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WATCH: Ken Burns explains how America has always been a racist country

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When considering major themes in American history, which he often covers, filmmaker Ken Burns put racism at the top of the list.

“I think the American question of freedom is a big one, the tension between individual freedom and collective freedom is a big one, but I think the sub-theme of American history is race,” Burns told “Late Show” host Stephen Colbert.

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“We were founded on the idea that all men were created equal, but oops—the guy who wrote that owned more than 100 human beings and didn’t see in his lifetime to free any one of them; didn’t see the contradiction or the hypocrisy. And so it set us on a journey where we are constantly having to struggle not with race, but racism.”

According to the filmmaker, Trump taking two days to disavow the Ku Klux Klan is just one of many signs that racism still exists in America.

Burns’ new documentary is about Jackie Robinson, recipient of the inaugural MLB Rookie of the Year Award in 1947, an All-Star for six consecutive seasons from 1949 through 1954, and the winner of the National League Most Valuable Player Award in 1949. Robinson’s legacy represents an end to the baseball color line—60 years of segregation in professional baseball.

“Jackie Robinson was the first African-American baseball player in the white major leagues,” Colbert told the audience, and whose legacy, like many historical figures, said Burns, is “smothered in mythology.”

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“We thought it might be possible to liberate him from the barnacles of sentimentality that attach, because what Jackie Robinson has to teach us now is exactly the same as when he was alive,” Burns explained. “There’s nothing new under the sun. Human nature doesn’t change, it just randomly superimposes itself on the random chaos of events.”

Ken Burns’ Jackie Robinson documentary talks about Confederate flags, stop and frisk, the experience African Americans have driving, and thburning black churches—essentially Black Lives Matter.

“So, if we’re curious, but are not comfortable talking today, having a courageous conversation about race, let’s look at Jackie Robinson’s life and see how many of the same tropes that are part of our life today Jackie addresses. [He’s] not only the most important person in baseball, but the most important person in American sports.”

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“And a great player,” added Colbert.

For the documentary, Ken Burns interviewed influencers ranging from Carl Erskine to the Obamas.

Watch: Ken Burns discusses Trump, Obama and Jackie Robinson on The Late Show.

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Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

We need your support to keep producing quality journalism and deepen our investigative reporting. Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Invest with us in the future. Make a one-time contribution to Raw Story Investigates, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you.



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Trump has been ‘insulated’ by his wealth to never have to learn from his mistakes: biographer

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President Donald Trump's inherited wealth has meant he's never had to learn from his mistakes, Trump biographer Tim O'Brien told MSNBC's Brian Williams on Thursday.

"Bloomberg Opinion writer and our next guest Tim O’Brien writes today, 'Yes, of course, you need a certain kind of appalling narcissism to be comfy promoting yourself as heaven-sent in a televised press briefing and as a deity on Twitter. It’s doubly unhinged when you’re doing this as president,'" Williams said. "He goes on 'The Trump of the past few weeks is the same disordered figure of the past several decades with, I suspect, a big dollop of something new blended in: unbridled and unmanageable panic.'"

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‘Both Putin and Xi will be voting Trump in 2020’: NYT columnist says Russia and China want ‘turmoil and chaos’

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The Russian Federation and the People's Republic of China are both rooting for President Donald Trump to win re-election in 2020, a New York Times columnist argued on MSNBC on Thursday.

Thomas Friedman was interviewed by Lawrence O'Donnell on "The Last Word."

"What do we know about how the leaders of other countries see Donald Trump at this stage in their dealings with him?" O'Donnell asked. "Especially this weekend, when it comes at the end of a week in which they’ve heard him call himself the King of Israel, they have heard him say he is The Chosen One. They have heard all the crazy things that everyone here has heard the president say."

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Trump is ‘not a stable genius’: GOP strategist says the president ‘doesn’t remember who and where he is’

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President Donald Trump's mental fitness is lacking, a top Republican strategist explained on "The Last Word" with Lawrence O'Donnell.

Rick Wilson, the author of the 2018 bestselling book Everything Trump Touches Dies: A Republican Strategist Gets Real About the Worst President Ever, blasted the commander-in-chief.

"Rick Wilson, your assessment of where the president stands as he heads off to the G7 summit?" O'Donnell asked.

"I think Donald Trump has had a week in which he is proving that this isn’t 87-dimensional chess game, this isn't some masterful strategy of communications or persuasion," Wilson replied. "This is an old man who is sick and who has problems and who has mental disconnects and who has aphasias and who has moments where he doesn’t remember who and where he is."

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