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PAULA ZAHN NOW
China to Tighten Restrictions on Foreign Adoptions; Radical Treatment For 9-Year-Old Girl Creates Controversy
Aired January 8, 2007 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Coming up at the top of the hour, we shine a light on America's hidden intolerance that just lurks below the surface. Every night, we're finding and talking about these hidden secrets, bringing them out into the open.
Tonight, the question is: Who is fit to adopt? We continue our dialogue about the thousands of Americans who adopt babies from China, and China's new proposed rules for who isn't eligible. It's a sensitive issue many of you have let us know you feel passionately about.
Also: pillow angel, the controversial story of parents who gave their severely disabled child drugs to stunt her growth, so she would be easier to care for down the road.
And then: taking back praise -- why a U.S. senator rescinded an award to a Muslim community leader who says he's only trying to promote tolerance and understanding.
We have been flooded with your e-mails, thousands of them since our segment on Friday about China's plan to tighten restrictions on foreigners adopting children. It's a controversial subject. And we brought it out in the open because of the potentially intolerant rules on who can adopt, only prospective parents who are thin enough, rich enough, and attractive enough.
Tonight, we are going to hear from some of those folks in passionate e-mails about how we handled the story, and about what some of you had to say about our panelists who were with us on Friday. And then we will give those panelists a chance to respond.
First, though, John Vause in Beijing tells us more about the proposed new adoption regulations.
JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): No one knows for certain just how many Chinese kids don't have a family, but 23 of them live here in the New Day Foster Home, on the outskirts of Beijing. And all of these children have special needs.
Doug Bush from Alabama is one of the American volunteers who run the home.
DOUG BUSH, NEW DAY FOSTER HOME: These children are -- are being adopted, for the most part, by families in America. VAUSE: It's been like that since New Day opened six years ago. Kids stay here, on average, 18 months. In fact, for childless couples across the United States, China has been a blessing. But, by May, the open door to Chinese kids may be closing a little, with the communist government imposing tough new criteria for hopeful parents. They must not be morbidly obese, must not have any facial deformities, and must not take antidepressants.
They need to have a net worth of $80,000 or more, and need to married couples, age between 30 and 50 -- so, no more singles allowed.
BUSH: The regulations will limit some families that I believe would make good -- good parents. But I do understand the reason for them.
VAUSE: China says, the new rules are meant to find the best parents for their homeless children. And with anecdotal evidence suggesting the number of orphans is decreasing, the authorities here can afford to be choosy.
KATE WEDGWOOD, CHINA PROGRAM DIRECTOR, SAVE THE CHILDREN: They're more stringent than, say, Vietnam or Guatemala, but less stringent than South Korea. And I think it's very normal for countries to have certain restrictions.
VAUSE (on camera): According to the U.S. State Department, last year, almost 7,000 Chinese kids found new homes in the United States, the most number of adoptions from any one country. And the main reason for that, this system is centrally controlled. And that means it's relatively efficient. It's predictable. And everyone knows the rules.
(voice-over): And, when those rules change, it may mean that a family somewhere will miss out on giving one of these kids a new home and a new life.
John Vause, CNN, Beijing.
ZAHN: And, as I mentioned, we got thousands of e-mails about this segment. Here's why.
On Friday, we set out to talk about discrimination and the proposed regulations, but our panelists went in a different direction.
Here's what radio host Roland Martin said about adopting Chinese children.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROLAND MARTIN, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "THE CHICAGO DEFENDER": What's the big deal with Chinese children? Enlighten me, please. Help me out.
ZAHN: You understand this better than anybody. Why don't we see more Americans adopting black foster children?
MARTIN: Well, that's -- I mean, that's my point.
ZAHN: Hispanic children?
MARTIN: I mean, I'm trying to figure out, what's the big deal with Chinese children?
MARTIN: Why the infatuation?
ZAHN: Well, do you think it's something with the -- the color of their skin? Is that what you're driving at?
MARTIN: I -- I don't know. I'm -- or maybe they think they can adopt a smart kid or something who is going to grow up to be a doctor.
SOLANGEL MALDONADO, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF LAW, SETON HALL UNIVERSITY: Absolutely.
MARTIN: I don't know. All they need to realize, that that's called training, not just inherent; it is going to happen because just they're born.
Angel, can you help me out?
MALDONADO: Yes, absolutely.
I mean, this is something that I have been looking into for -- for a long time. Americans do have this love affair with girls from China. There is this belief, this perception, as irrational as it might be, that, if you adopt a little girl from China, she's going to be intelligent. She's going to be more lovable.
MARTIN: So, there's nothing...
MARTIN: ... porcelain doll?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: Radio host Cenk Uygur saw the question from a Muslim perception, which became clear as our conversation continued.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARTIN: What is the infatuation with -- by Americans and other foreigners when it comes to adopting Chinese children?
That -- I mean, but that -- that is a real issue there. (CROSSTALK)
MARTIN: And -- and why do we avoid other children, and not just -- children who are here in America, who are looking for homes, and who just...
ZAHN: All right.
MARTIN: ... who, just like Chinese orphans, want a nice place to live.
ZAHN: But , realistically, how are you ever going to change that bias?
CENK UYGUR, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, you know, I think a lot of people are looking for Muslim children these days.
ZAHN: Yeah, right.
UYGUR: Yes. And, you know, because we started the Iraq war, and there's so many orphans. I'm sure they're getting a lot of Iraqi children, right?
UYGUR: No, of course. They are doing it because they think it's cute, and they're going to be smart. And it's really dumb, actually, of course.
And, so, Roland is right. It's all in the training. And -- and -- and it's a shame, because there's a -- all over the world, there's other kids that need to be adopted, especially in Africa.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: Sound like racism to you?
Well, it did to some of the people who wrote to us.
Here's what Karen had to say: "How can you allow guests to make blanket statements that parents who adopt from China only want porcelain dolls who are smart and well-behaved? The comments made by all three panelists clearly show that they are racists and ignorant about issues concerning adoption, adoptive parents, and U.S. citizens in general, not to mention Asian-American stereotypes."
Another e-mail, this one from Alice, reads: "Please help educate our wonderful country, instead of providing racist and negative stereotypes to international adoptive parents. Believe me, nobody goes through an international adoption to have a porcelain doll. We just want to be parents. It is a difficult, expensive, intrusive process that truly weeds out those who want to parent from those wanting a child for vanity."
And then we got this one from Laurie: "If CNN would have invited someone from the adoption community to participate on the panel, perhaps the show would have had actual substance, rather than becoming a forum for verbal bashing of the parents of international adoptees."
We're going to hear from Cenk Uygur and Roland Martin in just a little bit.
But, tonight, we are now going to hear from someone in the adoption community. One of the people who contacted us about Friday's segment is David Youtz. He is the president of the Greater New York Chapter of Families With Children From China. He and his wife have adopted four girls from China, including triplets, who joined the family just last year. And he has spent several years living in China, teaching English and learning Chinese. He joins me now.
Thank you so much for being with us.
DAVID YOUTZ, PRESIDENT, FAMILIES WITH CHILDREN FROM CHINA OF GREATER NEW YORK: Thank you, Paula. It's a pleasure to be here.
ZAHN: Thank you.
So, how insulting did you find those stereotypes that you just heard among our panelists?
YOUTZ: Well, as you heard, it stirred people up.
I think the -- the real difficulty was not so much that they were acting racist. I think they thought they were being funny, and -- and doing sort of a quick look at adoption.
The difficulty is that adoption is a very complex thing. And it really has to do with what's good for the child. And it's often very complex and difficult, far more, I think, than your panelists realize, to go ahead and form a family through international adoption.
ZAHN: Do you concede, though, that some of the stereotypes that they address do exist among some Americans?
YOUTZ: No, I don't think so.
You know, I think the key point here is that what parents in the United States want to do is form a family. And race is really not what's going on. The reason many, many Americans -- there are now something like 55,000 children who have been adopted by Americans into -- from China into American homes.
The reason that's been so popular, I think, is really the process. The process in China is very predictable. It's very consistent. It's quite fair. When you enter into it as an adoptive parent, you know roughly how long that process will take, what the paperwork is that you need, the costs. And, you know, it's a very clear and dependable process. And that's exactly what you want as an adoptive parent. ZAHN: So, is it a less dependable process than -- that -- when Roland Martin talks about the need for Americans to adopt black children here in -- in our own country?
ZAHN: Are you saying the process is so onerous with their adoption, it's just much easier to go to China, and -- and bring those little kids home?
YOUTZ: Well, it's a very personal decision when a -- you know, an adoptive parent or a couple decide they want to do.
It's a very personal choice on which direction they go. And I absolutely applaud anyone who wants to go through a domestic adoption. There are thousands and thousands of children in foster care. And let's hope that as many as possible end up in great homes.
But, for an individual family deciding, you don't just say, I'm going to save this child or that child. It's really all about forming a family. It's not about rescuing someone. And I think that's where the panelists went astray.
Let's close with this e-mail from an adoptive parent. Her name is Alice. She says: "It is a disservice to label adoptive parents so shallow in their decisions. It is also a disservice to imply that Chinese children are always tainted" -- or -- excuse me -- "talented and gifted. It's one of the unfortunate Asian stereotypes that all Asians are smart and hardworking. Can you imagine the pressure and expectations this puts on less able Chinese children?"
Does she have a point there?
YOUTZ: Oh, absolutely. She's exactly on the money.
And that, I think, was what truly upset people, was the -- the program, which was supposed to, you know, burst stereotypes ended up pushing along old, tired stereotypes. Asian children are children. And we love them because they become members of our family. We don't want to deal with the stereotypes.
ZAHN: We appreciate your coming on.
YOUTZ: Thanks, Paula.
ZAHN: Hope you felt you were able to -- to get your piece tonight.
YOUTZ: I am. And I'm glad you listened to us. Thank you.
ZAHN: OK. Thank you.
We're committed to bringing intolerance out into the open on this show, even if it means holding up a mirror to some of our own feelings. In a minute, I'm going to be joined by an "Out in the Open" panel. It includes two of my guests from Friday's controversial discussion about adopting Chinese babies.
And, then a little bit later on, do parents have a right to stunt their daughter's growth because she's severely disabled, so it will be easier for them to take care of her?
We will be back with that debate.
ZAHN: Another story we're bringing into the open tonight, a national trend that's affecting many historically black neighborhoods -- in a little bit, the changing face of South Central Los Angeles.
First, we're going to bring out into the open the passionate response we got to our discussion Friday about our segment on China's new proposed adoption rules.
Some of the things our panelists said really touched a raw nerve, got a lot of people very upset, even accusing our panelists of racism. We got thousands of e-mails about the segment.
And joining me now, two members of Friday's panel, Roland Martin, executive editor of "The Chicago Defender" newspaper, host of "The Roland S. Martin Show," and Cenk Uygur, a host of "The Young Turks" on the Air America Radio Network. Also with me, Ginny Gong, president of the Organization of Chinese Americans.
I want to start off with an e-mail, Roland, that I would like you to respond to.
ZAHN: And it says: "To imply that we, as adoptive parents, adopt Chinese babies because they are smarter than other races or cuter than other cases is just simply wrong. To say it is in the 'in thing' to do is just insulting. To ask why we don't adopt Muslim children, well, it is against the law in Muslim countries. How crazy to even make such a strange statement, that we are afraid of what would happen in a chemistry class."
Roland, first of all, what do you say to the charges that you were a racist by saying some of what you said on Friday?
MARTIN: Well, first and foremost, anybody who knows that definition of what being a racist means, having power over someone, that wouldn't apply.
What we were talking about -- frankly, we were debunking the stereotypes, making fun of those stereotypes, people who do that. Now, Angel Maldonado from Seton Hall University, had the research. And what she said, there is evidence there of individuals who make adoptions based upon race.
And, so, anybody who watches that, the question I asked was, what is the infatuation in America with adopting Chinese children? She gave her response, in terms of based upon -- in terms of how some people feel about Chinese girls. We then took off on that particular statement. Now...
ZAHN: But didn't you also make it clear, Roland, that there seemed to be a preference of these -- these Chinese babies, one of our guests referring to them as porcelain dolls, over black kids?
MARTIN: Well, no, no -- right. I -- first of all, the porcelain dolls statement was still in response to Angel's comment about them being -- you know, being the -- the cute girls.
I raised that question because, again, I asked, OK, if there is such demand in America for Chinese children, then what about American children? Now, the guest that you had on the air, you asked him the question about whites adopting African-American children. What did he say? He said, well, that's a personal preference as to how people want to put together their family.
ZAHN: But -- but, to be perfectly fair, Roland, he also made it clear that -- that the process in China is much more predictable than the process perhaps in other countries. And -- and -- and, although he didn't say that, I think you could extrapolate from that -- that maybe it's -- it's sometimes, in much cases, much tougher to adopt an African-American child than a Chinese child.
MARTIN: Well, are -- are you meaning in America? Because, again...
ZAHN: In America.
MARTIN: Well, again, and so, I also have e-mails from people who have actually adopted kids in America, and they say, it -- it is not that -- as difficult.
MARTIN: And, so, again, you -- you have (INAUDIBLE) on both.
The point there, we were not criticizing individuals, everyone who adopts a Chinese kid. We were talking about people who do adopt based upon stereotypes. We're criticizing those stereotypes.
ZAHN: Do you plead guilty, Cenk, to impugning the -- impugning the motives of Americans who adopt children from China?
UYGUR: I'm a talk show host, Paula, so I'm never guilty of anything, and I'm never wrong.
Listen, there is...
ZAHN: It must be great to be perfect.
UYGUR: There are two separate issues here. The charges of racism, I think, are absolutely ridiculous. We were pointing out a false stereotype, and saying how false it was.
Now, on the other hand, if you -- is race a factor in some people's decision to adopt children in different countries or in this country? Absolutely, it is. It would be ridiculous to say that it isn't for anybody.
For example, off the air, Professor Maldonado was talking about how you get a 25 percent discount if you adopt an African-American child, someone who has any African-American blood in them in America. You get a 50 percent discount if they're fully African-American.
And that's -- to say that that is -- that there's no supply-and- demand issues, that there's no race issues there is ridiculous.
ZAHN: All right.
UYGUR: On the other hand, was I overbroad in saying that that -- implying, in my one sentence, that that was the sole factor? Absolutely.
I was overbroad -- I think overbroad, to the point of being wrong. I think there are a lot of factors involved. I think there are a lot of great people who do adoption for many good reasons. And God bless them for it.
ZAHN: He actually admitted...
GINNY GONG, NATIONAL PRESIDENT, ORGANIZATION OF CHINESE AMERICANS: He did.
GONG: ... that he was wrong.
You said you weren't going to admit that tonight at the -- at the top of this interview.
ZAHN: So, Ginny, the bottom line here is -- is, clearly, our panel struck a nerve.
Are you satisfied with both Roland's and Cenk's explanation, that -- that what this simply was, was a discussion about stereotypes people have had for a very long time about adopting various races of babies?
GONG: I don't -- I don't know if the issue is whether I'm satisfied, because, certainly, it's the parents, I think, that, really, it hit a nerve with.
You know, for me, creating a family is a very difficult decision to make. And a lot of it is just the process that David talked about. And, also, you know, I think there is some kind of a concern, maybe, that, if someone was adopted here, you know, what if, down the line, the parents emerge and decided that they, you know, wanted to claim the child back?
I certainly think that that's a factor as well. But the process is streamlined, in that on the -- that it was quite liberal and quite fair, and that, if you really wanted to go through this process, there was some predictability to it. And I think that that's a piece of it.
MARTIN: You know -- you know, Paula, I received some e-mails from different people, who also were exhibiting their stereotypes, saying they did not want some crackhead baby mama to come back and get their children.
I know of individuals who are very good friends of mine who have adopted, and they're -- in America, African-American children. And they were white, as well, who were not concerned with that, as well.
And, so, people have different reasons as to why they adopt.
But people who adopt because they want adopt, they want to do a family, that's fine. But to deny that people -- that race doesn't -- is not a factor, and you -- you can say, well, I have never heard it.
The evidence is there. And, so, if someone was offended by it, I'm sorry they were offended by these -- these stereotypes. The key is, are we being honest as to how people adopt? There are people who, frankly, may be more comfortable adopting a Chinese child vs. an African-American or an Hispanic child.
And, if the issue is, again, streamlining the process in America, well, then, we can work towards that. But just to say, well, it's easier there than here, you know, you -- you have to really question that, because other people have done it, and they have -- and they have been very fine with their choices in America.
ZAHN: Roland Martin, we have got to leave it there.
Cenk Uygur, Ginny Gong, thank you, all.
ZAHN: Glad to have you all on board tonight.
We're going to move on to a controversy over a severely disabled girl now. Her parents have nicknamed her their pillow angel. And she will never be normal. But should they be allowed to stunt her growth to make it easier to care for her? And, a little bit later on, an historically black neighborhood gets some new faces and new problems of intolerance that we're bringing out in the open tonight.
Please stay with us. We will be right back.
ZAHN: Our next story pushes the bounds of medical ethics out into the open tonight.
It's about a young girl whose parents gave her drugs and insisted on a rare form of surgery to intentionally stunt her growth by removing her uterus and breast tissue. Some call it Peter Pan surgery, because it means she will never become an adult physically. Her parents say it's for her own good, but others consider it mutilation. And that is raising a very important ethical controversy.
Medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen has more on the girl her parents call their pillow angel.
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This little girl is setting off a worldwide debate about intentionally and permanently stunting a child's growth.
Ashley had a normal birth, but her parents soon realized something was terribly wrong. She's never learned how to walk, talk, or even sit up by herself. She has a severe brain impairment no one can fully explain. Ashley can't keep her head up or change her sleeping position, or even hold a toy.
In fact, unless her parents move her, Ashley usually stays in one place, on a pillow, which is why they call her their pillow angel. Now 9 years old, Ashley's doctors say, nothing will change.
DR. DOUGLAS DIEKEMA, SEATTLE CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: Her cognitive function was the equivalent of that of an infant, and always will be. So, when you see Ashley, it's like seeing a baby in -- in a much larger baby.
COHEN: Ashley spends her day lying down. Her parents carry her around and play music.
COHEN: They say Andrea Bocelli is her favorite.
But they always worried, what would happen when her body got even larger? That's when Ashley's parents made the radical decision to keep her small forever.
Her parents want to remain anonymous, but they have told their story on their Web site: "Ashley will be a lot more physically comfortable free of menstrual cramps, free of the discomfort associated with large and fully-developed breasts, and with a smaller and lighter body that is better suited to constant lying down and is easier to be moved around."
So, three years ago, Ashley's parents gave her estrogen therapy with a patch to stunt her growth. And surgeons removed her uterus and removed her breast buds. The result, for the rest of her life, Ashley will be about 4 feet, 5 inches tall -- that's about 13 inches than she would have been -- and weigh 75 pounds. And she will never hit puberty, no monthly periods, no breasts.
Doctors expect her to have a normal lifespan. Still, Ashley's private challenges have become fodder for public debate. Her parents say, recently, their Web site received nearly half-a-million hits in one day.
The reactions, mostly positive -- but, on CNN's Web site, one person wrote, "I don't think anyone has the right to play God."
Another wrote: "I think it's inhuman to do that to a kid. It makes me sick to my stomach."
But Seattle Children's Hospital say they performed the procedure only after careful deliberations by an ethics panel.
DIEKEMA: If Ashley's brain is the brain of a 6-month-old, then Ashley should probably be treated as a 6-month-old.
COHEN: But Ashley's parents have written, "Unless you are living the experience, you are speculating, and you have no clue what it is like to be the bedridden child or their caregivers."
They say they hope, some day, these medical procedures, what they call the Ashley treatment, will be available to other disabled children.
Elizabeth Cohen, CNN, Atlanta.
ZAHN: As you can see, this case raises all sorts of pointed questions.
Let's turn to Art Caplan, chairman of the Department of Medical Ethics at the University of Pennsylvania, and James Hughes, executive director of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies at Trinity College.
Welcome to both of you.
Dr. Caplan, what is wrong with what the parents and the doctors have decided here? They say that this child has no hope of having anything beyond the comprehension of a 6-month-old child? So, why shouldn't she be treated accordingly?
DR. ARTHUR CAPLAN, DIRECTOR, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA CENTER FOR BIOETHICS: Some of the things I think they're doing make some sense. The removal of her uterus to avoid the menstrual cycle, I think, makes some sense. It's -- it's going to be something very difficult to handle. Removing her breasts, I think, is starting to get very dubious, because...
ZAHN: Why? Why? What -- what's...
ZAHN: ... the line that is being drawn there, as far as you're concerned?
CAPLAN: What the -- what they're saying is: We're doing it for her comfort.
My argument is, everybody has a right to develop into an adult, no matter how disabled or mentally cognitively impaired you are. And, if you're going to have discomfort, then let's see. Why are we doing these prophylactic things for a time that hasn't happened yet? Maybe she will have large breasts. Maybe she will have small breasts. Why are we trying to shape her at this point in time?
Other issue, they say they're doing it for her. But, when you're talking about moving her and the size issues, I think that's partly got to be for their convenience and their ability to keep her home. I think that's a noble and great thing to do. But, if the issue is moving her around, then, maybe we need a society that can get the disabled moved, with some home health aid, with the right equipment.
That's a very important point I think we will come back to in a little bit.
But -- but, James, why don't you react to what Dr. Caplan said right after -- right off the top, that this -- if this is about the convenience for the parents to take care of this child, why the mutilation? Why remove this breast tissue? Why was that necessary?
JAMES HUGHES, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, TRINITY COLLEGE INSTITUTE FOR ETHICS AND EMERGING TECHNOLOGIES: Well, in the first place, it's -- it's not mutilation. Parents make surgical decisions for their children all the time.
Apparently, she had already exhibited some tenderness around her breast area, and there was some precocious breast development. And prophylactic decisions are made. For instance, when women find out that they have a predisposition to breast cancer, many women will -- some will decide to have prophylactic mastectomies. And this wasn't even a mastectomy. This was simply the removal of some tissue.
ZAHN: So, you defend the parents on -- on all fronts here, when it comes...
HUGHES: I... ZAHN: ... to stunting the growth and -- and removing these female organs?
HUGHES: Yes, I -- I certainly -- I stand with the parents, the physicians, the 40-member ethics committee, the attorneys that they consulted, all of whom, after the full consideration of the facts of the case, came to the determination that this was an acceptable use of technology.
And, as to Art's point that we don't provide enough care for people to do in-home care, I think it's a non sequitur. We don't deny people the right to Prozac just because that might reduce the demand for therapists in the community. We don't deny people the right to contraception because there might be inadequate child care in a community. It's a non sequitur to argue that. In this case, it was in this girl's interest to have these treatments.
ZAHN: Dr. Caplan, give me a quick closing thought on that and the fact that this could clearly open up the door for other parents to do the same thing because there are other parents considering similar surgeries for different kinds of conditions.
CAPLAN: Many, there are all kinds of people who have kids who are violent, kids who are autistic, and get big and hard to handle. My argument is this. I don't agree with James on this point.
You need a society that can help parents let kids grow up. That's why we have kids. I think you need a society that can get equipment, home health care and support the valiant caregivers like these parents. Trying to shape the patient, lopping off breasts, and I consider that mutilation, trying to prevent the natural course of the development of puberty, I would say you're engineering the patient to fit a world where we don't have enough help.
And I think we should give them help. I don't doubt their love and desire told to do the right thing. But I don't think keeping somebody permanently at the age of six, turning them almost into an oddity is going to really going to benefit them in the long run. Let's face it, at some point, those parents aren't going to be able to take care of Ashley, then what?
ZAHN: Well, that's a painful question that a lot of parents with disabled children have to worry about. Arthur Caplan, James Hughes, thank you, appreciate them both for joining us.
Onto another story now, is your old neighborhood the way it was when you grew up? On a minute, we're going to take you to a neighborhood that is changing drastically, bringing intolerance out between blacks and Latinos, right into the open.
And a little bit later on, a U.S. senator takes back an award given to a Muslim activist. We're going to hear from people who say that activist is promoting tolerance and others who say his organization secretly supports terrorism.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ZAHN: In Los Angeles today, two young men suspected members of a Latino gang were arraigned on murder and hate crime charges. They're accused of killing a 14-year-old black girl last month. We're bringing this sort out into the open tonight because it looks like a sign of the growing tension between Latinos and blacks, which may only become more intense over the next 50 years as the number of Latinos in the U.S. passes the number of blacks. Ted Rowlands has the very latest tonight for us from L.A.
TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The only reason 14-year-old Cheryl Green was shot and killed last month, police believe, was because she was black.
These two suspects in custody are Latino and are facing hate crime charges. Cheryl Green is just the latest victim in an ongoing racial battle between some African-Americans and Hispanics in southern California.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We need to do something about this.
ROWLANDS: The tension between races isn't new. Over the past several years, it's shown up in gang violence, prison brawls and high school fights. The root of the problem is much deeper, though, and involves a change in historically black neighborhoods, areas like South Central, Watts and Compton, where Hispanics are now the majority.
DOMINIQUE DIPRIMA, KJLH RADIO HOST: Are they talking about this on Latino radio?
ROWLANDS: On KJLH in Los Angeles, an African-American radio station, the tension between Latinos and blacks is a regular topic.
DIPRIMA: I don't think it's about some kind of endemic hatred of one another. I think it's about who happens to be at the bottom right now and who is competing for those very increasingly scarce resources.
CEDRIC BLACKMON, BUSINESS OWNER: The African community is angry because what we have has been taken and the job opportunities are no longer there.
ROWLANDS: Cedric Blackman owns a property management company. He spent he spend his entire life in Watts.
BLACKMON: It used to be like, Oh, the Greens used to own that house, or the Walkers used to own that house. And now the Martinez's own that house.
ROWLANDS: Blackmon says the change happened so fast, many African-Americans didn't see it coming.
BLACKMON: Some of the Mexican people here, we've grown up together and we've gotten along fine. But they never said, hey, they're coming in big numbers and this thing is going to be all Hispanic in a minute. Nobody ever said anything. Before you know it, there was the Martinez brothers, the Ramirez shop. I mean, this used to be all black. Now it's all Hispanic. There's anger in the black community.
ROWLANDS: Anger because some African-Americans believe they've been steamrolled by an exploding population of Hispanics that works for low wages and helps each other find jobs.
And there's a feeling among some in the black community that as Hispanics have gained economic and political power, African-Americans have been pushed to the side.
TINO BOCANEGRA, BUSINESS OWNER: I do OK with the black guys.
ROWLANDS: Tino Bocanegra says he's lived in Watts for more than 20 years. He owns an auto repair shop. He says it's true that some Hispanics try to avoid doing business with African-Americans.
BOCANEGRA: I talk to another guy who has a business like this, they cannot -- scared dealing with black guys because they think they're bad.
ROWLANDS: Nicolas Vaca is the author of "The Presumed Appliance," which documents the tension between blacks and Hispanics. He says as the Hispanic population continues to grow, this battle is going to play out in other cities around the country.
NICOLAS VACA, AUTHOR: Latinos are going to exert their power. They're doing it in California in a significant way. African- Americans are going to have to adjust to the fact that they are no longer the largest minority in the United States.
ROWLANDS: Following the murder of Cheryl Green, leaders from the Hispanic and African-American community stood together in a call for peace.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We ask the blessing upon our young people.
ROWLANDS: Urging people from both groups to get along. Ted Rowlands, CNN, Los Angeles.
ZAHN: And now we're going to get straight to our out in the open panel. Ginny Gong, president of the Organization of Chinese Americans, who was here a little bit earlier on. Michael Eric Dyson, a professor of humanities at the University of Pennsylvania. His upcoming book is called "Debating Race." And Emmy-award winning journalist Sandra Guzman, who is an associate editor of the "New York Post." Welcome all.
As a Latina woman in America today, help us understand this increasing tension between blacks and Hispanics.
SANDRA GUZMAN, NEW YORK POST: Well, there is a problem with fighting for the crimes. We're fighting for whatever it was that was allotted to us. And that's an economic issue, Paula.
ZAHN: More an economic issue than a race issue?
GUZMAN: It's an economic issue. I should point that 1.7 Hispanics self-identified as black in the last census. So to be Hispanic is not necessarily to be of a racial category. There are black Hispanics. So I want to clear that up because I think there is a myth about what a Hispanic is and we can be black.
ZAHN: But clearly, as we heard in this piece, races also plays a pivotal role in all of this. It's not just about economics.
GUZMAN: It is also race because Latinos do come with their racial views when we cross over the Rio Grande. There is a racial issue in Latin America that we have never resolved and clearly opened and talked about the legacy of racism of Africa's scattered children.
DYSON: There's no question. I think that, you know, there was a study done recently by a university professor that suggested that there are negative viewpoints, that many white Americans hold negative viewpoints about African-Americans, but many Latinos bring them from the unresolved issues and tensions within Latino cultures about black versus white.
But in America, too, I think, as Ms. Guzman, the reality is that we are fighting over the crumbs when black people think, well, these Mexicans are taking my job.
You weren't working on a two dollar an hour job, so slow down. And you shouldn't be working on that job, neither should Mexicans be forced to work there. So black and Latino people are arguing over scarcer and scarcer resources instead of holding accountable who should be held accountable, corporate interests that exploit these Latino people, African-American resentment, legitimately, because now they, we don't want black people working for us. We want the Latino person working because the Latino person can't accuse us of bad business practices because they're afraid they're to do so and they're already getting ripped off. So there's tremendous tension forming between the African-Americans and Latinos. And we have to deal with that straightforward.
ZAHN: So, how do you diffuse it, given the deep economic divide we're talking about here? You know, we heard a lot of the frustration, the neighborhood's changing, one whole black population has been removed. It's now Latino. There's a tremendous amount of frustration. But, as you say, it's about who happens to be at the bottom.
GONG: There's this whole story about crabs in the bucket and how the crabs are crawling to the top of the bucket, but the other crabs are pulling them down.
And it just seems as though, you know, this competition for those bottom jobs, bottom whatever, is each pulling the other down. And the bottom line is I think society has to really take a look at what's happening, retool. You know, how are we going to create a situation where they're really working with each other?
So much resentment. And, you know, you would think that with two minority communities that there would be an understanding. And yet, the feelings are very raw. You know, you have one community feeling that they're entitled and yet you -- they've always had the merits of minorities, you know, things that went to a minority generally in the past have gone to blacks. And now you've Latinos stepping up to the plate that are getting some of these minority types of positions and accommodations. Asians have sort of lost their -- you know, they're inching along. But it's a long way.
ZAHN: What is one thing that could be done policy-wise that would change any of this picture?
DYSON: Well, first of all, I think -- look, rising tides lift every boat. So that if Latino workers who have been discriminated against can get that right, then African-American people who have been depressed and a low-wage work base be lifted as well.
Second, we've got to forge coalitions. Third, we have to destroy stereotypes about each group. And fourthly, we have to learn each other's history. The more we know about each other -- there are black Dominicans who are Latino who speak Spanish. There are people from Panama who were African-American. Mexico has a problem with its own racism. Let's deal with that openly. Some Latinos can become white or Asians become...
GONG: Not only Asians are honor students, you know. We have struggling Asian-Americans who are just trying to make it in school.
ZAHN: And a final thought about what role ignorance plays a role in all of this?
GUZMAN: Well, ignorance plays a huge part. Like Mr. Dyson was saying, it's about understanding and knowing each other's history and respecting each other's histories. That's what it's about.
DYSON: It's very important to do that. And once we do that, we've destroyed some of those barriers. And the fomenting tension can get destroyed and then we can forge solidarity and connectedness.
GUZMAN: And really focusing on the big picture, there's a lot of abundance and we should look at that abundance.
ZAHN: We've got to leave it there.
Ginny Gong, Michael Eric Dyson, Sandra Guzman, thank you.
Coming up next, the story of one man's award-winning effort to promote understanding between Muslims and Americans. Instead of generating praise, it sparked so much controversy a U.S. senator took back the award. We're going to bring that story out into the open coming up next.
And a little bit later on, Oprah Winfrey tells Anderson Cooper about a surprising emotional moment at her brand-new school in Africa. We'll be right back.
ZAHN: The next story we're bringing out in the open is about a man who says he's working to overcome the intolerance felt by many Muslims in America. His efforts were recently singled out for praise by a U.S. senator. But that praise has now been taken back and replaced by controversial allegations that the organization he represents is actually supporting terrorists.
ZAHN (voice-over): This is what all the fuss is about: a certificate of achievement from U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer honoring the Basim Elkarra and the Sacramento Valley Chapter of CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
BASIM ELKARRA, COUN. ON AMER.-ISLAMIC REL.: I felt good to be recognized by such a prominent politician.
ZAHN: Elkarra says his mission is to build bridges between Muslims and different communities. CAIR calls itself America's largest Islamic civil liberties group. But pro-Israeli activist Joe Kaufman calls it a front for terrorists.
JOE KAUFMAN, CHMN., AMERICANS AGAINST HATE: We are not trying to defame all Muslims. What we are saying is that this organization, CAIR, has ties to terrorist organizations overseas and because of that, again, we believe this organization should be shut down.
ZAHN: Kaufman says CAIR supports groups the U.S. government considers to be terrorists, including Hamas in the Palestinian Territories and Hezbollah in Lebanon.
ELKARRA: CAIR has repeatedly condemned any acts of violence.
ZAHN: Elkarra received this certificate from Senator Boxer back in November. After Kaufman's web site started blasting the award, the senator's office sent CAIR a new letter revoking it.
KAUFMAN: She has done the right thing and she should be applauded for it.
ELKARRA: It's not really about the award. It's about the message you're sending to the over a million Muslims in California that Senator Boxer is succumbing to these extremists, these anti- Muslim extremists.
ZAHN: A statement from the senator quotes a former FBI counterterrrorism official as saying CAIR's activities, quote, "effectively give aid to international terrorist groups."
Senator Boxer's office tells CNN her staff didn't do the appropriate research on CAIR and that she feels terrible if she caused anyone pain. She adds, "We reached out to CAIR because we wanted to send a positive message about community and inclusiveness. But I believe when a mistake is made, the record has to be set straight."
ZAHN (on camera): Basim Elkarra says he's received hate mail, including a death threat, since the controversy erupted. Senator Boxer's office tell CNN the FBI has investigated and the death threat is not credible.
Joining me right now is a man you've been seeing on the screen over the last ten seconds. He is the national communications director for CAIR, Ibrahim Hooper.
Thanks so much for joining us tonight.
IBRAHIM HOOPER, COUN. ON AMER.-ISLAMIC REL.: Thanks for having me.
ZAHN: Let me go on to say what else Senator Boxer had to release in a news conference. She says it was a volume of things, not one single thing, that several CAIR council members had been indicted on terrorist-related charges. And she is certainly not the only senator who's been critical of your organization. Senator Shumer has accused your organization, saying it has ties to terrorism. And Senator Dick Durbin is saying CAIR is unusual, quote, "In its extreme rhetoric and its associations with groups that are suspect".
Do the all three have it wrong here?
HOOPER: First of all, let me deal with the issue of the former FBI official slamming CAIR. Notice the word former. No sitting FBI official has criticized CAIR. We work with the FBI repeatedly at the local and national level and we have for a number of years. This is a 12 year-old quote from a former official who worked in league with Islamophobes.
ZAHN: All right, but a lot of people who are critical of your group are critical of the fact that today that CAIR will not condemn Hamas or Hezbollah as terrorist organizations.
HOOPER: We practically have a rubber stamp saying CAIR condemns blank act of terrorism. We have repeatedly, consistently condemned terrorism in all its form, including a tax on Israeli civilians by Hamas, by Hezbollah. We have condemned it repeatedly.
ZAHN: But condemning an act is a very different thing that condemning these organizations as terrorist organizations.
HOOPER: We are not going to submit to pro-Israel litmus tests that these groups seek to impose on American Muslims. No Muslim is going to pass this test to being pro-Israel.
ZAHN: That's what you say is at the core of this, there is no truth to any of these allegations about accepting money from groups that are closely associated with Hamas, associated with Hezbollah?
HOOPER: Ridiculous. ZAHN: You know terrorism experts like Steven Emerson found a paper trail.
HOOPER: Yes, I would put the terrorism experts in quote. This is the same guy who said Muslims carried out the attack on the Murrow federal building in Oklahoma City building in 1995. And we see what happened after that.
ZAHN: Do you think the goal really is to silence American Muslims?
HOOPER: It's to delegitimaize, it's to marginalize, it's to silence anyone who would speak out against the state of Israel and it's brutal policies towards the Palestinians.
ZAHN: But this is a warning in and of itself. No one had ever really heard of the achievement award. That was not such a big deal.
HOOPER: Yes, exactly. The award itself wasn't significant. The significance was that a Muslim group was being legitimized by a politician and immediately the anti-Muslim hit machine went into gear, full speed. Guys like Joe Kaufman raging anti-Muslim bigots. Kaufman has written in favor of terrorist groups. He's written on the radical Jewish defense league Web site.
ZAHN: Well the issue tonight is not him, but Senator Boxer's actions. And we really appreciate you coming on.
HOOPER: Thanks for having me.
ZAHN: Ibramim Hooper, thanks.
My colleague Anderson Cooper turns the tables on Oprah Winfrey. He interviewed her today. She told him some amazing stories about her brand-new, but controversial school in South Africa. That's coming up next.
ZAHN: Oprah Winfrey's donation of a $40 million academy for South Africa's poorest young girls is generating a lot of headlines and praise around the world and some controversy. And tonight she's going to talk about that in a special edition of "A.C. 360." Among the surprises being revealed to Anderson, being left nearly speechless after meeting some of her young students.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Is it true that at a certain point in interviewing them that you almost had to stop asking them about their backgrounds because the stories were just horrible?
OPRAH WINFREY, TALK SHOW HOST: Well, we have everything from abuse, rape. The majority of the girls -- as a matter of fact we're going to have family day here in a few days where their families will have an opportunity to see the school for the first time because I thought it was important for the families to know where their girls are, to have a visible picture of where your child is.
We're calling it family day, Anderson, because so many of the girls don't have parents. Originally we were calling it parents day and though, that's going to make the girls who don't have parents feel badly because so many of the girls have lost either one or both of their parents to the AIDS pandemic here.
And, you know, it's really amazing because the girls that are in some school are the girls who are able to say, my mother or my father died of AIDS. Because in this country, as you know, it's still -- it's still held against you. Nobody wants it on their birth certificate still that, you know, my family member died of AIDS. And so to have a girl to be able to say out loud, my mother died of AIDS, means she's already one of the bravest people because you are scorned, ostracized in this country still today.
ZAHN: And Oprah will also confront some of her critics in tonight's special edition. "Oprah's Promise: Building Hope in South Africa" gets underway at 10:00 p.m. We're going to take a short break, we'll be right back.
ZAHN: And that wraps it up for all of us here tonight, thanks so much for joining us. Hope you join us again tomorrow, good night.
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