Manage episode 293282725 series 121090
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Lisa Sharon Harper: [00:00:00] There are more who are listening really, really listening, not just hearing but listeningso I have hope because of that. I have hope because the response, but I am also deeply aware, profoundly aware, hauntingly, aware that the actual work that needs to be done hasn't been done yet.
Sarah: This is Sarah
Beth: And Beth.
Sarah: You're listening to Pantsuit Politics.
Beth: The home of grace-filled political conversations.
Beth: Thank you so much for joining us for a new episode of Pantsuit Politics. [00:01:00] We are releasing this episode on May 25th, which marks a year since the death of George Floyd so we're going to spend some time today talking together and then with Lisa Sharon Harper, about what has and has not changed regarding policing in America.
Before we get started, we just want to remind you to mark your calendars for our infrastructure series, which will begin in July. We have done so many interviews. We have our contributors working hard. Elise is introducing those contributors to you on our Instagram channel so you can check out who is part of this series as we kind of build anticipation to talk about transportation and water systems and electricity, as well as new infrastructure in terms of broadband and childcare. So lots coming your way in July. We hope that you are as excited about this series as we are
[00:02:00] Sarah: [00:01:59] So a year ago on May 25th, 2020 George Floyd died after Derek Chauvin, former Minneapolis police officer put his knee on George Floyd's neck for over nine minutes. The encounter was filmed and slowly made its way across social media and the internet until most Americans had seen this horrific encounter and it sparked weeks of protests and a, a reckoning in America about racial injustice and policing and our criminal justice system.
Here we are a year later, Derek Chauvin has been convicted and his sentencing will be coming up soon, as well as the trial of the other officers on the scene that day and we are still in the middle of that reckoning. We have lots of state and local changes when it comes to policing, federal legislation that's still being negotiated and debated and we wanted to go [00:03:00] through some of that here today and talk about what's happened over this past year.
Beth: [00:03:06] 20 cities have reduced their police budgets in some form. That means across the United States, a total of about $840 million dollars has been subtracted from what we spend on policing .25 cities have ended contracts with police to operate in their school systems. In Minneapolis, where Mr. Floyd was murdered, police funding has been cut by $8 million. The city reinvested $2 million in community-based violence prevention programs and a new mobile mental health team.
All of this is happening as American's attitudes continue to be in the L a bit of flux about what the right answers are here. Axial Ipsos polling shows that about 70% of people oppose the idea of defunding the police, including a slight majority of Black Americans but then if you ask if Americans [00:04:00] support changes to policing, diverting some police funds to community policing and social services, a majority of respondents endorsed that goal.
Sarah: [00:04:08] Over the past year we've also seen crime going up. Now it's hard to know, you know, what's correlation and what's causation given the pandemic, there are lots of extenuating circumstances, including, you know, the increased tension surrounding this racial reckoning. For example, Seattle cut its police budget by almost 20% and finished 2020 with its highest homicide rate in decades and increased response times. Just this weekend, we had several shootings in cities, across America. I don't think there's a major US city that hasn't experienced some increase in crime and so that brings a total different facet to the conversation because you know, when crime goes up, people are afraid.
I think safety is one of the most basic needs that people expect the government to meet [00:05:00] and when there's increased crime, be it, you know, burglaries or homicide, it lends to an atmosphere of fear and when we are afraid our public policy suffers, I think. It shortens our timeframe and increases our reactivity and increases conflict between groups who feel like they have to compete for resources or compete for attention and I think that that not to mention just the trauma and fallout and the ripple effect across these communities, as violence increases. To the people who lose loved ones, to the people who lose their lives, to the children affected by violence so we have this really difficult situation, and I think what's really hard about it is what you're seeing in policing is not just some cut to funding, but a real crisis when it comes to recruiting and retaining police officers.
It seems like instead of defending the police, we've really, you know, demoralized them and that to me [00:06:00] increases the crisis level reactivity. It's sort of the the worst of both worlds in, or instead of, you know, a careful and thoughtful approach to reform or a careful and thoughtful approach to defunding police if that is your actual goal, we're getting like the worst of both worlds. We're just, you know, creating a crisis in recruitment so that we can't take the time and resources we need to do either reform or a complete re-imagining of police the way we want to, especially in the context of an increase in crime, you know.
I think it's, I felt so hopeful at this time last year that things were really going to change and I still see that change and I still feel that we have made tremendous progress, especially when it just comes to this Countrywide sort of community level, understanding of race relations and the impact of [00:07:00] policing but it feels like if we're not in the messy middle of trying to figure out what this looks like on the ground, we're getting awful close and that part is very, very hard.
Beth: [00:07:09] I appreciate that in talking about the increase in crime and police violence, people are starting to recognize all of the contradictions that are inherent in this topic. I was listening to Ezra Klein's podcast with James Foreman, Jr. And he talked about how crime both follows and exacerbates inequality and I think that's a really important point to hover on. There's been lots of reporting about how Black communities feel correctly, both over policed and under policed. They did not get the benefit of public safety, but they get disproportionately targeted by police and so there are so many seeming contradictions that are true at once and I don't really know how to solve this problem.
I do fear that some of our best resources on [00:08:00] what we could do, especially coming out of this pandemic to make our community safer are people who are sitting in prisons right now. When you really spend time and listen to someone who has been incarcerated, especially someone who's been incarcerated for a crime committed out of just a set of awful circumstances and choices, they know a lot about what happens in these communities and what people need to avoid, to avoid life's of crime or to avoid that one criminal act that ends up ruining their lives. And I wish that we could get out of this adversarial mode and, and start to partner police officers, you know, and expand programs that partner police officers with people who've been incarcerated. I just think we have a lot of knowledge about this in people that we've written off. And I think people that we've written off often both want to and are really well positioned to help make communities safer.
[00:09:00] Sarah: [00:09:00] I think as we look at this complexity, the most important thing we can do is just name it over and over again. I think even the most fearful pro-police super conservative person should you find yourself in conversation with them about rising crime rates can acknowledge that this isn't simply about the presence or lack of presence of policing. Surely to God at this point in 2021, coming off a pandemic and a recession and an incredibly emotional election that continues to have fallout, if we can acknowledge nothing else, it's that there's a lot going on here and that we have tried.
We have tried doubling down on policing and there is very little evidence [00:10:00] that it helps and in the same way that the increase in crime rate is complicated, the decrease in crime rate is complicated, and I just hope for once and for all, if the death of George Floyd does anything, it lets us abandon this direct causal connection we had used as a narrative for so long that more police, less crime. You know, more crime is cause you have too few police and I hope that we can just release that. I hope if nothing else coming a year off of that horrific video and sort of all the fresh eyes so many people brought to this topic, we can see that like, there is more to the story.
There aren't just good guys and bad guys and this penal system that's really about punishment is not serving the community it's supposed to help and are doubling down on that system has just [00:11:00] contributed to its brokenness, not made it function more efficiently and if nothing else, I hope that we can in conversation with each other as we prioritize within our communities and as we, as we set policies, be honest with ourselves that there is a lot going on. That the situation when you were talking about human beings policing other human beings is fraught and complicated.
You know, I think about our own police department when I was a city commissioner and we had a crimes analyst, a person, a statistician, a data data analyst who really poured over the data coming out of our community and how that really helped illuminate things like helped us abandon narratives that weren't true and helped us see problems with fresh eyes and I don't think data is just the answer here. I don't think the story of George Floyd and how he affected our countries about data.
But I do think that [00:12:00] that moment and his death got everyone's attention to at least acknowledge that data or story or narrative or videos, or they're all leading us to the same place, which is, there are a lot of factors acting on both those being policed and those doing the policing and being honest with the ways that we act on each other and that there is still an enormous amount of connection between those two parties. I just, I really, really hope we can continue to see that because if we move forward into a time where crime increases and we go through the same approach that we used in the seventies and eighties and nineties, that is going to be incredibly disheartening.
Beth: [00:12:49] There's a lot in what you just said and I agree with most of it, for sure. That it is enormously complex, that the status quo is unsustainable, that it's broken, that it does not [00:13:00] prevent crime. We'd be a very, very safe country if we felt that our entire criminal system was working well. At the same time, I think my point of departure is, is the kind of more police does not equal less crime because I don't think policing is one thing in America right now.
I think there are vast differences across police departments in this country and that, that you do see in some places are reduction of police equals an increase in crime. You also see in some places that having more police means more government backed crime committed against civilians, right? And so I just, I don't think it's, I don't think it's one thing and that's why I kind of struggle with where we are in the, in the conversation.
You know, we have federal legislation negotiated right now. Representative Karen Bass for Cory Booker Senator, Tim Scott are kind of leaders in this negotiation. They express optimism. President Biden had wanted to get federal [00:14:00] legislation done by May 25th. That's not going to happen, but these three still express a lot of optimism that something will happen and something happening at the federal level is probably important and also just not even a drop in the bucket of what is needed, because policing is so localized and because different departments approach it in so many different ways.
What I think we really need to gather around as a principal is that a purely punitive approach to policing and a purely punitive approach to the criminal legal system doesn't work and so, as we imagine what the future could be jurisdiction by jurisdiction, you might have some communities where the police become really a harm reduction force, or you might have some communities where the police are really there as in, in that kind of community policing sense. We build relationships within the community. We have a, we have a beat on what's going on. We're able to [00:15:00] draw in appropriate resources where we see something going wrong.
I just don't think there's one answer to all of this. As much as we would all love to have a policy that passes and we can all say, yes, this is it and we're going to turn a switch and move from a system that was really flawed to a system that more people can see working well, I just, I don't think that's going to happen because it is so diverse across the United States and needs to be.
Sarah: [00:15:25] No, I definitely don't think it's one thing. That, that sort of, you know, I hope that's what we can abandon is the idea that it's, there's like a direct correlation either way because why human beings commit crime or don't commit crime is enormously complex and has way more factors acting on it then the presence of the, or absence of the police in their community. I do wonder as we look at this, especially when it comes to recruitment and retention of police officers, if I need to reorganize and rename what's happening, I [00:16:00] do wonder if the idea of police and I mean, it's like specifically, even the word police is, is injured beyond repair.
If we find it new words, a new description, depending on the community's needs with mobile mental health units or with investigators or with, you know, I don't know public safety officers. I, there's just, and I know that it seems silly to just talk about what we call things, but I mean, I think that's something else we spend a lot of time talking about over the last year and there's just a part of me that thinks like over the, you know, several hundred years of history in our country with police, particularly in some communities, like, is there too much injury? Is there too much trauma and we need to, you know, wipe the slate clean as far as like what we call people, how they're dressed, how they function and really [00:17:00] reinvent public safety?
Because it's hard for me to envision a time post George Floyd in some parts of the country where the word police, that's something people want to be. That's something that people trust. I just think that's, that's going to be almost impossible in certain parts of our country. I just think there's something when it comes to the video of George Floyd's death, that we can't unsee and in the same way, I, you know, I think about my own trauma surrounding school violence. Like school will never be a 100% safe place to me ever again. Now just calling the building something different, would that change it for me? No, of course not.
But so in some ways I think the reinvention of school we've seen over the past year with virtual schooling and being at home, it did it did, it changed for some people and some people felt enormously safe and they got to see it with fresh eyes. That's not true for everybody, [00:18:00] but, you know, I just, I wonder if part of what we need to reflect on a year later is what we can't get back in many communities across the country when it comes to the police.
Beth: [00:18:16] I think that maybe right and I, I do think as we talk about recruitment and retention of police officers, that thinking about what the job is and who is best positioned to do it, and what kind of traits we're looking for in people is enormously important. This brings to mind for me, this sort of political sphere, controversy over Ted Cruz's tweet, comparing a Russian army ad to the US army ad.
Sarah: [00:18:42] I saw that.
Beth: [00:18:43] The US army ad talked about us army corporal Emma Malone Lord and Senator Cruz compared that ad, which uplifted army Corporal Malone Lord and her raising by a lesbian couple in San Francisco and [00:19:00] lots of just kind of other aspects of her that showcase diversity and, and showcase the, the many people who have a role to play in the United States military. He contrasted that with this very violent and aggressive Russian ad, and he praised the Russian ad and said, maybe having a woke military, isn't the best thing for us.
And was watching his tweets about this thinking, like, imagine thinking that in 2021, a better depiction of a soldier is a violent aggressor than someone who really fulfills the U S military, his mission, which in so many ways has become more oriented to humanitarian aid and what the military does overseas, it's still a mix of things. For sure. We, we still do violence. We still do aggression, we still do war, but we also do a lot of [00:20:00] humanitarian work, a lot of infrastructure creation for other countries, a lot of just legal work across the globe and the militaries celebration of that, willingness to talk about it, willingness to showcase people like Corporal Malone Lord has not changed overnight and is certainly not put us all the way in a new space.
Um, we know that there are, there are major problems, especially with the way that sexual violence occurs in the military and extremist ideology grows in the military. So we're not all the way there, but we've seen this transition, right and the transition continues and it has not helped along by self-serving senators making fun of it. And so if, and I bring this up just to say, if we want to have a serious conversation about policing in the United States, about public safety in the United States is not helped along by self-serving people making fun of changing our language or rolling their eyes about talking about mental health [00:21:00] efforts and community policing and those kinds of things.
Like we just, I think there is a way to be a person who knows, loves, cares about police officers and, and who is deeply committed to sitting down and saying, something is very wrong here and it cannot stand and I'm willing, especially as we think about the fact that a year has passed since George Floyd died and we still get a new name every couple of weeks of someone who's been killed by a police officer to say enough of the snarkiness about this and enough of the culture wars. This is a topic that affects everyone, especially as crime rates are going up.
Sarah: [00:21:40] I thought what was particularly nasty about that is that the ad was based on a real person. Like what's wrong with you to go after an ad that features a real human being? But I mean, we all know what's wrong with Ted Cruz. I think you're right and I, what I would say to someone who feels very defensive [00:22:00] of the police, or just someone who was affected by the video of George Floyd's death and who feels like Derek Chauvin should be in prison, but who is very turned off by phrases like defund the police and feels like that's a radical notion, that recruitment and retention of police officers is doing that work in the worst possible way. I really believe that. I think that, you know, just really increases the, the tension and the conflict and the scarcity mindset.
If you care about public safety and you don't think there's anything wrong with policing, well, it doesn't really matter if they can't recruit police officers. If you think everything's perfect, but they can't recruit police officers, then that's still a problem or retain police officers and they're like this mass Exodus. To me, that that's something that, that particular issue should be something that we should all see as like, okay, well, this is a red flag and this is [00:23:00] reaching a crisis level in which we're not going to have options to do good policy, especially in the face of rising crime rates for the whole breadth of diversity when it comes to communities across the country.
Either, you know, communities that feel they're both over policed and under policed, communities that love their policing. Like no matter where you fall on that spectrum and American, it is a broad spectrum. This is an issue in my community. It was an issue when I was a commissioner in 2016. The recruitment of police officers was an issue then and so we have a problem with the system on many, many levels and the communities who feel it most profoundly instead of making fun of them, instead of being snarky or, or ignoring them or treating people like they're radical activist, I suggest we do some listening because they're naming something that is affecting every police department in this country and that's what that recruitment and retention statistics shows us.
Beth: [00:23:57] Before we continue this conversation, we want to take a [00:24:00] second for a moment of hope. A ceasefire has been agreed to by Hamas and the Israeli government. The Egyptian government did a lot to help make this happen in terms of brokering an agreement with Hamas to stop firing on Tel Aviv. There have been reports of just dozens of phone calls between white house officials, including president Biden with officials in the Israeli government. The strategy of quiet diplomacy seems to have been really effective here in calming this violence.
Now calming the violence does not solve the underlying issues and there is enormous frustration. There is devastation from the violence. There's generational devastation from the violence that has just unfolded. So all is not well. But for the moment there is, there is peace, at least a lack of, of bombs going off and for that, I feel really grateful.
Sarah: [00:24:58] Next step, we're going to share a [00:25:00] conversation we had with Lisa Sharon Harper. Lisa joined us last year after the murder of Mr. Floyd for what became one of, really one of our most downloaded conversations of the year and at the time she talked us through, imagine a world without traditional policing, as we know it and we invited her back today to really continue that conversation reflect on the past year and consider what that future might look like. Lisa is an author, an activist, a speaker and founder of Freedom Road, which is a consulting group dedicated to shrinking the narrative gap in our nation. She has been named among the most powerful women, religious leaders, and as a prominent voice in progressive Christian circles.
We so appreciate her work and know that you will be challenged and encouraged by this conversation, whether you're a Christian, practice a different faith or no faith at all. So here's Lisa Sharon Harper.
Beth: [00:25:54] Well, Lisa, thank you so much for spending time with us, again. I talked to you exactly one year ago when [00:26:00] Mr. George was killed. It has been one year.
Lisa Sharon Harper: [00:26:02] Oh my gosh, wow.
Beth: [00:26:04] And I'm so glad to have you back as we honor that date and what we all saw and learned from it and grieve that date and am really interested in talking with you today about where you think we are one year later? What is giving you hope? What is still to be done? What is concerning to you in terms of what we have, or haven't learned? So I'll just start with a really broad question. As you think about it being a year from when Mr. Floyd was murdered, how does that sit with you?
Lisa Sharon Harper: [00:26:38] Wow. Well, I think that one year ago before George Floyd was murdered, we already had a string of murders of Black people in their homes, while jogging, you know, uh, someone who had the cops called on him in central park for telling a white woman to, to leash her dogand [00:27:00] she accused him of attacking her. This was all before the uprisings and I think that what happened in the midst of the uprisings and this I've said this a few times, actually in various contexts, is I believe it was a time of revelation and that for people of European descent in America, I don't know why, but for some reason more people of European descent could see in a way that they couldn't see after and because of George, George, Floyd.
I think that the uprising had a lot to do with it. I think that, honestly, I think seeing 123 cities burned at one time, literally scared the bejesus out of white people and that's when they began to understand how serious this is, because it's not even just the George Floyd died because he died and at that point when he died, you know, there was marching in the street in Minneapolis, but it was after [00:28:00] 123 cities had coordinated. It felt like a coordinated, like we ain't taking this no more kind of moment. So I think that there's more truth being spoken more truthfully and more people of European descent and other and others actually who have bought into who have internalized oppression and bought into the European worldview. There are more who are listening really, really listening, not just hearing, but listening so I have hope because of that.
I have hope because the response of particularly white women after the work that we did last fall, in particular last really last June, all the way through the fall, that more white women understand that it's not enough to feel bad, that they actually have to follow the lead in action of people of color. I have hope because [00:29:00] of that, but I am also deeply aware, profoundly aware, hauntingly, aware that the actual work that needs to be done, hasn't been done yet. The actual work of re forming our public safety system, which we don't have. We don't have a public safety system. We have a penal system and the penal system is really good at penalizing people for things that probably should not be penalized. It should be cared for.
Just yesterday, it was reported that in Louisiana two years ago, a man, 49 year old barber by the name of Ronald Green, Ronald Green was driving and we do not know how he came into confrontation with these cops, but it seems [00:30:00] like he was trying to evade them, trying to try not to be stopped by them, by them probably because he knew what would happen and he was scared. He told them I was scared. I'm sorry. I was scared and he was completely compliant when they stopped. You could see it now from the body camera video that was released yesterday, but yet they taste him again and again, and again, and again. So much so that blood came from his body. They punched him after that. They pulled him out of the car, put him face down on the ground. They hogtied him and then his limp body, they dragged to their car, face down on the gravel.
These are police officers. These are people who are charged with protecting and serving, and they loaded his limp body into the back of their car [00:31:00] and dropped him off at the hospital and said, he got into an accident. He hit a tree, but the, the courner, whose name is an African name, he said, this doesn't add up because there were two taser talons in the back of his, prongs in the back of his back. He said this doesn't add up. It wasn't a tree crash that killed this man. And the video was held by the Louisiana precinct for two years and not shown. This man's body was buried and the story was buried until yesterday when the AP released the vide.
, we're seeing what happened then, and we're seeing what can continue to happen because it hasn't been dismantled yet. Those people are still there. The cop who, um, is [00:32:00] believed to have killed Ronald Greene is dead. I think he died ironically in a car crash, but not before it was revealed that he had done this to other Black men in the same area. So I, I don't know if I have hope. I have hope because God is, but I am also in awe of how behemoth are our task is. I just think we have to end it. We have to end, we have to end policing and I know, I know people are like what, but we have to end it and we have to build public safety, which is a whole different thing.
Policing is about domination and policing in America has been about white domination of nonwhite bodies. That's what policing has been about from 1705. [00:33:00] Public safety is about more light on streets. Public safety is about better schools, funding schools. Public safety is about ending poverty, really literally ending poverty and also creating more equity in pay because where there is inequity violence follows.
So public safety is a full org. It's about, um, more access to mental health care. It's about trauma informed healthcare, trauma informed education, trauma informed housing, trauma informed all of it because we are traumatized people, people of color in the United States and I think white folk are too.
So Bob Zellner from Snick says that he has a theory. It's called the, the shriveled heart theory that people of [00:34:00] European descent, especially in the south, had two and a half centuries of interacting with people of African descent in the same way that they interact with their hogs, that they were raising, in the same way that they interact with their chickens. Um, with their cows. They go out and kill a chicken. You have to wring its neck, got to chop its head off. You go kill a pig that you've been raising because the pig exists for your, your wellbeing.
Well, they existed alongside people of African descent in exactly the same way. Exactly the same way. They were thought of as mules things, tools for the betterment of white bodies but when those tools were built, those tools were put thru, they were broken, they were put to rest. And [00:35:00] when you do that, your heart has to harden and it has to shrivel. It has to become hard. You can't have a heart of flesh and Bob Zelner's theory is that the reason why we have so much violence that comes out of the south and other southerners and people of Southern descent, white Southern descent is because that hardened heart has been passed down from generation to generation.
And so in that way, some people would call it moral injury. There's been an injury to the moral compass of, of European Americans and others like Resmaa Menakem and My Grandmother's Hands but look and see white bodies have experienced some kind of trauma as well. The trauma of encountering that evil and also, it's not always focused on people of color. Within those white households where white men exact that kind of violence, [00:36:00] um, Black bodies and Brown bodies, eventually it seems to the women and those families and the children.
And so it does, it's not, it's not contained. So in that way you have a lot of trauma I think actually it's usually unspoken and hidden in white families. It's not always the case. Certainly there are white families that haven't experienced that, but usually those white families live at the very top at the very top of the food chain.
Sarah: [00:36:29] I think that hardened heart is a really good way to think about what I want to ask you next, which is what we've been talking a lot about here particularly when it comes to white people, being white women, ourselves is integration. So the lessons that we learned, and I think there was a real, what we do in America and what we do in an upper middle class, highly educated places, which we is we tried to intellectualize it, right. We're going to read all the books. All [00:37:00] the approved books that came out last summer, that sold out happy for them to sell out but you know, we're going to read that, we're going to buy those books at least and put them on our bookshelf. Right, right.
Lisa Sharon Harper: [00:37:08] Whether you read it is another question.
Sarah: [00:37:10] We're gonna, we're gonna by the books and we're going to, maybe we're going to read them. We're going to join the book club. We're going to police each other's language. We're going to do all those intellectual tasks and you know what I'm thinking about what we're both in what we both been talking about a lot coming up on this really, really important anniversary is, well, how do we integrate it? Because a lot of this is hard work. How do we make sure we're not just doing the homework and not integrating what we're learning into a full soul experience so that we can continue on that behemoth task and not think, well, we've read the books and we follow the right accounts and we use the right words and then we're done.
Lisa Sharon Harper: [00:37:53] I don't think it's possible actually for people to move forward from the learning. Everybody has got the good books. That's good. Keep [00:38:00] learning, keep reading. That's good. But our society will not change until you our feet move and I'm not just talking about marching. I'm talking about those of you who have businesses. I'm talking about getting some consulting about how to make your business an anti-racist business, and you might be sitting there, you know, clutching your pearls right now going, I'm not a racist. My business is not racist. What are you talking about?
Well, my, my word to you is if you have not done the work to examine, to really examine, to, to interrogate every system within how things are done within your business, from how you choose your customer, to how you choose your suppliers, to how you pay your workers, to where you go to get your workers, to the gap between the CEO pay and the, and the lowest paid worker in your. If you have not done the interrogate of work, [00:39:00] then how can you say it's anti-racist? You can't because racism is not about, it's not about what you think. Racism is about what you do.
Racism is about the systems and structures that make up how we live together. That's what racism is. That's how white supremacy replicates itself, secures itself protects itself is through the way things are done. You can be the most well-meaning white woman, white man in the world but if you have a business that is not paying your workers well, then you do not have an anti-racist business. If you have a business that only has suppliers that are coming from one ethnic community, uh, particularly white folk, you are not an anti-racist [00:40:00] business.
You might have a call, right? Like two white women. I get that. I understand that and I, that's not a racist thing, especially if you're leveraging that call to help your white women move forward and they're doing, and their work, this is your work. What is their work? Right. I understand that. If you are not working actively businessmen, pastors, deacons, church mothers, if you are not actively working to repair the housing segregation in your neighborhood and your community, the food segregation, the food, the reality of food deserts in your community.
The fact that while you might enjoy a really great Costco in your area, the workers at that Costco better be being paid well and actually I have to say that I know of some Costcos that actually have, that have welcomed [00:41:00] labor unions into the Costco and so they are being paid well, but is your Walmart unionized? Why does that matter? Well, it's because unions give workers the ability to negotiate their pay. That's the thing, it's not just about what book you read. Forget your books. I mean, really, even my book, even my book, forget it. If you read my book and then go vote in your local elections, your state elections and your national elections for candidates that are anti union, and also, uh, for protecting the, the practices of redlining and gerrymandering and voter suppression. If you are, if you read my book and then you go do that, you have done nothing.
You've done what they call performative justice. You've performed being [00:42:00] a just person. You haven't been a just person and here's the thing. Jesus said at the end of his life, Matthew 25, there will be a day. There will be a day when we all have to answer for, how did we treat the least of these and he was not talking about individuals in that passage. When Jesus said the righteous will say, when did we do this for you oh, son of man? And he says, truly, I tell you, when you did it to the least of these, you did it to me, that word righteous, there's only one way that you can translate that word. It means ones of equitable action and character. In other words, ones that level the playing field, those are the righteous ones.
Sarah: [00:42:55] I've been wanting to ask you about this since I read a piece in the dispatch by David French, [00:43:00] and he was pointing out that in the democratic party right now and this sort of, you know, I think the, the strongest, obviously the strongest party on anti-racist work and the strongest party on police, the, we only have two choices, so it's easy to rise to the top, but in that party, you have an, uh, an Alliance of the most religious groups in the country and the least religious groups in the country.
Now, you know, I break the mold because I am a white, highly educated democratic voter who also happens to go to church, which is pretty rare, you know? And then you also have, I think this new really interesting movement with Black Lives Matter, which isn't rooted in necessarily a religious tradition and the way that we've seen in the past history and, but then you also have Black and Brown voters, which are this incredibly important base of the democratic party that are also some of the most highly religious groups, that go to church the most often. That you know, are founded, like have strong foundations and religious backgrounds and I wonder, like how you think about that, [00:44:00] how you think about this allegiance, you know.
I think about how often in, you know, sort of certain liberal circles, that'll be like, you know, well, you need to just like, like you said, like Fitz, you know, sit at the, sit at the feet of certain people and I just want to be like, well, some of those people are going to tell you to go to church, so how are you going to feel about that? You know, I mean, I think about, I think about that sort of intersection because we have people, you know, the, the church attendance falling off and you have this allegiance between these two groups. As a person that sort of breaks the mold in some respects, it's really fascinating to me and I've, I've wanted to get your thoughts on that for so long.
Lisa Sharon Harper: [00:44:38] Oh, well, thanks for asking that. Actually, I mean, I have really strong thoughts about this. I think that, I think that people of European descent are streaming away from white churches across the there's no, there are no white churches that are growing right now. I mean, there are individuals I'm sure, but there are no white denominations or streams of the church that are growing. [00:45:00] All of the, all of the growth is happening among churches of color, especially immigrant churches and that growth is not only happening by people of color.
White people are streaming to people to churches of color, actually and I, and that's something I've been actually advocating for a while and the reason for that is because in the scripture itself, the entire Bible was written by people who were oppressed or under threat of oppression, including David and Solomon. Yes, they were Kings, if you've listened to me for any minute at a time, you've heard me say this. They were Kings of a dinky little kingdom that kept getting sad. They were not Kings of an empire. They were not emperors and, and, and in fact, they kept getting sacked by empires. You can name the empires and by naming that you kind of name history, like the history of empires.
And so you have this, this, this faith, this faith stream, this religion called Christianity, that is actually a Brown,oppressed [00:46:00] colonized religion that has been co-opted and controlled by white empire, which is exactly the thing to kill Jesus. It was white supremacist Rome that killed Jesus, Brown Jesus. You understand that? So I think that literally in the aftermath of George Floyd, that's one of the things that's one of the scales that came off the eyes of people, of European descent was our faith is not working. Our faith has nothing to say to this. We don't know what to say to this. It, there, there is nothing in our rubric to answer to this and yet we are the ones doing it. Like we are the ones who actually are voting for the people who are putting these structures and systems in place. And so how could this be? How could my faith have led us to this place?
So I think that a lot of people of European descent are streaming out of those churches [00:47:00] now because they have only been introduced to an only known white Jesus, white Imperial Jesus. You know, the one with the purple robe and the fake crown and hold the lamb but I nothing, nothing against the lamb, but you know what I mean? Like, but that that's the picture. That's the picture. And he looks like he's from Sweden, right? Because he was actually, literally, he was painted by a Swedish man who said, oh, he must look like me and so that's the Jesus that most white people in the world know, but it's not Jesus. So it's actually quite ironic.
So what happens is you have this backlash and I've experienced it, even in my consulting work. It is backlash against religion, all religion. You know, you have people who are, who are white, very well, meaning liberal and by liberal, what I mean is, you know, woke, right. And, um, and so they're all like you know, we, we [00:48:00] need equality and no, no religion here or there or anywhere because they think of a religion as being oppressive, which it has been in their experience. The religion they've been a part of has been used to oppress, but it's not, it's not true religion. It's not, it's not actual Jesus.
Meanwhile, Black people in those same spaces, I cannot even tell you how amazed I was during the Biden run for the presidency. The democratic party led by, by the democratic chair, decided to have hold prayer meetings online on zoom, prayer meetings. I think it was like once a week for like the last month, like all of October, um, going up to election day and even on election night, like we were, we prayed and I was invited to help lead prayer, but I, they didn't need me. Do you know that most of the people who were on that call [00:49:00] who were Christian were people of color? And they were, I mean, oh Jesus, God, you're going to help us come save us, God. Like it was all of that and a bag. It was like a bag of chips. It was like, it was, it was amazing to see the level of faith streaming from the democratic party. I was like, wow, this is not, this is not what's advertised.
This is not the face that is put out there for the democratic party. Instead what's put out there is this, you know, we're, we are the professionals. We, we, um, we're, we are the woke professionals and we're going to do this in a woke professional kind of way and, but you know, the people, the people of color in the democratic party are also deeply people of faith, almost all of them. So the very first group, the very first group that Kamala Harris went to after, after she was, after [00:50:00] they were elected to thank we're pastors. She said, I have to thank the pastors and I have to also ask for your blessing. I have to ask for you to pray for me to please pray for me. Right? So she immediately went to people of faith. This is not something that happens when white candidates win.
Sarah: [00:50:19] Oh no, because they bought the picture with Donald Trump and the model laying their hands on him. I was traumatized by that picture.
Lisa Sharon Harper: [00:50:28] That's what actually forgive me when white liberals win. That's what I mean. When white, when white folk white woke people, when, because they are thinking of Christianity as a white person's religion and so they think they have to distance themselves from it, but here's the thing. You cannot get and not just, not just Christianity, but spirituality, religion, you cannot live, you cannot survive oppression [00:51:00] without about something greater than yourself to hold on, to have hope in. You just can't. So the democratic party, if it is a party of white people, working for Black people and, and Latino people, then they might, they might think that exercising faith from that party is a good idea because faith got us the religious right.
But that is not the experience of people of color. People of color have always, always been the tip of the sphere of national and international reform, catalyzed by and held by and strengthened by our faith so you take our faith away and you take away our superpower. [00:52:00] You take our faith away and you take away the very thing that got us there.
Sarah: [00:52:06] Well, what do you make of the fact that Black Lives Matter is not as linked to the religious foundation as like past civil rights movements?
Lisa Sharon Harper: [00:52:18] Well, I think two things. One is that the Black church, as never, never, never in the history of the Black church, has there ever been more than 30% of the Black church that has actually engaged in freedom struggle. 30%. Never was there more than 30% of the black church that ever engaged in the civil rights movement and that is largely because of two things. One, because you have one stream of the Black church that actually developed inside of white church denominations and so there's a lot of, there's some internal oppression there, but then you have the other, other students of the Black church, there were really just saying, don't rock the boat. We don't, we [00:53:00] don't like, they were scared, so they didn't want to rock the boat. They didn't want to bring down hell on, on their, on their people. Right? So they, they were scared.
As a result though, now you're two generations from two, three generations from the civil rights movement, you have young people who are completely unchurched on the street because they have lost all faith that the church even cares about their lives because the church has not been involved. It's not been, it has not been there for them and as a result, They are growing up without the church and they're growing up on the street but to say that because they're not going to church means they don't have spirituality would be a mistake and the truth is that and I I've seen it everywhere. I've seen it in Ferguson. I saw it in Baltimore. I've I've seen it. Um, I saw it in, in Charlottesville.
I've seen it that actually, and Tracy Blackman said it best when we were in Ferguson [00:54:00] back in those in 2014, she said, you know, I used to think that the, that the young people were like without, without God, without religion, without faith, but that's not true. They're just holding church on the street. They are actually practicing a very deep kind of a faith and actually I've come to understand that this is the pinnacle, the most radical expression of our faith in this world is the direct confrontation against the powers that are dead set on crushing the image of God on earth.
That is, that is at the heart. That's what Jesus did on the cross. Like that's, that is the most radical expression of the gospel, of the good news that Jesus came to confront the kingdoms of men that were dead set against crushing the image of God on earth, the kingdom of [00:55:00] God and confrontation with the kingdoms of men. Well, nowhere does that happen in more pure form than in protest. Nowhere does that happen in more pure form than when our young people are marching and crying out Black Lives Matter to a line of police officers that are hitting their batons, you know, threatening to beat down the image of God in them.
And so I think in the, in the civil rights era, it made sense for the church to lead that movement because in that era, the issue of, of white supremacy was being felt in equal measure by the entire community, the entire Black community. It literally 59% of us were poor living underneath the poverty line. You had, uh, us being funneled into only a few different job markets that we could actually have. We get, we could be a [00:56:00] part of in the south. We could either work in as housemaids or we could work in the field. Those were the only two jobs, kinds of jobs that were available to us, uh, by law in South Carolina and possibly, and I believe in other states as well and so if that's the case, everybody's feeling it and what better institution than to hold that movement? The church, because it, it holds a cross section of the whole community but in the case of today, the clearest manifestation of the hierarchies of human belonging that are still rife within our, our world, the place where it comes up to play, where we can all see it, is in the police.
It's in police in the question of police brutality, who is on the tip of that spear, who is getting the brunt of that oppression? Young people who are on the street so of course they would lead. But if you ever, have you ever attend a Black Lives [00:57:00] Matter meeting, or if you were there for the Movement for Black Lives for, for, for when they came together in 2000, I believe was 2015 to begin to vision for what's the vision that we're working toward, you would know this is a deeply, deeply spiritual movement that actually is in partnership, in collaboration and coordination, in coalition with clergy who are chaplains to the movement and they are also foot soldiers in the movement.
Beth: [00:57:33] You've mentioned calling a few minutes ago and if your calling is to speak with white women as an example, and I'm wondering as we think about how to integrate the learnings of the last year, I think finding our calling is a really big part of that because we can't all do all the things and I wonder if you come from, if you're, if you're speaking to our audience and we have people of [00:58:00] many different faiths, no faith, lots of different places on their, their journeys and deciding what makes a good life so if calling is not something that has been a part of your life experience, how would you suggest people start to discern that call?
Lisa Sharon Harper: [00:58:15] Yeah. Well, another word for calling is vocation, right? It's it's what were you created to do in the world? What does flourishing look like for you? But I think in our, in our white, western mindset we think of flourishing as an individual thing and we think of, well, am I flourishing? Is I flourishing is now this is of course fictional. My flourishing is to go and become a great surf boarder, right? Like I'm a great surfer surf board, right? So I'm going to, I'm going to become a great surfer. Um, anybody looking at me with, no, I'm not a great, I've never even serfed in one day of my life, never once. Um, but that's my calling in life, nothing against surfers.
Right? But just to say, if you see that as your calling, [00:59:00] then you will work to become the best surfer you possibly can, period but if you see your calling in life to help the flourishing of all and your talent is surfing, then you will leverage your talent toward the flourishing of all. So you will surf in spaces that promote that, you will become an ad, like you will only choose ads for products that actually have that as explicitly one of their values, you will help promote the work of candidates and artists that are also working toward that. Do you see what the difference? So if you see yourself as an individual and you know, what I do is what I do and it's so that I can have my nice house and my two cars and, you know, and my backyard pool, like that's what flourishing looks like to me and I'm working toward that.
[01:00:00] All right. Well, You bought into a lie, because if that is your idea of flourishing, I'll tell you what else you will get. You will also get inequity in your society if you're not working towards equity and inequity will cause greater amounts of violence in your society, which actually will also mean that you will have to increase the amount of security that you have around your house and the level of anxiety that you have, you go to bed with every night will increase and the likelihood of there being violence in your life will increase because you have not worked toward equity. You have not worked toward a just society, one where everybody has enough. Now, does that mean, does that mean that you can't do what you want to do and flourish at it and do well? No, it just means that the way that you do it has to be in a a just way. It has to be in a [01:01:00] way that fans the flame of the image of God in all.
Sarah: [01:01:03] You know, it's impossible to detach the murder of George Floyd from COVID right and I think what I, what I hope happened is the sense and I think part of the, the reckoning and the realization was we were living in this moment where you could not deny that we are all connected and that any individual pursuit is never an individual pursuit and it, it always affects the whole that there is a hole and that, and I think that the visceral nature of the video and, and the way he called out and the pain and suffering was impossible to deny the universality of that suffering. It just was impossible and I think that's what I hope that we're coming towards a more, a more collective moment where the, where you exactly what you just articulated.
I mean, I think that flourishing. That individual pursuit is not flourishing of the whole and you cannot ever reach that flourishing for [01:02:00] yourself if the whole is suffering. I mean, that's what, like, that's what we learned, right? That's particularly what we learned in COVID like, it doesn't matter how great you're doing if the whole is suffering because it's gonna, it's gonna come knocking on your door eventually.
Lisa Sharon Harper: [01:02:11] I think that there's something that we have to acknowledge in our current world, a way that our world is different than it was even just five years ago. That five years ago, six years ago, pre Donald Trump, it was a common understanding that we have two parties. They both equally love democracy. They're just trying to do it differently, right? That the Republicans have one strategy for flourishing, for the America's flourishing and Democrats have another strategy for America's flourishing, but both it was given. It was, it was a, a ground foundational assumption that both parties are equally legitimately [01:03:00] for America and Americans, all Americans. Now, obviously I think that we can go back in history and we can see that that's not actually true.
Sarah: [01:03:12] And I think with the parties, you know, it's back to that same thing. It's instead of taking a very individualized vision or approach, um, where you're just a voter or you don't care about politics, or you don't engage a lot realizing that actually two flourishing parties are a part of the flourishing of the whole and broken party, even as a Democrat, I have big concerns of, oh my God, because we need both parties. We need two parties because you look, it's not like cities that have been, or states that have been fully democratic for generations have no problems. That's not true either. Right? Like that, you [01:04:00] know that when there's a monopoly, disbelief that like one party has a monopoly on what's right, that's not a recipe for flourishing either.
Lisa Sharon Harper: [01:04:07] No, it's not. It really isn't. Um, yeah. I, I agree with that.
Sarah: [01:04:12] I love, you know, a conversation that goes from integration to flourishing, because I think that that is something that we cannot talk enough about, particularly when it's around, you know, the events of last summer and the death of George Floyd and that reminding ourselves that this is a journey, not a destination, and that it is a steep hill that we are climbing, but we're climbing it together and not through our sort of individual, you know, my intellectual , but this connection of our hearts and our souls and so thank you. Thank you so much for leading us through this conversation. Lisa, we can't thank you enough.
Lisa Sharon Harper: [01:04:45] Thank you.
Beth: [01:04:56] what's on your mind outside of politics?
Sarah: [01:04:58] Well, it's summer here. I know you have a few more [01:05:00] days of school, but we're done. So we're working on our summer schedule. Now, I am what I like to proudly claim as a mean mother. I register for my kids for camps, whether they want to go or not. I make them read every day, write every day and do math every day on Khan academy and my middle child is just an open revolt. He says, I am ruining summer because I'm making him do 15 to 20 minutes of Khan academy every day. It's not even going to be every day. That's what's so ridiculous. Not like we actually stick to every day. If we do two to three times a week, I'm like we did it where it's a success but Lord, in heaven, you would think that I have hung this child up at his toes and I'm leaving him there for days on end. He is just devastated by this, this development, even though this is what we do every summer.
Beth: [01:05:50] Well, we are quite different in many things and my approach to summer this year is quite different from yours. I have asked Jane Silvers about at least 15 [01:06:00] summer camps. She is not interested at all. She just wants to be at home. She wants to play outside with her friends. She wants to swim. She wants to go kayaking. She wants to sleep in and I've just decided fine. That's what we're going to do this summer. It was a hard school year. I'm hoping that when they go back to school in the fall, things are going to be pretty normal. I think fifth grade is going to be challenging for her and so I'm going to let her rest and we don't have requirements about math in particular.
We do read, I mean, they just like to read, so that's not a hard one. I want them to read every day, but I don't have to make that a thing for them to do it. The screen time battle will rage this summer I am certain because I have let them have more screen time, like every other parent, I think in the United States over the past year than they've ever had before and I am finding now that they just have a reflex. They wake up thinking about, I want to play Nintendo, you know, and they, they wait all day. Can we play our switches now? [01:07:00] And so trying to find the right balance of that is going to be a challenge I think for us but I am going to ease off a little bit.
Jane is on the academic team at our elementary school, which, um, Chad coaches and I coach parts of it and that makes her kind of want to occasionally like practice quick recall questions and we do some math that way and we try to just incorporate a lot of like, you know, we try to find those teachable moments, as I know that you do too, and kind of keep them in a learning mode all the time, but I don't have like a prescription for, this is what I need you doing most days.
Sarah: [01:07:34] I mean, the issue with my kids is if I ask them if they want to do something, the answer's no. It's just their reflex. Like, so I don't really feel like it's an honest preference because it doesn't matter what I ask them them, the answer is no, unless it is play video games and so, and I told them that. I'm like that the problem is like, you would never do this stuff if I didn't make you. They always have a good time when they go. They always like make new friends and learn new things. But if I asked them, do you [01:08:00] want to do this? Especially Amos, the answer is no.
And also, I mean, we have a job to do. I can not have the three children here all the time while we're trying to record. That's not, that makes me, you would just thank you've seen mean mommy, until the disruption to my work comes. Um, and so like, you know, we're obviously we're going on vacation, got lots of like fun stuff built in and also that, like, we're just doing the Khan academy has like a getting ready for such and such grade and so they each took the like little quizzes, the course challenge quizzes, and they're already like 30 to 40% through.
So I was like, whatever, you'll be done with this in like two to three weeks. It's not even like that big of an issue and I cut the screen time, way back because it's like, same thing. Like, I mean, we, we kept our screen rules pretty tight except for they were using, they were also on the screen for school and so I've dialed that back a little bit as well, which, you know, went over like a lead balloon, but. I think [01:09:00] so. I think the summer camp thing too, for me is if I'm being honest is like, it's just a part of childhood I missed out on because I went to see my dad in California every summer. So I never really got to do any summer camps.
I was like super jealous and I always felt part of this like idyllic childhood I never got to experience, not that I didn't have idealic experiences in California. I totally did. It was amazing. I got to see like the entire west coast, but the camp part, I think is just such a good, no, we don't, we're not doing any overnight camps this year cause the ones we usually do got canceled because of COVID, but just like going into new places and meeting new friends and kind of exploring their independence and giving mom a break. We have, and we have really good options around here. I'm really excited. Griffin's doing a bike camp our local bike store runs where they like take them around town on their bikes, which is like best of both worlds because I trust these people so totally and completely with safety and like he gets to learn that and also gets to like go really way further on his bike than I would ever let him go.
But yeah, it's just the. Khan academy, man. Like, they're just, you couldn't make us do math. I'm like, yeah. Cause I [01:10:00] that's what happened to me. I was just forget, like I can do it, but man, that summer loss over those, like, I mean, we're talking at least two full months. It's intense. I would get back and I'd be like, I don't remember any of this. I'm trying to do the teachers of solid too because they're going to be dealing with people. I mean, I just, I try not to think too hard about like the spectrum they're going to be facing next year in the classroom between kids who like didn't do anything and still got passed through or that people held back or the people who did, it's going to be a lot. God bless them.
Beth: [01:10:28] Ellen is a yes to everything so I don't have that perpetual, no problem with Ellen. Ellen wishes, there were more options for her. She would do all of them. She's very enthusiastic. She's going to go to drama camp, which seems surperfluous for her, but we're going to do it. It's Jane that doesn't want to do anything and Jane usually does. She is more, usually more enthusiastic. I'm trying to just with her. I think my biggest goal with her right now is to build a lot of trust as we enter into her tween years and so if her ask of me [01:11:00] right now is to just let her kind of be lazy this summer, and that builds some trust between us that you can tell me what's really going on with you and what you need, I'm willing to do it.
That's probably just for a season, right? But for this season with her, I just, I, the, the shift in her age feels so palpable to me that it seems important to listen to her on this so I'm going to, and I do in thinking about teachers and what's going to be walking back into the classroom in the fall, which I think a lot about too. With my kids I worry not at all about the academic catch-up, I'm just trying to think about how do I send the happiest, most emotionally grounded, secure children back to school that I can in the fall, because I think there will be a lot swirling around them and so letting them rest up a little bit this summer as part of my, I hope formula for that.
Well, thank you all so much for joining us. We know this was an intense episode and we think it's important to just spend some time thinking about [01:12:00] where we are a year out from what was really a historic moment of shame in our country. We hope this episode was helpful to you as, as you process this time. We'll be back in your ears on Friday, with you on Instagram, Patreon, Twitter, between now and then. Have the best week available
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