My guest tonight
is the hostof PBS's Tavis Smiley.
He's also a best-selling authorwhose latest book--
uh, which is an update to anearlier version-- is called
The Covenant with Black America- Ten Years Later.
-♪ -(applause, cheering)
Hold-hold up, first of all...
So the senator gets,like, serious libation...
and I get a half a cup of water?
Is-is that-is that how brothersget treated around here?
Well... Well I got the otherhalf of the cup of water.
Oh, okay, okay.
-And, uh... -Well, I don'tfeel so bad, then, I guess.
Thank you so muchfor being here.
-Thank you so much. -Mypleasure, thanks for having me.
-You know what...-Congratulations, you're doing
-a great job. Doing a great job.-Thank you very much.
I appreciate it, man.Thank you so much. I, uh...
I have to tell you,everyone in the building
is a huge fan of yours.Everyone's like, "Tavis Smiley's
"coming-- this is so amazing!Tavis, he's so amazing,
he's inspirational."Uh, and then I...
and then I read your bookand I was like, "It...
This is inspiration?"
No, because your bookis about how America
has failed black peoplefor the 240th straight year.
Yeah, pretty much.
How close is Americato breaking that streak?
Uh, not close enough.
Um, this book, as you mentioned,came out ten years ago,
and it laid out the ten issuesthat are most important
to African Americans.We... It's really a...
a national plan of action forwhat we can do to hold ourselves
responsible and otheraccountable. So, of course,
on the tenth anniversaryyou go back and you ask
the obvious question:how have we done?
And sadly-- and it pains meto say this--
black folk havelost ground, Trevor,
in every leadingeconomic category
over the last ten years.
So these issueswere clearly on the docket
before Obama shows up.
That cannot be right.That fact cannot be right.
-I'm sorry, brother, it's right.-I've seen...
-Drake says it,everyone says it. -Yeah, yeah.
-25 sittin' on 25 mil.-Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
I don't even knowhow much I made last year.
-I can't even count.-Yeah, yeah, yeah. (laughs)
What are you telling me?
Yeah, well,that works for Drake.
Um, but that doesn't workfor the rest of us.
Uh, and unlikeMary J. and Jay Z,
I ain't knockingnobody's hustle.
Um... But-but at the endof the day,
the majority of AfricanAmericans have lost ground
in every major economiccategory. Here's the thing--
these issues clearly were on thedocket before Obama shows up
and wins in 2008,but they've gotten worse
over the last ten yearsand so you can't
miss the parallel, obviously,to his administration.
Not all his fault,but more could've been done.
But at the end of the day,when you have a constituency
that significant in the countrythat's going under, we can't
just ignore that or rendertheir suffering invisible.
Here-Here's my question--and it-it's interesting
that you bring up PresidentObama, because you-you've been
very critical of the man, right?But you were also a supporter
of his, and-and that'ssometimes, I think, uh, a nuance
that is lost in conversation.People go, "You can't support
a person and be criticalof them." You do support
President Obama,but at the same time,
you're critical...critical of him.
What do you thinkhe could have done different,
especially consideringthat Congress oftentimes
has limited his power?
-On black issues, specifically.-Yes.
Uh, and I judge all presidents--not just Barack Obama--
I judge all presidentsby this Kingian standard.
Dr. King, who I regardas the greatest American
this country's ever produced--that's my own assessment--
challenged Americato deal with three issues
that were gonnatear this country apart
if we didn'ttake them seriously.
King called them, Trevor,um, the-the triple threat.
-Mm-hmm.-Racism, poverty and militarism.
Racism, poverty and militarism.
The president gave a greatspeech the other night.
And let me be clear--he's had a serious headwind,
more than any president ever.
-The obstructionismhas been real. -Yeah.
He's had death threats.I get all of that.
But at the end of the day,if you judge him--
he loves to quote King,he did it
in the State of the Unionaddress. "Unarmed..."
Uh, "Unarmed truthand unconditional love."
Great quote. But if you judgehim by that Kingian standard,
by what he's done on racism,poverty and militarism,
you got a very differentconversation.
Oh, I-I ask you this 'cause thisis what I loved about the book,
is that often people write booksand go, "This is how bad it is,
this is how things have gonewrong, this..." This is a book
that has numbers, statistics,but more importantly,
suggestions as to howthings can be fixed.
So then, I ask you,in terms of racism,
how do you fix racism?
First of all, you have to admitthat it's a real issue.
Uh, and while some see it asthe most intractable issue
in the country, somethingis wrong when, in the era
of the first black president,black boys and black men
are still being shot downin the streets like dogs
and too many copsare getting away with it.
-Something is wrong...-(applause)
...when black womencontinue to die,
disproportionately, from toomany preventable diseases.
Something is wrong whenblack children can't get access
to an equalhigh-quality education.
Something is wrongwhen environmental racism
is still this real.Something is wrong
when the digital divideis still this broad.
Don't tell methat we can't do something
to redeem the soul of thiscountry by saving black America.
So you're talking aboutan institutional racism?
-Absolutely. -You're talkingabout a racism that is deeper
-than just peopleon the surface. -Ab-Absolutely.
Okay, so, uh, racism, you said,now, as well, poverty.
-Mm-hmm.-How do you fix that?
I mean, people would argue thatit's generations and generations
of a poverty divide that,you know, the... the wealth gap
has been created,you can't fix that overnight,
so how do you...how do you challenge that?
There's a class war in thiscounty that taking place
right now, and it's a warbeing waged against the poor.
The problem is that,where poverty is concerned,
there is...How might I put this?
A highway into povertybut barely a sidewalk out.
So you have three groupsthat make up the poor
-in this country--the perennially poor. -Yeah.
The near-poor-- folk who arejust a paycheck or two away--
and the new poor,who are the former middle class.
So that poverty is threateningour very democracy.
It's now a matterof-of national security,
and if we don't prioritizepoverty and income inequality--
we don't even like to saythe "P" word. We can't even
say "poverty",we won't even say "the poor".
It's always a conversation...And in this campaign right now,
about the middle class.
I repeat: the new poor are the former middle class.
And we can't even say the word.How do we get to real solutions?
And that's why I'm gladthat Bernie Sanders and others
are at least raising this issuenow and forcing America
to have a conversation about it.
Let me challenge youon something, then.
-Because it's easy for youto say racism. -Hold on,
-you-you gonna challenge me?-I'm gonna challenge you...
-You gonna challenge me? -I'm gonna challenge you.
-Okay.-I'm gonna challenge you.
You talk about racism,but you're a racist.
-Ooh! -And I know thisbecause Donald Trump tweeted...
...that...This is serious, people.
-Yeah, yeah.-This is serious.
...that you are a racist.-Mm-hmm.
How do you respondto those allegations?
My grandmother-- Big Mama--
said to me, repeatedly,"Tavis, baby,
be careful of stooping so lowthat you can't get back up."
And I don't want to stoop so lowthat I can't get back up.
I will say this: that DonaldTrump tweeted this,
you know, this...thing about me.
Um, I was ona morning show on Sunday,
-one of the Sundaymorning shows. -Yeah.
Within hours,he had tweeted about me,
based on-based onhis not liking
what I'd said about himon the show.
So you had probablysaid some facts.
-Some-Something like that.-It happens.
-Something like that.-It happens.
So that... so that...
A few days before I appearedon this Sunday show,
there was a white supremacistgroup that started,
uh, doing robocalls, as youprobably know, on his behalf.
A white supremacist group doingrobocalls for Donald Trump.
Now, unless something happenedin the last ten minutes
before I walked on this set,while Donald Trump is tweeting
about me and calling me a haterand-and a racist, and...
For a guy with a Wharton degree,he can do better than that,
number one, I would think.But unless something
has changed, he still has notgotten around to denouncing
the white supremacist groupthat's doing robocalls
on his behalf,but he's messing with me?
It's an amazing book.It's an amazing story.
PBS's Tavis Smiley airs weeknights.
Check your local listingsfor times.
The Covenant with Black America - Ten Years Later
is in bookstores now.You need to read it.
Tavis Smiley, everyone.
-♪ -(cheering, applause)