S2:E7 Racial Reckoning Revisited Part 2
COMBING THE ROOTS PODCAST
By Ally Henny
Revisiting Racial Reckoning Part 2
Season 2, Episode 7
December 17, 2020
HENNY: This is Ally Henny and you’re listening to “Combing the Roots,” powered by The Witness – A Black Christian Collective. In this episode, I discuss how we can continue the Racial Reckoning. Stay tuned!
HENNY: Hey! It is so good to be back for another episode of “Combing the Roots.” I always enjoy having this time to be able to talk with you all, for us to be able to have this conversation, and to continue this conversation. And so I don’t take your engagement with this platform lightly, at all. I hear so much wonderful feedback about this show, and I hope that you all will continue to send me your wonderful feedback. And if you’re somebody who doesn’t like the show, and you’re a hate listener to “Combing the Roots,” then go ahead! Share your hate with me. I don’t know why on earth anyone would invest time to listen to a show that they hate, but I know that there’s people out there – you know, I have a few, I think one-star reviews or two-star reviews, on Apple Podcasts, from some people who maybe found out that this show wasn’t their cup of tea. And that’s cool. And if this isn’t your cup of tea – if this is your first episode listening to the show, and you’re like, “Yeah, this episode” – or if you’re however many episodes in, I think it’s 12 or 13 at this point – I guess that if you’re 12 or 13 episodes in and you’re like, “Yeah, this podcast is junk,” please feel free to leave that type of review on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts.
But for those of you who rock with me, those of you who are part of this listening community and you love this show, and it makes an impact on your life – and I have to say that there are way more people who have been impacted by this show in a positive way than those who hate it – I would love to hear from you all. The best way that I can hear from you all is by you, first of all, making sure that you’re subscribed to the show, and you making sure that your friends are subscribed to the show. That is one easy way that I can know that you all love this show, because that helps – you all subscribing to the show, downloading the episodes – it helps my numbers, it helps for other people to find out about this show, and to be able to hear all of the (I’m hoping) wonderful – I think that they’re somewhat wonderful – things that I have to say. And so that’s one way that you can help this show.
Another way that you can help this show is by rating it and leaving a review on Apple Podcasts, or, again, wherever you get your podcasts – whatever it is, if you’re able to rate, if you’re able to leave a review: that would be so wonderful. Because again, it does something with the algorithm. It helps the show potentially to chart, and for other people to be able to have access to this show. So I implore you, I invite you, that if you love this show – if “Combing the Roots” has made an impact in your life in some positive way – would you go and would you leave a review? And here in the next few episodes, I will have to remember to get on and to read some of those reviews. Because I absolutely love reading the reviews, whether they’re positive, whether they’re negative, whether they’re mixed. It’s something that’s great. It helps me to know that this show, where it’s hitting and how it’s hitting, and why it’s hitting or why it’s missing. And, on top of that, like I said, it helps to build this listening community.
Another way that you can help build this show is through Patreon. I try to, every month, offer some decent benefits for my patrons, and so, for as little as $2 a month – I say “little,” but it’s actually a HUGE contribution – you can become a patron, and that helps with this podcast. It helps me to be able to produce this podcast. And so I would absolutely love it if you were able to do that. I do some teachings; I do some writing, once a month or thereabouts. There won’t be one this December – there won’t be one this month, but there will be some other things that are going on, just because of the holidays. There will be some other things going on on my Patreon, because of the holidays. But usually I do like a once-a-month live Zoom call, and I record it, and I put it out there for my patrons. I usually do it on some sort of topic. So past topics have been plausible deniability, whenever it comes to racism; I believe I did one on white fragility; I did one on the Racial Reckoning, which is also our topic today.
So those are just great ways – I hate to have all these commercials at the top of the episode, but I think this is important information. This is information that will help you to be able to engage with me, to engage on the various platforms that I’m on. And of course you can find me Facebook, you can find me on Twitter, you can find me on Instagram. I’m in these internet streets. So please please please, as you feel comfortable, as you feel led, as it works for you – find ways to be able to engage with me outside of this podcast.
So let’s get to it.
So today we are continuing our conversation about the racial reckoning that’s been happening in our culture. So this is Part 2 of this episode. I don’t really feel like these parts are necessarily independent of, or rather interdependent on one another. You can certainly – this is actually my third episode on the Racial Reckoning. So if you’re listening to this podcast and you have just, you’re like bingeing it or something like that, you’’ll probably notice that I’ve been talking about this for, this will be the third episode with kind of a very similar title. So just a little bit of context for this is that this summer, later in the summer, I recorded an episode on the Racial Reckoning. And then I had planned to have several more episodes before the end of the year. But then the pandemic happened, continued to happen in life, and the pandemic happened. So I wasn’t able to get to some of the episodes that I wanted to do. But some of those episodes that I wanted to do, I will do.
But I wanted to revisit this topic of the racial reckoning again, just because of its timing. With the election, and with the impending inauguration of Joe Biden, I felt like it would be good to revisit this topic, and to revisit it kind of right in this down time that we have. So we’ve just come down from the election; and of course there’s been all sorts of lawsuits and all sorts of just nonsense surrounding the election. Donald Trump at this point still will not admit that he’s lost. He still won’t concede.
I actually don’t expect him to concede. This is a little bit off-topic, but I’ll go there for a moment. I don’t expect him to concede. Like, I don’t expect a concession speech. Because I think that he has too much invested. He is entirely too much invested in the narrative that somehow he has been swindled out of this election. He has too much invested in this notion that there are all of these conspiracies and all of these different things floating around. Like, a lot of his followers eat that type of thing up. And so he, I think, has already said – or at least I’ve seen rumors – that he’s planning on running in 2024. But that’s, whatever. I really don’t care about that at this point. But he has way too much invested, and I think also, just, I think that his pride and his ego will not allow him to concede. And so I don’t expect to see that. So there’s been a lot of drama. If you’re listening to this sometime way after 2020, and you happen to find this podcast and are listening to this, just know that there was a whole lot of drama in the LBC over Donald Trump deciding whether or not he was going to concede, or whether or not he lost the election, and whatever. That’s just kind of how it is.
But for those of us who are in the reality of people who don’t believe conspiracy theories and aren’t on all of this Republican nonsense that’s happening – that may not necessarily be people – I’m not saying that’s like Democrats, that category is exclusively inhabited by Democrats, because it’s not. But I think that for those of us who inhabit the reality of “Donald Trump lost, Joe Biden won” – we’re ready to move on. And so as we’re moving on, I think that we need to think about: how do we effect change?
And the reason why I think that we have to think about how to effect change – the reason why I think we have to think about this, is because it can be very easy for us to think that Joe Biden somehow is a panacea. He’s like this, like he’s some sort of cure-all that is going to mean that everything is going to be A-OK and hunky-dory, and we don’t have to worry about anything because a Democrat is in office.
Now, I’m sure that a lot of you all out there don’t think that way. But just in case you do, let me go ahead and get real with you, and say that that is not what’s going to happen. Just because a Democrat is the president now – just because Joe Biden is the president – doesn’t mean that we still don’t have work to do. So in the next segment, I’m going to talk about that a little bit more. Stay tuned.
HENNY: In the last segment I talked about how there was some drama surrounding this past election and how, as we move forward, it can be easy for a lot of people to think that we don’t have more work to do. But, in fact, we do have work to do. And so in this segment I want to talk a little bit more about the work that we have yet to do.
So I could be wrong about this, I admit it. But I really feel like that there is a false sense of victory that exists among a lot of us who were happy that Donald Trump got voted out of office. Now what I mean by that is, I’m not saying “a false sense of victory” in that Joe Biden didn’t actually win the election. What I mean is a false sense of victory in thinking that Joe Biden winning the election was a victory. I think that it was a victory in the sense that it was better than the alternative; but I don’t know if Joe Biden winning was a win for America. Whenever I look back at – first of all, the fact that we have a two-party system, like, looking at that, number one. Like, we look back and say, well, at the beginning of this election season, when we saw the vast failure of the two-party system in 2016, that we were just like, “Hey, we’re still going to go with this. We’re going to go with that. We’re not going to push for a third party. We’re not going to push for election reform, and to do something completely different.” So first of all, there’s that.
But then we look back at the Democratic field for president, and it was a diverse field. It had women; it had a gay man; it had people of various ethnicities; it had a lot of diversity. It was a lot more diverse than what we have seen, probably, at any point ever in election history in the United States. Yet we have this, but then like the top contenders end up being two old white men. Now, I know that Bernie is Jewish, and I don’t want to erase his Jewishness. But I think the world engages with Bernie mostly as a white man. They see how he looks, and he looks like a white man, and so that’s how people engage him. And I don’t think, especially since Bernie isn’t religious, I think that people tend to put him in the “white man” box and only kind of pull out his Jewishness whenever it’s convenient.
But those were the top contenders for the Democratic ticket for, like, a lot of the race. I mean, Elizabeth Warren snuck in there a few times. But those were the top contenders, like, for a lot of the race. And I think that whenever Cory Booker and Kamala, whenever they first announced, I mean, people were like, “Oh, Cory Booker! Oh, Kamala!” Whatever. But then, you know, whenever these white dudes started coming in – and I think Pete Buttigieg, I think at some point he was in the mix, too, and that was a victory, probably, for a lot of LGBTQ people. I know that there were a lot of people that were like, “OK, but Pete is kind of still the Establishment. He’s gay, but he’s the Establishment, still.” He maybe wasn’t the ideal candidate for a lot of gay people, for a lot of queer people. But anyway, that’s beside the point.
But I think that it’s very telling that we had this field that was racially diverse, that was diverse in terms of religious views, that was diverse, somewhat, in terms of sexual orientation, that was diverse in terms of ethnicity – there was just, there’s a lot that we could say, “Well, we need to do better. But hey, the Democratic party actually did something that was different than history.” But then we end up with two white men, and we end up with the top of the ticket being an old white man. So then the election ends up being two old white men.
And whenever I say “old white men,” I don’t mean to sound ageist, as if somehow, like, being old is a disqualifying factor, and that being old means that you can’t do things, that you don’t have a brain, and that you can’t effectively govern. But what I’m saying is – what I mean by “old,” whenever I talk about “old people” in this respect, in this sense, saying that these were old white men – is that there are people that represent a generation that has been in power for a long time, and we could even argue, does not want to relinquish power, and cede power, to younger people. And that is a problem. I don’t have time to unpack all of that, but that is a problem.
And so I don’t want to sound ageist, but I think that it’s a problem that whenever we have people – whenever one generation – whenever the last several presidents have been part of a certain generation, that’s a power problem. And so as that demographic starts to age, and starts to get old, older, and potentially start, you know – they’re approaching the end of life, potentially – and that can create other problems. That can create constitutional crises. So again, I think that old people are totally qualified, should totally be able to become president and run our country; but we also need to think about passing the torch, and about younger generations – those who are eligible – being able to have power, and be able to – that just serves a very practical function. If you have a generation of people who have never experienced leadership before, because all the older people above them were always in leadership, then those leaders have potential to not be effective leaders because they’ve never led on a grand scale.
But I’ve said way more about that than what I wanted to say. So getting back to this idea of this false sense of victory: I think that it’s a false sense of victory because the status quo won. And the status quo is still racism. And so where we experienced in the last four years, it was like this almost extreme version of what white supremacy in government can look like. Because it was white supremacy unhooded and unmasked. (I was going to say “unmasked,” but then I was like, oh yeah – but it definitely was unmasked here during the pandemic.) But we have white supremacy unhooded, parading through the streets with tiki torches. We have that, and that’s something that the leader of our government gives a thumbs-up to, and says, “Oh, these people, these are fine people.” That is a problem. And so we have that as what was sanctioned by the government, what was sanctioned by people of the upper echelons of our ruling society.
And so then, now, we have just the regular version of racism back. And I think that that’s something that we need to get, is that we didn’t somehow win something. It’s: we hit the factory reset button and we got the default settings for racism back. And so the default settings for racism is still racism. It’s saying like, we’re still going to be racists and white supremacists, but instead of it being unhooded and unmasked and uncloaked in the streets, we’re going to go back to the more covert forms of racism.
I think that it’s also important to note that Joe and Kamala – they really don’t represent – they represent kind of more of a moderate aspect of politics. American politics is so interesting because what we consider to be left-wing is really considered moderate for the rest of the world. But that’s a discussion that is beyond the scope of this podcast; and really, honestly, it’s beyond the scope of a lot of my range of knowledge. But this is just something – I’m not just regurgitating something that I’ve heard. This is something that in my own study that I’ve seen. But it’s just something that I am not adept enough to speak on. But this is also, I think, something that’s somewhat common knowledge, is that people that are kind of in our left wing – people who are kind of – the Democratic party traditionally has been just more of a moderate. So we do have people who are little bit further left; but farther left for America isn’t the same as far left for other countries. And so this isn’t necessarily to glorify Leftism. I don’t know enough about it to really be like, “Oh, this is good, this is bad, this is blah blah blah.” I don’t really know.
But what I do know is that we have the potential to be celebrating something that really is nothing but the recalibration of the status quo.
Now, as I say that, I do want to acknowledge that Kamala Harris being in office – that that is a victory for people of color. That is a victory for women. That’s a victory for HBCU grads. That’s a victory for children of immigrants. That is a victory for a lot of people. And we can hold in tension that Kamala represents some things that are important, while also still critiquing some of the things that she personally has stood for, and for the impact of those things. And the same goes for Joe Biden: that we must critique Joe Biden. We must critique his record. We must push him to renounce stances that he’s taken, and to undo some of the harm that he has done – particularly with the Biden Crime Bill. He didn’t just vote for something; he came up with it, his name was on it; and something that was a contributing factor to mass incarceration. That is a problem. We can’t look at that and say, “Oh, but Joe! Uncle Joe!” Whatever whatever whatever.
At the same time, I think we can get to a point where we rain on every single parade, and we can get to a sense of this almost kind of purist stance, of thinking that we can only cheer on somebody whose stances are ideologically pure. And I think that that’s a losing game. Because what is ideologically pure for you, somebody is going to come and find something wrong with. So I don’t want us to get into this idea of ideological purism, where we have to find the candidate, we have to find the leader, we have to find the person that is pure, and then anybody else that doesn’t fit within our criteria for purity, we’re just going to lambaste them and just say, like, “This is a problem.” And we’re just going to say, like, they’re not worthy of anything.
And so, again, I think there’s a tension that we must hold. We can acknowledge what they represent, we can acknowledge the importance of getting Donald Trump out of office; we can acknowledge all of that, but we can also say, “Yeah, there are some aspects to these people, to these leaders, that are problematic, and we have work to do on this.” And the truth is, like I said, there is work to do still. We reached the factory default of racism. We have reset to a default, and the nation defaults to white supremacy. That has been the track record of this nation for the past almost 400 years – of course, we’ve only been a nation for a little bit more than half of that time. But the default of this nation has been white supremacy. And so we have, in essence, said, “Well, we’re going to push back against the more extreme version of that.”
I say “push back against the more extreme version of that,” but you still have 70 million-odd people who voted for Donald Trump. You still have people that – it’s not a majority of the nation, but it’s not – I think back, and I’m like, “There should not have been anybody. He should not have gotten any votes.” If America – if all these people who say that they’re not racist and don’t want to vote for a racist president – if all those people would have not voted for the person who is overtly racist, and who brought overt racism – who brought racism from the covert into the overt in the last four years – he, Donald Trump, would have had a very small amount of votes. But the fact that he drove voter turnout in such a way – this election wasn’t a referendum on Trumpism. If anything, it confirmed Trumpism. And so that’s a problem. The fact that that man got any kind of votes is a problem.
And so now we have a person who is going to be in office, who might be in office by the time you listen to this – now that we have that person in office, it doesn’t mean that somehow racism is done. We still have work to do. And I think that the work that we have to do: it happens on two tracks. Something that I think a lot of us would recognize, that there’s still work to do. But I think that there is a little bit of disagreement about what that work actually is and what that work looks like.
There are people out there who think that we can reform the system we have. It’s like, you know, “Hey, we’ll go to McDonald’s” – no, we’ve got food at home. Like, that’s how a lot of people want to approach reforming our nation. We’ve got food at home. We’ve already got this Constitution. We’ve already got this thing, so all we have to do is to reform, and to make it better. Whereas other people out there like, “No, we can’t reform and make it better. We’ve got to dismantle the whole thing. We’ve got to tear the whole thing down. There’s nothing good about it, and we’ve got to tear the whole thing down and start all over again. I would call the one reform; I would call the other reimagining.
I think that we have to do both. I think that where we get into – I’ve seen some of these conversations go, and for me, where my head starts to swim – and maybe it’s because I just don’t have enough knowledge on either end, to argue for either end. And whenever I say “arguing for the middle,” I don’t mean moderation. I don’t mean, out to be a moderate or a centrist, and just be like, “Oh, I don’t know what we should do.” I honestly think that arguing for the middle in this case is saying we have to do both. I think that we have to reform what we have – we have to fix what we have – while we reimagine something else.
So I think that the problem with the people who are in reform, who are strictly like, “We’ve just got to reform what we have,” and those who are strictly, “We’ve got to tear, burn everything down; we’ve got to tear everything down” – I think that there are problems that exist with each of those perspectives. I think that reform, it sells incremental change. There are people that are dealing with a lot right now, that are dealing with so many difficult things in their lives; and it’s directly tied to their oppression. It’s directly tied to how our government handles and mishandles certain things. So there’s a lot of people who are like, “We just have to shut it down. We’ve got to burn it down. We’ve got to get rid of the student loan debt. We’ve got to have healthcare for all people. Like, we just have to do this.” And I agree with that. And there’s people who are even beyond that, who are like, you know, who are even beyond what should just be basic things. They’re like, “The way this government works isn’t working,” and I agree with that 100%. But I think that whenever we start to talk about dismantling – whenever we start to talk about taking things apart – we can take things apart and not have anything to rely on. We can take things apart and potentially create a shock to the system that then ends up harming more people.
So my stance – and I’m not articulating it perfectly, but I think if I had to choose – -like, if I had, put me on the line and said, “What do you need to choose?” – like, I’m absolutely going to choose dismantling over reforming anything that we have. I think that what we have is built on white supremacy. Its roots are in white supremacy. Why are we going to try to fix something that is built on white supremacy? Like, that’s – white supremacy isn’t a bug, it’s a feature. So why on earth would we spend our energy and time and resources fully vested in trying to reform something that wasn’t built for our flourishing?
But I also recognize – and maybe I’m just talking out the wazoo here, and what I’m saying doesn’t make any sense. Maybe somebody who knows more than me would be like, “Ally, that’s not exactly it.” But I just look and say that for me, I think of it in terms of harm reduction. We can have all of the protests; we can have all the riots, all the whatever that we’re going to have; but at the end of the day, the system that we have is the system that we have. And so there are things that, if those things don’t keep going, it could cause more harm to certain people
And so I’m not saying that we just keep the things going the way that they’re going – we just keep that going for forever. But what I’m saying is, we’ve got to kind of work on it. It’s almost like building a bridge from both sides. And so both sides have to be building toward something. And I guess, actually, the bridge analogy doesn’t really work, but I’m going to keep on with it: that we have to keep building toward something. And that something is liberation. That something is freedom for all people. And so as we’re building for that, as we’re building toward that, we have to run these two tracks at the same time. And so the reform aspect of things is, let’s reform the system to harm as few people as we possibly can, while we start to reimagine, and start to build something, and start to build something different.
And I know that that is so incomplete. That is so unsatisfying, even. Because it’s all kind of philosophical, and kind of petty stuff, “What do you mean, building them at the same time?” You know what? That is beyond the scope of what I can even say here. But I think that it is important – the main takeaway that I want us to have is that there is still work to do.
So as I say that there’s still work to do, I want to acknowledge the tension that exists in that work. Because I think that we, as a people, do not always agree on what that work looks like. And there are some of us who want to work for reform, and we end up working to maintain the status quo. Meanwhile, there are some of us who are working toward dismantling, but we’re working in an area where there’s not a whole lot of infrastructure – where there’s not a whole lot of means and ways to do things right now. And so it’s almost working in a territory that I won’t say is entirely philosophical, but – it’s not necessarily philosophical, but it is hard to get those things to become pragmatic because of some of the issues with the system. And so I just see where we’re spinning our wheels, in some ways.
This is a conversation that I see happening in so many different spaces. And this is – a lot of this conversation – we could talk about this in terms of integration vs. separatism. We can see, we can talk about this in terms of nationalism vs. integration. We can talk about this in a lot of different realms. This has been an issue that has plagued Black Americans for a long time: how much do we fight for and work for a system that doesn’t work for us? And how much do we try to work outside of that system, to effect change? And sometimes I think that we end up working at cross purposes with one another, because we don’t recognize the strengths in both positions, and recognize that the ultimate goal is liberation.
And like I said, if I had to choose – if you made me choose a side – I’m going to be like, “Fam, we gotta dismantle this thing. We gotta disrupt this thing. We’ve got to tear this thing down.” But I also get concerned because I see that, because from where I sit, I’m like, if we do that – if we dismantle, if we tear things down; if it ends up where stuff is unstable, what happens to the most vulnerable among us? How do we keep the most vulnerable among us safe? So that’s why I think that we have to do both at the same time. And we have to work on both ends.
So in the next segment I want to talk a little bit more about, pragmatically, what some of that looks like.
HENNY: In the last segment I discussed what I see as some competing values among those of us who want to see liberation for the most oppressed people in society. In this segment I want to talk a little bit more pragmatically about what change means, or what change looks like.
First of all, I believe that every person should be guaranteed a quality of life, as a non-negotiable. Every person should have access to food, to water, to clothing, to shelter; their medical needs met, their intellectual needs met, their disability needs met, their community needs met. All of those things should exist for every single person. It shouldn’t be a question. There shouldn’t be people among us who don’t have clothes. There shouldn’t be people among us who don’t have access to food, who don’t have access to clean water, who don’t have access to shelter, who don’t live in places where people love them; people who can’t get the basic level of education. Those things, to me, are non-negotiables. Whenever I say “guaranteeing a quality of life,” I don’t mean that we give everybody, like, a millionaire, billionaire, quadrillionaire, trillionaire, whatever, lifestyle. That’s not what I’m saying. But what I’m saying is that every person is entitled to basic dignity. There should be no reason on earth that any person should have to live in some of the conditions that some of the most poor and most marginalized in our society live in. There’s no reason. People who have disabilities, people who have intellectual disabilities, people who have physical or mental disabilities, people who have mental health issues: all of those people should have access to a quality of life and should be treated with dignity and respect. To me, like I said, it is a non-negotiable.
And something that I really feel like needs to change, is that I think that American society – that whiteness in particular – gets so hung up on the idea of giving people a handout, and saying, “Well, if you just keep giving people stuff, they’re never going to do this and they’re never going to amount to anything,” and whatever. In my opinion, there’s just no excuse for some of the conditions that exist. There’s just no excuse why people should be living under overpasses, in squalor. There’s just no reason for that.
Now, I will say that there might be people in society that, for various reasons, may choose to live alternatively within that society. There might be people who might choose to live outdoors. There might be people who choose to participate in alternative economies. There might be people who choose to participate and live within communities that don’t follow traditional community norms. And that’s something we have to acknowledge. There are people that, for various reasons, are going to choose to live on the fringes of society, or who are going to choose to even live outside of society. There are some people that may not be helpful, that may not be – whenever I say helpful, that they might do things that cause harm in society. So we need to find ways to either rehabilitate or to remove them from society and to put them in places where they can still be treated with dignity and respect, but they don’t cause harm to other people.
Those are all finer, more granular details that we could get into. But I think that whenever we get into some of those granular details, that we miss the overall point. We can sit and argue the smaller points, but as we’re arguing the smaller points I think that it misses the overall point that every person is entitled to dignity. Every person is entitled to health. Every person is entitled to a quality of life. And like I said, there’s going to be times whenever that mark isn’t going to be hit for every single person, for various reasons; but we should just say that the basic level – the basic, default setting – should be toward justice in this respect.
And so I think that what this requires – whenever I talk about reforming – I think that it requires us to reform some of the systems that we currently have, but I also think that it requires us to reimagine. So whenever we talk about assuring a quality of life for people, I think that, in terms of reform, we need to reform healthcare; we need to reform welfare; and whenever I say “reform welfare,” I don’t mean taking it away from people. I mean actually expanding it. We need to reform housing. We need to reform a lot of the different systems that surround some of our basic needs. We need to reform those things to be more inclusive of people, to be more inclusive of different states, of different abilities to pay; of different sets of resources. I think we need to reform the system to be able to account for those things, and to be able to make sure that there’s a basic quality of life that is attained for every single person.
With that said, I think that it also requires us, not just to reform the system – not to just say, “OK, we’re just going to kind of change the same system” that was built for white, privileged people – men, specifically – who owned property and who had all these economic advantages; the landed gentry, if you will – that we’d just reform a system that was built to support those people and to make sure those people always were on top and always flourished. We have to also reimagine. We have to also say, “What would it look like?” – for there to be universal, free education that is top quality: that no matter where you live, you can be assured that you can get the best quality of education that you can get, so that you can succeed and flourish. What would it look like to imagine teaching people how to live their life, how to do things like become electricians and to become plumbers, and to know how to write a budget, to know how to pay their taxes – all of those things that some of us didn’t learn in school? What would it look like to teach everybody those things? And then people who show promise in other areas, whose abilities lie elsewhere: those people can go to college. Those people can go, and they can get doctorates and masters degrees; and they can do that without coming out with crippling debt. So whether that is that you were studying antiquities, or philosophy, or music, or whether you’re learning to become a brain surgeon; every person is able to come through getting their education, and not having their education being a burden.
Because you know what? It’s important that people study antiquities. It’s important that people study philosophy. That’s a lot of why our society is the way it is right now, is because people are focusing on getting that dollar, and they don’t have context for anything else. They don’t have – they trying to get dollars and they don’t got no sense!
And so we need to make that a thing. And so as we reimagine, we need to reimagine, what would it look like for everybody to have someplace to live? What would it look like for everybody to have food? And I don’t just mean, like, food; I don’t mean like lowest-quality, like, potato chips. “Yeah, we got potato chips, oh that’s great.” I’m not saying that everybody gets potato chips. I’m saying, like, what would it look like for everybody to eat and to eat quality food, to eat food that is good, that is nutritious, that is healthy; and to not have to jump through a bunch of hoops to be able to get it? What would that look like, for everybody to have access to healthcare? Yes, we can certainly expand Medicare and Medicaid. We can certainly talk about reforming those systems. We can talk about reforming Social Security. We can talk about all those things – I think that those are the means that we have right now. But what would it look like to imagine completely different systems, where every person is accounted for, and every person we can assure – from the womb to the tomb – we can assure a basic quality of life?
And within that, we can still have innovation. There still might be people that might rise to the top, and they might make more money. I don’t know – we exploit people’s labor, and I think that we also have to reimagine labor. And I don’t think that exploiting people’s labor, and essentially enslaving them to the amount of money that they can make per hour, that that’s the right way to go. But what if we reimagined something completely different? What if we reimagined a system where, yeah, there are going to be people who might own things, and there are going to be people who are going to be in charge of things. There might be people who have innovation and creativity and come up with brand-new things. I think that we can foster all of those things.
But just what does this society look like? What does society look like whenever we start to guarantee that every child can eat? What in society starts to change when we can make sure that every person has a home – that every person has a home that they can feel proud of? And whether that – for some people that might look different. For some people, maybe their home is under the overpass. But maybe they can have the best home under the overpass that they can have. And so they are living under the overpass but they’re not hungry and they’re not cold.
I don’t know. Maybe it sounds like I’m talking out of my head. But what I do know is that the way that things currently are, it’s only benefiting a few people. And the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. And I’m not OK with that. I’m not OK with a society in which people have to beg for money. And I’m not OK with a society in which GoFundMe pays people’s medical bills. I’m not OK with a society where not everyone has access to quality education because of their ZIP code. I’m not OK with a society that discriminates against people because of their race, because of their sexual orientation, because of their immigration status, because of all the various things that a lot of people are being discriminated against. I am not OK with that.
And so we have to change. We have to change our society. We have to change the way America works. We have to come to the reckoning, come to the realization, that our society was built on injustice. It was built on marginalizing the bodies of African people, of indigenous people. That’s what our society was built on. It was built on marginalizing the bodies of Asian people. It was built on marginalizing the bodies of people who became various mixtures of the different groups, of the ruling societal powers and those who they marginalized. We have to recognize that we can do better. We can say that some of the “promise,” quote-unquote, of America, some of the idea of America, the American Idea, that there’s aspects of that that’s a good thing. But whenever we start talking about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and we only mean that to mean white men – we’ve got a problem.
And so this nation has to come to a point of recognition that this racial reckoning – racial reckoning really is the beginning of it. But we have to come to the point where we recognize, and we reckon with, the fact that our nation was built on such atrocious ideas, on such atrocious behavior. Even though, philosophically, some of the things sound good – like I said, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. All that stuff sounds really, really great until you get down to the bottom of it, and you realize they only meant it for certain people. It was an asterisk. There’s an asterisk there. (There’s not actually an asterisk on the Declaration of Independence, but there might as well have been.) Whenever we start to delve into what this nation is – whenever we start to delve, not just into history, but into the current way that things are – we recognize that white supremacy is at the root.
There’s white supremacy that, as I’m recording this right now, there are people in Washington, D.C., who are marching, who have torn down Black Lives Matter signs and burnt them – Black Lives Matter flags, I think, on historic Black churches and have burnt them. There’s just all sorts of chaos and stuff that’s going on as I’m recording. Even as I’m recording this episode, there are all sorts of things that run counter to those values that we say that we espouse as Americans. But we don’t really espouse those values! And so we have to reckon with that.
And whenever I say “we” – we as Black people, we don’t necessarily need to be like, “Oh, yeah, we’ve got to atone for white supremacy.” We don’t have to do that. But if I say we have to reckon with that: we have to reckon with a whole bunch of implications of white supremacy within our own culture, but I think that we have to bring in the reckoning. And I don’t mean that in a way that is like, “Oh, we’ve got to be violent, we’ve got to do all this other type of stuff.” That’s not what I’m saying. We don’t have to cause harm to people. We don’t have to do what was done to us. I think that at the end of the day, I just don’t think it’s ever good – it’s never a good look to adopt the modes and the means of the oppressor.
But I do think that we have to bring this reckoning, that we have to keep speaking out. Because more and more people are being harmed. Because it’s a constellation of harms, if you will, because of this. Because I believe that white supremacy is at the root of it. And whenever you have a bad root, you’re going to have bad fruit.
Well, there’s a lot more that I could say on this topic, but I’ve been talking for a very long time. Thank you for listening, if you were able to keep up with that rant. I thank you so much for listening. I hope you’ve enjoyed this episode.
“Combing the Roots” is powered by The Witness – A Black Christian Collective. Special thanks to executive producers Tyler Burn and Beau York. Catch up with what I’m doing on these internet streets by visiting allyhenny.com. There you’ll be able to connect to my Twitter feed, my Instagram, and my Facebook writer’s page. I’m your host, Ally Henny. Peace.
[END OF TRANSCRIPT]