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What will it take to break down racial barriers in Mississippi we'll talk about it next on State wide live. Hello everyone welcome to state wide live. I'm John Johnson. What is the status of race relations in America. More specifically in Mississippi. Well a dialogue on this sensitive subject was begun by President Clinton's advisory board on race as a member of that board former Mississippi governor William Winter is taking part in those discussions. Tonight Governor Winter is joining us to talk about what it will take to break down those racial barriers and eliminate racial stereotypes. Governor we are glad you're here with us and welcome to statewide live. Governor what is the president's initiative on race and what are its goals. Initiative on race consists of a set of bad deals that have been advanced by a great many people in this country
looking toward creating a national momentum that will bring people together across racial fault. That was set up just about a year ago when advisory board on which I'm privy to that has been working for since that time across the country meeting with citizens all over this country. Diverse groups from every race to see exactly to measure exactly what the state of race relations is in the country and what we can do to improve those relations. And so you go around the country and having town meetings is that the format. We've had town meetings we've had meetings with individual groups. We met as a board we met as individuals we met with the president in town hall meetings that he has convened and it has been an educational experience for me to see the nuances that are attached to all of the all of the diversity that exists in this country. How are you
chosen to be on this board. Well I'm not exactly sure I got a phone call from the White House one day and I was asked to serve I had been involved in some discussions with with with a number of friends who have an interest in this subject. My good friend Rodney Slater the secretary of transportation. Mr. Harding Carter and others and out of those discussions came that idea for a presidential initiative. And I was pleased to be able to justify it as a member they're valuable. So you will be a member of this board for a particular for a certain amount of time it will toward your side what are some of the run up this summer. Obviously we will have not we will not have solved all the racial problems in this country nor did we expect to. But what I think at least we have achieved has been to establish a level of consciousness that we we do have some problems in this country that have not been solved and that we
have to work together to solve them. I've read somewhere that someone was quoted as saying race is the top dividing factor among Americans where do you believe Mississippians fit into that. Well Mississippi of course has a long and tortured history of race relations. It will go back before we will find some things that you know that are not very pleasing. But I will also say that I think Mississippi has gone probably further than any other state in the last 30 40 years. You know media writing a lot of those all of those conflicts and recognizing that we do have a commonality of interests that we can only achieve our best and that as we work together across racial lines I think we've gone further than a lot of a lot of sections of the country here in the Deep South. Well you talk about the history and of course recently the sovereignty files were open the commissions open files these files reveal some of the state's very difficult past do you think that this will help opening of these files or hand to bring the races together
in this day. No I think it's good to open the files. I think it's good to let all that come out get behind this purchase of all this sins of omission and commission that we committed in the past. Get it behind us I think. I think there's a certain healing process that's involved here. But I don't think we can afford to dwell on those problems. I think we've got to get past them. I don't think that we can afford to to let ourselves be perceived as as victims of the circumstances of history. Article in today's Clarion Ledger this your name is one of the Sovereignty Commission files that's unavailable now did you choose to have those records sealed or or and if so why. Well that was obviously other of my Fargo OHP when I asked for them I saw them they are well I don't want anybody want to go see them I don't know how they concluded that my thoughts were not open they are very much open and I vied anybody who wants to look at them go to look at it not anything out of the conviction of Byron De La
Beckwith the reopening of the Vernon Damer case do you see these cases of the past will affect the challenges of the present because of some of those cases still out there. No I think I think this is a part of the healing process. I don't think we can lift a little of those old wounds. Go go intended. To the extent that we can compensate for whatever injustices were committed in the past I think we need to do so. But having done that I think we need to move on I don't think we can afford a war in the in the misery of our past. Our phone lines are now open for your questions of tonight's guests our toll free number from anywhere in Mississippi is 1 800 900 to 9 6 9 8 when you do call us we please ask that you make your question brief. Governor I read where you said we've tried legislative executive and judicial remedies when it comes to race relations are we now talking about changing the hearts and minds of
individuals and if we're talking about that how do we do that. Well that's the hardest part of it. We have come as far as we have core largely on the basis of public action of governmental action. And we cannot we cannot ignore the importance of that as a continuing part of the process of leveling the playing field and creating equal opportunities for everybody. But having been there we still have to recognize that it is going to be up to each one of us and a bit less at the first meeting of our board. We met last June. I said each one of us at least look in the mirror and ask ourselves what what can I do to enhance racial unity in this country. We have more in common than that which separates us. Everywhere I've been all over this garden I've been in about 20 states last year meeting with people of every racial background every every every concert every conceivable situation. And I found it people regardless of race or
of economic condition or community. What about same thing. They want a decent education for their children. They want a fair shot at a job that will pay them a living wage. They want a decent house to live in a safe community and want to be treated with dignity and respect. Now it seems to me that's not an unreasonable requirement for for this great rich country of ours. And if we can just put it on the basis of that that we have these common interests out there transcend the superficial it is a racial difference. This coach is going to be all right if everyone and you're probably very right on this would would like that how do you get across that racial divide because there's a an element of distrust I suppose when you cross those rivers. There's a huge amount of distrust. There's a huge amount of frustration a sense that we still have not. Open up the doors of opportunity to everybody. And a lot of basis for that. But I think
again it comes it comes down to a recognition on the part of enough of us as individual citizens and particular community leaders that will see to it that we correct we correct Now what Elbel inequities exist out there. For every child in this country as good an education opportunity for as good an education as I can get anywhere and then eliminate that fall right that huge falls on the run down run down the middle of our population between the people over here who have a good compared to education and the people on this side of the line who don't. That's a great fault line itself the right is as big a fallout I think is right. You've been to the SEC 20 states since you've been on this on this commission. Compare these states and you've been to Mississippi where do we stand in in this in terms of our relations with each other. Well take a look Stuart we met in Denver Colorado a
town hall meeting. And we were greeted by a group of very angry Native Americans American Indians who perceive that they had been left out by virtue of not having a representative on the board and they really really took over the meeting there. And I distinguished chairman Dr. John Hope Franklin African American historian from Duke University distinguished man got to speak it would let him speak. He shouted him down. Well we have been to Oxford Mississippi the week before that voted Mitt there. Dr. Franklin was accorded a very respectful hearing was hospitably received and after he was shouted down out in Colorado he leaned over to me and he said I want to go back to Mississippi. I think we've been well I think that we have I think we have I think we've come further than than a lot of these other states that have not had to look at themselves as closely as we have in Mississippi. So if you had a meeting in Oxford How did that meeting go and how was that structured
the meeting you set this meeting we had this not just my opinion I'm a little boss I would have thought it would have been eventually here but everybody on our board I think thought that was the best meeting we've had and it was and it was a good meeting for this reason. The local citizens met and decided what the issues that were important to them war and created some teams and talked about those issues before we got there and then they had spokespersons who made presentations and then we had the we have the town hall discussion where we get comments from the from the floor. It was a most instructive and informative and civil meeting that we've had and I think it's based largely on the fact that we have people in Mississippi who can meet and talk with each other. Governor we've got our first call Mamie Thanks for calling tonight where you calling from. Oh oh yes.
Go ahead where you have a minute. Oh I what your question please. How this man talked about all the fair are you going to school but I want you to laugh. Like put the fire to Mr.. Did you get it yet got you out of mistake. And I almost forgot to mangle sleep tonight. Come on you've been so due and done so good with the fabric. You done good you got money your money back. Hopeful it appalled me I don't let it take you actually don't mind thank you very much Jen. Well I understand the frustration that a lot of people feel. There are places in Mississippi that still have a hard time and where equality of opportunity still is not cool. But I still insist that in Mississippi to the extent that I think it is as good as that you know where this country people who have have gotten a good education who are competitive a train can do it well here to get anywhere and have. I'm proud of the progress missive is making that we have promised. As for the need to cool Well we sure have come a long way since
we where we we where we where we used to be. George in Greenville Thanks for calling what's your question tonight. Hear hear. Hello. Yes hello. The question I want to know why your will no doubt like your career. Better one the federal government is not part of your public to put money you're going to be clear when ordered but don't want to go to school critically about it because. Well I do think the federal government have a responsibility in this process of of bringing our schools up to speed. But I think you're seeing the state of Mississippi beginning to recognize if responsibility to the adequate Education Act was passed a year ago by the legislature I think is the finest piece of legislation such Education Reform Act of
1982. And we we're coming along now this day we still we still are short and so maybe there's areas that are low in income and here is that although we don't know their capacity to attract the best teachers getting the best teachers that we can is still the key to our educational system. And unless we own this we're waiting to pay you more for four good quality teachers we're always going to have an education deficit. You have said I want you to kind of talk about this a little bit you've touched on this in already in your conversation but that education and dialogue are the keys to finding a solution for race problems and how will that work. Well when I say education I mean formal education I mean we've got to see to it that every that everybody everybody literally everybody in this country gets a competitive education. We still have a long way to go there but that's not the only thing we've got to have the education of the citizenry of this country.
To the issue of human relations to the responsibilities that each one of us as a citizen Beyers to make our relationship with people who are different from us as harmonious as possible. And that cuts both ways. We've got we've got a lot of and I I said this one when we started this but what I said the warm thing we need to do in this country is still eliminate racism wherever it comes from white racism black racism we've got eliminated racism racist speech and racist attitudes and righteous actions. We have got to be willing to create a society where people look across the dividing line of race and see another human being. Governor you know that there are those who feel that can never be done and you can never eliminate racism that as long as you have different people from different cultures that's just not gonna happen. How do you how do you respond to that how do you answer that.
Well I think I don't think we can afford to concede that we are going to recede into a racist society. I think I think we're going to have to work at it in time of all of those elements that we've talked about a few minutes ago the recognition that we all want about the same thing and that and that the very diversity of this culture that's something else I want to talk about in a minute is not just a black white thing. Very diversity of this country is what gives us our strength. This is the most diverse country in the world know where the culture in the world has to has the mix the rich mix of people from every conceivable race and ethnic background. And that's a part of our story and we will twist those three up to get up in a way that we have all sorts of call of three heads twisted around together. We Gill wrote that it was going to be hard to break. And that's the kind of country we need to develop. Dave you're calling from Jackson Is that correct.
Yeah I did that away from Jack for a while didn't Jackson say what I perceive coming back as far to me as a wife like that. The suburban areas in outlying areas even outside Jackson despite the government seems like it has. He wants things to be better and I think that's good. But what would you know I see you like for instance like in Madison risen with Connecticut a back family just to go. Do you live in mesmerism in areas where it seems to be predominately white. Tell it to your question. And if they can't why can't it be and why is that perceived to be a chemical why fly from the Jackson area. I thank you very much white flight. That issue moving from the urban areas to the rule areas county areas. That's a national it's a national phenomenon. Just go to the northern state is allowed before. That does not mean that we still cannot have a unified community. People
choose to live where they will or for whatever reason. But I hope the reason is not to get away from somebody just because they have a different color. We have to create we have to create a biracial a multiracial community here we have to work together. I would hope that we would have more integrated neighborhoods. Oh I think I give strength to community I live in one here in Jackson and we've just created the founder in Renaissance neighborhood designed to strengthen the quality of life in that in that biracial neighborhood and it's a better neighborhood because of that and I think when I grow up to knowing children of other races they're going to be better prepared as a boss to live in the kind of diverse country that we're going to have. Let me say just a word about the diversity of this country 50 years from now it will be totally different from what he's done. 50 years from now white the white population is going to be
better 50 percent of the Latino population is going to be about 25 percent of the Asian population will have tripled by the end it will be over 2 percent of the black population growth of the state. But we have this this huge change in the make up of of the of the demographics of this country. Of the racial makeup of this country and we've got to get along with people of every conceivable background. You see that you see that diversity as a strength. I see it as a strength absolute. Some see that as a weakness. Well I think I think what what we what we must understand is that this that this planet is getting very very small and we're not going to build a will to live in little enclaves in a low. We're going to have to recognize that this country is what will be made up of very
very different looking people. And then we have right now and our children and I grandchildren are going to have to be prepared to live in that kind of a world when we've got another. Another caller Rachel where are you calling from. You're right. I'm sorry because personally right. Why aren't why are you comparing all of the states to Mississippi. Well I suppose because I'm from Mississippi and because I'm proud of Mississippi and I think it can pass favorably with all the other states. As you look at where you have then many people believe we should dispel a lot of the myths and stereotypes about races. What do you believe some of those myths and stereotypes are that we have to deal with all of this helps all of us have stereotypes.
I'll tell you a story about them being on a boat when they call me up. Say would you be on a boat and I said Well if you'll be on a boat and it told me Dr. John Hope Franklin Violette never Hispanic lady for Texas a grand lady from California the former governor of New Jersey the CEO of the new song Corporation said is on the left of an American woman preacher from Harlem and I said to myself That woman is going to be trouble and then I met her and she's most delightful open combative person. And I told her that story and she looked at me and she said when I heard you was white politician from Mississippi I thought the same thing about you. Well we have these we have these stereotypes based on superficial knowledge of people who we don't really know. And we judge people on the basis of what they look like revenue they also the needs in getting together.
Is it talking. Is it you know getting to know each of understanding that we are motivated by the same hopes and aspirations and desire that everybody else here. And it will develop a level of trust to get past some of our own history. Soft white folks of glorified too much and you know I will say frankly a lot of black people tend to be victim I-5 too much we believe in the press we've got to get all that and the same we forget it. Well we don't let it dog dominate out of our lives and look toward the future and teach our children about the best and if they can have if they were lining up to live together. Next call from your hometown Grenada and thanks for calling tonight. We're going to hurt her better her in the corner run right. Good for her. The world we're going to celebrate her.
Number one that there were. All right thank you very much they are various obviously the various histories in this country sure how you deal with this as if she is talking absolute absolute. Well we cannot deny our history. My grandfather was a was a Confederate so talky deny that. I hope we will never go back through that same that same tragic mistake again. And I think that. I think recalling recalling the tragedy of that was a civil war may well be a deterrent to our repeating the kind of divisions that cause that that war in the first place. And I think that. I think we are coming together on the basis now understanding that out of all of our own about different historical background we can create a great
future for this day. Will that end as she talks about as I call it talks about will that those deeply embedded feelings will that make it more difficult for us to have that meaningful dialogue that you would like to happen and you know I think you know I think it is an obstacle that has to be over call and I think it has to be daughter sensitive it has to be an understanding on the part of white people that that Confederate flag out there. I mean aside five African Americans that have to do a lot of white folks. So if you go around the country as you have met in some of those town meetings did you find that there was tension in those meetings Why were people pretty free to talk about what they felt. Absolutely love teaching which is good. I think that's one way we get past some of these things is to just talk about. Every every community has its its its points of th him unless unless we can can discuss those differences in a candid fright civil way. I think these discussions have to be civil.
We just kind of sweep things under the rug so I think we do need to bring these kind of signs out there there the issue of the Confederate flag of course is one that rose at the end they all missed me that that was an issue that has to be addressed and and recognize the sensitivity of a lot of people in this state. But what that what that flag means in its present kind of there. Marion from you has a say thanks for calling and I want your question for the former governor. Yes go ahead Marion. Hello there Bill Astor and we'll talk about the initiative itself how it's structured because you're having to deal with these issues how is this initiative structured to handle and come to the conclusion that you have to come away with as I said we had no illusions that we're going to solve all these problems. But what I think we have gone has been to raise to a conversational level across the country the issue of race relations
and we have been we've been seeking out the best practices that we have found in communities across the country where things are going well where there's been good local leadership and this is one of the keys to race relations it's good local leadership. The communities that are doing well are the ones where the people come together on the unenlightened unenlightened leadership and say we're not going let race divide us in this community. So we are we are we are preparing a list of the practices of local initiatives that have proven to be worthy. And we're going to present them as a catalog. We will recommend to the president public policies that we think need to be carried out and we hope to have an educational program for the American people and you feel good about it and you feel optimistic about the initiative. You're much more optimistic than I did when I started. All right. I'd like to thank my guest former governor William Winter who is a member of the president's board on race. I'd also like to thank you for joining on this Thursday night and calling in your questions. And we invite you to join us
next week on statewide live as we discuss the drunk driving laws should they be toughened or not. That's all next Thursday night at 7:30. I'm John Giannone.
Statewide Live
Race Relations (William Winter)
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Mississippi Public Broadcasting (Jackson, Mississippi)
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Pgm. No. 99153. CC. William Forrest Winter (b. 1923) is an American politician from Mississippi. He served as the 58th Governor of Mississippi from 1980 to 1984 as a Democrat. He is known for his strong support of public education, freedom of information, racial reconciliation, and historic preservation. Winter is best remembered for the passage of the Mississippi Education Reform Act.
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