In This Episode
DeRay, Myles, De’Ara and Kaya cover the underreported news of the week— including skyrocketed ambulance costs, a Florida bill targeting transgender youth, a Baltimore museum of art and the efforts of Destination Crenshaw. DeRay interviews theologian and author Candice Benbow about her new book Red Lip Theology: For Church Girls Who’ve Considered Tithing to the Beauty Supply Store When Sunday Morning Isn’t Enough.
DeRay Mckesson: Hey, this is DeRay, and welcome to Pod Save the People. In this episode, it’s me, Myles, De’Ara and Kaya as usual, talking about the news that you didn’t know for the past week, the underreported news of the week. Then I sat down with theologian and author Candace Benbow about her new book “Red Lip Theology: For Church Girls Who’ve Considered Tithing to the Beauty Supply Store When Sunday Morning isn’t enough. I learned so much. We chatted about heartache, loss, forgiveness, identity, and the empowerment of women who may struggle with feeling loved and nurtured by church culture. Now, my advice for this week is always to be open to learn in this episode with Candace. She, you’ll hear it, but there is a part where really challenges the way that I thought about something. I’m like, Oh my goodness, you did it. Thank you. Like, Oh yes, yes, I thought, I knew, I thought I was doing the thing that was progressive, and I didn’t even realize it wasn’t there. She really pushed me to be open to being pushed. Here we go.
De’Ara Balenger: Y’all, my news this week is from the L.A. Times, and it kind of was serendipitous how this news came to me. I was on the phone this week with some of my Maestro team members and Naima Keith. Naima is VP of education and programing at LACMA, among other things. She’s a brilliant curator and has been in the art space jamming for a very long time, so we were very honored to have the opportunity to speak with her. But what she brought to our attention, among many other things brilliant things, is Destination Crenshaw, which we actually had not heard of. And so, as the L.A. Times article points out, you know, Destination Crenshaw is a little over a mile of Crenshaw Boulevard, which is essentially going to be transformed into an arts corridor. And so it’s super exciting, and I really wanted to dig in more about how this all came to be, which the article doesn’t necessarily highlight. But I encourage you ought to go to destinationcrenshaw.LA to learn more information because I just think this is such an incredible project that really came out of kind of a crisis in Crenshaw, and then Black folks going together to organize, and then having an answer that is just going to be so compelling and I think impact so many people of all ages, all hues actually, not just Black folks, for such a long time to come. But for y’all that don’t know, Crenshaw Boulevard is really the spine of the Los Angeles Black community, and some of this I’m reading from destinationcrenshaw.la so I want to give them give them their glory on this. So, you know, Crenshaw has always been a place of dynamic expression, Black culture, Black economic development, Black economic legacy, and ultimately the corridor and Destination Crenshaw came to be because at one point the city was planning to put a train on Crenshaw Boulevard. And so, it was planned for, you know, this train to go from, through Crenshaw really, to LAX, to the airport in Los Angeles, really slicing through the heart of, you know, this Black main thoroughfare. And we’ve seen this done time and time again through eminent domain in so many cities, and this has been happening over decades. And what would have happened is that if this train was put there on Crenshaw, it would have an uprooted 300 business parking spaces, 400 trees, obviously impacting business, impacting culture in that thoroughfare. And there’s also an argument, too, about cultural erasure that would have happened to with this, with this train going through Crenshaw. But as the website points out for Destination Crenshaw, Black Los Angeles had a plan, and really a creative, collaborative, and community-led response to this injustice, really brought this whole idea around Destination Crenshaw. So it’s exciting to see that, you know, all these folks came together with the goal of one, continuing to preserve and really breathe the creativity and the resilience and the potential of this community, but also, you know, drive economic and cultural revitalization to the Crenshaw corridor. So it’s just exciting to see how this has all come together. I’m so excited to see, you know, when it comes to be. It’s not planned to debut until fall of 2022. Some of the artists that are participating are just, you know, just top artists, top Black artists, folks like Kahinde Wiley. And they’re going to be huge sculptures, and all of the art pieces really having meaning in contextualization in terms of Black identity, Black power, the legacy of Black folks in this country. So all that to say, check out the L.A. Times article. There are more details there, obviously. But also, you know, go directly to the source: destinationcrenshaw.la. Shout out to Naimi Keith again for putting us on, and we’re so super excited to continue to follow this program and to be there at its debut.
Myles Johnson: Today, my news is truly disappointing. Texas Governor Greg Abbott is calling on licensed professionals and members of the general public to report the parents of transgender minors to state authorities if it appears the minors are receiving gender-affirming medical care. This is another case of people using legislation power in order to perpetuate transphobia and to also control the destinies of other people’s lives. And I have been very open on this podcast and everywhere else about being non-binary, being a part of the trans community, and also just having just different expressions of friends in my life who have all engaged with some type of gender-affirming medical procedures or medical attention. And what I’ve noticed is when you let trans people have access to that care, you really help people activate their lives. People, trans people do not feel activated if they cannot express what is happening on the inside. And all of that does not include a medical, medical care does not always mean that’s what will happen, but oftentimes it does for a lot, a lot of trans people. And if you can get that care earlier, if you can activate and express yourself, articulate yourself, earlier on in life because you, because you know your gender identity and you have supporters and parents who are willing to do that, there should not be legislation that is stopping that from happening. It’s truly disgusting. I think this is a huge pushback to the world’s changing and expanding around gender conversations, and it’s a really disgusting attempt at control and hatred. And I hope people resist this. I hope this brings in more attention to why nonprofits like For the Girls that helps Black trans people get gender-affirming surgeries who may not have it cost efficient. I hope people understand why that’s necessary. I hope people see how fundamental helping trans folks is, and how protecting trans kids, really to me, it’s kind of one of the big works of our generation, because these moments are evil and they’re going to keep on happening and we have to be just as awake around, you know, just essentially civil rights being trampled over. That’s my news. It is not usually the more lighter pop culture fun news that I like to bring to the pod cast because it’s, because the podcast already be heavy because of all the things we talk about, but it is the news that really just like gut-wrenched me this week and I really wanted to talk about it. And I really wanted to, you know, spotlight non-profits like For the Girls, as well as, you know, let people know that, you know, everywhere is changing and resisting at different paces, and together through education and understanding things around gender, we can all help trans people live safer and fuller lives.
DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Don’t go anywhere. More Pod Save the People is coming.
DeRay Mckesson: My news is about ambulance rides, and it’s actually two articles. The first is by Boston University, bu.edu, and it is “Your Race May Factor in Which E.R. an Ambulance Takes You To.” And then the other one is in Axios, called “Ambulance Rides are Getting a Lot More Expensive.” So I’m talking about these in relationship to each other because I was fascinated first by Ambulance Rides because of a conversation that started online that was actually about Uber, because there is a program in Uber Health that actually helps to transport people that are not in emergencies that just need to go to or from a hospital. And I thought that was interesting. But there was another conversation that was sparking on Twitter probably, I don’t know, six or seven months ago, there was people that were using Uber and Lyft to go to urgent care, to go to emergency rooms, because it was much cheaper than an ambulance, but also in some ways, riskier, right? Because when you go in an ambulance, there are medical professionals that take you. When you go on an Uber, if you’re bleeding internally, externally, if you are having a real health issue like a heart attack in the back of an Uber, you know, the Uber driver has no clue what to do with you. So that’s what got me interested in this. And as you can imagine, there are racial disparities that show up. And what was really wild is that, in a first-of-its-kind study, researchers at BU school of Medicine showed the difference between EMS transport destinations of Black and Hispanic patients with regard to white counterparts. So some interesting things that came out of the BU study. The first is that they show that 40% of patients, regardless of race, were actually where not taken to the nearest hospital. So that is, you know, my assumption was always that you’d be taken to like the closest hospital, but they find that that is not the case. The other thing that they use is that they used Medicare claims data to divide patients based on zip code they live in and in other identifiers, and what they show is that there were sizable differences by race and ethnicity in which Medical Centers patients were brought to by the EMS. And they showed, and I quote, “the widest disparities were seen in larger urban areas with multiple hospitals and emergency departments within the vicinity. The study also found that Black and Hispanic patients were more likely to be transported to a quote, ‘safety net’ hospital, a type of medical center that, by legal obligation or mission, provides health care for individuals regardless of their insurance status, compared to their white counterparts living in the same zip code.” That was really interesting to me to see the way that race shows up with things like where does the ambulance take you? And again, with no real indication of whether you have health insurance at that moment or not, because it’s the ambulance, and it’s an emergency. So that was interesting. But the other part of my news comes from a report that shows that ambulance rides are getting more expensive, and it’s a report that was put out by FAIR Health, Fair Health. And I’m interested in this because we often talk about the importance of having health insurance, but health insurance, just having health insurance is not often enough. So remember that you don’t get to choose your ambulance provider. Like when you call 9-1-1, you get whoever comes, whether it’s the fire department or a private vendor, like you don’t, it’s rare that you get to choose, especially in an emergency. And here’s the thing, is that the report shows that private insurers average payment for those rides jumped by 56% between 2017 and 2020, from $486 to $758. And that’s for what’s called the advanced life support that insurers, there’s a charge for advanced life support. And the other thing is that it shows that ambulance operators’ sticker prices, before accounting for discounts negotiated with insurers, have risen 22% over the same period and are now over $1,200. And here’s the thing, Medicare the average reimbursement for advanced life support ambulance rides only increased by 5%, so not at the rate of the increases of the cost. And I say this because like A, there’s a lot that I didn’t know about ambulance costs, but for people you know, incomes are not increasing. Inflation is increasing, if anything, that like, you know, people are not having more money to spend and the money they’re spending is not going as far as it was going before. But you think about things like the cost of ambulances that people need in emergencies, and literally like it is just going much higher. What I didn’t know is that some states have protections against surprise ground ambulance billing. And those states are Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, New York, Ohio, Vermont, and West Virginia. But then there are states like California, Florida, Colorado, Texas, Illinois, Washington and Wisconsin, where more than 2/3rds of emergency payments rise include an out-of-network charge for ambulance related services, which essentially is like a surprise bill. It blew my mind. I want us to keep talking about the disparities and just like the cost of health care, because I, when I was new to this conversation, I thought that having access to health insurance was the big thing. But health insurance, it doesn’t cover the cost of the things you need, it’s actually not necessarily a big win. And things like ambulance rides are huge because if you don’t know what the cost is going to be, some people just don’t go get care, which is actually worse, or they’re using something like Uber or Lyft. And if they have an actual emergency in the back of it, the person driving is not equipped at al to deal with it. So I want to bring it here because it blew my mind and I wanted to share.
Kaya Henderson: My news this week is about an exhibition at the Baltimore Museum of the Arts, which is running from the end of March through the end of July, called Guarding the Art. The thing about this exhibition is that it has been curated by the museum’s security guards. Now, most of you know that when a museum is curating a new exhibit, they bring in amazing, talented artists and curators from, you know, either on the museum staff or from all around the country, or, in some cases, all around the world, to pick the things that will be in the exhibit to bring continuity to whatever it is that, whatever is being put up for the exhibit. But this is actually a very different exhibit because the curators, as I said, are the museum’s security guards. A trustee of the museum, Amy Elias, came up with the idea in conversation with other trustees about ways to fulfill the museum’s commitment to be more inclusive and more representative of the community. I think that there are a lot of companies that, and organizations, that are talking the talk about co-creating with the community or being in partnership with the community or being more reflective of the community, and this one is actually doing it in a very interesting way, in a way that puts their money where their mouth is, frankly. Each of the security guards chose pieces from the museum’s collection for the exhibit, and of the 45 guards on staff, 17 applied to be curators on this project. These guards are, come from a variety of walks of life. They are not just security guards, some of them are artists or chefs, some are musicians and scholars, some are writers, some are dog walkers, some are veterans, some are grandmothers, and more. And they’ve been able to collaborate with the museum’s curators. They’ve been able to conduct research. They are being mentored and professionally developed by renowned art historian and curator Dr. Lowery Stokes Sims. And most importantly, they are being paid for this additional time and responsibilities. These guards have the experience of being in the room with these pieces all the time and many of them have perspectives on the pieces, many of them have, are the first line of communication with museum goers who oftentimes, especially in our communities, are afraid or feel intimidated about going into museums and interacting with art in this way. But the security guard is the person who you can always, you know, connect with at the museum. And these folks, some of whom have been working at the museum for a 10 or 12 or 13 years, these folks have now had the opportunity to bring the pieces that resonate with them, that speak to them, or that they want the community to see to life. I brought this article to the pod because I think that is an amazing, I think number one, it comes from an asset-based way of thinking. Our communities have tremendous assets in them. And just because they look like security guards or whoever else, we don’t always invest in and give opportunity to the assets that are in our community. And this is something very, very different. The guards have had a tremendous time in enjoying themselves, having fun curating this exhibit. Some of them are working their way through school, and so the additional pay is actually helpful. I think another reason why I brought this to the pod is because it sort of closes the gap between the highbrow world of modern art and regular-degular people in the community. It shows that our community members, through the security guards, have an appreciation for art, want to interact with art, want to engage our community in the world of art. And I just thought that it would be, I brought it also to the pod because I thought that it would be a great example of ways, of a model I guess, that shows that when institutions trust community members, co-create with community members, bring community members in as equal partners, magical things happen. I am lucky that I live in Washington, D.C., and I can, you know, take the 45-minute drive up to Baltimore. This exhibition, Guarding the Arts, is running from March 22nd through the end of July, and I would encourage us all to go and see it. Moreover, I encourage you in your organization, in your corporation and wherever you work, to think about ways that you might bring the community members who work with you in your organization into the real work that you’re doing every day. I think the payoff is huge.
DeRay Mckesson: Onward with Black History Year, as Kaya would say, and March is Women’s History Month. This week we have Candace Benbow, and want to talk about discovering freedom in a progressive Christian faith that incorporates activism, feminism, and radical authenticity. In Red Lip Theology, she writes powerfully about experiences at the heart of her Black womanhood. In honoring her single mother’s love and triumphs and mourning her unexpected passing, she finds herself forced to shed restrictions she been taught to place in the practice of her faith. And by embracing alternative spirituality and womanist theology, and confronting conventional attitudes on body positivity and LGBTQ rights, Candace helps to challenge religious institutions, faith leaders, and communities to reimagine how faith can be a tool of liberation and transformation for women and girls, and all of us. Here we go.
DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Don’t go anywhere. More Pod Save the People is coming.
DeRay Mckesson: Candace, thanks so much for joining us today on Pod Save the People.
Candice Benbow: Thank you for having me, I’m so excited to be here.
DeRay Mckesson: So, you know, I’ve known you forever, it seems like on Twitter, but we haven’t really had any like real discussions like this. And it’s great because your book just came out, Red lip Theology, and I’ve seen the tweets, but now I got to read the text. Before we start talking about the book, though, can you talk about your journey? What was the journey to becoming an author like? How did you—and somebody who’s written a book, whooh, writing a book almost killed me, it was such a wild process—what was your journey to this, and why theology? Like, why God?
Candice Benbow: So part of it is because one, we don’t have many opportunities for Black women, especially Black millennial women, to have conversations about faith and what spirituality means and does for them. And as somebody who attended seminary, went on, I graduated from Duke, and I just wanted to have deeper conversations about faith, that one, that didn’t center cis-het Black men. Women, I wanted Black women to know that it was possible to have conversations about faith that allowed them to lean into the creativity and the uniqueness of who they are. And [unclear] theology gave me the opportunity to do that. It almost killed me too. Like, people, I think people don’t realize just how isolating—and I didn’t, but many people do know —how isolating writing a book actually can be and what it means to construct this argument that goes beyond tweets into something that everybody can take a part of. And so I am grateful that I got the opportunity to do it and that people have been able to resonate with it in the way that they have.
DeRay Mckesson: There’s so many gems in here, and let me just start with some of the things that really stuck me. I was like, Oh, I got to get Candace to talk about this. And then zoom out to some of the big things. But I was like, Let me just start with the meat. So you write, you write early in the book, something that I had not even, like I literally had never, I didn’t have the language for this—you wrote “as a theological discourse, creation care is just what its name suggests. It’s the idea we should actually care about creation. God took such great time and intention to bring creation into being, humanity should do more to honor and protect it.” And I literally had never heard of like this idea of creation care. Like that was, I just hadn’t heard of that. And then you go on to talk about its important importance in blackness. And I was, how did you, I don’t know, like, can you, can you help us understand this? Is this, is it, like, is this something I should have known and just didn’t know? Is this like, has always been a big thing? Is this new?
Candice Benbow: And so that’s the problem with theological education, right? I mean, I think that’s the travesty write large with education is that we have these conversations and institutions and the ivory towers that impact so many people, but everyone doesn’t get to take part, part of them, right? And so before I got to do, before I went to seminary, I didn’t know that there was an entire discourse and theological conversation around creation care. Like, I didn’t know that there were people who were really studying and advocating for us to think much more interdependently about the work that we do and the ways that we interact with the rest of creation. And for me, like, I mean, I knew that I had friends who were vegan, I knew that I had family members who were trying to minimize their carbon footprint. I was trying to do the same thing, am trying to do the same thing. And I knew that a lot of it stemmed from ethical reasons because they shared those reasons. And at the same time, there was a lot of theological grounding and [unclear] with it that sometimes they couldn’t articulate because they didn’t necessarily have the language for it. But again, that is always the downfall of the way that education can be its own elitist, its own elitist project. And so getting with in the conversation mode of creation care and immersing myself in it was also because at the time I went to—and I talk about this in the book—at the time I went to seminary, like that 2012 to 2014 moment, so much was happening in the world. There were so, I mean, your book, I talk about Treyvon’s death as the kind of birth of what we know to be the BLM movement and with Boyd and Michael Brown. And so you have all of these deaths and murders in this moment and you have Black people arguing and fighting and petitioning me for folks to really hear us as it relates to what it means to honor Black life. And at the same time, I’m in these classes that are talking about creation and what it means for us to care for creation. And it’s like, Okay, so if we’re going to have a conversation about humanity as part of creation care, then we also need to have a fuller conversation about what it looks like for us to take up the work of protecting Black life as an ethic of creation care. And so it became for me, like, how do we use this discourse that already exists as a larger, to push a larger and broader conversation that directly impacts what we are saying about who we think God is, and who we think the world should be in relationship to that.
DeRay Mckesson: One of the things that I remember from writing my book is how much writing and writing so much made me sort of really come to terms and think through a host of things. How did you grow in the process of writing the book? Like, what was that like, especially a book about God? And it’s so personal. You know, I’m going to ask you about your father and your mother and that relationship in a minute, but before we get there, I would love to know how you grew in writing.
Candice Benbow: Part of it was, you know, I am, I’m writing my way out of a difficult time, right, like the loss of my mother and the way that so many other things happened to me that were really totalizing. And I am writing about that time in a way that pushes for me to not only get beyond it, but write myself free in a way, right? And so it is part of it required that I go back to those moments and think about, reflect on what I was thinking, reflect on what I was feeling, reflect on who I understood God to be to me in that moment and how God has evolved, that relationship has evolved, how I have grown from it. I mean, I wrote. I wrote this book in a year, and the entire time I was, I was working with the same therapist that I had been working with and still am since my mom passed. And so we’ve been working together through January of 2016. And so she was able to be there as part of that process for me. So when there are moments where I was like, I need to talk through this with you because I’m writing this and this is coming up. One, it was important for me to do that, but two, it was also important for me to hear her say things like, I am really proud of the work that you’ve done. Like, let’s sit here and honor how far you’ve come. Let’s sit here and just celebrate the way that even this moment, you’ve been healed from. And so like, I think, I think the truth for me is that when you allow yourself to be open to the process of not only the book writing but telling your story and what that journey will do for you, when you allow yourself to be open to how ever that will transform you, you can’t help but be changed, right? So it has been the joy really of this last month since the book has been out, to have conversations with people who’ve read it who have been and are on similar journeys and they mark a passage to me that really resonated and I’m like, Yeah, that’s exactly how I felt when I was writing it. And so, yeah, I think when you allow yourself to just be open to the transformation, you can’t help but be changed. And for me, that was what I wanted this book to do. I wanted this to be something that the vulnerability and even the kind of gracious accountability that I feel that I mirror in myself that I want to also mirror and hold on to institutions, I wanted people to be able to do that for themselves so that they could be whole, so that they could be free. And it’s been, it’s been incredible to watch that actualize in people that I may never, ever meet, but they share that with me.
DeRay Mckesson: That resonates so much with me. Now I want to talk about that, you know, this chapter made me tear up partly because my mother left when I was three and is still alive and around, but just was not a part of my life for a host of reasons. And in the chapter where you write about your dad, I like, I was reading it and you know, the scene where you are in the parking lot, all this, I was like, OK, I was like, I got it. And I was like, OK, what does God have to do with this? I got it. Like, I get the story. And then, Candice, it was, I’m reading and I’m just ready to preach. I’m like, You better go ahead and write this chapter! Let me read, let me read the part—I can’t read the whole chapter at everybody because y’all need to buy the book—but let me start here and then let’s see if we can work through this together, which is really code for, Can you help us? But you said “I could no longer un-see the danger in assigning gender to God. Beyond just saying God is the man, assigning the male gender to God potentially shapes how we, especially Black Christians, see all men.” And I was like, you and I was like, OK, cool. And then boom, boom!, it kept, and I was like—OK, let me, wait I think I highlighted the next one. Ooooh. OK. And then you said, in part, “Ungendering God also freed me from the idea God has favorites, and my dad was one of them.” And I was like, OK, ungendering God. And then!—This is the last thing I got to say, Candice, because you wrote this chapter. So I won’t quote this, but then you talked about both the tension between wearing a “God is a Black women” shirt and the freedom that ungendering God has given you and you wrote, “For me, God’s love makes the difference. What do I lose when I ungender God? I abandon the notion that there are some who are outside of God’s identity and therefore God’s love.” Y’all, she is preaching, and—you did that, Candice. This chapter! I mean, all the chapter—but like, as a reader reading it, I was like, OK, dad, got it, got it. And then I was like, OK, not god is a man? Then I was like, OK, and you took me there. Can you talk about how you got to this as like an understanding?
Candice Benbow: Yeah, I had to be very, again, this is why therapy saved lives—having a conversation with my therapist about the level of resentment that I had toward my father and how I felt like he was thriving. Like in my mind, I don’t understand how you have a child in the world, a seed in the world that you don’t care how it is growing. Like that, and here’s the thing: I do understand that for some people, there are extenuating circumstances that keep them from being parents, whatever, what have you. But at the same token, I’m somebody who is like, like, How could you like care what’s happening to me? And because I, I have some level of access and proximity to him, I was still able to see how he was thriving in the world and how he was moving in the world. And that really did make me mad. And so I was like, every time I heard God as he, and God as this like loving father who, I was like, Yeah, that’s not, that’s not how I understand my own father. I’m tired of “he” pronouns because you only use that for men. And then when I looked up and saw that the majority of the leadership, if not all of the bulk of the leadership in my churches were men, it wasn’t difficult for me to make those connections. And I was like, Oh, God, in my daddy are home boys, like, that’s why his life is, that’s why he’s not suffering, because he’s not being an active father to me. And so therapy really helped me to come to terms with the resentment I had around that. And a conversation that I had with my therapist, but also the [unclear] that I wanted a much more—when I think about God, I think about a majestic, holy, powerful, intimate, close, connected, caring, empathetic being. And I wanted words, I wanted phrases, I wanted descriptors that didn’t use for anybody else, when I was talking about God, right? And so what was beautiful was that womanist theology, and I’m wearing my “I met God, she’s Black” shirt and referring to God as her, felt very normal to me because I think, I think if we were to do an exercise where we ask people to describe God using the descriptors of the person who was then the most affirming, the most closest, the most godlike in our lives, I think we’ll all get different descriptions, but they’re going to be the people who have loved and nurtured us. And I think that God is supposed to be that intimate and that personal to us and so seeing God as and referring to God or her wasn’t that difficult because of the mother that I had, and that if I was to describe God in that way, that would be reflected in my mom. But at the same time, I knew that I wanted, I wanted a way, I needed to articulate God in a way that was not common. And I mean, that restored some of the majesty and the holiness. And as even I was being held accountable and moving out of ways that saw people and gender and identity in binary ways, like I wanted, I wanted how I talk and spoke about God to be reflected there as well. That like, we’re not, that this binary, if this binary-ness doesn’t hold true for humanity, then it definitely doesn’t hold true for God. And so it was all of those factors converging in this moment there was like, Yeah, like, I get, I get to think differently about who God is because I need to.
DeRay Mckesson: And why do you call, in that same vein in the later part of the book, you call God the ultimate parent, instead of like a father or mother. Why, can you explain to us why you do that?
Candice Benbow: Yeah, I mean for that reason, that in and of itself is that like I think that we, well one, I think that the more that we kind of abandon the idea that we are stuck in this binary, it gives us some more room to recognize how expansive creation, how expansive humanity is and just how deeply expansive God is, right? Like, that is, the capacity that God has to be all that we need is not encompassed a gender. Like, it’s not encompassed in these words or these descriptors that already fail to fully articulate what we need to say anyway. For as expansive as language is, language is always failing us because it can never fully give us what we need to talk about, to talk about God, or talk about anything. I mean, think about how many times in conversation we said something like “for lack of a better word” or “I’m trying to find a word her, I’m trying to—” because even without us knowing all of the words, that language still does not give us the full breadth and weight of what we’re trying to articulate. And I think that if that is true anywhere, it’s true in what, in how we describe the holy things, the sacred things, that we’re always trying to grow towards better language and so in our growth towards that, it matters to journey towards the more expansive language.
DeRay Mckesson: Boom/ There are two questions that we ask everybody on the pod. The first is what do you say to people who have done everything they were supposed to do? The people who called, emailed, they stood in the street, they read your book, they read my book, they did all the things, and the world hasn’t changed in the way they wanted it to. What do you say to those people?
Candice Benbow: Yeah, I first say that I hear them and I stand with them and whatever space they need to hold God accountable to the fact that it should be different. I think that too often we try to rush to, we try rush the answers and we try to justify—especially in church spaces and in religious spaces—we try to justify with you know, just hold on, or, you know, if there hasn’t, then that means X, Y and Z, and the truth is that some things can just stink. You know what I’m saying? And some things can and there are other structures and systems that are at work that are just not fair. And what those, what does it mean to be in community with you and not help to hold space for that? I believe that as somebody who is in community and knows what it’s like for something to, no matter how much I try, to never be able to be different, to never be able to be right. It just matters to hold the space to grieve that and to also say that even when—and I truly believe this—even when things are not right, that things can still be good, and that I will hold faith with you until the good things that are always present can find a way to shine even brighter so that you can, you can see them and hold close and hold tight to them, until more good things can come.
DeRay Mckesson: And the last question is, what’s the piece of advice that you’ve gotten over the years that stuck with you?
Candice Benbow: Oh, [laughs] so this is from my grandma and I put it in book and it actually what I hold close to is, especially as a Black woman, like my grandmother told me white people put it on their underwear—she said drawers—just like I do: one leg at a time. And she said, Now if you find a white person that can put their drawers on on top of their head somehow they end up wearing them the same way you do, now that’s a white person worth listening to. But until you meet that white person don’t ever feel intimidated at all by them because they’re just like you. She never wanted me to feel inferior. She never wanted me to believe that there was something that I could not do simply because of the circumstances of my life, right? And I have, although she meant that in one specific context, as I get older, I’m able to know the broader weight and breadth of what she was trying to say to me. And I’ve held on to that. Because there have been moments where—because we talked, and you know it, in all of our circles and even in our professional, other professional spaces, we talk about imposter syndrome, we talk about the feeling of believing that who we are is not enough for the places that we are being invited into and for the situations that we’re showing up in. And I feel that myself at times. And so I have to remember, even if it is just as like as my grandma did, like, Candice, everybody in this room put their drawers on one leg at a time, just like you did today. Breathe. Know that you have done whatever you needed to do to earn the space and the right to be in this room. Be grateful for the opportunity. Show with that confidence and show up with that gratitude. And I have had to hold on to that for myself. I’ve had to pass that, and I hope to pass that on as much as I can, not only to my colleagues and my peers, but to younger folks who come behind me, especially those of us who come from some family structures and from communities that would lead us to believe that we don’t deserve to be in the spaces that we’re in. I can’t let any structure, I can’t let any [unclear]—if you want to use [unclear] language—I can’t let anything cause me to believe that I am any less deserving of opportunities that I work for or opportunities that I’ve bene graced with simply because my daddy ain’t here.
DeRay Mckesson: Boom! Can you tell us the book one more time and where people can get it?
Candice Benbow: So Red Lip Theology is everywhere that books are sold. The subtitle is: For Church Girls Who’ve Considered Tithing to the Beauty Supply Store When Sunday Morning Isn’t Enough. You can get it wherever you get your books. Definitely want to encourage you to get it at an independent bookstore because that is where we need a lot of our dollars to go towards, especially as COVID has impacted a lot of our independent and small businesses. But yeah, it is, it’s out in the world. It’s been out in the world a month. I am so, so grateful for everyone’s support.
DeRay Mckesson: We consider your friend in the pod and can’t wait to have you back.
Candice Benbow: Thank you, friend. I had, I had a ball. I really appreciated this. All right. I [unclear] because I told all of my friends I was going to be on Pod Save the People. So I am, I’m kind of, I’m kind of a big deal right now in the group chat.
DeRay Mckesson: Well, that’s it. Thanks so much for tuning into Pod Save the People this week. Tell your friends to check it out. Make sure to rate wherever you get your podcasts, whether it’s Apple Podcasts or somewhere else. And we will see you next week. Pod Save the People was a production of Crooked Media. It’s produced by 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.