In This Episode
Myles, De’Ara, Kaya, and DeRay welcome the new year and cover the underreported news of the week— including DC police failed attempts to reprimand officers, Black artists revolutionize medical illustrations, Proud Boys regroup to local municipalities, and the life & death of bell hooks. DeRay interviews philosopher & longtime friend Myisha Cherry on her book The Case for Rage: Why Anger Is Essential to Anti-Racist Struggle.
DeRay Mckesson: Hey, this is DeRay and welcome to Pod Save the People. Happy New Year! It’s 2022. Lord, it feels like we earned this because 2022, 2021 were just endless. So shout out to 2022. You made it. I made it. We made it. Here we go. And welcome to another episode of Pod Save the People. This week, it’s me, Kaya, Myles, and De’Ara talking about all the news that you don’t know from the past week. And then I get the honor to sit down with Professor Myisha Cherry to discuss her new book, “The Case for Rage: Why Anger is Essential to Anti-Racist Struggle.” I’ve known Myisha for a long time, and it was an honor to talk about her book, to learn from her, and to be able to share with you all the things that I learned in real time. The advice this week actually comes from Myles, and you will hear it when we get the news and just listen up. Don’t go anywhere, more Pod Save the People is coming.
De’Ara Balenger: Family! Happy New Year! Welcome to the kick-off episode of Pod Save the People in 2022. I’m De’Ara Balenger. You can find me on Instagram and Twitter @Dearabalenger.
Myles Johnson: My name is Myles E. Johnson and on Twitter and Instagram, I’m @pharoahrapture, today. Right now.
Kaya Henderson: I’m Kaya Henderson, @Hendersonkaya on Twitter.
De’Ara Balenger: This is DeRay, @Deray on Twitter.
De’Ara Balenger: So, we are actually taping this episode in 2021, but it will air in 2022, so I am jumping into future De’Ara which would have, she would have had two weeks of vacation, no clients bugging her, not hearing from people asking for things. I don’t care who they are, movement related or not, I will have silence, silence, silence for two weeks. So I think jumping into that future De’Ara, feeling so refreshed, feeling so charged, I’m excited about 2022. Also manifesting that this increase in cases in COVID is no more in New York City, and we’re back to regular COVID numbers, [laughs], just usual pandemic numbers, you know, nothing too wild. But, you know, also hoping that the Senate passed Build Back Better miraculously or one of the numerous voting rights bills that they had, that they have to the end of the year to pass. So also manifesting that we had some legislative change in this country as of January, whenever this is on the air. So, excited about 2022, trying to manifest all the positivity I can muster, and looking forward to more conversations with these fine, incredible human beings on this podcast. What ya all got?
Myles Johnson: I am, you know what, I was meditating on my mother yesterday because every, every now and again, I just think about like, Wow, I have really lucked out, I have a really great mom and I will be-when this airs-I will be about two months out of being the same age that my mother was when she had m. She had me a 31. And, you know, with the rise in COVID cases in, you know, all the things that happened on the street, and I live in New York. A rat tried to fight me and I just said, here’s my groceries, and something, there’s a new type of craziness every single day, in my life. And what I’ve noticed by observing my mother and reflecting on my mother is how I’m ready. So I think that I can’t really control whatever the world decides to hand me, but I do, I can control my readiness and my preparedness because I observed my mother and I can also observe that there’s a certain type of despair or cynicism that I just don’t have the right to because my my mother paid that for me. She met a certain type of despair and cynicism because of the things that were happening in her life and I just am able to live on a platform of hope at the bare minimum because of what I’ve seen her do. And I’m just going to be a good person and be ready for whatever happens and the world gets colder and harder, I’m gonna get softer and warmer. And I am going to fly. I’m going to fly. Now, I might swoop down. I’mma fly a little bit more like a vulture. I’m not just flying high all the time. I might swoop down and play and play with some rats and some, and some carcasses. But I’m going to go back in the air when I’m done.
Kaya Henderson: Fly robin, fly.
DeRay Mckesson: We should call this episode, this episode should be called “I’m ready.” That’s a good 2022 episode title.
Kaya Henderson: I’m ready in 2022 for everything that is coming our way. I believe you have to speak these things into existence and so I am speaking love, love, love, love, love in 2022. I am seeking bridge, I’m speaking bridge-building in 2022. I’m speaking rest in 2022, especially for my friend DeRay, who has terrible sleep numbers on his Oura ring. We need to fix that, brah. Sleep, it is real.
DeRay Mckesson: Day one. Day one.
Kaya Henderson: I am speaking, I’m speaking life. I am coming into 2022 with hopeful expectation of good things to happen. And I might be up there flying with Myles. Maybe not as high, but I’mma fly.
DeRay Mckesson: My 2021 with, it was God, God is in control. That was like the message. It was like, OK, DeRay like this not surrender and surrender is not weakness. God is in control. I think that in 2022, I want to believe it will be, a trust myself a little bit more. To like, listen when the things are moving, I’m like lean into that. Also, I appreciate that I, for the first time in my life, actually feel grounded, like I feel like two feet on the ground, ten toes down. And I want to carry that into the new year, and also use that as a way to like, use that grounded-ness to do all the things that are in my head, to put them out in the world, to like build the crazy thing, to like, make the magic in the movement, to free all the systems. Like, that’s what I want to do. And I hope that that’s what we can do together. And like just being honest. I’m telling you, I didn’t realize being honest was so hard for people, but it really does, when you ain’t got to lie it opens up a whole lot of capacity to do other good things, and I want to carry that into 2022. But I will echo you, Myles, I want to be ready, ready, ready, and ready in 2022.
Myles Johnson: So I have a really good, well my news today is on the passing of bell hooks. I just knew that we couldn’t, I couldn’t move on, this podcast couldn’t move on, without talking about the intellectual and artistic and mystic giant that is bell hooks. I leave those last two on there because I think that’s such a big dimension of her work. And I feel like sometimes media and just how we operate can flatten people’s minds. So I remember one of the more life changing talks that I ever witnessed bell hooks do was with Gloria Steinem and she talks to Gloria Steinem about her brother, who was really having a hard time finding spirituality because all he knew was a white Jesus, and she goes into talking about how that is one of the reasons why she started practicing Buddhism, and how come that’s one of the reasons why she has these different colored Buddhas and deities of all kinds around her house because she feels like that her house [unclear]. And then she really talks about how it’s so necessary for Black people, specifically Black children, to see Black deities. And yesterday-well, it wouldn’t be yesterday-a day [laughs] I go and I see this Black Buddha and this Black person holding this Black Buddha and hands it to me and it was one of the more jarring things that I’ve ever seen happen in a really good way. And that kind of felt like a synchronistic moment that I had with at least my own higher self knowing that bell hooks was OK and present. And I think that that is a really good definition of what bell hooks does and has done to all her readers is make her more political global ideas and theory, personal, intimate, and something that happens to you with a stranger on the street. She made everybody investigate their world, their interiors, and find the political in it, and made everybody investigate their politics and how they interface with the world and find the personal, intimate with it. And that, to me, is the real work of love. bell hooks was, is just a giant. I knew that I was going to kind of get emotional because bell hooks made me feel like everything was possible as somebody who only had a high school diploma but wanted to write, and I was self-educated. She made it so I believed in myself and ended up teaching at the New School where I witnessed her talk and I ended up being a professor there and I ended up writing for different publications, all because I felt like somebody like bell hooks even through her literature validated my experience and I felt worthy to be intellectual. I felt worthy to think out loud, and I felt worthy to express myself in a way that a lot of people don’t feel validated unless they have these other credentials. And that’s the legacy of bell hooks. She said, If you are Black and you are born, you are worthy of expressing yourself. And that’s the legacy of love that she’s left and she will be dearly missed. But it almost feels inappropriate to wish she was still here. As somebody who wasn’t part of her personal family or friends circle, it feels inappropriate to wish that she was still here because she’s literally mentored me to my future, mentored me to a more expensive future than what would be there for me statistically. And I’m just forever grateful and forever impacted by bell hooks.
Kaya Henderson: My favorite bell hooks quote is this one: The classroom remains the most radical space of possibility in the academy. And it absolutely sums up for me how I think of why I’ve spent my life in education. And so it’s one of my most favorite quotes. I am so appreciative of bell hooks for using her words and her gifts to empower us all. When I think about a life well lived, she comes to mind for sure because through her conversation with us as a society, she has enabled so many things to happen, not just your career trajectory, Myles. She’s allowed women to think, especially Black women, to think differently about who we are in the world. She’s forced us to, through how she identifies herself, to put person small and make ideas big. She has challenged us to love in ways that we’ve never loved before. And, you know, once in a generation, people like her come along and I am just thankful. I really am thankful. And I think it was, it’s fitting to as the year ended to really reflect on some of the themes that she challenges us to think about, about education, about love, about racism, about the role of the academy, all of these things that are swirling right now in the world. And so I just want to say thank you for bringing this and for giving us the opportunity to share how bell hooks impacted us. She, in fact a mystic giant is wow, it’s a poetic description of who she has been in our lives. So thanks for that.
De’Ara Balenger: I don’t think, I know the episode is “I’m Ready” but not ready for this, I think. And I think bell hooks is one of those incredible humans who I think for so many of us who were, you know, in in academia, once we came upon her work, and that’s really when I did, it changes you. And I think Myles, to your point, it, you know, it transforms what you envision for yourself. And I think she was that for so, so many of us. I majored in Black studies in college and in reading everybody’s work from, you know, all the old school folks, from Manning Marable to Kimberlé Crenshaw, etc., etc., there was something that was so compelling about bell hooks in how she saw you, in how she helped you see yourself and your wounds and the need for love and the need for healing. So, I think this one, this was, this is the hard one. And, you know, and obviously she’s left us with this legacy and all her incredible work, but I think just knowing that she was breathing on this Earth certainly gave me comfort. So I think this one, you know, want to honor her and continue to celebrate her, but this one, um, this one was a big, a big loss, that, yeah, that I was not ready for. So we’ll miss you, Bell, and we thank you. And we’ll continue to uplift you.
DeRay Mckesson: You know, I’ll never forget reading bell hooks in college for the first time and being blown away. I remember the no footnotes. I was like, Is this really academic, is this really something in the Academy!? There’s no food notes! And it was like, That’s the whole purpose. I’m like, Oh, bell, bell got it. Here’s the first time that I felt smart, and like, uh, so that was one. The second thing and Myles, this is actually what brought me to you, like knowing who you are outside of the children’s book, was bell hooks was the first writer that ever made me believe that culture was a site of interrogation. Before bell hooks’ work, I remember reading her work on soul food, and I was like, You can critically think about like TV shows and songs and movie covers and magazines? Like, I just didn’t even know that was the thing, because in the academy, the way I was brought up, it was like those were sort of like cultural productions, and then there was like [real theory?], and they were two very different worlds. And then bell was like, Oh, no, no, no, no, no, we only live in one world and we have the right to talk about every, every part of that world, and our critique is rooted in our love. And the third is that if you are listening and if you have not read Feminism is for Everybody, you should. Because when people say feminism, I’m like, What you mean, what you mean? Literally, right before we started recording we’re putting together a reading group in 2022 and I was telling one of the people like, just read Feminism for Everybody. You don’t even know what feminism is, you’re going to learn in the thing. But what bell pushed me on in that essay that I will never forget is she talks about, so much of her writing is about kids and the way we treat young people and the way we teach children and how patriarchy is not, this idea that patriarchy is genderless. But she says, you know, if you saw a man take two fingers and put a woman’s flesh between those two fingers and twist it to make a point or to change our behavior, you would so clearly understand that as abuse. And then she says, when a mother does that to a child, why do we not understand that as abuse too? And I’m like, That’s the whole, I’m like, Go ahead bell, go ahead preach, preacher preach! So I just think about how much she challenged all of us. And this is really the last thing, and she did before was cool. She was talking about white male capitalist patriarchy when people were like, Girl, like, no. People were like, This is too much. I remember being on [unclear] like, OK, here comes the phrase one more time and it’s like, bell got it before, like now what bell said that long ago, it’s like those are becoming mainstream thoughts. People are like, Oh, yes. But she was holding the line, and she chose not to do it at Yale and not to do it at, she chose to do it in other places because that was her choice. So shout out to bell.
De’Ara Balenger: So y’all, my news today is from USA today. And you probably saw this on Twitter because it went viral, but I just wanted to bring it back up on the pod, particularly, you know, I just feel like we talk so much, you know, in the past year around health disparities and inequities, particularly in communities of color and really seeing all of that come to light because of COVID, but, you know, understanding that part of the reason for that is kind of the dehumanization of folks of color. And partly it’s because people who are in medical school don’t see folks of color illustrated in their medical books. So evidently, less than 5% of images in most textbooks show dark skin and so researchers found this in a 2018 study. And so this article is about two young Black folks who decided to take this matter into their own hands and to start illustrating folks of color so that those images can be used in medical textbooks. One is a Nigerian medical student and illustrator, Chidiebere. And he wants to draw more attention to efforts of artists by color to bring diversity to these types of drawing because he really believes that it does impact patient care. He’s a soon-to-be student at the Kiev Medical University in Ukraine, and he became interested in medical illustration back in July 2020 and spent a year teaching himself how to draw anatomy. And this was again inspired by him noticing the lack of diversity in images he was studying. There’s another young woman, Hilary Wilson, who’s a 27-year old medical illustrator, and she’s based in Durham, North Carolina. She was studying biology and planning to go to medical school when she first learned of medical illustration as a potential career, and so she decided to combine her love of art and science. And she, you know, wants to do this because she believes that, you know, she doesn’t want white skin to be seen as the default when it comes to medical illustrations. So I don’t, I just thought this was so interesting and something that I hadn’t really thought of. And I think, you know, it will be interesting to get Kaya and DeRay’s perspectives on this as educators because it is something that I think unless you’re in that field, you wouldn’t really have, you know, you wouldn’t really have noticed. So I think, you know, I don’t know, I just was inspired by these two individuals to first be able to be thoughtful enough to identify the problem and then to really commit themselves to learning how to illustrate these complicated images so that they can change imagery in medical textbooks.
Kaya Henderson: One of the things that was fascinating about this to me, is that the American Medical Illustrators Association has 800 people in it. That’s not a lot of people. That means that with a surge of colorful medical illustrators, we could change the whole entire game, right? And so as an educator, I was thinking, Hmm, how much do medical illustrators make? How do I get my kids who are very interested in art and also interested in science to think about, that like there are just these careers that we don’t know about. And in the same way that you can’t see it if you can’t be it in terms of patients and the illustrations in the medical field, we need to lift up this career opportunity for our young people because my guess is ,and I haven’t done the research yet but I’ll take a look, my guess is they probably make pretty decent money and there are lots of amazing young people of color who can draw and for whom having the opportunity to impact Black health or health for people of color would be a huge area of interest. And so this is making me think, it’s making me do a little bit more research, and it’s making me think I need to call my people who do career education and make sure they understand that this is an option for folks.
DeRay Mckesson: You know, I’ll say this made me think about when I used to teach math and I never played golf but almost all of the math word problems were par problems. I don’t know nothing about golf, the kids didn’t know nothing about gold. I’m like, Skip it, Skip it. Hope golf not on a state exam, skip it. Don’t know. Literally. I was like, and am I learning, am I going to learn all of golf so y’all can do this one more problem. I’m not. Like we got too much to do. But I think you’re right, De’Ara, that, like, you know, this was for me one of the things that I took for granted. Like I literally didn’t even, I didn’t even, like all the babies have always been white. Didn’t even think about it. I was like, OK. So when I saw the Black baby, it actually was odd to me. I remember seeing on Twitter and being like Why the baby Black?! I’m like, whooh, DeRay see you, they got you, they got you, right? And it also reminded me that like almost every first that’s happening in the 2020s for Black people is damning, and like not-like it is celebratory in the sense that like, you know, finally-but it’s damning in the sense that it took this long. You know?
Myles Johnson: The first thing I thought about listening to you speak the news and when I was reading it was how I can’t wait for there to be a queering of this too. I think that we’re definitely in an era where there are going to be so many different types of bodies, gender expressions that are being shown. And I think that getting doctors used to seeing different types of bodies is just imperative. And I think that that will also help not just the queer bodies that you see, but also help the cis bodies that you see. Because I do believe part of the misogynoir that Black women experience in the medical industry is because of seeing certain things as binary masculine, and these things with binary feminine, and then when those things are actually being queered in front of you in a medical office even through a cis hetero person’s body, then violence happens, a mystery of like does that person feel pain happens? All these different things are born from that. So that was the first thing that came to me where I’m like, Oh, I know people who are non-binary who are not doing these kind of like trans binary medical shifts that the media has made possible, who are still taking estrogen. I know people who are maybe doing things like taking out, you know, breasts, but still keeping other parts ,and doing all types of things with their bodies that I think need to be normalized before you get in front of the patient. Because I don’t want to hear my doctor say Ooh or Aha, or, I don’t want my doctor being surprised about nothing that’s going on over here. That’s not something you want to hear from a doctor. [laughter]
Kaya Henderson: My news this week is about the Proud Boys. You know, the people who helped start the January 6th insurrection, the far-right nationalist group that has been menacing our politics. I brought this to the podcast because I think that it is a really interesting turn of events. Strategy shift is what it is. And that is that since the January 6th insurrection, the Proud Boys have actually dissolved their national leadership and they have taken a decentralized approach where they are focusing more on local chapters to expand their membership by taking on local cause. They are dealing with mask mandates and anti-vaccine conversations and whatnot. And this is all a humungous strategy play to get more members in time to influence next year’s midterm elections. What!? Yes, friends, they are showing up at school board meetings. They are showing up at local health board meetings. They’re showing up in Beloit, Wisconsin, and in Hanover, North Carolina. They are showing up at small town council gatherings, questions and answer sessions by health departments that are trying to inform people about vaccines and whatnot. And their membership is growing in small towns and counties. They show up at these school board meetings and these small town gatherings as the muscle, and their goal is to intimidate the other side and attract new members with a show of force. And it is working. In fact, they will come into your school board meeting and just stand in the back and cheer on the people who are espousing their values, or stand outside and intimidate people. And this is happening in small towns and counties all over the United States. And membership is growing. I bring this to the pod because it’s really important for us to understand what is going on on the far right. It’s not just the Proud Boys that are doing this. Apparently, a lot of the far-right nationalist groups have gone dark at the national level, in part because of pressure from federal officials who are investigating them. In fact, our attorney general here in the District of Columbia, Karl Racine, just filed a lawsuit against the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers for the damage that they did here in Washington on January the 6th. And so they are going dark nationally and showing up locally in mighty, mighty numbers. In fact, Telegram, which is the far-right sort of message board that they use, the national channel is pretty much inactive, but there are local channels that are cropping up, Proud Boy local channels that are cropping up all over the place. And I bring this because I think that they’re playing a long game, friends. They are strategically redeploying and recruiting to affect the midterm elections. And I don’t know what other people are doing, but I think that the far right has traditionally played a long game. If you look at the rise of the right over the last 40 years, it starts with school boards. They, the conservatives, decided that they were going to infiltrate school boards and pushed right up into the White House over time. It’s why we have all of these federal judges that your former president appointed, it is why the conservatives have been so successful. And the progressives need to play this long game. And I don’t even know, I am just astounded at how this little band of menacing punks, frankly, are strategic enough to think about how to influence the election. They don’t care that Mr. Trump has disavowed them. They don’t care that nobody is paying attention. While nobody is paying attention, they are doing their work and they doing it intentionally. And so I want people to show up to their school board meetings. I want them to show up to their local town council meetings. These are things that we take for granted, but this is where the fight is. The fight is not, you know, whatever, whenever the midterm elections are. The fight is now. And so people need to pay attention to local politics because that’s the play.
Myles Johnson: So I know there is like a, this ideological term like far right, right? But I think that sometimes people think in their head is actually far away. It’s very, very, very, very, very close. I was mostly raised in Georgia, Atlanta, Georgia, in rural suburban places around the Atlanta Georgia area and I knew how close the far right was. So it wasn’t actually that that far. And one thing that I was able to observe, too, because I was actually in middle school-not this memory, child-I was actually in middle school when they changed the Confederate flag to the flag that Georgia had now. And that was a big deal in our middle school. There were, there was upset students and administrators. And that was the first time that I felt truly unsafe because of racial reasons during that time in middle school. And what I’ve come to learn and the lesson keeps on getting repeated and what I keep on seeing is that these people are legacy thinkers. These people are people who are very much OK with not necessarily seeing the results of what they want, but they work like they will see it tomorrow. That is a interesting combination, when somebody is OK to die without seeing it, they’ll work that hard, but they work, but they also work like everything that we’re working for and fighting for can happen tomorrow. And I think that a lot of times progressives don’t think like that. And I think also progressives tend to neglect the people who feel really disenfranchised. And I’m not just talking about poor white people, but I feel like people want to pretend like people who are on the far left are not close to them too. There are people who have, there are people who have far left theory who are very close to you too who the far left- oh, excuse me-progressives just won’t sit down with, who won’t talk to. And I just think that we’re going to continue to see this cycle because this is literally the cycle that changed, you know, people who are doing like, poor white people into people who were patrolling slaves, The same type of empowerment and I see you, that they were doing since then. And the same thing that’s happening now. And I wish there was an intervention that was less about stopping them and more about empowering the people who are being victimized. I just never see that happen for long enough that it matters when it comes to what the left is doing.
DeRay Mckesson: I think that’s right. I think that we, I’m worried that people don’t have enough to fight for on our side and fighting against the bad is actually just not as much as, it doesn’t motivate the non-MSNBC viewers as much as people thought it would at some point. And I’ll tell you, I’m in communities all the time talking know the police or the latest thing the police are using and da da da and, you know, all of ‘you should vote people’ of which we were like, at a point, people are going to ask us, What did they vote for? And saying the infrastructure bill is just not good enough. Like people don’t even know what that means, right? Even the conversation about Build Back Better, they’re probably four people who are not like politicos who can explain what Build Back Better like we know we’re about to lose it to Manchin, but like people don’t even know what’s in it. And I just worry so much, Myles to your point, that if we don’t figure out how to rally our people to be energized and to fight and da da da da then we will lose it to the wild white supremacists who are organized and ready. And their task is different, right? They are trying to take us back to a time that we’ve already survived. We’re trying to build a better future. That is a heard, like we are doing future work that is like generative and they are not. We do have different tasks. But the storytelling to people in real living rooms about why you fight and what it means and what’s at stake and what doesn’t work and what does, we had to ramp that up at the national level. I think that people are doing it really good in communities, but I think that like the national narratives we are losing!
De’Ara Balenger: The Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers are both being sued by the D.C. attorney general, and they’re being sued under the Klu Klux Klan Act. Because basically, that is evidently the only law on the books where these folks can be held liable civilly for what happened on January 6th. I guess what I have to wrap my mind around, and I think, Myles, you touched on this in terms of like these folks and their legacy, is that if we can connect them so closely with the KKK that we have to use a law from 1871 that was targeted at the KKK that is now targeted at these folks, what are we talking, like, what are we talking about, everybody? Like that, it’s just so wild to me that we are still here and yet, and DeRay I hear you loud and clear about like rallying the masses and like, we need to have better messaging and all of that, but I just feel like as a country, we have moved beyond having terrorist organizations that wreak violence against Black people. And get away with it, right? Because Kyle Rittenhouse is also like a result, an outcome of the Proud Boys, of the Oath Keepers, and he is not guilty. So I think it’s just this like larger reckoning around like, are we just a racist-ass country and what does that mean and where are we going to be? Because I just, I don’t. Yes, it’s a question around like, we need better messaging, maybe we need better organizing from kind of our democratic institutions. They need to work better. But I think it’s also just like things are stalled with Build Back Better because of the filibuster, which is meant to hold back civil rights legislation. It’s like this is racist, all of this! So I’ll stop my rant, but I think that’s where my mind goes.
DeRay Mckesson: So I’m going to start the year off with just the grounding us in the horrors that we need to fight against as we talk about all the other stuff. This is about D.C., D.C. Police Department. It is published in Reveal News. It talks about the D.C. accountability process, and the title is: D.C. police tried to fire 24 current officers for criminal offenses, a powerful panel blocked nearly everyone, the documents show. So when you get disciplined in the D.C. police department, it goes to a panel called the Adverse Action Panel. It is three police officers. And they are the ultimate decision makers around termination and intense consequences. They have the power to vacate the consequence or to just lessen it. And in 21 of the 24 cases where the department tried to terminate somebody, the panel reduced their sentence to a suspension or an acquittal. And it’s a range of cases. It’s like, there was a whole set of domestic abuse cases, there are all these cases where this panel decided not to take action. So I’ll let the other people talk about, I’m sure people will sort of dig into that at some point, but what I wanted to say is that it’s so interesting because a lot of people would be like, OK, you get a good mayor. Got it. You get a good police chief. Cool. And this is like while we’re on the path to abolition, but like still, we got to deal with what we got today. But people don’t even know about these panels. And the Adverse Action Panel is something that, like nobody, you’re like, Why didn’t that person get fired? They’re like, Well, the police chief said. Wasn’t even the police chief on this case. And what’s interesting is that these are in cities all across the country. Baltimore has a similar, it’s three police officers. L.A. has arguably one of the worst in the country. In L.A., there’s what’s called the Board of Rights. And in L.A. it when you get disciplined, if you want to get, if the police department wants to terminate you, it goes before the Board of Rights. There’s a panel that’s all police, and there’s another version that you can choose that’s some civilians and mostly police. And they are not on our side on most of these issues. But more importantly, what is fascinating about the Board of Rights in L.A. is that their decisions are secret. And just like in D.C., the rationale for the decisions—if the news hadn’t gotten these some way we would never know—is that not only do they have absolute disciplinary power, but how they reached the conclusion: secret. What the conclusion is: nobody knows. And it’s really like a shadow, it’s a shadow operation almost guaranteeing that, like, you will not know what’s happening in your own city. So we, you know, we’re out here trying to change the rules and change the policies and fighting the da da da da. And then there’s like a little committee on the inside that’s like, just kidding. Just kidding. Just kidding. Just kidding. And I believe that the more and more if people understood this, they would be even madder. I think that, like these are the things that actually make the case for abolition even better. Because you’re like, Did all the things, got all the, and still, the police created a structure to bypass all of the things that you put into place. So I want to bring it here to hear what y’all had to say.
Kaya Henderson: This was fascinating to me, in part because I live in Washington, D.C. and because one of the people on the Gang of Three, which is what I’m going to call the Adverse Action Panel, is now our current police chief! And so, er, um, when you are not the police chief, you are protecting police this way, Chief Contee, can we expect you to be the one to clean this up? I don’t think so. So, yeah, like, you know, you hear the thing about the police not being able to police themselves. Clearly, this is another example of that. What was, one of the things that I loved about this is they name names. They are like, Joe Smith did this and Bob, you know, so-and-so did that. And that was fascinating to me. But even more fascinating is how they found this out. There was a ransomware attack on a D.C. police, and they hacked 250 gigabytes of police data and that somebody else took the data and decoded it and blah blah blah’ed it and all of this jazz, and they found out all of this information. And they found out other information about the police as well. It says: Reveal found the misconduct investigations and disciplinary decisions buried in tens of thousands of records that included a controversial gang database, intelligent briefs on right-wing activists and emails describing the conduct of a specialized police unit trying to suppress robberies. And so while we always think that hacks and ransomware attacks are terrible, they are, in fact, how we sometimes find out what’s really going on in the world. I thought this was wildly disturbing. I thought it was also pretty interesting that nobody wants to comment. The police force doesn’t, you don’t have a statement to say about this at all. Like, what’s up with that? We pay you, we the taxpayers pay your salaries and this is, this is why, you know investigative journalism is super important because if it wasn’t for Reveal and WAMU, we would not be having this conversation. I think it is a very different conversation to be having with the police department in Washington, D.C. Then we just, oh yeah, I did a thing a couple weeks ago about the Henny that they were selling. Was it Henny? Jack Daniels. [laughs] Oh Lord.
De’Ara Balenger: DeRay, it’s so, it’s so kismet that this is your news for this week because I was just talking to a dear friend of mine who did get a DUI and is now going through her weeks of classes. Because, you know, one of the things with the sentencing around DUI is you have to go to these classes where, you know, they talk to you about why it’s bad to drive under the influence and talk, you know, and also, you know, have all of these really awful compelling stories about people who have lost their loved ones because of DUIs. With that said, there’s a group of them that get together, they’re in this class and it comes out that one of the women in the class, the police officer that arrested her and a few others in the class was following, is always following her because he said to her, like literally followed her, went home one day and said to her, I know that you, I know that you are violating one of your conditions, right? So when you have a DUI, you can only, you know, go to the grocery store, pick your kids up, or travel for work, etc.. And he said, I know you’re in violation. And she said, No, I’m not. Here’s what I was doing, etc., etc. All that to say he follows her all the time. And so this poor woman, because where do you go to complain about that? What, what will happen, if anything? So I don’t know. I just bring that story up because I, you know, I think again and we talk about this, it’s like, it’s actually, these things are happening to people in their lives and their lives are being so traumatically impacted by these experiences with these, you know, out-of-pocket police officer. So, and this is a case of her being followed, but in the cases, DeRay this is like talking about women being assaulted and all these other things that’s just . . . it is wild, it is wild. And, you know, thank goodness for the advocacy groups that we have so that we can start to learn more about what we don’t know and how to fix it.
Myles Johnson: I do want to file this underneath like, whiteness is gangster. Like it’s a violent gangster parallel thing that we’re working with. And I think the more we really, just one of the things that’s really sat on me last year was that we had, like part of the work is to really see the violence and the organized crime of it all as organized crime, and as, and not separate these things. I think sometimes we can get so caught up in, Well, you’re supposed to be like this, and you know, this nation’s not supposed to be racist or police are supposed to act like this, and that we could just not see it for what it is, which is organized crime with elections. And I think the more you, the more we can get the surprise out the way, the more we can get certain types of emotional reactions out the way, when we don’t ever expect anything from gangsters but gangster activities. You know? But that’s it. That’s all I got for that.
DeRay Mckesson: Hey, you’re listening to Pod Save the People. Don’t go anywhere. There’s more to come.
DeRay Mckesson, narrating:: Now, Professor, Myisha Cherry, I have known her since I was so young, and I was a teenager when we first met in Baltimore working for a nonprofit. She was our boss, our manager, and I pop up and you know, I’m not an activist, don’t work across the country, and she’s a professor, and I saw the book, I’m like, Gotta read the book. And then it was like, Would you please come on the podcast? And you know, she is really dope because her work really pushed me to think about the nuances of anger and what anger looks like, and the gradations of anger, and just sort of teasing it out, both from a philosophical standpoint, but more importantly, from a standpoint that, like you and I both have lived and we understand and like, she gives it language. And she sort of talks about how the emotion can be intense and destructive, but also the transformative power of anger, the motivating force that anger can be, especially in the work of justice. So without further ado, please listen to this conversation between me and Professor Myisha Cherry. I learned so, so much. Here we go.
DeRay Mckesson: Dr. Cherry, Professor Cherry, Myisha Cherry, it is so good and an honor to have you on the podcast today.
Myisha Cherry: It’s good to chat with you. I’m looking forward to it.
DeRay Mckesson: So listeners, I’ve known Myisha since I was, I don’t know, 14 or 15, way back when in Baltimore. And it is so, it’s such a full-circle moment to have one of your first mentors and one of your first managers be somebody who is also pushing public thought around important issues around justice. So good to be here. Can you start by telling us like, what was your journey after we knew each other so well? Like, what was next for you? Like, how did you, you went to the academy, you writing books, like what? Tell me.
Myisha Cherry: Yeah, because we met. We were, I guess you could say we were working at a nonprofit in Baltimore. I’ll just leave it at that. And you were still in high school and I was getting a master’s degree. So I think I had just, I was just wrapping up my master’s degree at Howard University. And at the time when I was at Howard, I wasn’t that persuaded to go full bore into academia. I felt it was quite detached from what I was doing when I wasn’t in academia. So after we worked together, I continued to do the nonprofit private sector for another—I don’t want to, you know, give my age away, for another few years, let’s just put it like that—working in different aspects of non profits. And then the academy just was just calling me because, in addition to work in nonprofit, I want still adjuncting on the weekend. And so I was still, you know, engaging ,working with the community, but also going into classroom, still engaging with a classroom of students. And it just got to the point after years, after years, after years, my heart was just pulled into the other direction. And one of the things that I basically said to myself is like, if I’m going to make the decision to go back to the academy, I need to make sure that I have both feet, or you might say, both feet on the inside and the outside. Right? So one of the things that I was intentional about doing it is I’m going to leave this nonprofit work behind, but not really, right? So the issues that I talk about, the book that I just came out with, is very much tied to a lot of issues that’s on the ground because that’s how I basically merge the two. But I went off and got my PhD, did some fellowships for a couple of years, and now I’m at the University of California Riverside as assistant professor of philosophy, trying to merge the academia aspect of myself, but also still, that communal aspect that’s still very much there.
DeRay Mckesson: How you got to Rage and how did you pick your, how did you pick your field of academic study? Like if you didn’t do this, what would you have, like if there was, you were like, Okay, the academy is calling me, if you didn’t choose this field of study, what would you have chosen? Or was it this or bust? Or did you like, I don’t know, what was that journey?
Myisha Cherry: Yeah, in some ways, I think, I mean, for me, and I think for a lot of scholars, particularly scholars of color and women, the topic kind of chooses you, right? So for me, I mean, when I was, when I was an undergrad at Morgan State, I was a philosophy major and I was a religious studies minor and in graduate school that I was referring to, I was at Howard University, I was doing a theology degree. And so I was very much just as a child I had a philosophical mind. So the ways in which I thought about the world is very much philosophical. And I think a better way to say this is to say that the questions that I was interested in were very philosophical questions. And so that mind just never really went away. And it wasn’t until 2012 that anger, the topic of anger, kind of came into being. And the way that it came about was, you know, you remember, 2012, Trayvon Martin, Black Lives Matter. Everybody’s angry. People are trying to figure out what to do with their anger. People, in some ways, feeling shame about their anger. And then you have pundits on television, basically tone policing, telling people not to be angry. And so that anger thing, I mean, it just was like, Whoa, what is this, what is this anger thing? Why do I see it as a motivational force to get people to protest, and why do other people see it as a challenge or as something that is bad? And those two things, which is something that intellectually I was just, I want to make sense of. And so at the time I was adjuncting and doing nonprofit work and I just starting doing philosophical research. And I was like, You know what? This is it. This is it. I mean, these are the kinds of questions that I’m interested in. And so as a result of that, I end up deciding to apply to PhD programs to go a little bit, a little bit deeper. So the anger thing just came from the atmosphere. I mean, for me, the kind of topics I’m interested in basically comes from experience, lived experience that I had in my own life and things that I witnessed. So at that moment, I was witnessing anger. And I just felt that there were misconceptions about anger. There were, I guess you could say, demonizing anger, and not necessarily anger, but the anger of particular folk. And I wanted to redeem anger. I wanted to redeem those kinds of folk and show that this is valuable. So that’s where the rabbit hole started. So for like the last nine years it’s something I’ve been very, very interested in, and have not just used philosophical literature, but you know, [unclear] and a whole bunch of other resources in the Black radical tradition, it kind of helped me make sense of it.
DeRay Mckesson: I remember, um, it’s funny, you know, one of the reasons I reached out to you when I even heard that you were writing this book, or when you posted originally, was because I remember being in the street in Ferguson and being really angry. And I remember feeling like DeRay, you got to like, move that anger around. Like you got to like, you know, anger like doesn’t feel the work. And I remember it. And then I had this moment of being like, No DeRay like anger is normal and healthy. And like, make sure that anger is not the only emotion in the room, but like anger in the room is a good thing, right? Like, and I remember that moment of like, that the call for the lack of anger is actually like a dehumanizing call and that I was participating in that and like, didn’t understand it.
Myisha Cherry: Right.
DeRay Mckesson: And then I was like, Oh, she writing a book about it! She’s writing a book about it! Teach me! So can we—so we don’t have to talk through them all because people need to buy the book—but can we talk about what you do that I think is so interesting— and even the producer for the podcast, she was like, I didn’t even know, da da da da, I learned this—like we both had a moment about—is like sort of the layers of, the layers of anger and this idea that with love we accept that there are gradations and flavors and textures, but with anger, it is like one broad stroke. And you complicate that, and like sort of tease it out. Can you walk us through sort of how you landed on the range of anger types, if that’s what we’ll call them? And then can you give us a little, can you pick two of them potentially, and then like, walk us through?
Myisha Cherry: Right, right, right. So, I mean, you kind of set it up very nicely, right, and talking about love, right? So when we think about love, we think about love and it’s varieties, rights. There’s a variety of love that you do can feel. Like, the love that I have for my partner and not the kind of love that I got for my mama right? And like, what makes that difference? Well, is directed, the target the love is directed towards, the feelings that come about etc., the obligations that I have is quite, is quite different. Right? And we acknowledge that, when we talk about other kinds of love, brotherly love, [unclear] love, etc. etc. etc. And I noticed that people weren’t doing that with anger and so the question is why? Why, why is that the case? I don’t know why that wasn’t the case, but I felt that it needed to be the case that we need to stop painting anger as just this one thing. Because I felt that as long as we continue to do that, the one picture that we seem to have of anger is that—in the book I call it like a Dr. Evil kind of thing—it’s like this, this vicious thing that if you allow it to take over you, violence, revenge is going to ensue. Just get rid of it in general. And I just thought that was, No, that’s one kind of anger just as there’s one kind of love but there’s other varieties. In the book I kind of, you know, one of the things I’ve been thinking about throughout the last few years is, OK, so if there’s no one anger, what is the thing that separates one type of anger from another type? And then I was thinking, Well, let’s put it in the context of political injustice. Well, no, let’s just make a little narrow—in the context of racial injustice, what is the kind of anger that can arise? Well, it depends on what that that anger is directed at. Is it directed at the source of the problem, right, such as racism, racist, etc., etc.? Or is it directed a scapegoat? Right? So, that’s one thing that we need to kind of take into consideration. Who is that anger directed at? Another thing we need to take in consideration is what is that anger aiming to do, right? So is it aiming to make the world better, is it aiming to eliminate certain kinds of people? Right, right? Another thing that we can think about and try to differentiate different kinds of behavior is what is the kind of perspective that informs that particular anger? So in other words, what is the thinking or the mentality of someone that has that particular anger? Are they thinking about inclusion? Are they thinking about exclusion? And once we get to answer those questions, then we can begin to categorize anger in these particular types and then were able to assess which ones are actually unproductive, which ones are actually productive/ which ones are actually good, which ones are actually bad? So let me just give you an example. So one kind that I talk about in the book that is an unproductive kind is what I call wipe rage—not white rage—wipe rage. W I P E. I and I basically said wipe rage is aimed at scapegoats. One is not really motivated to actually do anything, to change anything. But one is more apt to eliminate or hate their opponent or whatever the case may be. But you contrast that kind of anger—and an example of that would be what happens January 6th at the Capitol or what happened at Charlottesville, right? And when you have that particular anger where you thinking all about you, there can be no justice for us, only just for oneself, that is when it leads you do engage in certain kinds of destructive actions. Contrast that with the kind of rage that are making the case for in the book, which is a rage—it’s very much inspired by Audre Lorde’s essay “The Uses of Anger.” I call it [unclear] rage, it’s a noble anti-racist anger. It is directed—contrasting with wipe rage—it’s directed at racists. It’s aimed to create a better world for us all. The perspective that influences it, is that I’m not free until everybody’s free. And if it has these particular features, it’s going to lead the person to participate in a certain kind of action, such as the protests in the street, to engage in democratic kind of practices in order to invite change, as opposed to destroy and to lynch politicians. And so that’s how I try to, you know, separate and say, Hey, there’s a case for rage. There’s a certain kind of rage though that I’m making a case for. And once he realized that this rage is very different from the other kinds of rages, then we can hold it up and allow it to do the kind of work that we need it to do in the anti-racist struggle.
DeRay Mckesson: Let me read, let me read a passage and can you can you walk us through it? One of the things that you write is: while the demand for change calls for a justice, rage, whose aim is change advertises justice’s worth. It says that justice is worth having, especially when we channel it into action to work toward that goal of justice. Can you, can you like tease that out for us, what does that mean, rage, this idea that rage advertises justice’s worth?
Myisha Cherry: Oooh. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So, one of the things that we know about anger in general is that it’s communicative, right? When we are angry, it is communicating something to the world. Right? So you imagine the last time that someone was angry at you, so you think about your partner was angry at you. And for me, it only takes a look, I already know what time it is, right? The communication is already happening. I know I’ve done something wrong. I know it’s probably time to have a conversation. It’s time to rectify some things. It’s communicative. So you can imagine, you know, even in the store, you know, the anger, a stranger expressed anger towards you. The first thing you want to wonder is what wrong? Black Lives Matter protest. You got angry people in the streets. I mean, that anger is communicating that something just ain’t right. Right? So we know that anger itself, it communicates something. And one of the things that I want to say that the kind of anger that I am suggesting, this anti-racist anger that arise in the context of racial injustice, it is also doing the same kind of work that anger does in the interpersonal level, but it’s expanding it, right? It’s basically saying, Hey, the reason why the rage is there is because something ain’t right. Something ain’t racially right. Something ain’t right from a equality perspective, from a justice perspective. So it points out that, Hey, something is missing here, something is missing, right? So justice is missing. But it’s not just making us aware that something is missing, it’s also saying that what is missing is worth having. That’s what it is calling our attention to. What is missing is worth having. What is missing with worth having. And [unclear] one of the things that I find valuable about anger, as much as we like to talk about—and I do talk about this in my third chapter of the book, forth chapter of the book, about how, you know, anger helps you to, like, want to go down to the protest and motivates you to do certain kinds of actions—but I think what is missing for a lot of people is that anger has a tendency before you even go to the process, it’s doing something already. It’s communicating something, it’s announcing something. And that’s why I think people want to tone police it. That’s why I think there are stereotypes of angry Black person, right? Calm this anger down so that you won’t advertise justice’s worth. So that’s one of the comunicative features that I like about anger, and why I think people don’t like anger so much, because of what it can do in the world.
DeRay Mckesson: There’s something that I, there’s this one part early in the book that I was like, I want to ask her about this, because it was one of the few things that really I was like, it was like part of it was like, I didn’t understand because I was like, I thought, this is OK and then you sort of [unclear] And so you write, you say, note that anger is transformative, like you talk about, you’re talking about Lordean anger and you say, note that this anger is transformative anger and not transition anger. And transition anger to me sounded not bad. I don’t know. Like, I think there are other worse angers, and transition didn’t seem so bad. And then, so I was like, Oh, like, can you help me sort of, can you help me sort of tease it out? And the second thing that I sort of say is that the other thing, there were two things in this section is that you then go on to say—I can’t, let me find the citation—but you sort of say that like in—oh, here we go, this is not to say that Lordean rage is by definition virtuous, and that if it goes wrong, we can cannot criticize it since at such a failure point, it ceases to be Lordean rage. I like needed that a little, like because it was virtuous by me, right? Like I was reading and I’m like, This is the right rage, that’s the rage we need. And then you were like, Well, this is not virtuous. I’m like, but I thought the whole definition was that it was virtuous. So those two things, like transformative, not transition.
Myisha Cherry: So, yes, [unclear] This is good. So let me address the latter question first, right? So one of the things I want to say and this holds to like a commitment that I have about the emotions in general, is that we ought not to put too much confidence in the emotion itself because what happens is it will begin to take agency away from the individual. Right? So one of things I want to say is that, you know, just because you have a virtuous kind of anger doesn’t mean that that anger cannot go wrong. Right? And it goes wrong because of us. It can go wrong because of us. And that’s why in the book, I give what I call kind of anger management pitch, it’s like, how can you keep this Lordean rage virtuous? Right? Because as long as we as human beings have any kind of emotion, we can go awry. We can go awry. And therefore we can make this person’s anger go awry. And that’s why I offer up the techniques. And I think the ways it can go awry is that for me, one of things I want to say is that the ways that it can go wrong is when you don’t kind of activate the features, or take advantage of the features it has. Right? And so I kind of offer suggestions on how to make sure that even with this anger that you have, that you continue to engage in certain kind of actions, certain kinds of—I call them management techniques—and therefor ensure that the anger is doing the kind of work that we wanted to do. And that’s why before that chapter, I talk about white allies and how, even with their Lordean rage, they can also, how they can distinctively go awry. We are human, We’re frail. We can [unclear] emotions it can go awry, so how can we make sure that we stay in check so that the emotion can do what we want it to do? And that’s just simply what I mean by that. Going to your first question, it leads to this notion of there’s been recent work that has been written, a 2016 book came out called Anger and Forgiveness by philosopher by the name of Martha Nussbaum. And she’s highly critical of anger in ways that I am not. And the only anger that she offers up as something that is wonderful is the anger that she calls transition anger. Mind you, this is not the kind of anger that I’m defending. She calls it transition anger because she says—and she thinks that Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech is a perfect example of transition anger, in which, in her account, martin Luther King starts out the speech kind of angry and then he transitions out of it.
DeRay Mckesson: Ah! Got it! OK, OK! Go ahead and teach us! Preach preacher. Go ahead and preach!
Myisha Cherry: That anger transitions out to generosity and love and so that he can imagine, you know, a different world in which, you know, man is not judged by the content of his skin but, [unclear] content of his character, etc., etc., etc. And what I want to say is Hold up! Hold up! Why do we need to transition out of anger, right? One of things I want to say and one of the thing that I argue in the book—and this is something that you just mentioned a few minutes ago—is that the kind of anger that I’m talking about is not intentioned with love, is not intentioned with generosity. Is very much compatible with so-called positive emotions like compassion. Right? So, so you know, and I mean, it kind of, the kind of anger that I’m talking about, not only is it directed towards racism and aims for radical transformation and it has a very inclusive perspective, but it is focused on valuing the lives of the marginalized. As you talked about before, it advertises justice’s worth. It motivates people to engage in productive actions. By one having it, one is able to resist certain kinds of racial wounds that exist in society. It has these particular features. And given that it has these particular features, right, it has to have love as part of it’s component. Right, right? So there’s no way that can stand up for the marginalized if I don’t love these folks. There’s no, there’s no way that I can express anger at the mistreatment, and not feel compassion towards them. And because anger is compatible with compassion, right? There’s no way in the world that African-Americans have not burned this mother down, because anger is an expression of generosity and patience, etc., etc., etc, as opposed to us thinking that the anger is the antithesis of these other so-called positive emotions, I think it’s ludicrous. It’s not backed up by empirical evidence. When I think about Martin Luther King, I see an angry man, I see a loving man. When I think about James Baldwin, I see an angry man, I see a loving man. When I think about Ida B. Wells, Audry Lourde, etc., etc., etc., these were individuals who not only were angry, but they had other kinds of emotions and it’s because they were all working in tandem together, we’re able to get the freedom that we have gotten, or the kind of political work and contributions that we have gotten because these emotions are not incompatible. They’re very much compatible with each other. So you can be angry and be loving, and be compassionate and be generous. It’s compatible.
DeRay Mckesson: How is this, you know I wrote a book, I went on this, I went on a tour all over the place, blah, blah, blah and it was always so interesting because as you know, when you put the book out, like it is no longer just yours, right? Like, other people take it and use it, and they have ideas and da da da. Is there anything from the book being out in the world that you, that has been notable for you? Like either people’s responses or like somebody’s push that you were like, Oh, interesting? Or like somebody received in the way that you intended, or like, I don’t know. I’m so interested in that because it is such a hard process to write something and such a, such a vulnerable thing to actually let it go, to be printed and put out in the world. And only people who have gone through the process, I think, really understand it.
Myisha Cherry: Right, right. I mean, one of the things that I notice, so one of the things that I said in writing this book, I said, Listen, this book is going to be a love letter for the outrage, for those who are trying to figure out I won’t let this go, but I need to figure out what’s up with it. I wrote this for them. For those who, whether that’s through religious tradition or cultural tradition, has been taught to suppress or repress their anger and feel shame about it, I’m talking to them. For those who trying to figure out, OK, how can I use this in a productive way? I’m talking to them. But I’ve also wrote it for those who have been highly critical of anger in general, and hopefully that this can give them less things to be critical about. What is interesting has been that latter part. So I noticed that, I mean, the title of the book is The Case for Rage. Right? And so I think people are so, I mean, people had this long tradition of having certain kinds of feelings and relationship to anger, that just the title alone had been reasons for them to discount the whole argument. So I’ve seen for example, I’ve seen on Twitter, someone wrote recently, Oh, I just finished a book, it was a great. Someone will respond, Well, I still think that anger is destructive. So that tendency, that kind of automatic tendency to hold on to this idea that anger is just awful, has been their immediate response. That has been interesting to me. Right? Because what I want them to do is to read the book, but their immediate response just confirms why this book to me is so important and why needs to be, why it needs to be in the world. So any confirmation I’ve gotten is, it allowed me to know that I’m on track, as much as I thought that this book is late, quote unquote, that because I’ve been thinking about it for the last nine years, it has been a reminder to me that there are still people who need to hear the argument, there’s still minds that needs to be changed on this, and I’m glad as a result of that, I’m glad the book is out in the world. And I just want people to read it! I just want people to read it, and hopefully I’ll begin to change some Twitter minds. And so that’s been the most interesting thing, that commitment to Oh rage, wow, awful, get it away. I’m just hearing it, and has set off some threads on Twitter, and that’s been quite interesting.
DeRay Mckesson: Boom! Can you tell us the title of the book and where people can get it?
Myisha Cherry: The title of the book is called “The Case for Rage: Why Anger is Essential for Anti-Racist Struggle.” You can get it anywhere that books are sold, but particularly independent bookstores.
DeRay Mckesson: What’s, yeah, there are two questions we ask everybody. The first is: what’s a piece of advice that you’ve gotten over the years that stuck with you?
Myisha Cherry: Hmm. A piece of advice that I’ve gotten over the years. I got a lot of advice. Recently, I got some bad advice.
DeRay Mckesson: Don’t share the bad advice! We a teaching podcast, Ms., uh, Professor Cherry.
Myisha Cherry: Na man. No, no. No. I want to keep the friendships I have. I mean, I would say this, I would say this, and it’s probably a cliché advice, but be you. That has always stuck with me. I’ve always been quote unquote, different. And I mean, we have our growing phases and I think I’m at a point in my life where I am 100% happy and comfortable that I am me, and recognizing that there are a lot of people that probably still won’t accept that, or won’t be down with that. But recognizing that being me doesn’t mean that I’m for everybody. But I think the freedom of just being myself and being authentic and true to has been liberating and has been freeing. And that’s just advice that I tremendously believe in, the joys and the freedom of being you, has been liberating for me.
DeRay Mckesson: And the last question is, there are a lot of people who feel like they’ve done all the things, right? They called, they e-mailed, they testified, they read your book, they read mine, they stood in the street, they tried to pass the law—all the things and the world has not changed in the way they want it to. What do you say to those people?
Myisha Cherry: I would say, moral progress ebbs and flows. I mean, and I’m saying moral progress in scare quotes here, it ebbs and flows, right? And once we accept that listen, we’re not moving towards a utopian society. Freedom is a constant struggle. Even when we work very, very hard, we’re not going to get the perfect results that we want but we have to, you know, kind of recognize that when we sign up for this work, I mean, we sign up for perpetual struggle. Not many victories here and now and again, it’s perpetual struggle. To get real freedom, it’s perpetual struggle. And although we may not get the wins that we want, there’s always wins along the way. And if we discount those, we are disrespecting those who come before us, we are being ungrateful to the wins that we’ve already gotten. But I think we owe it to ourselves, to each other, to keep fighting. Because just because you don’t get what you wanted to get doesn’t necessarily mean that you didn’t get something, and that something is always worth fighting for. That’s something is always important, is always again. So don’t go into despair, because racists are not despairing. Don’t go into, you know, nihilism, because the powers that be are not nihilistic. But I’m also saying not to [unclear]. I’m just saying to continue to struggle. That’s the work.
DeRay Mckesson: Well, we consider you a friend of the pod. Can’t wait to have you back. Can you tell everybody where they can go to stay up to date with your work and to follow you?
Myisha Cherry: Well, I’m on social media, on all the things: Myisha Cherry. And also my website: MyishaCherry. org.
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 is a production of Crooked Media. It’s produced by A.J. Moultrie and mixed by Charlotte Landes. Executive produced by me, and special thanks to our weekly contributors Kaya Henderson, De’Ara Balenger Myles Johnson.