Media: Please join us for an expert panel discussing Jacob Blake, BLM, and Political Conventions
Demonstrations for Jacob Blake continue, and an Illinois teen is in custody and facing charges for allegedly shooting three protesters earlier this week, killing two of them. Our panel will discuss a variety of related topics to racial justice, police reform, protest, and Black Lives Matter as a 2020 election issue
- Police shooting of Jacob Blake
- Kyle Rettenhouse and Vigilantism
- Use of force against protestors
- Kamala Harris VP nomination and coded racial attacks and birtherism
- Reaction to Michelle Obama’s DNC speech
- Tokenism at the RNC - We Need to Talk About the GOP’s ‘Black Friends’ by Elie Mystal
- Protester confrontations with Senator Rand Paul
- Pro sports boycotts
- Vladimir Medenica Ph.D - Assistant Professor at University of Delaware
- Andrea S. Boyles, PhD - Visiting Associate Professor of Sociology and Africana Studies at Tulane University
- Anne Bailey Ph.D - Professor of History, Binghamton University, State University of New York
When: Tuesday, September 1st, 2PM-3PM EDT
Where: Newswise Live Zoom Room
This live event will also be recorded and transcribed for use by media and communicators after it is concluded.
Thom: Welcome to this Newswise live expert panel. Today we have with us three experts to talk about various topics related to Black Lives Matter. The shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin and various related topics. Demonstrations for Jacob Blake have continued over the course of the last week, as well as an Illinois team now in custody and facing charges for allegedly shooting three protesters after traveling from Illinois to Kenosha, killing two of those protesters. Our panel is going to discuss a variety of these topics related to Black Lives Matter as a 2020 election issue just moments ago, President Trump touched down in Kenosha, Wisconsin where he's expected to visit some of the areas where protests have happened and potentially making remarks to the press and meeting with families and victims of the unrest. We want to get our panellists to comment on these topics in a way that's helpful for the media. So, media, if you have any questions for our panellists that you'd like to get quotes in response to any of these events, please do chat them to us. We'll invite you to ask the question yourself here on the zoom program, or if you don't want to do that, I'll ask the question for you. Without further ado, I want to introduce our panellists and get straight into questions. So, to start off with we have Dr. Andrea Boyles. She's visiting Associate Professor of Sociology and Africana Studies at Tulane.
We also have Dr. Vladimir Medenica. He's assistant professor at University of Delaware. And we have Dr. Anne Bailey. She's professor of history at Binghamton University - State University of New York. Thank you, panellists, all for joining us.
I want to start up with Dr. Boyles and kind of go around to get each of the panellists response to related questions - so on the Jacob Blake shooting, he was shot up to seven times at very close range by police while they were attempting to place him under arrest, he has survived he's reportedly paralyzed. People defending the police in this case have said he was rightly being arrested on criminal charges. He was potentially reaching for a knife. If you've seen the video, and if he had only obeyed the police, he wouldn't have gotten shot. Why does this so often become the debate Dr. Boyles versus examining the actions of the police and whether they escalated the use of force unlawfully.
Dr. Boyles: First off, I’d like to thank you for having me on. And then the other thing - I'd like to send my thoughts to the family of Mr. Blake as we're having these conversations, and the people in Kenosha and around the nation, in fact. But to answer your question, the reason why these become debates so to speak is because there is a broad cultural socialization that has happened historically. And when I say socialization, I mean race teaching. People have been holistically taught historically in the United States to think about Black and Brown as inherently criminal, meaning by virtue of birth, you are criminal, you are chaotic, those type of typecasting and stereotypical ideas.
Contrary to that, there is also a broad cultural teaching or socialization process that encourages thoughts about white populations, dominant populations as being well intentioned, orderly people, and so incapable of killing in the sense that is being sort of leveraged here with Blake or shooting or violence and that sort of thing. And I would also say that it is in that space that police come to have this benefit of doubt, right? And white institutions wholly, come to have this idea that chances are they’re right and in any event that there's been some kind of ambiguous situation, let's give them the benefit of the doubt, the reverse of that for black and brown folks because of cultural socializing, then implies that they do not get the benefit of doubt - that they are to be controlled and to be monitored, that they are unable and incapable of behaving, so to speak and so it is in that space that police are championed, that when it comes to black folks - don't believe your lying eyes has sort of been the go to in that sense. And then lastly, this idea of giving the police the benefit of the doubt is also stemming from the fact that they are enforcers of government. Police are the most visible arm, in fact of the local government. So, when people don't run into, or have encounters with any other folks, perhaps in their local state or national governments, they're likelier to have encounters with law enforcement. So, the idea is that they are protectors of government agenda. They are protectors of the system. They are enforcers of what has been historically institutional, discriminative systems. So, there's a benefit to that - maintaining their story maintaining their position, because their stories and their positions ultimately reflect that of countless institutions.
Thom: Dr. Medenica, I want to ask with your role in addition to your professorship at University of Delaware serving as a research consultant for the gen forward survey at the University of Chicago. How does your knowledge about attitudes toward the Black Lives Matter movement factor into this argument that gets raised about - if they just obeyed the police they wouldn't have gotten shot - In the case of Jacob Blake, what are the attitudes about that throughout the demographics that you've been studying with the surveys?
Dr. Medenica: Yeah, thanks for the question. Thanks for having me. It's a pleasure to be here and to hear from some really great panellists. So, I'm excited about that.
To get to the question, I want to just underscore some of what Dr. Boyles said in her answer. I think this question is one that gets at the psychology of how we fundamentally understand criminality in the United States. So, I'm a political psychologist. I'm in the Department of Political Science and one of the things that Psychology teaches us is that humans rely on these things called schemas to filter and organize information and experiences. One way to think about schemas is as mental models that we learn and develop at an early age, right that we're socialized into the way that Dr. Boyles put it, and that allows us to take cognitive shortcuts in our day to day life. Schemas partially explained why - if I say peanut butter, right, you might think jelly just automatically.
When it comes to crime and policing in the US, the mainstream understanding of who is and who is not a criminal is informed by these pre-existing schemas. And due to the history and development of the US and its institutions. American society has defined criminality along lines of race, often intentionally. So, there's a strong anti-black bias that informs our views and predisposes us to associate black Americans with crime. On the other hand, as Dr. Boyles mentioned, we're taught that police are good. They're largely a benevolent institution that's there to protect us from harm. So, if our baseline is that police are protectors and Jacob Blake is a threat by virtue of him being a black man, then it's really easy to distract from the actions of the police and focus on this flawed and really dangerous misunderstanding of compliance and the importance of compliance and police interactions.
Now, something that's crucial to note in this discussion, and something that sort of more directly gets at your question is that schemas can systematically differ across communities. And that's what we see in the empirical data that I work with. So, for example, if I say peanut butter to somebody who didn't grow up in a culture where people eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, they might have a different association with peanut butter or they might not have any association at all - right. This is also true for how communities understand and interact with police, white Americans express higher trust in police than the black Americans and other people of colour - and as we know, white Americans are also disproportionately represented in media, in politics and in other venues of power where these issues are debated. So, I think that if we maybe had different power structures in the US, right, and maybe people - different people populating these spaces, then the debate and focus of the conversation would be different because we do see quite different attitudes. We do see quite different orientations toward police, toward criminal justice, depending on the population that you ask it. And it varies quite significantly by race.
Thom: To Dr. Bailey, your thoughts on the Jacob Blake shooting the historical perspective of these kinds of incidents? We've got another name to add to the list - Breonna Taylor, Jacob Blake, George Floyd. Is it unique in this case, that to be frank, he was being arrested, so it's not quite the same as the Breonna Taylor case where she was sleeping in her own bed when police entered her home with a no knock warrant and shot her and her boyfriend? And should that matter?
Dr. Bailey: No, it doesn't matter. I think. And first of all, I also want to just extend my prayers to the family because at the end of the day, we're talking about Jacob Blake who is still in the hospital and his life matters to his family as much as it matters to us and debate. And thank you too, for Dr. Boyle, and Dr. Medenica for those really excellent comments.
It should not matter. And the reason it doesn't matter. Whatever in all of these cases, the details. They matter, but they don't matter. And the reason they don't matter is that we should expect policemen and policewomen to deescalate conflicts, not escalate conflicts. At the end of the day, that should be a basic expectation in almost every situation, we would want that that would be their first order of business, no matter what the situation – it is not to end up in a situation like this, especially in this particular case where you have three children, his children witnessing what they are doing. I mean, there should have been extra attention to see what can we do to de-escalate this situation, in the light of the fact that we not only have witnesses, but we have children, but we have children that who could potentially also get hurt. So, they're just - you know, I think that's a basic expectation.
The other issue is that this is historical, but it's not just historical to the United States, which is why we have a global movement. We can't forget that this racial reckoning is happening in England. It's happening in France; it's happening in the Caribbean - people are asking these questions about the worth of black lives. Because this has been happening for 500 years, these systems did not get created overnight. These systems are coming out of the processes of the Atlantic slave trade and slavery, which was European - was a European invention, if you will. And so we have inherited these systems and we've taken them to another level, but we have to see this as a global effort, a global effort that needs to be attacked, and that needs to be addressed globally, not just in terms of what happens here and what happens in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Thom: For any media on the call, please do chat your questions to us and you can ask them yourself or I will ask them for you. President Trump met with the press as he was getting ready to board Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base earlier today and he continued his attacks on, “Democrat run cities”. He made several disparaging remarks about governors and mayors of Portland, Kenosha, Wisconsin and Oregon. Dr. Boyles, this kind of law and order approach - this kind of law and order rhetoric that the President is resorting to, he clearly thinks it's a win for him. What's your analysis of this rhetoric? Is it effective and how should we respond to it?
Dr. Boyles: So, the first thing is that I don't think it is just an individual instance in which it's being used or let me say, just a matter of one person - it happens to be he's the face out front. He is the leader of the free world essentially. And so, it matters. But I will say that it is allowable. And it occurs - those kinds of law and order statements or law and order rhetoric, it is messaging, messaging that sort of satisfies a particular kind of appetite. And when I say appetite, there is an appetite in this nation and beyond, for maintaining the status quo, for maintaining in-different treatment of people who are black and brown. There is a benefit to highlighting it. And so, when we hear law and order, what we're really hearing is messaging. There is a cover for racism, it gives an out, it provides leverage and justification for folks to engage in “of the ring” of populations in a way that works to maintain the status quo, that works to maintain systems as they are, and that in many respects, provide, again - protection from the idea that if someone says or does something against black and brown folks that they are - maybe they're not racist, maybe it's not discriminative. So, it makes it okay. And it makes it okay because then the go to is that - well, it's in the best interest of law and order. It goes back to the idea that I spoke to earlier - the ideology in this nation, that black folks are “ stereotypically criminal” And so this idea of racial threat which has always been a lucrative place to start politically and otherwise in this nation, has been used and leveraged time and time again, racial threat is about provoking fear and this need that these people - The other people, the ones that are somehow different from you - white people or dominant affluent people, the folks who don't look like you, the folks who don't sound like you, that somehow they're out to get you, and except we act and act immediately under the premise of racial fear and racial threat, which is also racist in and of itself. Except that we implement law and order in every way imaginable, then we can anticipate the stereotypical manifestation of chaos of disorder in every sense of what we refer to and what I often talk about in my work is the white imagination.
Thom: Dr. Medenica - we've heard Trump make a number of comments claiming that Portland is being totally destroyed, that it's been under siege by anarchists and agitators and bad people. Does this kind of law and order position - first of all, is it credible? And second of all, does it resonate with the public?
Dr. Medenica: Yeah, great question. First of all, no, it's not credible. Right? We've actually been seeing a decrease in crime over time, not an increase the way that President Trump and other republicans might lead you to believe in their speeches and in their talk. I think that what's happening, as Dr. Boyles sort of mentioned is that Donald Trump and the Republican Party is tapping into a long and important history in the United States. Right. So, law and order rhetoric has been around for a really long time. It's a strategy that's often associated with Richard Nixon and his 1968 campaign, but it actually goes back much farther than that. And that strategy is to tap into the racist fears and beliefs of white Americans, right. Law and order rhetoric is really just a way of talking about race. It's racial coded language. Lee Atwater, who was famous or infamous, depending on who you ask, Republican strategist and advisor to presidents Ronald Reagan and George HW Bush admitted that in 1981, in an interview about the republicans southern strategy - Atwater argued that Republicans could reference or signal race without actually explicitly mentioning race, by bringing up and talking about racialized issues in coded language. Issues like welfare, issues much like policing, and that's what Donald Trump is doing now. Whether or not it will be effective, I think really depends on what audience you're interested in. Right? If we're talking about the non-college educated whites and evangelical Christians that make up the core of Trump's base, then sure stoking those racist beliefs the way that he did in 2016 is probably a safe and a reliable and a really well tread strategy in American politics. But it's important to note that the electorate in 2020, has shifted from 2016. And what I mean by that is that the demographics of people who are eligible to vote in November are different when compared to 2016. The share of eligible voters who are part of Trump's base is shrinking and shrinking rapidly, while the share of voters that opposes Trump, which is primarily driven by people of colour, and young people especially, has been growing. So, law and order rhetoric aren’t as effective among this group. In fact, it often backfires. So, a more diverse electorate, which is what we have now in 2020, compared to 2016 makes this law and order campaign a harder sell.
Thom: Dr. Bailey take us through a little bit of this revolution of that law and order rhetoric going back to Nixon’s 68 campaign, going back maybe even further. I imagine it's got roots all the way in reconstruction or even before the Civil War that the idea of policing and controlling black bodies In Black movement throughout society was a goal of white supremacist power structures. Is this just an attempt to reassert that same sort of authority? Is there something different to it? Help us understand this and flush that out a little bit more?
Dr. Bailey: You're absolutely right. It does go back. It has very long roots. And I think certainly one of the arguments prior to the Civil War was the idea that people of colour could not police themselves, they would be out of control, they could not determine their own lives, and that there would be a kind of chaos that would ensue were they to be emancipated.
620,000 lives lost during the Civil War in that period- during that period in 1863, when more than 4 million enslaved persons were freed, or I should say fought for their freedom, as well. What you had was exactly the opposite. The priorities of those 4 million plus enslaved persons, those people of colour were to rebuild their families, were to create some kind of stability for their lives after almost 250 years of enslavement. Many of them went walking on foot, looking for mothers that they'd been separated from, or wives or husbands or children. Families first was really their concern. That was their number one concern and then after that was seeking political and civil rights in a non-violent manner. And that's exactly what they did, during much of the Reconstruction Era, when they actually attempted in larger numbers to vote and exercise their political rights. So, the evidence from the history is quite the opposite. That when given opportunities for freedom and equity, even though those were limited at that time, you did not have chaos. And in fact, you've had quite a bit of order, and law and order, if you will. And that, in fact, that population was not even seeking revenge on the whites who would enslave them, the white society that had enslaved them. They were simply trying to determine their own lives and determine their own fates in a positive and a forward looking way. And I would say that that's exactly what's happening now.
Most black communities in spite of the fact that they did not receive reparations, which they should have received after the Civil War, in spite of that they are still trying to build families, build wealth, determine their own faith without obstruction. And so what I would say the leaders like Trump and others is that what they should be looking at and addressing are the root causes of these racial disparities in terms of criminal justice system, in terms of education, housing, health, as we're in the middle of the COVID era, they should be looking at the root causes and trying to address those issues as opposed to, as I said, stirring up and escalating an already conflict laden situation. And so, I'm really calling for a ceasefire on every level, in every way, I say we should be de-escalating this issue these conflicts, not escalating them, and looking at root causes of some of these disparities that we keep seeing played out over and over and over again. Even just in the last number of weeks.
Thom: Dr. Boyles, the Reverend Al Sharpton said on his program on Sunday night, with all this backlash to the protests that we’re distracting away from talking about the original wrong. How does vigilantism by pro police, white protesters who come to counter protest and potentially agitate or provoke - How are they playing into this distraction from the original issue, the unjust use of force by police and instead it becomes about some vandalism. These vigilantes that come in here to, “maintain order”, are they helping or are they hurting?
Dr. Boyles: They're absolutely hurting. And I talk about in my work, community disorder and reordering the way in which white dominant particularly affluent populations have reordered disorder. So first off, how we define disorder in and of itself is very subjective, is ambiguous and has been used to mostly define against stereotypically black and brown people. And so, it is often reordered - white populations take this idea of disorder and reorder it and use it then to sort of leverage this idea that only they are able to engage in civil or peaceful existences. So, it's about reconstructing and reframing these ideas that again stroke moral value or good among white populations, despite the horror and trauma that oftentimes is occurring on the receiving end of it.
So, for example, how do you - even if we went back to let's say enslavement, how do you make that be okay? So, there were - people used the Bible, in many respects to justify the enslavement of black people. So, I'm throwing that out there because that is one example of many, and how white populations particularly have refrained this order. And so when we talk about the infiltration, because that's what that becomes the infiltrating of white populations into protest, doing things that are unseemly a lot of times is purposeful, because again, there is a broad cultural understanding that they will not be identified or held accountable, it will ultimately be the black people, because these are predominantly resistant, these are predominantly black faces of resistance. This is 21st century black movement and so it will be black people, “that will be held accountable” that will be responsible because it justifies and it feeds further into this idea of black criminality. It excuses and gives a pass, and I will tell you as a person that has spent quite a bit of time on civil unrest, Black organizers and activists are also watching that on the ground, there is a clear understanding in resistance, every second you're there. And from the moment you step foot into resistance phase - there is an understanding that people are embedded, that they come there and that they are very much present not for the sake of advocacy, or advocating on behalf of black interest, but they are there for the sake - again culturally knowing and understanding that if they break windows, if they set a fire, if they throw water bottles in the light, they're probably not going to suffer the consequences. Guess who ends up suffering for those actions, it ends up being the predominantly black people present because now there is leverage to start firing tear gas. Now there's leverage to start firing rubber bullets. Now there's leverage to start arresting people and the people that are likely to suffer all of those actions as a result of this - convenience so to speak, protest, rioting or violence that often is being referred to, are going to be the peaceful law abiding black citizens that are there on the ground, looking for space to speak.
Thom: Dr. Medenica - so we just heard from Dr. Boyles putting it pretty plainly that the white agitators engaging in these protests as counter protesters expect that they won't suffer consequences. We saw just that with the case of Kyle Rittenhouse. The 17-year-old who travelled from Illinois just over the border and into Kenosha ended up firing on three different protesters killing two of them. He was able to leave the scene and drive home and be apprehended the following day. Is there any doubt that white agitators are able to get in there and get away with it, while people of black and brown descent are treated the most harshly when it comes to calling their assemblies unlawful and firing tear gas?
Dr. Medenica: Good question. Yeah, I think that the most recent events are just one in sort of a long line and a long pattern of behaviour. So, I think that Dr. Boyles provided an excellent answer, and I strongly agree with everything that she had to say, white vigilantism is a significant problem. And it does play a role. It does play a very strategic, purposeful role in the construction of blackness in the construction of criminality in the United States, which is what we've been seeing. I will say that, if I can just interject maybe a small silver lining in this discussion is that all of this is happening at a time of substantial demographic change. Right? So, the young people that are on the front lines of these protests, right? The young people that have come of age under the presidency of Barack Obama - they don't know a politics that is not diverse and is not led by a black man. Right? these generations, the millennial generation, the Gen Z generation, they are coming of age at a very transformative time in their political lives. And we understand from the literature on political behaviour, on political socialization, on political participation, that voting and participating in politics in other ways, right, because voting is just one small, narrow way to participate in politics, but political participation and voting specifically, is habit forming. And so, what we're seeing is people come of age, people engage in politics at a young age, that will then likely translate into increased participation, increased voter turnout, increased mobilization in the future. And this generation that's coming up behind us, They're the most racially and ethnically diverse generation. And they hold some of the most progressive views on politics and policy. So, I think what we're going to see come out of this is a politics - a generational politics that I don't think is being talked about enough yet.
Thom: Dr. Bailey, how does the vigilantism at play with someone like Kyle Rittenhouse, doing what he did his apologists in the media, noted conservative talk show host Tucker Carlson. All but excuse his behaviour as his own desire to help maintain order. He was purportedly there to try to help protect businesses from being looted or property being vandalized. The proud boys the Boogaloo boys, the Neo Nazis, how is it that these groups while identified by our nation's intelligence community as a real threat for domestic terrorism, how is it that they're able to interject themselves in these movements for calls for police reform and agitate so to distract in such a way and what's been the trend of this over time? Is Dr. Medenica right that the younger generations will reject this kind of thing, hopefully. Oh, I'm sorry, you're muted again Dr. Bailey.
Dr. Bailey: Firstly, I want to say that I do agree with Dr. Medenica that there is that silver lining and we have to look for the silver lining in the situation because that's what's going to get us out of this conflict is that this is a multiracial movement. That is a fact of all ages, but definitely the younger population. This is not - even for those who identify with the Black Lives Matter movement, specifically, it's multiracial. And I'm going back even to a few years ago, when Charlottesville, if you'll remember what happened there where we had a young white male who drove through the crowd of protesters, a multiracial group of protesters, and killed Heather Heyer - a white woman, a young white woman who was there as a counter protester, and she's not the only example. But I think even in the recent situations that we've had, some of the people who have been killed have been white. And so, I think - I say this too to those on the other side, the neo Nazis and others who are lining up and the Tucker Carlson's who are lining up on that side. This is not a black versus white movement. I don't know, if they need to take a look at America today, this is not something that is a simple, and it wasn't very simple even back before the Civil War, but it's absolutely not that simple right now, and for a lot of the reasons that have already been said. And so, there are white allies, there are Asian allies, there are Latino allies, there are people again, around the world, we have to be looking at this as a global issue. This is a global racial reckoning. We are not an island to ourselves. And so, I would ask again, that our leaders be looking - take a good look at our population. Take a good look at who are going to be our future leaders that today they're in the streets – tomorrow they will be making policies today. Today they're protesting tomorrow they will be the politicians of tomorrow. And I would think and hope that they go from the streets to transforming the systems. Because once again as your other guests have said, it's the systems that are creating these disparities. And behind the systems are people and so these people in their multi-racial and more progressive outlook, get behind some of those systems, they can begin to enact some of the reforms that we need. So, I can't say enough to leaders - look at your population. They're not going anywhere they're multiplying, and de-escalate the conflict. Do not escalate it, you do so to your own peril.
Thom: We have a question from George Drazenovich. Asking about the likelihood of a truth and reconciliation type of process like we've seen in South Africa and other parts of the world. George, would you like to go ahead and ask your question, I think Dr. Bailey-
George: Yeah, thanks. I agree with everything that's been said. And I am in Canada. And I really like the point about law and reordering, because I think, orderliness and society is important for everybody. And it's even more important in a multi ethnic and diverse society. And that's my question is, shouldn't Congress and the executive branch be holding Truth and Reconciliation hearings - that would address slavery reparations? I agree It seems like the United States is not that, of course, there was a civil war, but that wound still is very much there. And that's a reality, just like it was in Canada, with our indigenous people in South Africa. And it creates an orderly way to be able to discuss that issue. And it would be relevant for police reform. I'm in favour of demilitarizing but not defunding police criminal justice reform. But no party seems to be put forward in these kinds of systemic proposals. And I'm just wondering your thoughts on a Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the US. Thank you.
Dr. Bailey: I have written extensively about this for 15 years and and I cannot - first of all, I just absolutely agree this is exactly what is needed. We need a detente. We need a ceasefire. I mean we're talking about people's lives and the healthy life of the country and the nation as a whole. And we did not have a truth and reconciliation process after those 620,000 lives were lost as a result of the Civil War, and 4 million plus people of colour were emancipated or fought for their freedom. We did not have a process to look back at those 250 years, and do what South Africa did, at least in part and say - this is what we did we own it. And now we want to level the playing field because if some - a group in this country have had a 250-year head start, it is only fair. It is only just, it's only democratic, for us to talk about repairing that breach and bringing reparations to that group and their descendants. If that had happened, a lot of what we're talking about today and we keep talking about weekly and monthly and yearly, I believe would not be happening. It is not too late 155 years after the Civil War, it is not too late to have a Truth and Reconciliation Commission enacted by both parties, supported by both parties, and agreed to by both parties. My own school Binghamton University in our own small way. We're trying to have our own truth and reconciliation panel about how people of colour have experienced the experience of being at a great state university but one which also has similar challenges like everywhere else around the country. We're looking at those issues bravely, courageously with the idea towards healing. That's what you want. You want to be a unit finally, completely and without reservation? So, I want to say yes, yes, yes to truth and reconciliation and reparations. And I'm hoping that the leaders that are listening and the press will spread this word, so that we don't keep coming back in the same cycle. It's the same cycle over and over and over again. And we'll be talking about the same issues over and over and over again, for years to come unless we have a complete reset, if you will. And I think it's possible and I think we're able to do it.
Thom: Thank you for your question, George.
Dr. Boyles, we've seen the protests in Portland and Wisconsin most recently but others around the country be met with escalating use of force by the police and ever more restrictions such as earlier and earlier curfews. What is the effect of such a show of force? Is it really making a difference in stemming, vandalism or looting that's part of this urban rebellion? Or is it - Again, just another assertion of power over the protesters?
Dr. Boyle: So, I think that's a great question on the heels of healing and reconciliation discussions because it is exactly what is playing out in protest – the extreme and militarized policing that we're witnessing that makes that not possible. I will tell you – in the work that I conduct I spend again, significant amounts of time on most years at this point on the ground, in the thick and in some of the worst of exchanges. And it is in that space that folks realize and have come to the place. Many who may have been for reform in some respects have been moved alone and are no longer accepting of that. They are championing the idea of abolitionism in every way because again, this excessive use of force. So, I want you all to think about this for a second. So, here we have this tone-deaf performance, right. That's what these protests are. They're tone deaf performances, where you have an aggressive policing of Black people in an aggressive policing protest. Like, let that marinate. The protest is about aggressive policing of Black folks. So, we're going to aggressively police the Black folks in protest. This is a reflection of what is happening in communities every day, Black and Brown communities every day, the excessive use of force. And so, where it has been or people sort of implied that it's invisible, right, they don't see these daily exchanges in neighbourhoods and things like that. Well, now you get to see them in prime time. You get to watch them routinely play out with tanks. So, they have actually upped the stakes. And so, there are tanks. The show of force in and of itself is insulting, and makes it virtually impossible that many of these organizers and activists are coming to the table. In fact, often times they're not even asked to the table. And one of the things I talked about as a result of this – there is this overwhelming show of force. One of the reasons why I ultimately was there capturing weeks and weeks and weeks and what has now progressed to years, you know, off and on in Ferguson, because when I got there, we were waiting for Mike Brown to be moved from the ground. That was the understanding for his body to be removed from the ground. And people couldn't wrap their minds around what had even taken place. They were asking questions within the first couple of hours and there was already a tank on the ground; there was already an extra amount of force. That kind of thing in and of itself, the state revealing a heavy hand no matter what – the messaging is that regardless of the hurt and pain, or the unfairness that your community might feel or might be trying to get communicate, we're going to not only match it with the previous, but we're going to actually magnify it. We're going to bring tank, we're going to do all of the thing’s times two, times three, times four, and we're going to do it so that the world is watching. I cannot tell you the number of days, the number of nights where there was an understanding me even as a researcher, where I knew the world was watching, the press was present. And I just thought, surely someone's going to step in and call an order to shut all of this down. Dogs were out. That is so incredibly destructive to the soul of this nation, to the soul of Black people to stand there and have dogs brought out on you, me included. And so when we start talking about coming to the table, having these places or spaces of reconciliation – that is undermining because it's double talk, it is a constant exacerbation of force that is either in show or in actuality being inflicted upon people in real time on prime TV, and everybody's watching. There is no secret. It is aloud. And so, it is in that space that I sort of argue or think that at least, this idea of it. And I would also say that these conversations about community policing – you can't. So, there's a range, right. You cannot shoot and fire upon people with rubber bullets and in the same breath, talk about community policing. Let's meet in the middle – these are mostly law-abiding citizens. And so, you have ruined, single hand. Whatever devastation and hurt and harm that was not inflicted in the neighbourhood on a “regular average” whatever that means, that it is annihilated publicly when that amount of force is met in the street across this nation.
Thom: Let's take this a little further to not only meeting the protesters with excessive force but also the potential chilling effect that it has over the discussion more broadly, and those even not on the ground, being challenged with accusations that this is all just political correctness or a cynical ploy for publicity when we talk about celebrities or athletes calling for reform walking off, as we saw last week with many of the pro sports leagues, boycotting their games. Dr. Medenica, how is this evolved over time? Dr. Boyles is mentioning Ferguson, which was about six years ago to today – the excessive use of force and the kind of policing of just the conversation. There are parallels there. And it sounds to me like it's geared toward shutting the conversation down rather than addressing the original wrong. What have we seen if anything shifts over the last six years or even longer in this kind of phenomenon?
Dr. Medenica: Yeah, great questions. I think I'm going to take them in two sections. I'm going to address the first part, which is about excessive use of force by the police. And then second part, I'll talk a little bit more directly about athletes and celebrities. On the first part, about police force – I think that history has a lot to teach us with respect to this particular question. During the Civil Rights movements of the 1960s, non-violence was used strategically as a tactic to shine a spotlight on police violence and police brutality at a time when that violence could be broadcast into and reach the homes of people across the country. It made it so that inhumanity at the hands of the police could no longer be ignored. And I think we're in a similar moment now, given the ubiquity and virility of social media and of the internet, right. Excessive use of force by the police and government overreach to control marginalized populations has always existed, right. These are points that that both Dr. Bailey and Dr. Boyles have made earlier. But it's easier to ignore these things when it isn't on the nightly news, or when it takes more abstract forms such as housing policy or the allocation of tax dollars or something like that. But when it's being broadcast into your home, either on television or through the internet, it makes it much harder to ignore. And what we're witnessing now in terms of the police and government abuse of communities every day, all the more frequently, I think we're already starting to see the effects of that – the effects of moving the Overton window so to speak, right, which means sort of expanding the range of possible policy discussions where we're talking about things like abolition, abolition of police, abolition of prisons. We're talking about defunding the police and demilitarizing the police. I think we're already seeing that effect. I think assuming we have a free and fair election this November, I think we will see increased voter turnout that's sort of directly related to what's happening in the world now. To the second part, which is about athletes and celebrities injecting themselves in these conversations and the reactions to them, I think it's interesting to hear criticism of athletes and celebrities taking a political stand or making a political statement as if it's a new development in American politics, right. We've been doing this not just for the past six years, but for the past few centuries, right. In reality, athletes and celebrities have always been important voices and figures in politics and in culture more generally. And I don't think people like to acknowledge that because there is an expectation that athletes and celebrities exists to entertain us and not to challenge us, right. We often turn to sports, we often turn to music, we often turn to film and television to escape reality, to escape the world of politics in particular. And so, there's a frustration when we're unable to do that, right. Now politics is in our sports, or it's in our movies, or what have you, right. And on top of that, I think it's important that we recognize the racial and gender dynamics that often underlie these expectations, right. Not only are these people here to entertain us, but often these athletes and celebrities are not White, and/or not male, right, so they're not viewed or respected as intelligent self-actualized individuals. So, not only are these public figures breaking out of their expected social roles as an athlete or celebrity, as an entertainer, but they're also breaking out of their imposed racial and gender roles as well. And I think that that causes quite a bit of frustration and quite a bit of discussion when that happens, but it's something that's been happening for a long time in America.
Thom: To Dr. Boyles, taking a step further from some of Dr. Medenica’s comments about getting people out to vote, we had the parties’ conventions over the past two weeks. In a very interesting article for the nation, Elie Mystal writes that “the Republican National Convention has been all about using Black people to convince White people. It's okay to vote for a bigot.” That's a quote from his article. The convention held a number of Black Speakers, Black republicans up as validators for the Republican Party and for Donald Trump more broadly, Mystal went on to write further describing this, “most of the White speakers came armed with some agenda. They wanted more farm subsidies or fewer abortions. But the Black speakers seemingly wanted nothing. There were no additional policies they desired or issues they wanted addressed. Making sure that Black people have no voice or role in shaping the agenda is what tokenism is all about.” What do you make of Mystal’s analysis? Is this the Republican Party truly trying to win over minority voters and expand their base? Or are these gestures only made to solidify the existing White minority that supports them?
Dr. Boyle: So, here's what it appears to me. It seems to be an attempt one after the other for a pass on racism, which in and of itself is racist because what it suggests is that – my one Black friend said that I'm okay. So that means I'm okay. That's racist because there is no monolithic Black population. If there are many voices, there are many sentiments across the Black community. Even me, as I sit here, I am echoing the sentiments of participants in my projects. I don't enter even as a Black woman with insider status. I don't enter into a Black project that centres the Black community, already making widespread assumptions and answers and providing those I asked. I'm asking because there is diversity even within blackness. And so, again the fact that there is this parade, so to speak, of one after the other and to sort of do that whether said directly or indirectly, the suggestion is single. It appears to be in a tip, a coated sort of informal and formal really, because this is a huge deal, you know, a convention. It's an attempt to sort of say, you know, will the one or two or three Black friends that I have say we're good and that there's not a problem with anything. And so that ends this. The other thing I would say, which also speaks to a little bit that, you know, some of the questioning about the athletes. It also implies that people are not – Black folks cannot be independent intellectual beings, athletes or champion is not having, you know, you just play, you just entertain – that dynamic, again more messaging. Here's what is derived from that whether intended or not – the implication that Black folk should only be performants, be it in sports or the entertainment industry in general, or somehow in performance in a convention that suggests that your interest is in Black folks in being minstrels. It has a minstrel effect to it. And not to suggest that Black folks mean to be that - what I am saying that within White space and the power of constructing it, the leveraging of that show is to suggest that you're only good to me as a White person or within White population when your performance is about White comfort.
Thom: Just to cap off that question, I want to share one other quote from this article by Elie Mystal – a Black person who is “just happy to be here is the only Black person these White people want to see.” I found that to be pretty profound and a great assessment of these performative acts by the Black speakers at the RNC. Dr. Bailey, I want to ask you if you have any thoughts about that, and I also want to ask you about the nomination of Kamala Harris as the nominee. Any thoughts about tokenism at the RNC? Does this concern you at all? What have you seen about this in the scope of history? Is this a new effort to do this in a kind of new and more cynical way? Or what else are you seeing there?
Dr. Bailey: Well, I know that it will be – it's difficult to say this in this historical moment but it's true that tokenism is not relegated to any one party and sadly. So, I want to just take this out of the politics completely because the fact is that representation is a huge issue. It's very important for Black voices in this particular case and underrepresented voices to have a platform and to be able to speak whatever their truth is. And as Dr. Boyle says, it's not a monolithic voice. So, you want to have diversity of those voices on every single level in society; in every single sphere of society representation is important, diversity is important. And obviously not just Black voices, Latino voices, other underrepresented voices of all kinds. There needs to be that level playing field that I will always say and I will continue to say that representation is not reparations. And to say that again, representation is not reparations, and that is on both sides, on any side, every day of the week. You can have someone who is representative of a particular group that has not had a voice, and if they're all by themselves, they are not going to be able to affect the kind of systemic change that we need in this country at insistence of housing, education, criminal justice. We will have a Black police chief, we will have a Black superintendent, Black mayors, I dare say even Black Presidents, and they will be limited in how much they can do. As much as they are well intentioned and as much as they were able to do, they will be limited in how much they can do if we do not enact real reparations, which includes true diversity in every single sphere of society. So, that's my answer to that – that this is not just about the Republicans, it's not just about the Democrats, this has been a long-standing issue of appointing one here and appointing another there, and electing one here and electing another there. And they are literally standing alone and up against forces that they alone cannot battle because this is a systemic issue. Systemic racism is exactly that. This is systemic and it cannot be met by just representative voices or any kind of token voices. So that's definitely a concern of what we've just seen in display. I am hoping and I think like many that Senator Kamala Harris – the choice of her as a vice presidential nominee is not a token representation. I am very much hoping that that's not the case and that, in fact, choosing an extremely qualified former prosecutor, Attorney General, all of those things, person like this, public servant is going to mean the beginning of at least one party hopefully, really addressing these issues, these systemic issues in terms of reparations. Shall I just quickly say though that in terms of her background, I think it's ludicrous to think that her immigrant heritage meaning her parents – immigrant heritage somehow makes her less American or less Black. Nothing could be further from the truth. Caribbean immigrants and their American born children have long contributed to American society. This is not new. She's just the latest in a very long tradition rooted in pan African ideology. So, I want to say that we have hopes and expectations that her presence on the national stage will be meaningful and be much more than a token, a token nomination.
Thom: Dr. Bailey, your family has roots in Jamaica, if I believe.
Dr. Bailey: : I do.
Thom: So, that affinity with Senator Harris – that must be pretty exciting for her having that Jamaican representation coming forward.
Dr. Bailey: Absolutely. I mean, we celebrate – I think Jamaica celebrates her, through her father celebrates her, this nomination. And of course, she has on the other side, an Indian mother and they're celebrating, I think the hometown of the mother, they're also celebrating. It's wonderful, but she is American born. And may I just say something quickly about that too, that the fact that she's American born is the number one fact. So, she's qualified to be Vice President. That's number one. But number two, I will say and I'll be honest about this, that the fact that she is qualified, that she's a good choice and she's an excellent public servant in no way disqualifies the many other American born, people of African descent, especially those with long standing roots in America. And in fact, I hope and pray that we look at those issues as well that they should have just as much, if not more, of an opportunity on the global stage and on the national stage to be well represented. And I mean that people of African descent with long standing roots that can go back to slavery here in the US, should be well represented in all spheres of society. So, we can lift up Senator Harris without taking down people of African descent who have those long-standing roots and obviously helped to build this country to what it is today.
Thom: Dr. Medenica does Senator Harris' nomination indicate a new forming of coalition or a reforming of coalition on the left that will really solidify the vote for the Biden-Harris ticket?
Dr. Medenica: No, I don't think that there is much of a reformation of the Democratic coalition, right. The Democratic Party has for a long time been what's called a big tent party, which is a party that's made up of several different constituencies as opposed to the Republican Party, which is a little bit more homogenous in terms of its demographics and its sort of base. I think that what we're seeing with the nomination of Senator Harris is actually the Democratic Party starting to gesture a bit more strongly toward certain segments of that coalition. So, scholars in political science and related disciplines have talked a lot about party capture as it relates to Black voters, as it relates to other voters of colour. These are constituencies in American politics that reliably vote for democratic. In fact, Black women are the beating heart and soul of the Democratic Party as many people like to put it, right, the most reliable supporters of the Democratic Party. And yet the Democratic Party does very little year after year after year to actually address the concerns of these voters, right. And so, what we're seeing with the nomination of Senator Harris is actually, as demographic change is happening in this country, the Democratic Party sort of bowing to that pressure a little bit. Now I want to be clear, right. I do not think that demography is destiny. By no means is demography a destiny. However, what we're seeing with the coupling of our particular political moment and the demographic change that's happening and the pressure that's being applied to the political system right now, we're seeing that start to change a little bit. And if I can reference the question that was asked earlier about why haven't we seen something like a Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the United States? I would venture to say, you know, why would we? We don't have, our political system has no incentive to do anything like that. When the Republican Party and the Democratic Party are entrenched in their power systems, in their power structures and they can benefit from that support among Black voters and among other voters of colour, there's no need to do anything like that. And so hopefully, right, we're starting to see movement in that direction. But that's what I think. I'm not sure that we're seeing sort of a reimagining of Coalitions, more of a visibility of those constituencies.
Thom: Dr. Boyles, I'll give you the last word on this with Senator Harris and the coded attacks on her American-ness as well as the prospect as Dr. Bailey so rightly pointed out the need for moving beyond tokenism to real and well-representing Black and Brown people in positions of authority. What are your thoughts about the Harris nomination and what this means for you, the movement of the Black Lives Matter, protests as well as the Democratic Party in shaping of the 2020 election?
Dr. Boyles: So, I've written on this – Black women as being gatherers in the community, so to speak. And so, there is an understanding, as my colleagues have also talked about, that Black women are certainly in the trenches in ways that we can't imagine. And that if the vote is going to be one, it is going to be Black women going to get it. And so, I think that the move – there was pressure certainly to have a Black woman on the ticket. And when I say that there was pressure rightly so, rightly due earned pressure because there has not been much reward in leadership in terms of Black women across communities. But that said, I will still also highlight the fact that she is certainly qualified, she is more than qualified to be on the ticket. And so even in its face this idea of “othering”, it goes back yet again to the reconstructing, the constant constructing and reconstructing a race and othering of populations, Black and Brown populations, for the sake of fear. That too is about racial threat and interjecting fear, this notion - what will happen – she somehow is not like the rest of us, and when they say the rest of us, that's not speaking to the Black and Brown community. It’s more or less what that means is she's not a White person, she's not going to be sympathetic to White comfort, she's not going to necessarily fall in sync or in line with the White imagination. In fact, not even with the American imagination. And American, when we talk about that American in and of itself is also code for whiteness and White domination and White systems and so forth. And so, the way to counter that or to create questions about loyalty and all those things, is yes to shine light on her international ancestry and to suggest that she may have interest of some people, but it certainly couldn't be the American people. So, there's some constant constructing across racial categories, across ethnic categories. There's also some constructing happening intersectionally in terms of her being, gender and that kind of thing. And so, what does that mean? And I will say this also – it does not mean her being appointed or earning the right to this ticket, also does not mean or leave her in escapable or somehow – doesn’t give her a pass either from criticism in the Black community, because Black folks are going to be looking at policy, Black folks are going to be looking at agenda. And so, it also does not matter that even though she may have Black insider status, people are going to scrutinize regardless looking not perhaps maybe in the racial sense, but in the sense of what does this mean and how is this going to pan out for the Black community. So it doesn't matter, you know, irrespective of race, gender and otherwise, although she is certainly meaning that, you know, that it is the policy and ultimately the agenda that needs to look way different and that folks are going to be pushing for and rallying for across party lines and otherwise, for the best interest of the Black community. And the best interest of the Black community means calling attention to the root of these racial issues, in the root it has been historic discrimination fundamentally in every facet of America.
Thom: Thank you so much, Dr. Boyles. With that we'll go ahead and wrap things up for media who are on the call, we'll make sure that we get you a copy of the video and transcript that we will have available. If you registered for today's call, you're on that list automatically and we'll send it to you but if you didn't register, if you just clicked an invite to get to the meeting and you want to get those materials, send us a quick email to [email protected] and we'll make sure to send you those materials. Thank you so much to all of our panellists – Dr. Bailey, Dr. Boyles, Dr. Medenica. I really really appreciate your contribution to this discussion, all of you. And I hope that we've done something from our part to help to lift up these concerns of our fellow Black and Brown, American citizens and do the right thing to push forward more equality and justice because that's really truly the most American thing that we can do. So, thank you very much for the opportunity to invite you all to do this today. And we look forward to doing more of this as the story undoubtedly will continue as we go into the election and beyond. So, thank you all very much. Stay safe, stay healthy and good luck.
Dr. Boyles: Thank you. Thank you all.
Dr. Bailey: Same to you all.