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CNN "Newsroom" - Race Relations, Equal Rights


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SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Do you think he would believe we were in the right place, at a good place when it comes to race relations?

REP. JOHN LEWIS, D-GEORGIA: Martin Luther King Jr would be very pleased that we've come to this point in our history. He would be gratified to see that we have an African-American in the White House and see more members in the Congress that are minorities, African- American members, Latino members, Asian-American members. He would be very disappointed that we still have so much violence in our neighborhoods, in our community, in our country and around the world. There's too much violence. We must end the violence. He would say we need to do something about ending poverty, hunger and joblessness.

MALVEAUX: Let's talk a bit about that. We know the actual anniversary is on Wednesday. The president is going to speak. The '63 march was the march on Washington for jobs and freedom. Back then, you saw unemployment of black, African-Americans double than whites. Today it remains the same. It's still that statistic. What needs to be done to really help African-Americans rise out of poverty as you mention?

LEWIS: It's important to see that all of our children receive the best possible education. Education is a great equalizer. Education is the passport out of poverty and into the middle class. What we need to see that those of us in the Congress and those of us in the private sector need to come together and work with President Barack Obama to put all of our citizens back to work.

MALVEAUX: Congressman, you mention that president Barack Obama, African-American president, that there's a lot of progress. Some believe there's so much progress we don't need to deal with issues of race. This is an op-ed from Bobby Jindal just yesterday. He said, "We still place far too much emphasis on our separateness, our heritage, ethnic background, skin color, et cetera. We live in the hyphenated Americans, Asian-Americans, Italian-Americans, African- Americans, Mexican-Americans, Cuban-Americans, just to name a few." He said, "We need to get over that."

Do you think he has a point here? Do you think our separateness? Is it essential to move forward?

LEWIS: I think it's important to understand we're not there yet. We'd like to get there. We have not yet laid down the burden of race. Race is very much involved in every segment of the American society. The scars and stains of racism are very deep embedded in our society. We cannot escape that. A great black educator, WEB Dubois, said years ago that the problem raised the problem. The 20th century is the color line. It's still the color line in the 21st century. We cannot forget that. We cannot sweep it under the rug in some dark corner. It's real.

MALVEAUX: Congressman, I couldn't help but notice, I listen to a lot of these speeches on Saturday and we played a portion of your speech. But we also heard something similar and common among your speech, Attorney General Eric Holder, Martin Luther King III, all of you talking about equal rights for same-sex couples. Is that something you see as a new fight?

LEWIS: You cannot, in a society, in a democratic society, under the law, have equality for some and not for all. People used to ask Martin Luther King Jr about interracial marriage and he would say races don't fall in love and get married. Individuals fall in love and get married. If two individual, two males or two females fall in love and want to get married, it's their business and no government, no state government, no federal government should tell someone who they should fall in love with and get married. It's their business.

MALVEAUX: Do you think Dr King would agree with that today?

LEWIS: I think Martin Luther King Jr would agree with me today. I learned so much from him. He was one of my teachers. He was my inspiration. He was my leader.

MALVEAUX: All right. Congressman Lewis, thank you so much. We appreciate it. We'll be watching on Wednesday as well. It's going to be a very big, big event.

Thank you as always. Appreciate it.

LEWIS: Thank you.

MALVEAUX: Thank you.


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