LEHRER: Let’s move on. All right — no, let’s move on.
GORE: Far be it from me to suggest otherwise.
LEHRER: First, a couple of follow-ups from the vice presidential debate last week.
Vice President Gore, would you support or sign as president a federal law banning racial profiling by police and other authorities at all levels of government?
GORE: Yes, I would. The only thing an executive order can accomplish is to ban it in federal law enforcement agencies.
But I would also support a law in the Congress that would have the effect of doing the same thing. I just—I think that racial profiling is a serious problem.
I remember when the stories first came out about the stops in New Jersey by the highway patrol there. And I know it’s been going on a long time. In some ways, this is just a new label for something that’s been going on for years. But I have to confess that it was the first time that I really focused on it in a new way. And I was — I was surprised at the extent of it.
And I think we’ve now got so many examples around the country that we really have to find ways to end this. Because—imagine what it — what it is like for someone to be singled out unfairly, unjustly and feel the unfair force of law simply because of race or ethnicity.
Now, that runs counter to what the United States of America is all about at our core. And it’s not an easy problem to solve, but I — if I am entrusted with the presidency, it will be the first civil rights act of the 21st century.
BUSH: Yes. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be singled out because of race and stopped and harassed. That’s just flat wrong, and that’s not what America’s all about. And so we ought to do everything we can to end racial profiling.
One of my concerns, though, is I don’t want to federalize the local police forces.
I want to — obviously, in the egregious cases, we need to enforce civil rights law. But we need to make sure that internal affairs divisions at the local level do their job and be given a chance to do their job. I believe in local control of governments. And obviously if they don’t, there needs to be a consequence at the federal level. But it’s very important that we not overstep our bounds.
And I think most people — most police officers are good, dedicated, honorable citizens who are doing their job, putting their lives at risk, who aren’t bigoted or aren’t prejudiced. I don’t think they ought to be held guilty, but I do think we need to find out where racial profiling occurs and do something about it. And say to the local folks, get it done, and if you can’t, there’ll be a federal consequence.
LEHRER: And that could be a federal law?
LEHRER: And you would agree?
GORE: I would agree. And I also agree that most police officers, of course, are doing a good job and hate this practice also.
I talked to an African-American police officer in Springfield, Massachusetts, not — not long ago — who raised this question and said that in his opinion, one of the biggest solutions is in the training, and not only the training in police procedures, but human — human relations.
And I think that racial profiling is part of a larger issue of how we deal with race in America.
And as for singling people out because of race, you know James Byrd was singled out because of his race, in Texas. And other Americans have been singled out because of their race or—or ethnicity. And that’s why I think that we can embody our values by passing a hate crimes law. I think these crimes are different.
I think they’re different because they’re based on prejudice and hatred, which is — which gives rise to crimes that have not just a single victim, but they’re intended to stigmatize and dehumanize a whole group of people.
LEHRER: Do you have a different view of that?
BUSH: No, I don’t really.
LEHRER: On hate crimes violence?
BUSH: No, I — we got one in Texas, and guess what? The three men who murdered James Byrd, guess what’s going to happen to them? They’re going to be put to death. A jury found them guilty and I — it’s going to be hard to punish them any worse after they get put to death. And it’s the right cost; it’s the right decision.
And secondly, there is other forms of racial profiling that goes on in America. Arab-Americans are racially profiled in what’s called secret evidence. People are stopped, and we got to do something about that. My friend, Senator Spencer Abraham of Michigan, is pushing a law to make sure that, you know, Arab-Americans are treated with respect.
So racial profiling isn’t just an issue at the local police forces. It’s an issue throughout our society. And as we become a diverse society, we’re going to have to deal with it more and more.
I believe though — I believe, sure as I’m sitting here, that most Americans really care. They’re tolerant people. They’re good, tolerant people. It’s the very few that create most of the crisis. And we just happen to have to find them and deal with them.
LEHRER: What — if you become president, Governor, are there other areas, racial problem areas, that you would deal with as president, involving discrimination?
LEHRER: Again, you said Arab-Americans, but also Hispanics, Asians, as well as blacks in this country.
BUSH: Let me tell you where the biggest discrimination comes: in public education, when we just move children through the schools.
My friend Phyllis Hunter’s here. She had one of the greatest lines of all lines. She said, “Reading is the new civil right.” And she’s right. And to make sure our society is as hopeful as it possibly can be, every single child in America must be educated — I mean every child.
It starts with making sure every child learns to read; K-2 diagnostic testing so we know whether or not there’s a deficiency; curriculum that works, and phonics needs to be an integral part of our reading curriculum; intensive reading laboratories; teacher retraining.
I mean, there needs to be a wholesale effort against racial profiling, which is illiterate children. We can do better in our public schools. We can — we can close an achievement gap. And it starts with making sure we have strong accountability, Jim.
One of the cornerstones of reform, and good reform, is to measure because when you measure, you can ask the question: Do they know? Is anybody being profiled? Is anybody being discriminated against? It becomes a tool, a corrective tool.
And I believe the federal government must say that if you receive any money—any money from the federal government, for disadvantaged children, for example, you must show us whether or not the children are learning. And if they are, fine. And if they’re not, there has to be a consequence.
And so to make sure we end up getting rid of a basic structural prejudice — is education. There’s nothing more prejudiced than not educating a child.
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