On Monday's Tavis Smiley show, PBS's Smiley hosted Bryan Stevenson of the Equal Justice Initiative as part of a week devoted to commemorating the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King's speech against the Vietnam War at Riverside Church.
Toward the end of the show, Stevenson went over the top as he called America a "post-genocide society," asserting that the U.S. had killed Native Americans "by the millions," and then declared that slavery did not really end in 1865, but "evolved" instead.
Nearing the end of the interview, Smiley wondered what people are wrongly "being silent about" as he posed an "exit question" to his guest:
King opens this speech essentially by saying -- as you referenced earlier -- that "I've come to this place tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice -- there is a time when silence becomes betrayal." So I ask you, in 2017, what is it we are being silent about in our society right now, that we are betraying the best of who we are?
I think we continue to be burned by our history of racial inequality. I don't think we're free yet. I think we've got some work to do to free ourselves from the narrative of racial difference. It still is in the atmosphere that still haunts us. You know, we're a post-genocide society. You know, before white settlers came, there were millions of native people here, and we killed them by the millions, and we haven't talked about that. I think we're still burned by the legacy of slavery.
He then seemed to think that America doesn't not teach about slavery and the lynchings against the black population that occurred in the last century:
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For me, the great evil of American slavery wasn't involuntary servitude or forced labor, it was the ideology of white supremacy that we made up to legitimate (legitimize) slavery. And if you read the Thirteenth Amendment, it doesn't talk about narratives of racial difference, it only talks about servitude and forced bondage. And because of that, I don't think slavery ended in 1865 -- I think it evolved. we've gone through decades of terrorism with lynching -- black people pulled out of their homes -- and we haven't talked about it.
And so I think we've got to become vocal about that history. If you go to South Africa, you are required to learn about Apartheid. If you go to Rwanda, you are required to learn about genocide. In Germany, there are markers everywhere about the Holocaust. But we don't talk about slavery, we don't talk about lynching, we don't talk about segregation. And I think we've got to become more vocal about that. Our landscape is littered with the iconography of the confederacy, and I think there's a moral challenge right now for us to take a big step forward on truth about racial inequality and reparations about how to recover.