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Van Jones: We are called to 'a personal and spiritual accounting'

"It is too late to be innocent."

This is Van Jones explaining things on CNN on May 29, 2020. Jones worked in the Obama administration and is now a political commentator and civil rights activist. (The man who appears on the right later in the video clip, but who isn't shown speaking, is W. Kamau Bell, a stand-up comic and political activist.)

The subject matter is the protests against police brutality in the United States in late May 2020.

I encourage everyone (especially white people) to play this video and listen to Van Jones directly. The video is not captioned, so, for those who are hard of hearing, as well as for those who need a little context to understand where Jones is coming from, here's my paraphrase:

  • Why are people risking their lives to protest? and during a pandemic? Answer: Because they're tired of hearing that the normal legislative process is going to show up to protect their rights, that there is hope for bipartisan support, or that their own words on social media will get them any closer to that goal.
  • Who is scarier than an outright Klan member? Answer: The person who insists "I'm not a racist" but who will, at the drop of a hat, use Klan-like tactics. (Jones' reference to the hypothetical "white liberal Hillary Clinton supporter" is based on the recent incident in which a dogwalker called the cops on a birdwatcher on Memorial Day in Central Park.) He asks everyone to examine our own behavior about how we hinder opportunity and dignity for Black people.
  • Are you sure this incident was about race? Answer: It is frustrating to hear people try to analyze race out of the situation. Yes, people are sure that racism exists. Racism is institutional and systemic. White people's ignorance of racism, feigned or real, is itself a crime. "It is too late to be innocent," Jones says. There's no obvious legal or political solution to racism in the US, but "there is a personal and spiritual accounting that all of us are now called to."

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