O’Brien has hosted five documentaries in CNN’s “Black In America” series. In a talk at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, she said that some people have told her that the documentaries are “divisive,” and that they think black Americans should stop differentiating themselves from white Americans.
“First of all, it’s 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,'” O’Brien said.
She continued, “I was like, again, ‘OK, white person, this is a conversation you clearly are uncomfortable with, and I have no problem seeing race, and I think we should talk about race.'”
O’Brien signed off CNN as a regular host in March, after the network announced that a new morning show would replace “Starting Point.” She is still working with CNN as a roving documentary reporter, and was also recently named a distinguished visiting fellow at Harvard, her alma mater.
Her most recent installment of “Black in America” came out in December. In an interview with professor Yaba Blay, O’Brien spoke about people questioning her racial identity because of her role hosting the documentary.
“You know, white people really have a luxury in that they get a range of stories, that they’re not defined by five stories,” she explained. “So I think that the difference with ‘Black in America’ was the filter did matter. That there are only going to be five stories and we want to know exactly who you are and what your credentials are to be telling our story.”