With so much media focus on racial strife, there is a new book with a different take. What Black and White America Must Do Now is written by conservative entrepreneur Armstrong Williams. The book begins with the story of how Williams met and interned for former segregationist Senator Strom Thurmond, who transformed from a staunch opponent of civil rights to a fierce advocate, giving Williams a front row seat to the metamorphosis.
Williams: And so he championed the civil rights movement, the voting rights act. He's the reason why Martin Luther King got his national holiday. I'm the one that set up the meeting with he and Coretta Scott King, because she never thought that a former segregationist could champion such causes, but he did. And so from that experience, I learned that people can change. They can be better. That's why I have such issues in my book of people trying to remove statues of a hundred years ago, trying to punish people based on something they said five or 10 years ago, people can change.
Sharyl: You write that you have never in your life experienced racism. Is it possible that you just never looked at it that way?
Williams: It's never been a part of my growth equate has impacted me in no way at all. And maybe it is the mindset. I decide what I rent space to. I decide what I want to accept in my mind. Um, and it may be, it may have been there, but the good news is I never could see it.
Sharyl: You say your attitude is responsible for your success as the second largest minority broadcast television owner in America. You feel as though if you had had a different mindset, none of this would have happened for you?
Williams: I couldn't have a different mindset. I had the best parents in the world. I had a father who accepted my flaws and who accentuated my strengths, who love me unconditionally. Even though he had a third grade education and my mother had a seventh, they felt that we were the hopes for our generation, not just for us as a family, but people to see that you can come out of the system of slavery and bigotry in America. And you can strive. That is the promise. That is your mindset because my best success is my greatest lessons that come from my obstacles, from my struggles, from the mountains that I've overcome. That is how you really learn who you are. Because a lot of kids that they are soft, they've not had the obstacles. They've not been tested. I welcome the challenges. I welcome the obstacles then. And only then can I realize who I am and what I'm capable of.
Sharyl: To what do you attribute the feeling that many seem to be having now that there are overwhelming racist problems in America?
Williams: The problem with George Floyd or Brianna Taylor, Aubrey Aubrey, is that when you see what happens to them, you want to see them as black. You want to see the law enforcement officers that why that should be irrelevant. It shouldn't matter. When you can begin to group people together and have them lose their individuality and their identity, and they begin to see their as themselves as groups. So whatever happened to a black person happens to you, whatever you accuse a white person off, that's what a white person will become. We've got away from this rugged individualism that is so important. We must judge the cop as an individual because listen, 95% of police officers don't behave that way. They deescalate the situation. They have to resolve the situation. There's no crime, there's no violence. So what we have to get back is blame the individual, hold them accountable and are responsible for the actions. It's not an indictment of law, enforcements. It's an indictment of that individual officer.
Sharyl: So why do you think there is the opposite feeling amongst so many and portrayed in much of the media?
Williams: Cause we don't say it a lot enough. We don't say it enough. You cannot legislate the heart. And the best medicine from the heart is dialogue. No matter how tough, how difficult, really having those raw conversations, where we clean people can be honest and what they believe, even if it sounds racist, even when it sounds, you know what the end goal is a better America.
Sharyl (on camera): Williams says he’s a third generation Republican, raised on his family’s tobacco farm in Marion South Carolina with nine brothers and sisters.