In This Episode
In the final episode of 2023: DeRay, Kaya, and De’Ara cover the underreported news of the week — pharmacies share medical data with police without a warrant, widening disparity in mortgage approval rates between White and Black borrowers, and a debate the American vote.
DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Hey, this is DeRay. And welcome to Pod Save the People, and this is our last episode of 2023. This week it’s me, De’Ara and Kaya and talking about the underreported news with regard to race and justice that you didn’t hear about in the past week. And as always, thank you for listening. We love the community that we’re a part of that cares about making the world a better place. And we will see you in 2024. Let’s go. [music break]
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.
Kaya Henderson: I’m Kaya Henderson. You can find me on Twitter or X or whatever you want to call it these days at @HendersonKaya.
DeRay Mckesson: And this is DeRay at @deray on Twitter.
De’Ara Balenger: Well, we’re going to kick off with this Pope Francis news. Pope Francis does it again. We love Pope Francis. He recently announced that he is encouraging Catholic priests to bless gay weddings. And this is part of a whole effort of his to make the Catholic Church more accepting of LGBTQ people. I grew up Catholic. You know, grew up in D.C. catholic. So we you know, we black Catholic, went to Saint Augustine Church. 14th and V Street.
Kaya Henderson: Mm hmm.
De’Ara Balenger: But, you know, it’s been a tough one. So I most recently go to Unitarian churches because the Catholic Church has been the Catholic Church. So it’s been interesting to see these new developments. So, you know, and this comes after Pope Francis also called the attacks on civilians in Palestine terrorism. So, you know, he’s just one after the other being on the right side of things. So really interesting to see. And it will also be interesting to see the pushback. And, you know, the other thing that happened, I don’t know if we talked about this on the pod or not, but there was uh, I think, an archbishop out of Texas. The pope fired him, basically. He’s like, oh, you’re going to say all these things and, you know, be so counter to our values and our principles. You’re fired. And this man, if I remember correctly, created this whole online following. So it’s just interesting to see. It’s like not only are you saying the right things, but you’re actually operationalizing that within the archdiocese behind that. So it is very cool to see.
Kaya Henderson: It feels very interesting to be in this moment in history where so many things are shifting so dramatically. Shout out to I mean, I love this pope. This pope knows Jesus. And I can’t say that other popes [laugh] and I’m sure you know, I’m about to cause a whole lot of trouble. But the demonstrable following of Christ, kindness to people, acceptance, forgiveness, love like that is who this pope is. And I just so appreciate him. And I think it also reminds us that, you know, sometimes we think problems are intractable. Institutions will never change, things will never move. We talk about the arc of history bending toward justice, but we think about it very slowly. And I feel blessed to be in a moment in history where we’re seeing so many big societal shifts happen. Um. This was a hopeful piece of news for me.
DeRay Mckesson: I will say it’s been interesting to see how the religious right thinks about the pope as this pope is progressive because they have used the Catholic Church’s teachings to be unbelievably homophobic. We know the the history of the church is rooted in colonialism, in the Crusades and a whole host of other things. And now that the pope is like, hey y’all you know, what’s happening in in Palestine is terrorism and, you know, same sex marriage is okay and da da da. It is a reminder that the religious right has always used religion as a political tool when it wants to, and that if you believe that the pope is your guy, if he is the closest representative of God on Earth, then you all will be making different choices right now, when you think about certainly what’s happening in Palestine or when you think about what’s happening with homophobia and a host of other things. So this is just made, reminded me of how loose people’s religious beliefs are when they are progressive or challenged in these ways.
De’Ara Balenger: Y’all in other news, we wanted to highlight the fact that, do you all remember? I guess it was a year ago at this point. But the six year old child that was in Virginia who shot his teacher. So what’s been happening is that his mother actually pleaded guilty to a state charge of felony child neglect in August and was sentenced last Friday to two years in prison. And so what’s interesting about this is that we’re at, what, over 100 school shootings historically. And I think this may be the first case where a parent of the student shooter was charged and sentenced and now will spend time in jail. And, you know, the differentiator here is that the mother of this child is Black. And so it’s just an interesting take on what’s going on with the rest of the parents in these school shootings. Just an interesting insight here.
Kaya Henderson: Yeah, I thought this was really, really yeah it struck me so clearly when I read this, because we often talk about holding parents accountable when kids have access to guns. We talk about parental responsibility. Did the parents know how did the kid get access to a gun and all of that. And it’s all been conversation heretofore. There have been lots of reasons why we have not held parents accountable. But here’s this single Black woman whose kid got his hands on her gun. She ends up being sentenced to two years in jail after she finishes serving 21 months, which is another two years on a related federal charge. She pled guilty to a charge of using marijuana while owning a gun, which I’m sure a zillion other people have that similar situation. So she’s going to spend 21 months on a federal charge and then two years, I guess, on this state charge. And so this is four years plus two years of probation. And somebody has to make it make sense to me why we are holding this lady accountable in different ways than we hold other parents whose children do equally horrible and even worse, school shootings.
DeRay Mckesson: You said this earlier. I didn’t even think about that. I saw this and I was like, obviously it’s another injustice. And I chalked this up to the racism of the system. And then I was like, I when you made that connection. I’m like, you’re right. All those school shooters who are white boys.
Kaya Henderson: Nothing happens to their parents.
DeRay Mckesson: Nothing. And I think about the stories of the parents having notice, right? Like there were warning signs all that. Like, literally nothing. They just get bad PR for three days.
Kaya Henderson: Or the parents who bought the guns for their children.
DeRay Mckesson: Right. No consequence. You know, this also reminds me this is a completely different topic. But as we talk about the unfair justice system with regard to Black people, did you all see that story of the ten year old boy in Mississippi who was peeing behind his mother’s car and the police arrested him? So she was at the lawyer’s office. There was no bathroom, so he was peeing behind the car. The police arrest him, like they actually put him in the car and take him to the police station. And the police’s response was, well, he was never actually handcuffed. And the mother is like, but you put my son in a jail cell. Either way, he has been sentenced to probation.
Kaya Henderson: You’re kidding.
DeRay Mckesson: The ten year old boy has been put on three months probation and also ordered to write a two page book report on the late NBA star Kobe Bryant.
Kaya Henderson: What?
DeRay Mckesson: And the child’s lawyer said they had reached the agreement after the prosecutors threatened to upgrade the charge of a, quote, “child in need of supervision to disorderly conduct if the family took the case to trial.”
Kaya Henderson: What?
DeRay Mckesson: I am like, are you kidding? And let’s be clear. You know, I know going to court is awful for everybody, but I cannot imagine a jury sentencing this kid, you know, like a jury trial to me seems like the way to go. But I it is a painful process. I get why you would settle. But ten months and a two page book report on Kobe Bryant. Kobe Bryant ain’t got nothing to do with none of this.
Kaya Henderson: But what kind of monster is the prosecutor who really deeply believes that the way to I mean, the kid had to go to the bathroom. Right. It wasn’t like he was out, you know, graffitiing the walls or whatever, whatever. He had to go to the bathroom. And you think that the way to deal with that is to charge him and to up the charges if the parents take this to trial. I. Mm mm mm. Okay. I just can’t even with this I cannot even with this.
De’Ara Balenger: My short stint as a prosecutor, I remember we were at one morning, we were doing uh hearings for juvenile offenders. And I had to go on the record and argue with my colleague that the kids that came to the courtroom shouldn’t be shackled.
Kaya Henderson: Jesus.
DeRay Mckesson: Crazy.
De’Ara Balenger: That’s the mindset of a lot of prosecutors, right? It’s like you are guilty until you are proven innocent and we’re going to treat you as undignified as possible, even if you’re a baby.
DeRay Mckesson: And, you know, they can’t even solve violent crimes.
De’Ara Balenger: That part.
Kaya Henderson: But you busy worried about the little boy peeing.
DeRay Mckesson: Like, come on.
DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Don’t go anywhere. More Pod Save the People is coming.
DeRay Mckesson: I’ll start this week, I rarely start, but my news is also about the police. And it came out recently actually as a part of some congressional requests interestingly. Shout out to our Congress people doing some helpful stuff. That CVS Health, Kroger and Rite Aid, who have a combined 60,000 locations, that they often just turn over people’s medical records from the pharmacy to the police with no nothing. In the absence of warrants, in the absence of the court giving permission. And importantly, in the absence of you, the customer, even knowing that it happened. Now, the reason that this came up was about the conversation about abortion being criminalized and reproductive health. And as you know, a lot of people go to the pharmacy for a whole host of things. And the idea that the police can just access that with no anything is pretty wild. Now, here’s the thing. What makes it even more absurd is that the pharmacy’s sort of response is that, yes, they do have a process and sometimes they have the law team look over things, but they also allow pharmacy staff to just hand over the customer’s medical records in the store. What? In what world would the like random director of the pharmacy at your neighborhood pharmacy be the arbiter of whether or not the police can access your medical records? And what makes this really sneaky on their part is that, as you can imagine, the pharmacy records are shared across the country. So the CVS in Nebraska has your insurance information. And if you go to the CVS in Oklahoma, they also have it. They also have a record of what medication you got. So if you travel across the country, that’s the whole supposed benefit of the big brands.
Kaya Henderson: Uh oh.
DeRay Mckesson: So when they say the pharmacy director is the person making the decision, they really have access to your records in any state at any pharmacy in the country. And that is really wild. So I brought this here because I was shocked by it and the eight companies that are part of this congressional investigation literally don’t even know how many times they’ve turned over pharmacy records to law enforcement. They don’t track it. And I thought that was just wild. So, you know, they’ve said they’re in compliance with HIPAA. This does not look like it. And HHS has not replied to the reporters who have reached out. But I was just shocked by this.
Kaya Henderson: I was shocked by this as well. DeRay, I mean, you could barely find out your own health history because HIPAA is so strong. [laughing] And so the idea that we take these tremendous precautions across so many pieces of the medical establishment, but pharmacies don’t have to actually follow the same rules was really it just it seems like a glaring omission. And this is especially critical, as you know, states like Texas try to criminalize everything in and around abortion. So this means that law enforcement could go to the pharmacy and find out who’s taking abortion inducing drugs and and can can hold the pharmacy criminally liable, can hold people criminally liable. Like if this does not smell like The Handmaid’s Tale child, this is how we go from enjoying the freedoms of privacy and whatnot to the crazy authoritarian state where, you know, people have [?] where law enforcement has access to your pharmacy records and your medical history. It means that people who are taking mental health drugs, then law enforcement knows that. It like literally we require a warrant or a subpoena for all kinds of other things. Why wouldn’t we for this? So it seems like there’s an opportunity here for Congress to act and to close this glaring loophole, which I hope they do.
De’Ara Balenger: Absolutely. And I think it’s also interesting to, you know, what is Becerra’s response going to be? Who leads HHS. Again, making sure, you know, [sigh] this has been my thing recently about like cabinet level folks, people in the National Security Council, like our administration is not just the president. And I know we always go to the president and, you know, he should be doing this and he should be doing that. But we have a whole federal government of individuals who have pledged to serve the people. And so I think part of this is like, what is Becerra going to do? Congress has written him a letter. And so if I were on his staff, I’d be getting all my listen, doing a document pull to make sure that we can get whatever we need to get. And also calling out these pharmacies and starting to meet with them, CVS, etc., all of them to say this is what the plan is going to be. This is great for Congress to put the pressure on Becerra, but it’s on him to act and to act quickly and swiftly. And so, you know, I think we can continue to watch this because, again, this is like this is the accountability metric, right? Like, this thing is happening. It’s illegal. What are you going to do about it as the secretary of of HHS? So this is an interesting one DeRay. Thanks for bringing it.
Kaya Henderson: My news this week is for all the people who thinks that we live in a post-racial society, but really for all of the people who think that there is no such thing as systemic racism. Alive and well, kicking friends at Navy Federal credit union and credit unions and banks all over the country. Navy Federal Credit Union is the largest credit union in the United States. It has 13 million members. It was founded to serve military families and veteran families and it has more than $165 billion dollars in assets, largest credit union in the United States. It also has the widest disparity in mortgage approval rates between white and Black borrowers of any major lenders in the United States. According to a statistical analysis by CNN. Shout out to CNN for digging in the files for accessing data that is publicly available and using it to figure out exactly what’s going on in the world. At Navy Federal Credit Union, 75% of white borrowers who applied for a conventional mortgage were approved. Less than 50% of Black borrowers were approved for a conventional mortgage. In fact, they approved more white applicants making less than $62,000 a year, then Black applicants making $140,000 or more a year. How does that math work out? They also approved Latinos at a lower rate than whites. Experts say that while this is particularly egregious at Navy Federal, these disparities are actually an example of a larger national problem. So the gap between white and Black approval rates have grown significantly in recent years, not just at Navy Federal, but amongst all lenders. The gap in homeownership between white and Black Americans is larger today than it was before the Civil Rights era. When we put fair housing practices in place and as you know, homeownership is a key driver of or the lack of home ownership or the disparities in homeownership are a key driver of wealth disparities between Black and white families in the United States. In 2022, Navy Federal approved 77.1% of its white applicants, 55.8% of its Latino applicants, and 48.5% of its Black applicants, resulting in a 28.6% gap between white and Black approval ratings. For a little comparison, lets scooch around to some of the other banks. At Wells Fargo, there is a 19.5 percentage point gap between white applications and Black applications being approved. At U.S. Bank there is a ten point gap, and at Bank of America there is a 3.5 point gap. Navy Federal used to be a little bit better. In 2018, the gap was only 11.5 points. But in these last four or five years, it’s jumped from 11.5 points to 28.6 points. How does this happen? Well, there are automated underwriting systems that have lots of biases built in and lots of fair housing folks have been challenging banks and credit unions to change the underwriting systems. Credit unions are not required to follow the same rules as banks. So, for example, they are not subject to the Community Reinvestment Act, which incentivizes banks to make loans in low income and middle income neighborhoods. And of course, there’s always bias amongst loan officers. There are also large racial disparities in Navy Federal’s VA loan business and VA loans are supposed to help military members, low income people, get mortgages that they might not otherwise qualify for. So in even in the program that’s supposed to help people, there are large racial disparities. Add this to our history of redlining and lending discrimination in our country, and you understand why it is really hard for Black people to buy homes. They highlight a couple of applicants who literally were denied by Navy Federal, long time customers of Navy Federal. People with good credit scores. People with good jobs and good salaries. And literally two weeks later, they are approved by another bank without any problem. And so this is for all of the people who want us all to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. This is where we recognize that there are built in biases in the systems that engineer economic wealth and mobility in this country. And I just brought here to remind you, if you thought it was over, it ain’t over.
De’Ara Balenger: Well, you know what I like to do when I hear these things? I like to take it to the top. So I’m already online, Kaya, [laughter] looking at the board of directors for this here bank.
Kaya Henderson: Of course you are. Of course you are.
De’Ara Balenger: And you know, when you look up the board of directors and they don’t have photos, you can always assume that everybody’s white. But just to make sure that is accurate, I’ve just been popping all these little names into Google and what am I finding? [laughter] White, white, white. So I think part of this is the leadership of this bank who when you get on a board of directors of particular, like a local bank or credit union, where the whole point of those banks is actually to get people in homes and help people start their business like that is the point. And so when you get on to these boards, like that’s what you’re empowered to do, how are we going to prioritize who? Which communities are we going to prioritize? Which communities are we going to lock out? And so I’m going to hold the board of directors responsible at this bank who are all, by the looks of it, except for Miss Mary McDuffie, are retired military folks, which makes it even more painful for me, quite honestly. But yeah Kaya, this is just one of those things where I’m I just I don’t know how people can sleep at night knowing that this is happening to folks who are doing, you know, and I hate even to put it in in this type of paradigm, but were doing all the right things and just trying to put their family in a home or just trying to start a business. And it just makes me think maybe, you know, how can we invest more in Black banks or what’s the solution here? Because this is just so widespread, it just seems so hard to attack it and solve for it.
DeRay Mckesson: Just like you De’Ara, I was looking at the membership and it does look like Annie Andrews.
De’Ara Balenger: Oh which one?
DeRay Mckesson: Is a Black woman. She’s the only Black person on the board, it appears, which doesn’t make this better. So I didn’t know anything about this credit union until this news broke. But remember y’all, that this is the government, that this was started as a credit union just for the Navy. The Department of Defense is like the backer of this. President Roosevelt passed the Federal Credit Union Act, which became the basis for the credit union. And essentially all the ones that come afterwards that made this one a real thing. And it was chartered as the Navy Department employee’s Federal Credit Union. It is now called the Navy Federal Credit Union. But remember, this is the government. So let me tell you who the membership is. It is all D.O.D. uniformed personnel. Reservists. Coast Guard. National Guard. Everybody in the Department of Defense candidate program. All current and retired civilian employees of the Department of Defense. Any government employee assigned to Department of Defense installation. DOD Contractors assigned to government installations. Employees of the Credit Union. Family members of any of the people I named above. And then anybody who was honorably discharged and is a veteran. The government is doing this to people. So often people are like, you know, you know, private companies da da you’re like, nope, the government strikes again. That even when Black people had the money, even when Black people followed the process, the structure is racist. And I do think that that becomes like the access by which as an organizer, we have to help people understand that like, just like Kaya said, you know, people try to do a lot of personal blame, right. They didn’t work hard enough. They didn’t do the process. Pull yourself up by your bootstrap. It’s like you can pull as hard as you want. And when the system’s racist, it actually does not change the outcome.
DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Don’t go anywhere. More Pod Save the People is coming.
De’Ara Balenger: Well, speaking of governments, Charles Blow wrote this op ed for The New York Times that I really resonated with me. And it’s called America’s Thirst for Authoritarianism. And his whole theory is that authoritarianism is on the rise. Um. And, of course, the United States is part of that. And, in fact, he wrote about this, two thousand and this report from last year from the International Institute for Democracy and Electorial Assistance, which found over the past six years, the number of countries moving toward authoritarianism is more than double the number moving towards democracy, and that nearly half of the 173 countries assessed were experiencing declines in at least one metric of democracy. Which it’s just I’d like to think about what’s been happening in this country over the last several years to like think about it at a macro level and also to think about the impact that pluralism and authoritarianism here in the United States is having on the rest of the world. Right? Like in Chile, for example, a very conservative extreme person just became the president of Chile. Right. So this is happening everywhere. And we’ve seen this, whether it’s in England or or even in Spain, there’s a new you know, there’s really a rise on the right with extremists. But so all that to say, his whole position is that well, it’s really a question. It’s like is it Biden not being popular to a lot of folks in our country because he’s not authoritarian, meaning he’s not just going to rip through our bureaucracy to push his agenda as a Donald Trump would. So do people lose confidence in him because of that? Right. So talks a bit about that, which I think is really an interesting paradigm to look at this through. And then he really ties it to voting and how folks, particularly given the last couple of months, how folks are saying they’re not going to vote for Joe Biden based off of a character issue, a dislike, a single policy choice, and how doing that really is what puts our democracy into a tailspin. Because your vote means so much more than a single issue or a single person. And so I just want to read some of these things because I liked it a lot. He says and there are too many who think that a vote should be withheld from a more preferable candidate as punishment for not delivering every single thing on their wish list. That choosing not to vote at all is a sensible act of political protest rather than a relinquishing of control to others. Abstinence doesn’t empower, it neuters. If you want a democracy to thrive, the idea that voting is a choice is itself an illusion. Voting is about survival, and survival isn’t a choice. It’s an imperative. It’s an instinct. And so I just wanted to bring that to the pod. And I talked about it on socials a little bit this week. Just because we keep talking about not voting and not voting for Biden and boycotting Biden. And I’m just like, I understand and I’m compassionate to all the reasons why and like how we got to that point, but it’s not going to help us if we do not vote. So read this, wanted to share it. It really resonated with me. So that’s where I’m at.
DeRay Mckesson: Let me just say um, I really like Charles Blow and I think he is so wrong here that I was stunned by this piece, actually.
Kaya Henderson: [laughter] Little rock and sock em action, I like it.
DeRay Mckesson: And, like, really disappointed at him for writing this, that there is not an instance of authoritarianism that I can think of that is not precipitated by violence, by refusing to allow people to vote or making it impossible or disrupting the way that people share information. That those three things are so when you even when you think about Trump, yes, I’m unbelievably annoyed with all the people who are like, he gave us stimulus checks. Like those people drive me nuts. And what’s true is that the Republicans are making it illegal to give people water in line. They are screwing up all the maps. So even if you wanted to vote, your vote won’t matter.
De’Ara Balenger: DeRay on’t say that. Don’t say your vote won’t matter if you wanted to vote. And also, like, you can’t use like extreme examples, like those are extreme examples.
DeRay Mckesson: It’s not extreme. Nope.
De’Ara Balenger: When I go to vote, nobody’s stopping me from voting. Nobody’s stopping me from voting.
DeRay Mckesson: You’re not in one of the places. You’re not in Georgia where it was literally illegal.
De’Ara Balenger: Right. And so because of that, I will be in Georgia to make sure people can vote. So that’s what I’m saying. We have to stop talking in these extremes and in these organizer buzzwords because it’s not going to get us anywhere. It’s not.
DeRay Mckesson: Nope, it’s the extreme is real. They passed a law to criminalize it. That is true. So if you want to be mad–
De’Ara Balenger: Right.
DeRay Mckesson: –at the extreme, be mad at Georgia. Don’t be mad at me.
De’Ara Balenger: I’m not mad at you. But what I’m saying is, instead of us saying, okay, there are all these barriers are all these barriers, and so fuck it. We need to say there all these barriers, how are we going to overcome them or how are we going to position ourselves, those of us who are privileged to do so, to make sure that we can help people to vote.
DeRay Mckesson: In the context of if you screw over the map so much that even if all the Black people vote, they have gerrymandered it to a way that even if everybody votes, it will not change the process that is gerrymandering. And that is true and that has happened. So it’s not I think it’s actually oh–
De’Ara Balenger: That has not happened. That has not happened.
DeRay Mckesson: That has happened!
De’Ara Balenger: You’re saying right now if none of the Black people in America voted that the outcome of the election wouldn’t.
DeRay Mckesson: So this is the extreme I’m saying. Talk to me about Alabama. Look at the Alabama map.
De’Ara Balenger: DeRay. Respond to the point you’re arguing.
DeRay Mckesson: Yes.
De’Ara Balenger: You just said if Black people did not vote it would not change the outcome.
DeRay Mckesson: In the gerrymandered places. I said gerrymandered places.
De’Ara Balenger: Oh, now it’s the gerrymandering places. Okay. Okay.
DeRay Mckesson: Not now. No. You can rewind the tape. Are you saying gerrymandering is not real? Is that, that can’t be what you’re saying?
De’Ara Balenger: Look. Don’t try to bait and switch me. I know gerrymandering is real.
DeRay Mckesson: No, no, no, not bait and switch, rewind the tapes. [laughter]
Kaya Henderson: Hold on a second. Hold on a second. I actually think that this is an indication of how precarious our democracy is right now. In fact, it is critical that we vote, it’s critical that we monitor the systemic laws and policies that are being put in place that prevent us from voting, that maintain power, like we we can’t be fighting with each other. We got organizing to do. We got people to turn out. And what I think about the Blow piece is I do feel like I mean, you know, I’m 53 years old. I’ve never felt like America was on the precipice of democracy literally breaking. And I don’t know everything about everything, but I know that in this country right now, it feels like the whole thing is about to fall apart. And not just, as you pointed out, De’Ara, not just here. Part of the reason why there is even an Israel Gaza issue happening right now is because Benjamin Netanyahu is an authoritarian leader who was elected in in Israel. And that made way for a whole bunch of policies and actions that, you know, even people who support Israel are critical of Netanyahu. And so I do think that the rise in authoritarianism is really a response to two things. One is well maybe one thing it’s a response to economic insecurity, and part of that is inflation and costs and supply chain and blah blah blah. But also part of that is that the global majority is shifting economic power away from the people who’ve previously had it. And that is an existential crisis for people. And this is why folks are like caged animals fighting to maintain their power. And as other folks are fighting to maintain their power, it is important for us to continue to fight as hard by organizing and doing all of the things to push back and save our democracy. That’s my two cents.
DeRay Mckesson: I just want to say that that is not Charles Blow’s argument.
Kaya Henderson: That’s Kaya Henderson’s argument. But I do think there is a thirst for authoritarianism from some group of people who are losing power, and the authoritarian leader is the person who grabs hold of things and restores them to their previous position, glory and whatever. And this is why, you know, you scratch your head and you think to yourself, why do poor white people think that this rich man, Mr. Trump, is their champion, like their values are completely misaligned. But they see Mr. Trump and other authoritarian leaders as fighting for their predominance, fighting for their position and power. And that, I think, is the genesis of the thirst sort of metaphor. But we ain’t all thirsty for authoritarianism, let me tell you that. I’m thirsty for democracy baby.
DeRay Mckesson: Like I said, I’m reminded that the only way every single instance of a authoritarianism that we can name in today’s moment is precipitated by violence, by misinformation running rampant and by, like screwing up the vote in such a wild way that, like, it makes it really hard for people when they do want to participate to participate. Like that is just a hard context to be in. I thought it was weird that he just doesn’t talk about that side of it because I read it as like an everybody argument.
De’Ara Balenger: I see. I didn’t read it as that. I didn’t. I read because he was so clear about the Christian right, like he points out who he’s talking about.
DeRay Mckesson: Oh, I missed that.
De’Ara Balenger: Yeah. In that alignment with Trump, because the whole point is Trump is authoritarian and people want to get behind him. It’s not a general people, but it’s the right and the Christian right that have been obviously fueling it. You know? So like I just looked up Charles Blow’s age, he’s 53. And for me, I just feel like generationally it’s like–
Kaya Henderson: Amen.
De’Ara Balenger: Don’t get to talking about not voting because it just drives me wild. But, you know, and I think it’s part of and it’s interesting because Charles Blow has this other he has this whole documentary out. I haven’t watched it yet about basically reverse migration and how Black folks should return to the south. So I think DeRay to your earlier point around gerrymandering, it’s is it a political strategy? Out of the cities, get back to the south where we have a number advantage um and continue to increase it so that we can have um a little bit more political power there, which is an interesting theory.
DeRay Mckesson: And the number thing is, so Mississippi has more Black people than any place in the country and we still are screwed there. You’re like, I mean, if they haven’t cut the political power up, the last thing I’ll say that I do think is um maybe the subtext in his piece that is not explicit is that there are a lot of people who do think the system is fixed. They’re sort of like it is what it is. They don’t get that the judges aren’t just like randomly there, that they can change. Like there is a part of political education and somebody there was like an organizer fight happening the other day where somebody was like, you know, people don’t care anymore, da da da. And they were like, the Panthers held a class every morning to bring people in, you know, like they were like the idea of political education is not like a random thing where you’re just pissed off at everybody. It was like a daily grind to help people see. Like they don’t want you to think you got power. You do got power. They don’t want you to think you got power. You do got power. And I do think that is something that is happening that people sort of just don’t realize yet they can do. They can change this. And did you see about that sher– I mean, not that we love the sheriff’s. Did you see that, Sheriff? That won by one vote as a Black guy.
De’Ara Balenger: Where?
DeRay Mckesson: A Black guy and a white guy running against each other for Sheriff. Henry Whitehorn is his name.
De’Ara Balenger: Mmmm. Mmm. Louisiana.
DeRay Mckesson: In Louisiana. Black guy ran for sheriff, and, you know, they mad about it and he literally won by one vote. It went to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals because this man was mad about it. [laughter] And in a three to two vote, the one vote margin last, it like stood. And that is a reminder that, like, you know, people turned out and that one vote, whoever Miss Shirley was who came to vote that day.
Kaya Henderson: Amen.
DeRay Mckesson: Tipped the scales.
Kaya Henderson: Amen.
De’Ara Balenger: That part.
DeRay Mckesson: In Louisiana, of all places.
De’Ara Balenger: That part.
Kaya Henderson: Listeners, family as we wrap up 2023, as we go into this holiday season, this is our last recording of the year and we just want to take a moment to say thank you so much for being part of our family. Thank you for listening. Thank you for sharing with us. We appreciate engaging with you. Keep writing us. Keep tweeting at us. Keep calling us, keep doing all of the things. We are lucky to be in community with you and we don’t take that for granted. And so we wish you all a very happy holiday. Whether you celebrate or you don’t. We pray to everybody gets some rest and relaxation and good time with the people that they love over the holiday season. And we’ll see you in the new year. [music break]
DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Well, that’s it. Thanks so much for tuning in to 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]