tv Amanpour on PBS PBS April 26, 2018 6:00am-6:31am PDT
♪ ♪ welcome to "amanpour on pbs." tonight, as the united states and north korea prepare to set sail into uncharted waters, sweden has long been laying the groundwork. foreign minister margo wal strom joins me as years of diplomacy comes to a head and america opens its first memorial to more than 4,000 lynching victims. equal justice activist brian stevenson confronts america's history of racial terror as a prelude to healing. ♪ ♪ ♪ good evening, everyone. and welcome to the program.
i am christiane amanpour in london. on the korean peninsula right now, preparations are under way for the making of modern history itself. on friday kim jong-un will become the first north korean leader to cross the border into the south for an unprecedented meeting with the republic's president moon jae-in. rehearsals have been taking place throughout the day and officials from both countries met on the northern side earlier in the week. these nations share a unique heritage, but recent history has seen their identities polarized and their families divided, and yet, there is also another side to this story. one nestled thousands of miles away in sweden, unbeknownst to most, stockholm has for decades been the diplomatic channel mediating relationships between washington and pyongyang, and in the past few years, one woman has led the charge. that's the swedish foreign minister and deputy prime minister margo walstrom.
she joined me from the united nations in new york. foreign minister walstrom, welcome to the program. >> thank you very much. >> so you are in mid-meetings about all sorts of world affairs, the flags are blowing in the wind behind you. so let me use that metaphor, where do you think the wind is blowing regarding the north koreans with the south koreans and eventually with president trump? where is that going to lead to? >> well, i consider this a risky opportunity, the fact that there will be a summit and meeting between the two because normally you would prepare such a process during a long time and then the summit would be sort of the end of such a process and hopefully with a very good result that has been guaranteed through the negotiations and this is kind of the reverse. so i think it can be risky, but
also a ground breaking result, of course, and let's hope for the best. >> okay. so let me ask you then -- to outline the risks and them the opportunity, why is it worth taking this risk and what, specifically, are the risks? >> because, remember, north korea right now is sort of the symbol of a number of things. the geopolitical tensions and everything difficult in this part of the world, but also the threats that come from testing missiles and using nuclear weapons and then also historical grievances, as well, and all of that into a mixture that makes up a very, very dangerous situation for not only that part of the world, but for the rest of the world, as well. >> what is the best one can hope for? >> well, i think that nice words
that we've heard until now must be turned into deeds, so we must see a proper plan for denuclearization, and we must see that there is, hopefully also some kind of bigger plan, i would say, on security arrangements for this part of the world. it will be well-prepared, of course, with the talks that will take place this friday between north and south korea, so i think that's a good preparation. >> so let me ask you, you said denuclearization. others have used the word disarmament and there is a very big discussion as to whether the west and the north koreans are on the same page when it comes to the objectives. so since you have been the conduit between north korea and the united states for years now, what have they told you? you recently met with the north korean foreign minister?
>> i think that the situation is like this. to the north koreans this is an ideal situation to open up for talks because they consider themselves a fully-equipped, sort of nuclear state and then they also, of course, feel the pressure from the rest of the world including the sanctions regime and that's why they feel that now is the time to enter into discussions with both the south, but also with the u.s. and the rest of the world. >> so there are many, including australia and japan, but there are many others including inside the united states and inside the trump administration who believes that it's possible that north korea could be laying a trap, that it could be saying all the right thing, but has no intention of actually disarming and wants to be taken as a nuclear power and have a detant with the west. come up with some kind of containment or regime, and at
the same time have the sanctions removed. are you worried about that being the case from the north koreans' perspective? >> as i said, i think the test of all of this lies in how willing they are to really do what they have said and that they said that they wanted to do, and so it's all in a plan that must be worked out in all its details and this is where i think the rest of the world also has to engage and to make sure that we have controlled regimes and that we can supervise any process from now on. so i think this has to be done very carefully and normally a process or a summit may be the end of such a long process in preparing, but now maybe the summit will come first and then we'll -- we will have to do all the work. >> well -- >> that's why i call it a risky opportunity. >> yes. and it is very, very unusual,
all of the rhetoric around this issue, and as you say this summit. when i spoke to you last, it was at the united nations and the big meeting in september and you said to me at the time, i don't think that a war of words will de-escalate the crisis, remembering that president trump really let fly at north korea from the podium in the building that you're in right now. so i just want to play you these contrasting words from president trump over the last seven months. >> north korea best not make any more threats to the united states. they will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen. there is a bright path available to north korea when it achieves denuclearization in a complete and verifiable and irreversible way. it will be a great day for them. it would be a great day for the
world. >> so do you think, you know, in a weird kind of way that this hyper -- hypersort of tension that we all felt over the last several months has led to this or what do you think has led to this at least beginning of a diplomatic opening? >> a number of things have led to this situation. the engagement of the security council, and the decisions by the security council and also the european union introducing tougher and tougher sanctions so it means that today we have the toughest of all sanctions regimes against north korea. the interest of the rest of the world and the debate that has been taking place, and the measures that have been taken by south korea to stretch out a hand and also realize the risks of, if this escalates into the use of nuclear weapons. nobody wants that, so we have all come to realize that there
is no such solution to this problem. so i think, of course, the north koreans consider themselves in the best of situations where they feel military strong, but at the same time they know that they are economically weak and that this cannot last and they need a solution and then the political will and leadership for -- by, for example, south korea. one thing to engage in finding small steps forward to increase confidence and do confidence building and also having a very practical way forward. >> i want to talk about feminism and the way you put women's rights at the heart of sweden's foreign policy. >> well, i think they have to realize both men and women that gender, quality is not a women's issue. it is a peace and security issue. if you want a long-lasting peace, then you have to involve half of the population, and i think that we have tried to show how it can be done.
we tried to every time in the security council asked the question where are the women? are they around the table where peace negotiations are being negotiated or signed? are they there as peacekeepers? are they there as decision makers? >> you have been somewhat criticized by some people in the past by putting these moral objections to gender inequality at the forefront of your foreign policy. some say you jeopardize sweden's trade or other bilateral issues and particularly in 2015 when you criticized saudi arabia's gender policy, riyadh recalled its ambassador. i wonder if you think if they're on the road to self-correction with the new crown prince and his, for instance, lifting the ban on women driving and implementing or about to implement some more female friendly policies? >> we welcome every change that will show that countries around
the world see this as a universal human right, that women enjoy the same rights as men, and i think it is important that also small steps are taken to demonstrate that this is the direction because women also fight for their rights in saudi arabia and in many other countries where they are not as advanced or have come as far as they've done in my home country, but it is not more owe less. my thinking is it is about these practical tools and instruments that checks on the discrimination against women that allows them to enjoy the same rights as men, but also make sure that they can have a say and that also the budgetary means goes to women and girls' needs as they go to men and boys. >> foreign minister margo
walstrom, thank you so much for joining us from the u.n. >> thank you. thank you very much. all the best. so many issues where so many world leaders have to really grapple with historical injustices and challenges for the future and in the united states that resolves around the history of lynching. there are more than 700 memorials to the confederate cause across the country, but there's never been one to more than 4,000 lynchings, those victims of vigilante mob killings. until this week, of course, my guest, brian stevenson is taking a major step towards writing a historic imbalance. he's the visual force behind two major new institutions that wrestle with america's history of racism and they're about to open in montgomery, alabama, the first is the national memorial to peace and justice and it's dedicated to the thousands of men, women and children victims of the so-called terror, and the
enslavement and mass incarceration stands on the site of a warehouse where enslaved blacks were imprisoned. together, they connect the arc of america's racial history from slavery to jim crow to the arrest of two innocent black men in a philadelphia starbucks this month. brian stevenson is founder and executive director of the equal justice initiative and he joins me from montgomery, alabama. brian stevenson, welcome back to the program. >> thank you. it's good to be with you. >> you have done more than many, many people to keep memory alive and to keep history alive so that justice, perhaps, can be served. you have not one, but two incredible memorials. well, one is a memorial and one is a legacy museum opening. how hard was it to get to this point? what are you trying to say? >> well, it has been really, really challenging, but i'm incredibly excited and really proud to be creating these
spaces. after the emancipation of millions of black people who were enslaved in the united states and enslaved black people, were subjected to decades of terrorism and violence through lynching and the brutality of that era has really never been acknowledged and we've been silent about it for too long, and our silence, i think, has made the continuation of racial inequality and bigs on theory a problem that we still deal with today so my motivation is to create a new record, to create a new landscape. in the american south the it's littered with the iconography of the confederacy and we talk about mid-19th history and we don't talk about slavery and we don't talk about lynching and i hope this will push us to be more honest in confronting our past and addressing the brutal history of the inequality that we've all inherited here in the united states. >> to that end, i want to read
you because i talked about memory. the great nobel laureate says without memory, our existence would be barren and opaque, like a prison cell into which no light penetrates. if anything can, it is memory that will save humanity. so that's what he said, but you've pointed out that most people can't even name a lynching victim, and i think, you know, in the period that you're looking at, i think it's 1877 until 1950 as a period of about 80 years, 4,000 -- more than 4,000 americans were lynched. men, women and children. >> that's right, and it was terrorism. we cannot describe this violence as murder or even as hate crimes. it was terrorism. black people were pulled out of their homes. they were drowned and burned alive, they were beaten to death. they were hanged. sometimes on the lawn in the public square in front of courthouses. thousands of people would come and celebrate this -- this
spectacle of violence and brutality, and we haven't talked about it, and it's something devastating to this nation. the demographic geography of america was shaped during this era where 6 million black people fled the american south and that's how we have these large minority populations in cleveland and chicago and detroit and los angeles and oakland because black people fled to those community, not as immigrant, but as refugees and exile from terror and because we haven't addressed this, i think we continue to struggle. >> describe the sort of imagery of the memorial you've chosen. i think most people, myself included, believe that lynching was pure and simple hanging, but lynching was many other forms, as well. >> that's right, and it's important that people who come to our memorial have context and so when you enter the memorial, the first thing you see is something that most people have never seen in america which is a
sculpture on slavery. you will see human figures in chains and bondage and the optic of enslavement in this brutal form is something that we've not done a very good job of. we don't have an optic that accurately characterizes what happened to black people when they came to this country, and you make that path and you take that journey and then you enter what we call the memorial square and you'll begin to see the 6' steel monsant monou ams and it pushed to the side and it was lifted up to further torment and taunt and terrorize people of color and you can't appreciate how horrifying and terrifying this violence was until you begin to see these monuments rise, and ultimately, you are shadowed. you are haunted by these structures that represent all of the lives that were taken and then we tell stories. >> has anybody claimed their
monument yet? >> well, you know, it's interesting. we open this week and we've already heard from two dozen communities of faith people, schools and university, even some government officials who are interested in claiming their monument, and so i'm very hopeful that this will happen and over time our memorial will be a sort of report card of which communities in america have acknowledged their history and have committed to this process of truth and recovery. when i go to the holocaust museum, christiane, i go through it. i am very moved by it, and at the end of it i am prepared to say never again, and we haven't created spaces in this country that compel to people to never again, never again tolerating enslavement and lynching and segregation and racial inequality and because of that, i think we're still burdened by that history. black and brown people are presumed dangerous and guilty in our criminal justice system by the police in spaces that are
unfairly condemning them and that legacy has to be confronted and i hope these sites inspire that. >> talking about the history and the monuments, obviously this comes at a time when there is an almighty rowe over monuments in the south and you would specifically -- she's not coming is the governor of alabama, kay ivy. i want to play for you something that she said about these mono ups that you're talking about. >> when special interests wanted to tear down our historical m o monuments i said no? signed a law to protect them. we can't erase our history. here in alabama, we know something washington doesn't. to get where we're going, we need to understand where we've been. >> governor ivy has taken the exact opposite view that you describe germany took in the post-na
post-n post-nazi era. >> first of all, we're inviting everyone to come see the monuments and memorial and the governor among many other elected officials is more than welcome. we've had a lot of elected officials say i'm going to be there. i just think the iconography that we've created in the american south is dishonest. it's a distortion of history. it's not actually designed to help people understand who we are and what we've done. it's actually designed to help people forget some things, and in the 19th century, we brought hundreds of thousands of enslaved people. we brutalized and treated them badly and we haven't acknowledged that. the two are robert e. lee high and jefferson davis high and the confederate monuments were erected at the turn of the century and the statue of robert e. lee high school inial bamma was erected in 1955 as a symbol of resistance to racial
integration in public schools. it was designed to signify this idea that segregation forever is the mindset, and we haven't talked about that, and you can't look at that monument and understand the purpose of it, and because of that, we have to change the landscape. i don't think anybody would support a country putting up a statue to osama bin laden. we'd be outraged by that. the statue would be unconscionable and yet, we haven't confronted what these statues represent and how they make people of color feel. >> so as we talked about the governor she actually even went so far as creating -- well, monday was a state holiday in alabama and it is the official observance of confederate memorial day. mayor mitch landrieu spoke us to recently and took the opposite view. this is what he's say which goes to the heart of what you're saying. let me play that. >> slavery, it should not be
hard for us to say in the second decade of the 21st century was one of our nation's great original sins that has affected us through today and to have statues up that were basically put up as political messages to tell african-americans that they were not welcome here is not something that's consistent with the history of new orleans or who we have ever been. >> so, brian, in the bottom of your heart despite all that you're doing to create a different narrative, what do you feel, how do you keep your passion and motivation when you see reports in the united states that say even if a young black boy is raised in a very upper middle class, wealthy home, and he's going to face discrimination the minute he faces discrimination when you see in britain, a massive, real problem with the notion of deporting black people, caribbean people who were brought over here at the invitation of the government to help build this country after the war and yet this kind of
stuff can casually still happen. in starbucks, two black people are arrested just for going in there and waiting for a friend. it doesn't happen to white people. where do you get your energy from? >> well, i just recognize that justice is a constant struggle. i understand that we've got a lot of work to do to injustice that get assigned to plaque and brown people, and i am persuaded that hopelessness is the enemy of justice and justice prevails where hopelessness persists and it is necessary that i stay hopeful about what we can do. i'm the great-grandson of people who were enslaved. my great-grandfather was enslaved in virginia. my grandmother was terrorized during the era of lynching and fled virginia. my parents were humiliated every day during the jim crow era when they had the signs white and colored and they were assaults and created injuries and despite the fact that enslaved people had been brutalized, when they got emancipation they didn't say
let's kill all of the white people. let's seek revenge and they said let's find a way to create peace and justice and they were promised freedom, but what they got instead was terrorism and violence and even during that era the response was let's find a way to create peace and justice, and despite they is segregation and the brutality and police who put dogs on non-violent protesters who just wanted to be free and wanted to vote and the call was still to find a way for peace and justice so in the midst of this epidemic of over-incarceration and this continuation of assault on black and brown people in the immigration context, in the starbucks and in the public spaces. i still have to call for peace and justice because i know that there is this line that will define how we are viewed in this world and that line requires us to keep searching for peace, keep searching for justice to
avoid hatred and violence to avoid the bigotry that has defined our community. >> so for me, hope is a requirement and when i look back at the work that i'm trying to do today and i think of those folks 60 years ago who had to frequently say my head is bloodied, but not bowed, i don't have any excuses to keep fighting and to honor that commitment to justice, to struggle because i do believe one day we'll get to a point where we can actually claim more freedom. we can have something that feels more like a quality and justice and we are unwilling to stay hopeful about what we can do to create a more just society. >> brian stevenson, keep fighting. we're in your corner. the founder and executive director of the equal justice initiative. >> thank you so much. thank you. >> as stevenson said, few people can actually name anyone who has been lynched and we want you to
remember just three. jeff brown was lynched in 1916 for bumping into a white woman. jeff thornton was arrested for failing to refer to a man as mister. now tomorrow and friday i'll be broadcasting this show from south korea as it holds that historic summit with the north. the foreign minister will be on the program from seoul. that's it from our program tonight, "amanpour on pbs" and join us again tomorrow night. ♪ ♪ ♪