Andrea Zopp:… When George Zimmerman decided to profile and stalk Trayvon Martin, he didn’t know anything about him…. [Martin] was a black kid in a hoodie. So, absolutely, it could have been the President [35 years ago]. He was profiled, stalked and shot. Trayvon Martin, because he was a young African-Anerican. So, absolutely, it could have been the President…I have a 17 year old son exactly the same age as Trayvon…He is very big and bulky, as are [my son’s] friends… We have already had the conversation about the fact that [my son] will be intimidating people just because of the color of his skin. It is unfortunate that we still live in an America where we have to have that conversation.
Next Week’s Public Affairs with Jeff Berkowitz cable TV show features Andrea Zopp, CPS Board of Education member (last two years) and President/CEO of the Chicago Urban League (last three years), and previously First Assistant to [Republican] Cook County State’s Attorney Jack O’Malley.
As First Assistant to State’s Attorney O’Malley, Zopp was the lead prosecutor in the case that sent former 2nd Cong. Dist. Cong. Mel Reynolds to jail for having sex with a minor, among other criminal violations. Zopp was also General Counsel for Sears and Exelon, a law firm partner at Sonnenschein, Nath and Rosenthal and held high level senior management positions at Sears and Exelon.
You can also watch the show with Andrea Zopp, 24/7, starting now, on your computer. The show airs next Monday night at 8:30 pm on Cable Ch. 21 [CANTV] throughout the City of Chicago.
The unscripted discussion between Zopp and TV show host Berkowitz covers a broad range of topics, hop-scotching from Trayvon Martin to President Obama to de facto and de jure segregation in education, to the Jim Crow laws in the south, to the fact that only 20%, or so, of Black and Brown kids in CPS read at grade level, to the recent reversal of a portion of the Voting Rights Act by the U. S.Supreme Court, to the assertion that there was voter suppression in 2008 and 2012 in minority communities, to statistical studies that demonstrate that Charter Schools, on average, out perform traditional CPS schools, to the empowerment of parents by school vouchers, to reforms of CPS during the last two years, to the 300-500 kids helped annually by the Chicago Urban League to the 300,000, or so, kids who are trapped in failing CPS schools by, in large part, Democratic politicians, to the failure of Senate President Cullerton and Speaker Madigan to pass pension reform and the consequences of that for CPS, to the successes of school voucher programs in Milwaukee, Cleveland and Florida and to the reasons for racial and ethnic residential segregation in Chicago.
Andrea Zopp:… When George Zimmerman decided to profile and stalk Trayvon Martin, he didn’t know anything about him. He didn’t know whether he was a honor roll student or a struggling student. He was a black kid in a hoddie. So, absolutely, it could have been the President [35 years ago]. He was profiled, stalked and shot. Trayvon Martin, because he was a young African-Anerican. So, absolutely, it could have been the President and I think the point the President was making was that-- that recognition is what many African-Americans are dealing with. Those of us who like myself are parents of African-American men or young men—I have a 17 year old son exactly the same age as Trayvon. My son is a football player. He is large. He is very big and bulky, as are [my son’s] friends… We have already had the conversation about the fact that [my son] will be intimidating people just because of the color of his skin. It is unfortunate that we still live in an America where we have to have that conversation.
Jeff Berkowitz: Is it all about race? Is it all about skin pigmentation? Or, do whites sometimes run into similar problems. Do they sometimes walk through a black neighborhood and they are profiled as a white person and they get into difficult situations and if they react the wrong way, they may get shot. Is it all about race and does it happen- flip side- or is it only about blacks?
Andrea Zopp: No, I think unfortunately in America…there is a perception around young African-American men that feeds fear and the unknown and no, I don’t think it happens to your typical white youth-whether they are in a black community or not. They [the whites] may feel uncomfortable because …for the first time in their lives they may be feeling like they are a minority but I don’t think it is because the African-Americans are going to treat them differently. It doesn’t mean that African-Americans are perfect and we don’t have biases. That’s not really the point but I think to suggest that …the issues for African-Americans are not real or somehow that they are true for everybody is really missing our history which is the other point the President was making. He talked about the history for African –Americans. People have to remember we are not that far removed… we are not even a generation removed-- from legalized segregation and discrimination…
Jeff Berkowitz: Jim Crow laws- you are talking about in the south
Andrea Zopp: In the north
Jeff Berkowitz: In the north we had Jim Crow laws?
Andrea Zopp: We had segregated schools.
Jeff Berkowitz: De facto, not de jure.
Andrea Zopp:No, de jure.
Jeff Berkowitz: De jure, really?
Andrea Zopp:I graduated …high school in 1974. I went to college [Harvard] in Boston. They had just ordered desegregation of the public schools there, with busing. They were literally standing outside, throwing stones at the buses of kids-- so yes, it was not legalized segregation.
Jeff Berkowitz: It was a neighborhood that was black and kids were going to black schools there and the way to achieve integration, some government officials [Federal Judges] in Boston said was to bus white kids into black neighborhoods and vice versa [to deal with de facto segregation of the schools]. It wasn’t like the situation in the south where you had a black kid [not allowed to attend a school near his or her house] and instead was told to attend another school [further away] simply because he or she was black.[de jure segregation].
Andrea Zopp:Except, Jeff, I think you skipped around some stuff --why were there all black neighborhoods and all white neighborhoods [in the north], that didn’t happen accidentally, either.
Jeff Berkowitz: Isn’t that a socio-economic issue to a large extent?
Andrea Zopp: No, to some extent, but if you read, right now, the book in Chicago, the book of the month…that we are reading now, “The Warmth of other Suns,” talks a lot about [how] our neighborhoods were segregated, how when African-Americans moved in, white people moved out and African-Americans were prevented from—
Jeff Berkowitz: But, there were Italian neighborhoods, German neighborhoods and Jewish neighborhoods in Chicago, so wasn’t the City segregated to a large extent by ethnicity, not just by color-
Andrea Zopp:Not completely.
Jeff Berkowitz: Not completely, but you would agree there was a large amount of ethnic segregation in addition to—
Andrea Zopp:I would agree there were ethnic neighborhoods but I wouldn’t align that with-- Let’s put it this way--
Jeff Berkowitz: How do we get beyond this? Because in 1964, there was the Civil Rights Act…[almost a half century ago].