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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Scope of Gulf Oil Disaster?; Kids on Race; Tea Party's Impact; Black or White: Kids on Race

Aired May 17, 2010 - 22:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, again.

Tonight: Just how much oil is gushing into the Gulf? Allegations BP isn't trying very hard to find out, allegations that BP isn't even bothering to deny, but they will soon have a presidential commission to answer to. We will have the latest on that, plus a high-profile early retirement in the government's oversight agency, the one that is taking heat for being in big oil's pocket. Douglas Brinkley joins us for that, "Keeping Them Honest"

Also, "Raw Politics" tonight: Sarah Palin, a big Election Day coming up tomorrow. We will talk about how she is influencing it and the Tea Party movement as well.

And think your child doesn't see race, that he or she looks at all people equally? Well, see if you can feel this way you watch how these kids answer questions about black and white skin. It's a study and a story that makes you question everything you think you know about race and your kids.

First up tonight: "Keeping Them Honest," the disaster in the Gulf, a lot of developments to tell you about tonight, but, first, let's just cut through the B.S. So, excuse the language.

BP today is spinning a story that they're making good progress. Now, you have probably seen the headlines today. Take a look. This was one in the "L.A. Times." It says, "BP Makes Headway in Containing Oil Leak." Well, that sounds good, right? They have inserted a tube into the leaking oil that is sucking up some of it into a barge.

Now, BP executives have been trumpeting this all day. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DOUG SUTTLES, COO, GLOBAL EXPLORATION, BP: Our efforts offshore are making a big difference now. The combination of the riser insertion tube was using dispersants and other tools, this is probably the smallest amount of oil I have seen on the surface since the effort began.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: (AUDIO GAP) saying this is the smallest amount of oil he has seen on the surface. Of course, it's now believed there are huge what they call plumes of oil underneath the surface, but let's just keep them honest here.

Let's go over to the wall. I want to show you -- show you this tube that they say is working. We made an animation of how they say it's working. We will just hit play right here. It's been inserted into the leaking wellhead. It's like a giant -- basically, a bendy straw kind of sucking up the oil, bringing it up to the surface into a tanker.

It goes all the way up -- that's the idea at least -- sucking it up into that tanker up onshore. All right, so, some of what's coming up is natural gas, and you can see them actually burning it off here -- that's what these flames are -- in these new pictures from BP.

But BP says they're now capturing about 1,000 barrels of oil a day from the hookup, 1,000 barrels day. Now, all along, they have been estimating that about 5,000 barrels a day are pouring into the Gulf. So, if they're now capturing 1,000 barrels a day, that would be a big deal, right? That's 20 percent of the oil they're extracting.

But the truth is, they have no idea how much oil is actually pouring into the Gulf. The 5,000-barrels-a-day estimate was from a government analysis weeks ago. But when they released these pictures -- reluctantly, I should point out -- they -- which actually shows the oil pouring out, leading experts who analyze velocity of particles looked at this video and now say as much as 70,000 barrels a day could be leaking out.

So, what -- so, that would mean that they're not sucking up 20 percent of the leak right now, but maybe just 2 percent of the leak. I thought BP was going to attack those independent analysts, saying there's no 70,000 barrels are leaking out every day.

But they didn't. In fact, they said, we don't know how much oil is leaking out. And, on Saturday, BP actually stated that it's not important to know how much oil is leaking out.

The spokesman, Tom Mueller, said this. He said: "We're not going to take any extra efforts" -- it's right here on the screen. "We're not going to take any extra efforts now to calculate flow there at this point. It's not relevant to the response effort, and it might even detract from the response effort."

Now, look, I'm no expert, but how is it not relevant to the response effort. If you're fighting a fire, you don't need to know how big the fire is? And the notion that paying some independent experts to analyze the size of the spill, that's going to detract from the response effort, you're telling us you can't solve a problem and investigate it at the same time?

This is like in Katrina, when politicians said, now is not the time to point fingers. Remember that? Look, you -- you all know what's going on out there. It's not in BP's interest to have accurate figures on how much oil is gushing out of that pipe every single day. It's not good public relations.

What is in their interest? Well, the headline I showed you earlier, headlines like this: "BP Makes Headway in Containing Oil Leak." Those are the kind of headlines they want you to see.

President Obama is going to sign an executive order setting up a commission to investigate what went wrong. That was the news today. Maybe there's -- for all we know, the Obama administration is just trying to get some political cover. We don't know. Maybe it's legitimate. We will have to see about that.

But the other development today is about this guy. Now, you don't recognize him. His name is Chris Oynes. He's head of the Offshore Minerals Management Program. He was supposedly one of the watchdogs. He's quitting.

It turns out -- look at this -- he gave an award to Transocean just last year -- get this -- for safety. Again, we would like to point out that 360 has repeatedly tried to get this guy, BP's -- well, BP's chief, CEO Tony Hayward, onto the program. He's passed repeatedly.

At this point, I want to invite anyone from BP on this program. I was just -- I was just down in Louisiana over the weekend, and there are a lot of folks want some answers. And these BP executives are not giving them answers.

Douglas Brinkley, presidential historian, joins me now.

Doug, I mean, it's stunning when you hear, you see those headlines today saying, look, progress is being made, but, when you actually bear down and look at the numbers, even if they're sucking 1,000 -- 1,000 barrels of oil, we have no idea how much oil there is. If there's 70,000 barrels pouring out every day, 1,000 barrels is nothing.

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, exactly. I mean, it was just a P.R. stunt. BP has had a horrific time the last few weeks. They decided to kind of get the news cycle working in their favor this weekend. It worked for about three hours or four hours today.

They did garner a couple newspaper headlines, but people like yourself and others are saying, you know, about 90 percent, 95 percent of the oil is still gushing into the Gulf of Mexico.

And where's the camera? What -- let's see this tube in action right now. We, while I'm talking on the other side of the screen, could be showing video from the Gulf of -- of this stemmed oil rushing out. And it's not there.

COOPER: Well, and, I mean, that's a good point. We're showing this video right now. But this is from days ago, and it took BP weeks to release this video. It's not as if they didn't have it. They don't want people to see these pictures.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: I mean, they don't want -- I mean, as you said, there could be a camera there 24 hours a day. You could just watch it all the time.

BRINKLEY: And if we saw it right now, we would just see oil pouring out of the hole, and we would know that BP was just doing another bad P.R. stunt today.

This company -- you mentioned Tony Hayward. Not just Hayward, but nobody from BP has ever gone to Louisiana and say, we love Louisiana. We love the coastal marshes. This means so much to us. We're here for the long run. We're going to make this right eventually.

They're -- they have taken a very snide attitude, to the point where the -- the CEO of BP said this is a drop of the bucket into the sea. And you mentioned someone from MMS, an important person, resigning, stepping down today.

It truly has come to the point that BP has to be held accountable. The board of British Petroleum has to have some of these bunglers, who have done nothing to educate the public from day one, I think, fired and dismissed, or, otherwise, we're just going to be living this sort of surreal BP P.R. jargon, misinformation every day.

People are getting angry, and there's also a feeling of hopelessness, because we like to think that people that know how to drill 5,000 feet in the Gulf know how to fix and use technology to close the -- an oil well, and BP doesn't know how to close the well.

COOPER: The thing I also just don't understand logically -- and, I mean, look, I try not to take sides on politics and stuff like that. But facts are important.

And when you see something that just factually doesn't make sense, you have got to raise the question. I don't understand how BP can say it doesn't matter, it's not important for us to know how much oil is pouring out every day, and, in fact, it may take away from, you know, rescue efforts.

I mean, they could hire independent -- they could hire independent scientists who aren't associated with BP to study how much oil is coming out. How -- how can they say that it doesn't matter?

BRINKLEY: Because BP, when they operate -- they're treating the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska as Third World places.

And their feeling is that, look, nobody really needs to know what we do. We're the fourth richest company in the world. We're powerful. How dare you people demand accountability?

And this is a company that's a petroleum company that was trying to tell us they're beyond petroleum. What they're doing is drilling oil and speed-drilling oil all over the world. So, we probably should have known something was wrong with this company before this crisis.

But the lack of leadership and this kind of honesty with a very -- the Gulf -- not -- the whole country is hurting over this, and British Petroleum, whether they are testifying in the Senate or whether they're, you know, giving misinformation every day, they're -- they're really letting people down on a daily basis.

And I think the anger level towards that company is getting to a point of no return right now.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, again, this quote: "We're not going to take any extra efforts now to calculate flow there at this point. It's not relevant to the response effort, and it might even detract from the response effort."

There is sort of a level, it does sound, of arrogance.

BRINKLEY: Arrogance, and it's absurd.

I mean, Joseph Heller in "Catch-22" or a satirist, Terry Southern, couldn't create such an idiotic statement as that. People want to know how much oil is going in the Gulf of Mexico because it's our great place for shrimp harvest and oysters and fish.

And the marine -- these plumes that are down there, they -- we're -- the dispersants are dropping the oil on the ocean ground. It's the bottom, the seafloor, where life is in the ocean right now.

And it's -- it's -- somebody has got to do something to rein in BP and control the situation. And it's going to have to be the -- the federal government. President Obama did something right today, I think. This commission, with an executive order, is important.

He needs to get a couple of high-profile people to at least be the heads of it, maybe former Secretary of Interior Babbitt on the left, and -- and...

COOPER: You know, some folks, look, are going to be understandably cynical and doubtful about this and say, look, this is just like -- they're trying to do a fig leaf to cover up their own mistakes or their own lack of oversight on this.

BRINKLEY: We are going to have a lot of engineers, scientists, oceanographers, a couple politicians to front the commission, but underneath it, we need to have a crackerjack crew.

And, also, I have talked to some -- a Republican senator today who is very concerned that BP's not listening to alternatives of what to do. They don't even want other oil companies to see what they're doing, because they have done so many things wrong that they're fearful to let anybody into the crime scene, if you would like, that new, truth and -- true information will come out, and they can't have any of that.

COOPER: Well, again, we would love to have anyone from BP on the program any time.

Doug, appreciate you being available. Thanks for -- for coming on, Douglas Brinkley.

BRINKLEY: Thanks, Anderson.

COOPER: Let us know what you think. Join the live chat up and running at AC360.com.

Up next: the primaries tomorrow, Sarah Palin's role, even though she's not on the ballot anywhere. And how big a role is anger playing out there? Business as usual in both parties? Is this the Tea Party's year?

Well, we will talk about that ahead. Paul Begala and others join us.

And, later: kids and race. This is a really fascinating study. We're going to be looking on this all week on 360, eye-opening results of a 360 exclusive look at how kids, African-American and white, see color.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: "Raw Politics" tonight: primaries tomorrow, several big races. Incumbents are running scared. Insurgents are running strong, some on Tea Party power, others on progressive anger at established incumbent Democrats who they say have not been progressive enough.

In Arkansas, for example, Democratic Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter is challenging sitting Democratic Senator Blanche Lincoln. She's expected to win, but not by enough to avoid a runoff.

In Pennsylvania, the Democratic senatorial primary, Joe Sestak is going against Republican-turned-Democrat Arlen Specter, he and Arlen Specter now virtually tied in the hold. Also, Tea Party Republican Rand Paul gunning again Trey Grayson to succeed Republican Senator Jim Bunning, he's tapping into the anger Washington.

Stoking it also, a woman who is neither in office, nor running for it, at least not this year -- Sarah Palin.

Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: I'm not ashamed of being called a redneck. The mama grizzlies, they rear up. And if you thought pit bulls were tough, well, you don't want to mess with the mama grizzlies.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Sarah Palin talking to NRA members in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Joining us now, John King, joined as well by political contributor and Democratic strategist -- strategist Paul Begala, also, from the right, Reihan Salam, Daily Beast contributor and co-author of "Grand New Party." Thanks for being with us.

John, so, this past weekend, we saw Sarah Palin speaking to anti- abortion activists, gun rights supporters, in favor of Arizona's immigration law, obviously, big GOP blocs here. It's interesting, though. I mean, she pulled more attention this weekend than -- really than any of the actual candidates out there.

JOHN KING, HOST, "JOHN KING, USA": Well, she does have that ability.

And she is enjoying it at the moment. The question is, what is her ultimate goal? Is she going to run for president or is she just trying to keep her profile up there for paid speeches and the second book coming out?

We can't answer that question this year. But what do we know this year is that there's a slice of the Republican base that -- in which she is immensely popular, and so she is helping out. She was down in South Carolina to make an endorsement the governor's race last week. We will see how that one works out.

She is somebody who tends to back the Tea Party candidates. Watch Rand Paul in Kentucky tomorrow. There's a message candidate there. Where is she going? How big of a role will she have in the election year? There's still a question mark there, Anderson. But she does have a niche within the Republican Party, and the party has no single national leader at the moment. So, she can generate a lot of attention.

COOPER: Paul, I just want to show our viewers some more of what Sarah Palin had to say last week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN: It seems like it's a mom awakening in the last year-and- a-half, where women are rising up and saying, no, we have had enough already. We're going to turn this thing around. We're going to get our country back on the right track, no matter what it takes. We're putting all of our efforts into these midterm elections to turn things around and put government back on our side.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: It's interesting, Paul. I mean, over the last -- over the last week-and-a-half or so, Palin has endorsed three women who are running against men. She spoke this weekend about this emerging conservative feminist identity.

It's not a totally new message from her, but it does seem like she's certainly turning up the volume a bit.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It does, and I find that fascinating.

She, as John pointed out, went to South Carolina, endorsed Nikki Haley, who had been third or fourth in the polls, trailing behind three men, including the incumbent lieutenant governor and -- and attorney general. She went to California, endorsed Carly Fiorina, the Hewlett-Packard CEO, who was kind of fading. She endorsed Susana Martinez in New Mexico running for governor, who is also, I don't think, leading in the polls.

That tells you something. It tells you -- and I promise never to praise Sarah Palin again on your program again, Anderson, but she has got guts. OK, she's stepping up. And maybe she's trying to sell a book for next year or run for president.

It may also be that she just believes this. And I don't agree with her on any of the issues, OK? But when a politician is willing to endorse people who are not front-runners, it -- I like that. I like that. It takes some guts.

Frankly, it takes some guts to go to the NRA and call yourself a grizzly bear. Those guys, they do...

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: They know what to do with grizzly bears. So, I -- she -- I -- you know, I give her big points for this weekend.

COOPER: Reihan, what do you make of what's going on with the Republican Party? A number of candidates -- you look at how well Rand Paul is doing, he wasn't embraced by mainstream -- by the national party, and yet seems poised, possibly, to -- to win in Kentucky.

Should -- I mean, what is the message here to -- for the national Republican Party and for some of these more mainstream candidates?

REIHAN SALAM, THEDAILYBEAST.COM: Just deeply conventional establishment candidates aren't resonating with an audience.

If you look at who Sarah Palin endorsed, if you look at Nikki Haley, for example, she was backed by Mark Sanford. She's an incredibly shrewd, articulate candidate, who is not part of the old- boys network.

And that's one reason why some of these outside endorsements might help her out. But even if Nikki Haley loses, it still gives whoever endorses her a lot of credibility. And Rand Paul, similarly, this guy would have been considered way out there just three or four years ago in Republican politics. But now people are giving his ideas a second look.

COOPER: Right.

SALAM: And I think that that's a big deal, and it's going to shape Republican politics, not just this year, but for a decade to come.

COOPER: Interesting.

John, last year, the president said that Specter was going to have his full support. We didn't see Obama out of the trail for him at all this past weekend. And if Specter goes down, that's going to be the fourth time in a row a candidate the president has backed has lost.

How -- I mean, should -- what does that mean for the White House? Should they be worried?

KING: Well, they're certainly worried about that race come November.

And there's a big debate within the White House privately -- they are obviously publicly on Specter's team -- about who would be the stronger Democrat in the general election, Pennsylvania another blue state that is at risk of electing a Republican senator in November.

Joe Biden's seat in Delaware at risk of going Republican in November -- Barack Obama's former Senate seat in Illinois at risk of going Republican in November.

They already lost the Kennedy seat in Massachusetts. In Specter's case, they owed him. He switched. They needed his vote on health care. They owed him his support.

But the great irony about this race is, six years ago, Anderson, it was George W. Bush up in Pennsylvania doing the same thing, saying, you need to help Arlen Specter. He's a good, loyal Republican. Now you have the Obama White House saying, you have to help Arlen Specter. He's a good, loyal Democrat.

COOPER: Paul, I want to read -- this is a story that's just breaking right now in "The New York Times."

I want to read you what Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, a man who is running for Senate, said at a ceremony honoring veterans in 2008, according to a "New York Times" article out tonight.

He said: "We have learned something important since the days that I served in Vietnam. And you exemplify it. Whatever we think about the war, whatever we call it, Afghanistan and Iraq, we owe our military men and women unconditional support."

So, the only problem with this quote is that he never served in Vietnam. And, according to the article in "The Times," it's been pretty typical for him to speak of his years in misleading ways.

They -- they report that at least eight newspaper articles from 2003 to 2009 describe him as having served in Vietnam. This is a savvy guy. This is a lawyer. This is the attorney general of Connecticut. Why on earth would he mislead people as to the nature of his time in the military?

BEGALA: There's no good or ethical reason that he could have possibly done that, Anderson. The guy ought to have a chance to respond. I saw the "Times" story as well. He didn't really have much of a response in that. He pointed out -- and our viewers should know -- he did serve with real distinction in the Marine Corps Reserves, but never served in Vietnam.

And you read those four words: "I served in Vietnam." That appears to be factually false. It's indefensible. It's a catastrophic mistake, because it's not the sort of mistake people tend to make.

You know, when I was landing on Omaha Beach and fighting my way up those cliffs on D-Day, that was not the kind of politician I was fighting for back then -- Anderson.

COOPER: We should say, we -- we called his office this evening. They have not gotten back to us.

But, I mean, John, just politically, it makes no sense to do this. It's not as -- I mean, in this day and age, where you have bloggers who, you know, check everything, and understandably, why would somebody do this?

KING: It is -- if you go back to the Vietnam-era politician -- and Paul went through this when Governor Bill Clinton was running for president -- it was a defining moment in the life of anyone who lived at that age and time.

And, so, it makes no sense, it makes no common sense, it makes no -- you're right -- in this age, everything can be fact-checked. And here is another race. This is the Chris Dodd retirement. And Mr. Blumenthal was viewed as the odds-on favorite not only to win the Democratic nomination, of course, but to keep that state Democratic.

This will add another wrinkle to another state, in one of the few states that the Democrats thought: We could put this one in our column.

Now, he deserves a right to explain his case. This story is just breaking tonight. But, in a year when people don't like politicians, they don't like calculating politicians, they don't like people who seem inauthentic, or unauthentic, this will be a problem.

COOPER: Yes.

We will -- we will follow up, obviously, on it tomorrow night, John.

Thanks very much, John King, Paul Begala, Reihan Salam. Thanks very much.

Just ahead: The American held in Haiti caught taking kids out of the country, remember her? She said she was acting in God's name -- tonight, the verdict, details on that.

And, later: Can you tell good kids from bad, can you tell smart kids from dumb by the color of their skin? Well, the answer, of course, is no, you would say. But, when you ask kids on a test that, they don't even hesitate. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Show me the dumb child.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Show me the good-looking child.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Still -- still ahead: How do your kids see skin color? What do they think about race?

Now, a lot of us like to believe our kids are colorblind. But a new pilot study we commissioned shows that kids, even as young as 5, have very clear biases. The question is, why and what can we done about it? We have answer ahead.

But, first, Joe Johns joins us with a 360 news and business bulletin -- Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, American missionary Laura Silsby is found guilty. A Haitian court today convicted of her of trying to take 33 Haitian children out of the country following its devastating earthquake. Silsby was sentenced to time served and is now free to leave the country.

General Motors today announced its first profit since 2007. The automaker earned $865 million in the first three months of this year. It lost nearly $6 billion over the same period last year.

President Obama today released his financial disclosure forms for 2009. For writing his biography, he made millions in royalties. And the price tag for the pet dog Bo given to the first family as a gift from the late Senator Ted Kennedy, Bo is worth 1,600 bucks. Senator Kennedy heard two other Portuguese water dogs, I know. So, I guess those dogs are expensive.

COOPER: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

JOHNS: Sixteen hundred dollars.

COOPER: They probably are.

Joe, thanks.

Ahead on the program: what your kids think about race. Do they have a bias, even if they're 5 years old? Do they think white kids are smarter than darker-skinned kids? You're going to see the startling findings we found -- we found out in a pilot study we commissioned. It was based on the landmark doll tests from the 1940s. We will bring you the results coming up. And later: He said he got a 1600 on his SATs. He said he studied at MIT. The cops say this Harvard senior lied his way into the school, fooling professors and classmates and everyone, until he was caught -- the fascinating story ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Today marks a monumental turning point in our history, one that forever changed the way that each of us lives. It's the 56th anniversary of Brown vs. the Board of Education, the landmark Supreme Court case that desegregated America's schools.

Some would like to believe that we live in a post-racial society, but do we really? Nearly 60 years after desegregation, we wanted to know how much has really changed. We decided to focus on kids to see how even very young kids view race and view skin color. The results are fascinating and may surprise you.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are lots of different colors for skin.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have questions for you about these pictures of different children.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As I read the question, I want you to point to the picture that fits the story.

COOPER (voice-over): Are children color blind in America?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Show me the smart child.

(AFRICAN-AMERICAN GIRL POINTS TO DARKEST CHILD)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Show me the mean child.

(WHITE BOY POINTS TO DARKEST CHILD)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you show me the dumb child?

(AFRICAN-AMERICAN GIRL POINTS TO LIGHTEST CHILD)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Show me the nice child.

COOPER: Is bias measurable even at an early age?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why is she the bad child?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because she's black. Black.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why is he the ugly child?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because he -- he looks like he's white.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why is he the dumb child? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because she has dark-brown skin.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why is she the bad child?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because she makes fun of everybody else's skin color.

COOPER: How much do kids learn from what they see and hear from adults?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Show me the child who has the skin color most adults like?

(WHITE BOY POINTS TO LIGHTEST CHILD)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And show me the child who has the skin color most adults don't like.

COOPER: These are questions that we, along with CNN's Soledad O'Brien and a team of psychologists hired by CNN spent months investigating through tests, interviews with children and their parents. They are questions that had been asked for decades.

The first doll study ignited controversy in the 1940s when psychologists Kenneth and Amy Park (ph) pioneered studies in the effects of segregation in schools by asking African-American kids to choose between black and white dolls. The so-called doll test found black kids overwhelmingly preferred white over black.

Those results were at the center of the landmark 1954 Supreme Court case Brown vs. the Board of Education that desegregated American schools.

Now, with a first African-American president and nearly 60 years after segregation was overturned, we wondered where are we today? How do kids see differences in race? What we discovered might shock you, but first, how we got there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Skin color, a child's skin color estimate.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, yes.

COOPER: We asked renowned child psychologist and University of Chicago researcher Dr. Margaret Beale Spencer to design a pilot study for CNN and analyze the results.

MARGARET BEALE SPENCER, UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO: Our children are always near us, you know, because we're a society. And what we put out there, kids report back. You ask the question, they'll give you the answer.

COOPER: Spencer's team tested more than 130 kids in eight schools with very different racial and economic demographics. Half of the schools were in the north, half in the south.

(on camera) Nicely done! (voice-over) While the country is much more diverse today than in the 1940s, the children in this project are from two age groups and two races, white and black, to better allow comparison to the original doll study.

Four- and 5-year-old children were asked a series of questions about these images. Nine- and 10-year-old children were asked questions about the same images as well as this color bar chart. The test led us to three major findings. First, white children as a whole responded with a high rate of what researchers call white bias, identifying the color of their own skin with positive attributes and darker skin with negative attributes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Show me the dumb child.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dumb child?

(WHITE GIRL POINTS TO DARKEST CHILD)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. Why is she the dumb child?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because she has black skin.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Show me the mean child.

(WHITE BOY POINTS TO DARK CHILD)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why is he the mean child?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because he's brown.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Show me the bad child.

(WHITE BOY POINTS TO DARK CHILD)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why is he the bad child?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because he's black.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. Show me the ugly child.

(WHITE BOY POINTS TO DARK CHILD)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why is he the ugly child?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because he's brown -- black.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Show me the child who has the skin color most adults like.

(WHITE BOY POINTS TO LIGHTEST CHILD)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And show me the child who has the skin color most adults don't like.

(WHITE BOY POINTS TO DARKEST CHILD) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Show me the child who has the skin color that most children like.

(WHITE GIRL POINTS TO LIGHT CHILD)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Show me the child who has the skin color most children don't like.

(WHITE GIRL POINTS TO DARKEST CHILD)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Show me the child who has the skin color most girls want.

(WHITE GIRL POINTS TO LIGHT CHILD)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Show me the child who has the skin color most girls don't want.

(WHITE GIRL POINTS TO DARKEST CHILD)

COOPER: The questions that got overwhelmingly white- biased answers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Show me the dumb child.

(WHITE GIRL POINTS TO DARKEST CHILD)

COOPER: About 76 percent of the younger white children pointed to the two darkest skin tones.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Show me the mean child.

(WHITE BOY POINTS TO DARK CHILD)

COOPER: About 66 percent of the younger white children pointed to the two darkest skin tones.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Show me the child who has the skin color most children don't like.

(WHITE GIRL POINTS TO DARK CHILD)

COOPER: Again about 66 percent of the younger white children pointed to the two darkest skin tones.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Show me the bad child.

(WHITE GIRL POINTS TO DARKEST CHILD)

COOPER: More than 59 percent of the older white children pointed to the two darkest skin tones, but some white children did have more race-neutral responses.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So could you show me the good-looking child?

(WHITE GIRL SPREADS HAND OUT TO POINT TO ALL)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So what are you thinking? I know you pointed to them all, but tell me what you're thinking.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm thinking that I do not care if they're black, white, mixed or any kind of race. I think that it matters who they really are.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: And when we come back, we're going to show you how African-American kids answered those exact same questions, and what our team found to be the most startling finding for both groups.

Later, another story. Faking your way into Harvard. A former student accused of conning the school for years. The story of the alleged Ivy League identity theft, ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Back now with part one of our weeklong series of kids and race in America.

A lot of us, you know, like to think that today's kids are color blind, that they just don't see race. But in a pilot study conducted on behalf of this program, a team of child psychologists found that, nearly 60 years after segregation was overturned, even very young kids form opinions about skin color. We're talking about kids 5 years old.

Testing more than 130 kids in eight different schools with different age ranges, all with very different racial and economic demographics, they found that white kids as a whole responded with a high rate of what researchers call white bias. Simply put, they identified white skin with positive attributes and black skin or darker skin with negative attributes.

But as the pilot study continued, the results grew even more troubling.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice-over): Our second major finding: even black children as a whole have some bias toward whiteness, but far less than white children.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Show me the smart child?

(AFRICAN-AMERICAN GIRL POINTS TO LIGHTEST CHILD)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And why is she the smart child?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because she is white.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. Show me the dumb child.

(AFRICAN-AMERICAN GIRL POINTS TO DARKEST CHILD) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And why is she the dumb child?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because she's black.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Show me the ugly child.

(AFRICAN-AMERICAN GIRL POINTS TO DARKEST CHILD)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And why is she the ugly child?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because she's black.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Show me the good-looking child.

(AFRICAN-AMERICAN GIRL POINTS TO LIGHT CHILD)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why is she the good-looking child?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because she's light-skinned.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Show me the skin color you think most teachers think looks bad on a girl.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think it matters because I think each teacher wants to help a student learn either way what they look like.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And it doesn't matter what you look like on the outside. It just matters what you look like on the inside.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Show me the good-looking child.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They look the same.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes? Show me the child you would like as a classmate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You like all of them as classmates? Why do you say all of them?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because I don't really care what color they have.

COOPER: This 5-year-old girl gave some provocative answers during her test. I asked her about them later.

(on camera) Why do you want that skin color?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because it looks like lighter than this kind, because this looks a lot like that one.

COOPER: Uh-huh. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I just don't like the way brown looks, because the way brown looks, looks really nasty for some reason. But I don't know what reason. That's all.

COOPER: So you think it looks nasty?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, not really, but sometimes.

COOPER: Sometimes.

And Brielle (ph), they asked what color adults don't like. Do you remember what you said? Which one?

(AFRICAN-AMERICAN GIRL POINTS TO DARKEST CHILD)

COOPER: That's right. That's the one you said. Why do you think adults don't like that color?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dark.

COOPER: Dark. And adults -- you think adults don't like dark?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Maybe some adults do, but maybe some of them don't.

COOPER (voice-over): The questions that got overwhelming white- biased answers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Show me the one you think most children would think looks bad on a boy.

(AFRICAN-AMERICAN BOY POINTS TO DARKEST COLOR BLOCK)

COOPER: More than 70 percent of the older black children chose the darkest skin tones.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Show me the child who has the skin color most children don't like.

(AFRICAN-AMERICAN GIRL POINTS TO DARKEST CHILD)

COOPER: More than 61 percent of the younger black children chose the two darkest shades.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Show me the ugly child?

(AFRICAN-AMERICAN GIRL POINTS TO DARKEST CHILD)

COOPER: More than 57 percent of the younger black kids chose the two darkest shades. Dr. Spencer says the research shows the bias toward white is still very much part of our culture.

SPENCER: All kids are exposed to these stereotypes. But what's really significant is that white children are learning or maintaining those stereotypes much more strongly than the African-American children. COOPER: And that is our third finding, the finding that interested Dr. Spencer the most, that overall younger and older children keep the same patterns, stereotyping. In other words, their ideas change little from age 5 to 10.

SPENCER: Ordinarily by the time children are older, there's sort of a natural filter, you know, their own ways of thinking sort of aids them in sort of rethinking the extreme stereotypic sort of responses, becomes less highly biased.

COOPER: That left Professor Spencer wondering what's causing this pattern. She speculates that kids are bombarded by stereotypical messages and that adults in kids' lives have to fight on override the deluge. Black parents may be more diligent about that, or white parents may not notice the need.

SPENCER: The messages are the same for all children so therefore, the test is the same for all parents. Parents have to reframe what children experience.

COOPER: We realize these findings may be disturbing and that some people will question this project's conclusions. What stereotypic messages are being sent in a country that elected a black man president?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I, Barack Hussein Obama...

COOPER: Like all research projects, ours is not perfect. Some kids were told ahead of time they'd be asked about race. Some children identify as one race but came from biracial families, like this boy whose mom is white.

But Professor Spencer tells us these are common issues in research, and the results can still be trusted because of the sample size. To be clear, this is a scientifically informed and executed pilot study, which suggests the need for further research. The results point to major trends but are not the definitive word on children and race.

Still, they underline what Dr. Spencer sees as an alarming conclusion.

SPENCER: We are still living in a society where dark things are devalued and light things are valued.

COOPER: The question we're left with is, where do we go from here?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Now, where do we go from here? There's plenty of research that says parents are critical in shaping their kids' ideas on race. Soledad O'Brien and I sat down with Cole Bronson, author of a book called "Nurture Shock," and also Angela Burt Murray, editor in chief of "Essence" magazine, to dig deeper. Take a look. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Let's talk about the African-American parents, in fact, because you know, we do these discussions. And actually I found that the African-American parents had more conversations. I bet you did and you do with your kids all the time.

Listen to this clip that -- one of the parents I spoke to.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: What kind of conversations do you have with Quincy, because he said you talk about race at home?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have a lot of conversations about race because we have to. My children have heard things in school or have derogatory things said to them. Derogatory things and names are still being called in school here in 2010.

Even in a grocery store not long ago right before Christmas, we had a small Caucasian child call my son the "N" word. He was in line with his parents, and he just turned and pointed and said the "N" word to my child. And we would think those kinds of things don't happen any more in this day and age, but that's why we have to have conversations about race.

O'BRIEN: We've got Quincy, who is 10 years old. Let's watch his clip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Show me the dumb child.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know which one is dumb. I have to ask a few questions to see if they're smart.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What would you want to ask them to know? What kind of things would help you know if they were dumb or not?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's 2 times 2, 2 plus 2.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. Show me the child you would like to play with at home?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have to know them first before I let them in my house.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have to know them first before I let them in my house.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Show me the color that looks like your skin color.

(AFRICAN-AMERICAN BOY POINTS TO A MEDIUM BROWN COLOR BLOCK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. Show me the skin color you want as your own.

(AFRICAN-AMERICAN BOY POINTS TO SAME MEDIUM BROWN COLOR BLOCK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How about show me the one you think most boys would think or most children would think looks bad on a boy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Me or everybody else?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Other children.

(AFRICAN-AMERICAN BOY POINTS TO DARKEST COLOR BLOCK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Show me the skin color you believe most boys don't want.

(AFRICAN-AMERICAN BOY POINTS TO DARKEST COLOR BLOCK)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: What do you think?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A little surprised by the last answer.

O'BRIEN: What surprises you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The fact that he chose the darker skin color as the color that most people don't like. He didn't say he didn't like that color. He said he thought most people don't like that color. So I wonder where that comes from.

O'BRIEN: And you have conversations, you said, about race all the time?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We do.

O'BRIEN: How do they go? Tell me how they start. Does it start with an event, someone said something usually?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They can run the gamut from during the inauguration when we talked about it, what a big deal it was for there to be a black president, to grandmother remembering things that happened when she was a child, to something that happened at school.

He's a very smart child and makes good grades, and even administrators and teachers have said to him, "You're really a pretty smart guy."

And he's come home and said, "Mama, they make it seem like I'm not supposed to be smart. They say I'm smart like it's unusual or something, like I'm not like the other kids, I'm not supposed to be smart because I'm black."

O'BRIEN: Angela, your boys are nine? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nine and 11.

O'BRIEN: Do you have the same conversations?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely. My husband and I, we talk about race with our children. They will tell you that we talk about race too much. But we do talk to them, because it's important that they are armed and ready for those moments in life where it becomes an issue.

And we tell them that, in the classroom, there will be people that have softer expectations for you. But what matters is the expectations that you have for yourself and what the expectations that your father and I have for them.

COOPER: You actually warn about them about softer expectations?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We do. And we told them that you've got to be better. You've got to work harder. You've got to do more. You always have to do that as an African-American. And we tell them that.

And they don't fully understand what that's all about. They think that everything that they do is taken on face value for who they are and not the way that they look. But there will become a time. And particularly when you're dealing with African-American boys, I'm very sensitive about the time that I'm going to have to have the conversation with Solomon and Ellison (ph) about how to deal with the police. That's a very serious conversations that African-American parents have to have with their children, because it's going to be a life or death situation.

O'BRIEN: There's lots of opportunities to talk about race. There really are. And any news story. There's always -- and you don't have to necessarily lecture. You can just ask, what do you think? Why do you think that? You know, and then say, that's interesting you say that. Here's an example to counter that. Now what do you think?

I mean, they're little, and this is the age where you can sort of shape how they feel about themselves. My parents did it for me, and I am so grateful now, in my mid-40s, that I have a very clear sense of who I am, because my parents made it very clear when I was little who I am. That helped a lot.

COOPER: Angela Burberry (ph), thanks very much. Beau Bronson (ph), thank you. Soledad, as well.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: All right. We're going to have more, obviously, with Beau (ph) and the others. Tune in tomorrow when we're going to show you how some white parents responded to the pilot study and how white parents often have very different conversations about race with their kids than African-American parents. We're going to be doing this all week. A lot of fascinating material to cover.

Let us know what you think at AC360.com.

Coming up, one of the worst performing high schools in Rhode Island. Remember, they made a drastic move back in February, fired all of the teachers in an effort to turn the school around.

And a Harvard student smart enough to fool Harvard. This former undergraduate, who authorities say faked his record to get in; now charged with identity fraud, ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Let's get some of the latest on the other important stories we're following. Joe Johns has an update in a "360 Bulletin" -- Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, big news from the Supreme Court. In a 7-2 ruling, the court said the federal government can keep some sex offenders in prison indefinitely. The majority said prisoners can be held beyond their scheduled release date if they may prove dangerous sexually or otherwise in the future.

In Rhode Island back to work for all the teachers who were fired from one underperforming high school. Earlier this year, a federal guideline option for dealing with struggling schools, the faculty at Central Falls High was dismissed. Today, the union and the school superintendent reached a deal that will give the teachers their jobs back in exchange for working longer hours and other changes.

Forget about good grades. One man is accused of conning his way into Harvard. That's right, conning his way into Harvard. Prosecutors say Adam Wheeler faked his way past the admissions board, convincing the Ivy League school that he was a stellar student, enrolled apparently in 2007.

He was indicted today on 20 charges, including identity theft. How do you do that? That takes a lot of nerve.

COOPER: Wow. Yes, it's unbelievable.

All right, Joe. Thanks.

When we come back, the oil spill. Why doesn't BP want to know how bad it really is? We're "Keeping Them Honest."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)