In This Episode
DeRay, Myles, De’Ara and Kaya cover the underreported news of the week— including Black women Republicans in Congress, the correlation between Black women’s health and retirement planning, a Native American adoption law in Supreme Court, and an unusual casting for Rihanna’s Savage Fenty show. DeRay interviews Dr. Rebecca Kavanaugh about her recent Teen Vogue op-ed about the reemergence of the D.A.R.E. program in school districts across the nation.
DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Hey, this is DeRay and welcome to Pod Save the People. In this episode it’s me, De’Ara, Myles and Kaya talking about all the news that you didn’t hear from the past week that has to do with race, justice and equity. Then I sat down with criminal defense lawyer and writer Dr. Rebecca Kavanagh to talk about her recent op-ed in Teen Vogue about DARE. Do you remember the DARE program? I remember the DARE program. It was such a wild moment where it wasn’t necessarily effective getting kids not to use drugs. And who knew? It is back. So we’ll talk about that. And the advice for this week is to enjoy this weird weather. I’m in between New York and Baltimore. And let me tell you it is 70 degrees today. I don’t even understand. I’m not looking forward to it getting dark at 5:00. But I am enjoying the weather while I can, going out for walks with my friends, hanging out with people. Enjoy it while you can.
De’Ara Balenger: Family. Welcome to another episode of Pod Save the People. I’m De’Ara Balenger. You can find me on Instagram at @DeAraBalenger.
Myles Johnson: I am Myles E. Johnson and you can find me definitely on Instagram on at @pharaohrapture maybe by the time you listen this I’ll still be on Twitter at @pharaohrapture too. But [laughter] [indistinct].
Kaya Henderson: I’m [laugh] I’m Kaya Henderson, on Twitter until Black Twitter tells me otherwise at @HendersonKaya.
DeRay Mckesson: And this is DeRay at @deray on Twitter for now.
De’Ara Balenger: So. [laughter] So we are one day out from the midterm elections and what a wild season it has been, obviously. Um. And I can’t believe that it’s here, like it’s November. It’s so wild. Um. So. So lots to talk about, but I think it’s it’s really been interesting to see what’s going on with Kathy Hochul here in New York. Um. I think, you know, the New York governor governorship is always, you know, usually Democratic, usually easy to do. And I feel like Kathy has been in a little trouble recently and she’s had everybody and their mama out here, um including Joe Biden, coming to New York to campaign. Wow. That’s a really–
Kaya Henderson: Girl.
De’Ara Balenger: –Terrible sign.
Kaya Henderson: How come, how come my cousin’s [indistinct].
Myles Johnson: Is that why the traffic was so bad?
Kaya Henderson: Mm. My cousins and them were like, we’re waiting to see the president. [laughter] I was like wait what? Up in Bronxville or somewhere, Terrytown, somewhere in Westchester. I was like wait say what?
De’Ara Balenger: Yes. So, you know, so that so that’s going on. So obviously we need to get into a conversation about the elections, what we’re thinking, what’s happening, where we all are. Um. The other thing is Elon Musk, I guess he’s doing things, you know, I I someone else can chime in there because I don’t again, like I said last week, I’m really not fooling with the Twitter, so I don’t know what’s going on.
Kaya Henderson: DeRay made a very provocative point last week where he said that uh there was an opinion that Elon Musk purchased Twitter to break it from the inside. That seems pretty apparent. [laughter] [banter] The big layoffs and, you know, um and now hiring back some people who they needed to make things work and whose running it and what I, I just I mean, it really feels like Twitter is run amuck. And what I will say is for a lot of people, this is like earth shattering for a whole segment of population this don’t mean jack. And that is a little bit of the comfort that I take, everybody on Twitter. Everybody’s life doesn’t revolve around Twitter. Elon is going to be Elon-in and this is going to be one more thing in and as the world turns. And so while this is super important to us and people who, you know, a part of their brand identity and their conversation and their policy and whatnot is informed by social media platforms this is really important, and we’re going to keep on talking about this, but it’s some folks I got some other cousins [laughing] who could care less about what the blue bird is doing.
De’Ara Balenger: Wait, did y’all see this? That he’s charging, he’s going to charge Twitter blue verification people–
[spoken together] $7.99 per month.
Kaya Henderson: Mm hmm.
Myles Johnson: It’s ridiculous.
Kaya Henderson: And you get your tweets and what. But here’s the thing. He fired the people that they needed to roll this thing out, in the 7,500 people lay off. And so now they got to hire the people back in order to make this new service available to people. Huh?
Myles Johnson: No the people won’t [indistinct]–
DeRay Mckesson: It’s really nuts. It is also one of the things about Elon that’s so interesting is that he had always been quirky to people, but people thought he was sort of like a brilliant leader. Right? Like Tesla, the cars are futuristic. And the Hyperloop thing, even though that wasn’t a success and it has been interesting to see people in in like in mass sort of realize the charade of it all right? Like not a genius, not a phenomenal leader, not a great decision maker. Like you actually see it all in clear view. And, you know, he kicked Kathy Griffin off the platform for, quote, “impersonating him.” And it was like she’s clearly a comedian and da da. It’s like you’re like a child who bought this really big platform. It’ll be interesting to see who actually buys it next. Like, is it does Microsoft buy it? Does Apple buy it? Like who? You know, I don’t think Elon’s going to have this for long.
Myles Johnson: I feel like every day I go on Twitter, it’s just it is really sad. I saw this one tweet where somebody was saying it feels like, like graduation day energy. It does it does feel like that.
Kaya Henderson: Outta here. [laughing]
Myles Johnson: It does. It definitely does feel like that. It feels like it’s it, is the it it’s done. You know, don’t don’t make a hard thing harder. Let the breakup, make it be easy. Put all your stuff in a cardboard box. Let’s just, you know, say our dues–
DeRay Mckesson: Myles, shut up.
Myles Johnson: You know I’ll, I’ll–
DeRay Mckesson: Graduation day energy is hilarious. [laughter]
Myles Johnson: It’s like–
DeRay Mckesson: That’s good. I got to use that. I got to use that.
Kaya Henderson: I love it, I love it.
Myles Johnson: But like that’s what that’s what it kind of feels like on their [?] and to Kaya’s point there is because even, I think I arrived at that opinion from a point of privilege because I no longer need social media or Twitter um or any social media platform in order to like make money or in order to gain visibility or um I just have like re- re-engineered my life where that wasn’t a necessity. So I was kind of slow to say that because I know that’s a really real thing in the stories around writers who are just kind of terrified about having these, you know, modest but strong, you know, 90,000. 50,000. 20,000. 100,000 platfor– um paid platforms. And that is what’s getting them writing deals. It’s what’s helping them, you know, make a living. Um. And it it I, I love writers. That is a that that that’s the part of the company that I just like love. And that part is really scary. But I also understand that it’s a microcosm of a microcosm child. And yeah, there’s there’s there is uh bigger things happening. To quote uh Kourtney Kardashian, people are dying Kim. People are dying. [laughing]
Kaya Henderson: Um. Kyrie Irving might be dying a slow NBA death, given his uh comments [clearing throat] and the NBA’s reaction to his comments and Nike’s reaction to his comments and the fact that he’s having an incredibly crappy season. Well thank you, friends.
De’Ara Balenger: Is he the same young man that wouldn’t get vaccinated?
Kaya Henderson: Oh, yes. Yes, indeed. And they–
Myles Johnson: I don’t want to sound ri–
Kaya Henderson: Go ahead.
Myles Johnson: Uh. I don’t want to sound ridiculous. Who is this man? [laughter] I don’t know who this man is.
Kaya Henderson: That, this is a good question, Myles. This is why I love you.
Myles Johnson: Y’all know, [?] tap into certain areas of life.
Kaya Henderson: This is why I love you.
Myles Johnson: I’m like, oooh.
Kaya Henderson: Kyrie Irving.
Myles Johnson: [indistinct] gay club in Bushwick. I don’t know.
Kaya Henderson: Kyrie Irving as a Brooklyn Nets player.
Myles Johnson: Got it.
Kaya Henderson: Who has been heralded as one of the most skilled basketball players, um but he is on a bad roll in that he is not playing well at all. Um. Many folks feel like every team that he’s on, he has trouble. He’s not a good team player, blah, blah, blah, whatever, whatever. He had the whole anti-vax thing refusing to get vaccinated, would rather sit out all of this stuff. Um. And his most recent thing is he posted [clears throat] um a tweet, I think, about this um movie that is largely viewed as anti-Semitic um it’s, you know, it seems like the young man has a is a Black Hebrew Israelite. You know what those are don’t you?
De’Ara Balenger: Mm hmm.
Kaya Henderson: And so–
Myles Johnson: Yeah I definitely know what those are, he’s he’s from Brooklyn?
Kaya Henderson: I think. [laughing] I don’t know where he’s from, technically. I think I don’t–
Myles Johnson: Okay.
Kaya Henderson: –Know where he’s from, but he is he’s clearly in the process of discovering that the history that you were taught is not the history. And there’s all kinds of stuff that is taught. And, you know, um and what’s interesting is he you know, he posted this thing about this movie and the the many people feel that the movie is anti-Semitic. And so um he got a ton of flack for it. Um. He sort of apologized, um semi apologized. Um. He apologized for uh for offending people. And but he didn’t apologize for trying to learn his own history. And, you know, it it is sort of tantamount to if somebody is a Farrakhan follower, you might not like their beliefs, but they get to believe what they believe. And he gets to sort of say what he wants to say. Kind of. Sort of. Except NBA was like, no, you don’t. Sorry. Suspended him for five games because they didn’t like his apology. Um, Nike cut their deal with him. Um. He’s paying significantly. And this I, what I will say about the cat is he’s like, you know, look, um I’m 30, I’m learning. I’m, you know, and like, I’m standing up for my history, my heritage, my whatever. And, [clears throat] you know, people have had a very negative reaction to that. I don’t I don’t give a hoot what Kyrie Irving thinks or believes because I don’t base my stuff on, you know, what the current NBA basketball players are thinking. I understand he has a platform and all of that. My only and so I wouldn’t even wade into this but for me, this is just a clear reminder that Black folks can’t do what other people do. Joe Rogan has said all kinds of anti-Semitic stuff and nobody messed with his coins. Right. Um. But this young Black man who is clearly trying to figure out who he is and what history means in the world and all that stuff does not have the freedom to figure it out without it taking a hit to his pocketbook. I think that’s a very interesting thing to watch. I you know, I don’t endorse his beliefs, but I think every time we think about equity and justice and whatnot, like we have to think about these cases as well because we we want to, you know, protect everybody’s First Amendment rights. This dude, you know, my one of my girlfriends was like, whatever. He works for a private employer. And private employers get to decide whether they want to respect your First Amendment rights or not and I was like, oh yeah and we Black and so, you know. It’s been interesting to watch.
Myles Johnson: While you were talking, I went to where I, you know, gather so much of my my data, which is the Shade Room comments [laughter] to see what was going on on the Shade Room and see what’s happening. I think what’s interesting so yeah, an individual person, this happening to one Kyrie Irving. Is that how you say his name?
Kaya Henderson: Mm hmm. [laughing]
Myles Johnson: What is happening to one Kyrie Irving who in NBA, it’s a interesting story, but I think the more interesting story to me, for while you were um talking Kaya, was the a lot of Black folks response. And a lot of Black folks are not okay with this and not happ– and not happy with it. And it does remind me that, you know, I am a non-binary, trans femme, blah, blah, blah, blah. words whose talking to you, right? Whose talking to you right now. And usually I have a pretty left of leaning politics. However, my first arrival at critical thinking was in was uh Dr. [?]. Who uh was conservative in her beliefs to put it at, to put it at best.
Kaya Henderson: Myles.
Myles Johnson: You know. Um. [laughter] But I was consuming and engaging with uh rhetoric that was deeply transphobic, deeply homophobic, and as well as um some some some more interesting ideas around, uh you know, Blackness and whiteness. And I needed those things. And I think because Black people, specifically Black Americans, because there is such a question mark around our identities and how we got here in our histories. And because there is so little trust in the people who are educating us about our identity and st– and and and how we got here, that we then we, we then end up creating our own histories and our own myths that we that we end up depending and trusting more than the people who indoctrinated us. And yeah, I definitely think that as a as a very rich, singular man in this company, this is fascinating. And also sure, they are right. But I think the more the part that I get more interested in is how are we going to make it so our history and what has really happened is trusted. You know, it really reminds me of the medical system too, where people want to pathologize Black people or shame Black people for what happens with what doesn’t happen to us. But then don’t want to con– don’t want to talk about the history in the present moments that are annihilating Black mothers and misdiagnosing certain Black people. Like we have to kind of address that, that trust that is letting the the ignorance uh live.
DeRay Mckesson: And I’ll say one of the [clears throat] the enduring thing I got from the Holocaust Museum when I was in Germany was not only how how intentionally they have done, not only how much intentional work they’ve done to erase any monument or like you will not be able to go around Germany and find and praise a single thing that was Nazi. They have wiped it out. Built something over it, da da da. Uh. But the second thing is that in the Holocaust Museum, you just see all these first person accounts. You do, you just like it’s the letters from kids and wives and husbands and da da. And there is something about um what does it mean to to not only see retellings of the past, but see it in first person? And when I think about one of the truly insidious things of what American and uh the history of American chattel slavery did is that there are just so few first person narratives of that time that help us and help people coming into learning realize the sheer terror of it all. And it’s like, that’s what that’s why Kanye’s comments were so frustrating. And so you’re like, Kanye, slavery was so wild. And for you to even suggest in jest that it was a choice is so wildly offensive to all the, offensive isn’t even like the right word, but to all the people uh who suffered. And what does it mean that we don’t have– [sound bite interuppted, cut out]
Kaya Henderson: I think it’s not just the documents. Like one of the things that I’ve taken from my visits to the Holocaust Museum is there is always the encouraging of dialog, right? Like people who don’t know can ask questions and you have to confront in order to engage. And um Damon Young wrote in The Washington Post how, like Kyrie is like your young cousin who goes to college and learned some stuff that like lots of other people knew but they didn’t know. And so they come home and they are Einstein and they are pressing this new theory out and whatnot. And they haven’t done all the intellectually rigorous, you know, examination, and they haven’t listened to what other people have already said about this thing. And like there is a space of learning that is clearly happening with this young man. But because we have um like because we don’t encourage the dialog, like there is no dialog. There is, it is this way and you gonna walk this way or not. Then we’re losing a huge opportunity, I think, to help people come to their own. I mean the the greatest way to approach history is to get it on your own, to be able to pull together and make sense of the different things that you’re seeing. And [clears throat] this dude is trying to do that, and maybe it ain’t the right stuff or the right way or whatever. But like I think about what’s happening on college campuses and how intellectual debate is no longer possible. Um. I was watching, I don’t know, something this weekend and college professors were like, I just don’t bring up provocative topics because somebody is going to land a, land without a job. And the news reporter was like, isn’t this the place that, isn’t college a place where you’re supposed to be able to pull this stuff together? And he’s like, not anymore. And so my real worry is about the lack of debate. The Kanye stuff is a whole different ballgame, right? [laughter] Um I can’t even that is major leagues. That’s a whole different level. Um. But I like this thing has been fascinating to watch and yeah.
De’Ara Balenger: And I just want to add–
DeRay Mckesson: We got to get to the news though.
De’Ara Balenger: –quick things just because I feel like I was that like I remember coming home from college, literally being a Black Panther.
Kaya Henderson: Mm hmm.
De’Ara Balenger: Um. And I feel like I saw that happen with my brothers, too. Like, my brothers like, will come home from Morehouse and actually, like, want to boycott, boycott at Morehouse. And I’m like, but y’all go to a Black school. Um. But anyway, I feel like for Kyrie just to give some context to him too, because I think it’s important. Um. Evidently his mother is tied to um the Standing Rock Indian Reservation and so he acknowledged those family ties. And in gratitude for his activism um during the Dakota Access pipeline protests, um basically like he became an enrolled member in the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. So I just I don’t know. I just I feel like that is just so fascinating. The other thing, in April 2021, he announced that he’s committed to Islam. Um. Uh. For me, in my terms, this is he a quote from him “for me in terms of my faith and what I believe in, being part of the Muslim community, being committed to Islam and also just being committed to all races, cultures, religions, just having an understanding and respect.” So again, like I think and you know, this this young man has done so much activism and donated to so many things. I think I saw something that he um uh he you know, he’s paid people’s kids tuitions. He’s donated to George Floyd’s family, yada, yada, yada. So I think Kaya and well to everyone’s point, like really he is just trying to figure out who who he is and what that means in the world and what his platform means. Look, this child done build a solar water center in Pakistan. How the, who? What? [laughter] So my news is from the 19th and it was interesting because even in my searches for news around voting and Black folks, all I could find, honestly, were articles about how Black men aren’t voting for Democrats. And there’s been well, there’s a sliver of the, you know, Black male population that um is now being courted successfully by the Republican Party. Now, I didn’t want to talk about that because. It wouldn’t be a good it wouldn’t be a good thing for me. So I went to the 19th where Errin Haines, obviously is a is a founder of the 19th. So I could find me some news about Black women. [sigh] Oh, but then I came across this article. Could Jennifer-Ruth Green be the second Black Republican woman in Congress? I think we need to have a family meeting. We got to get together. I’ve been advocating for the white women to have a meeting, but maybe it’s time, Black people for us to also have a family meeting. So she’s running to flip an Indiana House seat red. She is a Republican in Indiana. Oh. So this is Indiana’s first congressional district. It’s the state’s most diverse um and is home to uh a contested House race. Um. Voters could make history here in this district, and this could swing to the GOP and send the first Republican in nearly 100 years to Congress. And that person will be a Black Republican women. So Jennifer-Ruth Green, she’s a frequent guest on Fox News. She’s raised nearly $3 million dollars uh to challenge first term Democratic Rep Frank Marvin. Um. Mrvan. Green. Whose father is black and whose mother is Filipino. He’s an Air Force veteran, active duty National Guardsmen and a nonprofit founder. Um.
Kaya Henderson: She is all of that, not him. She is those things.
De’Ara Balenger: She. She. Oooh, I’m sorry. The current. The the first who’s in there now.
Kaya Henderson: The black the Jennifer-Ruth Green is the Black Filipino girl who is, she’s all of those things.
De’Ara Balenger: Wait. She is?
Kaya Henderson: Yeah. She’ll be the first Black–
De’Ara Balenger: Oh I thought I was reading about the the–
Kaya Henderson: And the first Asian American.
De’Ara Balenger: Oh okay. Okay.
Kaya Henderson: No. She is–
De’Ara Balenger: Got it. Got it. Got it. Thanks Kaya.
Kaya Henderson: –bringing all of the Democratic credentials in to the [indistinct] [laughing].
De’Ara Balenger: So that’s what’s going on here. But she’s anti critical race theory and negative on the state of the economy. And she’s saying as a military member and as a conservative, I just saw the clear lack of leadership and I just felt underrepresented. Oh, gosh. So while the overwhelming majority of Black Americans are Democrats, of course the Republican Party’s base is dominated by non-college educated white voters. Every Republican who flipped a House seat in 2020 was either a woman or a person of color. Green is one of six Black Republican women on the ballot Tuesday. Tamika Hamilton is running in California. Um Aja Smith in Cal– also in California. Carla Spalding, Florida. Cicely Davis in Minnesota. And Charlotte Bergmann in Tennessee. Um. Yeah. I just wanted this okay, this it’s complicated, right? Because on one side, I’m like. And this has been so much on my mind, too, because Pao doe– Pao covers so much of, you know the really significant sliver of Latino voters who are more and more turning to the Republican Party. So this is also happening in the Latino community that they’re going to be some potentially some houses flipped. But, you know, Mayra Flores, who’s Mexican-American running in Texas, there’s another woman um in Virginia in the seventh District, actually, who is a Republican Salvadorian woman. You know, there has been a shift happening where the Republican Party is becoming more appealing to our communities. And I feel like the Democrats aren’t necessarily keeping up with that or making significant moves or strides to try to speak to that. And what’s interesting is that instead of coming up with a game plan, they act like it’s not happening and that this sliver isn’t going to be consequential enough to to impact elections. But the Latino population is the largest minority population in this country. Black people are second to that. And if we continue to chip away at at these communities support. I mean, like over time there is going to be a drastic change. Um. So I don’t know. I just, you know, this, you know, I was trying to get my hopes up to find, you know, just a nice, beautiful story about Stacey Abrams. But no, I came across this here, so well, you know, we’ll we’ll continue to watch to see what happens. But there listen, this is this midterm is going to be really, really fascinating to watch in a number of if they flip these seats, it’s women and people of color that are doing it on the Republican side.
Myles Johnson: I do have a um. I know I have a good, good, a good superpower of empathy, um because I do think that. So even talking to us. Right, and me talking to you all and sometimes when we have private conversations and public conversations, I’ll notice that y’all lean, we’re having a liberal conversation, but y’all might even lean more conservative on things that I’m thinking like, oh, that’s a that’s that’s a take or that’s a that that, to me that goes a little bit um on the conservative side of the conversation or whatever. And so I know if that’s happening in this like microcosm of Pod Save the People. I can really only imagine what’s happening when uh liberals, people on the left are, are talking about things that I that I just think that are these hot button issues that are these um issues around like abortion. Or these issues around um transness and and like gender conversations and stuff like that. And I think that we forget that Black people and I feel I just have echoed this so many times. If it wasn’t for a lot of race issues, Black people are culturally a conservative people. [laughter]
Kaya Henderson: Yup, yup.
Myles Johnson: But you know a lot of this stuff they are not with. And I just think that we’re going to continue to see moments like this now that the Trumper is its own political thing that happens to be associated with the with the um Republican Party. But it’s not the Republican Party, that it’s this opening for Black people to not be a traitor of their race but still be conservative and and I would assume this is happening in other in in other races, in other cultures that would be predicted to be to go left as well. It’s interesting, but it just I just think that’s how it’s going to, I think that’s how it’s gonna [indistinct].
De’Ara Balenger: It’s not a surprise.
Myles Johnson: And I think–
DeRay Mckesson: It’s not a surprise.
Myles Johnson: And I think that a lot of black people have been waiting to not be associated with some of the things that the Democratic Party is associated with. You know, and again, I think this connects to to Farrakhan and and and Dr. Ir– er excuse me Dr. Irving, but um Kyrie Irving and stuff like that, like Black people are conservative people and the race thing is the thing. But that’s about it. If you look at what Farrakhan says, Farrakhan don’t no no does not. No abortions. No, no, um uh no no gender talk, you know.
De’Ara Balenger: Mm hmm.
Myles Johnson: A man and woman’s place, like all this stuff that that the um that this cultural stuff that the Democratic Party is known for discussing, a lot of Black people are not with. And I just think that we’re seeing a space open for them to be able to uh express that. Dum dum da dum.
Kaya Henderson: Um I thought, I think. I think that’s right, Myles. Um. I also think that part of I was struck by her comments. You know, I understand her concern about uh at one. I think I think there’s not it’s not a coincidence that a lot of these um women of color who are running are military women um.
De’Ara Balenger: Mm hmm.
Kaya Henderson: –Veterans. And let’s be very clear about the fact that the military is one of the best educational systems in terms of building patriotism, in terms of helping vast amounts of diverse people work together around a common cause. And um the thing that she says is she’s incredibly anti-CRT. She doesn’t believe in the inherent racism in systems because she couldn’t have been an Air Force commander or whatever she is um if if systems were inherently racist. Well, sis I mean, it’s only recently that you could be Air Force commander or whatever you are, and this is the danger of not knowing our history. I mean, the the the thing to me about all of this stuff is we have been hoodwinked on this individualism versus collectivism. Like Black people are a collective people. The only way we’ve ever gotten ahead is by working together. The only way we gonna get ahead is by working together. But you teach us all of this rugged individualism and just all that matters is you and yours and your money, your this, your safety, your whatever. And they got us believing that stuff. And mama, like you didn’t get here by yourself and you couldn’t have just become a great Air Force person on um I think you’re a spectacular I think lots of us are spectacular. But if we don’t look at what people did to pave the way for us to get here, to now have us say, oh, yeah, none of that matters because I’m just so good and I’m a come up here and run stuff. Like, I think that this the like most insidious thing that has happened is the rugged individualism that we have accepted and taken, that if you do the American dream right, if you pull yourself up by your bootstraps, then you can have all of the things. And that’s not true. Like it’s not a meritocracy. And Myles, you’re absolutely right. Like, the the older you get, the wealthier you get, the more conservative you get. And so, yes, like I find myself having some [laughter] conservative thoughts that I’m like [gasp] [laugh] Kaya Henderson? Right? But like, when I think about my retirement or when I think about like what I’ve done and I have to consciously work every day to remind myself that everybody until we all free–
Myles Johnson: Yeah.
Kaya Henderson: –None of us are free.
De’Ara Balenger: That’s right.
DeRay Mckesson: And it is really interesting. Um. I did not know much about her until you brought her to us, uh De’Ara. But, you know, she the, Politico reported that she was sexually assaulted in the uh Air Force. And people are trying to reconcile her views on a woman’s women’s rights, given that she herself and, you know, her response had been that was confidential.
De’Ara Balenger: Mmmm.
DeRay Mckesson: And you’re like, wow. Right. So when you read about all of the issues that she had in the military, even though she has said that racism isn’t a thing, you’re like, well, sexism is a thing. She like won’t engage and it’s just like, well, that was a confidential matter. You’re just like, what does it even mean like the the amount of self-hate or internalized, you know, patriarchy and it just and uh anti-blackness is just so troubling, especially because this isn’t even like a Republican Party where you’re like, uhh do they like me or not? It’s like these people don’t like you upfront and personal very clearly. This isn’t Herschel Walker who like is clearly not, you know, some screws a little loose. This is really a choice. And I will say the thing about her that reminds me so much of Candace Owens is like, if you want to be famous, being a sane Black conservative, especially as a woman, is the way to go. Because you–
De’Ara Balenger: Not just famous, rich. Mm hmm.
DeRay Mckesson: Yes. Famous and rich. Yes. Good call. Okay.
Myles Johnson: I hate that though the narrative for a lot of conservative folks or it’s [?] a lot of these conversations is, oh, how could this thing X be inherently uh oppressive if I made it in it and if I had succeeded in it? And I’m and I’m like, let’s just like think big. Let’s just think big here. If a Black woman who’s four ancestors were enslaved and brutalized by a system, then generations later feels it’s okay to then give up her body and her in her in her life, in her mind, to then help that same system that brutalized her? That is, you don’t have to die in order to be used for white supremacy. Like that is that is that is a white supremacist’s dream that somebody whose history is enslavement and brutalization now finds it okay to find their wealth and find their freedom in the same system that once upon a time would have them dead. That’s, you don’t have to die or be uh blocked out in order for white supremacy to be uh used. I just wanted to say that.
DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Don’t go anywhere. More Pod Save the People’s coming.
Kaya Henderson: My news this week is about a case that is up in front of the Supreme Court, and it is about um Native American kids who are placed in state foster care. Um. Basically, the issue is that um as a result of a 1978 law called the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978, any child who is eligible for tribal membership if they end up in state foster care, this child should, whenever possible, be adopted by a tribal family. Why? Um. Basically because the tribes have a special immigration status with or a special relationship with the U.S. government and has for 250 years that regulate everything from tribal health and education benefits to criminal jurisdictionality, hunting, fishing, oil, mineral gaming rights, all of these things. Tribes are treated incredibly differently than other Americans. And what the tribes have done through this child, well, Indian Child Welfare Act is seek to protect the forthcoming rights of Indian children by making sure that if they are placed in foster care, they’re always placed with a tribal family, um that that continues not just their family traditions and culture, but it actually extends the rights that they have as tribe members. Um. And it’s not a perfect law or a perfect system. A lot of times when they seek to find tribal families to adopt these kids, they aren’t available. And so they have to default to non-tribal families. But this case is particularly interesting because a white family in Texas is trying to adopt a four year old little girl who is protected by this law. And they adopted her older brother after efforts were exhausted to try to put him with a tribal family and they couldn’t find them. And so the tribes agreed and said, you know what? We’d rather you have a stable home so he can go live with the nice white people. Um. And then the mother who is meth addicted um had this little girl and they were like, boom, we just we we know like that she’s going to be placed in foster care. We’d like to bring her into our family as well and provide her with a stable home. And the the issues in this are really jarring because, of course, people want whatever is best for the kid. The question is what’s best for the kid has individual implications, family implications, tribal implications. And ultimately, whatever the court decides um imp– it has implications for the relationship of the Native American peoples with the federal government along a bunch of different lines. If this law is overturned, it opens up the renegotiation of all kinds of tribal treaties and agreements and arrangements, because basically it would say that tribes are not sovereign nations, which is how we currently recognize them, say that tribes are races and you don’t have treaties with races. And so it would basically open up for question and under this kind of a court really um endanger many of the wins that Native Americans have secured for themselves and their people um in this country. And um there’s a second argument to this, which is that if uh it there’s a sort of states rights argument hiding in this as well, which is that states should get to decide how this stuff that states are protected from federal overreach. But all of our dealings with these sovereign tribes have federal implications. And so if states are now saying federal overreach means we don’t have to do this, then it means that every state gets to reopen its conversations, negotiations, treaties, policies, etc., with what heretofore have been recognized as sovereign nations. And now Native Americans would be treated like a race um and not political entities. So um the there’s two things happening at the same time. The courts are moving to decide, but the Supreme Court has to decide on the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978. Um. And so it’ll just be interesting to watch. I mean, when you think about our history of removing Native American children and placing them in white families to basically erase their culture and to teach them to, you know, whatever, educate the savage out of them. And I use air quotes for that. Um. This stuff is steeped in history and this thing is happening. And until I found it like I haven’t heard talk about it, I haven’t heard anything about it. And so I’m just bringing it to the podcast because a lot of the things that have played out historically that we think are gone because there aren’t Indian schools anymore and whatever are still happening to folks today.
DeRay Mckesson: I’ll just say I didn’t know anything about this until you brought it, Kaya. Um. And I’m happy that you ended it where you did, because that’s where I’m going to start with the history of assimilation. I had no clue that the government was forcibly taking Native American kids and putting them in boarding schools, but stopped doing that because they realized that the boarding schools were not effective at, quote, “civilizing them and teaching them English and Christianity.” Uh but–
Kaya Henderson: And those boarding schools, they treated the children with tremendous atrocities. And not just here, here, Canada, Australia, all kinds of places. Sorry.
DeRay Mckesson: And uh there’s a scholar in Time magazine who says that more than 75% of Indian children in school at the turn of the 20th century were brought up in the boarding schools. That is unreal.
De’Ara Balenger: Mm hmm.
DeRay Mckesson: And what happened was that federal policy changed in the 1930s because the boarding schools were too expensive and weren’t doing assimilation the way that the government wanted to but they needed to find a way to still get the kids and the welfare system became the way. So they started a federal program called the Indian Adoption Project, which resulted in white families taking Indian kids that were being forcibly removed from their parents. And that lasted for 20 years. And then the Indian Child Welfare Act comes into play as a way to finally push back on the assimilation policies of this government. And that’s not some stuff we don’t say on the podcast. I don’t know what is.
De’Ara Balenger: I think what this also brings up for me, Kaya, is is how much foster care, just as a system, is just not a part of like our national consciousness. And so, you know, that’s where it kind of sent me. Evidently, there are over 400,000 kids in foster care in the United States. And I couldn’t tell you and it just is I mean, and DeRay and Kaya just as folks who have been in education and me being in government for so many years, I don’t know how that system works. I don’t know. You know, what’s the in-between for kids that before we place them in foster homes? I know we don’t have traditional orphanage orphanages in the United States anymore, but I know that they’re they’re group homes. And at what point? I also just wonder like the if there’s a very, very thin line between you know, kind of just like not not incarceration necessarily, but just like these kids aren’t they’re held somewhere and not free to come and go. So I just wonder, like, how much of our carceral system is impacting the way foster care and that system um operates. So I don’t know. That’s where this is kind of sending me. And we know that the kids that are in foster care are predominantly kids of color, kids from low economic background. Um. And it’s not to say that foster care is bad. It’s just I couldn’t tell you, just as an informed American, what that system is or how it’s impacting kids or how it’s impacting, you know, me or taxpayers or the community. So I think that that’s just an interesting um yeah. It’s just that’s that’s sending me.
Myles Johnson: Well, you know, everybody had really great intelligent news to bring to the table, you know, and weekly I do not. That’s not what I’m here um so, this week. So I want to preface this by saying it’s uh it’s an ongoing news articles or or news piece, so next week because how the Internet is it it this could totally be a different um by the time you’re hearing this rather this it could totally have evolved or devolved into something totally different. So I’m just telling you um because I find it interesting. But Rihanna has gotten some backlash because she invited Johnny Depp to perform at her Savage Fenty fashion show. Johnny Depp. I’m going to if anybody wants to correct me, because I’m kind of I’m kind of loose on white mess. I’m really good at black mess, white mess I’m kind of I’m not a scholar in. But Johnny Depp did something abusive domestically to one white woman, Amber Heard. And it was a big deal and they OJ trialed it. And showed everybody and now most people who have television who are not me [laughing] know exactly the details of what happened and it was toxic. And, you know, yes. [laughter] So because uh Johnny Depp won in a patriarchal white supremacist uh judicial system that is leaning towards white men, “won” in air quotes. The case, now his project is to rehabilitate himself. And in my opinion, I think wait. If I got off scotch free, I would just go hide somewhere. He said no, I want to wear silk panties and walk with Rihanna. And that’s what he’s doing. [laughing] And Rihanna fans, to his credit, are Rihanna’s fans are upset. Like you see these really earnest tweets saying, oh, my God, Rihanna, this is not you. And that there’s no, there’s no delusion around it. They’re like, no, this is bad. We don’t want to see this. There’s a few outlier fans who are just, you know, putting blinders on. But most people are like, no, this is bad. And of course, because of Rihanna’s um background, one of the ways that, of course, she has great music and great fashion. But what but we really cling on to people because of private, intimate stories. And that story with her being abused by Chris Brown is one of the ways that we intimately connected with her. And I think that a lot of people feel um betrayed, the fact that she would platform somebody like Johnny Depp, given what she has went through. And there’s so many different ways that I don’t want to come to a hard conclusion about how I feel about this. The first conclusion, like it could totally just be there are producers who are good with his publicist who’ll finagled him in, and Rihanna was just like signing checks and birthing babies and putting skin care on. And it just, and it just went past her, you know, that’s the one I’m hoping for. But then there’s also this idea that she might have really reviewed and thought about this and said, hey, I’m going to use my platform to rehabilitate this person because she hasn’t. I uh yeah she could just have said that I’m going to use my platform to rehabilitate this person and could also be so severely disconnected that uh she thought this was the right thing. And I think no matter what, no matter how you feel about billionaires, ethically and famous people and celebrity culture and and capitalism it’s it’s it’s it’s not a smart move, you know, it’s not it’s not a smart move. It is multiple companies, multiple people have been able to do heinous things and pretty much know that what they do publicly should align this way because this is how people see them and they do it in the dark. This this doesn’t feel smart for Rihanna and her brand. And I’m just curious as to is this just a hoax? And TMZ is just messing with us is, you know, people have gotten um early, early tapes of it, um uh early releases of it, and have confirmed that Johnny Depp is there. I don’t know if it’s just again, if she just was just on an island somewhere, birthing a baby and she was like I missed that whole thing which like I could see that happening. Um. But yeah, I wanted to bring this to the pod because I feel like I could, could not not bring this to the pod because it’s such a big story. Um. But yeah, what’s y’alls, what’s y’alls opinions on it?
Kaya Henderson: First of all, I just have to say I am here for the Myles E. Johnson [laughter] recaps because [laugh] cause the for me the best was instead of him going home and being quiet, he decided he wanted to wear silk panties with Rihanna yes yes. [banging fist on table] If if all of my news that I consumed came through that lens, I’d be a mentally happier person. Thank you for the recap, Myles. I mean, one one twist that I heard on this is that in in the trial that you were not paying attention to Myles. Um. Amber Heard accused Johnny Depp of all kinds of domestic violence and abuse. He also counter accused her and countersued her, in fact, and says that he is a victim of domestic abuse. And so um I saw in the article that one um one fan tweeted that this is a survivor supporting another survivor. And so if you believed that um if you believe that um Johnny Depp was actually a victim, um which is not the prevalent piece, although the judge actually, I think, said there’s a little bit of both going around here. Um. Then on the one hand, she could be viewed as standing up for somebody who wouldn’t usually have a voice in the domestic violence thing. It’s just so counter to what we think of when we think about domestic violence right.
Myles Johnson: [indistinct] when we think about Rihanna. Right? Because I think that no matter how you cut it, I don’t think and again, I might just be a Black person who remembers Rihanna being number seven on [?] Pon de replay. And I followed her up until this point. So I see Rihanna from a very Black famous way where I’m like, Rihanna you do not have to do nothing with Johnny Depp. You, this, this is–
Kaya Henderson: Yes, [?].
Myles Johnson: You know, these don’t these things do not overlap.
Kaya Henderson: There’s always but right before these Savage x Fenty shows, there’s always some big controversy. Right? The last time it was Islamaphobia or using some holy um music in the thing that was sacrilegious or whatever the case may be. So there’s also and she ain’t–
Myles Johnson: Listen.
Kaya Henderson: –Said a word, honey, not a word.
De’Ara Balenger: She didn’t say anything. No.
Kaya Henderson: And so I think now all of us who weren’t even paying attention to–
Myles Johnson: Yeah.
Kaya Henderson: [laughing] Savage x Fenty release are going to go watch this thing. And maybe that’s the genius of it all. Do something provocative, right? That’s what the people think.
De’Ara Balenger: And I just feel like this. I really wasn’t so surprised by this because Rihanna is a billionaire and her friends. I’m sure are other billionaires. So I think. You know, our perspectives and you know how we see the world are probably at this point, even with her being in a Black woman’s body are so far, so far from us. Right. So like, I can totally see her having been friends with Johnny Depp for a very long time and just being like, I’m a have my boy in my show. And I can do it because I’m Rihanna. And no comment.
Myles Johnson: Maybe. Sure. I just think that and I definitely agree with like the separation between like intellectuals, like the discourse that are happening in certain classes of people times certain social realities, you know, I did talk about Jay Z and I was like, how did you how you you you said the Black Panther line. But then you said capitalist was a word that just got made up. And how did both of these things happen at one time? So I definitely understand that our conversations had being had in the billionaire the Black billionaire class or not being had rather but to me it just felt like such a um I think she’s been super smart and this felt like such a um a vanity flaw. Like, I don’t know Beyoncé’s opinions on everything. I’m sure I wouldn’t like them, but she seems to have a pretty intelligent uh view on what she shouldn’t share. [laughing] Because so so when she comes [?], for instance, when she comes out with break my soul. She said, I just quit my job today. Oh, they worked me so damn hard. What? What are you talking about Beyoncé? You don’t, that’s not your reality, but she’s smart enough to know that that is the reality–
De’Ara Balenger: No.
Myles Johnson: –of people consuming her. And this is the reality that is going to that of the of the fantasy of Beyonce that she has to feed in order to get us engaged. And I kind of it just seemed weird that Rihanna would do this. So it doesn’t seem weird that she might have people who who we might not morally agree with, who are she’s friends with? But it does seem like a misstep that she doesn’t know her audience.
De’Ara Balenger: But just think, her audience is the world.
Myles Johnson: Exa– Mm hmm.
De’Ara Balenger: Right. So I also think that we have a very specific perspective in the US. But Rihanna is just as famous in Asia and Europe and all these places. And I bet you that there was probably two news articles.
Myles Johnson: You know, you–
De’Ara Balenger: If that.
Myles Johnson: You might be–
De’Ara Balenger: Across other countries, you know what I’m saying?
Myles Johnson: And that’s what I was saying, maybe I’m so shaded by me meeting Rihanna on [?] on Pon de Replay and me seeing her and being engaged with her. And I have a very Black American view of this superstar. And maybe this is not a Black American decision.
De’Ara Balenger: Mm hmm.
Myles Johnson: This is a global capitalist decision that my, my, my little world is too is to meek to understand.
DeRay Mckesson: Okay. So mine is about uh retirement planning for Black women. And this was a uh you know, there’s a new analysis that just came out, but it repeats a lot of things that we knew in the beginning. Right, that Black women are underpaid. Black women earn $0.63 for every dollar that non-Hispanic white men earn. So we know that that results in a monthly loss of about $2,000, an annual loss of about $24,000, and a lifetime loss of almost $1,000,000. So those things we knew. We also knew that um that women are more likely than men to be caregivers, which means that uh there are a lot of career interruptions that happen because women have to take care of the families. Uh. But what was new about this is it’s it talks about Black women have the highest levels of what public health research has called allostatic load, the cumulative burden of bodily wear and tear from chronic stress and adverse life events compared with other groups in the workplace. And allostatic load is linked to cognitive and physical decline, breast cancer in Black women, heart disease, diabetes and even death. Now that too, we sort of already knew. But the super new thing um is that one in five adults age 50 to 64 kept a job considered considered delaying retirement or delayed retirement to maintain their health insurance so that the burden on Black women that is just greater than it is on anybody else means that they work longer, not because they’re in love with their jobs, because they need the health insurance, because of what this world has done to them. And I’m like, It all makes sense. But just seeing it was like, Wow.
Kaya Henderson: Zora Neale Hurston said Black women are the mules of the world and this is the scientific backup for it. This resonated with me, particularly because I’m an auntie Honey and retirement is heavy on my mind and the amount of conversations that I have with friends who literally cannot retire. Right. The goal of retirement is to take your accumulated savings when you don’t have to work anymore and enjoy some of this life is what it seems. And there are people who don’t have retirement options for so many reasons. But one of the biggest at this point is because of the way our health care system is set up. Unless you have covered health care, you can’t I mean, whatever. There’s all of this research out there that shows you that most Americans are $400 away from a catastrophic event that puts them into poverty. And, you know, if you have a accident at work or anything, um that can literally change your trajectory. And as you watch women who have worked, you know, multiple jobs, worked jobs, going to school, take care of their families, battle their own health care issues and whatnot. And it’s finally time for them to get a little bit of relief, to know that the system has worked once again, to provide them with yet another burden, which is the accumulated health buildup B.S. that now you can’t you can’t even retire comfortably because you got to keep working because you need health care. It is I mean, you’re like, what am I doing right? Like you are here okay anyway, you hearing the the I want to retire Auntie rant I think. [laughing] But it’s not just me, it’s a whole lot of us out here. And to see the data that backs up what we all are living, which is we can’t retire when we want to retire because we have to keep working for health benefits is infuriating.
De’Ara Balenger: Announcement Black Women Listeners. If you don’t have one, get yourself a financial advisor. I don’t care if you’re 23 or 63, go find one. Black women, stop loaning money to your family members, [indistinct] because you know they don’t pay you back. So know that that is never going to stop. So start creating boundaries around your family now because listen, you giving a little bit of money over time to everybody will will result in you not being able to retire on top of all these other things you’re dealing with. So I think, you know, we also just have to work on our financial health and start to get an understanding as early as we can.
Myles Johnson: Yeah, and I think, you know, and I think that’s just when you talk to successful Black people in any capacity, you know, there’s going to be some there’s going to be some, uh you know, professionally successful Black people. There’s going to be um some class privilege that shows up. But I’m just concerned about the people who, you know, that’s just not even the realm of, financial advisors not even in the realm of possibility. The um uh the being the sole breadwinner is such a um is such a uh weight on a lot of Black women. But then also I think about how–
De’Ara Balenger: Mm hmm.
Myles Johnson: Yes it can look like, Oh, I’m making this much money a year and I’m successful, but I’m helping my other people. But then also it looks like I’m, you know, making $30,000 or less a year. And I am still the person who hasn’t managed to get the apartment or have the house or whatever. It’s just so so much of these these struggles are um it they just won’t be solved with like some type of class individualism, meaning like, okay, well, you I have to worry about myself, where you are you know, I need to focus more on me to make sure I can retire. So much of this stuff is kind of baked into um life as a Black person, specifically as a Black woman. And I think that the–
De’Ara Balenger: Mm hmm.
Myles Johnson: –Answer to it just has to be systemic. I don’t know how many more news articles that we can get that kind of talk about it or research it or data or analyze it. There just has to be some sol– solution or resolve to it because yeah, the systems in America are killing people and killing the most vulnerable people, people who are usually black women. What’s what where do we go from here? You know.
De’Ara Balenger: And I think, but Myles, I completely agree. But I do feel like and this is something I just have had had I have had to work on over my 40 years is that. You know, it is so in Black women’s DNA to put everybody–
Myles Johnson: Absolutely.
De’Ara Balenger: –First. And so I think partly it’s just like and I think we are, you know, we’re alien superstars, so we’re able to we are able to do those things at the same time. Like we’re able to put ourselves first and try to prioritize what our needs are while still being very much a part of the collective and understanding–
Myles Johnson: Absolutely.
De’Ara Balenger: –That, you know. What’s the thing? When the boat and the tide rises–
Myles Johnson: Yes.
De’Ara Balenger: –we all–
Myles Johnson: Yes.
De’Ara Balenger: –Rise together, you know. Mm hmm.
DeRay Mckesson: That was the must auntie way of saying– [banter] What’s the thing when the boat rises. So. Okay. De’Ara.
DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Hey, you’re listening to Pod Save the People. Don’t go anywhere. There’s more to come.
DeRay Mckesson, narrating: This week, we welcome criminal defense lawyer and writer Dr. Rebecca Kavanagh to talk about her recent op-ed in Teen Vogue titled The DARE Program is back in some school districts, here’s what to know. Dr. Kavanagh’s op ed takes a critical look at the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program. And we talk about the war on drugs and why the [pause] what does it mean that it’s back? So many gems in this interview. Join me in welcoming Dr. Rebecca Kavanagh.
Dr. Rebecca Kavanagh: Hey, DeRay thank you so much for having me. And please call me Rebecca.
DeRay Mckesson: Rebecca so tell us before we start to talk about uh this latest essay that you wrote in Teen Vogue. Let’s start with how did you get to working on issues of criminal justice, mass incarceration, and policing? What was your was this always something you cared about? Did you study it in college? Did you come to it because of the protests? Like what was your journey to this topic?
Dr. Rebecca Kavanagh: Sure. Um. Well, I’m from Australia, which is probably self-evident from my accent, which I’m told I still have, although I have lived here now for um some 20 years. Uh. It’s always something that I have cared about um from back when I lived in Australia. Um. I grew up in a very uh multicultural, multiracial part of Sydney and um Australia is uh, I hate to say, a very um a very racist uh country. So it’s always been something that in that context, um from the time that I was in uh school, in high school, what I think you would call middle school here that I’ve been aware of. Um. Obviously, I don’t have my own personal experiences as a white person um but I don’t have that lived experience that I think I would say I’ve always been acutely aware of of racial justice issues. And so um from from that age, really, I’ve been um involved in in what I guess what I would call uh uh the racial justice movement within uh Sydney and Australia um through my university days uh there. And then um yes, I’ve also studied it, um you know, in Australia I studied American history but and then with a focus on actually African-American history. Uh. And then I came to the US uh specifically to work with Derrick Bell, who um everyone I’m sure listening knows um or if they don’t is, is one of the founders of of critical race theory. So I came here to uh work with him and um that was just uh you know really a dream that a you know a dream of mine, but worked with him and uh then became a public defender, which for me uh was, you know, racial justice has always been I see it as a human rights issue. And so that is, uh I guess, the trajectory of my of of how I came to well as I say it’s always something that I’ve been at, feel like I’ve been a part of. But where I [?] I guess if you, the trajectory of my uh educational and professional careers, one of the better um term.
DeRay Mckesson: Boom. Now let’s talk about um something that you wrote. You wrote in Teen Vogue about the resurgence of DARE.
Dr. Rebecca Kavanagh: Yes.
DeRay Mckesson: And a lot of us who were kids in the eighties and nineties remember DARE because–
Dr. Rebecca Kavanagh: Yes.
DeRay Mckesson: –It was such a big thing. Just say no. For those of you listening, just say no was probably the most famous part of the DARE program. And then a lot of us, really DARE just like sort of disappeared. Like people were just like, okay. There was no DARE. Also, remember, um this is your brain, this is your brain on drugs. Um.
Dr. Rebecca Kavanagh: Right.
DeRay Mckesson: Do you remember that from that moment, too?
Dr. Rebecca Kavanagh: So um I didn’t grow up here. Um. So, you know, I moved here as as a young adult. But um I know the commercial, the the fried egg, right? The the that this is your–
DeRay Mckesson: Yes.
Dr. Rebecca Kavanagh: –Brain on drugs. So, you know because Australia it’s actually very culturally similar to the US so just say no, Nancy Reagan, all of that did translate somewhat to the to the um Australian context although we had, we didn’t have anything equivalent to DARE. But um so I’m I was familiar with DARE. I’m certainly familiar with that philosophy. But. But right. So DARE um was something that launched in 1983 with uh uh being the brainchild actually of Daryl Gates, um who was the Los Angeles Police Department head. And you know Daryl Gates is is rather notorious. He didn’t just found DARE. He also was the person who came up with uh SWAT teams, which you know he is therefore the the father of um SWAT policing. And uh, you know, to some extent, the the militarization of the police, uh which which is, you know, an interesting legacy of one of the better word. But so um uh yes, so DARE um is a collaboration between the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles um United School Unified School District. And stands for drug abuse resistance education, as you said, it is very much based on Nancy Reagan’s just say no philosophy. Uh. So really, it [laughing] it doesn’t have a lot of basis in any sort of sound uh drug education uh philosophy. And Daryl Gates um himself, uh you know, he’s just a problematic period. Um. You know, I think uh at one point when he testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on on on drug use, he said uh drug users, casual drug users should be taken out and shot because we’re in a we’re in a war. And even casual drug use is is treason. And that’s also just the key thing I think about DARE is it’s part of the drug war, right? It’s it’s just um really very much part of the war on drugs. And I don’t think you can see it as separate from that.
DeRay Mckesson: Now can you talk, though, about can you explain how DARE is not a great thing. I think about and I say this because as a kid growing up, um we saw it so much and it was like it definitely became a joke. But my father, if I called my father today, he’d be like, of course, just say no. Like he wouldn’t think of DARE as like a, he definitely wouldn’t think about it as a bad thing. He might think about it as like a neutral thing. But can you help us understand like what about DARE was actually not great. And now that it’s coming back, what are we worried about?
Dr. Rebecca Kavanagh: Sure. So just taking out for a moment the the fact that it’s taught by police officers. Right. Which is the thing that I think is most problematic. But if you just look at it from a public health perspective, it’s just completely ineffective. It it it’s not an effective tool for teaching children about drugs. Um. You know, to start off, you know, I’m someone who believes that drugs should be legalized. I don’t think that per say, drugs are a bad thing. Um. I’m not sure if you’ve read Dr. Carl Hart’s book um on a drug legal, drug legalization, um uh drug use for grown ups, uh which I think is just an exceptionally brilliant book uh but makes up you know very good arguments as to why drugs should be legal. So I don’t think it’s a very helpful approach to teach children that drugs are a scary thing. Um. But even if you think that um if you don’t subscribe to that view, um they they started to do studies on DARE um after it became this you know amazingly widespread uh program that you know eventually became um something that was taught in like 75% of schools that found that it didn’t stop children from using drugs. Um. It’s anything if anything, it may have led to an increase in children using drugs because, you know, as a as a child or as a teenager, it’s something, if someone tells you not to do something, it’s really quite likely to lead you to um want to try it. Right. So so if you are of the view that you want to and I’m not suggesting that children should use drugs. Right? So even if I believe that drugs should be legalized, I’m not advocating for children to use them, but I don’t think it’s helpful to teach that drugs are this scary thing and that um that that that’s the approach we should take. We should, you know uh, teach children what drugs are and we should um, you know, we should teach children that uh they should make informed choices about things and etc., etc.. But um so it’s just not effective. So you’re spending all of this money at one point, it has um a budget of $750 million dollars. And it’s not it’s not working. So it just um it’s not working. Is the is the uh is the short or the long answer, rather, to that question.
DeRay Mckesson: Now have there been any studies? I’m assuming that because it was around for so long that there must have been studies about DARE. Did the studies tell us anything?
Dr. Rebecca Kavanagh: Well, that that was um that was uh the result of these numerous studies. One of these studies actually was done in 1994 by uh an institute called the Triangle Institute, and that was funded in part by the Department of Justice, which at that time was uh funding, uh DARE, not completely cause DARE, the interesting thing about there, it was getting so much funding from various sources and it’s somewhat hard to work out exactly where it was getting funding from. But but it was getting a significant amount of funding from the federal government. So this Triangle Institute uh uh study finds that it it has you know absolutely no effect on reducing drug use. And the Department of Justice is really incensed by this study, and it decides that they’re not it’s not going to publish the report, which is interesting, because I think that demonstrates that the Department of Justice has a real interest in continuing to fund DARE, because DARE is a very useful program for the Department of Justice, for law enforcement generally, because DARE essentially uh functions as a tool for law enforcement in the war on drugs. It might not be effective as a means of reducing uh teenage or child drug use, but it certainly is effective in other ways.
DeRay Mckesson: It’s so wild that one of the studies said that it wasn’t effective and and they knew about it and just brushed it aside because they were using it for something else. I also read that uh DARE encouraged children to become informants. Is that true?
Dr. Rebecca Kavanagh: Yeah. No, it’s absolutely true. And and it’s substantiated. Um. And that’s interesting that it even was able to be substantiated because clearly, you know, if police are so secretive, it’s so hard to get um any sort of information about these things. Right. But um there were actually there are actually a couple of cases where people were able to sue um or their parents sued or you know once they became adults. They you know, some people talked about it. But uh this is why I think that the Department of Justice was upset about these results. And and I think it’s why it’s coming back. And I don’t think I’m alone in reaching that conclusion. I think that that’s certainly um what, uh you know, it’s kind of obvious for people who who know uh a little bit about the way police operate, that this is this is what is behind DARE. The um so there’d be these cases there was a 11 year old girl. Her name was uh Crystal. Now in in Maine, uh she had confided to one of the DARE officers that her parents uh occasionally smoked weed. So this leads to officers, uh a SWAT team coming and raiding her house and uh they arrest her parents. She’s removed from her house, removed from her parent’s custody. And, you know, this is this horrific experience for this uh young girl who thinks she’s confiding in these officers um who have presented themselves as you know officer friendly. Right. Um. And it actually leads to her being uh taken away from her family. Um. And she’s not alone. This happens in numerous instances. And part of that is because the DARE philosophy and this is actually in DARE pamphlets, this is not a secret. The DARE philosophy is recognize, resist, and report. So they teach children to recognize drugs. Right. And then there’s the whole idea that they should resist. But the third part report is the key. So children are taught that if they come across drugs, they should report that to the police. And so they report their parents drug use to the police. This is just part of what they’re taught. But they don’t realize in doing that what that leads to is, of course, their parents then being arrested and uh prosecuted in many cases and in a shockingly high number of cases, they then removed from their uh parents custody. Because that’s what happened. I mean, that’s a consequence. You know, even today I don’t know what I’m saying even today. But when parents get arrested for drug use, um even marijuana use. So though maybe you know that’s changing now as people uh are being arrested less and less for for marijuana use in certain jurisdictions. Uh you know an ACS investigation will be opened and children do get removed from the home.
DeRay Mckesson: Now how did you know, like what what put you on to the fact that DARE is coming back? And do we know who is who’s behind it? Like who’s pushing for this to to come back into cities? Is it ARPA money? [siren wailing in background] Is it, you know, a foundation? Is it a think tank? Like who’s behind the resurgence?
Dr. Rebecca Kavanagh: Right. So, um you know, so I I’m very passionate about um drugs. Drug legalization, I should say. This is just within my uh, you know, my my broader interest in racial justice and uh criminalization as a um as an issue, I think is a human rights issue. I think that uh the criminalization of drugs and the ways in which uh police operate, uh I just think that this is something that is is key. And so I’m, you know uh Dr. Carl Hart is someone who is obviously very on top of these issues. I’m not sure if, you know, Tomeka Franklin, who also works on these issues. But so they’re people that I talk about with this and Tomeka was, um you know, it was in a conversation with her that I learned about um the resurgence of DARE. It never went away. Let me be clear. It never stopped. Right. It just became very, very much less common. You know, it’s budget, you know which was at one point 750 million, became something like 3 million. So in the last few years, I think um, you know, we’ve seen this resurgence of community policing. And DARE is the perfect example of community policing, which I you know, I’m using quotation marks there because what we see with community policing is an attempt by police departments to integrate themselves into communities, not to protect or help people, but to integrate themselves into communities, to uh extract information and to um collect information on the people that they are policing. So DARE allows them to do that with the most vulnerable members of the communities that they’re policing, children. And so I think it’s part of that. And so it’s, you know, it’s Chicago and it’s Baltimore. It’s major police departments now who are doing this.
DeRay Mckesson: Yeah. How did you come to know that this was even happening? Did you see it in a study? Did you read an article about it? Like how did you know this was coming back?
Dr. Rebecca Kavanagh: Yes. So um specifically uh Tomeka Franklin, who is a close friend of mine who also works with Dr. Carl Hart, uh she uh specifically told me um, mentioned it um in passing in a conversation. And uh so then it it uh it gave me the idea that um it would be something that would be very interesting to write about, because I just don’t think that it is on people’s radar. It hasn’t been uh reported nationally. And it’s so important. Right. Like 6000 of the 18,000 police departments across the country now have DARE offices and it’s not you know in every uh you know school district in the nation. But if you think about Chicago, Baltimore, and I don’t think it’s coincidental that these police departments have the reputations that they do. Right. I mean, to me, that speaks very much to the fact that this is not a um it’s not really a program that is designed to be, um you know, warm and fuzzy. It’s a program that is designed to use children as um as soldiers. I’ll use that word, soldiers in the war on drugs. And uh I mentioned this in my article, because I really do think it’s the perfect uh term to describe it. Um. Dorothy Roberts, who, you know, is just an amazing scholar who talks about the child welfare system in general. But it’s a form of benevolent terror. It’s a form of using police and you know under the guise of uh doing something to help people or help here children and families, to really terrorize them because it’s ineffective. It’s still ineffective, but children are being removed from their families. And you can’t point to any any other studies. Certainly, there haven’t you know there haven’t been any studies about what’s happening now because it’s largely just gone under the radar. Um. But I feel confident that if there were studies that it wouldn’t show that it’s any more effective because nothing has changed, at least as far as I can see from what’s been reported. Except that there’s more of a focus now on opioids as opposed to marijuana. Um. So but the methods, you know drugs are scary. Um. Just say no. Seems very much to be still the methodology that they’re employing.
DeRay Mckesson: Boom. Now what can people do about it? So people will hear this, they’ll be like woo, didn’t know DARE was not what I thought it was. What should people do?
Dr. Rebecca Kavanagh: Right. So I do think, you know, obviously this is the first step, but there has to be more than awareness. Right. That it has to go further. So it is something that is happening um at the school district level. So to the extent that people are involved um in their local school boards, which you know as we’ve seen lately is just the key to so much, um if they can get uh involved and protest uh the implementation of the program at that level, I think that will be the most effective thing that they can do. The problem is, as we see, that people you know tend to be quite supportive even of the idea of, you know, school safety officers in schools. And I think this is seen as something that is um benevolent. Right. Although people. I was surprised when I uh when I wrote the article that so many people did just have, you know, even if they weren’t uh even if they weren’t angered by the the reemergence of DARE, I think they just felt that it was such a useless program. And I’m not sure that anyone would look at it now and say, Oh, well, it must have changed. It must be. It must be so much better now. I guess I would just be concerned that there has been such a moral panic surrounding, oh, you know, this is obviously generated by the media surrounding things like Fentanyl that I do think that that would be something that police and school officials would be able to play on to get support for this sort of thing. But it’s just so inappropriate. And so, as I say, and ineffective to to even have police officers in this role, when you, you know, even putting aside the the extreme danger that it presents.
DeRay Mckesson: So there, there’s a question that we ask everybody on the pod. And it is um what’s a piece of advice that you’ve gotten over the years that’s stuck with you?
Dr. Rebecca Kavanagh: Best advice that I could give anyone is to never talk to the cops, never talk to the police.
DeRay Mckesson: Boom. Well, we are honored to have you here, and we consider you a friend of the pod and can’t wait to have you back.
Dr. Rebecca Kavanagh: Thank you so much DeRay. And I really appreciate the opportunity to have been to have been here. [music break]
DeRay Mckesson: Well, that’s it. Thanks so much for tuning into Pod Save the People this week. Tell your friends to check it out. Make sure to rate it wherever you get your podcasts, whether it’s Apple Podcasts or somewhere else. And we will see you next week. Pod Save the People was a production of Crooked Media. It’s produced by AJ Moultrié and mixed by Charlotte Landes. Executive produced by me, and special thanks to our weekly contributors Kaya Henderson, De’Ara Balenger, and Myles Johnson. [music break].