PBS is your destination for finding white supremacy everywhere. Wednesday’s Amanpour & Co. opened with a long interview with Jelani Cobb, dean of Columbia University's Journalism School and a New Yorker staff writer. Cobb also made a PBS Frontline documentary in 2016 on police in Newark, NJ, “Policing the Police.”
Cobb, who leads a school for future journalists, forwarded the wild argument that the five black police officers who killed Tyre Nichols could have been motivated by self-hatred, having internalized “white supremacy.”
Host Christiane Amanpour agreed with the strange notion from Cobb, introduced by Amanpour as “one of America's foremost writers on race and politics….” and added her own bizarre delineation of “white” white supremacists (as opposed to the black “white supremacists” in Memphis).
A clip from Nichols’ funeral featured ranting from the eulogy performed by race-baiter and current MSNBC host Al Sharpton -- because who can better move us toward racial harmony than a racial arsonist like Sharpton?
Amanpour at least brought up to her guest the seeming anomaly of black “white supremacist” officers killing a black citizen: ….there is always so much discussion about the systemic racism that persists in the United States. And yet, the perpetrators of this death were five black police officers. So, people say, oh, well then clearly it's not about racism.
Cobb responded with evasion:
….you know, there's always been in the long tradition of people making critiques of racism, there's always been a recognition that racism is not only purveyed by white people or white supremacies, not only purveyed by white people….But the fact that they’re all black people involved does not, in and of itself, mean that there is no possible theme of racism accelerating what we saw happen.
Amanpour then suggested it’s been going back centuries into the slavery era and made a strange differentiation:
….how these police officers or any police officers, even black police officers are, as you say, brought up in that system that has been created mostly by the white establishment, right? And that it goes all the way back to bounty hunters, you know, finding escape slaves and the like. Tell me a little bit about the history so that people can understand why it is so pernicious and not just, as you say, for “white” white supremacists.
Cobb: Yes, I mean -- you know, like the system of slavery was, in many instances, administered by black overseers.”
He brought up the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education desegregation decision to argue how “white supremacy” could infect blacks as well: “The psychologists pointed to the kind of self-hating dynamic that racism and white supremacy tended to instill on the minds of people who were subjected to it.”
Amanpour brought up her latest bugbear, Florida’s Republican governor Ron DeSantis:
….You've written as well this week -- or rather last month, about Governor Ron DeSantis blocking the inclusion of a new course for high school students in his state on African American studies. He said it imposes a political agenda in the schools….
Cobb, who falsely condemned DeSantis on MSNBC for not allowing woke history in Florida schools, didn’t bite this time.
At The Atlantic, Thomas Chatterton Williams pointed out the concept of “white supremacy” has become vaguer of late, “denoting invisible structures, latent beliefs, and even innocuous practices, such as punctuality, that supposedly maintain the comparative advantage of white people at the expense of everyone else.” As demonstrated by these two liberals agreeing with each other on public broadcasting.
This bias was brought to you in part by Mutual of America Financial Group, and viewers like you.
A transcript is below, click “Expand” to read:
Amanpour & Co.
February 2, 2023
1:30:40 a.m. Eastern Time
AMANPOUR: Tyre Nichols is laid to rest against a backdrop of national unrest. I speak with Jelani Cobb, dean of Columbia University's Journalism School and one of America's foremost writers on race and politics….
….Welcome to the program everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
There are gray skies in Memphis today as family and mourners come together to remember Tyre Nichols, the 29-year-old whose death at the hands of police sparked renewed protest against this brutality all across the United States. National figures, including Vice President Kamala Harris, are gathering together with George Floyd's brother, Philonise, and Tamika Palmer, mother of Breonna Taylor, victims of the police. Reverend Al Sharpton, who's delivering the eulogy for Tyree Nichols, is calling for justice.
REVEREND AL SHARPTON, FOUNDER, NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK: We are going to continue to fight this fight around police brutality and killing. Until we get federal laws changed. What happened to Tyre is a disgrace to this country. There is no other way to describe what has happened in this situation.
AMANPOUR: As for attempts to change that federal law, here's how "The Washington Post describes the political situation. Police reform talks are back in Congress, but with the hope for a deal. Jelani Cobb is dean of Columbia University's Journalism School and he is a veteran observer of steps and missteps towards that goal.
Welcome back to the program Jelani Cobb. I want to ask you because it is just so tragically, you know, repetitive. What strikes you about this particular incident and do you think it could finally be a catalyst for real change?
JELANI COBB, DEAN, COLUMBIA JOURNALISM SCHOOL: I mean, hope spring's eternal. But the fact is that you have to be very silver minded about this. That there have been you know pushes for reform before, most notably the George Floyd Justice and Policing Act which went further than any of the prior attempts that happened. But still it was stalled by the efforts of police unions to really stop that legislation from being passed. And so, it's possible but there's also a very difficult road ahead. Now, if you ask the question of what is different, you know one of the central things here is that this is the first time that people have seen a video, again, to the kind of video that we saw with George Floyd's death and the aftermath of the defeat of that legislation. And so, it is very clear, that there is a relationship between the video that we saw in May 2020 and the video that we are now seeing again in January 2023.
AMANPOUR: Which is nearly three years on. In fact, the essentials haven't changed. And what I want to ask you to explain for our international viewers and maybe many across the United States as well, you know, there is always so much discussion about the systemic racism that persists in the United States. And yet, the perpetrators of this death were five black police officers. So, people say, oh, well then clearly it's not about racism.
COBB: Yes, that's not necessarily true. Now, you know, it's difficult to make definitive categorizations of what someone's mind status. But you know, there's always been in the long tradition of people making critiques of racism, there's always been a recognition that racism is not only pervade by white people or white supremacy. It's not only pervaded by white people. That there are black people who were exposed to these kinds of ideas and adopt the same sort of mindset as a result of them. There are many possible dynamics at play here. You know, the culture of the department, the psychology of the individual officers, the group dynamics of the five people who were abusing him, and a whole array of other things. But the fact that they are all black people involved does not, in and of itself, mean that there is no possible beam of racism accelerating what we saw happen.
AMANPOUR: Let's just take that one step further and talk about the institutional education and experience. So, you know I have seen your writing and I've heard others in the aftermath of this killing, this death. Talk about how these police officers or any police officers, even black police officers are, as you say, brought up in that system that has been created mostly by the white establishment, right? And that it goes all the way back to bounty hunters, you know, finding escape slaves and the like. Tell me a little bit about the history so that people can understand why it is so pernicious and not just. as you say, for white, white supremacists.
COBB: Yes, I mean -- you know, like the system of slavery was, in many instances, administered by black overseers. You know, that was not an uncommon dynamic in the United States. You know, just as in many instances, colonialism was administered by the people of the same background of who are being colonized. It's not impossible for a system to both have representation of people who are being exploited and used those people to further the exploitation, you know, particular communities. And so, you know, if we were just doing a quick survey of this, you know, Martin Luther King talked about the pernicious effects of internalized racism. W. E. B. Du Bois, the great scholar, talked about it in the Brown versus Board of Education case which outlawed segregation. The psychologists pointed to the kind of self-hating dynamic that racism and white supremacy tended to instill on the minds of people who were subjected to it. So, it's a very long history here. And it's impossible to understand what happened to Tyre Nichols without taking all of that into account.
AMANPOUR: So now, let's go forward and see how this can, maybe, be shifted. Some have, in the aftermath of his death, his killing, praised the Memphis City Police and officials for taking swift action in the case. First of all, I wonder if you agree, but first let me just play what a Memphis pastor, Earle Fisher said on this program earlier this week.
EARLE J. FISHER, MEMPHIS PASTOR: I mean, too much in my estimation, benevolence given to the city and the police department for this "Rapid response". This is the byproduct of aggressive and fierce organizing on the ground for the last several years. And these two entities, the mayor's office and the police department are the ones who implemented the SCORPION Unit in the first place. It's almost like starting a fire and then getting credit for trying to put it out.
AMANPOUR: So, SCORPION was a police unit that was assigned to high crime hotspots. It's been disbanded in the aftermath. But -- so, given what the pastor said about the community and about how these units are created, how do you think this can be broken down?
COBB: So -- I mean, I think there are a few things. One, the rapid response is in some way a reaction to the pressure that has been placed on these institutions by community activists, I think is absolutely true. I also think that this is a kind of bureaucratic self-defense mode that people recognize that the difficulty -- and particularly the difficulty around when you see explosive situations like George Floyd's death. The dragging your feet about firing someone, the dragging their feet about bringing charges. That lag time is where tensions tend to escalate. And so, in some ways they've just mastered the protocols of how to handle a situation in the aftermath of outrageous behavior by police. But the real mark of progress is showing the ability to curtail that outrageous behavior by police in the first place. And so, it's paradoxical that there is this rapid response and we still see the problem -- the underlying problem continuing.
AMANPOUR: So, trying to get the right balance, obviously, is a never- ending endeavor it seems in terms of police, you know, coping with actual crime and way over doing it in these cases.
AMANPOUR: So, we've spoken before about your expiration investigation on this. Your frontline documentary on police, particularly the department in
New Jersey. Here is what James Stewart, he was the head of New York's largest police union told you about the idea of reform.
JAMES STEWART, JR., PRESIDENT, NJ FRATERNAL ORDER OF POLICE LODGE #12: The police aren't going out there just looking for violent encounters or looking to, you know, physically impose their will on people. What does a cop want? We want to come to work, do our job, and go home. We want a positive interaction with the community. But, you know, everybody is piling on. Everybody is against you. There is protest or rallies all of the time, anti-police this, anti-police that.
AMANPOUR: So, you know, portraying himself and themselves as the victims, I guess, is what I hear from that. So, what did you learn most from that documentary on whether there was any willingness to look for meaningful and lasting reform?
COBB: Well, I mean, there was. And quite frankly with that documentary, we had two documentaries. One was a documentary that we made from the footage and then was a documentary that we could've made from the things that people said to us off camera. So, lots of police would say, off camera that is, that they knew that the behavior that they were exhibiting exacerbated the problems with the community, or lots of police, certainly not all of them but lots of them would say, they had seen their fellow officers go over the line. Do things that created lasting animosity and hostility in the communities. And most significantly, they thought that that kind of animosity made it more difficult for them to actually do their job, which was to solve and prevent crime. And when we -- one of the most important things that we took away from that documentary, we actually did two films in Newark that were three years apart, I believe. The second time we went, they would need really significant strides by doing things -- it wasn't the get tough, militarized or police give them high powered weapons. The most affecting thing that they did in Newark, was that they actually began partnering with communities.
COBB: They began using community-based violence prevention programs. They began saying that maybe the answer to everything is not, you know, police use of force. And shockingly, crime numbers actually went down. And so, I think that there are things that are possible. It's a question about whether or not we have the will to enact those kinds of solutions on a bigger scale.
AMANPOUR: Can I ask you about all of this goes on to education, right? I mean, kids and people have to be educated if you're going to have those community interactions and if you're going to have change. You've written, as well this week -- or rather the last month about Governor Ron DeSantis blocking the inclusion of a new cause for high school students in his state on African American studies. He said it imposes a political agenda in the schools. And he's what he said about "WOKE culture" last November when he won re-election as governor.
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): We fight the WOKE in the legislature, we fight the WOKE in the schools, we fight the WOKE in the corporations. We will never ever surrender to the WOKE mob. Florida is where WOKE goes to die.
AMANPOUR: Jelani, I want to ask you this in context with also journalism, because you're also a journalist, head of the journalism department school there at Columbia, and you've got the duPont awards coming up, the Pulitzers of broadcast journalism and film. So, in the context of what we just heard, and what is going on, how do you think mainstream journalists should be, you know, reacting in these cases. To politicians who throw red meat around and to the actual reporting of these race cases?
COBB: You know -- I mean, I think that one of the things that is really, you know, important, if they're such a thing as a silver lining here, is that I do think the coverage of these stories has become more sophisticated. That people are generally more critical of the way in which, you know, situations like this are covered. You know, one of the things that we emphasize certainly in teaching the journalist at Columbia is that the fact that, you know, you have access to official statements and official documents from police departments, doesn't mean that that makes the statement true. But you have to go around and actually, you know, report what is missing.
If you notice the great variants between what we heard or saw in the police report in Memphis and what we actually saw on that video. And so, that's what reporting is supposed to do. That is what good reporting a supposed to do. And in that regard, we are thrilled, as always, the host the duPont Awards. You know, it is the premiere award for journalism that's done in the broadcast and digital realms. And that's what we do each year. We hold up the banner of excellence and get to recognize, you know, through our efforts and through the efforts of their pears work that truly sets the bar for real journalism and where it should be headed.
AMANPOUR: Jelani Cobb, thank you so much indeed. Thanks a lot.