In This Episode
DeRay, Kaya, and Myles cover the underreported news of the week— including a city ban on co-living, the tobacco industry targeting Black Americans, and the life & legacy of Ceyenne Doroshow. DeRay interviews author and scholar Andre Perry about his new book Know Your Price: Valuing Black Lives and Property in America’s Black Cities.
DeRay Mckesson: Hey, this is DeRay, and welcome to Pod Save the People. In this episode, it’s me, Kaya and Myles talking about the news that you don’t know from the past week, the underreported news, the news that you should have heard about but didn’t make headlines. Then I sit down with author and scholar Andre Perry to talk about his new book, “Know Your Price: Valuing Black Lives and Property in America’s Black Cities.” This is a fantastic book, and truly insightful interview. We talked about housing before as a part of the news but finally had an expert on to help us make sense of it. My advice for this week is to make the ask. You might not always get what you want, but you certainly wont get it if you don’t ask for it. And as I work recently and I had this, I was like, Can this thing, Do this thing? And I just put it in the work Slack, and who knew that someone on our team, like, knew how to do it very quickly. He did it, and I felt like I was being dramatic about asking, but this was like, it was just easy for him to do, it was very hard for me to do. But it was one of those things that like sometimes you just gotta ask, and like be open to a No. But if you don’t ask, you’ll never know.
Kaya Henderson: Hey, family! Welcome to Pod Save the People. We’re so excited to be back with you for another week of news and great interviews. I’m Kaya Henderson and you can find me on Twitter @hendersonkaya.
Myles E Johnson: I’m Myles E Johnson. You can find me on Twitter and Instagram @pharoahrapture.
DeRay Mckesson: And this is DeRay, @D E R A Y on Twitter.
Kaya Henderson: So this week is actually the 30th anniversary of the L.A. riots, which for me and my short life, short life, maybe some longer than others, but for me it was a seminal moment in terms of the history of this country, in terms of my consciousness as an African-American woman living in America. 30-years ago, literally like, L.A. burned because of a series of events, including the killing of a young African-American woman by a Korean. I think she was a Korean shopkeeper. We saw the brutal beating of Rodney King on camera, which I think was probably the first time outside of the civil rights movement that we saw police beating up pedestrians. And the whole world – I was in college at the time, it was my senior year of college – and I remember watching this stuff on TV, watching fires, watching looting, watching these people pull this man out of a truck and beat the smack out of him. And literally, like it was the first time in my conscious world – I had to be about 21, 20, I think I was 20, almost turning 21 at the time – where, you know, for us history, this kind of violence had only really happened historically, right? We saw tapes from the civil rights movement with people getting hosed and beaten and dogs turned on people, but this was real life like, happening right now, not in some, you know, southern town, but in Los Angeles, California. And it was staggering to watch it all in real time on TV and to really ask ourselves, what did this mean for our world? What does this mean for us as Black people that like, you could just so wantonly – like it was jarring to think that like you could see white people, white policemen beating up a Black man who had done nothing, or to see a shopkeeper kill a little girl. I mean, she was a teenager. And it was for me, it was my first like, the-world-does-not-make-sense kind of moment, and the world especially does not make sense for us as African-Americans, after feeling like, you know, we had overcome, for the most part. And oddly enough, 30-years later, it’s deja vu all over again. Right? I feel like over the last few years, we’ve seen nothing but a proliferation of, you know, police beating people and killing people on camera in real time. Like now this is, at that time we hadn’t seen this before, and now, like, this is just par for the course. It is, it’s what happens. We continue to see people making gross generalizations about us that end up in our deaths and violence against us. And so it’s interesting to think at this particular moment when I think about where we are in this country, how divided we are, how pessimistic people are about, you know, what’s happening, how broken we are after coming off of a global pandemic, to think we are probably right back in the same place, if not worse than we were 30-years ago with the L.A. riots. I don’t know what were y’all doing? Myles, were you crawling, were you a star in the sky? What was going on?
Myles E Johnson: No. I was, I was thinking how like sometimes, you know, things like heirlooms and inheritances are always kind of associated with money, but I think of for when it comes to like Blacks, the Black struggle, how inheritance and heirlooms are like given, and I was thinking about what it means to be born in 91 like I was, and be, inherit like the L.A. riots, Rodney King, these different things and how that shaped my generation. So I think that it’s interesting that I’m in a generation that has some of us – that’s not like, not a blanket statement at all – but like some of us have really associated with and embraced like the ideas and theories behind Afro pessimism, and I think that that can only happen in a generation that was born in the ’90s and really after – I was, it is just kind of wild that that happened in ’92, and then I’m thinking about Columbine, and then I’m thinking about 9-11, and then I’m thinking about the Great Recession, and two Trump eras – or excuse me – two Bush eras, And Trump, and I’m like, Oh, like this generation inherited a type of like pessimism that I don’t think, and type of nihilism that I don’t think, I think it’s new. I think it’s new. And I think that just hearing you talk about it and in talking about your view of things post and before the riots, it’s interesting because I might have had more of a, I had a pretty privileged like life, but I still think that there was never a time where I thought everything was all good, you know? And I think that’s because I was born with the L.A. riots and I was born with things and I just never I never had that moment, I think that people who grew up in the specifically middle class, upper-middle class, hopeful, Black people who grew up in the ’70s, right before were like, you know, before white flight and when everything was “we can all make it” and The Cosby Show was happening, and the Huxtables, I think that there’s a different type of hope that was, you know, a different type of . . .yeah.
Kaya Henderson: Oh, my gosh.
Myles E Johnson: What do you, what do you call that?
Kaya Henderson: You are, you are absolutely right. Optimism. I mean-
Myles E Johnson: Disillusionment, is what I mean.
Kaya Henderson: Our worldview was very different. Oh, yes! For your generation, I mean, you, that is absolutely right. The post-civil rights generation, right after civil rights, those of us who grew up in the ’70s and early ’80s, you know, had a bunch of markers that sort of showed that we were the promise of the civil rights movement and that we, there was social mobility and we were buying houses and we were going to college and da da da and all of this jazz. And I think for a minute we thought—I mean, I like, the book that changed my life I always talk about is a book called Faces at the Bottom of the Well by Derrick Bell. The subtext is, the subtitle is “The Permanence of Racism”. And he argues like, what if we shan’t overcome? What if racism is here to stay and it’s never going away? And the book shocked the smack out of me because I was like, Wait, what!? Like, I’m a baby,. I’m an integration baby, right? Like, I thought it was all going to be all right. And this was the first time that anybody was sort of challenging that. When I think about I mean, when I think about where I am right now, when I think about what I’ve lived through over my soon-to-be 52 years—Myles, you are exactly right. Like we were, we had a set of expectations. We thought we could be the Cosbys, some of us are the Cosby’s, right, but like if you, but it was against a backdrop of a completely different set of circumstances. And so I get why—I mean that the term afro pessimism—I always learn so much from you all. I was like, “Afro pessimism” what is that? I’m Googling on my thing, I’m about to order this book about Afro pessimism because I think that is where a lot of us are right now. So thanks for introducing that concept.
DeRay Mckesson: When I zoom back and I look at the facts of Rodney King and the riots, it is a reminder that the police beat him on March 3rd, ’91. There was a trial with the four officers—they did get indicted, but then the jury had no Black people on it. They were, they were found not guilty. And then on April 29th, when they were acquitted, that led to six days of riots. And I remember one of the things that I never could understand was—do you remember, Kaya, can’t we all just get along? Do you remember that?
Kaya Henderson: Yes, yes I do.
DeRay Mckesson: And I was like, where did that come from? You know, people like Rodney King da da da. And then I finally saw the footage because they had footage. So Rodney, so L.A. is burning and the white people trot out Rodney King. They get Rodney King to do a press conference to try and calm the riots down and say, Can’t we all just get along? And like, I don’t know why that moment for me is one of the, Wow—like you just beat this man almost to death, nobody is held accountable for it, and then y’all are like essentially forcing him to get on TV and try and calm the riots down. And it was just such a, such a reminder of the way that this country just uses and abuses Black people over and over but needs them to, like, try and calm things down. And remember, you know, it’s interesting, the federal government’s response to the police is born out of the L.A. riots. So we all live in a moment where police departments come in and do “pattern and practice” investigate—like the idea that the DOJ can investigate a police department is a relatively new thing. That comes out of the L.A. riots,. For the federal government to do a consent decree is a novelty of the L.A. riots. And, you know, until Obama, there really weren’t a whole lot. And Obama did more than everybody else. And that was three a year. So it’s like even when you think about like deep structural change that comes from these, it’s like, you know, and I do hope that the challenge that we see in this moment is that, I don’t know, we try to make sure this never happens again, that like we can do something, this was the first viral moment. AND if not for the riots, people wouldn’t have paid attention at all. Like shout out to people willing to be like, you know, We will destroy all of this. And L.A. and the country actually did put up put up real things on the table to make sure the riots stopped. I’ll stop there though. Myles I’m interested, and Kaya, when we note the presence of Afro pessimism and what does it mean in this sort of moment? How do you not, or do you get—are you an Afro pessimist Myles? Like how do you how do you situate yourself in that moment? How do you fight off the pessimism or or do you just sit in it? Like, what does that look like? And same thing for you, Kaya.
Myles E Johnson: You know, I’m a child of my ancestors in Christ. I don’t hyper identify with any political or intellectual theory—well, I guess that’s not true, I do that [unclear] Black Queer, Feminist—but like, as far as that train of thought, I definitely like to, but I, I think the usefulness of it is looking at it objectively and looking at it as like a really good argument to the nature of America. And I’m not like an expert on the theory at all. I’m still learning just like everybody else. But what I think I find it really useful is this idea about really seeing Blackness as something that has been projected on to people and what that symbolizes, and can you transcend what that definition is when you weren’t the one to create that definition? So if you if you’re using Black, in the tongue of English, Black has always meant death, always meant demise, always meant something violent, and something, and beast-like, then could you could you redefine it? Has anything gone wrong when you color, when you have already named Black this, and then you color a whole people that, has anything gone wrong when we do see somebody get called an animal or get shot or be overly sexualized, you know. And I think that, you know, no matter if you agree on it or if it makes you feel good or not or how it makes you feel in your intimate, personal life, I think it’s a useful perspective to consult because you really have to look at the nature of this nation. And I think that’s what it does. And I think that not having a romantic honeymoon era with America has helped members of my generation arrive at those opinions faster and I think less, and more sturdy, because there was never this over-romanticization of what’s going on for a lot of us, you know, and for this nation. Whereas I think sometimes the pre-L.A. riots and the post-L.A. riots is like it’s a struggle for some people. But I’m like, I never, I was never in love with America in that way. I was never, you know, I never even, I never liked it. And, you know, I can go on for days, but I just thought about like even the hip hop generation in the ’90s, like even how like hip hop happened and NWA and Little Kim, there was already this divide between respectability and what was just young, and I think that struggle between two different types of Black people was already happening, and I just like inherited like a great divide where I’m like, yeah, I don’t, I never liked America. Like, that’s fine. That’s cool. It’s not, it’s not a scandalous thing to say in front of, you know, my peers, but it’s scandalous to others, you know, to another group of Black folks who maybe did love America at one time or are still do and are still struggling and reconciling how that feels.
Kaya Henderson: Hmm. I don’t know about love America, but I think I think the the question around like, I’m reading about afro pessimism and I can’t say I subscribe to or don’t subscribe to, but there’s a phrase in this article that I’m looking at that says that Frank B. Wilderson the third who wrote a book called “Afro Pessimism” sketches a map of the world, “in which Black people are everywhere integral but always excluded.” And that’s not the definition of Afro pessimism, but I think that for me captures a lot of how I feel about Black people in America, right? That like if you look at fashion, if you look at music, if you look at food, if you look at, you know, we built this country, everything that is cool or fashionable or whatever, Black people have their hand in. And we are consistently excluded from all of the spoils of, or the fruits of our creativity, of our labor, of our whatever. And so I think even while living in the optimistic ’70s and ’80s or whatever the case may be, I’m also the hip hop generation, I’m also a skeptic, I’m also a realist and a pragmatist and I think that, you know, I think living as a Black person in America like means that there is always conflict. There is always, I don’t know how to, I am, I’m generally an optimist and I feel like that the optimism that I have helps to save my life, because if not, I would be destructive. I would be enraged all the time. I’m enraged all the time, I just don’t act on my rage or try to challenge my power, channel my powers for good. But I mean, if you’re real, if you living Black in America, like there’s a lot to be pessimistic about friends. And so for me, the hopefulness that I try to hold on to between my faith, between my friends and my family and who I surround myself with, and between the impact that I try to have in this world, is my optimism. Because if you just look at the facts of the matter, we got a lot to be pessimistic about.
Myles E Johnson: But I do think that is what is cool or interesting about Afro pessimism and how I received it was that if a group of people were stolen and arrived here, as, you know, farming and housekeeping technology and not people then nothing has gone wrong when those people are just disposed of. And the in the the spark that I think rejects, like a type of intimate, personal, spiritual pessimism is the fact that we can break up with America and still live a life. So many people, so many Black folks’ ideas of living a good life is so married to America, that saying that America is helpless means that they’re saying that their life is helpless. Where it’s like you can you know, I was reading so many articles 2019, that might have been Holy Spirit, child—I was reading so many articles 2019 about, you know, Ghana citizenship and all these other things. And I’m like, Oh, you could just start a different life. Like this American conversation I inherited it, it’s an arranged marriage of oppression that you think that, Oh, there’s no other choice, but there is. You know, and you can go find that choice, and we wouldn’t be the first generation of Black folks to say, I’m actually divorcing this whole thing, and I pray slightly that ‘all figure it out.
Kaya Henderson: Listen, I got me a little place outside of this, these United States of America, because when it goes down . . .
Myles E Johnson: Does it have a guesthouse?
Kaya Henderson: When it goes down—I got room for you, brah.
Myles E Johnson: You’ll be surprised how many times this week with DeRay I have talked about your second home. I said, That’s my goal. I was telling DeRay, I’m like, That’s what I’m trying to do.
Kaya Henderson: We can. I want us to tape the pod from Anguilla. Come on!
Myles E Johnson: Listen . . .
DeRay Mckesson: That would be fun. It is to such a good reminder, Myles, this push about the end of America as people talk about it, or the end of this configuration of society is not the end of us as people. And I think you’re right that people get them, people get them confused and completed, and when the lead Afro pessimists say things like, you know, We have to end the world, da da da, that in some ways is actually not defeatist. Right? It’s an acknowledgment that like the rules of the game set up in this way actually don’t work. And the only way to get to a better place is to just end this, like we can’t tinker, we can’t repackage, we can’t try and dress it up, like we actually have to end the thing. And I do think that the language being so intense sort of forces you, like you got to pick a side, like you got to put a stake in the ground, like you actually don’t get to play in the middle. And I think so many people hem and haw and want to play in the middle. And I think we’ll never, ever get free in that way.
Myles E Johnson: Part of it’s like intellectual theater, too, because when you hear the end of the world, because worlds are, what create the world are leaders, cultural moments, ideas, social norm—so worlds end all the time naturally, that the cycle of people in community together is a world, a new world beginning and a new world ending, you know, and you can see that in the ’60s and ’70s and ’80s, but people conflate, and I think that’s part of the intellectual theater, that I think people know that, that people conflate the idea of a world with the earth or with the planet and those aren’t all the same things. A planet is not going to end there. That’s a different thing. Earth is not going to end. Maybe the citizens who are occupying that might have some cycles in and out— shout out to the dinosaurs—but you know the planet’s not going to end, we don’t have control over that, but worlds do. And I think part of it is, just again, just playing on that like intellectual theater of knowing that people conflate it all in that kind of apocalyptic speech, really getting people’s attention and really scaring people and disturbing something in people’s spirits to see, like, how radical are you? But I, yeah, but I think after a pandemic and a war in Russia, I’m like, we can put that language down because it’s getting a little too close. Say what you mean.
Kaya Henderson: That moves us right into my news about the banning of menthol cigarettes, which was announced this week. The FDA is moving to ban the sale of menthol cigarettes. And my news is about how the tobacco industry actually targeted Black Americans with menthol cigarettes. It’s a very sort of interesting history, but before I give you the history, let me just give you the, like quick and dirty on the fact of the matter. So this ban will likely have the deepest impact on Black smokers. In fact, the the FDA specifically noted that banning menthol will probably save the lives of between 92,000 and 238,000 African-Americans. 85% of the people who use menthol cigarette are African Americans, compared to only 29% of white smokers who use menthol cigarettes. Menthol is the chemical that comes from the mint plant and it can also be made in a lab synthetically, but it’s added to cigarettes to make smoking less harsh. It cools the throat and it makes the smoking experience more appealing. About 18.5 million Americans smoke menthol cigarettes and their sale makes up about one third of the $80 billion U.S. cigarette market. The thing about this is that this was an intentional, systemic commitment to marketing to the Black community. How did this happen? So in 1964, federal regulators barred tobacco companies from advertising to young people. So cigarette companies used to advertise on college campuses. They would give out free cigarettes to people under 21. They were doing all of the marketing things to get young people to smoke. And in 1964, the federal regulators said no more. And so they decided, actually, we’re going to pivot to aggressively marketing towards Black communities. And they did this across a number of fronts. So they advertised heavily in Black publications like Ebony and Jet, and those magazines became so dependent on tobacco advertising that they actually didn’t say a word about how devastating the effects of smoking could be on the Black community. They literally had a platform where they could have been advocating for our health and safety, but they were in big tobacco’s pockets. And so magazines, billboards, all kinds of stuff, the marketing industry went even deeper than that and they went to influencers in the Black community. So they found barbers and they found community leaders and gave them free cigarettes, bellhops and people, they were building a ground game to get people who are influencers on the ground to smoke these menthol cigarettes and to give them out to their friends. They gave free samples out. They sponsored events like the Cool Jazz Festival, where they had Dizzy Gillespie next to a pack of Kool’s in their ads. And in fact, like the in 2009, the FDA banned flavored cigarettes from being manufactured or sold, but menthol cigarettes slipped in because the Congressional Black Caucus decided, Wait we get a lot of our campaign contributions in our support from Big Tobacco, so we don’t want to mess with menthol. So literally in 2009, they banned flavored cigarettes except menthol because of our leaders in the Black Congressional Caucus. Now the NAACP is super supportive about ending the sale of menthol cigarettes. This will be a huge thing in terms of Black men who have the highest rates of lung cancer in America, and so it is going to save Black lives. But it’s just so interesting to me how literally like capitalism works in a systemic way to continue—I can’t sell to young people, I’m gonna sell to Black people and I’m gonna figure out all the different ways to sell to Black people. And this has happened, I mean, 64 to 2022 is like almost, I don’t know how many, 60, 70, 80, 90, 2000, 10, 20—50 years of explicit marketing to African-Americans around menthol cigarettes. And so, excited about the ban. Even more excited about the fact that we are saving Black lives through this ban on menthol cigarettes.
Myles E Johnson: Yeah. I think that one of the things that when I was like reading, while I was reading the article that I felt a little ashamed about because I started, I started looking, we have like a lot of these old Ebonys in our home that I’ll watch, and some of them are filled with just like tobacco ads and stuff like that. And I was like looking at them and I was like, These are such beautiful images. And like, for whatever reason, I connected—not for whatever reason—I connected that strategic like, marketing to what McDonald’s did when I was a kid and how like there was this moment where McDonalds was just like, said like, Oh, we are Black and we are going to have people scat and jazz in and hip hop all through our commercials, and how like, I don’t, it’s so violent because as Black people cool and our culture is what we, is our wealth, so when you figure out a way to kind of get into that and to make it feel like it’s a part of our lifestyle and a part of our core, it’s, it’s a type of soft genocide. Like, for the sake of selling things. But also, I wanted to ask just how everybody felt because I, I do take a stance where, so what does this mean for a situation like Eric Garner? Like what is, like who’s, like this, like now criminalization of cigarette and certain type of selling of cigarettes is going to create a black market. And I think like in my head I’m like, what, so what does this mean for situations now that this is now a criminal offense? Because it always comes down to that, when things that to me are social problems get handled politically and legally. Yeah, that was just a open ended question. Like what, what, what, what what do you think about that.
DeRay Mckesson: I’ll say there are a lot of things around the menthol, so I’ve never smoked and I didn’t I honestly didn’t realize that, like everybody, all the people in my family who smoke, smoke menthol cigarettes so that I thought that was the only cigarettes I didn’t know there were other types of cigarettes because that was the only thing you could buy in Baltimore that I remember. And I remember having to go to the store and buy the cigarettes. I remember we used to get sent to the store to buy cigarettes. I mean, now they can’t do that, but like I remember having to go to the corner store and buy cigarettes. And so a couple of things, Kaya, you remember that, don’t you?
Kaya Henderson: I do. I do. People of a certain vintage.
DeRay Mckesson: Right, right. I remember that. Go to the store and get us, get some cigarettes for so and so. I didn’t know that people who smoke menthol smoke more. I didn’t know that, that like part of what the menthol flavoring does is that it is, there’s a little bit pain painkiller, a little bit minty taste, so it it masks the intensity of the tobacco. I also didn’t know that menthol is harder to quit. That research by the FDA and the Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee showed that people who smoke menthol cigarettes are more likely to be dependent and have trouble quitting. I didn’t know that Black men and women have higher rates of lung cancer. I also didn’t know that. And I, you know, we talked about it, but I really had no clue that flavored cigarettes were banned and that this was an exclusion from the ban and that this is the catch up. So like just the history of all this, I didn’t know. And Myles, to your point, I’m nervous about a lot of things. I, I want people, I remember my father trying to stop smoking and he would do all types of stuff. But, you know, my father raised us, so it was just the three of us, me, my sister, him. He’d be hanging out the window, smoking, and you’re like, Daddy, it’s cigarettes, we can smell it. You’re like, Why are you, we come in, like, like you smoking? He’s like, No. It’s like, We smelled it, buddy. And he’s literally like, the window open, head out. I’m like, okay. So I am happy that he finally stopped, and also think about how dramatically better his health got when he stopped smoking because he used to smoke so much when we were younger. And the idea that this can help many more people by like not masking the danger of cigarettes can actually be really helpful. And to your point, you know, Eric Garner was loosies, it’s like how do you make sure this doesn’t become like another tactic of criminalization for Black people, that there is not a Black market that that comes that actually that, you know, we’re having a problem with fentanyl and all these other things now that like laced menthol black market cigarettes is probably a bad thing. So I’m hopeful that with this ban that there is a lot of money put towards helping people transition out of it and that we don’t dump more money into incarceration. I don’t know. I don’t know what you do. I don’t think you keep them legal or you keep them on the market. I do think that this comes to a general conversation about like who is reining-in the police, and, you know, it’s not the government right now.
Myles E Johnson: Yeah, I just I think, like in my head, I’m like, well, wouldn’t the answer be, if you did all this and you have jazz festivals and beautiful ads around this, why don’t you do the same community efforts in order to eradicate smoking as you did doing it, instead of like just making it like a legal political thing, like, I don’t know, tobacco-free jazz festival, everybody doing Jill Scott or something. Come on. Like figure, get the same, get the same marketing ideas behind that as you did with getting it, and not like risking, you know, to me it still feels real dangerous to me.
Kaya Henderson: The whole thing about like banning the sale of it is the thing that’s interesting. Like, why wouldn’t you just ban people from making that right and that way to burden is on the producer as opposed to the consumer? I think about this the same way I think about like the Johnson & Johnson baby powder thing, which we did a year or so ago on a pod where we found out that Johnson & Johnson, that the powder causes uterine and ovarian cancer or some whatever kind of female cancer it causes, I can’t remember off the top of my head. But so sales are prohibited, sales are not even prohibited in the United States, actually, but they are not prohibited, Johnson & Johnson just pivoted and they are selling the powder all over the world. Right? So people in the Caribbean and Latin America and Africa and Asia are still using the bad powder. Johnson & Johnson just pivoted from, you know, marketing in the United States. And so banning the sale of it in the United States just means that there could be criminalization. The burden is really on the mid-level people who sell this and the consumers who are craving, demanding, who can’t stop, right? And so I do think that there should be some kind of a burden on the people who got our folks hooked on this to help get our folks unhooked on this. Maybe they are also paying for whatever, the nicotine patch or whatever, you know, things—I don’t smoke either, so I don’t know anything about this—but whatever, you know, cessation strategies have been proven to be effective, why not make the industry that hooked people on this and benefited from this bear some responsibility in cleaning it up? That seems, just banning the sale seems like a short step, but if we were really, really about it, we would look to remediate what the harm that has been done. But, you know, that’s not how things work in these United States of America.
Myles E Johnson: Not baby powder and menthol cigarettes being out, that’s a whole generation of aunties, just like, What are you trying to tell me? What are you trying to tell me?
Kaya Henderson: Say it. Say it. Exactly. Exactly. Up and down, we in trouble.
Myles E Johnson: Right. [laughing]
DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Don’t go anywhere. More Pod Save the People is coming.
Myles E Johnson: So I wanted to bring a profile from GQ that I was reading. My day job is I work for For the Girls, which is the nonprofit, is like a mutual aid non-profit to help people, trans folks, specifically Black trans folks get gender-affirming surgeries and housing. But I love this article that somebody sent me that was talking about Ceyenne Doroshow, who founded GLITS, it now has gained millions of dollars to help lack trans folks, and it started so early on and it was really, the article says she’s the godmother of the movement and certain types of efforts for Black trans folks. And I think that, often I think sometimes we can get in these like little silos where we feel like something just happened or people who are on the shoulders of other people don’t necessarily always get like highlighted, and those people who other people are like, you know, on the shoulders of, we don’t talk about them. And it was just such a moving article. And she just has I think I’m going to be meeting her in a couple of weeks because of an opportunity that just came to me, but she just has such an interesting and funny—not funny story—but just this interesting and beautiful way of talking about her story, rather. And so as well as like housing, she’s also helped with bailout efforts. She’s spoken to many of other and mentored other Black trans folks who want to do their own nonprofit, and she’s really been doing this work. And I wanted to bring her to y’all and talk about it and see what y’all thoughts were about it. Because, you know, I knew we were probably going to have some darker news and I always want to when I can highlight a Black trans and/or queer person who I think is necessary to get their flowers. And she really moved me and energized me and made me see the work that I’m doing now with For the Girls as a part of a legacy and as a part of, like, a link and not just something that just came out because, you know four years ago, people discovered that Black trans people exist and were like, Well, maybe they need money, you know? It’s like, no, this work has been happening for a very long time.
Kaya Henderson: I think that’s the thing that I was reminded of in this article. Any fight for liberation, you know, usually has been happening for a long time before the media gaze and the philanthropic gaze, and wherever other gaze—G A Z E—you know, realize it. And I think it is an important encouragement to those of us who do this work, the hard work, the unsexy work, the work that people don’t want to recognize, that like you do it and you put in the time and the years and at some point it is your moment. And so I was, I hadn’t heard about this woman, but I think what is most inspiring to me is that the caring about people as people. It doesn’t matter, you know, who you are or what you look like or whatever, whatever, we have an obligation to one another to take care of one another, to house people, to feed people—and I understand that some folks in our in our country don’t believe that, but when I think about who we are as a culture, we take care of each other. You know, I think for what I, in my experience, lots of Black families that I know have had LGBTQ or trans members of our family, and we might not have been able to talk about it out loud, but we’ve always taken—some of us, not all of us—have taken care of our people. And this just reminds me that the affirmations that I want you all to live, I want you all to be housed, I want to—and I’m willing to fight for it. There are people all across this country who are doing that in small ways that don’t get recognized. And so it was really nice to see her in GQ in all of her glory as a sort of payoff and recognition for the work that she’s done over decades. And so shout out to all of the people who are doing work in unheralded spaces with populations that it seems like people don’t care about. We see you, we support you. We have an obligation to, I think if you care about Black people, to care about all Black people, and Black trans people are our family members, are our friends, are our people. And so, yeah, this was, this brought the light, Myles. Thank you for always bringing to light.
DeRay Mckesson: The thing that I, that made me think about this is that, you know, especially when we talk about civil rights or queer work or the intersection between the two, is that so often the storytelling has on the biggest personalities, that it becomes like a personality-driven conversation. It’s about who was on this show or who took a photo at this thing or who is like, that’s how history remembers. And what I loved about this piece is that this was a piece about the work, that the uncovering was like, What was the work that she’s doing? What was the work that she did? Why was this work important? Who failed her when she needed housing when she was 20 and 21? Like what systems failed her that forced her to do this thing that she’s been doing, not even quietly, but without sort of mainstream recognition until now. And I want, I hope that if there’s anything we learn from these last seven years of protest, that like, we start to actually write more pieces like this, more pieces that are not just she’s a good person and people like her and da da da, but that actually like help us all understand like what is the work that people do? Because the reality is, is that there’s a lot of incredible work happening across the country in pockets and communities, at scale, like work is happening and sometimes that work is happening in ways that don’t translate to the sexiest personality stories that we’ve told for 50 years. But like, I think the only way we’ll get free is actually by understanding what the work is that has to happen. And what was cool about this was just seeing such a beautiful examination of her work over time. So my news, I had to read three times because I thought that I must have been reading something wrong. I was like, This can’t be right. I was like, Let me—so the Shawnee City Council in Kansas City, the Shawnee City Council, or like outside of Kansas City voted eight-zero that to ban co-living. So what they did is that they banned the practice, and they define co-living as a group of at least four unrelated adults living together in a dwelling unit. And for the purposes of the law, if one of the four people, if one of the people in the group is not related to each other, then the entire group is deemed unclassified—I mean, the entire group is deemed in violation of the law. And, you know, we talk about the criminalization of homelessness, and that really normally is like what happens, how we criminalized people for being homeless. And that is where I’ve always seen the conversation. And this is the first time that I ever saw a law that is aimed to make people homeless. I just didn’t even, it sort of blew my mind that they would even suggest that, like, we’re going to ban co-living, really so we can keep people who cannot afford to own a place, so we can like essentially keep them out of our neighborhoods and this is like a back in way to do it. And I don’t even, you know, I was reading it and I literally cannot think of an argument that was not racist or classist that you would ever even do this. Like, what does it mean? And who is—like, the enforcement mechanism on this is going to be wild. It is going to be me calling them like, I think Kaya has three people in her house that are not related to her, the police show up and ask for your blood work. I mean, how do you know if you my cousin or not, you know what I mean? What do that even like, the enforcement mechanism on this is crazy. The sheer premise of the law is really wild in a moment where rent is astronomical, where people, even people who make six figures can’t afford houses, the idea that living with somebody—what does it even mean for partners who are moving in—I just don’t even know, like the implications of this are so wild. And again, when I saw the article, I thought that it must have been a spoof and then I realized it was not.
Kaya Henderson: Yeah, this seemed crazy. This is absolutely crazy to me, given how much housing prices are climbing. They say in the article that the average home price in Shawnee County rose 37% from 2017 to 2021. And of course, wages aren’t rising at the same rate. I saw a piece on social media maybe two weeks ago where a young person was talking about the rising cost of housing and how she thought that if she went to college and did all of the things that we tell people to do, that she would be able to with her, you know, partner or husband or whatever, afford a modest starter home like in her parent’s neighborhood. And she talks about this house that when it was built, you know, was in 2014, was sold for $185,000. And she thought, okay, right, like that’s it. That’s what I’m trying to get to. And she’s only been out of college for four years. Eight years later, this house just sold for $953,000. Right? And she was like, Y’all got me messed up out here, right? Like I did all of the things, I went to college, I blah, blah, blah, and the things that you said could happen for me can’t happen. Like this America is not okay. And that’s why I’m pessimistic and that’s why I don’t want to work hard, and that’s why I am still living with my parents and whatnot. And here we’re finding people who find creative ways to make living work, right, to make living work. All right. I mean, and this to me, less than ideal. Maybe it’s cool because, you know, we’re building community or whatever, whatever, but the thought of living where four people and sharing bathrooms and kitchens and whatnot is not exactly appealing to me. But if it works for you and that’s the way that you afford your lifestyle, I’m all for it. Why would a government say this is not okay? The only people at this benefits are the real estate industry, right? And the real estate lobby is heavy, my friends. And so this just, I mean, unless you are offering significant affordable housing, which not many people are doing in this day and age, this just seems it not, just I mean, it seems really cruel.
Myles E Johnson: Everything everybody said. It’s ridiculous. I live a really, really, really, really blessed life. Like, sometimes I will like, cry sometimes because I’m like, so blessed. And me and DeRay have been friends for a very long time, so he’s been friends with me when it has been rougher than rough. And I think about how, you know, of course I know this is like a city, state like, state wide like movement, but I also think about like what if this were to happen in New York City or if this it began to like continue to grow. And I think about how when I first came to, when I first came to New York City, I was living with two other people, but it could have easily, how New York City housing works, it could have easily been four and you know what I mean? Or it could easily have like we could have easily, easily done that. And how me being able to have a dream, have a goal and then also find a room, you know, like finding a room in a place so I can bridge and finally be able to do the work that I wanted to do and just have somewhere where I can lay my head while I was just kind of pounding the pavement and kind of being really ambitious and steadfast about my dream and my goal and what I wanted from this city and my life, that if that was robbed from me, I would just be a totally different person. And if I was forced to go somewhere where I could afford by myself in a city at that time that I would have been like a totally different person. And it just really saddens me for, it just saddens me when I know when people are together unrelated, yes the idea of like this big house family, community-thing’s happening, but it’s like, no, these are a lot of people who are using, you know, their living situation as a halfway house to a steadier, more consistent living arrangement, and every single day, when you go to bed, you say, this is not going to be my life for forever, this is just temporary. And one day I’ll be able to have two roommates and one day I’ll be able to live by myself and then one day I’ll be able to have a place with two bedrooms living by myself, and you know what I mean? And do that. And to rob people of that is really the antithesis of what the American dream is and being able to kind of sacrifice and kind of go through a fire in order to get to, you know, that sweet spot of life, and the fact that that’s getting robbed by people really upsets me and like hits home because I’m like, if that happened to me, like, it would have just changed everything. And yeah, it just makes me really, really sad.
DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Don’t go anywhere. More Pod Save the People is coming.
DeRay Mckesson, narrating: This week, we welcome Andre Perry on. He is a nationally-known and respected commentator on race, structural inequality, and education. Perry coauthored the groundbreaking 2018 Brookings Institution report “The Devaluation of Assets in Black Neighborhoods” and is with us to discuss his new book called “Know Your Price: Valuing Black Lives and Property in America’s Black Cities.” Now, y’all know, we’ve talked about race and discrimination in property appraisals and home inspections, but Dr. Perry and I get to the root of it all. His personal connection to the issue is fascinating in how he used his own life to propel his research and activism. And I learned a ton in this conversation. I know you will, too. Here we go.
DeRay Mckesson: Dr. Perry, thanks so much for joining us today on Pod Save the People.
Dr. Andrew Perry: Hey, thanks for having me. Pleasure to be on.
DeRay Mckesson: So we’ve known each other for a while in this space, but we’ve never really talked about your research, and I’m excited about the book on housing. You know, we’ve covered – and you know Kaya – but we’ve covered like the appraisal conversation, we’ve covered the like home inspection, we’ve covered the racial disparities as they popped up in the news. Why a book right now? Like, what was the impetus? Like what led, did you know you always underwrite a book on housing, did it start as a book on incarceration and then it became a book on housing? Like, how did the book come to be?
Dr. Andrew Perry: Yeah. So I started measuring all the places, or housing in all the places where my father lived and died, and the woman I call mom, lived. And, you know, when you look at the built environment, you can see all of the different areas that impacted a person’s life. Of course, both my mother and my father lived in areas that were red-lied where the federally- backed Homeowners Loan Corporation drew red lines around predominantly Black neighborhoods, precluding them from the refinancing and other housing opportunities during the New Deal, and that lasted through the ’70s, at least formally. And then you also had highway construction. They both lived in an area where highway construction and other development literally pushed them out from their homes. And that’s how I ended up in Wilkinsburg. They were both impacted negatively, impacted by the unfulfilled promises of urban renewal. They lived in areas where there were significant predatory lending, and restrictive housing covenants were all around them. So they couldn’t necessarily leave the areas because those other neighborhoods had whites-only deeds in many cases. And so all of that has an impact on home values. Now, why that is important, home values are connected to how we finance schools, how we finance municipal services, infrastructure, all of those things. So I started with measuring the price of homes in today’s context, because we know all those policies have an impact in today’s world. And what we found initially wouldn’t surprise people, that in areas where homes, where there’s few, if any, Black people where the share of the Black population is less than a percent, homes on average are priced about $340,000. And if you go into neighborhoods where the share of the black population is 50% or higher, those homes on average are priced about half as much, about $180,000. Now, a lot of people will say that’s because of education, that’s because of crime, but those are things you can control for in a study. And that’s what we did. We took that absolute price and then we controlled — and for those who aren’t researchers it essentially means account for, or to get at an apples-to-apples comparison, you have to attend to these other things. So we attended to structural things, so the size of the home, the number of rooms, all the physical manifested manifestation. But then we also controlled for neighborhood amenities. So we took into account education, crime, walkability, all those fancy Zillow metrics, so we can get an apples-to-apples comparison between homes in Black neighborhoods and equivalent homes in equivalent circumstances in white neighborhoods. And what we found pretty much astounds, that homes in Black neighborhoods are underpriced by 23%, about 48,000 per home. Cumulatively, that’s about 156 billion in lost equity, 156 billion in equity. And this is occurring all over the country. I just did a talk in in Miami, West Palm Beach area, the average difference is about 20% there, about 41,000 for home. And I’ll just give you a little bit, a few other cities: Lynchburg, Virginia — and don’t, you know that name always throws me off — but Lynchburg, Virginia, there’s an 81% difference between homes in Black neighborhoods and homes in white neighborhoods. So if you helicoptered a home from a Black neighborhood and placed it in a neighborhood with similar social circumstances, it would increase in value by 81%. Rochester, New York, 65% difference. Jacksonville, 47%. Detroit, the largest Black city in the country, 37%. Now, there are places where home values are actually higher in Black neighborhoods. Nashville, for instance, plus 10%. Wichita Falls plus 16. Boston, Massachusetts, now Black, average, homes in Black neighborhoods are priced 23% higher than their white equivalent, but I always got to let people know that Boston is no less racist than Lynchburg, but that the home prices are higher. But, you know, but I want to make this point why this is important. What is 156 billion in lost equity? Just to give people some perspective, 156 billion would have financed more than 4 million Black-owned businesses based upon the average amount Black people use to start their firms. It would have paid for more than 8 million 4-year degrees, based upon the average amount of a four-year diploma. It would replaced the pipes in Flint, Michigan, 3,000 times over, covered nearly all of Hurricane Katrina damage, and it doubled the annual economic burden of the opioid crisis. It’s a big number. So I mentioned, bringing it all back home, so to speak — that pun is intended — that that last point I made about the opioid crisis, if my father lived in a neighborhood where the home values were at the white rate of the market rate, he would have better resourced schools, he would have had better infrastructure, greater opportunity to start a business, his drug use probably would not be criminalized. His life and my life would have been fundamentally different. And that’s why I always say throughout my book “Know Your Price”, I say that there’s nothing wrong with Black people that ending racism can’t solve. That when things go wrong in Black communities, we blame Black people. We don’t look at the wealth and opportunity that’s extracted without anyone carrying a Tiki torch, without anyone saying a racial epithet, even to a certain extent, without a criminal justice system or a police system killing people — wealth and opportunities just extracted from every day housing policy. So that’s what largely what my book is about, that it might be anchored in housing data, but then it touches upon its impact on education, its impact on health, impact on politics, and all sorts, and art and other areas — but constantly wealth is extracted from our communities.
DeRay Mckesson: Now all we think about the value of the houses being so wild, you know, it seems like a big part of that is the appraisal process. Is that right?
Dr. Andrew Perry: Yeah.
DeRay Mckesson: In in like do we, do we need new appraisers? Do people need to get penalized for being racist appraisers? Like, what’s the fix that.
Dr. Andrew Perry: All of that. So some of it is the the very practice of appraisals. Now we need appraisals — well, some argue that we don’t need appraisals — but the point of an appraisal is that a bank won’t lend to a person amount that is higher than the home is worth. So if you’re if you’re buying a home for 300,000 and it appraises at 250, they’re not going to give you a loan for 300,000. And so how appraisals are done have a significant impact on whether or not you can buy. Now, it’s also true that appraisals were used to keep Black people from purchasing homes, particularly in white neighborhoods. So, you know, appraisers used to value Black neighborhoods and Black people differently. We were seen as a risk, and our neighborhoods were seen as risky. And so the practices that we still use still have some of the sort of mechanics of what was done in the past, and I’ll just show how that works. So appraisals are largely done — there’s other, there’s many types of appraisals — but most are done using a price comparison approach, meaning to establish value, you compare a home to another in the same neighborhood to get a sense of value, or several homes in the same neighborhood. And when, so if you’re buying a home or you’re refinancing home, you’ll hear this word called comps or comparables, where they say, Hey, this home down the street is 150,000, this home up the street is 140,000, so your home is probably somewhere in that ballpark. The problem with that whole method, that if you compare homes to others in a neighborhood that has been discriminated against, you effectively just recycled discrimination over and over and over.
DeRay Mckesson: Ah.
Dr. Andrew Perry: You never get out of that.
DeRay Mckesson: I didn’t know that worked. Clearly, I don’t want a home. That’s fascinating. That makes sense to me. So how do you fix that, though?
Dr. Andrew Perry: Oh, I mean, there’s a number of ways, just in my research, just as we went beyond the neighborhood to look at comparable homes. you can, there’s enough data out there now where you can use the entire metro area, and you can even go beyond that. I mean, you can I mean, now the data is so rich, you can look at materials, you can look at, you know, all sorts of variables, put them in a model and establish a better sense of value. But this, the other aspect of this is who’s appraising. Because all value — I don’t care, I don’t care if you’re talking about leather jackets or, you know, cars or homes — all value is socially constructed. You know, it’s your social mores, your views on life determine whether or not those fancy Adidas should be worth 200 or $20. And so we know that who is appraising has some impact on this. And right now, 90% of appraisers are white.
DeRay Mckesson: 90?!
Dr. Andrew Perry: 90%. Yeah. 90% of — it’s actually, using the Bureau of Labor Statistics data, it’s 96%. But we know that’s a sample, so give or take 6%. So I’ll say 90%. 90% of appraisers are white, 75% are male. And so there’s a clear structural bias in the work force. With that said, with that said, you can replace all the appraisers with people of color, if they use the same practices, you’re still going to get similar results. And so, and a lot of people are now looking toward automated systems in which you use a AI technology, again, to get more data from a larger catchment area to establish value. The problem with that theory is, or that work, while certainly tech can help, if you have, programmers have the same biases that appraisers, so if you don’t figure out ways to build in anti-discrimination methods in your models, you’ll actually make matters worse. So it’s a complicated issue. I’m fortunate. You know, I’ve been involved heavily in the Biden administration’s, it’s the Inter-Agency Task Force on Property Appraisal and Valuation Equity. It’s PAVE is the what the acronym is. Again, that’s Property Appraisal and Valuation Equity. And they just issued 21 action steps to improve the appraisal situation in this country. We’ve seen the anecdotal evidence of people, quote unquote, “whitewashing” their homes, removing all the Black articles, artifacts. So the artwork, the clothing, the books, the hair products. So you got to get rid of your pink lotion and all that other stuff. You know, so, and then replacing those things with artifacts that would suggest white people live there. And what happens is when they get a second appraisal, oftentimes that those appraisals come in hundreds of thousands of dollars higher — in the case of a couple in Marin County, $500,000 higher. Now we’re talking the West Coast market there. In Indianapolis, 140,000. In Florida, 40% higher, in a New York Times story. And so not only do we have the empirical evidence, the hard data, we also have the data from lived experience, people doing their own experiments to uncover not just the discrimination, but the intrinsic value of whiteness. And so it’s, you know, we need this interagency task force to really take root. We need this issue to really rise up because — and I’m going to take it back to education — in so many areas, we say “if we can only fix the school, if we can only fix this” and lose sight that these systems are inter-connected to other systems. So you can’t necessarily, you have limits on improving education, if you don’t improve [unclear], you have limits on improving criminal justice if you don’t improve [housing]. You know, so that’s why I started shifting my focus to say, you know, we always try to find, identify root causes, but for me, I also say, look, housing is a big root cause. But you know that because we work in silos, everyone stays focused in their lane so over the course of, you know, I’m getting, you know, there’s a lot of gray hair hairs in my beard, so now I’m just starting to like, to build that portfolio of issues to go from education, business development, housing, health, and look at that Black tax, because it’s not enough to tell somebody, Look, here’s the appraisal gap, here’s the value gap. People ultimately want that value restored, and so that’s where my work is headed now.
DeRay Mckesson: Now, one last question I’ll ask you is something that I learned in the book. You did this deep dive about Detroit. Can you talk about Detroit, like the history of of Detroit in housing, like why was that important for you to include in the book? I literally knew none of those stories.
Dr. Andrew Perry: Well, Detroit is personal for me because my father is from Detroit. My family’s from Detroit. And they were actually part of an ongoing battle in public housing about who should get it and who should not. Now, people think of the projects now as being the last place of resort for Black people, but remember, there was a housing shortage for all people and the fight for public housing, government-backed housing, was intense, where whites really claimed dominion of certain housing projects and housing funding. And there were battles about who should get what, where should the homes be placed. And in Detroit, it was very contentious because of the rising factory work, the car industry at the time — people flocked to Detroit, including Black people. That drove one of the great migrations, to the city. So Black people came along with everybody else. And so housing was scarce. They put up public housing. One of the housing projects, now would, eventually call Sojourner Truth, and that facility was supposed to be for white people, and there was a literally a riot, an attack on Black, to prevent Black residents from moving in. When they decided that the Sojourner Truth would be for Black people, white people literally took to the streets and rioted and an injured several, people were killed. You know, just a yet another story of a massacre, so to speak, around housing. And why that story was important, my family had to move and look for adequate housing as a result. Now, I also connect this to housing because people a few years later, when Black people started moving in to Detroit, getting housing in Detroit, and there was white flight, facilitated by housing policy and the growth of the suburbs — we always tend to forget that not only did white residents and workers leave, corporations left, taking their tax subsidies with them. And many of the white lawmakers at the time, elected officials, facilitated that exit, leaving Detroit with less resources, less opportunity, less jobs, all those different things, simply because Black people were working in those areas. And it, you know, didn’t — fast forward, you know, you have the sordid stories of Kwame Fitzpatrick and his wild affairs and it became a story of bad leadership on his part. And certainly there were problems there. We should never excuse that. But the reason why, the real reason why Detroit struggled, it’s because corporations abandoned the city. White people abandoned the city. And the people who stayed were the Detroiters who have always fought for that city. And so when I wrote “Know Your Price” I situated my father in that, in that entire socio-political conversation. He eventually became addicted to heroin. He, you know, he lived in Pittsburgh, bounced between Pittsburgh and Detroit as a lot of people did because, you know, factory work. But eventually, like I mentioned earlier, he was murdered — I mean, he was imprisoned, he was murdered inside of Jackson State Penitentiary, which is right outside of Detroit. And I, and so I wanted to create a different narrative for my father, because so often we hear about people who use drugs that they made bad choices. Well, the problem with that is that the built environment, the socio-political environment, really shapes what kind of choices you have. And we don’t talk about the choices of the politicians, the choices of the corporations and the people who ran them, to impoverish a city. So for me, I really wanted to create a new narrative for my father and for others. You know, so this is a policy book, however, I wrap policy around the lived experience of the people, including my family because, you know, we need a redemptive narrative. We need other stories being told about our struggle. You know, his drug use should not have been one a story about his bad choices. It could have very easily been a story about the abandonment of white people and corporations from Detroit.
DeRay Mckesson: Got it. So 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?
Dr. Andrew Perry: Oh, man, and it’s related to my work. One is from, and I always, I don’t know if I’m saying his name correctly, a Vietnamese philosopher, Thich Nhat Hanh, who said once, and it always stuck with me when I heard this, that if you’re growing ahead of the lettuce and the head, and the lettuce is not growing, you don’t blame the lettuce. You look to see if it’s getting rainwater. You look to see of the soil is enriched. You look to see if it’s getting sunlight. You never blame the lettuce. When things go wrong in Black communities, we blame the lettuce. What I try to do with my research is look for the rainwater, look for the soil, look for the sunlight. And it really shapes how I view the world. And it’s one of the reasons why I tell you there’s nothing wrong with Black people that ending racism can’t solve. That we have to be focused on the overarching structural conditions that will enable or retard growth among individuals. And I just want to be clear, I believe in personal responsibility, I believe in choices — these things matter. But our choices, or I should say that race predicts for far too much of our social outcomes that belies the choices that everyone makes. That, I mean, you know, everybody uses this example that that, you know, everyone uses drugs, but Black people are incarcerated more. You know, everyone makes choices, certain choices around sex. Some people are punished more. So, you know, what I try to do is take on that thing of “don’t blame the lettuce” — I mean, really it really has shaped the way I think about research and where we should go moving forward.
DeRay Mckesson: Got it. And the last question is, what do you say to the people who feel like they’ve done everything they were supposed to do? They read your book, read mine, stood in the street, they called, emailed, testified, and the world hasn’t changed that they wanted to do. What do you say to those people?
Dr. Andrew Perry: Oh, man, let me tell you, I’ve seen change in the last two years, three years that I haven’t seen, you know, in the last 50 years. And I say this, that when you work on an issue hard and long, understand that the fruits of that labor won’t show up for 30, 40 years. The reason why I’m having success around this housing, these housing issues and these structural issues at a policy level is because people were working on this stuff in the ’60s. I just, you know, I’d love to think I’m handsome, smart, charismatic and all these other things, but the reality is that people who worked on the Fair Housing Act set me up for this, as I’m setting up future researchers for success 30, 40 years from now. So when people sort of take this very pessimistic approach about life, I go, Wow, you know, we got to be, you know, Yes, change isn’t going to, you know, be dramatic it in our lifetime and in a short period of time. This idea of immediate gratification has never occurred. But you do need to have faith that your contributions matter. Maybe not in the immediate, but certainly for the future. And so this is a long been coming, I mean, it’s a long-range approach. And then the other thing that gives me hope and energy, is looking at the doers. And this is what I do love, did learn a lot from education. It’s, you know, those teachers, the mail people, the bus drivers, the people who are actually doing, and not sort of thinking all the time. You know, I’m privileged. I can write, I can ideate, I can, you know, meander on subjects at my leisure, but there are people who are in the trenches every single day working, working, working, helping other people. And I always remind myself that I should look to them to gauge what’s happening in the world. Certainly I look at macro-level statistics and outcomes at that level, but oftentimes they obscure what’s happening on the ground day-to-day. And so for me, some of these doers really inspire me because if you get locked in to data and in a framework — this is the other thing that really makes people pessimistic — we’re constantly looking at Black people as deficits. We don’t look at each other as strengths, at our strengths. And that very frame, when you compare white people to Black people without controlling for those variables, like I talked about earlier, you would think, you have to think, Oh, Black people need to catch up or white people this much better. No, in many cases that is not the case. And why do we compare Black people to white people when many cases [isn’t] an apples-to-apples comparison? So we need to reframe a lot of how we look at Black America and how we look at people in general and end this sort of deficit framing, of particularly of people of color in this country. So, you know, that’s what I would tell people, is that nothing’s changing, nothing’s changing — it’s like, Well, you know, in the way, from your vantage point, that might be the case. I guarantee you, the people who worked on the Fair Housing Act, they look at my work and say, oh, that’s a step forward. So for me, I think, you know, that’s what I would share. That’s what I would share.
DeRay Mckesson: Awesome. Well, we consider you a friend of the pod and can’t wait to have you back.
DeRay Mckesson, narrating: 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 Veronica Simonetti, and executive produced by me. Special thanks to our weekly contributors Kaya Henderson, De’Ara Balenger, and Myles Johnson.