably frustrated when that prophesy was not coming true, right? trayvon martin was still dead,d, we were still having these
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conversations about race and ethnicity in colleges and insa cultures, still seeing diversity issues in our popular culture, right? and i, i'll never forget an activist look at claire mccaskill, the senator from missouri, during a town hall, t and she was, you know, encouraging the protests, encouraging the activism, but she said, you know, what you guys need to do is you need tot register to vote, you need to turn out -- what we often hear in terms of how people should politically engage. and i remember this activist saying i voted for barack obama twice, and michael brown is still dead. this idea that just the existence of a black president could not, in fact, e erase the history and the reality that we live in.n. >> host: they can't kill us all, is the name of the book. wesley lowery is our guest. he's a national reporter with "the washington post," and let's take some calls. ryan in sedona, arizona. hi, ryan. >> caller: hi, how you doing? i've got a few comments to make.
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thank you, bud, for writing your book and for standing up for us people. but i'm a white american, and if i was black in america, i'd probably be dead. i've already been denied health care for a pre-existing condition, i've already been locked up in prison for something that is now legal. soi i was fired from my job because of the economy. and i've tried to be the best american i can possibly be, and now i'm suffering from other health conditions that i've also been poorly cared for in this free country that we live in. and if we just go back just 40, 50 years ago, you know, 60 years and white women treated poorly with black women, indians, black americans -- >> host: tell you what, ryan, i think, i think we've got your point. wesley lowery, is there a larger picture that we can draw from
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your book and tie it into ryan's experience? >> guest: of course.t into ryan, i appreciate the call, and i'm sorry for what sounds like a very difficult set of circumstances, you know? i think we all as americans can empathize with each other. i think one of the things we've seen over the last eight years on both sides of the spectrum are these large protest movements that have been born out of political frustration,at right? this begins with the tea party, occupy wall street then on the left, a resurgence of republicans in the tea party again in 2014 as they take the senate and then black lives matter or the movement for black lives. and i think that speaks to, i think very often we want to set up a juxtaposition that either you work within the system or outside of the system. why won't those protesters all go vote? that type of sense of reality. i see some democratic beauty in the act of protest. and in many ways it is our original means of interacting with our government. it's what this country was founded on. and i think that it's unsurprising to me that the obama years and the time we're
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in now and likely the trump years moving forward have been marked by street activism andwa street protests because it's a time -- as the president so eloquently described it while he was campaigning -- a time when gridlock has suffocated americans. people are frustrated. why isn't the economy more turned around, why -- at the time, why wasn't there health care? and i think that people who have voted and who feel like they have done everything right, this was many of the people in ferguson which is unlike what a lot of, you know, a place where most people living in ferguson had made it out. they'd done everything right, and they still couldn't understand why they were either being treated this way or they hadn't achieved what theyt thought was the american dream. so i think that ryan's call kinm of fits into the ethos that we're feeling and seeing across the nation as i interview people. >> host: well, let's hear from sid who's calling in from st. louis, very close. go ahead, sid. >> caller: i thank you for writing the book, and i have one
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question. in the view of the new administration and donald trump being famous or no to have to yous for -- notorious for the central park issue with not even still acknowledging that the men who were initially convicted were innocent, how do you think that they're going to deal with his administration with the policing of minority communities and immigrants, and what do youo think the community needs to do? because i have black maleha children, i have hispanic children, i have immigrant children in my extended family, and i'm afraid for them. >> host: thank you, ma'am. >> guest: thank you so much for the call. y i think that's a really important question, somethingg i've been reporting a lot about now and thinking a lot about. what we see very often after times of unrest, especially times of unrest between minority communities and police, you
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think about years during the, '60s and 50s and '40s, we very often see a law and order backlash to that. the nixon election in '68, now arguably the trump direction in 2016. the obama administration has been very specific and aggressive in using the department of justice to try to address these issues. most of the activists don't think they've done enough, but with that said, it's unquestionable the obama administration has done more than any modern presidency in terms of using the department of justice to investigate police departments' attempts to provide community policing resources and to, and also to require information from police departments. one project i worked on was tracking police killing, how many people were being shot and kill by the police. that's data the federalki government does not keep. donald trump, on the other hand, he has statemented essentially we don't believe that the federal government should be requiring the local departments to be reporting this data, we don't want to harass them for this. he's stated many times that he wants to restore more law and order.
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he said in a questionnaire to the international association of chiefs of police that he wants to rebuild the relationship between the federal government and local police departments which sounds to most observers,c essentially, that he wants to be less critical of local police than perhaps the obama administration has been. and so, and what we know about the potential new attorney general, jeff sessions, senator jeff sessions, is that he also has had, certainly, a law and order streak. so it seems very unlikely that many of the steps that have been taken during the obama years to attempt to reform local policing will be continued.d. and i think what that most likely means is that for people who want to see changing in local police, there's going to be a need certainly to work at a local level, because i don't know that the federal government camry is going to be -- cavalry is going to be coming in, certainly not for the next four years. >> host: that report that "the washington post" did on police shootings, is that available on is thab site? >> guest: yes, it was. >> host: where would be the best best place to find it? >> guest: google washington post's fatal force which was the
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name of the project. >> host: fatal force. >> guest: t on the site -- it's on the site. we're still working on this. we have now, for two years ins, realtime, attempted to track fatal police shootings. so we tracked 990 of them last year, they're in a realtime, searchable database. i don't know what the number is exactly for this year so far, but we're about on pace to have the same number of fatal police shootings, and all of that data and information is available in realtime online.e. >> host: they can't kill us all has a point of view. is that difficult for you as a reporter for the post to put your point of view in this book? >> guest: yes and no. sometimes. i think that, you know, i believe in transparency and honesty and fairness, right? i think those things are what's most important. what was difficult in covering this story, i take that back, it wasn't difficult, but one thing that was present during covering this story was that at one point i became part of it. reluctantly, and i wasn't too happy about it.. but also that, you know, i was a young black man writing very often about the deaths of youngo
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black men or old black men who looked like my father or young black women. and i think that that, i think sometimes we lie to ourselves when we believe that there is some type of objective neutral that exists.yp as reporters, as journalists, we all bring our life experiences into the stories we cover. when that's what stories we believe are worthy of our coverage or not, whether it's how hard we work to get that extra interview or how sympathetically we frame someone.ex so i think it's important to be up front and acknowledge who we are, and i think that helps us tell the stories more accurately. >> from they can't kill us all, between january and august '15, 24 unarmed black people have been shot by police while black men and women make up just 12% of the nation's population, they accounted for nearly 25 president of those being shot and killed by the police.. ken in southfield, michigan, you're on with wesley lowery, author of they can't kill us all. >> caller: yes, mr. lowery, i
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take a different view on all of this. why are young black men constantly involved with the police in terms of police altercations? and i go back to the rodney king affair. i remember on the tenth anniversary of the rodney king incident, they interviewed rodney king.nt and here's what he admitted. he says, well, i was on parole at the time, and i knew that my only chance was to put up a fight, which is what he did. by putting up a fight, he became the victim. whereas he was a paroled armed robber at the time of that event, and he knew he was going to go to jail unless he put up a fight. why are there so many altercations, and why don't people -- why do people resist arrest when they can settle the issues when they get back into the courtroom? >> host: let's hear from wesley lowery. >> guest: of course. i appreciate the question, and i think it's a fair question, something i get a lot from readers and people who write in
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who are reading articles, right? why is there so much scrutiny of the police and less scrutiny of the criminals? be first of all, i think that there is a fair point to be made about that. obviously, i don't think that people should be necessarily resisting arrest or fightingd with police officers. certainly not killing police officers. that's always a tragedy, when we have officers killed, and we've seen many cases of that, right? but i do think that when we -- and it's hard to explain why people who are breaking the law break the law.ho but i do think that there is something to be said for a undoing of the police legitimacy in many communities. and that one of the reasons that we follow the law, when you think about our criminal justice system, our criminal justice system only can work if the majority of the people follow the law. there are far fewer police officers than there are citizens. if we all went out and decided to rob a bank tomorrow, theree would not be enough police to catch us. we couldn't do it. the system only works when it's seen as legitimate, and most people see a detinter and a
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reason -- deterrent and a reason not to do it. i think there are a lot of things that break down legitimacy in a community of law enforcement. one, historical realities. the fact that there has never been a positive relationship between police and black and brown communities. i think ongoing policies, stop and frisk or other policies that people see as discriminatory. i've done some reporting on homicide clearance rate, the idea that in many of these communities when people really need the police, the police are unable to solve their crimes.e all of those things, i think, at times can contribute to a lack, a delegitimizing of police departments and of police officers that i do think likely leads to people being less likely to comply with officers.e i think the other thing that's worth noting and remembering too is that when we analyze these incidents, right, whether it be rodney king or michael brown or sandra bland, while i do think there are fair questions to be asked, it's our job as society
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to hold our police officers to a different standard than we hold a paroled armed robber, right? any action of a police officerff is done in our name, so every boot to the face of ronaldny king, every bullet to the back of walter scott was done in the name of the taxpayers, and i think we need to require a certain level of accountability and a different standard than we do someone who's breaking a law. >> host: ray is calling in from kill gore, texas. really -- ray, you're on tv with author wesley lowery. >> caller: yeah.h. i think mr. lowery has a myopic view of everything. the problem with the black lives matter movement is that there's more white people killed by police than there are black, and there's -- and y'all lump all the black people that are attacking police officers or attacking someone else and gets killed justifiably with all the others that shouldn't have gotten killed.he and if y'all would quit doing the racist type deal, the white people would join up with you
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and have a movement to deter some of this. we've all had some policemen that have not done right and treated us wrong, but far more often the black people are resisting arrest, and they're running from the police, and they're fighting with the police. >> host: all right, ray, i think we got the point. wesley lowery. >> guest: so, ray, i really appreciate the call. that's another point i hear verh often, and you're right. one thing we know from our study at "the washington post" -- because, again, before we did this post, and the guardian did a similar project, we didn't know. we literally didn't know how often and what race. yes, the majority of people shot and killed by police officers are white. but the majority of the people in the united states of america are also white. i think it's one of the reasons it's important to look at the percentage of populations, right? black men are 6% of the population yet 24% of the people being shot and killed by the
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police, it speaks to a potential disparity. i think the point you make is an interesting one, and i think people make it very often, the idea of is this just an issue of race? is it more broadly a police use of force, an issue of what role police should be playing in our society broadly? one thing i will say is that we've run the numbers, we've looked at what are the precipitating issues of these fatal police shootings. black women are no more likely to be attacking a police officer than a white person, in fact, a white person is more likely to have been armed than a black person shot and killed by the police which speaks potentially to the idea of is there an implicit violence? are black people being viewed more sinisterly or violent inherently than white people, and is that seeping into the use of fatal force? it's an open question, something that researchers are looking at and we're continuing to look at. thanks for the call, ray. >> host: they can't kill us all is the name of the book. the author is washington post
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reporter wesley lowery and,er again, "the washington post" web site if people want to see the report that they put together, they can google or searchgether washington post fatal force? >> guest: fatal force or police shooting database or police shootings -- >> host: and we're showing it to our viewers as we speak rightt: now. >> guest: excellent. >> host: mr. lowery, thank you for coming on booktv. >> guest: thanks so much for willing me. >> this is booktv on c-span2, television for serious readers. here's our prime time lineup. tonight, starting at 7 p.m. eastern, a history of treason in america. at 7:45 p.m., historian h.w. brands on the contentious relationship between president truman and general macarthur. at nine, former white house chandelier cleaner stuart stephens recalls his time serving under seven different presidents. on booktv's "after words" program at 10 p.m. eastern, georgetown university philosophy professor jason brennan weighs in on flaws in democratic
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systems. and we wrap up our saturday prime time lineup at 11 with the 37th annual american book awards. that all happens tonight on c-span2's booktv. >> what was essentially the longest piece i'd ever written for "sports illustrated" -- aye been there now 22 years -- it was nearly 10,000 words, and it was a specific story about, well, our group has produced great football players. mike ditka, tony dorsett, to some extent -- [laughter] ty law, sean gilbert and a slew of division i players and just an incredible -- and athletes in general. so i wrote a story about that and how they were still -- and it was kind of a limited story in the sense that it was about football, and it was about,
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about football in the face of great difficulty and great pain. and triumph amid that pain. and it was a pretty graphic story. and some people didn't like it because it was, it maybe went into the pain too much. but the people who i wrote about thanked me -- not me, but they wanted their story told. they wanted you to understand what it tooking to make it out and triumph. so i think anybody who comes from there, because you often here, well, it's annal equip pa thing, and you wouldn't understand. what i mean by that is anybody who grew up there and left never really leaves it behind. it's got its hooks in you, and you really can't get away from it. and it had its hooks in me, and i didn't even grow up there. there was something about this
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place that i thought what -- there's something special going on here that i don't quite understand. because it's not just football. it's henry mancini winning four academy awards in, i think, 16 grammy awards. it's henry man mancini glowing p next to -- growing up next to joe la terry who won awards for lord of the rings and avatar. it was james frank, the first black president of the ncaa. it was jesse steinfeld who grew up just down the street from joe and henry, and jesse steinfeld became surgeon general under rip ard nixon and was fired for his opposition to the tobacco industry. it was, it was -- forgive me for this -- ♪ could it be i'm falling in love? [laughter]
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does anybody know that song? >> i wrote that song. >> dr. steels, thank you for coming. [laughter] and i can't tell you what an honor it is for me to have dr. melvin steels here. because in many ways dr. steels' experience told me how special the place was because, first of all, he was incredibly honest to me when with we spoke about his experience there. how'd i do on that song. not bad, right? [laughter] not great, but -- [laughter] that wasn't the spinners. all right. but what i thought was amazing was in doing my research, so i'm finding out all these other people who have come frommal quip pa. and then i'm finding out if you're excited about the world series last night, you know, i spoke to tito francona, and
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terry was his son managing the indians last night. and terry is from new brighton. and tito's lived in new brighton for a long time, and he says i'm not from here, i'm frommal aquip pa. make sure you say that. [laughter] there's this pride of place that continues. and that idea of greatness rising out of tragedy, out of pain is something that is obviously appealing to any human being. but as a writer, it's gold. and it happened on the football field. but also dr. steels, to me, that story just stuck with me because dr. steels was teaching in the school system at a time of great racial tumult, and i'm not sure -- i don't know if you told me this, but i stumbled upon the story where dr. steels wrote a letter to the the paper because he was, he was accused wrongly
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of starting some race tumult and fighting for taking some students to a movie called "halls of anger." he wasn't the person responsible, but he defended himself there. and meanwhile, at a certain time when the tension was at its height, dr. steels and his brother who worked in j and l, they both had studied music in philadelphia under the greats there, sit down and at a real time of tension write this beautiful song. could it be i'm falling in love, which is about a woman who's till his wife -- >> [inaudible] >> happy anniversary. congratulations. you should be up here. [applause] but that, to me, was something about the place. dr. steels is a former
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basketball player. and, you know, his family story coming from up south -- from down south is a tough one. his mother saw some very tough things, and he was emblematic of many blacks who had come up from the great, with the great migration. his family had come up in the '20s and '30s. and, but even at its toughest time, it was doing special things. and you, as a writer, you can't resist a story like that. i know that there are many towns in western pennsylvania that have produced great athletes, and this book is clearly not just about athletes. and i know that many towns in western pennsylvania had labor troubles and problems with management and certainly have problems after the mills shut down. but to me, it was representative
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in the extreme of what has hit western pennsylvania, and i would argue the forces that were cut loose many western pennsylvania in the -- in western pennsylvania in the mid '80s when an entire proud, tough, intelligent, vital working class was suddenly cut out of having a foothold in the american dream. we are dealing today in this campaign with those very forces still that were never really properly addressed. and so i think this town and what has happened to it is important. >> you can watch this and other programs online at >> welcome to scottsdale on booktv, located just east of arizona's capitalty of phoenix. -- capital city of phoenix. it was founded by winfield scott in 1894. today it has a population of about 236,000 with tourism being


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