MetroFocus: July 5, 2021

New POV documentary “The Neutral Ground” examines the movement to take down confederate monuments and the intense pushback from supporters of these monuments. Through historians, journalists, and proponents and opponents of the monuments, the film examines the “Lost Cause Narrative,” the idea that the war was never about slavery and the south fought a noble fight to protect their land, is a main reason why there are still many southerners who support the idea of the confederacy and the existence of these monuments. Tonight, “The Neutral Ground” creators- Director CJ Hunt and executive producer Roy Wood Jr. attempt to get to the heart of why there are such differing views on the legacy of slavery and the civil war.

For more information on “The Neutral Ground,” click here.

TRANSCRIPT

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> THIS IS 'METROFOCUS' WITH RAFAEL PI ROMAN, JACK FORD, AND JENNA FLANAGAN.

> 'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY -- SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III.

SYLVIA A. AND SIMON B. POYTA PROGRAMING ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT ANTI-SEMITISM.

THE PETER G. PETERSON AND JOAN GANZ COONEY FUND.

BERNARD AND DENISE SCHWARTZ.

BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG.

THE AMBROSE MONELL FOUNDATION.

AND BY -- JANET PRINDLE SEIDLER.

JODY AND JOHN ARNHOLD.

CHERYL AND PHILIP MILSTEIN FAMILY.

JUDY AND JOSH WESTON.

DR. ROBERT C. AND TINA SOHN FOUNDATION.

> THROUGHOUT HISTORY, WHY HAVE WHITE SUPREMACIST ALWAYS BEEN ATTRACTED TO THE CONFEDERACY?

REBEL.

REBELS.

JUST THAT WORD RIGHT THERE, 'REBEL'.

EVERYBODY WANTS TO BE A REBEL.

SO YOU THINK WHITE SUPREMACISTS FROM KKK FORWARD HAVE BEEN ATTRACTED TO THE CONFEDERACY NOT BECAUSE OF SLAVERY.

BECAUSE OF THE WORD 'REBEL.'

THAT'S IT.

I'VE BEEN SEEING IT WRONG.

> GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO METROFOCUS.

I'M JACK FORD.

WE FOLLOW THE MOVEMENT TO TAKE DOWN CONFEDERATE MONUMENTS THROUGHOUT THE COUNTRY AND THE INTENSE PUSHBACK FROM THOSE WHO STAUNCHLY OPPOSE REMOVING OR EVEN ALTERING THESE STATUES IN ANY WAY.

IT COMBINES JOURNALISM AND HUMOR TO TRY TO UNDERSTAND WHY THERE IS SUCH REVERENCE FOR THESE MONUMENTS AND EXPLAIN WHY, AS A NATION, WE ARE SO DIVIDED IN HOW WE REMEMBER THE CIVIL WAR, THE CONFEDERACY AND THE LEGACY OF SLAVERY.

THE DEBATE OVER WHO IS AND IS NOT WORTHY OF PUBLIC COMMEMORATION EXPANDS BEYOND THE CIVIL WAR AND IS EXPANDED BEYOND THE SOUTH.

NEW YORK IS HOME TO ITS OWN HEATED DISPUTE.

CONTROVERSIAL STATUTES SUCH AS THAT OF TEDDY ROOSEVELT AND CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS.

JOINING ME NOW TO DISCUSS THEIR FILM AND THEIR VIEWS ON HOW WE SHOULD REMEMBER OUR PAST ARE THE CREATORS OF NEUTRAL GROUND.

WE HAVE WITH US C.J. HUNT, WHO IS THE DIRECTOR AND EXECUTIVE PRODUCER ROY WOOD JR.

GENTLEMEN, WELCOME TO BOTH OF YOU.

THANKS FOR JOINING US.

I WILL START OFF BY SAYING, IT IS A MARVELOUS FILM.

IT'S THOUGHT PROVOKING.

IT HAS HUMOR IN IT, WHICH WE'LL TALK ABOUT IN JUST A FEW MOMENTS.

SOMETHING YOU MIGHT NOT EXPECT IN A DOCUMENT TEAR WITH THIS FOCUS HERE.

BUT IT IS -- IT IS CERTAINLY THOUGHT PROVOKING AND ENTERTAINING, WHICH IS WHAT I WOULD EXPECT YOU WANT IT TO BE.

LET'S START FROM THE BEGINNING BECAUSE YOU TALK IN THE BEGINNING ABOUT 2015 IN NEW ORLEANS, HOW THAT BECAME THE IMPETUS FOR THIS FILM.

EXPLAIN THAT FOR US.

YEAH.

SO I WAS -- FIRST I WANT TO SAY THAT I THINK WHEN PEOPLE TALK ABOUT THE REMOVAL OF STATUES AND THE MOMENTUM BEHIND THIS MOVEMENT AND NEW ORLEANS, FOLKS WANT TO START IN 2019.

I WANT TO GIVE A CAVEAT THAT BLACK PEOPLE HAVE THOUGHT THESE WERE WEIRD.

YOU CAN SEE FREDERICK DOUGLAS WRITING, I CANNOT LEAVE WE ARE BUILDING STATUES TO LEE.

WHAT THE HECK IS HAPPENING?

YOU CAN SEE HIM DOING THAT IN THE 1870s.

YOU CAN SEE WHEN THE LEAD MONUMENT GOES UP IN RICHMOND THE BLACK NEWSPAPER BEING LIKE, WE WILL BE HERE TO TAKE THIS DOWN WHEN IT IS TIME.

BLACK FOLKS HAVE ALWAYS FOUND THESE STATUES WEIRD.

AND I THINK IN REACTION TO NATIONAL TRAGEDY WE GET MOMENTS OF CONSENSUS WHERE OTHER PEOPLE CAN SEE THAT THEY ARE ALSO WEIRD.

WE GET SORT OF A MOMENTUM BUILDING.

2007 TO BECOME A TEACHER.

BY 2015 I HAD BEEN, YOU KNOW, BECOME MORE ABOUT WRITING COMEDY.

AND AT THAT SAME TIME, WE WERE IN A MOMENT OF CONSENSUS BECAUSE OF A RACIAL MASSACRE IN CHARLESTON.

NINE BLACK PEOPLE WERE KILLED IN A CHURCH BY A WHITE SUPREMACIST WHO LOVED THE CONFEDERATE FLAG AND THE WHOLE COUNTRY WAS TALKING ABOUT WHEN THAT WOULD SPREAD.

SO WHEN THE WHITE MAYOR FROM LOS ANGELES TOOK CUES FROM THE ACTIVISTS IN NEW ORLEANS AND SAYING, HEY, WE SHOULDN'T HAVE ROBERT E. LEE 60 FEET TALL IN OUR HIGHEST PLACE OF HONOR IN OUR CITY, IT STARTED THESE HEARINGS.

AT THOSE HEARINGS, YOU SAW THE POLITE MASK OF RACE SLIP AND PEOPLE WERE SAYING REALLY WILD THINGS OUTLOUD LIKE, ACTUALLY, THE FIRST SLAVE OWNERS WERE BLACK.

AND IT WASN'T ABOUT SLAVERY AND REAL OPPRESSION IS WHEN TOURISTS GET BEAT BY A BLACK PERSON.

SO WE STARTED FILMING THAT TO CATCH THE ABSURDITY OF SOME OF THOSE OPINIONS.

YOU MENTION ABSURDITY.

I MENTION IN THE INTRODUCTION THE FACT THAT THERE IS HUMOR HERE.

I SAW THAT ONE OF THE DESCRIPTIONS, ONE OF THE REVIEWS OF THIS DOCUMENT, A VERY POSITIVE REVIEW, I SHOULD MENTION TALKED ABOUT THE FACT THAT IT WAS AMUSING AND ENGAGING.

WHICH IS KIND OF AN INTERESTING COMBINATION TO HAVE IN A DOCUMENTARY FILM.

ROY, A QUESTION TO YOU.

YOU BOTH HAVE YOUR ROOTS IN COMEDY.

YOU BOTH WORK IN THE COMEDY WORLD.

YOU HAVE BEEN SUCCESSFUL IN THE WORLD OF COMEDY.

WHY WAS THE DECISION THEN TO WEAVE HUMOR THROUGHOUT THIS VERY SERIOUS AND IN MANY WAYS PAINFUL TOPIC?

I DON'T THINK NECESSARILY, YOU KNOW, AT THE 'DAILY SHOW,' YOU ARE GOING TO FIND MOMENTS OF LIVIDITY NO MATTER HOW RIDICULOUS SOMETHING IS.

SO MORE OFTEN THAN NOT, YOU LET THE STORY ITSELF INFORM YOU ON HOW MUCH HUMOR TO INFUSE.

LIKE I THINK YOU JUST SHOW THE RIDICULOUS AND YOU ALLOW PEOPLE TO REACT TO THAT.

THERE WAS NOTHING CONJURED UP.

THESE MOMENTS WERE ALL TRUE TO LIFE.

IT IS JUST, OH, MY GOD.

I CAN'T BELIEVE THAT.

WITH THE FOOTAGE C.J. WAS ABLE TO GO OUT AND GET, OF COURSE THERE IS FUNNY DISCUSSIONS YOU WILL HAVE WITH THE HISTORIANS AND PEOPLE THAT ARE PRO CONFEDERACY.

BUT EVEN IN THAT, IT WAS JUST A CONVERSATION.

AND IT WAS NEVER THIS, I'M GOING TO GO OUT AND GET THEM.

AND GOTCHA AND STICK IT TO YOU.

IT WAS JUST LET'S JUST SEE WHAT WE GET.

AND I THINK THAT BEING ABLE TO THEN SIT DOWN AND DECIDE IN THE EDIT HOW MUCH OF THE OH, MY GOD VERSUS, OH, MY GOD MOMENTS TO BALANCE, I THINK THAT'S REALLY WHAT WE'RE REALLY -- THAT'S THE REAL FIGHT, YOU KNOW, AT THE END OF THE DAY.

BUT HUMOR, I THINK, HAS ALWAYS BEEN A VERY, VERY VALUABLE VEHICLE IN TERMS OF CREATING CONVERSATIONS AROUND SERIOUS ISSUES.

AND, YOU KNOW, THIS ONE IS NO DIFFERENT.

THERE IS PLENTY OF PEOPLE ANGRY ABOUT IT.

BUT I THINK IT WAS VERY IMPORTANT TO BE ABLE TO PACE THIS -- THIS FILM WITH SOME DEGREES OF HUMOR.

AND NOT ONLY THAT, THE THING THAT I REALLY ENJOY ABOUT WHAT C.J. PUT TOGETHER WAS THE RETRO SPECT OF WHAT THIS JOURNEY MEANT FOR HIM AND HOW -- LIKE WHY WAS HE PULLING BACK THAT THREAD.

I KIND OF CALL HIS FATHER THE ORACLE OF THE FILM WHERE HE'S OUT IN THE MATRIX AND THEN PERIODICALLY HE'S GOT TO GO BACK TO TALK TO HIS DAD AND FIGURE OUT, IS THIS WHAT YOU WERE TRYING TO TELL ME ABOUT?

AND EVEN THE REALISM FROM HIS FATHER BECAUSE IT IS SUCH BLUNT HONESTY, IT STILL PLAYS A LITTLE FUNNY THAT IT'S THAT CUT AND DRY.

HOW ABOUT THAT, THAT YOU GIVE SOME CONTEXT.

YOU ARE SAYING IT IS ALMOST LIKE IT IS A COMEDY.

YOU SEE ELEMENTS OF THAT IN YOUR CONVERSATION.

YOU'RE SAYING, I WAS INTERESTED IN MY BLACKNESS EARLY ON.

AND YOUR FATHER SAYING, NO, NO, YOU REALLY WEREN'T AND YOU GO BACK AND FORTH WITH THAT.

WHY DID YOU -- IT WAS A VERY ENGAGING SEGMENT, BUT WHY INCLUDE IT IN THE DOCUMENTARY FILM?

YEAH.

I MEAN, FIRST, ROY, YOU CAN NEVER TELL MY DAD HE'S THE ORACLE TO HIS FACE.

I'M SENDING HIM A LINK TO THIS.

I'M SENDING HIM A LINK TO THIS IMMEDIATELY.

HE IS WAY TOO INTO 'THE MATRIX.'

I FEEL LIKE HIS WHOLE LOOK IS A MORPHIUS LOOK.

BUT, YEAH, I WAS NOT READY TO MAKE THE FILM PERSONAL, YOU KNOW.

I STARTED MAKING THE FILM BEFORE I WORKED ON 'THE DAILY SHOW.'

NOW I AM LUCKY ENOUGH TO BE PART OF WHAT IS AN INSTITUTION WITH A LONG HISTORY OF HOW DO WE MAKE THE HORRIFYING?

HOW DO WE MAKE THE ENGAGING FUNNY?

AND HOW DO WE USE THAT HUMOR TO CLARIFY AN ARGUMENT OR TO CLARIFY HYPOCRISY.

SO I HAVE NOW BEEN ABLE TO WATCH FOLKS LIKE ROY WORK IN THE FIELD.

BUT IN 2015, I WAS JUST A STRUGGLING COMEDY WRITER AND FAILED TEACHER IN NEW ORLEANS.

SO, YOU KNOW, I THINK I WAS WATCHING A LOT OF -- A LOT OF DAILY SHOW AND A LOT OF LATE NIGHT OF FOLKS IN THE FIELD AND JUST KIND OF JUST TRYING TO REPLICATE IT IN MY OWN STYLE.

I DIDN'T HAVE MY OWN STYLE YET.

SO WHEN I SHOWED THOSE FIRST INTERVIEWS TO, YOU KNOW, SOME OF MY BLACK DIRECTOR FRIENDS IN A COOPERATIVE CALLED FIRE LIGHT MEDIA -- SHOUT-OUT FIRE LIGHT MEDIA.

WHEN I SHOWED IT TO THEM THEY WERE LIKE, THIS IS FUNNY, BUT WHAT IS IT?

AND I WAS LIKE, YOU KNOW, WELL, WE'RE GETTING IN THERE.

WE'RE PULLING OUT THE WHITE SUPREMACY OF FOLKS WHO DON'T REALIZE THEY'RE WHITE SUPREMACISTS.

AND THEY'RE LIKE, YEAH, BUT WHO ARE YOU?

I WOULD SAY, OH, MY CHARACTER IS REALLY OPTIMISTIC.

AND THEY SAID, C.J., YOU ARE MAKING A DOCUMENTARY.

THIS IS NOT TV.

YOU DO NOT HAVE A CHARACTER.

THERE IS NO CONCEIT OR DEVICE THAT YOU ARE USING.

WE HAVE TO BE INTERESTED IN YOU FOR 82 MINUTES, BRO, AND YOU HAVE TO BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF.

SO THAT MOMENT OF BEING LIKE, OH, MY GOD, I HAVE TO BE HONEST ABOUT WHY I'M OBSESSED WITH WHITE SUPREMACY, FOR REAL?

I GUESS THAT'S CLEARLY MY DAD.

AND IT WAS IN A WAY.

AND IT WAS.

IT WAS AN INTERESTING SPRING BOARD.

INTERESTING SPRING BOARD TO SOME OF THE OTHER STORIES.

LET ME FOCUS ON A COUPLE OF THE BIGGER PICTURE ISSUES THAT I THINK RESONATE THROUGHOUT THE FILM AND I'LL ASK YOU ABOUT THIS.

SPENT A LOT OF TIME FOCUSSING ON THE NOTION OF THE LOST CAUSE HERE AND HOW THAT NOTION WAS CREATED AND HOW IT'S BEEN PERPETUATED AND THE IMPACT THAT IT HAS HAD ON RACE RELATIONS.

ROY, GIVE US A LITTLE BIT OF SENSE OF WHAT YOU WANT VIEWERS TO COME AWAY WITH REGARD TO THIS NOTION OF LOST CAUSE.

I THINK WHAT PEOPLE ULTIMATELY NEED TO WALK AWAY WITH IS JUST HOW MUCH THIS CONVERSATION ABOUT WHO AMERICA WAS INFORMS WHAT AMERICA IS NOW AND HOW WE VIEW AMERICA IN THE PRESENT DAY.

AND THERE HAS BEEN A LOT OF OMISSIONS IN OUR HISTORY BOOKS AND A LOT OF THINGS THAT HAVE BEEN PEDESTALIZED THAT SHOULDN'T HAVE BEEN.

AND WE CAN MAKE KNOWLEDGE THAT THOSE THINGS HAPPEN AND THEY WERE.

BUT I THINK IN THE LONGER SENSE OF THINGS THAT WHEN PEOPLE WATCH THIS FILM, I HOPE THAT THEY ARE WILLING TO REALLY ACKNOWLEDGE WHAT AMERICA USED TO BE.

AND I THINK THAT THERE IS A FEAR OF THE TRUTH BECAUSE WITH THAT TRUTH COMES A RECKONING.

AND RECKONING IS NOT EASY.

THERE HAS TO BE A DEGREE OF TO US.

AND I THINK THAT THERE IS A LOT OF GUILT THAT A LOT OF PEOPLE JUST AREN'T PREPARED TO CARRY AND THAT'S WHY THEY WOULD RATHER GO TO THEIR HAPPY PLACE AND REMEMBER THE GOLD OLD THINGS AND THE GOOD TIMES.

I JOKE WITH C.J. ABOUT THIS JOKINGLY, BUT I FEEL LIKE THERE IS A DIRECT CORRELATION WITH THE LEVEL OF RACIAL AWAKENING THAT IS HAPPENING IN THIS COUNTRY AS IT RELATES TO THE NUMBER OF RE-MAKES THAT WE HAVE IN FILM AND TELEVISION.

EVERYBODY JUST WANTS TO GO BACK TO THEIR PAST AND JUST REMEMBER THE GOOD TIMES.

AND YOU CAN'T REMEMBER THE GOOD TIMES.

TO HAVE GREAT TIMES, YOU HAVE TO ACKNOWLEDGE THE BAD TIMES AND BE ABLE TO UNPACK THAT.

SO, YOU KNOW, IN THE BIGGER SCHEME OF THINGS, I HOPE THAT THIS FILM HELPS PEOPLE, ESPECIALLY WHITE PEOPLE, TO START THE PROCESS OF THAT EMOTIONAL UNPACKING AND ACKNOWLEDGING WHAT -- HOW WHAT WE HAVE LEARNED AND HOW WHAT WE WERE TOLD AFFECTS OUR PERSPECTIVES IN THE PRESENT DAY AND BE BOLD ENOUGH TO CHANGE OUR PERSPECTIVES.

LET ME JUST JUMP IN, C.J., ONE SECOND AS I WANT TO REMIND PEOPLE WE ARE TALKING ABOUT 'THE NEUTRAL GROUND.'

MAKE SURE YOU CHECK YOUR LOCAL LISTINGS FOR THE AIRINGS.

IT IS VERY MUCH WORTH YOUR WHILE TO WATCH IT.

C.J., JUMP IN AGAIN.

YOU KNOW, ROY IS TALKING ABOUT OUR HUNGER FOR, YOU KNOW, REMAKES AND TO GO LIVE BACK IN OUR HAPPY PLACE IN THE PAST, AND THAT IS QUINTESSENTIALLY AMERICAN, AND THAT IS ALSO THE SAME FABRIC THAT THE LOST CAUSE MYTH IS MADE OUT OF.

IF YOU ARE NOT FAMILIAR WITH THE LOST CAUSE, THE LOST CAUSE IS THE STORY THAT DEFEATED WHITE SOUTHERNERS STARTED TELLING AFTER THE WAR.

BEFORE THE WAR, ALL OF THEIR DOCUMENTS, THEIR FOUNDING DOCUMENTS WHICH WE SHOW IN THE FILM JUST ARE SO OBSESSED WITH SLAVERY.

MISSISSIPPI IS FIRMLY IDENTIFIED WITH THE INSTITUTION OF SLAVERY, THE GREATEST MATERIAL WEALTH ON EARTH.

LOUISIANA LOOKS FORWARD TO THE FORMATION OF A SOUTHERN CONFEDERACY TO PRESERVE THE INSTITUTION OF AFRICAN SLAVERY.

ALL OF THEIR -- THE ONE NATION THAT BROKE AWAY FROM AMERICA HAD TO HAVE FOUNDING DOCUMENTS.

THEY FASHIONED THEMSELVES AS THE NEWFOUNDING FATHERS.

SO YOU BET THAT JUST LIKE WE HAVE A DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE, EACH STATE WROTE THEIR OWN DECLARATION OF CAUSES.

YOU CAN LOOK THESE UP ON A HELPFUL WEBSITE CALLED GOOGLE.COM, BUT THEY ALL TALK ABOUT SLAVERY.

THEY DO.

I DID WANT TO ASK YOU ABOUT THIS.

AND THIS GOES BACK TO WHAT WE TALK ABOUT BEFORE, WHERE PART OF THE DIVISIVE HUMOR TO GET PEOPLE TO TALK IN THESE CONVERSATIONS YOU HAVE.

BUT I WONDER IF SOME MIGHT BE AWKWARD.

THERE IS ONE WHERE YOU ARE ENGAGING IN A CIVIL WAR REENACTMENT, AND YOU ARE DRESSING UP IN UNION UNIFORMS AND YOU ARE THERE WITH A NUMBER OF WHITE GUYS, AND YOU ARE HAVING A CONVERSATION WITH THEM.

TO THEIR CREDIT, THEY'RE HAVING CONVERSATION WITH YOU.

BUT IT SEEMED, YOU WOULD SAY, WELL, DO YOU KNOW THAT THE ARTICLES OF SUCCESS, THESE DOCUMENTS SPECIFICALLY SAY THAT ONE OF THE REASONS FOR SUCCEEDING IS TO PRESERVE SLAVERY?

AND THE RESPONSE YOU GET IS, NO, IT WASN'T.

SO HOW DO YOU THEN CONTINUE THAT CONVERSATION WITHOUT FRUSTRATION.

AND ALSO THEIR WILLINGNESS TO CONTINUE A CONVERSATION WITH YOU WHEN YOU'RE SAYING, HERE IS WHAT THE FACTS ARE AND THEIR RESPONSE OF THEM SAYING, NO, THEY'RE NOT.

BY THAT TIME, THE AUDIENCE IS WATCHING ME QUOTE THOSE FACTS IN FRONT OF THEM.

THE AUDIENCE HAS ALREADY SEEN ALL OF THOSE FACTS ON PAPER.

BUT I THINK THIS MOMENT OF I HAVE SEEN THE FACTS BUT THOSE AREN'T TRUE, I THINK THOSE PROBABLY FEEL A LITTLE FAMILIAR TO ALL OF US IN THIS PRESENT MOMENT.

YOU KNOW?

WE HAVE SEEN A DISINFORMATION CAMPAIGN BORN IN OUR TIME.

WE HAVE SEEN A GIANT LIVE IN FRONT OF US OF SOMEONE SAYING WHAT YOU SAW WITH YOUR OWN EYES DIDN'T HAPPEN.

THEY WEREN'T ACTUALLY INSURRECTIONISTS.

THEY WERE PATRIOTS.

THIS WASN'T A CUE.

THIS WAS A FREE SPEECH RALLY.

AND I THINK PRESENT EVENTS OF HOW SPLIT WE ARE ON THE TRUTH ONLY HELPS US BETTER UNDERSTAND THE SEEDS OF THAT AFTER THE CIVIL WAR, THAT THE FOLKS I'M AT THIS REENACTMENT WITH, THEY SPENT THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS TO HAVE THE PROPER WOOL SUIT.

SUCH PINPOINT ACCURACY.

BUT NONE OF THAT ACCURACY INVOLVES THINKING ABOUT WHAT THAT FEDERAL GOVERNMENT WROTE DOWN ON PAPER.

FOLKS DON'T GET PIPE ABOUT PRIMARY SERVICE DOCUMENTS.

MOST OF OUR HISTORY IS STORIES THAT ARE PASSED DOWN.

AND YOU SEE IN THAT SCENE, AND IT IS THE QUESTION BEFORE OUR NATION RIGHT NOW IS WHEN YOU REALIZE THAT STORY ISN'T COMPLETELY TRUE, DO YOU HAVE THE MORAL COURAGE TO UNRAVEL THAT AND DEFACE THAT?

AND IN THAT SCENE, THE ANSWER IS NO.

IT'S FUNNY.

YOU GUYS MIGHT REMEMBER, YOU GUYS ARE WORKING THE WORLD OF COMEDY.

YOU MIGHT REMEMBER THE LINE WHERE HE'S SAYING, COME ON.

WHO ARE YOU GOING TO BELIEVE, ME OR YOUR OWN EYES?

YOU KNOW --

THAT'S EXACTLY IT.

THAT'S WHAT WE'RE SEEING HERE.

'THE NEUTRAL GROUND, THE TITLE, WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

IN NEW ORLEANS, THE GRASSY MEDIAN BETWEEN TWO STREETS, YOU KNOW, WE HAVE THAT EVERYWHERE, THAT IS CALLED THE NEUTRAL GROUND.

WHEREAS IN ANOTHER CITY YOU MIGHT SEE SOMEONE SPINNING A SIGN THERE FOR A BIG BOX STORE GOING OUT OF BUSINESS, IN NEW ORLEANS, THOSE ARE PARTY SPACES AND COMMUNITY SPACES.

THE NEUTRAL GROUND IS WHERE YOU WOULD GO AND CATCH BEADS FOR MARDI GRAS AND CATCH A PARADE, WHERE YOU WOULD GO AND BARBECUE WITH YOUR FRIENDS.

SO THEY'RE COMMUNITY SPACES.

THEY ALSO HAPPEN TO BE WHERE THE CONFEDERACY AND WHITE SUPREMACIST MILITIAS BUILT MONUMENTS TO THEMSELVES.

SO THAT DICHOTOMY OF WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO HAVE THE COMMUNITY SPACE LITERALLY OCCUPIED BY THE CONFEDERACY, THAT WAS SOMETHING WE WANTED FOLKS THINKING ABOUT.

ONE OF THE THINGS YOU MENTION, AND, ROY, I'LL ASK YOU THIS.

ONE OF THE THINGS IS THAT THIS DEBATE OVER MONUMENTS, THAT THE MONUMENTS THEMSELVES HAVE BECOME A LITERALLY AND FIGURATIVELY CONCRETE REASON TO TALK ABOUT RACE.

IS THAT -- ROY, DO YOU GET ANY SENSE THAT THIS DIVIDE OVER MONUMENTS, WE KNOW IT ALLOWS US TO TALK ABOUT RACE, BUT IS THIS GOING TO BE HELPFUL IN RESOLVING OR AT LEAST MOVING FORWARD RACE RELATIONS?

OR IS THIS JUST GOING TO BE ANOTHER WEDGE THAT'S DRIVEN IN BETWEEN BOTH SIDES YOU REVIEWED.

I BELIEVE THE STUBBORN PEOPLE WILL MAKE IT A WEDGE, BUT THEY WILL CONTORT ANY TRUTH INTO SOMETHING THAT IS COMFORTING FOR THEM.

PEOPLE THAT ARE PROGRESSIVE, PEOPLE WHO WANT TO BE UNDERSTOOD, PEOPLE WHO WANT TO UNDERSTAND, THIS WILL START THE UNPACKING PROGRESS BECAUSE IF SOMETHING AS BASIC AS BEING ABLE TO NOT WALK DOWN THE STREET AS A BLACK PERSON OR DRIVE DOWN THE STREET NAMED AFTER SOMEONE WHO ENSLAVED OR DRIVE PAST A STATUE OF A PARK ALL NAMED IN HONOR OF -- LIKE WHEN YOU LOOK AT IN ATLANTA, WHAT IS THE ONE, C.J., THE CON FEDERAL MEMORIAL UP ON THE WALL --

STONE MOUNTAIN.

THERE IS CONCERTS THERE.

RAPPERS PERFORMING UNDER CON FEDERAL GENERALS.

SO NOT BE ABLE TO ESTABLISH THAT BASE LEVEL OF OUR PAST, IF YOU CAN'T DO THAT, THEN WE ARE IN A WORLD OF TROUBLE BECAUSE IF IT IS ABOUT FIXING NOW, IT IS ABOUT HAVING A FULL DIAGNOSTIC ABOUT WHAT WAS.

UNPACKING THAT SO THAT WE DON'T MAKE THOSE SAME MISTAKES AGAIN.

A LOT OF PEOPLE GO, OH, THAT'S THE PAST.

LET'S TALK ABOUT NOW.

ALL THAT IS CONNECTED TO NOW.

AND I JUST THINK THAT A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE JUST EMOTIONALLY LAZY OR EMOTIONALLY COWARDLY IN DOING THE WORK REQUIRED TO HAVE SOME NEW DEGREE IN YOUR THOUGHT BECAUSE I THINK THAT A LOT OF PEOPLE VIEW QUALITY -- A LOT OF RIGHT PEOPLE THAT ARE AGAINST THIS TYPE OF THOUGHT, THEY VIEW EQUALITY AS SOMETHING THAT TAKES SOMETHING AWAY FROM THEM.

YOU KNOW, IF EQUALITY IS A TABLE, WE'RE JUST ASKING YOU TO ADD A CHAIR AND SCOOT DOWN A LITTLE.

RATHER THAN PUSHING ALL THE FOOD ON YOUR SIDE OF THE TABLE -- ON MY SIDE OF THE TABLE AND TAKING AWAY YOUR SIDE OF THE TABLE.

THAT'S IT.

THIS IS APPLEBY'S AND THE TABLE SEATS FOUR.

YOU NEED THAT FIFTH CHAIR BECAUSE YOUR BUDDY THAT WASN'T PLANNING ONCOMING SHOWED UP AFTER ALL.

THAT'S NOT THE BEST ANALOGY, BUT YOU GET WHAT I'M SAYING.

IT'S MAKE SPACE FOR US.

MAKE SPACE FOR OUR HISTORY.

MAKE SPACE FOR OUR PAIN AND ACKNOWLEDGE THAT.

I DON'T THINK IF YOU LOOK AT IT IN A VERY BASE A, B, C LEVEL, IT'S NOT THAT HARD.

IT'S NOT THAT HARD.

WHEN WE LOOK AT CRITICAL RACE THEORY, OKAY, LET'S LEAVE THE MONUMENTS UP.

LET'S TALK ABOUT THE REST THAT HAPPENED.

OH, NO.

WE CAN'T DO THAT EITHER BECAUSE WHAT THE HELL IS THE PROBLEM.

WE WERE SAYING TAKE DOWN ROBERT E. LEE AND OPPONENTS SAID, NO, NO, NO.

WE NEED TO HAVE AN HONEST CONVERSATION, A NUANCED CONVERSATION ABOUT THE PAST.

AND THEN WE'RE LIKE, OKAY.

YOU DO A THING WITH THE PLAQUES FOR ONE OF THE STATUES IN THE FILM THAT ON ONE HAND IT IS VERY FUNNY AS YOU ARE DOING IT AND THEN YOU ARE REALIZING, THIS IS VERY FUNNY, BUT IT IS VERY PAINFUL.

WHEN WE TALK ABOUT THESE MONUMENTS, LOOK, CONTEXT IS ESSENTIAL IN MY CONVERSATION.

AND WHEN WE'RE LOOKING AT MONUMENTS, CONTEXT IS IMPORTANT.

AND I THINK THERE IS A LACK OF UNDERSTANDING ABOUT WHEN THESE MONUMENTS WERE CREATED AND WHY.

I SUSPECT THAT SOME PEOPLE, MAYBE A LOT OF PEOPLE OUT THERE MIGHT THINK, WELL, THEY MIGHT HAVE GONE UP SHORTLY AFTER THE CIVIL WAR AS MEMORIALS TO WHAT HAD JUST TAKEN PLACE.

WHAT'S THE REALITY ABOUT FOR THE MAJORITY OF THESE MONUMENTS?

WHEN DID THEY SHOW UP AND WHY?

I MEAN, THE CIVIL WAR IS OVER IN 1865, RIGHT?

SO WE SEE -- WE SEE MEMORIALS GOING UP, BUT THOSE ARE ALL GOING UP IN GRAVEYARDS BECAUSE THAT IS WHERE YOU MEMORIALIZE THE DEAD.

WE DON'T SEE THE FIRST LIKE LARGE PUBLIC MONUMENT UNTIL 1884.

WE DON'T SEE THE LEAD IN RICHMOND UNTIL THE 1890s.

SO, YOU KNOW, THE MOTION THAT PEOPLE ARE MOURNING THEIR LOVED ONES, YOU KNOW, THAT'S NATURAL.

BUT THE MOTION THAT THAT SPECIFIC STORY SOMEHOW BELONGS IN TOWN CENTERS, THAT TAKES DECADES.

SO YOU KNOW THE RISE OF THESE STATUES HAPPENING ALL THROUGH THE EARLY 1900s, EVEN INTO THE 1930s THAT THESE STATUES ARE HAPPENING AT THE SAME TIME AS THEY'RE BUILDING JIM CROW INTO THE LAW.

THEY'RE LITERALLY REFLECTING IT INTO THE LANDSCAPE.

THE STATUES ARE BORN AT THE HEIGHT OF LYNCHING AND THE HEIGHT OF WHITE VIOLENCE.

SO I THINK THAT PEOPLE LIKE TO -- YOU KNOW, WE ALL WANT TO HAVE A CLEAN PAST.

AND I THINK A LOT OF WHITE SOUTHERNERS WANT TO SOMEHOW THINK ABOUT THIS WAS JUST ABOUT THE ANCESTORS.

THE ANCESTORS WHO DIDN'T HAVE SLAVES AND MEMORY IS SOMEHOW SEPARATE FROM THE WHITE VIOLENCE THAT WAS OVERTAKING THE NATION AND RUNNING THE SOUTH.

BUT THIS WAS -- THIS WAS HAND IN HAND.

THE TWO PEOPLE WHO DEDICATED THE LEE MONUMENT IN NEW ORLEANS WERE BOTH MEMBERS OF THE WHITE EXPLICITLY RACIST MILITIA THAT ATTACKED THE CITY.

INSTEAD OF BEING PUT AWAY AND INSTEAD OF BEING PUNISHED, THEY WERE PROMOTED TO BEING THE MAYOR OF THE CITY AND A MEMBER OF THE STATE SUPREME COURT.

SO I THINK THESE STATUES, IT IS NOT JUST ABOUT GETTING JUSTICE.

THE STATUE MAKES US TALK SPECIFICALLY ABOUT THE PAST, ABOUT HOW INSURRECTIONISTS WERE NOT PUNISHED, BUT THEY WERE PROMOTED AND THEY BUILT THEIR OWN VERSION OF HISTORY THAT WE NOW THINK IS ALL OF OUR VERSION OF HISTORY.

I GOT LITERALLY A MINUTE HALF LEFT.

I'LL ASK YOU BOTH QUICKLY IF I COULD.

WHAT DO YOU WANT FOLKS TO TAKE AWAY FROM THIS FILM WHEN YOU SEE IT?

I WANT PEOPLE TO TAKE AWAY THE FACT THAT C.J. HUNT DID SOME OF THE BEST JOURNALISM IN THE LAST FIVE YEARS THAT I HAVE SEEN.

SOME OF THE FUNNIEST MOST RECKLESS BEHAVIOR WITH NO SECURITY AND POINTING CAMERAS AT STRANGE PEOPLE IN STRANGE PLACES AND GOT MACED IN CHARLOTTESVILLE.

HE WAS AT CONFEDERATE RALLIES AND ALSO IN THERE A LITTLE BIT OF TRUTH THAT THE ONLY WAY WE GROW IS THAT WE ACKNOWLEDGE OUR PAST AND MOVE FORWARD TOGETHER.

I WILL SECOND THAT NOTION OF THE GREAT JOURNALISTIC WORK THAT C.J. DID.

C.J., YOU GOT ABOUT 45 SECONDS HERE.

WHAT DO YOU WANT PEOPLE TO TAKE AWAY.

AT THE END OF THE FILM, NEW ORLEANS ACTIVISTS TAKE ABOUT NOLA.

THERE CAN BE NO RECONCILIATION WITHOUT TRUTH.

I THINK MANY WHITE AMERICANS THINK ABOUT RACE AS HOW CAN WE ALL COME TO THE TABLE?

WHERE IS THE RECONCILIATION.

ALL WE ARE ASKING IS CAN YOU TELL THE TRUTH ABOUT THE PAST?

AND IF YOU CANNOT TELL THE TRUTH ABOUT THE PAST, HOW THE HELL ARE WE SUPPOSED TO UNDERSTAND THE PRESENT?

IF YOU CAN TELL THE TRUTH ABOUT A ROBERT E. LEE MONUMENT BEING AN AFRONT TO HUMANITY, CAN WE ALSO TELL THE TRUTH ABOUT A COLUMBUS MONUMENT STILL STANDING TALL IN NEW YORK CITY.

THE FILM IS A BLACK LIGHT.

IF YOU CAN SEE THE STAIN IN ONE PLACE, DEAR GOD, YOU HAVE TO LOOK AROUND THE ROOM.

YOU CAN SEE IT OTHER PLACES.

CAN'T HAVE RECONCILIATION WITHOUT PROOF.

THE FILM ONCE AGAIN, THE NEUTRAL GROUND ON PBS.

C.J. HUNT, ROY, FABULOUS FILM MAKING.

GOOD LUCK AND HOPEFULLY WE TALK AGAIN SOON.

THANK YOU SO MUCH.

ALL RIGHT.

THANK YOU.

> 'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY -- SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III.

SYLVIA A. AND SIMON B. POYTA PROGRAMING ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT ANTI-SEMITISM.

THE PETER G. PETERSON AND JOAN GANZ COONEY FUND.

BERNARD AND DENISE SCHWARTZ.

BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG.

THE AMBROSE MONELL FOUNDATION.

AND BY -- JANET PRINDLE SEIDLER.

JODY AND JOHN ARNHOLD.

CHERYL AND PHILIP MILSTEIN FAMILY.

JUDY AND JOSH WESTON.

DR. ROBERT C. AND TINA SOHN

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