Read Full Transcript EXPAND
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Hello, everyone, and welcome to “Amanpour and Company.” Here’s what’s coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, U.S. DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENT CANDIDATE: If we give Donald Trump eight years in the White House, he will forever and fundamentally alter the
character of this nation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Third time lucky? Joe Biden declares his latest bid for the presidency.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: Thank you very much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Throwing down the gauntlet on core American values. But where does he fit in to an already-crowded Democratic field?
Plus, how our politics and our lives are shaped by unconscious bias. Psychologist, Dr. Jennifer Eberhardt, on hidden prejudice in society.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RYAN O’CONNELL, ACTOR: I was in the closet about being gay and I was in the closet about being disabled. And now, no more closets.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Exploring sexual identity and life with the disability. Ryan O’Connell turnpikes his memoir “I’m Special” into a Netflix sitcom.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I’m Christiane Amanpour in London.
After months of speculation, Joe Biden has declared that he’s running for the White House. Becoming the 20th in a packed field of Democratic
candidates. The 76-year-old is the front-runner according to the most recent polls. Riding a wave of popularity especially from his time as
Barack Obama’s vice president.
Biden has a reputation as a regular guy. And even the Trump campaign is worried about his pull in some of the white, blue-collar communities that
Trump won in 2016. But Biden also comes with some political baggage, and his reputation as a centrist establishment figure could be at odds with the
party’s younger, more progressive wing.
His announcement, when it finally came, was unequivocal. Rebuking the values of President Trump and framing the 2020 election around a question
of moral imperative.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: We are in a battle for the soul of this nation. I believe history will look back on the four years of this president and all he embraces as
an aberrant moment in time. But if we give Donald Trump eight years in the White House, he will forever and fundamentally alter the character of this
nation, who we are. And I cannot stand by and watch that happen.
The core values of this nation, our standing in the world, our very democracy, everything that has made America America is at stake. That’s
why today I’m announcing my candidacy for president of the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Well, he’s laid it out. And let’s break this down with two prominent voices from the Democratic Party. Bakari Sellers is a former
member of the South Carolina House of Representatives, and Amanda Renteria is a political aide who is national director for Hillary Clinton during her
2016 presidential run.
Welcome to both of you.
So, I guess I want to ask you first to weigh in on your reaction to the fact that Biden has jumped in, although it wasn’t a big surprise. But the
way he did it, on video and going for the anti-Trump jugular, so to speak. Firstly, Bakari.
BAKARI SELLERS, FORMER SOUTH CAROLINA STATE HOUSE MEMBER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: So, I think this was not a surprise to anyone in politics for a
very long period of time. In fact, there were a large number of us who thought that Joe Biden was going to run for president in 2016. And so,
people have been waiting now for a few years for Joe Biden to decide to run for president.
I think that Joe Biden clearly articulated why he is running for president. Whether or not that will work or not is still yet to be seen. But he is
running on values, not necessarily issue or policy. And he’s running as the anti-Trump. And I think that one of the things that voters this go
around will look for and say to themselves is being anti-Trump simply isn’t enough, you have to give us a reason to vote for you.
This is very early on, but Joe Biden is not going to have a coronation and there are a lot of good candidates in this race and he’s going to have to
run a principle ray showing people why they should vote for him, not that he’s just anti-Trump. And we’ll see if he’s able to do that.
AMANPOUR: Amanda, people do know Joe Biden and he has principles and he has policies and he has a massive, probably longer than anybody out there,
legislative record and has been around for decades literally. To Bakari’s point, what do you think he should be running on? Where do you think his
AMANDA RENTERIA, CHAIR, EMERGE AMERICA: You know, I think it is leaning into some of his experience, particularly as it pertains to foreign
affairs. Over the course of his, you know, tenure in the Senate and really as Biden as vice president, you saw him really lean into that, and there’s
still aspects of that in his rollout video. So, that wasn’t a surprise to see, really him taking charge in terms of what this means for our
country and what this means for the world. You had that sentiment.
And then I think what was interesting is that he started off with Charleston and really pointing out that the Democratic Party is a party of
bringing people together. And I think that part of it really speaks to the future of the Democratic Party and what you’re hearing from a lot of folks
in the — on the ground in the electorate.
AMANPOUR: And to both of you, we said in the introduction that he jumps in right at the top of the polls. I mean, partly because he’s so well-known,
there’s name recognition, because he was popular as president Obama’s vice president, because he’s considered sort of a regular Joe, not to coin a
phrase. But nonetheless, he does have that regular-guy kinds of appeal to people.
He himself has been quoted as saying that what’s really going to matter is not the first caucus or the first (INAUDIBLE) New Hampshire but the first
24 hours when it comes to the amount of money he can raise. Just give me what your take on that, would you?
RENTERIA: I think it really —
SELLERS: Well, I think that the first 24 hours is very — Oh, I’m sorry, Amanda. Go ahead.
RENTERIA: No. Go ahead.
SELLERS: I think that the first 24 hours is very, very important. I think you saw Beto O’Rourke have a strong first 24 hours. And what people know
and we hold true is that Bernie Sanders is a prolific small-dollar donor. And Joe Biden has never been one who has been a, what “prolific”
fundraiser. And so, he will have to prove whether or not he can hold a candle to Bernie Sanders and Representative O’Rourke and even Kamala
And I believe that he can. I believe that there would be a lot of Clinton money and a lot of Obama money that will be funneled to Joe Biden. So, I
don’t think that’s his issue.
As for being the front-runner, I mean, we have to remember that Rudy Giuliani and Jeb Bush on the Republican side at this time were both front-
runners in their respective races. But I think this race most similarly reminds people of 2008 where you had Hillary Clinton who was a dominant
front-runner and, you know, Barack Obama caught fire and won Iowa and won South Carolina, and the rest was history.
And so, I don’t think him being a front-runner per se is necessarily the end of the story. Joe Biden has a lot of work to do, but I would not be
surprised if Joe Biden is the nominee for president.
AMANPOUR: Let me just throw something at you in terms of a little bit soundbite. It was when Joe Biden was first encountered some reporter
today, and they asked him about Obama and, in fact, the support that — anyway, they asked him about his support. Just listen to this for a
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you are the best choice for the Democrats in 2020, why didn’t president Obama endorse you?
BIDEN: I asked President Obama not to endorse and he doesn’t want to — this — we should — whoever wins this nomination should win it on their
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, Amanda, what do you make of that? You know, we’ve been saying that he is obviously, you know, a lot of his popularity hangs on his
connection with President Obama.
RENTERIA: I think it’s a smart decision. I think it’s particularly smart right now as we have — as we’re looking at all of the difference
candidates. And especially as you come into a race as a front-runner, making sure to be careful that you really are seen as a team player within
the Democratic Party.
And he is walking into really a platform where the candidates themselves have been very collegial with each other. And so, he had to make sure as
he stepped in that that was the right answer right now. And I think for the Democratic Party to come to a decision about which candidate they want,
he really laid the groundwork today as well.
AMANPOUR: OK. So, let’s get down to the nitty gritty on policy —
SELLERS: Can I comment on that, Christiane?
AMANPOUR: Yes, go ahead.
SELLERS: With all due respect to Amanda and everyone else, I honestly have a hard time believing that anyone would turn away Barack Obama’s
endorsement at this moment, when regardless of whenever he gave it.
You know, Barack Obama has a pristine reputation within the Democratic Party. I don’t think he would endorse anybody this early. But for anybody
to say that, you know, I asked Barack Obama to not endorse me, I mean, that’s the equivalent to me saying before I was married, I asked Rihanna
not to date me. I mean, I just think that some of these are beyond hyperbole, and that’s one of them.
That’s something we can chuckle about. Barack Obama is the ultimate figure in our party right now, the pre-eminent figure in our party right now, I
don’t think he would endorse anybody in April, the year before the race.
AMANPOUR: All right. OK. So, point taken. And let’s now just sort of declare your positions, both of you, because you have both tweeted today as
soon as Biden jumped in, Amanda, favorably and Bakari not so favorably. So, I want to get down to the issues that are not just attached to Biden
but, you know, appear on the big, wide Democratic sort of field as they’re going forward.
So, Bakari, you basically tweeted, “Joe Biden, you were the author of the ’94 crime bill. Its champion and number-one cheerleader.
This bill has led to mass incarceration and specifically targeted Black and Brown people. What are your plans to unravel the damage that you helped to
cause?” And then, of course, there is, you know, records, you know, on Anita Hill during the supreme court confirmation hearings for Clarence
Thomas, there’s integration, there’s all sorts of issues there.
On his record, how do you think he’s going to be treated in today’s world, given the — you know, given how we’re seeing some very new and much more
progressive policies coming to the fore? So, first explain where you think he’s going to be. I’m going to go actually to Amanda to ask about Bakari’s
RENTERIA: I think it’s really fair to talk about what his — what he’s done in the past. And, you know, this is the real test in the next 30 to
60 days for Biden, is that he has to be ready to address all these different questions.
None of this is new, and I actually believe everyone should get their shot at addressing those issues and making sure to do that, welcoming them in,
but there’s no doubt he has a lot of questions to answer. And I look forward to seeing that, and I think every single candidate should have
their time to do that.
AMANPOUR: And, Amanda, you particularly have been prominent in basically helping women, trying to get more and more women to run. So, now I’m going
to ask Bakari to answer one of those issues. Because, obviously, Kamala Harris is a very, very prominent candidate, the senator from California.
And Bakari, you mentioned her as, you know, a very legitimate and strong candidate.
Yet, she also has a very tricky line on crime and being tough on crime that — for her experience in the State of California that she has to overcome.
So, this cuts both ways. How will she overcome this notion that she was all too willing to contribute to this mass incarceration?
SELLERS: Oh, there’s no question. And I think that I — I think that Amanda answered the question correctly. And I — you know, I think that as
we questioned Senator Harris, as you just did, as we question Amy Klobuchar and her record as a prosecutor, and right now, Pete Buttigieg, just having
questions about his time and the way that he represented African-Americans in South Bend, Indiana. Everyone has to answer these questions. It’s not
going to be a coronation. And Joe Biden will have to answer those, as well.
As to Senator Harris, someone who I think will win the nomination, somebody I’m hopeful will win the nomination, I can tell you that she has to answer
the questions about her time as district attorney and, you know, things like the school truancy bill that people were giving pure hell about but it
comes to find out that after she introduced that bill, rates of children actually showing up to schools went up, and no parents were actually put in
prison for that.
And so, you have to go through people’s record, comb through it and answer those questions. But it’s not just about what you’ve done in the past, we
all know that Joe Biden was the author of the ’94 crime bill. I think that Joe Biden has to look into a camera and say that, “Beyond unintended
consequences, I apologize,” and then we have to see that Joe Biden is more than just an anti-Trump candidate or a values candidate, he has to put
forth comprehensive policy points to how he’s going to address a lot of the problems that were caused by what he thought was a good idea in 1994.
That’s where we — you know, that’s what he has to do over the next, as Amanda said, 30 to 60 days. We have to see the policy points.
AMANPOUR: OK. So, let’s talk about policy points because you’re right that the entrance video was short on policy. So has Pete Buttigieg being
criticized for having little or no policy, specific policies on his website. He’s answered why he doesn’t, but people are asking that. And
yet, Amanda, somebody who has chapter and verse policy, you know, from A to zed is Elizabeth Warren and she is not getting the kind of traction that
she hoped to get in terms of polls, money and all the rest of it.
So, where are we in this race? Is it policy? Is it politics? Is it personality? Is it anti-Trump? Where do the Democrats coalesce?
RENTERIA: Well, I think we’re still very, very early and you are seeing people take different lanes. I was just at a forum with eight candidates
last night in Texas focused on women of color. And certainly, you saw Elizabeth Warren really roll out her plans. But I have to say, you know,
Cory Booker talked about climate change, Kamala Harris talked about what are we doing in housing and education, Julian Castro talked about housing.
And so, you are beginning to see a real policy discussion emerge. But you know, I take it — I recognize also coming off the 2016 campaign we had a
policy plan for everything. And so, you are seeing candidates really learn from that which is when do you weave in policy and how do you encase that
And so, each of those candidates, each of our candidates are going to go through their process of doing so. And I think both are important. You’ve
got to state your values. And so, each of those candidates, each of our candidates are going to go through their process of doing so.
And I think both are important, you’ve got to state your values and at the same time, walk people through your plans.
But frankly, I think what was interesting about Elizabeth Warren’s presentation last night and yesterday was that it was her plans that really
got people fired up. And so, I think we’re going to see, you know, a lot more plans come to the forefront and be able to deduce the differentiation
between the different candidates.
AMANPOUR: And obviously a massive plan she has on student debt and the whole crippling burden of higher education in the United States. Bernie
Sanders has sort of said that he kind of agrees with that.
Here is what — let’s not forget Bernie Sanders who’s very aware head (ph) particularly on fund-raising. Let’s just play a little bit of what he said
about this race even before Biden got in.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BERNIE SANDERS, U.S. DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Our job is to register millions of people throughout this country, our job is through
social media, through door-to-door activity, through every way that we can think of, bring people into the political process, working people, young
people, people of goodwill, people who are just, you know, disgusted by Trump’s behavior, by the fact that we have a pathological liar as
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Well, that is also the anti-Trump platform. But he’s also well- known for his — he would overtly call them socialist policies. But these are policies that no longer have that, you know, negative connotation to
them. So many young people are for Medicaid for all, for the Green New Deal. You just mentioned climate, that is galvanizing the world, not just
So, Bakari, you know, you look at the midterms and you see that the majority of Democratic winners in Congress were more moderate mainstream.
What is it going to be for the presidential election? Are voters looking for more moderate or for more much more to the left and much more sort of
the mirror image, if you like, or opposite of Trump policies?
SELLERS: Well, I actually think that the majority of Democratic voters contrary to the noise that you hear and contrary to the things that Hope
Sanders and all of those individuals try to push out. The Democratic Party is way more moderate than people would give it credit for.
And so, when you think about where we are as a party, I think that people – – individuals are going to look for someone who represents their values and actually represents their issues. And when you look at what we did in the
United States Congress and the House of Representatives, what you’ll see is that individuals won on issues. Lucy McBath was a gun candidate. You had
issues of people, especially talking about health care, we had a new wave of women come into the process. Thank god.
And that new wave of women was diverse. So, people were looking for diversity, as well. And I think that’s what you’re going to see kind of
rule the day. Not necessarily whether or not someone is a Democratic socialist or more moderate. I think it’s those issues, that little bit of
diversity that people are looking for.
AMANPOUR: I’d like to give Amanda the last word and especially on the nicknaming by President Trump. He called Hillary, Crooked Hillary. It was
horrible. It stuck. And he’s called Joe Biden now Sleepy Joe. What is the advice because it’s going to happen to every one of them on dealing
RENTERIA: You have to really take a step back and think about that is we are not in a game of a 5-year-old back and forth. That this is a serious
election, and any kind of name-calling or the little tactics that really are the shining objects sometimes that can get a candidate off script, you
just have to have the discipline to say, “What are we fighting for? What’s at stake here?” And really, the importance of what’s at hands for all of
And I think the good news is, candidates have seen this happen before. So, it’s not new. In the 2016 election campaign, it was new. It’s not
anymore. And people have thought through this. They’ve actually tested their own tweet process to make sure that they stay in focused and I think
you’re going to see more of that.
AMANPOUR: It’s really fascinating. Thanks to both of you, Amanda and Bakari, for digging down on all of this today.
Now, much of the Democratic race is being defined by America’s quickly evolving politics of inclusion in a sort of era of exclusion. But the
barriers to progress are not only political, they’re personal. And we might not even be aware of the role that we play to reinforce the
prejudices in society.
In her new book, Dr. Jennifer Eberhardt delves into the phenomenon of unconscious bias. And she told me about the pervasive role it plays in our
politics and in our everyday lives.
Dr. Jennifer Eberhardt, welcome to the program.
JENNIFER EBERHARDT, AUTHOR, “BIASED”: Thanks for having me.
AMANPOUR: “Biased,” you know, it is the center of conversation across the board these days. I mean, the whole idea of racism and intolerance and
gender and everything. One of the things that I think is really interesting and people have said this before and it’s relation to what
you’ve studied, you don’t have to be a bigot to be a racist.
EBERHARDT: That’s right.
AMANPOUR: You don’t have to be a bigot to be biased. What is unconscious bias?
EBERHARDT: So, unconscious bias is something that we’re all vulnerable to. And so, you know, it can be defined as the beliefs and the feelings we have
about social groups that can affect our decision making and our actions even when we’re not aware of it.
AMANPOUR: Even people who believe they’re so vested in equality and tolerance —
EBERHARDT: Yes —
AMANPOUR: Can even — even those people can have unconscious bias?
EBERHARDT: That’s right. They can. I mean, I think the difference, too is — I mean, a lot of times people think bias as something that only a few
people have or these people who are bigots, these are bad people. But this unconscious bias, you know, you don’t have to be a bad person to have that
kind of bias and it’s something that we all can actually, you know, —
AMANPOUR: Fall into?
EBERHARDT: Yes, exactly.
AMANPOUR: And you fell right into it as you were beginning to research this book. You went to Charlottesville, Virginia —
AMANPOUR: — which was obviously the scene of that terrible White nationalism. There was a person killed.
AMANPOUR: And it became a flashpoint of divisive society. I want to take a specific example.
AMANPOUR: You were in an Uber car —
AMANPOUR: — with the driver.
AMANPOUR: And you were pretty surprised by your conversation that ensued.
EBERHARDT: Yes. I was.
AMANPOUR: Tell us.
EBERHARDT: Well, you know, yes, I got off the plane, just try to get to my hotel. I stepped in the car, and the Uber driver asked me, “Well, what
brings you to town today?” So, you know, I’m kind of rattled by that because I wasn’t prepared to talk about why I had come to town, and I
wasn’t sure —
AMANPOUR: Because it was such a flashpoint, very difficult conversation and experience.
EBERHARDT: It was — exactly. And I didn’t know sort of how he felt about it or how he — whether he participated in it or, you know —
AMANPOUR: He was White?
EBERHARDT: He was White, yes. So — and he was, you know — I guess maybe in the 60s or so. And so, I wasn’t — just wasn’t sure. And so, I decided
to — you know, to have the conversation and take the leap of faith and, you know, talk to him about being there because I was writing this book and
I do work on racial bias and he launched into conversation with me about how he was raised in part by a Black woman, a domestic worker, but she was
more than a domestic worker. I mean, she became a second mother to him. And she just died. And so, he shared with me that she was like the — one
of the most important people to him in the whole world.
AMANPOUR: And then?
EBERHARDT: And then, it changed. The tone changed a little bit. And I got a bit nervous because he said to me, “There’s bigotry in my veins.”
And so, I wasn’t expecting that, at that point especially. And I said, “Well, what?” And he says, “Well, I can feel it rising up.”
AMANPOUR: As I’m talking to you?
EBERHARDT: I didn’t know. So, I asked him, I said, “Well, when?” You know, “When can you feel it rising up?” And he thought about it, and he
said, you know, “When I’m outnumbered. You know, when I feel outnumbered, I can feel it rising up.” And he said, “It wasn’t just being a White man,
being outnumbered by, you know, Black people in the setting,” but he said he’s felt it before. He used to live in Florida and felt the same feeling
when he was surrendered by Latinos. And he said that’s when he felt it most acutely.
AMANPOUR: That’s a remarkable confession.
EBERHARDT: It was. You know, and we talked about it. And actually, there’s some research on this as it turns out. And before long, you know,
White Americans won’t be in the majority anymore. And so, simply reminding people of that can lead to bias, that leads them to express more bias
against, you know, outgroup members and to want to spend more time with, you know, people within their own group. It leads them to be, you know,
less supportive of immigration policies and so forth. So, it was real.
AMANPOUR: So, it has massive ripple effects and implications?
EBERHARDT: Definitely. Yes.
AMANPOUR: I want to get back to another nugget in your book, which is at once tragic and unbelievably scientifically or at least an
anthropologically revealing. That is when you’re taking a plane trip with your son, who I believe was about five or six at the time.
EBERHARDT: He is five years old, yes.
AMANPOUR: And tell us the story.
EBERHARDT: So, we’re on a plane, right, and he’s five. So, he’s excited about being on this plane and he’s looking all around and he sees this man
on the plane and says, “Hey, that guy looks like daddy.” You know, so I look at the guy, and he doesn’t look anything at all like my husband, like
nothing at all like my husband.
So, then I start looking around on the plane and realize he’s the only Black guy on the plane, right. So, I’m all set to have this conversation
with my son about how not all Black people look alike, right. So, I’m getting ready for this, but before I could have the conversation, he looks
up at me and says, “I hope he doesn’t rob the plane.” And I said, “What? What did you say?” And he says it again. He says, “Well, I
hope he doesn’t rob the plane.” And I said, well, “You know daddy wouldn’t rob a plane.” And he said, “Yes, yes. I know that.” And I said, “Well,
why would you say that?” And he looked at me with this really sad face and he said, “I don’t know why I said that. I don’t know why I was thinking
And it just revealed so much to me, right, that we think about little children as sort of — you know, we’re trying to protect them and they’re
innocent. But you know, we have, you know, a whole world out there that he’s witnessing and he sees all the racial stratification and the
polarization and the inequality, and it starts to seep into his mind and affect them to the point where he doesn’t know how it got there or why it
is that he’s thinking that.
AMANPOUR: I honestly find that so striking and just so tragic —
AMANPOUR: — that I think that this book that you’re writing and you have written is just so incredibly well timed. But I want to ask you then,
because that leads into the transmission of bias, obviously.
AMANPOUR: Here’s a five-year-old child saying this thing, and that’s sort of part of this unconscious bias and what he’s learned —
AMANPOUR: — from his experience.
AMANPOUR: And you write there was an experiment with children that you describe.
AMANPOUR: About giving a toy, how they did, how they didn’t, et cetera. And you write, “If you are treated badly, you’re a bad person. If you are
treated badly, you’re a bad person.”
AMANPOUR: “Upon watching one 30-second clip of a negative interaction, preschoolers have seen enough to hold the target of bias responsible —
AMANPOUR: — rather than the holder of bias.”
AMANPOUR: I mean, that just blows my mind. So, describe this experiment and how that can be the result that they hold the target, the victim
EBERHARDT: Right. So, this was research that was conducted by social psychologist, developmental psychologist at the University of Washington.
And yes, they were interested in how bias can get transmitted from, you know, adults to children basically. And just, you know, that children
observing how another adult is treated influences how they then feel about that adult.
And again, it’s — if you’re being treated poorly, that means that, you know, you’re a bad person and so, I should treat you poorly. And so, even
when they had a chance to give this person a toy, you know, colorful toy that they thought was great and cool, right, you know, they were less
likely to want to give that toy to the person who had been treated badly.
AMANPOUR: So, I was fascinated to read the bits about when you were growing up. You grew up in a Black neighborhood, right?
AMANPOUR: In Cleveland, Ohio.
EBERHARDT: I did. Yes.
AMANPOUR: And then at a certain age, your parents moved you and moved the family to a White suburb, mostly White suburb.
AMANPOUR: And going back to what you thought about your son thinking that all Black people looked the same when he made the comment in the plane,
you, when you moved to the White suburb —
AMANPOUR: — thought all White people looked the same.
EBERHARDT: I did. And they did actually. I didn’t just think it, it was like I could not tell their faces apart. And it was because I had — you
know, at that time I was 12 years old and all of the meaningful relationships I had in my world and life were with other African-Americans.
And so, now I’m in this new context, and I’m not used to processing those faces. I didn’t even know which features to look at. I’d never paid
attention to eye color, for example. So, there was this whole new way, you know, to do this thing. And it took some time, you know, for my brain to
catch up to this new environment that I was in. But eventually I was able to, you know, tell the faces apart, but it took some time.
AMANPOUR: And time, I think, is what you talk about as a solution.
AMANPOUR: You’re talking about experience and time.
AMANPOUR: And with experience, your brain started to obviously be able to recognize White facial features.
EBERHARDT: Right. Right.
AMANPOUR: And you talk about the brain is a malleable organ that responds to the environments we’re placed in and the challenges we face. It’s that
EBERHARDT: That’s right.
AMANPOUR: So, describe that and how that can — is that the solution, somehow harnessing that?
EBERHARDT: Right. I mean, yes. I think a lot of people think, well, if it’s in the brain, that means it’s fixed, and there’s nothing we could do,
and it’s hardwired. But our brain is responding to the world outside, right.
And so, if we are living in segregated conditions like a lot of, you know, cities in the U.S., at least when I was coming up were quite segregated.
And that the neighborhood you say that we moved to, the suburb was a bike ride away, but it was like, you know, it was a whole different world. I
mean, it was so different.
And so, you know, if we’re living in these segregated spaces, that means that as our brains are developing, right, we’re only sort of seeing people
who are like us, and so we’re not practicing on these other faces. We’re not individuating these other people. And that’s a precursor really, for
We are sort of categorizing them as a group and we can’t distinguish among them. And then we start to learn sort of what that group is like, and we
have feelings towards that group. And so — then you have bias that can actually start to affect how you treat those members of that group and how
you make decisions about them.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: And you have also worked with police departments, particularly in Oakland, California.
AMANPOUR: Tell me what you brought to the table and did anything change when you were able to present them with the science?
EBERHARDT: Right. Well, I tried to bring data to the table. That was a little difficult, because I didn’t know — the culture, it wasn’t just–
AMANPOUR: And the reason of course, is because a preponderance of young black males are getting arrested. Is that right?
EBERHARDT: Right. Well, not just arrested, but the worry was that they were being stopped and searched at disproportionate numbers. And so, they
wanted someone to come in to analyze that data and to tell them, the extent of the racial disparities and so forth. And so that was my role, which I
carried out with a team of researchers at Stanford.
So we released a report on that, and so forth. But one of the things that we brought to the table was to not just analyze the data that comes from a
form that officers complete, but to also look at body worn camera footage. And so, we were interested in how in these routine traffic stops, how these
interactions go, and whether the language that officers use during these interactions, whether it differs at all, based on the race of the driver.
AMANPOUR: Did the Oakland Police Station implement any changes after the research you brought them and the work you did with them?
EBERHARDT: Yes, I mean, lots of changes. So we made a number of recommendations, actually 50 recommendations, and then we stayed behind.
And we worked with a team of people at the Oakland Police Department to try to implement a lot of those recommendations. And so, they made changes to
handcuffing policies, they also made a change, which seems like a simple change to the form that they complete when they make a stop. And so, they
added a question, which was — was this stop intelligence-led? Yes or no. So there was a chat box there.
What they mean by intelligence-led is, do I have credible information to tie this specific person to a crime? So they had to think about that now
for every stop, and they had to slow down and think, “Well, is this a high priority stop or not?” And just thinking about that made a difference. It
actually led to a drop in stops by 40 percent.
AMANPOUR: See, that’s clearly really very interesting. You’re saying that, to slow down, to stop, to think…
AMANPOUR: …kind of to maybe slow down that flight or fight impulse that you can get when you’re in a heightened situation? Is also part of it?
EBERHARDT: Yes, I mean, so they also changed the foot-pursuit policy. But the idea there, too, they changed the policy so that the officers couldn’t
follow people, like if they lost track of them into an enclosed space. Because, that’s the situation where people get hurt. And so they would
have them step back, set up a perimeter, or call for backup. They we wanted to slow it down. And they found that by changing that policy, that
they used to have eight to nine officer involved shootings a year. But with that change in policy, it went to eight officer involved shootings in
the last five years. So huge difference there.
AMANPOUR: And that’s just in that one location. Of course, we know that. I mean, there’s so many famous names and tragic incidents of young black
men, even a 12-year-old boy, you know, being shot dead — innocent kids,
EBERHARDT: Right, and it’s a situation where, you know — so this triggering of bias is situational, it’s conditional. And so, it’s not the
case that we’re always acting on our biases. But we’re more likely to act on bias when we have to make a decision quickly when we’re forced to make a
split second decision and when we’re in a heightened state, when we’re fearful, when we’re threatened, when we’re in an enclosed space.
So in addition to, reducing the number of people who were injured, including the police officers, their injuries went down by like 70 percent
with this change in the policy, but they’re also sort of changing the probability that you’re going to act on bias. And bias is going to infect
your decision making.
AMANPOUR: Does the book deal with other issues like gender and other physical attributes?
EBERHARDT: Yes. You know, so there’s a deep dive on race in here. And I kind of take us through all the ways in which ,you know, bias could be at
play in our neighborhoods, and in our schools, and in our workplaces, and so forth. But I also, sort of talk about how that works for gender.
I talk, you know, about gender bias in the workplace. I talk about immigration, you know, I talk about homelessness, there was a really
interesting study that I cover, in the book conducted by Lasana Harris and Susan Fiske, where they put people in a neuro-imaging scanner and they
showed them pictures of other people. Normally, when you see other people, your brain — there’s an area of the brain that responds, this left medial
prefrontal cortex. And they found — when they showed them pictures of homeless people that that area was less active, like it didn’t get, you
EBERHARDT: Yes, it didn’t. It didn’t.
AMANPOUR: So, you know, there was no empathy.
EBERHARDT: No empathy. It was as though, you know, because they had lost their homes that they also lost their humanity.
AMANPOUR: Again, the victim is the target — it’s the bad person.
EBERHARDT: Oh yes.
AMANPOUR: I find that very, very interesting. So much food for thought “Biased”. Jennifer Eberhardt, thank you so much indeed for joining us.
EBERHARDT: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Interesting but troubling as well. When you’re living with a disability, it can be difficult not to let it define you, especially if
people treat you differently, right? And comedian Ryan O’Connell is warm, outspoken, and relatable. He’s also gay and has cerebral palsy, a lifelong
condition which affects movement and coordination. They are all themes that are explored in his new Netflix show “Special” which is based on his
own life. And he sat down with our Alicia Menendez to discuss it.
ALICIA MENENDEZ, CORRESPONDENT, PBS AMANPOUR: All right. Thank you so much for being here.
RYAN O’CONNELL, ACTOR-WRITER: Thank you for having me.
MENENDEZ: So this show that you star in, produce, write for, “Special” follows the life of a 28-year-old gay man who has cerebral palsy. How much
of this is based on your own life?
O’CONNELL: It depends on the day. I feel like some days, I’m like, this is me. This is like all I had to give, like blood, sweat, and tears and
others. I’m like, I don’t really know this bitch.
MENENDEZ: Yes, but biographically it follows your life a bit?
O’CONNELL: Yes, it does. Like the inciting incident of me getting hit by a car and then lying about my cerebral palsy and being an accent victim,
that actually happened, yes.
MENENDEZ: I want to take a look at one of the opening scenes from the show.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED BOY: Do you need help? I can go get my parents for you.
O’CONNELL: Nope, I’m fine.
UNIDENTIFIED BOY: Hey, you’re walking funny. You need to go to the hospital Mister.
O’CONNELL: That’s not from my fall. I have a thing. It’s called cerebral palsy.
UNIDENTIFIED BOY: What’s that?
O’CONNELL: Cerebral palsy is a disability resulting from damage to the brain before, during, or shortly after birth, and that will be manifested
through muscular incoordination.
UNIDENTIFIED BOY: (Screams)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MENENDEZ: So I promise not to do that to you. But for someone who is watching and doesn’t know, understanding that you have clearly explained it
a million times over the course of your life. How would you explain what it is?
O’CONNELL: Yes, I would explain it just — yes, cerebral palsy — well, now I feel like I don’t explain it. I’m like done explaining. Because I
get asked of it so often that I’m just like, “I have CP,” and they’re like, “What’s that?” I’m like, “I don’t know, Google it.”
It’s just — it gets exhausting. I think it’s such a part of my life that — I mean, I was actually just in an Uber recently with my boyfriend and
the Uber guy turned around and just said, “What’s wrong with you?” And I remember my boyfriend was so shook, and to me it was just like normal every
day. I just — I don’t know, I didn’t even realize that that would be a strange thing. And it really took my boyfriend’s response for me to
realize, “Oh yes, that’s like not a normal thing to ask.”
MENENDEZ: Right. What is the fact that you get asked that so frequently, tell you about the way that we understand disability here in the United
O’CONNELL: It shows that I don’t think we do understand that at all. I think that there’s a lot of ignorance around disability. And I think
partially it’s because there’s no dialogue around it. I think people oscillate between two, kind of like, positions, I think.
You have the people that treat with kid gloves and kind of infantilize you and are really nervous around you. And then you have the real like blunt
people were just like, “What’s — why are you walking like that?” And to me, both are kind of disturbia.
MENENDEZ: There was a great Twitter thread, I’m sure you saw about how strange able bodied people can be around disabled people like a
lot of stories of little people being asked who their parents are, people constantly being asked if they need help. Is that something that you deal
with in the show?
O’CONNELL: Yes, absolutely. Yes, I think being disabled is a weird kind of like — it’s strange because your body is being highlighted. And it’s
almost like public property. But you’re also seeing yourself, like, get ignored in real life. Like, I see people look at me highlight me and then
make the decision to erase me in real time. So it’s this weird? Like –
MENENDEZ: What do you mean? What does it look like?
O’CONNELL: It’s like, it’s like — people will stare at me like I’m very visible. And then people will get uncomfortable and then they’ll look the
other way. And then I’ll just see myself kind of fall through the cracks. You know, it really is a weird juxtaposition of being hyper visible, but
then being completely deleted.
MENENDEZ: I want to take a look at another clip.
O’CONNELL: Yes, totally.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
O’CONNELL: The kids screamed at me. Usually, when people see people that have CP, they’re just like, “gross” and then they go.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People don’t really understand your disability. It looks different on everybody. Simon says straighten.
O’CONNELL: Uh, that ass is everything to me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, hey, focus, yes. Save that for grinder.
O’CONNELL: I love that you think I have enough self esteem to be on grinder. What would my profile even say? I’m gay and disabled but I
promise not to drill on you until the third day.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are plenty of drool fetishes out there, like your foot.
O’CONNELL: I’m so f***n jealous of Bob.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MENENDEZ: You’re so jealous of Bob, why?
O’CONNELL: My character feels like, in a way, Bob has the easier life because there’s no — he is who he is and he is defined by his disability
and there’s no confusion about that. Whereas my character feels like he straddles both worlds and therefore belongs to me neither one.
MENENDEZ: Right. And you understand the complexity in saying that someone with a more severe disability, has it easier?
O’CONNELL: Oh, yes, it’s screwed up. My character has a lot to learn, honey. It’s like episode one. I mean, he has internalized ableism up the
wazoo, and like, he’s very, very privileged, but he just feels very resentful and very uncomfortable as his own skin. So it’s a very, like,
snap judgment thing of like, “Oh, Bob has it easier,” because his life has already kind of decided for him. Whereas, I kind of feel like I don’t
MENENDEZ: Slow that down for me internalized ableism. What does that mean?
O’CONNELL: Oh, internalized ableism is basically like, we grow up in a society that is ableist we’re like — it’s designed for able bodied people.
And basically, it’s like, we’re taught to hate ourselves, because society hates us. It’s sort of like internalized homophobia, internalized
misogyny, when any kind of marginalized community feels prejudice — like, discrimination from the society, they take that inward, and then they are
prejudiced against themselves.
MENENDEZ: I feel like that is a language that has only developed more recently. Well, this has been shared more recently because of the
prevalence of social media. I mean, did you understand that ableism growing up?
O’CONNELL: No, I had no idea. And I had really no idea about how internalized it is was either. I mean, I think that I was in such denial
by my disability for so long. It took me a long time to really unpack, like, what it meant for me and the kind of psychic damage that it caused.
MENENDEZ: What do you mean that you were in denial?
O’CONNELL: Well, I mean, when I was 20, I was hit by a car, and it was pretty serious. It was really bad. And then when I moved to New York,
people just assumed my limp was from my car accident, and I never correct them because in my eyes, being an accident victim was very relatable, like
any one of us could get hit by a car. Hopefully, we won’t. I wouldn’t recommend, 0 out of 10, but it could happen to us.
And to me having cerebral palsy, people never really understood what it was because CP can really run the gamut. It looks different on everybody so,
to me, it was just kind of an ultimate shortcut. But, really, what I was doing was denying a big part of who I was and kind of dripping with self-
loathing so it caused a lot of problems. It was sort of like putting a Band-Aid over like a large, gaping wound.
MENENDEZ: And when did that change?
O’CONNELL: So, when I got a book deal with Simon & Schuster, I got a book deal to write about my life and I was still closeted about my disability.
And I was like, “Well, I don’t know if I can really write about my life without talking about this big important part of it but I’ve been closeted
about it for so long.” I knew, I think, on a deeper level that it was causing me a lot of problems.
MENENDEZ: You knew what? Anxiety? Depression?
O’CONNELL: Anxiety and depression. I was on drugs, like it just wasn’t chic. I was going through a really hard time, and I don’t think, even back
then, I was conscious that it was tied into denying my disability. I think like sometimes when you’re young and you’re drinking that “I hate myself”
juice, you have these like moments of clarity where you see kind of like a life raft and you just know to take it.
So, with that book deal with Simon & Schuster, I kind of knew instinctively that this was my chance to be open and honest about who I was. So, I
literally went to my kickoff meeting with Simon & Schuster and I was like, “Hey, this book that you guys bought, I kind of want to go in a different
direction and write about my cerebral palsy.”
MENENDEZ: Why? What was the book that they bought?
O’CONNELL: It was honestly a not-chic how to be a 20-something Urban Outfitters book. I mean, it was, back then — it’s kind of L.O.L. now
because it’s so been done, but back in 2011, people were just talking about millennials and being in their 20s. It was so novel and exciting.
O’CONNELL: So, I got a book deal talking about that, but they really liked, obviously, the direction of the cerebral palsy. I think it
deepened the story, but it was really challenging for me because I was going to have to now write a book about something that I had just began to
unpack myself. So, I don’t know. In a weird way, the book is kind of painful for me to even read because I was just beginning to understand what
my disability meant.
MENENDEZ: You’ve experienced multiple coming outs. In which order did they happen?
O’CONNELL: Okay. So, I came out of the closet when I was 17, but that was the definition of NBD. I come from a very gay family and I just knew that
wasn’t an issue.
MENENDEZ: I just have to slow it down for non-millennials. It was the definition of “no big deal.”
O’CONNELL: Yes. Oh my god, yes, honey.
MENENDEZ: Yes, I’m here for you.
O’CONNELL: Translator. Yes. Basically, I come from a very gay family. I knew they looked at me and the reason why I came out was I liked this boy
at my school and I knew that I had to come out in order to date him so I basically came out in a very efficient — I’m a Virgo. I came out and like
a very Virgo, efficient manner, which was just like a crossed-out list. I was like, “Come out to this person and come out to this person.” I was
coming out to 10 people a day. By the end of two weeks or three weeks, I had come out to everyone I knew.
MENENDEZ: What does it mean when you say you have a very gay family?
O’CONNELL: Oh, my God. Okay. My uncle’s gay, my grandfather died of AIDS — not to bring the room down — and my sister — well, I don’t know if
she’d identify this anymore, but she was a liberal arts girl so she definitely was bi for a little bit. She might still be bi. Who knows?
But she’s fluid so I kind of just grew up around gayness.
MENENDEZ: So, in some ways, you came out about your disability later?
O’CONNELL: Yes, which, to me, revolutionized my life. So, I wrote the book, but even when I wrote the book, I didn’t tell anyone what I was
writing about. I was like, very, very hush-hush about it. And then, when I when the book was going to come out in a couple months, I wrote a post
for this blog called Thought Catalog called “Coming Out of the Disabled Closet” and it was insane. It really felt like a weight had been lifted
off my shoulders. My life truly changed overnight.
MENENDEZ: How so?
O’CONNELL: It was just so freeing to release that shame. You know what’s so painful about it? And I don’t live by regrets or anything like that,
but the truth is, is that no one cared. No one truly cared. I mean, yes, you have ignorant people. Yes, you have people not understanding your
ability. But I made something small into this huge monster that was controlling my life when I could have just treated it like a speck of dust.
And so I just spent a lot of my 20s in a deep amount of pain, and it just didn’t have to be that way. Now, seriously, hashtag no regrets, it got me
to where I am, but it is a bummer to know that I wasted so much time not liking myself.
MENENDEZ: One of the interesting things to me about both the way your book is framed and the way this show is framed is that we are both part of a
generation. Part of the big stereotype around this generation is that we’ve all been raised to believe that we are special. One of the things I
love in the book is you’re like, “But I…” There are a lot of contexts around your life that do make it less than ordinary.
O’CONNELL: Yes, I think, growing up, you have the helicopter parents stereotype, but mine was like doubly that because they actually truly
needed to helicopter me especially in the beginning where everything was sort of up in the air in terms of my development and I had tons of
surgeries and getting fitted for leg braces and physical therapy.
I mean, it was it was a full-time job just keeping me afloat. So, yes, I had a mom and dad that were really on me constantly, but they kind of had
to be. But now, I’m in this position where I’m 32 years old and I have a hard time figuring out where my CP ends and my learned helplessness begins.
MENENDEZ: What does that mean?
O’CONNELL: I mean, it’s like, for example, I don’t have curtains on the first floor of my apartment because something about getting curtains is so
challenging to me. I don’t even know where I would get them. It just darks me out so much that I can’t figure out how to hang them, like what
would I even do? Are there curtain stores? There’s just so much I don’t know. It’s truly not chic and embarrassing. And part of me is like, is
that my brain damage or being able to problem solve? Because that really is hard for me sometimes. Or is it because I’m so used to having
everything done for me?
I mean, I think my mom just didn’t want to see me in any discomfort growing up, understandably so, so whenever I had a hard time figuring things out, I
think I milked my disability and was like, “I don’t know how,” limping away, and she do it for me. So, it is hard for me to kind of figure out
what is attributed to my disability or what is just attributed to the fact that I was coddled growing up.
MENENDEZ: Growing up, what was the closest thing you saw to an image of yourself reflected back to you in the media?
O’CONNELL: I mean, literally nothing. I mean, I remember watching “Will and Grace” and seeing Jack and Will, and being like, “Oh, that that’s sort
a version of me.”
O’CONNELL: And there was “Queer as Folk” but that was really hyper sexualized and that was, hopefully, not going to be my journey, just
like screwing like rabbits after a moment. There really, really wasn’t anything. And then I would see disabled people at physical therapy, but I
never really talked to them. I never felt like — I felt shy. I don’t know. There was just nothing. There was really nothing.
And I think that really, really screwed me up because when I didn’t see myself being reflected back at me, it kind of confirmed my worst fears,
which was that I didn’t matter, that I was a freak, that I didn’t fit in so it was it was basically everything I had felt about myself confirmed.
MENENDEZ: What does it mean? What message does it send if you don’t see people like yourself desiring or being desired?
O’CONNELL: It means that you’re not worthy of having sex. I was celibate for 10 years, not to brag, but, seriously, a full decade, which I wouldn’t
recommend to anyone. And I think it’s because disability has — there’s so much left to be explored, especially our sexual agency, and the fact that
we are horny, and that we do have our own wants and desires, and that they’re very real and very valid.
So, that was never discussed, either. So, I feel like the messages I got from the media or the messages I didn’t get were just basically saying that
I was like Grendel and I just was not meant to have a partner and I was going to be alone.
MENENDEZ: What does it take to undo that?
O’CONNELL: Therapy? Your own Netflix show? A book?
MENENDEZ: A little help?
O’CONNELL: No. I mean, I think it was so interesting, because when I came out about having CP when I was 28, I just had confidence and I actually
started dating boys again, and people were attracted to me in this new way.
I think that for me, personally, I think I was projecting a lot of stuff onto people, like I assumed that they thought I was un-dateable and
unlovable. And that’s kind of the reason why I wasn’t getting any dates because when I started carrying myself better, I wouldn’t say the boys came
running, but they definitely peeped right ahead and said, “Hello.”
MENENDEZ: There are two strong female characters in the show that I find very interesting: the best friend, Kim, who is very body-positive but who
has her own struggles with financial stability and then the mom who I felt was one of the most honestly-written mothers I’ve seen in a very long time
because what you came to realize very quickly is that her life has also been shaped in great measure by having a child with a disability.
O’CONNELL: Oh, yes. I mean, she’s someone who’s never thought about her own needs or put herself first, and that was really interesting for me
because that’s my own mom. Writing this part for my mom was sort of like wish fulfillment because I still don’t think that my mom has really done
anything for herself. I think she always operates from a place of selflessness which is great for everyone around her, but what about her?
I also think that sometimes, this character of Karen — it’s almost like she had this special needs child, she threw all her attention to it, and I
think that’s, in a way, almost convenient. When your hood is smoking and you need to pay attention to it and it’s on fire, it’s much easier to like
funnel all your energy into someone else rather than examine your own things. Do you know what I mean?
And I think for the character of Karen, there’s a lot that she hasn’t dealt with or thought about because she’s been too busy focusing on Ryan but, in
a weird way, that’s the way she likes it. It’s easier for her to just focus on him than herself.
MENENDEZ: One of my favorite expressions about writing is that there’s universality and specifics because this, at the end of the day, is a story
about an underdog.
O’CONNELL: Yes. Absolutely. I’m really glad that you — I say that — when we first went out with “The Pitch” in 2015, literally, I said this in
“The Pitch.” I said, “I know that a character who’s gay and disabled feels kind of strange and niche, but what I want you to do with this show is I
want you to watch it with your boyfriend or girlfriend sitting in bed and be like, ‘Babe, call Cedars-Sinai because I think I’m gay and have cerebral
palsy, like, oh my god, 911,'” because the things that Ryan wants which is just like a boyfriend, a healthy relationship with his mom, to be valued at
work, a friend, those are things that everybody wants.
And that’s not being special; that’s what makes us human. I don’t want people to see gay, disabled people as something foreign because that’s just
sympathy. Where empathy comes is realizing that gay disabled people are just like you and that when you really, boil people down to their
basicness, it’s just we all have the same wants and desires.
MENENDEZ: Ryan, thank you so much.
O’CONNELL: Yes. Thank you for having me.
AMANPOUR: And Ryan’s series special is streaming now on Netflix.
That’s it for our program tonight.
Thanks for watching Amanpour and Company on PBS and join us again tomorrow.