Return to Transcripts main page
PAULA ZAHN NOW
U.S. Congressman Calls For End to Race-Based Caucuses; College Students Holding Racist Parties Across America? In The Trenches Battling Racism In America: There Are Those Who are Winning Hearts, Minds, Changing Our Ways
Aired January 26, 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: And thank you all for joining us on this Friday night.
Across America, racism and intolerance lurk just below the surface. Every night, we're finding and talking about these hidden secrets, bringing them out into the open.
Tonight: congressional racists. A white lawmaker says groups like the Congressional Black Caucus amount to segregation and should be abolished.
Also: holiday outrage. You are not going to believe what some college students did for Martin Luther King Day.
And a menu for tolerance at a restaurant run by prison inmates who used to hate each other.
We will get to these stories in just a minute, but I want to start with breaking news in a hate crime case in California.
The defendants are teenagers, or even younger. Most are girls. All of them are black. The crime? A Halloween beating of three white women brought fear and racial tension out in the open in Long Beach. Tonight, all but one have been convicted.
Our Thelma Gutierrez just filed this report.
And, unfortunately, we're having problems with that tape piece.
But we are going to bring Thelma Gutierrez with us live on our satellite right now to give us a sense of how these convictions came down and what the reaction was to them -- Thelma.
THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Paula, this was a very racially charged situation in Los Angeles.
This trial had been going on for nearly two months, seven weeks, to be exact. Today, nine out of 10 of the teenagers, ages 12 to 1, were convicted of hate crimes. So, that is felony assault.
And here is what happened today in court.
GUTIERREZ (voice-over): Long Beach, California.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the name of Jesus...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the name of Jesus...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... let not racist, oh God, let it not be dealt that way.
GUTIERREZ: The tension was palpable, as leaders in this multiethnic community prayed outside a juvenile courthouse...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Amen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Amen.
GUTIERREZ: ... while, inside, 10 black teenagers, ages 12 to 18, awaited their fate, accused of savagely beating three white women on Halloween night.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The verdict was nine guilty, one not guilty.
GUTIERREZ: The teenager found not guilty was a 12-year-old girl, who sobbed uncontrollably as she heard the verdict. It was the conclusion of an emotional, racially charged trial that lasted nearly two months...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What kind of verdict is that? That's not fair. It's not right.
GUTIERREZ: ... and raised tough questions about the role race played in a crime that left three young women seriously injured on Halloween.
LAURA, VICTIM: They were attacking us with -- with their lemons and pumpkins as they screamed at us about how they wanted to get us, and that we better run, for being white.
GUTIERREZ: Michelle and Laura, who did not want their last names revealed, and a third friend say they were attacked by a mob while leaving a neighborhood haunted house.
LAURA: A group of 30 people who pursued us across the street and down the block.
GUTIERREZ: Michelle says the crowd was closing in on them when one of the attackers, a male, began to hit her friend.
MICHELLE, VICTIM: I looked over and saw her head on the ground getting her head kicked in by a guy. What would you think, a guy that is 6 feet tall kicking in my friend's head, and I run over to her, and she's unconscious? I thought she was dead.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How did you get away?
MICHELLE: How did I get away? I didn't get away. I turned around and he punched me in the face. And I land on the ground. I didn't get away.
DOUG OTTO, ATTORNEY: Another girl suffered 12 fractures in her face, a broken nose, and a fractured jaw. The third one had injuries so severe that her lung, the lining of her lung was actually bruised.
GUTIERREZ: The woman and an eyewitness testified, the attackers were yelling racial slurs during the melee.
MICHELLE: It's a hate crime. And they also hit us. Is hitting and beating people up...
GUTIERREZ: But the defendants' family members say the wrong kids were convicted, that not one of the teenagers had criminal records or a history of violence, that some are even track stars, and one competed in the Junior Olympics.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You could hear the sobs, one by one. And they grew louder and louder.
GUTIERREZ: As for the victims, all three silently walked out of court. One was still on crutches.
GUTIERREZ: Now, before the teenagers are sentenced, the judge will first listen to the victims' impact statements. And that is coming next week. Because the teenagers are minors, the judge has a fair amount of latitude when sentencing them. It could be anything from probation at home to time in the California Youth Authority, where they could be held until they're 25 years old.
Now, one mother said, her daughter is a senior who is looking forward to the prom and also from graduating from high school. And now all of that may go away -- Paula.
ZAHN: Thelma Gutierrez, thank you so much for bringing that breaking news to us tonight.
I want to move on now to a new battle over tolerance. This one is right out in the open on Capitol Hill.
When lawmakers from different parts of the country get together for causes they have in common, they call themselves a caucus. They can let in or exclude anybody they want. But a white congressman says, if people are excluded by race, that's segregation. So, he wants to break up the Congressional Black Caucus.
Here is Andrea Koppel.
ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): No stranger to controversy, Congressman Tom Tancredo is probably best known for his passionate opposition to illegal immigration.
REP. TOM TANCREDO (R), COLORADO: They would be deported back to the country of origin.
KOPPEL: Now the five-term Colorado Republican, who has thrown his hat in the presidential ring for '08, is fuming about race, pushing to eliminate all race-based groups of lawmakers on Capitol Hill, in particular, the 43-member Congressional Black Caucus.
TANCREDO: What if someone were to try to start a White Caucus? I mean, would somebody -- wouldn't you be here asking me: Don't you think that's racist? And, so, I would say yes.
KOPPEL: In a letter this week to the head of the House Administration Committee, Tancredo said it was utterly hypocritical for Congress to praise the virtues of a colorblind society, while, at the same time, maintaining a policy of racial exclusivity.
TANCREDO: When you have it just based on race, on race, that's a racist kind of activity. And it seems to me that the Congress of the United States should be a place, more than anywhere else, where something like that is not allowed.
KOPPEL: Formed in 1969, the Congressional Black Caucus tries to influence events that matter to African-Americans. It's one of hundreds of caucuses, including those for Hispanics, Asians and women. And although there is a nondiscrimination clause in the Black Caucus bylaws, there has never been a non-black member.
Tancredo says newly elected Tennessee Congressman Steve Cohen, whose Memphis district is mostly African-American, tried to join the Black Caucus, but was rejected. In fact, the Tennessee Democrat says he never formally sought membership in the Black Caucus, and so could not have been denied membership.
TANCREDO: I don't think there should be such a thing. I don't think there should be a White Caucus. I don't think there should be a Black Caucus or a Hispanic Caucus.
KOPPEL: Civil rights activist Al Sharpton disagrees.
AL SHARPTON, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: This is not an action against anyone. This is a reaction to those that have discriminated against us. And I think he's trying to act as though the victims here are the victimizers.
(on camera): This is the second time that Congressman Tancredo has tried to get rid of the Black Caucus. A similar effort back in 2003 went nowhere. And it's unlikely he will have much success this time either.
In the meantime, the congressman is exploring presidential possibilities and is spending this weekend on the campaign trail in New Hampshire.
Andrea Koppel, CNN, Capitol Hill.
(END VIDEOTAPE) ZAHN: And we have put together our very own caucus to talk about this, the members of tonight's "Out in the Open" panel, Pedro Noguera, director of the Metropolitan Center For Urban Education. Tara Wall is a senior adviser to the Republican National Committee on reaching out to diverse communities. And Niger Innis is national spokesman for CORE, the Congress of Racial Equality.
ZAHN: So, am I that white gal that Tancredo was talking about joining a racially ethnic caucus here?
ZAHN: So, Pedro, what about that point that he made, that -- that if there were a White Caucus, wouldn't people call that racist, particularly a White Caucus that wouldn't allow any blacks in, wouldn't allow any Hispanics in?
PEDRO NOGUERA, DIRECTOR, METROPOLITAN CENTER FOR URBAN EDUCATION: Well, the Senate was, until very recently, an all-white body itself, though not by exclusion.
ZAHN: But not with exclusionary rules.
NOGUERA: Right. Right.
I think the real issue is, why was the caucus created in the first place? And why isn't Congressman Tancredo upset about the fact that, even 50 years after the Brown decision, we continue to have segregated schools throughout this country?
So, I would say that, instead of being angry about the existence of the caucus, he should be angry about the continued existence of racism and racial segregation throughout this country.
ZAHN: But he would argue that this is segregation in practice.
NIGER INNIS, NATIONAL SPOKESMAN, THE CONGRESS OF RACIAL EQUALITY: It's interesting. He seems to be against the Hispanic Caucus and the Black Congressional Caucus. But Congressman Tancredo didn't mention the gender caucus, the Women's Caucus. I guess there are a lot of women voters out there.
ZAHN: Well, yes, like more than half of the country. Have you looked at the numbers lately?
INNIS: That's right. Got to be careful with things like that.
Look, the reality is, Black Congressional Caucus, I think, is being shortsighted in not allowing Cohen, who does represent a district that is over 60 percent black. Not only is he being excluded, but his district greatly is being excluded from important discussions that their representative that they elected to the Congress should be a part of.
INNIS: But let me tell you, the exclusion really didn't start with Cohen.
It started with a guy named Gary Franks, who was black, African- American, but he happened to be the wrong political party.
And he was excluded from the Black Congressional Congress. So, it seems their exclusionary rule that they have is not just for whites, but it's also for blacks that may have a different point of view. And that's shortsighted.
ZAHN: Is there any value in having these caucuses today, or have they outlived their usefulness?
ZAHN: I know Pedro says they have not.
TARA WALL, SENIOR ADVISER, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Well, I think that, obviously, they're not going to be abolished, not any time soon.
But I think, certainly, people might have a problem with the messenger, but not with the message. Look at the message. It is a legitimate issue to raise.
I think, if we're talking about going to an attitude of colorblindness, it's absolutely legitimate to say, if Representative Cohen, who got 60 percent of the vote in a primarily black district, even when he had other black candidates that he ran against, he represents a black constituency. I think that's completely legitimate.
Does he not represent black values or have black values in mind when he's out there stumping? He represents a constituency. I think it's absolutely legitimate. I think we should raise it.
And I think, if we're talking about a colorblind society, eventually, these race-based-type organizations should be questioned, if they're going to be exclusionary.
WALL: It's reverse discrimination.
NOGUERA: But you don't get a colorblind society just by proclaiming it. Let's remember New Orleans after the hurricane, and the images that we saw of poor blacks who were left behind as a result of that hurricane and the flooding.
ZAHN: What, do you think the Black Caucus snapped its finger and it changed the fate of those people? You can't tell me that they were that effective.
NOGUERA: No, no. The Black Caucus, by itself, won't be able to do that.
But the fact is that, until we, as a society, address this historic inequity related to race, you will need advocacy groups, like the Black Caucus, to take the charge and to take it on.
ZAHN: But you're not telling me tonight that white people had absolutely no empathy, nor did they care about the fate of these poor black people who were left basically abandoned.
NOGUERA: I wouldn't say that about white people. I would say that about FEMA and the Bush administration.
ZAHN: All right.
INNIS: The reality is, though, the great civil rights revolution -- look, the Black Congressional Caucus did have a purpose at one time. It was established in the height of the civil rights revolution, when you had Southern caucuses, de facto Southern caucuses, that were blocking civil rights legislation in the House of Representatives and the Senate.
But that time has passed. The civil rights revolution was successful. And it was successful because blacks and whites and other Americans came together to make that legislation.
WALL: That's right.
ZAHN: Quick final thought, Tara.
WALL: Well, the NAACP is another example. I mean, there's the National Association of Colored People, but there were white people that helped with the cause as well. And I think that is absolutely legitimate.
And we have to consider that, absolutely.
ZAHN: Mr. Tancredo, did you hear that tonight?
ZAHN: Pedro Noguera, Tara Wall, Niger Innis, stay right here. We will caucus again, with your permission, in just a few minutes.
Some college students around the country apparently thought the recent Martin Luther King holiday was a good reason to throw a party. But you're not going to believe what these kids did, dressing up, demeaning black people. What were they thinking?
A little bit later on: an eye-opening look at whether the acts of intolerance that young Muslim Americans face every day are turning them into extremists.
We will be right back.
ZAHN: One of the stories we're bringing out into the open tonight involves people who used to hate each other. Would you believe that working in a restaurant is helping onetime drug dealers and racists get along? You have got to see this story to believe it -- that coming up in just a little bit.
Intolerance among college students is out in the open tonight, as more and more students throw racially themed parties, they play on offensive stereotypes, even dressing up in blackface sometimes. And, if you don't believe it, all you have to do is go online and see the pictures.
Allan Chernoff has that story for us tonight.
ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Last Saturday night, dozens of white law students at the University of Connecticut dressed up hip-hop style for what they called the "Bullets and Bubbly" party off-campus at a private house. When these pictures were posted on Facebook.com, black students were outraged.
LAHNY SILVA, UNIVERSITY OF CONNECTICUT LAW STUDENT: All we ask, as minority students on this campus, is to be recognized as equals. And the fact that they were mocking us makes us feel as though they don't see us as equals.
CHERNOFF: Many white students say that was not the intent.
RYAN GRECO, UNIVERSITY OF CONNECTICUT LAW STUDENT: I don't think that people got together and said, let's mock a certain subculture of our community on Saturday night. That doesn't change the fact of how that was perceived and how it was received by members of our community.
CHERNOFF: Some white students from Texas' Tarleton State University celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day with demeaning parodies, chugging bottles of malt liquor. One wore a shirt saying, "I love chicken." Another dressed as Aunt Jemima.
DONALD ELDER, TARLETON STATE UNIVERSITY STUDENT: I was hurt, because I thought there was only a few people like that, the stereotypes. But these are just regular students.
CHERNOFF: One of those students at the party was Jeremy Pelz, who posted the pictures on his Facebook.com page.
JEREMY PELZ, TARLETON STATE UNIVERSITY STUDENT: We didn't mean -- you know, we weren't trying to discriminate against anybody.
CHERNOFF: It is happening across the country, themed events that brush up against and sometimes go over the bounds of what might be racially offensive.
At this Halloween party, a white student from Trinity College in Connecticut colored his entire body. Even high school students have posted pictures on the Internet of what they call ghetto days at their schools in Minnesota and New Hampshire.
There's irony here. Hip-hop has huge influence on young white Americans, who, according to industry data, are the primary buyers of the music. As seen on VH-1's "The White Rapper Show," young whites across the nation emulate black performers.
(on camera): Black students here at the University of Connecticut Law School say there's a big difference between enjoying hip-hop music and engaging in a parody of the culture behind that music, even if there's no racial intent. It amounts, they say, to unconscious racism.
SILVA: Just because there's no intent to be racist doesn't necessarily mean that their actions are not.
CHERNOFF: It's been a wakeup call for students and administrators.
KURT STRASSER, DEAN, UNIVERSITY OF CONNECTICUT LAW SCHOOL: This incident shows us that we have a lot of work to do in that regard. We have done work. I think, in some areas, we have made progress.
CHERNOFF: Some of that work started Thursday, when UConn Law held a forum closed to cameras to help enlighten students.
At Tarleton State, a similar discussion helped change Jeremy Pelz's perspective.
PELZ: We have to look at what we do and how we do it, how something in our eyes may not be bad or discriminatory, but, in others', it's very much so.
CHERNOFF: Parties that had been planned simply for a good time are now becoming lessons in respect for other cultures, as valuable as any time spent in the classroom.
Allan Chernoff, CNN, Hartford, Connecticut. (END VIDEOTAPE)
ZAHN: Let's go back to tonight's "Out in the Open" panel, Pedro Noguera, Tara Wall, Niger Innis.
Are you sickened by these pictures, Tara?
WALL: Yes. I mean, look, it's a shame you can't legislate stupidity. But common sense I think certainly plays a role here. And, you know, I think...
ZAHN: But do you think these kids truly were just trying to have fun, that there was no intent to be racist, but their actions were?
WALL: There is a difference. Right.
As a reporter mentioned in the piece, you know, there's a difference between if kids, you know, like rap -- I'm not particularly a rap fan, but, if you like rap, and you're just singing a rap, or if you're actually targeting a race or targeting someone, or just having fun.
There are a lot of theme parties, '80s parties, things like that. These kids seem to have some type of contrition. They seem to understand what their actions were doing.
And I think that that's what -- I think that is what most Americans expect, is that you have -- at least have some common sense, some sensitivity.
But, at the same time, let me give you a real quick example. You know, I'm from Detroit. I hadn't been home in a long time. I'm at a restaurant. I see these two white guys sitting in a bar with afros. And, instantly, you know, I'm like, what are they doing? I mean, I was offended. But...
ZAHN: Did you think they were mocking you?
WALL: Absolutely. I thought they were mocking...
ZAHN: Or all black people?
WALL: Exactly. And for what reason?
After the night went on, I realized they were watching the Pistons playoff game, and they're hailing Ben Wallace. This was a big -- you know, these were big Ben Wallace fans. So, make sure we're not reading into something that's not there, but educating folks on what their intentions are and could mean.
ZAHN: Is contrition enough, or should these students be punished? Does the school need to change the rules on campus? (CROSSTALK)
INNIS: No, no.
WALL: It's a case-by-case...
INNIS: We shouldn't get too carried away.
I mean, this was wrong. It was obviously wrong. And it's offensive. But I want to make sure...
ZAHN: How offensive?
INNIS: It was very offensive.
But I don't want to get caught in hypocrisy. I mean, I'm not going to criticize and chastise these kids for being hip-hop, and then let BET, and the multibillion dollar hip-hop industry, which promotes these stereotypes day after day after day, Black Entertainment Television, which was established on promoting these stereotypes, and making these guys super celebrities and political -- pseudo political leaders.
ZAHN: Wait a minute. You're not telling me BET makes white guys more racist and black guys...
INNIS: I'm saying, BET, which was supposed to be our television channel, promoted a lot of these various stereotypes.
ZAHN: ... these stereotypes.
INNIS: That's exactly right.
ZAHN: Then you say they're breeding racism in white guys...
INNIS: You better believe it.
ZAHN: ... because they're...
ZAHN: ... black guys.
INNIS: They are taking the classic stereotypes of African- Americans and promoting them into superstardom. That absolutely is what has happened with the predominant era of the hip-hop community.
ZAHN: But you can't blame the whole industry for the attitudes of these kids, whether their intent was to racially offend people or not. Are you going to let these kids off the hook that way? NOGUERA: Well, I think they have to be given responsibility. They have to accept responsibility for what they have done.
I think it's an opportunity for education. I thought we saw that in the segment, that these young people were talking to each other. And I think that's a good thing, for the university to encourage that kind of dialogue. Instead of shutting it down, we should encourage people to understand why these stereotypes are offensive. But we should also...
ZAHN: What did you think when you saw those pictures?
NOGUERA: I thought it was silly. I don't...
ZAHN: Silly or offensive?
WALL: But let's also talk about the parodies that are made of former Senate candidate Michael Steele, when he was depicted as a Sambo and Oreos thrown at him, and Condoleezza Rice in the negative...
ZAHN: And thrown by blacks and some whites.
INNIS: Blacks and whites.
WALL: That is -- now, we need to condemn that, just as we're condemning this. And I don't hear the same type of outrage for issues like that, and when those types of things happen, as this.
ZAHN: Well, you have got to acknowledge that's not -- doesn't happen as frequently as some of these campus parties.
WALL: Oh, it happens quite a bit during this campaign, when you had Steny Hoyer call him slavish, when you had Oreos at him, when you had these pictures depicted, on and on.
It's OK, because...
ZAHN: And the Harold Ford campaign, obviously, people...
WALL: Which, frankly, that -- I didn't find that racist. It might have offended a lot of people. But I didn't -- it was fair game. I didn't that was racist, per se.
So, you know, listen, you have to have some sensitivities, but also use common sense here and apply it across the board.
ZAHN: We have got to leave it there.
Tara Wall, Pedro Noguera, Niger Innis, please stay with us.
Since 9/11, Muslim Americans have complained that they have become the targets of large and small acts of intolerance -- coming up next, an eye-opening look at whether this everyday intolerance is breeding a new generation of extremists right here in our own country.
A little bit later on; a restaurant staffed by former drug dealers, robbers and ex-gang members. Why? And who would eat there? You would be surprised.
We will be back with that story. Please stay tuned.
ZAHN: There is a growing sense that acts of intolerance against American Muslims are actually pushing them towards extremism. We are bringing that story out in the open tonight, because some experts are concerned that it could lead to terrorism grown here at home.
Here is justice correspondent Kelli Arena.
KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The alarm is growing throughout the American Muslim community...
JIHAD MUHAISEN, IMMIGRATION ATTORNEY: We are breeding extremism. We are breeding resentment. And we are breeding isolation.
ARENA: ... and throughout the nation's security agencies.
PHILIP MUDD, ASSOCIATE EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, FBI NATIONAL SECURITY BRANCH: Now we see in this country, on the East Coast, on the West Coast, in the center of this country, kids who have no contact with al Qaeda, but who are radicalized by the ideology.
ARENA: For years, security experts assumed the violent extremism that's taken root in Europe and in the Far East would not find a home in the United States, that the approximately six million Muslims who live here are too integrated, and community leaders too moderate. But that rosy view is changing.
Just listen to these young Muslims.
NARMEEN JABHUR, 21 YEARS OLD: I was going to the bathroom. And some -- you know, a bunch of girls were standing there, and they looked at me, and they pushed me as I walked in. And they -- they called me names, "You terrorist."
FEDAA SAFI, 17 YEARS OLD: If this is what is going to keep happening, then, yes, everybody's going to go crazy.
ARENA (on camera): So, you could see something happening in America?
ASMAA MOHAMED, 20 YEARS OLD: Why not? I mean, maybe, because, I mean, if you -- I mean, put yourself in my position. You're being blamed for no reason. It's definitely hard to live with it.
ARENA (voice-over): Some experts fear, the ground is being laid for the possibility of homegrown violence, something the U.S. has not yet experienced.
Geneive Abdo is the author of "Mecca and Main Street."
GENEIVE ABDO, AUTHOR, "MECCA AND MAIN STREET: MUSLIM LIFE IN AMERICA AFTER 9/11": There are discriminatory practices already being applied here in the United States against Muslims, particularly by the U.S. government.
ARENA: Government watch lists, airport checks, FBI interviews, all breed resentment.
ABDO: And you will create a population that says, no matter what we do here, we're always going to be viewed as terrorists or we're always going to be viewed as militants.
ARENA: It's the little things, too, racial slurs, suspicious stares, even TV shows that picture Muslims as terrorists.
Former FBI agent Foria Younis worries about the next generation.
FORIA YOUNIS, FORMER FBI AGENT: Can parents, can law enforcement officers, can teachers, can people generally try to minimize that negative effect on children? I think they can, Kelli. It's hard.
ARENA: Audrey Zahra Williams is tackling that difficult job. She's the principal of the Islamic Foundation School in Chicago.
AUDREY ZAHRA WILLIAMS, ISLAMIC FOUNDATION SCHOOL: I think the only way our kids will survive and not get caught up those clicks and groups is really being exposed to tolerating other, you know, human beings, no matter what race, color, creed.
ARENA: Her students are getting the message.
USMAN ATHER, 12th GRADE: Hate never fails to destroy the one who hates others. It's pretty destructive, but you're basically going to destroy yourself that way.
ARENA: With all of the forces feeding Muslim resentment, that kind of self control is becoming more difficult.
GENEIVE ABDO, GALLUP CENTER FOR MUSLIM STUDIES: We're at a critical period now. And if this hostility and skepticism toward this faith continues at the rate we see now, there could be serious problems.
ARENA: Kelli Arena, CNN, Chicago.
ZAHN: Coming up in just a minute, we'll bring a restaurant secret out in the open. We're not talking recipes here -- for food. We're talking about a recipe for teaching criminals who used to hate each other to get along.
A little bit later on, a first of its kind, movie in Germany, a comedy about Adolf Hitler, made by a Jewish director. You think anyone would want to see that?
ZAHN: Among the other stories we're bringing OUT INTO THE OPEN tonight, the most popular movie in Germany. Get this. It's a comedy about Hitler.
Coming up at the top of the hour on "Larry King Live"; the battle over who is the father of Anna Nicole's baby. Larry has an exclusive interview with the photographer who says the little girl is his daughter.
Have you ever thought that racism runs so deep things will never change? Get ready for a big surprise. You're about to meet some people who clearly show that change is possible. We're bringing a unique program OUT IN THE OPEN tonight.
It is called Delancey Street, it is a group of San Francisco businesses run by former inmates who were often part of violent, racist gangs. They used to fight each other. Now they're forced to work and live together, or go back to prison. Is it possible for sworn enemies to change their extreme racism? We asked Ted Rowlands to find out.
TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT, OUT IN THE OPEN (voice over): Despite the long sleeves and bow tie, if you look closely enough at the man serving water, you see the tattoos that mark his former life. His name is Gary Dockery and before coming to this restaurant, he says he was a skin head.
GARY DOCKERY, CONVICTED OF HATE CRIME: I hated anyone that was not like me. If you were black, Mexican, Jewish, whatever it was, I didn't like you. And I would try to do whatever it took to take you out.
ROWLANDS: The man cooking ribs at the restaurant is Winfred Cooper. He says before he got here, he hated white people.
(on camera): Winfred, you see a skin head walk in. What do you think?
(LAUGHTER) WINFRED COOPER, CONVICTED BANK ROBBER: I had another presence. I said, oh, man. I seen all his tattoos. I said, man, is this going to work right here? But it had to work, right?
ROWLANDS: It had to work because Winfred and Gary are a part of group of 500 criminals, many of them violent, who work together as an alternative to long prison terms. They run this restaurant, a neighboring coffee shop, a moving company, and a handful of other businesses.
Jointly called Delancey Street, they businesses are centered in a cluster of buildings in San Francisco's trendy South Beach area, in the shadow of the Bay Bridge.
DOCKERY: This way, please.
ROWLANDS: Many of the customers don't realize they're being served by drug dealers, robbers and ex-gang members. All have come from a prison culture where racism is deeply ingrained, but here, everyone lives together on site, and works together.
COOPER: That's why there's no violence here, in this environment. It's almost like a home environment. We kind of like surrogate brothers and sisters, in a sense. And we look out for each other.
ROWLANDS: They have to look out for each other. Because in essence the inmates really do run the asylum here. There's no employees at Delancey Street at all. No guards, no supervisors, just the men and women who participate in the program.
MIMI SILBERT, FOUNDER, DELANCEY STREET: Hi, guys!
ROWLANDS: And there's Mimi Silbert. More than 30 years ago, she started Delancey Street by inviting some ex-cons to live with her while she helped to prepare them to reenter society. Mimi still lives on the grounds with the former inmates and helps guide them as they help each other.
When people like Gary, the skinhead, show up they are told again and again to act like they're not racist, and pretend to be nice to people. And over time, according to Mimi, they start to change.
SILBERT: It happens here, because we really do need everybody here. And every resident actually needs the other one, to teach them the job they're learning. Somebody's tutoring you. You're tutoring somebody else. We pay no attention to what race or what gang.
ROWLANDS: Some of the former inmates can't handle the change and actually ask to go back to prison. But most, according to Mimi, say they end up changing their outlook on life forever.
SILBERT: What's fascinating is not only do people stop hating one another and identifying people in that old way, but they honestly make best friends.
ROWLANDS (on camera): Could you have ever imagined sitting next to each other.
DOCKERY: If I had seen a black guy struggling right now, if he was going through something, I would take it and actually go and try to help that person. That's a great feeling inside to know, you know what? I don't see a person for their color no longer.
ROWLANDS (voice over): Mimi says she's proud and sometimes amazed at how working together at Delancey Street can turn hardened criminals into productive citizens and long-time racists into life- long friends. Ted Rowlands, CNN, San Francisco.
ZAHN: Amazing. The Delancey Street Project is profiled in a new book called, "Change or Die: The three keys to change at work and in life."
A little bit earlier on I spoke with its author, Alan Deutschman.
ZAHN (on camera): Let's talk for a moment about what happened on Delancey Street. So, you took convicts and mixed them in with a very broad population. What is the lesson that we can take away from what happened there?
ALAN DEUTSCHMAN, AUTHOR, "CHANGE OR DIE": Well, Delancey Street, taking people who were in prison, in racial gangs, based on racial hatred, violence, whether it's black gangs, white gangs or Latino gangs. It puts them together and creates a new relationship. It's a community where they have to learn to live with each other, and to trust each other, to work together, to respect each other.
ZAHN: That all sounds pretty pie in the sky. There is tremendous skepticism in the beginning.
DEUTSCHMAN: That's right.
ZAHN: I mean, how can you trust this guy that suddenly you're thrown into a brand new world with? You have to earn that trust.
DEUTSCHMAN: That's right. In the beginning you don't like or respect or trust these other people from different racial groups. So, you have to act -- as if. And the funny thing happens, after a year or three years, or four years of acting -- as if, of getting along with people, and treating them as if you respect them, only then does the feeling change. And you actually start to develop feelings of respect, and you start to change your beliefs. The actions come before the feelings and the beliefs.
ZAHN: It's a wonderful thing to aspire to, but who has the lead time to erase prejudices in a two to four-year period? It took a long time for this stuff to be muted.
DEUTSCHMAN: It does. But if you've had a belief your entire life, if you've acted a certain way your entire life, someone can't just say, OK, now change. What changes people is repeated action, and repeated experience, over time. But, you know, two years, three years, four years, to change and deeply change your beliefs for the rest of your life, it is an investment worth making.
ZAHN: Alan, thank you. Good luck with the book.
DEUTSCHMAN: Thank you, Paula.
ZAHN: Let's see what our OUT IN THE OPEN panel has to say about this, Pedro Noguera, Tara Wall, Niger Innis.
Who is the biggest bigot you've confronted. And do you really think when someone has such deeply held vile thoughts, you can change them?
TARA WALL, REPUBLICAN ADVISER: Oh, sure. I think I'm fortunate. I haven't had to come across a lot of outward racism, or bigotry personally. Honestly, I grew up in very diverse environment.
And I think that's the key. One of the things he said was repeated action over time. And I think that's important, you know. The pictures that I saw, and the people that I saw in my life, every day, were a cultural melting pot. To have them stand, side by side -- certainly, you can't make people unhate. But eventually, over time, the hearts of people can change. For me, as a Christian, I believe anybody can be redeemed in a sense.
I think that having that exposure, and having, you know, them deal with their issues with someone that doesn't look like them, or sound like them, on either side, you're forced to come to grips of what your true deep-seated feelings, hates and all kinds of issues are.
ZAHN: But we have to be honest here, because you're not going to change everybody. If you confronted somebody in your own life where you knew that there was absolutely nothing you could do, that would change their attitude toward you, simply because you were black?
NIGER INNIS, CONRESS OF RACIAL EQUALITY: I have to walk past those guys. They're the easy ones.
ZAHN: But have you dealt with those?
INNIS: I have. But you know something, interestingly enough, the bigotry that I've dealt with, which is even more dangerous, because it's more insidious and more subtle, is the bigotry low expectations.
ZAHN: That's right.
INNIS: And let me give you and example of what I'm talking about.
ZAHN: You mean like, oh, you're so articulate tonight?
INNIS: Oh, yeah, for a black guy you're so articulate. Or -- I'm going to call out one of our colleagues in the media, "The Atlanta Journal-Constitution", Editorial Page, today, is baring an economic option for lower and working class people.
WALL: That's right.
INNIS: Because they believe that we can't manage our own money. We can exercise our own financial choices.
WALL: And black kids can't be expected to learn, or -- be raised to this level. I mean, that's absurd.
ZAHN: All right, but you're talking about very entrenched attitudes here, that have existed for a long time.
ZAHN: So, you don't sound like you have much faith that --
INNIS: No, no, no.
WALL: Oh, well --
INNIS: No, look, the program out there is very powerful program.
WALL: That's right.
INNIS: Not too many programs in San Francisco that I applaud. I have to applaud this one, though, because gang violence, along ethnic lines, in the prisons is a phenomenally powerful problem. When you throw in the potential of terrorism, and how that could play into that ethnic breakdown of gang warfare, what they're doing is a real public service to society.
ZAHN: Pedro, we know that these men and women are very lucky. Because they've been given gainful employment. If those jobs were taken away from them, do you think these folks would revert back to their old patterns of hatred?
PEDRO NOGUERA, METROPOLITAN CTR. FOR URBAN ED.: Not just hatred, of crime. Because chances are if you don't have opportunity, you will revert back to crime. We have over 2 million adults in prison in this country. And no focus at all on rehabilitation or on training them for jobs. When they get out, they often become criminals. We should use this as a national model. What we should be doing as a nation, not just when they get out, but behind bars.
ZAHN: You have great faith in the underpinings of this program, but --
WALL: If I could, we'll talk about --
ZAHN: Come on, we talk about real bigots out there.
WALL: Absolutely. But people's heart -- I think that's evidence that people's hearts and minds can be changed. Certainly -- yes, you're not going to win everyone. People will fall through the cracks, but that doesn't mean you don't try.
And to give a quick plug, I have to, to the administration, that's when you talk about No Child Left Behind. Because it's saying we're not going to stand for the soft bigotry of low expectation. There are programs like the prisoner re-entry program and 21st Century Jobs Initiative that helps give folks skills so once they get out they'll be able to acclimate back into society.
Are we going to catch everybody, 100 percent of the time? No. There will always be challenges. But I think, that when you see, as the crime rates are going down, violent crime rates. You are seeing the gap close between black and white students who are learning and not learning. I think eventually we're going to see those gaps close and strives being made.
ZAHN: But we still see whites and blacks slamming each other, and saying completely offensive things to each other. We saw it happen on that college campus.
INNIS: True. But you know something? I think it's really important for us to measure not only our country, today versus where it was 50 years ago, but measure our country versus other countries around the world. Be they in Africa, Europe or in Asia. You're going to find that we've got a long way to go, but we've come a long way. We're a good model for how a multi-racial, multi-ethnic democracy can get along.
WALL: And these conversations help.
ZAHN: How deep (ph) are these problems today, and how deeply rooted?
NOGUERA: Very insidious because there a lot of deep denial in America about the extent of our problems. We aren't a country that's a model for others. Canada has done a much better job than us at addressing these issues.
WALL: But look at the population.
INNIS: Canada is like the suburbs. We are the world.
WALL: Teeny tiny population.
NOGUERA: Remember, black people left --
INNIS: We're bigger than Canada.
NOGUERA: A lot of people left this country to go to freedom in Canada. I just point that out, because Americans tend to think we're the best. We have it all figured out because most Americans don't travel. Most Americans can't even speak another language.
ZAHN: I have no tolerance for you guys going over the time cue. I have to go to a commercial now. Thank you.
Pedro Noguera, Tara Wall, Niger Innis, great to have you, throughout the show tonight.
"Larry King Live" coming up in a few minutes.
Hey, Larry, haven't been able to talk to you all this week, long. You've been one busy guy. I hear you have an exclusive tonight.
LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR, LARRY KING LIVE: We do. We have Larry Burkhead (ph). He claims he is the father of Anna Nicole Smith's baby daughter, Danielle Lynn. His attorney, the very vibrant Deborah Oprey (ph), will be here, as well.
That should be quite a go, because they're having a battle back and forth with the judicial status in Nassau and Los Angeles. But Larry says he done it.
And then James Randi and Rosemary Altia will be here to try to debunk the psychic Sylvia Browne, who apparently told the parents of that young man in Missouri that he was dead. He turned out to be alive. It should be a most interesting hour right at the top of the hour, right following the lovely, talented, exquisite -- I threw that in tonight.
ZAHN: You did. That was like a freebie. I never heard that one before.
KING: I like the open collar.
ZAHN: You do?
I was going to make my own little wardrobe note about you looking lovely in lavender tonight, Lar. See, mutual admiration society.
ZAHN: It's the end of the week. Larry and I are both tired.
KING: See you, doll.
ZAHN: Have a great show, Lar.
KING: You, too, baby. ZAHN: I got a you, too, baby. You did you hear that? Friday night, we are smokin'!
It has been than 60 years since the end of World War II. Is Germany ready for a comedy movie about Hitler? And one that's made by a Jewish director? Just you wait and see. You're not going to believe this.
ZAHN: Controversy over a movie comedy about Hitler is OUT IN THE OPEN tonight. Here in the U.S. we've been laughing at movies about the Nazi dictator since before World War II. But in Germany the subject of Hitler is still so raw that this is the first movie comedy made there, about him. And even though reviewers have panned the film, "Mien Fuhrer: The Truly Truest Truth About Adolf Hitler" happens to be number one at the box office in Germany. Frederick Pleitkein has the story tonight from Berlin.
FREDERICK PLEITKEIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT, OUT IN THE OPEN (voice over): To most Germans, this simply can't be funny.
DANI LEVI, DIRECTOR: I really had to liberate, first of all, myself from a certain kind of monster image and oversized stony image that I had from Hitler.
PLEITKEIN: Dani Levi is the director of Germany's first Hitler comedy, and he's Jewish. Many in Germany say it took a Jew to produce this film.
The year is 1944. Germany is losing the war. Berlin is burnt out and so is Hitler. He's lost his spark. Only one man can help put the fire back into the Fuhrer's speeches, Adolph Greunbaum (ph), a Jewish acting professor already deported to a Nazi concentration camp is put into service, out of desperation. It's a rocky relationship with ups, and downs.
(On camera): More than 60 years after the end of World War II, relations between Jews and Germans are still far from normal. Many Germans harbor a deep feeling of guilt for the Holocaust.
(Voice over): But it's not just guilt, anti-Semitism is still a major problem in the country where the Holocaust happened. And German is currently experiencing an major upsurge in right wing and neo-Nazi crime.
At Berlin's Holocaust Memorial, people from all over the world come to remember the crimes of the Hitler regime.
PLEITKEIN (on camera): How would you define the relationship between Jews and Germans today, in this time?
BRIGITTA BAUER, TOURIST: I don't think that it is very good. I think there are many tensions, and a lot of failing of understanding. LEVI (voice over): It's very astonishing, very weird how respectful, and still fearful the reception of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi system is still received here in Germany, as if the long shadow of the National Socialism is still reaching out.
PLEITKEIN (voice over): But many Jewish leaders in Germany say they think Hitler's long shadow should never be cut down.
ALEXANDER BRENNER, JEWISH COMMUNITY, BERLIN: For Hitler and for Auschwitz, there is a border, you can't make humor about millions of murdered people.
PLEITKEIN: And so the first Hitler comedy in Germany is already something it's director never wanted it to be, a highly political movie. Frederick Pleitkein, CNN, Berlin.
ZAHN: "Mien Fuhrer" is distributed in Germany, by Warner Brothers, we should point out, part of our parent company, Time Warner.
Right now we're going to move on to our biz break. One day after that big sell-off stocks had a mixed day. The Dow lost 15 points, S&P was down nearly 2 points. Bu the tech heavy Nasdaq gained almost 2 points.
Microsoft shares higher after reported stronger quarterly results, mostly because of Xbox sales. But GM shares lost ground after it delayed its fourth quarter earnings report. That announcement is expected to come in sometime early next week.
And the sale of new homes tumbled more than 17 percent last year, that is the biggest drop since 1990. A number that matches yesterday's report on the drastic drop in sales of existing homes.
We are just minutes away from the top of the hour. And a "Larry King Live" exclusive. His guest tonight, Larry Burkhead (ph), the photographer who claims that he is the father of Anna Nicole's new daughter. We'll be right back.
ZAHN: And that's it for all of us here tonight. On Monday, meet the Texas mayor who wants to ban the N word, but is having a really hard time convincing his town that that is the right thing to do.
Thanks so much for dropping by, this Friday night, as we wrapped up the week here. We hope you have a really great weekend and we'll be back same time, same place, Monday night. We hope you'll join us.
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.voxant.com