A Look Back at 2021
The last year was a time that forced many of us to reflect on ourselves, the world, and what it means to be strong. In this episode of Conversations with Chanda, we look back at 2021 with some of our dynamic guests who helped us bring some sense into a year that felt so senseless. Hear from the family of George Floyd, Eddie Glaude Jr., Kim Foxx, and many others as we remember our past in order to better understand our future.
Souphak Kienitz 00:04
You’re listening to Conversations with Chanda, a Minneapolis Foundation podcast that unpacks the community’s grittiest most vexing problems, hosted by Chanda Smith Baker. Last year was a time that forced many of us to reflect on ourselves and the world. There has been so much loss and as Chanda states to be here and survive has been a gift. We wanted to summarize the year of 2021. So our team pulled together short clips from dynamic guests featuring George Floyd’s family members, Angela Harrelson and Paris Stevens, to Kimberly Foxx, Deborah Archer, Jim Bear Jacobs, and much more. Enjoy the show.
Chanda Smith Baker 00:56
Could you provide us a little bit of insight in terms of how you found out and watching that video, and how that video impacted you? And I’ll start with you, Angela?
Angela Harrelson 01:08
Yeah, um, I actually did not know, know, he was killed to like a day after I didn’t hear anything. I didn’t hear no calls from no family, nothing. So to me, I woke up. It was like a normal day. When I did find out it was through a news reporter on some type of media and our members. So clearly, I answered the phone that day. And he said, Are you Angela Harrelson? I said, What? Yes, I am. He said, I’m calling about the murder of your nephew, George Floyd, who was killed by the Minneapolis Police. Now I’m thinking because we know Miss Perry, the whole family. We all call him Perry. You guys know him as George Floyd. So I’m thinking, well, he must got the wrong family, because I’m hurting anything. But I knew there was something in his tone. That was serious. But I honestly thought he had their own family. But he asked me again, he said, Are you Angela Harrelson? And I say yes, I am. He said, I’m calling about the murder of your nephew George Floyd, who was killed by the Minneapolis Police.
And I’m thinking, I wonder what family you know, because it honestly it was nothing was clicking register me. I remember saying you know you, he must have the wrong family. So I put the phone down. I hung it up. But something is bothering me. It was like a nagging spirit. So I said to him said, check your messages. I checked my messages. And I have these text messages. You know, call me call ASAP. And then some just you know, my Okay, I’m getting nervous here. And then I checked my voicemail. And it was my sister’s that call, you need to call ASAP. I’m like, Oh, my God, what is going on? Because I’m still. So I remember calling. And at first words that came out of my son, my siblings mouth. Perry is dead. The police killed Perry. Turn the TV. And my mind went back to that telephone call. Just like that. Then I heard my husband yell and Angela, you need to come in here. So my mind is just all over the place. And I remember I ran in there. And the minute I walked into the living room. That’s where Perry was on his stomach. Handcuff and the words, right? I walked into the words, I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. And everything was going kind of blur. And then I heard him say Mama Mama. And he was gone. And I’m saying to myself, What in the world did I just watch? Because it’s like my whole life just flipped. I was started crying. I was angry. I got a little hostile. My emotion was all over the place. My husband was trying to calm me down. He was just gonna be okay. I’m like, No, it’s not okay. So I get back on the phone. Excuse me, even a minute. So I get back on the phone. And I started calling my family. I was trying to do three-way calls. I will try and do four way calls. I was just trying to call everybody. And when I look back on it, I was looking, I was trying to I was I was trying to get a different answer than what I knew. I was calling everybody and they were telling me the same thing. And so I just remember I just said trying to take all this in and I was numb. And I remember sitting there and I tell my husband just stayed with me. I said just I just need some time. Cause honestly, I my emotions was all over the place. And that was I just didn’t know what to do. I was lost. I was that day I was lost
Chanda Smith Baker 05:11
Paris. How about for you?
Paris Stevens 05:20
I had worked late that night. And so like, early in the morning, we have an uncle that in, my brother is in, he was in Saudi Arabia at the time, he had sent me a message with the video, he said, you need to look at this. So I clicked on the video to watch it. And I was like, that can’t be him, this isn’t happening. And so I laid there for a while. And then I clicked back on the video again. And I was like, this is really him, you know, and I was watching the officer. And that was like, he’s just gonna kneel along for all this time and not come to really a realization that this is wrong. And then you can hear the voices hear him saying I can’t breathe. And I’m like, you’re still not gonna move as an officer who’s supposed to protect us. And so my mom came in. And she was like, have you heard? Have you seen? I was like, Is this really him, you know? That’s it. So I’m still in disbelief. So they put them in the ambulance, right? And he’s alive, right? No, he’s not he died.
Chanda Smith Baker 07:11
What did you say Angela?
Angela Harrelson 07:15
I say he didn’t make it. He preached his own funeral that day. He literally because he was there. And he was calling out. And he said things like, especially going to the trial, tell my kids, I love them. They’re gonna kill me. I can’t breathe. And he wanted his family to know that he loved them. So it was through that that’s why I say that. And, he fought I tell people he fought for nine minutes and 29 seconds. He was fighting to live. And when he was asking Mr. Chauvin, and when he was telling him, I can breathe, all he was trying to do was ask for help. That’s all he was trying to do. And he was being what I saw being mocked. And I tell people, when you ask someone for help, you’re not looking at that person as a monster. You don’t ask a monster for help. You’re looking at that person, momentarily. Whatever, as a human being help me I’m in trouble. And like Mr. Chauvin, the problem was that he didn’t have a big enough heart to look at our nephew as a human being. Because he just saw a black man that he thought was, you know, on drugs, and you know, and, you know, so it’s another black man that probably has problems. And so whenever he wasn’t looking at him as a human being, but Perry looked at him that way. I tried to ask him for help.
Souphak Kienitz 09:14
And that’s Angela Harrelson and Paris Stevens. Up next we have Dr. Eddie Glaude, Jr. He is known to be a convener of conversations and debates. a columnist for Time Magazine, and a MSNBC contributor on programs like Morning Joe, and deadline White House with Nicole Wallace.
Chanda Smith Baker 09:37
There are people that are telling themselves lies about what they grew up in, who they grew up with, what they’ve been involved with, or complicit with. There’s been an aspirational language that we have really bought into a belief of what America could be. And it hasn’t been that for many, many people and we have erased those experiences that we don’t want to see, just in general and, you know, is part of the lie being able to wake up to one’s own experience? Or is it really waking up to what the American experiences? Or is it both?
Dr. Eddie Glaude, Jr. 10:18
A little bit of both? You know? Yeah, when you think about it, most of those folks who stormed the Capitol, hold the view that only white voters matter that the America that they’re defending is an American that extends citizenship, the right to dissent to certain folks. Everybody else needs to shut up and just be grateful. Right? And if you take that to be Trump’s position, then Trump is actually right. He says he won by landslide. He’s actually right, if you only count white voters. You see. So the point the point I’m trying to make here is this, this, this, the story that we tell ourselves that this is an example of democracy achieved, right, is a lie. The story that we you know, to hear President Elect Biden’s that this is not who we are, that’s a lie. Right? It’s not to say this is who we are, in its entirety. But he knows it’s not true. It’s an aspirational claim. So part of what I was trying to suggest earlier in your question, what does it mean to just kind of stand and look, this is what is looking back at me who’s looking back at me, because we’ve been dodging and invading and hiding, right? Because we want to protect our innocence and it’s made us monstrous. It’s made the nation monstrous. You know, and, you know, they can’t they can’t say is just poor white folks. That’s not what was out there. No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, you can’t say that. No, no. So this last gasp of a dying America. Hopefully, it won’t. It won’t be resuscitated. You know, this American isn’t his death roads right, poses a threat to all of us if we don’t if we’re not honest with that. So I’m talking not only about conservative Republicans who are corporatist in their orientation, I’m also talking about milquetoast liberals.
Chanda Smith Baker 12:23
Right, let’s talk about the liberal and how, how have they or we are been complicit?
Dr. Eddie Glaude, Jr 12:30
Well, you know, Baldwin has this wonderful formulation that he says he, then I’m paraphrasing, and he says he’s skeptical of people who wants to want to do something for me, as opposed to with me. So when we think of when we think of racial justice, or racial equality as a charitable enterprise is a philanthropic gesture, and we leave in place the frame, right, that some people are valued more than others, that some people possess equality such that they can give it to somebody else, who are you to give me equality, that doesn’t make any sense. We have to break open that frame. And so part of what we do know is that there are a whole bunch of folk who are interested in tinkering around the edges, but not changing the fundamental basis, right, of the society that is produced the inequality. This is what makes Georgia so interesting to me. Right, so not only is Georgia the state that produced Newt Gingrich, it’s also the state that produced that vile image of Bill Clinton, and Sam Nunn, standing in front of Stone Mountain with those black prisoners behind. And there Bill Clinton gave voice to this third way democratic view of criminal justice that led to the acceleration of the carceral state. With Georgia, the election of Ossoff, Warnock revealed, is that that political strategy is dead, is bankrupt. The Clintonism, as it was expressed in that moment, where there is this kind of obsession with, you know, the Reagan Democrat, the Democratic Party, the for long, the forlorn lover who’s been rejected by the white worker, right, who’s simply obsessed with what you’re getting him back. Right, that has been cast to the land and Georgia. Right. So part of what we do know is that this mess that we’re in is not just simply the result of Republicans. Right? Democrats have been complicit in this a Republican didn’t sign welfare reform, or Republicans didn’t sign the criminal justice. Well, we can go down the line, right. And so part of what I think, you know, is another example that comes to mind. In New York, the Chancellor of the New York public school system in the city, made note of how segregated the schools were. And he wanted to implement this program that would begin to address how deeply segregated the public schools were the upper upper west side, all these rich white folk who donate to the Democratic Party, they held their town hall meeting. And what was revealed? What’s gonna happen to my school? What’s going to happen to our children? I don’t know, they started defending the structures as they were. Yeah, selfishness is not the possession of any party. Greed is not the possession of any one party. Right? And so when I talk about milquetoast liberals, I’m talking about those who are content with tinkering around the edges while leaving the most vulnerable, right? Only as the recipients of our chair.
Souphak Kienitz 15:51
That’s Dr. Eddie Glaude, Jr. Next, Kimberly Foxx, the first African American woman to lead Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, the country’s second-largest prosecutor’s office, she’s brought substantial progress in priority areas, including wrongful convictions, bond reform, transparency, and gun violence.
Chanda Smith Baker 16:10
What feels different is that I think people actually felt more personally connected in all kinds of ways. And it’s amazing how, you know, a pandemic allowed for people to see what’s been there. Like, these things have been there, the cries have been there. How had How did that affect you or Chicago?
Kim Foxx 16:38
You know, personally, I do not handle it well, emotionally. Um, honestly, it is the collective vulnerability that we all had in the pandemic, I guess, it’s the way to just make us ripened for the for it. But when you run a justice system, or a part of a system that, you know, is for so many people is not just when you sit as a prosecutor, and every day, you know, that the decisions that you are making, cause harm. Like, I know this. And, you know, people like a George Floyd, and you know, people that, you know, people are like, oh, I’m married to a black man, I am. But I knew a George Floyd, like, from the neighborhood, like, I know, I know, this store. I’ve never been in that store. But I know, I know, this setup. I know this, like, this isn’t foreign. And the notion that I felt so powerless, I felt so it felt so personal to me, because I’m like, in here, I am a representative of an institution, I am representative of things that I know is wrong, and I can’t scream out, I can’t cry, I can’t march, I can’t do any of those things and I can’t defend it. I can’t defend this. And so it feels very felt very isolating to me. And I, I struggled emotionally, mentally, that week, and then immediately had to sort of snap out of it, when the protests started to happen. And then the we had some rioting that was happening. And the tension between I’m a law enforcement official, and I understand this righteous anger. And people who don’t understand this righteous anger, wanting me to respond in a way, from somebody who has a complete disconnect from it. So I struggled if I’m being honest.
Souphak Kienitz 18:54
And that’s Kimberly Foxx. Up next, Barry Friedman. He’s a founding director of the NYU ‘s Policing Project, and a law and politics professor at the New York University School of Law.
Chanda Smith Baker 19:07
I’ve had to talk to my sons in particular. But I have been saying that, you know, the narrative is always having to talk with your sons. And it really should be having a talk with your kids, because we know that there’s growing violence against our young women. And as Jelani pointed out, also the sexual violence that happens against our girls within policing, but talking with them, and having to say, and put it in perspective, like this is happening, but think about how many police encounters happen. Think about how many people you know, so that they’re not making it automatically their outcome. Right, and I have to do it right. I don’t know whose comfort it’s for minor or there’s because we’re living trying to solve a problem that is very immediate and personal.
Barry Friedman 20:04
I, you know, I, during the course of my ordinary week working in the policing space have so many conversations with black folks who tell me what you just did as just an ordinary part of their lives. You know, I had to have a conversation yesterday and reinforce things. It’s a different kind of trauma. Because I mean, I cannot tell you how many people say to me, I worry, my daughter is in Los Angeles, my son is in Atlanta. And I go to bed at night, and I just worry. Or I talked to some friends whose kid was, you know, just scheduled to go out that night, one of the nights one of the killings, and she said, I just couldn’t let him go out. I just, I just couldn’t deal with that. And, you know, that’s just unforgivable. I mean, the idea that people in the United States of America have to alter their behavior, because of a legitimate concern about the police. That’s just, it’s kind of like a showstopper. Like, everybody should just sit down and think about what they just heard. And say, okay, that’s not okay. What do we do about that? And, you know, All I can hope Chanda is, and I’ve hooked it before. So I’m, I’m ready to be disappointed as I’m sure you are. But all I can hope is that this moment, actually is an impactful moment. Because, you know, as you know, I’ve been writing about this for, you know, 15 years now. And I thought maybe after Ferguson, I really thought after Philando Castile was killed, that it was going to be a turning point, because that was just horrific. But then, of course, the officers were killed in Dallas, like the next day, and that narrative flipped right away. I thought after George Floyd was killed, and it’s definitely been a tumultuous year, and there’s been progress. But you know, yet again, with the verdict and the most recent killings, I just, I keep thinking, is there going to be a moment where we actually stop and say, what fixes this? And I’m still not sure we’re there.
Souphak Kienitz 22:31
And that’s Barry Friedman. Up next, we have the amazing Dr. Yaba Blay. She’s an activist, scholar, speaker, and author of one drop, shifting the lens on race,
Chanda Smith Baker 22:43
I think that there is a privilege of knowing who you came from, aside from where you came from. And I’m probably bringing those measures, you know, those things together, probably coinciding with each other. And then I think, as I was thinking about, you know, all of this, you know, identity and who gets to decide, and your parents come in, and they were very clear, and then they became black. And then I started thinking a little bit about the construct of blackness. And what does matter who does get to decide, and I have heard you talk about, you know, how blackness was decided and who was black. But how blackness was decided, and who was black wasn’t always identifiable by skin color, pure Octoroon, or whatever those things were right. So I’m wondering if you could just explain that a little bit in terms of how, how, and who, how blackness was defined, particularly in slavery.
Yaba Blay 23:37
So often we have these conversations about race. And they are not only a historical but just disconnected, like, what’s the starting? Where do people choose to start the conversation? Right? Timeline is you right? And so, unfortunately, don’t many of us talk about race relations, and we always want to go straight to enslavement, so much that happened before enslavement to even justify enslavement. And to me, like, you know, when I think about white supremacy, the insidious nature of white supremacy, this systemic and the institutional trajectory of white supremacy, like, if we’re going to understand how this thing, functions in this contemporary moment, we got to map this whole thing out, right, that there was in like, because people talk about race like it’s happenstance like it’s something just that just kind of came or like racist the biological fact and it’s like, bro, this was a strategy. Right? Like, we got to go there. That’s why we can’t just like oh, race is a social construct. Race is a social construct that is constructed for the purpose of racism. There is no other need, right? Now, there’s no other need for race but to create stratification and oppression. And so, blackness was created in juxtaposition to whiteness. Whiteness had to be created in order to isolate and solidify power. And so whiteness was defined as fewer. Right? And so again, thinking of the visuals of exterminate all the brutes, we’re talking about scientific racism, right? We’re talking about this legacy of white supremacy. It’s not that white folks did all of this research and gathered all this data to say, see, we are the superior race. No, they said, we are the superior race. Now let’s go find data to support that let’s create data to support that. So even when you see the historical images of folks having their goals met brains measure skulls, they literally threw out the ones that didn’t meet the standards that they created. Right. And so, as babies, I know, I’m all over the place, I stated, because, again, I’m trying to push back against folks to try to think of science as fact. Right, because science is still created, is what they said it was. And we take it as facts. The facts are created for a purpose. Whiteness was created for white supremacy, period, there’s no other need for it. There’s no need for it. When we think about people living all over the globe, what is the need to create a unified identity if not the Isolate part. And in order to justify that power, you have to create the folks that you should be controlling, and that’s blackness. So whiteness was defined as pure, whatever that means, whatever that means, whatever they said it mean, right. And so if you weren’t pure, then you were other, if not black, and again, the language, you know, different language over time, Negro, colored, so on and so forth. But ultimately will say that you are not white. And so, again, there’s so much history. So I guess the simplest way to say it is that the one drop rule, you know, was literally a way for them to say this is how we are isolating whiteness, we’re letting you know we don’t care what you look like. We don’t care if you have as little as one drop of Negro black African blood, you are then Negro black African. On paper, it was supposed to discourage the quote-unquote mixing of the races. It was the let people know no matter how much mixing you do, if we find that drop, you’re still black right or Negro, or, what have you. In reality, what it did was actually encouraged the mixing. Because what he then said was for these white enslavers, these white colonizers and oppresses that you can rape African women, you can rape native women, you can create all manner of children, you don’t have anything to do with them. They’re not your
Chanda Smith Baker 28:10
State sanction. So that rule was written.
Yaba Blay 28:16
Yep. It was, it was recorded as the rule of hypodescent, define blackness, really, a lot of ways to define whiteness. Again, it was attempting to reiterate the idea that whiteness was pure. And so we again, it’s for me, it’s pushing back against what we recognize as people think racism. Right? And it’s not to dismiss it, because it is absolutely part of our lived experience. Now, we can’t walk away from it, right? But when I say fact, how do you measure race? You created race, right? You can measure ethnicity. When we do all these ancestry tests, you can tell me where my people came and what regions and so on and so forth. What’s that mean? When it comes to race, you assign those people the race, and then you make intake meaning based upon the race that you’ve assigned them. To say someone has been to Ebo Yoruba is to say nothing but where they come from, and the particular cultural identity, right? To say that they are black is to assign another identity on top of that, in relation to whiteness. It is to create a relationship to the power system. That’s it.
Souphak Kienitz 29:38
That’s Dr. Yaba Blay. Up next. Deborah Archer, a civil rights lawyer, NYU professor and president of the ACLU.
Chanda Smith Baker 29:48
I think we are learning more clearly now the interdependence of our systems between housing and education and policing, that I think traditionally we have sort of attacked them from a solution point of view, as though they are isolated. So we have divorce it from its history in terms of solution setting. And we also are addressing it as though it is a siloed sort of event versus part of a broader ecosystem that allows for safety, security and economic advancement.
Deborah Archer 30:25 I think that’s right there. And I think, personally, that segregation, and housing is central to that, because there’s really nothing that place doesn’t touch and control. Again, our access to food or access to quality education our access to economic opportunity, the number and nature of our interactions with police are all deeply impacted by where we live. But again, our education impacts and influences the criminal legal system, the criminal legal system impacts and influences our economic policy, our transportation policy, both historically and today, impact access to economic opportunity impact access to education, everything is so woven together. And when I work with my students, I think part of the challenge is that my students and others believe that there is one lever that we can pull to solve inequality, if we can just identify that lever, right, and then they’ll pull it and everything will be solved. And not spending the time to realize that even a moment on videotape where a police officer has taken the life of, of a black person, so much has happened to bring them to that moment. It is not just a question of what happens between that individual police officer, that individual person, it is about what happens in our system of policing, it is what happens in our system of, of public safety. It is about segregation, and inadequate housing and the way that segregation locks people out of opportunity, the way that we view a segregated black community as more dangerous, and then how we respond by saying that it needs more policing and leads to over-policing where someone cannot move without coming into contact with the police. They can’t go about their everyday life without coming into contact with the police. And it’s about how we then empower police to respond. It’s about the way we treat and address homelessness. It is about how we treat substance abuse disorders. It’s about how we’re responding to high unemployment and lack of economic investment in communities of color. There’s so much that came into that moment. All those systems feed each other.
Chanda Smith Baker 32:52
Yeah, I’m thinking about Richard Rothstein’s book the color law, always everything. He any everything. It’s all in there it’s all about the color of law. It really is. It’s all about the color of law. And when I think about, you know, segregated communities, and there’s lots of arguments out there about how to address the consequence of that. But, but overall, we’re not suggesting that we need to integrate in order to have our rights be protected, right? It’s not about proximity to whiteness, that should get us to justice. Right?
Deborah Archer 33:32
It’s 100%. Right. And I think we spend too much time thinking about how to make sure that black people and other people of color, get access to white spaces in white communities, to white schools, to get access to the opportunities that have little have really been hoarded in those communities, and less time thinking about how we support, develop, build, and enable people of color to access opportunity and resources and what they need to live choice fill lives, right in their communities. It reminds me, historian Manning Marable and his theory of underdevelopment, and he believes that our systems were built to intentionally and specifically underdeveloped black people and black communities. And we have to do the work to identify those systems that were designed to underdevelop black communities to reinvest in those communities to reverse the decades of disinvestment and discrimination that has made it so many it has made so many of them inhospitable to success and opportunity for the people who live within them. And so you’re 100% right, that it cannot be about access to in proximity to whiteness, I think we have to do both. integrate those white spaces, challenge them as white spaces, make them accessible to everyone, but also do our best to better distribute resource and opportunity to all communities, and stop the kind of resource hoarding that we that we see now. And then I would just add that as we integrate communities of color, we have to do a better job of protecting the lives and opportunities that people who have lived in worked in those communities over decades who are now facing displacement and exclusion from forces like gentrification things that we have to pay attention to, so that the people who have lived there can continue to live there and prosper as we reinvest in those communities.
Souphak Kienitz 35:51
That’s Deborah Archer. Next, Jim Bear Jacobs, Program Director for racial justice for the Minnesota Council of Churches and founder of healing Minnesota stories.
Chanda Smith Baker 36:04
We’re trying to break through or people are trying to break through where we need to have breakthroughs in terms of our understanding of history and how we honor each other in our histories. And that is dangerous work. Right. It’s emotionally dangerous, psychologically dangerous, and I don’t think that people broadly understand those risks that are being taken every day in small and big ways.
Jim Bear Jacobs 36:33
Yeah, I would say, one caveat was that I would say that, generally white people are not aware of that. I think, I think black people, I think indigenous people, I think other people of color, are aware, or mostly aware of that cost. Right. But it’s, yeah, I mean, it’s, it’s amazing. I, you know, it’s funny how it shows up. So my wife is a very wonderful white woman, right. And, you know, as I said, I’ve been doing this work for 10 years, little more than 10 years. And I remember one day, I was home, but I had to leave because I had an event, I had to go speak at, right. And so I was getting ready to go saying goodbye to my wife, you know, give her a kiss and all that. And, and she was like she was she was she was mocking being upset, right? She’s saying, Oh, I’ll stay here with the kids. And you go off and have your fun. You know, she wasn’t really that upset, you know, but she was making fun of that situation, right? And I was so surprised at my response, because I didn’t have any animosity towards her. And I didn’t, I didn’t feel attacked or anything, right. But I feel like my response was, do you understand that I’m about to go and talk about racism, and historic trauma for the next three hours. And this is personal to me. Like, there’s nothing about this, that is fun. I don’t enjoy that I have to do this. And it’s, it’s interesting, because like, my wife just kind of went like, whoa, like, like, she knew she knows that. Right? She sees me when I come home. And I’m just drained and exhausted, and I don’t want to talk to anyone. Right? She knows that it takes a toll. Granted, my response to her was disproportionate to the little joke she made. But I was more surprised at my own response. Because I know that she’s aware, like, she’s conscious of all of these things. But it was just one of those moments where like, your body reminds you there is a cost to this right? Your consciousness reminds you that there is a cost to this. And, and it is like there’s I mean, I know you experienced it, too. You know, you might be presenting at an event or talking to certain people or a group and you just come away and you’re like, you feel a trauma response in your body.
Souphak Kienitz 39:04
And that’s Jim Bear Jacobs. Up next, Reverend Dr. Otis Moss the third. He’s an activist, author, filmmaker, and Senior Pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, Illinois.
Chanda Smith Baker 39:19 When I think about what our people have lived through and died for, and then last May, this video comes out in Minneapolis. And we know we have seen all the videos before. So this is no way not acknowledging, you know, Philando Castile and Arbery and Breonna and Freddie Gray and Trayvon, you know, all of the names that we have, unfortunately, known so well, that it became sort of the instigation for us to move on things that we should have been moving on. But something happened And with George Floyd that felt remarkably different in the response. Why do you think that was the case? Because I’ve heard people say what was because we were captivated because it was the pandemic.
Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III 40:18
It’s a great question. It was a combination, I believe it was the isolation along with the time of the video. So in isolation, we have been looking at our devices at a higher rate. And then you have this moment of now we know over nine minutes, you know, we thought it was just under nine minutes of a public execution, a public execution, as, as a man pleaded for his life by a person who was funded, trained, and sponsored by the state. We’d seen quick videos, videos that move very quickly, and we’re trying to really capture and understand what’s going on in those videos. There are a few seconds there, there may be, you know, 45 seconds, as you know, in the case of Eric Garner, but here you have almost 10 minutes that is an extraordinary, long time to witness someone’s life taken in front of you. And the bravery of Darnell Frazier, the young lady who recorded that if she had not been as courageous, we would not witness the dialogue about how do we imagine public health, I don’t like to say public safety. I don’t like to use the word criminal justice or policing, because our community needs public health. Public health means you start a conversation about how do we ensure that a George Floyd is not murdered? How do we make sure that there is not economic archive and health inequalities? Who do we call when there’s someone having a mental health crisis? That’s the public health discussion is we don’t move to that. We will always be in a reform discussion about how we can tweak a system that is detrimental to the health and well being of people of African descent and being in isolation, witnessing something for 10 minutes, the viral nature of the video, we are in a digital age of social media, all of those things moving together and still with the residue. The painful, challenging residue of an administration at the time that had embraced Confederate antebellum rhetoric. All of that together. If you have a heart, if you have any sense of empathy, regardless of your ethnicity, or your privilege and station in life, it’s not to be moved. If you weren’t, I believe that you were deeply infected and affected by COVID 1619, not 19 COVID 1619, which is the most devastating disease America has, is yet to deal with. But it’s taken more lives than any other disease in this country.
Souphak Kienitz 44:09
And that’s Reverend Dr. Otis Moss the third. Lastly, John W. Rogers, co CEO of Ariel Investments, the global value-based asset management firm, and the first African American owned asset management firm in American history.
Chanda Smith Baker 44:27
Just being able to see folks that look like you CEOs that are African American, black men, black women in these roles, folks of color, the impression and inspiration that it leaves in our communities is tremendous.
John Rogers 44:45
Well, it’s self-serving for us to say this, but I do think I tell people all the time, you know, Ariel would have never made it through his first three years if the city treasurer Cecil Partee, hadn’t convinced the city’s pension fund to give us a million dollars to manage You know, so all the what are good things we’ve done with the Ariel Community Academy, the black corporate directors conference with developing leaders like Melanie or Jason Tyler, who’s the CFO of Northern Trust Bank, and Sean John Thomas, and Northern who was on, on the Management Committee there, they all started their careers at Ariel. And all the community work that we do with Melody chairing After School Matters here in town and all the rest, that wouldn’t happen without customers. And this idea that so many of the anchor institutions in our community don’t work with black money managers. If we hadn’t had those early companies, customers, we wouldn’t be in existence. And so I do think it is important for all progressive institutions, if they care about our community, they’ve got to work with our community and allow us to have economic empowerment. You know, Dr. King often talked about how white Americans to poor prejudice but accept or ignore economic injustice. And that continues to be the state of our society today. And slowly but surely, after the George Floyd murder, and a few enlightened people are starting to think about this. I’ve actually talked to two wealthy white women just in the last few months who have called up just I bet them through various circumstances saying they realize they can be doing more, you know, and it’s starting to dawn on people that this economic justice issue is a big, big, big deal. But it still is gonna take a lot of work. And we got to use these role models. We said earlier, those that have done this, well, hopefully, it’ll help shame people into doing the right things. You know, and because sometimes people just don’t know how to do and they’re afraid of it. Or they have this unconscious bias. You know, the last example I always give when I was parked district president in Chicago, years ago, in the nine museums on park land, I realized we’re not doing business with black companies outside of construction, and catering, you know, supply chain stuff. So I we call them all in and we put them on the spot, because the park district, they were on the park district land, they were getting direct subsidies from Chicago land taxpayers. So they agreed to put together a symposium where they would bring, we then invite minority entrepreneurs to meet with the leaders of the museum community to be able to do business. So they came up with an invitation for that event. And on the front of the invitation was a man with a hard hat on and a shovel in their hands. And the tagline was digging up business. So when these museum heads thought about black entrepreneurship, they thought about us, using our hands to dig. They didn’t think about us of being Bill Gates or Steve Jobs, or being a lawyer or an accountant or a money manager or consultant or an advertising executive, they thought about us, you know, in that way, and that continues to be too much of a problem in our society today. This implicit unconscious bias is still prevalent in so many ways and so many institutions and, and people because of an unconscious bias, they don’t even know what they’re doing. And that’s why it’s up to us to call in more.
Souphak Kienitz 48:09
And there you have it. If you enjoyed this podcast, please leave us a review. Wherever you listen to your podcast. You can always reach out to us on our website, or social media channels @mplsfoundation, or at @ChandaSBaker. Thank you to Sarah Gillund, John Cuoco, Darlynn Benjamin, and our host, Chanda Smith Baker. This is Souphak Kienitz from the Minneapolis Foundation. Thanks for listening, and I’ll talk to you soon.Close Transcript -