CNN Hypes Poem By White Woman Apologizing for Slavery, White Privilege

CNN Newsroom on Wednesday devoted an entire four-minute segment to a poem written by a white woman and posted on Facebook in which she expressed regret for possessing white "privilege" and also apologized for America's history of slavery even though neither she, nor any other person alive today had anything to do with participating in the slave trade that existed in this country hundreds of years ago. Substituting for Brooke Baldwin, CNN's John Berman hosted the poem's writer, Pastor Savannah Hartman of Banner Church, as a guest.



After playing a clip of Cameron Sterling -- son of shooting victim Alton Sterling -- speaking out publicly to advocate peaceful protest, Berman segued to the poem:

All right, the video of Alton Sterling's death at the hands of police sparked one young woman to pour her thoughts about racial unrest into a poem she read on Facebook. That video has now been viewed more than 17 million times. She starts with an apology.

Then came a clip of Pastor Hartman, as she emotionally read:

I wasn't born rich, but don't get it twisted. See how I look, my white skin is my privilege. I don't get watched when I go to the mall. If I get stopped for a ticket, it doesn't end in a brawl. I don't know what it's like to go out for snacks and end up lying dead on my back. My car's never been watched or followed around. My kids don't play in parks and then get gunned down. I don't know anyone murdered for selling cigs or CDs, I've never been choked out or shot at by corrupt men in PDs.

The clip then showed her apologizing for slavery:

So I won't pretend to know how you feel, but I have something to say that's true and that's real. And that's that I'm sorry for how we've behaved, starting the very moment that you were enslaved. Since we came in our boats and shackled your hands and shipped you back here to work on our land. I’m for scars you bear then and -- bore then and bear now because of wounds we have caused or allowed.

Berman then introduced Hartman as a guest and began by sympathetically posing:

With me now is Savannah Hartman. Savannah, thanks so much for being with us. I just want to ask, you know, what made you finally write that poem? What made you share it and are you surprised at this point it's been viewed 17 million times?

The closest that the CNN host came to pushing back on the premise that whites should apologize for sins they had nothing to do with perpetrating came when he vaguely asked if she could share some of the reaction she has received, including on the negative side:

You know, when anyone posts something online, it gets on Facebook, 17 million people see it, I imagine there are a lot of comments on both sides. Talk to us about some of these comments, both pro and I imagine there have got to be some con, as well.

The two then got into a discussion about the unfairness of black parents having to teach their children to treat police officers with respect, even though it makes sense for all parents regardless of race to teach their children to treat the police with respect. Berman posed:

You know, it's interesting, I've been talking to Don Lemon, Van Jones, some of our friends here at CNN, and they talked to us about "The Talk" that young African-American kids need to get from their parents or that parents give their African-American children about how to behave, how to react if they are faced with a police officer, just how to react and behave in society, and one of the things that Van and Don have been saying is that they think now that white parents need to have conversations with their white children. I'm wondering what you think those conversations should be?

Not mentioned is the role the media play in scaring the black population disproportionately into fearing the police by seldomly ever publicizing examples of white suspects who also get into violent confrontations with the police. Even though there are typically twice as many incidents each year of whites being shot by police as compared with blacks, the media rarely take the time to highlight even one case.

Below is a complete transcript of the segment from the Wednesday, July 13, CNN Newsroom with Brooke Baldwin:

JOHN BERMAN: All right, the video of Alton Sterling's death at the hands of police sparked one young woman to pour her thoughts about racial unrest into a poem she read on Facebook. That video has now been viewed more than 17 million times. She starts with an apology. 

SAVANNAH HARTMAN, LEAD PASTOR OF BANNER CHURCH: I wasn't born rich, but don't get it twisted. See how I look, my white skin is my privilege. I don't get watched when I go to the mall. If I get stopped for a ticket, it doesn't end in a brawl. I don't know what it's like to go out for snacks and end up lying dead on my back. My car's never been watched or followed around. My kids don't play in parks and then get gunned down. I don't know anyone murdered for selling cigs or CDs, I've never been choked out or shot at by corrupt men in PDs.

So I won't pretend to know how you feel, but I have something to say that's true and that's real. And that's that I'm sorry for how we've behaved, starting the very moment that you were enslaved. Since we came in our boats and shackled your hands and shipped you back here to work on our land. I’m for scars you bear then and -- bore then and bear now because of wounds we have caused or allowed.

BERMAN: With me now is Savannah Hartman. Savannah, thanks so much for being with us. I just want to ask, you know, what made you finally write that poem? What made you share it and are you surprised at this point it's been viewed 17 million times? 

HARTMAN: I'm surprised, yes and no. I'm surprised, yes, because I wrote it and I'm just a regular person. So I can't believe that it was me, but I'm not surprised because I think deep down no matter how we were raised, we all want the same thing and we all understand the value of a human life and we all want to stand against injustice. And so I think members of both communities were able to join hands and see that, you know, that it was a message that they could get behind. And it was just, you know, I kind of had enough. You can let injustice go on for so long before you say something, and I think a lot of us struggle with that bystander effect, you know. Someone else will say something so I won't have to. And then finally I got to the point where I was just like I can't not say anything anything anymore. And so there it was. 

BERMAN: You know, when anyone posts something online, it gets on Facebook, 17 million people see it, I imagine there are a lot of comments on both sides. Talk to us about some of these comments, both pro and I imagine there have got to be some con, as well. 

HARTMAN: I'd say really about 85 percent of the reception has been positive. One of the main comments that we got that was kind of more negative was that my family or my husband and I or our church were anti-cop. And that's absolutely not the case. We love cops. We have people in our family who are cops. We support cops. In the same way that we don't want a community to be spoiled because of one or two bad actions, we don't want people to think that we don't like cops because of one or two bad apples, and so we love and support cops. But really that's the only negative commentary that we've gotten, was the question of our support of cops. And we both think we can love cops but still address a broken system. And that's what we did. 

BERMAN: You know, it's interesting, I've been talking to Don Lemon, Van Jones, some of our friends here at CNN, and they talked to us about "The Talk" that young African-American kids need to get from their parents or that parents give their African-American children about how to behave, how to react if they are faced with a police officer, just how to react and behave in society, and one of the things that Van and Don have been saying is that they think now that white parents need to have conversations with their white children. I'm wondering what you think those conversations should be? 

HARTMAN: I actually think it’s kind of crazy that a black parent would have to tell their black child how to behave in front of a cop. You know, when I was raised, my mom and my dad didn't have to tell me how to behave in front of a cop because they raised me with manners and with respect, and I don't -- I think that black parents all over the world raise their kids with manners and with respect. And I don't think they should have to act any differently around a cop than I would. And so I think, in both sides of the community, it shouldn't be an issue of, you know, because you're black this is how you have to act around a cop.

I think it should be because you’re a human, we want to honor and respect other humans, and so we're going to walk in honor and integrity, we're going to respect authority, we're going to be loving, we're going to value human life, and we're going to be, you know, upstanding citizens. And I think the majority of those talks are what parents are having with their children. I just think that it is a shame and that it's sad that black parents are having to give their kids more rules and restrictions for how to behave than I would have to give my two, you know, I have two young sons who are white, and I don't have to tell them a special way to act around a cop. They just know to be respectful, and I think black parents are teaching their children the same thing. And I'm sad that they have to teach them something more than what I'm having to teach my kids.

BERMAN: Savannah Hartman, thanks so much for being with us.

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