In This Episode
DeRay, Kaya, De’Ara and Myles cover the underreported news of the week — NYPD interferes with federal investigation, heightened frustrations with Biden administration, Dwight Howard’s sexual assault allegations, and a debate about one-sided book bans.
DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Hey, this is DeRay and welcome to Pod Save the People. In this episode it’s me, Myles, Kaya and De’Ara talking about the news that’s the most important with regard to race and justice. News that you probably missed in the past week and we’re here to talk about it. New month, same us. Here we go. [music break]
De’Ara Balenger: Family. Family. Welcome to another episode of Pod Save the People. I am De’Ara Balenger. You can find me on Instagram at @dearabalenger.
Myles E. Johnson: I am Myles E. Johnson. You can find me on Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and Threads at @pharaohrapture.
Kaya Henderson: I’m @HendersonKaya on Twitter.
DeRay Mckesson: And this is DeRay at @deray on Twitter.
De’Ara Balenger: Well, this morning, thank Goddess that we can start off with some positive, positive news and vibes. We are going to continue to honor the Missy Elliott because she got inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And guess who is the one who brought her on out? The Queen Latifah. I mean.
Kaya Henderson: All right.
De’Ara Balenger: You know what?
Kaya Henderson: Woop woop.
De’Ara Balenger: Perfect night for me. I wish I could have been there. And she is the first female identifying rap artist to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, as I understand it. Um. And, you know, if you don’t know Missy Elliott, I don’t even know what to tell you. We definitely couldn’t be friends. Well, I mean, no, I would help you [laughter] get there. Not only does she have [laughing] her own songs, but she’s also written hits for Beyonce, Janet Jackson, Aaliyah, may she rest in peace um and has partnered years and years with the producer Timberland. And that’s who she worked on with her transformative album, Supa Dupa Fly. So listen, we salute you, Missy Elliott and we are so, so proud and in awe of all that you do and Kaya has a special invitation for you.
Kaya Henderson: Girl, we got to throw a party together. Our birthdays are on the same day. She is my birthday twin. I feel her energy, the creativity the I’m just going to do what I want to do. I need to be free. In fact, when um Queen Latifah was introducing her, she said, you feel free? You want to try some wild ish? Think Missy. And if you look at her videos, she was trailblazing in her videos, her her wardrobe choices that, you know, the the big black trash bag, the all of the iconic stuff that she has done, you know, ladies night, all kinds. I mean, she continues to break through walls and barriers creatively and bring something that, you know, the people love. And I am here for it. She’s also super humble. She was like, I don’t even I can’t even believe I’m here. Like, there are all these people whose shoulders I stand on and I appreciate that. Um. And one of the things that was super sweet that I thought was, y’all, her momma ain’t never heard her perform because her mother was like, I don’t want to hear no crazy stuff coming out your mouth. So she um she brought her mama to the to the ceremony and said, just close your ears if you hear something crazy, but you got to be here for this. So I thought that was cute.
Myles E. Johnson: Her mother looks fantastic. Like astonishing looking woman. Um. I think this is such a historic moment for hip hop and just for like Black culture, obviously. But also I just have to connect that Megan Thee Stallion came out with Cobra. Cobra has so many elements of symbolism, a rock sample. It’s really showing um Mge Thee Stallion uh deviate from the kind of like female rapper um esthetic. And I couldn’t help but connect that with Missy Elliott. There is no um trying new things, there is no edginess, there is no experimentation and really busting out of the kind of rigid, sex, sexualized prisons that um Black women in art can find themselves in without Missy Elliott pioneering that both in her size, topics, and just the sound choices she decides to make. Her DNA is really on anything that’s interesting coming out of hip hop and um despite gender is has Missy Elliott’s DNA on it.
DeRay Mckesson: Kaya I loved that you brought up that her mom hadn’t seen her. I was fascinated by that. And the quote is she’s like my mothers and my mother’s coming. She’s never seen me perform before. She’s like, she’s seen me on TV, but she’s never been to a show because, you know, I had some little words I didn’t ever want her to hear. So she’s coming for the first time, and I love that. Um. And it’s cool to think that Missy has Missy, like defined an era of music. It was like from from her own music to her co-producing to Aayliyah like, I that’s how I came up knowing Missy and it’s cool that she is like still around and still making music and still inspiring people and and being recognized for it like you really did define an era of music for us.
De’Ara Balenger: Y’all I can’t imagine being this famous and my mom not just being everywhere. I am–
Kaya Henderson: At every show honey at every show.
De’Ara Balenger: When I say, Mom, we’re going to the theater, she says, is it opening night? When I say, mom, we’re going to a show, are we VIP? So, [laughter] Missy, it might hurt your feelings sometimes your mama not there, but girl, it might be for the best. [laughter]
Myles E. Johnson: Not mama want to have her own security. Yes.
Kaya Henderson: Mm hmm.
DeRay Mckesson: I love it. I want to start off the news. This is about the mayor of the largest city in these United States, Eric Adams, the party mayor, the mayor that every day I’m like, [laughter] what happened and how did he get elected? And I might have the answer. It might have been Turkey, everybody. So last week, uh his chief fundraiser was uh the FBI raided her house. Because there is and the chief fundraiser is 25 years old. Brianna Suggs, the she’s being investigated because there are allegations that Turkey funneled money into his campaign. And why why am I bringing this to the pod? Because it gets even deeper. Eric Adams was on a plane to the White House. He was on a plane to D.C. He’s going to meet at the White House, meet with people about issues related to the city and crime and all this other stuff. And all of a sudden, all the meetings get canceled and he comes back to the city like very quickly. And everybody’s like and the mayor’s office has no real explanation for why he is suddenly not meeting with anybody in D.C. and why he’s come back to the city. And when it later comes out is that the FBI had to conduct the raid on Brianna Sugg’s house, his chief fundraiser while he was out of the city because there was a belief that he would intervene in the investigation if he found out. So that blew my mind and then come to find out that it looks like he did intervene in the investigation because the NYPD conducted a wellness check the night before with their like internal affairs bureau, went to the house that the FBI raided and said that they were just like they were instructed to collect the names of everybody who was on the property. Later the news has like they’ve been interviewing people like, is this how the FBI conducts investigations? And the resounding feedback is no, that when the FBI conducts investigations, especially of city, city elected officials, they do not get other people involved. It is a public corruption scandal. But it looks like the NYPD got tipped off of the investigation and that the Adams administration tried to actually intervene. The NYPD released a statement on Friday night that said that their federal partners, quote, “regularly ask that the NYPD perform wellness checks before warrants are executed.” The newspaper responded and said, how many times have they done that in the past? And the NYPD has not responded to them. Adams has also canceled all public appearances and no questions from reporters as of today are going to happen this week. And every former FBI agent interviewed by the news has said that in all of their time dealing with public corruption, they have never, ever asked local police to assist before the search warrant is executed. So I just wanted to bring that here. I’m fascinated by what it means that the the mayor of the largest city, he is a Black mayor. He is truly an awful mayor. And I will personally say I think that he deserves to go out in disgrace. And I hope that we do not have four years of him as mayor. But it is sort of fascinating. I never even imagined, of all the things I think that he would do. I didn’t think Turkish money being funneled to the campaign was going to be the thing. But here we are. And the 25 year old chief fundraiser Black woman is you know, her life is about to be upended for seemingly being the conduit of this shadiness.
De’Ara Balenger: I’m just trying to understand why Turkey, I guess. But it’s just like Menendez being like, why Egypt? I mean, is it just opportunity presenting itself and money being exchanged? And that’s who. Because there’s also I there’s a New York Times article about this, about how Eric Adams has been to Turkey about six or seven times. And at least one of those trips was um paid for by the Turkish government, which is also like, what are you thinking? So one of the biggest things that will preclude you from being in government service and getting a political appointee is being a foreign agent on behalf of another country. And that is so kind of stepping into that, [laugh] into the water of that. That is just it blows my mind that you can think that that’s okay to take a trip like that.
Myles E. Johnson: Now. I don’t want to make this more basic than it is, but sometimes that helps me to pretend like, you know, Turkey is a neighbor that I know instead of a nation. [laughter] But and the United States is just like a best friend. And I’m watching some drama instead of this complex government system. But didn’t Turkey just asked to borrow some money? Where are they finding money as a government to help Eric Adams? Didn’t, didn’t we just need the money to send them because they were they were beefing with Russia. How now how you have Eric Adams’ money but you ain’t got defend your people money? Is there a lie happening? It’s and like. It’s like what what how did, I need for that to make sense for me.
De’Ara Balenger: It’s it’s not making sense for many reasons. And right now, our secretary of state is in Turkey. This is where they’re doing a ton of negotiations around what’s happening in Israel and Gaza. So it’s just like, it’s an interesting place. Turkey is geopolitically and like all of. I just I don’t understand how leveraging this particular mayor and I’m not basically everything DeRay said, with this mayor. Like why him? What do you what access or opportunity strategically are you going to get from him?
Myles E. Johnson: But being the mayor of New York City it like a huge is a powerful position.
De’Ara Balenger: It is.
Myles E. Johnson: And also.
De’Ara Balenger: It is.
Myles E. Johnson: And also it’s a power provisit– it’s a powerful, powerful position being occupied by a um disposable identity. So those two things together makes him the perfect person. Give him the crooked money, you get the power. And if he does get exposed, it’s fine because he’s the Black mayor and then he could just dwindle into obscurity. So it’s really a perfect recipe for allegedly dark, evil money [laugh] to to flow to flow here and through. So it makes sense to me as as a super villain, as an as a as a nation it’s it’s it’s alarming. Yeah. [laughter]
De’Ara Balenger: The New Yorker just put out a story 4 hours ago that says Eric Adams has a lot of ties to Turkey. Like, this is just ridiculous. [banter] Like, of all the things we got going on in New York City this fool like going to Turk taking these trips to these international you better–
Myles E. Johnson: The animal, the animal was rats, not turkey. [laughter]
DeRay Mckesson: The animal was rats. That’s a good–
Myles E. Johnson: The category was rats and roaches.
DeRay Mckesson: I will say my favorite um New York City marathon um poster was run like Eric Adams just got invited to a party. [laughter] [indistinct] because he do be out here and it just is like, you know, what happened to public service and maybe it was always crazy. But I just I want to remember a day when mayors actually ran cities and I look up now, and I’m like, this man is I don’t I can’t tell you what he’s actually doing at work because, you know, it’s it’s not working. But hopefully this is the end of that the city doesn’t have to endure four years of him. But who thought it would be Turkey? So I’ll stop there.
De’Ara Balenger: I’m sorry. Just because I’m still trying to figure this out. But evidently there’s a construction group that has ties to Turkey that is also involved in this and that has given campaign contributions to Eric Adams. So maybe that is the link. It’s like construction, property, of it all. But more to come.
Kaya Henderson: Y’all. My news this week is an interesting twist on the book banning situation that’s happening across the United States. This story takes us to Washington State, a school district called Mukilteo School District. I hope I’m saying that right. Um. And in Mukilteo School District, To Kill a Mockingbird, the 1960 classic by Harper Lee uh was required reading for all ninth graders. Well, a group of teachers realized that um even though the book was a classic, it was problematic for many of their students, especially Black students. Black students expressed discomfort with um the way Black people are portrayed in the book. Um. Students said they didn’t see themselves in the narrative. Um. There was a white student who, despite the teacher’s admonition, to not say the N-word, uh the white student said the N-word loudly and proudly, looking in the eyes of the three Black children in this classroom when he said it with a smile on his face, which, of course, made the Black students feel some kind of way. Lots of folks said it hurt to read the book. Um. It centers on whiteness, that kids felt isolated, both Black and white kids. And so um a group of teachers got together and said, you know what? This is something that we can do something about. And they decided to mount a formal book challenge um to To Kill a Mockingbird. These three white teachers and one Black teacher got together to mount a formal book challenge. And most book challenges in the United States, as you know, object to texts about LGBTQIA folks and people of color. Most book challenges come from people with more right wing politics. Most book challenges come from parents or residents. And this was actually the first book challenge in the United States that came from teachers. And these are progressive teachers. And so it is a case of using, um I think, what was meant for one thing, right? I think if you hear the right talk about it, they’re worried about making their children feel terrible about who they are and the skin that they are in. This clearly applies to the Black kids in this case. And they sort of flipped the script on this and, you know, um tried to get the book banned. They did not think that it should be required reading for uh for all ninth graders. And you know what happened, right? Politics make strange bedfellows. And so, of course, the right wing people were like, no, no, no, this is a classic. And you banning this would be in service of a woke agenda. And then like the librarians who were sort of leftish were like, this is censorship and we don’t stand for censorship. And, you know, people who loved it said that, you know, Mockingbird was a it presented the reality of the 1960s civil rights movement. Other people said it didn’t. At the end of the day, they did not win. All freshmen no longer have to read the book, but it is still an option for teachers to assign it. And so some win, some not win. Um. The teachers feel better. They also feel like they lost. And I think that this is just a case where, interestingly enough, when you try to flip the script, it doesn’t always work. Um. I’m happy for the kids who no longer have to read it. But you know, there are still teachers in Mukilteo School District who are teaching To Kill a Mockingbird. And I think it goes to show you that we value how white children feel about themselves and what they are reading over what Black children feel about themselves.
Myles E. Johnson: I don’t necessarily understand how we arrived at censoring literature. And To Kill a Mockingbird. And not even just that book, there are a lot of books that are from an author’s mind and imagination and experience or observational experiences. And these books collectively help us not just understand the psyche of an era, both through what the author’s trying to explain, but even what the author doesn’t always know they’re explaining. Sometimes the anxieties of a of of of of a of a society come up and show up in Edgar Allan Poe’s work and a Hemingway’s work that they weren’t planning for you to interpret. And I don’t understand as a teacher not being able to be properly prepared to help somebody learn and engage with the literature. So when I hear stuff like oh these Black kids are uncomfortable or these white kids are being celebratory or vice versa, it sounds like there’s a teacher problem because as a teacher you should be able to engage with the literature, know it, and be able to help the students learn the literature. That’s what school is supposed to be about, is having people able to learn and consume things that they don’t necessarily agree with or that make them uncomfortable and be able to engage with that work. I don’t think the answer in either case is this book doesn’t exist anymore [laugh] because for the things that are bad and good about that book. It tells us a lot about what was happening in that era. And just to be clear, we’re standing on the evil giant shoulders of that era. So understanding that era is paramount and you can’t just wash it away. I don’t want to sound old and crookedy but I’m about to sound old and cricketty. But–
Kaya Henderson: This is a switch. [laughter]
Myles E. Johnson: But literature in school, in schools and classrooms are not Netflix marketing rooms where who feels represented, who feels good and who and who fit and who feels tingly at the end of the story. That is not what literature and school rooms are for. It’s for you to expand your mind. Now you can go home and watch Nickelodeon and Disney in order to soften those feelings. But when we’re in the classroom. We’re going to have you engage with the real world and using your real mind and real thoughts and we’re going to teach you how to really learn. I don’t get this tennis ball match that’s happening between leftists and conservative folks, and I’m really disappointed in anybody who’s finding themselves on the left who is not critically engaging. It’s just saying, Oh, we’re going to get them back because these Black kids feel uncomfortable. No, that’s that’s not it. Be on the be on the side of kids learning and being able to engage with multiple ideas and truths and still be able to hold tight to their sense of self and knowledge. Like that to me feels like the answer. But yeah, unless I’m not understanding something about the article. [laughing]
De’Ara Balenger: I think, Myles, I think the issue is, is that sometimes there’s one opportunity to talk about race in America in some of these schools and please, you know, Kaya, DeRay, correct me if I’m wrong, but I just feel like oftentimes when it’s like we’re going to talk about race. The choice is to do it through To Kill a Mockingbird or through Huckleberry Finn. It’s it’s it’s always the circumstance that we’re not getting. We’re not getting a canon of literature talking about 20th century America. We’re getting one book. And so I think one book in that classroom being and I remember I remember being in the ninth grade and we read Huckleberry Finn, and there was a white boy in my class. I can’t remember his name probably because I was traumatized. But he loved to say the N-word.
Kaya Henderson: I mean I I think–
De’Ara Balenger: He loved to say it, reading out loud. I mean, it was like a whole thing.
Kaya Henderson: I mean, I think you’re both–
De’Ara Balenger: And that’s in private school.
Kaya Henderson: I think you are both right De’Ara. It is that we usually get the one, quote unquote, “classic” that is problematic. And Myles is right. Right. Like, teachers are not equipped to handle this or manage this. And one of the outcomes of this was that teachers were trained now on how to present difficult material, which probably should have been happening before. But for me, I brought this to the podcast. I mean, I think book banning period is a terrible thing, but I brought it to the podcast because really of the politicality of it, if that’s a word, right, like where as we have one set of values the the book banning thing is being fueled by parents rights to choose what their kids are exposed to and the preservation of children’s feelings. And that applies in spades when we’re talking about white kids. But it does not apply at all when we’re talking about Black kids. And so, Myles, you’re absolutely right. Teachers need to be equipped. We need to be able to see a range of and to De’Ara’s point what I would say is, you know, the Black kids were like, can we have some Black authors up in here, too? And–
De’Ara Balenger: Yeah.
Kaya Henderson: I think one of the things that came out of this is now teachers have some choice about what they can, what they can teach um in ninth grade. But to me, it is the lack of equivalence when we’re talking about how kids feel.
De’Ara Balenger: Or Kaya I think just like the lack of expansiveness about how we’re talking about American history. I mean.
Kaya Henderson: Mm hmm mm hmm.
De’Ara Balenger: Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, basically, and he was a slave owner, you know what I mean? So like talking about like the vastness and complexity that is this country. And–
Kaya Henderson: And sharing multiple perspectives.
De’Ara Balenger: Exactly.
Kaya Henderson: So that you don’t get it from one thing.
De’Ara Balenger: Exactly.
DeRay Mckesson: The other thing I’ll say is that I I am interested in what does it look like to create the crisis is that we have been dealing with incoming from the moms of liberty and that whole crew and da da da. And I’m actually and I hear everything everybody’s saying so I I and I agree with it. Myles, I think your push is right, De’Ara I also went to school with the kids who were like, fascinated by the N word and those things and da da da. And I’m like, you know what I? If a set of teachers look at all the books and they’re like, this is privileging whiteness and it like forces this crisis of like it forces a crisis that you are pushing us to confront Myles about like, let’s talk about what open minds look like and da da da. But actually, I read this and I was like, I appreciated that these teachers were like, you know what? We not going to have these books that center whiteness. Like, we we’re not going do right either. If we’re going to have this like macro, if we’re going to have these like fights about book by book, I actually appreciated that somebody on the seeming left was also in that fight. If we can’t win the larger argument about openness around literature.
Myles E. Johnson: Yeah, I think that my belief is it’s always about more knowledge, more literature, more things. So to me, the advocacy is not taking away To Kill a Mockingbird. To me, the thing to do in that moment would have been like, oh, let’s center and now this is actually a great opening to center and push for The Bluest Eye. Why can’t we–
De’Ara Balenger: Yeah.
Myles E. Johnson: –have the Bluest Eye? What is wrong with this book? Look at To Kill a Mockingbird. This will be the thing. But taking away literature feels like it’s doing the same disservice.
De’Ara Balenger: Yup.
DeRay Mckesson: More Myles. Myles woke up and said let me just–
De’Ara Balenger: I agree.
DeRay Mckesson: –be [?] and just and just preach.
De’Ara Balenger: I agree.
DeRay Mckesson: Come on.
Myles E. Johnson: Oh, my goodness. I done have my friends over for dinner [laughing] last night. I’m feeling very auntie coded.
DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Hey, you’re listening to Pod Save the People. Stay tuned. There’s more to come.
De’Ara Balenger: Well, y’all we’re inching inching towards this next presidential election and these here United States of America. And it’s looking pretty terrifying. The New York Times did a poll with Siena College, and the findings are probably, as some of us suspected, not great. So they found President Biden losing to Donald Trump by margins of 4 to 10 percentage points among registered voters in swing states Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, the only place where President Biden was leading, but only by 2%, two percentage points. And that was in Wisconsin. So, first of all, ow. This whoa [laugh] I think it’s it’s like somebody needs to ring the alarm. And I and I think this is this was even sitting a little bit more deeply with me because I’m I’m watching so many people that I respect um who are commenting while they’re protesting um for a cease fire in Palestine, that they are not going to support President Biden in this election. These are very important organizers. These are people who a lot of folks listen to. And I’m just in my mind, I’m like, what’s a middle ground here? What’s the outreach strategy? What are we doing to like in real time not even talk, not even talking about like everything that’s happening in this article and in this poll that I think has been the last four, you know, kind of last three and a half years up until now, but just in the last month. What what are we doing? What are we doing and who are we doing it for? And when I say we, it’s the universal Democratic Party. So discontent um in this poll, people are saying that President Biden’s policy have personally hurt them. And President Biden is also losing a lot of ground with Black voters, with Latino voters. I mean, this is wild. There’s a point in this article about Republican support by Black folks is basically knocking out what it was during Reconstruction.
Kaya Henderson: That was when the Republicans were for us.
De’Ara Balenger: Right. Right. Right.
Kaya Henderson: Oh, Jesus.
Myles E. Johnson: That’s a I wanted to say that I said that. I’ve been talking on this podcast about the Black conservative swing.
De’Ara Balenger: Yup.
Myles E. Johnson: I’ve been talking about that. I’ve been talking about the programs I’ve been watching. I was like, now listen, it sounds funny because it’s Kevin Samuels, but I’m letting you know what’s happening on these dark webs is about to come into the mainstream light. And and now it’s and now it’s actually manifesting.
De’Ara Balenger: And it’s yup Black voters now registering 22% support in these in those swing states, a level unseen in presidential politics for a Republican in modern times.
Kaya Henderson: That is astounding to me, right, because I get the erosion of Biden’s, you know, lead or credibility or popularity or whatever, whatever. I think that, um you know, if you you noted that a lot of this is in the past month. And I think um when I think about where young people are, where I think about where a lot of people of color are. This Israel thing has moved people dramatically from wherever they were to where they are now. But like and so I was expecting to see, like just, I don’t know, like people not going to go vote or whatever, whatever, but like affirmative to support–
De’Ara Balenger: The other side, yup.
Kaya Henderson: Of Mr. Trump? Like, I just figured people would not come out for Biden or people would be like, I’m done. I’m out I’m dropping out, I’m checking out. But the affirmative support for Trump is astounding to me, and the the article says that the more diverse the swing state, the farther Biden was behind. And so this is colorful people um who are, you know, we make or break elections, they try to tell us that our votes don’t count, but our votes count quite a bit and uh somebody better get it together. Now, here’s if I remember correctly, You know, before Mr. Obama won his presidency, it was all doom and gloom about how he was behind and yada, yada and all of this jazz. So polls are polls and we should take them as indicators, but not as the final word. Right? He still has a year to pull it out. But wooza wowsa, honey. Um. And and–
De’Ara Balenger: And here’s what folks are saying. This is from Jamari Henry, a 25 year old who packages liquor in Albany, Georgia. He initially had high hopes for Biden. You can’t be worse than Trump. But then as the years go by, things happen with inflation. The war going on in Ukraine, recently Israel and I guess our borders are not secure at all. And these are talking points that I mean, even in some of my conversations with just like being out and about in New York that I’m hearing. Well, what do we say about the borders? What do we say about? So not only [laugh] is is this, you know, is is whatever they’re doing around how they’re getting messaging out through the airwaves, through the Internet, etc.. It’s it’s it’s really pulling people in to a point where. It’s it’s scary, y’all it’s just scary. It’s very scary. It’s very scary.
Myles E. Johnson: Yeah. Conservatism is definitely seductive in so many ways. I try to like show the different funnels, the different ways that you you you think you’re entering this far, this this left or this pro-Black space or you’re um this diverse space. But we’re just traditional and we’re LGBT. We’re not like those people. There’s all these different entry ways that still get you to conservatism. And because Trump is such a clown and such a um for so many people, unserious personality, it’s I’ve heard so many people arrive at the same conclusions that oh, no. This is our Trojan horse to get our way, and we’ll deal with the Trojan horse that is Trump and then the ridiculousness to get our to um in order to get our way. The other thing that I will say, like I’ve always been um identified as like politically queer, pro-Black, a Black feminist, these are my like political identities which usually finds me on the left. And I also identify as a pragmatist. So I’m a person who votes, who engages with people who maybe are more committed to government than I am in order to both not just hear their point of views, but also just so we can get things moving along. This Israel and Palestine um conversation has been the first time since I’ve been able to vote that I’ve had a moral deep moral um war in myself. You know the the attacks me the seeing the dismembered babies and seeing those things happen and then knowing that my money is is funneling that. It is a very hard thing to engage with. And I think a lot of people of my generation who are maybe left leaning, who would be activated, are finding it extremely hard to do that. And we’re also in a generation that had to do it for 9/11. We had to do it uh for even with gay gay marriage and just like, you know, just just get Obama in. Even though Obama didn’t say nothing that he liked us, but just get him in it will be better. We’ve we’ve been kind of told over and over again um that it will be better once we vote and these things and now the it seems like the costs are getting bigger for the pragmatic solutions to be even smaller and even more inconsequential. And I think disengagement feels like the morally clear thing to do for a lot of people because you see the direct line between your money and your vote to somebody else’s demise and annihilation. And I think people want a president. I’m just speaking for people on the left want a president and want leadership who’s going to say the morally right thing and be activated by those things. Wants to see the connection, though that kid who you see, who’s five years old with the bug eyes, who just saw their whole world and family blow up, we know that that kid is going to turn into the 18 year old with the same eyes, who looks soulless, who comes and does a terrorist attack. And we want that cycle to stop. And if that cycle is not stopping then what are we voting for? Like, what are we voting for? What are we engaging on? And I think that we’re going to see I pray [laugh] that, you know, we we go blue, but I think that it’s not going to be a easy oh we did this with our eyes closed win for for people on the left, I think that it’s going to take a lot of um a lot deeper and more vulnerable talk than what’s been happening is what I’ll say.
De’Ara Balenger: And Myles, I think, and I feel like you’ll have guiding perspective on this to and I to the to the point of we’re always told to do something. And so that’s why we do the thing like we have to run Biden because of the party structure of the work that’s already been done, of name recognition, yada, yada, yada. But is it that we run someone else? Like can it be that we just do something entirely different? Like, is that even? Is is that is that just like, out of the imagination? I guess.
DeRay Mckesson: This is my take on why I think this is going to hurt Biden. And I will say this morning, I think it was the interview this morning or yesterday. Um. Bowman Representative Bowman was on the news and said that the war in Gaza could cause um a Biden the reelection. And I agree with him. Is that is that I think that it’s one thing to be like, okay, there’s a conflict and most people don’t know anything about the Middle East. You’re like, okay, do we know the history of Israel-Palestine? No. Like, people like, didn’t grow up learning it. I certainly didn’t grow up learning it. But for a lot of people I know, they’re like, okay, can you bomb the hospitals, the the refugee camp, like stuff that we’re not even like it didn’t happen it, it is like that happened right? And the left is just sort of like, well, they’re trying to find Hamas. And you’re like, well, you know, I know people who literally know nothing about the Middle East. And I saw one poster that was like, if you were trying to find a school shooter, do you bomb the school? And I’m like, that, that makes sense to me, right? And and and the White House is like total just like doubled down on even the idea that you ask a question means that you’re like, somehow wild. I think that they have lost they lost it. And here’s actually why I think they lost it. I think that when election time comes, it’s actually the activists who tell everybody lesser of two evils. You got to make a choice in this moment. It’s da da like it is the furthest left people who, even when they don’t like the party, are like, Hey, y’all we got to you know, we have seen the tea leaves with the other people and they crazy like Trump is literally telling people right now, on day one, I’m going to arrest all these people who disagree with me. I’m a lock them up. Like, that’s what he’s saying. So the the activists get that. And they are the people who are telling people time and time again, lesser of two evils. We need you to vote. Come outside, get and like it is organizers who do that. It’s not random people who wake up and do that. It’s the organizers. And I think he has lost the organizers. I think there are organizers who will not know how to defend the statements that they’ve made about what Israel’s done. They and forget the like forget all the stuff that is like, you know, there are two sides that reasonable people could say, but there’s stuff that it’s like, tell me why they bombed the refugee camp. And the administration is just like, cool. And Israel says, we’re looking for one person. And you bombed the whole camp it’s like organizer DeRay can’t make sense like, I can’t explain that to somebody in a way that I can explain the loan thing. I’m like, you know, here’s this is what happened with the loans or the aid to other countries. It’s like somebody said to me, DeRay kids are in debt over fruit snacks and we just gave 14 billion. And I’m like, I don’t got it. I don’t I don’t know what to say to you because that does feel wild to people.
Myles E. Johnson: And you would lose legitimacy as an organizer and as a trusted person trying to convince us or to somebody–
DeRay Mckesson: Absolutely.
Myles E. Johnson: To do that. So you so you don’t even want to get–
De’Ara Balenger: That’s right.
Myles E. Johnson: –into that tango because you know.
De’Ara Balenger: That’s right.
Myles E. Johnson: That whether Trump or Biden is president, you still need those people’s trust and they’re not going to trust you with um those things. I do have to say, because I will just, wouldn’t be me and I would just feel awful if I if I didn’t say I do have to connect what Obama said with um the the the fellow Crooked Media podcast and how Obama, in the clip that they posted, reduced a lot of what was happening, a lot of conversations that were happening around Israel-Palestine to simply TikTok takes and social media. That kind of paternalism, that kind of minimizing how people are feeling and discussing things just because it’s a generational difference of how we’re discussing things is not the right way to go. I left that clip feeling insulted and like disgust– and like almost disgusted with the fact that somebody who is President Obama couldn’t just say cease fire. You’re talking about we need to hear other people’s takes and we need to um and we need to uh be able to hear other people’s sides. And we have to admit that it’s a complicated issue. It’s not it’s a storied issue. It’s a long issue. But it’s been wrong and simple for a long time. It’s been wrong and simple for a long time. It’s not that complicated. And the fact that you are making it seem like because a lot of people are doing things through social media or TikTok or even communicating certain perspectives to that point is a is a is the fact that that was a part of that argument is just so wild to me, and it was so insulting. And the fact that President Obama wouldn’t exist without colonization. You were born in Hawaii, which is not which is a colonial territory. All these different things are happening. And in the end, you don’t have any you couldn’t say cease fire. That’s where to me, the conversation starts when you say this is ridiculous, let’s stop. And then if you want to have a conversation between Palestine and Israel and we want to dig into it, um then that to me feels like the fair, humane thing to do. But a cease fire just felt like the the easiest, bravest thing to do. And he couldn’t do that. And maybe he did do that and we’re missing the full interview.
De’Ara Balenger: Well he’s also not going to do that, Myles. He’s not going to go against the administration. That’s just not how they operate.
Myles E. Johnson: Which is which is what we have to admit. Because if you’re running Obama as this person who calms down Black people, who um left white people and and and all these oth– and all these other people who love Obama, you know, let’s be real. Obama has made it to the Tupac, Malcolm X, baptism portraits like so if he says something, he can calm down some certain people who are activated. He’s been used like that. He’s been and and of course, not just in the Black community, but just in the left community in general. He’s been used as that icon to um center people, get people back on their side, and people are not falling for that anymore. And it’s insulting. And they have to advance their dialog because people are seeing through it. So as shallow and as transparent and simple as they see us TikTokers being is just as shallow and as transparent as your talking points are, and you have to advance them and complicate them if you have a chance of getting people’s hearts back before Election Day, in my opinion.
De’Ara Balenger: I guess that was my question earlier. Like, is it? Is it too late? Or do we think that Biden, Obama, Hillary, like all like our Democratic elites. If they can organize themselves in a way that there can be transparency and accessibility so that organizers can get questions answered. And more than that. [laugh] Different policy decisions can be made like in earnest, like right away. Like do we think there is space for that? Because the or because we can’t decide–
Kaya Henderson: I think it might be–
De’Ara Balenger: –we’re just going to vote for Trump.
Kaya Henderson: I think it might be too late. And here’s the reason why. It is it if you are looking for a way forward, the only way forward is a cease fire. Right. Because otherwise we get into the equivocation of who did what first and blah, blah, blah, and we could go all the way back to biblical times and not find whatever. But as Myles said, the the only way forward, you cannot fix this as long as folks are bombing hospitals and schools and things like this, like it has to stop and you can have a conversation or you can have negotiations or you can whatever, whatever. I think that the moral equivocation that’s happening now right at the Biden administration came out and was like, we stand with you basically come hell or high water and we gonna give you a whole lot of money. And lots of the allies said the same. And that was not necessarily the will of the American populace. And so you start to hear now that regular people are protesting and and, you know, are like no cease fire that’s our priority. And now the administration is like, yeah yeah, we’re kind of trying to cajole Israel into a cease fire. And Israel is like, you know what it is? We told you what it is, total destruction, blah, blah, blah. And yes, we need money. And so like now after the fact, when the Biden administration is like, oh, yeah, we’re calling for a ceasefire, we’re doing what we can, we’re going to go with the, it is the the horse is out the barn. Where is that the saying whatever it is and so–
Myles E. Johnson: It works. [laughter]
Kaya Henderson: And so I don’t [laughter] so I don’t–
Myles E. Johnson: –[?] the same before.
Kaya Henderson: I don’t I don’t know how you then bring these people together and say, ah, we said this thing but what we really meant is blah blah. Right. Like there is not I don’t know how you fix this. And I do think the the presidential election is imperiled for sure.
DeRay Mckesson: And I think that, Myles, to your point about the like mobilizing the Black person, I was I don’t know, Karine Jean-Pierre, like, she is not my friend. I do not know her. Have we saw each other, I’ve been in rooma with her and we you know, way but I I do not know her, so I have no indication of her character or whatever. When um Representative Omar and [?] and AOC and Cori Bush and all those people released statements being like hey like, you know, cease fire at least, but like we you know, they called they early called out the equivocation about this. Jean-Pierre said from the podium. So I’ve seen some of those statements this weekend and we’re going to continue to be very clear. We believe they’re wrong. We believe they’re repugnant and we believe they’re disgraceful. She said that as the White House press secretary in the statements–
Myles E. Johnson: Wait who is she, I didn’t catch who she was speaking to.
DeRay Mckesson: She’s against Omar, AOC, Bush, the whole the like small group of–
Kaya Henderson: The progressive.
DeRay Mckesson: The progressives.
Myles E. Johnson: Got it.
DeRay Mckesson: Who were like hey this is wild like America cannot stand by what just happened. And she called them repugnant and disgraceful. And I think there would have been a time where you get the Black person to do that. And then it does like, you know, everybody’s like, okay. And I think that people have just seen through it. And what and to your point Kaya, when you see through it, you can’t unsee it. You see yourself getting played. So she has no she lost in that mome– I do not know this woman. In that moment she lost any shred of credibility. I won’t I don’t trust her. I don’t respect her like she lost it because I’m like, you could say we disagree with them and I got that’s your job. You got to do that. You’re like my boss said, we not on this. And like I got to say, we, but to call them repugnant while you’re watching this happ– girl no you have lost. You’re not a real person to me anymore. You are not credible. I’d rather you quit then stand up there and say it’s repugnant and disgraceful and these statements. No. So I don’t I think that I think it is as an organizer, I don’t know what they could do to get me to defend this against people who say DeRay but why didn’t they call for a cease fire? Why did they let them bomb the refugee camp? I don’t know. I ain’t got a good answer.
DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Don’t go anywhere. More Pod Save the People is coming.
Myles E. Johnson: I think that’s okay. And I think that there’s so many people like you DeRay, who or not like all of us, but like when I think about the who they’re losing. There’s so many people who I’ve seen lose their jobs, so many people who have basically taken a stance, who are not a part of the political elite, who don’t who don’t have the power. So I think if people are saying, well, I was just at my tech job minding my business, or I was just at whatever minding my business, but I felt so compelled. I have a friend who’s has a has a nice publicist job I’ll just say that to keep it ambiguous who was saying stuff because they felt so compelled to do it. And and it’s not a part of their job. So if regular citizens I guess what I’m trying to say if regular citizens are willing to sacrifice and risk things in order to say what’s right. It becomes a problem when the people who are supposed to their job is supposed to be able to risk things to do what’s right, are not able to do that. And yeah, yeah, the customer service era of government has to end. You have to we have to get to a humanity part where we don’t just say the script that was given to us because it’s feeling a little AI generated and hollow and it’s not moving people.
Kaya Henderson: The interesting thing to me also about this is it’s not like I think Trump would say something different, right? Like, I think and so but I think that people feel like he’s decisive and he is, you know, whatever definitive in ways that this administration is not. So I’m not sure what people think they’re going to get on the other side. Um. This this is so perplexing to watch.
Myles E. Johnson: You have to think about the–
De’Ara Balenger: And I gues that’s the point.
Myles E. Johnson: –revenge vote. You have to think about it. I hate to say it like that. But like–
De’Ara Balenger: But we’re not going to get I think that’s my point is like, then what? What are we doing? What are we doing then? Because we’re not–
DeRay Mckesson: Yeah I I [?]–
De’Ara Balenger: Because Trump is pro-Israel.
DeRay Mckesson: What about another nominee? What about another nominee?
De’Ara Balenger: Well that’s–
Kaya Henderson: Can that can that happen? I mean, the way our thing is set up. Okay, let’s go.
DeRay Mckesson: Yeah I–
De’Ara Balenger: Who you got? Who you got? Who you got? [laughter] Who you got?
DeRay Mckesson: I don’t even know. But I’m saying I would rather–
De’Ara Balenger: Dwayne the Rock Johnson.
DeRay Mckesson: Shut up. I am in this. I’m in this moment where I’m like, you have he has crossed the line so far on this one that I DeRay is even willing to entertain a conversation about another nominee. We can’t do Trump so I’m on the like, I’ll be out there being like, I know he did that crazy thing, but don’t vote for Trump. Because Trump is nuts. And I’m like, we should at least honestly talk about another nominee. [silent pause] [heavy sighs]
De’Ara Balenger: This is [?]–
Kaya Henderson: We about to get thrown off of Crooked y’all.
De’Ara Balenger: –very complicated. [laughter] It’s true.
Myles E. Johnson: No. No I–
Kaya Henderson: That’s okay.
Myles E. Johnson: I want everybody um who’s uh listening right now to go on a ride, and we’re all in the same car together. And in this car we’re going to go on a different road, it’s going to be bumpy, but we’re going to get there because we are reporting the news. So I’m about to talk about Dwight Howard. Apparently, there is a sport that involves a bouncable ball and you throw it through a basket.
Kaya Henderson: And a hoop.
Myles E. Johnson: And a hoop and people love it apparently. I didn’t hear about this sport until one Dwight Howard came to my desk. [laughter] So Dwight Howard is a successful basketball player. I feel like I’m, like, minimizing it because every article is like giving him so many, like, awards and saying he’s, like it. But I’m sorry. So I’m sorry if I’m minimizing this for actual sports fans, but Dwight Howard is a successful um basketball player. Dwight Howard has been accused of sexual assault. He was accused by a gay a gay man um of sexual assault. And there’s been other people who have um accused Dwight Howard of this too. My news is not necessarily that he’s been accused of these things, even though that is newsworthy as well. My news is the fact that the media’s engagement with it, specifically our media leaders using leaders with the lowest case of the l that I can find um are engaging with this as salacious gossip that makes weird or strange queer sex acts and not the fact that there is somebody who’s in the community who’s 6′ 11″, who has so much power is is committing sexual assault, allegedly. The big thing that I want to connect with this is when it comes to queer sexualities and sex acts, it being used as comedy actually helps facilitate violence, because if something’s not taken seriously, how can it be harmful? If something is um seen as outrageous or shocking but how how could it be bloody and horrific? This is a consistent play that that we’ll see. And I’ve seen it both in intimate, uh social communities where I’ve been in community with um powerful Black gay men who I have to stop being friends with because I’ve heard about um sexual assault and sexual violences that they committed and because it’s hard for people to see a Black gay man or a Black queer person that’s anything but willing and open sexually, that it never gets taken seriously. And I hate that this is happening with this victim now. Let me read a little bit from this article that I’m pulling from, which is in The Guardian. So the allegation is the lawsuit, like any case of sexual assault, are deeply disturbing. If the jury finds for the plaintiff, Howard should be punished heavily. But Howard is being tried for his alleged behavior, not his sexuality. And rather than talking about a troubling case of sexual assault involving a famous athlete, many in the media have been quick to use Howard’s sexuality as a punch line or as a speculation to why he is no longer in the NBA. The pundits have already flooded the airwaves with their [?] and pauses, including that it is what it is talk show with rappers Cam’ron and Ma$e. Remember them? Ma$e claimed that Howard’s sexuality is the reason he is no longer in the NBA. People will say it don’t matter, but as soon as they find out it matters, the former bad boy rapper said. So they outted him. When it comes down to making money off the story, it matters when it comes down who is dating, it’s going to matter when it comes down to if you’re going to be in the locker room with them. It matters because there’s 30 teams who didn’t sign Dwight Howard because it matters. This is why reading matters, because it’s easier to be critical when you when you’ve read a feminist book or two. So Dwight Howard, the real story rounds up Dwight Howard is how he’s actually being patriotically protected from sexually assaulting people because of because of his power, because of his elite stance in society as a as a celebrity. There’s no way that this could happen to. I hate doing the identity switch, but I got to do it. There’s no way that Dwight Howard could have done this to a young white girl. To a white girl, and this be the same response. So instead of worrying about what money or what team he’s not on or not participating in, the worry should be is how come we’re being told by a member of our community, a far distant cousin [laugh] of our community has been sexually assaulted and we’re not furious. And when we figure out another person, and another person this happened to, we’re not furious and we’re not saying something. And Dwight Howard’s able to go on Instagram live and on social media and make the whole situation about this is my business, what I do when it comes to my sexuality, this is um uh my privacy. This is what happens in my bedroom. It’s my business. Yeah, sure. Until there’s violence introduced, then it becomes everybody’s business. As soon as you introduce violence and nonconsensual violence, because child I’m in New York and there’s some freaks but nonconsensual violence to your bedroom. As soon as you do that, then you turn your private bedroom into a public stage for critique and for accountability. You do, you know. And I think when complex identities and sexual experiences come into these feminist talks around MeToo, around accountability, around violence, we have to get better. You know, and everything that’s happened to Jonathan Majors should be happening to Jonathan Majors from the looks of those alleged reports. However, the swiftness of that and the slowness of Dwight Howard has to be reviewed. We got and we have to talk about it and we can’t just and we have to stop taking queer sexual [?] sexualities and sex acts as punch lines or these um modern day sideshow acts and I can’t believe they do that. I can’t believe this happens. I can’t believe, oh, there’s somebody who was born as a male who was in heels, who came who’s a part of the sexual thing too. No the the the spotlight should be on that there was nonconsensual sex and domination, using both and your body and through um your social and economic power. That’s what should be what the focus is, not how you decided to dominate. The fact that you decided to dominate should be the focus. So I wanted to bring this to the podcast because I was extremely disappointed with the hip hop community’s response. I was disappointed in um child who I don’t that that that sports man who be talking with the long face who don’t like Rihanna.
De’Ara Balenger: Oh my gosh.
Myles E. Johnson: Like that that man.
Kaya Henderson: Stephen A. Smith. [laughter]
De’Ara Balenger: Oh my gosh.
Myles E. Johnson: Yes. Like his response. There’s been a couple of Black feminists on YouTube [?] so the response fans who were kind of like um, just overplaying maybe Dwight Howard’s physical attraction to them and and in the same way minimizing. So you’re you’re trying to have a feminist critique of the sexual um the sexual violence, but then you’re saying a whole bunch of things about how sexy he is or how attractive he is. Or oh he is tall though, and I’m like, Yeah, this this can’t happen. This can’t happen. This there needs to be an off switch and there needs to be a serious switch. When somebody who’s a part of our family saying, hey, I’m being harmed and I’m and I have the courage enough to say it while it happened or within the same ten years or five years that it happened and I’m not waiting years later, like George Foreman’s victims or Bill Cosby’s victims. Um. Yeah. I wanted to bring that to the podcast so it can be serious. Of course, I want to hear y’alls thoughts and um opinions on this. But just just keep that in mind when you’re around people who are um constantly, publicly sexualized, that often that is a that’s a good disguise for sexual violence too, because people don’t think people who are openly queer can be sexually violated.
DeRay Mckesson: I was surprised, actually, because when I first saw it on social media, I was like, oh, you know, because this has happened with Dwight Howard before where it is clear that he is at least genderfluid or so I was like and then I clicked and was like, Oh, well, this has happened before, but this is another allegation of assault. This isn’t his first allegation of assault. There have been trans women before who said that he said he was going to kill them and da da da. So so when I saw this. I’m like, well, we are missing the story here. This is not about, you know, sexual identity. This is about an accusation of rape, um of sexual violence. And to just echo what you said, I I frankly was shocked. And it is certainly the protection of patriarchy that he is posting Tiktoks being like I’m just minding my business. People want to be and you’re like, well, this actually was not about your gender identity or expression. This is about an accusation of sexual assault that frankly, the victim’s face is out like that person is going to experience the long tail of being associated with you. And in this way, and you are just making sort of a joke of all of it. So so I don’t have any constructive feedback on this, but I will share your shock um at how like not even the not even the Instagram community, but the mainstream athletic places also made it a story about like this gender fluidity or sexual whatever, and not about sexual violence and like that that was really something.
Kaya Henderson: I mean, I I found this to be alarming as well. Um. Like, the first problem here is if I accuse somebody of sexual assault, like they got to get arrested. This dude hasn’t been arrested. He hasn’t been charged. He hasn’t like any of the formal things that should happen when this stuff happens um hasn’t. And so for the victim um it’s wildly problematic that not only is justice not being served, I mean, Dwight Howard has called for charges to be dismissed. There’s no charges against him. I don’t I can’t even sort out all of the legalities. De’Ara, you can help us figure that out. But it ain’t right when somebody says you harmed them, assaulted them. There has to be an investigation. None of that seems to be happening. He just seems to get to say, you know, yeah, that didn’t happen. It was all consensual, see you soon. I think that the media frenzy, Myles, is because for years and years and years there’s been speculation about his sexuality for all kinds of reasons. And I mean, as far as we’ve progressed, you know, we ain’t that, you know, progressed. And these patriarchal, you know, toxic masculine ideas of toxic masculinity persist, especially in places like the NBA and in other sports franchise sports leagues and stuff. Now I don’t know. None of this is surprising to me exactly. As DeRay said, like there have been multiple allegations against Dwight Howard over the years. I think the thing that is surprising is that nobody seems to be taking this seriously and that this the person who is aggrieved has to see all of this stuff on the Internet when something happened and there is no what what what is the what is the recourse for this person. If just put the put the shoe on the other foot for a second if this happened to you or if this happened to your sister or your brother, you would want the full force of the law, you’d want an investigation, you sure wouldn’t want the accuser um the accused saying crazy stuff on social media about it. And you know, you’re right. It is protection of the patriarchy, of, you know, of celebrity of all of this stuff. And I just don’t understand why nobody is sort of saying, hey, wait, like something’s happening here and we’ve got to figure out how to handle it in the appropriate way, it is like, astounding.
De’Ara Balenger: And I think the thing that is really astounding about this is this has been going on for years–
Myles E. Johnson: Allegedly.
De’Ara Balenger: –with this guy. Allegedly. But it’s also like. You know, I don’t want to talk about nobody’s kids, but Dwight Howard’s been through so many things, too, around allegedly abusing his kids. There’s been a lot of things over the years where it it one could argue that who he chooses as a victim is key to how he continually gets exonerated. Because if who you’re choosing as a victim is so vulnerable or so unseen. And I think Kaya to your point, that’s why this is allowed to continue. Right? Because if if if a man is not seen as someone who could be a victim of sexual assault. And law enforcement sees it that way. And then Dwight Howard, who I’m sure still probably has at least $100 million dollars left. Has an army of attorneys that can help navigate this. I mean, that’s that’s where that’s where we are. But I think it’s part of the, you know, just the the cultural belief system that is so patriarchal that has protected this guy for year after year after year after year. It’s like he’s had a reputation in the NBA since I was young and getting flown to places. Okay. So that and that was 20 years ago.
Kaya Henderson: Wait I’m sorry. You want to say a little bit more about that?
De’Ara Balenger: No, no, that’s for another time. That’s for another time. That’s for another time. So it’s this is just–
Myles E. Johnson: I think we got some time until we have to wrap. [laughter] I think we I think. [laughter]
De’Ara Balenger: Any who. But Myles, thank you for bringing this one because good grief. [music break]
DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Well, that’s it. Thanks so much for tuning in to Pod Save the People this week. Tell your friends to check it out and make sure you rate it wherever you get your podcasts. Whether it’s Apple podcast or somewhere else. 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 Evan Sutton. Executive produced by me and special thanks to our weekly contributors, Kaya Henderson, De’Ara Balenger, and Myles E. Johnson. [music break]