Last Updated Aug 16, 2018 3:49 PM EDT
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MARGARET BRENNAN: It's Sunday, August 12th, I'm Margaret Brennan and this is FACE THE NATION.
MARGARET BRENNAN: A year after Charlottesville, what is the state of race relations? Authorities there denounced the violence last August and the self-described Alt-Right groups that sparked it. But 12 months after pandemonium hit the idyllic Virginia town, Charlottesville's first female African-American Mayor Nikuyah Walker says the community has not recovered.
MAYOR NIKUYAH WALKER: We hear these stories about people who are just shocked at where we are in- in our communities in regards to racism. But even once the facts are presented, people really don't want to change their actions to help truly heal that.
MARGARET BRENNAN: She came to office after the city was harshly criticized for its handling of the rally that killed one counter protestor, Heather Heyer, and led to the deaths of two state troopers. President Trump's own equivocation last year in the wake of violence spurred by white supremacists sparked a national debate.
TRUMP: You look at both sides. I think there's blame on both sides and I have no doubt about it and you don't have any doubt about it either.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Fellow Republicans rebuked him.
SEN. TIM SCOTT: What he said on Tuesday was just really challenging. What the president should do before he says something is a sit down and become better acquainted, have a personal connection to the painful history of racism and bigotry of this country.
MARGARET BRENNAN: The images of the torch wielding white nationalists drew international condemnation. And those hateful images were personally jarring for me too because this is the UVA that I knew. I spent countless hours on this lawn with my best friends. I walked across it to graduate. This is where my husband proposed to me. So I was shocked, along with many of my fellow alumni, to learn that two of the main organizers were also graduates.
MARGARET BRENNAN: The university swiftly condemned them and days later held a vigil to retake the grounds. Infighting, lawsuits and a crackdown by some social media companies have challenged the two organizers who have since splintered. Jason Kessler is holding an anniversary rally in the nation's capital this weekend. But Richard Spencer told his followers not to participate. Virginia preemptively declared a state of emergency to prevent a repeat of last year.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But Charlottesville sits on a fault line here in the South, one of the many running through this part of the country and throughout America these days.
MARGARET BRENNAN: This weekend, we'll take a look at the divisions in America and how the state of race relations are impacting us as a country. We'll be joined by Charlottesville Mayor Nikuyah Walker, Virginia Democratic Senator Tim Kaine and South Carolina Republican Senator Tim Scott. Don't miss FACE THE NATION this Sunday, Race in America: One Year After Charlottesville.
Good morning, and welcome to FACE THE NATION.
Right now, all is quiet in Lafayette Square. Streets around the White House are closed, and police are preparing for protests later today. Both Unite the Right and counterprotesters have permits to march.
We traveled to Richmond late last week and talked with Virginia Democrat Senator Tim Kaine at the city`s Black History and Cultural Center of Virginia about race and how Virginia and the country are recovering one year after Charlottesville.
BRENNAN: You have said that Virginia has a lot of scar tissue when it comes to race.
SEN. TIM KAINE (D), VIRGINIA: Yes.
BRENNAN: But it feels, on many of these issues, that it`s very much an open wound. What has actually changed since Charlottesville?
KAINE: I think what has changed is, Charlottesville was shocking. It was shocking that a local guy like a Jason Kessler would have called this Unite the Right rally.
And it was shocking that people from out of state would come in and intending...
BRENNAN: He was a UVA grade.
KAINE: He was -- he`s a local guy.
But most of the people arrested for violence that day were out-of-staters who came in to bring their hatred and bigotry. And that was shocking.
And what I see that has changed a good bit in Virginia, Margaret, is people standing up and saying, we`re not going to let our state be defined this way, energetic activism. It was seen most directly in the Virginia elections in November of 2017.
We elected a statewide ticket, including the second African-American elected to statewide office, Justin Fairfax. We elected -- Democrats elected more members of the Lower Legislative House than any in year since the 1870s.
And who was elected? Of the 15 people that got elected with this energetic turnout, 11 of the 15 were women, African-American, Asian American, Latino American, immigrant-born, LGBT, transgender. It was a real rainbow coalition of who the Virginia of today is.
BRENNAN: And yet Corey Stewart, the man running against you, wants to protect Confederate monuments. That`s countering what you`re describing.
KAINE: They`re -- yes, it is. But, again, look who won last year. It wasn`t the people who want to secede or go backwards who are winning elections.
Charlottesville was a shock. And what I think it has created is an energy of people of goodwill standing up and saying, there will not be hate. Hate will not define who we are. We`re on a path of progress, and we`re going to stay there.
BRENNAN: When you mayor of Richmond, though...
BRENNAN: ... you dealt with some of these questions about how to represent...
KAINE: All the time.
BRENNAN: ... the Confederacy here.
KAINE: All the time.
BRENNAN: This was the capital of the Confederacy.
KAINE: Yes. Right.
BRENNAN: Does it trouble you that those monuments are still standing?
KAINE: It doesn`t trouble me that they`re still standing. It means we have to always be in dialogue about our history in the right way to represent the...
BRENNAN: The rallying point, though, that last year for the Unite the Right rally was the question of the removal of Robert E. Lee from Charlottesville.
KAINE: That was not it, Margaret.
I want to challenge you on that. Charlottesville was not about statues. It was about hatred. It was about bigotry and division. This was not a save the statue rally. It was a Unite the Right rally.
Statues don`t make you march around chanting, "Jews will not replace us." They don`t make you say blood and soil or other slogans from Nazi youth rallies.
I think the thing that`s important, though, about Charlottesville is to say it`s about statues kind of diminishes the gravity of it.
BRENNAN: Nationwide now, there`s a lot of conversation generally about race, but from President Trump himself, he makes the argument that the unemployment rate, the jobless rate for the African-American community is at a record low.
He frequently cites statistics to make the point that he`s improving lives for the African-American community and for minorities. Do you think he has created real opportunity?
KAINE: No, no. I think he`s been a failure.
I -- the unemployment rate is low generally. That`s good. It was coming down when he took office. That`s good. So I gave him that.
He doesn`t get all the credit for it, because it was coming down significantly when he took office.
But how about -- how about gaps in income? They are significant. How about gaps in wealth? They are significant.
And what I think I`m most concerned about with this president is his penchant to divide us, to attack people because they`re immigrants, to attack people because of their religion, to attack minorities, to use -- to use vulgar language to describe countries where people come who might be Latino or African.
There is a concerted effort that he has been engaged in to divide people, including dividing them based on race. And nowhere was that more obvious, nowhere, than in the aftermath of Charlottesville.
When somebody drove a car into a crowd in Columbus, Ohio, between his election and when he was inaugurated, and that somebody happened to be somebody from the Middle East, he called it terrorism and went to Columbus to comfort families who had been injured.
When somebody of a Middle Eastern background drove a car into a crowd in Barcelona, he called it terrorism.
But when this happened in Charlottesville, 90 miles from the White House, in the home of an archetypal American president, suddenly, he says, well, there`s good people on both sides.
He could not distinguish who was on the right side and who was on the wrong side in a white supremacist neo-Nazi rally. And that was infuriating. Virginians really saw that for what it was, because a state that`s been scarred like we have with the divisions of racism and hatred and slavery in the past, when we have a president who can`t call it out, it was outrageous.
The people who came to Charlottesville to demonstrate their hatred, they, I`m sure, had those emotions before there was a President Trump. But he`s stoking it. And I think that`s very, very damning that he does that.
BRENNAN: Why do you think that? Why do you think he`s stoking that? Do you think he`s racist?
KAINE: I don`t know him. I do not know him. I have no idea about who he is as a person.
So, whether it`s a sincere feeling, or whether he thinks it gets him some political edge or gain, I don`t know the answer. But I don`t know which of those two is worse.
If it`s not your view, but you do it to try to get a political edge and you try to stoke division, in some ways, that`s every bit as morally bad as holding views that are -- that are bigoted or racist.
BRENNAN: Do you think that embracing this idea of identity politics is something that Democrats like yourself should be doing?
KAINE: I don`t call it identity politics.
I know there`s a critique that, for Dems, it`s identity politics or its political correctness.
Here`s what I would say. It`s equality. Jefferson put equality into the Declaration of Independence as America`s North Star. Now, he was an imperfect person. He couldn`t live it. But at least he was farsighted enough to see. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, is the first truth.
We got to be true to the equality principle. And we have to reject division and embrace equality. That`s not identity politics. That`s not political correctness. That`s being true to the fundamental Virginia and American values that equality is the North Star we should pursue.
BRENNAN: But advisers to the president, past advisers, like Steve Bannon, have said the more Democrats talk and focus on issues of identity, issues of race, that it`s a political benefit, because the message is, we`re about actually improving people`s lives, economic nationalism, and that`s going to continue to win for Republicans.
KAINE: I`m not telling any Republican or any elected official what to say.
But what I am saying is, as a nation, if we`re not -- if we`re not committed to equality, what are we committed to? We`re imperfect people. We may never get to equality in the -- in the pure sense of it, but that`s got to be our North Star.
And if somebody says, oh, that`s identity politics, or that`s political correctness, you just say no. If we`re not for equality as a nation, what are we? Of course we are. That`s the very foundation of what we are.
BRENNAN: Does that extend to the criminal justice system?
Your Democratic colleague Elizabeth Warren says it`s 100 percent racist front to back.
KAINE: There is -- there are deep, deep challenges.
Is it -- does it...
BRENNAN: You agree with her?
KAINE: Oh, I -- it -- there are systemic racial inequities in the criminal justice system, absolutely.
So, when I`m saying we have this policy, we`re not living it perfectly in any sphere. Criminal justice, I think, would be one where there are significant problems.
Look at the disproportionate incarceration rates. Now, to say the entire system is racist, hey, I know fantastic professionals, law enforcement professionals, judges, prosecutors who are doing their best every day to reduce inequality.
But if you just look at the results, the outcome, who is incarcerated?
BRENNAN: You have raised the issue of race and discrimination as directly tied to how the president discusses immigration as a national security threat.
KAINE: Yes. Yes. Mm-hmm.
BRENNAN: What do you mean by that? Because he makes the case, this is just about security, this is just about stopping child traffickers, and he`s about rule of law.
KAINE: He used vulgar language to describe certain countries. He uses unfair stereotypes, Mexicans are rapists and criminals. I mean, give me a break.
He will suggest that everybody who comes to the border is a member of MS-13. Give me a break. I mean, the statistics show that that`s not true.
So when somebody perpetuates a stereotype that`s false, you have to ask, why are they doing that? And I think he is -- he is stoking division. And it`s against folks from Third World countries, folks whose skin color are different than his, folks whose religion he doesn`t approve of.
What we need...
BRENNAN: Yet the Supreme Court upheld the travel ban that was predominantly applied to Muslim-majority countries.
KAINE: They upheld version three, after version one was struck down, after version two was struck down. They finally did a version that could limp across the finish line in the Supreme Court by a 5-4 vote.
But even in that approval, the court called out the president`s language. I mean, look, the burden that`s on the shoulder of any of us in leadership now is to try to pull this country together, not -- not divide people.
What I challenge the president on is, I don`t think he`s behaving like a for-all guy. He is behaving in a way that divides people from one another. And we got to have leaders at all levels who stand up and may claim that we are a for-all nation or for-all commonwealth.
BRENNAN: You can see more of our interview with Senator Kaine on our Web site, FACETHENATION.com.
One year ago, South Carolina Republican Senator Tim Scott criticized President Trump`s response to the Charlottesville violence.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TIM SCOTT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: And what the president should do before he says something is to sit down and become better acquainted, have a personal connection to the painful history of racism and bigotry of this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRENNAN: When we come back, we will see what Senator Scott has to say now.
BRENNAN: We sat down earlier with South Carolina Republican Tim Scott. He joined us from Mount Pleasant, just outside Charleston.
We asked him how Americans should understand this moment, when later today white supremacists will be rallying in front of the White House.
SCOTT: Well, certainly, it`s obvious that we continue to exercise our freedom of speech guaranteed by the Constitution.
It certainly should also be an opportunity for us to thank the good lord that we have signs of progress in this nation, and that we have much progress still to be made. The fact of the matter is that I am thankful to live in a state where I have seen the evolution of the human heart.
And I hope that the rest of the nation takes the time to find a way to break bread with someone who is not like themselves to say to those folks who believe that there`s one superior race that they`re dead wrong and that there`s -- this country will always come together in a way that blesses each other, because we are one nation under God.
And I believe that we are indivisible.
BRENNAN: President Trump mentioned the riots in Charlottesville in a tweet and said he condemns all types of racism and acts of violence.
Last year, you said the president can be racially insensitive. Do you still believe that?
SCOTT: Well, certainly, his tweets yesterday morning were a positive sign of a better direction for the nation.
Without any question, the president condemning all acts of racism and violence is a positive step in the right direction. And, more importantly, after my meeting with the president, he asked me last year for Charlottesville, he asked me what can he do to make a difference in this country, bringing people together.
I laid out something that I thought would be very powerful. And that was the opportunity zones, bringing more resources back into distressed communities. We celebrate the success of this economy without any question. But the reality of it is that there are pockets in this nation where the recovery has been uneven, and the opportunities and legislation supported by the president will have a positive impact, a powerful impact in communities that are distressed and, disproportionately, communities that are black and brown.
BRENNAN: When will those communities feel the impact of that money being disbursed? I mean, what -- when will they see it? Where?
SCOTT: Well, we`re waiting on the Treasury Department to finish the guardrails. The good news is, I was in Mississippi on Thursday, and there are a number of projects waiting for the guidance to be delivered.
So we are probably about 30 days away from the final regulations that will allow opportunity funds to be created and opportunity zones to be populated with new investment, new resources and hopefully minimizing gentrification at the same time.
BRENNAN: Do you think that that has helped the president restore the moral authority that you said had been compromised last year?
SCOTT: I think there are a number of steps that the president has taken to move us in a better direction.
Opportunities zones certainly was my number one ask. He said yes. So that`s good news. Number two, he has spent more time meeting with African-American pastors and business leaders, many of whom, at least on the business side, have -- brought to the White House and meeting with the vice president.
So they have invested more time and energy in that direction. And then another bright spot is the president`s plan and objective to work with both the House and the Senate to reduce recidivism, which focuses on prison reform.
So I think if you look at the actual steps, from the opportunity zones to the meetings with pastors and business leaders, reducing recidivism, and, without any question, the lowest African-American unemployment rate in the history of the country.
BRENNAN: I know you recently met with President Trump about prison reform. Sentencing reform is also being discussed.
SCOTT: Yes, ma`am.
BRENNAN: But there is opposition within your party to some of this.
There`s also opposition from Attorney General Jeff Sessions at coupling these things together. What prospects are there for actually getting this through the Senate and for reducing mandatory minimums?
SCOTT: The House passed a few weeks ago prison reform legislation with over 300 -- I think 336 votes or so.
And that was a bipartisan effort. That bill has, I think, positive prospects from getting out of the Senate. The question is, is there a way for us to add on top of the prison reform legislation criminal justice reform that would give release valves on nonviolent, perhaps first-time offenders, as opposed to having to deal with the mandatory minimums having a way to reduce a sentence?
That is a far more treacherous ground for us to wade through. But the president engaged in the conversation. I think we had meaningful conversation. I think there was reasonable progress.
BRENNAN: I know that you recently signed on to a bill to make lynching a federal hate crime. It`s something Congress has tried to do over the past 100 years 200 times and failed.
Why are you the only Republican signing on to this?
SCOTT: Well, I think I`m the first Republican.
By the time we get this out of the Senate, there will be several Republicans, and there are some Democrats as well. The goal for us is...
BRENNAN: There are 26 co-sponsors, including yourself. They`re all Democrats.
SCOTT: Yes, ma`am.
BRENNAN: You`re the only Republican.
SCOTT: Well, sometimes, it`s good to be first. So I look forward to looking for ways to bring more folks on board. I think we will.
The fact of the matter is, the lynching issue is an issue that we should have dealt with many years ago. It is still an issue that raises fear and trepidation in communities of color. And, frankly, in any community in this nation, we should all stand together and say that lynching is a hate crime, be done with it, and move on.
I think we will see a bipartisan coalition coming together on that -- on that bill.
BRENNAN: Do you feel alone in your party on some of these issues of racial justice?
SCOTT: I don`t.
I honestly think that a lot of Republicans are leaning forward. The fact of the matter is that the meeting at the White House was set up by the Judiciary Committee, Senator Grassley, to meet with the president and talk about specifically how the criminal justice system can be improved for those folks who are the most vulnerable in the system.
That was led by Senator Grassley, whom others have said about Senator Grassley he would never, never allow a criminal justice piece of legislation to leave the Judiciary. Here we sit on the cusp of seeing that happen.
So, Lindsey Graham has led on the issues of young African-American males being disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system. Mike Lee has worked on fairness in the criminal justice system. Ted Cruz is working on that as well.
So there are a number of us who are working on the issue. The fact that I`m the leading co-sponsor on the lynching legislation is true, but it does not necessarily tell the whole story on other Republicans who are engaged in the process of making sure that we have a level playing field in the criminal justice space.
BRENNAN: So, you`re going to deliver their votes on your lynching bill?
SCOTT: Well, I`m not going to ever say that I`m going to deliver anything that I cannot guarantee that I`m going to deliver.
I am confident that I will have more than just myself as a Republican on the bill. This show will actually bring more Republicans on board by the time we`re finished than I did before we started.
SCOTT: So thank you very much for that.
BRENNAN: Republicans like to refer to themselves as the party of Lincoln.
Do you think that that legacy is being compromised by the party of Trump?
SCOTT: I don`t.
I think we are going through some hard times, without any question. The rhetoric is not always helpful. And the fact of the matter is, the rhetoric comes from both sides. We can -- I can name some congress members on the left who have said some poisonous and toxic things.
And I can certainly name folks on the right who have done the same thing. So the truth of the matter is, the party of Lincoln, I think, is in fact standing strong in many ways. Criminal justice is a clear example. The opportunities zones was legislation supported by my friends on the other side, but none of them in the end voted for it.
Frankly, it was passed on all Republican votes. And now I have a lot of friends on the other side who are excited about it. There are strong signs that, from the White House to the both houses of Congress, that we are making progress as the party of Lincoln.
But the fact of the matter is that I`m more interested and more concerned with the progress of one nation and one American family than I am just the Republican Party.
I`m not first a Republican. I`m first an American. And my goal is to make sure that each and every American has a chance to experience their full potential. And that means, sometimes, you have to walk alone. Sometimes, you have to say things that may not be popular.
And that`s necessary in the times in which we live.
BRENNAN: Do you think the current debate over integration into this country, the travel ban as well, that has hints in the president`s rhetoric of racism?
SCOTT: Well, I think the president is looking to secure this -- secure the nation.
There`s no question that some folks took offense to some of his tweets or things that he said. I think Mia Love spoke out against it. I perhaps had a comment or two about countries "blank-holes."
I don`t think that`s helpful, without question. I`m not sure that was specifically racial. I think it was just not help -- not helpful and offensive.
For me, I think the president`s approach is clear on the issue of immigration. I was surprised, and perhaps pleasantly surprised, when the president suggested that he was willing to allow 1.8, 1.9 million DACA-eligible folks to come into this -- stay in the country and find a path to permanence.
The truth of the matter is that the DACA number is about 800,000 people. So when the president announced a number that was a million higher than the actual folks that are eligible for DACA, that, to me, was a good sign that he was willing to negotiate.
Unfortunately, sometimes, the Democrat seem to me more enamored with the issue than the solution. And that`s a problem we ought to solve.
BRENNAN: I really appreciate you coming on the program today and talking to us and sharing your thoughts.
SCOTT: Have a great day.
BRENNAN: And we will be back in a moment.
BRENNAN: Be sure to join us next week on FACE THE NATION, when we will be looking at the role of women in the 2018 midterms, both as candidates and as voters.
We will talk with New York Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand out on the campaign trail. That`s next Sunday on FACE THE NATION.
BRENNAN: We will be right back with a lot more FACE THE NATION, so stay with us.
BRENNAN: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION.
Last year, Nikuyah Walker was just one Charlottesville resident infuriated by the local response to the protests on August 12th. So she went to the next city council meeting.
NIKUYAH WALKER, CHARLOTTESVILLE MAYOR: The change that needs to take place in this town is going to require people in power that can handle it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRENNAN: She decided to run as an independent candidate for city council and ended up getting elected mayor. We spoke with her in Charlottesville earlier.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRENNAN: Do you think this community, a year later, has healed, has changed?
KIKUYAH WALKER, CHARLOTTESVILLE MAYOR: Well, absolutely not.
BRENNAN: Not at all?
WALKER: No. Because the issues were not the rally or just statues, the issue is this deep seeded racism that we have here, and that`s the challenge. And that`s a lot of work. And it takes commitment.
And while people don`t want alt-right, white men in khaki pants and polo shirts, you know, walking through town and they want to make it clear that they don`t identify there, they have been very comfortable with racism and how it plagues the community.
BRENNAN: So you think that the community still hasn`t fixed some of the problems at the root of this kind of --
WALKER: Oh, a year isn`t long enough. We`re talking about issues that have been going on here for centuries.
BRENNAN: Do you think Charlottesville is representative of other cities in America?
WALKER: I think if you start talking about the issues that we`re facing around the country that relate to race and class, you can put Charlottesville up there as a city to study and you`ll find all the major disparities exist.
And we hear these stories all across the country. We heard them in, you know, Florida with Trayvon Martin and Ferguson and with Tamir Rice in Cleveland. Like we hear these stories about people who are just shocked at where we are in our communities in regards to racism. But even once the facts are presented, people really don`t want to change their actions to help truly heal that.
BRENNAN: I think those images from last year shocked so many people --
BRENNAN: Because they think of Charlottesville as Thomas Jefferson`s hometown. World class university.
BRENNAN: World class hospital. Arts community.
BRENNAN: All of it.
You ran on the platform unmask the illusion.
WALKER: Yes. Yes.
BRENNAN: What`s the illusion?
WALKER: Because while it is Thomas Jefferson`s hometown, we are talking about a president who inflates people and built his empire off the backs of black people. So that`s the truth that we don`t want to tell, right? You`re talking about world class university, but who is in that university? Who`s able to walk those grounds, versus who built the university? That university was built off of enslaved laborers.
BRENNAN: One of the rallying points for the Unite the Right rally last year was around the confederate statues, the monument to Robert E. Lee.
BRENNAN: He`s still sitting right out there.
BRENNAN: The fact that that statute is still standing there --
BRENNAN: Has to be very frustrating for you.
WALKER: What I often say to people is, you have to have people who want to be on the right side of history. While, you know, the law is the way that it is now, we have a judge at our circuit court, he`s creative and working around whatever legal measures, you know, are -- are in place for us to take the statue down. It seems to be a lot of, you know, support and research from his direction into making sure that it can stay up.
BRENNAN: Because of the way that the state functions, unless, my understanding is, it`s designated or determined to be a symbol of white supremacy, the war monument can`t be taken down.
WALKER: Or not a war memorial, yes. So that`s the question is whether it`s a war memorial or not, right.
BRENNAN: What does it represent to you?
WALKER: The hate that it caused. The hate that it drew here that people were able to mobilize behind a decision that the previous council had made about removing those statues, and get that many people into this area to make sure that we understood that they were going to do everything within their power not to let that happen. That means that absolutely it must come down.
To you, it`s a clear answer to the question, is it a sign of white supremacy. You`re saying yes.
WALKER: Yes, it definitely is. That statue went up in the `20s. The war had ended long before then.
BRENNAN: But why pretend that that part of history, I guess, is the argument, didn`t happen? Why not leave it and learn from it?
WALKER: It`s not about -- yes, no, it`s not about pretending that it didn`t happen. We look all over this nation and you have symbols of white supremacy up, right, all over the place that you can look and it says that white -- what is superior, right? It tells a story. And people look around them and all they see is symbols, portraits of white faces. So that story of just white dominance overall is something that we have struggled with as a country.
BRENNAN: In the year that has passed, have you seen anything bridged? Have you seen, from the top down, in this country or in this community, any good come?
WALKER: Yes. Yes, there`s been good. I mean we have a community here who -- not all of the people in the community, but we have a good segment of the population who has come together to fight, you know, the -- you know, has taken on the call to make sure that justice and equity is a part of their everyday lives and have -- and understand that they have to take that into every room they walk in.
BRENNAN: We`ll be right back with our discussion of race in America, one year after Charlottesville.
BRENNAN: For some perspective on the state of race relations in America, we`ve brought a very special panel together today.
Deray McKesson is an activist with Black Lives Matter. He works with former Obama administration communicators at Crooked Media and he`s the author of "On the Other Side of Freedom: The Case for Hope," which comes out next month.
Christian Picciolini is a former white supremacist whose organization, The Free Radicals Project, now seeks to pull other people out of the life that he left behind. He`s also the author of the book, "White American Youth."
Jon Meacham is a historian and author. His latest book is "The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels."
And Jamelle Bouie is the chief political correspondent for "Slate" magazine, who has studied and written extensively about the history of slavery in America. He`s also a political analyst here at CBS News, and perhaps, most importantly, dad to 10-year-old baby boy named Carter. So congratulations to you.
JAMELLE BOUIE, CBS NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: Thank you.
BRENNAN: Ten day old, I should say.
I want us to start with you, Jamelle I should also mention, you`re a Charlottesville resident.
You heard a lot of frustration from the mayor.
BRENNAN: When we look nationally, the latest CBS poll shows that racial tensions in the past year have increased and the percentage of Americans saying that, 61 percent. The majority of this country thinks it`s getting worse.
BRENNAN: Why hasn`t there been national healing?
BOUIE: I think -- I think the principle reason why there hasn`t been national healing is simply that the president seems to see a political advantage in sort of intensifying racial strife (INAUDIBLE) conflict. I think the --
BRENNAN: You put this solely on him?
BOUIE: I think -- I think -- I don`t know how I completely distribute the blame, but I think it really does matter that the president, far from trying to find avenues for racial understanding or healing, tends -- instead goes after black football players, instead makes a show of getting into spats and fights with black celebrities. Instead, still has not been able to bring himself to fully condemn white supremacist. Even his statement yesterday, we condemn racism against all sides, is sort of nonsensical. What happened in Charlottesville last year wasn`t racism against all sides, it was white supremacists going after black communities, going after other communities of color.
So I don`t know, you know -- it`s impossible to kind of break out some numerical distribution again for how much blame goes to whom, but I think if the president is supposed to be this national voice of unity, it really does matter that the president has explicitly rejected that calling, instead spanning the flames of, I think, racial strife.
BRENNAN: Jon, you`ve written this book, "The Soul of America." You were inspired, in many ways, by what happened in Charlottesville. And you`ve said that this is a moment almost like what we saw in the hours after the Civil War.
JON MEACHAM, "THE SOUL OF AMERICA": Absolutely. I think this moment`s not new. I think it`s the most vivid manifestation in memory of some of the worst instincts in the American character.
BRENNAN: So it`s not a Trump effect, per say?
MEACHAM: No, he`s exacerbated it. And he`s both marshaled fear and manufactured it. I think the reason he`s at the pinnacle of power for many reasons.
Nineteen -- you know, we have a white supremacist march or rally in Washington today. In 1925, there were 50,000 Klansmen coming down Pennsylvania Avenue. H.L. Lincoln (ph) covered it.
1926, the same thing happened. There were 3 to 5 million members of the Klan in the `20s. The institutions of the republic worked in order to fight that.
What -- just because it`s happened before, though, doesn`t mean we relax. What it does mean, I mean, is that we look at these moments where the perennial American problem around the issues of race, which has been going on for about 400 years from when we were British North America to when we were under the Articles of Confederation, to -- and you`ve got to love a Sunday when you can mention the Articles of Confederation, which is a basic rule, to the Constitution, all the way through the civil war and forward.
It`s -- it is the perennial issue in the life of the nation. And so while we shouldn`t think that tomorrow can be absolutely -- is all going to disappear, tomorrow can be better. There is a lesson within the last 50 years that with the civil rights legislation in the 1960s, things got better. So to surrender to the fear as oppose to embracing the hope to go, to your points, is -- is a -- is a real setback in terms of presidential leadership.
BRENNAN: Deray, you`ve, in some ways, made a career about of trying to make better tomorrows, to borrow Jon`s phrase there, as a protester. But you began doing this as an activist well before there was a President Trump.
Why do you think Black Lives Matter needs to be out there on the streets today counter protesting instead of ignoring Unite the Right?
DERAY MCKESSON, "ON THE OTHER SIDE OF FREEDOM": Yes, I think it`s important that we always stand up and tell the truth. I`ve always throughout about protests as the idea of telling the truth in public, and that`s important. There will be many people out.
When you ask the question, too, about sort of what healing looks like, it`s like a mantra that truth comes before the reconciliation, right? And what we find in this moment is people unwilling to tell the truth about where we are.
So what does it mean that we`re in the country where a third of all the people killed by a stranger is actually killed by a police officer, or one in 11 homicide in California is committed by an officer. We talk about some of the disparities. It`s like in New York City, 90 percent of the people arrested for marijuana are black and brown. You don`t believe that 90 percent of the people who use marijuana in New York City are black or brown. And we arrest more people for weed then all violent crimes combined.
Like, those things are about race. And until we are actually able to walk into that and say like this is actually happening and that we should do something structurally to change it, I think they`ll always be here. It`s that Trump`s sort of sticks us in this moment where it`s a lot of emotion and a lot of rhetoric, but no real substance. Even the prison bill that he`s putting forth could all be done administratively. Like, that actually doesn`t need Congress to do it, but like he traps us in this conversation that isn`t moving us anywhere. So I`m interested in how do we continue to tell the truth, whether it`s on the street or whether it`s in spaces like this or board rooms that actually sets us up to change structures.
BRENNAN: You`re talking about the prison reform and possibly sentencing reform that could address mandatory minimums?
MCKESSON: Yes. So sentencing reform has not been a part of this -- any iteration of the bill that we`ve seen so far, the first step, the First Act Bill or First Step, but all the things that they`re proposing, like not shackling pregnant women, they can do that now. Sessions is against those things.
But, again, like, this is about saying, this is what`s happening in this country and like we can actually doing something structural to address it. And people talk about truth and reconciliation without acknowledging that truth comes first.
BRENNAN: I want to ask you here because there`s a criticism about having conversations like this, which is that somehow we are stoking racial division by talking about it, rather than healing.
You have made the point you need to talk about things. You were recruited into white supremacist movement when you were 14, is that right?
CHRISTIAN PICCIOLINI, "WHITE AMERICAN YOUTH": That`s correct. Yes, 1987.
BRENNAN: Is talking about this how it works?
PICCIOLINI: You know, I think we have to talk about it because there are two things that extremists love. They love silence and violence. At first silent they grow because they`re unfettered. They can convince people. If we`re violent, we play right into their hands because they come to places like Washington, D.C., or Charlottesville, or even Skokie, Illinois, in the 1970s, because they`re progressive communities. And their whole job is to provoke and to intimidate. So, you know, I think we cannot be silent about it, but we also can`t adopt their tactics and be violent.
BRENNAN: So for these counter protesters today, your advice would be keep your distance?
PICCIOLINI: Be visible, be vocal, be vigilant, but don`t be violent.
BRENNAN: Do you agree with some of the journalism around what you`ve seen, the Unite the Right rally, that actually things have gotten harder in the past year, that they`re more splintered, there has been a negative impact on that movement?
PICCIOLINI: I`ve seen it myself. Several of the leaders and the organizers from last year have publicly stated not to go to the rally. But I think it`s a PR move for them. I think that they`re trying -- they`re trying to mainstream even further because they know that their image from last year didn`t sit well even with, you know, American white racists in some cases. So now they`re even going further into the mainstream and they`re starting to drop even some of that oppressive language.
BOUIE: And I think on that point there`s good evidence that some of this mainstream movement has been successful. The Senate candidate in Virginia, Cory Stuart (ph), essentially openly allies himself with these -- with these figures, has taken -- has been seen in photos with known white supremacists, has white nationals on his campaign staff who have worked with them. And that`s -- that`s serious. He`s a United States Senate candidate --
BRENNAN: Who was endorsed by the president of the United States.
That -- that -- that, for me, is evidence that even if there was a major setback in Charlottesville last year, that the larger conflict here is far from settled in that white supremacist and white nationalists, or however -- whoever you want to call them, however you want to call them, are making their way into mainstream politics and pushing arguments that are making -- that are finding their place in the mainstream conversations.
PICCIOLINI: And don`t forget that David Duke was a Louisiana house of representatives for three years.
BOUIE: Right. Right.
MEACHAM: And said last year that this is -- we`ve got to take our country back. This is why we elected Donald Trump. He said that in Charlottesville.
And this is -- this is a political strategy that`s been unfolding since January 1866 when a guy named Edward Alfred Pollard, a Richmond journalist, wrote a book called "The Lost Cause," where he argued that the war was over but the battle for ideas, the argument against what was called consolidated government them, the big government, the fight against Washington, that this would be the war by other means.
And it was the entire intellectual and cultural architecture of the resistance to the implications of the verdict of the Civil War. And it`s been unfolding not simply in the south but with the complicity of the north for 150 years.
BRENNAN: I want to talk more about this on the other side of the commercial break, so stay with us.
And we hope all of you will be back with us in a moment.
BRENNAN: And we`re back now with our panel.
Jon Meacham, I want to begin with you here.
The Republican National Committee, this morning, is using their platform to discredit a senior African-American aide to President Trump who was fired who now says that she has actually heard him use racial slurs.
Why is the Republican Party addressing this?
MEACHAM: Because it`s now a wholly owned subsidiary of the Trump Organization and has been since he was clearly going to be the nominee. The Republican --
BRENNAN: But does that suggest there`s been a political cost?
MEACHAM: For the -- for the Republicans and Trump?
I mean I -- well, there`s not -- right now the political cost is barely deminimis because they`re in power. Basically the -- broadly put, the Republican Party and the conservative movement in the United States, which are not always the same things, basically sold their soul to Donald Trump in exchange for lower tax rates and Supreme Court justice. I don`t think it`s much -- I don`t think it`s a hell of a lot more complicated than that.
And so now having done that, they have to defend the often indefensible. And you have otherwise serious people who will say the craziest things in defense of Donald Trump that they would never have imagined saying before --
BRENNAN: And yet you have --
MEACHAM: Because this is why they -- this is -- this is -- but this was the cost of power.
BRENNAN: Senator Tim Scott, on this program, was not fully defending the president, but saying he has found ways to work with him. That it`s not --
MEACHAM: That`s the code, right? Yes, that`s -- and that`s what they`re saying, you know, to get through the day. I think they`re going to have an extraordinarily difficult time in the -- in the midterm and long term. Not midterm elections, but the middle term and long term, because they know this isn`t what they want to be.
MEACHAM: I mean this is the party of -- and whether you agree or disagree with him, the party of Eisenhower and George Herbert Walker Bush and Ronald Reagan and John McCain and Mitt Romney. And whatever you want to say about those folks, those were characters of the first rank, I believe, but in a public sense. And now you have this remarkable takeover, and as I`ve sometimes joked, is the first recorded case of a hijacker boarding a plane and the passengers side with the hijacker.
MCKESSON: It is, too, like rhetoric doesn`t match the reality. So Trump can say whatever he wants, but we know this administration`s calling for the death penalty or asking for the death penalty for drug dealers, that is wild. That Nikki Eli (ph) and our team, this administration has said that the war on poverty is over, that there are only about 200,000 people in poverty.
BRENNAN: She`s disputed some of that reporting, but --
MCKESSON: You`re like, this is wild. So we see his wreck (ph) on race (ph) and we`ve obviously seen the kids in cages, that it doesn`t match the rhetoric that we see him now employing that suggests that he has moved at all.
BRENNAN: I want to ask you about that rhetoric because it`s racially tinged. It`s not always quite so clear. People can dispute what the president actually meant when he it tweeted this week about the NFL players and their protests. What did you hear?
MCKESSON: You know, he has only attacked black athletes. He has a history of attacking black people who criticize him. He didn`t say anything about Eminem, who made like a whole screen (ph) against him. But he`s come out against some of the other people.
And when we think about the NFL, it`s like people -- Colin was not protesting the flag, he was saying --
BRENNAN: Colin Kaepernick.
MCKESSON: Colin Kaepernick was not protesting the flag. He was saying that the country has a racist history and that so much of that racist history bleeds over to the present. That is just true. It`s that the police are killing people. You`ve seen it. I`ve seen it. That`s what Colin was saying and that`s what the other players were saying. So you see Trump trying to silence that.
I do think what Trump does that is sort of interesting is that he is like dismantling the FBI and people are seemingly OK with that. If I said those things about the FBI, like they would be at my house again. They already visited my house once. But he says it and it`s just like a normal -- you`re like, OK, and it`s like, no, that is sort of -- that`s why he even just came out and criticized Sessions again, which I -- which I missed a day ago.
BOUIE: I think there`s something about what -- how to interpret Trump`s -- those statements. It`s worth looking at sort of how other Republicans interpret those things -- those statements --
BOUIE: And how his statements make their way into electoral politics. And so I`m going to focus on Virginia again because I`m a Virginian and that`s just what I do.
In last year`s gubernatorial election, the Republican candidate, Ed Gillespie, towards the end starting running mailers attacking kneeling football players, started talking about confederate statues, sort of using Trump language and doing so in a way that was clearly meant to energize kind of like white anxiety, white resentment.
BRENNAN: The argument there though is it`s actually about patriotism, that it`s not racial. You dispute that point.
BOUIE: I -- I --
MEACHAM: This was all coded (ph).
BRENNAN: And Christian agrees with you.
BOUIE: I mean it`s -- to echo Deray, when you`re only attacking black football players, when sort of this language is also tied up in language like Blue Lives Matter and so on and so forth it`s hard -- it`s really difficult to say that this is about patriotism, especially when the players themselves are saying repeatedly, no, this is about police brutality. And when you add that in to the sort of slippery conflation of say a criminal gang like MS-13 and like immigrants broadly, when you add that into the defense of confederate statues, it begins to strain credulity to say, oh, no, this is -- this is not about the clear racial stuff, it`s about everything else.
PICCIOLINI: Yes, I mean these are not dog whistles. We`ve all heard this raised. This is a bullhorn for somebody like me who 30 years ago would say the same things. What he`s doing is he`s creating the conditions that make people afraid and then he`s using fear and manipulation to continue that cycle. You know, calling out thugs as, you know, the football players like he said or, you know, just African-Americans in general. This is all coded language that`s been polished and made more palatable because he knows it speaks to people about issues that they have a hard time arguing, like freedom of speech.
BRENNAN: We have to leave that here.
Christian, thank you.
We`ll be right back in a moment. WE just have to take this break.
BRENNAN: I want to thank the panel for joining us for today`s discussion. And for our viewers, thank you for watching. It`s an important conversation. I hope you enjoyed it.
Until next week, for FACE THE NATION, I`m Margaret Brennan.