In This Episode
DeRay, Kaya, De’Ara, and Sam dive into the underreported news of the week, including hospital coronavirus infections, virtual learning, sports arena voting, and COVID-19’s rural devastation. Then, DeRay sits down with soccer star Megan Rapinoe to talk about her new book “One Life.”
DeRay [00:00:01] Hey, this is DeRay and welcome to Pod Save the People. On this episode, it’s me, Sam, Kaya and De’Ara as we talk about the news that you don’t know from the past week. And then I sit down and talk with soccer star, Megan Rapinoe, who talks about her new book, One Life. My advice for this week is about scale, that I’m obsessed with this idea of scale, like how do we make sure that we have solutions that impact as many people as possible, that we figure out scale solutions like that’s how we talk about systems and structures so much because this is a matter of scale. So when you think about the issue that you care about, when you think about police violence or you think about education or whatever the issue is that animates you. We’re always trying to figure out how do we put together a set of solutions so it’s not just one neighborhood, it’s not just one person, it’s not just one school. It’s not just one neighborhood or community. It is all of them. It is like, how do we make the solution spread? And that to me is the work of scale. So think about what it would look like if the solutions you have were applied everywhere, how would they look, how would they feel, would they in the problem? Let’s go.
Kaya [00:01:05] Welcome to this week’s episode of Pod Save the People. I’m Kaya Henderson at Henderson, @Kaya on Twitter.
Sam [00:01:11] And I’m Sam Sinyangwe @Samswey on Twitter.
DeRay [00:01:13] I’m Deray @deray on Twitter. De’Ara is not with us for the recording, but you will hear her news in a moment.
Kaya [00:01:21] So this week, lots of interesting stuff going on, but all of my technology is buzzing about President Obama on 60 Minutes this evening. He has a book coming out. There’s a whole lot of Obama esque stuff happening and people being reminded of the wonderfulness of our former president. I’m excited about the book coming out. My book club is planning on reading it all, Seven hundred and thirty something pages of it.
Kaya [00:01:52] But I’m excited to hear what people tell me is that there is some deep reflection on things that he would have done differently. And, you know, I think we’re also just as starved for some presidential ness in our lives. So I think that is why, you know, he’s getting a lot of play this week.
Sam [00:02:10] Yes. So I have seen a few of the quotes floating around on Twitter in particular, you know, one around Mitch McConnell and how apparently Mitch McConnell, according to Obama, said that he wouldn’t at all negotiate or be seen with Obama. I mean, essentially because of racism and racism from the Republican base, racism from Mitch McConnell himself, and just really highlighting the ways in which what we experienced and saw under those eight years of the Obama administration. It’s good to see, you know, Obama sort of spilling the tea. Right, like telling the truth about what we all saw, the fact that the Republican Party from day one, you know, organized against Obama and that racism was a fundamental driving force behind the conservative movement that ultimately elected Donald Trump. And that hasn’t gone away just because Donald Trump has been defeated in this election. That base of the Republican Party remains. I mean, they did turn out in relatively high numbers this election. And we’re going to have to deal with that politically and socially moving forward,.
DeRay [00:03:16] I think, too one of the things I’m interested in.
DeRay [00:03:17] So this book will be fascinating because I haven’t seen a lot of salacious excerpts.
DeRay [00:03:23] I haven’t seen a lot of like explanations of things that I think people are anticipating about. Like how what does he think about the protesters? You know, the death of Trayvon is a big part of how we remember his presidency. The death of Mike Brown is a big part. And I haven’t seen those things. So I’m interested in the way that that factors into the way he tells his own story. Also, he has an interview with David over at the at the Atlantic. There’s I don’t think it’s out yet, but we’ve seen teasers of. So it’ll come out before this podcast episode. But after the recording, so I’m interested in that. I’ve also been interested in the way that people, at least online, have been much more critical of Obama and the administration than I remember them being critical in the moment. Like, I just feel like I didn’t see a lot of like, oh, this person worked in the Obama administration that we didn’t like. Whereas now I feel like I see a lot of criticism. And It’s also reminded me and I don’t know if I felt this so much, maybe because we’re all just trapped at home. But there seems to be an even wider difference between the discourse I see online in the discourse. I hear with like my cousins, my family, like when I asked my father about things, about police or whatever, I see a lot of the tweets about it. My father is like it’s just like a whole different world. And I don’t know, I think I’m getting more and more worried that the Twitter conversation specifically is driving so much of the media coverage of everything in a way that might not actually be setting us up for success. And I’m worried about that.
Kaya [00:04:49] Yeah, I think normal people, regular, everyday, maybe not normal.
Kaya [00:04:53] OK, let me rewind that.
DeRay [00:04:56] You can see the hate mail coming in. Hate mail coming in.
Sam [00:04:59] Real Americans are not on Twitter.
Kaya [00:05:03] There are a lot of people, a lot of people who are not on Twitter, who do not derive their news from Twitter, who who are having very different conversations about the political climate and where they stand.
Kaya [00:05:17] There is a bunch of research that shows that Twitter amplifies a small handful of voices that are just generally not indicative of how the American public is thinking. And I think the media class has to figure out how to get out and touch the people and come from behind the screens to really figure out what’s going on. I think, in fact, that’s part of the reason why the pollsters have been so wrong. Right, because they’ve paid a lot of attention to what has been going on on social media and some of which is real. But I think folks got to get out and talk to regular people.
Sam [00:05:51] I mean, there’s definitely been a war going on among pollsters. And like the whole sort of polling, election predictions, research community is having this crisis of confidence again because, you know, they set themselves up after 2016. There was this sort of postmortem and they acknowledge that there were a lot of mistakes that they made and they didn’t weight the polls the right way. There were some sampling bias. There were folks that weren’t included in those polls or may not have expressed their actual views to pollsters and that that led to a different interpretation of who the likely winner would be that might have actually affected people’s willingness to turnout along the margins. And so here we are four years later, and it’s basically a polling error of the same magnitude that we’re seeing this year that we saw in 2016. So it’s a huge topic of conversation. I don’t know, you know I think there’s been a lot of theories that have been offered as to why that is. And I don’t think that anybody’s, like, figured it out for sure. But I do think that this that something you know, there are a lot of theories about Covid in particular, shifting who is at home and who is not at home in ways that systematically lead to underreporting from particular groups that were more likely to be outside, folks who are probably lower propensity voters, folks who might have been, you know, seniors that stayed home, might have been those who are more likely to be democratic because they were listening to the news and they were listening to science. And Republican seniors might have been more likely to go outside even though there was Covid. And so the proportion of seniors that supported Biden in the polls differed from the actual numbers that turned out to vote.
Kaya [00:07:27] I think there is also general distrust and pollsters. I’ve heard lots of people saying, well, when they call me, I’m not going to tell them what I’m really going to do. And so I think the polling is probably a little less reliable than it has been in prior years. And so we’ve got to develop some new indicators because I think, you know, two elections down. This is not going to work for us moving forward.
Sam [00:07:49] For sure. And that’s the thing is like the science is so limited, right? It is like you’re talking about a polling error that’s, you know, three, four or five percent, which is fairly precise, like in the grand scheme of things in terms of being able to predict a nationwide outcome. But, you know, three, four or five percent is what the presidential election will be decided by like every single time.
Sam [00:08:09] So it’s not really that helpful in the end.
DeRay [00:08:13] When you say it like that, Sam, I think it’s also interesting too. Two election and now to think about, is there a way, and Sam, you might know this better than I do, is there a way to, like, structurally account for people who will not say they’re racist? Right? So we didn’t think there’s many people are going to vote for Trump and clearly they voted for him. They probably didn’t tell the pollster they were going to vote for him. But is there a way to account for people who, like, you know, we can poll some things or people just tell us like death penalty, yes or no. But these things about race, it’s like we actually might need to figure out how to have a margin for racism where we just like we just bump it up a couple of points because people aren’t going to say they’re racist.
Sam [00:08:47] I mean, that’s been a whole thing, like measuring racism, like evaluating people’s racist attitudes has been like so difficult to actually do because people will not admit to many pollsters. And the people that do will be like a very particular type of people. So like like the questions are like, do you think that black people are like more lazy than white people? And like people who say yes to that, to a random pollster on the phone, are like a level of racism is actually like like, wow. Like there’s a whole lot of racist people that wouldn’t even answer that, yes, like to a random pollster on the phone. So it’s a it’s a huge issue. That’s why implicit bias has become such a conversation, because they’re trying to figure out ways to get around people’s, like tendency not to actually admit what they believe.
Kaya [00:09:30] Well, in other topics, as the coronavirus continues to spread and cases continue to spike, we are seeing lots of conversation about what new lockdown requirements are happening across states, including continued conversations about what happens with school. And my piece in news today focuses on a different conversation around distance learning. And it features an article out of. New York Times, an opinion piece whose title is “You’re Out of Your Mind if you think I’m Ever Going Back to School.” And that phrase was uttered by 13 year old Saige in New Jersey from New Jersey, who that was her declaration after schools closed in March. Saige as an African-American young woman. The article focuses on the fact that one of the less talked about pieces of of distance learning or virtual schooling is that for many African-American students, distance learning is helping them to avoid the subtle bigotry that happens to them in school. The Saige’s mom talks about the fact that every day she would ask Sage how school is going, it was hard to articulate or name the kind of micro aggressions that African-American kids often face in schools. Things like people saying black kids are too loud or black kids won’t sit still, or black kids have anger management issues or even the conversation about black girls that happens in the hallways and the lunchroom. And one of the things that one of the silver linings, I guess, of distance learning is the fact that the virtual environment actually protects black kids from many of these racial micro aggressions that they could not avoid in in-person school. When you look at the research or survey data, when you ask about people who want to see returning to school as a large or moderate risk more than any other group, black people see returning to school as a significant risk, 89 percent of black people think it’s a big risk. 80 percent of Hispanic people and only 64 percent of white people, black parents more wary of in-person learning than others. And that’s not you know, that’s for valid reasoning, given that 74 percent of covid-19 deaths and people under 21 are black and Hispanic children. And in fact, a recent analysis has shown that some black families value keeping their kids home to protect them from this racial hostility and bias. They are able to keep their kids away from things like school resource officers. Parents can hear how teachers are talking to their kids and intervene immediately. And, you know, a number of these parents suggest that schools are antiblack places and they want their kids to have educational experiences which support them and grow them and help liberate them. In fact, this is consistent with a lot of research around why some black families actually homeschool to avoid this kind of racial bias in schools. And so when you think about the fact that there’s a lot of research that shows that white teachers have lower expectations for black children or there’s an underrepresentation of black children in AP courses or in gifted and talented programs, or that black kids are more likely to be diagnosed with learning disabilities, you start to understand why some of these parents are experiencing just a positive environment in the virtual space that they could not get in schools. And so I think as we continue to debate whether we’re going back in person or not and and whether infection rates are high in schools or not, I think there are some silver linings. And while virtual learning might not work for everybody, I think it’s important to take account of some of the positives of virtual learning, especially when you think about the impact that it has on certain cultures and how they engage with school.
Sam [00:13:53] You know, Kaya, this article was really fascinating. And I it made me reflect back on my own experience as a kid. You know, growing up in central Florida, I went to a predominantly white elementary school. It was really conservative. It was a private school. I was like one of only a handful of black kids in the entire school. And, you know, experiencing these disparities, you know, where, you know, you would get you know, I would be suspended from school for things that, like everybody else, I felt unfairly targeted. I felt like I didn’t do anything but would get consistently sort of called out.
DeRay [00:14:26] You got suspended, Sam?
Sam [00:14:26] oh, yeah, yeah. So you know, all of that.
Sam [00:14:30] So, you know, even you know, when I was younger, you know, I remember they would make you take the IQ test and then based on the IQ test, they would refer you to gifted and talented. So I took the IQ test, made the score, but then they didn’t refer me to gifted and talented. So then my mom had to step in and like fight on my behalf to have access to gifted and talented because, like, the teachers didn’t want me to be a part of it. And they were like, no black kids and gifted and talented. So like having a moment. Just a brief moment, where parents, first of all, have a different level of visibility into some of these experiences that their kids are going through, because, you know, I remember I would never talk about these things, so I’d get picked up. The end of the day. I’d be like, sure, my day was fine and like play video games or something and go on with my life because I didn’t have a language to really articulate what I was experiencing and the unfairness of it all. But I think now with parents having that visibility, I’m interested to see how teachers might actually start changing their behavior, knowing that parents are able to see what is happening and that parents are able to even, you know, sit in on or even watch what is happening with regard to how their students are being, what their students are being called, how they’re being called out in class, how they’re being, you know, punished. I think the fact that there aren’t SRO’s with such close contact to students, particularly black students in this moment because schools are not in session in so many places, is something that, you know, from a research point of view will be interesting to see, because we know that, you know, the presence of SRO’s, the presence of school based arrests can negatively impact students academically. And the fact that students are able to, you know, go to school in large part from home might actually help lead to improved test scores, closing opportunity gaps, and ultimately leading to a better environment for a lot of kids, particularly black kids. So so we’ll see sort of how this evolves over time and and whether this is sort of a sustainable thing where more and more parents want to do virtual schooling for their kids. But but I do think this is a moment where we might be able to to see how to do things differently in some places.
DeRay [00:16:28] So there are a lot of things that come to mind, I, Kaya, as you probably are too I’m still close to a lot of principals and there are a set of school districts like there’s a school there are two school districts in Lancaster County. There’s a school district in Delaware, Colonial School District, their host school districts that for whatever reason, this past week, a lot of people got Covid across the district. So they are closing suddenly. They were in person and now they’re going back to virtual. And being close to principals has reminded me of just like the logistical challenges that are happening.
DeRay [00:17:00] So like there were different class configurations when they were all virtual. You could put you can have 50 kids in a class ostensively on Zoom. Then you go in person and so you’re like regrouping the kids. All of a sudden you’re going back to virtual, a whole different group of kids. You think about all those parents who like they had a rhythm. Now the kids are going to school, that now they’re coming home. It’s like the class impact of this is still enormous. Like the back and forth is enormous. And it does it sort of begs the question, you’re like and this is where I get so frustrated with district people. And I say this is a person who used to be a district administrator.
DeRay [00:17:32] You’re like, did you ever work at a school because y’all are making like yo yo decisions that like even the best principals and the best school leaders would really struggle to implement, knowing that, like, you know, if a decision to close schools comes out on Sunday night at 5:00, there are a lot of parents who won’t even know. Right. No fault of their own.
DeRay [00:17:52] They’re going to they’re like doing other stuff, like
Kaya [00:17:54] They’ll show up.
DeRay [00:17:55] Yeah. The kids are still going to be a school. And now you got to deal with what happens with all the kids.
DeRay [00:17:59] You know, it’s just like we got to be better planners knowing that like this yo yo ing might happen more often. The other thing that that really struck me is, as you know, teachers or all people in school systems are mandated reporters.
DeRay [00:18:12] Anybody who has contact with kids. In Miami, they’ve seen reports of child abuse arise now that kids are back in school in some schools and that’s been interesting. Well, one of the nonprofit providers noted that about 40 percent of all abuse cases are reported by school personnel. So when Covid happened, there was like a huge drop. And then what you find is that like it is actually going back up in districts that are reporting it publicly. And it is interesting because you think, too, about like how schools are hubs for communities, not only by education, but like safeguards for a host of things. So I’m close to a principal. And, you know, she was telling me the other day that like one of her teachers had to call in a report of child abuse that they saw because a kid came to school. And, you know, like you think about how what’s going to happen with this group of kids who’s been impacted in such a particular way because of Covid. And it makes me think of how we need to start guaranteeing services like what are ways to guarantee services that are not only in school buildings like schools can be incredible hubs, but in moments like this, you find out that like we were not prepared for an emergency, like people thought we were ready for emergencies and we are not. So like, you know, if this is another year, you know, we should start thinking about and I don’t have the answers that we should I think about what do we do about child abuse. Right. What do we do about meals? Like do we give people month packets of meals instead of making them cover every Wednesday? You know, like I don’t I’m trying to think about, like, how do we plan for this a little bit better? And that’s what I’m worried about.
Kaya [00:19:38] I think the problem is that our response, at least on the schooling front, is how do we get, quote unquote, “back to normal” as soon as possible? And I think that there is no back to normal. In fact, we have to plan for, you know, the back and forth. Sometimes we’re in, sometimes we’re not, which means that we have to make sure that all kids have the technology that they need to be able to support hybrid learning, it means that we have to structure the school day in the school year in a way that allows for some in-person and some not in-person.
Kaya [00:20:14] I mean, one of the interesting tidbits in this article is that 20 percent of parents of black parents in one survey said even when we get back to normal, whatever that is, when we get back to in-person school, that they would prefer to stay virtual. And so you’re going to have many families who choose not to go back in person, some who want to go back part time and in person part time. And we’ve got to reconstruct a new world around education, around health care, around, you know, child abuse, around a number of things that happen in school because we just can’t do it the way we’ve been doing it. And I think we’ve been so pressed to go back to the way it was that we haven’t imagined something new or something different. But my highlighting this article was I mean, I could talk for days about all of the things that are going wrong as a result of this virtual learning experiment. But there are some silver linings in it. Some kids are doing better actually because of the virtual environment. So let’s hope that our leaders and our administrators, that our leaders listen to our administrators, please, the people who are on the front lines and who can raise these issues and help us to understand how to make policy that actually makes sense for kids.
Sam [00:21:30] So my news is about voting and in particular the role that sports stadiums and arenas have played as a site of voting in the 2020 election. So USA Today just did an analysis where they collected data on 40 different stadiums and arenas across the country and found that about 300,000 voters cast their votes at those locations. Now, this is important because this is the first year in which we’ve seen voting centers set up in the context of stadiums and arenas like this. And this is in large part a response to two things. One, covid, which required a very difficult set of factors to be met in order to allow people to safely vote in large numbers. You have to have a huge space. It had to be well ventilated. You had to make sure that there was an ability to have Internet in the space and set up these kind of voting centers. And so sports stadiums became a natural sort of good fit for a location that could accommodate folks safely voting. And then the other thing that’s been really important is the activism on the part of sports players, in particularly the NBA Players Association, which pushed heavily in the wake of high-Profile police shootings this past summer to push as part of a social justice initiative, a voting registration and voting focus that ultimately resulted in dozens of stadiums and arenas being repurposed to be voting centers. So, you know, this is the first year in which this has happened at scale. It already seems to be making a big difference even in the outcome of this election. When you note that 40,000 voters voted in Fulton County in the Atlanta Hawks Stadium. And so that is, you know, 40,000 voters in Fulton County in Georgia could very well have impacted the outcome of how that state went for Biden by about 14,000 votes and counting. So, again, like this is new. This is something that is scalable to even more places, even more cities moving forward. And hopefully this can be a new avenue for people to vote. I mean, even in in again, in places like Atlanta, the wait times to vote in a stadium were far less than they were in traditional polling sites. And so as not only a way for people to vote safely in the context of a pandemic, but also to vote quicker in a more accessible way, that overcomes some of the hurdles that have been intentionally created to deny people the ability to vote in states like Georgia.
Kaya [00:23:57] I thought this was really interesting. First of all, I think a lot of times our sports players get a bad rap for not being, you know, role models or for not contributing to the community in more significant ways. And this is one way where sports teams and players and arenas where real community partners and they helped civic engagement, they helped to ensure that, you know, as many people were able to participate in this election as possible. And I’m especially moved. Sam, you mentioned it by the fact that a lot of this is coming from the activism of the players. And I’m really excited that players see their power and are using their power in meaningful ways. One of the things that I thought was super cool was the fact that the excitement that gets generated in a sports arena, they talked about the fact that, you know, people were cheering first time voters and.
Kaya [00:24:59] You know, there were poll greeters and there was music and it, you know, it was a party and voting should be a huge thing that we celebrate for people. It literally could change the culture of voting. In the elections we talk about how important your vote is, how important vote is, and then you piddle on down to your neighborhood spot and you vote.
Kaya [00:25:17] And it’s incredibly anticlimactic when it actually happens.
Kaya [00:25:21] But could you imagine if you go to an arena and people are like, woohoo! And cheering folks on and you see old people and young people and you feel part of something bigger.
Kaya [00:25:31] And so I am excited and hopeful that this is the beginning of what should be normal. I think there are other community institutions and assets that can also step up. And I think this was incredibly important in a time where we’re seeing so many poll closings around, you know, voter suppression so big up to the NBA and the NFL and the N-whatever else is who made their stadiums available for people to vote.
DeRay [00:26:01] It makes me think of all the things that I hope we log so that next Election Day we do them better. That like I think that more people now are participating in the like “voting should be easy conversation.”
DeRay [00:26:11] Like you think about the number of first time voters, the number of athletes who never would have done anything about this. But now they like they’re like, wow, this is like a real lever. It’s like they’re people I know who never really cared about this stuff, who are like, yes, of course. Stadiums. Yes, national holiday. We should probably just mail the ballots to everybody anyway, you know, like who are like, why are we purging voters for saying, like it is completely demystified, sort of a conversation that was very inside baseball and all of a sudden people like you didn’t accept my ballot?
DeRay [00:26:38] My signature looked like it did on the thing.
DeRay [00:26:40] And you’re like, yes, the fact that they had, like, not taking your ballot because they said your signature looks weird today is total is a lie. And I think there were some people who might have been susceptible to the, like, voter fraud argument who like lived this culture of voting this time. And I like, yeah, that was a sham. That’s not real. Like there was no fraud. So I think that’s like a that’s a big one. You know, I’m on the board of Rock the Vote and I’m looking forward to our postmortem about, like, how we can help publicize all of the things that should just be in place and build a consensus campaign about it, like leading up to the next election, because I think now more than ever what the next phase of this will be for like the next election will be helping people understand how to make the most informed choices on the ballot. I don’t think we nailed at this time. I think that we got people to vote.
DeRay [00:27:25] I think that a lot of people still got in the room and were like Judge Amy Sushko, who is you know, they’re like county clerks, Sam, you know, and they were just clicking buttons.
DeRay [00:27:37] I think that there are a lot of places I saw this this cycle where there were ballot initiatives that were really dope, but also places, you know, if we move away from party races, if you just run as people, we will need our voter education to be, you know, way better than it is today because we’re relying on down ballot party votes. But like, if people start to be creative about the way we sort of organize people on the ballot, you know, that might be a turn for the worse because of voter education.
DeRay [00:28:03] So I hope that that’s the next push. OK, so my news is an article in the Marshall Project called “When Going to the Hospital is Just as Bad as Jail.” So I must admit that I hadn’t really thought about this at all.
DeRay [00:28:16] Like, I hadn’t sort of considered that when people talk about alternatives to the police and they talk about mental health providers and we talk about different people responding to 911 that in some places that actually leads to an overrepresentation of black people and poor people in involuntary stays in psych wards, which is essentially like, you know, being in jail, you are held against your will. And people talk about this being as traumatizing as being arrested. And often in places, it doesn’t actually connect you to any treatment after the actual hold. So it’s not you know, people talk about it as like a gateway, but it actually might not be a gateway to anything but essentially arrest by another name. The article focuses on Alameda County, California, which has the highest rate of psychiatric hold in the state, over three times the California average. And black people make up over a third of those brought to the hospital’s emergency psychiatric ward, even though black people are just a tenth of the county population.
DeRay [00:29:17] And I’m telling you, I read it and I was like, wow, we really do need to be thoughtful. I guess people talk about alternatives. Every quote thing that looks like an alternative to the police might not actually be better than the police. Right. That involuntary holds, and I had heard stories from people talking about how like a different pathways to involuntary holds, like, you know, a police officer just said they were acting crazy and then dddd. But it makes me think, too, you know, and Sam, this is always your push about how I’d love to see more data about this across the country. I have to imagine that this is probably a tactic used far more often than any of us had ever understood. I could see the people for whom this is used against. This would be a hard thing to, like, appeal like by the time you like you get out by the time you got the hold, it’s like, what do you do, sue the county? Like, you know, I could see I could see the process of dealing with the harm of this actually being really wild to act to, like, figure out.
DeRay [00:30:13] So I thought I’d bring it here because we we also know that black people are overrepresented in psych emergency rooms in general. Um, and underserved by voluntary community based mental support. So when I thought about that and again, made me dig deeper on the way we talk about alternatives to the police and trying to be mindful that all alternatives are not actually better, that different is not better always.
Sam [00:30:38] So this is really fascinating in part because, you know, like you said, this really challenges us to think about what kind of alternative is really being built and who are the actual alternative providers and what are they providing. Right. The traditional sort of approach that has been taken to issues of mental health crises tends to be calling the police. The police come. The police are not well trained to deal with the situation. They often escalate it. People get hurt or killed by the police in those situations. If they are not immediately sort of harmed by the police, oftentimes they are in those situations placed in, California call it 5150 hold, which is basically a psych hold. And then you are, like you said, incarcerated in a hospital, essentially against your will. You can’t leave. In many cases, you can be you know, they can administer all kinds of, you know, quote unquote “treatments.” One of the things that when we talk about alternatives, it’s important to note, is that some of the same racism in policing also is well documented in the context of the provision of medical care, the provision of mental health treatment. The folks who are providing that treatment are often disproportionately white, are often not trained or or simply don’t care about the folks who they are supposed to be caring for. And the system actually gives them the power to hold people against their will in context that simply exacerbate existing disparities in who the police are responding to, who is getting the police called on them or who is getting any alternative called on them. So I think, you know, big picture, what we need to be thinking about is how do we scale up alternatives that actually work? How are we rigorously evaluating those alternatives so that we know that the outcomes are preferable to the status quo and that that can actually trigger more investment in scaling over time. And so there are places that do this a little bit differently. You know, there are in many cases, you look at what’s happening in you know, this example gets mentioned all the time, but Eugene, Oregon, where with their CAHOOTS program, it really is focused on deescalating situations, having the mental health provider there sort of a preventative strategy before things escalate to a situation where the police would be called or a 5150 hold would be placed on somebody. So I think there is sort of an upstream preventative approach here that is different than simply calling somebody when things have already gotten out of control. And there are some places that are starting to implement that approach effectively. But it clearly is not what’s happening in Oakland and in many other places.
Kaya [00:33:08] One of the things that was surprising to me was how things don’t even have to be out of control for people to initiate a psych hold. You know, a woma,. The example that they gave in the article was a woman whose children hadn’t returned after a visit with her ex-husband. And because she was known to have mental illness, when she called the police to say, hey, where are my kids? Which is completely reasonable, they grabbed her and took her to a hospital and kept her against her will, medicated her. And so the threshold, even for what triggers the psychiatric hold, seemed to be so low. Couple that with the lack of accountability, there is nothing that you can do about it. She tried to sue and the police w ere within their legal rights to do that. But it wasn’t reasonable. It wasn’t thoughtful, it wasn’t smart, it wasn’t useful. And that my guess is there are so many people who have experienced that and have no recourse. And so one of the questions that I had in addition to what can we do that is preventative and how do we create more community based solutions, is what happens when the system runs afoul of the way it should be treating people? How do we increase accountability so that these folks have a place to go? I could imagine that, you know, she might have been off of her job for a couple of days. And for some people, that means losing your job. Right. Which might imperil her status as the custodial parent. And so you get this kind of spiraling effect from what seems like a small thing, but there’s no accountability and that is huge for me. The other thing that stood out to me in this article was the fact that at the same time that we are creating alternatives by moving mental health Patients into this particular hospital, the hospitals are underfunded, overcrowded, understaffed, and the staff talked about the fact that, you know, in many cases they couldn’t even provide the level of service that they wanted to provide or needed to provide to clients. And so many times they were just, you know, breaking up fights and people are sleeping on the floor. And so even when getting people the medical care that they might need seems like the right thing to do, we’ve fallen short on the other side, and that’s the staffing of these hospitals or the funding of these hospitals. So they’re not able to do what they’re supposed to do. And so we’ve got to deal with this problem from a number of different perspectives, not just the “are our alternatives to policing right? But are the places where we are funneling people set up to serve them in the appropriate way.
Kaya [00:35:54] And when they don’t, what happens?
DeRay [00:35:57] It too made me think about how we need to both challenge the institution of policing and sort of honestly plan for scaled alternatives. Right. So even when we think about New York City, New York City made this big deal about like 911 moving to like an alternative to 911. New York City is the biggest police department of the United States biggest city in the United States, 36,000 officers. They are piloting this alternative to 911 in two neighborhoods, two neighborhoods.
DeRay [00:36:25] These two neighborhoods are probably as big as nothing, you know, like it’s New York City like I don’t even know what the data is going to tell you in the two neighborhoods, you know what I mean? Like, so, you know, if I hadn’t read the article and just read the headline when I read the headline, I was like, DeBlasio look he finally did some good. We up here got alternatives to the police. And then I’m like two neighborhoods. All I could think about was like, are there any black people even in like are these neighborhoods that even have 911 call, you know, I mean, like what’s going on in the neighborhood.
DeRay [00:36:54] So I do think one of the particular challenges that we have is we have gotten people more on board with alternatives like the language of alternatives. I think people get it. I don’t know how many scaled solutions. And I keep hearing about Eugene, Oregon, as shout out to the CAHOOTS program because it is a good program. I’m mindful that Eugene, Oregon, has less than three percent black people. So insert, Eugene Oregon
Kaya [00:37:14] Well, there’s That.
DeRay [00:37:16] Small detail. So trying to figure out how do we think about these things in places where, like, there will be deep structural racism present already because there are a lot of black and brown people.
DeRay [00:37:27] So I want to figure that out.
Kaya [00:37:28] And that’s a wrap.
De’Ara [00:37:30] My news today is an op ed written by the wonderful Catherine Coleman Flowers. Catherine is the author of the forthcoming book “Waste:One Woman’s Fight Against America’s Dirty Secret.” And she’s also the director of the Center for Rural Enterprise and Environmental Justice. I am so honored and lucky to know Catherine and to know of and support her work.
De’Ara [00:37:54] And I wanted to bring this op ed to the pod just because I think the work that Catherine is doing is so consequential and so critical. And it really does give voice to folks who are to some extent forgotten, forgotten by all of us, those of us that are fighting whatever good fight we are fighting. I think there’s a lot of remnants of the institution of slavery that still live with us. Obviously, the carceral system is an example of that. But what Catherine helps us to see is that the environment and the injustice when it comes to communities who are living in poverty, how it is just so rooted in inequity and so rooted in the legacies of the institution of slavery.
De’Ara [00:38:43] So this story really starts in Lowndes County, Alabama, where the majority of Catherine’s work takes place. It’s an area and Catherine tells us this in her op ed. But, you know, Lowndes County has a violent and racist history and 90 percent of the households in Lowndes County have failing or inadequate wastewater systems. And no one knew the extent of the problem or actually had a number of statistics to it, until Catherine’s organization, the Center for Enterprise and Environmental Justice, conducted a door to door survey back in 2011 and 2012. One of the stories that that Catherine highlights in this particular op ed is a family she came across during that survey. The head of this family was Ms. Pamela Rush. What Catherine has been doing through storytelling and also really through anchoring story and connection around families is taking folks like Reverend Barber, Bernie Sanders, Jane Fonda and other kind of influential folks down to Lowndes County so they can see how folks are living. One of those such folks is Pamela Rash. So when Catherine met Ms Rush, she was 42 year old mother. She had a cautious smile, as Catherine describes it, and would greet visitors at the door of her faded blue, single wide trailer, and she shared this trailer with her two children, so Catherine goes a little goes deep into kind of the living conditions of Ms. Rush and her children and how this trailer barely protected them. Her kids are 11 and 16. Gaps in the walls that let possums and other wildlife squeeze in. Pam had stuffed rags into the holes and try to, you know, set traps outside to no avail. The trailer was also, you know, kind of poorly ventilated, dimly lit, water stains, exposed electrical wiring. As much as Pam could, though she made it feel like home for her children. Catherine also goes on to explain that, you know, at the rear of the home overlooking a small yard and dense woods, there was a deck that had collapsed. And besides the deck, this collapsed deck, there was a pipe, basically exposed pipe that spewed out raw sewage from the trailer to the back of the house. And one of the things Catherine said that folks typically asked her about Ms Rush is like, well, why didn’t she move? Why did she stay in this house? And Catherine tells us that Ms Rush took out a mortgage for one hundred and thirteen thousand dollars in 1995, but the interest rate was 10 percent. So now here we are, 24 years later. She’s still owed thirteen thousand dollars on this trailer. But the trailer was worthless. You know, she makes her payments every month. And a septic system is essentially out of the question because they cost upwards of 15,000 thousand dollars. So what Catherine does so eloquently and so beautifully is really connect the dots between structural poverty and how it traps folks. In a sense, as you know, they’re doing what they need to do every single day and not getting anywhere, essentially. So this year, Catherine talks about how covid-19 swept through Lowndes County and poor people, especially poor black people, really fell victim to the alarming numbers. And it wasn’t long before Lowndes County had the highest rate of coronavirus cases in Alabama. Many people were infected at factories, warehouses, nursing homes or stores where they worked. They didn’t have the luxury of telecommuting. Others caught it through, you know, family members that they didn’t know had the virus. And, you know, they didn’t necessarily have means of social distancing. They couldn’t afford to check into a hotel they didn’t have second homes ya’ll. And in the absence of coherent public policy, people did what they could to help one another. In fact, Catherine had talked to Pam, who said she was actually fixing some greens for a sick relative. So after two years of working with Pam, Catharine’s organization had finally raised the money to help her buy a new, mobile home. And everyone, you know, was anticipating the joy. But the pandemic really put that on hold. And Ms Rush actually started developing breathing problems. In June, she was admitted to Selma Hospital and then transferred to the University of Alabama Medical Center in Birmingham.
De’Ara [00:42:52] And she fought and fought for her life, but lost her battle on July 3rd. The official cause of death was Covid-19. But what Catherine tells us is that the underlying causes of her death, of her suffering were poverty, environmental injustice, climate change, race and health disparities. So I wanted to bring this story to the pod one, because Catherine is brilliant and her work is so needed and so consequential. But I think it’s also because, you know, part of Catherine’s story is that she was just someone who saw that there was a need and she went to fill that gap the best way she knew she could. And we think about racism and we think about structural poverty. And it really is this confluence of really a cultural lack of us seeing the humanity in people and of us giving value to folks. And so, you know, I encourage you to follow Catherine, you know, dive into her work and what she’s doing in Lowndes County, Alabama, and what she’s doing around the world, because it really is powerful. So thank you, Catherine, for your work. And so in thinking about, you know, gratitude and us leading into a period of really being thankful, you know, we’re starting to go into the holiday season and it’s been a tough year, y’all say, to say the least. But, you know, I think what we have to be reminded of and what we really have to move in the spirit of is giving and kindness and being empathetic. And I think that is what has actually saved us up until this point. You know, still trying to get through coronavirus, having to deal with, you know, a violent administration, dealing with the very violent nature of white supremacy. But I think really we have to really focus and really practice just being there for one another. And one of my favorite quotes by Maya Angelou actually goes, “give it all you’ve got. love it with the passion, because life truly does give back many times over what you put into it. I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver. When you learn, teach, when you get, give.” And so to me, there’s this kind of ideology around, if you are giving, it’s charity, that’s not what it is, ya’ll. We give because as, Maya puts it, it liberates us. So you’re not doing it to make yourself feel good. You’re doing it to actually liberate yourself and to be more connected to a community, more connected to a person, more connected to a family member. You don’t give because you have to. You give because it is so part of who you are and making yourself better ultimately. So I think those are just my words for the season and for gratitude. Just give, give, give, give, give.
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DeRay [00:49:20] And now my conversation with Megan Rapinoe, Olympic gold medalist and two time women’s World Cup champion and my friend, who is such an incredible woman, and she’s become a galvanizing force for social change. We sat down and talked about resistance. We talked about her life, what led her to believe in justice, how she understands her responsibility and her new book, One Life.
DeRay [00:49:40] Let’s go. Megan, thanks so much for joining us today on Pod Save the People.
Megan Rapinoe [00:49:43] Thank you for having me. What a pleasure.
DeRay [00:49:45] We met forever ago. I knew very little about soccer. And you DMed me like, I don’t know that feels, like three years ago now. Four years ago maybe.
Megan Rapinoe [00:49:54] Yeah, at least. Yeah, it was a while back,.
DeRay [00:49:57] Super long. And then I’m like Googling. I’m like, I don’t know. And I’m like, whoa, it’s soccer. And now you have become an even louder voice for justice. So, so honored to have you here and congrats on your recent engagement. That’s exciting.
Megan Rapinoe [00:50:11] Thank you. Thank you. Yes. Very excited. Very happy. Very lucky.
DeRay [00:50:17] But I wanted to want to talk about your book. Can you start with why a book you’ve done a lot of cool things, you know, broken a lot of records. You’re role model for so many young men. Women. Yeah, like a whole queer community. Why a book?
Megan Rapinoe [00:50:33] You know, frankly, I feel like everything just kind of blew up after the World Cup last summer and sort of during it. And it was kind of like one of those things, like, of course, you’re going to write a book. You’re going to like write a book, and you’re like, go on these shows and you’re going to do these sponsorships and you’re going to like, I don’t know, just seems like if you blow up like that, like, that’s kind of what you do. Everyone is like, oh, you should write a book. Publishers want me to write books. So I was like, OK, I’m actually like not really thought about writing a book before. Like, seriously, it was more like, what would I ever write about? I don’t know.
Megan Rapinoe [00:51:06] I didn’t feel like I had enough to even sort of put it down in words. But I feel like this one sort of made sense in a way. You know, I get a lot of questions like how did you get to this point? How, you know, where did your activism come from, where you know, what the hell’s going on with you? You’re, you know, from a small conservative, really white town. And, you know, you’re taking all these stands and speaking up. And so it kind of hopefully will poses like a maybe like maybe a little bit of a road map.
Megan Rapinoe [00:51:34] I would say mostly for for white people and like how to get involved. I think people feel like it’s so overwhelming to get involved in activism or organize or whatever. And it’s actually not at all. It’s pretty simple. You just you just kind of say things and stand up for the right thing. So long story short, it felt like the right time and it was kind of like, of course, I’m going to write a book. Like, I just, you know, I just won the World Cup and, you know, did all this wild stuff. And the president’s tweeting at you and like, yes, you’re going to get a book deal.
DeRay [00:52:03] Yeah. I love it, you’re like, the World Cup, no big deal. Just that that small little thing. I love it. That’s what I’ve always loved about you. I do want to I want to come back to the World Cup and soccer.
DeRay [00:52:14] I feel like you probably talk about soccer a ton.
Megan Rapinoe [00:52:16] Yeah.
DeRay [00:52:16] One of the parts of your story that I always felt like really struck me in a way I didn’t anticipate is that I am a child of two people who were addicted to drugs and and grew up in a community sort of healing from addiction my whole life. And when I when I learned that that was actually a part of your story as well, it made me I just like it still sticks with me. And there’s a chapter in the book about your brother, you know, I guess your sister in some way, too, and about the way you your relationship with your brother, how you come to understand him and understand his his story and his struggles and how that informs you. Can you talk about why you included this chapter and why you thought why you still think it’s important to talk about your brother, addiction, sort of white supremacy in this way That is so personal.
Megan Rapinoe [00:53:02] I think it’s just a big part of my life and it always has been, you know, since I was ten years old. That’s the first time that, you know, I really knew or found out that he was using drugs because she got arrested at school. And so it’s just always been something that we’re very open about as a family. We were never made to feel embarrassed by it. We were it was never a point of shame. Like my parents were always very open, like, well, this is just what’s happening. And they were never like, don’t tell anyone. You know, everyone sort of knew everything. So I’m thankful for that because I think especially as a child, it just helped try to process things or try to manage things a little bit better. And then as I got older and I think got through the like, you know, I’m pissed off my brother, he’s choosing drugs over the family or he’s hurting, you know, all that kind of stuff, like, you know, sixteen, seventeen. Like, I don’t have the emotional capacity to understand addiction and understand what just a horrible disease it is, really. And then I really kind of started to understand and learn more about the connections between everything. So it’s like, yes, my brother, you know, is a heroin addict. Well, OK. Well, let’s talk about the opioid industry and let’s talk about Big Pharma and let’s talk about the Sackler family and Purdue Pharma. And obviously we have, you know, a massive opioid problem. In this country, and I think that, you know, and then sort of juxtaposing that with like the crack epidemic and oh, well, this is being treated very differently. Why why is that happening? Clearly, this is like along racial lines and then like just mass incarceration in general, obviously very disproportionately affects black and brown people and, you know, just completely devastated so many people’s lives. But I feel like my brother is going to be the victim of that, too, like he shouldn’t have been in jail. He was like using pills and using heroin, like he didn’t need jail. But that’s our system just in general is punitive. So if you’re seen to be doing something wrong or criminal, which is like what does that even mean? Really, it’s only criminal because we say it is to even call people criminals is so cruel in this way. And so it kind of just started to like peel back all these layers in society and how everything is interconnected in so many different ways. And I felt like it would resonate with a lot of people. I mean, I think there’s, you know, obviously millions of people, especially now affected by, you know, the opioid epidemic. How do we talk about that? How do I, you know, try to relate to people in that way? And I think trying to humanize my brother in a way that I’m still learning to do, because I think for so long we just think of people as criminals or think of people as drug addicts. We think less of them. You know, they go to jail. They’re they’re pretty much cut out of society, like, really, truly just treat them so cruel. So how do we understand that Better to start understanding communities better and all that. And then obviously he goes to jail and, you know, he kind of links up with, you know, a prison gang, which is a white supremacist, white power, whatever you want to call it, kind of group. And so trying to understand what that was all about. Why did he do that when he came home one time with, like a swastika on his hand? And we were just like, mortified, horrified, like what is going on, but then understanding prison politics a little bit more. The society inside prison is very different from society outside of prison, and not that that behavior is ever excusable. But, you know, I think it’s in a lot of ways it’s like a survival tactic. And he sort of linked up, I think, for protection and power and to give himself a sense of place in whatever world that he was living in. So putting that obviously in this time where we have, you know, rampant domestic terrorism and, you know, white nationalism clearly has been on the rise for a long time. So to me, it just like every year I got older, every thing I understood a little bit better, every sort of layer of the onion I peeled back, it all fit into this like greater societal portrait of where we are in America today. And I don’t see any of those as separate from each other. There are different issues, but they’re they’re certainly not separate. And so I just felt like it was important to talk about it in that way and not just talk about how hard it was to have, you know, a brother who’s a drug addict and how hard it still is, but like sort of broaden that and use that story as a as a kind of vehicle to talk about other things as well.
DeRay [00:57:21] You know, it’s interesting. One of the other parts of your story that I had seen you write about or talk about Brian before, but I actually hadn’t I didn’t know about I didn’t know about your high schooling. And I also didn’t know about Rachel. I didn’t know that your sister did soccer with you. I didn’t know that you that you all sort of had this journey in soccer together in so many ways. So I’m interested in, like, how you, like, maintained a sense of normalcy, given that you and your sister in some ways were like really exceptional players early. And you write in that chapter about Brian, you write about having a pretty normal high school experience and playing for of the team at the national level, but not playing for the high school team because you’d sort of outgrown that and trying to figure out, like, how you manage that. Like, how did you or was it your parents that sort of just so chill about everything that you were, chill about everything. How’d you do that?
Megan Rapinoe [00:58:08] I don’t know if my parents are chill about, chill about everything, but it was normal because we just made it normal being from a small town to like all the teachers in my high school knew about Brian. They were there when he got arrested. They were like in you know, they were his teachers. And then, you know, four years later, five years later, they were my teachers. So, again, it wasn’t something we ever didn’t talk about. Like he was very open. I saw, you know, the pain that my parents up. I saw them walking through it, all those things. So that was normal. And then I think with this soccer part, like Rachel and I had each other, which I think really normalized things because we had this other person who was going through the same thing. So it’s was like, that’s normal. I’m not the only one in this. I think being an only child or having older siblings only would have maybe been a little bit more different because and you feel like you’re going through this experience sort of alone. So we always had each other and my parents were pretty laid back about the soccer. I think from a very early age they were like, OK, these kids are balling like they’re clearly better than all the other six year olds.
Megan Rapinoe [00:59:09] And like that, you know, like that’s obvious.
Megan Rapinoe [00:59:11] It’s funny. Parents always ask me if they like, you know, their kid will be like fourteen or fifteen and like. Very clearly not athletic, and they’re like, how can I get my kid like the national team?
Megan Rapinoe [00:59:22] And I’m like, what? What do you mean. They’re not.
Megan Rapinoe [00:59:27] Oh my God, I was like, they’re playing sports for fun, which is amazing.
Megan Rapinoe [00:59:31] And like, I think a lot of parents ruined sports for their kids because, you know, they want them to be LeBron James and they’re clearly not. But they were always just like, listen, if you guys want to do it, like clearly, you know, you’re good, you’re talented, you can play at whatever level. But they kind of let us drive the sort of motivation behind it. And we did. And they were like, we’ll support you in whatever you want to do, however you will. Far you want to take this will drive you everywhere and, you know, spend all this money on you guys playing soccer. But just make sure that this is what you really want to do. And so I think that kind of kept it chill for us. It was never like, you need to do this and play on this team so you can go to college. You can do that. It was kind of like if you guys want to do this, that’s that’s great. We you know, we believe in you. You have the talent to do it. But they kind of let us sort of drive that.
DeRay [01:00:19] I love it. That’s what, you’re like you see, I can only imagine how much advice parents of athletes ask you. They’re like, hey, can you come watch? You’re like.
DeRay [01:00:29] I don’t really know if this is going to go anywhere.
Megan Rapinoe [01:00:31] Yeah, no, definitely I try to be nice and I’m like, oh, you know, keep working on your skills.
Megan Rapinoe [01:00:36] I’m like, they’re like 15. Too late!
DeRay [01:00:43] Did they? You also said that you play more sports than soccer. I didn’t know that. Was there like a runner up, like a soccer wasn’t your thing, was there something else that you would have done, like another sport?
Megan Rapinoe [01:00:53] Oh, I mean, I really love basketball. Still to this day and I love playing basketball in high school.
DeRay [01:00:59] Are you good?
Megan Rapinoe [01:01:00] I’m OK. Yeah, I’m OK.
Megan Rapinoe [01:01:02] I foul a lot, I’ve been told, but I think soccer is just like more aggressive in this way. So I’m always like pushing and grabbing and fouling too much.
Megan Rapinoe [01:01:10] But yeah, that’s was kind of one of the reasons I didn’t really play soccer, I didn’t play soccer at high school because it was at the same season as basketball and it was in a winter season.
Megan Rapinoe [01:01:20] And we obviously played soccer year round on club teams and travel teams. And so I was like, I can either play baseball, which I love, or I can play high school soccer, which, you know, the level was not very good and it was in the winter. So I was like, I could be in the gym in the winter or outside in the rain in the winter. I’m probably going to go and be in the gym in the winter. But yeah, we did basketball, we did track, you know, all growing up, You play every sport with all of this, you know, baseball, softball, volleyball and all that. But, yeah, I really love basketball. Still to this day,.
DeRay [01:01:48] I love it.
DeRay [01:01:49] I want to ask you, you know, there’s a theme sort of woven throughout the book that is about leadership in so many ways. It’s like, you know, you made the team, then you were waiting for, call, then you meet Abby. And, you know, you lose some things that you like. But there are all these moments where one of the things that was so clear to me was like you, you are on this leadership journey, like you were learning about what it means to lead yourself and like be bold as a person and also be on a team with people.
DeRay [01:02:14] And I thought I’d love to know, like, what are some of the things that you’ve learned over the years about what it means to lead, whether it is like leading oneself and being strong in who we are or leading other people?
Megan Rapinoe [01:02:27] For me, the most important thing has to be honest with yourself first and then with other people. You know, when I think about especially the national team, whether it’s coaches or players like at that sort of elite level when everyone’s super confident, but also like, you know, very smart and driven and competitive. I always say this about coaches, like coaches are managers or whatever. If they aren’t confident, if there’s like one drop of blood in the water, it’s just over. Like you have way too many super competitive. You know, I would I would say generally like in tune with themselves and motivated and all that. So as a leader, like everyone sees you doing everything every day, you’re not going to hide part. You’re not going to be able to pull the wool over people’s eyes. You’re not going to be able to bullshit them. So you have to be honest with yourself and honest with them. And I think the second thing for me about leadership is I don’t really have like one style of leadership, but I try to meet people for what they need. Like, if you’re going to just yell in someone’s face and that’s not what they need, you’re just wasting breath. Like, to me, that would just be really selfish. Like, that’s the way you want to lead, even though this person like that’s not going to motivate them. So just trying to understand everyone and sort of get at them or help them or lead them in a way that is going to be useful for them. And I think being someone who cares deeply about like their own individualism and their own creativity, and they’re like necessity to express themselves as a human being, I never want to take that away from anyone. And I think in sports in particular. But I think just in general, in life, like, there’s just kind of like get in line to what the team sacrifice your whole self for the good of the team just to fall in line and be a robot. And I can’t do that at all. And I just you know, any time anyone has tried to make me do that is really not not a positive experience for anyone. So just to allow everyone to be their like full individual, you know, self-expression, I think is really important. And when you when you allow people to do that and they feel comfortable, they feel valued, they feel appreciated for all of those things. And it could be some weird just like this person has a weird sense of humor or they’re just like a little different, or they like to crack jokes or they like to be really quiet or silent or serious or whatever it is, I think then their talent can really come out and they feel motivated and they feel confident. They don’t feel like they’re constantly fighting against other things while still trying to do a job that’s very difficult and being an elite athlete. So for me, it’s all about like letting people be who they are so we can collectively come together and be something great.
DeRay [01:05:16] I do want to ask you to and then we’ll talk about the police and then identity. One of the things we say as organizers, right, is that all the best players have coaches like that. We remind people that feedback is really important. But I haven’t talked to, you know, one of the best players in a long time, and you are one of the best players, you know, being at the level of sport that you are at and have been out for a while. Are coaches still necessary or like is the talent enough to coach itself?
Megan Rapinoe [01:05:42] No, I don’t think the talent is enough to coach itself. I think you need whether it’s more of a mentor or a guide or just a mirror or, you know, someone to maybe teach you X’s and O’s or whatever it is. I think that that coaching aspect is still really important. I think we can always be better and we’re always going to have blind spots for ourselves. That’s just, I think, human nature. I mean, I think we you know, even the the most brutally honest of us that can do that to ourselves, you still like you can still gain something from someone else’s perspective and opinion. So I would actually, you know, sort of argue the the opposite, that the more talented, the more elite, the more self driven and motivated to constantly have that person that levels you up and that gives you that different perspective. You know, sometimes it’s teammates, sometimes as coaches, like sometimes it’s your therapist or whatever. But I think that that is really important because you never really arrive, you’re never you’re never perfect. You’re never really there, especially as you get older as an athlete, a lot of things can become sort of mundane like you, you know, you’re working out every day. You go to practice every day. You go to these games like that’s kind of Groundhog’s Day. So what other little areas can you continue to tweak and grow and challenge yourself in a way that keeps you really kind of on fire and interested in the game and then the team and, you know, in the whole environment, that makes sense to me.
DeRay [01:07:14] So transitioning a little bit, I didn’t know that you met Sue because of the protests. That, I learned that my book, I was like, wow, look at that, that you that essentially you reconnected.
DeRay [01:07:22] Not that you met you met somewhere else, but that you reconnected because of the work of justice. That’s like. That’s like an even cooler angle to the story.
Megan Rapinoe [01:07:30] Yeah. The WNBA was one of the first maybe the first sort of pro athletes prior to Colin kneeling to really take a stand. It was the Minnesota Lynx first and that, you know, not just the players, but the franchise and the coach and sort of the leadership. They’re supporting their players and then wanting to talk about what was happening through that summer of 2016 is obviously horrible and horrible and good in a way, because I think it is helping to continue to awaken people to the reality of our country and sort of get them out of this rosy dream that they want to believe in. But, yeah, I just kind of, you know, of course, in true, you know, 2016 fashion slid into the DMs, but it was for social justice. So I felt I felt that was OK.
DeRay [01:08:20] Can you talk about what the protest meant to you then? You know, that’s when we that’s when we first met. And you write about it in the book. And I was it was it was cool to see you process Ferguson. And, you know, and I worry so much that Ferguson has been overlooked in the way we talk about this moment. But you center it in a way that I thought was really powerful. But I’d love to know, like why why that moment resonated with you. And the reason I ask you is that you’re one of the people who reached out to me sort of before it was cool to be a protester.
DeRay [01:08:49] Like now it’s like culturally cool to be a protester. It was not culturally cool to be a protester in 2014 and in 2016, it was sort of becoming like a thing. But it still was like we were the fringe people who were like the police are killing people, whereas now people generally are like, yes, the police are killing people.
DeRay [01:09:05] And you’re like, yes,.
Megan Rapinoe [01:09:06] Yeah.
DeRay [01:09:07] But yeah, I just love to know, like, how that resonated with you. And like, what what led you to even take a stand? Because this was not the most popular cause back when you decided to talk about it?
Megan Rapinoe [01:09:18] I think really at the heart of everything, I think my parents really instilled in both Rachel and I, for whatever reason, like people in power, either manipulating other people or, you know, overexerting themselves or like using their power against people, whether that be like a teacher or a coach or, you know, the president or whatever, that just gets us going. We literally cannot handle it like we had. We had, like, you know, like instances in high school or we, like, confronted a teacher because they, like, did something wrong or like confronted a bully or whatever. So that just sort of runs in us. Like, you’re going to be a good person, you’re going to do the right thing, you know, and I think that comes a lot from my mom. She grew up really poor and, you know, got made fun of all the time because, like, her clothes weren’t cool or her clothes, like, had a hole in them or something. And she basically, like I think she sort of allowed us to see that pain in her while at the same time explaining, like, you know, you don’t know where people come from. So, you know, if you can do something to help, like it is your responsibility to help. So I think that’s sort of where it came from. Obviously I know about, you know, racism in 2014, I know that it’s, you know, there, but I don’t really understand systemic racism, I don’t really understand what police brutality is like in a really grand sense. So Ferguson obviously, you know, had the the eyes of the nation and a lot of ways the eyes of the world. I think it just captured me like what is happening here? Let me understand more. And as I dug more into Michael Brown’s murder specifically and the town specifically realizing the, you know, for profit culture that was happening, all the citations I think I read somewhere, there’s like 20,000 citations given for a population of 15,000 or 16, whatever it was. And these things were just like, oh, my God. Like, that’s crazy. It’s crazy to think of what the police force was doing to terrorize this community. And obviously seeing the video of, you know, Mike Brown being shot and, you know, all the subsequent videos after that, I just couldn’t read enough. I couldn’t ingolf enough information. And just we have this glaring problem. It’s obviously the elephant in the proverbial room of America. It’s like with a glaring problem that people just don’t really want to talk about and they don’t want to admit that is happening. And it just it was almost like, how can we not do something? And so over the course of 2014, 15, you know, 2015, we’re going through our own sort of wage discrimination fight and dealing with discrimination on on that other level. It’s just like it all sort of ties together and it all kind of makes sense. And then obviously, we get to 2016, the WNBA players are protesting and then, you know, leading into kneeling with Kap. I think it was just like he gave me an action to put to everything that I was feeling and reading and everything that I had learned. And I didn’t quite know what to do or how to do anything before I you know, I I wasn’t able to, you know, become a full time activist. I was still playing. And, you know, so it was like he gave me this sort of action step to bring light and bring attention so that I could find a way to talk about all of this and hopefully get other people to talk about it and open the conversation up a little more. And people were not happy. They were not into that.
Megan Rapinoe [01:12:53] Let me tell you,.
DeRay [01:12:54] I can only imagine the backlash that you got and and probably still get, you know, is it intense?
Megan Rapinoe [01:13:00] Yeah, totally. I mean, I feel like it’s a fraction of of what, you know, someone like you would get or just anyone black would get certainly a fraction of what Kap got. But no, it was wild.
Megan Rapinoe [01:13:12] I mean, it was it was just it actually which, you know, speaks to being naive and obviously being, you know, white and privileged and not having to deal with that sort of outward discrimination, you know, living in America as a white person. But I really was shocked because it was the backlash was so disingenuous. It was so clearly not about what Kap was saying or what I was saying alongside him. It was so clearly not about just being honest and addressing what’s happening in the country. It was just to muddle the message. It was, you know, to put whiteness right at the center. It’s to lie about things. It’s to invoke the military and the respect for the military and and really to shamelessly insert these people who have truly sacrificed everything so we could live in this country and have free speech and do things that we do. I thought that was probably the most disgusting part about it, whether military members supported Kap or not, to just throw them in there, you know, just using them as a pawn. I thought, you know, from basically people on the right, I thought it was really, really, truly disgusting and totally un-American. Yeah, it was crazy to see people mental gymnastics themselves into a big patriotic knot and hurl themselves at people when, like, clearly we have a problem in our country that we’ve always had. It’s the foundation of our country. The values that we were founded on, frankly, are just racism and white supremacy and the ruthless extraction of anything that we could possibly get out of anyone except white males. But people just didn’t want to see it and would do anything they possibly could to to talk about anything other than what was actually happening,.
DeRay [01:15:01] Because people need to read the book.
DeRay [01:15:04] I’m not going to give away everything, but there’s a lot of cool stuff in the book. I will ask you, what was it like, give us you write about this in the book. So this is really just a teaser for listeners, but is there still any I don’t know, the backlash or whatever about you coming out. And I know that that was you know, it feels like forever ago at this point you’re engaged and you know, I can’t imagine people don’t know that you’re engaged to a woman but, Is there any sort of lingering whatever inside of the league, but also importantly, I’d love to know how it’s resonated with with young women, with any women who were looking for a role model. And I have to imagine that people have either written you or called you or emailed you, come up to you and they’re like, Megan! Sort of seeing you, how people see themselves. So I’d love to know those two sides.
Megan Rapinoe [01:15:56] I think to the first question, I’m sure there is, because there’s a bunch of homophobic people in the world. But I think part of the reason why people name call to begin with is they think it’s a point that will hurt people. So if you see a person you think is gay on the street or something like hurling a slur at them, I guess in a way like only matters if you feel like it’s going to hurt them. And so I feel like I don’t really hear a lot of gay slurs or homophobia in that way, maybe in part because people know I don’t give a fuck what they think about me being gay. Clearly, I love being gay. And I think if I had to do it all over again, I would just choose to be gay, knowing what I know now, because I think it’s so awesome. So I don’t really feel that per say, but it’s definitely there because it’s just part of our society. To the second, it’s the gift that keeps on giving. It really, truly is incredible. Since the day that I came out till now, like so many people come up to me or, you know, you have a parent that has a young kid that clearly is going through some, you know, identity things or they, you know, they’re presenting is gay or they are they’re just saying that they’re gay. And the parents are thankful to me for giving their child something to look up to. And the child is thankful to me or looking at me like, oh, I see myself in you. And then you are being successful and you’re a good person and you’re doing these things. And I could not understate how incredible the whole experience has been, because I think for me, like it was really important for me to come out. But I wasn’t, you know, living a closeted life. I even my coming out process, I didn’t really struggle that much. I’m really thankful for I have a very loving family. You know, it didn’t affect my job. And that’s not the reality for a lot of people. I think a lot of people do experience a lot of homophobia and do experience a lot of hate and struggle. And there’s a lot of sadness in their life. And so I think for me, I see it as a responsibility to live this way and to be very open and to talk about it, knowing how many people still do struggle and how many people still are homophobic and do sort of spew hate on other people’s lives, almost like the least that I can do. You know, and knowing that every time I go into an interview, every time I go into, you know, a room or anywhere, like the fact that I’m out in open and gay and proud and it’s a positive thing that’s always in the room, whether we talk about it or not is kind of not really the point. But I think the fact that it’s there and I’m relentlessly proud of being gay and relentlessly proud of the LGBTQ plus community and just in general and talk about it in a very positive way, I think is is really important. And we frankly need need more people who who are like that.
DeRay [01:18:45] Well, thanks for coming to the pod. We consider you a friend of the pod. Can’t wait to have you back.
Megan Rapinoe [01:18:49] Yeah. Thank you. Thank you so much for having me on.
DeRay [01:18:54] Well, that’s it. Thanks so much for tuning in to Pod Save the People this week. Tell your friends to check it out. Make sure that you rate it wherever you get your podcast whether it’s Apple podcast or somewhere else. And we’ll see you next week.
DeRay [01:19:06] Pod Save the People is a production of Crooked Media. It’s produced by Brock Wilbur and mixed by Bill Lancz. Our Executive producers Jessica Cordova Kramer and myself, special thanks to our weekly contributors Kaya Henderson, De’Ara Balenger and Sam Sinyangwe and our special contributor, Johnetta Elzie.