Armstrong Williams, host of “The Armstrong Williams Show” joins the Daily Signal Podcast to discuss racism in America, privilege, peaceful protests, and the way forward for America. Read the lightly edited transcript of the interview, pasted below, or listen on the podcast:
We also cover these stories:
- George Floyd’s brother, Philonise Floyd, testifies before the House Judiciary Committee.
- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell attacks the New York Times for its’ refusal to defend publishing an op-ed by Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark.
- A streaming service temporarily removes “Gone With the Wind,” saying the movie has racist depictions.
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Rachel del Guidice: We are joined today on The Daily Signal Podcast by Armstrong Williams, who is host of “The Armstrong Williams Show,” a nationally syndicated TV program. He also is a columnist for The Daily Signal. Armstrong, it’s great to have you on The Daily Signal Podcast.
Armstrong Williams: It is my pleasure. Thank you for inviting me.
Del Guidice: You and I had talked recently about your perspective on the killing of George Floyd. Can you share with us what was going through your mind when you saw that coverage?
Williams: I kept going in and out of what I was actually watching, a movie, a Netflix series, or was this real life? And after much agony, I realized it was real life.
I mean, George, no matter what people may think about his character and his past and his history—and I’m sure people do a very good job of putting that on display, and rendering judgment on it.
I mean, listen, no human being, no human being, especially given the fact that he did not resist arrest, he was clearly not a threat to officer Derek Chauvin and the other three officers.
It was clear that there was something that’s going on with him. It was noted that he may have been ill before. But to treat him less than human being, and to watch the life leave his body—many of us don’t get an opportunity to see that in real life, we normally see it in the movies. But you could see him gasping for his last breath.
You have to ask yourself, what happened to those unusual law enforcement officers, in their lives and their childhood, that could make them so cold and so callous and behave like the thugs they try to rid the streets of? It’s just really, well, it’s really sad. I mean, it was a sad moment in history, it was.
Del Guidice: You’ve talked about the looters and vandalism in Minnesota, and how all the protesters there, some were walking peacefully, some were not as peaceful. So what is your message to those who have been peaceful, but also to those who have been more violent?
Williams: Well, America is about peaceful protest. Nothing really ever gets done without peaceful protest. I would defend their right to protest, just like I’d hope for someone [who would] defend mine not to.
We all have our different weapons in how we want to bring about change. And certainly, being in Washington, D.C., I saw it firsthand.
And those who use their occasion of pain, and saying, “I’m fed up with these kind of images that disproportionately happen to Americans who happen to be black.”
For those to create looting and vandalism and burning police precincts, they could care less about George Floyd, or anybody else. It was an opportunity to show themselves in terms of their character, their integrity, and if they could have gotten away with burning down cities.
Some of these people could have been people from other neighborhoods who are hired, who just hate the American way of life, and would love nothing but to use this opportunity to further divide us, and to bring about destruction.
We cannot find ourselves getting manipulated and baited into that kind of mindset. We have to weed them out.
I thought the president, when he threatened to bring in the military, even though I did not necessarily agree with bringing in the military, I definitely don’t want to go back to the days of tyranny. But I do think that the governors and everybody else need to exercise law and order.
And while you protect people’s right to protests, you must protect businesses and institutions and hotels and restaurants, who work hard and long to create jobs and opportunities for the American economy.
This economy has already suffered from COVID-19, and to just go and destroy people—I mean, it’s not as if they say, “Well, I’m just going to destroy the affluent. I’m just going to destroy the brands.” When you destroying businesses, you have no idea who owns these brands and who owns these restaurants.
What happened was, is just people of all walks of life who asked themselves, “I happen to be an American and black, why are you destroying my workplace?”
And I agree what you agree with. Because they don’t care about you. They don’t care about your work place. They only care about their agenda. And thank God, it seems that that has come to a screeching halt here in this country.
Del Guidice: On Twitter, you’ve spoken about how people can determine whether or not they might harbor racist tendencies. You mentioned several points in those thoughts that you shared. Can you walk us through those points that you talked about?
Williams: I was actually surprised at the kind of feedback. I even had owners of major companies to call me and ask, and tell me how they read the piece, and how much it impacted them. It made them think.
Where most people think others are racist, and you accuse people of these unimaginable atrocities, but you got to explore what your deep thoughts are within. You got to ask yourself questions that make you very uncomfortable.
Even when you hear about a terrorist attack, a sniper, or a serial killer, are you hoping that the person is not black? And you are relieved when you realize they are white? Then obviously, you’re harboring racist thoughts.
And when you hear about someone committing a crime, do you automatically go to what you normally see in the media headline? You assume that person is black.
It’s no different than … this video [I saw] with someone who happens to be white, was driving on the highway. Obviously, she had an infraction.
The police officer clearly, on the video, said, “You seem nervous.” And she said, “I am. I don’t want to get shot.” She said, “Oh.” The police officer said this, Rachel, “We only shoot black people. You have nothing to worry about. You’re white.”
Clearly, that is a blatant racist statement from law enforcement. And he may have said it in jest, but to say that—and she was just disheveled by what he says.
You know, I love kids. It doesn’t matter, when I see babies, it just warms me. I love children. It matters not to me what the race of the baby is, how the baby’s dressed. I just love babies. Do you pause when you’re about to hug a baby to ask whether the baby is white or black? Or whether you hug the baby or find an excuse?
Well, I don’t want to engage with somebody else’s children because that’s a very sensitive issue.
And do you go to neighborhoods? And when you hear that somebody black is moving in the neighborhood, do you feel that somehow or another devalues your property and you are comfortable, you feel unease about it because you have this stereotype that they devalue the neighborhood?
Or if you are in a school and your teacher is teaching what would be considered to be ethnic studies, and you walk in the classroom and you realize the teacher is not black, but the teacher’s white, … are you offended because you don’t think there’s nothing that this white person could know about ethnic studies and … black American history? And all of a sudden, you want to pull your kid out of the class.
So that just doesn’t happen on one side. It happens on both sides.
And did you vote for President [Donald] Trump because he’s white? Or did you vote for him because you thought he was the best choice, in terms of the values and the direction you want to see this country? If you voted for him because you want somebody … white in the White House, then clearly those are racist thoughts.
No different than [former President Barack] Obama. Did you vote for Obama because he was black? Were you proud because you had a black man in the White House?
We understand the history. We understand how far America has come. But if you clearly voted him, now that may be a bonus, but did you vote for him because of his intellect, because he was prepared, he had the right message that resonated with you, you felt he could bring the country together?
All these things that people have to ask themselves. And do you feel more comfortable working around someone that looks like you or [doesn’t] look like you? It goes to try to paint this broad brush, that racism can only be perpetrated by somebody that’s white is just absolutely ridiculous.
Del Guidice: We’ve also spoken about how people make too many generalizations when it comes to someone who might support President Trump and still be outraged by what happened to George Floyd.
There are many people across the country that hold that value where they support the president, but just are so saddened and outraged by what happened to George Floyd.
So how would you encourage people to be more honest in this way? Or some people say, “Well, you couldn’t support the president, but also be outraged with what happened.”
Williams: You know, we like to talk about how it is so difficult to change behavior, and conditioning, and who you are. And who you are will always present itself no matter how much you try to be someone that you’re not.
And unfortunately, Rachel, people have been the way they are for so long that they refuse to change. Because why? They refuse to believe a higher truth.
For me, though I’ve invested so much in my value system and what I believe, if you or anybody else, if I’m having a conversation and we’re interacting and you take that to a higher truth, I would abandon that ideology.
I would abandon that philosophy immediately because what I care about and what I strive for, no matter how many decades, and decades I may have invested in that philosophy or that ideology, I’m going to embrace it because it’s truth, which I seek. And it’s only truth that can set you free.
So even for me, who happens to be an American who, and there’s no question, I’m privileged.
And why do I say privileged? Because people assume that when you say privileged, you have to be white, or you have to be something other than black. That in order to be a minority, you have to be struggling. You have to be poor. You got to be griping about racism. You got to be complaining about the system, the prison system. You got to talk about defunding police officers around the country, like what they’re doing in Minnesota. And that’s just a blatant stereotype. It’s ridiculous.
And because I am conservative, and I believe in the Second Amendment. I don’t believe in abortion. I believe we should limit immigrants coming into this country. I do think we should take China to task about tariffs, its trade. I do think it’s healthy when I see the president in the past meeting with Kim Jong Un, and he’s not talking about reigning down missiles on American cities, but he’s talking about dialogue, and obviously, there’s been a change. And even in the prison reform.
So I support those because of policies, not necessarily because I agree with the president, that I’m going to vote for the president.
But the moment you say that you agree with anything, or you embrace anything that Trump has done that’s good for this economy, that’s good for this country, and good for us globally, immediately, you’re racist.
You’re not in touch with your community. You don’t care about what happened to George Floyd, and these other clearly, clearly situations where rogue police officers were out of control. And that doesn’t define us.
I am not defined by one issue. I’m not a one-issue person. There’s more to America than race.
America has a severe problem with the breakdown of family. America has a severe problem with crime. America has some very serious issues with how we return manufacturing to our economy because we’re too dependent on the Chinese. … America has these issues with, how do we get the economy back? You have about 35 or 40 million Americans that have filed for unemployment. There’s so many issues.
People think that when you talk about race it’s the only issue that matters in America. And when I say something like this, people say, “You’re out of tune because you can say this because you’re privileged.”
No, it’s because all of us have, depending on what we do in life, depending on our value system, while your issue may not be as important to me as it is to you, I still find value in your issue, but don’t expect me to get worked up and go out and protest just like you. But it doesn’t mean I don’t care about the issue any less.
Del Guidice: You’ve also mentioned how the police force should be slow to hire and quick to fire. So what kind of reforms, Armstrong, do you think law enforcement should work in their systems to make these things not happen again?
Williams: You know, Derek Chauvin, Rachel, is the perfect example. How is it that someone had 17 infractions against them and they were moved to one jurisdiction to the next?
The reason why is that the code blue believes that if you discuss any of their prior fractions, whether someone died during their arresting or whether someone was injured, or whether you used the choke hold, or you put your knee on someone’s neck before, which was clearly shown in his record, you cannot pass those records onto the next jurisdiction. That must change.
There is no way you can not share that information because, listen, that is a pattern. As I said earlier in our conversation, if someone reveals themselves to you, believe them. That’s who he is, and he’s not going to change it. What you do by not sharing his record, you enable him to become an even more dangerous monster.
And while it may be a small infraction—slapping someone with a baton, when they’re driving too fast, throwing somebody to the ground and handcuffing them in a violent way, putting your knee on their neck, as he’s done in the past, and the person that died that time—it’s only a matter of time before this comes full circle, and you have the kind of chaotic and volatile situation we have now. That should not exist.
Those people should be slow to hire. You should know about the background. You should know about their mental capacity.
When they were training, you should know about their background, whether they experienced abuse, the kinds of things that they may have done growing up. Whether they got a habit—I just used this crazy example of killing cats, or killing animals—that tells you something about the psyche of a person.
So until you do that research and find out about the mental and also the behavioral pattern of that officer, you should be slow to hire.
But then when you begin to see that behavior creep in, because there’s [times when] somebody doesn’t always cross reference, and no one always shared the same records. And sometimes you have those records, you can be distracted, you never took a chance to do a deep dive to really read about this person’s past.
But once you begin to see that this is happening, you see this behavior, they should be quick to fire. So yes, slow to hire, making sure you do your due diligence. And then once you see this behavior pattern emerging, you fire them quickly.
The other thing is, I agree about the choke hold, and how you use your weapon, and how you treat these citizens when you are [an] arresting officer.
Because remember, 90% of them, Rachel, never pull out their gun. They never use the baton. They never used the taser. They use their experience.
The fact that they have the badge, they have the gun, they have the baton, they have the taser, they have the strength of that position, and that position which gives them authority and the way they communicate with the person they’re about to arrest.
They know how to diffuse and calm the situation. And so if 90% of them can do that, there is no doubt others can.
But now, if somebody’s pulling out a gun, and they’re starting to shoot you, and resisting arrest, that’s a different story. There are always exceptions. There’s common sense. But yes, there needs to be reform in the police and they need to be slow. They should be slow hired, and quick to fire.
Del Guidice: Armstrong, looking at the past, over your life, how has racism evolved in the U.S. that you’ve seen growing up? And do you think America is inherently racist or not?
Williams: You know, I hate to disappoint your listeners—and this is no secret [for] people who know me—for me personally, I’ve never experienced racism.
It’s never impacted my life on the farm in South Carolina, in the educational system in South Carolina, at South Carolina State University in Orangeburg, to my working and for Sen. Strom Thurmond, and my being in the real estate business, in the hotel business, and on in broadcast stations across America today. It’s really had no impact on my life.
Now, my brothers, to a lesser extent, have talked about issues of being slighted and racism. But even theirs does not come close to anything of the stories you hear from people about how they are denied opportunities and promotions and access because of their race on jobs and on boards and education and in the legal community and the medical community.
I’ve talked to people who’ve had these issues. But I also believe this, for people who believe that the reason why they’ve not progressed in America, and because they feel this anger and bitterness, because they don’t believe the American dream for them. If they believe that is all because of racism, then that’s not true either.
Racism may be some of the issue, but what really helps and impacts the outcome of your life more than anything else are the choices that you work, that you make every day.
Because there’s one thing I realized, that the hardest work I do every day, Rachel, is working on Armstrong Williams. And I find when I work at Armstrong Williams, 24/7, the world automatically improves around me, and also, I improve.
So with all of us, people don’t have the same drive. They don’t have the same work ethic. Sometimes you’re just not born with the same opportunities. But we’ve seen people who are not necessarily born into an affluent family and a two-parent household, and they come out of it with amazing stories.
I mean, they come out with them. They’ve made some of the most amazing contributions to the world. I mean, just amazing contributions.
When you think about people who’ve come out of the Holocaust, who’ve come out of slavery, and yet you ask yourself, they defied all odds, because I think there’s a spiritual currency for those that struggle.
And sometimes people want to use the past, the history as an excuse not to achieve. They said they’re being burdened by the anguish of slavery.
I mean, listen, you cannot tell me that what happened 200 or 300 years ago is the reason why you, today, cannot progress and do better for your family, do better for yourself, do better for your community, and do better for the country.
So, yes, … while race may play a role, it plays far less of a role than people want to give it credit for. Racism is not the answer and the solution for what ails America today.
The other thing about it, too, that I’ve learned from my parents is this: When I meet people, I do not see their race. I see their humanity. I extend my hand and I say, “I’m Armstrong Williams.” I come with no prejudgments, no preconceptions.
What happens in America today when you say “white,” that’s supposed to mean something because that’s what the media tells us. And the media is the main engine that places this wedge between people in this country and further divides them with what they tell us who we are. If it bleeds, it leads.
The images you see, because listen, racism, when it comes to law enforcement, only matters when it’s a white police officer killing someone who’s black. It doesn’t matter if it’s white on white. It doesn’t matter if the police officer kills somebody white. It doesn’t matter if blacks kill each other.
Just in Chicago in the last two weeks, in the last 60 years, they’ve had the most deaths in one day, 18 deaths in one day is unprecedented. Can you imagine if whites were killing blacks or law enforcement were killing blacks? Would that matter, the black lives?
That’s the lack of credibility for Black Lives Matter because they only care when it involves law enforcement, especially, or someone who’s white killing someone who is black. And listen, that has to change. I mean, it has to change.
I know people find it politically incorrect to say this. Because listen, you could end all white shootings of black children tomorrow, Rachel, and it would have zero effect on the death rate of black children by homicide. Because such white-on-black shootings are extremely rare.
While we denounce it, we say it’s immoral. We say it’s murder. There’s never an exception for [killing] someone like what we saw with George Floyd.
But however, as far as interracial violence, generally, blacks disproportionately commit it, and they don’t want to hear it. And that should matter.
Between 2012 and 2015, there were 631,830 violent interracial victimizations, and I’m not even talking about homicide. I’m talking about between blacks and whites, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. …
Blacks who make up about 13% to 14% of this population committed 85.5% of those victimizations. All right, let’s just say about 600,000 felonious assaults on whites. While whites, 61% of the population, Rachel, committed 14% of the 91,000 felonious assaults on blacks.
So regarding threats to blacks from the police, a police officer is 19 times more likely to be killed by a black man than an unarmed black man is to be killed by a police officer. People don’t want to hear that because it’s not good copy. It does not fuel the agenda.
So if Black Lives Matters really want to save black children from the trauma of urban violence, they should put their efforts into rebuilding inner city culture above all. And you got to do that, you got to bring back credibility to marriage before having children.
These fantasies about why violence against black bodies and white people hate black people, it’s a distraction from what is actually happening on America’s streets.
I don’t say that to take anything away from George Floyd’s life, the fact that he did not get to live out his dream, whatever that was. It does not excuse Derek Chauvin and the police officers that watched this because all Americans condemn that nonsense.
Listen, whites are killed by police officers, they’re assaulted by police officers, Asians are, too. But that does not make copy because it doesn’t sell well for the mainstream media.
Del Guidice: Armstrong, given your perspective here, how do you think America should move forward in these times?
Williams: Rachel, I’ll tell you, simple. When I watched George Floyd, and the way he died, I did not see a black man. I saw a human being. And I was outraged, just outraged. And when I saw Derek Chauvin and his colleagues, I did not see a white man, a black police officer. I saw that something is deeply wrong with law enforcement.
Until we care about human life, it doesn’t matter what the race. And until we condemn the perpetrator, not because of race, but because of the behavior and the crime that they’re committing at the time, not much is it going to change.
People get outraged based on the color, and sometimes based on the gender, and sometimes based on the sexual preference of someone.
What we’ve got to understand, all humanity has value, and we’ve entrusted law enforcement with the trust to first do no harm. And when those few rogue officers violate that, they should not be protected. They should not be acquitted. They should be punished to the full extent of the law at a greater price than our ordinary citizen, because we place a premium on who they are.
Why? Because their behavior was disgusting, it was pathetic, and it was a murderous. It was not about race, but it was about the behavior. And until we get there, we will have these conversations in the future because all lives should matter. It’s the only way we unify, when we see the behavior and not the race.
Del Guidice: Armstrong, thank you so much for joining us on The Daily Signal Podcast. We appreciate having you.
Williams: Oh, it is my pleasure. Thank you for having me.
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