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Pod Save The People

Corner to Corner (Chef Roy Choi)

DeRay, Sam, Brittany and Clint discuss a new rule that enables the Trump administration to change the asylum law, global wildfires, a new way the Fair Housing Act may be crippled, and some unexpected results from legalizing hemp. Chef Roy Choi joins DeRay to discuss his career in the food industry and his new TV show, “Broken Bread.”

Show Notes: 

NBC News: How legalizing hemp accidentally helped marijuana suspects

The Washington Post: New rule gives Trump administration more discretion to change asylum law

Vox: Wildfires are burning around the world. The most alarming is in the Amazon rainforest.

OneZero: A Proposed Trump Administration Rule Could Let Lenders Discriminate Through A.I.

KCET: Broken Bread (Trailer)

Transcription below:

DeRay Mckesson:

Hey, this is DeRay, welcome to Pod Save the People in this episode we have the news as usual with me, Brittany, Clint, and Sam, and then we have Chef Roy Choi. He co-owns a bunch of restaurants and is the host of Tastemade’s new TV series, “Broken Bread.” 

Roy Choi:

What I try to fight for within food is that, you’re never going to get everyone to give up something or all of us get to the same plane, but that shouldn’t be at the expense of millions of others not having a basic form of being able to eat—

DeRay Mckesson:

Heads up, there’s some light cursing in this interview. The message for this week is a quote that you’ve heard before, that the artist is nothing without the gift and the gift is nothing without the work. I’ve been all over the world and seen activists and organizers and citizens who know that the world should be better, people who sort of find their gift, they find the spark. They find the joy, they found their calling about how they want to interact in the world. And the thing that I found that is most common, is that the only way that you really access the gift is by doing some sort of work. It’s about walking towards the things that scare you, it’s about having the conversations that you grow from, it’s about following your curiosity. We all can access the gift that is ours, but we can only do it when we do the work. And the other thing is that part of our responsibilities is to make sure that the spaces that we occupy are honest. That there’s no way to demand honesty from a system that we want to change when we won’t model that honesty in the communities we build, that has to be a part of our work even when it’s uncomfortable. Let’s go.  

Brittany Packnett:

Hey y’all, it’s the news. This is Brittany Packnett, @MsPackyetti on all social media.

Samuel Sinyangwe:

And this is Samson younger @samswey on Twitter. 

Clint Smith:

And this is Clint Smith @ClintSmithIII.

DeRay Mckesson:

And this is DeRay @deray on Twitter 

Brittany Packnett:

Before we get started, I need to know, have you all tasted the Popeyes chicken sandwich? Because I haven’t, and I feel left out. 

Samuel Sinyangwe:

Me too. I feel left out. 

Brittany Packnett:

Let me be clear, I have tried to get that chicken sandwich. I have shown up at Popeye’s, I have tried to order Popeyes, I got the order through and then they cancelled it which means either they were out or they were just tired of all of us. Either way, I have not had that chicken sandwich. 

Clint Smith:

I have looked at every Popeyes within a 10-mile radius in my home and every time I show up, there out, there out. I tried getting it on Postmates, my orders keep getting canceled, its wild out here. It is wild in these chicken sandwich streets. 

DeRay Mckesson:

Do you know the tweet that started it? Like I clearly saw it on Twitter, but I don’t know like the conversation that started it. 

Brittany Packnett:

I don’t know either, all I know is that once it started, it never stopped. And then Chick-fil-A got in on it, and then, you know, people observe the fact that McDonald’s just sat there and minded it’s own business. 

Samuel Sinyangwe:

Did you see Wendy’s?

Brittany Packnett:

Wendy’s got in on it, some restaurant called Shuckin’ & Jivin’, that’s it’s actual name, from Miami, Florida, got in on it. Like it’s been a whole thing.

DeRay Mckesson:

I will say whoever runs the Popeyes sort of, I hope they got a raise. 

Brittany Packnett:

I hope everybody who had to deal out all these sandwiches got a raise, overtime, time and a half, because this is, this is wild.

Samuel Sinyangwe:

I saw a tweet that it was twenty-three million dollars in value— 

Brittany Packnett:

In free ad—

Samuel Sinyangwe:

In free advertising, or the free advertising.

Brittany Packnett:

Listen. Black Twitter is real. Don’t let nobody tell you it’s not. You know, my friend such tweeted out who is registering people to vote in the Popeyes line today, and I thought that was a perfect tweet, mostly because a bunch of Black folks are going to get into church on Sunday morning and we’re going to hear, ‘You can stand in line for Popeyes, but you can’t stand in line to vote,’ and I love such a tweet because she was like, we don’t have to shame people from wanting a good sandwich, we can just meet people where they are and tell them hey, while you’re waiting for your delicious sandwich, why don’t I talk to you about our delicious rights? That didn’t quite work, but y’all know what I mean. I just really love that tweet, I thought it was great. And also, I’m like wait where can I go get some voter registration forms and go stand outside of Popeyes. All right time for the news. 

Clint Smith:

So one of the most unsettling things that’s been going on this past week is that the Amazon rainforest is on fire and Vox had a really good article that was talking about what was happening in the Amazon and how it is connected to a sort of larger phenomenon of wild fires that are burning at a rate that we haven’t seen in a long time. As we know just as some background, the Amazon rainforest is the world’s largest tropical rainforest, it is an area with torrential rain that almost never burns on its own, but blazes have been burning for more than two weeks now, growing so intense that they sent smoke all the way to Sao Paulo, which is Brazil’s largest city, which is thousands of miles away. But the Amazon is not the only place that’s burning, more than 21,000 square miles of forest have gone up in flames in Serbia this month, which puts Russia on track for its worst year on record for wildfires. The Canary Islands’ wildfires in the Canary Islands forced more than 8,000 people to flee, new fires are burning in Alaska, in Greenland, many of these wildfires stem from the unprecedented warmth and dryness across many of the parts of the world this year and in the case of the Amazon, they are undoubtedly tied to things that human beings are doing.

Conditions were ripe for these sorts of things to happen, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported last week that this past July was the hottest July on record, like the hottest July ever, and the next five hottest Julys were all the past five years. Every year we have had the hottest July of all time and that is unsettling and it is being contributed in large part because, you know, in the context of the Amazon, illegal logging operations in Brazil have been known to set fires as a tactic to drive indigenous people off of their land and to cover the tracks. The Amazon rainforest is experienced a record number of fires this year with more than 74,000 that have been reported, which is an 84 percent increase over the number of wildfires at the same time last year.

The Amazon has been deforested by 15% or more from its previous state and scientists are worried that if it reaches 25% there won’t be enough trees to cycle water through the forest and the region will cross a Tipping Point and eventually degrade into a Savannah. And when I read that, I kind of sat back in my chair and I’m thinking about this place that represents 20% of the oxygen that we have on Earth reaching a Tipping Point in which it turns into a desert, that is where we are. We are unsettlingly close to that marker. So needless to say this has huge consequences for the rest of the world the Amazon rainforest produces again, 20% of our oxygen, its vegetation hold billions of metric tons of carbon that could oxidize and into heat-trapping gases if released, and these images that we’ve seen of this place burning, are the latest example, in a string of ongoing examples, that we will continue to see in that will continue to get worse about how climate change is the fundamental existential threat of our time, and the DNC is being pressured right now to have a climate change debate. I think they absolutely should because there are a range of issues that are incredibly important but this is a matter of like, will we continue to live on this Earth and seeing the largest rainforest in the world rise up in flames is, if that’s not a sign of us needing to step it up I don’t know what is. 

Brittany Packnett:

I don’t think it can be overstated that the Amazon produces 20% of the entire world’s oxygen. 20% of the entire world’s oxygen. So not only is this an absolute affront to the indigenous people of this area, because it is, and to be clear that affront and our global failure to respect and learn from indigenous people has cost us a great deal in our environmentalism because the people that are indigenous to those lands had been caring for them for thousands of years before other folks came along, colonized and destroyed them, not just in the Amazon but across the world. So not only are we dealing with the consequences of disrespecting indigenous people all across the world, we are also in an absolute international crisis. I saw someone say that we should stop saying that the planet is in peril, even though it is, we should be clear that the planet will find some way, possibly to regenerate itself. I’m not a scientist, maybe that’s not true. But we need to recognize that the people will die off, right, and that Elon Musk and the other rich people will finally find some way to go to Mars and figure that out and the rest of us will be here left to deal with our own destructive habits. As we are talking on Saturday, the G7 Summit is starting in France, by the time of the release of this podcast the G7 Summit will have wrapped. I want us to remember that it was just last year during the G7 Summit that Trump decided to leave the Paris Accord. He continues to deny the existence of climate change and continues in small ways and large to make it more and more difficult for America to be a part of the solution and to make it easier for America to be a bigger and bigger part of the problem, which we already are. These are also the consequences of electing a person like this to office, but I’m interested to see what comes out of the G7. I’m hopeful that this is right on the top of the agenda and that there is a global commitment made, not only to end this destruction, but to take the issue of climate change seriously throughout the world. 

Samuel Sinyangwe:

So this is another one of those moments, I think there have been so many different climate related crises, man-made disasters happening simultaneously and I think the Amazon essentially burning down, huge portions of the Amazon, is just something that has caused me to just sit back and reflect on how quickly this whole thing is happening. Right? I think when we talk about climate change, there’s sort of a recognition that things are changing and then there are these projections of you know, a hundred years from now, you know, our children’s children will be living in a very different world than we live in today and we should prepare for that and make sure that we’re providing for the next generation so that they have a planet to live on but all this stuff is happening right now, like many of the worst case scenarios are happening right now, the Amazon rainforest burning down, major glaciers are completely melting and causing the sea level to rise in measurable ways. We’re seeing hurricanes obviously get worse. We’re seeing folks water supplies in huge cities, whether it’s in Cape Town or major cities in India, that are starting to dry up. All of this is happening right now, and it’s only getting worse and I think, I hope that this moment and the gravity of something like this happening in the Amazon, where over a million indigenous people live, the lungs of the world, I hope that this becomes one of those catalyzing moments for an international effort to actually deal with this, an effort that hopefully the United States at least by 2020, with a new Administration, will begin to take seriously, but I mean, we’re already too late for a lot. We’re already seeing life in the seas, in many cases were seeing fish and other animals in the sea become extinct. We’re seeing huge proportions of the world’s insects become extinct. This is real and it’s happening right now and we have to take it seriously as urgently as any other issue if not more. 

DeRay Mckesson:

What’s really wild is how this set of fires became the story because what I know now that I didn’t know before is about 36,000 fires were ignited in the Amazon rainforest in Brazil in the past couple months, that’s almost nearly as much as all the fires in 2018. This has actually been an issue far longer than it’s been an international conversation. Climate change is coming because we have screwed up the climate, you know, like we did this like humans did it and people are still doing it. I appreciate that when this story first broke I was like wow, like, how did, did lightning strike the Amazon? I don’t know, like that was sort of everybody’s first thing like wow, there must have been a wildfire or something and it was like nope, people started these fires and they did it for a specific reason. President of Brazil was not doing anything about this as of today. It is reported that he’s going to send troops, so about 40,000 troops apparently going to go to the Amazon to help fight the fires. So it’ll be interesting to, it’s the highest number of fires to be tracked by satellite since 2010. So, this is a record as we’ve all spoken about. I think there’s a way that people talk about climate change, it sort of makes it seem inevitable. Like, it just is happening, like it will just happen and it’s like a human behavior is what’s changing the climate at such a rapid pace and we have an opportunity to change that. 

Samuel Sinyangwe:

Alright, so for my news today, I want to talk about hemp. So in 2018 Congress passed in the farm bill, a measure that legalizes hemp for industrial use. And it turns out that in doing so, this has pushed many state legislators to pass laws defining what is hemp, and what is marijuana, because they’re actually quite similar. It turns out that in most states hemp is defined as products made with cannabis oil that do not exceed 0.3% of THC. Once you go beyond 0.3% of THC it becomes marijuana. But it turns out in passing this law, and in many particularly Republican states passing laws that sort of codify this at the state level, it has created an unintended but great consequence, which is, partially decriminalizing marijuana in a lot of conservative states that otherwise would not have done so. So now what we’re seeing in states like Ohio and Florida and Texas, are prosecutors saying that they actually can’t prosecute marijuana possession anymore because they can’t prove that the substances that police find are marijuana and not hemp. Essentially, it’s very costly and requires sophisticated crime lab equipment to actually test those substances to determine if they have above a 0.3% THC level. In doing so now we’re seeing cases being dropped all across the country, but especially in the South where marijuana continues to be criminalized. This is good news. It’s sort of temporary because we’re seeing State Attorney Generals starting to respond by saying they want to start funding that crime lab equipment, but in the meantime what it means is that a lot of people for the first time are in a situation where they’re operating environment where marijuana is at least partially decriminalized and the police have a very hard, if not impossible, time actually proving that substances that they find on you or somebody else are actually marijuana, to move forward with prosecution. So that’s the unintended consequences of the legislation and it’s actually beneficial particularly for communities of color that have been impacted by the drug war.

Brittany Packnett:

I think we have continued to extend the conversation about the drug war, about how it has manifested for a while now, but haven’t necessarily gone into the details, especially if you are a new listener of ours, so it would just be important for us to remind folks that the War on Drugs has absolutely been a war on poor people and a war on black and brown people, that the same low level offenses, the same possession charges for tiny amounts of marijuana, for the distribution of marijuana have been disproportionately criminalized in black and brown communities and the same industry that is now booming across the country, that as it is being intentionally made legal in certain states, is making millionaires out of mostly white proprietors of new THC businesses that because black and brown folks have a criminal history connected to these things that they are locked out of capitalizing on that same industry, the same industry that locked them up before. So I just wanted to give that primer once again because I think sometimes we talk about it, not just on this podcast but broadly, and assume that it is a foregone conclusion that people know why legalizing marijuana is so important. It’s not actually about whether or not you think that you should use it, it’s not actually about recreational use or any of these things, it’s actually fundamentally about who we criminalize around marijuana and the ways in which that continues to lock people out from positions of power, capital and agency in their own lives.

Clint Smith:

Only thing I’ll say is I think that this is a reminder of how arbitrary so many of our drug laws are, I mean laws are arbitrary, their existence is arbitrary, the way they are implemented is arbitrary and obviously depends on the background and different facets to the identity of the person in power and the person who lacks power in that moment and I think this is another example, right like the only difference between hemp and marijuana is that one gets you high and one doesn’t. The chemical component of THC is what sets [16:23] marijuana apart as an illegal drug and so often we apply notions of morality and ethics and like how good of a person someone is to whether or not they engage with certain drugs or have a history of a certain type of drug use and I think that we know these laws are arbitrary because if you cross over from one state to another the law is fundamentally different, right, and so it’s just worth remembering that the law is a decision made by a group of people and that we can make a decision to have more equitable laws and more just laws and put people in positions where they recognize that these laws are arbitrary and that the arbitrary implementation of them disproportionately impacts people who are living in poverty and people who have been historically marginalized. And so this is a prime example of that idea.

DeRay Mckesson:

I never knew what him was like technically until I had to prepare for this. What a lot of people didn’t realize is that the farm bill, the 2018 Farm Bill took hemp and it’s extracts off of being a schedule 1 controlled substance where it might have been interpreted as marijuana, which opened up a lot. But what I wanted to add is that when this change happened the farming of hemp just exploded. So, when you look at the number of acres used for industrial hemp in 15, it’s less than 50,000, like it’s low. It’s like, you know in the 10,000 range and 16 it’s a little bit more but still like in the $20 and range, in 17 it’s in the 25 thousand acre range in 18 it’s almost 150,000 acres being used to plant hemp across the country, which is really wild. It is the fastest growing crop by acreage in the country, so [18:05] maple sap had 85% growth from 2018 to 2019, that’s the next closest to industrial hemp. Industrial Hemp had 368% growth and acres planted from 2018 to 2019 and there’s this really interesting quote from a farmer and Kentucky and he says there are a lot of things you can do on a farm, but they’re on a lot of things that you can do for money. And he talks about why he started growing hemp and he says that he could do an acre of soybeans which would give him five hundred dollars, but an acre of hemp could yield as much as $30,000. And he ends this quote with, “The plant is a weed and it likes to grow.” Don’t go anywhere more Pod Save the People’s coming. 

[Ad Starts]

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Brittany Packnett:

Publishers Weekly calls this essential new book, [19:04 – is this a direct quote?] ‘A boldly articulated, historically informed explanation of what exactly racist ideas and thinking are.’ It was also named one of the most anticipated books of 2019 by Lit Hub, and one of the best books of the summer by Book Riot and Time Magazine.

DeRay Mckesson:

Book tour events are occurring all across the country. I did a book tour event with Ibram and it is a fascinating conversation about the book. The book is incredible. You can find more information on dates and locations at ibramxkendi.com. That’s i-b-r-a-m-x-k-e-n-d-i.com. How to be an anti-racist is on sale now and available in digital and print wherever books are sold.

Brittany Packnett:

Growing up, so many movies were about break-ins and robberies from casinos (y’all know Dinero) to banks, to people’s homes, and while I’m not sure how often casinos and banks are actually getting robbed these days, people’s homes are still at risk, especially if they don’t have home security like SimpliSafe. And what’s wild is that only one in five homes have home security. Maybe because most companies really don’t make it easy.

DeRay Mckesson:

The whole process of getting home security can be such a hassle between the cost and the confusing setups, I’ve avoided getting home security in the past. That’s why SimpliSafe is my top choice, hands down. SimpliSafe protects every door, window and room with 24/7 professional monitoring. They make it easy on you. There’s no contract, no hidden fees or fine print.

Brittany Packnett:

It’s won a ton of awards from CNET to the New York Times’ Wirecutter. 

DeRay Mckesson:

Prices are always fair and honest, around-the-clock monitoring is just $15 a month. When other home security systems are triggered, a lot of times there’s an assumption that there’s a false alarm, the call goes to the bottom of the list. But not with SimpliSafe, they’re able to confirm that the brake-in is happening, allowing first responders to get to the scene 3.5 times faster than other home security companies.

Brittany Packnett:

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[End of Add]

Brittany Packnett:

There is new news in the fight on immigration in this country thanks, unfortunately to this administration. Last week the administration issued a new rule that essentially gives more power to the executive office for immigration review. It essentially gives the power to the director of that agency to make it easier for immigration courts to reject appeals to a Court decisions. This is another one of the tiny regulatory measures that this administration is taking, again outside of the view of the general public most often, to change the way immigration is done in this country, to make pathways to citizenship even more difficult than they already are. This is particularly important for me because last week I actually spent several days across Mexico. I flew into Mexico City, but I ended up in two different cities, Toluca and [21:57:04] Tlaxcala. In both of these places, the migrant situation is very dire and I was very fortunate to meet with a number of migrants who were willing to tell their stories. I went down with an organization, an incredible organization called MeWe International, that leverages the power of storytelling and the power to build empathy for and with one another, to work on this particular issue all across the world. And when I talked to several of the folks in these migrant communities it was fascinating, A) to see folks of Afro-Latinx heritage, even though the conversation in the U.S. often erases them, B) to recognize exactly what some of the trials and tribulations are as people make that journey, it’s not just the lack of safety, it’s not just the threat of rape and torture, it’s not just the lack of food and water and shelter, it is also actually the modes of transportation. So I saw for myself what they call a Bestia, the Beast, which is a freight train that runs the entire length of Mexico. It runs at a super fast clip and people literally have to run alongside of it trying to avoid concrete barricades that the private company that owns the freight puts up, and jump on top of this train. The train literally cuts people’s limbs off. If people are able to get on top of the train then they have to sit atop freezing or burning hot metal to try to get to the place where they are and of course people are running from drug lords, they’re running from extortion, they’re running from gangs, they’re running from threats to their family, and it should be noted, I think in the U.S. we take for granted that if people are embroiled in that kind of conflict, it’s because they too are guilty of something, that they have in some way been engaged in some kind of illegal trade, but the fact of the matter is and so many of the villages where people that I met were living, they were targets just because they had a paying job and they therefore could be extorted or threatened and the government would not only look the other way, the government and government officials would also benefit from this extortion. And given all of that challenge, given all of that danger, given all of the ways in which families are separated, every time we met with folks we asked why do you keep doing it and would you do it again? And they say every time, I would do it again because there’s no other choice. That in order to have any kind of economic mobility, safety or freedom for members of my family, I have to be able to hold down a job and keep them safe. And the closest place for me to do that, the best place for me to do that is in America. I will close by saying that we have to remember that while this administration is changing so many of the existing rules that DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals was always meant to be temporary. That program is already under threat by this administration, but it was always supposed to be temporary and on route to a full pathway to citizenship for, not only childhood arrivals, but for all people who are fleeing persecution and need to come here. This kind of rule and so many other rules of this administration will make it even harder for people seeking legal asylum to find a place and a pathway to be a citizen in America. These are the things that we have to be vigilant about, these are the things that we have to pay close attention to, and we have to remember that none of us are free until all of us are free, so just because you are a naturalized citizen or are born in the states, doesn’t mean that this isn’t your problem. It absolutely is. 

Samuel Sinyangwe:

So this is related to our conversation about the Amazon and the impact on Indigenous communities, of capitalism, of, in particular, white supremacist capitalism, not only in the U.S. but in Brazil and all across the world, creating the conditions that make life so difficult that folks decide that they need to leave and seek a better life. And a lot of the folks that are being denied asylum in the United States are Indigenous folks from Central America, a lot of folks who are being denied Asylum are folks from Africa, folks from the Congo, folks from Cameroon, who are having to make an incredible journey all the way to South America, up from South America through Central America, to get into the United States and are being denied right? Are being systematically profiled and detained and deported all of this is related. And this is a global issue that is going to require sort of an international effort to not only address the racism in U.S. immigration policy, but to fundamentally change the way that capitalism is functioning, to change how people’s communities are being deforested and devastated by these forces, and then to invest in communities, in Indigenous communities, communities in Central America and South America, all across the world that have been denied resources, have been impacted by these issues, that’s how we can get at this and instead with this administration all we’re seeing is more restrictive policies, more racist policies, more detention, more immigration camps. It’s just the wrong approach. 

Clint Smith:

I was reading about how earlier this summer the president and the administration struck a deal with Guatemala that would allow U.S. immigration authorities to deport some Central Americans to Guatemala to pursue asylum there instead, and I thought about how wild that is considering the sort of century of U.S. intervention that is fundamentally, economically socially and politically destabilize Guatemala and I know like we’ve said that before on here and I can’t remember to what extent we gave specific examples, but I think it is important for people to know that that is not just like a refrain, that that is something real. So if we’re talking about Guatemala specifically, in 1920 President Manuel Estrada Cabrera, an ally to U.S. corporate interests, who granted several concessions to the United Fruit Company, he’s overthrown in a coup and the United States sends armed forces to ensure that new president remains amenable to U.S. corporate interests right? So the U.S. is like, we’re sending an army there to make sure that whoever is the new person, you’re not going to mess around with our money. In 1947 President Juan José Arévalo, his self-proclaimed workers government, which enacts labor clothes that give Guatemalan workers the right to unionize, demand pay raises, for the first time The United Fruit Company, as the largest employer and landowner in the country, lobbies the U.S. government to intervene because they don’t want Guatemalan workers to have the right to unionize and have pay raises. 1965 the CIA issues Green Berets and other counterinsurgency advisers to aid the authoritarian government in its repression of left-wing movements, recruiting peasants in the name of the struggle against the government and landowners. The state department counterinsurgency advisor Charles [28:33:19] Mechling Jr. would later describe the U.S. as directly complicit in Guatemalan war crimes which he compared to the methods of Heinrich Himmler’s extermination squads and there’s example after example after example, but the point is that like we are asking Guatemala to provide asylum for people who are attempting to escape a range of different South American countries, including Guatemala, because we don’t want to take them in, even though part of the reason that these countries are in the conditions they are is because of things that our government, our different intelligence agencies and our corporations have done to these folks, generation after generation after generation, and I think that we have to just keep that top of mind. 

D

What I’ll just remind people is a lot of people don’t know the immigration courts are not a part of the judiciary but are actually a part of the executive branch, that they are a part of the Department of Justice. So, one of the reasons why this is even possible is because the Attorney General technically sort of supervises the Immigration Court process. It is heretofore been a largely independent process but Sessions was one of the first Attorney Generals to flex that power in a way that we just hadn’t seen flexed before. So, for instance, the Attorney General can intervene in individual cases, Sessions intervened in about four in his first year, Attorney Generals before him had only intervene in like one a year. The Attorney General can overturn decisions of the appeals board in the immigration process. And in this process, once the appeals board makes a decision people can actually appeal to the judiciary, like the actual court system, now the catch is you cannot be deported while you are in the Immigration Court process, the moment that you actually appeal to an appeals court as a part of the judiciary, you actually can be deported. So it’s actually, it’s like this weird sort of legal space and a lot of people can’t even afford attorneys to do that because the immigration courts are not a part of the Judiciary you actually don’t have the right to counsel. So around 2016, it was only about 40% of people had representation at all in the Immigration Court process. Right now because of renewed attention it looks like that number probably is going up because of the crisis of immigration that Trump has created but still relatively low and what’s really sinister about this rule that Brittany brought up, that would essentially say that the director of this agency can make decisions where cases are pending, is that there are about 900,000 and 440 judges, which means there are about 2,000 cases a judge. So there is definitely a backlog, that’s double the caseload of federal district court judges. So there are a ton of cases that are pending and people are largely protected from deportation while the case is pending, which is a good thing, especially with this administration, and what would be really frightening would be for the Attorney General to literally just issue deportation decisions and all of the pending cases and that’s not too far for this administration to go because you if you remember Betsy DeVos over at the Department of Education, she literally closed all the Civil Rights complaints and like one fell swoop. So we’ve actually seen another agency use their power to just do sweeping dismissals of these types of issues in ways that don’t benefit anybody who believes in justice. So my news was published in a publication on Medium called OneZero and the title is, “A Proposed Trump Administration Rule Could Let Lenders Discriminate Through AI,” and this is about the Trump administration’s reinterpretation of a part of the Fair Housing Act of 1968, part of the law protects against disparate impact, which means that, essentially, they’re protected classes, like race, religion, sex and other protected statuses that means that you can’t be discriminated on the basis of those. This is a good thing. The Fair Housing Act is part of the Civil Rights legislation that people fought so hard for and the interpretation by the Trump Administration essentially makes it a different calculation for proving disparate impact if it results from automated programs versus human judgment. So it seems like the new interpretation of the rule will keep the disparate impact clauses for human judgement untouched, or is essentially untouched, but will introduce a whole new line of thinking for automated programs. So what this will do is essentially say that if somebody uses some sort of algorithm or program to determine who should get a loan, or other aspects of the housing market use some inputs like zip codes or something like that, this raises the bar for how you’d actually treat bias in those instances. So for example, one of the things that it does is that it offloads a responsibility from the bank for instance, or say for example the bank buys some bias tool and they use that bias tool to determine who can get a loan. This new rule would say well it might be bad but that’s actually not the bank’s fault, it’s the company’s fault and they would still be able to use the bias tool that doesn’t work. Another one is that as long as they get an expert that says that it’s not biased even if the outcomes are biased, than the qualified expert would be able to just wave it away. Another one would be like you think about something that predicts like long-term credit worthiness that might have been highly biased, is that they would have to prove that the discrimination isn’t legitimate, so it even has a carve out that says like, you know, what if the Discrimination actually leads to outcomes that might be real later then the algorithm is okay. And this is just an example of how Trump is actually doing so much to change the inner workings of the government in ways that completely miss the national conversation, in so many people especially people color, could be negatively impacted by this.

Samuel Sinyangwe:

So this is so sinister because first of all, they’re leaving untouched the human decision-making in fair housing, in disparate impact in Fair Housing, but as we know not only in this space but in a whole bunch of other sectors from Criminal Justice to housing, employment, algorithms are becoming more and more prominent in the proportion of decisions that are being made right? So this is sort of setting things up for the long term to actually allow for and essentially undermine the Fair Housing Act because more and more of these decisions are going to be made through algorithms and these algorithms are often proprietary, these are private corporations that are using algorithms that are not transparent at all about what’s going into the algorithms they’re not transparent about how those different data points are actually being used often times they don’t even know how it’s being used because it’s incorporating deep learning that by definition is more complex than the inputs that are put in because artificial intelligence that is coming up with ways of understanding patterns in the data that humans wouldn’t be able to see. So all of this is going to probably contribute to a situation where we’re seeing the same types of biases, the same types of redlining happening and housing, the same types of bias in risk assessments, in criminal justice for example, that humans had been doing in the past but now are going to be done a sort of behind the scenes in ways that are completely unaccountable that are not transparent and that are increasingly becoming legalized because of actions like this. 

Brittany Packnett:

What I also find really fascinating here is that this rule is over turning 50 years of precedent, so this 50 years worth of precedent essentially said that statistical analysis can be used to identify patterns of discrimination. 50 years, that’s it. That means that not my parents’ generation, but their parents’ generation didn’t even have access to the kind of protections that the rule that is now being overturned provided. So I think about my dad and my parents they owned our home but my paternal grandmother never owned her home, whenever I would go visit her in Chicago on the South Side we always went into a high-rise apartment building, it wasn’t a condo building, it was an apartment building. She was a renter for her entire life. That means that just two generations ago, we did not have the kind of collected wealth to be able to pass on through generations to allow me or my brother to build on the wealth that was generated from that home ownership. And so it’s been less than two generations that we’ve actually even been able to take minimal advantage of the kind of wealth creation that home building provides and it’s being overturned just 50 years later. So it’s incredibly sinister, but I think we should also pay attention to just how quickly the things that we can take for granted can be overturned. 

Clint Smith:

I was struck and I never heard of the idea that these algorithms were being used as extensively as they are. So in 2017 ProPublica had an investigation where they found that certain zip codes with large minority populations were being charged more for car insurance than white neighborhoods with the same levels of risk. So in this case zip codes were essentially being used as a substitute for race and though the program wasn’t explicitly designed to get minority communities paying more money for their car insurance than their white counterparts, that’s what it ended up doing and that is how so many ostensibly race-neutral phenomena ultimately have very racist outcomes and part of what I also think about is, you know, if I call a car insurance company trying to get in car insurance for you know a new car I purchase and they give me a quote, there’s no way for me to know that I’m getting a different quote then somebody else just based on the neighborhood that I live in and based on how many black and brown people live in my ZIP code right? And so we’ve had previous conversations about people looking for apartments and how you know, you can show up to an apartment as a black person and they’ll tell you oh, we don’t have any availability and then a white person shows up an hour later and suddenly there are 10 new apartments available. But there’s no way for you as the black person to even know. And so, you know, this is again, one of the functions of white supremacy is that it sort of pushes you to think or tries to force you to think that the things that are happening are simply natural and that you should accept them, rather than the result of forces that are preventing you from buying an apartment or making you pay more money for car insurance. And these algorithms do play a huge role in perpetuating that. 

DeRay Mckesson:

 That’s the news. Hey you’re listening to Pod Save the People don’t go anywhere, there’s more to come.

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And now my conversation with Chef Roy Choi co-owner of the bunch of restaurants. He’s also the host of Tastemades new TV series “Broken Bread.” Let’s go.  Roy Choi thanks so much for joining us today on Pod Save the People 

Roy Choi:

So honored man.

DeRay Mckesson:

So how did you get started as a chef? Like do you remember when you were like, okay, I think I’m gonna cook for real not like just cook at the house and cook for people that I love and know but that food would be your profession.

Roy Choi:

I grew up in a restaurant. I grew up in the food family. You know, I come from an immigrant family that even without money everything was about food, you know, and even if you get money it’s still about food. So I grew up around it and when I mean a food family, I mean like things that a lot of us as Americans cannot really comprehend. Like food being cooked 24/7 in your crib, you know, like all day long things marinating, hanging, drying, fermenting everywhere. There’s ten pots on the stove. There’s Hamilton Beach griddles, like 10 of them plugged into the outlets cooking different types of savory pancakes and things like that. So I was always being fed by fingertips, by Auntie’s, by my mom, by everything. So it was right there and then plus on top of that we had a restaurant. So I grew up doing all my homework on all that. The first time I knew that I could maybe cook for myself was probably high school. I worked in restaurants and stuff like that, but it was when I made a milkshake for all my friends. I made this banana milkshake and it was the first time like I really cared about something that much you know when you’re 16, and it’s just, I put a little salt in it, I was so specific on the amount of bananas, on the amount of ice, on the amount of ice cream, on the consistency and and it was so good. And that was the moment I knew like there was something there but then I lost it for a long time. And as far as professionally goes probably mid 20s, probably about 25 26. I had hit rock bottom. I was just kind of couchsurfing all through LA. And I woke up to the [43:08] Emerald Show, this was the mid 90s. So it was his first show and it just spoke to me and I just started going into researching restaurants. I started researching chefs. I applied to culinary school. I started working odd jobs, any restaurant I could. I took a night course here in LA up on Robertson and my whole life just turn on a dime.

DeRay Mckesson:

That’s intense if I called your family today and said, you know, what’s Roy’s favorite meal. Like I want to make Roy’s favorite meal. What would your family say? 

Roy Choi:

Well, it depends on which family member but probably my mom would say kimchi stew and probably, let’s just say kimchi stew across the board. That’s a real hardy soulful soup, very similar in kind of consistency as maybe like a jambalaya. It has that deep funk it has that viscosity.

DeRay Mckesson:

And I want to brag on you for a second and correct me if I get this list wrong, but you are the co-owner or co-founder of Kogi Barbecue Food Truck Segal, Chego, did I say Chego right?

Roy Choi:

Chego yes.

DeRay Mckesson:

[44:16] A-Frame, Commissary, Pot and LocoL. 

Roy Choi:

Yeah, a few have gone, you know in business sometimes things come and go. Commissary and Pod unfortunately are not around anymore. I opened those in Koreatown five years ago, and then they had a good five-year run, but we ended our partnership with the hotel that we were in. But Kogi, Chego and Local is around but it’s morphing and the reason why I need to explain that is because Local is a very, very unique restaurant because it’s a, in many cases, a restaurant that’s fighting for a lot of things it’s fighting for not only justice, but it’s also fighting for the future, for children, for nutrition, prosperity and what that means is that we were restaurant right in the middle Watts within the projects and what we’re doing is we’re trying to take healthy cuisine, morph it into a fast-food format and then employ within the neighborhood and eventually hand it over to the neighborhood. So it’s really like mine and my partner’s life kind of mission project. We were open for three years, the retail side of the store itself ee couldn’t sustain itself after 3 years, but you know, I’m proud of everything you did and now where Local is going is we’re kind of morphing it into this other form, which hopefully will become this delivery form and then really targeting schools and especially the youth and the teachers so, that’s coming soon. And I just opened a new restaurant called Best Friend in Las Vegas. So that’s pretty much my resume right there.

DeRay Mckesson:

“Broken Bread,” your new series, you have done so much in terms of physical food spots, why a TV show?

Roy Choi:

Sometimes you know in life, all you want is one thing. There are moments in my life where all I wanted was to have one restaurant. Now all of a sudden you have two restaurants and you have three so every success brings momentum. In every success or every gateway in every accomplishment opens up different doors and different prisms and labyrinths, you know, and what happens is if you’re open to those things you grow into those things as well and your vision starts to open up. You start to gain confidence, but most of all its momentum. There’s a lot of stuff I had to say that I wanted to say but because of the position that I was put in in life with with Kogi and the revolution of the food trucks and social media and all of these things which you’re very, you know, obviously close to is that I had a voice and I had power I had the ability to choose and so I was like if I’m ever going to do TV, it’s got to be TV with a meaning. You know, I don’t know if that sounds corny, but it meant something to me and because of the way I live my life, I was willing to not have a TV show. So that was really like, my negotiating power was people were coming to me and they were ready finally ready to put an Asian dude like me on screen, but it was like, okay, I don’t need it, but I do want it and if I do do it, these are the things that I want to cover, these are things that are important to me and I don’t want to just eat a huge cheeseburger on screen. Or I don’t want to just put two cooks up in a challenge and press a stopwatch. I don’t want to do that stuff. What I want to do is I want to go out and talk about these elephants in the room that we have in our country and in our history and in our lives and take away the beliefs that we have towards each other and the stereotypes and really get in and meet people and let this world see each other because I tried to just take a real chill approach and meet amazing people doing amazing things against all odds and I felt like we needed to hear more voices in mainstream media, in prime time. And so this opportunity, the show is called Broken Bread, it was presented to me by public television, KCET & Tastemade, which is a global media food platform and they were given me all of those things, it checked all the boxes. It’s important man, you know, and for me growing up and I know a lot of others out there, when you don’t grow up with the reinforcement of the voices that surround your life out there within media, it’s really easy to believe the portrayal of your culture and your people in your life and it’s really easy to believe the lack of power and strength that you have and so you become in many cases either submissive or hurt or angry and I think a lot of that can be helped and moved forward by sharing more voices. Because what’s happening is, if these same problems existed: lack of funding in schools, lack of food, no access to food, only processed chemical food being funneled into your neighborhood, police brutality, drugs, alcohol, tobacco, all of these things, if they were to be funneled into the suburbs or into communities that aren’t marginalized or communities that aren’t communities of color, nobody would stand for this but because it’s it muted and it’s pushed down and the only people reporting on these things in many cases are perpetuating the lack of information, also the only one perspective on it, which is in many cases a Western European perspective on these things, which is a male-dominated perspective on things, what happens is, those that don’t understand the dilemma are always going to think that the dilemma is not as important or as impactful as it really is. But people are dying every single day, you know, people are dying for unknown reasons within our inner cities, making it to barely 45,50 and just dying because of dietary habits because of psychological forces, PTSD, because of emotion, because of all of these things, you know, because of brutality and so we just wanted to put light on that and talk about it. And the last thing I’ll mention on that show Broken Bread is that the positive thing that we try to get people out of in the 30 minutes at the end is that these problems may seem extremely large but the solutions to them are closer than we think.

DeRay Mckesson:

That makes a lot of sense. I can imagine with all of the experiences you’ve had and the new experiences you’re making on the show that there are some things about foods and misconceptions about food that you tackle. Are there any things about food or about diets or about the way we eat or think about food that you want to help us think differently about?

Roy Choi:

Yes, the most important thing about food is there is a huge disparity in the access to good food. And what I mean by that is even the basic levels of good food, if you are in a position where you are eating whatever you want to or whatever you can it may seem foreign to you to believe that these things that you take for granted or that are just expected are miles and light years away from a lot of people, millions of people and especially children. There’s not even a produce market in your neighborhood. These basic fundamental things that we’ve come to believe are basic rights or American rights, you know, it is that bad and we don’t want to admit that and we don’t want to confront it. We don’t want to believe that there are millions of people that don’t have access to these basic fundamental things. So what I try to fight for within food is that you’re never going to get everyone to give up something or all of us get to the same plane. You know, it’s okay. This is a capitalist society, it’s okay to succeed. You know, it’s okay to get rich but that shouldn’t be at the expense of millions of others not having a basic form of being able to eat enough and so I fight for like let’s just at least raise the bar on all of us to sea level, you know, and then whatever happens after that we’ll figure that out next. But the first thing is we can’t solve the larger issues and especially the issues that are argued within political debates and caucuses and campaigns and elections. If we don’t discuss what’s under the ground first and that is the fact that people aren’t eating right. To me it all starts within the food. While I’m here physically on this planet I’m just trying to fight for like, can we all agree that everyone should at least eat? Well, I’m not smart enough to figure out the other stuff yet, and I don’t have the vocabulary and all that stuff to figure it out. But I do know how to feed people and I know a lot of other chefs that do know how to feed people and food is an unnegotiable bar with in life, you know. 

DeRay Mckesson:

I think about your career trajectory is you know, you grew up in a home where food was central and then you went to culinary school and then you worked in high-end restaurants and then you did your own thing. Were there lessons you learned from working in high-end restaurants or like things you saw that you said I’d never do or an entry point that you saw and said, you know we can do this better, are there things from working in the industry before you started your own restaurants that really stood out to you?

Roy Choi:

Most definitely all the things. I think the experience led me to be able to speak on the microphone like this, but I’ll break it down. So technically it was important for me to have those 15 years of being a professional chef and moving up the ladder from a cook level to a banquet chef to an executive chef of large hotels to a chain of hotels because it allowed me to understand volume, it built my management style, it taught me how to be a professional, and it made me understand the economics and the functioning behind things, you know, the engineering. On the fine dining side, not only did I work in fine dining, but every cook goes through like different phases so when you’re a culinary student like you want every single cookbook out there, you’re just a need for information. And then as you grow into becoming cook you want to eat in every single restaurant out there, right? You’re just a sponge for information because you’re just trying to find your style and there’s a lot of competition and everyone wants to say I worked at this restaurant this restaurant this restaurant. So there’s that whole stage. So not only working in fine dining but the fine dining also going out in that stage and eating everywhere, it informed me a lot, and again, another disparity within our systems and there are many cases when I went out to restaurants with either family members or friends that weren’t in the industry, we were treated like shit man, you know straight up on every level, worst table, feel like you want to be rushed out of the restaurant, we feel like everything is just too pompous, feel like they’re talking down to you and that comes from, from racism. It’s the worst feeling man. And I just never wanted to make anyone feel that way my restaurants. I never knew I would be an entrepreneur to be honest. It happened to me in a very crazy way, very fantastical way. I lost my job. I was completely flat broke thrown back out onto the streets after having a huge career for 15 years and the economy crashing everything crumbling around me. And then I started selling tacos with my friends on the street and it was just at the right time with social media and everything going on and things blew up. So then I became an entrepreneur overnight. I was [56:05] a chef salaryman before that and I never knew that I would have a restaurant. But then once I became this entrepreneur and I had the ability to open my first restaurant those were the cornerstones. I was like, soon as someone walks in I don’t care where you’re from. I don’t care what you don’t know what you do know, if you look uncomfortable we’re going to make you feel comfortable. I just wanted soon as you open the door to make people feel like they were welcome here from all walks of life. And that was really important to me. And that’s the one thing that I found within fine dining is that it’s different now, it’s a little bit different now because of the internet and because of the way the food industry has evolved and the way that a lot of younger chefs are getting involved and younger business owners. But back then if you’re talking about the 90s and the early 2000s to raise like, it was still being run by a very select few, it was being run like the Opera, you know, I mean like you could be in suits, you know, coming from a conference at Columbia, but if you all black and brown and talking loud and having fun, you know people might not want you there. You don’t even have to talk loud, you just being yourself, you can be quiet and they still don’t want you there, you know, and it was that type of feeling in restaurants back in the 90s and early 2000s. And so I learned that I just don’t ever want to make someone feel like that.

DeRay Mckesson:

That makes a lot of sense. The last two questions are questions we ask everybody, the first is there a lot of people in this moment who feel like their hope is on the decline that they have done everything they were supposed to do they protested, emailed, called, went to the rally, all those things and the world isn’t changing like they wanted to. What do you say to the people whose hope is being challenged in moments like this?

Roy Choi:

My personal advice is to lead with love, even when your love is challenged. It’s something that’s guided me over the last 11 years, it’s something that under every circumstance where I just wanted to punch through a wall, I found a way to paint the wall, you know what I’m saying. Like, I know in an extreme and especially in the militant format those things seem like a flower in a rifle in those images of the 60s, right? But it works. It really does it just takes time. It takes more time and it takes more commitment. But peace and love, these things aren’t just coined phrases from the late 60s. They do work. They are things that I lead with that help me communicate this thing that I’m involved with, this profession that looks out to feed people.

I just really feel that if you are in a place where you are stuck if you feel like you fought and you’ve been a part of every resistance and nothing is changing and it’s just getting worse, switch it up. I don’t change my core philosophies, you know, and I don’t change my moral compass, but I do switch up things so that I can get a different reaction or a different result.

DeRay Mckesson:

And the last question is, what’s a piece of advice that you’ve gotten over the years that’s stuck with you?

Roy Choi:

Ironically, you know sometimes advice that sticks with you doesn’t come from the person maybe that you have the best relationship with right. We always want to believe that our best piece of advice or our mentor or the person that you admire is the one that influences all of your decisions. I had a very kind of tumultuous relationship with a chef about 15 years ago, but he gave me the best advice which is corner to corner on everything and I just applied that and I evolved it into meaning more than, and I think he meant more too, he is very deep guy. But practically he was speaking about look at your kitchen corner to corner. Look at your team corner to corner. Look at your workspaces corner to corner, don’t let anything go unturned, you know, don’t enter anything or approach anything without having surveyed and examined the situation first. Don’t assume anything, don’t feel like it was done unless you saw it yourself and that’s something that I try to apply in my life every day is corner to corner. It’s something I do physically in a room, when I walk into a room I look literally corner to corner from one corner to the next corner down, up, inside out, all the way through. But I also apply it to something a little more metaphysical. I guess it’s corner to corner as far as like just growing out and looking at everything and looking at all the things like never like turning a blind eye to something. That’s really helped me in every format. 

DeRay Mckesson:

Well, thanks so much for joining us on Pod Save the People. We can’t wait to see you. 

Roy Choi:

Thank you, appreciate it.

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. Make sure to rate it wherever you get your podcast whether it’s Apple Podcast or somewhere else, and I’ll see you next week.

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