Undo the Foundation (with Chip Jones) | Crooked Media
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March 14, 2023
Pod Save The People
Undo the Foundation (with Chip Jones)

In This Episode

DeRay, De’Ara, Kaya, and Myles cover the underreported news of the week — including hyper-relaxed police hiring practices, a 2023 ruling based on a 19th century law governing the treatment of enslaved people, federal efforts to bypass local governance, and transphobia within the queer community. DeRay interviews award-winning author and reporter Chip Jones about his new book The Organ Thieves: The Shocking Story of the First Heart Transplant in the Segregated South.


DeRay How a Growing Political Fight Threatens Local Control of Criminal Justice

Kaya Memphis Police Academy Cut Corners While Scrambling to Hire, Officers Say

De’Ara Virginia Judge Uses 19th-Century Slavery Law to Rule Frozen Embryos are Property

Myles “Pronouns can be scary.” 





[AD BREAK] [music break]


DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Hey, this is DeRay and welcome to Pod Save the People. In this episode it’s me, De’Ara, Myles, and Kaya talking about the news that you don’t know from the past week. The underreported news with regard to race, justice, and equity. And then I sit down with Pulitzer nominated reporter Chip Jones to talk about his new book, The Organ Thieves: The Shocking Story of the First Heart Transplant in the Segregated South. Y’all, I learned about this initially online, reached out, read the book, talked to Chip. Wild wild wild. 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 at @DearaBalenger 


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


Kaya Henderson: I’m Kaya Henderson. You can find me on Twitter at @HendersonKaya. 


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


De’Ara Balenger: This is a special special edition of Pod Save the People because the Myles E. Johnson, it is your born day and we appreciate you, your magic, your love, your joy, and we just want to celebrate you today on what is probably, I don’t know, you’re like 27th birthday. [laughter] So–


Myles E. Johnson: Okay, okay. Okay.


Kaya Henderson: If it’s your birthday make some noise. 


Myles E. Johnson: Okay. 


Kaya Henderson: Make some noise. [laughter]


DeRay Mckesson: C’mon Kaya. If it’s your birthday [clap] make some noise, that’s like a Baltimore club mix. 


Myles E. Johnson: Okay. 


Kaya Henderson: Wait, wait, wait. 


Myles E. Johnson: Okay. 


Kaya Henderson: Let me represent. Let me represent for New York. Shine a light on it. Whoa. Shine a light on it. Whoa. 


Myles E. Johnson: I’m Harlem shaking. You can’t– 


Kaya Henderson: Make room, let it work.


Myles E. Johnson: –you can’t see it. 


Kaya Henderson: Make room– [laughter] 


DeRay Mckesson: I love it. If it’s your birthday make some noise.


Myles E. Johnson: I’m Harlem shaking if you all can’t see it. Thank you all so much. I’m 32 years old um and very wi–, and you didn’t have to say the goodness, we didn’t need that. [laugh] We didn’t. And I’m so grateful to be sharing my birthday with um my aunties and my uncle, no matter how forgetful some of them are. [laughter]


DeRay Mckesson: Rude. [laughter]


De’Ara Balenger: You know who that was for. [laugh] And we’re coming off of the Oscars, which were last night. I am let me just say, I am so tired this morning. One, because the Oscars was 6 hours long and I watched all of it and it was daylight savings so then we lost an hour. I don’t really know how it works. I just know that I woke up this morning very tired. So um big wins last night for Everything All At Once, which was amazing. Michelle Yeoh, first Asian woman to win an Oscar, which is this the more I watch the Oscars, I’m just like, why are we doing this? Why– 


Kaya Henderson: Say that. 


De’Ara Balenger: Like why are we why? Um. But it it it was it was interesting, the performances. I liked the I think it the Indian performance. What was it? I think Ra Ra? I probably should get that right before I’m just broadcasting it. Um. But that was amazing. And they won best song, which was fabulous. I don’t really have a lot. I mean, what were y’all’s highlights? I mean, you know, besides Everything All At Once, I was kind of just [pause]. 


DeRay Mckesson: I will say the idea that this is the second nonwhite woman ever to win that Oscar is wild. 


Myles E. Johnson: Atrocious. 


Kaya Henderson: Bananas. Bananas. 


DeRay Mckesson: I mean that’s nuts. And then um you know what a sweep for A24, the first studio to win all the major awards in one night. Shout out to A24. 


Myles E. Johnson: Yeah. 


Kaya Henderson: I didn’t watch it because I was on a plane, but I feel like uh I saw enough of the recap and, you know, shout out to Michael B. Jordan and Jonathan Majors for–


De’Ara Balenger: Gosh. 


Kaya Henderson: For– 


De’Ara Balenger: That was the highlight. That was the highlight of the whole Oscars. 


Kaya Henderson: Shouting out Auntie Angela and Rihanna and that d-r-e-s-s, baby mm. I loved it. I really did. You didn’t like it Myles? Oh, my gosh. 


Myles E. Johnson: No I, no I loved it. [laughter] No, I love no, I loved it no, I was I was in my head thinking about Angela Bassett. And that head nod was about her getting snubbed. Rihanna looked amazing, she actually sounded like, really amazing. Um. And then on top of that, like, yeah, it was just really beautiful. It was super long. Mind you, last night, I went to go see Patti LaBelle. It started. Went to go see Patti LaBelle, got drinks, came back, and it was still on. I was like, this is wildly, wildly, wildly long. Um. But yeah, I see everybody in in Internet mourning over Patti Le– oh excuse me, over Angela Bassett not winning. And, you know, we got we got to maybe it’s because I had an absentee father or something but I’m like, we got to get used to the disappointment we got to we got to bounce back. [laughing] We got to [laughing]–


DeRay Mckesson: Myles get out of here. 


Myles E. Johnson: We got to bounce back, y’all. We have to expect it. 


DeRay Mckesson: Can I just pause for one second to tell you a cool moment that just happened? I’m in the Amtrak lounge recording because I have to take a train. And this a Black woman walks by and she looks at me earlier, doesn’t say anything, but she just walks by literally right now. And she goes, I love your podcast. 


Myles E. Johnson: Aw! 


Kaya Henderson: Aw, [claps] yes yes. Sis yes.


DeRay Mckesson: When she comes back to her seat, I’m going to try and turn the cam– she doesn’t know that I’m just sitting here. She doesn’t know that we’re recording right now because the because she can’t see y’all. But she smiled and she was like, I love the podcast. 


Myles E. Johnson: Aw! [banter]


DeRay Mckesson: So I’m to um when she comes back, I’m going to I’m going to pull her. 


Myles E. Johnson: Oh, I love that. 


De’Ara Balenger: That’s amazing. And also so I don’t get cancelled by the Indian community. It is Naatu Naatu the film. And [laughter] what, no, the song is Naatu Naatu. The blockbuster’s RRR, Rise Roar Revolt. And it was fabulous. And I the one thing I will say and I did say this, I had like a tiny Oscars get together last night. What’s fascinating to me and this is why we need to come together as different communities, marginalized communities, seemingly, is that when Rihanna had her time on stage it and it was a Black Panther moment. It was blackitty black, black, black. Then when there was kind of a nod to Everything At Once, and I know David Byrnes is probably somehow tied to the song, but maybe he’s not like–


Kaya Henderson: You better say Everything Everywhere All At Once. 


De’Ara Balenger: All at once. What? I’m sorry. Auntie’s sorry, everybody. Um. It was it was, you know, Asian performers at the the one of the stars from what is it, Everything All At– 


Kaya Henderson: Everywhere. All At Once.


De’Ara Balenger: Where all that on– I’m never going to get it. It’s too long. 


DeRay Mckesson: De’Ara has it [?]. 


De’Ara Balenger: And I and I love A24 and they’re a client and I adore them. But that title’s too long for me y’all. I need it to be like two words less. Um.


Myles E. Johnson: Not you giving the suggestions after they won the Oscar. [laughter] I think they’re doing pretty okay. [laugh] You seem to be in the minority, they seem to be, most people seem be able to handle it. [laughter] You gonna tell them, it’s never gonna make it if y’all don’t shorten that name.


De’Ara Balenger: This [?] it’s I don’t know what’s going to happen. Um. But it was interesting because the Asian moment had white participation. The the Indian moment had white participation. 


Kaya Henderson: Oooh girl. Oooh.


De’Ara Balenger: And I know that the that was part of the film. It was explained to me while I was making my own commentary in my house that that was part of RRR. Like, that was the moment it was like because it talks about colonialism and all of that. But I think it is interesting, though. But I don’t know. I don’t know if y’all noticed that or if that’s just me being–


Kaya Henderson: Wait, wait. Finish the statement. 


De’Ara Balenger: Well no. 


Kaya Henderson: Are you basically saying there was not white participation when we had the Blackitty black moment? 


De’Ara Balenger: That’s what I’m saying. 


Kaya Henderson: They finished with us. It’s over. We wrecked it all last year huh. Can’t come back. [laughter]


Myles E. Johnson: They said no, health insurance in America is too flimsy for us to be on stage with y’all. [laughter] So we’re going to go ahead and and call this one out. I wonder and honestly I don’t know. I’m a Black American just so this I could be totally 100% wrong on this. I wonder how much that matters to other races, um like it matters to Black people, because I think that just because of the Black American history of it, of our history, and specifically Black American, because even sometimes I’ll see participation when it, you know, in like in from other African countries and it just seemed to not be a big deal for everything to be Black and to and for it to just be like for other things to be shut out. So I wonder if that’s a us thing, too, because of specific things we went through. 


Kaya Henderson: Sometimes it’s also a little schizophrenic on somebody’s part, right? Because like, the appropriation of Black culture is rampant. Right? And the lack of acknowledgment, I think, is what we’re talking about here. Right? The the lack of participate like you take our stuff. You consume our stuff, you enjoy our stuff, you whatever. But you can’t celebrate with us in the moment when it’s our time. And I’d, listen I’m with you Myles, let’s get accustomed to the disappointment. I don’t even expect it anymore. Right. But for some people, it’s still that white validation is still really important. 


DeRay Mckesson: I thought De’Ara was actually going somewhere different with this because one of the critiques I saw on Twitter that I thought was interesting was like they were like, of course, Jamie Lee Curtis wins because you have to center whiteness in a movie about Asian people that like, how could you how could you get out of a movie that is just about Asians I mean it’s like all the main characters are Asian and somebody was like, she wasn’t even the best supporting character in her own film. You know what I mean? [laughing]


De’Ara Balenger: Well DeRay but I think that was that is my point, though. Like, I think it is– 


DeRay Mckesson: Okay. 


De’Ara Balenger: –fascinating. Like, can you imagine a white person being on stage during Rihanna’s performance that was a nod to Chadwick Boseman and about Black Panther, like we would have lost it. But Everything Everywhere– 


DeRay Mckesson: Or like in the best supporting actress award– 


De’Ara Balenger: –All At Once. 


DeRay Mckesson: –at Wakanda. 


De’Ara Balenger: –the perfor– Yeah, and it’s like Everything Everywhere. I think I’m getting it, All At Once. Them, it was a predominately As– it was an Asian film with Jamie Lee Curtis. 


Myles E. Johnson: But was it an Asian–


De’Ara Balenger: And the perform and the performance was I just was like mmm. 


Myles E. Johnson: But was it, wasn’t it. Okay. So I haven’t seen Everywhere All Everywhere All At Once. [laughter]


De’Ara Balenger: See! [laughter]. 


Myles E. Johnson: You know what I mean.


Kaya Henderson: Everything, Everywhere– 


Myles E. Johnson: So, so and I–


Kaya Henderson: All At Once. 


Myles E. Johnson: And maybe this is my like my Negro Stockholm syndrome, just being a Black American and loving all types of stuff. And I love the Activia commercials so I don’t hate Jamie Lee Curtis, so I– 


Kaya Henderson: Not I love the Activia commercials. [laughter]


Kaya Henderson: And I love how– 


DeRay Mckesson: Of all the things she’s done. 


De’Ara Balenger: Right. 


Myles E. Johnson: That that I think that was just so just revolutionary. Let’s talk about it. Um. But I’m thinking from my perspective, there were obviously Asian people in Every and and and All At Once. Right? But was it a Asian film? I don’t know this. So like when I think about, like the last Asian film, like, like um that was like, really big. Like this was like rich, uh Crazy, Rich Asians, which was about the culture was about the heritage. It was kind of it was like fantasy and it was a Asian film. So I feel like if somebody was like white in that and they won in Crazy Rich Asians, it would be so obviously um inappropriate because this is a film about Asian culture, etc., etc.. But and Wakanda is about Black culture and African and African culture. So that feels different. But is but is All At Once really a film that features Asian actors. Does that make sense, am I making sense? Like I don’t know how much the Asian, but again, maybe I’m just making excuses because I don’t I’m tired of being being upset about race so I’m just trying to like maybe it’s not that big of a deal. [laughing] I’m like let that Activia woman, she been running from that man her whole life? She been running from that– 


De’Ara Balenger: In Halloween. In Halloween she ran– [laugh]


Myles E. Johnson: [?] I’m glad [?] her little gold statue. Y’all I get it but Angela Bass– 


Kaya Henderson: Was that her first Oscar? 


De’Ara Balenger: Yes. Yes. 


Kaya Henderson: Oh. Fascinating. 


De’Ara Balenger: Yes. 


Myles E. Johnson: And she was and she was and she’s kind of positioned because of the Activia commercials and because we don’t appreciate horror movies, she was counter positioned to never really win an Oscar. So I think that that was kind of her it like her in like I get the politics of how come she won, why she won. 


Kaya Henderson: Ga ga ga hold on. If we like, we can’t we can’t even start the who is owed an Oscar story without talking about Auntie Angela. Not getting it for– 


Kaya Henderson: Oh, absolutely. 


Kaya Henderson: –Tina Turner. Right. But what’s love got to do with it? [?]


Myles E. Johnson: Malcolm X? 


Kaya Henderson: Yes. Anyway, the Oscars are the Oscars. [intercom voice in background] They going to be the Oscars, us expecting them to be anything but the Oscars might be our fault. 


Myles E. Johnson: Yeah. Okay. Well, shout out to April Reign, your legacy, uh [laughter] I guess. I guess nothing really happened. I guess where April Reign at? [laughing]


DeRay Mckesson: She she got us talking about it in a different way. You know, I do think that what I’d say about Jamie Lee Curtis is I do think it’s an Asian, it’s a film about a Asian family like that is the that is the star of the movie. And Jamie Lee Curtis is like the antagonist-ish. Um. So she has a role to play and she’s good at it, but it definitely is like a story, it’d be like Myles if there was like a story that centers a Black family and there’s like a white person at the welfare, at the welfare office. Like that’s– [laugh]


Myles E. Johnson: Why got why it gotta be at the welfare office DeRay? 


DeRay Mckesson: Cause you’re not– 


Myles E. Johnson: Let’s unpack that. 


DeRay Mckesson: I’m trying I’m trying to play on all the tropes, is that that that would be what Jamie Lee Curtis’s role was. She was like– 


Myles E. Johnson: Got it. 


DeRay Mckesson: –an employee at the, so she was good in the role. But the st– the movie is about the family. Do you know what I mean? 


Myles E. Johnson: Yeah, that makes that makes total sense to me. I guess. I’m just thinking. Yeah, that makes total that makes total sense to me. I just know there’s a lot of films that. Yeah, I just haven’t seen the film and I wasn’t sure how much that the Asian culture was a part of it. So maybe that was a loophole. But, you know, I’m always down to say white supremacy does it again. [laughter]


Kaya Henderson: Speaking of which, speaking of which, Silicon Valley Bank failed on Friday and a ton of people’s money was imperiled and um somehow or another, everybody’s gonna get they money back in what was the worst banking failure since the 2008 crisis. I know about this thing firsthand because my little startups money was in Silicon Valley Bank, y’all. 


De’Ara Balenger: No! 


DeRay Mckesson: Oh, wow. 


Kaya Henderson: No for real, though, for I mean, all most many entrepreneurs, um especially tech entrepreneurs, um have their bank accounts and their assets in Silicon Valley Bank, something like more than 50% of tech startups and health care um startups are were banking with Silicon Valley Bank. So this had huge implications. And today, Monday is a is the draw for payroll for most people who pay their staff on the 15th. And so it would have been catastrophic if the government did not step like literally millions of people would not get paid this week if the government hadn’t stepped in to deal with this issue. Um. But y’all, capitalism is a beast. Um. And I don’t I mean, I don’t know what to say about this, but it I don’t I think there are lots of people who just went through the weekend thinking it was a regular weekend, but there were millions of people this weekend who were literally in crisis. One of my big investors had over $100 million dollars in Silicon Valley Bank, and the FDIC only insures you for $250,000. And so they were looking at all of that money potentially going, another company that I know just did a raise, a $20 million dollar raise to keep their company going for the next couple of years. And that money would have been gone like it, it is and these are not like I mean, these are not your LinkedIn’s and your or your Instagrams or your Metas. Like, these are small, many of them are small, entrepreneurial, innovative startups and stuff. And so ooh child your president was just on TV talking about how everybody’s going to get their money, and that is capitalism fixing capitalism I guess. 


Myles E. Johnson: Yeah. Money is so fake. [laughing] Like, I’ve read the article back and forth and I and I technically get it, but also I just don’t because I because I live in a world where uh what do you mean you gave me $20 million dollars and I don’t got it no more? 


Kaya Henderson: Yeah and that’s right. That is right. [laughter] We all live in that world Myles. 


De’Ara Balenger: We all live in that world. 


Myles E. Johnson: I’m like ,that’s just not going to happen. Then what do you mean, that yeah. I remember seeing the other thing where there’s I guess like talk around uh it being like, how do you say this? Like that there was some kind of like, like draws like other people had insight that this was going to happen and they where like, withdraws that were suspicious, that were like um that were that were happening. So I thought that was an interesting perspective, too, that there were some people who were in on the in the know and and and some people were just left vulnerable. 


Kaya Henderson: Yeah. Peter Thiel, who’s a big venture capitalist on Wednesday or Thursday, put out a thing saying that all of his companies should withdraw their money from Silicon Valley, Valley Bank, and so that created a run on the bank where lots of people are like, give me my money, give me my money, get my money right now. And the bank could not support it. And so they are they are investigating whether or not this was manufactured by this you know, by this uh by Peter Thiel’s influence in the industry it’s yeah. 


De’Ara Balenger: Well, everyone should take a lesson from my best friend, Krishey’s grandma, who was known as grandma sister, who every Friday in Tipton, Georgia, would go to the bank and have the people give her all her money so she can count it. And then she gave it back to them. 


DeRay Mckesson: I thought that’s right. [laughter] That’s big Aretha Franklin vibes. 


Kaya Henderson: Or just be Aretha Franklin and put it in your pocketbook. 


De’Ara Balenger: Pocketbook [laughing. 


Kaya Henderson: Honey. [laughing]


DeRay Mckesson: I will say the only thing I you know, it’s so it was so interesting on Twitter to see the VCs talk about the government’s responsibility and da da da da da while simultaneously being like, how dare you forgive student loans and what is wealth it’s like– 


Kaya Henderson: Totally. 


DeRay Mckesson: This is a social safety net, right? Like, this is– 


Kaya Henderson: Yep. 


DeRay Mckesson: –socialism. If we believe that the market just corrects itself, then we would let you fail and we just– 


Kaya Henderson: Yep. 


DeRay Mckesson: –sort of deal with it, right? Like you put your money in a bank that that like made not great decisions with it and you know, you’re screwed. And that’s just what and that’s what happens to everyday people all the time. They like make a decision and the system sort of screws them over and they just got to eat it. But when you have a billion dollars apparently, the cost to society is too big for you to eat it. And it’s like that actually is not the market. Like the fact that the government intervenes is is not capitalism. 


Kaya Henderson: That’s right. 


DeRay Mckesson: This is what socialism looks like. 


Kaya Henderson: Mm hmm. Mmm. 


Myles E. Johnson: So I have some good old ignorant news for you all. And I’ve been on my my my high horse and high art and high cuisine. And this came on my on my um on my timeline. And I was like, well I guess on the podcast, I have to go to hell and talk about just true ignorances go low. Samson, first of all, Fox has a sub sub subgenre, news, YouTube channel thing called Fox News or excuse me Fox Soul and has some of the it’s Zeus and Fox Soul I think are are are are traps for our community, has some of the worst program I’ve ever seen happen ever. And I’ve always seen little tidbits of homophobia or just really outdated ideas come just come out of those of that programing but it never kind of like pierces the the the the the stratosphere like I never see it really take over the timeline. But lo and behold, it happened this week, Sampson is on Fox Soul and was asked about pronouns. Sampson is a Black gay comedian who is mostly known inside of the community. Like one of those if you know, you know, characters. But um he was he’s a cis gay Black man. But he was asked about pronouns because if you fall underneath this umbrella, we all got to know everything. I don’t, nobody even asked him. And then he tells this story that to me, when my mama [?], I’m like, oh, you lying. That did not happen. But he tells this story about a non-binary person who maybe presents as a who who seems masculine or cis or cis-assigned or whatever, and basically says, excuse me sir and then the person co– the person comes and says, I’m a ma’am and Sampson’s uses this story to say, well, if you’re going to be gender um non-binary or be or be trans that you need to put some effort into it and that put it in some effort into it created such a um just just a firestorm of a conversation around gender identity around like what what does it mean to be the things that you feel and who do we have to perform for? But then also, I guess in my spirit, it brought up, why are people asking? Like, why are people asking people who have nothing to do with that identity, their opinion, if not just to create these controversies that are really steeped in transphobia just so somebody can say something that is transphobic and so we can all be upset about it like that like it that was what’s most disappointing about it to me was that somebody breadcrumbed somebody else into just proliferating transphobia for no reason, but no reason but so maybe it’ll go viral or maybe they’ll have a better moment. I again, I know it’s a complicated issue for some people, not to me anymore, but I think it’s a really worthy issue inside of Black the Black community to talk about gender and transness, because I think that transphobia and transness touches all Black people. And I feel like I have probably said this on this podcast 5011 million times um that because Black people weren’t necessarily afforded gender when they when we first when we first came here um in America, that we all have been swimming in a type of transness that I think listening to trans people talk about gender and identity will help all Black people, even if you identify with the uh if you’re sexing your gender, like I if you if you like, if you identify with what you were assigned with at birth. This this conversation really does transcend and expand one’s thoughts around identity. And it makes me sad that it’s so othered and so simplified. It’s made into such a joke. When we do talk about it specifically inside the um inside of the Black community, because it’s a really, really, really helpful um framework to explore. And yeah, I wanted to bring this to the podcast. I wanted to have a little conversation, use this as a, as, as, as an, as an open door to have a conversation or just to, you know, throw stones. I’m down for either [laugh] either option. 


DeRay Mckesson: Here’s what I’d say is that one of the things that was most troubling about Sampson’s comments, in addition to what you said, was that when challenged on it, Sampson just dug his heels like no critical reflection. [pause] No sort of deep engagement with people’s criticisms initially. It was sort of I said what I said, and uh instead of no understanding of his privilege, his assessment, like, it just I was not shocked by the initial comments because I’ve heard people say those things before. So I was disappointed, but not surprised. I was actually stunned by somebody who lives in public in some ways um to like not listen, not take feedback, not change comments. That was that was sad to me. 


Kaya Henderson: I will say um. So first of all, I was like, is this really a show? Like, is this real? This does not seem real to me, but what is going on here? And admittedly, I had never heard of Samson before, and I was looking at him I’m like, who is this dude? And like, so the whole thing. And I thought his comments were just so ludicrous. I, like you, Miles. I was like, this didn’t happen. The whole thing just seemed farcical to me. So I didn’t even. I didn’t even but I will be honest and say I didn’t even put credence into like, he should have been thoughtful, he should been reflective, he should say something different. It just seems so unbelievable to me. And I was like, who is this dude, whatever, keep moving. I don’t care like what he has to say. But um but I do think that a serious like I think we have to have serious conversations about the trans community in in within the Black community in ways that we have not. And I like I would love to hear, I guess like our leaders aren’t talking like it’s just sort of not really talked about or glossed over or violence. Right? Like, there are there is no there is no constructive maybe there’s not wide stream constructive conversations about uh the trans community in the African-American community, in our churches, in our community centers, in other places where we have conversation. And so I wonder what it’s going to take to change that. 


De’Ara Balenger: What the hell is wrong with these people? I just I don’t even I don’t have anything that has something substantive to say other than that, like. I mean, I can’t believe this thing has 416,000 subscribers, this Fox Soul thing. And I think what’s even more problematic to me–


DeRay Mckesson: [laugh] [?] De’Ara. 


De’Ara Balenger: –is sis who was like sis, who was like, well, I don’t even know about the queer, que–, que–, quer-. Girl. Go sit somewhere and sit down. What is wrong with you? This just I mean, I just feel like Black folk, you know, we [?] we want compassion and empathy and all these things from so many other people. And then we can’t love ourselves enough to give it to one another within our communities. Like, I just don’t understand it. Like these these aren’t these aren’t, trans and queer folk like it’s not like we appeared yesterday. Come on, now. Like, it’s just wild to me. And I think when you go on, because I went on Sampson’s Twitter after you sent this Myles, and it’s like, now he’s just getting so much content off of this, the silliness that he said. Right. So it’s just it’s also just playing into this whole like people needing to celebritize themselves as well. So it’s just it’s sick. It’s awful, eew, and we can do better. 


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




De’Ara Balenger: So mind you, this week I saw this pop up and I was like everyone pack your bags. So in Virginia, last week, a Virginia judge ruled that frozen human embryos can legally be considered property or chattel. And he based this decision off of a 19th century law governing the treatment of enslaved people. What? What? I’m just, the preliminary opinion, it was by Fairfax County Circuit Court judge and Fairfax County, mind you, is right outside of D.C.. I’m not. This isn’t like Lynchburg, Virginia, like this is– 


Kaya Henderson: Oooh. 


De’Ara Balenger: –in the DMV. So Richard Gardiner delivered he delivered this opinion and says this long running dispute that’s been happening between this divorced couple. Um. But essentially the ex-wife is suing, suing her ex-husband to use the embryos that obviously his sperm are part of the embryos. Um. And this Judge Gardiner decides that the heart of this case, the facts in this case um really should be governed by the principle of goods and chattel tying back to this 19th century law. I just y’all I don’t even know where to start. Um. And so and he he also said, you know, there’s no prohibition on the sale of human embryos that may be valued and sold, and they must be considered as goods and chattel. Just like hmm that makes sense to him. Um. This this case is still sort of ongoing. He hasn’t officially ruled. Um. But what he has given is this premise based on this wild law that should be outdated. And why would any judge use this as precedent for deciding any case? Um. You know, and folks in folks in in Virginia that are part of the bar are in an uproar about it. But it I’m at a loss for words on this one. I just don’t understand why this judge would think. I mean, maybe he just was maybe the concept of an embryo being outside of someone’s body was just so surprising and and seemingly shocking to him that he, I don’t know. There’s no for me, there’s no real clear legal standing or common sense standing for this. 


Kaya Henderson: It was just wild to me. I mean, you know, reproductive rights are a whole complicated issue. And, you know, I could see both sides in terms of the divorced couple. Right. I want to use the embryos. I don’t want you to use my embryos because you not my wife no more. Whatever. The thing is, in 2023, you couldn’t find any other legal justification for how you wanted to rule but slavery? Hmm. Okay. Judge, are you elected? Are you appointed? It’s time for somebody to rethink this thing. Cause or, uh you know, legal people are supposed to be some of our smartest folks, sometimes supposed to be supposed to be supposed to be. And this dude reached way back in order to make his point. And like, that’s just not politically expedient. It’s just not that’s just not smart. Um. I don’t have much else to say on that.


Myles E. Johnson: Yeah. Wildly inappropriate. Um. What what’s also interesting to put it to put it in a word is that that judge is still doing his job, that he is upholding the exact like he’s actually doing the function of a judge. And I think that the fact that he did it so boldly and blatantly is getting us talking, making us um outraging us just, you know, as it should. But actually, he’s upholding the the the exact system he’s supposed to be upholding. And I think that these type of moments are should fuel us to reexamine all things legal all things justice system because he’s right that that’s if that’s where you’re going to, that’s where our legal system and our social justice system is undergirded by is by slavery, by unfair and racism white supremacist acts, so so so maybe [laugh] if I’m thinking about a silver lining, using this moment as a way for us to really be able to dig in and and take all these legal these legal point of views, and take them back to their root and figure out what we can do to either totally transform them or just uproot some of them because they’re obsolete. I’m optimistic. It’s my birthday. 


DeRay Mckesson: People often say, you know, it happened so long ago, slavery’s in the past, da da da. And it’s like the the foundation of the thing was just built on slavery. So unless you undo the foundation, it will live today. It might not live as loud as it lives, it might not live as totalizing as it lived before, but is still present? And this is a good reminder that we think about the penal code and the criminal justice system. It’s like you actually have to uproot it at the core, it’s the war on drugs is not enough, right? Bail is not enough. There’s actually like a mindset and a sort of the minutia of the law can live again unless we change it. And like, this is what I saw when I when I read your article, De’Ara. 


Kaya Henderson: My news is about the Memphis Police Department um and the seven year period where they were trying to radically increase the number of police officers and change the complexion of the police force. Um. And over those seven years, um they basically lowered their recruitment and training standards um in order to meet these numerical quotas. Um. There’s a subtitle in the article that’s called More Recruits More Problems, and that [laugh] just about solves it up. Solve sums it up. Basically um Jim Strickland, who was the mayor of Memphis, made a commitment to radically increase the number of police on the force, which is what many cities across the country are currently doing. So just because this is happening in Memphis, it has probably also happened or happening in your neck of the woods. Um. But he made a commitment to get to 2300 officers. And over that seven year period, the basically the only way that they could do that was to relax their selection standards, relax their academic standards, relax their disciplinary standards, their fitness standards, their shooting standards. They basically, throughout all of the rules that you needed to pass in order to become a police officer. Um. This was all happening after right after Mike Brown and a number of other um police brutality and police murder cases where um public opinion about police was low, people weren’t applying to be police officers. And so they did things like um defer the college credit requirements. It used to be that in order to be a policeman, you had to have a certain number of college credits. They’re like, yeah, as long as you promise to go to college, at some point you can be a police officer. Um. You used to have to do things like um pass the academy tests and there were lots of young people again coming out with just high school diplomas who could not pass the academic tests that were required at the academy. And so they put them in study sessions where they basically gave them the test, gave them the answers, and then let them take again, take the test again. Um. They stopped interviewing people. Interviews, too time consuming. They stopped background checking the people, and again, too time consuming. And so you had people who had literally who had brutality accusations in the same county and because nobody was background checking, you didn’t realize that this dude was a bad apple, but you brought them into your relaxed standards Police academy and oh my gosh, he ended up being one of the five people who are charged with murdering Tyre Nichols. I wonder how that happened? Um. Failures that used to lead to dismissals were now ignored. So things like cheating on tests, not passing your shooting test. Um. Sexual harassment of of instructors at the academy. You run into issues with law enforcement while you’re in the academy. Usually that would get you tossed out. None of that got you tossed out. All because they were uh trying to make this quota um that the mayor, the former police chief and oh, yes, the current Black lady police chief um handed down. And so what you hear from a lot of the people who previously have worked at the academy is, wait a minute, like this is not okay. Um. We are like these are people who were put in on the streets. We don’t feel confident about them. And basically they were told, if you got a problem with it, you should put your paperwork in and leave this cushy Monday through Friday job and go hump it out on the streets, you know, on the weekends and at night with the dangerous criminals. Um. And so there were lots of folks who they knew they were flagging during the academy that were likely to be problems, and they became problems. Um. And so all of this is all of this potentially was foreseeable. But in the quest to put bodies in slots, um you see this happening not just in Memphis, as I said, but in lots of other places. And so, um you know, there’s not a lot of data that shows how police training works. But um these officers, many of the officers who spoke out about this, spoke on condition of anonymity because many of them are still working um at the at the police department. And, you know, they talk about the responsibility of training police officers and how all of that went out the window in this effort to meet their recruitment numbers. So I thought this was an interesting and important um piece of the Tyre Nichols story that we had not yet heard. Um. And as I said, I think it’s happening, there are lots of police departments who um because of because of the rising crime and people wanting to be tough on crime, you’re seeing a lot of police departments or municipalities allocate more money for more police. But there’s not a whole bunch of people sitting out on Great Policeman Island waiting for us to just find them. And we have to invest in high standards around recruitment, selection, training. I mean, this is the whole teacher thing, right? That’s how I know this human capital problem. But it’s a police problem as well. And I thought you all might want to talk about it on the pod today. 


Myles E. Johnson: That is ridiculous. The fact– [laughing]. 


Kaya Henderson: Say what now? [laughing]


Myles E. Johnson: You know me, I come in straight from the gut with it. I’m like they just put the standards on the standard on Fox Soul in order to make sure we got to keep this thing racist. We got to keep this thing violent and we got to keep it going. And whatever we have to do, we will continue to do it and will and we’ll turn a blind eye to this and we’ll turn our head to this in order to make sure that it’s still violent. It’s truly disgusting. And again, I feel like I say this often here, too, is it always perplexes me how um it probably doesn’t perplex me, but it probably still stuns me nonetheless. It just how cannibalistic it is. It’s like this is not good for anybody. Of course Black people are going to be harmed in and because of these choices. But also this is not good for anybody. And in that community, these these low standards. So it’s it’s it’s it always stuns me how white supremacy will create things and and that that that eat that eat its own. As long as you’re devoured too. And you know the the the it’s not oh let’s let us survive and be good and we’re going to eat you all. It’s like oh no, we’ll we’ll eat our own as long as we get to, you know, chew on your bones too. Just, just a horrible, horrible, horrible set of standards. Um. But thank you for bringing it to the podcast Kaya. Because you know, I needed that fire. I’m upset. [laugh]


De’Ara Balenger: I’m just thinking about. Just because I’ve worked. I mean and DeRay and Kaya I’m sure you know a lot more than I do. But I just worked a tad on public schools in Memphis, and I’m also just thinking about if young people graduating or on the verge of not graduating from high school. And I know I think Latino, Latino kids in Memphis have the lowest graduation rates. If they were given as many times as these people to achieve something. I just wonder what better outcomes we would have. I’m just think like you’re you’re getting your hand held to, to get through these things, to pass these tests, to not pass these tests, maybe cheat on these tests, etc., etc.. And I’m just why couldn’t this effort and care and diligence be put towards where it should be put towards? 


DeRay Mckesson: One of the things that I’m heartened by is that when people know this, they think it’s wrong across party. We’ve done a lot of polling at Campaign Zero, and when people realize these details, they’re like unacceptable, wild, shouldn’t be the case da da da, the problem is that they just don’t know. So like when we poll, when the police lie to people across party people are like, that’s bad. Most of the things that you’ve heard in criminal justice reform or harm reduction da da da, when we poll people across party they’re actually on our side. But people’s impression of the police is actually just so holistically positive that we lose when we sort of try and address the institution as a whole. But I’m telling you, if we poll people right now and we’re like, do you think there should be no entrance requirements, no interviews, no people across party, across age would be like, this is actually unacceptable. And this to me, I read this Kaya and was like, wow, what an incredible organizing moment to like, force this conversation and to create an entrance for people who otherwise are like the police do all these great things and da da da in the same way that, like people would be appalled if nurses all of a sudden never got interviewed or like, never got like, you’d be like, that’s really unacceptable. Or like, even if teachers, you know, there are there’s some states that are really relaxing standards. But the idea that there’d be none, people like I would never send my kid to a school where, like, you just hired any old body. 


Kaya Henderson: A highschool graduate, no background check and and you didn’t interview them. But I mean, that would be horrific for teachers. But we are putting guns in these people’s hands like we are like this is. I mean. 


Myles E. Johnson: Right. 


Kaya Henderson: Yeah. Ugh. 


DeRay Mckesson: Yeah. And if we if people knew, I am positive all the testing that we’ve done, I mean, all the polling that we’ve done would confirm it. Um. Piggybacking off this, my article’s about uh, you know, I think before I became an activist and understood the system writ large, I actually did not know how much the public safety conversation guided everything. I think when I was a teacher, I thought education was the thing because I, I remember Kaya and you know this because you were actually, you know, ran a whole school system. I remember the first time that I actually understood that people choose homes based on schools, like I know I’d heard it before, but I didn’t know it was like a real that people, like, legitimately moved to neighborhoods because of schools. And I’m like, Oh, man. I mean, that’s like the quality of the people in my building actually helped shape the neighbor– I like didn’t. It was something I saw in movies that I didn’t know it’s like a real thing until I got older and I was like, you really moved your whole house because of the kindergarten program, which is really four teachers and a good principal. You know what I mean? Like this is really just good people. And I didn’t know how much the public safety conversation shapes almost everything else that’s not education. So this article is about how in a conversation on public safety, when people are being elected to office who are progressive or or don’t see the police as the on– they may not even be progressive, but don’t see the police as the best option for public safety, how there’s a attack on local control. So we talked about um Jackson, uh we talked about the attempt of the state to like take over Jackson. We talked about that before. But what I didn’t know until I saw this, um I didn’t realize that in Saint Louis City there is an effort or in in um in Missouri, there’s a effort to take back the police department from local control in Saint Louis City and have it run by the state. Mind you, the police in Saint Louis City have been independent for almost a decade, definitely were for the protests. And I lived through that. And it was a, you know, not great mayor then and a certainly super racist police department that were out to get us. And now that Tishaura is the mayor, a Black women, progressive. You know, some people don’t like everything she’s done, but she is by far the most progressive mayor they’ve had in a long time. And you see now these renewed calls to take it back. To like, take local control away from the police department. And I think that this will be the thing that, like, again, if I didn’t have to prep it for the podcast, I wouldn’t know at all. Um. But this is what I don’t think is is leading in the public conversation. And I wanted to bring it here. 


Kaya Henderson: I have some particular feelings about this because in the place where I live, Washington, D.C., um our local government tried to revise our criminal dode, which was over 100 years old and was outdated. And um and the city council passed it. The mayor wasn’t super excited about it, but whatever. Like, this is the way democracy works. And because what people don’t understand is that D.C. is still a colony. Our we don’t get to make our own rules without congressional approval. And so the crime hawks in Congress didn’t like the revision of our code. First of all, they didn’t understand the revision of our code. They just thought it was going soft on crime, when, in fact, if you understand the nuances, it was not going soft on crime. Um. And so the led by the congressional Republicans, they set out to disapprove um the criminal code changes. And then our president, who has stood up for home rule for DC, etc., etc., who talks about democracy and all of that jazz, when he had the opportunity decided that it was more important to protect his right flank by siding with these congressional Republicans. Oh, and a bunch of Democrats as well to say we hmm don’t like DC’s criminal code because we’re tougher on crime. And so they vetoed it. They overrode local democracy. Um. And, you know, Republicans are super hypocritical because all they want to talk about is states rights and local rights and all of that jazz. And we made some decisions ourselves about how we want to be governed here in Washington, where we pay, y’all done got me started honey. Where we pay more taxes per capita than any other state in the union. And these folks who have nothing to do with our community get to decide what, how, or how we will and won’t govern ourselves. It is absolutely reprehensible. Most United States citizens have no idea that any time the federal government shuts down, the D.C. government technically has to shut down as well. Our schools shut down all kinds of things because of the way we’re tethered to the federal government. And in this case, because the the country is because the Democrats want to show that they are tough on crime. They completely rode roughshod over our democratic rights to govern ourselves. It is absolutely ridiculous. Okay, I’m done now. 


Myles E. Johnson: I mean, all I can do is applaud that [laugh] What Kaya said. 


Kaya Henderson: My rant? I got more.


Myles E. Johnson: I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t even insult what you just said with with with a follow up. It was this has been like an educational moment for me. Of course, I’m outraged. But I think Auntie Kaya really just, you know. Guns a blazing. 


De’Ara Balenger: I second that as a D.C. native. 


Kaya Henderson: I mean, you said it. We saw it in Jackson with them creating a special– 


De’Ara Balenger: Yup. 


Myles E. Johnson: Absolutely. 


Kaya Henderson: –zone for the white people with a whole different police force and all of this jazz. Be why because of crime, like this whole crime allowing us to throw out all of the rules and regulations is absolutely reprehensible. 


De’Ara Balenger: And it’s just politicization, right? Like it’s it’s wild to me. When I was at the State Department, one of my jobs was, basically a law adviser. I mean, I had no business doing this, but I’d go to other countries and help them reform old and outdated criminal procedure codes, um evidence codes. And so it’s wild that that can happen, far, far, far, far away. But the upgrades that we need here in the place I was raised, no, still going off of 100 year old um rules. So I think just to give y’all more added perspective to to set you off. 


DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Hey, you’re listening to Pod Save the People. Don’t go anywhere. There’s more to come. 




DeRay Mckesson, narrating: This week, we welcome author and award winning reporter Chip Jones to talk about his new book, The Organ Thieves: The Shocking Story of the first heart transplant in the segregated South. After a healthy Black factory worker had a skull fracture in the 1960s. His family was shocked to find that his heart was transplanted into the body of a white man without his knowledge or consent. Y’all. I learned so much. It was wild. You got to read it to believe it. Listen to the interview to believe it. One world. Here we go. 


DeRay Mckesson: Chip Jones, thanks so much for being with us today on Pod Save the People. 


Chip Jones: Thank you, DeRay. It really is an honor and a pleasure. 


DeRay Mckesson: So what’s wild is I had seen um a story about Bruce Tucker and the first heart transplant on Twitter, actually. And I read an article and I was like, okay, this feels wild. And then it was like, Oh, this is a story included in um your book. And I sent a text to our producer and I was like, can you find him? Like is he’s doing interviews? Like, like, is he around? Is he doing interviews, is he talking? And then um and you are doing interviews and you’re here. So honored to be here. I will tell you, I read the book and I was like, oh, this might be just like a longer accounting of the article. And then I’m like, Oh my goodness, it’s so much stuff in here that I like literally never knew, never thought about. So let’s start at the beginning, though. 


Chip Jones: Sure. 


DeRay Mckesson: How did you how did you get to this story about the first successful heart transplant? Did you always care about hearts? Was it did you care about– 


Chip Jones: Yeah. 


DeRay Mckesson: –Medical school? I don’t know. Like what–


Chip Jones: No. 


DeRay Mckesson: How did you get here? 


Chip Jones: Oh, well, there I uh basically I’m a former investigative reporter. Uh. I spent a lot of time like researching the tobacco industry in the nineties. And I’m down here in the kind of heart of darkness in Richmond, Virginia, with with tobacco. And uh I’ve written a few other books about the Marines because I came from a Marine family and uh I was I was working a second career at a medical academy here in Richmond uh and learned a lot about medicine. Uh. And one day, actually, the story of my book started as a public relations problem um because–


DeRay Mckesson: Interesting. 


Chip Jones: I’m just being real about it. Uh. But I figured out the best way to boil this down when I talk to audiences, it’s like, well, how did you hear about this? Well, like a lot of things in life, it’s sort of, you know, from the side door or whatever. Um. I was, a colleague of mine at the at this academy uh that represents a lot of different kinds of doctors uh in the region down here in Richmond, Virginia. I said, you know, the older doctors and basically, frankly, it was all older white doctors uh were like, they really want they’re clamoring to have an event for this to honor the 50 year anniversary of uh of this heart transplant. And I’m like, okay, I didn’t know anything about it. Um. But this guy said to me, but there’s a problem. I said, what’s the problem? And he kind of told me the back story it’s like, well, the heart came from an African-American factory worker in Richmond, Virginia, and it actually led to uh a lawsuit four years later. And I go oh, really? Yeah. And oh, yeah, guess who represented the family? And he said, I said, who? He said Doug Wilder. Well, Governor Doug Wilder, you know first Black uh governor in Virginia history. And I kind of as a reporter in Richmond, I’ve been around his administration stuff, so I’m like, oh, that’s kind of interesting. Uh. And so I’m going, well, what’s the public relations problem for our society and he says, well, you know, these older doctors, they want to venerate uh the this event. Uh. But if it’s an open event and a reporter asks about what happened, it’s going to be some hard questions. So since I worked at this medical society, I kind of made it my hobby just to go dig into it. And then very quickly, I heard another thing, DeRay, about the story that blew my mind, which I was a teenager when this happened. I lived around D.C. then, and there’s a guy named Christian Barnard uh who was very famous back in the back in the day ’67, ’68, and he was this South African heart surgeon. And he was part of this whole story because he had taken the uh technology, the medical technology from Richmond and actually gone back to, you know, South Africa, apartheid South Africa, and applied this the Richmond surgeon’s techniques to sort of win this huge uh race because it was kind of like, you know, and I started thinking about it kind of as a book, it was kind of like a race to the moon, but it was a heart transplant race. So that’s how it started. I mean, I just first of all, you know, my my colleague had to keep away the older doctors who wanted to, like, hold this event, like this is the greatest thing since the Civil War. You know, like, no. We’re not going to do that because there’s a whole range of kinds of physicians in this society. And some of them are liberal, and some are were conservative. But the one thing you know that society itself shouldn’t do would be like uh just put out some propaganda for these guys. So they put that to the side. I made it my own project, like on Friday afternoons I’d go down to the Medical College of Virginia. It’s now called Virginia Commonwealth University, VCU, and started uh looking through the archives, kind of. I basically got a, I say kind of a master’s level degree in medical education uh over a whole year. And that’s how it all started until I finally interviewed uh Mr. Wilder, Governor Wilder. He kind of didn’t want to talk about it. And and I finally got an interview with him, and that’s in 2017. And that’s that’s kind of where that where it took off for me developing it as a book. 


DeRay Mckesson: How did you finally get him to say, yes? 


Chip Jones: You know, DeRay, I basically [laughter] this you know, this whole this whole story is me, the lowly reporter. Basically. I’m not trying to put myself on a pedestal, but just sort of saying, look, I’m just trying to keep it real, Governor Wilder and I wrote him a letter through a through a third party intermediary, a very nice guy at a law school who passed it along. And I said, basically, as I recall it, and I’m just trying to remember a few years ago, but it was like, Governor Wilder, this man story’s never really been properly told, and that’s all I want to do. And so from the very beginning, um my whole my initial goal was was just to tell the story of this forgotten man named Bruce Tucker. It was basically forgotten history. 


DeRay Mckesson: Got it. So can you give, I’ve had the luxury of reading the book, uh and there’s so much more in the book outside of just this one story. 


Chip Jones: Uh huh. 


DeRay Mckesson: But can you can you tell us can you tell us about Bruce Tucker? 


Chip Jones: Yes. Well, he was a guy who grew up in uh rural Virginia uh outside of Petersburg, which is for listeners, never been to Virginia. It’s about 30 minutes south of the state capital of Richmond. Grew up, you know, a hard, I think, farming life, uh segregated schools in the fifties. Um. And he followed his brother uh to Richmond. His brother had polio, actually, William. And he was a very successful small businessman. William Tucker started a shoe repair business. And uh so Bruce Tucker followed him up into Richmond in the mid-fifties and got a job at a factory. It was actually an egg processing plant, of all things. You learn a lot about history when you just start digging. So, like, you know, who knew? Shoe repair shops, egg processing. There was a lot of this stuff is kind of nerdy, but I as a as a researcher, you get really get into nerdy stuff, too. Um. But I learned that he was, you know, a guy who lived by himself. He was divorced, um but he had a son living back on the farm whose name is Abraham, and he was sending child support payments back back home to his son and his grandmother. And um then one day after work on May 24th, 1968, he was sitting around with some guys um just having a drink. I don’t know exactly. I think it was just passing a wine bottle around or something. And he he fell off a very low wall and he hit his head and uh had a very uh serious head injury, his skull was basically fractured. But he was rushed to a nearby hospital, which was Medical College of Virginia, it’s a big teaching hospital in Richmond. And so he’s rushed in. And just to jump ahead on the story, you know, people can read the rest, but what what really, first of all, shocked me and then ultimately just saddened me was that less than 24 hours, his heart was gone and the official idea and the official autopsy report that I found said, you know, he died of a head injury. Well, no, he died when the heart surgeons pulled the plug on the on the respirator and let him die. Um. So the story begins. The book begins if you’ve read it, it begins with a frantic phone call from his brother William, who’s saying uh Mr. Wilder. And then Doug Wilder was a very, you know, young uh maybe about your age now in the late thirties. I think of anyone in their forties is really, really young by the way, um [laughter] my son’s about your age, I think. And so he, like, said, I need help. And and Wilder was at first kind of like you, kind of like anybody who hears this story, it’s like, no way. How did this what happened? They stole his heart and uh or they took his heart. We can talk about words and their meanings if you want to, because this was part of my whole evolution as a writer and kind of absorbing the story. Like, what was it? Was it a theft? Was it was it an accident or was it something else? Was it a murder? And, you know, so Wilder took the case and it took four years till it went to trial. It was the first um it was the first civil lawsuit over uh heart transplants in the United States. No one had ever challenged uh an institution and um it, it it, it it actually slowed down uh transplants around the country at the time because a lot of that, you know, like big hospitals, I’m sure, like Johns Hopkins in Baltimore or or Columbia or [?] they slowed down everything because the whole country, at least the medical uh transplant community, was looking to see how this jury would rule. And if you read the book, you see how the ruling went. And uh it did not go well for the Tucker family. And the amazing thing DeRay is right now, there’s still a back story to it that’s still unfolding. And I don’t know how it’s going to resolve, but the university has apologized. Um. I saw you did a recent podcast about apologies, and I started thinking about apologies, the nature of apologies. And they apologized recently uh and they said they were going to do some things, but that still you know remains to be seen. So that’s that’s kind of it in a nutshell in terms of the issues. But I can I can stop and let you ask me what’s on your mind. 


DeRay Mckesson: So one of the things that I didn’t know at all was, you know, in the early chapters when you talk about just the history of stealing bodies, I like– 


Chip Jones: Yup. 


DeRay Mckesson: –didn’t know any of that. I was like, you know, I’m like reading. And I’m like, Oh, this is going to be a deep dive on Bruce Tucker da da and then I’m like– 


Chip Jones: Yeah. 


DeRay Mckesson: Oh my goodness, they’re stealing bodies from Black cemeteries– 


Chip Jones: Yeah yeah. 


DeRay Mckesson: –and medical residents are being asked to go and dig up bodies. People are, you know, standing outside of the doctor’s place ready to kill them. You know, how did you find that out like this– 


Chip Jones: Yeah. 


DeRay Mckesson: The idea that Bruce Tucker and there’s another thing that I was like, Oh my God, was that they stole the Black person’s kidneys in South Africa. It was South Africa right? 


Chip Jones: Yeah, well, they took they took Tucker’s kidneys, too, when they took his heart. So they took his they didn’t just take his heart just for good measure. They took his kidneys, too. 


DeRay Mckesson: And when I but like– 


Chip Jones: With with with no prior consent, at this same important thing, there’s nobody in his family knew about it. 


DeRay Mckesson: The idea, though, that he wasn’t even the first person that they stole from that like because the South African story happened first, right? 


Chip Jones: Yeah. Yeah. 


DeRay Mckesson: Yeah. 


Chip Jones: And there were there were other things happening. You know, your your response DeRay. And I’m glad to hear that because that was my that was my response when I first started reading the archives of the hospital. Basically, I could not believe that essentially what I learned was that medical research, medical schools in America were all founded on on uh grave robbing. [?] done at Harvard in the late 1700s. Columbia um Penn up whatever. And whatever they were doing. This was still having to have bodies for the anatomy class was the only thing that um they did outside of book learning. So they and they had incorporated this from Europe. This happened in England and in France. Um. My response was the same as yours. Total horror and shock. And the thing about it DeRay that blew my mind was um it it it stopped in Harvard and Columbia and other places before the Civil War. But like so many things in the South, it kept going during the Jim Crow era and into the 20th century. And my old man was born in 1916, and the guy who was the keeper of the the grave robbing, Chris Baker, he lived in the medical school building. And he was a he was known as a body man. Um. And they had other people like this at different universities. They were like it was a for, you know, it was part of Jim Crow medical schools. You had this guy who was paid as a janitor, but he was really like a professor because he knew as much he knew as much about uh surgery as a lot of the medical professors did. And and Chris Baker was sort of venerated and glorified up until around World War Two. And this was a thing like for me, like, hey, I was born right after.


DeRay Mckesson: He’s called old Chris in the book right or like? 


Chip Jones: Old Chris. Yeah. 


DeRay Mckesson: Old Chris. Yeah. 


Chip Jones: He was and he was, you know, sort of like this figure of, you know, that kind of Jim Crow, old South kind of stuff where like, oh, he was a great guy and he taught us so much, you know, kind of Gone with the Wind or something, but digging up, digging up bodies. But the fact is that in the U.S., the this is this is why this is why I set it up in the book. I was trying to show what what could have led to someone stealing a man’s heart, especially a Black man’s heart. What could have led to this? And the more I got into it, I felt like the reader needed to understand this is the fundamentals of American medical education. And I bring you up to date at the end when they found a whole set of bodies, skeletons in 1994. And those skeletons are still in the very foundation of VCU Medical School because the university uh didn’t want to stop a construction project and they covered it up. That’s and that’s the last chapter of my book it’s called down in the well, and they’re still dealing with it. So.


DeRay Mckesson: I’m like, what what even else to say? Uh. The one of the other stories that like was small but but that Black people had actually tried to sue or like tried to pass a law or something to stop the the grave robbery and– 


Chip Jones: Yeah. 


DeRay Mckesson: –were unsuccessful in it. But it was like. It was cool to see people were trying to fight back. 


Chip Jones: Yeah. 


DeRay Mckesson: And like– 


Chip Jones: The anatomy– 


DeRay Mckesson: [?]. 


Chip Jones: –riots. Yeah, there were anatomy riots in New York City, in Philadelphia, Boston. And I thought that was good, too. And there was a big pushback. And in Richmond, there was a crusading editor named John Mitchell who somebody should make a movie about too. And he was a tough son of a gun who put out the the Richmond um uh well, his magazine was was in Richmond, I think it was called the Mercury but I might have that wrong. But his he he was a tough son of a gun who who actually strapped on six guns and went down to Danville, Virginia to write stories about lynching. So John Mitchell and his uh and his newspaper called this out as late as the 1890s because Black people in Richmond were tired of it, even during Jim Crow and were willing to speak up. And they would take prisoners from the Virginia State penn about a mile away and and take them over and take out their organs. So um yeah, there were but but all around the country there was a whole set of they called them anatomy riots, go dating back into like I think like the 1840s or, you know, long ago because either freed Blacks and sometimes poorer whites would see that um that their graveyards were being plundered. Um. And one thing I learned, you know, as a white person who grew up in privilege and grew up around churches that had graveyards, is that’s why uh there’s a whole there was a whole system of burying bodies closer to the doors of the church and of protecting the graveyards because– 


DeRay Mckesson: Oh wow. 


Chip Jones: –the working class people yeah, so yeah, the working class people and often the people of color couldn’t afford the protection and once uh some, some people in New York or Philly, sometimes it was kids were looking through the looking through the windows of the medical school. They go back, you know, what they’re doing in there and that it led to riots and uh different states you know, New York passed some laws and it took a long and they passed a law in Richmond and in Virginia, but it was never enforced. You know, typical uh Jim Crow stuff that they just turned the other way. And until um until the practice stopped, um I guess, you know, just sort of fizzled out because other people had died. Uh. They had different they did pass a law to regulate it and it finally did settle down. But the fact that it took to the 20th century, uh I think it I think it it’s the attitudes, you know, continued into into the into the modern times about uh people of color. And I, you know, I called, you know, the issue, they call it social death of being socially dead. If you had liquor on your breath as a Black man especially, or a Black woman into a big urban hospital, whether it’s Chicago, New York, Philly, Richmond. You weren’t treated, you know, you were the invisible man. And you– 


DeRay Mckesson: Can you– 


Chip Jones: Yeah. Yeah. 


DeRay Mckesson: There was one part of the book that I uh there was a question I didn’t know the answer to. 


Chip Jones: Sure. 


DeRay Mckesson: Is you talk about the penny death insurance? 


Chip Jones: Mm hmm. 


DeRay Mckesson: Can you explain that to me, I like didn’t understand it? 


Chip Jones: Well, the reason I brought that in was because um the idea of having a proper burial uh was it was uh in the 1880s, 1890s, because people were afraid to see working class people or poor people were afraid of having their bodies snatched. Uh. The uh business basic insurance industry started to prosper because people would would pay a little bit, I guess you’d call it penny insurance, but they would pay a little bit so that they could protect their loved one and actually have a proper burial. 


DeRay Mckesson: Okay. 


Chip Jones: And I just never knew. So many things in America are so weird and intermeshed. But the whole insurance industry, you know, the whole medical industry, medical research, uh people drawing on people’s fears because they were justifiable fears, too, and suspicions that go on today, you know, they’ve gone on through COVID. I mean, I’ve done so many interviews around the country where people, often Black readers or um uh commentators will say, you know, I’m seeing people not really feeling the love about getting the COVID uh shot. And it dates back to this kind of suspicion. And the only good thing I can I mean, one of the good things I could say about the use of the book, it’s it’s part of a uh educational effort at Virginia Commonwealth in History and Medicine. They’ve used it. And all the universities like uh Politico had a good story recently where they started with my book and they but it was out of Johns Hopkins and they talked about the uh a real reframing of the discussion at medical schools about historical trauma and talking about in real ways and trying to understand all of the emotional and psychological baggage that not only Black patients but Black physicians might have to deal with. So my initial, you know, effort has always been to tell the Bruce Tucker story. And if there’s anything redemptive about it, it is that hopefully it will help uh enlighten a lot of people and lead to, you know, more equal treatment. It’ll never be perfect treatment of people, I don’t think. Just because human nature is imperfect, but, you know, trying to do better. 


DeRay Mckesson: It also reminds me, you know, we talk about this idea that everything’s about race and people are like, you’re being dramatic and you’re like, no, it actually– 


Chip Jones: No. 


DeRay Mckesson: [?]. 


Chip Jones: If anything, you’re being we’re being we understate it. And yeah, and people don’t want to talk about it in Virginia now. The governor doesn’t want it. He doesn’t want these kinds of things in the classroom and yeah. Yeah. 


DeRay Mckesson: Now what um how has it been since the book came out? Are their you know, I can only imagine. Like me, people are shocked. Have there been any–


Chip Jones: Yeah. 


DeRay Mckesson: –interesting responses to it? 


Chip Jones: You know? Yes. There have been a lot of interesting responses. And, you know, I’ll just go right to the ones that have been more heartening to me is when I’ve had uh readers who are Black of all ages uh uh and people who’ve got people who are friends like a friend of mine I can think of from the YMCA, who told me um that uh he grew up in rural Virginia around where the Loving case took place in Caroline County, um and um he said, I always wondered, Chip, why my my parents would never go down to MCV. Um. And I learned that from your book um and and and also other readers. I think, you know, who who said that it helped them to um just better understand either their own fears or other people’s fears of health care. Um. And in general, I think um uh, you know, the interesting thing to me is if I speak to groups, where I speak to them, if I speak to them in in the city, one set of responses. And then if I speak to more white conservative readers, frankly outside of town, it’s a whole different thing. And it’s like, you know, well, why are you telling this story? You know, like, I’m overdramatizing it and I’m saying, no, no. As a matter of, you know, that’s been the educational process for me, if any as a reporter, you always sort of sort of try to keep it kind of even and on even keel. But, you know, I mean, I guess the learning from other people, you know, and learning what I didn’t know continues. And the thing I always say that, you know, when I started out, it was like I had this this story in my head about the heart transplant race and everything. But it really uh it really went from my head to my heart because it really is all about um a real wrong and the need to feel empathy. And so, you know, the other thing, as I was writing it here in town, you know, the Black Lives Matters protests were happening. The monuments were coming down. So I felt like, you know, kind of like writing a novel about the Civil War during the Civil War, because it was like there was just I knew it was important, I guess, is what I’m saying, and that and that I hoped I could do an adequate job of it. 


DeRay Mckesson: And what happened to William Tucker? 


Chip Jones: So William Tucker well, he he he was he lived for a number of years. I don’t really know his when he passed away, but he was, Governor Wilder told me he was just really bitter that, you know, this whole that this the jury’s judgment against the family kind of reinforced his sense of of of race, racial prejudice. Um. But his son, Abraham, is still alive. And that’s one of the he he’s in his mid-sixties. And you’ll see in the book that he didn’t want to talk to me, which I didn’t blame him. And I was basically trying not to like retraumatize him. But since then, he’s told me he actually had a phone call with me not that long ago where it helped him on some level to come to terms with what happened in the past. But back to this idea of an apology that the university issued an apology, but I’m hearing from some of his relatives that they’re not so sure about that. So the book is still open. 


DeRay Mckesson: And can you contextualize why the Bruce Tucker case matters in in the world of medicine? 


Chip Jones: Well, it matters, first of all, because, you know, if you go back to Hippocrates to do no, first of all, to do no wrong uh, that’s all that was done to him. I mean, his life was was forgotten and and thrown away. Um. But I think in the world of medicine right now, it matters because there needs to be awareness and sensitivity to people’s real experiences and their real their shared pain of not receiving uh uh equal and first class care. So it matters. And I’ve been told by physicians who are younger now that they’re glad that that this is one of the many stories. And there’s, you know, many, many other stories uh about it from, you know, Henrietta Lacks and Tuskegee syphilis experiment. So it’s part it fits on that continuum of of stories that shouldn’t be forgotten. And I always say also the importance of ethics and morality, because you could be in any situation and you could be put in a position where, well, you’re going to win something you’re gonna win a heart transplant race, but at what price? And um I think everything that’s happened in the US in the past few years, you know, and especially the lack of compassion to society. It it’s important. It’s important that the health care system kind of try to stay or get on the right side of history. And it doesn’t– 


DeRay Mckesson: And this was the this was the first heart transplant in the South? 


Chip Jones: This yeah. In the segre– where when we say in the segregated South, below the Mason-Dixon line. Um. It was the ninth in the U.S. uh and it was the 16th in the world. Uh. But it was part of a whole like um sort of train of transplants that happened in 1968. 


DeRay Mckesson: Got it. 


Chip Jones: Yup. 


DeRay Mckesson: Okay. There are two questions that I ask everybody. The first is, what do you say to people whose hope is challenged in moments like this? People who have read your book, grabbed mine, listened to podcasts, voted, testified, stood in the street, and they’re like, the world’s not getting better in the way I want it to. What do you say to people whose hope is challenged? 


Chip Jones: Wow um. Well, I think the first thing I would say is, is to always, you know, go to those to the to the light, you know, go to the people that are with you and trying to build you up and hope. Um. And I feel that way about this book because I didn’t do it by myself. I did it because of a lot of different folks around town and around the U.S. who helped me out. So I think I think hope is something that is not individualistic. I think it for me personally, it’s a it’s kind of a group experience. Um. I think that it’s easy to get disillusioned. Um. And so I think all of us have to find you know what really is our moral core or if we if we have a you know higher power, believe in God, what’s that? But what’s that to me in terms of hoping for everybody, you know, not not just like hoping you you win the lottery. So.


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


Chip Jones: Piece of advice that’s um uh I would say to trust my intuition. And that came from my old man who was in like three wars. And uh unfortunately saw a lot of his friends die at places like Tarawa and uh Saipan, the World War Two in the Pacific. And uh he had a lot of uh interesting experiences on the front lines. So I always he and even though I didn’t go in the military myself, um my dad’s belief in intuition um and dreams because I think dreams are a way that are a gift that ties you into, you know, what what you’re really about and what you should be doing if you listen closely enough.  


DeRay Mckesson: Boom. Well, everybody you gotta read this book. You’ll learn a ton. Um. Thank you so much for coming. We consider you a friend of the Pod. How do people stay in touch with you? As it Twitter, is it Facebook, is it a website? 


Chip Jones: Um. I have uh Chipjonesbooks.com uh is a website. I am on Instagram, but uh but probably my website is the best. It’s just Chip, @chipjonesbooks on Instagram too. [music break]


DeRay Mckesson: Well, that’s it. Thanks so much for tuning into Pod Save the People this week. Tell your friends to check it out and make sure you rate it wherever you get your podcasts whether it’s Apple podcasts or somewhere else. And we’ll see you next week. Pod Save the People is a production of Crooked Media. It’s produced by AJ Moultrié and mixed by Evan Sutton, executive produced by me. And special thanks to our weekly contributors Kaya Henderson, De’Ara Balenger and Myles E Johnson.