In This Episode
DeRay and Sam are LIVE from Los Angeles with Pod Save America’s Jon Lovett, Congresswoman Maxine Waters and Erica Chidi Cohen, reproductive rights advocate and LOOM co-founder.
- WYNYC: Study Finds Racial Gap Between Who Causes Air Pollution And Who Breathes It
- Washington Post: Senate GOP confirms Kavanaugh’s replacement, Trump’s 36th pick for powerful appeals courts
- Newsweek: ARMED TEACHERS WILL BE ALLOWED ON CAMPUS WITH HUNDREDS OF HOURS LESS TRAINING THAN POLICE, OHIO JUDGE RULES
- DONA International
- Congresswoman Maxine Waters
DeRay: The New Yorker represents some of the best writing in America today. Beyond publishing some of the best writers in the world, the New Yorker holds people in power accountable through rigorous reporting and compelling storytelling. But online and in print, the New Yorker covers a full range of topics, including politics, international affairs, climate change, the arts, fiction, food, and humor.
Sam: Recently, I learned a lot from reading this article in the New Yorker entitled “The Chaotic Triumph of Arron Banks, The Bad Boy of Brexit”. It’s all about how the UK is in a panic over voters’ decision to withdraw from the EU. But the pugnacious millionaire whose donations and Trumpian scare tactics helped to sway people in Britain has no regrets.
Sam: They also have another interesting piece called “Affect Theory and the New Age of Anxiety,” which is about Lauren Berlant and how her cultural criticism predicted the Trumping of politics.
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DeRay: Hey. This is DeRay. And welcome to Pod Save The People. On this episode, it’s our live show from LA, and sadly Clint and Brittany couldn’t join us in LA, but we were joined by Pod Save America’s Jon Lovett for the news.
DeRay: We had an insightful conversation. I learned a lot. I think you’ll learn a lot.
DeRay: After the news, I got to have a great conversation with Representative Maxine Waters!
DeRay: But then, after that, I was joined on stage by Erica Chidi Cohen, who is a doula, author, and co-founder of LOOM, which provides education about periods, sex positivity, fertility, and pregnancy.
DeRay: I hope you enjoy the show. We start by talking about the candidates that are on our mind for 2020. Let’s go!
DeRay: Hey guys! Excited! Excited to be here.
DeRay: I would love to know, who’s on your mind right now.
Sam: Ooh. Elizabeth Warren. I don’t know if you’ve heard of her housing proposal.
Sam: So, her housing proposal is to spend $500 billion over 10 years to specifically address the impact of redlining and racial discrimination in housing that is the largest contributor to the racial wealth gap today. And so her plan looks at communities that have been redlined in the past, and offers people living in those communities down payment assistance so that they can become home owners at a time when black home ownership is at the lowest level since the ’60s. So this is major. It’s specifically focusing on communities that have been disadvantaged specifically because of race, in the area that, economically, is the most important to creating greater economic equity.
Sam: So I’m excited about Elizabeth Warren’s plan. I think that she brings a level or rigor and attention to the policy details to this work that I haven’t seen from a lot of other candidates, so I’m excited to see how that develops. I think there are a lot of other questions about Elizabeth Warren and some statements that she’s made that we can talk about, but I think on the policy level, I’m most excited about her.
Jon Lovett: Yeah. I’m evaluating all the candidates. I’m not choosing a candidate. But one thing that, to me, has always been clear, is that certainly on economic issues, Elizabeth Warren, to me, is this intellectual leader of the Democratic party, and I think if she were a man, that would just be taken for granted, right? It would just be part of her coverage, right? The way Paul Ryan was considered the intellectual leader of the Republican party.
Jon Lovett: But I was gonna talk about [Pete Buttigieg 00:03:37]. There was a story about him today that he was just doing one of his things where politicians say hello to people in a diner … ’cause that’s how we pick the person in charge of nuclear weapons … So he’s talking to people, and a Norwegian reporter comes up to him and says, “Hi, I’m so-and-so from Norway; it’s so nice to meet you.” Pete Buttigieg just starts speaking in Norwegian! This Norwegian reporter literally gasps! How does the mayor of South Bend, Indiana come to speak Norwegian? Turns out he read a book by a Norwegian author that had been translated to English. He liked the book so much, he wanted to read other books. None of the other books were translated, so he learned Norwegian.
Jon Lovett: Here’s the point I wanna make about this: how did we lose to Donald Trump? Because while Pete Buttigieg was just casually dropping that he speaks Norwegian, Donald Trump spent all day live-Tweeting Fox News, the dumbest channel on planet Earth.
DeRay: So I like Cory Booker. I think that people think Cory is corny. I don’t think Cory is corny. I think that he really is the love guy, I think he believes those things. I think he doesn’t get enough credit for the policy work that he’s done. So you think about the baby bonds, a bill that he put out around closing racial wealth gap. Huge. He put out something recently called “The Next Step Act”. Huge around criminal justice. So I like Cory. I think that, to your other point, is that Cory has actually done all the ground work in places like Iowa, that’s just not getting covered, but he’s doing it, and still people are coming out to see.
DeRay: I think Warren is gonna be the lodestone, she’s gonna be there marker on the left around wealth. I think that is true … Every time I’ve heard Warren talk about things that aren’t about wealth, it’s a little shaky, so I just wanna see what that actually turns out to be, but I’m hopeful about that.
DeRay: I don’t dislike Bernie. We met with Bernie the last go-around, and it was … it was a hard meeting, because we said things like … you know, he said, “I support a jobs bill that’s gonna get 70 million jobs,” and we’re like, “Cool. Well how’s that gonna go to people of color and poor people?” And he’s like, “Oh, it just will.” And you’re like, “Bernie, what? That’s just not how it works,” and he’s like, “Well do you have advice?” and you’re like, “You’ve been in the senate longer than I’ve been alive! I don’t know! You tell me! I don’t know! You tell me what we need to do with [inaudible 00:06:13].” So that was one of those things.
DeRay: And then the reparations answer the first time … a couple of years ago, it was like, well, nobody was talking about reparations, right? So it was new for everybody. This go-around, I’m unclear how we’re still in the same place, so I’m nervous about that.
DeRay: [Klobuchar 00:06:29] … the premise of what I’m about to say is that we need to ask all the candidates about how they treat their staff, and not just her. I think that is true. And not just women. Everybody needs to be accountable.
Sam: And she was a prosecutor, too, by the way. So you notice her prosecutorial record is not being critiqued in the way that [Kamala Harris’ 00:06:46] prosecutorial—
Sam: So there’s an intersectionality to this as well.
Sam: Now … the last quote I say from Amy Klobuchar, though, was something like, “People want a strong president,” and you’re like, “… Amy, that’s not it. That is … ”
Jon Lovett: So I wanna say something about that.
Sam: Okay, go ahead. I don’t know. I’m—
Jon Lovett: If we’re gonna defeat our geopolitical enemies, we need somebody willing to ask Vladimir Putin … to [shave 00:07:10].
Jon Lovett: I do not know that she has landed on the right answer to the question about how she treats staff. I do think it’s a legitimate issue—
DeRay: She has certainly not landed on that answer.
Jon Lovett: No. Now, I believed, the second I read these stories … and I’ll just also say that as somebody who works in the senate, I was waiting for these stories. This is—
DeRay: You heard this before.
Jon Lovett: Look—
Jon Lovett: You hear about people that are incredibly nice, you hear about people that are incredibly tough, and then you hear about the outliers, who are worse than tough, and she was one of them. Just, you heard it for years. You were waiting for these stories. And, you know, look … when you decide you’re gonna run for president, a new level of scrutiny comes, and it was inevitable that these stories were gonna come out.
Jon Lovett: Now, at first, she started by kind of apologizing, or at least trying to spin it by saying, “Have I been tough? Yes. But I also have people who love me.” Very well true. Now she’s trying this new thing, which I love, which is like “the only way out is through”, like, “Yeah I’m tough. I’ll be tough on the international stage. I’ll treat Putin the way I treat my staff.”
Sam: Is that really the quote? “I’ll treat Putin—”
Jon Lovett: No.
Sam: I was like, “What? That might actually work!”
Jon Lovett: I’ll tell you, it’s the only way.
Jon Lovett: But there is another thing she could do, which is genuinely apologize and show growth. It is very rare for politicians to do that. I’d be excited to see it.
DeRay: Who else? I like Kamala. I don’t know how long she’s gonna get away with not addressing the prosecutorial record.
DeRay: Who else is there?
DeRay: Oh, Beto! I like Beto. I think this rollout didn’t go the way he thought it was gonna go, but I like everything else that I’ve seen from him. The rollout was just weird. That was weird. The Vanity Fair cover, the quotes in that article were just … they were weird. So I’m interested to see what his policies will be like. I think it was easy to look like the farthest left when Ted Cruz was the opposite of you, ’cause Ted Cruz is Ted Cruz. I don’t know. I’ll be interested to see. This rollout was just a weird blip.
DeRay: I liked the Facebook video guy. Like when he was making all those things, and the medium posts … this Vanity Fair thing was a little odd.
Sam: Yeah. I like Julián Castro.
DeRay: I love that that’s your response to Beto.
Sam: Yeah, I don’t have anything about him, other than … we’ll see how he sort of evolves and explains … he’s sort of new to this, new to the stage the national stage. I think there are a lot of questions about his past record in congress, his record as a city council member, and I think we want somebody who’s progressive, who’s on the left, and I’m interested to see how he sort of pivots or explains how he wasn’t always to the left. I also think that … it is good to see him adopting some of the policies that have already been proposed. He recently came out in support of Cory Booker’s baby bonds proposal, which you just talked about, so I think that’s good, but I also wanna see a thought leader who’s gonna be proposing far-reaching proposals, not appropriating them from other people. So I hope to see that evolve.
Sam: Julián Castro, his answer on reparations I thought was solid. I thought he helped build a moral case for it in a way that a lot of politicians … you know, Bernie Sanders was like, “Oh, we shouldn’t write a check,” and other people were sort of dismissing it or saying we should do something without explaining what that is. So I’m excited to see Julián Castro sort of evolve in this race. I think he hasn’t yet had his breakout moment, but I think he could be that sleeper candidate that has that moment, sort of with his convention speech that he had previously, and really become the front-runner in that way.
Jon Lovett: I will say, as always, again, the conversation about Beto, I think, has these two poles in the national media and in the Twitter land, which is, “The rollout’s going very badly,” “He’s over-hyped,” or, “I love Beto. He’s the person it should be.” Meanwhile, what’s actually happening on the ground is he’s standing on top of counters in Iowa and saying things and it’s appealing. Maybe it could be more appealing, maybe it could be less appealing, I don’t know how it’s working, but the election is a grind. Winning votes and winning people over to your side is a grind. That takes time, and you won’t see the victories or the defeats for many months, all unfold over a long period of time. So that’s what I would say about that.
Sam: So my piece of news is a recent study that came out of the National Academy of Sciences, and this is focused on pollution.
Sam: So we’ve heard a lot about pollution, climate change, the danger that our planet’s currently in. We’ve heard about animal species going extinct … I don’t know if you’ve heard about this, this is the deep stuff … Well, they conducted an analysis to really find out who was producing the pollution, and where was the pollution going. How was this pollution impacting people within the United States?
Sam: So to do that, they did this incredible analysis where they took the data on where the pollution was coming from … so power plants, food production industries, all of these different sources … then they looked at data to see who was consuming those sources … who was consuming the most electricity, who was consuming the most food, all of that. What they found was a racial inequity in the consumption versus the receipt of that pollution that was created through the consumption. What they found was that white communities in the United States were consuming more than black and brown communities, such that they were 17% less likely to actually receive the pollution that they were consuming. So they were consuming more, but receiving less pollution overall.
Sam: You compare that to black and brown communities, where, for black communities, it was 56%. They’re receiving 56% more pollution than they were consuming, compared to other groups. And for Latino communities, it was 63% more.
Sam: So we’ve talked about environmental racism, environmental justice, in the past, but what the study did that was interesting was that it actually quantified the extent to which that pollution was being absorbed and consumed inequitably across our country.
Sam: So I wanted to bring this to the table, because it’s obviously a super important issue, but I think the racial dimension of this is a huge part of the environmental justice conversation.
Jon Lovett: It’s interesting, too, it almost feels like at every level of the environmental discussion, the pain is distributed unfairly. At a global level, you look at the harm that will come from climate change. It will be visited upon the poorest people and the most disadvantaged people all around the world. You go into the United States as a country, you look where people are harmed, they are harmed often where real estate is cheaper, where that’s where they can put the truck depot, and that’s where they an put the school buses, and that’s where they can put the landfill, and that’s where they can put the smokestacks, and that’s where they can put everything that’s throwing off pollution.
Jon Lovett: And it also speaks to, I think, why it is so hard to have a honest conversation about the environment. Because I think part of the reason that it gets polarized on a partisan level is because if you don’t see it, if you don’t feel it, it’s a political issue. If you don’t see it, you don’t feel it, your tribe is what you should listen to. And it’s interesting, you see that around coastal areas. That the partisan breakdown around pollution doesn’t really hold up … right on the coast, right where people will see the oil spill, right where people will see the harm. But you go inland, and then the climate denialism, the partisanship, it comes roaring right back.
Jon Lovett: And so I think one of the great challenges we have is having a conversation about how much harm we’re doing to the environment when whole groups of people are told, a.) it’s not real, and b.) they don’t see it.
DeRay: And it is this thing, people often ask us why are we making everything about race, and we’re like, “Race made this about us. We’re just talking about it.” And the other thing is that we try to help people understand … people are like, “Why are you guys talking about the environment? We thought that y’all were like criminal justice and the police,” and we’re like, “It’s not a win if we get you out of jail and you die from air pollution,” you know what I mean? That is not a win.
DeRay: And I didn’t know, until preparing for the news, that more people die from air pollution a year than from car crashes and murders. I didn’t know that. That was interesting.
DeRay: So it is one of those things that like … all of these things are linked. We had somebody on to talk about lead, but most people don’t realize that there’s no cure for lead, so the best we can do is put kids in therapy. Not enough therapy in low-income communities. You probably know about lead because of Flint. Most people have heard about Flint. What a lot of people don’t realize … this is my obsession … is that Flint had the single biggest decrease in childhood literacy that we’ve ever recorded. In five years, there was a 75% decrease in childhood literacy in Flint. And it’s like an exceptional example of the link between environmental racism and educational justice. And if you think that Flint is just an environmental issue, you’re actually missing half the impact. How do we get people to understand that most of these issues are linked?
DeRay: The other thing I’ll say is that we know that a third of all the kids in housing projects has asthma. We were trying to figure out for a long time why. What we now know is that it’s cockroaches and mice. That when they die, their bodies turn into dust, and that dust has an allergen that has a specific trigger in children. And it’s like … when you understand what the actual problem is, you think about solutions differently. So public housing is a public housing issue, and a cleanliness issue, that is not about families doing things good or bad. It is about the condition of the building that is beyond the family.
DeRay: And we also … back to lead … kids were eating lead paint chips for a long time. We were trying to figure out, “Why are kids eating lead paint chips?” And if you remember, if you are old enough to have been alive … I was not, but … during that time, when black mothers were being demonized for their kids eating paint chips, and it was like, “Well why are kids eating paint chips?” And what we now know … who knows? Yeah, lead is naturally sweet. So … if you’ve been around a toddler, you know they’ll eat anything, and if the wall tastes like candy, they’re certainly eating the wall. And it’s like, “How do we start to make people understand the way the environment actually impacts our day-to-day life so it’s not this abstraction?” They’re like, “Oh, the environment.” It’s like, “No, you live and work and play in the environment, and these issues of justice come up all the time.”
DeRay: Sam, you said something … you were talking about where black people live in the country. Do you remember this?
DeRay: Can you say that? ‘Cause I’m just fascinated by that when we think about this issue in particular.
Sam: Yeah, so geographically, 54% of the black population lives in the south.
DeRay: Did you know that?
Sam: The majority of black people live in the south, still to this day.
Sam: Yes. It’s also interesting when you think about this politically, because the south is solidly Republican-controlled, despite the fact that black people vote overwhelmingly Democratic, which means that black people are effectively disenfranchised throughout the area where most black people live.
DeRay: Fascinated by that. And you think about somebody … I’m sorry, I’m just like, “Sam! Tell the people! Tell the people, Sam!” … is that you think about the way the environmental racism shows up in the south. There are some communities where sewage pumps actually pumping sewage on people’s lawns and things like that. And what does it mean that we’ve actually disenfranchised black people at such a disproportionate rate relative to the population of the place is fascinating.
Jon Lovett: So a woman named [Neomi Rao 00:18:34] was just confirmed to replace Brett Kavanaugh on the DC Circuit Court. This is the second most powerful court in the country. With that confirmation, Donald Trump has confirmed his 36th judge to the appeals court. In Barack Obama’s eight years, he got 55. When Barack Obama left office, there were 17 open appeals court seats. Those are the ones Donald Trump has been able to fill. That means he has now filled one-fifth of … the appeals court in this country has now been filled in these first two years. The clip of confirmations under this Republican senate and Mitch McConnell has been extraordinary. They’re now gonna turn to the circuit court, the level below the appeals court, and they are going like gangbusters.
Jon Lovett: There used to be a lot of rules in the senate that afforded the home state senators … even if they were of the opposing party … to have a say in this process. They’re not interested in that. There was just a confirmation that really pissed off the Democrats, who said basically, “You didn’t follow this old precedent, so that precedent’s gone.” So in the next year-and-a-half, we’re gonna see an extraordinary number of right-wing judges confirmed. And just a reminder that Donald Trump and Barack Obama appointed the same number of supreme court justices.
Jon Lovett: This is the dirty deal at the heart of Donald Trump. This is … underneath all of it, all the “never Trump” stuff, all of the capitulation, all of the corruption, all of it boils down to the fact that the last line of defense for Republicans who don’t want to admit to what they’re participating in is on judges, and Mitch McConnell knows it, which is why he has been going to hard. I mean, this is a heist, and the judges, they’re the money, and they’re gonna … this is like … this is the end of Heat, and they’re gonna take those bags of cash, and they’re gonna go for those getaway cars—
DeRay: Run with this metaphor. Run with it.
Jon Lovett: As fast as [crosstalk 00:20:29]
Sam: Keep going!
DeRay: Run with it.
Jon Lovett: And the other thing, too, is … the point I wanted to make about this is we are losing this fight. We really are. And I think sometimes … I think because we’re so ensconced in Twitter and we don’t wanna say bad things about our side and we wanna always seem hopeful and get people in the fight … I think sometimes it’s important to say, “Hey, here’s a fight where we are just getting the crap knocked out of us.” And I think a question for all the presidential candidates, a question for us as we compete to take back the senate, is how can we remind voters who are sympathetic to LGBTQ rights, to civil rights, to women’s rights, to environmental protection, to restricting corporate power and corporate abuses, all the issues that these courts are now going to run [inaudible 00:21:12] over … how do we get this to be a bigger part of the conversation? Because how many people here knew that when Barack Obama left office, there were 17 openings on the appeals court? I didn’t. I don’t know how many people here knew.
Jon Lovett: The right has done a good job of raising this, and they’ve done a good job of raising it by talking about ideology, not outcomes. They talk about constitutional conservatives, whatever that means. They talk about their judicial philosophy. “Well look how lucky it is that these outcomes turned out to disenfranchise people, to empower corporations, to restrict regulations of the environment, to undo civil rights and LGBTQ rights and women’s rights.”
Jon Lovett: On the liberal side, we tend to talk more about outcomes, protecting people, protecting the environment. I don’t think there’s as much of a robust conversation around the ideology of the judges we care about. I don’t think we’ve had enough of a conversation about why we support the kinds of judges we support, not … because, I think, we’re so scared about seeing our rights overturned. And so as we head into these next two years, as we watch them use this last bit of power they have, now that we have the house, to get all of these judges on the court, we should remember that this is one of the most important, if not the most important, question facing voters is who the next president will appoint to the supreme court, the appeals court, and the circuit court.
Sam: I mean, it’s been wild to see … just to provide a little bit more data on who Trump is nominating … 92% of those that he’s nominated to the courts have been white, 76% have been male, one in five of the entire number of justices on the courts, in the appellate courts, he’s nominated now.
Sam: And I think, to your point, a lot of people weren’t thinking about the courts when they went to the ballot box in 2016. There were a lot of people who weren’t excited about Hilary Clinton, who were like, “I’m not gonna vote, I don’t support Hilary Clinton, something about Hilary Clinton I don’t really support,” but they weren’t thinking about all of the decisions that a president makes. It’s not just about the one candidate. It is about all of the other people on that candidate’s team that become that candidate’s administration when they’re elected. It’s about all of the appointments that they make. And these are lifetime appointments … which we should look into, because I don’t think that that makes any sense anymore, first of all …
Sam: But Republicans have played this game where they are literally extending, for decades, conservative rule in this country, against the majority of people here. This is a profoundly anti-Democratic thing that they’re doing, and this just impacts us for decades. The supreme court … if Trump wins again … we hope he doesn’t win again … if he wins again, that could be 20 or 30 years of conservative rule on the supreme court. And I’m not trying to live like that. That alone is … despite anything that any of these candidates says or does, that 30 years on the supreme court being Trump-controlled is a wild thing to even think about.
Sam: And so I hope that we can think, going into the 2020 election, about all of those other collateral consequences of who wins the presidency.
DeRay: It makes me think, too, about what is the end game, and there was a study that came out a while ago that said that if Trump successfully did all of the things on immigration that he was proposing, that it would delay the country being majority minority by at least a decade. And you’re like, “That is like a … ” We were upset about some of the immigration stuff … or all the immigration stuff that he’s in. I don’t think there’s anything people praised that he’s in on immigration … I had never considered that he was trying to keep the country whiter longer. That was the end-game from a numbers perspective. I just didn’t … you know, ’cause the country is projected to be majority minority in the next 10, 15 years … but the net effect of all the decisions would actually just delay that, and you’re like, “Y’all are just playing a different game.”
DeRay: You probably saw the hearing of the guy that they nominated, where … I’ll just read you … somebody on the senate said, “Have you tried a jury trial?” “I have not.” “Have you ever argued a motion in federal court?” “No.” He had never done a bench trial, trialed any civil or criminal case in federal or state court, and he was a nominee! And you’re like—
Sam: Somebody paid $500 thousand.
Jon Lovett: DeRay, you are being so unfair. He was on the water polo team, he had a fantastic SAT score.
DeRay: But it is a reminder of all the ways the system works that people don’t think about, and we often say that the level that we’re fighting at is always at the system level, that we never let the system off the hook, that we believe in programs. Programs are really important. Most people understand programs, especially as people who work in communities, but we’re mindful that most of the programs exist because the system failed in the first place, and we always wanna make sure that … we understand that programs deliver momentary things, they help close gaps. But the system actually has to work.
DeRay: And there were a lot of people in 2016 that fought us. We supported Hilary at the end, and people were like, “You guys are sellouts, the system da-da-da-da,” and we’re like, “The thing is that you don’t realize what the system does in your life until it breaks or stops doing it, and then you’re like, ‘I didn’t know that half the kids born in the country get their food from food stamps.’” People didn’t realize that until all of the sudden, food stamps are starting to get cut by people.
DeRay: I do think that, as we go to 2020, we need to be more mindful of reminding people of the way the system actually functions in our life every day so that they remember that when you go to the ballot box, it doesn’t have to be about how much you love that person. You are actually voting for a whole set of things that impact your life every single day.
DeRay: My news … so I’m gonna ask you to vote … of the arrests that happen in the country, what percent do you think are for violent crimes? So you’ll raise your hands. If you think that more than 50% of the arrests that happen in the country are for violent crime, raise your hand. 40%-50% for violent crime, raise your hand? You have to raise your hand at some point. 30%-40% for violent crime? 10%-20% for violent crime? And less than 10%.
Sam: So according to the FBI’s uniform crime report, 5% of all arrests that are made nationwide are for violent crime, another 12% are for property crime, and the vast majority of arrests that are made are for low-level offenses … things like disorderly conduct, having an open container of alcohol … there are actually more arrests nationwide for marijuana possession than for all violent crimes combined, and that’s even after so many states have legalized.
Sam: So when you think about what the police are actually doing, what they’re spending all of these resources … and city budgets are usually 20%, 30%, 40% of the entire city budget is for policing … a lot of those resources are just going to arresting people for low-level offenses and feeding into this system of mass incarceration.
DeRay: So I wanted to talk about this. I also [inaudible 00:28:15] … can you talk about civil asset forfeiture as I go into my news.
Sam: Civil asset forfeiture, okay. Civil asset forfeiture is a practice that was created during the war on drugs … which I guess we’re still in, I don’t even know.
Jon Lovett: We don’t end wars anymore. [crosstalk 00:28:28] victory.
Sam: There’s no winning the war on drugs ’til we’re all in jail, I guess.
Sam: So civil asset forfeiture allows police to take your cash and property, even if you haven’t been convicted of a crime. So originally, the idea behind it was police could stop somebody who was a drug trafficker or a drug dealer, and if they found that they had, let’s say $100 thousand in the trunk, they could take those $100 thousand without having to go through the judicial process first.
Sam: However, in reality, what that means is that police are able to stop people, take the cash from their wallets, take their cars, take their homes, without even having to prove to a jury that that person is even guilty of anything. And so nationwide, what you see is that there’s actually more money taken through civil asset forfeiture every year, by the police, than the total amount of money taken from all the burglaries that happen in the United States.
Sam: So that’s civil asset forfeiture.
DeRay: Right? Right?
DeRay: So I say this because … two things … one is that we believe that everybody can know as much about the way the systems work, and that you are smart enough to understand it, and that part of our work as organizers is to help people just understand what’s happening. The second is that when you believe myths about the way the system is working in your life or in society, you actually are more inclined to believe a whole set of solutions that support that myth.
DeRay: So if you believe that 50% of the arrests that happen in the country are for violent crime, you’re more willing to think that the police have solutions, those sort of things. And what’s wild about the 5% of arrests for violent crime is that that’s just arrests. So less than that is convictions. It’s actually a pretty small number, but people believing these myths about the way society works actually [inaudible 00:30:13] support a whole set of solutions.
DeRay: So in Ohio, there were a set of people saying that we should arm teachers, so there were a set of teachers in a feud, trying to stop this process. They lost. So now teachers in Ohio can get concealed carry licenses really easy. So easy that in Ohio … for somebody who’s engaged in active shooter training, the police actually have to go through 700 hours of training … teachers, as a part of the settlement, will only have to go through 27 hours.
DeRay: Right? You’re like, “This can’t be real.” And there are … in this one district, where the lawsuit originated, there are seven people, seven staff members in this school, who now have a concealed carry license to carry at school.
DeRay: And it made me think. I used to teach sixth grade math, and I don’t even know, in my classroom, where I would’ve been able to put a gun. My classroom was old. I don’t know where I would’ve been able to put a gun where kids wouldn’t have been able to get to it.
DeRay: You know, people often say that the police have to make a lot of split-second decisions. The research says teachers make new decisions every 30 seconds. You’re like, “I don’t even know at what point I’d go get the gun, da-da-da, and as a black man, they might think I’m the shooter! That’s actually not even a win, either!” And we talk so much about the burdens that we’ve placed on teachers, that teachers can’t be the community center person and the social worker and the da-da-da, but if they can’t be all those things, how do you think they can also be the marksman? That doesn’t make a lot of sense.
DeRay: And I wanted to bring that here because it’s been interesting to see the right skirt around any form of gun control, and do these sort of things as like a … “Well if there were just more guns, everybody’d be safe!” and it’s like … I don’t think that’s the solution, and I certainly don’t think arming teachers makes any sense.
Sam: So this is building on a history now of criminalization of students in school. A history of responding to mass shootings by putting more police in schools, more people with weapons, now teachers as well with weapons in schools, and criminalizing students. And when you look at that history, anybody who’s familiar with the actual history of what happened when we did that the last time would know not to arm teachers. Because the last time was after Columbine, 1999. There was a lot of funding made available by the federal government to hire police officers to put in schools. And of course, the whole reason they did this was around how do we protect students from mass shooters.
Sam: And they ended up hiring more than 10 thousand police officers in schools across the country. Those police officers disproportionately went to predominantly black and brown schools. And when you look at what actually happened as a consequence … they didn’t stop mass shootings. School shootings, in particular, have gone up since then. So it didn’t solve that.
Sam: What it did do, when you look at the data of what those police were actually doing in the context of campus … two-thirds of all arrests that were made on school campus, 70 thousand arrests a year of students on campus … two-thirds of those were black and brown students. And when you look at why these students were arrested, it was not for having weapons or doing things that were actually violent or dangerous, like we talked about with the arrest statistics. 50% of all of those arrests that were made were for students fighting one another in school. Not with weapons, just fighting. Which, in the past, would mean you would get a detention. You might get suspended. You definitely wouldn’t get arrested and charged.
Sam: Another 25% were for just disorderly conduct. They didn’t even define what it was, it was just students making noise in class. There were about 5% for drugs and alcohol on campus. It was a tiny, tiny fraction of all of the arrests that were made were for weapons. It was 1% or 2%, none of which ended up being in a shooting event or dangerous to folks.
Sam: So that’s what the police have done since 1999 in schools. And now what the conversation has shifted to on the right is, “Well, the police actually aren’t doing enough. We need to hire a whole bunch of other people with weapons, too, who are trained less.” With all the issues with police getting seven times more training in firearms than de-escalation nationwide, they’re gonna hire teachers with even less training, no training in de-escalation, no training in how not to shoot people … just a little couple of hours of how to shoot people accurately is what the teachers are getting.
Sam: So yeah, this is just repeating the same mistakes again and again and again, and we know exactly which students this is gonna impact.
Jon Lovett: Yeah, they say that we need guns to defend against a military state, and then we need a military state to defend against guns. And as with all conversations, this conversation around mass shootings is broken. There’s an incredible amount of gun violence in this country. The majority of it is suicides. After that, it is, for lack of a better term, [cotidian 00:35:12] murder that’s taking place all across the country all the time. And then there are these mass shootings, these terrifying, horrible events that captivate the country, that draw attention, that create a cycle in which someone out there who is isolated, broken, desiring to do violence, committed to some ideological cause, whether it’s from a white supremacist group, whether it’s some kind of a group they found online, whether it’s some other motivation, whether it’s a motivation that’s hard to understand, decides to do this. And because the mass shootings are so rare, inevitably, the policy responses about mass shootings … the vast majority of the impact has nothing to do with mass shootings. Because mass shootings are rare, hard to predict, hard to understand, even after they’ve happened.
Jon Lovett: So I think these conversations get combined. We have to have a gun violence conversation, and then separately … it also related back to New Zealand, it relates to the synagogue shooting … we need to figure out how we are going to grapple with this kind of contagion. This idea of going out in a blaze of glory. Because immediately after some kind of a mass shooting, there’s this kind of political rush to find out the cause. Did they do it because they were terrorists? “They were Muslim terrorists! They’re Muslims!” or they do it because they’re white supremacists, which is a growing movement fanned by Donald Trump, fanned by an international order of white supremacists around the world. But ultimately, the reason these kinds of people latch onto can be distinct, what brings them together is this kind of vicious desire for glory, and this desire for violence, and this isolation in which they seek a community online of other violent people seeking the same ends.
Jon Lovett: YouTube is responsible for the kind of content they put in front of people, Twitter is responsible, these tech companies are responsible, our politicians are responsible. But the truth is … I think one of the reasons debate is so hard is we don’t have a good answer for how to find these people, how to stop these people, how to prevent this kind of contagion from spreading. It is with us, it is international, and it is not going anywhere, and we gotta talk about it.
Sam: What I’ve learned recently, over the past couple of weeks now, I’ve heard from people working in major tech companies about the steps that they’ve taken to prevent the spread of ISIS-related content online.
Sam: So it turns out after 2014, major tech companies like Google … which owns YouTube also … and others sought to figure out, “How do we stop this extremist content from spreading online and radicalizing more people?” It turns out that they figured out how to do it! So when you look at the number of ISIS-related accounts and the following of those accounts over time, from 2014 through 2016, they cut dramatically. Dramatically. By more than 80%. That is a direct response of those companies to figuring out how to find these accounts, how to stop the spread of information that’s posted from these accounts, and they did it quite effectively.
Sam: Over the same time period, white supremacist accounts grew dramatically. Because those tech companies weren’t focused on stopping those accounts. And now we see a situation where 100% of people killed by extremists last year according to the Anti-Defamation League … were killed by right-wing extremists, the vast majority of whom are white supremacists. So this is the fundamental terrorist threat across the globe, and tech companies are sort of sitting on the tools and the algorithms to address it, and they’ve simply refused to do so.
DeRay: I saw the video of the New Zealand shooting … there was a video on Twitter, I click, and I’m like, “Ooh … ” I didn’t know what it was … and it was interesting, in hindsight, to think about what it means that you wanted this to go viral. Like every moment of that was planned, with the camera on his head, this was like a moment … you wanted that glory … and it took YouTube a long time to get the video down. I was shocked at how long the video stayed up on YouTube, and how long it stayed up on Twitter, in the same way that … I remember the beheading videos of ISIS early, ’cause they were also spreading on Twitter, but I haven’t seen any of that content in a very long time. But the New Zealand shooting video just stayed and stayed.
Jon Lovett: You know, the companies have to do more, but it’s also this whack-a-mole thing where Reddit does a better job of getting it, so they find some other place to go have these conversations. It’s just this cancerous aspect of just us being online.
DeRay: And what is real is that … the platforms are … some people come to the platforms bad, and the platform didn’t do that. They’re like, “You were a bad person when you made the Twitter account,” and … jury can’t stop you from that.
Jon Lovett: We were all bad when we made our Twitter accounts.
DeRay: Let’s give it up for Lovett joining us today for the news!
Jon Lovett: Thanks, guys!
DeRay: Hey, you’re listening to Pod Save the People. Stay tuned! There’s more to come.
DeRay: Most desk chairs we’re familiar with try to lock the human body into 90 degree angles. When it comes to healthy posture, however, there’s no such thing as a perfect position. We weren’t meant to stand all day, or to sit all day, and we definitely weren’t meant to sit at 90 degree angles in a stiff chair behind a desk. Our bodies were designed to move. And so while Fully’s Jarvis standing desk is the best-reviewed desk in the world, it’s just a foundation to a healthier way to work. Fully’s standing desks and collection of active chairs give you the freedom to move, stretch, and be in healthier, more comfortable positions that work for your body’s unique and changing needs as they change throughout the day. And I know because I have them!
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DeRay: To get your body moving in your work space, go to fully.com/people. That’s F-U- L-L-Y.com/people. Fully. Desks, chairs, and things to keep you moving.
DeRay: A big thanks to Jon Lovett for doing the news. Thank you, Jon.
DeRay: I got to talk to Congressman Water, who made history as the first woman and first African-American chair of the house financial services committee. She also serves as a member of the steering and policy committee, the congressional progressive caucus, and the congressional black caucus. Here’s our convo:
Rep. Waters: Hi. How are you doing?
DeRay: Good to see you. [inaudible 00:41:56]
DeRay: We’re excited to have you.
Rep. Waters: I’m excited to be here.
DeRay: So you have a busy day job.
Rep. Waters: Yeah, busy, busy, busy, but, you know.
DeRay: And what are we gonna do?
Rep. Waters: Well, if they listen to me, we’re gonna impeach him!
DeRay: Uh oh! There we go! There we go!
DeRay: And you saw New Zealand, like we all saw. Do you think that there are gonna be congressional hearings on white supremacist terrorists, or what can congress do about the terror of white supremacy?
Rep. Waters: Well, you know, I think we have never really dealt with the subject, and I think we’re getting closer to it now than we ever have. The resolution that came out, after all of the talk about anti-Semitism, it turned out that the resolution included everything from racism to homophobia to you-name-it, and that’s the first time that we came anywhere close to dealing with those issues. So I don’t know, but I think there’s a possibility.
DeRay: And what is it like now to be the chairwoman of a major committee?
Rep. Waters: I’ve got the gavel.
DeRay: What’s up with the committee? What’s on the agenda?
Rep. Waters: Well, you know, we started out with some of the issues that we had been dealing with for so long that we have not been able to get any traction with [Jeb Hinterland 00:43:24], who handled that committee. So I have a huge bill on homelessness … a $13 billion bill … and I had a hearing on that, and that was one of our first big issues, and every Democrat was right there in support of getting funds out to our cities and our states to build housing and have supportive services. So we’re starting out good. I don’t know where it’s gonna go, but so far, so good.
DeRay: And do you think that we’ll get these tax returns?
Rep. Waters: Oh yeah, we’re gonna get them. We are. We are. We’re gonna get them. We’re gonna get them.
Rep. Waters: I talked with [Neal 00:44:05] over at Ways and Means, and he was a little bit slow in getting started, but he knows that if there’s one thing that the people in this country want, it is those tax returns. And so he’s started … it’s a process that he has to go through, but he’s gonna get them. Yeah, we’re gonna get them. Yes.
DeRay: And one of the topics that a lot of candidates have been asked about has been reparations.
Rep. Waters: Yes.
DeRay: Do you think that we might actually get a reparations package or a bill? What do you think about the reparations work?
Rep. Waters: I think it’s gonna be difficult … thank you.
DeRay: Thank you, Sam.
Rep. Waters: I think it’s gonna be difficult, but the conversation has started again. As you know, [John Conyers 00:44:50] was the leader on that issue, and so [Sheila Jackson Lee 00:44:54] has taken up the bill, but it’s only a study. And so I think that we have a few people now … more people … who are willing to talk about it. I don’t know how far we’re gonna get, but I do think there’s a possibility of that issue getting steamrolling.
DeRay: Now, this is one of the most diverse congresses that we’ve seen in a lifetime.
Rep. Waters: Yes.
DeRay: A lot of new blood, a lot of young people, more women than ever before. Have you felt the difference?
Rep. Waters: Oh yes.
DeRay: And what does that feel like?
Rep. Waters: Oh, absolutely. On financial services committee, the committee that I chair, if you watched our hearings … for example, with Wells Fargo the other day, or the consumer financial protection bureau person that took over for Mulvaney … you saw the new members, those young members, who went places that I’ve never seen members go, in terms of asking real questions, pinning them down, making them deal with responses that made … they didn’t make good sense, but … they tried to make them make good sense.
Rep. Waters: But no, it was wonderful. It’s wonderful. Yes, I feel it, I see it, and I think it’s gonna make a difference.
DeRay: Because we are in your … this is your state … what should people in California be paying attention to? Are there any issues here that you wanna make sure that this set of people is thinking about?
Rep. Waters: Yes. There are a lot of issues that we should be thinking about. You’re right, you’re in California, but don’t forget, number one, we have some of the same problems that other states are having all over the country. This homelessness thing, and this lack of affordable housing, is real in this country, and we have got to do something about it. The secretary, Ben Carson, does not have a clue.
DeRay: He doesn’t.
Rep. Waters: And the resources that he’s got, he wants to use them unwisely, and he wants to increase the rent on the poorest people in the country, the Section 8 people, the people who are living now on subsidized housing. He wants to increase that rent. These are people in public housing, et cetera, et cetera.
DeRay: Do you think he’ll last all four years? Ben Carson?
Rep. Waters: Well, you know, I don’t think so. I don’t think so. I think, first of all, he absolutely had no business being there in the first place. He doesn’t have a clue about what he’s doing. He has failed miserably, and I think he’s gonna wanna get out himself.
DeRay: Are there any other cabinet members that we might not be paying attention to, but that their agencies are really doing damage?
Rep. Waters: All of them! Are you kidding? Look, y’all know [Manu Chiro 00:47:54] over at the treasurer office who wanted to mess with my time? You’ve got [Will Veros 00:48:03]. Did you see him on television the other day, catatonic?
Rep. Waters: Oh my goodness. Oh my … I mean, really wants to do away with public education? And she is really undermining all of these students who are already being cheated by these private colleges and universities. Kind of like the one that Trump had in New York, where he was supposed to be teaching young people how to be developers and do real estate. Well we’ve got a lot of those in California … all over the country … and she is supportive of them. They’re ripping off the most vulnerable people in our society. I’ve been working on this issue for years. Before I left the legislature in California, I created law that’s been undermined, and I’m going after it again at the national level. But this is a real issue that is just indicative of the incompetence and the lack of care of the members of the president’s cabinet. They’re bad. As a matter of fact, it’s a criminal enterprise in the White House.
DeRay: Mm-hmm (affirmative)! There are some people whose hope has been challenged in these moments. They have called, emailed, they’ve protested, they did all the things that they were told to do, and the world hasn’t changed in the way that they thought it would change. What do you say to people whose hope might be challenged in these moments?
Rep. Waters: Well, I am the eternal optimist, and there are many days when I am disappointed, I am discouraged, I am angry. But I keep going, and a good night’s sleep … I get up the next day and I’m ready to go again. And that’s what we must do. We must have courage, we must not get tired. Because they expect us to walk away because we’ve been beaten down. And we must have the confidence that we should have, that this country belongs to us … this world belongs to us … and that we are not about to let someone like Trump and his cabinet absolutely undermine the constitution of the United States of America, create division, and alienate all of our allies, isolate us and do dangerous things that we don’t even know what it’s going to mean for the future. So we can’t give up. And I’m saying to folks, “We really do have power, and we really do have influence, and collectively, we have a lot.”
Rep. Waters: But far too long, elected officials have been getting away with ceremony, and in the black community, we have elected officials that come in the churches, they learn some verse from the Bible the night before so that they can get up the next day and pretend like they’re so religious and they know so much about God. And nobody asks them any questions. They give their little talk and they walk out. Gotta stop letting people do that. And I would like to see folks have more meetings in their communities, call their elected officials, and say, “We want you in my backyard on a certain date. We’ve got 25 people in my block, in my area,” and on and on and on. People do not ask their elected officials what they’re doing, they don’t follow their votes enough, they don’t challenge them enough, and I’d like to see more of that. Keep that going. That’s where the power comes from.
DeRay: There we go. Health care. Health care was—
Rep. Waters: Yes! That’s right!
DeRay: There were a lot of town halls about health care, a lot of calls about health care. That was a big moment.
DeRay: The last few questions: what do you say to people who are questioning their role in the Democratic party? Where they’re like, “You know what? The party doesn’t speak for me.” I get that most people who look like me might vote along those lines, but they are struggling to find themselves inside the party. What do you say to those people?
Rep. Waters: When people have an opportunity to compare in the way that they’re comparing now, I think they’re beginning to see a significant difference. So whether you’re talking about the tax scam that the president did, or you’re looking at the cost of prescription drugs and the whole Medicare issue that still is unresolved … even though we have Obamacare, and it was good in that it opened up the opportunity for everybody to be covered in some way, but it’s costly. And so we’ve got to do something about that. I think that people … well, now that we know you’ve got to pay to get educated … I think if people are paying attention to that, and say, “Well, what are our elected officials doing to take the money out of education?”
Rep. Waters: And Democrats are the only ones who have moved to make community colleges free of charge, and it’s happening in some states. Republicans are not doing this. They look at a Betsy Devos and they see that she’s undermining public education, so I think that people are beginning to see there is a difference between the Democrats and the Republicans, but they have a right to question what is going on in the Democratic party, and how do you really get involved in the Democratic party.
Rep. Waters: Before too long … you know, the parties are made up … with county committees and state committees … but there are only a few people who participate in it, and I think people should take them over. And it’s easy to do, really. I think that one of the things you can do is you can take over your county committees, you can get on the ballet and run for county committee in your assembly districts. You can become a delegate. Go to your elected official and say, “I wanna be appointed to the state party.” Nobody does that. And so yeah, the state parties, the county committees can be taken over, and the Democratic National Committee. I think it’s a matter of people being energized and wanting to do it, and learn how the party operates.
DeRay: And Trump just released his budget. What should we know about that budget that he released?
Rep. Waters: You should know that it is a lowdown, dirty, nasty budget. You should know that, for example, in HUD, they’re cutting HUD by almost 20%. 18%, I believe it is. You should know that this is a budget that is undermining our ability to try and deal with the least of these, and with people who work every day, with families, we have issues in this budget where we have funds that go to the cities to deal with low-income housing, and to deal with other kinds of issues, some flexibility they have with the community development [inaudible 00:54:59] monies. All of that’s been wiped out. It’s been taken away. And so we are going through the budget, and we’re gonna go through it line by line, but already it looks nasty. It looks bad.
DeRay: And last question is, what’s a piece of advice that you’ve gotten over the years that’s stuck with you?
Rep. Waters: My mother was a very strong woman who … uneducated, but provided a lot of leadership in the community, what have you, and I think what she taught me was it’s all right to be happy, but it’s all right to be angry. And to be a angry black woman is a terrible thing. You know how they have demonized that. But my mother always said, “Be true to your feelings,” you know what I’m saying? If you go around grinning when you’re angry, something’s wrong with you.
DeRay: There we go.
Rep. Waters: So be true to your feelings, be loving, be kind, all of that. But when you are treated badly, when you are undermined, when you are bullied, it’s all right to not like that, and to say it.
DeRay: There we go.
DeRay: Everybody, give it up for our congresswoman Maxine Waters!
Rep. Waters: Thank you. Thank you.
DeRay: Don’t go anywhere. More Pod Save the People is coming.
DeRay: Since we talk about the most important issues of the week on the show, the people at Oatly asked us to talk a little about climate change this week, too, because of course, climate change is one of the most important issues of every week. And as we all know, it’s a topic that can feel overwhelming. Maybe because we feel like we’re just waiting for the politicians to create laws to slow down the planet’s current progression toward being uninhabitable.
Sam: See, okay, you’ve talked about climate change for 30 seconds now, and it’s already feeling overwhelming.
DeRay: Don’t worry, Sam. It says right here there is good news. We non-politicians do have the power to make a difference right now, and it might sound cliché, but small changes add up. Things like being thoughtful about how we get from one place to another, or if you’re not ready to go totally vegan, try just switching from cow’s milk to plant-based milk.
Sam: I mean, the fact that we no longer need an animal to make something to put on our cereal or in our coffee is really good news.
DeRay: And since we’re in the middle of an ad for Oatly, it seems like the perfect time to mention that oat milk tastes really good in your cereal, in your coffee, and it uses a lot less water, less land, and creates far less greenhouse gases than cows’ milk.
Sam: So if you’re a non-politician, or a politician who occasionally doubles as a regular human, and you wanna do something now about having a planet to live on in the future, maybe think about switching to Oatly. Or at least find out more about Oatly, the vegan, plant-based oat milk originally from Sweden, at oatly.com. That’s O-A-T-L-Y.com. Or look for Oatly on Instagram at O-A-T-L-Y.
DeRay: Next I’m joined by Erica Chidi Cohen. She’s a doula and author who thinks a lot about the role of race and bias in health care. She’s also the co-founder of LOOM, an educational health company focused on periods, sex, pregnancy, and parenting. Here we go.
DeRay: Please welcome maternal health expert and activist Erica Chidi Cohen. Woo- woo! Woo-woo! Woo-woo! Woo-woo!
DeRay: Hello! Thank you for joining us. Let’s talk about your work.
Erica C. C.: Thank you for having me.
DeRay: Now, before we get started, can you talk to us a little bit about your background and how you got started with LOOM?
Erica C. C.: For those that don’t know, I am the co-founder and CEO of LOOM. LOOM provides empowered education from periods to parenting here in LA, so our core competency—
DeRay: “From periods to parenting.” That’s a good line.
Erica C. C.: P to P.
Erica C. C.: So our core competency is health literacy and community building. I would say my assent to this work is slightly fracturous. I lived in the states until I was 10, and then moved to South Africa for about nine or 10 years. I went to college, and actually, before I went to college, I want to culinary school, then got my BA in art history and visual culture in media and communications. Ended up in PR and fashion for a hot moment, and realized that was not really what resonated. However, my father is a doctor, my mom is a nurse, so I grew up in a very clinical-orientated home. I’m also first-generation Nigerian-American, so … I don’t know if anyone … Hello! Hi!
Erica C. C.: That’s a culture where I feel there’s a lot of focus on moving into the type of career that is either be a doctor, be a lawyer, all of that. So I definitely moved more in the humanities direction. But what was always happening as I was growing up is I was always holding space for people moving through transitions. If people had health questions, they were always coming to me, and so I always felt very focused on women and the body growing up. When I decided that PR and fashion was really not where I wanted to be, I took a sabbatical, talked to my parents, and they both were like, “What about midwifery? I think that could be a nice place for you.”
Erica C. C.: So I went back to South Africa, took a beat, moved from there to San Francisco … we have a lot of family in the Bay area … and started to do all my nursing prerequisites to apply to a masters program to become a midwife. And on route to doing that, I found out about doulas, and what I really liked about doulas is that they’re not clinical providers, they’re lay individuals. It’s peer-to-peer support, so it’s much more psychoeducational, so I’m not checking cervices, I’m not drawing blood, I’m really focusing on the whole person, and I loved it. I decided to take a training under a midwife in San Francisco, and I just fell in love with the work. So that was kind of how I got to doula work.
DeRay: Now, in prepping to talk to you tonight, I learned about the connection between modern obstetrics … I said it right, right?
Erica C. C.: That’s right.
DeRay: I was practicing. I’m like, “Obs-ta-tet-rics”. It was like, “Whew!”
Erica C. C.: [crosstalk 01:00:57]
DeRay: No, obstetrics and gynecology in slavery.
Erica C. C.: Yes.
DeRay: Can you talk to us about that?
Erica C. C.: Yes, I can. I sigh as I say it, because it’s all very exhausting, but I think most people aren’t aware that the first women’s hospital was on a plantation, and a man by the name of [James Simms 01:01:18] is considered the father of gynecology or obstetrics in this country, and he experimented on black female slaves. And that story’s not really known, and so if we kind of fast-forward to now and we have these really terrible outcomes for black women, in terms of maternal health, but just in general, it really began back then. All of those medical fictions were propagated back then, so …
Erica C. C.: When I say “medical fictions,” I’m referring to the fact that still … and actually, I don’t have the exact data of it … but a study was done at the University of Virginia; clinicians were interviewed about implicit bias and kind of what their thoughts were around black people versus white people, in terms of the type of clinical care they were receiving. The biases were developed back then, so the idea that black people have thicker skin than white people, we have less nerve endings so we feel pain less intensely than, say, white people would.
Erica C. C.: And so you would think … it’s 2019, is that the year we’re in? That’s right?
Erica C. C.: We’re in 2019. You think that would no longer be prevalent, but it really is, and it dictates the type of care that black women receive. And so, for those of you who may or may not know, black women are three times as likely to die in childbirth than their white counterparts, and black babies are four times … actually, I think it’s six times more likely, in Los Angeles … to die under a year than white babies.
Erica C. C.: And so just to kind of unpack that a little further … one of the reasons why we think that the mortality rates are where they are for black women and childbirth has to do with implicit bias. And I’m sure everyone here kind of has an idea. The fact is, with implicit bias, it’s not something you can exercise out through introspection. It’s just deeply innate. It’s just something that you’ve developed over time.
Erica C. C.: And what’s really interesting and kind of fantastic right now is that recently a new bill came to the floor … I think, actually, just a couple of weeks ago … that’s trying to develop more dignity in the childbirth process, and … I think it’s senator Holly Williams … she brought this bill to the floor, and the idea is that she wants to make sure that all OB/GYNs in California have to have implicit bias training at least every year, every two years, or … yes. Yes. Very much.
DeRay: [inaudible 01:03:46]
Erica C. C.: Or as deemed necessary if they do anything that seems like they need that type of training in order to try and eradicate this issue. The fact is, you can’t get rid of implicit bias, because it’s so innate, but the idea is that … kind of like cognitive behavioral therapy, you can hijack the brain and keep reminding that person that, “This is how you’re thinking. You need to think about it differently.”
Erica C. C.: And then when it comes to babies under a year dying, what’s so fascinating about that … ’cause when I first found out about that statistic, I was like, “What’s going on? I don’t really understand what’s happening with that.”
Erica C. C.: What’s happening with that black women are having their babies early. They’re having pre-term labor. And so all these babies that are dying are babies that are born premature. And then we kinda trace that back, it has a lot to do with the fact that black women carry a lot of just innate stress, just looking like I do. And keep in mind, a lot of theses stats don’t have any movement, regardless of where you are socioeconomically. It’s just, “If you look like this, you are probably going to have a more challenging time.”
Erica C. C.: And when I was learning more about that … I remember my own story, that I was born premature, so was my brother … things I just hadn’t really thought about. So I think …
Erica C. C.: And just another thing to kind of tack onto that. There was a study done … I don’t know, maybe four or five years ago … and the study was around the fact that there are these chromosomal markers that basically delineate age, essentially … I think they’re called ‘telomeres’ … and white women and black women that were the same age had their telomeres looked at, and black women were seven years older than white women.
Erica C. C.: So it’s this concept called “weathering.” The median age of child birth right now is 28, and we all know … whether you’re a clinician or an educator … that the older you are, the more challenging your child birth is going to be, or there are more complications that might be connected to it. And so to think that just to be a black person … you might be chronologically 30, but you’re actually 37. All of these things play into it, and I think it’s just so important to kind of keep that in mind, and keep in mind the fact that racism is omnipresent. It’s not coming in and out, it’s constantly there, and that people that look like me … and also, not even just black women, but foreign-born Latina women … have a similar experience, where there’s these constant microaggressions that are there all the time.
DeRay: It is interesting, when you think about the research around the mortality rate of black women, we find three things. One is the implicit bias that you talk about. The second is how black women start prenatal care later than other subsets of women, and mostly because of the insurance issue. And the third that I was really fascinated by is that black women actually have their babies at a smaller subset of hospitals that often are the lowest-quality hospitals in the geographic area, which is an interesting stat. So you see these generations of women who they’ve always gone to this one hospital, and there’s a tradition, but the hospital’s actually low-quality, so there are people now trying to figure out how do we actually change the distribution so that women can get better care, which I thought was interesting.
DeRay: What are the solutions in this space?
Erica C. C.: Again, there’s not a one-size-fits-all for this, but I think one solution is figuring out what ally-ship really looks like. I think, obviously, doulas are important, in terms of—
DeRay: How does somebody find a doula?
Erica C. C.: There are so many ways. I think one way, you can use [Dona 01:07:25], which is a national organization where—
Erica C. C.: D-O-N-A. Dona International. And there’s also large doula consortiums, like Doula Trainings International. They have a really great registry where you can look for people.
Erica C. C.: But I think, especially for women of color, that the interpersonal referral is kind of where you wanna go, so it’s Facebook, it’s Instagram, it’s asking friends, people that have had experiences, in order to kind of figure out who would be the best fit for you. Doulas are available across the board, in terms of there’s a lot of doulas that you could work with that aren’t that expensive. Generally, regardless of ethnicity or … doulas do help reduce the need of interventions in labor, so that, obviously, is going to be a helpful thing.
Erica C. C.: I think what I’m kind of interested, though, in terms of the hospital setting and trying to improve these outcomes, is that doulas that are not of color, and providers, clinicians that are not of color, have this awareness that there is that implicit bias. I think that’s really key. And I feel that there could be a really interesting shift if we were able to integrate doula support with … culturally confident, so these are people who understand the environment that they’re working in, so doulas who understand the environment that they’re working with, to help kind of bring across the information and to really help keep mothers and people safe.
DeRay: Can you talk to me about the tampon tax, and what can we do to advocate for better in that space?
Erica C. C.: Well, I think just people knowing that there’s a tampon tax. Who here knows that there’s a tampon tax? Hands up. Okay. That’s not that many people. So now all of you know, in California, if you buy a tampon, a pad, a menstrual cup, it’s taxed.
DeRay: It’s not taxed everywhere.
Erica C. C.: No, it’s not taxed in all states, but it is taxed here. It doesn’t make any sense,
because obviously, menstruating, bleeding is a natural bodily physiological function. What we need to take care of it should not be taxed. Toilet paper’s not taxed. Also, Viagra, and also any kind of male performance drug is not taxed. So—
DeRay: Why are they taxing?
Erica C. C.: They’re taxing it because it’s a highly-used, replenishable good, so you need it every month. You need a lot of it. And if we didn’t have it taxed, we would be saving people that bleed … and that doesn’t mean just … and also not just female-identifying people bleed … people that are trans bleed … $20 million a year. So it doesn’t make any sense, and in terms of advocating, I think the first step is just knowing that that’s there and talking to … getting involved around the legislation and protesting around it and making more awareness around that.
DeRay: There is legislation to end the tampon tax.
Erica C. C.: Correct. It actually came to the floor, I believe, in December.
DeRay: That’s your homework, everybody. Be against the tampon tax.
Erica C. C.: No tampon tax. Tampons should not be taxed. They should almost be free. I mean, it’s just … right? It’s bizarre. It doesn’t make any sense.
DeRay: Now, two questions that we ask everybody is, one is that there are a lot of people who are losing hope in this moment. They feel like they have done everything, they have protested, they’ve called, they’ve emailed, and the world’s not changing in the way that they want it to change. What do you say to those people whose hope might be challenged?
Erica C. C.: I feel really bolstered that we’re having the conversation we’re having tonight. I think it’s just so important for us to detoxify the conversation around things that are not really being spoken about. I know it’s so intense right now, but something about the fact that everything feels like it’s being burnt down means that something good or something malleable is going to come out the other side, so I just feel like we have to just keep doing the work, and that we have to just stay focused on where we could go, as opposed to getting mired in what is happening right now.
DeRay: What’s a piece of advice that you’ve gotten over the years that’s stuck with you?
Erica C. C.: That it’s okay to rest. Seriously. I think, as a black … thank you, appreciate it. All of us should have a nap. It’s important.
Erica C. C.: As a black person, and I think even someone in your position, there is this kind of inner metronome to excel and get it done and optimize and fix and change and help and hold space and all of that. And it’s really exhausting. And I think when you are black, the baseline is stress, and so I think it’s revelatory to move away from that and be like, “Actually, I’m gonna take the day off,” or, “I’m not gonna respond to this email,” or, “I’m activated by what you just said, but I’m not actually gonna respond to it. I don’t need to.”
Erica C. C.: Also, I think metabolizing the fact that rest doesn’t mean failure. Rest doesn’t mean you’re slipping. It just means that you need to restore and repair so you can go on and do the next thing. So yeah, it’s okay to rest.
DeRay: Well, that’s it. Thanks so much for tuning into Pod Save the People this week. Tell your friends to check it out and rate it wherever you get your podcasts, whether it’s Apple Podcast or somewhere else. You can also find us on Twitter at PodSaveThePpl. That’s P-O-D, S-A-V-E, T-H-E, P-P-L.
DeRay: Thanks to Jon Lovett, Erica Chidi Cohen, and Congressman Maxine Waters for joining us in LA. See you next week.