CNN's Kyra Phillips: Racism a Problem Only Among Whites?
The CNN anchor gave a commentary on the controversy after playing a report from the network's Michigan affiliate on the issue 52 minutes into the 9 am Eastern hour. Phillips emphasized that "white kids need black role models, too. Why? Because, let's face it, there's still racism in this country- KKK members, white supremacists, and less radical racists raising kids, and the Internet with all kinds of racist poison out there. Kids might believe that stuff unless they're challenged not to- see it debunked right before their eyes." She continued that "role models come in all colors, all genders- all professions. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that out. So I'm glad to hear that now that the school program in Michigan is being suspended, so school officials can tweak it and make it more inclusive. Good thing, because the segregated field trip might have violated Michigan law."
Before she played the report, Phillips gave an introduction where she expressed sympathy for the idea behind holding the segregated field trip: "I totally get this. You have African-American students at a Michigan elementary school lagging behind their white peers in homework and crucial test scores. So the principal says- hey, these kids need role models. Let's go meet one- in this case, a black rocket scientist in Ann Arbor...Here's the problem. The trip was just for the black students. The white kids didn't get to go. [Does] that sound fair?"
While some parents were outraged over the school principal's decision to take only the black students to hear a black rocket scientist speak, the local correspondent from WDIV TV didn't play any sound bites from such parents during her report, only playing clips from parents who thought the matter was overblown, or who supported the principal.
KIM BORA, WDIV TV (voice-over): It was supposed to be a field trip, a chance to meet a real-life African-American rocket scientist.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE STUDENT 1: He showed us his cool- like, lab, and stuff he does.
BORA: What wasn't cool for some was how Principal Mike Madison chose to handle students in one class after some were heard booing African-American students who took part in this trip. Parents say they were told the principal raised his voice at them, shaming the very students he excluded by not giving them a chance to go on this trip, but not all parents are convinced.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE 1: I think it was something that was very simple that was blown out of proportion.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE 1: I think it's very important for people to realize that the majority of parents at Dicken are very happy with Principal Madison.
BORA: In a letter addressed to parents, the principal said in hindsight, things would have been handled differently. He wrote- quote, ‘I'm sorry if any kids were upset by the field trip, or my discussion afterwards with them, and I have let them know that.’
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE 2: I think that- and anything they're trying is a good thing.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE 3: The fact that kids were booing the kids that were returning from the field trip, in my opinion, would have upset me, had I just planned a field trip that I felt really good about, and I just saw the kids being really excited by it and inspired by it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE 4: And I think that there has been a lot of reactionary talk. I think that the firing and the lawsuit discussion is pretty absurd at this point.