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Soledad O'Brien Lectures 'White People' Who Are 'Clearly Uncomfortable' With Her Documentaries on Race

She's been off the set of Starting Point for less than two months, but former CNN host Soledad O'Brien is stirring up controversy yet again. In a Harvard Institute of Politics video, O'Brien arrogantly lectured "white people" who want her to "just see beyond race."

O'Brien, now a visiting fellow at Harvard University's Graduate School of Education, gave her reaction to the "white" critics of her documentaries on race: "And I was like, again, 'okay white person, this is a conversation that you're clearly uncomfortable with. And I have no problem seeing race, and I think we should talk about race.'"

[Video below.]

O'Brien related how "white people" called her documentaries "divisive":

"People would sometimes want to, when I give speeches, stand up and say I think your 'Black in America' documentary is divisive. You know, I think like, you know, listen – we shouldn't think of ourselves as African-Americans. We're Americans. And everybody should stop separating themselves out and I would think – first of all, as only white people who ever said that, 'if we could just see beyond race. If only people didn't see race, it would be such a better place and you are responsible for bringing up these icky race issues, Soledad. You should just let sleeping dogs lie.'"

During her time at CNN, O'Brien produced documentaries on race like "Black in America" and "Latino in America." Though independently producing documentaries now, O'Brien still has a production partnership with CNN.

She also gave her take on what the new "civil rights" is: "Today, civil rights to me is about education; it's about opportunity; it's about where you get to live; it's about the wealth disparity; it's about the opportunity gap; it's about the achievement gap. So same debate, but just sort of different pieces."

(H/T The Washington Examiner)

Below is a transcript of O'Brien's interview with the Harvard Institute of Politics:

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: People would sometimes want to, when I give speeches, stand up and say "I think your 'Black in America' documentary is divisive. You know, I think like, you know, listen – we shouldn't think of ourselves as African-Americans. We're Americans. And everybody should stop separating themselves out and I would think" – first of all, as only white people who ever said that, "if we could just see beyond race. If only people didn't see race, it would be such a better place and you are responsible for bringing up these icky race issues, Soledad. You should just let sleeping dogs lie." And I was like, again, "okay white person, this is a conversation that you're clearly uncomfortable with. And I have no problem seeing race, and I think we should talk about race."

(...)

QUESTION 1: Groundbreaking documentaries like "Eyes on the Prize" to "Black in America" have told the story of African Americans in the U.S. How has the conversation changed?

O'BRIEN: I think the conversation has really changed around what is the debate about civil rights today? "Eyes on the Prize" is really about the original battle over civil rights. Today, civil rights to me is about education; it's about opportunity; it's about where you get to live; it's about the wealth disparity; it's about the opportunity gap; it's about the achievement gap. So same debate, but just sort of different pieces. And I think we're analyzing the same thing, just trying to tell a story about a people by looking at sort of where they've been and where they're going, but sort of different things on the horizon.

QUESTION 2: Since you began in the field, how has journalism changed for better and for worse?

O'BRIEN: I think journalism's changed for better. And part of that is because I'm nauseatingly optimistic. Because I think technology has only gotten better. It's smaller, it's easier and you can carry that camera in your handbag. When I started working in television news, we had three-quarter inch tapes and the massive cameras, and now you can shoot beautifully with really, really small equipment. I think that's an amazing thing. I think also just the opportunities that you have in social media. I remember tweeting first information about an earthquake was really an aftershock from the big earthquake when I was in Haiti. I was nowhere near a camera but I was able to send out information in a way that I couldn't have done before.

QUESTION 3: News coverage of events like the Boston Marathon bombing show how social media can help – and hurt – accurately telling a fast-breaking news story. How should social media be used to aid news coverage?

O'BRIEN: You know, I think social media reminds me of getting on the subway in New York City. Right? You sit down next to someone and you say, "Where should I go for dinner?" Who knows who they are, what they're going to tell you? They could be really – have wonderful information, or they could be terrible and crazy, and you don't know. And so social media can be an amazing thing, and I often look for redundancy, what's sort of coming back up, in terms of what people are interested in. But in terms of a news source, I think you're crazy if you're if you rely on social media as the be-all end-all for your news source. And I think most journalists do not.

-- Matt Hadro is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center