In This Episode
DeRay, De’Ara, Kaya, and Myles cover the underreported news of the week — including the short tenure of banking’s sole Black C.E.O., extreme criminalization of abortion & miscarriage, transphobic behavior from Lil Nas X, and a deep dive into Black homes. DeRay interviews author and scholar Daniel Hatcher about his new book Injustice, Inc.: How America’s Justice System Commodifies Children and the Poor.
De’Ara The Interior Lives of Black Homes
DeRay The Short Tenure and Abrupt Ouster of Banking’s Sole Black C.E.O.
Myles Lil Nas X Apologizes to Trans Community After Sending Controversial Tweet
Kaya South Carolina GOP lawmakers propose death penalty for women who have abortions
Oklahoma woman convicted of manslaughter over miscarriage
DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Hey, this is DeRay and welcome to Pod Save the People. On this episode it’s me, Kaya, Myles, and De’Ara talking about all the news that you don’t know from the past week, the news that went underreported with regard to race, justice, and equity. Then I sit down with one and only Daniel Hatcher to talk about his new book, Injustice Inc,: how America’s Justice System Commodifies Children and the Poor. Y’all I learned so much from this book. Everybody needs to read it right now. Can’t wait for you to hear this interview. We’re going to, it’s like informed my organizing, learned a ton. So can’t wait for you to hear this. Here we go.
De’Ara Balenger: Family. Happy spring and welcome to another episode of Pod Save the People. I am De’Ara Balenger. You can find me on Instagram at @dearabalenger
Myles E. Johnson: I’m Myles E. Johnson. You can find me on Instagram and Twitter at @pharaohrapture
Kaya Henderson: I’m Kaya Henderson at @HendersonKaya on Twitter.
DeRay Mckesson: And this is DeRay @deray on Twitter.
De’Ara Balenger: We’re recording on the first day of spring. It’s the spring equinox, a time for change, a time for evolution. And Donald Trump is about to evolve himself into the penitentiary everybody.
Kaya Henderson: Oh lord.
De’Ara Balenger: Yay.
Kaya Henderson: Today child. [laughing]
De’Ara Balenger: Yay.
Kaya Henderson: You know that’s not gonna happen.
DeRay Mckesson: Is it real though? Is that real or is–
Myles E. Johnson: Yeah, it is–
De’Ara Balenger: It’s not real. It’s not real.
Myles E. Johnson: You not about to make a fool out of me, all excited. [indistinct] [laughter] I’ve grown bitter–
De’Ara Balenger: So–
Myles E. Johnson: –these last few years.
Kaya Henderson: De’Ara is hilarious.
De’Ara Balenger: Donald Trump posted on social media. I don’t even know what social media Donald Trump, I don’t even know where he lives in the world.
Kaya Henderson: They’ve reinstated him–
De’Ara Balenger: On the internet.
Kaya Henderson: –to all of these different things. Right?
De’Ara Balenger: To all the things.
Kaya Henderson: Haven’t they restored his accounts?
De’Ara Balenger: It is. So he posted that he’s going to be arrested Tuesday of this week. Um. And the claim this claim has come out while still a New York prosecutor is considering charging Donald Trump in connection with hush money he paid to an evol– he paid to an adult film actress Stormy Daniels. Is this, we’re talking about the former president of the United States. So in the midst of all the other January 6th stuff, he also has a he got cases, y’all. He got another pending case [laughing] around Stormy Daniels. So he’s entangled in several criminal investigations. Um. But the case related to Daniels is the longest running goes all the way back to 2016. So on his platform, Truth Social. Gag. On Saturday morning he said that there were some illegal leaks that indicated he would be arrested on Tuesday. And then he went on to say–
Kaya Henderson: I love how like honest and–
De’Ara Balenger: [?]–
Kaya Henderson: –thorough you are about this. Like this is the whole thing is trash. Like this is trash. [laughter] He that that man just told the people, I’m about to get arrested on Tuesday. Y’all need to protest. Y’all need to tear the place up. This is look, this you’re all like, nice and legal and thorough and thoughtful about this. This dude is is uh inciting the next insurrection around his rightful accountability for payments to his porn star mistress. Come on, y’all. This is this is the worst of America.
Myles E. Johnson: Okay, You had to put that. You had to put, listen. You had to put that stink on it.
Kaya Henderson: Uh.
Myles E. Johnson: That is that is what’s happening. So my my question is. [laughter] My question is, do you think that this is really is he clever enough that this is really going to happen? Mind you all, we’re recording this on Monday. So this is either Christmas Eve or or not.
DeRay Mckesson: YTK. Or YTK.
Kaya Henderson: Or or new years. Or new years eve.
Myles E. Johnson: Right. So are we either is he either saying this in order to show the people who are prosecuting him how much power he has to maybe uh make them think again about doing legal action and be like, oh, this is what he’ll do, we’re scared. Or do we think that he’s not that clever and it is probably actually going to happen and he’s just wailing. You know, I’m like wondering if he’s just like um like poking them back.
De’Ara Balenger: I think what makes me nervous about the whole thing is that this thing is now taking place in New York City. Right. So he would have to appear in a Manhattan court. And so I would assume that both the best visual is a protest at that court, which is where we live. So–
Myles E. Johnson: Let me tell you something.
De’Ara Balenger: I think– [laughing]
Myles E. Johnson: Ain’t nobody scared of that. I’ll go to Capital Grille. I sure will and be right there. This is my turf y’all ain’t about to chump out of my turf. Nope. I do not care. Insurrect this. I’ll be right there with my chopsticks, eating food and watching him get arrested. And I wish I would.
Kaya Henderson: He’s not going. He. He is not going to perp walk it through the thing like regular people.
Myles E. Johnson: Oh.
Kaya Henderson: He’s gonna to go in the back door, the attorney’s office, and blah, blah. But here’s the thing, right? Like this is it would be different if his first indictment was around something really substantive, like, you know, the Georgia election stuff or the documents at Mar-a-Lago or the insurrection on January 6th. But this is this is highly problematic because it’s it is against the law it’s like campaign finance laws or whatever. It’s a sort of a tricky case. But this is like personal stuff. Right. And he is using this to rally his base to be like, look at these people. They are persecuting me at every turn. And this is why I am the right choice to lead this country, because we got to take America back, make it great–
Myles E. Johnson: [?].
Kaya Henderson: –again, or whatever his crapola is. And so, like the Republicans are using this, Kevin McCarthy, like all of the people are like, this is terrible. This is an abuse of power, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And this is all rallying his base to get at him. Right. Um. The Republicans are putting pressure on Ron DeSantis saying like you better say something like this is a moment for him. And, you know, I think the Manhattan DA’s office is not fully understanding the role that they might be playing in inadvertently giving him an opportunity to re amass some power.
De’Ara Balenger: Right. And you know–
Myles E. Johnson: It could be.
De’Ara Balenger: –through who we just the January 6th part of what we discovered I mean, we already knew this, but a lot of NYPD–
Kaya Henderson: [clears throat] Honey.
De’Ara Balenger: –were at January 6th and are Trump supporters. So I’m also again, it’s like this somebody call the National Guard. I don’t, I don’t feel safe. I do not feel safe. Come on over. Come on. And now, if I were in D.C. where I knew how to get down. Yes, but you know.
DeRay Mckesson: It is also I will–
De’Ara Balenger: This a new hood for me.
DeRay Mckesson: I’ll say one of the things that I am reminded of is just how much of a frenzy Trump had us in at the height of Trump like this would have been wall to wall coverage. We would like, like when Trump was really Trumpin’–
De’Ara Balenger: Right.
DeRay Mckesson: –it was like, so even the idea that he could say this and I sort of, I saw it in passing on Twitter, was just like a breath of fresh air, that this was not like the only thing people were talking about because y’all know that was there was a moment where like every time Trump would do something, it was like the only thing in the room.
Myles E. Johnson: I would I always think about those four years as like the American, you know, the American dream. I think of it as like the American fever dream. And I do think out of all if there’s like any quote unquote, “good” that the Trump cycle did for me as an individual was it it thickened my skin to distraction. And it kind of and it and and made me kind of create my own intellectual priority. So it wasn’t just the president said something or this is happening, so I take it seriously. It just didn’t, that’s just not how things work like work in my head anymore. Because during Trump’s height, Trump’s height, you just couldn’t take everything he said seriously or you’re going to go you’re going to–
Kaya Henderson: In part because he lied like, a zillion–
Myles E. Johnson: Yeah.
Kaya Henderson: –and a half times. Right. [laughing]
Myles E. Johnson: Precisely. Precisely. So you just couldn’t do that.
De’Ara Balenger: I think everybody starting today, though, it’s going to be–
Kaya Henderson: Yeah, we we are gearing back up.
De’Ara Balenger: –everywhere now.
Kaya Henderson: That’s true.
De’Ara Balenger: Yeah, like this is it’s going to be on TV all day long starting today. So we’ll see.
Myles E. Johnson: Child, let me go ahead and pay my cable bill. And see what’s going on.
Kaya Henderson: Um. I thought you were going down to Capitol grille tomorrow. Come on. I mean, it’s going to be something. It’s going to be something. Might be small. Might be big. But it’s gonna be something.
Myles E. Johnson: I was talking about, I was talking about today. [laughing]
Kaya Henderson: Oh. [laughing]
Myles E. Johnson: Not Christmas Eve. That’s that’s Christmas Day activities. Christmas Eve activities is I’m going to pay and watch some CNN and see who’s on there now. An R&B legend–
Kaya Henderson: Legend.
Myles E. Johnson: A soul a soul legend, Bobby Caldwell has passed away. Um. He you know, uh a beautiful statement came out the um the day that um the day that he passed away, letting um letting us know and I think the the agreed on analysis or uh feeling amongst at least Black folks is that he is will live in perpetuity as the person who sang with so much soul that you could not believe that he was a white man when you saw him. And I love and of course, we all love that. We all love that song. But then also, of course, when people have passed away, you kind of dig into stuff. His, Common, Tribe Called Quest, that he there’s so many people who have sampled his music, and I did not know that his music was the backbone to so many of my already favorite hip hop songs. Common’s the light. Oh, my goodness. Um. Just such a beautiful–
Kaya Henderson: And and he he he was like, super supportive of rappers sampling his song. Right. Like, I saw some of the coverage this week where he was like, Oh my God, I guess Common called to ask him if he could sample. And he was like, I would be honored if you if you sampled my song like, which is not usually what you hear.
Myles E. Johnson: It’s an innovative take because you have to know that sampling is literally giving your song another life–
Kaya Henderson: New life.
Myles E. Johnson: –to another generation.
Kaya Henderson: Yeah.
Myles E. Johnson: And it also shows the humility that that that Bobby had when it came to his work. Because at some point you have to understand that your work no longer belongs to you, and it becomes another hue for artists to play with, and it becomes another color for artists to play with when they’re paintings and that’s part of the legacy of [shuffle sounds and hitting mic] hip hop music and soul music and Rn– and Black music, electronic music, and it’s just so cool that he that he knew about that. I saw a, um a video of him um in older years um singing, and he that voice was still voicing. That ooh, let me tell let me tell you something. Let me tell you something. I got a man, but a Bobby Caldwell type of white man. Come and singing to me like that? Crooning?
Kaya Henderson: [laughing] Wait a minute. Wait a minute.
Myles E. Johnson: Hold on.
Kaya Henderson: Wait a minute.
Myles E. Johnson: Hold on.
Kaya Henderson: Not you, not you advertising for some blue eyed soul in your life.
Myles E. Johnson: I’m just saying [?].
Kaya Henderson: I’m on team Sonny. For the record. [laughter]
Myles E. Johnson: No that would never, in an alternative parallel universe.
Kaya Henderson: Okay okay.
Myles E. Johnson: If I was still if I was still in the market. I would definitely say, okay, I could open it up to, you just got to have soul, the Bobby Caldwell of it all. I love it. So my news is um, you know, I’ve I’ve been I’ve been going to the the garbage bin for my news for the last two weeks. So maybe I’ll maybe I’ll do something a little bit more elevated next week but you know, when when trash calls, I must answer. So this Root this Root article that I put in is about Lil Nas X, how he apologizes to the um the comm– the trans community after sending a controversial tweet. So, so many different points that I wanted to like hit. So hopefully I’ll hit them all, if I don’t yell at me. But the original post was Lil Nas X posts a picture of a woman and then says, hey, I transitioned. Um. The surgery the surgery went well. He receives backlash. Because it kind of trivializes the the trajectory and the narrative of and also just makes it makes a mockery is the best way I can think of the narrative of um trans of a lot of trans folks um experiences. And then people also connected to this to the People magazine um uh article that he has or the um photoshoot that he has where he’s pregnant and he’s like, ah like he’s a he’s a man, but he’s pregnant. And it kind of makes a mockery out of that because that’s the actual situation that many trans men um uh are in. And that’s just a that’s a that’s a regular trans ex– a regular trans experience and him making a mockery of it kind of continues to other it instead of trying to make people who aren’t maybe as privy to trans experiences um see it as normal or see it as another mode of life. But when you kind of make a mockery of it, it’s like it becomes a gag. So that happens. We all make mistakes. I’ve said some really silly things as well. Uh. Just I’m sure yesterday, I was going to say when I was younger, but like I’m sure yesterday, I said some silly things as well and thought that they were jokes. So he gets backlash, he apologizes. Then somebody who’s of the trans community comes back and says, Hey. Cool you apologized, but you’re also a socially and financially powerful person. So a verbal apology from somebody with as much power that you have in the community really doesn’t mean much. So you should actually apologize with your wallet and with your social status. Meaning you should donate to a mutual aid trans fund. You should uh donate to uh uh do something beyond just just sending out a tweet about it. Really, really support it. Really support the trans community. He responds with Girl, eat my [pause] I can’t say the other thing. Eat my eat my eat my–
Kaya Henderson: Booty.
Myles E. Johnson: –eat my booty.
Kaya Henderson: Booty.
Myles E. Johnson: Yeah. So he responds with that. That I, my jaw was on the floor because not only was I like, okay, you can’t you shouldn’t say that’s disrespectful. But then also I’m like really trying to like map out how do you think that you apologize to somebody? How do you think that you that you apologize to a community and then you then go back and actually attack a member of the same community like that made no absolutely no sense to me. And it made me see how just uh disingenuous the original uh apology was. It really disappointed me. I’m going to be honest with you, not a huge Lil Nas X fan, I but I definitely think he is great for the children and great for the um community, or maybe I should say was, but it made me really sad. I think the other thing that made me even more sad is as somebody, you know, my background is that I’ve written for New York Times and Vice and you know, Essence and blah, blah, blah, I could not find anybody interested in me pushing back on that last response. Um. Even as I was researching things people were so quick to cover, he made a mistake and apologized. Nobody was interested in me pushing back and saying on a on on a on a Twitter account that has millions of followers he then humiliated a Black trans woman just after he apologized. That was just peculiar to me. And the the cynical part of me wanted to think that, oh, nobody’s interested in me hold like holding accountable this this celebrity. Because what if one one day he could be used to uh recreate their stardom and and give them more views or give them more clicks? It was just it was just static silence when I was trying to push those things back. Or just clear reject rejection no’s and I’m and just me doing the math in my head on social. I’m like, well we know this will get views. We know people are talking about it. So this is actually just um an attack on dissenting content and critical content when it comes to celebrity, which is a thing that I’ve been seeing and I’ve been talking about a lot that I’ve just been seeing happen more and more and more. Where can people really dissent around celebrities, specifically Black culture and Black celebrity right now? Um. I wanted to bring this to the podcast, again anytime I see something that happens that is transphobic. I love to talk about it because I think that inside of the Black community we need to continue to talk about uh trans–, transness and transphobia and really start normalizing that conversation because that’s how you gut it and that’s how we that’s how we transcend it. So, yeah, I wanted to bring this all to you. What do you think? Did you see it? Did you have more than a life than I did and you missed it? What happened?
DeRay Mckesson: You know, the thing that I think confuses me when when mega-stars do stuff like this is just how many people are required to participate, to pull it off. Right? Like you can’t like the original outfit and moment like it you that you don’t just, like, stumble into this moment, like the photo, all this stuff. So. So I was hopeful that he’d have more critical friends and not critical as in like constructive criticism, but like who understood critical stuff around gender and identity, because he’s been such at the forefront of owning his own gayness. Um.
Kaya Henderson: Owning his own what?
DeRay Mckesson: And Twitter. Gayness, gayness.
Kaya Henderson: Oh.
DeRay Mckesson: Gayness.
Kaya Henderson: I heard a completely different word okay nevermind go ahead. [laughter]
Myles E. Johnson: Now you’re like, we can say that on the pod now?
DeRay Mckesson: Right. [laughter] Gayness.
Kaya Henderson: Yes, I got it. Thanks.
DeRay Mckesson: [laughing] Uh. And I it’s so interesting to like, it’s like the human part of it where I could see him being like, you know, somebody popped off on me on Twitter and I da da da da da. And it’s a like you have so many more followers. And this is like, this just brings on a swath of people that hate somebody who just has way less social standing. So I left it all just disappointed. That’s I don’t have anything deep to say. Besides, I’m like, come on Lil Nas X you’ve had such a good run. I’m disappointed in this.
Myles E. Johnson: And doesn’t it feel like we don’t have, like, celebrity we hard– like we hardly have celebrities anymore, and it just feels like we don’t have artists and public intellectuals anymore. To me, it feels like we have mascots. And I think that these moments really highlight the fact that we have mascots, because if you were in the position to embrace your queerness and you and you got there because of something that was deeper, then kind of a shallow identity politic, you would probably have something critical to say or some deep reflection or some advancement when this situation happens. But when you get there just because people need, feel like they need a mascot for their identity team. Then you get really disappointed during times like this because there’s just no depth beyond the identity portion.
De’Ara Balenger: I hate to blame this on generational issues, but I think that is part to blame here. I you know, growing up with Janet Jackson, knew it I just I feel like partly growing up pop music in that time, it was the evolution of pop mu– of Black pop music. I would say there was more community in terms of accountability around that artist, whether it was Prince, whether I just I feel like there was more accountability. There was um even more desire from that artist to want to make a community proud. I mean, I’m not talking about like, Al B. Sure!, but, you know, I think for a large–
Kaya Henderson: Oooh. [laughter] Hey, hey, hey. That’s my fellow Mt. Vernonite. Don’t don’t throw shade in on the money earning.
De’Ara Balenger: Of course he’s from Mt. Vernon. Of course he’s from Mt. Vernon.
Kaya Henderson: Of course he is. That’s right.
De’Ara Balenger: All that but all that to say, I think there was there was a certain attention paid to making your community proud and like all the things that that means. I think–
Kaya Henderson: I completely disagree De’Ara.
De’Ara Balenger: Well well.
Kaya Henderson: I disagree.
De’Ara Balenger: Well, let me. Let me finish. Let me finish.
Kaya Henderson: Okay.
De’Ara Balenger: I also feel like part of it is capitalism was a lot different growing up than it is now. Social media, capitalism, how so much is a reflection of what you have, how big your platform is, and being credentialing yourself to speak on things which you actually have no insight, education whatsoever. Right. So now everybody is an expert on everything. And so I feel like part of this is Lil Nas X, whose name is Montero, named after a Mitsubishi Montero. Who grew up in the projects, is 23 years old, was gay coming up in who knows where Georgia part of this is he has his own set of traumas, which we know we understand. But now he’s in a community like I’m finding that his one of his best friends is Miley Cyrus. Like, if that is your community of people that you’re around and therefore understanding levers of accountability from. You’re actually not accountable to anybody, right? If you’re not seeing yourself as like, you know, trying to trying to make the Black community proud through who you are and what all that means, especially for him being queer. But you’re just out there being who who you want to be. No accountability to anybody. You can say what you want, talk crazy to whomever. I just see I see this as a larger, a larger reflection of what culture means now in this country, of what communication now means in this country, what engagement looks like in this country, and how it’s it’s just more acceptable to be disrespectful and it’s more acceptable to say, this is how I feel and I don’t care how you what you feel about it.
Kaya Henderson: I think I think you’re–
De’Ara Balenger: So I don’t know it’s a long, convoluted way of saying, you know, like I think I think there are a lot of things at play here, and I yes I put a responsibility on him. But I also just think it is the the the hurricane in which he is growing up in.
Kaya Henderson: I I agree with you on communication and engagement being very different. Um. I don’t necessarily agree on the accountability thing. I just think that people didn’t have access to to pop stars, you know, back in the day–
De’Ara Balenger: –the way they do now. Yeah.
Kaya Henderson: –the way they do now.
De’Ara Balenger: That’s right.
Kaya Henderson: And half of the pop stars that we love are as crazy as everybody else is. We just didn’t know because they weren’t tweeting. They weren’t they didn’t say everything that was on their mind. And we we if they did, we didn’t have access to it. Right. And so I think part of the problem with these high levels of engagement and no filters and complete and total access to people is you get all of there stuff, you get the good, the bad and the ugly. You get them being young and making mistakes. You get them not understanding what a real apology looks like. For me like this is so interesting because like, you know, the last thing in this article, Myles is, was somebody saying, how come all of this vitriol is not directed to the lawmakers who are actually passing–
De’Ara Balenger: That part.
Kaya Henderson: –these anti-trans laws? Right. Like the burden that we put on, a burden and responsibility, whatever it is, I guess if you get the fame, you also get the responsibility. But like we are, we are much quicker to go after um you know, what I what I sometimes feel are just young people out here being young. Right. Um.
Myles E. Johnson: I push I push back on that because I think that, you know, this gonna sound hella ableist or excuse me, this is going to sound extremely ableist, but most people can yell at Lil Nas X and say, you got that wrong and do and do the other thing, too. And I–
Kaya Henderson: I think–
Myles E. Johnson: –felt like that was such a mm hmm–
Kaya Henderson: I agree. I agree with that they can. But if you look on their Twitter accounts, they not out blasting Ron DeSantis, they not out doing whatever whatever they are saving it all for like we eat, we eat our own. We go to the places that are closest for us to attack. And like there’s not a coordinate. There’s not always a coordinated effort to go after the people causing us pain. And I’m not saying Lil Nas X is off the hook by any stretch of the imagination.
Myles E. Johnson: Yeah yeah.
Kaya Henderson: I’m saying we need to be doing both and and it’s too easy for us to, I guess, attack the celebrities then to do the other stuff.
De’Ara Balenger: I think they’re all everyone’s living in that same bubble, though, where there isn’t necessarily perspective on that. It again–
Myles E. Johnson: I think I–
De’Ara Balenger: It is it’s being cute, this is what it’s about. It’s about being cute and being seen. Do you are you getting cookies for knowing who Ron DeSantis is? Hell to the no, you being cute, you being out here in the scene and da da and then it’s a conversation with and amongst folks that aren’t necessarily paying attention to these greater issues. And I’m sounding like a real auntie here, but I think that’s part of what it is–
DeRay Mckesson: You are sounding like–
De’Ara Balenger: –on the Internet.
DeRay Mckesson: –queen Auntie.
Myles E. Johnson: I was [laughter] I’ve talked about this with DeRay a lot like I do. I do think there’s an interesting flattening of people who are in the public. And I think that when we think about celebrity and fame and I think about it a lot and I think about it’s just one of the things that fascinate me in that like in my work, I just like, excavate. Like when I think about it, there is a flattening of celebrity right now. But when celebrity first started, television is not that new. Having a personal television in your home is not that new. You had different silos of uh of of celebrity. And in order to maybe collapse two types of celebrities, so AKA be a public intellectual or be a political leader and be a sport star. You have to kind of earn your stripes to be able to do that thing. Um. If you wanted to be Little Richard and you wanted to be a rock star and be on stage and you also wanted to um say something to uh towards the Black community or say something towards political standings you had to earn your stripes and and do that. Now and we’re in this like like um homog– uh homogenous like weird thing where everybody is everything. So sometimes you’ll have somebody who’s a makeup uh influencer who is great and pretty and whatever, but then she, maybe discovered that about Colourism yesterday and now all of a sudden we’re listening to her talk about Colourism and because everything’s so flat, we could really be contending with her views on colorism in the public sphere for longer than it’s than it’s needed. And then to your to your point is we can be talking about political lawmakers and Lil Nas X but on the Internet and how media is made, all those things feel just as important as each other because they’re all happening at the same volume at the same time. And sometimes it can feel like a lil Nas X because he’s your same identity, he’s closer to you, more of your friends like him and he’s playing played at your party, that can feel more intimate and important than a political lawmaker because how culture and music touches us.
De’Ara Balenger: Yeah.
Myles E. Johnson: So.
De’Ara Balenger: Yes.
Myles E. Johnson: Turn off your television.
De’Ara Balenger: Ooh. [laughter]
DeRay Mckesson: And Myles is being right because Twitter has been all in uproar about white passing and white presenting because somebody tweeted it and it is we are in the hell on Twitter about it.
Myles E. Johnson: Yeah, it’s just it’s just weird it’s just interesting. So as much as we talk about like where Baldwin might have got it wrong or where, you know, the big thing that I was glad that people started talking about was Alice Walker’s anti-Semitism and and and places where she has been transphobic. The there was other places where it came to this theory that, like Alice Walker gained her gained her stripes, which is the reason why we even care what Alice Walker thinks you know, um which is which is which is totally different than what I think is going on now.
DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Don’t go anywhere. More Pod Save the People’s coming.
DeRay Mckesson: So my news is about banking and it is not even new news. But as we think about uh SVB collapsing and in it’s also taking down Credit Suisse if you haven’t seen. I don’t know we talked about this a little bit but one of the ways that they are saying SVB like one of the reasons why it collapsed was because of the wokeness on the board. And then you look at the board of SVB and it is all white people, but one of the Republican minds has been like they were so focused on diversity efforts that like they weren’t focused on running the business and da da definitely just a racist trope. And then I am on Twitter and I come across the only Black CEO in banking this this um article about him. And I am sufficiently intrigued. He at one point was at a party, a birthday party for somebody when the like president or guy and a Black performer came on stage dressed as a janitor and began to dance to music while sweeping the floor, uh Mr. Thiam got up and left because, you know, that’s insane. Uh. Another group of the, um the chairman of the board’s friends come out and they’re all wearing afros. You’re like, okay, now we’re just being racist. And there were all these other racist moments that he had to contend with. And then he eventually gets ousted because his number two uh ordered investigators to spy on employees. And like, obviously you can’t do that. And it was one of those things where it was like, this guy has done everything. He’s checked every box, been to every school, had every experience da da da da da da da and still in the highest realms, people are saying he is a third world kid. And, you know, they’re having I couldn’t imagine being at that role and having somebody come out and dressed as a janitor and doing show tunes. And it was just such a reminder of the legacy institutions in this country like being the representative person who breaks through is not is not only not freedom or solidarity, you’re still contending with the same thing that that somebody in the not highest levels is dealing with at their job, too. And I seeing this, I was like, wow, this is this is something else. I would love to see um Black banking like one of the I don’t know, I just it I brought this up because I A.) didn’t I don’t remember this guy. Um. And I was like, you know, he’s done all this stuff and still can’t escape blackface and afros at the party.
Kaya Henderson: The reason why I remember this is because we um we were talking about how Black people are brought in to clean up people’s messes. And um the Credit Suisse was in a like downward spiral at this point. And they hired this dude because he is the best at what he does. And he actually saved Credit Suisse back when he was running. He was there for five years, create, saved it, brought it out of a spiral. But he was so Black and so not Swiss and so whatever. It wasn’t even that he was so Black. It was that they were so white. They were like, yeah, like we can’t have this. And they fired him. Like, your company is drowning. The man saves it and you fire him because he’s Black. And this for all of the people who talk about meritocracy and let markets work and capitalism and blah, blah, blah. It’s all a crock. Anti-Blackness running rampant all over the place. Even when we are demonstrating our our most excellent uh performance, even when we save yo capitalist banks, you still throw us out and make us feel terrible about being Black. I remember this vividly um and I think poo poo Credit Suisse, you threw out the savior that you had, and now here you are getting bought up by UBC soon.
De’Ara Balenger: It’s also just fascinating because it’s such a different type of racism. Um. When I was at the State Department, I had to plan an event with the French like the people of France, and my phone calls with them were so bizarre. By bizarre, I mean racist. And I remember one of the he’s literally like a diplomat. I remember him saying to me, your last name is French. And I was like, yeah, you know, because you know what happened over here, right? And he was– [laughing]
Myles E. Johnson: In case you forgot.
Kaya Henderson: You so Black. You so Black.
De’Ara Balenger: Like what?
DeRay Mckesson: Right.
De’Ara Balenger: But it was it but it was it was it’s so it’s it was so different from American racism, right? It’s like we’ve perfected a very violent, aggressive type of racism here. But in Europe, it is really, really it’s like these fine, fine lines that are so, like brilliantly um and meticulously placed in everyday interactions, right. In ways that, like, it was even harder to like, like I would it would sting and I would feel it. But I’d be like what? Did that just what what what it? So–
DeRay Mckesson: Can you give me an example?
De’Ara Balenger: –I mean it sounds like this–
DeRay Mckesson: I’m curious.
De’Ara Balenger: So it was–
DeRay Mckesson: And like or like and and what do you do to push back in that kind of because I do think you’re right that like we are primed for a very in-your-face racism, you know?
De’Ara Balenger: It it was, for example okay, so. What we were planning, so we were planning this is when the earthquake had happened in Haiti um in 2010. And so we were planning a donors conference in Martinique. So we were bringing Haitian mayors and mayors really from around the world that had gone through some type of like major um natural disaster. Um. And so the French were like our co-hosts in the planning of this. And so we’re doing this in Martinique. But because most of the attendance were participants were Black, the approach to it had like a certain like a silliness to it, or like that we were we were being silly or we were being um we were being too cautious or we were being too, too overprepared around what this thing was going to look like. And so it just felt like, being on the phone with, you know, being on the phone with someone who really doesn’t care about an event. It’s an event they’re co-hosting, but like, they could care less. Right. And so it was every every way to to sort of under the cuff demean me, demean the, you know, the my boss at the time who was who was leading this. Um. So it was just like little things like and I think the last name thing was the thing I remember most vividly because it was like in the middle of a planning, like it was such it was such an inappropriate thing to bring up. It wasn’t like we had established a relationship. It wasn’t like we were being chatty or personable with one another. It was like, oh, so your last name sounds French. It’s a very ancient French name. [pause] What? What the hell does that mean? Any who, you know what I’m saying? It was one of those things that there’s like such an air of like something I don’t even understand that it just was like, I don’t know it’s probably how Meghan was feeling. I shouldn’t talk about her so bad. But yeah, it was one of those things.
DeRay Mckesson: Right. [laughter]
De’Ara Balenger: That you’re just like, like it goes over your head. You’re like, what did what the hell did [?]?
Myles E. Johnson: I apologize Meghan. I get it now.
De’Ara Balenger: I’m sorry girl.
Myles E. Johnson: I get it now. I get it now. [laughter]
DeRay Mckesson: That was like, that was a what a text to life connection? You know it was a– [laughter]
Myles E. Johnson: I had like a very like, I don’t know, even what to call it, like a micro thought about one of the things that uh I’ve been. So I have con– in order to like really explain this well, I have a confession to make. I um I’ve been watching Fox News and to for research purposes [laughter].
Kaya Henderson: Only.
Myles E. Johnson: And I watched um after I watched because I was watching like the Jussie Smollett documente– like documentary. And then after I was watching that, I like watched Roseanne Barr’s newest stand up. And maybe just because I’m young and even though I’ve been talking about race and and power and and and whiteness and Blackness and blah, blah, blah for a long time, there’s still things that I still that just like, you know, what does Oprah say? It was a um a ha moment in my head. And she was there doing her standup act and she was talking, making her jokes and so many of the jokes, even though they may have been filled with anti-Blackness or anti um uh anti-progressive thoughts or whatever. So much of it was really about her getting the white liberal uh elites that she felt where getting like that she was attacking and and and me watching it. And I got hit with [?] like really her actual who she was really trying to attack were or who she really cared about were these white liberals. And because I was watching it, I was getting hit with [?]. And I thought about this when reading this article was I wonder how much of that stuff would have still happened even if he wasn’t there, all those racist things would have still happened, even if he wasn’t there just because their their goal is to maybe make uncomfortable the people, the other people who are um forcing them into a more liberal or new way of thinking that they don’t want it, they want it, that they don’t want to um embrace, and they’re um rebelling against it with these these horrendously like, racist acts. Like that’s that’s kind of the tension I was like, feeling, too, where I’m like, I think this will be happening. I don’t like I wasn’t I he caught he got demeaned because he was witnessing it. But also I think that would have happened whether he was in the room or not. And I think that yes, it was also this celebration of of white supremacy, but also it was to make other people uncomfortable who were white because they’re playing at this kind of tennis game about where whiteness should go and how it should be seen, should be seen as old conservative and racist or new progressive and quietly racist. And that and sometimes you get caught in the in the tennis match of that as a Black person and it’s about you, but you’re just another ball that they’re willing to hit. It’s you’re you’re not even seen as an actual um opponent, even when you’re helping the company survive, like in this case.
De’Ara Balenger: Well, thank goodness. My news today is on the lighter side, everyone. It’s from The New York Times. Um. It’s from a couple of weeks ago. But I came across it a couple of days ago. Um. And for those who don’t know, I am obsessed with home interiors. Like obsessed um and this is inspired by my granny, Dorothy Black, some of my aunties, my Auntie Terry, my Auntie Rita, my Auntie Chaya. Um. Uh. There was always like a religious pride to like what was in the home, what the home looked like, but then also making sure that you did something or took a nice enough photo for somebody for you to find yourself in one of these homes. Right? There was always like a sense of belonging um in how I grew up. Uh. So anyhow, so this the headline of this is Interior Lives of Black Homes. It’s part of like a series in the New York Times in the design section um for the recent push of diversity in design and how that makes the world look different. The story begins with Helen C. Maybell Anglin, the self-described soul queen of Southern cuisine. Um. So in the in this in the in the article there’s a photo and she is on the steps of her fieldstone house on the south side of Chicago. And she got on black mink and she look fabulous. Okay. So it’s 1974. This house, which was commissioned in 1965 from the architect Milton M. Schwartz. It was a bold and glamorous um place to be. Um. So she she’d entertained folks like Martin Luther King, Mahalia Jackson, um Muhammad– Muhammad Ali. Um. And so just to get like a picture of this. So there’s she’s standing there, there’s a recess portico. They’re double entrance doors, a sky lighted shag carpeted living room, which has her baby white grand piano of course. She died in 2009 and the house remained under her family’s ownership until just last year. Bertina Power, who’s an author and a real estate broker, was approached and asked when asked asked for her professional advice on whether to rehab, um rehab the property or sell it. She took one look at the place and said, well, I’m going to buy it. She’s um also a sister. She’s a, you know, entrepreneur. And she believed that her owning this house um was her fate. What she didn’t know was the history that went with this house. Um. So the backdrop of this is after decades of neglect, Black interior spaces designed for and by Black homeowners are receiving new attention. They’re being documented, analyzed in publications, exhibitions and research initiatives. Some of the houses aren’t as striking and as modern as uh Miss Helen’s house. But there is such an incredible and deep and rich story of Black people seeking identity and comfort at home. This question of Black esthetics is ambiguous. According to Danicia Monét Malone, who recently introduced her My Black Home project as part of her Ph.D. research and critical geography studies at Temple. Ms. Malone asked residents in Indianapolis, her former home, to answer the question. If someone were to walk in your home, what element what element of it would make them say, this is a Black home? As I was reading this, I turned to Pao and I said, Pao, do you think our home is a Black home? She said, well, what do you think? I said, well, absolutely. [laughter]
Kaya Henderson: Pao is a smart lady. [laughter]
Myles E. Johnson: [banter] Hold on. Hold on. That is that is–
De’Ara Balenger: But even as like–
Myles E. Johnson: –those are lawyers.
De’Ara Balenger: Even as we’re doing the podcast. I mean, if you look at even our little boxes in our homes, it’s like obviously–
Kaya Henderson: Oh yeah we all–
De’Ara Balenger: –eclectic Black art.
Kaya Henderson: –look, we all look a little Black.
De’Ara Balenger: You know what I’m saying? Yeah. [laughter]
Kaya Henderson: That is fascinating, because I got nervous when I asked myself, does my home look like a Black home? Uh. When I read your article, for sure. [laughter] So um so Faith Lindsay, who’s also a researcher in this space, it’s like it’s exhilarating to see how people interpret home, right? How their dresser is staged, their kitchen, a wall of memories. Um. They really capture the mundane things that might go unnoticed by someone else. Um. Catherine E. McKinley, who’s an author and curator and does, you know, has a book called A Letter from Home. She’s working on it, I can’t wait to see this book, A Letter from Home, The Art and Science of Black Homemaking. Um. And in this book will be Xenobia Bailey, who. Amaze. If you all don’t know Xenobia Bailey’s work please, please go seek it out. She’s an American fine artist, designest, super naturalist, cultural activist and fiber artist, best known for her like eclectic crochet, like she makes these massive hats. Terry Adkins, who’s another American artist, um pioneered the body of work that blends sculpture, sound performance, video, printmaking, Sun Ra, the musician jazz composer amaze. Um. So there’s going to be, you know, kind of the household household objects of all of these folks. Now the contrast is is a woman by the name of Sheila Pree Bright, who did a suburbia portfolio in 2006, which is part of the collection at the National Museum of African-American History and Culture. She’s an Atlanta based photographer. She produces work that is stark and uncluttered, airy in the way of typical interior design magazine photography. She’s a visual storyteller, and she said when she got to Atlanta, she noticed that so many Black folks were living in the suburbs. And she wanted to highlight that. When she went to publishers, they were like, well, these houses don’t look like Black people live in them. Where are the TVs? What? Oh, God. Y’all get on my nerves.
Kaya Henderson: [clears throat] We got the we got the frame. We got the frame. So my TV looks like art, and there’s Black art on it, and it’s only a TV [laughter] when I turn it on. Cause we on the come up. I’m just saying.
De’Ara Balenger: There you go. There you go. There you go. Um. You know, So this this article is just amazing. I could literally just go through the whole thing verbatim. I just was obsessed with it. But I think what, what I wanted to highlight around it is just this concept of Black homemaking. And I think it’s something that no matter what you have materially. It was such a point of pride and also so visceral of how we appoint things and how we care for things and how we bring who we are into our spaces. And what was also interesting in this is the conversation on modernism and mid-century design and how that design was meant to keep people out. Right? Where we turned that on its head like we often do, and we used it to bring people in. So if you looked at, you know, Jet magazine and Ebony magazine, Interiors and Designs were always meant to include um include and um just exude um community. So I just thought this piece was fascinating and and really highlights how much of a role we just play in our destinies. Like no matter what is happening out in the world and what is oppressing us and all of that, it’s just these, something as simple as making whatever you can beautiful in your way. How critical that’s been to us as a culture and how and how strong of a culture we have in that. So I hope you all enjoy this one. It’s just I thought it was fabulous.
Myles E. Johnson: I’m obsessed with this article. I as you were speaking, um of course I was listening to you, but also I was buying the book that was listed here called Aphrochic, Aphro spelled with a ph-chic. And I’m so excited to get it. It’s going to be delivered tomorrow. This is one of the most important things to me, because I feel like when it comes to owning, feeling at home some place that was just not a freedom that was given to a lot of Black people. And before, like you can ask my boyfriend when we moved in here, we have boxes and everything was literally decorated maybe within the first 40 hours, 48 hours that we came because I was like no I have to feel part of me feeling like I’m planting roots in a space is me decorating it. Me um coming up with like, concepts. It’s an extremely ancestral, even spiritual experience for me to be in Brooklyn, be in Flatbush, be in this um rent controlled apartment and have each bedroom kind of speak towards who I am. And even like as I’m sitting here, this is like the smallest room in um in the apartment, but I have um uh pictures of myself juxtaposed with pictures from the um 1940s. But then also I have like a little [?] rug and I have a TLC uh picture frame that’s outside of the frame. And those things are so intentional because I really wanted to feel um consumed, devoured by the colors and the culture and the family ancestry that I grew up with. And I feel like we don’t talk about that enough. And I love looking through the pictures that they did provide and seeing how many of those like I just got a little fuzzy feeling because of have how many of those spaces look like my space and it feels like even though I didn’t know this existed, there is this other frequency that we’re all on when it comes to creating our homes and and making so it does feel like a Black home. And sometimes the things aren’t as blatant as, you know, a racist trope like where’s the TVs? [laugh] The those so there’s there’s other things that you just intuitively, intuitively feel where you’re like, oh, I know the Black person and the history of this Black person who lives here. And then also the last thing that I’ll say is I was looking at these homes and I’m like, well, child definitely dreamed about living in the sky and wanting this penthouse or whatever, is that a lot of times, at least in my home, the homes of Black people is also aspirational. So you could also see the dreams of where that person wants to go and where you want what the, the way that person wants to um land. And I think that is such a beautiful thing. Where you could step in somebody’s home and see their past, but then also see where they’re trying to manifest their future and the tension between that and then working it out through design. I love, love, love, love, love, love, love this article. This topic, could talk about it forever. [laughing]
Kaya Henderson: Um. Thanks for bringing this, De’Ara. This was really interesting to me um for a couple of reasons. The main reason is um it points to like we’ve talked a lot about the humanization of Black people. Like we don’t see pictures of Black people recreating. We don’t see pictures of Black people’s homes because the larger society doesn’t want you to think that we’re normal, that we value interior design. You pick up an interior design book like I bought. I don’t know what it was uh somebody is I’m sure it was Architectural Digest. I’m sure. Right. Never bought Architectural Digest before, but I bought it because Viola Davis’s um house was on the cover and I wanted to see her house. Right. Like, they don’t show our homes. They don’t they and it is a real clear um assault on Black society to say, you know, you live different than we live. And your life, your homes, your interiors, your spaces are not worthy of our time and attention. And so reclaiming that narrative and showing Black um homes, I think is an important step in the continued evolution of Black people in America. So thank you for that. Um. And I do remember, like in the Ebony and the Jet that you would see people’s, you know, stuff and then like, your people would be like, oh, we got to go get a couch like, you know, Janet Jackson, or we got, right. Like, totally aspirational. Yes, indeed. And so I I really appreciate that. I also, like I said, you know, when I saw the question, like if somebody walked in your home would they know it was Black, I literally was like, I think so. Um. And I was like, you know what? I got to make this space a little more Black, right? And so I have a friend who is an amazing um she’s an educator, but interior design is her side passion. And she posts pictures of her um of her home online all the time and it is sure enough Black. And the last time she posted something, I was like, Girl, I got to get you over here because we got to rework some of this space. I need it to be Blacker. And this just reminded me I need to call her today because we gonna chocolate up this thing even more than what it currently is, um because that makes me feel comfortable. And then that made me think about the tension, right, between having Black spaces and, you know, we’ve covered a lot on the podcast about these, like home appraisals, right? That when you want to sell your house and maximize your asset, if the house looks too Black, you going to get a uh uh an undervalued assessment. Right? And so this tension between living the way we want to live and and using the master’s tools to get ahead, right. Real estate. A house is the American dream. You can sell your house and leverage whatever. That our Blackness and our living Black actually works against us in that, so this brought up a host of issues for me, and I ain’t scared. I’m about to Blacken it up a little bit more and after I do we going to have a little Pod Save the People party uh right down here in northeast D.C. in my mo’–
Myles E. Johnson: Okay.
Kaya Henderson: –Black house.
Myles E. Johnson: Okay, more Black mo’ better. [laughter]
Kaya Henderson: Because that’s what it is. Okay. Um. My news this week is about the continued assault on women by the Republican Party. Sorry to end on a low note y’all, but you got to know what’s going on out in the place. It’s ridiculous what is happening. I mean, we thought it was the end of the world when, you know, Roe v Wade was overturned and these Republicans continue to show us that, um no, it ain’t over. Just when you thought uh it couldn’t get worse, it is getting worse. Um. Ron DeSantis is pushing, um I guess, a bill that will prohibit young ladies in elementary school from uh talking about their period. Um. I guess you can talk about it from sixth grade through 12th grade. But God forbid you get your period in third or fourth or fifth grade, which many of our young women do. You can’t talk about it in school. There’s an Oklahoma woman who was convicted of manslaughter because she had a miscarriage um and Oklahoma has sentenced her to four years in jail. Um. And so, you know, terrible to have a miscarriage and to go through that trauma, but then to get convicted and go to jail because of that is a whole another thing. And then in South Carolina, in an effort to not be outdone, um their Republican lawmakers have proposed um the death penalty for women who have abortions. Yes, the death penalty. In the South Carolina Prenatal Equal Protection Act of 2023, it makes a person who gets an abortion eligible for the death penalty by making a fertilized egg a quote unquote, “person”. And so that egg now has equal protection under homicide laws, and they are pushing um to prosecute. Well, they are pushing to pass this bill, which will allow them to prosecute women who have abortions. There is an exception for mothers who are facing imminent threat of death or great bodily injury, but there is no exception for rape or incest. Um. These are people who are supposed to be pro-life, right? So they’re going to kill people, kill mothers, people who make life um if they don’t have the babies that they want them to have or whatever. Like, I don’t get this. This it continues a trend of laws in Republican led states that limit not only limit access to abortion, but they punish people um. Since the fall of Roe v Wade 18 states have imposed near or total abortion bans. And um yeah, it just does not stop. I will honestly say um I, I am I’m trying to connect the dots because none of these things are unrelated. All of these things taken together. Right. Like, if you can we were talking about this, these lighthouse moments where if you can get one thing here or one thing there the Republicans have been quite adept at taking that thing and then running the playbook through a bunch of other states. And so I think you’ll, you know, if they can get this in South Carolina, then coming to a Republican led state near you will be the death penalty for anybody who gets abortions. You know, it’s the Texas judge who is about to make a decision that will impede the abortion drug for the entire um for the entire country. Right. And and so this like full frontal assault on women, women’s bodies, women’s agency and freedom. Um. I am I want to know, Republican women what are you all out here doing? What’s going on? What what is this? Um. We knew it was coming. Again, like I can’t watch. Um. Oh, lord, what’s the series on Hulu? The Handmaid’s Tale. I had to stop watching The Handmaid’s Tale because this is the like, lead up right to The Handmaid’s Tale, which we never thought could happen but is about to happen. And so I’m bringing this to the pod because, like, you know, we have to keep a watchful eye on all of these things and connect the dots for what is happening um around women and women’s rights in this country. I don’t really have much else to say.
Myles E. Johnson: Absolutely deplorable. To your um question or point, I don’t. I don’t uh like myself to like be able to report on what like conservative Republican women are thinking. But during my Fox News research, a joke about the uh these laws um around um women’s bodies was made. And it was like, well, don’t worry, because you can’t get pregnant because you took the vaccine. So I think that even though that was a joke, I think that that actually says a lot around the cognitive dissonance that uh conservative women, Republican women are willing to um adapt in order to make sure that the peo– the men who they’re running with or remain in power or get more power or can make more power is that you just make up these lies and these tropes in your head that totally um make it all right, whatever is going on and make it not that serious and it’s that serious. I think that that’s I think that a lot of times we’re seen as like overreacting when we say um when we talk about things like this or we see we seem um like we’re just um exaggerating something. But it’s no, it’s really that serious and law by law, things are being taken taken away. So we are going to be looking like The Handmaid’s Tale. And you have to take the first thing just as serious as the 100th thing. Or before you know it, you’re in something where [?] between the Jim Crow thing in the Mississippi and this, I’m like, Oh, we’re going to law by law have just as many laws as we did in 1899. Like, that’s where that’s where things are going like going if we don’t take every single step seriously that they’re taking to just annihilate rights.
De’Ara Balenger: Myles, I think you’re so right, because it was in my mind and what has been in my mind is just the narrative around this country and how it’s a country of democracy and freedom and liberation and manifest destiny. When when you look at like the U.N. Sustainable Development Report on rankings for women’s rights and women’s equality. The United States is 38. Belarus is doing better than us. I’m pretty sure Belarus is author– authoritarian. Um. We’re also only three rungs up above, guess who? Russia. So I think we need to start thinking about how this place isn’t as free as the narrative tells us it is. And and globally, we are doing terribly across so many vectors when it comes to human rights, equality, um basic basic human needs for people. So I think Myles back to like it where it’s not being hysterical, it’s actually just like we need to start beating the drum on we are doing terrible here in protecting a lot of people and just because we got movies and and music and all these things coming out of this country. It’s a distraction from actually really what’s happening to us here.
Kaya Henderson: De’Ara, I think I think that the thing is, we are a country of freedom and democracy and manifest destiny and agency and all of that stuff for white men, but not for anybody else. [laughter] Not for not for anybody else. So, I mean, I say that because, like, it takes two to make a baby, right? So there’s some men running around here that are impregnating all of these women who need abortions or whatever the case may be. And there is literally no consequence for them, no anything, no whatever. And–
Myles E. Johnson: And paying for it, I’m like, are you accessory to a crime?
Kaya Henderson: They–
Myles E. Johnson: If this is where we are going with it?
Kaya Henderson: Not a thing. Not a thing. And, you know, all of these I think I think that, you know, a lot of this is is white misogyny’s last stand. It is, you know, attempts to punish but first. I mean, punish Black people. We always the first whatever minorities generally women like it’s it is the rage is palpable and the fact that these people are not even pretending anymore and they’re just and I mean, abortion. Abortion bans are largely unpopular by voters. Right. And you see places like Kansas beating them back and whatnot, because this is not what everybody wants. But these white men Republicans are out here lunching. And, you know, as Myles said, like we’re watching these small things happen that seem so ludicrous that we’re like, we’re not even going to pay attention to this. But those small things end up being the precursors, the foundation of the big things to come later. So. Yeah. Mmm. Stay alert.
Myles E. Johnson: Okay. Decorate your home. Stay alert. Don’t be transphobic.
Kaya Henderson: And put on some Bobby Caldwell to ease your vibes this week.
Myles E. Johnson: Put on some Bobby Caldwell. [laughter] And and and and take your money out of Swiss banks though that is the podcast today.
De’Ara Balenger: Podcast Recap.
Kaya Henderson: Boom.
De’Ara Balenger: Boom. [laughing] [music break]
DeRay Mckesson, narrating: This week, we welcome Daniel Hatcher on the pod to talk about his new book Injustice Inc.: How America’s Justice System Commodifies Children and the Poor. He formerly worked a legal aid and he is current professor of law at the University of Baltimore’s civil advocacy clinic. In the book he talks about how juvenile family and criminal justice systems thrive on monetizing inequity and harms struggling youth and families. You have to have to listen to this episode, make sure you buy the book. It really is that good. Let’s go.
DeRay Mckesson: Professor Hatcher. I, it is an honor to have you today on Pod Save the People. This is one of the books that I uh that I read. And I was like, wow, I didn’t know I needed to read this. I remember stumbling across you on Twitter being like, can we make this happen? I know you probably thought we were never going to do it because we were slow to get you on, but we got you here and it’s honor to have you.
Daniel Hatcher: DeRay, thank you so much. It’s an honor to be on your show and have this conversation.
DeRay Mckesson: So let’s start. I still have a million questions about what’s in the book but before we get there, how did you get to this topic? Did you always care about the criminal justice system? Did something happen to you that like caused you to care? Did you always know you wanted to be a professor? Did you stumble into that? Like what’s, how’d you get here?
Daniel Hatcher: Uh that’s a good question, I have a bit of a long answer but I’ll try to shorten it. I’ve been an advocate for low income children and impoverished adults for over 25 years. Um. I went to law school with in mind that I wanted to do public interest law. I wasn’t really sure what that meant um at the time, and and um although I believed in in equal and impartial justice at the time and the and this and the need to fight for social justice, wasn’t really sure what it meant. Right. So my eyes have been opened quite a bit as I have learned through my clients and through my students over the years. So my my first job um after after law school and working in the public interest, was representing children pulled into the highly dysfunctional Baltimore foster care system. And I was overwhelmed by it. You know, like, you know, the number of youth I was trying to represent and their individual stories um and then you know realizing that it’s not just their individual struggles and their parent’s struggles, the very systems that are intended to serve them with welfare and justice are instead monetizing them.
DeRay Mckesson: Okay. Now, that is it’s almost like I set you up because that’s what I have a million questions about. So there were some parts of this that I was like, okay, I already knew that. Good to see it in the written word and knew it. And then there are parts about foster care, family court, child support that I had heard people talk about was sort of extracting profit from people. But I like mmm there wasn’t a there there that I could touch. Could you first tell us what the premise of the book is? And then let’s go into wherever you want to start in terms of family court, foster care, child support. Of those three, that’s where I’d like to start in terms of issues. But the premise of the book, what were you what was the goal?
Daniel Hatcher: Sure. Well, and it built from my last book, my first book was titled The Poverty Industry, and that book really exposes how our human service agencies are often partnering with private companies to turn vulnerable populations, children and adults into revenue tools. This book you know I fear is even more concerning as I’m exposing that our very systems of justice, right? Are turning low income children and adults into revenue tools. And not just um there’s not just disproportionate harm that’s uncovered. The harm is being monetized. And our justice institutions from our our juvenile courts to our family courts, to our um prosecutor’s offices, to our probation departments, policing agencies, all of them are increasingly looking for ways to shift from their intended mission of maximizing equal and impartial justice to instead almost running like a factory. Right. Using those that they’re supposed to serve. Right. And instead maximizing efficiency and revenue. You can almost visualize a factory assembly line, right? But and it’s almost instead of an assembly line, more like a disassembly line. And you have already struggling individuals who are then deconstructed for every possible penny. And the most striking, I think, example that that I found and is is also symbolic, are out of Ohio and in multiple states where the book uncovers how juvenile courts are actually entering contracts to generate revenue from child removals, um children who might be pulled into the system through the juvenile delinquency side. Right. And the courts literally contract to generate revenue from those removals. I can talk about that in a little more detail. But but that’s the that’s the unfortunate um theme of the book.
DeRay Mckesson: Okay let’s uh the book broke down so many things. So let’s start at the let’s start at the basics. Uh. What is family court for for people who, like, don’t know. How would you explain what Family Court is?
Daniel Hatcher: Sure. Well, in different jurisdictions, it’s a variety of things, but it’s typically and the foundational courts that I call them are what are often referred as lower level courts, the family courts for low income individuals often involve um juvenile issues, including child welfare, the foster care proceedings and then child support. Right, is the biggest part. You know when we get into a discussion of child care court, child support proceedings, most individuals don’t realize that in this country there are really two systems of child support. You have um the courts for the for the better off individuals where you might have parents who are married and they’re in there pursuing a divorce and there might be dividing property, multiple houses, you know figuring out dividing the child support, who’s going to pay for college and the like um these aren’t the courts for the poor. When you’re dealing with the child support 4D courts. Right. Which brings in Title 4D child support agencies. Those courts are solely focused on establishing paternity, right? And more of a forced system in which parents are often literally required to participate. If you have a low income custodial parent who temporarily needs public assistance, [?] she or he is required to um not just name the absent parent. And through that process of establishing a paternity, if its the custodial mother. Right. But then to sue that individual over and over again for something called child support, but that isn’t owed to the children, it’s to pay back the cost of welfare referred to welfare cost recovery and this practice dates back to–
DeRay Mckesson: Wait slow down, slow down, slow down slow down.
Daniel Hatcher: Yeah.
DeRay Mckesson: Let’s give an example. When I read this in the book, I was like, you are lying!! Okay wait but like give us an example.
Daniel Hatcher: Sure. Um. So in that example, um like I talk about a foster child by the name of $ean um in the book and $ean is simultaneously real and hypothetical, I used a dollar sign for the S because he becomes a commodity. Um. The juvenile court could first contract to generate revenue literally from removing $ean from his home through a foster care contract. And I could talk about that a little more. But then that same court and the family court, as you describe, um may have an additional contract to generate more revenue through pursuing child support against the low income mother, $ean’s low income mother, from whom the court just ordered the removal of $ean so the court could order essentially the foster care proceedings for $ean to remove from from his home, generate revenue through that process, and then pursue the absent parent for more. Right? And to pursue um Federal Title 4D funds. And meanwhile–
DeRay Mckesson: Time out, let me–
Daniel Hatcher: The mother is just struggling.
DeRay Mckesson: I have a question. So this would be suing essentially asking the mom to incur a fee for the fact that her child was removed from the home.
Daniel Hatcher: That’s right. That it’s forcing the um parent who’s already struggling or desperately trying to reunify with with his or her son right or daughter um now to pay back the cost of foster care. Right you know while the child is being monetized right now, the parent and the parents harm is being monetized and making it even harder for that reunification process to take place. Um. And and that’s just scratching the surface. Right? And then prosecutors come into play and their and their contractual revenue schemes of probation departments, policing agencies and the like.
DeRay Mckesson: Blew my mind, is when did you realize that parents were being charged for their kids being taken like do you remember the day you were like, what?
Daniel Hatcher: Right. Well, that dates back to my early years as a legal aid lawyer, both representing children and adults. Um. In the system you know when I was representing children pulled into the system. It’s it’s um it’s again, overwhelming to to um experience through them you know all, all their struggles, but then to realize that the systems right, are then that are supposed to serve them are often using them. Um. And the the first example that I that I came across in my research and advocacy. Um. It’s been since about 2004 uh now that that I’ve been researching and writing about that, where um foster care agencies will literally pursue children in their care who are either disabled or have dead parents. Right. And then pursue their survivor benefits or disability benefits and take those resources from the very children in their care. You know so you have the the state foster care agencies that literally the only reason they exist is supposed to be to serve and protect. Right. Children, Right. Are going after those children’s assets and taking them from children. You know and that you know led to additional research and looking at the child support um program and how much of child support um is not even owed to the children and you know, huge percentages and California’s up to 40%. Right. Of the total child support debt is actually owed to the government to repay where they’re pursuing the poor parents to repay the costs of welfare and foster care, harming everyone in the process.
DeRay Mckesson: Let’s uh let’s put up let’s put a line in before we transition to child support so that we can like make sure people get and by people, I mean me, make sure that we get the foster care part. Okay. So recouping it in the idea that the state is is working to take the assets of foster care kids, wild. Now, what would you say to people, though, who would say that it costs money to administer these welfare programs? Right. That like it’s not free and that somebody has to pay up? What would you say to people who are like, I get it, it might not be great, but like, you know, you should have to pay something? What do you say to those people? Does that make sense?
Daniel Hatcher: Sure. Uh and you know, and first, that the children aren’t choosing to be pulled into foster care, Right? Nor are their parents choosing for their children to be taken in to the child welfare system. So we start from that. Right. And then these agencies, they’re supposed to be funded from federal funds and state funds. Um. Right. They exist for the sole reason of serving the best interests of vulnerable youth. Um. They don’t exist to extract resources from those vulnerable youth. So under federal law and state law, they’re required when when children are removed from their homes to provide and pay for them, right. Those those services, not the kids. Right. So I’ve argued on that particular issue. It’s both immoral and and illegal. Right. And I think there are strong claims and it’s just nonsensical. Right. When you have an agency that exists to serve a population isn’t is actually taking resources from that population. Right. It’s that’s counter intuitive. So but then you could have an agency like the foster care agency, not just pursuing and taking resources from $ean or another child, as I describe in the book. Right? Then they may also use $ean through this contract and you know, like so and the way that works, I think is even potentially more concerning because the court, the juvenile courts in these examples literally contract to become the foster care agency. Right. And, you know, and so then what they do, that’s like at first they put on their court hat, adjudicate a child delinquent. That allows them to put on their contractual foster care agency hat, remove a child from the home. Right. Or um label a child as foster care candidate at constant risk of removal and processing. The court shifts and puts back its court hat back on again and rules on its own actions. Right. And then if it rules on itself favorably, it can draw down millions of Title 4E revenue, funds from the federal government that are supposed to go to foster care agencies that the courts have tapped into. They’re they’re monetizing vulnerable youth.
DeRay Mckesson: We’re going to come back to foster care. Let’s go to um. I’m telling you, this is why I was like. We got to get him on the podcast. We got to learn, I got to learn. Okay. Um. What let’s talk about child support. So many people would say, you know, if you have a kid, there’s a financial responsibility. Some people, mostly men, don’t want to live up to that responsibility and that without the child support system, kids and mothers would go without resources to provide for kids. That would be a you know I could call my aunt, she would probably say that. And I’ve heard people say, well, foster care is exploitative. I mean, not foster care, child support is exploiting people and da da da and the way that I’ve heard people talk through that is sort of explaining why men don’t want to pay. Right. And or that the the amount that they were given as a percentage of their income is too high. This is certainly the story that you see when you see celebrities go through their child support thing. It’s like, why does so and so need da da da da da like uh but your take on it is something different. So I wanted you to help us understand why you think about child support, not as a program that is actually supporting kids and moms, but is exploiting people.
Daniel Hatcher: Sure. And, uh you know, it’s a good description. I think most people, when they consider child support or they’re responding to what they hear on the news and stories of celebrities and the like, right. Where you have individuals who are better off uh and the stories of of nonpayment and when an obligation has been ordered. Um. When you talk about low income families, this is often a forced system. So it actually comes at the the 4D child support system, which which is this agency driven child support system in America comes from old English poor laws in what were called bastardy acts early on, where parents who had children that were referred out of wedlock were literally criminalized um for having having children born out of wedlock and forced to post bonds. Um custodial mothers were literally jailed right if they didn’t have that money right in order to indemnify the town from the potential risk of low income children. Right? That early um structure grew into what our current child support is, system is, the 4D system in America still. Um. Much of the 4D system it started with this purpose of recovering costs, of forcing poor individuals to pay back the cost of any public assistance they received or foster care. Right. When that happens, and that’s still a big part of the program. But but even now, when you have this agency driven system um and that pulls in mostly low income families across the country, most of the families pulled into the four 4D system are poor. Um. Even when the money is owed to the custodial parent, if the order set as a level at a level that’s that’s not manageable. Right. And then the enforcement tools are punitive rather than helpful for the children, harm results. Right? So if you just look at the garnishment amount, what happens after a child support order you know if you’re a low income obligor um who may be trying um his or her best to pay this child support obligation. Right. And if he or she is able to find above ground employment. Or is lucky enough you know after the struggle to find work, um the garnishment amount immediately is going to be 65% right of the wages. So the vast majority of people once that hits you can’t afford, you can’t afford to pay rent, you can’t afford to buy food. Right? So it’s at such a level that it harms rather than helps. Um. Licenses are suspended, so then the absent parent can’t drive to work, can’t drive to help with the children, drive the children to daycare, drive the children to school. Right. Their credit is destroyed in the process. Many end up being sent to prison you know like because of criminal nonsupport proceedings. Which then adds to their criminal record, which makes it even harder to find jobs. So it becomes um you know a cyclical process of harm you know that’s already happening. So you have this this harmful structure for many low income parents. And then we realize the courts are literally contractually monetizing that harm. Right. You know, I’ve seen contracts where courts and the child support um proceedings will contract with the executive branch state agency. The child support agencies, and the language of the contracts, the child support agencies are literally buying court orders. Right. You know, and they’re paying the salaries of their judicial magistrates they appear before. That’s in some of the jurisdictions. In Pennsylvania, the family courts, as we’re discussing before, contract to become the child support agency while they’re operating as the courts. Right. So again, you have this nonsensical violation of separation of powers that it’s happening and it’s all about generating revenue rather than serving the children’s best interests.
DeRay Mckesson: So what do you say, though? I can see people hearing that and being like, well, the guys you know participated in the act of having a kid, right? They didn’t like randomly have a kid. And why should they be off the hook? That like 65% like kids are, you know, raising a kid is expensive in America and with out some sort of forced accountability, kids and moms don’t go without the resources to, you know, provide for the kid, especially in the earliest years. What do you say to that?
Daniel Hatcher: Sure. Well, you know, and in the book, I’m not arguing against having a child support obligation. Right. You know simply that when you have any type of process where the court is involved and the agencies involved, you know, two institutions, the human service agencies are intended to maximize welfare. The courts are intended to maximize justice. That needs to be the mission. Right. In this case, the best interests of children wrapped up into that. So um you need a careful deliberation of the facts and obligation to make sure the proceedings only serve that goal of maximizing the children’s best interests, welfare and then and then justice. Instead, what you see is this combination of punitive actions that make it difficult, if not sometimes impossible, you know for the obligor to be able to pay um the support obligation, harming the obligor, harming the custodial parent and harming the child um in the like. And meanwhile, from that harm, the Justice Institute, Institution is actually making money through contracts. Incentivized. Right. I’ve seen contracts related that the more orders they they order, the more um cases they process, the more enforcement mechanisms they use. The court is going to pull in more revenue. And then same with the prosecutors, sometimes probation offices and the like. It’s not supposed to be about money from the justice institutions. Right? It’s supposed to be about serving that best interest of the child.
DeRay Mckesson: Boom, do you is there good advocacy around this sort of highlighting this and changing the laws or or is it something that people are only now starting to acknowledge as an issue?
Daniel Hatcher: Um. Well, I think there’s growing attention not nearly enough you know and I think that any needed change starts with awareness. Right. You know so your show couldn’t be more important, you know, in terms of the issues that you take on and discuss both both yourself and with people that you have on the show, I mean, that starts all of us to understand the problem. And if we’re going to move forward toward solutions, we have to understand the problem first. If we’re going to try to work towards a fix, it’s got to be the right fix. Right. So that’s crucial. Um. And you’re seeing on some issues you know like with um the issues with child support, some hopeful improvement. Um. I’ve worked with advocates on that issue and also on the issue of foster children, survivor benefits, and their disability benefits. And over years, including um hearing from the voice of former foster youth. Right. We’re starting to see some states move in the right direction to protect foster youth’s resources instead of taking them. But it hasn’t gone nearly far enough um in that way. So so so and the more we can expand awareness, the better.
DeRay Mckesson: Okay, let’s talk about probation. So one of the things–
Daniel Hatcher: Sure.
DeRay Mckesson: –that you also argue is that probation is essentially exploiting people. So for listeners, remember, probation is often a consequence in lieu of incarceration. Parole is uh the the slicing off of some of a sentence to serve in community that looks very much like probation. Um. Now, Professor Hatcher, one of the things that people will say is that, you know, people should be thankful for work, work programs and community service things, stuff like that, because if not for, you know, this anklet thing or this home detention or community service, you’d be in jail. Like something you did something wrong, you got a consequence. And probation, even if it’s not, you know, a pleasant experience for you, is much better than jail. I could hear people saying that. And you are arguing that it is exploiting people. How would how do you frame this in the context of what most people sort of believe today?
Daniel Hatcher: Sure. And it’s you know, that’s an excellent description and question. Um. So many peoples do view probation as part of the solution to mass incarceration. Right. And uh years, the history of of harm, the highly disproportionate harm based upon race that’s been happening with mass incarceration. But what we what we see then you know through the research in my book and the research of others, is unfortunately probation has grown into a business of itself. It’s a huge part of the factory that’s monetizing rather than serving. Um. If you just look at, you know, I discuss in the book one county in Los Angeles County where it itself sort of brags about how big it is, you know, as as a company. The Los Angeles Probation Department um has more than 6600 employees, providing services to 57,000 adult probationers or more than 12,000 juveniles with an annual budget of $852 million. Right. So that’s a big you know branch of the factory you know that’s operating. And what you see with work probation, uh unfortunately, are multiple ways in which they’re, again, using um the low income individuals, children and adults to generate revenue rather than serving them with both welfare and equal and impartial justice. One of the ways is again is through drawing down these foster care funds um and California and Texas and in multiple states across the country. Probation departments are contractually pursuing the foster care revenue, right? Even though it’s called foster care, they’re pursuing this revenue from children who are pulled into the system through the juvenile delinquency side, right through juvenile justice. Um. But then if probation takes control and places them in a certain type of facility or labels them as a foster care candidate at constant risk of removal. Um. And then all the monitoring that comes along with that, you know, you could be talking about ankle monitors, right. Constant drug testing, required therapy classes, right, unannounced visits it goes on and on. Probation officers wield a lot of power. Right. And that’s not surprising unfortunately, we see individualized stories around the country of abuse of that power. But here, we’re not just talking about individual abuse. We’re talking about the whole probation system monetizing the youth. And again, in just one county in California, in Orange County, in just one year through these contracts the the probation department pulled in $5.77 million um in foster care revenue. I saw a training slide um from these offices in California for the probation officers, right, on how to fill out reports, essentially to make sure they’re maximizing this foster care revenue. One of them even said, like there was a listed as a bad example where they listed all is okay, right? You know and all is okay is not okay from their view because it means the money stops, right they’re advised or trained how you got to provide bad information on these reports in order to keep pulling down the revenue. Then probation is not just through the foster care funds that they pursue. I’ve also found contractual examples that are pulling this child support revenue the same way, and then endless fines and fees, right, there in some jurisdictions in our country’s entire probation offices, all they do is pursue fines and fees. So in that example, you can have a court that orders an initial small fine for maybe $500 from a misdemeanor or from something as small as a traffic ticket. Right. But that quickly balloons into thousands of dollars after interest and more fees are tapped onto that. Right. And collection costs are tapped onto that. Um. And then the probation department’s, when they’re involved in this, while they’re pursuing this debt, for someone who can’t afford to pay. Right. They’re adding additional fees. They’re ordering additional um conditions and services, go to training classes that the people have to pay for. Right. You know, and building that debt even more. And then those probation departments in many states will actually require as a condition of probation, the full payment of that debt that is unaffordable to the individual. Right. So it literally creates a situation where the people can’t get out of probation if they have to pay off um a growing, unaffordable debt that the probation department keeps adding to. And the probation department is making money from. Right. That people can’t escape, it becomes an inescapable cycle of monetized poverty.
DeRay Mckesson: People need to buy this book. They need to read it. There’s more about sheriffs and and the rest of the system. We don’t have time to talk about it all. But I hope this was a great teaser for people. Let me ask you two questions that we ask everybody. The first is, what do you say to people whose hope is challenged in moments like this, people who you know feel like they read your book, read mine, listened to the podcast, they emailed, they testified, they were in the street and they’re like the world hasn’t changed in the way I want it to. What do you say to those people?
Daniel Hatcher: Right. Well, and you write about hope, right, you know, and I believe and hope and I still you know even all the the struggles I’ve encountered through my clients individually and what I expose in the book and sort of the systemic failings of our systems. I still believe in the ideals of pursuing equal and impartial justice. Right and I feel like we have to have hope and pursue those ideals, because if we don’t, you know if we’re not pursuing that id–, that ideal, those ideals, they tend to be replaced by their opposites. Right, you know so, so the fight continues and our fight is connected to those who fought before us and those who are fighting after us. Right. So so we’re connected. Um. And, you know, I’ve seen some hope for improvement um again, even through the voices of former foster youth themselves you know who are standing up and having a voice, involved in the legislative process and working for change. Um. I’ve worked with other advocates and and on this issue of agencies taking resources from children in their care. Now, over ten states are moving in the right direction. Um. I worked on a bill in Maryland um that it’s a partial success. I think we might need to revisit it and improve on that bill. But that was working with um Jamie Raskin when he was a state senator and now a member of Congress. Um. Change is possible, but we have to keep striving to increase awareness and strive for that ideal. Um. I also think those of us in the justice system like we need that mirror of that honest mirror of self-reflection, right? To be both be righting our own wrongs. But then I think even if a judge, um a lawyer who is an officer of the court, a prosecutor, probation officer, policing officer, if they’re trying their individually best to be true to their ethics, right, in their mission of equal justice. Right. If they’re working within a system that’s structurally compromised, both ethically and constitutionally, then their ethics are constitutionally compromised and ethically compromised. You can’t just be working to improve yourself, right? You have to be working to improve the systems in which we’re operating.
DeRay Mckesson: Boom. And the last thing is um, what’s a piece of advice that you’ve been given that’s always stuck with you?
Daniel Hatcher: Um. Well, be true. Right. You know, like, you know, we have to. And that means a lot. Um. It means to be true to ourselves and and you know what drives us. You know because I write a lot about this tension you know with with agencies and and institutions that might have agencies that exist to serve also seek to exist. Right. And you see that same tension with nonprofits, right. As well. You can see that individually. If I write a book, am I, am I trying to help expose and address and help the cause? Or am I using the cause to help myself? Right. And that tension exists out there. And we have to make sure to be again, honest in our self-reflection and make sure we’re on the right side of that tension. Right. And what I’ve uncovered in the book, unfortunately, is our justice institutions, our human service agencies, they’re on the wrong side of that tension and immense harm is the result.
DeRay Mckesson: Boom. Where can people go to stay in touch with you? Is it a website? Is it Twitter? Is it Facebook? Where how do people stay up to date with what you’re doing?
Daniel Hatcher: Sure. Multiple ways. I’m on Twitter at @PovertylawProf. Um. I have a faculty website. You just Google my name, Daniel Hatcher at the University of Baltimore. My contact information and email um are all there, and I would love people to reach out if they’re encountering these issues, if they have ideas about how to work for change. I’d love to brainstorm with them. We need collaboration.
DeRay Mckesson: Boom, and can you uh just remind us of the name of the book one more time?
Daniel Hatcher: The name of the book is Injustice Inc.: How America’s Justice System Commodifies Children and the Poor.
DeRay Mckesson: You all, go get the book. Professor Hatcher, honored to be here today. You rock.
Daniel Hatcher: It’s an honor to be with you, DeRay. I can’t thank you enough. [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].