This week political contributor Errin Haines and host Farai Chideya reflect on the Presidential election and the role of Black women and women of color voters. Mutale Nkonde returns to talk about the actual impact of targeted voter suppression. Dr. Kimberly Moffitt gets into what it means to find truth in the information age, and a new ISPU study looks at how American Muslims build coalitions. Steven Thrasher applies the lessons learned from the AIDS epidemic to COVID. And science fiction author N.K Jemisin on how she finds inspiration in daily life. Plus, we hear from passionate voters on election day at polls across the country.
0:30 The origins of Our Body Politic, with host Farai Chideya.
5:50 Voters from across the country tell us why they voted in this election.
6:30 Errin Haines, regular contributor and Editor-at-large at The 19th, talks about the voters of color who turned out this election.
8:24 Haines explains trends we are seeing in Senate and House races.
10:51 The narratives around the role of white voters and Black voters and why that must change.
11:50 More voters talk about why they committed to their plan to vote.
13:02 Mutale Nkonde, CEO of AI For The People, talks about the disinformation age and how to combat fake news.
16:02 Nkonde explains how the influx of people of color from progressive cities into the suburbs of southern states is turning some districts blue.
17:45 Farai and Nkonde ask: what lessons will politicians learn from the 2020 election?
20:32 Farai poses a question for our listeners to take part in our SPEAK segment.
21:17 The Covid update - record-breaking cases, the impacts of being pregnant with COVID-19, and what’s at stake in the SCOTUS case about the Affordable Care Act.
22:23 Would a federal mask mandate work? Professor Steven Thrasher reflects on his time studying the AIDS epidemic and how we can apply lessons learned to the Covid pandemic.
23:47 Is it helpful to prosecute individuals for a disease? According to Professor Thrasher, it does more harm than good.
26:30 A case study of how criminalizing disease creates bias and disincentivizes people from getting tested for disease.
32:10 How can we discern fake news from the true facts? Dr. Kimberly Moffitt explains why we are such impulsive media consumers, and how to change that.
33:24 Identity politics is a huge problem when seeking out the facts, Dr. Moffitt suggests.
37:23 A conversation with Dalia Mogahed and Meira Neggaz from the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding about their recent study on American Muslim voters.
40:06 Good news segment brings you good news from the entertainment world: Sharon Jones honored in her home state, Beyoncé lifting up young professionals, and Claire Zhao making impactful movies.
41:35 Fiction author N.K. Jemisin tells us about racism and bias in the literary world, and how fiction is based not on the past or the future, but the present.
44:23 Jemisin talks about her Broken Earth trilogy and how it all started with an unexplainable dream.
47:00 Jemisin explains some of the conspiracies within the fantasy fandom community that prevent people of color from receiving awards.
This is Our Body Politic. We're here to save our own lives and to champion the building of a world that we want to live in. Our Body Politic came about because, as engaged citizens, the people who make this show weren't getting what we needed from traditional news and information sources. Our Body Politic comes from a place of love. That's love of self, love of family, love of community, and yes, love of country.
I thought I would start this episode, the first show after Election Day, by talking a little bit about my career and how it brought me to doing this work with you because as listeners to Our Body Politic, you're as vital as everyone who's in the studio or in their home studios making this show.
I grew up in Baltimore, for the most part. My parents were both journalists at different times. My mother had been a reporter in Zambia and interned at the Washington Post, and my father for a while ran the Zimbabwean Broadcasting Corporation's news division. He ended up resigning after being asked to insert propaganda into the news. Their legacy led me to become a journalist, but also to understand that bringing whatever gifts I had into this field was going to come with a struggle.
What's kept me going is what I feel is a special connection to people in America and around the world. I actually believe in agape love. That's the spiritual love that connects us all, including people we don't even like. And because of my work in journalism, I feel even more connected to everybody in this nation.
But at this particular moment, after years of covering the news for very broad audiences, I was called to speak specifically to other women of color. Having been to 49 of the 50 U.S. states, I have some sense of how different we are as women of color. We're native born and immigrant, different races, religions, political leanings. And as we process the impact of this election, I think we will see how very different from each other many women of color actually are.
But we share something that is important and not so great. We are collectively often poorly understood as a demographic, a super demographic, as I like to call it. And this election highlights the ways our country has underestimated the impact of race and class on politics, and how much the news has sometimes tried to paper over meaningful differences between us. Looking at the media is something that I've done by being in the media.
For example, I was able to go on CNN during the 1996 election season with someone named Kellyanne Fitzpatrick, now known by her married name of Kellyanne Conway.
We were hearing from our analysts, Kellyanne Fitzpatrick and Farai Chideya a little while ago, and we want to go back to them now.
In 2000, I was on CNN with Tucker Carlson on election night, when the election was called for Gore, and then for Bush, and then for nobody, let's wait and see. I co-moderated a Democratic presidential debate in the 2004 cycle. I interviewed candidates Obama and Clinton during the 2008 election cycle, and in 2010, I spoke to sheriff Joe Arpaio, who created the anti-Mexican playbook for Donald Trump.
If I was the president, what I would do? I know how to solve the problem at the border. Nobody asked. Why don't they ask me my opinion?
Well, I'm asking you right now. So what would you do?
Well, thank you for asking me.
In 2016, just four years ago, even though it may seem longer at this point, I covered voters across America. Trump voters, Clinton voters, people who didn't like either of them. I talked to Ruby Abid, a psychologist who runs an Islamic school in Charleston, about all the jobs she does to support her family and her community.
And teaching like all Islamic education. And I'm a substitute teacher, too, in like American schools. And I'm a realtor, I sell houses. And I run business. And I teach Arabic online and like little stuff here and there.
Mary Tice was a white woman in her 80s in eastern Ohio and a very successful real estate broker.
We need jobs like we had before, that are good paying jobs. Maybe with Donald Trump, with what he's talking about, fair trade.
I share my history with you just to tell you how much I'm committed to my work and I am committed to us. I'm committed to us understanding each other, building towards something better than what we have right now. And our show, Our Body Politic, this is just episode seven, is moving in a direction where we're going to focus even more acutely on how we construct our future. We're not in a place where we can go back, there is nothing to go back to. There is no model for the kind of world we deserve to live in. So we must move forward, and to move forward, we need information. We hope to be a part of the information that fuels your ability to make the right choices for yourself, your family, your community and the nation.
Today after what feels like the longest week ever, we stand in community with you. Through the pandemic, amid political unrest, with unease over the economy, and with our democracy on the line, Our Body Politic is here with you and for you. Thank you for listening.
Throughout this episode, you'll hear sounds of people at the polls, all over the country, making their choices in the election.
I'm a Democrat but this time, I voted Trump.
It's time for a change. This time I voted all Democrats, I'm from the Republican Party. But like I said, it's time for a change.
It's not necessarily about... It's who's going to get the job done. And the most important thing, right now, is understanding that people's lives are on the line.
That was Shantashravini in New York, Marlon in Miami, and Kayla in Queens.
Errin Haines is editor-at-large of The 19th and comes on Our Body Politic every week for “Sipping the Political Tea.” And boy, is it hot this week? So Errin, how are you holding up? Are you taking your vitamins? Are you staying hydrated?
Oh, man. Is caffeine a vitamin?
It is now, right?
It is now. I'm definitely taking my caffeine. Yes.
So what do we know about how black women and other women of color showed up at the polls despite hours-long lines, like the ones you faced in Pennsylvania?
Yeah. Well, listen, I think we know that Black women, Latino women, women in general, showed up in record numbers particularly during early voting. But really, I think overall.
So looking at how different people have influenced politics, I can't help but think of Stacey Abrams, who has really worked consistently to try to beat back voter suppression, and engage black women and all women of color as voters, and all people as voters.
And she seems to have really changed the game in how the Georgia vote has been unfolding.
That's absolutely true. Listen, we know that the turnout in Georgia was up and that the electorate was expanded. And that is due largely to the work of black women organizing on the ground, in my home state up, and Stacey Abrams, above all, has been doing that work for the better part of a decade. It was the expansion of that electorate that brought her within striking distance of becoming the first black woman governor in the history of the country. And I think it is what has made Georgia a battleground state in the south for the first time in a really long time.
Do we have any takeaways from emerging trends from the House and Senate races?
Oh, wow, do we ever? So what's interesting, a few stories that are up right now, we had 19 races to watch up at 19thnews.org. We're looking in at GOP women's representation potentially doubling as a result of this cycle. 23 GOP women so far were elected to the House, which is closing in on the 2006 record of 25 in a single cycle. And you also had a record number of native women that are headed to Congress. There were at least 18 native women that ran this year and three of them were elected.
And then the last thing I would point out, was that Sarah McBride was elected as the first openly transgender state senator. Sarah McBride was a 30-year-old organizer in Delaware. And so she has also made history with her defeat of Republican Steve Washington. And she now becomes one of the highest ranking transgender leaders in the country.
I want to just get into the heat of the tea, which is race and politics right now. There've been a lot of people, I think, searching for stories about what voters of color did or didn't do to explain the popularity of President Trump, whereas, the people that President Trump is most popular with as voters, are white people. How is this conversation playing out?
Yeah. Look, I think it bears repeating that President Trump's support is overwhelmingly with white Americans. Even the exit polling this year shows an increased number of white women, 55% of white women in the exit polling supported President Trump, that's up from 53%, four years ago. And I will just point people to just what I thought was a really well done essay from Brittney Cooper, that is up now on Time Magazine’s site. And the headline is, “If Donald Trump wins a second term, blame white people.” And what she's trying to say here really is exactly the point that we were making. That the President's support does come largely from white Americans. And really trying to get away from the narrative, that if the president wins a second term that it will be because Black and brown voters did not do enough to prevent him from being re-elected.
We have to frame voting differently. White people get to be swing voters, Black voters hear a message, especially in the homestretch of the election, that frames voting for us as more of a burden or a responsibility, right? People died for you to be able to have the right for you to vote. Nobody speaks to white people that way, right? And so really putting the onus on us as if we don't show up, that somehow we are letting the race down, and or letting the country down. I don't think that that's the way that our politics should be framed going forward. And I know that there are certainly black organizers who are demanding, frankly, that in the new normal, they be valued for their input just as much as for their output.
This is going to be an interesting road ahead, and I am so glad you are on it with us. That's Errin Haines, editor-at-large at The 19th. Thank you so much.
Thank you, Farai, see you on the other side.
Continuing our listening tour of voters, here's 61-year-old Maryanne, in New York.
I walked in and I walked right out. And I was debating, but I said, "No, I won't feel right in my heart." Every vote counts, no matter who wins, we still need a president.
And 27-year-old, Alexa, in the Bay Area in California.
I just want to do my part as a citizen, and I just hope for the best but honestly, either way the election goes, we can get through it. If we can get through a whole year of 2020, then we can get through any presidency.
Coming up later this hour.
Black people have realized that their votes are being suppressed and they're out voting anyway.
You're listening to Our Body Politic.
Mutale Nkonde is the CEO of AI For the People and an expert on disinformation warfare. She came on Our Body Politic and drops so much knowledge about disinformation targeting black voters and other voters of color. So Mutale, I'm so glad that you're back.
I'm glad to be back.
We've got so much to talk about. And there's been really high turnout in swing states and also, there's been disinformation and voter intimidation. What can you tell me about that, Mutale?
Disinformation, it hasn't been as terrible as we thought, companies have stepped up, the FBI has stepped in on some campaigns, and so we're not in a good place, but we are prepared.
It's really good to hear that. But it's also kind of disheartening that the win is, it's just not as bad as we thought. So tell us a little bit more about what we're talking about, and how the interventions by the FBI and others might have helped.
Right. So we now know that the Hunter Biden emails that were dropped via the New York Post, were the same version of Pizzagate in 2018. Very similar storylines, leaks, which are a tactic that have been used since the Cold War. And then this idea of emails, and all our security forces were completely activated. So we have that, and then on the other side, the racially based disinformation. We knew that it was coming. So Twitter and other platforms have been on that. They've been labeling the tweets. So is it good? Yes. Is it optimum? Absolutely not.
What do you think people will take away from the 2020 election and disinformation? It's a little early to ask for that kind of level of processing, but kind of you are offering a sense of, we didn't repeat 2016 exactly. What do you think we can take away?
Farai, you and I are in this together, right? And along with the rest of the country. And I think the takeaway from 2020 is that this is going to be constant. And we are going to need our tech companies or the FBI, in the case of the Hunter Biden disinformation plot, to really come in and be activated. And I know you and I were speaking earlier, we were saying this is a real loss of innocence for white America in many ways. I think white Americans are shocked that, that their votes would be suppressed. Whereas this is kind of standard for Black Americans, specifically, Back women who didn't even have the right to vote until the civil rights movement.
Now, you've also been keeping track of demographics. Tell me about how states like Georgia and Texas have changed a bit.
People don't realize that a policy impact in one place can have political implications in another. So we've been working with friends at the New Georgia project, which is the group that Stacey Abrams started for her gubernatorial bid, and one of the things that they told us this past week was Cobb County, which is outside of Atlanta, is one of the largest growing blue counties in the country.
And that's because folks from New York and Philly and Chicago and other areas have gone down south. They have settled in Cobb County where they can get a four-bedroom house with a backyard and a driveway for a couple of hundreds of thousands of dollars. And they've taken their politics with them. The same in Harris County, Texas, which just won the recent federal case to have drive-in voting. This is migration. This is reverse migration. And again, it centers Black people, Black politics, and our relentless pursuit of progress.
Mutale, the last time you were on the show, you told me, "If this election were to be fair, if widespread Black voter suppression was not a factor, there is no path to victory for this particular president." And some other analysts and experts have talked about how President Trump could not win without voter suppression. Knowing what you know now, that things may be somewhat better than in the past in terms of expectations about the success of voter suppression. What lessons do you think politicians will take away from this race? Meaning, are politicians going to be likely to keep trying a voter suppression playbook or are there some positive lessons out of this that show that it's not as successful as people might think?
I think what politicians are definitely going to learn is the resilience of black voters. And the fact that we see this as a part of joy. I've been embedded in Philadelphia now for almost a year. And prior to the killing of Walter Wallace, which was this past Monday, just before the election, you were watching Joys to the Polls, you were watching people line dancing, you were watching DJs rolling down the street, and people really in those lines, and we're still seeing that in Massachusetts. We're still seeing that across the country.
And I think what's happened is Black people have realized that their votes are being suppressed and they're out voting anyway. Many of the pictures that we see of early voting are Black young people. So I also think that, that message of joy that I think I spoke about last time, is really a multigenerational message. And they're going to have to deliver Black constituents good news, good affirmative news about the way the country is being driven. Otherwise, we come out in droves. We've seen COVID, we've seen fighting, we've seen corruption, and the numbers are now up. We come out.
Mutale Nkonde, it's always amazing to hear your wisdom. Thank you.
Thank you for folks listening and stay safe. And know that democracy is something that we have to hold, and it's fragile, and I look forward to defending it with you all.
That was Mutale Nkonde, CEO of AI For The People.
This is what motivated voter Keiresha Pitts, 23, in Northern California's Bay Area.
I voted because I feel like it's time. We need a new president. We need somebody who can stand up for the Black community. We need a president who's not going to take our country as a joke.
And coming up later this hour.
Tens of millions of people actively said that they want a society where less money goes to policing, more goes to racial justice, and to taking care of people in a pandemic.
But first, we want to hear from you. We want to get a conversation started about what we can envision for our future. Each week, we give you a prompt to call and leave feedback for our show on our platform SPEAK. And this week, pivoting to the future we're asking, imagine if women of color trusted the society around them and felt truly liberated. What would you do if you felt financially secure and truly liberated? We're going to be using your input to shape a collective visioning of how we move forward in these turbulent times.
I am so excited about this. Call and leave a voicemail at 929-353-7006. That's 929-353-7006. Your feedback is anonymous, but if you're okay with us using your voice on the show, let us know. Can't wait to hear from you. Thanks.
While many of us were focused on the election this week, the coronavirus pandemic hit new highs. The day after the election, the US recorded more than 100,000 new cases of COVID-19. And on election day itself, there were more than 90,000 cases with 6,000 of them in the crucial battleground state of Wisconsin.
I just feel like it's our right to come and vote, and I'd rather do it in person than by the mail because I want to make sure that my vote is counted. I just wouldn't want to take that chance and not have my vote counted when this election is so pivotal to our country right now.
That was a voter in Wisconsin, talking to madison.com about braving the risk of COVID to vote. At least 1300 healthcare workers in the U.S. have died after contracting the virus, according to The Guardian and Kaiser Health News. Only 4% of America's registered nurses are Filipino, but they make up nearly a third of the nurse deaths from COVID-19 that are tracked by National Nurses United.
The Centers for Disease Control found that pregnant women with COVID-19 symptoms were four times more likely to need intensive care and two times more likely to die than other women. Pregnant women who are Asian and Pacific Islander have a disproportionately high risk of ICU admission. And black women, overall, were more likely to die of COVID-19, regardless of whether they were pregnant or not.
Next week, the Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether the Affordable Care Act is constitutional. Health insurance for more than 20 million Americans hangs in the balance. The law also protects access to coverage for more than 130 million people with pre-existing conditions, which now may include long term effects from the coronavirus.
Joe Biden has signaled that even if the law struck down, he would replace it with a new law, which he's calling Biden Care. President Trump has said he'll protect coverage for pre-existing conditions with a plan that's, "Brand new, beautiful health care." But he hasn't explained how.
Joe Biden has talked about issuing a federal mask mandate. Some health experts say that's necessary, but it could be a double-edged sword for people of color if it comes with racially biased enforcement for not wearing one. This is something Steven Thrasher thinks about. He's a Professor of Journalism at Medill Northwestern University's Journalism School. And he's reported on issues including Black Lives Matter and the criminalization of HIV and AIDS for years. Professor Thrasher, thanks so much for joining us.
So you've studied and reported extensively on HIV and AIDS and how the epidemic was criminalized, how it impacted marginalized communities. How do we compare this to COVID-19? Different viruses, different demographics, what are the similarities and differences that have stood out to you in doing the kind of research you do?
In the beginning of the pandemic, what really stood out to me, was that they were affecting similar populations and that they were both considered disposable populations. I initially was thinking about how disposable the Reagan administration considered the people who first appeared to be affected by HIV and AIDS, particularly, men who had sex with other men, people using injection drugs. They were not considered anyone worth running around trying to help.
And something very similar has happened with the coronavirus is that it's considered to affect people who are "weak, elderly, already have sick conditions." And so ableism has really been a plague, I use that word intentionally on this virus, and that's people who think they're strong enough to survive it, give off the air that those who don't are too weak and therefore somewhat deserving of what they're getting.
And that dynamic has been made worse as world leaders have gotten it and gotten over it, particularly, Boris Johnson in England, Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, and of course, President Trump here in the United States. When they've transmitted the virus and moved through that, they've sort of said, "I'm manly enough, I'm strong enough. And so if people don't survive it that's on them."
You've written a lot about the criminalization of HIV, including one very specific case. Can you tell us a little bit about that work which is going into a book that's going to be called, “The Viral Underclass,” which encompasses different diseases and different types of bias, and why is it still relevant today?
I've been studying for six or seven years now, the case of Michael Johnson, who was a young man, also known as Tiger Mandingo, that was his nickname on social media. And he was accused of transmitting HIV to six other young men and was imprisoned and, initially, sentenced to 30 years in prison. But the case to me really encompassed a lot of problems in American society. People who are uninformed about it might think that it's good to prosecute people for disease, but it really isn't. It creates all kinds of biases. And even at a tactical level, it simply disincentivize people to get tested. Because if you don't know that you're living with the virus, you can't be prosecuted for it.
I started looking at viruses and how they're prosecuted as a lens to understand the many ways that Black people and sickness and queerness are policing prosecuted in this country in ways that are not helpful. And so it's been really informative and helpful to rely on that lens, but extremely disturbing, to look at the early calls to criminalize COVID, which have happened in states and nations around the world, very early on starting I think, first in China, and also in several countries in Asia and Europe. And then of course, in the United States.
And, of course, when it has been dealt with as a police matter, it's very disparately affecting the same kinds of people that are prosecuted for HIV, which is Black people and poor people. In New York City, the first data that came out when they briefly were arresting people for not wearing masks and beating people for not wearing masks, they were overwhelmingly black and brown people.
And of course, the people who can stay home and have everything delivered, and have their work happen remotely are never going to be prosecuted for anything. A lot of the early criminal matters around COVID were happening to essential workers, people being accused of being out past curfew during protests, and even if they were coming to or going from a hospital for their work shifts. So there's a real class element that's a problem, too.
And in Minneapolis, this is one of the cities where you could really see the tension between policing and public health. George Floyd died, of course, from a police encounter when a police officer crushed the air out of him, but he was found to be, in his autopsy, living with the coronavirus. And so who knows whether he would have lived or died from that. He was a Black man of a certain age so he was certainly a high risk category. But the fact that we know that he had it shows that the same sort of societal forces are making someone like him live with this virus and they are also are putting him in harm's way for the policing.
And so when I was hearing people call for the abolishment of prisons and the defunding of police, I thought of what would have happened in a city like Minneapolis if they were spending less money on policing and more money on public health. Maybe George Floyd doesn't get killed by the police. Maybe George Floyd doesn't get the coronavirus. New York Times analysis found that Black Lives Matter movement this summer, perhaps drew more people into the streets than any other movement in the history of the United States. And so I think the American people could really see that these things were linked.
And in my darkest days, I try to remember that tens of millions of people actively said that they want a society where less money goes to policing, more goes to racial justice, and to taking care of people in a pandemic. And they stared down tear gas and police guns to say that they wanted it.
Professor Steven Thrasher, I'm so glad to talk with you. Thanks a lot.
Thanks so much, Farai, it's always a pleasure.
Professor Steven Thrasher is currently working on a book called, The Viral Underclass. How racism, ableism, and capitalism plague humans on the margins.
Well, I've voted because I'm unhappy with Donald Trump, and I have a grandson, he needs something better than what's going on right now. I want him to have a better life.
That's Monique, a bus driver in the Bay Area at the polls on Election Day.
Coming up next on Our Body Politic.
Dr. Kimberly Moffitt:
We are pretty lazy as media consumers. We want it when we want it, as quickly as we want it. And so the idea that I then have to go and seek it out to make sure I find where the line is between fake news and some form of objectivity or reality or truth, with that little t, seems very taxing on us, especially with everything else that we have going on in our lives. And so it's so much easier for someone to just feed it to you, instead of you seeking it out.
Continuing our conversation with voters, here's Kayla at the polls in Queens, New York.
I feel empowered. And it was a lot easier than I thought it was. And I think that's the problem. A lot of people weren't explained the voter process and what it entails. And that's a big issue in this country, things aren't explained, so people don't make the effort to go.
Kayla is bringing up some big questions about how to stay informed. How do we cope with disinformation and just plain exhaustion from trying to process what's in the news? Dr. Kimberly Moffitt is a professor of Africana Studies at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, where she's also Interim Dean of the University's College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. She's a board member of the National Association for Media Literacy Education, a group of educators, academics, activists, and students.
I started by asking Dr. Moffitt about a tweet of her saying, "The pursuit of truth no longer matters to us. It's simply about one's political view, winning at any cost." I wanted to know exactly what she meant.
I've always believed that truth was with a little t because it has so many options to it. That it is never understanding that there is only one truth because we have such varied lived experiences that our truth is going to look different than someone else's, right? But both of our experiences are our truth. And so the idea that we would believe that there is only one truth already puts us into a particular spot where we're not going to be able to understand anyone else's experiences.
And so for me, we've connected so much to our political ideologies, or even more base, our political parties in this country, that the whole idea of being able to live as human beings, sharing space together, and learning, and enjoying each other as human beings, seems to have dissipated tremendously. So why is it then that we've reached a point to believe that knowledge can only be associated with these two political ideologies or parties, and that nothing else matters, when in fact, we existed well before those notions of political parties was created, and we will continue to exist if those political parties don't continue. And we need to be okay with understanding who we are outside of someone's socially-constructed label that's been placed upon us.
What you're talking about really calls up for me, my own confirmation bias. And confirmation bias, as you well know, is really when you look for what you think is true. I know that I have it, I'm not immune to it. I have to really be vigilant. Vigilant is the only way to think about it. So can you talk about the importance of being skeptical when we read the news?
We are pretty lazy as media consumers. We want it when we want it, as quickly as we want it. And so the idea that I then have to go and seek it out to make sure I find where the line is between fake news and some form of objectivity or reality or truth with that little t, seems very taxing on us, especially with everything else that we have going on in our lives. And so it's so much easier for someone to just feed it to you instead of you seeking it out. But that's why some of the work that I do around media literacy becomes so important because it is giving students, and adults, and whoever will listen to me, the foundation to understand why it's important to be critical of media.
And I don't mean it in the sense of, "Oh, they're singing what I don't want to hear so I'll label it fake news." I'm simply saying to be critical of it so that everything that's coming at you, you don't digest, you don't absorb, you don't accept as fact, and that you do some of the work on your own. But because we have a tendency to be so lazy, we choose instead, to allow people to provide us the information.
So here's a question that I grapple with, if someone that you love, or even like, whether it's a co-worker or a family member, whatever, says something that you're like, "That's not true." How do you even make the decision about when it's worth trying to discuss these things?
Yeah, I think that goes back to your original point, Farai, about sanity and what you can take. And so I would first say that you have to assess what you're willing to invest in that opportunity. But if you aren't willing to invest, that also means that you need to be able to walk away without dumping what you're feeling on someone else, and thinking that I got my sight out, I'm out. That it is very much about engagement. But if it is about really engagement, which is what I strive to do, then it requires me to listen, which means I have to pause in order to listen and then I have to reflect on what the person has said before I decide to respond.
Truer words never spoken. Thank you so much for joining us.
Thank you so much for having me.
That was Dr. Kimberly Moffitt of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and the National Association for Media Literacy Education. You can find more resources on media literacy at namle.net.
We've been talking a lot about the impact of race on politics. But that's just one of many demographic factors affecting our choices. Another is religion. And as we explore the impact of religion on politics over the coming weeks, we start with a new study on Islam in America.
Muslim communities look a little bit like how America is going to look in 2050 and beyond, when experts predict that there will not be a majority race or ethnicity. And so what we see in Muslim communities is sort of a microcosm of what we might see in America.
That's Meira Neggaz, Executive Director of the ISPU, the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding. The ISPU conducts an annual survey of the American Muslim experience. Dalia Mogahed was the co-author of the latest study. She's Director of Research at the ISPU.
The American Muslims have really increased their civic engagement over the past five years where in 2016, only 60% of eligible voters in the American-Muslim community, were in fact, registered to vote. This year in 2020, the number was closer to 80%. Muslims are a small percentage of the overall population of America, only 1%. But they are concentrated in a number of important swing states like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.
There was one key finding I found really interesting.
American Muslims were the most likely faith community in America to say that they would favor and support their community to build closer coalitions with Black Lives Matter. And what was interesting is that a person's level of support for any of these coalitions was independent of their religiosity. They could be more religious or less religious, that did not matter. What actually did matter was their partisanship. Was whether or not they identified as a Republican or a Democrat. That even views on what we would consider hot button issues or issues that people might assume are rooted in religiosity, were actually, much more driven by partisanship than piety. And this apply to people of all faiths, not just Muslims.
Partisanship not piety. Now, that's some food for thought. That was Dalia Mogahed, Director of Research at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding.
Here's some good news for this week. Beyonce is on British Vogue's December cover but the real story lies behind the lens. Kennedi Carter, a 21-year-old Black woman out of North Carolina is now the youngest ever cover photographer in the magazine's history. On brand with Beyonce's message of Black empowerment, she requested a woman of color for the shoot. And Carter, who's been listening to Beyonce since she was a toddler, handled her first ever fashion shoot with skill and grace.
In perhaps lighter election news, the city of North Augusta, South Carolina, just voted to rename an outdoor amphitheater after the legendary Sharon Jones. Jones is the late soul singer and front woman of Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings. And although she moved to New York at age three, Jones was baptized in North Augusta, and the Augusta Chronicle said she had her first singing role as an angel in a Christmas play there.
Chloe Zhao is the director of Nomadland, out in select U.S. theaters next month. Zhao adapted the story from Jessica Brooder's non-fiction book about American seeking new livelihoods after the Great Recession of 2007. The film stars Frances McDormand, and Variety says Zhao was a contender for Best Director, which would make her the first Asian woman to be nominated in that category in Oscars history.
The speculative fiction genre has historically been dominated by white men. But my next guest has played a huge role in changing that. N.K. Jemisin became the first black author to win the Hugo Award for Best Novel, then the first person, period, to win that award three years in a row for her Broken Earth trilogy. It's sort of like winning Best Director at the Oscars for three years in a row. She's also contributed to the New York Times Book Review and Time Magazine, and was just named a 2020 MacArthur Fellow, commonly known as the Genius Award. Welcome to the show.
Thank you for inviting me.
So I'm an unabashed fan girl. So I'm not even going to try not to pretend. But you wrote in Time Magazine about fantasy as, "A way to train for reality." What do you mean by that?
A lot of people think of fantasy as escapism from the real world, but I think of it more as, and this is the truism of science fiction, too, that it's not really about the past, or it's not really about the future. It's actually about the world we're living in right now. I think kind of most famously, Tolkien, who went off to war came home, saw many of his friends die in the war, and so on, kind of wrestled with the resurrection of a better world from the ruins of the world that he saw. And of course, you see that all throughout the Lord of the Rings. And so really, it's just about how are you wrestling with the real world problems that you're coping with in the moment? And what are your alternative solutions for them, in order to see the world become better?
I want to get to your Broken Earth trilogy. But first, I just finished listening to the audiobook of your novel, The City We Became, which is about New York. And it's fantasy, and it's sprawling like the city, but it also has boundaries like the city, and a ton of personality. So tell us about that book and why you wrote it.
I had intended it to be kind of a break after The Broken Earth was kind of an emotional drain and labor of love. But you know, very much a labor. So I wanted to write something fun, and maybe a little bit silly. New York is going through some changes, so I wanted to honestly address that. I also wanted to engage with... I've done several short stories that were basically like city-magic based. Set in like New Orleans or Birmingham, about how kind of uniquely magical it is to live in a place with so much human energy collected into one place. And I just wanted to explore that a little further.
Now, let me turn to your Broken Earth trilogy. What made you start it and tell us about it?
Honestly, when I started writing The Broken Earth books, I was just trying to express something I was feeling. Wrestling with the literary idea of, is it possible to create a fantasy story set in a world that is not based on another culture? And then the other part of it was I wanted really, just to tell a story based on a dream that I had had about a woman who, in the dream was walking towards me with a furious look on her face and a mountain floating behind her. So I was trying to explain that dream.
As I was working, it turned into other things, it turned into me kind of wrestling with the imminence of my mother's death and my own feelings about black family and motherhood. And part way through the first book, Ferguson kicked off. So I started kind of processing that and the idea of a world that hates people so much, that it will just constantly do everything possible to keep them down, and destroy them, and denigrate them and everything else, even to its own detriment.
Some people describe one genre that this is a part of, is the Dying Earth genre, the Dying Planet genre. It has a whole lot of climate crisis woven into it, though, not in a kind of, on the nose direct way. How did that affect what you wrote?
I wasn't really as much interested in the environmental aspects of things. And I've heard people describe The Broken Earth books as an environmental parable or some kind of examination of climate change. But that wasn't my goal. My interest was more in coping with how... Well, the human driven aspects of climate change. Human beings, like I said, destroying themselves, destroying their own world, just so that they can maintain superiority over other groups of people, even literally to their own detriment, even to the point of destroying the world.
Your rise as an author has also, I don't know if coincided is the right word, but there's been this whole tapestry of kind of this alt-right-esc contingent of science fiction fantasy fans staging black voting to try to block people of color from winning.
What do you make of-
They say that that's not the goal.
Oh, tell me more.
They insist that somehow, people of color, and women, and all these marginalized groups, we're the ones who somehow gamed the system and created some kind of weird conspiratorial thing to take over the award. So they were just retaliating. They were just doing unto us what we had apparently, done unto them. I'm always reminded of that saying that, when you're used to privilege, equality feels like oppression. For a couple of years there, the group of alt writers in the science fiction community, because yeah, you're pointing out that there's a tapestry of the same thing happening in similar places at the same time, almost as if it's coordinated.
So we had the puppies in science fiction and fantasy. We had GamerGate in the gaming world. And the anti-female Ghostbusters, people and all these other groups. So all the same thing and they kind of form like Voltron into the alt-right. But that said, in science fiction then, they did succeed for a while in taking over the nominations for the Hugo's. There was at least one year in there where the various puppies managed to kind of put all of their candidates into several Hugo's categories, where you really didn't have a choice for who to vote for that wasn't on the puppies
slate of gamed candidates.
And yeah, at the point of actual voting, at the point of the actual ceremony, Hugo voters rejected these candidates and chose, instead, to not give awards in those categories, but they did manage to kind of shove out other people. Whenever they took over a category, that meant that non slated candidates who might have legitimately been nominated in a better year, who would have been nominated on the strength of their writing alone and just audience preferences in another year, did not get on to the Hugo's ballot, and they did not get their chance at recognition.
N.K. Jemisin, thanks so much for joining us.
You're welcome. Thank you.
That's N.K. Jemisin, author and 2020 MacArthur Fellow.
Thank you for joining us on Our Body Politic. We're on the air each week and everywhere you listen to podcasts.
Our Body Politic is presented and syndicated by KCRW, KPCC, and KQED. It's produced by Lantigua Williams & Co. I'm the creator and host, Farai Chideya. Juleyka Lantigua-Williams is executive producer. Paulina Velasco is senior producer. Cedric Wilson is lead producer and mixed this episode. Original music by Kojin Tashiro. Our political Booker is Mary Knowles. Michelle Baker and Emily Daly, are our assistant producers. Thanks to producers Virginia Lora, Kate O'Connell, Sarah Vasquez, and Natalie Yemenidjian for gathering sound around the country. Production assistance this episode, from Mark Betancourt, Mike Castañeda, and Virginia Lora.
Funding for Our Body Politic is provided by Craig Newmark Philanthropies and by The Jonathan Logan Family Foundation, empowering world-changing work.
Chideya, Farai, host. “Truth in the Age of Disinformation, the Resilience of Black Voters, and Escaping into Fantasy.” Our Body Politic, Diaspora Farms LLC. November 6, 2020. https://our-body-politic.simplecast.com/