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October 31, 2023
Pod Save The People
All Things Politicized (with Juliet Hooker)

In This Episode

DeRay, Kaya, De’Ara and Myles cover the underreported news of the week — the origin of Nashville’s “Music City” moniker, Black British hidden figures, a nonprofit flower project focused on Black male mental health, and overexposure to our own reflections. DeRay interviews author and political theorist Juliet Hooker about her new book Black Grief/White Grievance: The Politics of Loss.

News

Why is Nashville called Music City? The Fisk Jubilee Singers and Queen Victoria get the credit
We were never supposed to see our own faces this much

How a Nonprofit Flower Project Is Helping Black Men to Heal and Improve Their Mental Health 

Half of Britons can’t name a Black British historical figure, survey finds

 

TRANSCRIPT

 

[AD BREAK] 

 

DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Hey, this is DeRay and welcome to Pod Save the People. In this episode it’s me, Myles, Kaya, and De’Ara talking about the news with regard to race, justice and equity that you didn’t know but should know. Then I sit down and talk to author and political theorist Juliet Hooker to talk about her new book, Black Grief/White Grievance: The Politics of Loss. I learned a lot, and she was so great with like the definitions and how we frame conversations about race in this moment. [music break]

 

De’Ara Balenger: Family. Welcome to another episode of Pod Save the People. I am De’Ara Balenger. You can find me on Instagram saying very little @dearabalenger. [laughter]

 

Myles E. Johnson: I am Myles E. Johnson. You can find me on Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, Threads, child. 

 

De’Ara Balenger: Pop block.

 

Myles E. Johnson: Right. [laughter] At @pharaohrapture.

 

Kaya Henderson: I’m Kaya Henderson at @HendersonKaya on Twitter. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: This is DeRay at @deray on Twitter.

 

De’Ara Balenger: Y’all, my news today. And so in so many ways, I feel like this can’t be true. But perhaps it may be. So the headline of this Guardian article is Half of Britains Can’t Name a Black British Historical Figure, a survey finds. Like half of them. Half. Half. Because even in here, good old America. I would I would think a lot more than half even given where Black studies and critical race theory is this moment that still people in America could name at least Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King. But evidently, according to the study, um the researchers found that the U.K. shows shockingly little about knows shockingly little about Black British history. 75% of British adults surveyed acknowledge that they did not know very much or anything at all about the subject. More than 53% could not recall any Black British historical figures, and only 7% can name more than four. This article also reminds us that Black people, or descendants of Africa got to Britain about 12,000 years ago. So we’re not talking about [laughing] just kind of a post-civil rights post-slavery moment. 12,000 years ago. There are there’s historical facts, etc., about descendants of Africans settling in Britain. So, isn’t it. I’m just I’m sorry. As I was reading this, I was just finding it absolutely ridiculous. And and and maybe it is sensical and maybe it’s a telling of what can happen if a community that has contributed so much to a society is not talked about, let alone celebrated. But and so partly this study came to be because um I forget who the publisher is exactly. But the story came because a book was being written. Bloomsbury Publishing commissioned the survey recently after they published an acclaimed book, Brilliant Black British History, celebrating the people who helped build Britain in the fields of science, sport, literature and law. And so clearly there’s a great importance for this book, particularly since half of the UK adults could not name a single Black historical figure. And the author of the book says that she would at least expected, figures. And I I  Iwasn’t familiar with these figures, but, you know, then I started to do a deep dive into them. And how how incredible, Quintus Lollius Urbicus, who was a governor of Roman Britain, the formerly enslaved Equiano. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Equiano. 

 

De’Ara Balenger: Um. Who became an abolitionist and writer, Mary Seacole provided sustenance and care for British soldiers during the Crimean War and composer Samuel Coleridge Taylor. She said that uh there have always been people with Black and Brown skin in Britain, from the Stone Age through every single era to the present day. More than that, the force contribution of millions of Black people before and during the Georgian era changed the course of British history, helping Britain to become the first industrialized nation in the world and a superpower. She also called for government to drive more integration of Black British history into schools and universities, noting that as the world becomes more polarized and divided, increased inclusivity is needed now more than ever. All British history needs to be taught as one history. It’s all our history. So I don’t, I just found this to be fascinating. I think I’m still processing what I think about it. I also think about just like the Black diaspora and how we communicate or don’t communicate and what has worked in terms of organizing mobilization in some places better than others. I think it’s also weird when we think about like how Black folks have contributed to making like Britain a superpower. I’m like mmm womp womp. I don’t know how that really plays in my mind. So I just thought this was an interesting take because yowch. I mean, I read this headline and be like, I never want to live in England. I love the interiors there, but when I think about politically where I’d want to be, it would not be this place. [laughter] So I don’t know. I just wanted to bring it to the pod. I just thought it’d be interesting for a little chatter and I hope I don’t get in trouble with, like my Black British friends who are like this must be impossible. But I don’t know y’all, I be trying to tell y’all. 

 

Myles E. Johnson: I’m not going to hold you. Some days I’m teacher, some days I’m student. I thought about it and unless we are talking about Scary Spice and Slick Rick. [laughter] My own my own uh knowledge of Black British folks is just abysmal.

 

De’Ara Balenger: Naomi Campbell. Naomi Campbell. 

 

Myles E. Johnson: Nao– yeah, yeah. [laugh]

 

Kaya Henderson: Stop it. Just stop right now please.

 

De’Ara Balenger: Isn’t she Jamaican or Brit– both. 

 

Myles E. Johnson: So so what I would want to say is I think that Black Americans specifically because we’ve had such a reign on culture, cultural productions, we have been able to inject um our history in so many different places. I remember um the Zionist company, McDonald’s having big uh Martin Luther King Day and Black History Month and jazz things. That’s always been a way that we’ve been like engaged with specifically around February. February itself has turned into a type of corporate let’s get the negroes moment. And I think that almost helps us a little bit because a lot of times I’m like, we woudn’t we wouldn’t get this any other way because it was not happening through school unless we’re just talking about like, oh [?] Martin Luther King. So I don’t think there’s anything particularly unique or bad about these Brit, these Black British people or these British people who don’t know about Black about their own Black history. I think it’s designed that way. And I think the only reason that a lot of the times Black Americans have it is because, A, we’ve been able to infiltrate media and culture in the way we do and inject it with that. But yeah, it’s kind of looks like that’s what we will be where we will be at if we didn’t take history into our own hands through culture and media, is that make that making sense?

 

Kaya Henderson: I would, I’ll add on to that, not just through culture and media, but um as as paltry as we might think it is, the fact that we have Black History Month and we’ve had it since 1926 actually matters. 

 

Myles E. Johnson: Absolutely. 

 

Kaya Henderson: I was just looking at this and Black Brits just got Black History Month in 1985 or ’86. So–

 

Myles E. Johnson: Wow. 

 

Kaya Henderson: Right. So when you have a government school system that is not interested in teaching you, I mean, you don’t give me started. I’m doing my very best to like not go full ham on you because this is what I do all day, every day is teach Black history and Black Culture, because there is all kinds of research that shows that when children see themselves in what they are learning, when they see positive examples of people who look like them. Right. You know, representation matters in movies da da da da da but it matters significantly for education, for academic success, for confidence, for leadership, for all of these things. And so, you know, this country has basically disempowered Black people by making sure that they are not included in the history that they learn in school. Oh, and this is particularly appropriate right this second in these United States of America, because, you know, we have a significant chunk of our population that is trying to go back to that, that is trying to erase people of color and LGBTQIA people from history. And that is um it it’s it’s it’s offensive. First of all, it’s untruthful. Second of all, but probably more dangerously, it is so disempowering to people. It will it is another way to keep our children enslaved, minoritized, and all of those kinds of things. And so um it’s not it’s not surprising to me at all De’Ara, that this is the case. And my hat’s off to the Black folks in Britain who are writing books like brilliant Black Brits or whatever the name of the book is, and for, you know, commandeering themselves into Black History Month, um if we don’t, I mean, we have to seize on the radical tradition of education that belongs to us. These people tell us that our community doesn’t value education, but in fact, we’ve been teaching ourselves from the very beginning. We’ve been teaching ourselves from, you know, in ancient times and in times where it was literally a danger to our lives to learn to read and write. And so, you know, we have to continue to the radical tradition of self-education because we cannot rely on these government institutions to teach us and our children who we are or who we can be. Okay, I’m off my soapbox now. Thank you for playing. 

 

Myles E. Johnson: A good soapbox it is. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: The only thing. So y’all nailed this when the only thing I’d add is, you know, it’s so funny. I think there’s a generation of us. I think everybody on this call, Myles, I think you might be the last in the crew who, like we all know, the same Black people. Like Mary McLeod Bethune, Carter G., Malcolm, Rosa, like we learned there’s like a set of people that we learned about and everybody learned about ’em. Y’all know ’em. And I was there’s a group of younger people and the generation behind mine who, like, you know, I said something about Mary McLeod Bethune the other day and they’re like, who’s that? And I’m like, ooh, we [?]. I just I’m so used to everybody just knowing, like, there’s just like a set of them who you’re like, everybody knows them. And we’re at a point now where I think everybody knows Martin and Malcolm and Rosa a little bit, but we are losing that like I think I take for granted. Same thing, how I feel about church. There’s a group of us who, like, you know, you ain’t been in church in a long time. I know the songs, I know the hymns. I can finish the sentence, I know the call and response because we grew up in it. And there is a group of young people who, like they just don’t know that. And I’m and I and that worries me a little bit. And I read this De’Ara and I’m like, well we, that’s going to be us, you know, you poll a generation after mine and that will be, you know, if not for Martin and Malcolm, I think that we might be in a similar situation soon enough. So shout out to Reconstruction Kaya and a reminder that even though the month has a lot of issues, we got to keep keep it up. 

 

Myles E. Johnson: And just before we go to the next news, that also makes me think that February is coming up and that I want to be more intentional about my global understanding of Black culture, because that was embarrassing for me. I was like, I don’t know anybody. So I’m on this ride with some Black British folks. 

 

Kaya Henderson: Maybe this maybe this will maybe we should think about this February. Um. Last February, we did The Blackest Book Club. Maybe we need to focus on heroes and unsung heroes and heroines that people should know about. 

 

Myles E. Johnson: Love that. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: So my news, you know, we say that it all boils down to race and really it does. It really is the insert here. And it’s about race in the end. So you probably know that Nashville is called the City of Music or Music City. And uh I had always thought that was because of country music, because, you know, that is one of the homes of country music in the United States. And I’ve been to Nashville and I’ve seen the Music City stuff, and I was like, okay, this is cool. Got it. It like, makes sense to me that this is country. And then lo and behold, it’s Black people. So Fisk University, which is a HBCU, the Fisk Jubilee Singers were formed in 1871. They were obviously a singing crew, and they were credited with saving Fisk University from financial ruin because they made so much money from touring and they were performing slave songs all across the country. And they were invited by Ulysses S. Grant to perform at the White House. And they really did put Nashville on the map when it came to breaking racial barriers. Now, Queen Victoria was in the audience and heard the Fisk Jubilee Singers sing, and the story goes that she said they, quote, “Must be from a city of music.” And that is actually where Music City came from. From the Fisk Jubilee Singers. And I say that because I was one of the people who definitely was like, this is country music. That’s why they call it this. Da da da. And no it’s the Fisk University Ju— it’s some Black people who were singing, and that is where it came from. 

 

Kaya Henderson: This is so timely. I was in Nashville Thursday and Friday of this past week and I knew this story because I have had the opportunity to visit Fisk and hear the Jubilee Singers. And in fact, the conference that I was at last week on Thursday night, the dinner featured the Fisk Jubilee Singers. Um. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: You guys did not tell me all that stuff. 

 

Kaya Henderson: And it is very interesting because you absolutely think that Nashville is all about country music, but it is also um even more recently, the sort of seat of just music production. Um. CeCe Winans lives in Nashville. Jill Scott lives in Nashville. Like there are all of these Black artists who live in Nashville because of the music industry there. Um. And I was in Nashville, I think, last year some time, and they have the most amazing museum of African-American Music. It is, you know, probably my second favorite Black museum after the Blacksonean here in Washington. But it is a masterpiece of a of a museum that is totally dedicated to the history of African-American music. And it is smack in the middle of downtown Nashville, like on whatever the strip is where all the bachelorette parties and and the cowboy boots are sold, live music and all of the things. And there is this incredible state of the art. You know, nowadays museums have all kinds of interactive exhibits and stuff. You know, there is a Prince thing that happens at the end that like is bananas. Anyway, if you go to Nashville, don’t just believe the country hype. There’s a whole lot of Black music activity in Nashville and it’s worth a trip. 

 

Myles E. Johnson: And and just to take that even a little bit further. Auntie Kaya, country music is Black activity. Is Black creative activity. You know?

 

Kaya Henderson: Come on nephew. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: C’mon. [laughter] Teach us all, correct the record. 

 

Kaya Henderson: Yes. Yes. Yes. 

 

Myles E. Johnson: You know

 

DeRay Mckesson: I could see Myles’ face when I was talking, come on. 

 

Kaya Henderson: Remind us. Remind us. 

 

Myles E. Johnson: Um. I’ve been to Nashville plenty of times. I got to do some performance art in Nashville a couple of years ago. It was an amazing experience. And Nashville is just pregnant with so much Black history. But then I, I think because of the racial dynamics in the music industry, we forget that country music is Black music. And if you hear how if you put on I don’t care who it is, Shania Twain the most pop Garth Brooks, the most pop of the country music, you hear those inflections that are born from Black people, you know, And we all know the the history of Elvis and we also can even hear um there’s artists like um Odetta. Um. I’m thinking off the top of my head, Odetta just is really coming to me. How Odetta is kind of like based in that folk country tradition. And to me, just how where, how they’re using their voices. It’s so reminiscent of Black people, in the runs and and using um the the voice not just as this operatic thing, but as this drum thing and this yodel thing and this thing that’s hitting that is so Black. And I think we just forget about those things. So, yes, there’s so much soul music and R&B music and um rock music coming out of Nashville that’s amazing that Black people are participating in. But also the actual country, the actual folk music is Black folks’ music and Black folks, when we get on top of it and we use our stuff, then we might think, oh, this sounds like Sly and the Family Stone, or Oh, this sound like Otis Redding, but sitting on the Dock of the Bay with Otis Redding, that’s a country song to me. That’s a folk song to me, and it’s using a lot of different elements that were that that blended it in, to make it R&B or make it soul. But the core of that is a folk song. If you put that up with Dolly Parton’s um Gypsy, Joe and Me, which is one of my favorite Dolly Parton songs, which is a very sad song, and sitting on the Dock of the Bay. They’re using the same blues devices in order to show their um, in order to show their um pain and their authenticity. And yeah, I think it’s a new era where we start recognizing that that those Southern traditions are Black traditions, which are American traditions, which makes them our traditions. 

 

De’Ara Balenger: Everything Myles said. I only have two words for Nashville. Hot chicken. Delicious. Go to Prince’s. If you’re in Nashville, you will not be disappointed. But everything that all of y’all said Nashville gives me, it you know makes me tingly the same way New Orleans does. And I think for all of the reasons you all said, it’s it’s a Black city. 

 

Kaya Henderson: My news this week, I was really trying to go out of my way to find something happy in a time where things feel like they’re not so happy. And I came upon this organization that I am newly in love with called the Black Men Flower Project. I read about this in People magazine, and the Black Men Flower Project allows men of color. It’s a nonprofit, and it allows men of color to nominate other men of color to receive bouquets of flowers as a way to improve their mental health, as a way to express appreciation, as a way to combat toxic masculinity. And it was started by a brother who, by all accounts had it all going on, had a good job, had a girlfriend, had, you know, a great place to live. Everything was going well. But he was deeply, deeply depressed. He was having suicidal tendencies. He was isolated. He felt like he didn’t have anybody to talk to and reached out to this other brother in Chicago who’s running a flower business. And together they conceived of this way to address depression and isolation and um poor mental health on the part of Black men, through art, through nature and through community. They use Black owned flower shops in three United States cities. They are currently in Chicago, Illinois, Columbus, Ohio, and Santa Fe, New Mexico. And they plan to expand their reach nationwide. And if you go on the website, which is BlackMenFlowerProject.org, and look at recipients, it is the most beautiful collage of Black men holding the flowers, the bouquets that they received. And like, you can just see the smiles and the warmth radiating from these. This is we don’t generally see Black men this way. We don’t generally and we don’t generally give men flowers. Um. And it just is so heartwarming. Their values they talk about unleashing the healing power of nature. They talk about cultivating joy and positivity, building connections and encouraging dialog, empowering self-care and emotional expression, and fostering a lasting impact. And I just feel like, you know, I needed something uplifting this week. Um. I know how I feel when I receive flowers and when I don’t. When nobody buys me flowers, I buy myself flowers every Sunday at the Trader Joe’s and–

 

De’Ara Balenger: Oh. 

 

Kaya Henderson: There’s a bouquet in my house at all times because flowers make me happy. And it just made me think um, you know, why aren’t we sending our men flowers? I want to read you one quote from the website, and it says, there’s that lingo of, Oh, give him his flowers. He did a great job. But when are there physically being flowers given to men? At their funerals explains WV on a call from his home in New Mexico, where he’s recently taken on a new job, I saw Tiktoks and discussions on Twitter of what the equivalent of flowers was for men. It was tools or a sexual act. And I was like, why can’t it just be flowers? And so they’ve operationalized this. It’s a nonprofit organization, so they take donations. You can go on the website and nominate a man who you think should get flowers in any one of those three cities. And I’m looking forward to their expansion because I just think this is a great idea. And their slogan is Flowers to the People. 

 

Myles E. Johnson: Aw. I love this story so much. You know, it’s a story that most people don’t know about, but there was a time where I used to not receive flowers until one [laughter] Beyonce Knowles Carter sent me [laughing] [clap] flowers for a New York Times piece. And since then–

 

De’Ara Balenger: I can’t. 

 

Myles E. Johnson: –I’ve been receiving flowers almost um, you know, at least two times a year. It really opened the gateway for my own blooming. Um google it if you don’t already know this– 

 

Kaya Henderson: Not not many not many of us can say that Beyoncé Knowles Carter sent us flowers. So let’s just rest in that for a minute. Yes. 

 

Myles E. Johnson: So, but in all seriousness, that mo– I had never received flowers before outside of my mother for Valentine’s Day or something cute. And it really did something different for me. And you know what flowers do that is just so that is so quick. If you’re having a bad day, it dispels any negative talk. Is somebody sending you flowers and giving you flowers? All these weeds and things that are in your head can’t be true. It can’t be true anymore. And it’s and it’s this really beautiful moment where you could just see something that kind of dispels all the things that are happening in your head. And I think that because Black men have such um negative things being said and created and created about them in the media, that, oh my gosh, flowers is a brilliant way to kind of dispel these narrative destruct um constructions. And yeah, that just make me feel so warm inside. It’s so beautiful. Um La Bloom is the Black woman owned flower shop by me that I go to every week um just plugging them in because they’re Black women owned and beautiful and they have Nina Simone and Aretha Franklin in there and all types of cool stuff. But yeah, I’m going to I’m going to give some Black men some flowers this this week that that’s what this inspired me to do. 

 

Kaya Henderson: Yes. Yes. 

 

Myles E. Johnson: And also and last thing, I think that as Black people, sometimes we go and lean into exceptionalism or who’s the best Black man who’s you ever known, who deserves flowers. I’m going to give a Black man who’s who’s doing all right. [laughing] 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Myles I love you. 

 

Kaya Henderson: Yes, yes yes. 

 

Myles E. Johnson: We gone we going to give him the flowers. We’re going to give him the flowers because it can’t just be our local Martin Luther King incarnate of a Black man in our neighborhood. It could be the regular Black man who’s Amazon delivery or doing whatever you got to do. And, you know, he just don’t bother nobody. You deserve flowers too. 

 

De’Ara Balenger: Y’all better go on this website and find y’all some dates. Cause these men is cute. [laughter] Okay. That’s all. That’s where my mind went. Yes. Give them some flowers and see who is single. Okay. [laughter]

 

DeRay Mckesson: You know, we have talked about the loneliness issue that is facing men. We’ve talked about the suicide rate. And I think about, you know, this is a part of how we build community that like we tell people we love them. That is like a key part of community building. And the way we say I love you is not only in just saying it without words, but it is with our actions. And I’ll just remind us that according to the Suicide Prevention Research Center, young African-American men commit suicide in more than three times the rate of African-American women, and the suicide rate for Black children ages 10 to 19 has risen 60% over the past two decades, outpacing any other racial or ethnic group. So, you know, I say that as like a real you know, we got to figure out how to love on our people. And what the report also says is that despite the rising rates, many Black Americans are not taking advantage or have access to mental health services. So the question is like, how do we remind people we love them, build community around people, show them that they’re not alone. You know, and for so many men, the idea of being strong and da da da da da becomes this thing that really just kills you in the process um and people feel like they have to do it alone. So thanks for bringing this and I do love sending flowers to people so this just reaffirmed my commitment to send some more flowers. 

 

Myles E. Johnson: I had a follow up question for you, DeRay. As the as a resident um man, um when’s the last time you were [laughing] man with a capital M child? Um, what what–

 

De’Ara Balenger: And now he be in the gym now. So you know it’s even more so. Big, big, strong man. 

 

Myles E. Johnson: Right. [laughter] Um. Do you receive but I guess I’m just wondering, you as a gay man, because I feel like sometimes we can be a little like little looser with gender roles and stuff like that. Do you receive flowers? Do you have do you have some warm flower receiving moments? 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Do I? I don’t know if I’ve received I think I’ve received flowers once from like a speaking engagement I did or something random. Uh. But no, I don’t. I don’t think I’ve received flowers, actually. 

 

Kaya Henderson: Hmm. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: I’ve given a lot of flowers though. I’m a big flower giver.

 

Kaya Henderson: We gonna fix that. We gonna fix that. [laughter]

 

De’Ara Balenger: DM me for more information people. [laughter]. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Oh goodness Lord Jesus.

 

Myles E. Johnson: And that and that’s why I wanted to ask, because I think DeRay is one of the most courageous and intelligent, thoughtful and warm people that I know and men that I know. So it’s just wild that more people in their life aren’t just being like, you know what, here’s some yellow roses, because that’s what you remind um me of. That’s what you are to me. You know, um specifically in a platonic and friendship ways that are not– 

 

Kaya Henderson: Absolutely. 

 

Myles E. Johnson: Hinged on romance, because we all know how romance with men can be child, no offense. [laughter]. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Do we ever. [laughter]

 

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

 

[AD BREAK] 

 

Myles E. Johnson: So as you all know, I’ve been doing some career hopping. I went from writer to Instagram baddie to [laughter] uh talk therapist with DeRay and Don, and now I am a scientist because I read one article from Dazed magazine. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Not a scientist. 

 

Myles E. Johnson: Just a general one. Not even no specifics, whatever you need. I’m like, water. But I read this article in Dazed magazine that just piqued my curiosity. In the last couple of months, I’ve been really interested in beauty and not just in beauty, but how is beauty affecting how I think what I’m doing and how is it may be manipulating me in ways that I don’t necessarily think of? And this article brings up a seeing ourselves so much, and I’m actually saying this as we’re all on Zoom, so we’re all looking at ourselves and looking at each other. And I’m thinking and and so much of me being able to perform and be able to talk to you all is getting out of my body. So much of me being able to say the truth or being able to be passionate and authentic is about me being able to talk out the side of my neck and be like, Oooh, don’t make that face or or really be able to emote. But what happens when we are so used to engaging with vanity and maybe almost like always, like self-editing ourselves that we’re not necessarily able to emote and we’re also engaging with our face um more than we should have. I want to read a couple of quotes that were just fascinating to me from this article. Historically, our identities were heavily linked with where we lived, our families and friends. But as quality of mirrors improved and candlelight gave way to gas and electricity, visual self-awareness was intensified and focus turned inwards, a shift which has had a significant impact. The change in where the self resides is a fundamental a change as the change from feudalism to capitalism or collectivism to individualism, and yet hardly recognized says Heath, um Heather Widdows. It has sneaked up on us and yet is totally transformative. Meaning like we don’t necessarily think about how us not necessarily seeing ourselves all the time made us think of ourselves as community because we’re seeing other people’s faces more time. And now, 100 years later, we’re seeing our own images more than we’re seeing our communities images, which is they’re linking to us going to individualism just as much as any other headier or political moment can happen. But it’s more insidious because TikTok and Zoom and Instagram seem harmless. Any domination thing that feels harmless, anything that’s being birthed in domination that feels harmless is the most insidious thing because it’s not. Another quote that I want to give is, we become attuned to every angle, detail, losing perspective. Without healthy boundaries, it can feed an obsession with self-image, she continues. Occasional self viewing is normal, but in excess it distorts self-perception. The brain can become habituated, altering how we see and judge ourselves. Recognizing the mind’s tendency to self scrutinize can help us shift from harsh criticism to more positive self-talk. The impact of this kind of self-scrutiny can be seen in the phenomenon known as Zoom dysmorphia. They come out with a new morphia every single day in my field of science. Um. [laughter] Which occurred over lockdown when everyone was forced to look at their own faces all day while on Zoom. Body dysmorphic disorder in women is on the rise during the pandemic and worsened with more statistics. The last thing I wanted to say from the article is the statistics back this up. A report by Parliament’s Women and Equalities Committee found that 48% of adult and 66% of children feel the feel negatively about their body image most of the time. It certainly doesn’t help that it’s not just that we are seeing our own reflections constantly. We are also seeing countless beautiful faces. This is leading to its own problems and rise in cosmetic procedures. We see more faces than we were ever meant to see. In a digital world, saturated with glass skin and perfect bodies we’re constantly striving for beauty that’s ultimately unattainable. Um. In the article, it also digs into a lot of children and a lot of um teens and younger people, even in your twenties um and older, not wanting to go outside and not want to engage with other people because the self image that they created online is such a there’s such a gap between what the what what they’re presenting to the world, that they don’t want to experience that gap. So you might be experiencing what, in my field of science we call pretty privilege online, and then that pretty privilege is not happening because, you know, you’ve got pores or because everything is not as perfect. And that could really birth some intense, intense, intense feelings. I think that we’re beginning to see what happens to children and now adults who have only known this. You know, I think that to DeRay’s point around education, [laugh] around consuming people that are not necessarily attractive and maybe, you know, consuming people just because they were really smart and brilliant, not because they were hot, really smart and brilliant. I think that’s changing things. I think we’re beginning to see what’s going to happen to a generation where this has been a problem with. I wanted to bring this to this podcast because this is a group of people who have experienced both. So I wanted to see, have you experienced that those changes in your lives because you remember before we were seeing ourselves as much. And afterwards, um are you more insecure? Are you more uh self-conscious? Have you had to speak to yourself about these um changes? I know I have. I’ve had to really get that much more intense on my positive self-talk, that much more intense on when I get to zoom, like knowing, Oh, I need to work out before I get on this zoom call with, with with our with our um friends and and get ready. And it can’t be about me getting dressed and putting concealer on and da da da so I can take a selfie. It has to be about my health and I have to make sure that I’m learned and practiced in whatever I’m about to speak about. It can’t also be a vanity trip too. And I also have to be a active listener when DeRay’s talking. And I can’t be using my zoom thing to look at my skin and make sure I ain’t got no pores because that’s what you do because you’re in the mirror. So I wonder, has anybody else felt those insidious moments of vanity peeking into their brain as well? And what have you been doing to talk about it, if anything? It’s also okay if you haven’t thought about it and you say yeah, I’m cute. And I’m fine with that [laughter] because sometimes that’s it too. Sometimes you got a whole bunch of coworkers who are boring and you don’t want to talk and you like, wel at least I’m cute child. And you go, you gotta escape that way. So it’s the both and it’s both and. [laughing]

 

De’Ara Balenger: I think there is something to with not having grown up with like a device in my hand, right? Like I was telling this story to somebody the other day how one of my um best friends, Dana in high school, came up with the thing of dial the weather. And then when somebody is trying to call you, you click over so that your parents don’t hear the phone ring. Because you ain’t supposed to be on the phone. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Oh dial the weather feels crazy. And also, do you remember um [laughter] when you could time to see what time it was? 

 

De’Ara Balenger: Yes, yes exactly. So I did–

 

Myles E. Johnson: All I hear is the Flintstones theme song in my head. [laughter]. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Call time real quick. Myles, you never called time? 

 

Myles E. Johnson: No! What? No.

 

De’Ara Balenger: So I just feel like I mean, a few a few things. And, you know, I think this it’s kind of local culture, demographics, your background, who your people are. All of that, I think, kind of lend themselves to who you become rooted in. But I think for me, growing up in D.C., growing up in southeast D.C. with very, very, very Black parents, one of which my dad was never impressed by anything, particularly stuff white people had. Were never impressed by that. So I think, you know, even with seeing myself more, I think there is just this like rootedness in what is truly important. I know there’s some privilege wrapped into that too, looking how I look. You know, my skin color, not necessarily how I look. 

 

Myles E. Johnson: No. You fine too De’Ara. [laughter] So hold on. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Fine baby woop woop. 

 

Myles E. Johnson: [laughing] It don’t hurt. 

 

De’Ara Balenger: Well I’ll take it. 

 

Myles E. Johnson: You are brilliant and you are fine. 

 

De’Ara Balenger: I’ll take it, I’ll take it. So but I do. I was I was actually having this conversation last week because I was on one of my best friends book tours last week. I was with her in D.C., Houston and New Orleans. And so Cleo, who just wrote a book, it came out a couple of weeks ago called Remember Love. So it is a plug to get the book because it will help your life. Um. But Cleo says hello to every single person that attends the book tour, DeRay did the San Francisco stop. And there is something to like actually just for some hours, just being around people and talking to people without a device. And like, when when do we even do that? You know, so much of what we what we’re shaped by is what we’re seeing on on a device. It’s wild. It’s shaping our politics it’s shaping what who we think we are. You know what that means, what our value is. So I do think I do. I find the science behind this, Dr. Johnson, very, very interesting. Um. And I think we you know, it it’s also a signal too right? it’s kind of like raising an alarm that these devices are changing our brains, changing our brains. And it is a very, very not only dangerous thing, but it’s sad. It’s a sad thing from my perspective. 

 

Kaya Henderson: Um I, I also I thought, Myles, the point that you highlighted about the move from collectivism to individualism was really, really profound. Right? There was no you outside of community back in the day. And between seeing more of ourselves and the messages that we get around rugged individualism and, you know, me, me, me and all of that stuff, it’s interesting how this physical thing. Mirrors, seeing yourself more, screens actually helps to push you, like psychologically from a place of being with people to a place of isolation. We just talked about people feeling isolated. There’s all kinds of stuff that says that people are lonelier now than they’ve ever been in the history of like the world, and it’s because of things like this. I also that do zoom dysmorphia. That thing is real. I um in fact like I, you know, I saw that zoom dysmorphia led to a surge in cosmetic procedures like can you believe that? Like in the pandemic, everybody is Zooming all day, every day and people are like, Oh, I don’t like my nose, I don’t like my cheeks, I don’t like my whatever. That blew me that is super wild, um and I just I mean, as you mentioned, Myles, it requires like, you know, I got a if it’s just a regular call, I could be in my robe. Right. We work from home, but if I’m on a zoom, I gotta put on something I don’t have to put on, you know, makeup or whatever. But I do have to make myself presentable. And that is a different thing. I’ve been trying really hard to to, like, get away from every meeting being a Zoom call. I know what you look like. Like, all we have to do is talk. We don’t have to sit and stare at each other. It’s also really bad for you to just sit in a chair all day, right? And so I can take a call when I’m walking. Or I can take a call when I’m whatever. And so when my assistant calls to make an appointment or to set up a meeting and says, well, you know, can Kaya call you or can, people are like, what? And it’s so interesting how, like in just this pandemic, you know, two years or three years, we’ve totally shifted the way we work together. And now we have to see each other on a screen? That is bizarre. I also think about like the way my little cousins and them use face time, like they face time all the time. There is no call. There is only a face time and they will have face time on for like at like people just are on FaceTime for hours on end doing other things, but like watching each other and I’m I’m driving and I’m like, will you turn that off? There’s really nothing that this person needs to see us doing right now. But it speaks to the fact that they are acclimated in a completely different way to see people all the time. And I just that I’m I, you know, um that is not the way I do business. Um. So it’s going to be interesting to see how this stuff evolves because we’re not like in tuned enough to know that this thing that we do all the time is actually making us very unhappy. And, you know, I go back to the flowers thing, right? Like go for a walk, like enjoy nature, turn off the thing. You don’t have to look at everybody all the time. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: You know, it’s interesting. Um. I hadn’t thought about the mirror as a political thing until this. And that is fascinating to me uh yeah because what you are essentially saying is that it has impacted power. Like the way people see their own power, their own agency, the way people move through the world like that as a political tool. And I hadn’t even considered the mirror as such. So like that has really pushed me. The other thing I’ll say is you’re so funny. TeRay, so I have a niece and nephew, Lord, they’ll probably be listening to this episode. But TeRay called me the other day and Saila my niece was at the dinner table and, you know, those like, phone holders, like the, you know, like the thing that hold, props you phone up. 

 

Myles E. Johnson: Yeah. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Saila was swiping on the phone holder but there was no phone. So TeRay texts me like DeRay when people say it’s an addiction to technology, she was like, it’s not a joke. She is literally up here. Like doing moves as if she is in front of a phone, but there is no phone on the phone holder. So like TeRay sends me a video of Saila and TeRay is like, Saila what are you doing? And she’s like, I don’t know. But it is like she just she is so used to being in front of the phone that she literally is playing with it as like an imaginary device, even in its absence. And that just like that, if, if my sister hadn’t said it or showed me the video, I think I would have been like, is that do people really do that? Apparently they do. Um. So. So that was interesting. But back to this idea of the mirror as a political tool. It’s funny when, you know, I’ve been working out for a year, my body has changed. And one of the things that I did at the very beginning is I said I wouldn’t take body pictures like no shirtless photos of how my body has changed, I take a picture every day in the gym and that was mostly because I have cute gym clothes and I wanted to like, you know, log and and like tell myself I went to the gym. Tell everybody like it was an accountability thing. But I am close to a lot of people who’ve been fit for a long time whose bodies look amazing and they have such intense body dysmorphia. And no matter how abs chiseled, you know, chest sculpted, legs crazy, and still it’s like never enough. And because I knew them, I was like, DeRay if you go down this path of taking a picture, you will compare like, it’ll just be a never ending thing. So I was like, I’m not even doing that. If anything, I’m logging the cuteness of the outfits. That is what the photos do. And it is this interesting thing about like what happens when you see yourself you unnecessarily, like comparing and thinking about da da da and we grew up in a world now where like being on display is just a part of the everyday and I am that my take away from this Myles was I am still fascinated with the politics of self viewing. Like that is really interesting to me and what that means is like its impact on the way that we think about power. 

 

Myles E. Johnson: I love everything that you gave and it always makes me sad when I think about I just love my body, no matter how perfect or imperfect it is and all the things it helps me do, you know, and all the things that I get to enjoy. And to me, that’s it and the one little thing that I wanted to put a to put a bow on this conversation, because I just didn’t want it to be like, negative and like, technology’s ruling everything. A useful thing that I came up with after reading this article was that us displaying our lives and our and our and our likes and what we like and in our social groups. The thing that it does help us do is look critically. And I’ve actually looked at group pictures and looked at me and looked at um how come I don’t how come how come I’m surrounded by so many DeRays and not enough uh another group of people, you know? Why? Why? Why am I around so many people who look just like me or or who who are more masculine than me? Or how come I don’t have enough tra–? It help it almost helps me engage my life in a more critical, objective lens, which I think is useful. And even when we see other people get um uh put to task for, oh, this group is all white people and you just don’t know when you’re there or it doesn’t it doesn’t necessarily click to you when you’re there. And sometimes you need that image in order to look at it uh critically. And I think that’s something that we can do, is how can we look at how can we take this individualism and self-critique so we could be better once we are back, submerged into the collective? I think that is a useful thing that’s happening um that could happen if we use it correctly. So yeah, I just wanted to add that instead of just being, you know, a down scientist like the rest of my community. [laughter] Shout out to Neil deGrasse Tyson. [laughter] I’m coming for you. 

 

DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Hey, you’re listening to Pod Save the People. Stay tuned. There’s more to come. 

 

[AD BREAK]

 

DeRay Mckesson, narrating: This week, we welcome author and political theorist Juliet Hooker to talk about her new book, Black Grief/White Grievance: The Politics of Loss. Now death and grief is a part of the human experience. But Hooker argues that political loss is experienced very differently across racial divides, and that until this is explicitly addressed, it will continue to undermine American democracy. It was an interesting framework that she presented that we’ll talk about. You should get the book. You should read the book. You’ll love it. Here we go. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: The one and only Juliet Hooker. Thank you so much for joining us today on Pod Save the People. 

 

Juliet Hooker: Thank you for having me. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Now, I learned a ton. I am, have a lot to talk to you about. But before we talk about the book, can you talk about your journey to writing about race, to thinking about race critically? You know, there are things in the book like, you know, I realize I know Hannah Arendt in one very particular way. And I was like, I didn’t even know she wrote about this stuff. So or Danielle Allen, um I read a couple of pieces, didn’t know she wrote a whole thesis. I learned so much in the book. But what’s your journey been? 

 

Juliet Hooker: Well, that’s a really interesting question. So I, I have been writing and thinking about racial justice and Black political thought throughout most of my career. And I um, I came to think about those questions. I think the way that a lot of us do just, you know, because of the things we experience, because of the things we see in the world and trying to go back to this tradition of this rich and, you know, incredibly varied and um, you know, insightful tradition of Black thinkers who have really wrestled with the question of how do we think about racial identity, about racial justice. And and that continues to, you know, to be a central part of my work. And one of the things that I always come back to as a kind of touchstone, so Black grief, white grievance is, you know, the latest in a series of books in which I’ve tried to think about how do we how do we make progress towards racial justice, what that would look like, um you know, from an academic perspective. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: So early in the book, you know, one of the things that you did for me that was really helpful was that you define the terms. And at every point in the book when you said something, I’m like, Oh, I know a definition’s coming and let me let me see where we’re going. So the first is early in the page nine era where you talk about political loss beyond elections and sort of framing um like there are a lot of things that are losses. Not all of them are political and not all of them belong to the project that you are undertaking. Can you explain to us how you how you frame political loss as separate from other losses that people experience? 

 

Juliet Hooker: Yeah, absolutely. So of course, we all experience loss. Loss is a universal human experience. We experience the death of a loved one. We lose a job or a promotion. But not all those losses are political. And I argue that what makes a loss political is in part whether it’s the result of state action or inaction. Right. So could the state have done something if, let’s say there is a fire that kills a bunch of people and it could have been prevented if there were adequate regulations in place? Or it can be the result of action. Sometimes the state does things that, you know, harms people, um and losses also become political as a result of people mobilizing and get around them. So, you know, it’s not that, you know, there’s a loss out there and then there’s and it’s already political. It’s rather when people say, no, this is something that people need to attend to that makes it political. So the, you know, something like, you know, AIDS activism right before all of the work that groups like Act Up and other AIDS groups did, people were dismissing that pandemic and not paying attention to their suffering. And it was their activism that was like making a claim about what the medical establishment needed to do, what the government needed to do. And so that’s another way in which I talk about how losses become political. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Boom. And the other one shortly thereafter. I mean, this is like in the seventeens, you know, I was I, I was like goodness I don’t know what I’m going to talk to her about. I’m in the we in the first 20 pages and I got a lot of questions, good questions. Um. It’s grief and grievance, which is central to the entire book. But I had never complicated the idea that grief and grievance were not synonymous or like or like, you know, maybe brother or sister. Right, In a way. Can you help us think about it? What you write is grief and grievance are both responses to loss. But but there’s a significant difference. Can you can you tell us that difference? 

 

Juliet Hooker: So I really appreciate the close reading and the really uh um the really precise questions. So grief and grievance are, as I say, two responses to loss. And they’re related, of course. But if we think about grief, what we’re thinking about is sorrow, right? You’re mourning a loss. You’re you’re feeling um the depth of that loss. When we think about grievance, it’s we’re what we’re talking about is when um a loss is the result of a harm or an injustice. Then um you move to to making a complaint about it, right. To asking for um for help or redress from the state. So often when we think about, you know, political losses that people have mobilized around um, you know, they often move from grief to grievance. Right. And and and so you had the loss, you mourn it, but then you’re like, what am I going to do to try to get justice for this thing that’s happened? And another important distinction and this this comes in when I talk about white grievance in the book is that a loss doesn’t have to be real. It can be um imagined or perceived, and it’s still going to mobilize people. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: I love it. We’re in the 30 nines now, and you talk about the features of white grievance. And I’ll just read the sentence because I thought it was a I was like, she nailed it. Uh they include a zero sum view of politics that mobilizes white victimhood in response to, more often than not, anticipatory losses and token incremental white gains. And then you go on and and I love the idea of anticipatory losses. I was like, I got to use that one that was ahh I was like, okay, um but before we talk about the content of white grievance, there’s another part of the book about the fear of a Black emperor. I was like, I hadn’t I didn’t know that Douglass wrote that. I was like, okay. I’m interested in the way you contextualize the anticipatory losses. Like that is really interesting to me as like a feature of white grievance. 

 

Juliet Hooker: Absolutely. So I developed this concept of anticipatory loss to describe the way that white grievance is mobilized in response to these things that haven’t actually happened. Right? So people often think about or cite demographic change as one of the things that’s driving, you know, racially resentful whites to mobilize. But in fact, they are still the dominant group in the country and they’re still dominant politically, economically, socially. So it’s this these claims about, A, this future that hasn’t happened where they will be demographically displaced, but also about what that future is going to look like. And this is where the um you know, the the notion of the Black emperor comes in because I go back to the 19th century and to this moment, you know, right after the abolition of slavery, when um when people are trying to think about the consequences of having um previously enslaved people become citizens and be able to to vote. And Douglass is mocking what he calls right these these fanciful notions of if we allow um Black people to vote, we’re going to have this Black emperor, this many hued court, and we’ll have all these people, um this mixing between races, and they will you know be dominant and discriminate against whites. And I think that’s really um a really useful image because essentially what happens with these with anticipatory loss is that people imagine that equality equals Black rule and Black domination, right? If Black people get to be equal, that means I am going to somehow be oppressed. And when has that been the case? You know? [laughter] When have Black people had that kind of power, you know? 

 

DeRay Mckesson: What what how do you know I will say that as a um as a student, as a somebody who had a lot of cool jobs. I learned not a thing about Reconstruction. Literally, Reconstruction is like a new it’s a new moment for me. I’m like a new learner that it happened. To me it was like slavery, something something something, Jim Crow. The something something something was never filled in. But that’s what I learned. How does how does that period fit into the framework that you offer us about grievance and grief? 

 

Juliet Hooker: So it’s absolutely um a key period, because what reconstruction perfectly illustrates is that at every moment when there has been progress towards racial justice in or towards racial equality in the history of the United States, there has been backlash. Right. So Reconstruction is this moment following the Civil War where you suddenly have, you know, Black people able to vote. They’re elected to Congress, they’re helping to run, you know, state government in all of these these states in the south. And then there there the you know, this is untenable to the white majority. And they basically overthrow the Reconstruction era governments and put in place all the things that we’re familiar with from the you know, from the civil rights struggles which keep Black people from being able to participate um in politics. And so Reconstruction is a perfect example, right? So of the way in which whites have refused to accept loss. So if you think of the abolition of slavery as a as a loss for white people, part of what happens in Reconstruction is that they refuse to accept that they have to be equal or not be able to dominate white people, and they overthrow the policies that have been put in place to try to make that possible. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: You have a whole section on protest. And before I ask you about it, I will say thank you for correctly situating Ferguson in this moment the way you do to open I don’t remember what chapter it was because I don’t have that page on my notes, but I read it. And um you know I, one of the things that will always stand out to me about about having been in the street for those 400 days is that it was like everyday Black people who just showed up and were like, enough. Right. And I do love that you like named Ferguson as a distinct moment. And it’s sort of a I’m interested in the way you talk about um and you sort of problematize the claims about democratic sacrifice is the language you use in protests. Can you frame that for us? 

 

Juliet Hooker: Yeah. So um so Ferguson, like it was for many people, was an important moment for me. I mean, the idea for the book came um after the the protests and thinking about like, you know, what could I do as an academic? Um. And and one of the things that I was struck by was this, right, the hugely disproportionate and violent response and the way that even some white elected officials, but also some Black ones, were criticizing how the protesters were carrying themselves and conducting the protest. Right. This kind of policing of people’s grief and anger. And so that chapter is really then about trying to situate that response to the Ferguson protesters in light of the history of Black protests and saying and looking at how we have this romanticized narrative of the civil rights protests as being peaceful and totally, totally uncontroversial in a way. Right. So even though we have the imagery of the heroic protesters who were nonviolent in the face of police brutality, there is the sense that, okay, that happened and then people sort of magically, you know, had this moral transformation or whites had this moral transformation after they saw that. But there is also this narrative that emerged, right, that if subsequent Black protests had to follow this model, it had to be super civil. It could never be violent. It can never be angry right it had to and it was like and that is, of course, not what was happening in the 1960s either in the 1950s. And so there’s this false narrative of the civil rights movement that then gets used to say, unless you have these, you know, absolutely heroic Black protesters who are, you know, um not angry, who are who are super civil, who um don’t make white people uncomfortable, who don’t challenge the status quo, that that is the only way that their um their claims can be heard. And that’s historically inaccurate. And it limits how we um and it limits Black politics and the ability to to protest injustice. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Can you talk about um you’re going to do this better than I can? So I was like, let me see if I can summarize and I’m going to mess it up. So I’ll just ask you. You know, I read Incidents in the Life of a Slave girl in college. I remember when I saw it in the book, I was like, I did read that one. I don’t remember all of it, but I read it. Um. Can you talk about why it is a central story and in that part of the book? You there’s a it is not a small part of the book, that chapter. Can you talk about it? 

 

Juliet Hooker: Absolutely. So in chapter three of Black Grief/White Grievance, I look at the work of Harriet Jacobs and Ida B. Wells. And one of the things that that chapter is about um is this idea that, you know, there is a there’s not only a cost associated with activism, but that because we often expect marginalized groups who um to offer up their suffering for consumptions sp that we’ll care about their losses. Right. So people whom we don’t immediately recognize as people whose losses we should care about have to somehow make their losses visible. And this is ethically really difficult and um, you know, and and carries a lot of risk. And so part of what I do in that chapter is look at how Harriet Jacobs and Ida B. Wells try to do that, how they try to both shed light on, in the case of Jacobs, right the horrors of slavery, while at the same time not simply offering up Black pain um for white consumption in the hope of generating empathy. So she’s really very careful and very um smart about how she what she does show us and what she does tell us in Incidents at the same time that she doesn’t shy away from totally portraying the horrors of slavery. And it’s that trying to balance those things that I think is so important about um about that text and about her work and that of Wells. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: A couple of weeks ago, the father of one of my good friends passed away unexpectedly. Um. And so I’m at the funeral and I and it is sad as funerals are sad. And I left being like, I want to read about the way Black people mourn. Like it is there I’ve been to so many funerals and there is a ritual. There is a way. There’s a way we celebrate life at the funeral when the casket closes, that like there is a thing. And I’m like, God I want to I need to read something about this. Where are the books? And then I come to this. I’m like, come on, God. God is on top God. And I love for you to talk to us about what you talk about with Black mourning. Both the idea that it can be instrumentalized in ways that are not great and um and the way that you call out, right? The way that Black women, the morning of Black women has has served a political purpose for better or for worse. And this idea and this is a question that you do pose in the text of, like, is there a wrong way to mourn or like sort of complicating this idea of there is there a right way to mourn knowing that loss is real and it can be sort of used in a way you don’t want it to. So so teach us, come on, teach teacher teach. 

 

Juliet Hooker: [laughing] So, I mean, I’m not alone in this in terms of I think there’s a lot of people now who are trying to think about, you know, the the really tragic fact right. That Black people had to develop a facility with mourning because we’ve had to do so much of it. And that this is is is both a, you know, a resource um and something that has enabled survival. But that it’s also something that, you know, that um that is a loss that, you know, um and what I um what I’m trying to think about in that chapter is this um this idea of what’s the difference between mourning for ourselves and having that mourning be instrumentalized in the service of this, um you know, of racial progress or moving the country forward? And um, you know like, I write in that chapter about the um some one of the happy birthday videos um that have been done for um victims of police violence. And I talk about the one of Philando Castile in which his family um is talks about how they’re constantly asked, you know, what are you going to do now? And they’re like, we’re going to grieve. That’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to grieve. So part of that chapter is really about trying to think about, you know, how do we how recognizing the full humanity of Black people means giving them space to grieve and not immediately asking them to become activists, but how also activism can be a way to grieve. It can be a form of grieving. So I’m really not trying to tell people how to grieve, but just asking us to think about, you know, the enormous burdens that um that it is to become an activist in the wake of a huge loss. And what kind of obligations that means that we have right um towards folks who are doing that labor rather than saying, oh, this is what you need to do to make things better for everyone. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Now, in studying the history and the theory of loss and in the way white people respond and take progress back. Has it made you more hopeful? Less hopeful? Are you steady on the road? What’s the what’s your prognosis in terms of our ability to like to have a day where we get structural wins and they last?

 

Juliet Hooker: Hmm. Okay. So this is this is a tough question. Um one of the things that I talk about in the book is the that Black thinkers um who write about loss can’t afford to be nostalgic. And by that I mean right there’s no there’s no moment in the past where we can look back and say, Oh, that was the great moment where things were great and and, and that’s what we need to get back to. Um. And so so they’re not nostalgic. And they’re also not naive in the sense that they don’t they’re very aware, you know, that that every time there’s progress, it’s met with backlash. Right. And so and so I think what I say is that I think if we draw on this tradition, we have no certainty that we will, you know, that um that those victories um will come. But we have no choice but to keep fighting for them. And I think the other point that I would say um that is important to me in thinking about US democracy, about what Black people can do. And part of what I’m also saying in the book is that actually the biggest threat to democracy in the U.S. right now is um white citizens who are mobilized by grievance and that we need to actually think about that problem. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Boom. I love it. Y’all read this book. Get the book, read it, take notes, use your Post-it notes and and your pencils. Don’t write in books with pens, pencils. Um. There are two questions we ask everybody. The first is, what’s a piece of advice that you’ve gotten over the years that’s stuck with you?  

 

Juliet Hooker: Hmm. That’s a very good one. So one thing that you know has helped me make it through my life is my grandmother used to have the saying, which is when you have done your best, angels cannot do better. And that is about, you know, not not being a perfectionist and realizing also that, you know, sometimes you have to let go. Maybe this wasn’t your best day, but you get up tomorrow, you try again. You do better. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Boom. In a variation on what I asked you about your hope as a historian is that there are a lot of people in this moment who are like, I read the book, I watched the movie, I was in the street, I voted, testified, I did all the things you told me to do. And yet the world still looks like it does when I started. What is your message to people whose hope is challenged in moments like this? Um who who you know, I think about all the people that I stood next to in 2014. And, you know, it is wild to think that it is almost ten years. Next year will be remembering that ten years since August 2014, which is wild to think. And I personally know so many people whose hope is challenged. What do you tell them? 

 

Juliet Hooker: Oh, this is a this is a tough one as well. I think I, I think I think first of all, what I would say is we are in a deep moment of fierce backlash. This is this is where we are now. And and and that is is happening partly even though it may feel like nothing has changed because people are responding to to the visibility to the to the power of that resurgent moment of activism in in the movement for Black Lives and are profoundly threatened by by what the movement um has been trying to achieve and the and also by the other folks who have been mobilized as well by by the kind of vision of a you know, of a of a more caring society um that I think was was really central has been really central um to that work. So I think what I would say is, is um is that, you know, I’m not one of these people who thinks it’s easy to be helpful. And I don’t think it’s easy to be helpful right now. Um. So what I would say um and what I’m I’m trying to say in this book to those folks is thank you. Thank you for the work that you have done. And not thank you as in oh, I’m going to honor your sacrifice and go on with my life, but rather to say, how can we um not expect activists to do this labor alone? But what kind of obligations do we have to do that all of us to do that work, If we’re really going to honor that work, that means we all have to take it up. And so and so part of what I’m, you know, I think is important is to is to is to realize that activists are people. Right. Um. And that um we often I think we often romanticize democracy as this thing that empowers people, right? You go out there, you make your voice heard, you make change. But democracy’s also often involves loss. And so part of it is is trying to think about, you know, what are the ways in which we can redistribute those losses and that labor more fairly and make a space where we don’t you know, we don’t ask these kind of heroic, this heroic labor of the same people over and over again. 

 

DeRay Mckesson: Boom. Where do people go to stay in touch with what you’re doing? Can they is it Twitter? Is it Facebook? Is it LinkedIn? What is it? What is it? 

 

Juliet Hooker: So I am on Twitter um at @CreoleProf. And I also have a website, JulietHooker.com. And you can find more about Black grief/White grievance there and upcoming events that might be in a city near you. [music break]

 

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