Protect Yourself (with Marc Lamont Hill & Todd Brewster) | Crooked Media
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May 31, 2022
Pod Save The People
Protect Yourself (with Marc Lamont Hill & Todd Brewster)

In This Episode

DeRay, Myles, and De’Ara cover the underreported news of the week— including prison’s inhumane dentistry practices, corporations Juneteenth merchandise, and a recent interview with rapper Isaiah Rashad.  DeRay interviews journalists Marc Lamont Hill and Todd Brewster about their book Seen and Unseen: Technology, Social Media, and the Fight for Racial Justice.










DeRay Mckesson: Hey, this is DeRay, and Welcome to Pod Save the People. On this episode, it’s me, Myles, and De’Ara talking about all the news you don’t know for the past week. And then I sit down with authors Marc Lamont Hill and Todd Brewster to talk about their new book, “Seen and Unseen: Technology, Social Media, and the Fight for Racial Justice.” We chat about the legacy of Ida B. Wells and the evolution of communication tools within the Black Liberation Movement. I learned a lot, and you will, too. Here we go. My advice for this week is actually a shout out to a campaign that we are running at Campaign Zero and it’s about Riker’s Island. You can go to RikersIsland dot org and learn more about all of the things that are happening. People are dying. There have been, I think, seven people that have died in 2022. We are trying to get a judge to appoint someone to oversee the jail now, to have more power to make sure that the death stop before Rikers closes in 2027 or 2028. Remember the reason that Rikers, the jail in New York City, matters is that it’s the second largest jail in the United States, and if we can close that, we can close anything. So go visit RikersIsland lot org. Other than that, make sure that you protect yourself. This has been a rough couple of weeks. It’s been a rough, you know, decade, I feel like, but this past couple of weeks has been particularly intense with the shootings and the hate crimes and everything else. So please protect your sanity. Go be around people you love, and remind everybody that we got each other. Here we go.


De’Ara Balenger: Family! Welcome to another episode of Pod Save the People. I am De’Ara Balenger. You can find me on Instagram and Twitter @dearabalenger.


Myles Johnson: I’m Myles E. Johnson. You can find me on Instagram and Twitter @pharaohrapture.


DeRay Mckesson: And this is DeRay, @deray on Twitter.


De’Ara Balenger: So sometimes it is painful to be the person that kicks us off, because I feel like it is now the second week in a row that I’ve had, that we’ve kind of led the conversation around a mass shooting. So we just, you know, a couple of weeks ago talked and thought and felt around Buffalo, and now here we are this past week with babies being killed in Texas. And now, you know, there’s all the controversy swirling around the police response and/or lack of response. Parents somehow getting in to back doors to get their own babies out of the building. And then, you know, also the response from the GOP in terms of, Oh, well, if the back doors would have been locked or if they had a armed guard, yada, yada, yada, this wouldn’t have happened. And we also know that the NRA had their national convening in Houston. That’s happening actually right now over the weekend. And, you know, protests galore there to the NRA and everything that they stand for. So, I don’t, still processing this, still processing buffalo, still processing, I mean, all of the mass of shootings that have been happening, I guess, my whole adult life and really trying to find levers of accountability for it, right? Like, what does that look like? What does it look like to hold policy makers accountable? Because at this point, we need solutions and we need solutions that the administration is going to be serious about. We need solutions that are really just going to be steadfast against whatever the GOP or the gun lobby continue to persist with. So kicking us off there. What are y’all thinking?


Myles Johnson: I’m obviously definitely still processing it, but I just think that it would just be a failure to think of the one person who went into the school to shoot as the only murderer in these situations. How I see it, how I personally think about these mass shootings, and how I–you know, I was born when Columbine happened, you know, like, I’ve kind of dealt with this my whole life or the idea of this, like my whole life. I can’t think of a moment where there’s been two or three years where there hasn’t been a mass shooting. And I’ve always thought that, you know, the people who are allowing this to happen are murderers too. And I always thought that the people who are allowing this to happen and facilitating this to happen are evil, that they’re bereft of a moral compass and that’s who’s leading us. And we’re being, we’re being led by villains, were being led by people who do not care, who want to control women’s bodies, who want to criminalize racial minorities when they get when they, when they get upset about rioting, and then they want children to die. And I think that if this was a movie directed by Steven Spielberg, it wouldn’t be hard for us to think of these people as villains, evil people. And I think that, that’s how that’s how I see it. The voting rhetoric, the things that we talk about as far as what we’re going to protesting–I’m sorry, I’m like flustered by this conversation–but the voting rhetoric, the things we talk about doing, protesting, I think that sometimes we miss the point that there are people who are soulless who are in control of the destiny of this nation. And I just don’t understand how, I was just listening yesterday about the 11-year old child discussing how she had to cover herself in her friend’s blood in order to play dead. Now, what I thought to myself was horrendous circumstance, but what kind of minds are we creating that you can even think to do that? I wasn’t, if I was 11, I would not even think to do that. We’re living in a world where 11-year olds are so sophisticated and they know their lives are so, so fragile, and we live in such a violent country that their instincts are now, that’s a part of their instincts before they’re 13. That’s a wild situation to me. That’s a wilk, that’s, and I would just be disgusted to have these people in control, you know? And I also wonder and I wanted to, like, maybe present this to you all–of course, I believe in gun control, of course I believe that we shouldn’t have these weapons, the weapons that we have, but I also wonder, do you think that, like global warming, we’re getting to a place where it’s too late? That there is a time control over, or the time period over like, how long we have to like kind of like save this, and save this world. I’m wondering if the kind of people that we’re, that we’re socializing people to be, and combined with the black market of stuff and how many guns are already made–like even if tomorrow we fix this problem, do you think that it would be like, it would be too late? Cause I look at all the other numbers that people put up against and we had 288, and this country have four, and eight, and stuff like that–I’m wondering if tomorrow we fix this and we totally say nobody can else have this weapon, how long would we even, what would it take for us to not even see the results of this, you know, and see, and see impact? I’m wondering, again, like global warming, like certain types of sectors of like Black health and stuff like that. I’m wondering if we’re reaching a point where, oh, American’s are always going to be insanely dangerous and violent and it’s always going to be highlighted by white supremacist terror, because we waited too long to regulate it.


DeRay Mckesson: So I think a couple of things. I don’t think it’s too late. I think that, you know, I think about the world of tobacco and so many other things that we were like, well, you’re just screwed. And, you know, seatbelts. It’s like the idea that there were no seatbelts at one point in history is so wild. Like seatbelts feel like such a basic thing, but there was like a lot of campaigning to happen to make seatbelts be required in cars and, you know, magically people stop dying. There are couple of things that stick out to me when I think about the shooting in Texas. One is, or one of the biggest ones is just how much the police lied. I mean, it’s like, when you chart the lives of the police–and whoever thought that it would be a school shooting that would lead to such sustained critiques of the police from a host to people, like not the activists, not the advocates, not people like us who like have a perpetual critique, but so many privileged white people. People are like, Yeah, this doesn’t make sense. And remember to just map the lies, first they said that there was exchange of gunfire between the officer and the gunman before he went in. Then they said, Just kidding, there was no exchange of gunfire, but there was an encounter. Then they said there was no confrontation at all. The gunman just walked into the school because somebody left the door open. And then the last account this past Friday, they said that a school police officer was not on the campus, but rushed there after the 911 call. And like you saw the videos of the parents being arrested, the parents being threatened with tasers as they tried to get into the school. They were outside the school, watching or listening to their children be killed. The story of the Border Patrol officer who was in the barbershop getting a hair cut, his wife texted him like, you know, There’s a gunman. I love you. He gets the gun from the barber shop guy, races to the school, gets past the rest of the police officers, gets into the school, saves his child, and then rescues that class of kids–and you’re like, the police have lied so incredibly that it makes me think that this is just the tip of the iceberg. That, like, I feel like they must be hiding something else. So when I hear conversations about exchange of gunfire, it’s like, well, did the police shoot a kid by mistake? You know? Like what actually happened in that room? Or, the narrative that we also heard, right, is that the police did not go into the room for an hour because they were like, He just barricaded himself in. It’s like, it’s a roomful of fourth graders. And the most heartbreaking part of it all was the 991 calls. And I’m assuming both of you, both of you have heard of the 911, Myles, do you know about the 911 calls?


Myles Johnson: No. Um mm.


DeRay Mckesson: Oh, Myles. So it was 93 minutes that the police were on the premises and let the kids get killed. But, Myles, the most heartbreaking part of it all is that they have the 911 calls from kids in the classroom calling 911 saying, He’s here, come help us, please. The kids keep calling and calling and the kids don’t survive. And it’s like that is, I mean, truly wild. And the state police have blamed it on the the like guy on the scene, you know, the head of the police department there. And, you know, the only reason that somebody went in is because a federal officer–they had gotten there by that point–and the federal officer was like, Okay, we’re just going to like ignore the local police and storm the room and kill the guy. Like, we’re not going to, like, we just have to do this at this point. But if you remember, the first story was that he had a bulletproof vest on, that was the first story. And then it came out that he didn’t have a bulletproof vest on. And you’re like, the police really just let those kids die. And that to me is probably one of the wildest things. The second thing I’ll say, and this goes to something you touched on, and De’Ara, too, is that there is something really insidious about the way that ignorance is become even more of a potent political tool. So like, you know, we saw it with tobacco. It’s like, tell people that it’s not dangerous. Tell people that it’s just like, nicotine is not really do anything to your lungs. It’s just like, da, da, da. And it’s like what happens with gun control where, you know, Congress can’t study it and da, da, da, da. It’s like you limit the opportunity for people to even understand how dangerous it is. So you see Ted Cruz and Trump talking about, We need to have stronger doors. And you’re like, well, that’s not the, that is sort of wild. Or what happens when you go to Fox News and see the way they talk about it, which is, you know, half the country is watching that, they’re not even highlighting the police inconsistencies. They’re sort of making it sound like, you know, the governor–I don’t know if you saw this, De’Ara, you probably saw this, Myles I don’t know if you saw it–is that the governor’s blaming the teacher. The governor’s sort of response is like the teacher left the door propped open, the door wasn’t propped open, the governor–I mean, the gunman wouldn’t have gotten in. And you’re like, is that really the hot take-away from this?! Because that seems sort of wild. The last thing I’d say too, is about gun control, that I do think this is a moment for organizers to help people understand better what the options are. Because I, you know, I organize around the police all day, but like I don’t really know is it background checks? Is it the assault weapons ban? Is it all of them? Is it like, I don’t know what the range of things are that we should be doing? And I have had to remind people that there was a ban on assault rifles that Clinton did, and it worked. And the ban expired and the Republicans wouldn’t put it back in. But there is no reason why we should have guns that even the police are afraid to engage people with.


Myles Johnson: And the just the last thing that I have to say about this is I remember waking up and I’m not–controversial take–but I remember waking up to Trump, it seemed like every other morning Trump was doing something horrendous, and doing something where I was like, I did not even know a president can do that. I did not know, like just getting things moved. And I’m, and I really do sometimes wish that the Democratic Party would have the same ballsiness around children’s lives. I wish that they would push it through the, to push it to the edge of what can happen. Because if that was happening around–I remember like, I remember that day we like waking up when we found out about the border control and the kids in cages and the ban on like Muslims and all the other things where I’m like, I don’t even know you can, like, do this and, and have to retroactively, like, fix it. I did not know that that was even a presidential power to do it like that. And I’m like, why can’t we do that? And again, this is like emotions and passion talking too, but I’m like, if there was any time to stomp on some, some niceties and some liberties, it would be now and situations like this. And I don’t know, I, I do feel like sometimes we’re being led by cowardice. And I wish it wasn’t like that.


De’Ara Balenger: Myles, I think so much of what you’re saying is right. And I’ve been thinking a lot about the Democratic Party, as someone who spent many, many years, you know, working on presidential elections, supporting the DNC, knocking on doors, just about all of it. And I think in all of my experience with the Democratic Party, it was always clear that, to your point, we would never push the envelope, right? We would never be truly outspoken on issues that concerned people of color, marginalized people, because we didn’t want to upset white moderates, right? And so I think when it comes down to it, it’s more about winning elections and people keeping their seat–and some of these people have been in seats for a very, very long time–so it’s more about holding on to that power than it is actually, you know, creating systemic social change that would take us out of these situations. And I see time and time again, particularly the Democratic Party. I mean, I’ve never seen an industry where people fail up so often, and it’s like the same people get hired to do the same bad job, and everyone wonders why we’re here. You know, and I’m hoping that, you know, some shakeup starts to happen before the midterms, because, truth be told, like, we’re going to be in a really, really tough spot. I mean, you know, the right is organizing like nobody’s business. They’re coordinated. They have tons of money. They have Facebook in their pocket. They’re soon to have Twitter in their pocket as well. So I think we are just in a whole lot of trouble, culturally.


Myles Johnson: And we just shouldn’t be like a Twitter, Facebook, or TikTok from mass shootings. I think that’s the biggest, yeah.


De’Ara Balenger: Right. And I think to your earlier point, Myles, I mean, you know, an 18-year old in Texas can buy an AR-15 but can’t buy a beer. You know, like that makes zero sense. I think the policy part of it is critically important because these last shootings, it’s been young folks with these–I don’t even know what you call–highly automatic rifle, I don’t know, big ass, big ass guns. Okay. So, I mean, I think that somebody’s got to do something.


Myles Johnson: Yeah. Yeah. I’m just concerned that, like, what worked in the Clinton era, and I hear you, and I’m an I’m oriented towards optimism and hope anyway, so I love DeRay’s response, but I do think that sometimes we’ll see what happened worked in the past where I’m like, It’s 2022, it’s a new day and a new evil, and yesterday’s answer to evil won’t be today’s. And I just as a critical thinker, I sometimes think like, oh, are we kidding ourselves by trying to do what we did 20, 30 years ago and it works? Because now it seems like, you know, people are being socialized, different. The Internet is a new beast, how people are coming to their belief systems. The black market, how people are getting all types of different things is different. And I’m just wondering is there’s so much being manufactured in the world now that, you know, we might not see a change in our lifetime, even if we change it tomorrow. And I think, you know, it’s pessimistic, but I think it’s something to think about, and something to organize against–it starts with the uncomfortable thought to me, you know? It’s not the most optimistic thought, but it starts there in order to arrive at any solution.


De’Ara Balenger: But Myles, I would argue that’s why we all do what we do.


Myles Johnson: Oh, absolutely.


De’Ara Balenger: Even in even in our different spaces. Right? So I think the culture of it is super, super important. Like, I think, to me, the culture is more important sometimes in the advocacy part, right? Because culture is really how you’re moving folks. And I was, I just was having this conversation with some friends the other day because I remember when I was little and I used to have those candy cigarettes that you would, the smoke would blow out of them.


Myles Johnson: Me too!


De’Ara Balenger: And I was like, why would my mom buy me candy cigarettes?


DeRay Mckesson: And they weren’t expensive either, you could go get a whole set of them.


De’Ara Balenger: No. But they were a bomb dot com. But I’m just like, why was that? But again, it was, it was like, oh, it was, you know, it just wasn’t even something you thought about like that. Now, I mean, I’m sure that, I’m sure it’s not even on the market anymore to be able to get that. So, you know, we can hold two things at one time. We can hold pain and joy at the same time. So, Myles, you want to take us into something joyful or I suspect you think it’s joyful? I don’t know.


Myles Johnson: Yeah, I think that’s the, that’s the human spiritual psychological project, is to be able to look at light in darkness, and be like, we’re all of it. But I’m here to bring in the lightness, you know, my femme Queer self is just giddy, my femme Queer, 12 year-old, 8 year-old self is just giddy because Laverne Cox got a Barbie. And Barbie, I was, so you know, I went on a true binge of Barbie. Barbie started as like, a fashion model. I did not know that. Barbie started as a fashion model who would literally, different designers like Givenchy and Christian Dior would actually make these like exclusive Barbies for these children. And then Barbie was specifically marketed for very privileged white kids. In my head, Barbie was always a little bit more democratic to me, like, everybody can get a Barbie, or it was available for everybody, but it really started as people who are children and, you know, young girls who were children of people of means and a privilege, they would want these Barbies, and that’s how come the Barbies was so fancy and they started as fashion models. And then as we go, now we have size-inclusive Barbies, we have Barbies that do different jobs, we have Barbies that are different races. And now we have Barbies that are representative of trans people. And I’m so happy one went to Laverne Cox, because I just stan her. I love her so much. I started seeing her, I just think that, I love a, I love a double persona. I love somebody who, like, refuses to be, like, siloed into one box. So I love that she was like om Orange is the New Black, and then I’ll see her, like, sing opera on her Instagram, and she’ll be doing that, and then she knows about pop culture. And then I’ve really started really loving her because she has these, she did a talk with the late bell hooks and I just fell in love with her mind, and she was just so sharp when it came to feminist and cultural critique. And I just thought that was beautiful. And I love that she’s like, Yes, I’ve talked to bell hooks, I was Orange is the New Black, I acted in Anna Delvey, I can sing opera, I’m also a show girl. And then also I have a Barbie, like I can do whatever I want to do. And I love that. And it warms me up to see it. And she celebrated her 50th birthday and it was Barbie themed and I was there in pink spirit, [laughs] and I just, I don’t know, it just really, it really warmed my heart. Of course, and then speaking of the other half of it is like representation has its limits, [laughs] and I think that sometimes we as Black people, we as Black queer people, can represent ourselves into into a hole sometimes. I’m like, Okay, well, child, here we are. You know, what is, it was really moving. But I also think that representation could be liberatory. So I’m holding both of those things because I’m so excited and giddy about it because see the Black trans woman with a Barbie who I adore, but then also I try to chin check myself and say, you know, What,  like what does that mean? Like and what really changes? But, you know, for now, I’m buying the Barbie.


DeRay Mckesson: I’ve always loved Laverne, and I remember years ago we had lunch like maybe in the middle of Orange is the New Black, but it was also in the middle of the protests, and I had never got a chance to really watch the show because we were outside all day, but it’s been cool to see Laverne and like just stay so true to herself. And like, and just not let, you know, just like not only I am who I am, but I love being able to have such incredible range, and I love it. I saw the Barbie announcement on Twitter. It was like, Okay, Barbie, Okay, Laverne, I’m still shocked by the first of anything, though. Like I, I don’t know, I just assumed that there had been a trans Barbie before. Like that, like, especially in this moment. Like, I was like, Oh, I thought we did this a couple of years ago? And then I was like, Oh, my goodness, Laverne, look at you! Groundbreaking. So shout out to Laverne.


De’Ara Balenger: Also, if you just go on her Instagram and look at her as Barbie in a box, you’ll die.


Myles Johnson: Amazing.


De’Ara Balenger: All I have to say. And how can we get invited to her next birthday party?


Myles Johnson: I’m, I’m like, come on. Like, we right here. I like pink. Come on. Come on. And we need, we need non-binary representation. We need, we need, we need podcast representation. Come on. Everybody. We’ll show up in the box with our little microphone, our pink microphones. That’ll be cute. That’ll be cute. That would cute.


De’Ara Balenger: Yes, It would.


DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Don’t go anywhere. More Pod Save the People is coming.


[ad break]


De’Ara Balenger: Okay. I’m going to jump into my news and it’s very fast and mostly because every Black person has already seen it. It’s about Walmart making their Juneteenth-flavored ice cream, which was also–okay, these, so I just I kind of saw the headline and I was like, Ugh, whatever, I’m not even going, I’m gonna leave it alone. But then, of course, I spiraled and started reading about it. First of all, the packaging is just ugly. Second of all, it’s cheesecake and red velvet, which I’m also offended by. And the thing I’m most offended by, I mean white people really need to have a meeting. They need to have a meeting. Walmart, okay, so on behalf of Walmart, this Balchen? Balchem Corporation—it’s a food and beverage company. They applied to trademark Juneteenth. White people, y’all can’t do that.


Myles Johnson: Oh, my goodness. No need to barbecue because hell is a hot place.


De’Ara Balenger: First of all, we got national holiday last year! We just got it! And y’all want to trademark it? Marcus Garvey is rolling his grave. I cannot even–


Myles Johnson: No, he’s not. He’s saying, I told y’all, I’ll told y’all to get on that boat.


De’Ara Balenger: I told you all to get on that boat and buy them bonds. I told y’all.


DeRay Mckesson: Did you see the napkins? This is not about Walmart, but the other Juneteenth stuff that came out the same day. The napkins say, “It’s the freedom for me.”


Myles Johnson: Child.


De’Ara Balenger: [laughs]


Myles Johnson: Let me stop saying ‘Child’ before I start seeing Solo cups with ‘Child’ on it.


De’Ara Balenger: I just feel like, here’s the other thing white people, Black people have been celebrating this, celebrating, memorializing, acknowledging whatever you want to call it, have been doing it for many, many, many, many years. We don’t need y’all’s party favors. That’s what we don’t need. We don’t need it. We don’t need it.


DeRay Mckesson: I don’t know why, “It’s the freedom for me” just took the cake.


Myles Johnson: No.


DeRay Mckesson: It’s the freedom for me? And, you know they thought they were doing–


De’Ara Balenger: Who has freedom though?! Where we have freedom? People, who has freedom? Nobody.


Myles Johnson: And it was just the, speaking of Laverne, right, and speaking of Laverne and the Barbie, the other thing, I have to think about things like this–these are not super unrelated. And I think, so it’s one of those things where it’s a very tight rope of where it becomes beautiful and representative and when it becomes a white capitalist like nightmare, and you’re like, I cannot believe it. And I was talking to my friend. I was like, You know what, I think there’s so many holidays, specifically political holidays with white people have been about smudging and softening what’s going on. And you’re like, Well, we’re going to George Washington Day and we’re going to do, make it a sale about couches and barbecues or whatever it is, and we’re going to forget that, you know, like tell him to smile and ask him who’s teeth it was and you’ll be really disturbed about how, like who this person really was. And I think that this holiday, Juneteenth as a national holiday, we don’t need the softening. There’s nothing to be ashamed of about this history, about this holiday, on our part. You know, there’s nothing, so we don’t need that. So what we need is Walmart to say, Hey, in a very serious way, leave the red, black, green, all that alone, and we need it for you all to say, In honor of this holiday, we are giving this amount of money to whoever, we’re putting this amount of money into Black small businesses or whatever. Now, would that still be a vanity moment because Walmart is a richer then several people’s guides? Absolutely. But but still, it’s like a white capital, white supremacist capitalism doesn’t even know how to handle the vanity of Juneteenth. They don’t even know how to handle this. So they’re doing what you would normally do to soften and to hide and to sugar coat. And they, and honestly, they do the same thing with religious holidays, too. That’s why we have a Easter bunny and Santa Claus, and we have all these things kind of hiding what it really means in order to market. You don’t need to do that with Juneteenth because there’s nothing to be ashamed of. There’s no stolen teeth in the mouths of Juneteenth, so you could just say what it is and honor it without turning it into, turning into slogans and stuff.


De’Ara Balenger: I’m just through. I’m just too through. I’m just through. I just, there’s no limit. And also because I think partly it’s just like, just leave us alone. Just leave us alone.


Myles Johnson: So I have a question.


De’Ara Balenger: Just leave us alone.


Myles Johnson: I have a controversial question. Okay. Cause I’m very big. You know, I love Black people, and I’m very, I have a big critique on–and also not even I have a big critique–I’ve observed big critiques on what people will call Black neo liberal folks, and then even like, people who are like, I would still call it neo-liberalism, but I feel like they’re not like inherently political, but people who are like, Be entrepreneur, or they’re like, they’re selling shirts with these slogans on them and like, “I’m my ancestors wildest dreams” or really like “Don’t try to be like I’m an ancestor” so I kind of feel like there’s been a set of Black people who are participating in creating a capitalist space that is devoid of any type of like actual culture and any type of history but it’s created, like a capitalist space that’s just really esthetic, that’s really just like empty, shallow words in order to get money. And then I’m wondering, do you think that there’s a sect of Black people who have been a part of this tango of commercializing and capitalizing off of, like, Black esthetic in history? And now part of us, I not saying, like part of a Black community is mad because of who did it, not because it was done, you know? Like, oh, my goodness, like, if–I mean child, I ain’t got no hair, so I’m not ashamed to say–but Shea Moisture did it, we would like, not be as upset, but we’re mad about who did it, not that it was done. Because there’s something to me wrong about Juneteenth being on a napkin in general, you know what I mean?


De’Ara Balenger: No, I think you’re right. And I think there are some times when Black folks get it wrong, too. But I think it’s also like the difference between, you know, Black folks who have businesses that are trying to be exploitative, that are really trying to exploit pain, because I don’t think that, you know, that is singular to anyone. I think for me, where I draw the line is, and I think it’s culture, right? Like I remember, I mean any concert, whether it’s Janet Jackson, New Edition, when I went to the Tupac exhibit, our people were out there selling t-shirts. But they was cute. They was cute. They’re always cute. They’re always cute. I mean, all the “Rest in peace” gear that we get for, you know, when you go to, when you go to a homegoing service. Is cute.


Myles Johnson: Yeah, no, it definitely is cute. No, it definitely is quite. I’m just thinking through because I do think that–


De’Ara Balenger: No. I think you’re, I think you’re right.


Myles Johnson: –specifically post 1970s, I think there’s a lot of Black people who, I think Black culture changes up depending on what class you are. There’s some things are just global or universal, specifically Black America, about being Black in America. But I think sometimes I’ll see like some upper middle class Black folks start businesses where I’m like, That’s not really your culture, that’s not really where you came from. It’s like we’re living in a, we’re living in this really weird dystopian, post-Trayvon Martin world where it is profitable to make a certain type of product or to estheticize your business in a certain way, and you’re participating in it in the same way, and you can get away with it because nobody’s going to critique you because of the color of your skin, but anybody who looks a little bit beyond the color of your skin can you know–I know, I can. I’m like, no, my aunt who the AKA who, that’s a different Black person than somebody like, you know what I mean? I know the nuances, but the other people don’t. And I’m and I’m just wondering if in a little bit of a way if our chickens didn’t come home to roost with this one, where I’m like, Maybe if we put the T-shirts down. Maybe everybody didn’t need to make that, you know?


DeRay Mckesson: “Maybe if we put the T-shirts down,” I do think this, this reminds me that it’s like that the approach is as important as the action, you know what I mean? That like sometimes people, you know, I think about not to do too much culture stuff around T.I., but T.I.,’s son yelled at the person that Waffle House. Did you see this on the Internet? King, I think his name is King. He like flipped out on, like one of the people at Waffle House. And his, and like, I don’t know what the Waffle House people did, but his response was, I have enough money in my pocket to like buy you, to buy this place, da, da, da, da. Right? And that becomes, and then T.I. responds later being like, you know, I just don’t know why. King thought it was important to go back and forth with people who work in, like, fast food, right? Like that was actually T.I. And is, and he is, people are [unclear] about it on the Internet, but if a white person said that, it would be like a whole moment. But actually that’s like a classist and wrong, that’s just like a, T.I. like you shouldn’t, you like, let’s be clear that the people who are working at Waffle House are the people who made you famous. Like, you don’t exist without any of these people who you are like discarding so readily. Like, you did not just emerge as somebody who like, your whole thing is the trap, da, da, da. Like, it was the poorest people who even created a moment for you to exist in. Did you know what I mean?


Myles Johnson: Yeah.


DeRay Mckesson: And I think you’re right, Myles, about the, like it’s suddenly like the critique becomes absent in moments like that, where, like, nobody’s reminding T.I. that, like, you don’t exist without these people who you’ve so readily thrown away.


Myles Johnson: Yeah, I think that emptying of Pan-Afri–is almost like it’s like commercial Pan-African, like, washing that we’ll do the stuff that stops us from saying certain things that are still patriarchal, certain things are still classist, certain things are still homophobic, transphobic, but it’s like, no, “we all Black” and, Look at these fists and look at this, and look at this color scheme. Like I’m like, No, that’s not, can’t quantify everything.


De’Ara Balenger: You mean like when Jussie Smollett put his fist up in the courtroom?


Myles Johnson: Child! I said, if you don’t put this waffle-colored fist down . . . I said, Put that down, put that waffled-color fist down! No, that’s not us. That is not us.


De’Ara Balenger: That’s a good example, right?


Myles Johnson: Moments like that that are truly complicated, I think that Black people sometimes have a hard time really wrestling with those moments because they’re true, they’re truly complicated, and you can’t just you know, I’m going to–I’m trademarking this–but you can’t just quantify everything and then be like, Well, we all Black and we all need together and now whatever. No, that’s not, where it’s so complicated and we’re so varied, and we have different experiences. And Black people have a class problem, Black people have a patriarchy problem. Black people have an imperialist problem, imperialism problem.


De’Ara Balenger: That’s right.


Myles Johnson: We have all these things too, so we can’t stop it at at race, you know? We’re doing ourselves a disservice, and I think that is a function of whiteness to make us stop ourselves at race because that’s a form of dehumanization, when we can’t deal with, we can’t deal with all the various ways that our collective shadow selves arrive. Like, that’s, horrible too. Child. But I am thinking maybe I should make a little Solo cup that say’s “Child.”


DeRay Mckesson: [unclear]


Myles Johnson: So my news is Isaiah Rashad. So Isaiah Rashad sat down with respected interviewer, Joe–


De’Ara Balenger: You better please stop. Please, please.


Myles Johnson: I had a punch line. I had a punch line. I had a punch line. No. So Isaiah Rashad sat down with Joe Budden–and shout out to mood music, I love. I do love those mixtape series. I don’t necessarily understand how some of our more sensitive topics land in the hands of some of our most insensitive personalities. I’m like, I tweeted, I was like, you know what? I wish people would either go to Oprah or go to Ziwe. Like, I hate this like Charlamagne, Joe Budden in between that we do.


De’Ara Balenger: Will say that Mike Tyson is good.


Myles Johnson: Oh, Mike Tyson, I love Mike, yes, Mike Tyson will go there with you. I remember I saw Mike Tyson interview Lil Boosie and I was like, Yo, Mike Tyson’s a really good interviewer. And I think in order to do a, be a really good interviewer, what I’ve noticed is that you have to do self-reflection and you have to ask questions of yourself, and you have to ask hard questions of yourself and ask deep questions of yourself, because you can only interrogate another as far as you’re willing to interrogate yourself, like your mind won’t even produce the questions. And I would notice that like with Charlemagne’s and Joe Budden’s there is a lack of depth or a very middle school locker room, ho ho ho, and I’m like, Wow, this is Isaiah Rashad–so the news is Isaiah Rashad who is TDE rapper, who is, he’s on the same label as Kendrick Lamar, and he has some sex tapes leaked that showed him with, having sexual relations with men. The controversy for me is I had to find out through the grapevine that they all white man, and I’m like, We lost another one. But like, he was definitely, you know, those tapes came up. And then he had a interview with Joe Budden where he really talked about his sexuality, talked about the experiences with that, talked really candidly about him having suicidal ideation and having a suicide attempt because of that. He’s always been very transparent in his music about his own bouts with depression and with and with darkness and growing maturely. I’m like a big fan of, I’m a moderate fan of Isaiah Rashad, I really enjoy his music. But sometimes I’m like, Child, I got to, I got to get a little bit happier. But I’ve always loved that he kind of made a space in this, like, post-Jay-Z 444. I feel like Jay-Z really like broke that open, but like kind of made the space for like this, like this deeply self-reflective rapper who was necessarily a part of this [unclear] or conscious Def Poetry Jam lane but was still be able to have, be self-reflective. And I see him as like a pilot of that world. And yeah, he talked about it, and he talked about being sexually fluid and he talked about still looking for a language to talk about what he’s attracted to, and saying that, you know, he’s more attracted to a personality or it’s more instinctual, and it has nothing to do with genitals or a specific gender expression, it has to do with who that person is. And I thought, wow, that’s a beautiful thing to see, because as a hip hop fan, I’m a Ghostface Killah, Wu-Tang, Q-Tip, but sometimes Nas, Biggie fan, and just growing up loving that version of hip hop that I grew up with, it just never was in my realm of dreams that somebody like Isaiah Rashid would be having that conversation. And then that was the beauty of seeing him have a conversation with Joe Budden, because I do love new music. I do think that Joe Budden is one of the better lyricists and better rappers that the culture has produced. And I think that’s how come so many rappers respect him. So I was like, Yo, these two people having this conversation is really, really deeply powerful and I never thought I would be able to see it. Just like when I see like–I actually might be making this up, saw Saucy Santana somewhere, but I actually don’t think it was on [unclear]–but when I see Saucy Santana in certain spaces that he would, that he would be and I was like, Wow, I never thought that I would be able to see somebody who is moving in the world like Saucy Santana, and see them be celebrated in these places that were hip hop focused, because hip hop focus has always been synonymous with transphobic and homophobic and it just brought joy to my heart to see it, and I hope that this lets more people live in their truth. And I hope that–but I do hope, the other half of my news, what I want you all to kind of discuss, too, is like what’s going on with him? Like, where is that, like, why is the quality of interviewers so bad? Because the interview was like, literally like Isaiah Rashad was carrying the interview. There were certain times where Isaiah Rashad was offering thoughts and perspectives that I was like, Y’all, this is juice, like, if somebody is sharing this with you, this is an opening to go deep. And then just Joe Budden, he just gives these great thoughts, and you can tell that he’s ready to go to a certain place that is expansive and great for conversation, and then Joe Budden will be like, So were you drinking while you were having sex? Is that what happened? I’m like, How did we go here!? Like, what is going on? And I just do think that rappers deserve better. There shouldn’t be this, like, big dichotomy between either you’re doing David Letterman or you’re doing, you know, somebody who doesn’t care. I think it should be like a little in between. I hope there’s more people who love hip hop culture, who love Black culture, who understand the culture, but then also who love conversation, love having conversations that can expand the listeners consciousness. Because that sucked. I was like, Yo, that, that was a landmark interview and it sucked.


De’Ara Balenger: I think you’re on to something because I feel like it’s not just hip hop, it’s across the board. And Myles, this actually goes back to the previous conversation we were having around just like a space for Black folks to talk about their own shit, and I feel like we don’t have that many kind of expansive places to do that, right? Like when you talk about outlets or talk shows, I mean, we have like Oprah kind of you–have to be like so famous–or Trevor Noah, which is still like not really or, you know, like there’s when you start to talk about TV opportunities, but then also just like print or digital. Like we’re starting, you know, we’re starting to see more editors of color, more writers of color, more reporters of color, but we’re still, you know, kind of a super minority there as well. So it’s kind of, it’s like the um, the poem you gave us, Myles.


Myles Johnson: Oh, Nikki. Nikki. Nikki Rosa. Nikki Rosa.


De’Ara Balenger: Yeah. Nikki Rosa, where she’s like, I don’t tell a white person my story anyway because they’re not going to get it. But conversely, we don’t have a lot of, you know, we still have work to do for to finding space for Black people to have these conversations. I mean, I guess, like, at this point, we’re just like leaving tough conversations to like the Essence Festival and like, any time, you know–


Myles Johnson: Yeah, but you can’t, you can’t [unclear] main stage certain conversations. You know, you can’t mainstage certain conversations. Certain conversations, that we have that barbershop thing that I see a lot of people doing, but it’s like the barbershop is a great place where Black men feel free to talk freely and give their opinions, but it’s also often vacant of critical thought. So we need somebody who’s really interested in saying, look, I want to leave the person who’s listening to this conversation more challenged and maybe even seen things differently or more expansively than when I found them. And I think that that’s not, and I do think that’s something that, as opposite as they are, Oprah and Ziwe both seem to have to want to do. One’s doing it through humor and being opinionated and discomfort. The other one is like, you know, we don’t have somebody who, I need somebody who’s going to look at Kanye and be like, where you silence? Like, you know what i mean? Like, where are you silent or where you silenced? I need someone who’s going to ask Kanye that about the Kardashians. We need to know.


DeRay Mckesson: I do think, too, you know, I think that one of the things that the Internet has done is that people no longer understand that this is work. You know, like Oprah worked for that craft. Oprah didn’t just, like, wake up one day and, like, suddenly could ask questions. I mean, she obviously has, like, an innate gift and like a groundedness to her, but she had a lot of practice, a lot of feedback, a lot. I mean, the Oprah show is four days a week for 20 years. I mean, that’s a lot. That is a lot. And I think that because podcasts are so easy and da da, I think that people just wake up being like, I can do. And you’re like, No, no, no, no. Ziwe, you know, Ziwe comes out of nowhere, right? She’s like, on Twitter, da da da. Ziwe is prepared. She, like, is quick-witted. She has, like the perfect distillation of the question that just like gets there very quick, you know? Like that is a skill. And I do think that one of the things that the Internet has confused people to believe is like just ‘cause you’re famous or you did this one good thing really well, like you have the skill to carry. And you’re like, no, that’s actually like a skill. So that’s like one thing I’d say. The second thing I’d say is like, and Myles, you sort of hinted on this, but it’s like, and De’Ara, you touched on it in a different way is that you actually have to be a little curious to be able to do that well. And some of these interviews, just aren’t curious. Like that’s what makes Mike Tyson so interesting is that Mike is like legitimately curious. You know, he’ll like, ask the question. Even Drink Champs. Like Drink Champs is long. And you’re like, phew. These hour-long YouTube, and I’m like, Y’all. Just like Budden, these are like long. I’m like, this is really long. I’ll be interested to see if Wendy Williams gets the $100 million podcast deal. But even Wendy was like, I mean, too curious, sometimes just nosy. You’re like, Okay Wendy, this is a lot. But like, you know, you don’t know if the curiosity is grounded in anything real. And I do worry about that. It’ll be interesting to see who replaces James Corden for the host of, whatever that show, like The Late Late Show. I feel they all have like the same name, some sort of the same name, so I’ll be interested to see what happens, what happens there.


Myles Johnson: Yeah. And not to overly stan Ziwe, but just like Ophra’s–it’s so funny that I’m like literally like saying Oprah and Ziwe. I feel like they’re like, literally the opposites, like the sun in the moon. But Ziwe, was she intern at The Colbert Report, a lot of people don’t know even before, like the Instagram stuff like was really like getting hot, and she was doing stuff with like Instagram, those lives were happening, she had a YouTube channel. So this is like she put in her whatever X amount of hours that people say you need. She really did those things. So I think that is also what you’re seeing, too. And I think that sometimes it takes a lot of hours to be an overnight success and you kind of can see that with Ziwe too. And I feel like most people are like Charlemagne did i or this person did it and let me put, you know, I can do it too, and I can order from Amazon my podcast equipment and that’ll be it. I’m like, No, let’s handle these stories with care, child.


DeRay Mckesson: My news is about dental care in prison. So we’ve talked about before in the podcast that dental care is not included in health care. So if you have health insurance, you normally have to get dental care as a separate add-on because it’s not included. But I didn’t know, and in the Marshall Plan covered it, the reporting is called “I Have No Teeth: Michigan Prisoners Say Long Wait to See Dentists is Inhumane.” And what they talk about is like so shocking to me that they describe stories that say that when people get their teeth pulled or, you know, one, one story they got all their teeth for essentially and what the prison did is just gave them soft food and mushy food instead of helping them to get dentures. In Michigan, one of the policies is that they have, they’re like a two-year wait before they can get dental care. There are other people saying that they’ve had their teeth pulled when they could have been fixed by the doctors. And it really just blew my mind. What the article also talks about that I didn’t know is that Florida prisons won’t do crowns and bridges. Texas won’t do dentures for a lot of people, and they’ll just give people pureed food. In the federal system, people can’t get dentures unless they’re sentenced to three years. In Nebraska, the state used to have a policy banning new prisoners from routine dental care. And you’re like, the punishment is being separated from society. It’s the least we can do is to make sure that if your tooth cracks or whatever happens, that you actually get dental care and, you know, for the the cost that we’re already paying to incarcerate people, the money’s already there. I think about, we’re doing a whole campaign on Rikers, Rikers spends half a million dollars, $555,000 per person a year. You can get, I mean, we’re already paying for all types of things. You can give them dental care. And, you know, people are suing in Michigan, thank God. But in Michigan at the time that they covered this, there was an 8,000-person dental waiting list. And, you know, it’s why people talk about prisons and jails as the largest mental health facilities in the country, but you also think about what it means for health care. And, you know, it’s like, you know, people who don’t have access, incarcerated, are likely not going to have it when they get out. We want everybody to be healthy. This is a reminder that everybody deserves health care and no matter where they are in the system. But I literally just hadn’t I hadn’t known this, I hadn’t thought about it and it really blew her mind.


Myles Johnson: Yeah. That, you know, of course that it was super interesting. And it’s another like symptom of the cruelty of the prison system. And my mind just goes straight to how certain health, and specifically teeth and stuff like that, how that creates outliers too. I felt like I actually took like a couple of years ago, me and you talked about that, I feel like there was a woman who like literally made a book on like teeth and teeth and class and stuff like that. So I think about how if you’re if you are somebody who goes back into society and now you have this, you know, now you have like a teeth problem or whatever it is, and how that can then further dictate where you are and what you’re able to do. I just think about the result of like once you do establish freedom. And I just think the other thing that you said that really resonate with me and it’s like very simple how you said it, but, but you just said like the, the punishment is being separating from society, like period. Everything else is an act of cruelty, you know? And I think that even some people, and certain prison abolitionists are even saying that, you know, being separated from society in certain ways is an act of cruelty, but just where it is right now, like being separated from society, is the punishment. You know? And I think that anything else is really making sure that people stay intertwined in the system, you know? So, yeah, my mind went straight to class and how people look at people with crooked teeth or no teeth, or these different things and how that can dictate your class mobility, your what you’re able to establish when you’re out, and how it’s kind of making sure that people stay in a certain cycle.


De’Ara Balenger: So I found an article that’s on which, you know, just the Institute of Health, that’s part of the United States government that is supposed to give instruction and direction to, I don’t know, other agencies within states, like, whoever’s listening in Michigan. And in this article it talks about the two-way association between oral and mental health. In one direction, the prospect of dental treatment can lead to anxiety and phobia. In the other, mini psychiatric disorders such as severe mental illness, affective disorders, and eating disorders are associated with dental disease. Left untreated, dental diseases can lead to teeth loss, such that people with severe mental illness have 2.7 times the likelihood of losing all their teeth compared to the general population. You know, then it just goes on and on, yada, yada, yada with, I don’t know, science and facts, etc.. So I guess what is hard for me to sort of distill is this is actually science, right? It’s just, it is just plain old science. And if the state or the government is actually responsible for human beings that it makes sense they would put some science to work in the care of these human beings. Right? So I just, I think, yes to the conversation around these folks are being treated inhumanely, this is, you know, this is cruel and usual punishment. Like, I think, yes, like all of that is so clear and obvious. But what’s even more obvious to me is the connection between mental health and dental care. Which has been I don’t know, there’s like a bajillion-page article in NIH that you could, everyone can look to, including the Department of Corrections in Michigan. So I just for me, that’s the part that I don’t get, is just these very factual medical associations, that if people are in the business of caring for people–because honestly, that’s what a corrections department is in the business of doing, right? Particularly corrections departments in the United States of America, where we have nearly 3 million people incarcerated. If that’s what you all want to do, and that’s where you want to put people, I don’t know, read something, somewhere, do something. It’s obvious. And anybody that’s had a toothache, anybody that’s had the simplest toothache, it is completely debilitating. You can’t sleep. You can’t eat. Come on!


Myles Johnson: I was about to say, you definitely can connect mental health–


De’Ara Balenger: I’m just like, it’s so, they’re just lazy. Just lazy. You’re lazy at your jobs! Lazy! Any-who, thanks for bringing that to the pod DeRay.


DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Don’t go anywhere. More Pod Save the People is coming.


[ad break]



DeRay Mckesson, narrating: This week, we welcome award-winning journalists Marc Lamont Hill and Todd Brewster to chat about their book, “Seen and Unseen: Technology, Social Media, and the Fight for Racial Justice.” Now, social media is affected a lot of people. It really changed my life when I think about the protests. It changed our lives when we think about how we’re able to organize and get together and tell stories. And in this book, they sort of talk about the arc. I learned a lot, you know? You know, I always get worried sometimes when I read some of these movement books because I’m like, Okay, I’ve already been there. But this book, I actually learned something. So hope you will too. Here we go.


DeRay Mckesson: Mark and Todd, thank you so much for joining us today on Pod Save the People.


Marc Lamont Hill: It is a pleasure, man. Good to talk to you.


Todd Brewster: Absolutely a pleasure.


DeRay Mckesson: Now what, so Mark, you know, you’ve been a friend of the pod for a long time. I’ve known you since the protests began. But how did the two of you get connected? What’s your story? How did you start to work together?


Marc Lamont Hill: We became friends in 2014, 2015, after the Ferguson uprisings. I was working on my book, “Nobody.” We had the same agent and my agent suggested that Todd would be a great person to write the foreword to Nobody. But we went beyond that. We just started to talk. And he’s such an excellent writer, an excellent thinker, that we exchanged lots of ideas. And at some point we said, we’re going to write a book together, especially after I saw that brilliant forward he wrote for Nobody. And then Mike Brown’s killing turned into Freddie Gray’s killing, turned into Ahmaud Arbery’s killing, turned into George Floyd’s killing, and we both kind of sat down via phone during the pandemic and said, We got to tell the story of why and how this is happening. And it seemed like the right time to think through with somebody with a sense of history, how George Floyd was not really killed and how Breonna Taylor was killed, but how we were able to fight for justice and what led to it.


Todd Brewster: Well, first of all, it’s been one of the nicer things of the past five, seven years of my life to be connected to Marc, who I truly enjoy, and we have very good conversations about important things, I’d say. And we did, when we were going through the process with Nobody, and I would say even more so now. I mean, you know, 2020 was a very disturbing year of multiple, multiple ways. And it was a great comfort to me that we could, Marc and I could talk together and kind of hash out some understanding of what was happening before our eyes. And eyes would be a good choice of phrase here, because what we found was that the nature of our constantly changing technology, including the cell phone, the cell phone camera, the social media, and all the multiple generations of technological changes that those pieces, those tools have have forced upon us, has changed the conversation around one of the most important subjects in American history, which is, of course, race. And it’s empowered people. It’s also empowered some of the wrong people. It has, allowed us to see the lives of some people who have been unseen for a very long time. That’s, of course, implicit in our title. And we thought that it was important that we understand more about both the events that have been happening over the past few years and their relationship to a very troubling history in America that has played out in our, through our media, through photographs, still photographs, through film, through movies, through photojournalism, through the cable television, the Internet, the cell phone camera, social media, and all of this that have actually been the stage upon which we see these stories playing out.


DeRay Mckesson: Boom. So let’s talk about, let’s talk about the book. You know, the book, you take us through so much. So George Floyd, you talk about Rittenhouse, you talk about Trayvon in some ways, Mike Brown–can you, what’s the through line here? What does this add to the conversation about race and justice of policing? And I say that because in 2014, the world was waking up writ large to these issues, and then it was 2020 and that was sort of like a watershed moment where I feel like this conversation was no longer a niche. And now 2022, how are you hoping that the book helps to round out or add to or push people? Like what is, what’s the thrust on this one?


Marc Lamont Hill: You know, I think one of the things for me is figuring out the why of this all and not just the how. You know, I’ve written before in the last couple of books about state violence and about policing. You know, I’m an abolitionist and I’ve written about some of my abolitionist vision. You’ve written extensively about this kind of stuff and you’ve spoken extensively about this stuff. So there’s there’s a lot of energy around that. But I think part of what Todd and I wanted to do–and we talk about this in the first chapter of the book–is The Why. Why now? You know, you could not have told me, DeRay, when we were in Ferguson that Mike Brown wasn’t the watershed moment of our generation. And you couldn’t have told me honestly after Trayvon was killed that that might not have been the watershed moment. But then each time there was something different. And when George Floyd is killed and suddenly there’s international protests, suddenly people are talking about defunding and no-knock warrant laws, anti no-knock warrant laws and such, the question was why now? And one of the things that we discovered was the role of media and technology. And I think that the role of media technology is one that we haven’t given enough consideration to. There are plenty of people on the street who will tell you, Oh yeah, Black people been getting shot all the time, but, you know, it’s only now is getting videotape. That’s a fact. But what we haven’t unpacked is the nuances of what makes the George Floyd resonate with people or what makes Jackson or Kent State resonate with people. And so we wanted to unpack that story. And it’s not just about video. We talk about campaigns. We talk about what it took to get Kyle Rittenhouse, you know, or for that matter, George Zimmerman, arrested. What it takes to give Breonna Taylor’s family some sense of justice or accountability from the state. It takes a lot of stuff and media and technology plays a big part in that. But the other thing that we wanted to tell is the story of how oppressed people throughout history have always done that. This isn’t new to cell phone, it isn’t the first time that we use technology and media for justice, and neither is the video camera. Rodney King wasn’t the first. We can go our way back to Frederick Douglass and see that. And so we think that by adding this piece of the story, we not just, we don’t just give people a fuller sense of history, but we also empower them with the tools necessary to make future actions, to do future organizing, to tell different stories with the technologies and platforms that may come that we don’t even know about yet.


Todd Brewster: You know, DeRay, every new technology when it’s introduced has a sort of shock period for the first few years, and then we begin to get an understanding of the vocabulary and how, it’s usually how it plays out in practice in a sense. It’s how we how these new media tools are received, how they’re used, that we begin to develop a kind of vocabulary and syntax that we need to understand, and I think that’s happening now with the cell phone cameras, it’s happening with social media. It happened with the photograph, still photographs, as Marc was alluding to, with Frederick Douglass, who was the most photographed man in the 19th century–more than Lincoln. It happened with the photojournalism. You know, it happened with the introduction of a video. What happened then, again now with the notion of cell phone video, with that notion of the democratization of our technology tools. And so it’s important for us to know two things, it seems to me. One is, how to receive these videos, how to understand the social media, how to get a sense of our vocabulary. The other thing is to recognize, because Americans are kind of an a-historical people, we always are looking forward, right, and we need to understand the historical antecedents to these stories that have happened over the past few years. They don’t happen in a vacuum. The visual vocabulary that we employ to tell stories comes out of our history. And you can see in what’s happening in the past few years the legacy of Ida B. Well, you can see the legacy of Douglass, you can see the legacy, the dark legacy of D.W. Griffith and The Birth of a Nation. These things are all part of the conversation. The Civil War is being rethought, and it has been rethought numerous times since the actual battles happened in the middle of the 19th century. We need to understand that as a people, understand that whether the subliminal messages as well as the overt messages, and then that’s of course, again plays into our title, “Seen and Unseen.”


DeRay Mckesson: I will say one of the things that you uncovered that–you know, I’ve read almost all these books and I’m like, Okay, we got new movement stuff coming out–is that you talk about Ida B. Wells well so much. Can you help us understand like why does Ida B. Wells, like why is that, why is she’s so present in the book?


Marc Lamont Hill: I think she’s present in the book for a few reasons. Well Todd and I are both also journalists and there’s no way to talk about modern journalism without talking about Ida B. Wells Barnett, and I think there’s a way that Black women are often erased from the histories of disciplines and fields and institutions. I’m an anthropologist, and it’s possible for people to get a Ph.D. in anthropology and not talk about Zora Neale Hurston, one of the most important anthropologists of the 20th century. And so similarly, I don’t want people to ever–and Todd teaches journalism classes as do I–I don’t want people to ever not say Ida B. Wells’ name when we talk about journalism. I think “say her name” can’t just be when women die. It has to be in every area of our lives. But there’s also a way that Ida B. Wells Barnett is also a kind of steward of a tradition of truth-telling and expos–and creating a kind of moral outrage that leads to public response to state violence and state-sponsored violence. When you have Black people being lynched, and those photographs are, of the lynchings are being placed on postcards–people are celebrating. This is an American pastime. People taking body parts as souvenirs. Those images are being used to haunt and terrorize Black people. But those same images in the hands of white Ida B. Wells Barnett become part of a moral mission to expose the ugly underside of American democracy, those people that Malcolm X referred to as “the victims of American democracy.” And her efforts, her journalism, her storytelling, her advocacy, her courage helped to stop the American lynching project. And so for me, she’s central because she’s kind of a forerunner to the campaign, but she’s also a forerunner to using video and the spectacle of violence as a way to change the game. In the same way that Dr. King uses the spectacle of violence on the Pettus Bridge, or the spectacle of violence stirred the American hearts with Rodney King, even though we didn’t get the justice we wanted. Ida B. Wells gives us a kind of classic example as a forerunner of this tradition. So for me, she’s just shot all through this book, sometimes by name and sometimes just her spirit, because we want to we want to continue that tradition.


Todd Brewster: You know, we talk about a lot about also, DeRay, the the power of the video, but it’s, more of the power of the video is that is direct, right, you see actually what happened on the streets of Minneapolis two years ago. But there’s also a tremendous power and a necessary power to the curators of the video, to those who show us what we might not see. And this is what Ida B. Wells did. I mean, as Mark just referenced, the same photographs that were used to herald the spectacle of lynching were used by Ida B. Wells to show the horror, the barbarism and the shame of lynching. And so we need these people. You know, one of the lessons of the book is that we cannot say that in an age where we have direct access to information, direct access to video, that it tells the story completely. We need people to lead us through these videos. We need people to show us what they mean. We need people to do like what Marc and I did in this book, which is just to indicate the long historical tradition out of which some of these movements and stories and events happen. I mean, this is not the first time that there’s violence on Black people in American history, but some people need to be told that. And the fact that it created such an outcry is because we’ve seen, we found a new way to see it. And each generation has a new way of phrasing. It’s like singing the same song, but with different lyrics. And that’s what our new tools allow us to do. But it’s the same story.


DeRay Mckesson: You know, one of the things that I was, it almost was like, you all were psychic because you talk about the great replacement theory and all this stuff in the book that was you know, this book was done way before what happened in Buffalo. Can you talk about why you chose to include white replacement theory in the book and like, how would you explain that to people? It’s been more popular for people to talk about because of Buffalo and because the white supremacist shooting. And would love to also talk about, you talk about Black nationalist views on segregation earlier in the book, like much earlier like page 45, 46. So yes, I’d love to know about those too, but I’d like to start with like white replacement theory, why you chose to put it in? And you did it before it became a mainstream topic like it is today.


Marc Lamont Hill: It’s interesting to think about it as a mainstream topic today, because throughout American history, part of what has animated white nationalism in many forms of anti-Black violence has been a belief by white Americans, a kind of white supremacist myth–and there are many white supremacist myths. Right? The myth of the lost cause, we talk about in the book as well, the idea that the South was fighting a noble battle that was only lost because of superior northern weaponry but it was a battle over states’ rights and state liberty, it wasn’t about slavery and that they were the moral stewards of the nation and they just lost. I mean, this is this is the kind of stuff that animated and created a birth of a nation, you know? So these theories are persistent. White replacement theory is a theory that emerges more recently, but it’s just a remix of a set of white anxieties, white supremacist anxieties, about black folk that have always existed, right? Whether it was, initially these fears were about Eastern European Jews. They were about, at one point there, even about Irish folk, they were, they’d been about Italians at different moments. Anyone who was not racialized as white, was often seen as part of either a conspiracy or a plan or some unfortunate demographic reality that was going to displace white people. Even when we look at the beginning of the kind of Trump support, right, I’m talking about before Trump is in office, even before he runs for office, there are a bunch of people who are saying, “We’re losing our country, the Mexicans are taking our jobs. Part of what Trump is able to do is play into a particular type of white anxiety about demographic threats. And so I’d love to say that Todd and I are geniuses–Todd is, I’m not. But honestly, any clear reading of history will tell you that every few years, white people are going to bug out about the fear that they’re being replaced, exchange, marginalized, etc.. And it always leads to violence, always leads to bizarre public policy proposals. It’s quite a predictable, predictable thing, quite frankly.


Todd Brewster: The replacement theory, I think Marc is saying so eloquently, has been around us with different names, obviously. Right? I mean, and one of the ironies is that Black people have been on this land as long as white people have been, you know? I mean, it’s so the idea of replacing–I’m not sure who’s replacing who. I mean, it reminds me of the conversation between James Baldwin and Bobby Kennedy in 1963, when Bobby Kennedy asked Baldwin to put together a group of black cultural leaders to come talk to them about what’s happening in the nation. This is right around the time of the Birmingham church bombing and the unrest in Birmingham, where all those incredible photographs come from of the fire hosing–and one, by the way, of a policeman with his foot on a woman’s neck. But one of the things that that Bobby Kennedy says to James Baldwin is what, as is often phrased, What do black people want? What do the Negroes want? And he says, you know, I suffered like you did. I’m an Irish American and I had to wait a long time, but now we have an Irish-American in the White House. Maybe in 40 or 50 years there’ll be a Black man in the White House. And Baldwin says, Well, that’s interesting because I’ve, my people have been in this country longer than the Irish have been in this country and you’re asking me to wait.


DeRay Mckesson: Let them know. Let ’em know.


Todd Brewster: So, and you think about that, and you think about the replacement theory notion, which is at the heart of a lot of right-wing movements in Europe. I mean, when the when the neo-Nazis are marching in Charlottesville, they’re chanting “blood and soil” which is a direct translation of “Blut and Boden”, the German Nazi slogan that they claim for the conquering of the, in Hitler’s era. So you see, and for that matter of The Birth of a Nation–would could even talk about that–The Birth of a Nation is really the story about white people recognizing that Black people are the real problem and that they got in the way of our noble experiment here, and that they divided us, they made of us a polarized country–familiar phrase in these days, right–and that the day that the Black man arrived on these shores was the day that that we were divided as a people. And we need to come together again. We need to recognize, and as they portray in The Birth of a Nation, that Black people are lazy, stupid, corrupt, fraudulent, dirty, that they’re less than human. And this all on top of the failures of reconstruction by which to say, Ugh, Northerners, you made a mistake, you gave them power, we need to take it back, we’ve allowed them to replace us and we can’t let that happen.


DeRay Mckesson: I want to read, there’s a passage in a book that I loved and I wanted to read it and get you all to expand on a little bit. So on page 203, you say, “as Eric Ward of the Southern Poverty Law Center has written, ‘the success of the civil rights movement is beating back Jim Crow in the 1950s and 1960s embarrassed the white supremacist ideology in part because of the triumph of a black-led movement built by strong leadership and effective organizing, challenged the well-worn caricature of the docile, passive, ignorant Negro. Surely the inferior race could not have done this alone.”: Can you talk about why that? You know, when I was reading it, I was like, I don’t think I’ve ever heard somebody summarize sort of the push and attack on white supremacy in this way. And I wanted to talk to you all about it.


Todd Brewster: Yeah. I mean, I first of all, give credit to Eric Ward there. We were quoting him. The horror comes, you know, I mean, look this is not the first time that success in the Black community has been greeted with surprise, that and an affront to the ideology of white supremacy by showing that Black people could actually run businesses, Black people could build schools, Black people could have peaceful, responsive government. And the white supremacist response traditionally has been just to burn down those places. Black Wall Street, I mean, or Ida B. Wells herself, close friends of hers were successful business people in Memphis. After she publishes her, one of her many reports about the the injustices of lynching, she comes home and finds that those businesses have been burned to the ground. So this idea that there’s something that can be a negation of the white supremacist ideology. It’s like-I think we actually make this reference in here–it’s like there’s been the fouling of the blood, right, that that we can’t tolerate success because it negates our very principle that we stand on–black success, I mean, because it because it negates the very principle that we built our society on. And that’s kind of a chilling idea. So it’s not just that the nation is, that access to power, access to capital has been denied to Black people, it’s that there are people are rooting for Black people to fail. Rooting for them to fail. And it’s disturbing to them when they see Black people succeed.


DeRay Mckesson: Boom. Now, one of the obvious things that we didn’t talk about is that there is a whole part of the book that is about George Floyd’s life. And all of it was new to me. I didn’t know any of it. I’d see like mentions of some of the things in newspaper articles, but this is sort of like catalogs. And one thing that struck me was in some ways how how many parts of society had failed him over time. That like, you know, that by the time we meet George Floyd, it is a colossal failure, which is the police failing him, but there are so many other touchpoints in his life. Can you talk about it, can you just help us understand that better? And then was the intent to show the way that a system bore down on one person’s life, that then changed the world?


Marc Lamont Hill: Absolutely. I mean, there’s parts of George Floyd’s life that have been seen: the police violence, the knee on his neck, his desperate cries for his mother–we got to see it. The counterfeit bill, the scene in the store–we got to see it. But so much of what makes America operate in the way that it does in terms of injustice, inequality, and unfreedom, is the fact that there are so many things that are unseen. By the time we get to George Floyd and by the time we see that scene, George Floyd has already been failed by a school system, by a medical establishment that doesn’t allow him to recover from addiction, from a criminal justice system that doesn’t produce the kind of rehabilitative possibilities that it alleges to. He has not been given access to a labor market in a way that allows him to live with a living wage and thrive. And it’s not just him. And we can make the same case with Johnniqua Charles, the woman who was like, You about to lose your job. We see her as a spectacle who’s making a meme and a theme song for our jokes and our activism, but we don’t realize all the things that went into her life in terms of addiction, in terms of family structures, etc.. We don’t get to see that stuff. But it’s not just that we don’t get to see it in the sense that we don’t have access to people’s personal lives, it’s that we don’t get to see it in the sense that we don’t necessarily fully appreciate the way that systems and structures exact so much pressure on people, that by the time they, quote unquote, “fail” in public or fall short or make a mistake that they’ve already been harmed and compromised by them by these very same systems. And so our goal in the book was what to tell a full story. George Floyd’s story doesn’t begin and end with a knee on his neck. It just doesn’t. You know, Ahmaud Arbury’s story doesn’t begin and end with that that jog. You know, Breonna Taylor’s story doesn’t begin and end when the police kick in her door. The reason why we have to do this is because so much energy is put into prosecuting wars and campaigns against these people. So it’s not just that these are neutral, objective bodies that are that are killed by the state, it’s that after they’re killed by the state, you’ll have a Candace Owens tell us how awful George Floyd was. You’ll have somebody on Fox News tell us that Trayvon Martin had weed in his system. You’ll have somebody constantly try to convince us, either explicitly or implicitly, that these people were somehow worthy of the fate that met them because they weren’t good enough. And so, you know, our desire to tell their stories, one, for history sake. People need to remember these people as they actually were. And we say in the book, he’s not a hero, but he was a martyr. It’s because we want to humanize, but also because we want people to understand the interconnectedness of these relationships in these stories and these experiences and these systems.


Todd Brewster: Let’s remember that Floyd, as we say in the book, grew up in Houston’s 3rd Ward, a neglected neighborhood that once had been a grand neighborhood, but once the interstate came in and drove out, white flight, and then the basically the abandonment of those neighborhoods, because the interstates allowed them to get into and out of Houston without actually populating the neighborhood, without giving it any commerce, without introducing new investment. Then when George Floyd goes, lives in the Norris White Cuney Homes. Norris White Cuney was a reconstruction, a politician, a Black politician, who they don’t mention but was pushed out. And the Republican Party, as it became, it went through the lily white movement to try to attract the Democrats back into the party, Cuney was abandoned. Then he goes to Jack Yates High School, named for a preacher in Houston who had built Emancipation Park, around the same time that they were renaming the hospital down the road for a Confederate general. So you see that, you know, there are all these themes played out. He’s living in the Norris White Cuney homes. He goes to Jack Yates High School. He’s in a Houston neighborhood that’s been abandoned. He’s on public assistance. The idea that he arrives there in Minneapolis without all that past, without his prison record, without his time, you know, pleading with the church for comfort, that he arrives there and we now judge him according to some standard that determines whether anyone deserves to have the indignities that were thrust upon him–I mean, these are the themes that we’re tracking in the book. And it’s important to know the historical context, it’s important to know why George Floyd’s life was so desperate by the time he gets to Minneapolis.


DeRay Mckesson: So there are two questions we ask everybody and I’ll ask one now, is the first is wat do you say to people who are like, they did it all and the world hasn’t changed it, right? They called, they emailed, they testified, they read your book, they read my book, they read your other book, they went to your classes, and they’re like, the world is still as crappy as it was when they started. What do you say to those people, people whose hope is challenged in moments like this?


Marc Lamont Hill: Man, that’s the million dollar question. So I’ll say I’ll say a couple quick things. One. I remain a prisoner of hope. And I think hope, as you pointed out, is the thing–not optimism, but hope. Optimism is a belief that things are just going to work out. That’s not what we believe. Optimism ignores systems and structures and challenges. That’s not what we believe in. That’s optimism. Hope, hope is saying that the world is bad, but we fight way. I believe as a prisoner of hope, that at the moments where things seem their darkest, we can find possibilities and evidence that what we’re doing is working. The person who says, we organize, we teach, we learn, we study, we fight, we vote, and nothing happens, I would tell them to look differently. When Dr. King on April 3rd, 1968, gives his final speech, he says, Only when it is darkest can we see the stars. At these moments where it’s dark, that’s when we have to look for the star. George Floyd is executed, people say nothing changed, but people took to the streets and we saw police defunding. We took to the streets and we saw a transformative change in who constitutes city councils. People say, we marched in Ferguson and nothing came from it, but something did come from it. You can’t run for mayor and not say who your police commissioner is going to be in that be a serious issue. You can’t run for police commissioner and not have a conversation about body cameras and not have a conversation about no-knock warrants. We are pushing the conversation. People say abolition is a pipe dream, but right now it is common sense to say we should get rid of bail. It is common sense to say that private prisons don’t make sense. It is common sense to say that people like Kalief Browder and Sandra Bland should not have been in jail simply because they didn’t have enough money not to be in jail. These are moves that only are happening because of our advocacy. It’s only happening because we struggle. These laws are cosigned in ink, they’re written in blood, the blood of the martyrs we talk about in this book. And I know our hopes get dashed, I know we get disappointed all the time. You can’t be an activist, an organizer, and not get your heart broken all the time. But if we do not fight, if we do not struggle, if we do not battle, then we do not get the minimal gains, the small slices of joy, the victories that do save lives that we have gotten. And so for me, our faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen.


Todd Brewster: That’s very eloquent. And I’ll add what I can do it, which is that, you know, when the neo-Nazis are marching in Charlottesville, they come a day before their rally. And they march–they’ve come there really to try to to protest the city council’s decision to take down the Robert E Lee and Stonewall Jackson statues–but when they arrive there on that Friday night, they march impromptu out to the campus of the University of Virginia to visit the statue of Thomas Jefferson, a very complicated figure in American history. The author of “All men are created equal” who nonetheless kept slaves his entire life, fathered children with one of them. And when they get there, they find to the statue, they find there’s a group of students from the University of Virginia who have circled the statue and locked arms to protect it from the neo-Nazis. Jefferson’s complicated because there’s things that we can believe in and there’s things that neo-Nazis can believe in. And I say that that means that we’ve had this battle going for a long, long time, and it’s going to go for a long time from now, I believe in an act of liberty. I think that’s what the founders were describing to us, “an act of liberty” meaning that, in terms that we write about in this book–what are we, what do we say to those who, as you just DeRay gave us the question, what do you say to those who say, we did all that and it didn’t achieve the result? Do it again. Tell the truth. Tell the truth. You can’t tell the truth, and then sit back in your easy chair. You have to keep on telling the truth. I had a funny moment this morning. I was in a parking lot at a grocery store and this guy walked up to me I’ve not seen 10, 15 years or something like that. And he said, I saw your book. He said, Keep it up, keep on doing it, please, for all of us, keep on doing it.


DeRay Mckesson: And the last question is, what’s the piece of advice that you’ve gotten over the years that stuck with you?


Marc Lamont Hill: Todd?


Todd Brewster: Mmm. I thought you would do that. I’m going to say that the piece of advice that I think I hold very dear is, was actually more in the character of my father than it wasn’t anything he said. My father was a very genuine man. And I took from that the importance of being yourself, of finding the right way to show yourself to the world, to be, to be genuine. And as I’m saying this, I’m reminded of a story that is exemplary of that, and it relates back to that episode I told you earlier about Bobby Kennedy and James Baldwin. Because one of the people that James Baldwin invites to that meeting is Lorraine Hansberry. And Lorraine Hansberry, author of, playwright who authored A Raisin in the Sun, is not comfortable with Bobby Kennedy’s answers to the questions. It feels as though he does not see the suffering that they are describing, wants him to encourage the president to do a big symbolic gesture by walking schoolchildren, Black schoolchildren to school in Birmingham. And Bobby thinks that’s a silly gesture. And as she gets up to leave, there’s tension hanging in the room, and she says something that again, references that picture that I told you about earlier about the policeman with his foot on the neck of a woman in Birmingham during the rioting there. And she says, Thank you, Mr. Attorney General. And with all the dignity that she showed, she said something on the order, and I’m paraphrasing only slightly: I hope you understand that we’re going to disagree, but for me, it’s just that I can’t tolerate a civilization that tolerates that photograph of a Black woman with a white police officer’s foot on her neck. And Baldwin says that she smiled at Bobby Kennedy. And as Baldwin said, I was glad she wasn’t smiling at me. That expression of staying genuine while still being dignified and polite, and being yourself. Not backing down. That’s a message that I try to tell myself every day.


Marc Lamont Hill: Mine is, I was trying think of the many messages I’ve gotten from people, but I think about something Jesse Jackson said to me, and it was quite simple. We’ve been organizing somewhere and we’d actually gotten a victory. And he just said, When we fight, we win. He said, When we fight, we win. And that always stuck with me. He said, there’s never been a battle that Black people have fought for, that we didn’t win, eventually, but that there has never been a victory that we’ve gotten that we didn’t have to fight for. So that keeps, it sobers me in a way, right? Because it stops me from expecting magic to fall out of the sky. It stops me from thinking about progress as state largesse, you know? But it’s always going to be that our interests are going to converge with the states and then we get an advance, because they need to, because we fought. When we fight, we win. It tells me that victory is possible, but it also tells me it may not come in my lifetime. Some of the victories that we achieved last year, or ten years ago, are victories that our great grandmothers died for, but they fought so that we could win. So it allows me to have a certain kind of revolutionary patience as I think about things. When we fight, we win. It tells me that I have to do something ,that I can’t sit on the couch, that I can’t just pull a lever once a year–although I need to pull that lever once a year and vote or twice a year, or however many times a year. But that the fight takes place in multiple fronts, takes place in advocacy, it takes place in policy, it takes place in organizing, it takes place in teaching, it takes place in what we buy and what we refuse to buy. All of it is the fight. And I’m committed to fighting. And even when I feel at my lowest, I recommit to fighting because I know that when we fight, we win.


DeRay Mckesson: Boom. Awesome. We consider you friends of the pod, and can’t wait to have you back. Everybody get the book!


Marc Lamont Hill: Thank you!


Todd Brewster: Thank you.


DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Well, that’s it. Thanks so much for tuning into Pod Save the People this week. Tell your friends to check it out. Make sure to rate it wherever you get your podcasts, whether it’s Apple Podcasts or somewhere else. And we will see you next week. Pod Save the People is a production of Crooked Media. It’s produced by A.J. Moultrie and mixed by Veronica Simonetti, and executive produced by me. Special thanks to our weekly contributors Kaya Henderson, De’Ara Balenger, and Myles Johnson.