RevolutionZ

Ep - 153 Strategy Talking About Left Culture and Practice with Loretta Ross

November 28, 2021 Michael Albert Season 1 Episode 153
RevolutionZ
Ep - 153 Strategy Talking About Left Culture and Practice with Loretta Ross
Show Notes Transcript

Episode 153 discusses cancel culture from the perspective of those  calling out, those called out, and those viewing it all, safe spaces,  reproductive justice, and much else as well

Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/revolutionZ)
Speaker 1:

Hello, my name is Michael Albert, and this is the 150 third consecutive episode of the podcast titled revolution Z. I am the host and our guest. This time is Loretta Ross as part of a 50 year history in social justice. Activism, Loretta has was the national coordinator of the SisterSong women of color reproductive justice collective. And co-created the theory of reproductive justice in 1994, amidst much more activity. Laura was also national co-director of the 2004 March for women's lives in Washington, DC. She founded the national center for human rights education in Atlanta. And before that, she was the program research director at the center for democratic renewal national anticline network, where she led projects, researching hate groups and working against all forms of bigotry with university schools and community groups. Recently, Loretta has written and taught about left cultural practices, reproductive rights and right-wing and fascist trends. So we read welcome to revolution Z.

Speaker 2:

Well

Speaker 1:

It's an honor and a half year, if possible. I hope we will hear you address in particular reproductive rights and it's brought around vacations and meetings. And also the current situation of left behaviors , very loosely associated with the label, cancel culture, the idea of safe spaces and more graphically, what are sometimes termed circular firing squads. So perhaps we might start with the left practices issue. First, I believe you teach or have taught on the topic. So in your extensive travels teaching and organizing what strikes you are very familiar issues that we have seen before. And what instead strikes you is rather new and current issues in this left phenomenon.

Speaker 2:

Well , after 50 years of doing social justice, human rights work, I've seen all manners of how we treat each other. We used to call it trashing back in the seventies, where you would talk about people behind their backs, gossip about them, but we were also subjected to COINTELPRO. So it wasn't all self-inflicted wounds. We were also infiltrated by the FBI program causing dissension within our ranks. And then of course, as a black woman in the women's movement, I've always had to kind of elbow my way in to get them to understand that feminism was owned by all women, not just white women. So there was a bit of calling out doing that starting in the 1970s for me. And then of course, when I worked with Reverend CT, Vivian doing anticline work, we were always dealing with as well , uh , people who were leaving hate groups that I had to learn how to talk to. So by curating all of that experience, when I finally became aware of the call-out cancel culture that was taking place on social media, I thought that I had a voice in a perspective to add to that because I've been doing that kind of work since I was in my early twenties. And what I find is that human nature has not changed that much it's that we've got better toys. And so we're using social media to say things to people that we probably dare say to most people that when we're in real life with them to their faces, I think we hide behind the anonymity of social media to sometimes become people that may not perfectly align with who, how good we think we are inside with those external behaviors that we display on social media. I, so I don't want to blame it on young people. I mean the original definition of a call-out killed Alexander Hamilton and the right lean, you know , are the creators and the masters of the cancel call out culture in a very hypocritical way as, so I'm not going to do a false equivalence and say the left is as bad as the right or those kinds of things for those are too simplistic analysis for me. But my biggest concern is that there is an inevitability in my heart and head about the human rights victory. I actually think that our opponents are demographically do, and they know it. And I don't want us to self-defeat , you know , self-destruct on the way to victory with the call-out culture. That's my biggest worry right now, as the athletes say, I don't want to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory right there. They, the people we're fighting, I'm trying to fight time. They're trying to divide history that trying to fight the truth. And I don't think they're good enough to win all of that stuff. And so I'm very optimistic about our chances, but I am deeply concerned because how we do the work is as important as the work that we do. And so that's why I've been analyzing and writing on the call-out culture for the last six or seven years.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, it's almost seems remarkable that at a time when whatever one thinks of Sanders in that dynamic , um, it did represent a sort of a tremendous change in climate , um, a tremendous advance in some ways, and the same thing for black lives matter, and me too, and the occupy movement, all these things happen. And as if to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, we invent something to cripple ourselves , um, which is sort of incredible, but it does feel that way to me too, and cancel culture that is calling out that is identifying things that are harmful and that are counter productive . That seems okay. So then what is it about what's going on? That takes it into a realm that's not okay.

Speaker 2:

Well, as a human rights activist , that's our favorite tactic is to call out governments and corporations and individuals who abuse their power and violate people's human rights. So it's not surprising that that's our default tactic, but the human rights movement tries to be a little strategic with that. We don't use calling out as our first choice, our first option. We first tried to approach them with studies and reports and analysis and data. Before we go to the call-out tactic, the problem has been is that for so many people, they actually think the calling out and the canceling is the best choice to make. And unfortunately they're doing the right thing, the wrong way, and they're oversimplifying and really not paying attention to the range of options that they have. I've created what I call the five C continuum, where there's first calling out. When you want to hold people accountable for something that you think they've done wrong, and you choose to use anger, blaming, and shaming to hold them accountable, which actually is kind of counterproductive because there's someone thinks that you're going to put them in front of a firing squad. Why would they volunteer to even listen to you much less cooperate with you? And then there's canceling, which of course is the ultimate call-out because you want people to be severely punished, lose a job, lose a platform. Sometimes they even lose their lives. The other end of that spectrum is calling in where you pursue accountability, but it's still anger and blaming. You use love and respect to do that. And I'll talk about that more. And then there's a fourth option, which is Sarah Sonya, Renee Taylor, and rented this one. She's a calling on that's. When you call on people to do better when you're not investing your time or attention to either call them out or call them in because both of those require that we get getting your time and intention , but you call on them to do better. So that's where you can actually decide whether the next step is going to be a calling out or calling in. And then the fifth part of the continuum , you always have the option of calling it off the gate to try to react to everything that passes your social media feed. And you can call it off temporarily say, you know, I don't have the bandwidth to talk about this now, but can we meet for coffee on it later? Or you can say, I never want to talk to you about this again, ever in life. And so you can call in, call out, call on, call it off. Aren't canceled people. And I just want social justice activists to understand that there's an infinite number of situations and options that you have instead of that simplified binary of giving a pass on oppression. Cause that's what a lot of people think that they're doing. If they don't call somebody out, they think that they're okaying or giving a pass an oppressive pack practice. When in fact you can do a number of things. It depends on how you want to walk through the world.

Speaker 1:

But what do you think of the, the observation? I suppose that in some contexts what's going on is that people are taking something that, you know , can have a sensible use and an effective and a positive use and they're overusing it. They're sort of , um, hearing things, spinning them, turning into them into the worst. They can be not a misunderstanding, not a lack of knowledge, but malevolence, right. And then attacking. Um , and then of course the person who's attacked attacks back and then the possibility for discussion and discovering that it's not as bad as people thought, you know, disappears and so on. It seems like there's a lot of that too. And I , and to add to that question, sometimes it seems like for some people , uh , not everybody, the calling out involves a sort of an ex uh , an expression of power in a situation where people are close to powerless. And it's a way to impact, say, say a teacher or a, you know, some kind of a figure who's a low level authority figure and you sort of exert some power, but it's misplaced exertion. You know what I mean? I wonder what you think about that.

Speaker 2:

Well, you raise a couple of questions. First of all, we don't give others the benefit of the doubt that we expect to be given ourselves. Sadly , like to assume sometimes the worst of others, but we'd be horrified if someone always assumed malintent 10 on our part. And so there's that we don't want to accept that people are other people are as complicated as we are. There's that the other thing about a call-out is that it's the expectation, not that you aren't growing and learning, but that you've already grown and learned. And so when this person sees you or encounter you, they're sharply critical of your learning curve while they expect grace and forgiveness for their learning curve. So there's that double standard there. And I think in terms of the call-out culture, directionality matters. If I'm punching up towards someone with a lot of power, that's abusing their authority and power, that is different than if I'm punching gal on someone with less power than me, and I'd get away with it because they can't hold me accountable. But the real issue for me, isn't punching up or punching down it's punching sideways. And that we're basically picking on each other because we w we fall asleep, believe that we have to be perfectly aligned and United and behave more like a coat than a movement, or somebody is doing something wrong. I know what I believe in . If you don't align with me 100%, then you must be doing something wrong that you know, that, that pursuit of political purity kind of thing. And that is such an aspect of white supremacist culture. That is not nearly as original as people think what they're getting wrong. And so it's that sideways punching where, you know, I might be oppressed by this identity and you're oppressed by that identity. And we've all got some intersectionality thing going on because intersectionality, by the way, it's so often mistaken. It is not a statement of your identity is a statement of your vulnerabilities. You know, that's what intersectionality is black feminist theory should be used for. So whether you're a Scottish bagpipe player is not an issue, whether or not someone is rounding up and oppressing Scottish bagpipe players would be, which I can actually argue for it . But that's a whole nother point. I'm saying that when we punch sideways, that means that a victim of racism may be homophobic. That means that a victim of transphobia may be misogynistic, know our recent immigrant, who's got their citizenship paper, then punches sideways on someone who's undocumented. That's what I think is the danger, because we are facing probably the most threatening Neo fascist movement that's operating globally in the world, the wholesale deconstruction of civil society in many countries. And particularly this one, and we don't do good threat assessments. And so I guess with gender pronouns , wrong versus someone threatening to kill you, and you're more upset over the gender pronoun, then the fascists that are marching down the street, you need to do better threat assessments.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. I mean, obviously I agree with you, but when I try to talk to people, I'm shocked by some of the things that I encounter. I'm not talking about, I'm talking about in the assessment of the situation. So I'll talk to friends who teach and I'll ask them that their experience. And they say, they're afraid. And these are people who are experienced , um , who, you know , have years of, of political and social activism and they teach. And they literally say that they go to class and they're sort of afraid that they'll make a mistake. They're not afraid that they're racist or sexist or homophobic. And they really aren't these people, but they're afraid that they'll do something that will be interpreted that way. And I asked them, well, isn't there something that can be done to address people and to change this kind of climate inside the left and inside communities that are sort of on the edge of the left. And the answer I get is always, no, there's nothing that can be done. It's impossible. It's just impossible. They tell me if you do something it'll be twisted and spun, and it will just be more evidence of how, you know, how horrible, whatever it is. And obviously that we can't accept that because this really is doing damage. So something has to be achieved. And I know that you confront that and take it on and have some success. So I hope you'll talk about that.

Speaker 2:

First of all, for me, I own my mistakes with pride because they're always learning opportunities. And I'm old enough to know that the larger your platform, the more, the bigger mistakes will be, and the more visible they'll be to a whole lot of other people. And so the first thing I advise anybody is that when you've got bad news about yourself running until it first, so that you can control the narrative, because if you try to hide it, it's going to come out in a way that's not going to help you anyway. And so it's not the fear of making mistakes that we should worry about is do you handle that mistake as a child and try to hide it and cover up like the good sweeping the glass under the rug? Hoping mom doesn't notice aren't do you handle it like an adult where you own that you done horror . You make a plan for doing better. You offer an apology, and if you can repair the harm that you've done that to me is my decision tree around whether I'm gonna call somebody out or in , are they acting like a child over their mistakes or the adult ? If you're acting like an adult, I am going to give you my time and tension grace and respect because no one expects perfect activism, perfect teaching. Perfect. Anything. So if you're more afraid of making mistake, then learning how to handle your mistakes with self forgiveness and grace, then you will be paralyzed by fear. And I make mistakes really large. I don't , I'll give you an example. Of course, getting someone's gender pronoun is ultimately important nowadays. And I am nearly 70 years old. So of course, waiting behind the curve on this one . I can't, I have 50 students. I can barely remember your name, much less. Your gender pronoun .

Speaker 1:

We're in the same ballpark here .

Speaker 2:

Right ? And so I mis-gender the student once in class. And I froze Shane because I thought I was going to get jumped down to , we'd been through all these exercises about getting people's gender pronouns, right? And this student looked at me and said, that's all right, professor. I mis-gender myself. Sometimes that was an 18 year old offering me grace, understanding that we're all in this learning process, what that student didn't assume that I intentionally meant harm. And so that requires building trust.

Speaker 1:

It's a healthy, that was a healthy interaction clearly.

Speaker 2:

Yeah . Whereas someone else might've just had a totally negative reaction. And when they do that to me, when they have those negative reactions, you know what my first words are, thank you for calling that to my attention. I will consider what you have said, but meanwhile, I need to know what's going on with you, because why did you come at me this way? When there was so many other ways for you to raise that with me, I'm going to build a container that has both of our humanities in it, not assume a victim role, because someone calls me out and not assuming a presser role by the person calling me out. I'm going to assume that we're complicated. People trying to figure this stuff out together.

Speaker 1:

I can't do this. I wish I could do this with me as the example, but I don't teach. And I own , and I'm in quarantine. You know, I'm in a long time, I don't have that much interaction. So I , I can't, but I do hear from people. And so I will relay to you when I think some people would say in reaction to what they've heard, what you just said, they would say, I agree with you. That's great. You can carry it off. I can't. They would say you have decades of credibility. You have membership and communities, et cetera, et cetera. I'm this white guy teaching this course. So somebody or whatever they happen to be. And it's, it escalates so fast that I, I don't, I can't deal with it,

Speaker 2:

But let's see, first of all, to put it in political terms, we shouldn't practice identity, essential ism , who you are, whatever identity you have, doesn't negate the fact that you have feelings, experiences, things to contribute and things to learn. Everybody has that. And so you first go into what I did. Do you have, you're already victimizing yourself with your own identity as centralism . That makes you think that somehow you can't participate in this mutual learning growth process. And , and, and, and, and that is a narrative that doesn't work for us. We're supposed to be affirming and proud of our identities. Not ashamed to think that those things we have no control over having are somehow going to be weaponized against us. And that's what we, that's what we're fighting with. Oppression, the weaponization of my black identity and the weaponization of white identities ain't help , but we've got to figure out that . And by the way, I refuse to believe that a college professor can't learn what I teach to eighth graders. I'm

Speaker 1:

I don't know what to say to you. I've been frustrated by the response also. And it has seemed to me that it should be possible even as individuals and on a larger scale in the left as a whole to have the effect. And certainly what you're saying sounds like the path to, to have a positive effect. So I appreciate it. And I hope the audience who's hearing that appreciate it .

Speaker 2:

Well, one of the reasons that I'm feel so passionate about this is that the course I teach is Smith. It's called white supremacy in the age of Trump. So it's an unflinching examination of the fascist movement, how the ideology of white supremacy is internalized and how it needs to be separated from whiteness as an identity. Cause you can't, you know, all white people, aren't white supremacists and certainly not all white supremacists are white. I mean, so you have to do some kind of analysis. First of all. And as a key part of my pedagogical project is to teach people to have white pride, appropriate whiteness in your pride, in your identity, as opposed to thinking that the human rights movements job is to be your personal therapy space, to get over white guilt and shame. That is not our job, but we can help you figure out how to be a partner and a co-conspirator in the movement rather than a project for me to fix. I don't have the time for that. And that's why I don't have a mammy. Did everyone , am I dead occupied? So talking about a paradigm shift, that's way beyond whiteness studies lay behind that white guilt white paralysis stuff . Cause I need partners just like they're always been people of many races and many identities and stuff in this freedom struggle. I, I refuse to just buy this popular narrative. Is that because of your identity? There's some things you can't do, like have pride and who you are.

Speaker 1:

What about the idea of, I think come to people's minds also that the safe space notion that I'm sorry, but , uh , the , the idea that , um, where you find yourself, you should always feel safe or whenever it is, I don't totally understand it, but , um, it's, it's a prevalent kind of a notion. And I must admit I did. When I read one of your pieces, I heard I read about how you approach that in the beginning of your course and go right ahead.

Speaker 2:

Well, first of all, I have to be part of taking ownership for this concept of safe spaces, because we, you created the movement to end violence against women. Back in the early seventies, we made an over promise. We told people like I'm a rape and incest survivor, that , that we could create a safe space where you can share the trauma of what's happened to you. And that was the best we could do at that time. The problem with the whole concept of safe space and trigger warnings and all of this, you know, pop psychology, that's being attached to every difficult conversation is that it's an over promise. I'm not quite sure if being oppressed is so dangerous. Why do we think fighting oppression is supposed to be safe? Do you think opponents aren't ruthless are ready to write all of us off the face of this earth. And so I don't use trigger warnings. I don't promise anybody safe spaces. The best I can promise you is a safer here than it is out there. It's safer with me than it is out there going to a Klan rally. Okay ? I can promise you that. But if you are in this movement expected to be comforted, not expecting to be moved out of your conference zone, not expecting to be challenged, not expecting to grow, not expecting to think that you're going to think something tomorrow that you didn't think you'd think today, then you're in the wrong movement. And that's the problem. We tend to see these political spaces as if this supposed to be concluding moons . They're not wombs . They're places to do organizing they're places to fight oppression. They're places to keep what happened to us from happening to other people. But what they are not basis to do is where you to talk about how you can't stand this conversation among . Cause we , we use the weaponized like , oh, you're toxic. Oh, you're unsafe. Oh, you're racist. Oh, you're sexist. Oh, you're manipulate . He just, you using that word . It makes me feel unsafe. Baby, go get some therapy. I'll say, because if , if a work can make you feel unsafe, you got a whole lot of healing to do before you can participate in this work.

Speaker 1:

Yeah , it is incredible. I mean, you know, I can't tell you how much I appreciate what you're saying and yet, and yet it continues. Um, uh , just a little while ago, a friend of mine sent me an article about a , uh, a person. He was a professor in a law school. He's been suspended. He's on the verge of being fired. And you know, it's all about , uh , words used in class, but the incredible circumstance was, it's a case, right? So he's, he's conveying the content of the case. And someone conveyed the contents of the crazy quotes, right? And you can't even quote a word much less, use a word without this flare up. And , uh , the flare up took place. It's interesting. It didn't happen in the class and it wasn't students in his class. It was other students who, who brought it to the attention of the authorities and then pushed it. That kind of thing is really pretty incredible that it can go so far.

Speaker 2:

Let's see, we have to sophisticate our use of words to , let's be clear that they, the days when you had license to use words and act like they don't move way past us. So pretend that you don't have to catch up to the 21st century. So for example, I'm a black woman who grew up for 65 years using the N word as an ind family word that I didn't think about. I've had to listen to young people for whole network. It doesn't land the same way with the same familiarity does it ? Cause I've had a weaponized when I got shot at, by white people. And I've had it uses as a family word too . I mean, every group has this as its inside outside words like that. And so we do have to take responsibility for the words that come out of our mouth at that. But that's separate from saying I can never under utter that word under any circumstances. So you can't. So that's what I'm trying to say. So if I had to quote a point that had the N word , it , it, I'm going to say, this is what this class is going to cover is going to cover words that will make you uncomfortable. This is not a trigger warning. It is a reality check. This is what this course is going to do. I try to do that in the first day of class. So they have a chance to add All the warning. I'm I'm not going to couch things, but I'm also, if I have a choice to use a word that I think will harm less, I will choose that word because the thing I'm most willing to do is to communicate. I don't necessarily want to, you know , have stand on my high horse and use a word that is not an effective communication work. I mean, that's why I get so tired of people talking this postmodern gobbledygook at me because they're showing off their education and not their desire to be understood. And so

Speaker 1:

Another topic on which we agree, another topic on which we agree,

Speaker 2:

But see for , for me, I did not know one of my staff, people told me this the other day, when you know, how do you say, mute yourself?

Speaker 1:

Start again? What the word is , mute

Speaker 2:

Yourself, mute your mic. Cause you can hear , I didn't know, in a certain part of the disabled community, that that's a word that they see is wounding them. All right, for example, but I'm not going to go around and curate every word that could possibly trigger somebody else that then we'd probably never use any words. Right . But I will try and do work, make sincere efforts to use the words that I think won't move. But that doesn't mean I'm going to commit to never wounded because I have to have ESP to know everything that could possibly trigger somebody else.

Speaker 1:

But , but the other question is if you do use the word, you know, it's not a crime it's that you don't know that. In fact, that word hurts that community, which you didn't know a little while ago and you should learn it. You know, you should learn it's the case, but it's the scale.

Speaker 2:

Let's talk about your professor friend who was quoting .

Speaker 1:

I tell you one last fact about that. He didn't use the word when he quoted, right. He said the N word and the B word. It was the case was about a black woman. Despite the fact that he said the N word and the B word he's in deep trouble. He didn't say the word. He literally said ,

Speaker 2:

That's what I'm saying. And another way to handle that is that when he got that reaction, instead of saying, I didn't say the word or I didn't mean to say the word cause it tent , it has to be a judge, I guess , impact too . It's not all in one way or another. You don't get resolved because you had good intentions. If you actually cause harm. If you stepped on my toe accidentally, my toe still hurts. I'm going to react differently. It was an accident or on purpose. My dog still hurts. Okay. But there are ways to handle that. The problem that most of us do, which is just human instinct is first, the night that we did any harm . And then we go back to talking about our intense and we want to be forgiven for intent , but because our intentions were pure because we only define harm as that, which we intentionally do. We can have much more sophisticated conversations than that. Yeah .

Speaker 1:

I mean, I don't disagree with you, but I do think that something here is out of control and I , and there what's lying at the bottom of it, I think, or maybe not just the desire to call out poor choices, let's call it or malevolent choices when it's much worse, but also to exert power in a realm where there's almost no other way to do it. And so you do it in this room,

Speaker 2:

18 year old weapon because within a university system they're denied in every other way.

Speaker 1:

But all of a sudden they got a lot

Speaker 2:

Of power, right? But see, the problem I have is that the adults around them are scared of 18 year olds. When 18 acting very age appropriately, it is their human right to buck the authority. This is what they do. I can't get over how people in these high paid university positions who are supposed to be the adult to send to the level of the 18 year old and, and, and, and start having this crazy apologetic of you've been hard that at , out , out of that conversation, instead of offering an adult perspective of all that's going on. So I'm equally critical, man . I'm less critical of the 18 year olds doing the call out then the 40 year olds that don't know how to handle what.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. I, I wonder only whether that's partly a result of the position that you're in. That is a , you know, how to handle it. And B you were more respected. You were more, you know, I'm not saying, you know , mess up. I'm saying you're more respected. You, you have , you have more leeway.

Speaker 2:

I don't know . I didn't even graduate college till I was 55. And I'm a university professor. So I don't know if it's academic respect. I don't, I don't define respect in the ways that I think the traditional capitalist way of doing it, what I chose to do and choose to do. But the call in practices is not the handle. Someone else, the remote control to my emotions. And that's what I've been working on. Since I was 14 years old as that rape and incest survivor , I was not going to let the, who violated me determine hula ran a Ross is you can learn that at any age. And that is an constant practice. And so I do offer a critique of people who should know better than to hand over the remote control to how they feel every day and then get mad because they don't like the channel. The other people change it to,

Speaker 1:

I can't disagree with you. And I like what you're saying. And I, I think it's, it's not just admirable, but it's pragmatic. It's workable, but I'm trying, I'm trying , I'm just trying to be fair to get as much out of you as possible to the fear that they feel. I mean that they, they tell me, they feel,

Speaker 2:

I'm not saying they shouldn't be afraid. I'm afraid every day . I'm again , I'm up going against some white supremacists , but

Speaker 1:

That's

Speaker 2:

Me all the time. Yes.

Speaker 1:

And if you're not afraid, you're pretty blind . Right.

Speaker 2:

Right here is not the issue. I don't know. I don't know what privileged person thinks they're supposed to live on. Totally fear free life and call themselves conscious. I don't know how that works, but because I've never enjoyed that. But I am clear enough about who I want to be in the world to be frayed as grit and still do the right thing. That's act to me is mastery.

Speaker 1:

I got to say, I am . I find it compelling. I hope people are listening. And we'll see what kinds of responses we get. Suppose we change gears a little bit. And even though everything is pretty much tied to everything else, I'm still it's changing gears. What do you mean by the term reproductive justice? What does it encompass? Why is it a focus for you?

Speaker 2:

Well, in 1994, I was one of 12 black women who were at a conference by the Illinois pro-choice Alliance. And if you can go back to the dark days of the nineties, bill Clinton was president and Hillary Clinton was trying to shepherd through an effort to achieve healthcare reform. And so a representative of the Clinton administration came to this conference with 200 feminists and asked us to endorse their healthcare plan. But somehow they thought that if they omitted reproductive health care from their healthcare plan, they could sneak it by the Republicans. How well do you think that worked ?

Speaker 1:

Not at all,

Speaker 2:

But that wasn't even the point Matt strategy or not. Their worst strategy was to come to a feminist conference and as feminists to support such a male centric health plan, because reproductive healthcare is the main driver women to the doctor. I mean, I all becoming a woman moment after I period says our feet up in stirrups. So how you going to admit reproductive healthcare and then come to a feminist conference and say , when you need to get on board, because we're Democrats

Speaker 1:

Really smart and really perceptive to do that. Good Lord

Speaker 2:

WTF moment as as 12 black women. And it wasn't about challenging the pro-choice framework or the poli framework. It was about saying these folks on both sides don't even start at the right place because every time a woman misses her period, she has all these OMA , God things going on in there . Oh my God, can I stay in school? Oh my God, what am I going to tell my partner, oh my God, can I keep my job? Oh my God. You know, do I even have healthcare , our bedroom to put that child in? That's the real kind of decision making that goes on in women's hands, you know? And you have to have good answers to those. Oh my God question. Before you even addressed the pregnancy, because you got bad answers to those little, my dad question , you probably might turn in a planned pregnancy into an abortion, but if you got good answers to most of those, oh my God question . You may turn an unplanned pregnancy into a baby. That's how real people make decisions. What's going, what are those human rights issues going on in their lives long before they became pregnant, that determine what happens. And so we spliced together the concept of reproductive rights and social justice to create the term reproductive justice, to say, we need to have a human rights way of looking at this stuff, because those preexisting conditions in that person's life just got magnified by this pregnancy. They haven't been solved by this pregnancy. And so we offer a critique of both the pro-choice and the pro-life position. Cause they start with the pregnancy. Why not start, but what's going on in the person's life before the pregnancy happened. Cause if you attend to those things, then you'll probably get the outcome you prefer. If you don't want the person to have an abortion, then attended those things that would lean her, urge her to do that. If you , you know, those kinds of things. And so reproductive justice, as we define it is three basic concepts. Every human being has the right to have a child. And that's these birth control abortion. Assonance that theory that somebody talks about. I've never abstained from anything in my life. So I don't know what is the theory, but because it was created by black women who are always subjected to strategies or population controlled , and eugenically thinking, and I don't have to go into Francis Colton and all of that. We have to fight equally as hard to have the children that we want to have and not suffer sterilization abuse, medical malpractice, or what Harriet Washington calls, medical apartheid and those kinds of things. And then the third tenant is probably the most capacious one. We deserve the human right to raise our children in safe and healthy environment because neither the pro-choice pro-life movement ask the question, what happens once the baby's born and you have a safe school, do you have clean drinking water? Do they have to dub guns to get the class? You know, is there a school to prison? Pipeline is the tax and property tax policies in your community amenable to raising kids. And so we created it in 1994 and much to our surprise. It became a rapidly growing and embraced framework because a lot of people thought that the pro-choice pro-life binary was just too limiting in terms of the fullness of what we wanted to talk about. And most importantly, it developed a global resonance because more people outside of the United States believe in and support the human rights global framework than people in the United States. So quickly, it went transnationally . As people started using this human rights base way of discussing reproductive politics outside of that false binary. And so reproductive justice since 1994 has become a predominant way that people are talking about reproductive politics because it's the full spectrum is what's happened before the child is born. What's happening when the child is born and what happens after the child is born. You have all together to understand how human beings actually make their reproductive decisions.

Speaker 1:

Okay. That's how I sensible sane . Karen humane person would view the issue. I agree, but I wonder about something else and will lead us into, I think, another focus of your concerns and they're , they're so connected. Consider the people who are anti-abortion anti birth control, anti safe, and now the word safe means something profound, safe, nurturing, safe upbringing, safe circumstances for children, safe schooling, et

Speaker 2:

Cetera.

Speaker 1:

Exactly. But , but that's what I want to go to. Um, so the question is, is it just misogyny causes the things that they say, or is it a something that goes that probably includes misogyny, but is more of a tool of a broad perspective, a fascist perspective?

Speaker 2:

Well, the thing I learned through looking at the historical art , every empire needs bodies, I mean, we've had emperor Augustus ordering Roman women to have more babies because they needed them for the army and for the economy . And now we've got, you know, the Republicans, but less the , the Republicans are interesting because until Ronald Reagan, Mary , the segregationist from the 1950s with the anti-gay and the anti-feminist and the anti-immigrant and the pro war coalition and call it the moral majority, most Republicans for Ronald Reagan's election were actually pro choice . George Bush was pro choice . Ronald Reagan was project George Bush's father Preston Bush was on the board of planned parenthood. I mean, and so you have to look at how all of this manipulation of culture wars is about power. I don't think the people who manipulate vulnerable people through the culture wars really care about those issues because they're too opportunistic for that. Like Trump is, you know, he's just a more naked and blatant example of not having a center, a set of values too much about power, money, and control, but you can't do an analysis about reproductive politics or abortion politics just through agenda land . You have to have a race lens. You have to have a class list . You have to have an anti-imperialist list . You have to have all of those in your analysis. And so Lester critique offer my own feminist movement that fails to incorporate a sturdy enough intersection of analysis to really understand, because let me just put it me . If these demographically doomed white men could figure out a way to restrict abortion to only black and brown and native American women stainless in limousines, to take us to the clinics. All of this is about compelling and coercing white women to have more babies. They don't want more brown and black babies. No , they would never convince me of that because they kill the ones that we have . You know, they starved the ones that we have. It is not about, they care about brown and black baby. They're trying to do what Hitler did, monitor women's periods, sometimes course them. But the thing that I hope they never figure out is that Hitler was even smarter than their assets because he also understood how to use not coercion, but incentives, you know, Hitler used to give people rewards for having babies. But what did we have ? Somebody who was smart enough to say, okay, if I can figure out a way to restrict , uh, childcare benefits and free health care and a housing allowance and forgiveness of student loans for every baby you had, because those were the kind of incentives that Hitler used. If, if they can let go of their misogyny long enough to be at least the smartest Hitler we'd be in real trouble because they wouldn't need the Handmaid's tale. Cause a whole lot of white women would be lining up. I get their student loans forgiven to get their first down payments on a house in order to access free healthcare and childcare. But the problem that they have with that agenda, which would accomplish their goals is that it's too feminist swarm. So they giving the women's movement. What we've been demanding for hundreds of years.

Speaker 1:

It also delivers too much from their point of view, not from our point of view, but from their point of view, it delivers too much security and power to , to the public. I mean, if you , that's why, you know, welfare isn't hated because of what they say, welfare is hated because it makes working people stronger. It gives them more bargaining power to take more that's what's wrong with it from the point of view of elites. And what's right about defense spending is that it has the opposite effect. It doesn't improve anybody's life. That's the virtue. It doesn't improve the lives of people .

Speaker 2:

And while you can access a , a college loan or a housing loan would be to go put your life at risk and some imperialist war and stuff like that, you know , the GI bill, my dad went to college through, you know, through that. I mean, modest house through that, if you close out all those other options , that's the only way you can get somebody to agree to get shot at three times shot it's shot three times like my dad in , otherwise it wouldn't happen. And so, yeah, I understand that. So my biggest fear is that they might get smart enough. That's smart as Hitler around this reproductive politics.

Speaker 1:

I don't know if I , if I completely understand that, but let me ask you another question, because then I'm really curious about, and it's, especially since you bring up Germany and Hitler,

Speaker 2:

We take that out of context and say They never work in good faith. So that as well

Speaker 1:

In the U S political scene right now is clearly sort of devolving certain paths , parts of it in a way that brings to mind the label fascist. And so that what, what arises is what might be done about our slip side toward fascism. And so I'm wondering if you see such a tendency or trend towards Sasha fascism, and if you consider it seriously dangerous. In other words, there are those who think that it's inflated it's rhetoric, it's , uh, you know, et cetera.

Speaker 2:

David Neward said the road to passion is fascism is paid with people who say it ain't happening. You know, and I , I call him on that. I probably didn't get them right, but I've been monitoring hate groups since 1990, when under the leadership of Leonard Deskin , who's probably the premier anti-fascist researcher in America. And we've been saying that these people, they don't retreat, they just regroup. And at the time of the 1990s, we felt like chicken little saying that the sky was falling, the sky was falling and everybody poo-pooed us as they deconstructed. And de-funding that he funded the antifascist movement because Clinton was elected. Why did we have to worry about this stuff? That kind of thing. And when Trump came down that golden escalator, I knew all of my worst fears were coming true because he like, you know, tan , I had seed coat said he was the avatar for white supremacy. And he pulled, he pulled the mask off of it and said, no more are we going to play polite with what we stand for and who we consider the Heron Volk ? And , you know, he was just absolutely clear. And so I've been fearing it every , since I was taught to recognize it, just because it doesn't come in the same familiar forms from Italy and Germany and stuff. It has enough of the anti-Semitism enough of the massage, me enough of the racism and the realism and the anti gay stuff. It is , uh , I think it was Karl popper. Somebody else has said it was wrapped in an American flag and carrying a Christian Cross. And somebody said that in 1945, that when fascia goes to America, it's got to be wrapped in an American flag and carrying a Christian Cross. That prediction is coming true. Now, now, when I try to urge people to understand is not to despair because just like my forebears had their lunch counter moment when they had to stand up to this stuff and , and get spit upon and beaten. And waterholes, this is our lunch counter moment. We're not the entire chain of freedom because the chain of freedom stretches back to eye ancestors and forward to our descendants. But we have to make sure that Jane doesn't break at our lake because this is our moment. America was the prototype for fascia . Hitler came here to study our segregation to fashion. What became fascism in Nazi Germany. So where the original prototype really original model that, you know, with the genocide against native Americans and all that. So this was not something they're borrowing from Germany. This is something Germany borrowed from America.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. I , I agree with you and , and it is a scary situation. You know, it's a disturbing situation and not to despair, to, to fight, to, to try to create something much better. But if you get down to the nitty gritty, it is an obvious. So the good Germans, the,

Speaker 2:

The ordinary Germans, yes.

Speaker 1:

The people who watched it happen, so to speak out of the side of their eyes and kept on with life as it was as best they could. They're not, you know, they're not evil people. I mean, you know, there . And so when you look around the United States right now, you see something similar. I think, you know, you see good people, good-hearted good values. Maybe not hugely politically sophisticated, you know, sort of going about their days. If you urge them to act, their response might be well. Yeah, I understand. But, but I, you know, I have these responsibilities. I have my family, I have my parents, I have my kids, I have my, and I, I understand how to do something for them. I can work, try and learn some income, try and make their lives a little better. I don't understand how to fight against this thing that you're telling me is rolling down on us. And so I want to ask you what you think is the way, not that you fight it right? But that a person, no normal average citizen, who's not that politically aware yet can get into being an obstacle. Instead of being somebody who's, you know, a bystander,

Speaker 2:

The thing that I've discovered as an organizer, cause you know, I cut my teeth on doing community organizing for 50 years before I became a college professor, is that first of all, I don't require everybody to be the frontline warrior. There are many different roles you can play in the movement. And so I don't call somebody up out just because all they can put up with a black lives matter sign in their window because far as I know, that might be all they can do. I haven't asked them if that's all they could do what we have to do. And I love this. This work is make people feel joy and fulfilled and , and happy to be fighting on the, on the side of justice. People are drawn to those things. You know, if we, if we come off as the doom and the gloom and you ain't woken up and you know, you'll never be good enough unless you do it. Like, I think you should be doing it group. Nobody's saying wants to work with us. Cause who the hell wants to hang around. Debbie downers life is hard enough without you. And so I know I don't actually feel is the responsibility of all the ones who aren't participating in the struggle to figure out that for those of us who have the privilege of consciousness, the privilege of consciousness, we need to learn to talk to people. Instead of talking down to people, accepting where they are. And if all they can do is show up when we need 1 million people to show up at the count at the Capitol, like I've organized in the past. And then they go back into their lives. On those other days . I think that's a win. I think that's a win. I'm not going to be dismissive of them because I haven't had their lived experiences. I don't know what they're dealing with. And when we've passed judgment, based on what we think they should be doing, we've already alienated our very potential allies.

Speaker 1:

I tended to call it a stickiness problem that the left has , even when we attract support and we get members and we get people active, then our internal dynamics are such that And our, and our internal dynamics are such that they disappear. So it's like a tub that has, you know , the faucet on. We organize people and we get more people in. But down at the bottom is it's the water is all draining out and it's draining out. Not because they're bad people, but because the movement is flawed. And

Speaker 2:

If you ain't having fun doing this work, you need to check whether you're doing something wrong as it should be. You know, Leonard's SQL used to say this. He said, look , Loretta fighting. Fascism is fun. It's being a fascist. That sucks. That reset my perspective forever because he's so right. And so if we're not having fun doing this work, how can we convey it to others? That they will find their best selves doing this work .

Speaker 1:

But if we structure our movement in such a way that it's not fun, then that's the problem. Yes. I agree with you. The responsibility is on us.

Speaker 2:

I mean, you can teach a child how to ride a bike through punishment or joy . You can see , you know, it's your choice, what method you use.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. Well, look at that exactly. One hour and 23 seconds, you're , you're about to take a trip. I don't want to take you, you know, cause it to run into that and be a problem. But I think this has been terrific. And um, maybe we could, we could do it again sometime not too far in the future and explore some more ideas and topics if that's okay.

Speaker 2:

Oh, I'm honored. Like I said, when you invited me to your show, I had to look you up to make sure I wasn't responding to a right wing invitation because I generally don't give them any briefs. And so I was very impressed by the parallel work that you've done around the same timeframe than I've done it. They'd just done it , the different sites. But I feel that there is an alignment happening among the movement. I think reproductive justice is aligning with economic justice, racial justice, food justice. We are seeing an amazing alignment right now. And like I said,

Speaker 1:

That's where the potential lies.

Speaker 2:

And I fear that, you know , the forces of neoliberal , capitalism and our own self doubts and hatred and threatened

Speaker 1:

Where the ladder is, what we can really do something about right off. Yeah. And that's where the responsibility lies.

Speaker 2:

Well,

Speaker 1:

Thank you again for coming on. I really appreciate it. And I guess that said, this is Mike Albert signing off for revolution Z until next time.