Our Body Politic

How Georgia’s Draconian Voting Restrictions Threaten the Constitution, James Clyburn Says We Can’t Prevent Another Insurrection, and Jemele Hill on Why Athletes Won’t Ever ‘Shut Up and Dribble’

Episode Notes

This week Farai Chideya talks with Nse Ufot, CEO of the New Georgia Project, and Tiffany Jeffers, Our Body Politic legal analyst, about the ramifications of Georgia’s restrictive new voting law. House Majority Whip James Clyburn on the need to still work across the aisle. Farai asks EunSook Lee, director of the AAPI Civic Engagement Fund, about the growing political power of Asian-American women. And Farai and Errin Haines of the 19th welcome writer Jemele Hill to Sippin’ the Political Tea, our weekly roundtable, to talk about voting rights, politics in sports, and the gender pay gap.


1:26 Nse Ufot and Tiffany Jeffers on Georgia’s new voting law

13:01 Representative James Clyburn on bipartisanship in Congress

19:16 EunSook Lee on AAPI political organizing across the country

28:02 Sippin’ the Political Tea: the intersection of politics and sports with guest Jemele Hill

Episode Transcription

Farai Chideya: Thanks for listening and sharing Our Body Politic. As you know, we're only a few months into the show and we are shaping it with lots of input from listeners like you. I want to ask you a small favor, after you listen today, please head over to Apple Podcast on your phone, tablet, laptop, or anywhere you listen and leave us a review. We read those because your ideas matter to us. Thanks so much. This is Our Body Politic. I'm the creator and host, Farai Chideya. This week, we've got Georgia on our minds.

State Rep. Park Cannon:

Why am I under arrest? There is no reason for me to be arrested! I am a legislator!

Chideya: That's a video clip of Georgia State Representative, Park Cannon, captured by Storyful. State capitol police officers arrested her for knocking on Georgia Governor, Brian Kemp's, office door. Now, this was when he was signing into law a bill that makes it way more difficult to vote in Georgia. Senate Bill 202 enacts voter ID requirements for absentee ballots and limits the availability of absentee drop boxes, among other things. What does this mean for all of us? I invited two special guests to offer their analysis of the status of voting rights in the U.S. Tiffany Jeffers is a Georgetown law professor and Our Body Politic's legal analyst. Welcome Tiffany.

Tiffany Jeffers: Hi Farai, it's nice to be here.

Chideya: And Nse Ufot is CEO of the New Georgia Project. That's one of the organizations that has filed a federal lawsuit, challenging the new Georgia voting law as part of a larger coalition. Hi, Nse.

Nse Ufot: Hello, Farai.

Chideya: I am so glad to be with both of you because these are some trying times. Tiffany, some protestors and analysts are calling this Jim Crow 2.0, can you explain what the ramifications are, and the stakes are, for this era in voting rights, particularly Georgia, but also more broadly?

Jeffers: Jim Crow 2.0 is an incredibly accurate description of that legislation. It is going to suppress the right to register, to get to the polls, to stand in the lines, of things you can do in the lines at the polls, and then to actually cast your ballot. This is some scary legislation, and now that it's passed in Georgia, I think several of the Southern states, some of the Midwest states, will also follow suit very quickly.

Chideya: Nse, tell me a little bit more about the corporate responsibility work you've been doing.

Ufot: Yeah. We've done a little research and found that Southern Company, which is our energy supplier, Coca Cola, Home Depot, Delta Airlines, and others, have given over $7 million to the Republican sponsors, these anti-voting bills. So we've made a couple of demands, one, to stop funding Republican voter suppression. Two, to use their voice and their considerable leverage in this moment. At the time, it was to stop the bill from passing in the Georgia Legislature, but now, it's to make sure that H.R.1 and H.R,4 get passed. That between these companies, they have hundreds of thousands of employees who are Georgia voters alone. And it's getting very, very hot in the house of Coca Cola and the house of Delta, as it should be, because this feels like an existential threat to the democracy that we're trying to build, the multiracial, multiethnic democracy that delivered historic victories in November and January. Yeah, that's what the campaign looks like in this moment.

Chideya: Yeah. I wanted to read a little bit, and Tiffany, I'm going to go to you, from an online publication life set, which says H.R.1, the For the People Act, is an attempt by the Democrat majority to make permanent, every single dirty trick and unethical ploy they used in 2020. What do we actually know about the fairness of elections, including the last election in Georgia?

Jeffers: There was a free and fair election in Georgia. The voters cast their ballots, and the Secretary of State, the Secretary of the State of Georgia certified those ballots, and the state went to President Biden.

Ufot: I was going to say, you're right, because the Secretary of State from Georgia, stood on the steps of the capitol and declared, in multiple press conferences, that there was not widespread voter fraud in Georgia, and that our elections were free and fair. Hell, he said it directly to the President of the United States at the time. And here's how he was repaid for it, the little known fact about the bill in Georgia is that they basically fired him as the Chief Elections Officer for the State of Georgia. And I suspect that they're going to do the same thing with the Governor at the beginning of 2022, when they resume the Legislative Session.

Chideya: Yeah. And Tiffany, what is the impact, the potential impact of H.R.1, this federal legislation attempt?

Jeffers: The purpose of federal legislation is that it's going to provide oversight to state's efforts to restrict voting. And it really is the only way for voters to ensure that elections continue to remain free and fair, because as we can see, Republican-led states are trying to restrict voting. When the Federal Government comes in and has its attorney say, "No, this is going to be challenged in the federal courts. You can't just pass these legislations. It has to pass muster." There has to be a pre-clearance for the types of restrictions that the states are trying to have. The only entity that can regulate this is going to be the federal government, so that's why this particular bill is critical.

Chideya: But what other, you know, Tiffany, when you look at the law, what are other mechanisms within the law that might be helpful?

Jeffers: I used to put a lot of hope in the court. I'm a lawyer, I love the Supreme Court. I think that the Supreme Court, at times, has kept the nation balanced, and done the right thing, and transitioned to improve democracy when called upon. But I don't see that happening with this particular court. Back in 2013, we'll remember that the Voting Rights Act was gutted by Justice Roberts, by Chief Justice Roberts. Now we have three additional conservative, far, far-right justices on the Supreme Court. They are not going to be help for us. I think where we need to look is the Senate, the House of Representatives, the Congress, is going to need to enact legislation, potentially a constitutional amendment. I think we need a reconstruction and a constitutional convention, is really what I think needs to happen to protect democracy at the level that it needs protection with what's happening today.

Chideya: Hmm. And let me just be frank, how likely are we to see something like a constitutional convention?

Jeffers: I'm always going to lean towards hope, but with the filibuster still in place, we won't see it. And if these voter suppression laws continue to be passed among states, we absolutely won't see it. So I'm hopeful, but it's unlikely, unless this presidential administration does the work it needs to do to end the filibuster.

Chideya: I want to go to a broader set of questions. There's been some very interesting kind of Freudian slips, or maybe not, about voting. There was Representative John Kavanaugh, who chairs Arizona's Government and Elections Committee, a Republican legislator on the state level said, "Everybody shouldn't be voting," very directly. And how do we contextualize this, because I do find myself challenged sometimes to frame these issues without appearing like I'm putting my hand on the scales, but this is just history, this is just fact.

Jeffers: We have to acknowledge that white, male, landowners were the intended people to govern, to vote, and to run this country. Without that, we cannot move forward. I think we need to have a reckoning in that the Constitution can't exist as the sole document, meaning the originalism, mindset, ideology, can't exist as a way to move this country forward, because if you acknowledge what that framing, what that document actually means, it's to enslave humans and to ensure that only white males can vote, own property, including human beings, and to run society, to make laws and to govern.

Ufot: And I don't know why people are so shocked or consider it to be a Freudian slip. They are not being shy about what their aim is. I would argue that they know, that in the marketplace of ideas, fewer, fewer people are buying what they are selling. And the only way for them to continue to hold onto power, is if they maintain the filibuster and make it more difficult for this rising electorate to vote and participate in our elections and kick them out.

Chideya: I want to ask Nse about multi-racial coalitions. We have been speaking with people who are doing political organizing in Asian-American, Pacific-Islander communities in Georgia and other states, and Georgia, your state that you have been doing so much service for, is one where, it's very diverse. Man, I love the international grocery stores, you can get everything, your Yuca, all the things.

Ufot: It's amazing.

Chideya: Your Thai chilies.

Ufot: For the low.

Chideya: Yeah, exactly, for the low. Exactly. How do you think about the impact of a moment like this on multiracial coalition-building? Is it bringing people together or dividing them?

Ufot: It has brought the majority of us together. What we are looking at is a pale, male, stale minority of old white dudes who are terrified about the future of America and what it means for their outsized grip on power in our politics and in our policymaking, right? That the accountability that comes with coalition work doesn't feel good when you're used to just dictating from on high, how resources and tax dollars get divided and what our priorities are as a city, a state, or a federal government. But yeah, I think about the unfortunate, the awful murder of eight people in the north Atlanta suburbs a little over two weeks ago, and how the entire Atlanta community came together, old-school, civil rights folks, Latinx organizers. That it was an outpouring from across the race and ethnicity spectrum. And I think that you will continue to see that happen because that is the new Georgia.

Jeffers: And just to bring it back and say to what you said earlier about Coca-Cola and Delta, that's the only reason why the "pale, male, stale" is still in power, because of corporate funding. I think that's the biggest reason why they're still in power.

Chideya: Tiffany, what other things do you think we need to keep an eye on as we think about voting rights? There's obviously the voting rights legislation. You're also saying that money in politics is something to keep an eye on. Anything else we need to, as we watch this unfold?

Jeffers: I think we have to look at who's being appointed to the federal bench because that's where these cases are going to be challenged. President Biden recently released 11 nominees to the federal bench. The list was heavy with women and women of color. When you have good judges on the federal bench, then you have a better chance of success and overturning that bad legislation that's going through in these state legislatures.

Chideya: Well, we're going to have to leave it there, so much to think about. Thank you so much, Tiffany.

Jeffers: Thanks Farai.

Chideya: And Nse, thank you.

Ufot: Thanks Farai.

Chideya: That was Tiffany Jeffers, Our Body Politic's legal analyst, and Nse Ufot, CEO of the new Georgia project. Georgia's new voting law is a litmus test for voting rights across the country. House majority whip, James Clyburn is advocating for a comprehensive federal voting rights act, and he's hoping to get that passed in the next few weeks. The representative is also working on bills to expand broadband access and says he has high expectations for an infrastructure package, which the Biden-Harris administration announced this week. Representative Clyburn is a leader in his party, and his endorsement of Joe Biden in early 2020 set the stage for him to win the democratic primary in South Carolina. Welcome Representative Clyburn.

Rep. James Clyburn: Thank you very much for having me.

Chideya: You've played quite a role in really thinking through who gets to take leadership positions within the party. Tell us a little bit about how you decided that candidate Biden could become president Biden.

Clyburn: Well, over the years I've listened to my wife on these kinds of issues, most especially the political ones. And I tend to give the background of that because people think I'm being a bit flippant when I say that, but my wife and I were married for 58 years before she passed away losing her 30 year battle with diabetes. Well, she was a librarian at the Naval hospital down in Charleston and the Veteran's hospital here in Columbia. And in her role as a librarian, she would go out on the wards and she was talking to people all over the state, and she could always tell me how an election was going to come out here in South Carolina. And so I started listening to her, and so back in June 2019, she said, "I don't care how many people are running. If we want to win, we'd better nominate Joe Biden."

Chideya: Senator Ron Johnson is someone who you called out as racist for essentially saying that he thought the people who stormed the capital on the sixth were Patriots and had it been Black Lives Matter, he would have been afraid, but not in this case. Even though we know people were killed, and property was defaced, and any number of other things happened. How do you do your job when there is such an active defense of the insurrection and the domestic terrorism within the ranks of people who are elected officials on Capitol Hill, how do you get up every day and do your job under those circumstances? And do you have any hopes that there can be such a thing as bipartisanship, or is that not particularly the top line?

Clyburn: I'm 80 years old. I've been in politics since the age of 12. I've been in Congress now for 29 years. This is my 29th year. Until about two years ago, I had never ever called anybody a racist. That was a word that I would not use. The first time I ever called anybody a racist, it was the past president, and the second time was Senator Johnson. I grew up believing it's not their words that matter, it's their deeds. So I put the two of them in a special category. Now, you've got a few people in the house that's fighting hard to get in there with them. I want to hold that against him about being conservative. My father was very conservative, and my father was a Republican. It's one thing to be a Republican, it's something else to be a racist. I don't paint all publicans with that brush, and because I don't, it's pretty easy for me to get up and seek a Republican or Republicans to work with.

Chideya: I'm thinking more of the question of bipartisanship, if there is not the will to be bipartisan, and I think about what's happening with the moves to investigate the insurrection and the aftermath. And there doesn't seem to be a lot of bipartisan will. How do you personally, and with your leadership position, ask questions about how we get to the bottom of what happened and how to prevent it again when there seems to be a lack of will on the part of some members of Congress to look into this further.

Clyburn: Well, there is a lack of will on the part of some members of Congress, but not every member of Congress. I think that a lot of people were surprised to hear this investigator say what he did on 60 minutes, making it very clear that he sees a pathway to sedition being charges in this. I think that surprised a lot of people, but I think justice is going to prevail. And so I don't know that you will ever make sure that doesn't happen again, but we come to make sure that this particular group won't do it again. I've been hearing a lot of that. I just want to make sure that this doesn't happen again. Come on, you can't make sure they ain't going to happen again. You can make sure you deal with it every time it does.

Chideya: Congressman, thank you so much for spending time with us, appreciate it.

Clyburn: Thank you for having me.

Chideya: That was Congressman James Clyburn and who represents the sixth district of South Carolina in the house. Two weeks ago, the attacks at spas in Georgia's Atlanta area brought national attention to the rise in anti-Asian American violence, particularly over the past year. And with the voting restrictions coming out of the same state, Asian American and Pacific Islanders are deeply engaged in how to champion their rights and their safety. EunSook Lee is the director of the AAPI Civic Engagement Fund. She's tapped into AAPI organizers all around the US, and she says she's seen Asian American and Pacific Islander community groups building stronger intersectional ties within the greater racial equity movement. Her fund has been supporting their efforts to combat anti-Asian American violence. I invited her on the show to talk about AAPI political power and participation in the wider women of color voting block.

Chideya: EunSook welcome.

EunSook Lee: Thank you Farai.

Chideya: One thing that I've been thinking a lot about recently is how real and how constructed racial identity is. Asian American, or Asian, is in and of itself a construct for people who've come from all around the world, either in this generation, the previous generation, or many generations ago and become Asian American Pacific Islanders. There is this moment of reckoning with the multiple layers of identity. So with all of that in mind, where do you think Asian Americans are in a joint political consciousness with people who have very different backgrounds?

Lee: There is certainly complexity to the AAPI identity. And like you said, with AAPIs, some of it is a social construct. Some of it is the fact that even if I, as a Korean-American may not identify as AAPI, not to say I don't, but even if I don't identify, those around me, they don't see the difference. I'm whatever they think I am, Chinese American and that's the definition of it, or AAPI. So that's something we have to come to terms with. At the same time, we've done polling on AAPIs. There is a lot that we have in common in terms of where we stand on viewpoints on so many different issues, even if there are nuances. So with the fund again, when we support our groups, this is why it's important to not only fund locally, because it's so different, the experience of a Chinese American in California to them in the South.

Lee: But we also think there is more value and potential power in coming together, and so we've been supporting the groups individually, but also bringing them together. And last year, because of the rise of anti-Asian violence, we started to support them for work around anti-Asian racism. And there's a network, it's a shared liberation network. And it designed to allow them to come together and have some of the conversations about identity and about what it means to be AAPI. And I would say that yes, identity is a challenge for AAPI communities, but it's also something they're willing to tackle. And I think they're tackling a lot more than it used to be.

Chideya: So you're the director of the AAPI Civic Engagement Fund. What kind of work are you doing in terms of tracking what populations and what parts of the country are engaging with local and state politics?

Lee: So as I mentioned, we fund a number of groups around the country, and we had the opportunity in many cases to fund these groups for five plus years. And so we fund them to build up their infrastructure, to be able to do year-round civic engagement. Our organizations do the gamut of registering people to vote, helping them turn out, educating them. And what we try to do is add that other element of providing aggregated support that our groups individually may not be able to do, such as polling. We do a lot of polling of AAPIs in language because most mainstream polling firms and newspapers, they often pull a small number of AAPIs and usually just an English. And again, we bring them together to share and learn because oftentimes you feel your power when you're in a community with others. Otherwise you just think you're a percent of a percent of a percent.

Chideya: Now, you helped put together a report ahead of the majority foregrounding women of color. And so that was the AAPI Civic Engagement Fund and Groundswell Fund. What was the purpose of doing that analysis, and maybe just one or two things that you found useful?

Lee: So in 2018, we did a poll of the AAPI electorate and it was a national poll was multi-racial, so we did have other partners. What we noticed across the board is that women of color as a constituency, which is often not looked at differently, because you know how we often look at... We compare men and women of the same race, or we may compare folks by race, but we don't do that other cut of, women of color.

Lee: And what we saw is whether it was Black women, Latinas, or AAPI women, whether it was turnout, vote choice, and mobilization, and lateral-mobilization meaning, not only were they mobilized, but they were mobilizing their friends and family and then activism. All of those areas, women of color as a grouping were far more politicized, more activated, more progressive than their male counterparts from that same race. I mean, there's some slight differences I have to say in terms of some of the data points, but across the board that was what we saw. In this case black women were far more the leaders of this. And it's interesting because when I talked to women of color organizers, they're not surprised, but too often we're seen as just being maybe ideological or aspirational. And we're not seen as, what we're saying doesn't seem like it's data driven. And what I think was important about this report is that it felt like we had data to back it up.

Lee: One last thing I would want to bring up is, that what's interesting is that separately, we know from the groups that we're funding because we've been funding for seven years, there is a changing face to specifically AAPI women leadership. The groups that we supported seven years ago now, 82% or more are led by AAPI women. And therefore it leads to the other question is, if they're running these organizations and they're running the campaigns, maybe they need to also run for office. So I would say that that's potentially a trend that we hope will change. Not to say, however, that the costs are not great for AAPI women to become politically active. The reception, whether it's from the AAPI community and also within the mainstream is not often easy for women because there's a level of sexism we all face, including AAPI women and as they emerge as public figures, we know that they're also now targets of that. And what we need to do is be prepared for that and recognize that as a reality and do what we can to support them, because we don't want to see AAPI women feminists silenced.

Chideya: EunSook thank you so much for joining us.

Lee: Thank you Farai for having me.

Chideya: That was EunSook Lee, director of the AAPI Civic Engagement Fund.

Chideya: We love to hear from you, our listeners, on the SPEAK line. And we've been asking if you're planning to get vaccinated or already have been, what is the most important thing you want to do once you've gotten the vaccine? A lot of you shared so many sweet messages about seeing family, friends, hugging parents and grandparents tight. And one of you said specifically, "I can't wait to be able to gather with my Asian-American sister friends in person, so we can just be together and claim joy and heal together through food, storytelling, laughter and hugs." And we certainly here at Our Body Politic hope that you get to do that very soon. To leave us your message call 929-353-7006. That's 929-353-7006. Or go to ourbodypolitic.show for a Google form to respond in writing.

Chideya: Each week on the show, we bring you around table called Sippin' the Political Tea and joining me this week is Our Body Politic contributor Errin Haines, editor at large at the 19th. Hi Errin.

Errin Haines: Hey, it's April, fools.

Chideya: You're too funny. And we've also got Jemele Hill contributing writer for The Atlantic and host of the Spotify podcast, Jemele Hill is Unbothered. Welcome to Our Body Politic Jemele.

Jemele Hill: Thank you for having me. I'm sorry, unlike Errin. I don't have a great joke to start off with. She's far funnier than I am, as you will discover.

Haines: I'm so glad to be joined with Jemele this week, my friend of many years. But look, it is literally warming up, just like you said, I'm so excited that spring is finally in the building. I know Jemele doesn't know anything about that living that West Coast sunshine life, but I mean we got Easter, we got Passover, it's opening weekend for baseball. Cherry blossoms are out here on the East Coast and the best part, millions of Americans getting vaccinated. I mean, I know we're not out of the clear yet, but it's really just starting to feel like we're such a long way from where we were last year. So I am excited about all of that.

Chideya: Absolutely.

Haines: All right. So I want to start with voting rights in my home state of Georgia. Here's a clip of Senator Raphael Warnock on this week, Soul of A Nation on ABC hosted by you Jemele. He talks about what's happening with voter suppression in Georgia.

Sen. Raphael Wa...: What we're witnessing in Georgia and all across the country is politicians who are trying to turn our democracy on its head, so that rather than the voters picking the politicians, the politicians get to pick their voters.

Haines: Jemele you wrote in The Atlantic about why Major League Baseball should boycott Georgia in response to the voting law signed by the governor this month, explain how that would help.

Hill: There's a history here. The most recent example of this is when the NBA pulled its all-star game from Charlotte, North Carolina, because of the quote unquote bathroom bill that was going on there. And they kind of made it known that they would not even consider Charlotte as long as that was on the table. And what happened there wound up... I don't think it was killed completely, but a lot of the provisions in it that seemed to be clearly anti-trans were taken out of it. They did it in 1991 when the NFL announced that they were pulling the Super Bowl from Arizona because they refuse to make the King holiday a paid holiday. And the NCAA for almost 15 years, did not have a championship in South Carolina because the Confederate flag flew overstate grounds. So sports has done this before and I think done it effectively.

Hill: I do understand what activists have said, certainly Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's daughter, Bernice King has been very outspoken about how the people of Georgia don't need to pay for what these lawmakers have done, and I agree with that. But targeted attacks, and this is a targeted attack, major sporting events are a big deal and listen, the Braves still play there, so it's not like in the column I said the brave should move out, the Dream should move out or the Hawks or any other major sports staple in the community. Because I realized they're part of the community, they're invested and I get it, but there is a certain level of shame that does need to happen in order to spur action. And when you target major sporting events, yes it's about that city not having an economic boost for that particular weekend or for that time, but it's also a perception.

Hill: Cities want to hold big events, they want to be considered cosmopolitan, they want to be cool. And when you take that away and especially the reason that people know that it's not there, it's something they always have to answer for like, huh, why don't you have this? So if Major League Baseball, which has its annual Summer Classic in Atlanta this summer, if they pull out and particularly since Major League Baseball, it's not the NBA, it's not the most progressive sport to be honest, if they do it, that would be so significant and so symbolic, because Major League Baseball has some atoning to do. They were the last sports league to comment about George Floyd, it took them almost 10 days to do that. And a lot of the players, the remaining black players in Major League Baseball, especially were very disappointed. And this is a league that hangs their hat on Jackie Robinson, integrating baseball in 1947 and it's such a huge acknowledgement for them. Well if you're going to be in it for the celebration, we're going to need you to be in it for the real stuff. And so this is a very big opportunity for them to show that they're committed to being on the right side of history.

Haines: Yeah. A good opportunity for the sport and also in Atlanta, in particular, with the city's reputation is the nickname the city too busy to hate and knowing that we just lost civil rights icon and baseball pioneer Hank Aaron in January. There's just a real synergy there that could be used to bring more attention to this issue. There's also, I would note, a pressure on Augusta National and the Masters to respond to this, so yet another way that sports could factor in out of that state on the issue of voting rights. Farai what would you add to this?

Chideya: Well as we heard earlier in the show from Nse Ufot, they have been really instrumental in being one of many groups, pressuring companies to stop supporting legislators that are restricting voting rights, Delta Airlines, which is Georgia's largest employer, and Coca-Cola another regional giant. And this takes a lot of different forms. Some of the companies said, okay, we're not going to support this, but they then funded packs that were effectively supporting members of the Georgia legislature that were in fact supporting voter suppression. And so now what we're starting to see through a number of different pressure points is an increased focus on corporate responsibility. And so you have people now like black corporate leaders being no holds barred, including Ken Chenault, the former CEO of American Express, and Mellody Hobson the board chair of Starbucks and a principal at Ariel Capital Management, just saying, look we are those black people who made it into the C-suite and this is not acceptable. So it's a really interesting allegiance of people coming together.

Haines: Yeah, that's a good point. And it must be said that the about faces from Delta and Coca-Cola are the direct result of the direct action that we've seen from the activism of black women on the ground in Georgia. And that was really powerful ad taken out by those black business icons. As we're seeing similar legislation making its way through state houses across the country, it is important to remember that these are national and international corporations, a civil rights lawyer Sherrilyn Ifill mentioned to Coke, she said that that people in Texas drink Coke products too, right?

Haines: You're listening to Sippin' the Political Tea on Our Body Politic. And if you're just tuning in, you can catch the whole conversation on our podcast and also listen to the full show as a podcast, just find Our Body Politic wherever you listen to podcasts.

Haines: So let's talk about another topic front of mind, the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin the entire thing is being broadcast live. And here is a clip from the Atlanta journal constitution YouTube live stream of the prosecution's opening statement. Here it is.

Jerry Blackwell: Mr. Chauvin has the presumption of innocence, he is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty. We plan to prove to you beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Chauvin was anything other than innocent on May 25th of 2020.

Haines: Jemele I noticed you've been tweeting about the trial would has stood out to you the most so far?

Hill: Well I went back and forth about whether or not to even watch this trial at all.

Haines: Same.

Hill: We sort of have to Errin, I know you kind of do given the variety of issues that you cover and as a journalist, you kind of are forced to do this, but this is one of those situations where there's just a difference when you're a black journalist, because you're asked to process trauma, but make it make sense for everybody else at the same time. And that's not very easy to do. Just some of the testimony has just been really heartbreaking. The part of this that has really been, I don't want to use the word illuminating because it's certainly not a good thing. The people who had to directly witness what happened to George Floyd, we didn't know what they went through. Now, you're seeing the broader emotional toll this has taken on the people in that community, the people who had to witness this, even from the dispatcher to now finding out that there was... I didn't know this before. I mean, I knew about the young lady who filmed the video. Did not know it was a, what? A 9 or 10 year old that also witnessed this as well.

Hill: So you're finding out these very heartbreaking things that's making us relive much of this all over again but in a different way, because now you see the impact. That's the part that I'm left with. And then just generally, just as a black person in this country, there's a part of you, even though I know this is a part of our criminal justice process, this is what due process is you, it's hard not to think like I can't believe that we're actually have to go to trial to prove that it was wrong for a police officer to murder somebody in broad daylight. Like there's a process that has to prove that happened for something we all saw. So there's a certain indignity of that and it leads back to the larger issue of black people always having to prove their humanity for everybody else.

Haines: Yeah. Seeing the collective grief and also the survivor's guilt of so many of those witnesses and just the optics of everyone from a nine year old child and her vivid recollection of seeing George Floyd being killed and a 61 year old man, Charles McMillan weeping on the stand talking about him trying to intervene and feeling just the pain and regret that he felt over not being able to do more. It's been very powerful even in the early days of this trial. Farai, what would you add to this?

Chideya: Well, I just want to back both of you up. I was emailing with some friends this morning who were mainly women of color journalists, and those who are not journalists are women of color who are civil rights lawyers, et cetera, et cetera. And one woman was expressing a bit of shame, I guess, that she was not watching the trial. And I was like, "I'm not watching it, I'm reading about it." I don't want to... I am a battle-hardened newsy and I will go out and get the story, but I'm a human being and it's traumatizing. And I can be informed in a way that respects the limits of my emotional bandwidth. I think that on top of that, I won't go too deep into it because it's just repulsive, but Ann Coulter who never hesitated to say extreme things for money has a piece in one of the extreme outlets called, the piece is called "Derek Chauvin, Human Sacrifice." And it goes on from there, sacrifice to the PC gods, et cetera. And one thing that I just want to point out, the reason this is important, and I now find myself regularly reading and culture pieces via a wonderful news outlet called TheRighting, which looks at extremist content online and kind of provides you pointers and guidance. Because it's important to understand this, is that the narrative play has always been to claim victimization while victimizing. So someone like Chauvin, who can literally kneel a man to death as he's crying for his mother is the victim in this narrative. And this is culture war. And it's important to understand that culture war dynamics can be illogical and powerful at the same time. This is the narrative playing field that this is being fought on. The narrative impact of how this is playing out in different communities is very disparate and it's worth paying attention to.

Haines: Yeah. I think what's more is the pushback that you're seeing against those types of narratives. Even how much you saw, how often you saw on social media, just encouraging news outlets in particular to refer to this as the Derek Chauvin trial, like not the George Floyd trial.

Hill: I don't know if you guys have found this anecdotally, but the number of black people that I have talked to that have zero faith that this trial, that there will be justice served is really an indictment on our system in itself.

Haines: Yeah. I mean, look, I would say inside and outside of media. I mean, I think, for me and my colleagues who have covered enough of these cases, knowing how hard it is to get an indictment or an arrest even and from an arrest to indictment and from indictment to trial and from trial to outcome, we know how rare it is for all of those steps to happen because we've covered it.

Haines: So Jemele, we recently marked Equal Pay Day, which is the number of days that it takes women to make the same amount of money as the average white man. How do you think the issue of equal pay for women athletes connects to women across all industries?

Hill: First of all, can you tell me how much longer I have to go to make that... To make as much a white man? How much longer I got?

Haines: As a Black woman you're well into August, my friend.

Hill: Damn.

Haines: So, yeah, I know. I know. We're not there.

Hill: All right, let me get some more hustles on the plate.

Haines: Girl.

Hill: Well, so this is a big issue in sports, and it's not just about the pay, it's just about the treatment, the respect. One of the big issues during the NCAA tournament, when the rest of the country found out about the inequitable facilities between the women's tournament and the men's tournament, how they gave them a weight room that a three-year-old wouldn't even want to use, that was just a testament to, or a snapshot of what this inequity looks like. The problem is that the conversation is always framed against the men. We know that male athletes and men sports have been more successful financially. That is not a news flash to these women, they understand that, they know that. And the number one pick and then WNBA is not saying that they should make the same as the number one pick in the NBA. What they are saying is that for what the league brings in, they should make a bigger share than what they do. The entire mentality towards women's sports, both by some fans or alleged fans, I guess you could say, and even by the people who run these sports is that the women just need to be grateful to be here, that they just need to be happy that we allow them to even bounce a ball or play a sport, because this is something they shouldn't be doing anyway. As long as they're treated in that vein beyond just the money, it's just a general problem of respect when it comes to women's athletics.

Haines: Absolutely right. Times up for women being an afterthought in so much of this conversation. Farai, what would you add to this, just the question of equal pay for women athletes and how that relates to women across industries in this country?

Chideya: I think that women athletes have spoken out just very, very forthrightly about the pay gaps. And to me, it's just, again, unpaid civic labor, using people's voices to bring up inequities. And I think it's also, there's such a long history as Jemele knows and talks about and writes about and broadcasts about, of sports being a space for activism and organizing. But it also, to me speaks to what I keep talking about, the unpaid civic labor that Black women do. Black women and Black non-binary and trans people end up doing all this work just to live in a democracy. So there's just so much going on and we can learn a lot from the journey of women athletes to be seen as who they are and to take a stake that does affect other women.

Haines: Yeah. Well, listen, I'm team "secure the bag 2021," pay Black women, pay white women, pay Latinas, pay Native American women, pay AAPI women. Equity is something that people of every gender should be invested in and committed to. But unfortunately, we're going to have to leave it there for now. It was nice having you on Sippin' the Political Tea. Jemele, thanks for joining us.

Hill: Well, thank you all for having me. This was a really delightful discussion. Now you guys got me all fired up, man. I'm ready to take on the world.

Chideya: Who needs coffee when you have Sippin' the Political Tea?

Hill: That's right. This tea is loaded!

Haines: True. Farai, thanks for hosting us as always.

Chideya: Oh, thank you so much, Errin.

Chideya: Thank you so much for joining us on Our Body Politic. We're on the air each week and everywhere you listen to podcasts. Our Body Politic is produced by Lantigua Williams & Co. I'm the creator and host, Farai Chideya. Juleyka Lantigua-Williams is executive producer. Paulina Velasco is senior producer. Jen Chien is executive editor. Cedric Wilson is lead producer and mix this episode. Original music by associate sound designer, Kojin Tashiro. Our producer is Priscilla Alabi. Julie Zann is our talent consultant. Production assistants from Mark Betancourt, Natyna Bean and Sarah McClure. This program is produced with support from Craig Newmark Philanthropies, from the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies, from BMe Community, a network designed to build caring and prosperous communities inspired by black people and from generous contributions from listeners like you.


Chideya, Farai, host. “How Georgia’s Draconian Voting Restrictions Threaten the Constitution, James Clyburn Says We Can’t Prevent Another Insurrection, and Jemele Hill on Why Athletes Won’t Ever ‘Shut Up and Dribble.'"  Our Body Politic, Diaspora Farms LLC. April 2, 2021. https://our-body-politic.simplecast.com/