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ABC-7 Xtra: Offensive Symbols?

>>> live where news comes first, this is “abc-7 xtra. >>> good evening. i’m maria garcia. welcome to “abc-7 xtra. tonight, we’re taking a closer look at how americans now have less tolerance for what is considered offensive speech or offensive symbols. our discussion tonight asks is this extreme political correctness, or is it a justified effort to squeeze out outdated, perhaps bigoted symbols? some recent examples. the effort to stop the display of the confederate battle flag. critics say the flag belongs in a museum, not on state grounds, citing there is documented evidence it was a symbol of white supremacy. tv land pulled “the dukes o hazzard” because of the flag supporters of the flag say it is a symbol of heritage and history. >> to say that the arian nation or other groups like that have ownership of that flag is totally false. >> you can’t separate the heritage from the hatred that’s associated with it. >> then there’s donald trump. since his remarks characterizing mexican immigrants as “rapist and criminals,” nbc an univision have dumped his “ms. universe” broadcas macy’s has dumped his products and other businessmen have cut projects with him. >> no, there’s no apology because what i said is right. what i said is 100% right. there is tremendous distress on the border, you know that better than anybody. the mexican people are fantastic, the relationship i have with them is great. as i told you many, many people have done business with me from mexico and i love the mexican people, but no apology because what i said is 100% correct. all you have to do is read the newspapers. >> donald trump does not represent the republican party. i was offended by his remarks. hispanics in america and texas from the alamo to afghanistan have been extraordinary people, citizens of our country and of our state. they have served nobly and to paint with that broad of a brush, that donald trump did, he’s going to have to defend those remarks. >> so tonight, we’re exploring if this is all political correctness run amok or if it’s justifiable progress. those are just some examples. joing us, attorney donald williams and artist and cartoonist bob divens. you can e-mail us your comments and questions now to call us at 496-1775, or tweet me at @mariagabc7. let’s start our discussion. thank you so much both of you for joing us tonight. we appreciate it. so, you know, let’s start with the confederate flag. and i want to pose this question. could it be that it’s not that people are suddenly offended by this now but that maybe the groups who are offended did not have a place in the public dialogue because they were oppressed, 40, 30, arguably even 20 years ago and so finally they’re more empowered so you hear their voices more? what do you think about that? >> do you want to go first? >> we’ll start with you. >> we’ll start with me. basically, i think what brought everything to a head was the killings at the ame church in charleston. >> right. >> as a black man who’s been black all of my life in the united states, that flag has always engendered some sort of negative reaction and emotion in me, when i didn’t even know what it meant but once you go to school, once you experience, especially in the ’50s and the ’60s when you’re going through the civil rights and so forth, it was always an answer to me getting some rights. and basically after doing some research and so forth, the heritage thing, i’m sorry. i don’t know what word to use but let’s say “crap,” becau everyone should know what it means. all you have to do is live and all you have to do is do a little reading and there is no research that i have come across that shows any positive reasoning for that battle flag. so i’m sorry. >> what do you feel and what do you think when you hear groups, there was a rally this weekend in houston, in galveston, to keep the specific confederate flag in public spaces. people who say you know, it was not a hateful simple, groups who use it for hate don’t monopolize its meaning. what do you think when people say that? >> again, they have to go back and research why the flag was created in the first place. we’re talking about the battle flag. and that battle flag has no positive reasoning behind it. the creator states about the white supremacy and the subordination of the black race and this is a symbol of it and so forth so for someone to come and say well it’s part of my heritage, well, i’m from the south and i lived in one of the confederate states. it is not part of my heritage. it’s part of a nightmare that i’ve had to live most of my life with. >> and speaking of that, it’s 2015, and that flag is still there in many public spaces throughout the south. you mentioned the south. so why now? why do you think there’s — obviously, it came to fruition because of the killings but it’s been used in other acts of violence in the past. it’s been a symbol, some groups that are considered hate groups have taken that flag as a symbol. so it goes back to my other question. do you think that again it’s not as if black people are suddenly uncomfortable with the flag as you’ve said. you’ve been uncomfortable with it for a long time. could it be now, though, that african-americans have a much more consequential, influential voice in the american landscape? and because of that, we’re hearing more about not just black people but what other minority groups find offensive because they’re more prominent now in the general american dialogue. what do you think about that, rob? >> from my perspective, what i would add, i appreciate hearing your perspective, obviously, but i think there’s been a consciousness raising over this last year, and i think it’s — it probably began with trayvon martin and what’s happened is it’s become so clear that there’s a whole section of the country, me being a representative of that, i grew up in illinois, in new mexico, so i never experienced the blatant segregation, it’s been a consciousness raising where oh, there’s a whole swath of our population having an experience very different than ours, that’s very real and very valid and i’ve gotten into some trouble with some of my friends by saying this is a good time for us white folks to shut up and listen until we do understand. so i think that’s what the shift, and it’s been building, it’s been building. so when the ame church was attacked in about as blatant of a racist motivated way as you can imagine, i think there’s just this sense of national revulsion that it’s like okay and even jimmy carter, i heard him interviewed saying he felt like as a country we’ve taken our eye off the ball in terms of advancing racial issues. >> speaking of that, with other groups, i rember last year i did a story on columbus day, i interviewed these women who started a petition to try to get the city to rename columbus day indigenous peoples day because they were deeply offended by the title of the day, citing the atrocities that columbus committed and bestowed upon native people and they were truly passionately offended by it, they explained how they want to have this conversation with their children where in america we celebrate columbus day. but after i did the story we also got a lot of e-mails from viewers who said you know, when is this going to stop? i mean, everybody’s going to be offended by something. so do we change everything? who decides what we change and what we don’t change, because somebody’s bound to get offended by something. what do you think of that? >> let me add to this. yes, a lot of us have different bones to pick. but there has been nothing in the history of this country as far as i know that has been more devastating than slavery and its aftermath. we’re still living it. so the population is growing and so forth of black people, now maybe it didn’t start with trayvon. maybe it started with how disrespectful that our president has been treated. >> now, don — >> and also at some point, when is this going to stop? >> but there are people who would hear that statement and who would say there was a genocide of native american people. >> exactly. >> so we are also offended by columbus day and we have a right to be offended. >> understandable. >> so the question is there are so many symbols in our society of historical markers in the past that now, we find offensive or repulsive but what do we change, who sets the rules for this? who sets the rules for what we should change and what we shouldn’t? what do you think, bob? >> well, i think there’s several answers to that. one there’s a good article in the washington post about, you know, we can’t white wash history, we need to rember the history but there’s no question that a confederate flag should not be flying on any governmental building. because what that does is give a sense of government sanction for the flag and the flag is — i mean, you know, anyway. so there’s talk in new mexico about the big statue here because he lopped off the feet of every able-bodied man during whatever that revolt was in new mexico. i think what we’re really aiming for, the thing we’re aiming for is fairness, is every citizen to be treated fairly. and so when we talk about removing a symbol, or trying to correct wrongs of history, it’s a means to an end. the end is equal rights and equal opportunity for every citizen as much as that is humanly possible. and so we’ve noticed like with same-sex marriage now, it’s like there was a civil rights movement, women’s liberation, women getting the vote, these things, it’s like i feel like as we move forward, we gain a more nuanced understanding of what human rights are. so it’s only natural that same-sex marriage would come about. well, at some point you know, it’s like we take care of the biggest obvious issue or we think we take care of it and we’re able to move on down the line. so it’s like yes, i think at this point it’s like — i think it’s completely fair to focus on black americans’ experience and to try to move this thing ahead. >> speaking of gay marriage, you know, we would be remiss, obviously, if we didn’t talk about the dialogue that was sparked because of the massive change in our country legalizing gay marriage. there’s been a lot of talk that people who oppose gay marriage will now be ostracized, that they’re now officially on the wrong side of the public dialogue. and there’s people who say and deservedly so gay people were on that side for many years and there’s people who say you know, that shouldn’t be the case. people still have the religious right to oppose it and they shouldn’t be ostracized for it publicly. what do you all think about that? >> well, from my standpoint, no citizen should be penalized for a condition or situation that they cannot control. most people think that, you know, being gay and so forth is a choice. i personally don’t think that. but at this point in time, from the legal standpoint, i’m just looking at it from the civil union, because there are just so many different situations where they need to have some sort of legitimacy just to carry on everyday business, especially when you’re living together, you’ve bought property together and things along those lines. since the law has nothing to do with the religious aspect of it, then a civil union, if that is the way to handle some of our civil legal problems, and you have no way of determining whether you’re going to be born gay or not, let it go. >> calvin tweeting at us nobody is born with hate. it’s learned. we need to teach the younger generations how wrong it is and to stop it. and you are speaking about the legalities of gay marriage. >> exactly. >> but there are still social ramifications. our society is still trying to navigate with this shift in how we view gay marriage right? and you heard the president say this is one of those social issues where the country shifted to the other side, in such a short time. eight years ago, the public opinion on this was so different. >> exactly. >> and so the question is is it flipped now? you hear especially from sort of the evangelical right in the country saying we now will be ostracized or are being ostracized because we’re against gay marriage. >> i think this has caused me some concern because when some of the southern states first started reacting to this i thought are we going to have an uprising? the confederacy has taken a few serious blows in the last couple of weeks and i thought — it’s kind of revealed that we still have this divide in the country. >> very deep divide. >> very deep divide and i actually end up taking comfort and i hope it’s — i know it’s kind of a stretch but i took some comfort in realizing wait a minute, when civil rights were passed, there was resistance, as well. but it didn’t stop it. i mean, the south resisted. it’s like the confederacy is where the resistance still is. but i feel like louisiana changed course, though, they changed from saying we’re going to hold for 29 days to not saying that and now, it’s down to a handful of county clerks, because they don’t understand they have a civil job, that they have a governmental oath to fulfill the duties of their office and that that’s not a religious office. >> when we come back, they’re telling me we have to go to a commercial break. we’ll take more phone calls. we’re also going to talk about the financial consequences of saying something offensive. we live in a day now where somebody could record you, put it on facebook, and if you’re taken out of context or if you said something that somebody finds offensive, you could see major consequences. we’re going to talk about that, you’re watching “abc-7 xtra. you can tweet me at @mariagabc7, call e-mail us at >>> welcome back to “abc- xtra.” we have a tweet from ryan who says so-called political correctness is a false me, too, narrative that waters down the struggle of african-americans. let’s go to our phone lines now, i believe quan is on the phone line. what is your comment or question? >> if the confederate flag was hijacked by the– we have atrocities around the world being killed left and right and no one seems to care. we need to care about that and not about the stuff about a flag. >> thank you very much. so juan is saying yes the confederate flag was hijacked by the kkk but isis right now killing minorities, lesbians, gay people, we should focus on that and essentially saying that the confederate flag seems trivial to what isis is doing across the world. what do you think, don? >> i tend to sympathize with his position. but basically this confederate flag thing leads to other things, such as the murder in this church. and holding it up and so forth. at this point there are certain symbols that bring out certain types of actions and i’m really not that afraid of isis but i’m afraid one of my citizens who carries or talks positively about a confederate flag. >> if i can say that argument is correct that there are big things to worry about. there may be bigger things to worry about. but here’s the thing. if that argument is used, just to avoid talking about this particular issue, then it becomes an invalid argument. why does it have to be one or the other? why do we have to ignore the concerns of black americans about this racist symbol because there are other possible threats out there? we can do more than one thing at once and if it’s used as an excuse to end the conversation as i think it was in that case, i think it becomes invalid. >> let’s go to another phone call. andy in central on the line. what is your comment or question? >> this question is for the attorney. i would like to ask you what do you mean — could you please explain how the president is being mistreated? is it because of his color or the job he’s doing? thank you. >> well, in my opinion, it’s obviously not the job he’s doing because he’s done better than the last three or four that we’ve had. >> about half of the country would disagree with that statement. [ laughter ] i mean, it’s true, about half of the country. >> of course, half the country would disagree with it but i’m just looking at the facts, okay. we went through what two republican presidents that put us in a bind and so forth and all kinds of situations, everything that he has done has been positive. now was he perfect, no? but there has never been the type of — i don’t know what’s the word i’m looking for. disrespect and i believe the disrespect towards obama is because he’s black, period. >> can you give us an example of that disrespect? >> well rember when i think it was during the state of the union, but reading the different blogs, reading different opinions and so forth, if you have a legitimate reason, criticize it. but a lot of the things that’s coming about is because, in my opinion, because he’s black. because i’ve had to live through certain things just like it, regardless of how good you are, most people — they don’t care. you’re in the top 1% of the nation, attorneys and so forth, but one lady came to me one and said i didn’t know you were black and walked out. so i put my picture on stuff so people don’t think i’m trying to get over. >> this is really an interesting topic because it intertwines politics with race relations, right? and like i said half of the country would disagree with you. so for the people who say you know, he’s the president. he’s going to be the most scrutnessed person in the world. he is going to have a microscope on everything he does, and it’s perfectly legitimate to criticize him and as americans we have a right to criticize him and it’s unfair to label somebody racist because they’re criticizing the president of the united states. because for reasons you may find illegitimate in criticism against the president, some americans may find it perfectly legitimate. >> if you have — i have some legitimate complaints. i don’t agree with him on everything. but i think i’m in a better position to determine whether the situation is racial than you are or somebody else is because i’ve had to live it. there’s a difference than saying i don’t agree with that than to talk about his children, talk about his mother, talk about, you know, those types of things when all he’s trying to do is be the president of the united states. so when you attack on a personal level, that’s no longer based on professional competence. that’s based on racism and until you live it for 64 years, a lot of times you can’t tell me what it is. >> okay. let’s go to frank in eastwood. what’s your comment or question? >> okay. i’m a christian, i’m not against or for gay marriage, but will i be called a beigatein case i don’t agree with the ruling from the supreme court? thank you very much. >> frank saying he’s a christian, not against or for gay marriage but will he be called a bigot if he’s against it? >> depends on why he’s against it, i guess. >> yeah, he may be called a bigot,o protection in the law for that. i mean, we may get called names. the more important question is would he face any legal sanction, and it’s like no not as a private citizen. or there’s this myth going around that somehow churches and christian churches and ministers will be forced to perform gay marriages, that’s never been part of our american tradition. however, if you do own a business in the public square, it’s the same now as if you turned away a black customer because you were racist. so again, people get — what i heard in the earlier question, too, is people go to defensiveness so quickly and i speak as a yankee white boy but it’s so easy to get defensive. just around gender issues, any experience that’s not our own well we can’t live each other’s lives but we can stop and listen if there’s something that confuses us and makes us defensive, then i think it’s time to stop and listen until we understand it. and we all have stories. we all have things, we all experience things, but it doesn’t give us a right to dismiss experiences that i think are more serious than our own. >> do we have take a commercial break. when we come back, more of your phone calls. we have a few people waiting so stay with us. you’re watching “abc-7 xtra. remember you can tweet me at @mariagabc7, call us at 915-496-1775, or e-mail me at we’ll be right back. >>> welcome to “abc-7 xtra. let’s go to vern on the east side on the phone. what’s your comment or your question? >> yes, my comment is that we don’t need to rewrite history, that was tried by the communists of russia, it didn’t work but we need to edit history. we need to delete some of the offensive emblems, such as the confederate flag, the swastika which tend to arouse hatred and to focus people’s attention on negative emotions. >> thank you very much and that was vern saying we don’t have to rewrite history but we can edit it to remove some of the most offensive symbols. you know getting back to what we were talking about, about offensive speech and going back to donald trump, he is a presidential hopeful, he’s under the microscope, arguably a lot of people would say he deserves the scrutiny. and many will say him losing businesses is deserved. but let’s say for a minute that he wasn’t running for president. let’s say for a minute this was not somebody in the public eye as much as trump. we’ve all said things in unguarded moments, imprudent things that maybe we regretted and that could — if taken out of context, can they make us seem maybe bigoted, maybe out of touch, and so do we live in an age where if you say something, you could really, really face tremendous financial consequences because you said something in an imprudent moment, in an unguarded moment and is that good or is that bad? >> well, i won’t claim that our application of disgust is fair in the public sphere or evenly distributed. you know, it’s a natural thing that if you have more at stake, more to lose, somebody’s going to sue you, you know. the bible says a rich man’s will may ransom him but a poor man hears no threat. but it’s sort of satisfying to see donald trump get a few knocks, i don’t know that it will really hurt him. he’s not somebody that it’s going to ruin him so there’s that. but at the same time, i think people say that customers are free to move their business elsewhere. so he’s not being censored in that way. obviously, what he said was broadcast. >> but are people now just even regular people, small business owners, do you think treading so much more lightly now because they’re concerned that they could really lose out on business if they said something that somebody found offensive? >> well, i think it’s good that people are now sensitive to what they say and what they do. the ordinary guy is not going to suffer but when you’re running for president, you can’t come up with stupid stuff like that and expect to get by. what scares me is that after making such an idiotic statement he became number two in the running! >> there’s a surge in the poll. he’s up. >> exactly. but the mere fact that he said it, i wouldn’t vote for him anyway but i can be in a position to help boycott what makes him the pick, and that is about the only thing we can do. it goes back to the whole boycotting situation during the civil rights era. nobody listens to you, so you stop riding the bus. but for the ordinary citizen, you do have free speech. we don’t have to agree with everything that you say and most of the time if you’re an ordinary citizen, we don’t really care but when you’re running for president or if you’re running for governor or when you are going to be in a position to control people’s lives, you have to be responsible and accountable for what you say and do. >> speaking of free speech, we do have the legal right of free speech, no one is going to jail for what they say, right. you’re not going to get prosecuted for expressing yourself, that is your right but there’s this argument that there’s this new speech police that, like you said, is going to boycott you, is going to do something that makes you either lose out on business or lose out on your livelihood because you said something offensive. >> there is some truth to this, the downside is that somebody can be overly sensitive and fly off the handle just based on a rumor. that’s always been the truth in this country. we can have witchhunts over their fads, things people get upset about and suddenly we see, you know, devil worshipers everywhere or what have you or racists everywhere but here’s the thing. the tricky part of all of this talk about is what we’re really after is changing people’s minds, is increasing people’s understanding. we’re not — this isn’t about trying to round up all the racists and throw them in jail. it’s trying to move people away from racism. it’s trying to make people aware of these biases that we all carry, every single one of us, and just to become aware a., to acknowledge that we have them, you don’t have to be a racist to have them. everybody has them. and if we can just acknowledge that we have them so i hear so much defensiveness in these questions. you know, everybody’s just defensive, defensive, defensive, and they’re not hearing what people are saying. >> okay. well, we are out of time. thank you — >> sorry to use up your time. >> thank you don, thank you so much and thank you so much for joing us here on “abc-7 xtra. we hope you found this informative. we’ll

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