“The nicest possible way I can put it”

 
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By Sarah Stewart Holland and Beth Silvers and Pantsuit Politics. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.
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Beth: [00:00:00] And that all seems like the stuff you want discussed in schools. You know, schools are a place where we got to trust teachers to walk students through that. Do I trust every teacher a hundred percent with the complexity of every issue? No, because they are human beings, but that's why our kids get lots of teachers and we teach at home too and there hopefully are lots of adults in our kids' lives who can help them ask questions and make their way through this stuff.

Sarah: This is Sarah

Beth: And Beth.

Sarah: You're listening to Pantsuit Politics.

Beth: The home of grace-filled political conversations.

Hello everyone. Welcome to this [00:01:00] episode of Pantsuit Politics. We are so excited that you're here. We're going to begin today talking about the department of justice and it's leak investigation and the inspector General's review of that. If you don't know what I'm talking about, you will shortly and as representative Sean Maloney said it is unacceptable and I think that's a good headline for that story. Next, we are going to talk about critical race theory at the request of many, many listeners. We get several people a week reaching out about critical race theory so we're going to discuss that in the main segment and outside of politics, we talked about the benefits of aging last time. Today, we're going to talk about the risk of aging and some of the arrogance that can accompany it and how we're guarding against that in ourselves or trying to, at least.

Before we get started, we just want to remind you that we are so excited for our July infrastructure series. I am most excited I think Sarah, to share this series, because I think that once you start really critically examining infrastructure and everything that is required to bring to us, the things we take for granted [00:02:00] every day, you can't unsee it.

Sarah: [00:02:03] Yeah, it does feel like it's the matrix, right? Like once you start to recognize infrastructure in your everyday life and think about how it's all interconnected, both to each other and to what we do every day, you can't, you're out, you can see it and it starts to infiltrate other like ways you think about politics, ways you think about policy, ways you think about community so I'm just excited to have that conversation with all of you. Also, we might sound a little bit different today. We're together. We're in the same space. I came to Beth's house with my children so that we could do a little work in person and enjoy the summer. Our kids could enjoy the summer together for a few days. So if this episode sounds a little bit different, that's why.

Beth: [00:02:46] So we were very cozy as we are bringing you this episode, and it's nice to be able to see each other's faces. So let's begin with the leak investigation. Here's what we know today.

[00:03:00] I learned that the department of justice in 2018 subpoenaed records from Apple related to several members of the house intelligence committee. So actual members of Congress, some of their family members, we know that one person was a minor because there sometimes in leak investigations is suspicion that people will use their children's accounts to try to keep their privacy protected. We also have learned, and we don't know if these two things are related or not that the department of justice sent a subpoena to Apple related to Don McGahn, the former white house counsel and his wife, February, 2018.

And that's really as far as it goes, but it is an extremely unusual occurrence and something that speaker Pelosi has said goes well beyond Richard Nixon [00:04:00] in terms of executive branch overreach and what we now need to know is what Congress will do about this. There is discussion of, you know, asking Jeff Sessions, who was the attorney general at the time, Bill Barr, who kind of put the accelerator down to keep this investigation going, Rod Rosenstein, everyone says from a high profile place, everyone says, I didn't know about this and that seems really unlikely to me and if that's true, I think we have even bigger problems requiring congressional oversight in hearings.

Sarah: [00:04:29] Well, in this story started. Even before members of Congress. We already knew that the justice department was engaged and back and forth, particularly with regards to gag orders with the New York Times and the Washington Post, that they were trying to seize reporters records as well and that's listen that that's bad enough. The department of justice pursuing leak investigations with the press. It got the Obama administration in trouble. This has happened in other administrations. It led [00:05:00] to new processes at the department of justice, where you specifically with the press have to go and get the attorney General's approval so it's impossible to imagine that we set up processes to protect this process when they're going after the reporters, which they were doing and then they expanded it to start going after members of Congress, which we're now learning about as well and that the attorney general or acting attorney general didn't know, that's just, that seems impossible to believe.

And I think it's, you know, it needs to be a bigger conversation about these leak investigations overall, when they concern the press, which has been an ongoing source of concern for people, not just in the press, but you know, in other areas and I think now that we're seeing it expand under the Trump administration, or we're seeing that it did expand under the Trump administration and members of Congress, then we have an issue and I mean, I think these leak investigations, they're problematic. You know, they are often not pursued. It feels a [00:06:00] lot like the investigation itself is the intimidation technique, because they're so hard to prove because once right when somebody starts talking about it, once it's leaked, then everybody's talking about it and then how do you figure out the source of the leak?

And it's, you know, we, they have pursued a couple successfully, but it's very rare. And I think this is, you know the fact that they went so far over the line, pursuing the records of members of Congress and didn't clearly didn't find anything because you best believe if they had, it would have been all over Fox news, shows that these investigations are really a source of intimidation and not a source of evidence that ever leads to anything.

Beth: [00:06:42] I am probably in a minority position here. I think leaks are pretty important to our democracy. I, you know, I think that

Sarah: [00:06:50] like preventing them or knowing them,

Beth: [00:06:52] No, I think having leaks pretty important to our democracy and I think preventing leaks is less a matter of bringing down the, the [00:07:00] entire power of the department of justice on people and more establishing a good, transparent culture where folks feel that the information that should reach the United States populace reaches the United States populous through legitimate channels. You know, I think. The, I think that this is a workplace culture issue to solve, not bring in the lawyers and it concerns me that in this context and many others are standards for judicial oversight of prosecutorial investigation is so amorphous.

You know, when you say, well, you can get these records in order just to preserve evidence or in order to assist with an ongoing investigation, that's too broad and we all know what happened here. We don't know what standards a judge was assessing. It might be that all of this looks entirely proper upon detailed review. That seems unlikely to me though and I think it's important for Congress to have a taste [00:08:00] of what its laws allow sometimes. I think it's important for Congress to take a look at this issue and consider whether we have two empowered prosecutors who get every message from us saying zealously pursue these cases. You know, I think we need to pull the tools back a little bit here.

Sarah: [00:08:18] Well, and I thought it was so interesting that all this starts to really accelerate this scandal um, Reaches new Heights on the 50th anniversary of the Pentagon papers. This moment in our history where there was a leak that exposed the American public to the fact that what they were being told about the Vietnam war was not true and it's an incredibly important moment, not just in the press, but the history of our entire country. I don't think anybody looks back at that time and thinks, well, that was the wrong call, either to leak it or to print it, order uphold the printing of it at the Supreme court and so it's just to me, that was like such an interesting [00:09:00] historical moment to have in the midst of all this, because it just, it feels like, and again, this was true.

I think there were concerns about this and this, this.Overall point that we get so obsessed with the leaks that we can't see, the purpose they serve. It was already, it was true in the Obama administration too and the idea that leaks are public enemy number one, no they're political public enemy number one. Like the politics of this is almost always leading the day and I think it's, it's not just because it's political players involved, but, but again, these, because these investigations are fraught, they're hard to prove. They're hard to take, to enhance grand jury. They're certainly hard to get a conviction of and so if that's all true, then what are we spending all these time and resources on? And it just feels like it's political intimidation.

Beth: [00:09:50] And let me be clear. It's not that I think every leak is a good leak. There are times when it's bad, right? It has consequences. It endangers people. It's [00:10:00] really bad. And I think that the greater risk overall to our democracy is cracking down so hard on them, that we end up with intimidation of people and press interference and an abuse of the judicial process. The other thing that's happening in the background, I think the Pentagon papers is such a good observation. It's also happening as president Biden is in Europe making the case that democracy is really important here in an era where autocracy is on the rise and while he's out selling that democratic ideal and trying to shore up alliances around it, we have at home something that looks pretty undemocratic. You know, when you have your justice department investigating legislators, without them knowing, that's tough, that's tough news to have in your headlines when you're out on the world stage.

Sarah: [00:10:51] Well, and not only. Pursuing the members of Congress records, but doing it like so far after the concerning like [00:11:00] information, I think that's the other really big red flag. I mean, seizing the phone records of members of Congress is not a red flag. It is a, a full five alarm fire. Like that to me is like, just want to emphasize again, that is not normal. That is very concerning but the fact that they were doing this I'll release investigations that were months, or even over a year old when leak investigations like, it needs to be soon because the information gets out there and then it's impossible to untangle that knot and so like the fact that the prosecutors, I think we're at a certain point where like this isn't going anywhere and then Bill Barr comes in and goes, oh no, yes, it is double down. Again, that's problematic and that's the nicest possible way, way I can put it.

Beth: [00:11:43] And probably part of the reason that I'm so exercised about this is that it, to me represents another piece of the puzzle in which I think privacy is being taken far too cavalierly across all of society right now and it's another [00:12:00] example of how much information a tech company possesses about all of us. I don't think it's fair to Apple, and I don't think it's fair to any of us that this much information can be held and that the government can come get this much information without us even knowing that it's happening and if it can happen to a member of Congress or, you know, it's happening to ordinary citizens.

Sarah: [00:12:20] Definitely.

Beth: [00:12:23] Before we move on to talk about critical race theory, we have a moment of hope to share. Sarah, you are super excited about a new vaccine.

Sarah: [00:12:29] Yes, NovaVAX has announced that they have a new vaccine. It's 90% efficacy. It's called a subunit vaccine. It's not an mRNA and to me, that's the really encouraging part. This is a vaccine that uses a type of the protein from the virus, piece of the protein from the virus, and to me that the fact that it's getting to 90% efficacy without being an mRNA vaccine is really, really encouraging. It's another one in the market. Now we don't do we need it necessarily in the United States? No, but around the globe, do we need another [00:13:00] vaccine? Absolutely. And so the more tools we have in the tool belt, especially as the Delta variant becomes more prominent. It is more dangerous and it is more contagious, but it is not weakening the vaccines response, which is awesome. So, you know, I think again, the more, the better, welcome to welcome to the party, Novavax.

Beth: [00:13:21] Next up, we're going to talk about critical race theory, which is something that y'all email us about every day.

Sarah: [00:13:27] Well, and let's just say, be clear. It's not, y'all driving the conversation about critical race theory. It is the Republican party who has decided that this is the racial, cultural, controversial strategy that's going to take them into the 2022 midterm. I mean, I'm not, I'm trying not to be cynical, but don't you think that's pretty fair.

Beth: [00:13:52] 100% and I think that most people who kick started this theory among conservatives will admit that. Uh, one of the [00:14:00] main proponents of the state laws that you see being debated and passed in some states just went on Twitter and said, this is a branding exercise. We're going to brand everything related to being woke, being sensitive to race, policing speech. We're going to brand all of that as critical race theory. The goal is for people to hear critical race theory and think that's bad and that's what liberals are doing and I don't want any part of it.

Now just to kind of go back and talk about what we're even discussing, because I think that's missing a lot, critical race theory itself isn't new. It's been around since the 1970s and was itself a reaction to liberal race theory.

Sarah: [00:14:42] Yes, it was a legal theory. There was critical legal theories and this was a subset and, you know, the overall idea is that for decades, we treated the law as this objective neutral thing and, you know, even when I was in law school, there were [00:15:00] still sort of strands of that, right. That the law was objective and it was just how it was applied and interpreted and, you know, critical legal theory and then critical race theory came along and said, no, that's not true. Like it's not neutral. It represents the priorities and the objectives of the people who write it and it's functioning within a system where there are groups in power and groups outside of power and so when we look at the law, when we apply a set of interpretations or theories to it, we need to be critical to me.

That's the part that truly the part that scares people, the part that gets everybody's emotions flared up isn't the race part. It's the critical part. It's the, we're gonna look at our legal system. We're going to look at our history and we're going to be critical about the stories we've told ourselves and see, which really holds up to examination.

Beth: [00:15:53] And so when you take that critical race, which has a bunch, it contains a bunch of different ideas, it contains [00:16:00] the idea that whiteness is basically an asset in our society. It contains the idea of intersectionality. It draws on a lot of scholarship and it is a theory, right? Every thoery is an attempt to describe something and no theory can describe absolutely everything and that's not the point of a theory. This came up as an academic concept for discussion and debate within schools, universities, law schools in particular, and now, we have this attempt by certain conservatives, and I want to make sure to say certain conservatives, because there are other conservatives who really do not like the laws being proposed to ban critical race theory from schools.

There are people like David French, some writers at national review who are saying friends, we have been against censoring speech in academic settings for a very long time. What [00:17:00] are you all doing? But there are certain conservatives who are trying to say critical race theory is essentially racism against white people. It is demoralizing to students. It tells white students that they have done something wrong, even as kindergartners and it tells Black students that the whole world is stacked against them and they cannot realize their full potential and.

Sarah: [00:17:24] It's purposely divisive. The point is to be divisive because, and here's the fun part, they like to say it's based on Marxism because Marxism is, we want to say Marxists, we want to say communists. We want to say, we want to fire all those keywords that push people's buttons up and they want to say, well, like this is, this is a Marxist philosophy, right? Is that you divide people against themselves and those divisions are a source of power for whatever you want to perpetuate. And so I think that that's a strand or that's a narrative you hear a lot and people who are criticizing critical race theory is like. They just want, this is [00:18:00] purposely divisive. You know, they call us racist, but this is what they really want to divide people along racial lines and that's what critical race theory does.

Beth: [00:18:08] And so they are also wrapping up in critical race theory, things like Robin D'Angelo's White Fragility and Ibram X. Kendi's How to be Anti-Racist even though technically Ibram X. Kendi and Robin D'Angelo are not critical race theorists. We're just using this term now as an umbrella for everything that brings up race and that makes race a focal point in society.

Sarah: [00:18:34] I think about that interview with Tressie McMillan Cottom on Ezra Klein's show, where she said, it's just amazing. We like spoke these things into the universe and now they're coming true. We said sexuality should be a spectrum and here and the kids were like, yeah, okay. And I think this will get into our conversation outside politics too. And so I, to me, some of this is sort of the, the natural cultural reaction things start in academics. They start in academia. We [00:19:00] push these theories. We say, this is messed up. This theory is more applicable and we write about it and it stays in the act, the academic setting, and then inevitably it drifts out into the culture and I think that's what you see.

That's what you see with the 1619 project. That's what you see. You saw last summer with a lot of the conversations and writing surrounding the protest After George Floyd's murder, you see this critical moment where, what used to be academic and what used to be theoretical sort of becomes more practical. It sort of spreads, not to use a viral analogy in the middle of a pandemic, but it spreads right and I think that's what has happened with a lot of the way we talk about race is, you know, the people who are reacting and are using critical race theory to name something aren't necessarily wrong. Right.

They are right in that things have changed and the way that we talk about race has changed and we reached a [00:20:00] critical mass in which when I was in college, talking about systemic racism was like something like progressive's did and now in 2021 talking about systemic racism is something, a lot of people do. That is a dramatic change over the, you know, the past decades when our, when our parents were growing up where racism became individualized, right? Racism was prejudice. This really dramatic shift, which accelerated a lot last summer that said, no, it's not about individual hearts and minds. It's about a system. It's about laws. It's about how people are treated in real estate.

What happened? And we're gonna talk about this on our infrastructure here series. What happened with the national highway system? Like this isn't about slavery, and then we're just dealing with individual racist jerks. Like it goes much deeper than that. And that conversation really did accelerate inside, I think, legislators and inside our culture, you know, both policy and societal and [00:21:00] I think that that they're reacting to that, right. They're reacting and saying, hold up, slow up. I don't like the way this conversation is going. I don't like the story it's starting to unravel that I tell myself about this country, that we all told ourselves about this country and not just like racism's individualized, but also that, like the goal is to be colorblind. You know, the lots of quoting lots and lots of quoting of Martin Luther king coming from critical race theorists' enemies, right?

Like that they were supposed to be judged by the content of our character and that critical race theory doesn't allow that. It makes everything about skin color and so I think that there's all these different stories we've told ourselves about race over time and the, and they're re they're reacting to the accelerated pace at which those stories are beginning to be rewritten.

[00:22:00] Beth: [00:22:05] it's hard to talk about critical race theory without bringing in the 1619 project, uh, the work of the New York Times and Nicole Hannah Jones in particular, for which she has won numerous awards and lots of criticism. The 1619 project, just to make sure we're all on the same page, as it central kind of tenet says, we should really study the history of America beginning with the first ship of enslaved people coming here and there have been lots of critiques of the work around the 1619 project. The scholarship, particularly the assertion that the American revolution was fought in defense of slavery and that is where you have one of the fact checkers on the project, someone who really believes in its importance saying, Hey, this was certainly on some people's minds. It was [00:23:00] certainly important to the Southern colonies and it was not the driving force. I think I'm saying that in a fair way, but this is the thing about academic work.

The 1619 project garnered a lot of attention and a claim because it was saying something new and everything new that is said about history is going to attract a lot of critique and debate. And it should. If I tried to put together the history of what Beth silvers did yesterday, even with unprecedented amounts of technology and surveillance around me, I couldn't do it accurately. Right. We're always going to be debating what we know about history and so when we talk about the school piece of this, the idea that people are running for school board to prevent critical race theory from being taught in the school system and state legislatures don't want kids to learn anything that's psychologically distressing or that could cause anguish. Those are some words from the Oklahoma bill, I think we are really losing the plot on what [00:24:00] school exists to do. It's important to learn about history and important to learn what scholars agree and disagree on in terms of our history it's education, not indoctrination.

Sarah: [00:24:10] Well, I think the problem is the 1619 project wasn't purely an academic exercise. It might've begun as an academic exercise, but it was not purely in an academic setting. It was published and disseminated by the paper of record by the New York Times, which people particularly on the right already feel like push a very distinctive cultural perspective and so I think that, that it was this confluence of this has existed in academics, this particular perspective was published and disseminated by this massive media presence in August, 2019. So you're talking, you know, less than a year later, then we have the murder of George Floyd and the racial protests and so that this conversation that had maybe begun that people are ready resented [00:25:00] among sort of the elites in the New York Time.

Okay. Well then there's, there's this accelerant that then now we have protests everywhere and every, you know, small town from Alabama to Alaska and I think that accelerant, I feel like it's, the elites are pushing this on us, then it's everywhere and then the 1619 project has sort of an educational component, right. And so then now it's now it's going into schools and that is this touch point. They feel like, oh, well it's now you're pushing it onto the younger generation, this particular perspective and instead of having a debate, because I can't debate the 1619 project without being called a racist, at least that's the perception. Now, then I really feel threatened and I can't say I feel threatened because then you call me a racist and I just think that we're seeing that sincere cultural reaction on some points and then people who are more than happy to exploit that sincere [00:26:00] cultural reaction for their electoral and political purposes and then now an and media purposes, because the 1619 project pushes as much traffic to Ben Shapiro and Dan Bongino and Blaze TV, as it does to the New York times and if they are not honest about that, then they are lying because that, that is a traffic driver for them.

They love the 1619 project, probably more than the New York times does because it fires up people, it gets it, it fuels that conflict and that fear that drives their audience and so you have people, you know, I think we have a sincere moment where people are trying to figure out what are we keeping from the story we've been telling ourselves about America and what are we discarding? And then you just have this intense ecosystem of media and academia and public education and, you know, racial protest [00:27:00] and deaths at the hands of police and then you just have all this layered on top of it and it makes it makes for quite a mess.

Beth: [00:27:08] I've been trying to think about what I learned in school, because I really think the measure of a country is how honest it can be about its own history and I was thinking about how in my really rural county, where we had one high school and my high school class was quite small, we read every word of the communist manifesto and it was wholly uncontroversial. I never heard anyone saying, but I never heard a parent saying, how could you let them read this communist propaganda? I remember writing an essay on the idea that religion is the opium of the people, right? And, and no one was fussing about that because it was considered part of our education and taking a critical view of what's happened across the world, why we have been nervous about communism in this [00:28:00] country? What good it did? Why people were attracted to it?

I am struggling with our inability to bring that perspective to our own history and look, I don't embrace every aspect of the most intense application of critical race theory. I have learned a lot from it. I am still learning a lot from it. I think there is a lot that it has to say that then purely descriptive terms about the world that seems right to me and it seems really important, and like anything, there are people who take that farther than I'm comfortable with and there are people who are rejecting it in terms that I think are completely intellectually dishonest and that all seems like the stuff you want discussed in schools. You know, schools are a place where we got to trust teachers to walk students through that.

Now, do I trust every teacher a hundred percent with the complexity of every issue? No, because they are human beings, but that's why our [00:29:00] kids get lots of teachers and we teach at home too. And there hopefully are lots of adults in our kids' lives who can help them ask questions and make their way through this stuff but I think these laws will go down in the courts as unreasonable restrictions on speech, completely vague and I think that that's not the point. I don't think anyone is trying to get these laws passed because of their actual impact on the educational system.

I think it's your point, Sarah, that people are scared and there are other people who are willing to exploit that fear because we let it mean a lot anytime you question any aspect of the most heroic story of America. We really personalize that. Oh, America, isn't perfect. You must not be either. Oh, some things have been unearned by groups at the expense of others. You must not deserve anything you have in somebody ought to come take it away from you. I think we're just internalizing all this to a degree that speaks to a lot of insecurity and loneliness and those are the issues that I'd like to spend time working on.

Sarah: [00:29:59] So I'm [00:30:00] reading Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, The Home We Build Together. It's so good and he has this really great section where he talks about the difference between history and memory. History is someone else's story. It's about events that happened somewhere else, sometime else. Memory is my story. History answers the question, what happened? Memory answers the question, who am I? And I think that's what's happening. We're not worried about history, right. We're worried about memory. What's the story we're telling ourselves about who we are as Americans. You know, the opponents of critical race theory, believe that the story critical race theory is perpetuating, even though I don't think it's perpetuating a story, I think it's asking questions, but the story that they're hearing perpetuated is America is bad and that means I am bad and they don't like that [00:31:00] and that makes them really afraid and I think the best direction to take any conversations about critical race theory, because the other story Americans tell themselves is that we aren't afraid and that we certainly aren't afraid of information and speech.

That we greatly value free speech and I think what I hear, sort of the strongest answer to these concerns about critical race theory is exactly what you just articulated, which was in America, we teach at all. We don't censor. That's what other countries do, but we put it all on the table and then you get to decide, you get to decide and I think, look, there's not going to be one answer to the question who am I, as, as an American? There's not going to be one answer to the question of what does the story of America mean to me and I think that we have to allow some [00:32:00] grace and some space to ask that question and maybe that's our story.

Maybe the, the story of America is that we asked the questions, right. That's the story. That's the story that's most important for us is that we push and we ask the questions and we push ourselves and we push it other and we challenge each other and I think that that's the most powerful narrative and that's, what's reflected in all of our history, but also in the 1619 Project and in critical race theory and even the response to critical race theory is that that we push ourselves and we ask ourselves the hard questions and I want to keep doing that in schools and in media and in conversations with each other and in our communities, especially around issues of race.

Beth: [00:32:47] And I think you're right, Sarah, that a lot of people feel this sense of, I can't question it or I'm going to be called racist. I can't, I can't breathe or I'm going to be canceled right. There is [00:33:00] that sense from the people who are arguing against critical race theory in school in particular, that we are setting up a no win scenario for everyone. I don't think we get out of that by censoring information. I don't think we get out of that by shutting down conversations. I don't think we prepare our children for a world that I agree is increasingly difficult to navigate. It does feel like there are landmines everywhere. Even if you are a person who mostly believes in sort of whatever Twitter believes in that day or whatever most people in the space that you're in believe it does feel like we are more and more pushing against each other on various ideas and there are places where you can reasonably say, it seems like nothing is ever good enough and that's hard and it does wear on everybody.

And I think that this is such an important time in human history, that we're doing that and that we're working through this and we're figuring [00:34:00] out what it looks like to live in a multicultural democracy. We're figuring out what it looks like to live in a society that is connected in ways people have never been connected before and I don't think we prepare our kids to get through that by narrowing what we talk with them about early in life. I really don't. I want to give some grace to people who are feeling scared and who are feeling this pressure, because I don't think that everybody who supports these bills is racist. I don't, I do think that there is an element of race baked into almost everything that we do and that we're not always aware of it and that we're trying to bring greater awareness of it. I think both of those things are true.

Not everyone fighting this is racist, in their motivation for fighting against this bill and race is part of just about everything and we need to recognize that and by the way, I think race is part of just about everything and that's true outside of the United States as well. I don't think that the [00:35:00] problem of white supremacy is uniquely American. I don't think the institution of slavery is uniquely American. I think people need to hear that because I do feel like there's a segment of the population that thinks we're just beating on America all the time in ways that lack a global perspective and I don't think they're wrong and also I want to hold America to a higher standard and I want to work through these issues and I want to have honest conversations about them and tightening anywhere, which is what this movement against critical race theory feels like to me, a tightening. We want to hold onto our story as tightly as we can. We want to hold on to the control over what our kids here. We want to hold on to the way that we identify in terms of ourselves and our own worth and goodness, and integrity.And I just don't think tightening accomplishes what people of good faith are trying to accomplish here.

Sarah: [00:35:56] Well, and you know, I have some [00:36:00] sympathy for the idea that it's never good enough, but also I feel that coming from the right too. It doesn't matter what you propose. You're still a Marxist. It doesn't matter what you want to do. You're still a radical. It doesn't matter what you say about race or sexism or anything. You're still a woke activist and so, you know, there's a part of me that's like, well, you do it too. So, I mean, maybe there needs to be some space for all of us to recognize that we lean on that particular strategy a little too hard for sure on Twitter, but like, I just, you know, I think that that's part of what happens in conversations where we're bumping up against something really hard.

We have to, we have to fall back on old stereotypes. We have to fall back on linguistic crutches, right. Because there aren't exactly words to name, what we're trying to do. There aren't we're, we're, we're moving into move space in new spaces. We're trying to figure out new things and languages limiting and so, you know, when there, when we're doing something hard, [00:37:00] that makes everybody afraid, we're going to lean on. I know you are, but what am I? Right. So I think it's just, that's what we're looking at right now, recognizing that one side of this argument does not hold, you know, the moral monopoly and also what we're talking about is not just ethics and morals. Right? There's a lot going on here. It's cultural, it's policy, it's education, it's politics, it's power, it's race, it's history, it's memory, it's religion, it's story, it's all those things and so, you know, to recognize that even when the argument seems ignorant, which sometimes it does, I think is important.

Beth: [00:37:43] Yeah. I think that if tightening is a strategy that you use to maintain control, you're probably not doing it in only one sphere and it is not surprising to me, sadly, that some of the most vigorous opposition, uh, to critical race theory, [00:38:00] being taught in schools comes from the faith that I grew up in, because the faith that I grew up in has a desire for rules. There's for a lot of rules and a lot of order and a sense that we never really measure up and I can see when you believe that you never really measure up and you're fundamentally flawed, that adding ways in which you might be flawed that you're not in control of really disrupts your worldview and really adds a level of pressure that feels unsustainable and that makes me sad.

I feel a lot of grief about the conversations that we're having about this topic. Grief that there are divisions within white people and people of color about how to take these theories. About what it means for all of us as we look at ourselves, because make no mistake, there are people of color who are vigorous critics of critical race theory as well, [00:39:00] right. Not everyone lockstep about any of this and I think that's good and important, but it's also hard and it makes me sad to see the strain that people are living with imposed on this debate.

Sarah: [00:39:12] Yeah. Well, and I think, you know, we are talking about this very much through the thrive community lens, right? Through a national lens, there are cultural lens, but I think the other big strand that runs through this conversation is this sort of individual versus systems, right? That the opponents of critical race theory feel like it perpetuates the idea that individuals don't have any control over their lives and like, you hear this in a lot of debates between liberals and conservatives. That there are systems in play, if you're a liberal that you want recognized, that you want regulated, that you want torn down, that you want defunded dare I say, and the conservative answer is responsibility, right?

It's this debate between [00:40:00] what matters, what affects our lives, the power of systems or the responsibility that come with individual choices? I'm not breaking any fresh ground here. It's both. It's like, you know, nature versus nurture. We don't have to pick one. Both. That's what we're learning is that it is a complex interplay of both systems and I think, again, I think that's why the part that gets people riled up is the critical part, because it's a hard, complicated analysis to say that we are both influenced by our individual choices and responsibilities and the systems through which we make those individual choices and, you know, sort of critically thinking about those things instead of saying, oh, just common sense, easy peasy that one is right, and one is wrong instead of saying there's power at work here.

And the systemic racism that influences Black and Brown people is also used to maintain power in ways of class and status, [00:41:00] right? Like that, that is a flow of power that influences lots of people, not just Black and Brown people. We both listened to an episode of Dan Crenshaw's podcast, where they talked about critical race theory and there was lots of, oh, it's obvious. It's common sense. We can all see it and like with all due respect there, wasn't a lot of critical thinking going on in that conversation and I listened to the entire thing. Then I turned to The Weeds, which is like a deep exactly what it says, into the weeds, policy conversation and the conversation they had about critical race theory was like, could not be more different. It was etymological. It was, you know, very intellectual, very academic and like it should be and one of my favorite things, the guy said is like, just because you've lived in America, doesn't mean you're an expert on race theory.

Like this is like a complex academic exercise and I think, look, the risk of the [00:42:00] 1619 project is that it took something that is deeply academic that involves a certain level of expertise and said, oh, let's make it, you know, palatable for the masses and there is risk involved. Not saying it's not worth it because I think it is, but when you take in a conversation that is deeply academic and that requires some expertise and invite America along for the ride, you're going to get some pushback because not everybody's up for that. Just because you live in America, doesn't make you an expert on race theory and like, I think that's what we're seeing right now is this is a, this is a, a tool of critical thinking, really, really deep philosophical conversations about individualism and systems of power and that's a big lift in some parts of not only our media environment, but our communities.

Beth: [00:42:53] And I think that's both part of the path forward here and part of the problem. [00:43:00] It's part of the path forward and recognizing that we aren't all equipped to get to the bottom of what critical race theory is about and there is an element of needing to trust people in education, to know when and how to bring those things to our kids. Part of the problem is, that same strain of this belongs within a certain population makes people feel excluded and makes people feel attacked. We take that sentence.

Sarah: [00:43:26] Which is not exactly trust-building.

Beth: [00:43:28] Which is not exactly trust-building. We take that sense of, Hey, it's a big lift to talk about why we're here and how we relate to each other and we make it mean, you're too stupid to do that work with us and that means you're not valuable and that means we're going to continue to push you down and take whatever we can get from you to make our lives better and people feeling that aren't wrong either. You know, we're just living in a really complicated time and that's a frustrating conclusion. You know, I know we have some listeners who [00:44:00] watched a beloved, experienced school board member lose a seat over critical race theory and hearing we're living in a complex time is no constellation.

It's hard for me to know how to leave anybody with an action item here, because I just don't think we're at that part of the story yet. For my part, I want to continue to learn as much as I can about race, because I did not learn about it in school. I did not learn about the Tulsa massacre until I was in my thirties. That's a travesty and I'm not mad at any of my teachers for it because there are people operating in a context too and that's where I think there is a measure of grace in taking the systemic perspective, because if I didn't take the perspective that some racism is built in to just about everything, then I would have to be mad at every history teacher I ever had for not talking to me about this, right.

So, a measure of grace helps me see [00:45:00] why I didn't learn these things. And it also makes me committed to learning them now and to making sure that my children learn them. That's part of it for me and another part of it for me is talking about the importance of speech and debate in education and I know that there are conservatives who are very much here for that conversation cause they've been upset about speakers being dis-invited from campuses for a long time. So let's have that discussion. I think we just got to keep talking to each other about this stuff because it is not going away. This is a branding exercise that has worked. Clearly it's sticking and so how do we move through that?

Sarah: [00:45:37] I think for me, just I'm a person who deeply values history. I think it is important to have a conversation, like Rabbi Sacks describes in his book about who are we? And I think as an American, you know, we have a strong foundation of freedom of speech, and I think exactly emphasizing the need for information and debate is important and I do wonder if part of that needs to be that who we are as [00:46:00] Americans needs to be more trustful of expertise. Look, this is not the first time in American history, even in recent American history, since I've been alive, that we've decided that we are distrustful of expertise and I don't know where that comes from, but I'd like to start chipping away at it because we all have expertise in our lives.

If you don't like the sound of elite academics talking about the story of America. Cool, but I bet whatever you do in your life, you have people walking in with a squint quick Google search, acting like they're an expertise in your job and you don't like it either. We all have expertise and we have experience when people roll in fresh off a Google search, acting like they know what we do every day in and out, and it's frustrating and that's okay. The strength of the diversity of our country is not just in the diversity of our ethnicities, but the diversity of our expertise and like sometimes letting the expertise lead the way and that includes in really hard conversations about race. I think some of the biggest mistakes we make is not just [00:47:00] listening to, you know, academics, but not listening to people with the lived experience.

The polling that drives me crazy is white people telling at Black people, what it's like to be Black in America and I think one of the like frustrating threads of this conversation about critical race theory is this idea it should be left to families. Oh yeah. I think that's worked really well. White families teaching their white children what it's like to be Black in America. No, we don't need. That should stop. We should not do that. Some people are experts in information. Some people are experts in their own damn experiences and we should listen to them. In these conversations about critical race theory, we can lean on the strong American narratives about freedom of speech and we can create new American narratives about asking hard questions and depending on expertise and trusting each other to be experts in our own experience and I think that's something that we can really lean on in these contexts.

Beth: [00:47:53] And like, along with developing a sense of where expertise belongs and where it should be questioned, because there are [00:48:00] certainly times when it should be questioned as well. I think developing our emotional intelligence cannot be understated. Sarah and I've been talking about, um, artificial intelligence quite a lot lately and I keep thinking, I don't know if we have the emotional intelligence socially to engage with these questions. These are big, hard questions and require a ton of grounded-ness and resilience and I think developing that alongside these conversations is some of the most important work that we can do.

I wanted to talk with you, Sarah, about, I wanted to kind of revisit our conversation from our last outside of politics segment. We were celebrating the, uh, 1991 folks who are turning 30 this year and talking about how great it is to be entering our [00:49:00] forties, because age really helps you settle in and feel more comfortable in your own life and right after we had that discussion, I was finishing reading Harry Potter and the order of the Phoenix with Jane my ten-year-old and I know that everybody has feelings about the writer of the Harry Potter.

So I will just acknowledge that and offer my view that I am deeply disappointed in much of what she has said publicly about transgender individuals and also that I think art is transcendent and that these books are valuable and they prompt really valuable discussions in my life and so with that asterisks, I really love Dumbledore is reflection at the end of the order of the Phoenix, about the arrogance of age and how he has with Harry made a lot of old man's mistakes because he has withheld information from Harry that he should have shared and he was imposing on Harry his own [00:50:00] ideas about what he could handle and what he couldn't handle and when, and how it would feel to learn certain things.

And I just thought it was a really good counterpoint to the conversation we were having. Not that there's a tension between these two ideas, but that in addition to. Feeling really comfortable and grounded as I get older, I also need to kind of actively resist the arrogance that can accompany getting older and I noticed you doing that in a recent conversation we had. Several of them actually, where people will say something kind of disparaging about the way that kids get news or kids interact online or the use of TikTok and you're really good at saying like, hold on. There's a whole lot of value here and I think that's just, that kind of resistance of the arrogance of old age is an important practice.

Sarah: [00:50:47] Yeah. I'm not trying to bust on TikTok. First of all, I'm not trying to come into the fire. I don't want to be looped into cringe, cringe culture, along with Lin Manuel Miranda on TikTok but I think that it's hard. It's hard not to lean to the arrogance of age [00:51:00] when you have a 12 year old who acts like you never know what you're talking about, right? Like that thing, that that's part of it is this sense, especially when you're parenting of like I, to this week on my kids, I just went off and I was like, why am I even here? If you think I'm wrong about everything, maybe you can just raise yourself because clearly everything I've asked you to do, everything I suggest is wrong and so it's hard not to like, Feel like you're always in defense of your own knowledge, not to like lean all the way in and think you're always right, because you have experiences.

And it's just, you know, it's a constant reminder that the world that I experienced is gone, right and it's a new world and applying the conclusions I've made or the categories that I've formed, they're just no longer relevant in so many ways and, you know, I can hopefully draw lessons that are still applicable, but it's so hard not to lean into those same categories and not to think that [00:52:00] because, you know, I had a bad experience on Facebook, or I think that Facebook is problematic, that every social media platform is problematic in the same ways, right. It's like we build those critical skills and that's the only critical lesson we can apply and I think that's just, it's just really hard. I just don't want to be, I don't want to harden with age. I don't want to be a person who can't see the ways that the world is changing right in front of my eyes.

But I think that, you know, I was thinking this week about getting older and how there's also just hopefully that the humility that comes from realizing that the list of regrets gets longer, the list of things you look back on and you think, I would have done that different, or I wish I'd done that different or there's not going to be a do over. Like that mistake was made and it's just, it's hard and it's hard not to let that make you brittle instead of pliable.

Beth: [00:52:58] And I think the other [00:53:00] opportunity, if you can do it for yourself, you can do it for your kids, is to look back on some of those hardest moments of being younger and think, wow, that was hard. That was a lot for you. Of course, you didn't know how to handle that. Of course you felt this way. Of course you were afraid of that and I find that the more that I'm able to see my own childhood and youth through that lens, the more grace I have with my daughters and that's something I want to practice all the time and I just want to make sure that I'm learning as much from them as they are from me and not only learning from them about myself, which is I think a huge part of parenting right? You learn so much about yourself from your kids, but also that I'm learning about the world from them.

They say some interesting things. They ask some interesting questions. They have some beautiful insights. Ella the other day said, the trees just keep whispering and I want to know what they're talking about and I posted on Twitter. That's my [00:54:00] favorite take on cicadas now. Um, but I love that perspective and I want to be awake to it and I want that to not just apply to my children, but to. All of the people who are younger than I am. Including people who get their news differently, who are falling into generational stereotypes just like I do, the people who are rolling their eyes that of course an elder millennial is bringing up Harry Potter. Like all of that is okay and all of it belongs together.

And I think the more that I can see that see the value of every point along the spectrum of age, the kinder I'm going to be kind of in the deepest layers of myself and the more open I'm going to be and I think that circles back to that sense of how do we handle something like critical race theory, that's so challenging, that can create a lot of anguish, that is hard to think about and that makes you question yourself. I think it's keeping that softness of experience.

Sarah: [00:54:57] Yeah. I mean, I just have to always watch myself because I want to do [00:55:00] it right. I want to do it right. I showed Griffin, uh, Instagram reel about teenagers and parenting teenagers and he said, just because you show me all this psychological stuff doesn't mean I'm going to feel any different and I thought, yeah, you're right. Like I wanna, I want to hack it. Right. I want to be able to like, bring all the clarity and lessons that all these experts available to me can provide and what, like eliminate the struggle. It doesn't work like that. I really wish it did, but it doesn't, the struggle is inherent in, you know, parenting and aging and the whole thing and it's just, it's, it's hard to both see your way through that while shepherding someone else as well, without leaning on age as a sort of expertise, instead of just an added layer of perspective. I think it's just, instead of saying, this is how I experienced it, and this is how I see things. It's hard not to [00:56:00] just go, well, this is how things are, and I have to catch myself all the time, but you know, having three young kids who will we'll call you out on it constantly is pretty, is pretty helpful.

Beth: [00:56:12] My risk is always thinking if I can show everybody that I care and I'm trying, that should do it and a lot of what I'm learning from a younger generation is like, sometimes they don't care if I care, they just want things done and the sort of intention or desire of my heart is irrelevant compared to their lived reality every day and that's an important lesson too. So, lots to think about as we are, uh, advancing in years, all of us every day. Um, and we hope that this discussion prompted some things for you to think about as well, that are valuable to your life.

Thank you for sitting and talking with us about the hard stuff. We'll be back with you here again on Friday and in lots of other places between now and then. You can check the show notes to find those. Have the best week [00:57:00] available to you.

Beth: Pantsuit Politics is produced by Studio D Podcast Production.

Alise Napp is our managing director.

Sarah: Megan Hart is our community engagement manager. Dante Lima is the composer and performer of our theme music.

Beth: Our show is listener supported. Special thanks to our executive producers.

Executive Producers (Read their own names): Martha Bronitsky, Linda Daniel, Ali Edwards, Janice Elliot, Sarah Greepup, Julie Haller, Helen Handley, Tiffany Hassler, Barry Kaufman, Molly Kohrs.

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612 episodes