Will My Student Loan Debt Be The Death of Me? (with Congresswoman Summer Lee & Minda Honey) | Crooked Media
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October 12, 2023
Stuck with Damon Young
Will My Student Loan Debt Be The Death of Me? (with Congresswoman Summer Lee & Minda Honey)

In This Episode

Democratic United States Representative Summer Lee returns to Stuck with Damon Young to discuss the implications of student loans on black Americans, then Minda Honey, author of “the Heartbreak Years,” helps Damon decide who the most famous person in America is in 2023.





Summer Lee: When we cut off access to knowledge, the pursuit of knowledge for knowledge’s sake. 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Summer Lee: We are cutting off the potential of our society. 


Damon Young: So welcome back, everyone, to a very, very special episode of Stuck with Damon Young. And so I was going to start this today by saying something about how lucky and privileged I am and not have any student loan debt. But my wife has it. And, you know, we’re married, which basically means I have it too. So anyway, today we’re joined again by Congresswoman Summer Lee to talk about the impossible albatross that student loan debt has become how being in so much debt has the power to dictate literally every major decision we make and why this issue is both highly partisan and highly racialized. And then, Minda Honey, author, of the amazing new memoir, The Heartbreak Years, joins us to answer a burning question. Who is the most famous person in America right now? All right y’all. Let’s get it. [music plays] So joining us again for the second time this season is rising star in a Democratic Party. Congresswoman, Summer Lee. Summer what’s good?


Summer Lee: Oh, you know nothing [laughter] no I’m joking. Everything is good. I’m here with you today. It just makes everything better already. 


Damon Young: I get it. That was funny. 


Summer Lee: I’m just being honest. You have to be honest, these days, you know, there’s just not enough honesty. 


Damon Young: You know what? I feel like that is one of the the one one of the few positives that that have come from, like, the pandemic and the lockdown and all that. Because I think people realized,  when they have the, you know, the regular social lubricant in conversations with each other. So like, when you ask someone, you know, what’s going on, I think people are like 10% more likely to tell you the truth than they were four years ago. You know what I mean? 


Summer Lee: When, you’re struggling. When, you’re like treading water. You don’t have time for any other noise like you trying to tread water. So if you’re if someone is asking you how you’re doing and you got to make up something, you don’t got time for that these days. Like, honestly, we just say, you know what? Let’s cut. Let’s cut the crap. 


Damon Young: It takes a lot of effort. And, you know, for someone like me who’s already not that great at small talk, one of the life hacks for people who suck at small talk, just repeat back what the person said to you. [laughter] So the next time you’re in that circumstance and someone someone’s like, oh, such a nice day to day, huh? All you gotta do is turn back to them and say, It is a nice day, isn’t it? And that’s it. [laughter] Just repeat, just repeat it.


Summer Lee: And then you get your coffee and you go. 


Damon Young: And then you get your coffee and you go. It’s a regular social interaction. 


Summer Lee: This tactic probably works for you when I tell you that people are coming at me and they no matter genuinely, it could be three in the morning. We can just be at a bar. It can be at a funeral. Like wherever we are, people are like, I have to talk. I want to talk to you and I want to talk to you about really, really deep things. And sometimes I’m like, You know what? I get it. Like, look, you might be trying to get in touch with someone like me. You just need somebody, you know, a sounding board. I get it. 


Damon Young: Mm. 


Summer Lee: But some days there is no escape. Like it’s not even small talk. Like it starts as small talk, and then it gets big, big, big talk. 


Damon Young: Yeah. Yeah. I you know, obviously, you know, you’re on a much higher platform, you know, right now, Congresswoman, also, the world is the way the world is right now. So people are going to see you and want to talk to you, etc.. I get that what you were talking about, particularly from white people in Pittsburgh, sometimes not all the times. Not all the times, but there will be some times where I’ll be in line somewhere and someone’s recognizes me online. It’s like, oh, are you Damon Young? Yes. I’m a fan of your work. Thank you. And then I think it’s going to stop there. 


Summer Lee: Can I take a picture? 


Damon Young: [laughs] No, no, no, no, no. Not even a picture. It’s like, Oh, boy. I just. I just need to let you know that I hate white people, too. Oh, you know, I hate my white skin. I hate Nicole Kidman. I hate white piano keys. Like, Yo, I never said that, okay? [laughter] I never said any of that. I hate myself. Like yo yo. I don’t hate please. I just—


Summer Lee: I promise you that I am engaged in this part of the convo. [laughter] 


Damon Young: Like, please. 


Summer Lee: I’m fine with the white piano keys. 


Damon Young: Yeah. Yes, me too. I don’t. I don’t play the piano, but I like, hear the piano played when I’m listening to music. So if you’re in the Pittsburgh area and you see Damon Young or you see Summer Lee out and you happen to not be Black, okay? [laughs] And you want to approach either of us and have a regular conversation, please do that, you know. Hi, how you doing? How’s the day? Big fan, all of that. But sometimes, like the very serious conversation about politics or about race, it’s like yo I’m just. I’m just trying to get some guacamole. I don’t even have the guacamole. I’m just. I’m just here trying to get some avocados so I can make the guacamole later. I don’t want to have that serious conversation now. I don’t want to talk. Talking is fine. But like the serious conversation.


Summer Lee: No that’s exactly it. 


Damon Young: Is. Yeah. I just don’t want to have that right now. So PSA.


Summer Lee: Call my office and we can have it, promise. 


Damon Young: Yeah. Another PSA. That is my editorial duty to also reveal that, you know, we had some technical difficulties today trying to get on, but it was revealed during this time that Summer Lee also—


Summer Lee: Here you go. 


Damon Young: Has issues clapping. 


Summer Lee: Here you go. 


Damon Young: Okay. When you know, she doesn’t necessarily clap on a one on on on one or two, it’s like she kind of claps on the one point five. 


Summer Lee: I want to hear from the people, you know, whenever you see this, however you see this when, you see this If somebody says clap on three, right? And then they count down, do you clap? After three or do you add a clap? So it’s like three, two, one, clap, then clap. How was I supposed to know? Would you have expected the clap?


Damon Young: I think that when said when someone says, clap, clap on three, one two then you clap on three. When someone says clap. 


Summer Lee: I did and then he said clap. There was a clap before. [laughs] Like if we if the clap wasn’t there, we both would have clapped—


Damon Young: Okay. 


Summer Lee: —at the exact same time. 


Damon Young: Okay. 


Summer Lee: At the proper time were Black church folks clap. That’s when we both would have clapped. 


Damon Young: Okay. Agree to disagree. 


Summer Lee: We’re going to hear from the people though it’s cool. I’m with it.


Damon Young: I’m, I’m, I’m a let you slide on this one because, again, it’s been a long morning. You know what I mean? I’m a let you slide. But but again, if you see Congresswoman Summer Lee in Wholefoods or whatever, wherever she goes to get her groceries, don’t ask her about like politics and don’t ask her to clap [laughs] okay anything else. 


Summer Lee: Who y’all gonna believe?


Damon Young: Anything else is fine, just don’t ask her to do either of those two things. I want to talk to you about student loans, right? Because this is a subject that is that is very near and dear to you. But before we even get there, you know, now you went to Woodland Hills High School, which is, you know, in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, eastern suburbs. I went to Penn Hills, which is, you know, somewhat of a rival school. Now for people who are familiar with the Pittsburgh area, Penn Hills and Woodland Hills are not affluent school districts. Right. You know, in fact, you know, I think that, you know, in terms of like gross income or average, you know, income or whatever it has continued to go down. In both of those districts or whatever over like the last like 20 or so years. So I’m not a person who comes from means, Summer. Is not a person who comes from means. And so I guess I’m bringing this up because I’m wondering for you how much of that factored into the choices that you made in terms of where to pursue higher education? 


Summer Lee: You know, I’m happy that you framed it that way because the debate around student loan debt is always framed, especially by, you know, Republicans, conservatives who are kind of very loud. I’m not going to say they’re winning the battle, but they really are influencing it. The battle was always about, you know, affluent kids who just want to have their debts expelled but not working class people, as if Black, particularly working class poor folks don’t also deserve and go to college. We know that the student loan debt burden is disproportionately on Black folks, right? Particularly Black women. 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Summer Lee: So for me, when I was coming out of school, I remember when I was filling out my FAFSA, we all know FAFSA, my first FAFSA that I ever filled out. That was just a tough year for my family, right? My mom was laid off. You know, we didn’t have a car at that point. She’s gonna be so mad at me for saying this so don’t let my mom see this, cause she don’t like it, but it’s the truth. And I remember that on that particular year, you know, the amount of money that my mom was able to put on my FAFSA, you know, for, you know, income was so low. Right, that it barely would have registered. 


Damon Young: Mm. 


Summer Lee: So that’s what I’m coming with when I go to school. Like, I don’t have I don’t have a I don’t have a rich family who subsidized my education. I don’t have people who are paying for my books, get me a swanky hotel or a dorm. I ain’t come with no cars, right? I was just a Black girl from the hood who wanted to maybe one day either be Oprah or lawyer, right? [laughter] The options are so limited. Wherever I would have gone, I was acutely aware that wherever I was going to have gone, I could not have afforded it. There is no school that I could have afforded, not CCAC, not Penn State, where I actually went, none of them. So you knew at that point that you are making a sacrifice one way or another? There is no if’s and’s and but’s about it unless you have a full ride. I was five foot two. I love basketball. I did not have a full ride. [laughter] Unless you get that like and you are a you are poor and you’re Black, you’re paying for college until you die. So it factored in. But reality is that I also knew that I got the hand is that the more prestigious the school you go to, the more opportunities you get. 


Damon Young: Yeah. 


Summer Lee: That’s just the reality. People who continue to act like kids from Harvard, kids from Princeton and Yale and these exclusive Ivies don’t have more opportunities are lying to themselves. These kids don’t even get grades. Right. That they’re getting pass fail, you know, grades in their classes. Their grades are inflated when they do have them. So people who act like the name of your school, the brand of your school does not matter are lying in Black people’s faces because they don’t want us to succeed. So that was what I went into when I was choosing my school. 


Damon Young: And you eventually you know you decided to go to Penn State. Now for someone who wasn’t able to afford it, which is most people, which is particularly most Black people in America just are not able to afford what colleges cost. So you have to rely on scholarships, you have to rely on financial aid, you have to rely on grants. You know, all all the different ways that people can give you money, because we we just do not have enough money for that. And, you know, the point that you made about colleges and opportunity, you know, and yes, people try to devalue the value of a degree, right? Yes. You know, having a degree can be successful without one. But the fact remains that having a degree allows you to get in certain doors, get certain occupations, get interviewed for certain occupations than not having a career just doesn’t allow you to do. And so for a Black person who come from somewhere where you don’t have any money and you want to eventually be able to make money as a 22, 23, 24 year old, you probably have to go to college. You know what I mean? You probably have to get that degree. You’re probably going to have to put yourself in debt in order to do that. And so getting back to, you know, your decision to go to Penn State. So how were you able to do that if your family couldn’t afford that tuition? 


Summer Lee: Oh, my goodness. I mean, you know, you what they say about Black mommas like will make stuff happen. 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Summer Lee: Like, genuinely like my family. And we’re still doing this. Like, we just did it with my siblings who just graduated from college, will probably do it at my next one when, you know, he goes to college, you know, we rely on the community. We rely on, you know, opportunities we didn’t know existed. Pell Grants, right. Thank God at the time that we had more being invested into the Pell Grant program so that, you know, poor Black kids can go to college. Scholarships, of course. But also, you know, I had a grandma, I had a momma, a grandma, and an older sister who when they had spare change. Right. Their spare change throughout my entire college career from Penn State to Howard Law, went to getting me through as comfortably as we possibly could. Right. It was also, you know, your friends, you and your homies, right. Coming together who got to who got money on their meal cards today. 


Damon Young: Oh, yeah. [laughs]


Summer Lee: Right. Because sometimes you the one one who had the money on the meal card, sometimes you were. So you had to swipe somebody in. Right. Even within, you know, the college environment, we were still, you know, hustling. We were still figuring out a way not just to look out for ourselves, but to look out for everybody else. But also, I just want to say, right, because even when I’m listening to you and even when we talk about, you know, the different opportunities that come from college, I just wanted to be say in this moment of anti-intellectualism that we’re experiencing in our country, that if you want to go to college for no other reason than you want to pursue knowledge, then that should be a good enough reason for you to be able to access a higher education, for you to be able to access a quality education. Right. If you want to eventually go and be a tradesman, but you also want to go to school and learn philosophy, you should be able to do that. Right. When we cut off access to a knowledge, the pursuit of knowledge for knowledge’s sake, we are cutting off the potential of our society right at a critical juncture in human history, right where this is what we need to you know, we need to invest in education, health care. Right. And people, people, infrastructure. And we’re not. So, you know, if you’re a Black kid and you don’t want to make money, but you want to save lives because you just desperately want to be a doctor, you can’t be a doctor if you don’t go to college. 


Damon Young: Yeah. And there’s there’s never been a time and we had Gene Demby on last week to talk about just, you know, the importance of social media literacy. Right. And there’s never been a time I think were being literate was more important because we are fed so much information from so many different sources, so many different platforms, you know, and and it’s just and being able to discern like the truth from some made up fucked shit is critical is a critical skill to have. And you develop that skill by reading. You develop that skill by studying, you develop that skill by being in community with different people, with people other than you. And now college isn’t the only place where you’re going to be able to do something like that, but college is a place for that. You know, It’s not just for you to get a degree. It’s for you to become a more well-rounded citizen. Right. And again, again, I can’t stress enough that that college is not the only place that you could do that. Okay. But but when you send a kid a college, when you send a kid to university, that is one of the hopeful byproducts of his education, of his degree, is that he also learns how to be a better citizen, a more evolved citizen, a more literate citizen. And and as you were saying, to cut off access to that is just oh, it’s just making— 


Summer Lee: Its intentional. 


Damon Young: And it’s dangerous. It’s a dangerous proposition that, you know, when you lead to a socially and economically and politically illiterate, you know, citizenship, then people who are at the top, you know, who are making the decisions can continue to make the decisions you know what I mean and just feed people, whatever, because, you know, they don’t know. How are they going to know? How are people who didn’t do the work, didn’t study, you know, had access to education cut off? How are they going to know that they’re being fed some bullshit? 


Summer Lee: Yep. Objectively, people who have more balanced, well-rounded educational opportunities are less likely to be susceptible to propaganda. 


Damon Young: Hmm. 


Summer Lee: And right now, we’re we’re living through the the cult of Trumpism, the cult of white supremacy. And we’re seeing that get a new kind of go to new levels, you know, in our society. Right. Those folks who were cut off from education opportunities, who are cut off from a diversity of perspective and experience, are more susceptible to the bullshit that they’re being fed. Right. When we look at you talking about the social media literacy, people who are on Twitter X, whatever we’re calling it, who can’t discern whether or not what they’re looking at is a real source or not. If we’re looking at people who are getting articles, even when we think about it and I’m sorry, I don’t want to catch no flak, but even when we think about Black folks and how we are a people who have patched up the way the history itself, our identities, our names, our culture, our religion, our, you know, our homeland, everything that makes a person who they are, that our humanity they’ve attempted to strip from us. And then our education system doesn’t fuel that back up, which then makes us seek it anywhere else we go, which makes us susceptible to believing anybody. That’s why that makes you susceptible to charlatans, right? Your your doctor who’s a what—


Damon Young: Okay. [laughs]


Summer Lee: All those folks are now able to to grift. They’re able to the able to get a foothold in communities that because we have stripped them of tools, weapons and an intellectual war right we have now left them vulnerable. 


Damon Young: Yeah. So Summer, after you graduated from Penn State and what’s your degree in? Your undergrad? 


Summer Lee: Journalism. 


Damon Young: Journalism? Okay. Which, you know, people want to make some money [laughter] because people want to, you know, pay off student loan debt.


Summer Lee: Remember I said Oprah or a lawyer? [laughter]


Damon Young: Okay. And so I’m curious, like, you know, so you’re in school and you’re in debt, right? And you decide to be a journalism major. Are student loans and student loan debt a factor at all in terms of your major of choice and you’re deciding to become a lawyer? 


Summer Lee: Hell yeah. Right. I mean, listen, the number one trope that we see from people who are opposed to college education, opposed to any sort of racial justice, contextual, like people who are going to school and they’re getting culturally competent education. Right. Anybody who’s opposed to that. Their number one joke is always you get a degree in underwater basket weaving. Right. Because what they’re trying to do is like their number one thing is to say that there are some things that aren’t worth you spend money on. Right. When we connected, the pursuit of knowledge to how much money you can make. College education and knowledge is already is that is already lost. We are in a losing battle. But for me, what people don’t understand is, is that one, the number one quality you need in law school is the ability to write. 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Summer Lee: It’s the ability to write. So people who go pre-law, you should probably just go English or communications, right? Knowing how to write actually is an incredible skill to have as a base skill that you need for everything else. And that’s what college is, right? It is amassing base level skills. The ability to learn is an important thing. Everybody don’t have the ability to learn to read for context, things of that nature. But law school is expensive, it’s expensive. Not only is it expensive, but like when you go to another place, I went to Washington, D.C. for law school, right? D.C. is expensive. So now you got to calculate the education, the education you need, you want, but also room and board. And you also have to live the living expenses, the costs in the metro, the cost of groceries, the cost of transport. 


Damon Young: Mm. 


Summer Lee: Housing is just out of this world, out of out of reach for anybody. Right. This is not the cost of a Howard Law degree and any other law degree is out of reach even for rich people at this point. It’s important that we know that it isn’t just poor people who can’t who can’t actually afford this it’s everybody. I took my first loan at 17 years old. I was already in. 


Damon Young: Can you put some numbers on? Like, exactly. Like how much is like one year of school for Howard law degree?


Summer Lee: Yeah. Were you calculated when I went and mind you, I went my first year in 2012. I graduated in 2015, a one semester of Howard. If you calculate, you know, your room and board the fact that you needed apartment, the fact that you need, you know, incidentals, all of that which was kind of calculated in, it was $50,000 a year. 


Damon Young: Shit. Okay.


Summer Lee: Georgetown with $50,000 a year before you calculated in room and board. 


Damon Young: Oh wow. 


Summer Lee: And living expenses. 


Damon Young: Okay. Okay.


Summer Lee: But I’m telling you, I wasn’t going anywhere but Howard. I went to Penn State. I went to Howard because I went to Penn State. [laughter]. Right. I went to, um. I went to an environment that was stifling. Right. I’m there. I’m learning. I’m getting my education. But you know what? Black kids can do more than just learn and get their education. We also deserve to be in environments where we’re going to be fed. There is one time in your life where you can be in an environment that is you for you by you, and just enjoy that. Going to an HBCU is that time. 


Damon Young: Now, did you have any did you take any break between undergrad and grad? Did you take a year off two years? Did you work any jobs? Did you just go straight through? 


Summer Lee: I did. I took three years off, you know I came out of Penn State in the recession, 2009. I graduated. 


Damon Young: Mm. 


Summer Lee: From Penn State. I listen, I when people talk about all the traumas of the millennials, they’re talking about me. 


Damon Young: [laughs] 


Summer Lee: We come out of one recession, right, we living through another. We lived through a pandemic. So just every big milestone that we’ve had in life has been highlighted by some just outlandish economic catastrophes. So I come out of Penn State in 2009, I can’t be Oprah on day one. It turns out I ain’t have a roadmap to being Oprah. So I was struggling and I did. I struggled for a long time just trying to figure out what I wanted to contribute in society outside of capitalism. Right. I think that was a part of my story, too. As much, you know, grappling with racialized capitalism in a society and realizing that, you know, even the concept of having a dream job had always felt absurd to me. Right. You need to make money to live. But I’m not living to make money. I’m not living just because I want to, you know, give my labor to somebody else. And that was always in the back of my head as I was trying to figure out what is something fulfilling that I can do that I want to do. And it’s something that I struggle with consistently. Generations before us, right? I don’t know what generation you’re in. [laughter] What are you, a Gen X millennial—


Damon Young: I mean. No, there’s a I forgot the there’s a very particular name for us. It is people who were born between 1977 and 1983. And there’s a very I want to say it starts with an X. 


Summer Lee: Is it Xennial? 


Damon Young: May be Xennial.


Summer Lee: I think it’s that one. You’re that though. 


Damon Young: Yeah. Yeah. Because we we’re the last people who who who grew up without the internet, basically, like we graduated from high school without the Internet. And then like my first time getting online was my freshman year in college where I was asked to one of the assignments in like English class and was to look up someone on a search engine. And I was like, and I was thinking, What the fuck is a search engine? And so I asked my man, who was a sophomore, is like, Yo, I need some help with this. I don’t like what’s a search engine? And he was like, I don’t know. It’s like nigga you’ve been in school for a whole year. [laughter]


Summer Lee: Like, we all in this.


Damon Young: [laughter] You don’t know what a search engine is either. Right. 


Summer Lee: My freshman year of college was year two. It’s either year two or year three at Facebook. 


Damon Young: Okay. Okay. 


Summer Lee: So social media, I came into college at the time where social media was, like, becoming a thing. 


Damon Young: Yeah. Yeah. So you had so I’m sure you had MySpace. 


Summer Lee: I did not have MySpace. 


Damon Young: You did not have MySpace—


Summer Lee: I am always like I’m always a hold out. MySpace existed. BlackPlanet I wasn’t on no BlackPlanet. 


Damon Young: Okay. 


Summer Lee: I wasn’t on MySpace. I was late to Twitter. I was late to Instagram. I was late to Facebook because I just I just lived my life. I’m all I’m always last. I was late to Scandal.


Damon Young: You clap one on one and I mean [both speaking] you live you live like a very divergent life. You clap on a one and a half. I mean, you do [laughs] you know what I mean, you do things the way you do things.


Summer Lee: We must march to the beat in our heads. 


Damon Young: [laughs] You know what I mean, marched to the own, march to the beat of your own drummer and that drummer claps on one and a half like we get it. 


Summer Lee: Sometimes. You have to. 


Damon Young: Right. And so I like that you brought up the fact that you had a lot of space. You had three years of time between undergrad and grad school. And that non-linear path is one that a lot of us have taken, you know, in order to get to our quote unquote “dream jobs” or whatever. I don’t know if what you’re doing is your dream job, but, you know, you got a pretty good gig right now. And I’m just thinking of the jobs that I had between me graduating from college and being able to write full time where I was a high school English teacher, I was a full time sub. I was like the in-school suspension permanent sub for for a bit. 


Summer Lee: Oh that tracks. 


Damon Young: Yeah, I just literally stayed in the room all day. I had my T-Mobile sidekick—


Summer Lee: With them kids who were basically in prison.


Damon Young: Yes, yes, yes I was. I was basically the school’s warden for like two months then I like worked at after school program in South Oakland. Then after that I was teaching summer school and then after that—


Summer Lee: Damon love the kids, I don’t know if everybody knows that. 


Damon Young: Well. When you have a degree in English, we have a degree in journalism. Like if you’re not writing full time, you either got to go to school or you got to teach because there’s not, there’s not a whole lot of options.


Summer Lee: That was one of those perpetual school people. Then I did camp counseling. 


Damon Young: I did that. I did that. 


Summer Lee: Like summer camp. Like, I’m out here leading kids in cheer and chants at the Freedom Pool. [laughter] I’ve definitely my path was definitely not linear. It’s so funny because you know what I talked about, you know, like social media taking off. So that man, that adds just like another layer of pressure to everything you’re doing. So here you are thinking about the fact that you just graduated with your four year degree and you’ll never be able to pay off the loans, right, because you graduated. So now they calling you the interest is accruing and you’re looking at your homies on Instagram and they’re like traveling the world, like they’re doing these like exotic jobs. Maybe you’re not even sure like you think they are because people show you what they want you to see. And the people who are struggling like you ain’t posting because we have more sense and you’re now just constantly comparing your path and your journey to everybody else. So every time I talk to people and they’re like, Oh man, you’re you’re a congresswoman. You must have been like killing it from forever. I’m like—


Damon Young: It’s like nigga, you see me now? [laughs] Yeah. Okay. So you graduate from graduated from Howard, right? And what year do you graduate from Howard? 


Summer Lee: 2015. 


Damon Young: 2015. Right. With you know, you have the debt from Penn State plus debt from law school. Right.


Summer Lee: Now I’m just depressed.


Damon Young: [laughs] How has your personal relationship with student loan debt affected your I guess, your political relationship with student loan debt? 


Summer Lee: I talk a lot about how lived experience informs our politics. 


Damon Young: Mm. 


Summer Lee: Not just our policy and our policies, our policies and our politics. When you live something firsthand, right, you just have a different urgency to how you deal with it. What I hear people who create narratives about student loan debts aren’t for Black people. I’m like, That’s why I’m sitting right here. 


Damon Young: Yeah. 


Summer Lee: Right. You can’t tell me. You can’t convince me that student loan debt doesn’t help Black people, because here I am, a Black person who would be helped by it. You can’t convince me that Black the Black community is not held back. Also, not just by student loan debt, but also how student loan debt becomes a deterrent to seeking an education. Right. There are so many people who are now getting the message that you shouldn’t waste your time going to college because those folks can’t afford to pay day loan debt back. You may as well just go this while you make this much an hour, right. So now is skewing the entire conversation that we’re having within our community about what it is and how it is that we want to live outside of after high school. For me, right, I’ve been able to pay my student loan debt off. I consistently when I first got to the state house. 


Summer Lee: Okay. 


Damon Young: That was when I was able to like, I’m on top of it. I can pay my student loan debt. My balance has not decreased in the years since 2018 and I pay it regularly. 


Summer Lee: Oh wow. 


Damon Young: It has not decreased. So when people are gaslighting us and they’re saying, well, just pay your debt, but we are paying our debt, there is no way that we can live with that we can ever get rid of this debt if is as high as mine. Right. The interest rates are criminal. If this were any other type of loan and it was going to any other demographic of people, we would recognize how it’s predatory. A 17 year old can’t. I couldn’t get my own bank account when I was 17 years old. My mom had to come and help me open my bank account. Her name is on my, was on my account when I was in my first year. I had a speech class where we had an assignment and I was the only freshman in the class. And I was also, that only 17 one of the only 17 year old freshmen I couldn’t do the final assignment I had to get parental consent to do the final assignment for my class that year. But I can be you know, I can I can’t discharge, you know, my loan debt and bankruptcy that I took out at 17. So even when people are talking about, oh, well, you were grown. I wasn’t even grown. I was I was not grown enough to make any decisions for myself. Right. Couldn’t even go to war at that point. So when we are saying that people like me exists we’re delaying life decisions, we are delaying buying homes, were delaying making career moves because of our loan debt, we can’t take the risks that we may otherwise take. There are people who are who are entrepreneurial and they can’t get, you know, moneys to start their businesses or or loans because of that burden that they carry. There are people who won’t start families because how can you afford to feed, you know, some new mouths? You can’t feed your own right. You can’t make life decisions because of the student loan debt. My student loan bill right now and this is on adjusted, is at least $800 a month. 


Damon Young: Wow. 


Summer Lee: Add that to my mortgage. Add that to my DC rent because we got to live in DC too, then add that to all the rest of the expenses I have and people who like to count my money because I got a public salary are now, you know, don’t somehow always miss these other things. 


Damon Young: Now what of what would happen and not just what would happen? Have you ever considered just saying No, fuck it, I’m not paying this shit. [laughter] Just I’m not paying—


Summer Lee: That’s my everyday, I go to sleep thinking about that. Every night. 


Damon Young: I mean, what would happen? 


Summer Lee: And a lot of people—


Damon Young: I mean, but what would happen for you, Congresswoman, if you decided be like, you know, fuck this shit, I ain’t paying this? I’m not paying this off. 


Summer Lee: Man. They would garnish my wages. 


Damon Young: Okay. 


Summer Lee: They send you into debt collection [laughter] your credit score drops you when you make when that’s the nuclear option. When you do that, you got to already have your mortgage. [laughs] You got to already have a car that you can drive for the rest of your life. 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Summer Lee: Yeah. It’s not a feasible thing? Right. But people do it all the time. There are there are thousands of people who are living in default, right? They’re just in default. They cannot afford their loans. 


Damon Young: Yeah. 


Summer Lee: They have to make the decision every day. Am I  just going to live my life. Or am I going to now consistently take this hit? People will be more willing to pay for loans that can actually be paid off. 


Damon Young: Yeah. 


Summer Lee: We’re saying that our loans can even be paid off. What is now the incentive of us paying? There are people who have paid double what their original loan balance is. You know, to the loan sharks and are still paying and are still paying. That’s predatory. But when it’s the auto industry, when it’s Wall Street, when it’s, you know, white corporate executives there, when it’s a PPP loan. Right. Our government, our country will bail them out when it’s students, when it’s particularly any time you if you ever want to know when our government won’t move, its if something benefits Black people because Black people are the largest carriers of student loan debt. Moving on, student loan debt would mean throw a life, a life raft out to Black folks. And we know that that is never historically they’re never going to do something that’s going to throw a life raft out to us. They can. They will. They’ll bail out everybody. We have bailed out every industry. We will not bailout, bail, bailing out students. We’re not just bailing out the student. We’re bailing out the entire community. We’re bailing out the family. We’re bailing out our economy. We are allowing people to participate in economic endeavors. Trust me, within a month, the same folks who are crying about us not being able to pay our loans back are trying to hold the pause from being taken away. They’re going to be the same folks who are gonna be writing op eds next month. You’re you gonna see it, Millennials kill Applebee’s, Millennials kill Airbnb. Millennials kill the airline, but millennials ain’t going to Bali anymore. Like, well, how are we gonna go to Bali? I got to pay $1,000 on my student loan debt. 


Damon Young: You know, and this is this has been an issue for about as long as I can remember, you know, where, you know, student loan debt is just is just outrageous and people are just not able to pay it. And not able to pay it off. You know, people having parties when in the rare time that someone is actually able to, like, pay it off completely, it’s almost like you celebrate the same way you do with you just, I don’t know. 


Summer Lee: Got married?


Damon Young: Got married or you just got a Ph.D. or some other tremendous accomplishment or whatever. And so I guess what I want to know is like, what are the solutions? Because colleges are getting more and more expensive, so incoming college students are going to be accruing more and more and more and more debt. 


Summer Lee: Yep. 


Damon Young: You know what I mean? And wages are stagnating. So it’s not like people are going to be making more and more money. So what is the remedy for this? Like this fucking circus of fuck shit?


Damon Young: Yep. So like all the all the big issues that we have in American society, right? Is it is definitely a holistic kind of cyclical thing. We got to approach it from every single angle. The first thing is right, like you say it, first thing is cancel the debt. Right. Period. Say it. Cancel the debt. Free student borrowers. Free us till we’re free. That is that is the number one thing. The way that we’ve bailed out these other industries. In times of crisis, the bailout is always to allow that industry to be able to to not just, you know, tread water, but to be able to to thrive again. Right. To be able to to give back is what they always say. Right? Oh, well, when we bail out the auto industry, they’re are now able to give back to the worker then thus give back to the community, seeing us that same way as worthy of that same sort of investment and care is the first step is the most important. The second one is what you said, right? College is unaffordable for everybody. Society does not thrive where only the wealthy can afford access to education or housing or health care or any of these things that are all we can set are luxuries instead of basic rights and basic needs. That’s a that man that is first of all, that is just a cultural shift. Every other what we consider a developed country, all the Western countries offer their their citizenry free college or free education and health care. Right. When you invest in health care and you invest in education, you are investing in the future of your country. Our country is doing the exact opposite or investing more in war we’re investing in jails and prisons. We’re investing in keeping people caged, but we’re not investing in health care. We’re not investing in education. So we’re investing in a dying population, right? A starving population. And we’re going to have to reconcile that. Right. The pursuit of being a superpower instead of having a democracy that is lasting. If you don’t invest in education, education is the cornerstone of a democracy. You cannot have both. So free college is is the second thing, right? Students in this country should be incentivized to pursue educational careers and opportunities. Every day in our committee, the 118th Congress has been nothing but about China, right? We hear about the Communist Party of China every single day. I’m on science based in technology. All we talk about is how China is increasingly competitive and how we are falling behind in technology, in AI and space endeavors and all of this. And then yet in the same breath, we will argue against making college more assessable. We will argue against making and ensuring that Black, brown, indigenous, poor and working class people can get an education. We can’t we can’t have it both ways. We can’t have it both ways. The third thing is also we need to fix our public education at the K-12 level. 


Summer Lee: Hmm. 


Damon Young: You know, your zip code should not determine the quality of education you have. Right. Affirmative action was always doomed to fail because they knew that. If they starved a child of of knowledge at kindergarten, then by the time they made it to 12th grade, they wouldn’t be ready to be competitive in any college anyways. 


Summer Lee: Yeah. 


Damon Young: So self-fulfilling prophecy. We need to ensure that every child has access to a quality education from the time that they’re born, right before they even get to college. So I think those are the three things that can absolutely be done are absolutely within our power. Within our power to do. Education is the only thing that is not a fundamental right in this country. Look it up. It’s not in the Constitution at all. 


Damon Young: Everything you’re saying, you know, I feel like these are very common sense solutions. You know, they’re not necessary solutions that would be easy, but they’re like answers, you know, that could lead to some sort of relief, some sort of remedy. Right.


Damon Young: They’re attainable. They are rational. They’re reasonable, and we can do it. It’s about political willpower and who we value in our society versus who we don’t, who’s disposable. 


Damon Young: I was about to say that I have faith in us in doing that. I do not. [laughs] Right. That would have been a lie. Right. I think it can’t be done. Do I have faith? Do I have hope? Hope is different from faith. Do I. Do I have a want? A desire? Yes. 


Damon Young: That’s real. We can acknowledge was possible, while also recognizing the immense barriers. 


Summer Lee: Yeah. 


Damon Young: That are in place to achieving it. Right. And being realistic about that. 


Damon Young: And as you’re saying, any social good that is thought to benefit Black people, you know, as much as it benefits white people, it’s like for whatever reason, there’s a certain part of the population is like, fuck that. We would rather we would rather suffer than for both of us to succeed. You know what I mean? And that is just a fundamental—


Summer Lee: That’s the American story.


Damon Young: That is a fundamental like. It’s like, how do you get past that part of it? You know what I mean? 


Summer Lee: Listen, I always say when people ask me, you know, the leftists ask, the lefties talk about it. I think that so many people miss, A, that race class narrative that so many people miss. But, well, why? Why doesn’t America have free education? Why doesn’t America, have health care for all? Well, when you look at the societies that do have it, they were mostly homogeneous societies when they when they adopted those policies. Right. To to the to the Norwegian to the Swedish person, to the French, to all of these folks, they have a vested interest in ensuring that everybody is well taken care of as well educated. Right. For us, the biggest barrier is that for us to enact society wide, United States wide, those sorts of policy would be us also saying that we value and that we want the Black man to also succeed. 


Damon Young: Summer Lee.


Summer Lee: Are we, are we going to clap out?


Damon Young: We probably shouldn’t. [laughter] I don’t want you to hurt yourself. Trying to clap. [music plays] Up next, is dear Damon, with the homie Minda Honey. But first, Damon hates. [music plays] This episode of Damon hates is going to be even more specific, even more esoteric, even more nebulous, even more weird than usual, because, okay, I have quite a few tattoos. I think I have ten I haven’t really counted. I should probably count how many tattoos I have and they’re all on my upper body. And there’s some space there’s some real estate, prime real estate on my upper body that I am going to get filled up with tattoos eventually. But the thing that I hate and this is such a stupid like I’m even mad at myself for for thinking enough about this to hate it, but I’m mad at myself because I could not think of anything else. I want to get tattooed on my fucking body. I want to get more tattoos, but I’ve run out of shit and I know that, you know, I could probably just wait and something will happen. I’ll see something. I’ll be inspired by something. I’ll write a new book because I already have one of the book titles tattooed on me. But right now, at this moment, I have space on my chest, I have space on my back. I even have been considering a neck, not a whole neck, but something that is, you know, neck ish, where it is visible almost like upper collarbone. And I was thinking about getting something there, but I just can’t think of what to do. The last thing I was seriously considering was getting a semicolon, but I didn’t learn that the semicolon tattoo represents people who have struggled with, you know, whether or not to take their own lives. And so I don’t know if that would be false representation if I were to do that, because I just want to do it because I think it’s cool and, you know, I write and shit. And so, again, this hate this week is just me in a space [laughs] where I want to put some permanent shit on my body, but I can’t figure out what to do. And I hate this. [music plays] Minda Honey is an author critic whose amazing, brilliant new memoir, The Heartbreak Years, is available in stores right now. Minda what’s good?


Minda Honey: Everything. 


Damon Young: Everything. I love that answer. 


Minda Honey: I have no complaints. 


Damon Young: Give me three things. 


Minda Honey: Well, you know, my debut memoir, The Heartbreak Years. 


Damon Young: Yes. 


Minda Honey: Dropped yesterday, October 1st. I had a very beautiful book launch party here in Louisville. I think I cemented my hometown hero status. So [laughs] that’s always a beautiful feeling. 


Damon Young: Okay. 


Minda Honey: And, you know, this delightful Monday, I get to be on your podcast that, like all of my exes, listen to. So I can’t wait for them to tune in. [laughs]


Damon Young: Okay, that’s funny. Speaking of exes or people who are soon to be exes. So I had, you know, Jenne Desmond-Harris on last week. You know, Dear Prudence from Slate. And we were talking about how their just seems to be a lot of celebrity breakups and not just celebrity breakups, but just breakups in real life friend groups family whatever. And how this seems to be like the season for divorce. And then right before we got on, I just saw that Josh Jackson and Jodie Turner had filed for divorce. Do you have any feelings about this couple ending? 


Minda Honey: You know, I’m not upset about it. Like, I think they should be obligated to spread the sexy around. It was too much sexy in one couple. Now we have a chance at more like equitable distribution of the attractiveness. 


Damon Young: [laughs] I mean, so there is a sexiness quota for individual couples. 


Minda Honey: Hmm. That’s a good question, because I feel like typically in couples as a culture, we like to see people equally sexy. Right? 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Minda Honey: But there’s something about, like, out of the stratosphere. Sexy. And I think they also had, like, crossover episode sexiness happening. So it’s like, wait a second, you two, like, y’all really, like, crossed over universes of audiences. To put this much sexy in one relationship, we weren’t anticipating it. We were never ready for it. And I think this divorce speaks to that. 


Damon Young: That’s a good point. I mean, you never saw any of the Greek gods or goddesses with, like husbands and wives. They were just doing their thing. They were by themselves, you know, because you can’t have that much power, can’t have that much energy in one household. You have to split the energies. 


Minda Honey: I don’t know. Aren’t the Greek gods and goddesses more like the Trump family than the fun loving celebrities? [laughs]


Damon Young: Yeah, I mean, we could get into the incestuous nature. 


Minda Honey: Okay. 


Damon Young: Of all of them, but I think they had separate households. I think they I think they had more modern arrangements where they might have been, you know, fucking or whatever, but they live separately. Okay. We’ve been going on for too long, Morgan [laughter] Morgan the producer. What we got this week? [laughter]


Morgan Moody: Dear Damon. I got into a debate with a friend over this, and now I’m curious to hear your opinion. Who do you think the most famous person in the United States of America is right now? This person either has to be born here or living here currently.


Damon Young: Hmm. 


Minda Honey: Is it not Beyonce? Like.


Damon Young: I don’t think so. 


Minda Honey: Is this a debate? Wait, what do you mean, you don’t think so? 


Damon Young: I think it’s a debate. I guess fame doesn’t necessarily have to mean like approval rating. 


Minda Honey: Sure. 


Damon Young: Let’s just go through the list. Donald Trump. Definitely. Beyonce. We’ll put Beyonce on the list. Taylor Swift. Barack Obama. Elon Musk. Is definitely. 


Minda Honey: Like. I don’t think my mom knows who Elon Musk is. 


Damon Young: That’s a great point. The rest of the people, if they walk down the street right now, everyone would immediately recognize who they are. I don’t know if Elon Musk has that same sort of in-person recognition that the other people do. Am I missing anyone? Any athletes? LeBron James, maybe. Has he reached that status? Michael Jordan. Serena Williams. 


Minda Honey: Maybe. 


Damon Young: Kim Kardashian. 


Minda Honey: Should we consider Kanye West? Like if we’re going to say Kim K? 


Damon Young: Yeah, I think so if we’re just talking straight fame and fame and infamy matters also. That’s a part of fame. So, yeah. So Kanye. 


Minda Honey: Michelle Obama sold like five bazillion copies of Becoming. Oprah. 


Damon Young: Oprah. Oprah. So we have about a good 12 names. So if we’re playing a famous American survivor who is the last person on island? 


Minda Honey: [laughs] I don’t know. I mean, right before I hopped on here, I saw that Beyonce’s tour has raised like $4.7 billion or something like that. It’s the same amount as the 2008 Beijing Olympics. So I feel like just like right now, she’s very mainstream, very top of mind. Like, I think people are going to think of her name faster than Michael Jordan’s name in this particular moment. 


Damon Young: I think there are people that we can eliminate, unfortunately. I think that there are no athletes that reached a status currently like no one is as big as Michael Jordan was in the eighties or nineties. There’s just no current athlete. LeBron probably comes closest, but he’s not as big as MJ was. There’s no Michael Jackson level of male pop entertainer that exists today. I mean, yeah, there’s Drake, but he’s Canadian, but he’s not even that big. He’s not as big as Mike was. I think we eliminate Michelle Obama. 


Minda Honey: Really? 


Damon Young: Yeah, I think that of the two, Barack is more famous, Michelle is more loved. 


Minda Honey: Does someone know who Barack is without knowing who Michelle is? Like, they’re like, I don’t know that guy’s wife’s name. Like. [laughs]


Damon Young: Again, if we’re doing that walking down the street test, I think Barack Obama would be more immediately recognizable by the general population than Michelle Obama would be. 


Minda Honey: I don’t know. I don’t know. I mean, they put her face on the cover of that book like it was everywhere. [laughs]


Damon Young: A lot of people read that book. Did you finish it? 


Minda Honey: Like I bought it. I saw the cover. [laughter]


Damon Young: I mean, I did a panel discussion on that book. I read enough of it to participate. 


Minda Honey: Yeah, I already had good feelings about Michelle. You know, I didn’t need to be sold on her. Yeah.


Damon Young: Yeah. I didn’t need to read 800 pages of her Wikipedia. Okay. But I think we can eliminate Michelle Obama. I think we can eliminate all the athletes. 


Minda Honey: I disagree. I disagree. 


Damon Young: Elon Musk also, I think is eliminated. And he’s not from here anyway. He’s not even from here. So forget about him. 


Minda Honey: My mom definitely doesn’t know who that man is. Yeah.


Damon Young: So that leaves us with four people Donald Trump, Barack Obama, Beyonce, Taylor Swift. 


Minda Honey: So we’re canceling the Kardashian, West’s? [laugh]


Damon Young: Yeah, Kim Kardashian. I feel like she has to be included, too. She has a level of fame that I think I underestimate. 


Minda Honey: Mm. 


Damon Young: And I’m going to try to be as objective as possible with this. 


Minda Honey: Okay. 


Damon Young: Okay. So Donald Trump, first on the list. 


Minda Honey: Yeah. 


Damon Young: Of the people on the list, he has been famous the longest. He has had many different types of fame. He was known for being a real estate tycoon in the eighties. Trump was one of those people who was almost famous for being famous. He was and I think people in New York City, you know, people who were more activist minded people who were more just close there, knew of him as also being like this racist, this misogynist, whatever. But for people who weren’t as familiar with him, it was just, oh, Donald Trump, this amazing businessman, blond hair, talks a lot of shit, you know, friends with a lot of athletes and entertainers. That was his status. And then The Apprentice happened and made him one of the most famous people on TV. And then this motherfucker was elected president.


Minda Honey: As a result to the success from The Apprentice. Apparently.


Damon Young: As a result of that and also as a direct result of the next person on the list, Barack Obama being president. [laughter] And the pushback, the reaction to that was so severe in America that they elected this motherfucker to lead us and he might be our president again. 


Minda Honey: So, I mean, are not Barack and Trump like on the same tier of famous like what would make one edge the other out like once you become president isn’t that like basically everyone of a certain age within this country is aware of who you are situation. 


Damon Young: I agree with you. I think that they are on that same tier of fame. But I will give this slight nudge the slight edge to Trump right now because he is more relevant right now. And I think that even for people who aren’t interested in politics, they may know of Trump because of TV or because of being in movies and being friends with Mike Tyson and being on Method Man albums like. Dude, he was on the Method Man album. 


Minda Honey: I wonder if Meth regrets that. 


Damon Young: So between Trump and Obama, I think Trump edges him out a bit. 


Minda Honey: Because of relevancy. 


Damon Young: Yes. 


Minda Honey: So relevancy can make you. 


Damon Young: Yes. 


Minda Honey: Even more famous. 


Damon Young: And thing is, we’re trying to chart you a path though this also. So, you know, I want you to sell as many books as possible. 


Minda Honey: Yes. 


Damon Young: So, you know, you might need to be president. 


Minda Honey: Me? Never that. [laughs] I’m not being president. And I most definitely not being the first Black woman president. [laughs] Let somebody else break through that glass ceiling. 


Damon Young: Okay, So next and let’s just do it this way. We have Taylor Swift. We have Beyonce. We have Kim Kardashian. 


Minda Honey: Well, I think Kim Kardashian is probably the easy one to kick out of that group if we’re talking Taylor, Beyonce and Kim. Yeah. 


Damon Young: Okay. All right. Bye Kim. [laughs] I’m sure there are people who know who Beyonce is and don’t know who Kim Kardashian is. But I don’t know if there are people who know Kim Kardashian is and don’t know who Beyonce is. 


Minda Honey: Correct. I agree with that assessment. 


Damon Young: Okay. So Beyonce. Taylor Swift. 


Minda Honey: I mean, I don’t know if I can see around my bias on this one. [laughs] I’m a ride with Beyonce on this. I mean, I guess hypothetically, there might be people who know Taylor’s with is but doesn’t know who Beyonce is, even though they’ve both been kind of like the biggest news story of the summer. And I saw a lot when I went to the Beyoncé concert. I saw a lot of repeat outfits from the Taylor Swift concert. So that might be why she instated a dress code. 


Damon Young: Hmm. Okay. 


Minda Honey: Fresh fits only.


Damon Young: Beyonce and Taylor, I feel like, are on like, the same kind of stratosphere in terms of fame. I would actually give the slight now to Taylor Swift, though. 


Minda Honey: Is it because of her new relationship she’s crossed over into, like sports awareness? 


Damon Young: I don’t think that that has made her more famous. I think that that is actually proof of her fame where she starts dating an NFL player and like the fucking the Empire State Building just had a whole like, like color scheme based off of Taylor Swift’s condiments while eating chicken fingers. It’s that. 


Minda Honey: Is it that or is it like that? She’s a white blonde woman and this is America. 


Damon Young: Well, that also, you know, the fact that she’s white and blond, tall, young, whatever, all of that matters. Like, I think that if we’re talking about like fame here in America. 


Minda Honey: It’s like the MTV Music Video Awards all over again. 


Damon Young: Yeah. Yeah. And again, this is. No. This is not a conversation about whose art is better or who. 


Minda Honey: Sure. 


Damon Young: You know, or. And I think that Beyonce actually means more to her fans than Taylor Swift does to hers. 


Minda Honey: Oh, that’s an interesting argument. 


Damon Young: Yeah, I think the level of importance and the level of like passion that people have for Beyonce and it isn’t just a healthy relationship. It is an actual like, I just really want to see this person succeed. This person’s music has just helped me get through things and help me just think of different things about myself and about how I exist in the world. And I think that that connection with her fans is on a different level than Taylor Swift’s connection with her fans. 


Minda Honey: Now, you got me flip flopping, though, because I don’t know if that’s true. Like, I feel like Taylor Swift’s fans do have a deep emotional connection with her. They grew up with her. They watched her go through all that stuff with her label and like, lose the rights to her music. Like, you know, I’m a Beyonce and my neighbor. On the other side, here is a super mega Taylor Swift fan. Like, I live in a duplex and I know, I know in my core, she feels the same way about Taylor that I feel about Beyonce. [laughs]


Damon Young: Well, I’ll put it this way. Like, I know a lot of people who don’t listen to any music other than Beyonce right now. 


Minda Honey: Sure. 


Damon Young: They don’t fuck with anyone else. Like, if Beyonce’s not releasing albums, they’re just not listening to new shit at all. And I don’t. Does Taylor have that with her people where they’re fans of Taylor Swift and no one else? [laughs] Right. 


Minda Honey: That’s interesting. Okay. Okay. Yeah, I think that they probably have a few other artists on their playlist. 


Damon Young: Yeah. And again, I’m speaking from a place I obviously know more about Beyonce fandom and more about Beyonce than I do about Taylor Swift. 


Minda Honey: Sure. 


Damon Young: But I still. Again, all this considered I still am if we’re talking about famous nous today. I think Taylor is a little bit more famous. 


Minda Honey: So Taylor’s more famous but Beyonce is more beloved. I think I can live with that, you know. 


Damon Young: This is why I get writers on the show. So you could just come up with just that pithy, perfect summation of a thing. 


Minda Honey: You’re a writer, too. [laughs] I was just riffing off of what you started. You know, I was revising. I was editing. Boom, boom, boom. 


Damon Young: Now we’re down to the championship, and that is Taylor Swift versus Donald Trump, who is more famous?


Minda Honey: Okay, well, when you think about people like Taylor Swift’s parents and grandparents and great Pappy’s age, like those people probably know who Donald Trump is, but they probably don’t know who Taylor Swift is. You know, like they probably like some vague sense, but they don’t know her like they know Trump. They didn’t go stand in the cold to vote for her. 


Damon Young: Yeah, but those people’s grandchildren, nieces, nephews, are more likely to know who Taylor Swift is, I think. And there are more of them because, you know, a lot of the grandparents are dead now [laughter] and there are just more young people. You know who will be able to. Oh, yeah. That’s Taylor Swift. Or oh, yeah, that’s Taylor Swift’s music. And, you know, maybe they’re into politics, maybe they’re not into politics and might know who Donald Trump is, but definitely know who Taylor Swift is. So you basically have a generational like who is bringing more numbers to the table? 


Minda Honey: Well, there is some overlap there, though, because remember, in Taylor Swift’s maybe you don’t remember this. I didn’t watch it. I saw the clip, though, where Taylor’s talking about how she feels like she needs to speak out against Donald Trump. And then this past week, Trump, maybe even just yesterday, actually, Trump was asked for his commentary on Taylor’s relationship. And he said, I hope they’re happy, maybe together, most likely not together. So. [laughs] So because they’ve both commented on each other, their audiences may or may not be like equally aware of the other party. 


Damon Young: And I think that that vote actually gives the edge to Taylor Swift, because I feel like if it were if it were anyone who Donald Trump felt like was below him in the level or prominence or influence, he would have gone in a bit more knowing who he is. He would have been nasty. He would have said something really insulting. 


Minda Honey: Sure. 


Damon Young: But because this is a woman that is more popular than he is and could even I don’t know if she has the potential to help sway anything, but he obviously respects how massive she is. 


Minda Honey: Yeah. And she at least thinks that she would have the power because that’s what the whole conversation was about, whether or not she should speak out and what the potential backlash would be because of everything that happened with the chicks. So, yeah, okay. I could I could see it. Taylor Swift More popular than Donald Trump. 


Damon Young: We use a very scientific method. You know, I’m proud of us. 


Minda Honey: I mean, her face isn’t on the front of a book, but it’s fine. 


Damon Young: I’m very proud for how we got there, how we got to the answer. We actually looked at the data. We tried to be objective. We used, you know, different points and different parts of the argument. Again, I am just so pleased about how this turned out. 


Minda Honey: I’m a little curious, though, like the letter writer. I wonder who them and their friends were debating. 


Damon Young: I feel like that might be age dependent. I feel like someone who is older will probably say one of the politicians like Trump or Obama. 


Minda Honey: But they could be like, you know, Travis Scott, most famous person. [laughter]


Damon Young: Yes. Yes. So tell us tell us about this book. 


Minda Honey: Yeah. So The Heartbreak Years is about dating as a woman of color in Southern California in my twenties. And it’s set against the backdrop of the Obama years. So basically, my high school sweetheart and I moved to Orange County to house sit for his grandparents. And after six years of dating six months in California did us in.


Damon Young: Wow. 


Minda Honey: So at 23. I had to learn how to date as an adult. And as I was trying to, like, figure that out, our nation had just elected its first Black president. So suddenly we were in flux. We’re talking about race, sex, gender, consent, class. We’re having all of these things differently. And as it turns out, dating is the perfect vehicle to, like, interrogate these beliefs because it cuts across all of them. 


Damon Young: Wow. Okay. And I saw a review of your book, or it might have been a profile where they mentioned how your first line was amazing. Was that the Salon? The piece in Salon?


Minda Honey: Maybe. So the first line is, 2008, great year for Obama, trashier for Minda. 


Damon Young: That first line is a hook and it gets you. 


Minda Honey: Oh, thank you. 


Damon Young: I have this conversation with college students and people who are interested in writing, particularly people are interested in writing personal essay or memoir. And it’s like, okay, how much do you include? How much of your own experience do you include? And there’s not really a science to it. You just have to determine, okay, what fits the story, what can I include that will also allow me to exist in the world too? Because you still, if you write a memoir, it involves real people and it’s like, well, I still have to be a person off the page. And so I guess what was your decision making process in terms of what to include and what not to include? 


Minda Honey: Yeah, I think it’s like a case by case, chapter by chapter thing and also revision by revision. There was an essay that I drastically cut and changed towards the final revision of this book because ultimately I decided that it was more somebody else’s story and dealt with some very challenging things that had happened in their life. But I was kind of like tertiary to and shaped a lot of me as well. But ultimately I was like, I don’t want this person or any of other people involved have to relive any of these things or question them a decade later. Sometimes it came down to like what best serves the narrative. And then sometimes it came down to, you know what, actually, I’m not comfortable or ready to tell this story yet. And I think this is something that Kiese talks about a lot. And so, you know, you can watch his career once he released Heavy and all the interviews and conversations he had to have after that. And so, you know, or even just Roxane Gay when she put out Hunger. And so just kind of knowing that, hey, I’m a Black woman writer, people are probably going to toe the same sorts of lines ask the same sort of questions. So am I going to be ready to, like, answer those questions, like answer them with grace? Obviously, I’m not as famous as either one of those people, but it helps as a framework. 


Damon Young: The Heartbreak Years available wherever books are sold. Please cop it. Please read it. Please support. It’s a great book.


Minda Honey: I’m on book tour so you can look at the schedule on Instagram @MindaHoney. 


Damon Young: Thank you so much for coming through. 


Minda Honey: Thanks so much for having me. This was fun. 


Damon Young: Again, just want to thank the homies Summer Lee, Minda Honey for coming through. Great conversation, great guests, great topic, great people. Thank you all, too, for coming through. And it could have been anywhere else in the world. But you chose to be here today. Also you can fin stuck with them. Damon Young Also, you can find stuff with Damon Young wherever you get your podcasts, but if you’re on the Spotify app, there are lots of interactive questions, answers. Go to it. Knock yourself out. Have some fun. Tell a friend and again, if you have any questions about anything whatsoever, hit me up at deardamon@crooked.com. All right y’all. See you next week. [music plays] Stuck with Damon Young is hosted by me, Damon Young. From Crooked Media, our executive producers are Kendra James and Madeleine Haeringer. Our producers are Ryan Wallerson and Morgan Moody. Mixing and mastering by Sara Gibble-Laska and the folks at Chapter Four. Theme music and score by Taka Yasuzawa. And special thanks to Charlotte Landes. And from Spotify our executive producers are Lauren Silverman, Neil Drumming and Matt Shilts. Special thanks to Lesley Gwam and Krystal Hawes-Dressler. [music plays]