In This Episode
DeRay, Kaya, Myles, and De’Ara cover the underreported news of the week — a racist attack on a Jacksonville Dollar General, delayed COVID care for patients of color due to faulty oxygen readings, Silicon Valley elite build a city from scratch, extreme menopausal symptoms for women of color, and Texas’ ongoing violence against trans youth.
DeRay Mckesson, narrating: [music break] Hey, this is DeRay, and welcome to Pod Save the People. On this episode it’s me, Myles, Kaya, and De’Ara talking about the news that you don’t know with regard to race, justice and equity from the past week, the news that went underreported but is still really important. We talk about the recent racist attack in Jacksonville. We talk about health care, negligence, so much stuff I didn’t even know about. And we talk about Texas’s ongoing violence against trans youth. We will be dark next week, but more interviews are coming for you in September. Let’s go. [music break]
De’Ara Balenger: Family welcome to another episode of Pod Save the People. I am De’Ara Balenger. You can find me on Instagram at @dearabalenger.
Myles E. Johnson: My name is Myles E. Johnson. You can find me on Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok at @pharaohrapture.
Kaya Henderson: I’m Kaya Henderson at @HendersonKaya on Twitter.
DeRay Mckesson: This is DeRay @deray on Twitter.
De’Ara Balenger: Well, we want to dig into the shooting that happened in Jacksonville. But before we do, we’re going to have our favorite sports expert on the pod lead us through [indistinct] a celebration of Black excellence via all kinds of sports. Because, you know Kaya I mean.
Kaya Henderson: So so the simple fact that I am the Black sports expert on the, [laugh] I’m the sports expert on this podcast is laughable at best, but [laughter] this was an amazing weekend in Black sportsi-sh ness. Black excellence. Black all the things [single clap] um you had, the world track and field championships. I’m not even going be able like I need to Google ESPN and see what the official thing is. But I’m gonna tell you the Kaya Henderson version of the thing. At the World Track [laughing] and Field Championships. First of all, the Americans just killed it. Noah Lyles, Sha’Carri Richardson, first of all Sha’Carri. Right like a year ago, people were, you know, writing her off completely. She had the tested positive for marijuana, which she was taking to self-medicate after losing her mom. And people called her all kinds of things and, you know, whatever, whatever. And that young lady came through blazing. She won in the 100. She won and she, like, set a whole new world record, I think, or something. I might be making that up. But whatever it was, she did the whole entire thing. The relay, like the Americans, American women dominated and set the Jamaicans on their heels. But the camaraderie between these women was just a beautiful thing to behold. Then you had Noah Lyles and all the other Black men on the on the men’s team, whose names I don’t know, but they’re spectacular, too. And they won, Noah won the 100 the 200. They won the relay like it was Blackness, Black excellence, Black sports excellence. Oh, and then Simone Biles, who is back after a two year mental health hiatus and a recent wedding and looking all amazing and whatnot after battling the twisties. And whenever the last go round was two years ago, is back better than ever won all around at whatever that thing was that I watched all last night. And, and and in fact, on that podium, number one and number two, were black women, Simone Biles and I think the other lady’s name is Jordan, somebody somebody is I should have looked this up beforehand. But I didn’t know I was going to be a sports expert. And so it was a Black girl, a Black girl and a Asian girl who were like the top three. And, you know, of course, people recognize our sports prowess. But I think that what this sort of reminds people what these this generation of athletes who are prioritizing mental health, who are having different conversations about what it means to be an elite athlete, I think is pushing us all to appreciate them in a completely different way. The examples that these people are setting for folks about how to run their own careers, how to do their own things, how to how to do this thing, how to do this thing on their own terms is exhilarating. And the best thing that I saw was um they were talking to Sha’Carri and they were like, you know, um do you think that it’s like that people are now finally putting some respect on your name? And she was like, the most important thing is I put some respect on my name. I came to be better, do better, and that’s all less important. And I thought that was fantastic.
Myles E. Johnson: I always love this news because I don’t know. I love I love moments of Black excellence and achievement, but especially in this category of running has always been my the most fascinating one with me as somebody who just does not care about sports, that the tennis and the running conversation is always interesting because of, you know, I think a little too much, but because of Black people’s relationship with running. I remember um or when I when I used to teach uh a few years ago, I remember I used to like make like little prompts, like, you know, old school prompts. And one of the prompts I made was what do you, I remember um just one of the talking about flo-jo and blah blah, blah. And one of the prompts were what do you think that Black runners who win are thinking about to motivate them to run? Do you think they’re thinking about their favorite songs? Do you think they’re thinking about their fears and what do you think that’s what’s going through their minds when they’re when they’re running? Or I think I just said runners in general, and I always think about that. And I think when I think about Black women, I wonder what is going through their minds and what they’re telling themselves to push through. Um. Are they metabolizing fears that they might have that make them that that make them run faster? Are they thinking about goals and dreams? I don’t know. It’s just something so amazing about looking at those women just fly with with their feet like a little Black Apollos. [laughing] I’ve been reading Greek mythology. [laughing]
Kaya Henderson: I love it. Black Apollos Yes. [laughing]
DeRay Mckesson: I will say it was what was really cool is something that we all have known growing up, raised and loved by Black people is that we always have each other and we always know that you don’t always see it though. Like that’s not what gets represented and with this track moment you saw it. You saw women in heated competition, hug afterwards and take selfies. If I don’t know if you saw the way those men were there when the women’s relay ended.
Kaya Henderson: Absolutely.
DeRay Mckesson: And like jumped on Sha’Carri, you know, Sha’Carri closed it, but it was a team effort. Sha’Carri was just you know, she closed it. They toppled her over with the flag. They’re all jumping up and hugging her and like Sha’Carri is just on it. When they ask her, like, what’s up? Da da da da da. She’s like, now everybody want to talk about the fact that we friends, but, you know, before people wanted to talk about it, like she just has it in terms of in terms of like her own growth. And I will say, you know, I was one of the people that before was like Sha’Carri, it was clear that she got swept in the moment. And it happens to the best of us. Right? It was like she went from we had never heard of her, outside like the people on track knew her, but we didn’t know her. And then she’s at the ESPYs and the da da da da. She’s like on all the blogs. And then the marijuana thing happens. People turn on her, she starts losing races and da da da da da. And I’m so happy that she processed what happened. It’s like yeah Sha’Carri, if you do this for those people you will never like they will love you today, hate you tomorrow. That’s the way the game goes. And it has been cool to see her like understand and get it and that one race I don’t know if you saw where she came out of the the far lane–
Kaya Henderson: Yes.
DeRay Mckesson: –and won in the end you’re like–
Kaya Henderson: Oh yes she did.
DeRay Mckesson: C’mon girl.
Kaya Henderson: Yes she did. Mmm.
DeRay Mckesson: The Americans are back in track in field baby.
Kaya Henderson: It was spectacular.
De’Ara Balenger: And I I think–
Myles E. Johnson: [?]
De’Ara Balenger: The one comment I will make um and that I love about Sha’Carri is how she always pushes back against reporters. And keep in mind, this is the same child who learned of her mother’s death through a reporter. Right. So I think even in the characterizations of her, whether it’s, you know, flamboyant or she scolds reporters, she’s really just telling the truth oftentimes, like, you know, say my name correctly or, you know, I am yes, I’m running this race for the respect of others but really it starts with myself. And so I just find it interesting how sports is still one place where, like reporters, white reporters can talk as crazy as wildly as they want. And there’s really there’s been no kind of like collective accountability around it, just thinking of like what Serena and Venus have been asked, thinking about um what happens in in press conferences, even with, you know, with some NBA players. So I will say I think what is still shocking around all of this, and even as I’m writing, even as I’m reading what’s written about Sha’Carri is still very much from the perspective of just otherizing her in a way that, you know, she wins despite her character, essentially.
DeRay Mckesson: And to that cre– to that point, did you see that part? Did you see that moment where she bypassed all the traditional media uh the mainstream media and only went to the Black reporters De’Ara? And pissed off everybody.
De’Ara Balenger: See?
DeRay Mckesson: Oh, they were hot. And she–
Kaya Henderson: Good for her.
DeRay Mckesson: And she did it with class. She was just like, no, no. And only [?] he was like, Yes, right. Because they did her dirty, they did her dirty.
Kaya Henderson: And the Black excellence in sports continues because tonight starts the U.S. Open baby ow Coco Gauff is on the scene. She about to kill it tonight. Coming off of a city open win here in Washington, DC. that [?] was hot. Francis Tiafoe, if you don’t know him, Google him. That dude is a beast. And um Chris Eubanks, who in Wimbledon like came out of nowhere. Nobody was expecting him, made it to the quarter finals. He didn’t win, but now he’s ranked 28th and he’s coming to the U.S. Open for the first time, [?] in the Grand Slam. And um yeah, it’s it’s going to be a little bit more Black sports magic this week. I’m not even a sports freak like that. I can’t believe y’all got me out here being the sport person. [laughter]
DeRay Mckesson: I will say that. The only thing I’ll say Kaya to follow up on Simone, is what I love about Simone is that Simone took a break because she got the twisties and got married like did her thing. And what I love about her coming back and winning is that she is just such a great example that you can do your best and take care of yourself. And she just is a living example of that. Like she she came back and performed as well as she has ever done. She is the most decorated world champion gymnast of any gender ever in America. I mean, come on. And she took a break because she needed to take care of herself. And like, I love it.
DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Hey, you’re listening to Pod Save the People. Stay tuned. There’s more to come.
[AD BREAK] [music break]
De’Ara Balenger: And then y’all on a heavier note. You know, we do want to talk about the shooting in Jacksonville. Three Black folks were killed um at a Dollar General and this white man with swastikas evidently all over his AK, I think it was a or a AR-15, um first attempted to go to um an HBU, Edward Waters University. He wasn’t able to get in thanks to the security guards there, and then um turned his sights towards this Dollar General store where he he caught some folks um coming out. You know, there’s been a lot happening in Florida in particular. I think the thing that I’m working on processing and finding language around is you know, I guess it just it baffles me how someone like a Ron DeSantis, who showed up at a vigil to a vigil to remember and recognize the victims and they’re Angela Michelle Carr, Anolt Joseph Laguerre, and Jerrald De’Shaun Gallion, um ages 52, 19 and 29. So he shows up at this vigil and he’s booed once he gets there. But it’s just, for me, such a disconnect around the hate that he is constantly cultivating, um perpetuating, and institutionalizing in the state and then not understanding how this incident is part of that ecosystem. So DeSantis gets there at this vigil. He talks about how he’s going to increase spending to protect HBCU’s. Again, a huge disconnect between, you know, the perpetuation, the psychology of hate with these, you know, sort of quick fixes that really don’t address a systemic issue. But this was definitely a hard one. And, you know, thinking of the the victims and their families.
Myles E. Johnson: I’m absolutely in a rage that he even had the the gall or whatever or whatever you have to call that to show up at those people’s vigils. And because he was [?] and the thing about it is not all evil in white supremacy is bad. We’re in the clown era of white supremacy. So it’s even worse because you’re a buffoon and you’re doing things like a reality television star because that is your gold marker. And you go and you act like a clown on stage and you don’t even have any piece of decorum going on, going on with you on stage. And then you come to this very serious vigil event that happened because you helped it happen and you helped motivate it and normalize it and helped and helped make it seem like there is a huge war of race happening um to the uh to these white men and they must go out and do something. And then you have nerve to to step your your clown shoes in this very serious event. I think it’s so disrespectful. I think it’s so so so so so disrespectful. I can’t really remember there’s been racist clowns before and always. And but I can’t remember Ann Coulter doing something like that. I can’t remember um certain people who are who were the clowns of like my teenage years crossing that line and going where your words actually caused death. Going where you helped facilitate terror through your words and actions. And this is all my opinion and allegedly and blah, blah, blah. [laugh] And I’m [?] I’m theorizing. But I it’s for me as a as a thinker, it’s so hard not to connect DeSantis with that shooting. And it’s imperative that people start taking the Internet seriously. The incel community, the manosphere community is real. Um. I talk about it when it comes to Black people, and it comes to Black men because it’s real and growing with Black men, and it’s extremely real for white men. And they are on the internet preparing and discussing these events. And just the last thing that I’ll say they’re on these chat rooms, most of them are on these chat rooms and they see the fact that they have not done an event like this. The white men who have not done an event like this. They see that as a personal failure. So they are reorganize their lives. So one day they see they see having the courage to do a shooting like this as a goal, essentially. So they’re they they see they’re they’re not have done it as a as a failure. And they see the people who have done it as these heroes. And that is a culture that’s happening, that’s a discussion that’s happening. It’s scary. I’ve seen the page the, you know, the the dark web screenshots and all this other stuff. It’s a whole culture where it’s like, oh, this is our goal. Not this job, not this wife. Um. It’s for our for our, for our for us to be a soldier in this in this fight to make America white again. And it’s just disgusting that DeSantis has helped to create propaganda for that community and stepped foot on those people’s vigils. Ooh.
Kaya Henderson: First of all, you know, I can’t imagine I was watching um some video of the shooting. This lady was sitting in her car, minding her business in the parking lot of the dollar store, and the dude just walked up on her and shot her through the windshield like, you know, just living every day being Black. We talk about it all the time, right? Like is perilous in these times. And one of the things that they pointed out is that the killer got his guns legally. And we cannot separate the whole, you know, gun rights and our permissiveness around guns from these terroristic shootings. These I mean, they’re enabling all of the people, Myles, in these chat rooms to have the weaponry for the oncoming race war. Right. They they are not selling war, uh weapons for personal protection. And we’ve talked about this on the pod before. They’re you know, they have military grade weapons that you don’t need if you hunting and just defending your little house. These people are strapping up for the race war. And um and, you know, I think it’s interesting to watch how DeSantis has sort of figured in this. I think he I think history this is my prediction. I think history is going to see Ron DeSantis as one of the of an incred– as an incredibly tragic figure, because while he is enabling a lot of this um white supremacist stuff to happen, I actually feel like we’re watching him spiral. Um. You know, he can’t get traction with voters in Iowa. He can’t his his poll numbers are dropping precipitously. There’s all of this stuff. And so I think that’s going to be an interesting character profile to watch. But um what is most sort of galling to me is like we’re not treating this like it is an epidemic and it is an epidemic. It’s an epidemic of young white men who have access to a ton of hate information and hate communication and who act on it. And you can tell that it’s going to happen. You know who is going to do it, you know? Right. And, you know, we’re talking about Pittsburgh and we’re talking about Buffalo. We’re also talking about Charleston. We’re talking about, you know, lots of this stuff. And there’s we the psychologists have told us, we can see when it’s coming, we know who it’s going to be and we refuse to treat it like the scourge that it is, because the victims are people of color or Jewish people or LGBTQ people or Muslims or, you know, nonwhite people. And I think that that is you know, I think I was reading somewhere um that the federal government came out with a study maybe two years ago talking about how um epic how this is one our America’s greatest threats. And we’re like, yeah no, a few bad apples. And that, to me, is the most problematic part of this.
DeRay Mckesson: The only thing I’ll add is is reminding that uh to Kaya’s point is that while they are gearing up and ready and to Myle’s point about they are this is like part of their identity as white men for sure, is to engage in this way. They want the attention so the the newspapers reported that he uh left his parents house around 11:39, headed to Jacksonville. At 1:18, he texted his father to ask him to check his computer. The gunman had written several manifestos that were racist and in between 1:18 and the time when his parents called the sheriff’s office, they did not call until 1:53. That 35 minutes was a big time. It was in that time that he committed murder and suicide. And it’s like he even tipped people off and his parents didn’t take it serious enough to call the police. And I just say that as a reminder that, like there are often times when people can intervene, they just gotta step up. Uh. And this was not one of those times where that happened. And like you said Kaya, just sitting in her car, you know, and thank God for the security guard at the HBCU who was like, hey, you got to get off campus like this ain’t this ain’t it right now, who did likely save lives.
Kaya Henderson: My news this week comes out of California, where a company called Flannery Associates has purchased 800 million dollars worth of agricultural and empty land in Solano County. Solano County is about 60 miles northeast of San Francisco. They’ve bought this land. Flannery Associates bought this land from farmers at several times more than its market value over the past five years, and they are now the biggest landowners in Solano County. Solano County has about 120,000 residents. Um. It contains the Travis Air Force Base. It contains the Anheuser-Busch brewery and the Jelly Belly Jelly Bean factory. And um the plan is to build a new city with tens of thousands of new homes, a large solar energy farm, orchards with over a million new trees and over 10,000 acres of new parks and open spaces. And all of that sounds very interesting, but what was most interesting to me is that for the last five years, Flannery Associates has been purchasing this land and nobody knew who they were until recently. And it turns out that um they are humungous um backers of Flannery Associates or investors in Flannery Associates, and they are the Silicon Valley elite. So this whole thing is being spearheaded by a guy named Jan Sramek, who is a 36 year old former Goldman Sachs investor, um and he has taken this $800 million dollars from a bunch of people to build this new metropolis. They include Michael Moritz, who is a billionaire venture capitalist in Silicon Valley, Reid Hoffman, who is um the co-founder of LinkedIn. He’s a venture capitalist and a Democratic donor. Marc Andreessen and Chris Dixon, who are investors at the Andreessen Horowitz venture capital firm, um Patrick and John Collison, the sibling co-founders of Stripe, the payments company, Laurene Powell Jobs, uh who is the founder of the Emerson Collective, and Steve Jobs’ ex-wife, and Nat Friedman and Daniel Gross, who are entrepreneurs turned investors. So this is all happening and uh they say that this new metropolis will relieve some of the Silicon Valley pressures like rising home prices and homelessness and congestion. And that all sounds wonderful. Let’s build us a whole new city with park space and housing and all of the things. And I have to pray to the sweet baby Jesus to um help me be gracious and to recognize that people do have altruistic motivations. But I find it really hard to believe that a whole bunch of super duper rich people in Silicon Valley have spent $800 million dollars to build a new city that’s going to be for regular people. See, when I think about this, I think about the people who are trying to make Mars work. I’m thinking about the people who are trying to find a place to go when the world falls apart because of climate change or the race war or the droughts in California or whatever, whatever. And so this is why I need you saints to pray for me, because I [laughing] I can’t I cannot help but think about ulterior motivations even, and how they are moving in the world. Right? You buy up $800 million dollars worth of, first of all, what Black 36 year old do you think could get $800 million dollars to hatch a plan to build a new metropolis? None. But um Jan is doing something. And I just I really deeply wonder who this is for, who it will serve, how it will help humanity, and how it will not be a bubble for the rich in Silicon Valley to go when the rest of the world starts falling apart. And I’m sure that none of you have ever thought anything like that. And that’s why I’m coming to the pod to say, help a sister out, because I’ve been Black and American for far too long to think anything but conspiracy here. So tell me if you think something different.
Myles E. Johnson: I do not think something different. [laughter] I can not do that to you Auntie Kaya. No, when I first heard about this story, this gave me Jetsons. I remembered uh the idea that everybody lived in the air and there’s no Black people in Jetsons. So the theory is all the Black people were below still living on the earth where that was ruined, so much so that the uh, you know, the affluent people got to had to live in the air. And there’s so many stories. And I, you know, smoked too much legal marijuana, to like [?] remember super details about Octavia Butler and R. Delany’s um uh arks but there’s a lot of arks in Black science fiction and even when I read bray bear Bradbury I forgot the name of the story but he has like a dome story where only the elite can get into this dome and be saved from apocalypses. And that’s a a recurring theme, and I think that’s what’s happening. Even Metropolis itself, that like I like that that name is a part of a um a it’s one of the more famous um science fiction stories from the 1930s, I believe. So it just feels like we’re living in the predicted future that science fiction writers were warning us about because they were seeing how class, I guess well I want to say Black science fiction writers were warning us about because they saw how class would ultimately make rich people who had access to technology um hide themselves. [laughing] Not not try to argue with us. Not try to um play our games. Not really get on our television. The most of the te– rich people television pursuits are political and commercial. But if they if their money is coming from is is quiet, quiet luxury, they don’t need to talk to you and they’re going to create a big bubble. And I’m not going to be shocked if we hear, if we do hear more bubble stories. Meaning, I wouldn’t be surprised if there would be Black hyper capitalist whose had similar ideas and maybe only accepted or allowed people who weren’t the most classed people to get in if they were exceptional. Like I can I can actually see a lot of that stuff happening that like your access to clean water, fresh air, education, um safety, really is p– is is is leaning on your network. I can actually I, is that sad? Am I crazy am I a little, like I can see that happening.
Kaya Henderson: You’ve been Black and American for too long too. [laughter]
De’Ara Balenger: You know what this reminded me of? And maybe we talked about it, maybe we didn’t. But this reminds me of um Summit Powder Mountain, which is a mountain that was purchased primarily by these four guys who started Summit Series. So summi– Summit Series is like a multi-day conference where you have CEOs and founders, etc.. There’s also a lot of partying from I’ve never been, but from what I heard. But some years ago, they ended up purchasing a mountain in Utah for $40 million dollars and the similar types of folks invested. So one of the co-founders of of PayPal, Netflix co-founder Reed Hastings, Beth Comstock, former vice chair and chief marketing at GE, the founder of Tom’s Shoes. So all that to say Kaya, like these this this is probably happening more than we know. And it’s fascinating. But, you know, don’t get me wrong, I would do this if I could. And no, Myles, I would not I would not discriminate. I would try to take every but first I’d start with getting busloads–
Kaya Henderson: I was gonna say, who you who you who you letting in?
De’Ara Balenger: But first of all, I’m taking bus– first of all, all the Black people in Minnesota, I’m getting them out I’m starting there. And then once I get that organized, I’m gonna go on to the next. [laughing] DeRay’s always like, you’re going to get in trouble.
DeRay Mckesson: Didn’t this um–
De’Ara Balenger: No, I’m not. Those people, they’d be the first ones to sign up.
DeRay Mckesson: Oh my God De’ara. [said under his breath] Um. Y’all De’Ara’s on one today and I’m here for it. You know, I think I’m reminded that these people individually and certainly as a whole don’t pay taxes essentially. Like that is, I just every time I think about this extreme wealth, I’m reminded that they are not paying taxes. They essentially are not paying taxes that we have like subsidized their wealth to such an incredible degree that they can pull it like this. So that is like one thing. The second thing is, you know, the older I get, the more as a kid, wealth to me meant genius. If you had a lot of money, you had something you’re a genius you like and then the older I get I’m like, no, that ain’t that ain’t right? Wealth just means wealth. That’s all it means. It don’t mean smart. It don’t mean and only white people could ever have companies that are worth so much money that are unprofitable, only like we don’t that is a luxury that Black people have never gotten. And the third thing and those of us I think everybody probably but Myles who’s worked inside. People take for granted what it means to run anything in the government, people, the arrogance of people on the outside who just assume that it works. You’re like getting, Kaya knows this, getting every kid fed every day is a feat. The schools, like the fact that we do that in this country at school is a logistical brilliance that it happens every single day. De’Ara, you know, like anything that the State Department ever. It is it is skill and work. It is not just people walking into the building and magically the things happens. And I say that because what the government has to do is operate at scale. These businesses are always sort of add ons, additions. They don’t have to deal with the poorest, the unmotivated, the people who are motivated but don’t have access. Government has to do that, and doing that at scale is hard. And I can just see the arrogance of really wealthy people being like, oh, I run a good business. I’m like, it’s like, you don’t even know how much work it it takes to do this well, and that’s always what shocks me.
Myles E. Johnson: But do you re– do you really think that like it it it would be do do you really think it will be for people who um who couldn’t feed themselves?
DeRay Mckesson: I think that there’s a point where, like, you know, we had the first planned community in the country, it’s Columbia. Uh Maryland. Edward Norton’s grandpa did it. And, you know, no matter what you intend it to be, at a point, it’s like the schools, like the neighborhood, and they’ll have to be a school. Like I’m just saying, the infrastructure of building it is actually just hard like stop signs, water.
Myles E. Johnson: I guess in my head, this is just in my imagination. I’m just like, I just keep on seeing the science fiction dome. And I’m like, oh, order your pi– Uber eats here. [laugh] Do whatever you have to do that you would normally do, but we’re going to like keep the air clean. Like, I don’t know, I even through reading it and like, getting into like, what they were saying, I don’t know. I just had a hard time believing that that’s what is actually what it is going to end on. And only thing my imagination can end on is like a big biodome bubble. [laughing]
De’Ara Balenger: Well, Myles and I’ll go the other way, like taking us back. Like Black folks were brilliant at creating all Black towns and cities. And there were 50 across Oklahoma, just Oklahoma, and they all got greenwood like, you know. So I think part of it is. You know, I think there’s something to to both things. I think there is there’s actually been a history like in a planning history around how these how towns can exist and be inclusive and be socialist um and and folks thrive in them. I think what ends up happening is, is once you have that capitalistic mentality, either in the founding or in the operation, that’s when things go to shit.
Myles E. Johnson: Okay, so my news today is more of a reminder. Um. The bans on trans rights in Texas begin in September. Um. I think it’s really important. I was up late last night. Well, I had a weird sleeping schedule this weekend, but I was up late last night and it’s not really something. I mean, why why would I talk about it all the time publicly? But I think it’s important to kind of contextualize this story, to talk about publicly. But I’m always having an internal conversation around transition and around medical transition in [?] and that includes pills, estrogen, that includes um facial feminization surgery that includes uh a lieu of other trans medical things I’m always having a conversation around. Okay, as I get older, what would I want to do to still be able to look in the mirror and feel like I’m looking at myself, but also not feel like I’m growing into something that just would make my life miserable. And it’s a hard internal conversation. It’s a difficult thing to uh think about. And as somebody who loves going to the doctor and being big and the doctor being like, oh, you’re just of of of health like, I don’t want to do anything to disturb that. Um. And that’s a privilege because I don’t feel entirely dysphoric in the body that I was given. And even I get just tortured by these by these ideas. And it’s a lot. If you’re a child and you’re on the bridge of if and you’re on the um on the on the cusp of puberty, it’ essential, if you have made up your mind and if you know what’s going on for those, for those steps toward your body to align with your gender to happen, I, I might be a little dramatic throughout this whole podcast, but I don’t think it’s because it’s I think it’s because we’re dealing with a lot of drama because I really want to say that stopping trans kids from getting the medicine that they need and getting the medications they need and the attention they need is is requesting is requesting suicides and depressions and that in our community. It’s the most miserable place you can be. Even the things I have done, even the things steps that I have uh uh of done that are transition, quote unquote “steps.” I can’t describe how much anxiety and depression and suicide um ideation has been um relieved. In the in the [?]. It’s it’s huge. It’s everything I came there would be times I couldn’t even think at work because of it. And to think about kids who have to go to high school, who have to date, who have to start to um operating in the world and going to your first concerts to be and then go to prom to have to do those things in a costume that society gave to you and and you’re being rejected from actually expressing your gender. It’s it’s it’s disgusting. And I want people to know that this is happening cause I feel like our news cycle is so quick. And I think that sometimes when things end up happening, it can kind of people can feel like, okay, we lost and move on. I don’t want any of those things to happen. And I want to do my part to remind people that this is happening and it’s a huge deal. And there are nonprofits like the one I used to work for called for the Gworls, um the girls and for the girls is spelled G-W-O-R-L-S. Um and so many other nonprofits that actually help people affirm their surgeries, affirm their ge–, get affirmative surgeries, affirm um uh that affirm their gender, including getting medications like estrogen and testosterone. It’s so important to help places like that right now. Specifically, if this is really happening in Texas and really happening with um kids because it’s it’s it’s it’s it’s dead. This this is going to be uh is deadly. And I’m keep on stuttering over my words because I don’t want to be more dramatic than the news, but I can’t imagine that. And I’m 32 and it’s been and it’s been a struggle. And I can’t imagine being a teenager, a pre-teen, and having the bravery to know who you are, having the bravery to and having the intelligence to articulate who you are to the people who need to help you get there. Doing all that internal work, doing all that brave conversation. And we still have a have have this political block that’s really just so people can use you as propaganda and use you as a political spawn to to pawn to. Assist their narrative. It’s disgusting. So I did want to uh get you alls opinion that, too. But more importantly, remind our listeners that this is happening.
DeRay Mckesson: You know, people talk about a conspiracy theory, and let me tell you, there is no need for a theory. It’s like we we see it in real time. When you look at the aggregate of all of the Republican proposals around culture for sure and the economy, if it is not simply about controlling people with less power and less money, I don’t know what it is like I that really is that’s what it boils down to. I was reading something other day, and as somebody who is not a woman, I will never birth children. I was reading these accounts of um abortion and about why um rightwing women support abortion and why some evangelical Black women support abortion. And it blew my mind and like, this is obviously my naivete about not being a woman. But they were saying, like, because some of those women cannot have kids, they feel like it should not be your choice to not have a kid if God gives you one. And I just had–
Myles E. Johnson: Wow.
DeRay Mckesson: –never even thought of that. And there were all these women who were like, yeah, it’s such a like, I can’t do it. And God gave you one, how dare you do something different with his gift and we should make it illegal. And it is like just the need to control other people’s lives that have no bearing on your well-being, societies well-being it just is about power, control, and specifically about people who have less access. Because again, there will always, there will rich people will get abortions, they will figure it out. It is the least, uh it is the people with the least privilege and that to your point, Myles, uh it is just a reminder that, like, why does a trans person’s anything threat– like why do you what what you what is going on? You ain’t they ain’t nothing that got to do with you. You not going to be arr– like you [?] if not only for the idea that you just need to control what other people do, and that is the Republican platform. And to me it actually is that simple.
Kaya Henderson: Yeah, that’s exactly where I was going DeRay. I was just thinking about, you know, how the Republican Party purports to want to protect individual rights and freedoms. Right? If this isn’t an individual right and freedom to choose what medical procedures you want, how do you get to decide that for me? How do you get to decide what books my children read? You can decide what books your children should not read, but you can’t decide what’s right for me in the same way that there is no way that you can imperil people’s lives in this way by making a decision that you actually have you don’t know anything about. You don’t know what these young people are going through. You don’t know about the depression, the anxiety, the pain. You don’t know what their parents are going through when their parents make decisions to support um to support these procedures. And it ain’t none of your business. How about that?
De’Ara Balenger: Yeah, I think, you know, to DeRay’s point. Particularly for Black folks. And we’ve talked about this before, like I don’t know where the you know, where the more, you know, people feeling like they need to stand on this like supposed moral high ground around LGBTQ politics, around trans politics, around um trans youth. But I have heard comments from family members that are wild comments. And I don’t know if it’s the Facebook. I don’t know if it’s even–
Myles E. Johnson: Not the Facebook.
De’Ara Balenger: The Facebook. I don’t know if it’s evangelicalism. I don’t know what it is that gets ahold on our people because our people are conservative people. That is true. But our people are not a hateful people. And we have to and we’re learning that. We’re learning that and practicing that. And so I feel like that’s where I want to figure out the work is just like, what? What is happening psychologically with our folks that. Yes, Myles. Like, take us, take us.
Myles E. Johnson: Well De’Ara.
De’Ara Balenger: Take us with that take us to a place.
Myles E. Johnson: Well, well De’Ara, and I, you know, I love I love Black people. To quote to quote um now president um nominee. I don’t love Black people to be popular with Black people. I love Black people because they are deserve to be loved. Black people are not a hateful people, but Black people can be a deeply patriarchal people. And although I live in Brooklyn, in Brooklyn, a lot of Brooklyn has been hipster-fied. I live in a very Caribbean neighborhood um and comporting myself in a way that affirms my gender and what I feel on the inside. And going on that journey in a Black community is not always the easiest thing because of because of the patriarchy and at the end of the day, for a lot of people, this is not a moral issue in the way that sometimes I hear people who are cis talk about it. [laugh] It’s a philosophical issue for people. So me, I looked very beautiful last night at the Brooklyn Museum and I was in a skirt and I was oiled and I was looking good and I felt good and I was in my little heels.
Kaya Henderson: Yes oiled.
Myles E. Johnson: And me looking and and and me looking like that is proof that there was something in the American water. There was something in the American milk, because look at how this Black man looked so they put a picture of me next to Malcolm X and say, look what happened to the Black man and that’s what’s going on. So it has nothing really to do with did you go to jail or did you steal something or anything else that I think as Black people, we actually understand how sometimes we arrive at certain moments of desperation of criminality or um or or moral uh teeter tottering. I think we kind of a lot of us intellectually understand that. I think this is philosophical for a lot of people because my being who I am is proof that there is a an internal deterioration of of Black manness in humanity that’s happening. And I and and and my [?] heels are proof that it that it’s working. That upsets people.
Kaya Henderson: Why does it have to be a deterioration? I mean I, this is a rhetorical question, right? Like I think what I love about the young people. I think what I have, what I love and have learned about what I would call gender expansion right away from a cis paradigm to more of a spectrum, is that like it just makes room for more people like it is inclusive. It is it invites more people to the party as opposed to keeping people out. And so I think one way to clearly one way to think about it is the I don’t know what some D word degradation or the diminishment or something of Black men that you said um, like, why can’t we be why can’t we embrace the expansiveness of what this new paradigm allows for people?
De’Ara Balenger: I think one one I will say Myles, I completely agree, but from what I’ve experienced. And from what I have processed. Some of this is people wanting to feel better than other people. And it may come from a place of patriarchy. White supre– but to me, just brass tacks around it. That’s what I’m seeing, and that’s what I go off on.
Myles E. Johnson: Yeah.
De’Ara Balenger: To the people in my family.
DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Don’t go anywhere. More Pod Save the People’s coming.
De’Ara Balenger: [music break] Moving on, so we cover a ton of health disparities with Black, Brown, Asian, Indigenous, LGBTQ communities. And so, you know, the article I’m getting ready to share it is you know, it is shocking again, another health disparity that I’ve come across. Um. But I think it’s so, so, so critical to continue to share information like this, um particularly when it comes to Black bodies. And so this story begins with Dannette Fogle, who’s a 65 year old retired schoolteacher in New York. And it’s this story is about her introduction to and her overall experience with menopause. And I wanted to talk about this because I have learned that, you know, the transition to menopause for for the individuals that experience it is confounding. It’s hard. It’s there’s not a lot of information around it. But for women of color, for these humans of color, the transition can be even more complicated. So research has found that duration, frequency and severity and I’m sorry, even the types of symptoms can look different across races, but the most negative consequences happened to Black humans. So, you know, this goes through the article, goes through Jeanette’s experience. At 34, she started to notice changes with her menstrual cycles, um which kind of is a hallmark symptom of perimenopause. And so for those that don’t know what perimenopause is, it’s the final years of a of a um a woman’s reproductive years that leads up to menopause and lasts ten years on average. So most women, though, don’t go through perimenopause until their forties. But some studies have have found that Black women tend to start the trans– transition earlier than people of other races. Ms. Fogle started to experience night sweats for the first time, another clue that her hormones were changing. She went to her gynecologist um and said, you know, these these night sweats are interrupting my sleep. What can I do? I think I’m starting menopause. And her doctor laughed at her and then called a nurse into the room to laugh with the doctor about her. Um. So that completely turned her off to you know, going to a doctor to get help with her menopause. Um. And it’s it’s reflective of a lot of humans that go through menopause, reflective of their experience. And then on top of that, physicians really aren’t fully equipped to help navigate this transition. Um. So it’s it’s something like, you know, there was a study done and something like 20% of new doctors had actually learned about menopause, which clearly is not a lot, when humans of color who are going through menopause, perimenopause, seek care, they often encounter physicians who aren’t aware of those differences and aren’t fully equipped to help them navigate the transition. And so what ends up happening is that unmanaged menopause systems are symptoms are associated with elevated risk of long term chronic diseases like coronary heart disease and neuro neurodegenerative diseases. It can also translate into years of discomfort that affect a person’s mental health and quality of life. This means that women of color often go without adequate care during menopause, signaling to them that their suffering is insignificant. And I wanted to just recognize the word suffering because I feel like so much of my health journey when it comes to my reproductive parts have been a suffering and the suffering that as Black women in particular, I feel like we’ve been, you know, kind of socialized to accept suffering as just like a way of being. So hot flashes are a common symptom of menopause um and often disruptive, and that goes for all races. But what this article shows us is that if you have intense and more frequent hot flashes and those happen over more years than others, it can lead to dementia. It can lead to frequent and constant anxiety, depression, panic attacks and other diseases get prompted by that, like stroke and heart disease. [sigh] Um. So I just wanted to bring this. I’m not going to I can read about menopause and perimenopause and hormones all day long, but what I what I wanted everyone to get out of that is that one, there’s another disparity that impacts Black bodies that are going through menopause and perimenopause. The lack of acknowledgment by doctors and the health care system overall when it comes to folks that are going through this, but most particularly Black folks. And just for, you know, when we start to recognize these symptoms, there are there are places to go. There are organizations now that are helping at least to create acknowledgment and some care around this. And hormone therapy um has been believed to help many people through menopause and perimenopause. And so but the first step is really knowing what’s happening with your body and recognizing within yourself that your your feelings and your voice around your body are absolutely real. And then finding the help that you need and being in community with others who are going through a similar experience to help you move through that. So I just wanted to bring that to the pod because, you know, I’m 42, I am perimenopausal. This is something that I’m constantly thinking about and I’m constantly feeling different in my own body and trying to understand what that is and also just trying to be a Black woman who can exist and be an example of living in potential and not being someone who lives and gets comfortable in a suffering.
Myles E. Johnson: So thank you for bringing this to the podcast De’Ara, as somebody who is extremely ignorant on the subject. And one thing since I joined this podcast that I’ve seen is so many racial um gaps in the in the in in medicine and specifically when it comes to Black women. And I think the articles usually deal with it, and I think most people just know about it. But I think there has to be a focus on all the things that are happening in this world. I’m just flailing my hands around [laugh] everything burning down and how it’s affecting people. And I think sometimes we can say statistics uh in during debate or, or or or in some or sometimes even in articles that just seem random. But it’s because oftentimes Black women and women of color are dealing with more stress. So the reason so once their body changes, it’s going to be more stressful. These aren’t just bad DNA luck, you know? It’s not just how things are, it’s how things have been designed, which means that redesign can happen. And any time a story like this happens, I think it’s important to echo that fact that these aren’t just how it is for people with these skin tones or from with these backgrounds. This is how the society has designed it to be.
Kaya Henderson: Um. I want to say, you know, in my auntie chat, we talk all about menopause all the time. And one of the most important things that we talk about is the fact that most people are not talking about menopause. And so as women, we don’t we don’t know what’s coming. The aunties and the grandmas don’t tell us. It is a whole situation. And then to realize that we’re also going to going to face the same disparities in health care when you go to get answers from doctors and nurses and not be able to get the answers from them because they don’t actually understand the care is disheartening. Um. What was even more alarming about this article was the idea that the idea of suffering as you brought up uh De’Ara, I don’t if you don’t have you have not had insomnia. If you don’t know what it’s like to go for nights and nights without sleep, if you don’t know what it’s like to wake up sweating in the middle of the night, that has an impact on everything. It’s not just what happens at night. It has an impact on everything that happens during the day. I thought it was very interesting that this wasn’t that they also sort of laid out how this is an issue for Asian women because their menopausal symptoms are different than Black women’s symptoms and different than white women’s systems. And they get anxiety. And so these poor Asian ladies out here thinking they just losing it when the truth of the matter is menopause is causing deep anxiety. We we still are are required to function every day. We’re required to work. We’re required to parent where we’re required to be good citizens, while literally your body is going bananas. And I say all of this to say God bless the people in women’s health, especially women of color, doctors and the doctors who go out of their way to help normalize what’s happening in women’s lives. It’s rough out being a woman ain’t easy. Let me just tell you, as one who’s been one for 53 years, someone who’s been a women 53 years, and the fact that this information is not available, you know, I think about how many um what do you call these erectile dysfunction medicines we have? When men have a problem, we go figure out how to fix it. When women have problems, that’s not exactly the case. For years we’ve gotten bad information on hormone replacement therapy. Don’t do it because you know you’ll get cancer. Totally debunked. And there are women who are still going and without critical hormone replacement therapy that could smooth this all out for them because we don’t pay enough attention to it and we don’t give it the credibility that we give men’s issues. And so thanks for bringing this to the podcast. Don’t nobody want to talk about menopause, but you know, women who are going through it. [laughter] But I think it’s
De’Ara Balenger: Bring it on. I loved it, I want to talk about it all day. Anything around hormones. Sign me up.
Kaya Henderson: But it’s also important for other people to understand what’s going on, what’s going on–
Myles E. Johnson: Me too.
Kaya Henderson: –with your colleagues, what’s going on with your coworkers? What’s going on with your mother? My mother and I–
Myles E. Johnson: Mother or sisters.
Kaya Henderson: –my mother and I did not talk for three years, and it was because she was going through menopause and all kinds of things were happening with her. Once she got that patch, honey, I was like, who is this lady? You found my mother like, this is amazing. And we don’t talk about these things. And so thank you for bringing it De’Ara because this stuff is real.
DeRay Mckesson: I don’t have anything to add about menopause but because my news is also about the health care system I’ll just transition into it, is my news is about pulse oximeters. And when I think about your news De’Ara, just a reminder that the health care system was what is so wild about the health care system is that it was built especially with women built deconstructing, raping, pillaging, using the bodies of Black women, and still has no learnings, focus, nothing. You think about like the history of gynecology. It’s like, you know, this industry does not exist without Black bodies. But I think about um pulse oximeters, you know, when you go to the emergency room, you go to a doctor, the first thing they do is put your finger in the little thing. It measures the level of oxygen in your blood. Well, guess what? It routinely overestimated the amount of oxygen in darker skinned COVID patients. And when it overestimated the level of oxygen, it led to delays in treatment and hospital readmissions. This comes from a study that researchers at Baylor College, Hopkins and HCA Healthcare Care did that reviewed about 24,500 cases of people whose blood oxygen levels were first measured with the pulse oximeter, and then whose blood was drawn and tested to further examine the levels. Now, here’s the thing, if the readings are too high, are falsely high then the patients may look fine on paper, when in reality they’re not fine. They need some additional care, some something. But because the machines aren’t calibrated to darker skin. It looks like they’re fine. And a reminder that most people’s finger fingertip reading is never double checked by a blood draw. Just like when I think about when I got tested for strep. They do that little culture and the culture could say whatever, but they could actually run it through a lab and get like a final result. Most people’s aren’t ever run through a blood draw. Now, here is the wild thing. Um. It says that patients with a fingertip pulse oximeter reading of 94% or more, but whose blood tests showed lower levels were deemed to have an unrecognized need for COVID therapy. Here we go y’all. Black patients were found to be nearly 50% more likely than white patients to have their condition go undetected. Hispanic patients were 18% more likely than white patients to have an unrecognized need. Now, if you remember in the heart of COVID, how Black people just started dying. When I read this, I’m like, they could have gone to the hospital in time, they could have seen a doctor in time. 50% got the wrong reading at the beginning. 50% got told that they were okay when they weren’t. That is wild. So I wanted to bring that here because I hadn’t heard about this. Just like with the menopause conversation. I don’t know anything about that. And I didn’t know anything about this so I want to bring it here.
Myles E. Johnson: So my first reaction when I was reading the article was how in my Black brain, when I saw the words dark skin, I was, of course, and still infuriated. But I think in my head, I thought. Oh, Black people who what we will call in the Black community darker skinned are having a like harder time, which is like this group of people. But I’m like, Oh, you talking about anybody who’s darker than Italian like is that what we’re calling [laughing] dark skin? [laughing] Are we talking about, [indistinct] [laugh] like [laughin] around black people. I’m like, Oh, you’re talking about everybody and I think that was kind of was blowing my mind was how incompetent the medical industry is if it can only deal if it’s making mistakes around people who are this article’s definition of dark skin, you know, um it would have still been incompetent, but I think in my head because obviously the medical community it skews towards helping white people. I would have just intellectually understood how that happened. I don’t. I get how it happens. But this is. That’s ridiculous. That’s ridiculous. That means that means it’s an incompetent piece of medicine and technology, if that huge of a of a [?] of people can not get uh accurate help and suggestion.
De’Ara Balenger: I’m also just going back to COVID times. When it was like order the oximeter. You have to have a oximeter, you have to have your mask. You have to have your glove, you have. It was like all these–
DeRay Mckesson: Yes.
De’Ara Balenger: –things you had to have to protect yourself that I, I was like, yes, if I have these things, I will live. This will help me live. And I I ended up getting long haul COVID um in 2021 and that I have multiple oximeters because that was the thing that, like, kept me sane. I was like, okay, if my oxygen is at this certain level, that means, okay De’Ara, you’re okay. And so to know that that thing was not designed for me or to Myle’s point anybody darker than a French fry? I don’t I don’t know. Like that that is wild to me. You know, we are consumer and have to be a believer of these things. Some of the things that we’re told, particularly around public health. So this this was a wild one for me. So now, I guess. Listen, I don’t even know what to say. I don’t know what to do with all these oximeters now, I’m a give them away to white people.
Kaya Henderson: I I mean, I think I don’t have a lot to add to this. I’ll only say that it means that it reminds me that we have to ask the doctors when we go at one next time I go to the doctor and they put a pulse oximeter on me, I’m going to be like, okay, can I get a blood test to confirm? Like we have to be armed with the information so that we can advocate for ourselves for health care. And so I think that’s my big takeaway. And I hope that everybody listening to this understands that they should challenge their doctors when doctors make sweeping recommendations based just on the pulse oximeter reading.
DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Well, that’s it. Thanks so much for tuning in to Pod Save the People this week. Tell your friends to check it out and make sure you rate it wherever you get your podcasts whether it’s Apple Podcasts or somewhere else. And we’ll see you next week. Pod Save the People is a production of Crooked Media. It’s produced by AJ Moultrié and mixed by Evan Sutton. Executive produced by me and special thanks to our weekly contributors Kaya Anderson, De’Ara Balenger, and Myles E. Johnson. [music break]