Dems in Doubt | Crooked Media
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July 09, 2024
Pod Save The People
Dems in Doubt

In This Episode

Democrats under pressure following presidential debate, kidneys from Black donors thrown away, and Philadelphia radio host resigns after Joe Biden interview.

Kidneys from Black donors are more likely to be thrown away − a bioethicist explains why

Philadelphia radio host who interviewed President Biden steps down

Radio Host Who Was Fed Questions by Biden Campaign Leaves Philadelphia Station

“Cats: The Jellicle Ball” Lands on Its Feet






DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Hey, this is DeRay and welcome to Pod Save the People. In this episode, it’s me, Myles, De’Ara, and Don Calloway is joining us for the news this week. Kaya is not with us, but if you see Kaya on the internet or if you happen to see her in person, say Happy Birthday. It was just her birthday and Kaya is amazing. And you’re actually listening to this episode on my birthday, Tuesday, July 9th. So it’s cool to be a year older and it’s cool to be in the same birthday space as Kaya. Here we go. We talk about all things going on with the campaign for president. Lord. And then we talk about some news that you don’t know. Here we go. [music break]




DeRay Mckesson: Hey everybody, and welcome back to another episode of Pod Save the People. In this episode, it’s me, DeRay at @deray on Twitter. 


Myles E. Johnson: Myles E. Johnson at @pharaohrapture on Instagram. 


De’Ara Balenger: And you can find me on Instagram at @DeAraBalenger.


Don Calloway: Don Calloway, Instagram at @DCalloway, and at @thecaucusroom. 


DeRay Mckesson: We got Don Calloway joining us today. Kaya cannot be here. It was Kaya’s birthday. So if you see– 


Myles E. Johnson: Happy Birthday. 


DeRay Mckesson: –Kaya on socials, make sure you say Happy Birthday to Kaya. Whoop woop woop woop. Um. So there’s a conversation that has been continuing for the past what week and a half? Two weeks, it feels like. And that is about Joe Biden. Should he be the nominee? Do we talk about the debate forever, the interview he tried to do or he did do? Did that help him? Did it hurt him? Is some can somebody else be the nominee in time? Are they putting Kamala in a corner? Do they need to bring her out? So I wanted to just like bring that back up because it has been in the news and people have been talking about it. 


Don Calloway: Yeah. So there’s a bunch of things. Obviously everyone has said all of the things about the debate, and everyone has said all of the things and all the hot takes about, well, the real person who should be dropping out is Trump. Yeah, we get all of that. Right. So bottom line, can Biden beat Trump? Uh. We’re getting to a crucial juncture. And, you know, as an old player once told me, if it’s inevitable, do it now. So I need Democratic leadership to make a decision between whether or not Joe Biden can win or he can’t. And if he cannot win, it’s time to move him out now. Like, obviously we love Uncle Joe. No disrespect to him. That’s the thing. Let’s just make a decision. And it’s an important distinction we have to make that the Biden camp, right. His his his family and the three or four guys who he keeps around them, Ron Klain and a few other guys. The Biden camp is not the Democratic Party. So there’s a few different, distinct camps here at play. And the Biden camp is the one saying, yes, go on. We love you. Believe in you. Go get him, dad. The Democratic Party are the folks who are going to have to make a grown up decision here. I am just seriously imploring them to get it done within this week. And you know, I wouldn’t be heartbroken if they make a decision that Joe Biden is our candidate. Um. And we’re going to run on Joe Biden and we’re going to run against Trump. But we need to make a call. And I feel like we need to make a call now. Now, if we make that call and if the call is to move beyond Joe Biden, there is no reasonable universe under which the nominee should be anyone other than Kamala Harris. I don’t understand procedurally how that could happen. I don’t understand legally how that could happen as a function of fundraising and and financing a campaign. The practicalities not only suggest that it should be Vice President Harris, but the realities of, you know, the racism and sexism and all of that in this country suggests that it should be Kamala Harris. Who else are you looking to at this point? Who else is more qualified if you consider the holistic duties of the president? So anybody out there this week who’s telling you Joe Biden needs to move on and wants to engage in some type of liberal Hunger Games to pick a nominee over the next six weeks, that is an exercise in futility, it’s also an exercise in extraordinary racism and sexism. If we’re going to move on, let’s get the vice president ready. Uh. And some part of me feels like that might be happening now, behind the scenes. Uh. Over the last two weeks, she’s been very quiet, and I think she’s savvy and knows what she’s doing. It’s something other than her just being respectful of the president. Right? She knows what she’s doing, and something tells me that she’s gearing up for an imminent decision. I just hope that decision is made sooner rather than later, because the bigger picture here, whether it’s President Biden, Vice President Harris or anybody else, the bigger picture here is defeating Donald Trump and defeating project 2025, at least for another four years. 


Myles E. Johnson: And wait you feel like Kamala Harris is gearing up for an an imminent decision? 


Don Calloway: I think she might be. Yeah. I don’t think–


Myles E. Johnson: Okay. 


Don Calloway: –she should be. Right. Uh. Like. I mean, if we have to move past Biden, she is in the catbird seat there. Uh. I certainly think that she is and should be gearing up for that. I don’t have any inside information, but I get some sense around DC that that’s partially uh what’s happening. 


Myles E. Johnson: You don’t got no inside information after you say you get a sense around DC? That sounds like insider information [laughing], but um–


Don Calloway: Yeah, like Beanie Sigel. 


Myles E. Johnson: I agree. Obviously, I think that like Kamala is like the choice. I do understand I feel like I said this last week too, I feel like I do understand the anxiety around nominating Kamala, because that might alienate the very people they were trying to seduce with putting Biden as president. So because she’s Black, because she’s a woman, because they might feel like, oh, we’re going to have another, you know, four years of like um, you know, neoliberal, Obama, gates open, rainbow flags everywhere. I like I don’t know, I just feel like that I understand the anxiety around putting her in, even though I think that she is obviously the best person to put in. But that also might alienate, I don’t, just a slew of Americans who just have a bad taste in their mouth about um progress. But, you know, I don’t I don’t think kneeling to them is is ever okay, but specifically not now. 


De’Ara Balenger: I actually, I read um, over the weekend, the New York Times, there was this piece on Clyburn and how Clyburn had mentioned a mini primary, um and how he wouldn’t be opposed to that necessarily. And I think, Don, to your point, the issue is like, legally, what happens in terms of campaign finance laws da da da da da. Kamala, I think is the only one that the jillions of dollars that the Biden campaign has raised, Biden Harris campaign has raised. Kamala then would be able to put to work. So I think we that is one of the like the key factors in all of this is actually like how to leverage all of those hundreds of millions of dollars that have been raised. Myles, I think to your point, you know what I was thinking about this weekend is like, is it just that we have a lack of imagination? Like the American people, just given what we’ve been through? Because I think this conversation around, like, it can only be Joe Biden and is is kind of a wild conversation. And Don we talked about this last week and Myles was like, anybody can be famous overnight, this is America. So like the whole name recognition thing, the people don’t like that really. It’s a it’s a factor but not really. And I think folks’ appetites to be excited and even looking around the world and like what’s happening in France and like how you know, how the left is really organizing and getting excited. Like, I think there is sort of a zeitgeist that we could play into. But because we are so unimaginative in this country, it’s like, got to be this white guy. So I don’t know just what’s been going through my mind the last few weeks. 


DeRay Mckesson: You know, I think I’ve been surprised actually at. I know I said this before in another episode, but I’ve been surprised at the lack of surrogates on the campaign who can just tell a coherent story about much of anything, because the story they’re even telling about Joe in the performances, in the story that, frankly, that he’s telling is not comforting. You know, he’s like that interview in the interview, he said well like, I’m gonna do my best. And you’re like, well that? You’re like, man, I don’t really know if that’s the best story. Or people being like, you know, I think it actually is fair to be like, I’ve been a great president. One debate doesn’t define my pres– like, I’m [?] I think that is a fine story to tell, but y’all gotta start saying some other stuff. And the project 2025 um attacks have actually I do think have been helpful and they to me feel like a silver lining and like a silver lining in terms of we can get people on our side because it is just so wild. But I over the weekend, I spent a lot of time trying to find like a really good, succinct explainer about project 2025, and I couldn’t. I saw a lot of Instagram posts, but like, you know, I was talking to somebody about it. I was at a wedding in Jamaica and we were talking politics. And, you know, the Instagram posts are like, they want to get rid of the FDA and da da da that only matters if you understand that their whole idea of deregulation is that businesses should set the rules for themselves. But if you don’t understand that the whole premise is that businesses should set their own rules and not anybody else like the government, then you don’t really get why the end of the FDA matters. That would be every company becomes Boeing. Don’t nobody want that. Like when you say it like that, people are like, nobody wants that. But when you say, [?] my father don’t care about the FDA. He has no emotional connection to the FDA. But if you tell him the companies are like Boeing, he’s like, oh, no, we not voting for that. You know what I mean? [laugh] And that is storytelling. And I have just been continually shocked. But I, I don’t know about, you know, I’m sort of left out of the nominee fight. I’m like, y’all, just pick somebody so we can figure it out. But I will say, I cannot believe it’s this hard to fight Trump. I mean, the man is it’s just it’s really crazy that it’s this hard up against somebody who is just so wild. 


Don Calloway: Yeah, that’s one thing about Trump. Evil and horrific as he is and everything he stands for, he is an A-plus political talent because he understands the nature of how Americans think. And fundamentally, he understands that it ain’t that deep, right? I think that everybody on this screen, and the folks who are going to be listening to we think far more about this than most people do. The only reason that people are paying attention right now is because they’re looking to see if it’s going to be a dim swamp summer. But the reality is that most Americans, and this might be a uniquely American thing to your point De’Ara, uh when you see the leftist gains in England and in France, the reality is that most Americans right now are tripping off whether Bronny got drafted and he shouldn’t have. And the other half are watching Dancing With the Stars. And so I think Trump understands that. That’s why he knows he can lie. That’s why he knows he can just, you know, B.S. his way through this thing. And he’s done it for ten years. While the MSNBC folks like myself, you know, are talking about the constitutional and philosophical realities of why he’s such an abhorrent person. Well, my neighbor who’s educated and, you know, a taxpaying citizen doesn’t give a blank about that, right? Uh. And you got a whole lot of folks running around talking about well who am I going to pay more taxes under or well, Kamala them they for them folk. People aren’t thinking about this as much as we are. And that’s why it is important to say, hey, you don’t want Boeing because you don’t want the doors flying off your airplane, right? We have to simplify, but a lot of times that’s anathema to educated liberals. The problem is the educated liberals are going to be the same folks telling you this week not to put up that Black woman as our nominee because she quote unquote, “can’t win.” Right? And so it’s the Malcolm thing we have to pay attention to. You know, the white liberal, because I don’t think that’s going to be uh, a camp who is necessarily for progress and liberation in the way they talk about politics over the next three months. They might get on board at the very end when it’s time to make that final push to punch Donald Trump in the face. Metaphorically, of course, but I don’t see them as being very helpful throughout this process. 


Myles E. Johnson: I just had a quick question. Do you think, or for everybody, anybody who has a answer, do you think that part of the fear is also Kamala Harris, as a nominee, would actually animate more people who are who are Trumpers? Because then it will be like more of like a cultural like war of a vote, if that makes sense. Like it will be Trump, white older man versus Kamala Black liberal woman. Is that like part of the fear that we need somebody who’s a white man so we don’t create this uh cultural war as a, as a vote in and actually animate some of who who who Trump’s base are and and people and people who feel certain ways?


De’Ara Balenger: I think it’s my perspective that the Democratic Party always is trying to figure out who how do they get moderate folks, how do they get middle of the road folks? And so they tend to pick candidates that speak to that. I just. Don, I I agree with you somewhat. But I also I feel like it’s a matter of like of, of of degree of how much folks are paying attention. Right. Like. No. Like. I’m watching MSNBC every day too, because Pao’s on. So we got to watch all day long. Like I think they’re there are us that are constantly watching and in it. But I do think there are people that are deeply concerned. And while you know, my mom is watching Kountry Wayne all day long. She also very much cares about what her vote is going to do. Terrance Woodbury, he was on talking to somebody, and I reposted what Terrance said because Terrance basically said that, um and Terrance if I get this wrong, you know where I live um that, you know, there’s this whole sort of notion or some sort of like narrative around excitement when it comes to these elections, particularly for Black folks, like and. And he and he was and he was like, that’s just not necessarily a thing. It’s just like voting is something that Black people do. So there doesn’t have to necessarily be this like intense spirit around it. Right? So I and I feel like that’s how we think about like voter enthusiasm. It’s like this sort of made up thing that has so many stereotypes attached to it. And part of why it sort of has to be like manufactured is because they constantly pick nominees or nominees that don’t really speak to us. And then we have then there’s an issue with our enthusiasm. It’s like, how how can we be enthusiastic about this dude? I mean, obviously he’s done all these things, historic legislation da da da da da. But like for a first time voter. Joe Biden is 65 years–


Myles E. Johnson: Not Obama. 


De’Ara Balenger: –65 years older than a first time voter. 


Myles E. Johnson: Yeah. 


De’Ara Balenger: Basically, which is wild. 


Myles E. Johnson: Yeah. 


De’Ara Balenger: Like you’re a whole older person older than a first time voter. 


Myles E. Johnson: Yeah. 


De’Ara Balenger: But I don’t know. 


DeRay Mckesson: And I do think, you know, I was looking through project 2025 and, you know, it’s like it is going to be a nationwide ban on pornography. For instance, I know if a certain segment of the country knew that they’d be like, oh yeah, we not voting for that. You know what I mean? But it’s like when, you know, I again, I spent a lot of time looking at the messaging the left’s putting out. They’re doing all this stuff about abortion and Medicare, 90% of people who are not on Medicare don’t know what Medicare is. And abortion is an issue we can win on. It’s just not the only issue we should be talking about, like it is one of them for sure. But I look up and I’m like, y’all, this can’t be. You know, they’re going to project 2025 is going to end all federal funding for transportation, like public transit. That’s that is crazy. You know, like, people would be animated by these issues. And to your question Myles, I’m not. You know, the reality is, I don’t think Kamala’s going to lose any more like the people that hate Kamala and are racist already hate her. They already hate her. They’re not going to vote for her. 


De’Ara Balenger: That part. That’s right. 


DeRay Mckesson: They, the people that are sexist already hate her. You know, like we not gonna lose anybody. But I do think she could help animate people. The hard thing about Kamala that I do think is hard is that Kamala has been hiding in a corner for four years and has been smiling at us, being like, you know. It’s been, hello. My name is Kamala Harr– like the person of Kamala Harris. We where did she go? We missed it like it is all of it feels. It feels a little weird. And I think the person could win. I don’t know, they I feel like they are so worried about her being the angry Black woman that we aren’t even getting a full person anymore. And I remember meeting Kamala, I remember Kamala, Senate Judiciary, Kamala. That Kamala, where’d she go? 


Don Calloway: You know, the thing about the vice president is that if you think that this presidency has been an extraordinarily successful administration and it has from a legislative, substantive perspective, then she has every right to append herself to that story. As I was a part of this, I was at the table. I helped push this through the Senate. I helped push this through the House. Frankly, that’s why Joe is here, because we believe that he sat at the right hand of our Lord and Savior, Barack Obama, for eight years. She has the right to append herself to that success in the same way that he has appended himself to the Obama aura. Right. 


De’Ara Balenger: That’s right. 


Don Calloway: And so in that respect, you whether or not you know the DeRays of the world who sit at the tables of criminal justice, thought reform, whether or not you felt like she was active, and whether the liberal thinkarati thinks like she was active, she has the right to tell the American people that she was there and she was part of these successes, right? 


DeRay Mckesson: Just to be clear, that’s not my critique. My critique was not whether she–


Don Calloway: I know it’s not, I know it’s not. I know it’s not. 


DeRay Mckesson: Okay, okay.


Don Calloway: I know you’re not saying that. 


DeRay Mckesson: Okay. 


Don Calloway: I know you’re not saying.


DeRay Mckesson: I’m just saying where’d where’d the person go? We are missing the there’s a part of the personhood of her that I feel like got tamped down during this administration. 


Don Calloway: Well, you know, two brothers went two brothers back in the 1800s. You know were identical twins. And one went off to sea and the other became vice president, and neither were ever heard from again. So historically, there is no mega role for the vice president until it’s time for them to run for president. I don’t know what Al Gore did for eight years during the Clinton presidency, right? Maybe because I was a kid, or maybe because he didn’t do nothing. So if you think the Biden administration was successful, then she has a story to tell. 


De’Ara Balenger: That’s right. 


Don Calloway: And she can tell it with her Kamala spice on it about where she was and what she was doing for the last four years to assist in this success. The problem with the Democratic Party, I was talking to my partner, our mutual friend, DeRay, Jared [?]. If you have worked in Democratic politics for any appreciable time, I’m I’m I’m young, but I you know, I’ve got 25 years in. You have seen the bi annual race to find square jawed, mediocre white boys and trot them out. And you have worked as a brilliant African-American behind these people who are extraordinarily mediocre. But we see this not only at the presidential level, but at the school board level. Uh. We see this annual homage we make to find these basic white folk, and it’s going to really sicken my stomach to see it played out on the presidential level, particularly when it means skipping over the actual sitting vice president. 


De’Ara Balenger: Whatever version of Kamala, I think she will be more exciting than what we are working with. Joe Biden was in Philadelphia over the weekend, and he was with raise your hand if you know these people. To your point, DeRay, around surrogates, he was there with Lieutenant Governor Austin Davis. We know Senator John Fetterman, senator Rep Malcolm Kenyatta, and I love Malcolm. Uh. He was with the two wait he was with Josh Shapirom who’s the governor. He was with Representative Brendan Boyle, also love Brendan. But like what? Um. Madeleine Dean, mayor Cherelle Parker and Wan– [hand slapping on the table] Who who like that like we like the fact that this is that was probably like a celebrated campaign event in Philadelphia. For a reelection campaign that we are desperate to win. Like we gotta turn up the heat and we not going to do it like this. We’re not. 


DeRay Mckesson: And the last thing I’ll say before, because I know you have news that is around this too um De’Ara  is I also think we have to explain. We got to explain the why to the surrogates. Because I have seen some surrogates just tell people like I think about the the deregulation thing has been when I’ve been on and they’re like they trying to get rid of the FDA and da da da. And the surrogate can’t tell me what the like they can’t explain why deregulation is a bad thing. They have no clue. They’re just like literally repeating a talking point. And you’re like, no you got to explain, like the the moment of like you just say things and people are like, da da da. Or like we could call things racist. And that actually meant something. Those days are gone. We gotta, like, really help people understand it and explain it. And the campaign has to do that too. I think about like, I know, you know, people feel a way about Charlamagne and The Shade Room and da da da. But what’s clear to me when I watch all these political people get on there is that nobody sat down and talked to them to build their capacity, like they just are asking questions. Nobody explained any of the stuff to him. And you’re like, guys, we should be winning. It should not be this hard to fight this crazy man. [music break]


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




DeRay Mckesson: De’Ara. Take us. 


De’Ara Balenger: So I’ve been spiraling for many days just reading everything I can about this here election. Um. And sort of all where I really love to spiral is just around like Biden’s, just like the president’s competencies. And so I came across this story, um about this reporter, Andrea Lawful-Sanders. What a great name. But she was she essentially did an interview, Joe Biden. And it was during this whole sort of like feast of getting him out there in Pennsylvania over the weekend. And the headline is that right it’s for The New York Times, it’s radio host who was fed questions by Biden campaign leaves Philadelphia station. So I’m like mmm this is interesting. Like what? And so as I’m reading deeper I find out one, it’s a Black radio station. WERD. Then I find out that and, you know, then I’m like, okay, well, Andrea obviously must be a Black reporter. And I think I started to I guess I’m just I’m trying to figure out the right questions to ask around this. Right. I don’t really have questions that lead to answers necessarily, but my questions are one, why does a Black woman always take the fall? Number two, why was she chosen for this interview? And additionally to that in that same line of questioning, why does it seem that the Biden campaign only goes to reporters that they know they will be infinitely supported by. Right. And I think this was my issue with the George Stephanopoulos um I still can’t say this man’s name, George Stephanopoulos there we go. But that interview I watched as a part of my spiral. He pushed him, but not really. Right. And so here we are seeing the campaign giving questions to this woman. And I bet you the conversation was. Well, the only way y’all are going to get this interview is if you ask these that a set of questions. Again. I’m hoping my colleagues here have [laugh] better thoughtfulness around this than I do, but I think I just this one’s one I’m just, like, sort of stuck on. 


Don Calloway: You know, I don’t think it’s criminal for a high level campaign to seek out um friendly media outlets. 


De’Ara Balenger: 100%. 


Don Calloway: We are moving into a moment, however, where much of our media is critique of media. And so I wonder whether or not arranged media will be able to stand that level of scrutiny. The irony here is that had the questions not been prearranged and effectively softballs. He still would have got softballs. A good working sister at a local radio station. 


De’Ara Balenger: Station exactly. 


Don Calloway: Is not here to Sean Hannity the president of the United States. It would have been a cakewalk for him regardless. So why do the pre-arranged cabal looking thing, which blows this all out of proportion? The reality of this is to me that without the debate performance or frankly, without him maybe being old and slowing down a bit, Biden walks into that interview with very little pre arrangement and gives it his best and everything is fine. And we still don’t know this woman’s name. And more importantly, she still has a job. And so what I’m seeing is a whole lot of, you know, voodoo and obfuscation from the Biden camp to make him look his best because they know that he’s probably not at his best, or there’s a potential that he might not be at his best without this prearranged concoction of an interview. And even for those of us on the political left, that tends to inject a little bit of doubt and a little bit of the slightest amount of hateration in this dancery in such a way that it it it’s it, it challenges us for whether or not this is the guy throughout the end of the year, because I can take DeRay and have given him that interview on criminal justice reform and no prep needed. Right? Um. And same for you De’Ara on your area of expertise and same for Myles. And so when we’re seeing the Biden camp tie itself into knots, it creates what’s known generally as an unforced error. And now we’re talking about this instead of talking about project 2025, talking about how to defeat Donald Trump. And it’s another I hate to say this word, but I’m being lazy. It’s another chink in that armor that it makes you wonder if this is really the guy, and if this is really the candidate we need for the moment. 


DeRay Mckesson: I do think what the right has been really good at that has been brutal, is holding like forcing these standards on the left while they are running propaganda machines. It’s like–


Don Calloway: Yes. 


DeRay Mckesson: –right wing radio is not only are they prearranging the questions, but it is all a setup. Fox news is all a I mean, it is just 100% of a setup and you’re like, well, this is crazy. And that they are even, you know, even Trump distancing himself from project 2025 on Truth Social or whatever the other Twitter alternative thing is that the right wing runs while all his people are pushing project 20– you’re like, y’all are just straight up lying to our faces and got us over here talking about this radio host who, like you said, Don, the questions were going to be rather chill no matter what they asked him, because it’s a local radio. Like we never heard of her before, you know, like, yeah. 


Myles E. Johnson: I just didn’t understand the loss of the job. I didn’t, I didn’t, and–. 


De’Ara Balenger: Wild. 


Myles E. Johnson: So how I’m seeing it and I’m so open to being wrong, I, I my brain went straight to like, power dynamics for whatever reason. And I just didn’t understand how we can see the power dynamics of a president coming to a local reporter and, and, and, and what the results would be because of that and the influence that would happen. I didn’t understand how she is at fault is at fault for lack of better words. Like bid into the world of like the most powerful person and and and administration in the in the world. Like what? Like I didn’t I that’s still confusing and foggy to me how they resulted in oh you this the you you need to lose your you need to lose your job and yeah, I’m hoping for some some grown up clarity on that. 


DeRay Mckesson: Now, I do think that she I mean, she should have asked some original questions, but there is not a press team I know that does not send questions to them like that is what the press people do. I think about–


Myles E. Johnson: Right. 


DeRay Mckesson: –my book tour. I didn’t know this. So my book comes out in ’17 or something like that. ’16, ’17 and I’m on the tour and people keep asking the same ques– I’m like, how are all these people asking me the exact same questions? And I realize the publishers have sent questions to all the moderators in advance so that they could, like, hit these themes and topics. And they didn’t all ask all of the same questions. But there were a couple questions that everybody I was like, wow, everybody has the same question. And I’m like, no the press people sent the questions in advance. That makes sense. 


De’Ara Balenger: Yeah, but this is this goes and this is only because [pause] my father in law has interviewed multiple presidential candidates. There is a very strategic thought process behind what reporters are going to interview these folks. How to Don’s point, how friendly these folks are. And yes, there’s a conversation around what the questions look like, but there’s a very deliberateness strategically in terms of who gets the interview and who’s doing the interview. Like there’s an there’s there’s a reason why for Univision. Enrique, I think his last name is Acevedo. I don’t know ugh. That Enrique gets remember that that big Latino like the Latino journalist that interviewed Trump and he asked all these softball questions. He was chosen on purpose. You know what I mean? By anyway. So I I I hear what you’re saying, DeRay. But I do feel like this is one of those things where I’m just. I guess it also takes me to a heart place because I feel like with Hillary I was never fearful about putting Hillary in rooms to answer questions. Actually, it was quite the opposite. Like she was so capable and so thoughtful, and we had such in-depth conversations around so many issues that she wanted to understand, wanted to be prepared, wanted to understand what the pivot was. And so I guess what’s troubling to me is like I really want somebody that is so smart and so dynamic to have the most important job in the world. I don’t know, maybe maybe that would be nice, but [laughing], any who. Who’s next? [laughter]


DeRay Mckesson: So my news is about kidney transfers. [laughter] Uh. This is switching topics is, we talked about we talked about kidneys before at some point because I remember it was a health, a health um topic we talked about. But I’ll repeat this part is that Black people, you know, are only 12, 13% of the population. But you might not have known that Black people account for 35% of those with kidney failure. And the reason is, uh the combination of diabetes and high blood pressure, which are two of the largest contributors to kidney disease, um which are overrepresented in the Black community. And about 100,000 people in the US are waiting for a kidney at any given time. And as you can imagine, Black people are more likely to need transplants and less likely to receive them. That is not my news. My news is that I did not know that there is a system of rating the viability of a kidney that includes the race of the kidney donor. And the way that it codes the race of the kidney donor is that it assumes that kidneys from Black donors are more likely to stop working after transplant than kidneys from donors from other races. So what happens is that kidneys donated by Black people are literally thrown away, are discarded at higher rates because of the algorithm, which downgrades the quality based on the donor’s race. And that blew my mind. And what, you know, I was reading about it and what they believe is that it actually might be a genetic variation and not a race difference. That is what is happening with the viability of a kidney. And we’ve seen, you know, I’m I’m relatively new to this, but in the past five years, I learned so much about how race was included in so many medical calculations across a host of things. I just didn’t know that at all. And I was shocked to even think that we were throwing kidneys away because of just a plug and play algorithm. And as you can imagine, Black people are more likely to get a kidney from Black people. So not only are we throwing kidneys away, but we are seriously disadvantaging the overrepresented group of Black people in the population who need kidneys because they’re not getting kidneys. And I was like, you know what? You know, a reminder that when we say everything is about race, we are right. And this has not been corrected yet. Uh. And I’m happy that people are paying attention to it because it legitimately blew my mind. So I wanted to bring it here. 


Myles E. Johnson: If I make it my business, [laughter] to get cut open and give y’all a kidney. Keep that. Do not. Oh my God, do not make me find out that you threw it away. This article blew my mind, I think mostly because we always kind of like, return to this, like, these, like, medical institution conversations. And I feel like every single time we bring something on, it gets a little bit more ridiculous than the last time that we’ve heard it. And to me, this feels like the, like the, the top most ridiculous thing. And anytime we have these conversations, I always feel like I’m like I’m in. I always end up like saying something that kind of gives away to this like this like Black radical fantasy. But I do think that we we we we, we need our own hospitals and medical institutions. I think there’s been such a case on this podcast alone through articles of how us Black folks having our own medical institutions and really prioritizing that is really, really, really, really, really important. And it is not just, you know, sometimes when you talk to people who are on the left or radical, sometimes when you want them to go into, what do we do? They’ll they’ll say these like nebulous things, like, we need our own institutions and we just need to start those things. And I’m always um, like, critical of of those answers. But when it comes to medical stuff and health stuff, I’m I’m totally sold on that because this article is wild is just is just wild to me and I and I don’t know any other solution because it just seems as though this is so baked into the medical institution that it’s not going to be reversed. And if it is reversed, it’s not going to be fast or easy. So there needs to be a pivot because kidneys are needed now and they’re being thrown away. They’re being thrown away. There should just be a Black kidney freezer. [laughter]


DeRay Mckesson: Myles. 


De’Ara Balenger: They can keep it at my house. 


Myles E. Johnson: Okay, De’Ara got the room. I’ve been to her apartment. [laughing]


De’Ara Balenger: You know what this makes me think of? Which I’m really about to take everybody down, down, down. Is that I’m in a friend group. There’s five of us. Um. And all of our dads have passed away. Our moms are thriving, but our Black dads are gone. My dad, who we call Smooth because he never seemed to be bothered but practiced criminal law in DC, Maryland for 40 years. Stephanie’s dad who fought in Vietnam, [?]’s dad, who was one of the first Black men to integrate local politics in West Palm Beach. Kendra’s dad, who was a Black man and an accountant in a very white space for all of his professional life, basically, and I say all this because even these men who were privileged, had access to health care, had loving families. They died. And my hypothesis is they died because of racism in this country. And so I think when I see stories like this, it just is a reminder of how real it is for us from a health perspective, because we’re losing our family members who are human beings. And at times it feels like there’s nothing we can do about it. So I think this is where this story took me because to Myles’s point, it is a is a system that is dehumanizing us, and it has real, real outcomes for who we are as a people that I think go unnoticed and untalked about in sort of like a collective movement type of way. 


Don Calloway: Yeah. The great Damon Young has a book called What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker, and it is effectively based on that same, you know, that same premise that you just put out there De’Ara about the five ancestors that were your fathers. Yeah. I mean, life causes cancer. Blackness causes metastatic cancer. That’s just what it is. And I think, listen, I’m no endocrinologist, but I can tell you that that is often found, the stress of daily blackness often manifests itself in renal failure. And that’s why I’m not surprised at all to see this being this specific location of racial disparity in not only medicine, but business. Medicine is business. Racism is baked into business. Therefore racism is absolutely baked into medicine. Um. And there’s no business at this point, whether it is you or I, deciding how much to post every day on social media to maximize exposure and likes and therefore product sales or a farmer watering crops, there is no business at this point in 2024 which is succeeding without baking in algorithms and thought and predictive modeling. Um. We saw the NFL a few years ago was sued because it’s CTE payouts, they finally acknowledge that CTE, um brain damage is happening as an inherent result of playing football. But baked into the financial payouts to these players was that Black players have a lower cognitive ability baseline to begin with. Therefore, as a result, they didn’t have that much to lose by getting banged in the head. Therefore, we can write them smaller checks. 


Myles E. Johnson: Whoa. 


Don Calloway: So this is the regularity of the business of medicine. You have to remember that the doctors who are now applying research analytics, well, their granddaddy’s believed in phrenology, right? They granddaddy’s believed in um all of the the the the the that Black women don’t feel pain, you know, uterine experiments. So this is baked into the history of medicine. And I imagine that once every 18 months, we will see the New York Times or Washington Post article that bears out some investigative reporters work, but is really bearing out what we have always known at the Black hospitals and Black doctors and Black care practitioners. And I think it’s one of those things, like Michael [?] says, oh, now it’s a thing because y’all saying it, or now it’s a thing because one of y’all believe it. But yes, I am all for uh the Black Kidney Bank. And this is one of those extraordinarily unfortunate things. And you’re right, Myles, they get more and more outrageous with each story. They get progressively crazy. But we should also be progressively unsurprised because this is what it is, and this has always been what it is in every aspect of medical business. 


Myles E. Johnson: You know, I love when in my brain, our conversations that we’re having crossed with like, Black uh poets. So I wanted to read like a very short part of Nikki Giovanni’s, um Crutches. She says women are supposed to be strong, so they develop social smiles and secret drinking problems and female lovers whom they never touch except in dreams. Men are supposed to be strong, so they have heart attacks and develop other women who don’t know their weaknesses and hide their fears behind male lovers, who they religiously touch each Saturday morning on the basketball court. Um. I think about that. That was um, you know, she wrote that in the ’70s it’s in the um, cotton candy um on a rainy day um poetry book. And I think about how that critique of both the, the social parameters of men and women, but also the, the medical results of it in in one stanza, [laugh] Nikki Giovanni gives, like, a whole essay worth of critique around, about around how, just our gender socializations end up making our medical reality. So I just wanted to offer that as well, because it felt um apt to this conversation. [music break]


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




De’Ara Balenger: Bring us some light Myles. 


Myles E. Johnson: So my life was changed. I’ll never be the same. Because this over this weekend. Or actually, it was last week it was on Wednesday. I got to see Cats: The Jellicle ball. If you have not heard, Cats has been reimagined to be this ballroom, queer, extravaganza at the PACT New York City Theater. Um. They took T.S. Eliot’s framing of things in this introduction of cats and used it as ballroom characters. And it was so, so, so cool, interesting. It’s been a minute, I’ve seen a lot of theater because um, I’m a cultured person who goes to goes see a lot of theater when I tell you the interaction, the electricity that was in the room, I’ve just not experienced that in New York City theater. There’s um a woman named Tempress who’s, like, huge in the ballroom scene. She’s just just amazing. I love her, and she plays Griselda, [note: Grizabella] I believe, I believe I’m pronouncing that right in the um, in Cats. And they she has the big, like, memory song, and she’s kind of the the the the the shabby cat who’s older and she steals the show. And it really gets me excited to know that there are spaces inside of theater and inside of film. [laugh] I’m saying that I’m saying that reluctantly because they’re harder and harder to to find, because it feels like films are getting worse and worse. But there is these spaces inside of specifically theater that are willing to reimagine things for a Black queer audience or with Black, queer, uh content in the center of it, and breathe in and give it to a mainstream audience. I think also without naming anything, uh that I’ve also seen, that I might have even enjoyed any other theater pieces. I think my favorite thing was that this was so much fun. It was so much fun. I feel like anytime I’ve seen Black queer queerness or Blackness explored in theater, it has been mostly around some type of traumatic event or some type of self deprecating perspective that we have to get, get uh get over or overcome or the main character has to overcome. I was so excited to see so many queer people just celebrate themselves and and and be in joy. And the last thing that I’ll say about this, if it’s to entice people to want to go see it, is that Cats is pretty much known and made fun of for its campiness and its kitsch. Ballroom so celebrates that. So ballroom and Cats marrying each other and seeing each other and and and and coming together feels so so so so so right. It really feels like a, like a crescendo of, of ballroom that this thing that is so founded on camp, so founded on um extravagance has met like Cats, which is like American pop culture, uh kitsch and camp and extravagance at it at its height. Um. I hope that it gets on Broadway. I hope that more people go and see it and support it. And I hope that as I hope for all things that are Black and queer that end up in the theater, this only opens the pathways of people who are of um marginalized identities who still want to be able to participate in things like theater without sacrificing their story, their sense of humors. Um. And yeah, without with without having to sacrifice senses of self in order to create, create their own stories. Um. I lied. The last, last, last thing I’ll say, which is just an anecdote, is that y’all know I’m a little woo woo. I’m a little woo woo. I thought, so in the in the queer community, um specifically in the trans community, it’s very common, specifically back in the day, like if you were a doll, a trans woman, um you would put TS in front of your name, right? So we know like TS Madison because that would stand for transsexual Madison. So um, that’s like very common. So I thought it was kind of funny that this story was T.S. Eliot’s, because to me, it was almost like this was meant to happen, [laugh] like I was like, I was like like Cats was meant to be uh this like this queer, fabulous, um explosion of color in dance and song be um and it’s something about that those names in the and that tradition connecting uh each other and and and the author’s name has like really, uh tickled me to think to think that um, there is some kind of cosmic power in the sky that said, oh, wait wait until the however many decades later, they’re really going to fall out in 2024 when we reinvent this. Um. Yeah. Have y’all seen it? Are y’all gonna go see it? 


De’Ara Balenger: I’m gonna see it. I’m gonna. I’ve heard everyone that I’ve talked to that’s gone has been like, it’s so much fun. It’s also interesting the people that have gone and didn’t ask me to go with them. But that’s okay, Myles, I will. It’s okay. I’ll make. You’ll make up for it by going with me to see something that I want to see. 


Myles E. Johnson: Yes. 


De’Ara Balenger: Um. But I think the fun part of it is one, we just need some fun and some joy right now. But I find that everyone gets so uncomfortable with fun on Broadway. And so when Fat Ham was on Broadway, and there’s the end where there’s this beautiful sort of expression where you literally get out of your seat, there’s like lights, there’s confetti, there’s all of this. And people were like what, well, what do we do? Get involved, everybody. Little call and response. Stand up. Clap. Do your thing. And I think the same thing. That’s why everyone loved Purlie Victorious. Because there was such like a, you were they were giving to you, and you [?] get you and you were giving back. Um. So I guess so much a part of that is just like Black theater tradition. And I can’t talk about theater or Black theater without talking about national Black theater, obviously. Shout out to [?] Jonathan. But um, I do want to see this because I feel like it’s how I like to see the theater, which is also how I like to go to concerts and like to be in church. I like to get up and clap my hands and hoot and holler. 


Myles E. Johnson: And they do. And they’re doing cabaret seating too. So like, depending on where you seat sit you sit and they’re standing with you. So you feel like you’re in the ballroom. The judges change. Yeah. 


De’Ara Balenger: Stop!


Myles E. Johnson: So I just want to add that too. 


De’Ara Balenger: Okay. I’m going to look for tickets. 


Don Calloway: I got a lot here, brother Myles, but I’m a let you go DeRay. So sibling Myles. Excuse me. I got a lot here, but I’m gonna let you go brother DeRay. Go ahead man. 


DeRay Mckesson: Um. You know, I’m excited to see it. I also look back and I think about Myles you said on the last episode but how quickly things become famous in this country. Like we just have a machine around fame. Not that things last, but things can become famous very quickly. Um. I am heartened to see that pose not only had a moment, but really did invite so many people into ballroom in a way that lasted. I think about legendary. I think about like ballroom went from being a thing that it’s like if you know, you know, and if you know somebody, you know, somebody. I remember when I went to my first ball. I’m like, whoo this is late. I’m like the ball don’t start till 1:00 on Monday. I’m like, I’m old. 


Myles E. Johnson: Oh I thought, you meant I thought you were saying late as in um, late in the queer community also means tacky. So I was like. 


DeRay Mckesson: No I meant like, literally I was like [?]– 


Myles E. Johnson: Didn’t start till 2am.


DeRay Mckesson: I show up at 11 a.m.. I was like, I mean, 11 p.m.. I’m like, okay, cool. Why was I there at 11? Because nothing happened at 11, um I was like, whew, this is I’m I got to take off work if I [?] go to this. But I think about how it is, it’s sort of wild to me because I feel like I blinked and ballroom was almost so mainstream that I’m like, you’re exploiting it now. I’m like you. 


Myles E. Johnson: Yeah. Yeah. 


DeRay Mckesson: You know, I don’t even know if you like gay people or queer people. [laughter] But y’all got a ballroom scene all of a sudden, and it is um, it is a testament to all of the people who participated in Pose, I’d say, who were fans of it, who allowed it to come back and come back and to see um a Broadway show and, and, you know. Yeah. So I think about [?] just so many people in the, in the production, um who made that show possible and who took a bet on it. Before ballroom was a cultural moment and obviously Beyonce. But like, she to me is just one of the pinnacles of like, wow, this is like a TV show that invited people in in a moment and became a thing. And now we see the manifestations of that all over the place. So I’m excited to see this on Broadway. 


Don Calloway: Look, I love Blackness and I love Black queerness. And I am a huge fan, probably as big a fan as a cis het male Black man has ever been. Your culture and your community. Um. I think about the beginning. Well, not even the beginning, but I think about the Jay-Z video from the album 444 Moonlight, in which you see these brilliant Black comedians, Jerrod Carmichael, who has since come out, and so many other, Tiffany Haddish, all these others, um performing as the members of the cast of Friends and at the beginning, you see that iconic intro the I’ll be there for you. They’re dancing at the Central Park Fountain in New York, and then they probably do like two or three scenes of what would effectively be a Friends episode. And it even probably was a legitimate Friends script. And then about 90 seconds in, you realize, oh shit, this is cool that they’re Black but Friends ain’t funny. Fuck Friends, right? So when I was reading your article, I’m gonna land this plane. I love all the Black queerness and brilliance, but I don’t need that built on the chassis of Cats, which I frankly think wasn’t shit. You know what I mean? Um. I’m not moved by cats. I am moved by I love you, Porgy. I don’t I don’t care about Cats. I do care about August Wilson in the century series. I cried tears of joy at Purlie Victorious. And then I took my mom and her best friend to see it, because I think it was that important, right? To preserve the language. So I, I love Legendary. I enjoyed Pose, but I want to see Black queer brilliance built organically on a Black chassis. I don’t think it needs to come from Cats. If you remember, a few years ago there was a film Cats with James Corden that was unbearable to watch. [laugher] Uh I just I just don’t–


Myles E. Johnson: Oh, yeah you need the right strand of weed. It’s bearable. It’s bearable. I bared it, I laughed. 


Don Calloway: You come, you come visit DC and bring that good, bring that good. 


Myles E. Johnson: Okay. [laugh]


Don Calloway: I’ll share you some of mine. But I just don’t. I don’t believe in whiteness as the underpinning for anything, particularly as an underpinning for the brilliance of these people, these amazing athletes that you see in Legendary and in ballroom and in Pose. I would love to go see a ballroom show live. I just don’t want to intrude, which is my conclusion here, that I almost feel uncomfortable saying what this community should build its creativity upon, because I it’s probably not my place to opine, but I just want to say I have full support and will dedicate myself and my time and resources to watering the creativity and the freeness and the fullness of that Black queer community. Because you’ve given us all so much joy over the years, whether or not we know it, and even removed from the context of human sexuality. 


Myles E. Johnson: Yeah. And and just to respond to what you were saying. So I totally agree with you. Usually that’s my whole kick. 


De’Ara Balenger: Sh’bang. 


Myles E. Johnson: I always feel like I have, a Toni Morrison uh angel on my on my shoulder on my shoulder. That’s that’s like that white gaze, that white gaze, that white gaze. 


Don Calloway: Yeah. 


Myles E. Johnson: Um. So what I will say about this– 


Don Calloway: G-A-Z-E. G-A-Z-E by the way.


Myles E. Johnson: Right, right. [laugh]


Don Calloway: Yeah, yeah. 


Myles E. Johnson: But what I will say about this particular piece, and I hope that it does get even more developed. But what I will say is that ballroom is about making fun of performance. It’s about making fun of things. It’s about saying, look how silly this outside aboveground world is, and look how easy it is to pretend to be them and be better at it. Which is why things like realness are such a like big deal of it. So I do think there was something just it just scratched a part of my brain to see this ballroom culture that’s all about making fun of performance. Make fun of something that is the make fun of the most American made fun of performance. There was something really interesting like about that. But I hear what you’re saying about, like, this being a Black queer thing, and it needs like a, white thing to get through. But every step of the way, what I will say, what was perfect for me is every step of the way it made, it felt like it was making fun of that and felt like it was it was it was just totally taking the, the, the uh I can’t even say totally taking the the p word out of Cats. Um. And yeah, so I would say if you go in with the mind of like, satire, it wouldn’t be this thing that is like turning into, like Black queerness like is turning Black queerness. This is not this Black queer thing riding on on whiteness. Um. When you like, when you finally get to see it. But I had the same type of child why do we need to be talking about this and talking or talking about or reinventing cats? But it’s done really clever. And yeah, yeah, I think, I think I still think that. I think your mind might change up once you, um once you see it. Um. Before we close this segment, I just want to uh, shout out the director to I don’t I’m hoping I’m saying their names right. Zhailon Levingston. I hope that’s how you pronounce it. And Bill Rauch. So those are the directors of the Cats that um, The Cat’s: Jellicle Ball that I so I didn’t say that um during my first news intro. [music break]


DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Well that’s it. Thanks so much for tuning into Pod Save the People this week. Don’t forget to follow us at @crookedmedia on Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok. And if you enjoyed this episode of Pod Save the People, consider dropping us a review on your favorite podcast app and we’ll see you next week. Pod Save the People is a production of Crooked Media. It’s produced by AJ Moultrié and mixed by Vasilis Fotopoulos. Executive produced by me and special thanks to our weekly contributors Kaya Henderson, De’Ara Balenger and Myles E. Johnson. [music break].