In This Episode
DeRay, Kaya, Sam, and De’Ara dive into the underreported news of the week, including young voter turnout, enslaved populations moving to Mexico, school closures, and judicial elections. Netta Elzie gives updates on what’s happening with the nationwide protests. Then, DeRay sits down with Dianne M. Stewart to discuss her new book “Black Women, Black Love: America’s War on African American Marriage.”
DeRay [00:00:01] Hey, this is DeRay, and welcome to Pod Save the People. On this episode, it’s me, Sam, Kaya and De’Ara as usual. We talk about the underreported stories in the news and news that you don’t know. And then we have Netta on to talk about what’s going on ya’ll. And then I sit down with Professor Dianne Stewart for one of the most incredible interviews I’ve done on the pod where she talks about her new book, “Black Women, Black Love: America’s War on African-American Marriage.” My advice for this week is advice that I’ve given before, ask all the questions. Make sure that you leave rooms knowing much more than you knew before. Don’t have too much pride to say you don’t know or you don’t understand it or Can you repeat it a different way or let me paraphrase it back to you. I think I heard this. Is that right? That like, the only way we’ll get to the solutions we deserve is if we put our egos aside and actually do the work. And some of the work begins with asking the right questions and following those questions. Let’s go.
De’Ara [00:00:55] Hello. Hello, family. Welcome to another episode of Pod Save the People.
De’Ara [00:01:01] I am De’Ara Balenger, you can find me on Twitter and Instagram @DeAraBalenger.
Kaya [00:01:06] I’m Kaya Henderson and you can find me on Twitter @HendersonKaya.
DeRay [00:01:10] I’m DeRay @deray on Twitter and Sam is out with us for the recording, but you will hear his news.
De’Ara [00:01:16] So it’s Thanksgiving week.
Kaya [00:01:19] Thanksgiving week. Yay!
De’Ara [00:01:21] Yes, it’s Thanksgiving week. But we also are lifting up and honoring that its indigenous peoples day as well. Indigenous Peoples Day. I think we need to do a rebrand of Thanksgiving. So we stop calling it Thanksgiving and we call it something that has to do actually with not the genocide of indigenous people. So I’m going to put on my brand management hat and work on that for next year.
Kaya [00:01:42] Wait but Thanksgiving doesn’t actually have the word. The term doesn’t actually have terrible connotations. I mean, I know what happened, but Thanksgiving is actually a very positive it’s a very positive sentiment. Thanksgiving.
De’Ara [00:01:58] That’s right. So if you take like the pilgrims and all that out of it.
Kaya [00:02:01] Ain’t nobody said nothing about pilgrims but, you.
De’Ara [00:02:06] so, so much to be grateful for. The world is still madness. Covid is out of control.
De’Ara [00:02:15] So hoping that everyone is doing what they need to do for the holiday,.
Kaya [00:02:21] Which is not going home to see your people.
De’Ara [00:02:24] Stay your, at home. So actually so my fiance and I are. And also let me just put a note on that, because, I got engaged in August and now so many people have that were engaged after us are now married because all these covid weddings, we’re not doing that. No disrespect.
De’Ara [00:02:41] You know, love is love. Celebrate yourselves.
De’Ara [00:02:44] But don’t ask me when we’re getting married because it’s Covid. It’s a pandemic. We’re not. You do what you need to do, but we’re not doing that. Anyhow. We will be spending our Thanksgiving alone, which means I will be cooking and she will be eating.
De’Ara [00:02:56] So that’s what we’re doing.
De’Ara [00:03:00] But also looking forward to it because I feel like it has just been a really, really busy time and we haven’t gotten a lot of time off. And so looking forward to just having the day working for her, not my clients.
Kaya [00:03:13] I’m going to be I’m in Washington, D.C. and I am not going home to New York where my people are. I’m staying right here. My uncle is coming up from Charlotte and the two of us are going to hold it down Thanksgiving style. We’re going to eat a whole lot of food. I’m cooking. I love to cook on Thanksgiving. And yeah, we’re just going to eat all day and watch TV and hang out and chill. You know, you have like a cool uncle or a cool auntie. This is my cool uncle.
Kaya [00:03:47] And so we we I’m super excited that he’s coming and we’re just going to chill. Right. Like we’re just going to have a time. And I bought, I went Thanksgiving shopping this morning and got all of my stuff.
Kaya [00:04:01] I’m doing a turkey.
De’Ara [00:04:02] Kaya, you’re one of those that start shopping the weekend before
Kaya [00:04:05] Yeah, because in before because I’m not trying to be in the store with all your cousins and them because it’s a global pandemic right now.
DeRay [00:04:13] And they will be there on Wednesday night. Wednesday night. Thursday morning.
Kaya [00:04:16] I went to the grocery store at eight o’clock this morning because I wanted to avoid the rush and I bought my things most of my things. I went into the butcher. I had to buy a deboned butterflied turkey breast because instead of making a whole turkey and making a turkey roulade, which.
De’Ara [00:04:37] Wait a minute I got to right down, what is that?
Kaya [00:04:37] Come on. It’s it’s a Ina Garten recipe and it is a turkey breast with some things spread inside and then you roll it up.
Kaya [00:04:46] And so yeah, that’s what, that’s what we’re doing. And I bought a rack lamb too and we’re having that. Yeah, those are my meats plus a zillion sides because you know how we do.
DeRay [00:04:59] I can’t cook so I will.
DeRay [00:05:01] Be wonderfully ordering for Thanksgiving.
Kaya [00:05:05] From where?
DeRay [00:05:06] Who knows. I’ll decide right before you know, I don’t know, food is food. It’ll all be figured out.
DeRay [00:05:10] And then maybe, you know, the only person I probably will see is there’s a black woman in the building and I don’t think she’s going anywhere either.
DeRay [00:05:19] So we might Thanksgiving in the building together, which would be great because we haven’t gone anywhere and we’ve been stuck. I’m nervous about covid winter is, you know, depression during the summer was hard. I don’t even know what it’ll look like for the winter like it is.
DeRay [00:05:39] I even even tonight, just tonight, I was like, oh, it’s so late. It was six thirty.
DeRay [00:05:44] I thought it was 9:00. I thought I missed the podcast recording.
DeRay [00:05:48] So I am I’m nervous about that. But we’ll see.
Kaya [00:05:51] Add to that holiday depression. And I mean, it’s just a lot going on right now and we need to be gentle with ourselves.
De’Ara [00:06:02] News! OK, I’m going to kick us off with news. My news is from The Hill. And I found this really interesting because it talks about how we’ve had the highest youth voter turnout this past election. So according to the Hill and you know, these numbers are still coming in. But what we do have is really, really fascinating. So more than half of all voters under the age of 30 cast a ballot in this year’s elections. OK, so 50 percent is still low, but evidently higher, significantly higher than what it’s been in the past, including 2016 when it was between 42 and 44 percent, and in 2008 with Barack Obama when it was just around 48 percent. So according to this too you know just sizing it up, it’s that, you know, we had higher voter turnout with young folks and really significant states that really pushed Biden over to the fact that, you know, his wins were unquestionable and some of these places. The other thing that became interesting to me, too, is I just in thinking about higher voter turnout, like what some of those numbers actually look like. And I couldn’t you know, some of these numbers are still coming in. So I couldn’t find a lot of data. But I did find that in Georgia where they had the highest voter turnout in Georgia’s history of voting. Thank you, Stacey Abrams and crew. It look like in Georgia, 90 percent of the black youth vote went to Biden and 63 percent of the white youth vote went to Trump.
Kaya [00:07:26] Oh, that’s stark.
De’Ara [00:07:28] Oh, so I found those numbers to be interesting for so many reasons. Obviously, I think, you know, a lot can be said about what that means, obviously. And racism has a lot to do with it. But I also think that just a larger discussion or exploration around what the Democratic Party is going to do in response to a higher increased number of young people voting. You know, I think we’ve had this conversation time and time again about, you know, campaigns being run the same way for a very long time. And so now that we see, you know, increased youth voter participation, I think this narrative around, you know, youth voter apathy and young people don’t come out to vote, yada, yada, yada, you really can’t rest on that anymore, because in states like Georgia, in states like Arizona, in states like Nevada, that had really high youth voter turnout, and that was because of organizing self organizing and young folks organizing themselves and less to do with the Democratic Party doing the work of organizing those folks. So all that to say, like, I think we continue to see good news coming from this election in terms of numbers. I think my worry and moving forward is that the Democratic Party needs to be a little bit smarter in how they’re reaching voters, how they’re marketing themselves to voters and not seeing groups of folks as this like monolith that they can either talk to in the same way or not talk to at all.
Kaya [00:08:48] I thought one of the interesting things about this article was that it specifically talked about how Joe Biden reached out to the young people who are supporting Bernie Sanders campaign, that he recognized that the youth vote was not where it needed to be for him. And he went out of his way to kind of build bridges with the Bernie Sanders supporters to bring those young people in. And I think that’s the kind of different thinking that the party is going to have to do if it’s going to capture the youth vote. The other thing that this article made me really think is how do we make sure that young people understand their impact on this election? Because there are still I mean, I had countless conversations with people, with young people during this election cycle who still believe that their vote doesn’t matter. And this election literally shows you that your vote matter. So importantly, and I want every young person to have seen this article, I want all of the youth organizing organizations to help young people understand how critical they were to this election so that as we go into the next election cycle, we’re not battling to make people understand that their vote is really, really important.
DeRay [00:10:09] I’m interested, too, in and trying to make sure that we recreate this the next go round like this was, as we all know, such a wildly different moment. It was a pandemic. Trump was on the ballot.
DeRay [00:10:22] And most of the reasons why people sort of suggest that a young people don’t vote are like their busy election day is like a random day. You know, like it’s not a holiday. People are in school. People aren’t home. And this was just different. Right. Like a lot of people were home. It was you couldn’t avoid politics. It was like the only thing that you saw because of the pandemic and Trump’s lack of response and trying to make sure that we bottle this energy and we push for like Election Day to be a holiday, that we push for easier campus voting, easier absentee ballots, mail in ballots just because you’re a person, not because you have an excuse like that. We actually use this so the next time we come around, we take the barriers down structurally. And I and I believe that there’s a fair number of people way more than before who understand the restrictions on voting because they had to go there this time. They understand that like it’s actually not a cool moment of civic life where you wait for four hours to vote. That’s not like a that is a bad sign. Right. They understand that’s not a great thing. They understand that, like they shouldn’t have to register for an absentee ballot 12 times if there’s a runoff and did it like so trying to make sure that we harness this and it’ll be young people. But De’Ara, you know, that, the other part of what you said makes me really nervous is that people always are like, you know, it’s really the old people who are racist and ddd. And it’s like, well, I don’t know. The young people supported Trump and they’re going to be around for a while. So trying to figure out what is the what with white young people and who is speaking, who are their influences. Right. Is it that Joe Rogan’s is a Kid Rock? Right. Wasn’t a Trump guy like the little Wayne turn them to, I don’t know, like who are the people that they’re listening to as influences? Like, that’s what I don’t know as much about.
De’Ara [00:12:01] Yeah. And I and I think it’s actually less of that, DeRay. And I think what the Trump campaign or the GOP is just better with is speaking to smaller groups of people, even people within the demographic. Right. So we see that with the Latino vote, how they’re just better at speaking to Mexicans in one way, speaking to Cubans in one way, speaking to Venezuelans in another way. And so I think that’s what they do with the white vote, too, because they have all kinds of demographic and, you know, folks from, you know, different backgrounds and geographies respectively that are white. But they just do a better job of like catering a message and slapping it on Facebook and it having resonance. So I think that’s a I was reading something else that talked a lot about how the Democratic Party is doing worse with the Latino vote and the Asian-American vote, because Asian-Americans for Biden, you know how many countries that means that’s vile. You can’t also, southeast Asian. like it’s just there’s so many, you know what I mean?
De’Ara [00:12:59] It’s just like the different cultures, the different languages, the different perspectives.
De’Ara [00:13:04] Like you can’t and even talking about communism, when you think about like the Vietnamese, for example, like the Vietnamese would be susceptible to like, oh, communism, socialism, no, we can’t vote for Joe Biden. So I think it’s they understand how to break down a lot of these subcultures in a way that the Democratic Party, just like, well, if you’re Asian, that means you’re a person of color and you should vote for us.
Kaya [00:13:23] My news is about a new report from UNICEF that is called “Averting a Lost covid Generation: a six point plan to respond, recover and reimagine a post pandemic world for every child.” And this report is particularly important, I think, at this moment.
Kaya [00:13:45] It came out this week on World Children’s Day, which was November 20th, and it came out at the same time that we are seeing a number of school districts, most notably New York City public schools, closing as a result of pandemic numbers.
Kaya [00:14:02] And what this report says is that even though the risk of illness, that children have actually been less affected than any other age group and the risk of serious illness in children is small, that in fact the future of this entire generation is at risk. The report literally in the opening paragraphs says unless the global community urgently changes priorities, the potential of this generation of young people may well be lost. It is a clarion call to say that the things that we’ve been doing are not working and to highlight some of the ways that the global pandemic has affected young people. Their information is based on us, on surveys from 140 countries, and they talk about three threats to young people. One, the direct consequences of Covid. Two, the interruption of essential services like health care services and identification of, you know, domestic incidences and things like that, and the third is increasing poverty and inequality and that those three things, in fact, the way they are working together during this pandemic, could imperil even more young people than will die from the pandemic itself. They predict that if we don’t take care of basic things like vaccinations and health care, which many young people get at school, that as many as two million children could die in the next 12 months and there could be an additional 200,000 stillbirths.
Kaya [00:15:42] One of the important things to consider in this report is that it says very definitively that school closures do little to slow the virus, but they cause incredible long term harm. There’s no consistent association between school reopening status and Covid-19 infection rates. Schools are not spreaders for the virus. Now, this is kind of a mind blowing assertion, given all of the conversations that we’re having about school opening, school closing or what have you. But in fact, what this report suggests is that the longer schools are closed, the more significant damage there is to young people, not just in terms of their present situation, but in terms of their future income and their future health.
Kaya [00:16:33] The report actually looks at all kinds of things, from access to health and nutrition services to mental health issues, abuse and gender based violence against young people, access to clean water, sanitation, hygiene, and many of these things are mitigated or at least ameliorated by what happens in schools.
Kaya [00:16:58] And so UNICEF takes a very clear position around schools and says that they ought to be open. And when you look at the data from a lot of different countries, it is fairly clear that schools are not spreaders. And so as we go back into lockdown, as we continue to close more schools, we see data coming out from across the world that says schools should be open. And so I think we’ll continue to have this conversation. I saw an article in Politico this week that said I want to say that the title was something like “schools before bars.” And, you know, the simple fact that, like, we’ve closed schools, but we’re keeping bars open, we’re keeping gyms open, we’re keeping restaurants open. And at some point we have to ask ourselves what our priority is. And it seems like our priority is around entertaining ourselves and eating and drinking as opposed to educating students. And so this has been something that I have been worried about from the very beginning. I have been a proponent of keeping school open just because having led a school district, I understand that school is a lot more than just school and I understand the impacts that not going to school has for our most vulnerable kids. I’m also supersensitive to the health issues that our adults are facing. But when I look at the data, I mean, the scientists say this. There was an article in Science Magazine this week as well about schools needing to be open. I just think that we are not fully appreciating the long term impact. And this is what the UNICEF report says. The long term impact that these school closures are going to have on these young people as a result of Covid and UNICEF says it could be a lost generation. So the report is interesting.
Kaya [00:19:01] You should read. It is very easy to read. They have a six point plan for how they think we should deal with this. And I wish our policymakers actually were open enough to understand that we can learn some things from other countries that are that are a little bit ahead of us in dealing with this pandemic.
De’Ara [00:19:20] This is just I don’t even know what to do. I mean, just those numbers alone in terms of just mortality rates for children, for crying out loud, thank you for bringing this, because I think it is just gives us kind of global perspective and also just reminds us that there’s a body called the United Nations that we used to sort of be a party of UNICEF, a part of the United Nations. They also, as part of this report, you know, there’s this whole initiative to protect our children. So it’s the U.N. the U.N. secretary general’s like call to countries to prioritize children’s education, food, health and safety amid Covid. Guess who’s not a signatory of that? Guess who? The United States, it’s wild, so, I mean, so something like this, like I’m also just thinking of, like how something like this would like would end up on the desk of the secretary of state or the ambassador to the U.S., U.N. I’m sure neither of those people in this current administration have read this document. So hopefully more you know, more local levels. People are looking at data, looking at other examples from other countries to see what we could glean. I think the difference here is, yes, we have bars open. We have restaurants open, we have gyms open. We have all these places open that are prioritized over schools, you know, looking at other countries, looking at Spain, for example, who it was just like really total shutdown for months and months and months. A lot of states didn’t shutdown really at all. So I don’t know. This was really scary, I guess.
De’Ara [00:20:52] But hopefully in a couple of months we’ll start to see some some things turn around.
DeRay [00:20:56] It’s interesting. I think, as you know, there are factions in public education. There’s a group of people who feel like we aren’t honest about the role that teachers play and we need to, like, be more intense about teacher evaluation and like the teachers play a big role in. And then there’s a group that says and sometimes these groups overlap, but there’s a group that says we are honest about the role that schools play in communities and that, like, you could have a school of incredible teachers.
DeRay [00:21:21] And like if the neighborhood or like the city is is rough, then like great teaching can’t overcome those things. Right. And then you get a group of people, that sort of technocrat, they’re like the curriculum is the thing. They’re like, if we fix the curriculum, you know? So, you know, and it feels like this might be the moment where everybody needs to come together because with this with this made me think about it’s like what is a school? Right. And like we sort of talk about it a lot like inside and and, you know, like the education people are like, Lord knows we don’t need the like, community practitioners coming out here and telling us how to, like, run whatever, because you don’t know how to teach math or science or like. But at the same time, you know, the principals need, the kids to have breakfast, lunch and dinner, whether they get it at school or not. And they need your family not to get evicted. They need your your family not to get killed by police like. But I haven’t seen great models in urban places where like that is actually coordinated. And it’s hard because most superintendents I mean, you know, the day to day of running a district is like a full time. That is a that’s an actual full time job. Most of the people doing community work, that is a full time job. And, you know, and you have talked a lot about the benefits of mayoral control because in some ways it’s sort of allowed for the facilitation of these things. But it does make me think about how so often in the public space schools are these things that like sit over there and community is this other thing until something like a pandemic, until like the world ends and then people realize schools are not these islands to themselves. But it also becomes this moment where, like, you might have to cede political power to school systems in a way that people don’t want to. Right. So people want to control schools. They don’t actually want to empower schools. And I think that that is that as I process this, like that actually is where I think the rub is, is that people think schools are important, but still want to dictate how they do every single thing. They don’t want to fund them. They’re like, you’re wasting the money. That was Baltimore. You’re wasting the money the kids don’t deserve. You know, and I think that is all coming to a head in this moment.
Kaya [00:23:24] I mean, I used to say all the time, school is the stage on which all of society’s problems perform. Right. Like school is where whether it’s health and nutrition issues or domestic violence issues or environmental issues or whatever, it all shows up at school and in fact, community want school to take care of it all, right? Even though school has a really big job, which is teaching and learning. But, oh, we’re supposed to attend to all of these other things as well. And there’s just no way to do it all. And I think at this particular moment, one, teaching and learning is super important for our young people. Attending to our young people, to who they are, to their ability to socialize with one another, to connect with one another. I’ve talked to so many kids who are like, I just want to go back to school. Right. It is their mental health is compromised because they aren’t getting the developmental opportunities that are not just about academics. Right. They’re about, you know, social and emotional development. They’re about connection to adults. They’re about whatever, whatever. Oh, and by the way, there are some kids who don’t eat if they don’t go to school and some kids who don’t get mental health services. And so I think we in moments like this, really recognize how important schools are. But we don’t make the leap to connect the kinds of resources that schools need to do all of things that we ask schools to do. And I think we have to figure that out. When I left the superintendency, I promised myself I would never just work on education again, because you can’t just do it with education, right, which I knew, but it’s education, it’s housing, it’s health care, it’s jobs, those four things are so inextricably linked that you are literally playing whack a mole if you just deal with one and don’t deal with the rest. And so if we aren’t able to think about schools in a more intersectional way, if we aren’t able to think about school funding and in a more intersectional way and and for me, the closest I’ve come to that is mayoral control, because you can use then city resources to support schools in ways that you can’t when you just have a school board, because the school board doesn’t actually manage those other resources that schools need to be successful. And so at the end of the day, we’re in a situation where kids and families are not getting the support that they need because the support that they need comes from schools. And we’re closing schools in this Covid moment where no data says that schools are spreading Covid. And, you know, I think we need to reckon with that. We need to reckon with the adults who are holding the school systems hostages. In Washington, D.C., the teachers union created a ‘sick’ out when the district decided to create an in-person school program. Maybe it was terrible, maybe it wasn’t right. Maybe the plan wasn’t good. But the the threat of, you know, teachers not coming to school or not teachingC really, I think, you know, is fairly dramatic. If people want to reopen the economy, you can’t do that when schools are closed. And so we need to get our lives together and think about what is really important for our kids, what’s really important for our economy. We have ways to protect our health and we need to abide by those. And as UNICEF says, we need to avert a lost Covid generation.
DeRay [00:26:55] And the other thing, too, is that we also need to be mindful, because this is Baltimore stories that a lot of people don’t realize, that school systems have a lot of money. And Baltimore, the city of Baltimore and the school system in Baltimore have the same essential budget. It’s the same it’s like a couple billion and it’s the same. So what happened in Baltimore is that the city was siphoning money. The school system used to be sort of an agency of the city. The city was siphoning money off of the school system, which is why the school system is now an independent body. So we also have to, like, protect the education money so it doesn’t become like public works money or like some other crisis. Right.
DeRay [00:27:29] Because you know that by the time you figure out it happened to all the black kids, you done stoletwo hundred million dollars, you know, it’s over.
Kaya [00:27:36] It’s over, it’s over.
DeRay [00:27:37] So so that.
DeRay [00:27:40] OK, so my news, you know, it’s always one of the things I love about the pod and I hope you love it as the listener is, I learn something new every week from everybody else’s news and from my own. But this article is called “When the Enslaved Went South” it was in New Yorker on November 19th, and I had no clue, the short version is I had no clue that so many formerly enslaved people went to Mexico and going to Mexico was imperfect. They were day laborers and a lot of places. It wasn’t necessarily 100 percent freedom, but in a lot of cases they were much more free than they were in the United States and that there was a political movement in Mexico that actually pushed back on the American idea to be able to just like claim the people who were formerly enslaved when they went to Mexico. And this is like a part of history that I literally hadn’t heard about, didn’t know anything about it. And it reminds me of how intertwined our country’s histories are in a way that we are, you know, like especially in this moment. It is like those people in Mexico stealing jobs from Americans is like the right wing talking point.
DeRay [00:28:46] You’re like, yeah, we all in this together.
DeRay [00:28:48] We are all in this North America together, like your people, my people, we all the people.
DeRay [00:28:54] And, you know, I want us to tell better stories about the bigger community that we sit in. And this was really eye opening for me, because this is a part of history that I that I didn’t know. And, you know, the article goes on and on to talk about Mexico’s antislavery laws and what they meant, but also how it really put a dent in sort of the spirit of slavery that was in Texas and Louisiana and in the rest of the union because the Mexican laws were just accommodating in their own way. And that actually was just really it was powerful to read and a reminder of how much history we are not taught.
De’Ara [00:29:32] You know, I love this as a Mexican.
De’Ara [00:29:36] So so my grandmother was a migrant worker and worked the fields most of her life and then ended up being a foreman in a factory. And a ton of Mexicans who were migrant workers ended up in St. Paul, Minnesota, where my Mexican side is from. And so the black Mexican kids, which there are plenty in my family, we’ve been doing this research for years, one, because it’s like a weird thing to be black and Mexican, because there’s this whole conversation around Afro Latino that’s like you are black. Your ancestry is of African descent. Most like a black American would be like, you know, because of slavery and maybe you’re a Caribbean or whatever. And so it’s this weird like thing to be black and Mexican. So we went searching for black Mexicans like actual black Mexicans. And so I learned a lot of this history. But also, like Pico Boulevard in L.A. is named after Pio Pico, who is a black Mexican who was governor of California in the eighteen hundreds. But, you know, so there’s a rich history of black folks who, yes, were, you know, either enslaved people or freed folks that went to Mexico and started communities or folks like me who are of mixed race essentially. So I love this history and I’ve been, you know, digging into it for for most of my life just because of my own personal identity. But I love these types of stories. And I think bringing it to the pod is also important just because of the need for solidarity in this moment. I think there’s so much happening between black and brown communities right now. And I think what’s missing is this rich history of way, way, way, way back in the day, folks coming together. But then also just in the late 1960s and 1970s between, you know, the Brown Berets, the Young Lords, the Black Panthers and all those folks that were all in solidarity together. So thank you, DeRay.
Kaya [00:31:26] This was interesting to me because my undergraduate degree is in international relations with a concentration in Latin American studies. And I look for everybody black.
Kaya [00:31:37] Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, Kaya. What did your family say when you said you was going to major in that and international relations?
Kaya [00:31:43] My mother was all about it.
Kaya [00:31:44] I was going to, like, go to a foreign service or be an international lawyer. So people were with it. It was when I said I was going to be a teacher that we had a problem, that my teacher mother was like, you wait, you what. So that’s a whole different story. People were into the international relations Things. My people were good with that. But in my, you know, deep, deep exploration of Latin American history, I spent a lot of time looking for black people.
Kaya [00:32:08] I studied abroad in Venezuela and got to see firsthand sort of what the Afro Venezuelan community looked like, although that’s not what they call themselves, but black people in Venezuela, people that look like me. And so and so this was interesting to me in that vein, like the stories of how we got to these places is always incredibly intriguing to me. One of the most interesting things about this account was how many
Kaya [00:32:39] Formerly enslaved people join the military, in fact, it was sort of kind of required, right when they got to Mexico, they had to fight. And I think about the fact that we do the same thing in the United States. You could come here legally or illegally, but if you join the army, right, then you’re good. If you will come and fight for us, we extend to you the rights of citizenship. And that is what was happening with these formerly enslaved people who came to Mexico. Tis true that the laws of the freedom laws were actually better. As soon as you set foot on Mexican soil, you were free, free, which is different from, you know, what would happen even if you, as an enslaved person in the south escaped to the north. Right, because there were the fugitive slave laws. So somebody could come get you and drag yourself back down south. But in Mexico, you are truly free. But people had to fight and they fought for the Mexican army, which was poor and paltry and and had a hard time defending against Native Americans and other folks who were coming in. And so I had just this idea of, you know, if you fight for me, you can be down with me kind of thing, I think is is fairly interesting in our histories. And as I said, we do the same thing here in the United States. So it was an interesting story. I feel like I’ve followed a lot of the stories recently that have come out about interesting what I call Blaxicon stories. In fact, there’s a there’s an amazing woman. I think I had texted you this article, De’Ara, about the woman.
Kaya [00:34:22] I think she’s from L.A. who is an African-American who was I think she was adopted by a Mexican family and she sings Mexican music. And she’s a super duper star. And people are mad about it because she sings really, really traditional Mexican music really, really well. But, you know, I’m good because I’m rooting for everybody black.
Sam [00:34:44] Hey, it’s Sam. And today I want to talk about judicial elections. So if you’re like me, this past election, you got your ballot. You probably knew who he wanted to vote for, for president and for the Senate. For the House. But you probably saw a bunch of positions on that ballot, things like, you know, state Supreme Court justice, trial, court positions that you didn’t really know who the person running was or what their record was. And that’s not a coincidence because nationwide, there’s very little data that is made public on how judges behave, how long they sentence people to prison for, on average, how those decisions differ by race and whether or not they are actually upholding their oath to actually administer justice in an impartial and unbiased way. And without that information, it’s very hard to actually hold them accountable at the ballot box. So in the absence of good information, of comprehensive information about what’s going on, what often happens is negative ads fill that void. And we’re learning more and more in terms of the research about how having judges be in elected positions actually has contributed to the existing system of mass incarceration, because it turns out that judges are making decisions with an eye to their own political futures. And in studies, for example, looking at judges in Washington state, they found that when judges near the end of their term, as they’re thinking about reelection, they’re more likely to impose harsh prison sentences on people on average, 10 percent longer prison sentences when they’re near the end of their term compared to the beginning. And that’s not limited to Washington state. Research has looked in Alabama and found it even more disturbing pattern trial court judges are more likely to overrule a decision to sentence somebody to life in prison and instead impose the death sentence on people when they’re near the end of their term and thinking about reelection compared to the beginning of their term. What is happening across the country is an environment whereby judges are literally sentencing people to prison, in some cases sentencing people to death in order to win reelection. And nationwide, it is state courts where we really need to be paying attention because 94 percent of all convictions for felonies in this country occur in state courts and 87 percent of state court judges are elected. The good news is that we don’t have to live in the system that we can demand better and that there are a set of states where judges are not elected positions, places like Hawaii and Massachusetts and New Jersey and Delaware. So as we continue to interrogate the systems and structures that have created mass incarceration, we have to be looking at judges, the ways in which they are elected or appointed in different states, and how that process actually structures their behavior, because ultimately it’s our lives that are at stake.
DeRay [00:37:37] Don’t go anywhere. More Pod Save the People is coming.
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DeRay [00:40:25] This episode about this interview was sponsored by Just Egg, a better egg for you and the planet.
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DeRay [00:42:12] And Netta, Netta, Netta let us know what’s going on with the current state of the protests and what’s happening around policing.
Netta [00:42:19] Hey, what’s up, everybody? It’s me, Netta.
Netta [00:42:22] So after a long stressful break, I’m back on the pod. Remember I said that before I left I was overwhelmed, tired and needed to take some time away from one project in my life to focus on the other things? Well, I did that, but the news didn’t stop. And since the news didn’t stop, I couldn’t either. And neither do the other things in my life. But what made it really hard to stay gone was ya’ll, people seemed to miss me and I missed ya’ll. I was super surprised. So thank you to everyone who wrote or tweeted to say that they enjoyed the segment and to those who asked when I was coming back, just a puppy update. Saige is doing great, everyone. She is approaching seven months. She knows countless demands. She goes to doggy day care and hangs out with her puppy cousins at the park. She is definitely my fluffy little blessing who likes to party all the time.
Netta [00:43:19] And as she’s getting older, we’re definitely finally learning each other’s language. Oh yeah, because it was a little rough. So other than raising my dog, I’ve been busy, busy, busy with Campaign Zero’s business. On Monday, we launched our End All No Knocks campaign. After spending the last five or six weeks talking to folks in over thirty four cities and states about legislation that would ban the practice of no knock warrants and create comprehensive restrictions for all types of search warrants to prevent police from breaking into homes, harming people, including officers themselves, and profiting at the cost of our community safety. I hated taking time away from this pod. Y’all are my little crew. But really I needed to put my thinking cap on because it was super important to do this campaign right. It Is also my first full campaign since coming back to Campaign Zero. So I’m really excited and proud of this work, blessed to have been able to be a part of so many fruitful conversations over the last few months explaining the work that turned me into such a bad texter.
Netta [00:44:29] So it was super important to me that we do this right, that we did this campaign right.
Netta [00:44:34] That everything past that, if I didn’t work here, what I like this test, true quality control, which is my virgo moon popping out for all my astrology lovers. And final thing on this, Brianna Taylor’s mother, Ms. Tamika Palmer, has seen, read approved of this campaign. And that truly warms my heart, having her buy in and the buy in to friends who live in Kentucky, who I’ve spoken about a few times on the pod who I met during Ferguson October in St. Louis. And now we are helping support them during their time of need now in Louisville.
Netta [00:45:10] So since we last talked, you guys, the election is, quote unquote over, even though that man who occupies the White House right now is trying his best not to accept the results. Too bad. So sad you are fired. On November 7th, I went to the White House to just feel the vibes with my friend, Dr. Sherri Williams and her mother. We all happened to be out running errands and wanted to go experience the experience. I know we all felt a thousand different ways about the election, our options and the opposition. But damn it, I really enjoy seeing people enjoy something safely together in twenty twenty. This year has been so many things, but experiencing that collective joy was affirming and is a joy because our candidate won? Not for me. I’m happy that we decided to vote fascism out.
Netta [00:46:00] Remember, the work is far from over. Joe Biden got the most votes ever in a presidential election, but Donald Trump got the second most votes ever. That means two things. One, Joe Biden still needs to be held accountable because movements don’t hinge on or stop and go based on who wins or loses. And two Trumpism is still here. More than seventy two million voters saw four years of drifting fascism and incompetence and was like, I’ll take more of that.
Netta [00:46:29] We’ve got so much work to do. But now to the news.
Netta [00:46:33] A Kansas man was indicted on ten federal counts of wire fraud for performing private autopsies with no medical training. So I know you’re going to ask yourself later, when did you get into the news about the coroner? But follow me for a moment. Shawn Parcells was apparently a self-taught pathologist who performed private autopsies without formal education. Outside of the foolishness of the government not vetting vendors.
Netta [00:47:02] One of the private autopsies he performed was on Michael Brown Jr. after his murder by former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in twenty fourteen. That autopsy couldn’t conclude what position Brown was in when he was shot and with untrained uncredentialed people handling the autopsy, I can’t help but wonder why. And so the phrase of the day is ‘voter suppression’ and ironically, Republicans have a lot to say. First, the nerve, the true audacity to even speak on voter suppression by the people leading the league in voter suppression. Thankfully, voter suppression efforts appear to have backfired in response to Republicans trying to make it harder for voting by closing polling locations, limiting drop off sites and muddying up the vote by mail process, voters still turned out in record numbers for early voting. Chris Hollins, the first black clerk in Harris County history and the youngest at age 34, credits a backlash against voter suppression for the unexpectedly high turnout, telling media “efforts to suppress votes in Texas and across the South have very often been done in secret and smoke filled rooms in ways the public can’t fully digest, he says. Well, the public has fully digested that We just experienced four years of dedicated hell, this administration being a warp speed crash course on how fascism becomes more and more acceptable.
Netta [00:48:36] And even though a lot of people wanted more of the same, many more people opted for a change of pace. While I was gone, I spent time thinking about past election outcomes.
Netta [00:48:45] Given the high voter participation we saw this year and during a pandemic, no less, I had to think what outcomes would have been if it was easier to vote. If voter suppression wasn’t something we had to fight against. And if Democrats did more to end voter suppression. In closing, again, super glad that I took the time off to give the attention that was needed to this great campaign that we put together. EndAllNoKnocks.org.
Netta [00:49:14] Check it out, but it’s good to be back. See you all next week.
DeRay [00:49:19] Hey, you’re listening to Pod Save the People. Don’t go anywhere. There’s more to come.
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DeRay [00:51:14] Small Axe is a collection of five films from Academy Award winning director Steve McQueen. The title Small Axe was carved out of the well-known Jamaican proverb “If you are the big tree, we are the small axe.” Symbolizing how the smallest groups can come together to challenge those in bigger, more powerful positions. Based on real life events and set in West London between the 60s and 80s, this anthology about the West Indian community tells an extraordinary untold story about courage, family, community and resilience, starring such acclaimed actors as John Boyega and Letitia Wright and Sean Parks. This collection of films, The Steve McQueen’s first project for Television. The five films in order are Mangrove, about the Mangrove nine case against Police Brutality, starring Letitia Wright and Sean Parks, Lover’s Rock, an Intimate Coming of Age story celebrating West Indian music and culture, Red, White and Blue about a black police officer trying to challenge the system from within, starring John Boyega. Alex Wheatle, which is the life story of the acclaimed writer of the same name. And Education is a story of a family who refused to stand and watch as a child was discriminated against and cast aside by the education system. Stream the first Small Axe film now.
DeRay [00:52:22] And then a new film every Friday through December 18th, only on Amazon Prime video in the U.S. And now my conversation with Dianne Stewart, who’s associate professor of religion and African-American studies at Emory University. Her new book, “Black Women, Black Love: (Incredible) America’s War on African-American Marriage,” is fascinating. It’s a deep dove into how our country’s history has systematically attacked black relationships and culture. I learned so much. Get the book today. Get it for a friend, too. Here we go. Professor Stewart, thanks so much for joining us today on Pod Save the People.
Dianne M. Stewert [00:52:54] Thank you so much for having me.
DeRay [00:52:56] Now, I came across your book, I think on the Internet actually, like I think or something online. And and it was like, can we get her on the pod? And it was like, we got you on the pod. So I’m excited because part of the reason why I started the pod so that we could all learn together.
Dianne M. Stewert [00:53:10] Yes.
DeRay [00:53:11] And your book, “Black Women Back Love America’s War on African-American Marriage,” I saw synopsis and I was like, oh, my goodness, I want to learn like. So before we start talking about the book, can you talk about your journey to being a professor and your journey to studying black love? Like, what does that even look like?
Dianne M. Stewert [00:53:30] Right, absolutely. So when I went to college, I thought I would become a lawyer and I went to Colgate University and my sister was in law school at Cornell University. And I went to visit her a couple of times and I quickly thought, I am not going to do this. I’m way creative for this. And so I began to become inspired by one of my college professors in particular. He was actually the first black teacher I have had since four years old. I had a set of black teachers at the age of four, and after that I had never been taught by a black person until I met Dr. Josiah Young and he was a professor of religion. I was an English major, but I went over to the religion department and took so many courses with him. And what we learned, what I learned from his classes inspired me to want to know more.
Dianne M. Stewert [00:54:25] And I realized that I had so many unanswered questions about black people’s religious histories, experiences, religious cultures, the relationship between religion and politics, religion and injustice, religion and social justice that I decided I want to do this full time. I want to research. I want to learn. I want to be able to teach others about this history. And so that’s what really inspired me to become a professor.
Dianne M. Stewert [00:54:57] Being a student,.
DeRay [00:54:58] I think about, you know, I went to Bowdoin and I had some incredible courses in the liberal space. I certainly didn’t have a course called ‘Black Love’ that would have been. But I did have a class called ‘Love and Friendship.’ That was really cool. But can you talk to me about a course on black love? Like what does that is? Can we see the syllabus like and then let’s talk about the book. But what’s it look like?
Dianne M. Stewert [00:55:20] Absolutely. So I started by telling you about my journey in religion, and I actually was trained formally as a theologian with Dr. James Cone, one of the pioneers of black liberation theology.
Dianne M. Stewert [00:55:33] And one of the things that I remember him telling us when we were students is that there are five major themes in African-American religious history, suffering justice, hope, freedom and love.
Dianne M. Stewert [00:55:48] And I realized that I had been teaching so much about black oppression in my classes on black Christian thought or black liberation theology that I realized that I was hardly talking about love. And when I thought about it, very few of us reflected on and talked about love as religion scholars or theologians or ethicists. And so I decided I wanted to construct a course on black love, and I actually owe it to my first teaching assistant that I included the section on Romantic Love because I was hesitant to do so because I thought my course wouldn’t be taken as seriously and boy, was I wrong. So I did include it, and romantic love was just a little section at the very end of the syllabus. The first time I taught it, we were reading Plato’s Symposium. We read [00:56:39]Sebum from Seoul. May. [0.9s] We read Audre Lorde, Howard Thurman, Martin Luther King Junior. I wanted to explore love and politics. What does love look like when Martin Luther King Jr. saying We must love our enemies, we must love those who hate us? What does it look like when black power advocates are throwing your fists in the air and saying that self-worth comes first? So the course was deeply, deeply engaged in love and politics. Had a section on love in black literature where students did group projects together, reading different novels and working through themes of love. So it was quite diverse. And then when we came to the section on romance, what happened was when I started doing research on it. I was just floored. In some ways I shouldn’t have been because it mirrored a conversation I’ve been having with black women of all age ranges for most of my adult life, all of my adult life, in fact. But seeing it like that, you know, I grew up in a household where my parents were married and they’re still married and alive. And seeing the stats, seeing the shocking kinds of headlines about black marriage and black women’s undesired singlehood really did surprise me. And I thought, how do I present this material in such a way that my students won’t be seriously depressed? For the first time, I taught a book. I think it was “So Long a Letter” and it was two centuries of African-American love letters. And that was really good. But we did we did tackle the difficult side of it as well. And then the second time I taught it, I didn’t teach the class for 12 years, but things had really blown up after the murder of Trayvon Martin, and unarmed black men, children and women and the students were in need of another black love course. And this time I revised it a bit. I changed it from a seminar to a fairly large cause. And I even did more on love and romance than it was at that time. I had thought about writing an article on it from way back in 2004 when I first taught it. But in 2016, it became clear to me that I really need to write a book about this. So it’s a good question, DeRay, because I’m a religion professor. I never really thought at the beginning of my career that I would ever be doing something like this.
Dianne M. Stewert [00:59:04] But I felt that I needed to find a way to convey what I wasn’t seeing out there on bookshelves or in conversations I needed to convey to black women and to the nation. Right. But to black women from all walks of life that the issues that many of us are confronting with our inability to find secure and sustain healthy love, romantic coupling, marriage is much larger than any decisions we make about our personal life, right. That the barriers that are posed before us are often deeply entrenched and systemic and structural forces.
Dianne M. Stewert [00:59:49] And and I wanted to make that argument across history as I was seeing it emerge in the material I was reading and assigning to students. And so, yeah, that’s what led me to write the book.
DeRay [01:00:01] I love it. Well, let’s let’s jump in.
DeRay [01:00:03] So in the first chapter, it was so interesting and I don’t want to give it away to people who need to read it, but I had never even considered I’d seen because of “Beloved,” I had seen at least one story of a mother choosing to kill her children or try to kill her children so that they are not killed by slavery, right, or enslavement.
Dianne M. Stewert [01:00:26] That’s right.
DeRay [01:00:27] And on page twenty four, you write “the emasculating shame Simon Sr and Robert suffered while married to women they could not defend against the humiliating and torturous assault they witnessed undoubtedly led Robert to the same conclusion his wife expressed, never marry again in slavery.” I hadn’t even thought of that, that people sort of were choosing. I mean, it makes sense. As soon as I read it, I was like, of course, but like to just not not even enter in these type of relationships so that you can avoid the pain that you know is coming. That was interesting to me. I can only imagine that there are a lot of things you learned in putting together this text. What are some of those?
Dianne M. Stewert [01:01:07] Absolutely. And let me let me just say that Margaret Garner’s story is the historical case upon which Toni Morrison wrote her novel, “Beloved.”
DeRay [01:01:17] Wow.
Dianne M. Stewert [01:01:18] Yes.
Dianne M. Stewert [01:01:19] And I first encountered it in graduate school, taking a course with Dr. Katie Cannon. And so I had never forgotten the story. And of course, I just feel that Toni Morrison was born to write that book if to do nothing else. But I felt that there was still more to be said about her story in a book like this one. And so you made the connection appropriately, because that is the narrative upon which she based “Beloved.” But you are right. It is absolutely true that many black people wrestle with the question of whether or not it was worth pursuing love in the context of slavery. I mean, slavery trumped any authority that individual black couples had over their own personal love lives over what would happen to them or any children that the marriage would produce. In fact many people had to choose spouses who were living on other estates or plantations or farms, because they often did not have enough people to choose from on their estate. So we’re already dealing with long distance marriages or distance marriages. In fact, the enslaved communities would call them abroad marriages. So, yes, I absolutely saw people regretting marrying, feeling that they would never marry again once a spouse had been sold away. Absolutely promising themselves that they would find their spouse when slavery was over. So many different expressions of fear of portion of the fire, of risk taking around the issue of romantic partnership and marriage. And what we do see in the aftermath of slavery is African-Americans on a constant search for their not just their children and parents and loved ones in terms of family members, but actually their romantic partners and their marriages, their spouses lost during slavery.
DeRay [01:03:32] It was interesting to in that same chapter, you also sort of talk about this idea that it in some ways didn’t matter who the father was to the slave owner because the child was actually the product anyway. And I can only imagine that like the long tail that such a logic has on community, you know?
Dianne M. Stewert [01:03:50] Yes, what we see later on in American history is the control of black women’s movements in terms of sterilization, for example, I tell the story of Elaine Riddick, who, because she lived in her grandmother’s home, which was her grandmother was a recipient of AFDC. She was discovered during a social workers visit to her grandmother and she was discovered pregnant and she had become pregnant through rape. And the state of North Carolina sterilized her without her consent. And she didn’t find out until years later, once she had married and could not concede that they had sterilized her. So and we do know that black women were disproportionately sterilized during a wide campaign to sterilize certain undesirables in American society across this nation in the early 20th century. And she was sterilized in 1968. So some of these campaigns lasted well into the late 1960s and early 1970s. Of course, activists have brought our attention to the fact that there are other ways that black women’s wombs have been controlled and are being controlled by the state through certain kinds of family planning policies that have pushed certain kinds of birth control, even testing birth control and harmful birth control on poor black women. But I think there’s another dimension to this story. The control of black women’s wombs also unfolds in the very sad numbers, high numbers of black women who actually either die in childbirth or whose babies die shortly after childbirth. I mean, the numbers are astonishing, and that is not unrelated to a history of disrespect and dishonoring of black women to the health disparities that have emerged as a result of the unequal resources that black communities have had to contend with relatively white communities. And so we do see the motif of black women’s wombs being controlled, being suppressed, being confined throughout American history.
DeRay [01:06:21] What is the impact on men? Like what is that? You know, you talk about the emasculation or the humiliation. How do we know as much about how that impacted the way that men responded to the way women like black men responded to the way that black women were objectified and dehumanized in ways that men had almost no sort of capacity or power to intervene in, let alone stop?
Dianne M. Stewert [01:06:47] Yeah, well, let me let me say two things. There were incredible narratives of black men standing up for black women, particularly their wives, when they were either raped by white overseers or plantation owners. And certainly these incidences led to their loss of life. Right. So it’s a very tragic outcome even for black men. But we see their bravery and their courage and their unwillingness to. Except this kind of dehumanization of black women and trampling on their dignity and so those stories do definitely exist. But I also would like to say I interpreted your question in another way, and this was something that was quite surprising for me. I knew that I wanted to write about black women’s history with what I’m calling forbidden black love, but I didn’t really understand how much I would be writing about black men as well. And so this history has significantly impacted black men. I mean, the truth is that the figures for black men in marriage are usually about 10 percentage points higher than black women. So on one level, one could ask the question, well, black men, we could look at this through the eyes of black men to black men are being deprived of black love and marriage. But what I found is that there is a constant callousness antipathy that this government that this nation has been so accustomed to demonstrate vis a vis black man. And it’s dangerous. And we have to call it out. We have to name it and explain why it is detrimental to the entire community. And I think the major culprit there is patriarchy. The government’s patriarchal understanding of black men’s responsibility for themselves and their families without taking responsibility itself for the manner in which they have never allowed black men to be in a position to be patriarchs in the first place. We see this theme recurring throughout history. We see it in welfare policies. We see it in all kinds of assumptions that have been made about what the black family needs and can afford. So, for example, when black women, poor black women today are forced and or women, period. But I’m focusing on black women when they are forced to sue the fathers of their children in order to receive welfare benefits. What does that do to the relationship between the mother and the father of a child that there are either trying to parent co parent, or what would it do to their relationship in terms of any potential for a long lasting healthy marriage or coupling or partnership? What does that do? And so a lot of people feel that, oh, you know, my tax dollars are going to these black women who should be working and, you know, these quote unquote, welfare queens. And what they don’t realize is, first of all, we don’t know if these welfare queens themselves have already paid into the system. Right. So it’s their tax dollars going in to it as well. And the government is collecting as much as possible from the fathers of their children when those fathers are named. And so it can cause serious conflict between parents of children because fathers are saying, I’m doing my very best, I’m trying to work, I’m trying to support my child. The government is garnishing my wages. But then you need more. You’re asking me for more and I can’t produce. And there’s a real feeling of hopelessness and helplessness. And I think that there are many people who would look at that situation and try to read black men as pathological, black men, of not having values, as being selfish and narcissistic and not wanting to contribute to the welfare of their children.
Dianne M. Stewert [01:11:07] But they are caught in a system that has no sympathy for them, no sympathy for the fact that many of them would have come from situations where they were under-resourced, probably had no inheritable wealth, had poor educational systems to contend with, and could never be generous patriots in any respect because they’re either in low skilled labor positions, might not be working, might be looking for work from time to time. And yet at every corner, their wages are garnished. They’re thrown in jail if they’re caught driving while their license is suspended because they’re being sought after for child support. So it’s a vicious cycle. And so I try to show the victimization of black men throughout history as a result of forbidden black love as well. It’s not just black women, it’s also black men. And they need support. They need help as well in order to make black relationships and black families.
DeRay [01:12:07] something else that you wrote that I didn’t know you wrote “as a civil war came to a close in 1865, the federal government encouraged and even mandated newly emancipated couples, whether previously married during slavery or not, to present themselves before an approved authority for their official exchange of marriage vows.” I had I literally had no clue.
Dianne M. Stewert [01:12:27] Absolutely, yes.
DeRay [01:12:29] Why? Why was that a thing?
Dianne M. Stewert [01:12:31] Yes, it was a thing I’m going to say in many respects, primarily because the federal government did not want to be responsible for indigenous women and children and elders. Again, the patriarchal logic of the state black man must be responsible. Think about this. So black couples coming out of slavery, they’ve been in a number of relationship arrangements. They had their own concepts of what constituted normative relationships within these very limited and confining circumstances. Right. Of being chattel property, movable property of others. So coming out, there was a real sense, and this was orchestrated through the Freedmen’s Bureau, through churches and missionary societies and organizations. There was a real sense we’ve got to educate and socialize the Negro into appropriate proper citizenship. And marriage was a gateway for that. Marriage was a central institution for socializing black people into preparedness, for citizenship, for citizenship participation. Well, what did that really mean? What that meant was black men would have to stand up and be men and be heads of their households. And to have a household, you have to marry and then produce children so that you can now provide for that household rather than the government. Can you imagine the condition of black people, four million black people coming out of slavery? And what would have been needed by the federal government? I mean, they were more than ready to make sure that black men would assume responsibility for themselves, their wives and their children. And so it is true that, of course, many black people were thrilled to have the right to marriage. Right, a right that black people only earned or were only given in 1865 with the 13th Amendment. So there were many black people who wanted to marry, but there were many who were cautious as well. There were many who wanted to marry still under their own circumstances. And so we had situations at the local state level where African-Americans were being forced to marry people that they were forced to marry during slavery, not given the time to look for the appropriate spouses. And when I say being forced to marry because now these marriages were being seen as legitimate. Right. I mean, it’s really interesting how the government has played two sides of it. You really don’t have legal marriages in slavery, but when it was expedient coming out, oh, OK. You were married during slavery. So we’re just going to do the rights and record this as your official wedding. And some people were like, wait a minute, this is not the person I wanted to marry. So it was quite chaotic. But this was an important moment of cultural and civil education, socialization of black people into the norms of Anglo American hetero, patriarchal marriage, customs and rights. And so, yes, it was quite beneficial and expedient for the government to do so. Coming out of the patriarchal logic that men are responsible for their households, not us.
DeRay [01:15:43] That’s fascinating. Like literally you make me think of all the things I never learned in school that I didn’t like. And, you know, I’ve been subjected to 12 million panels over the past five years and never heard this. I wanted to ask you too, there’s another part of the book where you say “so perhaps it should not be surprising that collecting the fragments of black lynched bodies was the surest means of memorializing and revisiting a peculiar ecstasy experience during lynchings and the other celebrations of white power.” You later write a paragraph later. “White males fixation on black male genitalia, both during and after lynchings, also contributes to this perverse interplay between black bodies and white love.” Mind blowing. I’m like, I didn’t even I hadn’t considered, lynching was bad enough. I hadn’t considered that. It was also a collection of the fragments of black lynched bodies. Like Tell me, please.
Dianne M. Stewert [01:16:38] Yes. I just felt that even in death, even in death, the one thing that could give black people who had suffered the most horrible and aimless kind of ending to their lives, they couldn’t rest even in death. And so what we know is that this is not uncommon, right? White collectors of black bodily materials, tissue, blood and bone, literally bodily materials. For what purpose? Something about this particular story that I featured here regarding the Moores Ford bridge, ynchings of two black couples, George and Mae Murray Dorsey and Roger and Dorothy Dorsey Malcolm in July of 1946. Something about this particular story of this Navy vet, young young man actually going to the scene of the crime after the lynching and finding a tooth, a tooth and then gifting it to a local politicians daughter. Now, the story didn’t say that, you know, this was his girlfriend or this was, but it was very, very clear that this was a gift of endearment. Right. This was a gift for someone special in his life. And so it made me have to contend with what do we really see here? What are we really saying? And ultimately, DeRay, it really goes back to something I don’t hear enough of in many of our political conversations. And it might sound somewhat controversial for me to say this. As a student of Dr. James Cone, I’ve been thinking about this for decades. And I and I think I’m just at this place now. And James Baldwin was really the prophet of this way of reflecting on racial and social identities in America. All of this really suggests that whiteness, the creation of whiteness as an identity which depends 100 percent upon the existence of blackness as an identity, is the issue that we must tackle. Racial identity is the issue that we absolutely must tackle because it needs to feed, White identity can only feed on the destruction, demise and exploitation of black identity of black bodies. And that’s what I see here. It’s a kind of extension of camaraderie, a cult of white supremacy to gather and collect these body parts and to remember the violent ways that they were all socialized into a collective ecstasy. A collective joy. Right. About what? About what exactly? White supremacy. What else is a lynching? What else is a lynching? I mean, we can, folks can justify it by whatever stereotypes or whatever excuses are are being leveraged at the moment. So-and-so raped this woman or what have you. All of that can be justified. But in the end, what is it? It is a celebration of white identity, of white supremacy, and that extends to the most intimate domains of their life. And I am really arguing that means even love, we have to die and suffer and our body parts have to be recycled to help them even have a charmed life, have a life of love and fulfillment. That’s what the collecting of body parts also signals for me, not just that white men have been threatened by the purported size of black men’s penises by their purported virility, because, I mean, how did you know white settlers conquer African descendants and keep African descendants in America under control for so long, well one is military might, one is military might, one is aggression. And so any sign of black male virility, black male strength and power is going to be a threat. And in a country that has a very warped understanding and relationship to sex and sexuality, certainly sexual prowess, sexual fertility, fecundity is going to be also threatening. So, yes, I think it’s something that we must think about. And I think in the end, the Field sisters really put the punctuation mark on this what their book, “Racecraft” But I think in the end, we have got to actually look at what was blackness created for and what does whiteness mean and how can we sustain these racial identities and ever be free and ever be whole.
DeRay [01:21:40] We consider you a friend of the pod, and we cannot wait to have you back. Everybod, and make sure you get the book wherever books are sold, because it’s good. Thanks for coming.
Dianne M. Stewert [01:21:50] Thank you so much, DeRay
DeRay [01:21:54] Well, that’s it. Thanks so much for tuning into Pod Save the People this week. Tell your friends to check it out, make sure that you rate it wherever you get your podcast, whether it’s Apple 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 Brock Wilbur and mixed by Bill Lancz. Our executive producers Jessica Cordova Kramer and myself. Special thanks to our weekly contributors Kaya Henderson, De’Ara Balenger, and Sam Sinyangwe and our special contributor, Johnetta Elzie.