Where’s Uncle Joe? (He Needs To Get on Zoom)
On this episode of democracy-ish, Danielle and Touré have a few requests for the presumptive nominee and a whole lot of feelings about who loses when America “opens for business.”
Trump invokes the Defense Production Act to keep slaughterhouses open –– even as outbreaks threaten their workers, and their communities.
Biden’s ongoing, conspicuous absence from the COVID conversation is a missed opportunity. What if he were to brief us too, as a counterpoint to Trump’s unhinged infomercials?
On our wishlist? Talk about testing, SBA loans and an end to the war on drugs.
First things first: Touré wants to button up last week's spirited conversation.
He’s been insisting for weeks that VP picks don’t move the needle in presidential elections. Danielle and last episode’s guest pundit, political science professor Christina Greer, disagree.
Turns out the Twittersphere did too — democracy-ish listeners felt he was “as wrong as two left shoes,” says Touré. But this week he saw a story in the New York Times that backs him up: VP selections don’t sway general elections in any meaningful way.
“I’ll just leave it right here,” he says.
Episode Highlights –– What Black Voters Need
The racism of reopening
The rush to reopen America is “steeped in so much racism,” says Danielle, “when we are talking about the fact that a majority of the people that are dying from COVID-19 are Black and Brown.”
It’s especially apparent in Trump’s mandate that meatpacking plants stay open despite alarming outbreaks among employees.
“Who do you think works in those factories?” asks Danielle. “We know who is doing that dirty work –– who has always been doing America's dirty work. Black and Brown people.
“Again, he's putting our lives at risk, saying that we are expendable in order to literally feed the rich.”
Meanwhile, Touré is still watching the White House’s coronavirus briefings, AKA the daily presidential infomercial.
“I continue to love the fool that Trump makes of himself, when he runs through his greatest hits,” he says. “We had the greatest economy of all time, we blockaded China. We're testing more people than anywhere, ever. All the governors love me … It's not actually a briefing of information. It's a rundown of lies. It's a campaign rally.”
Biden’s Silence Is Deafening
Aside from a high-profile endorsement by Hillary Clinton this week, Joe Biden has been relatively –– well, “blatantly silent,” says Danielle.
In light of Trump’s spectacular mishandling of a historic crisis, the silence is deafening.
“It seems fairly obvious to me that Biden should get in the game,” says Touré, who thinks the former veep should schedule pressers right before or after Trump’s daily COVID briefing –– ”to say, here's actual information about what's going on.”
He doesn’t have to call out Trump’s incessant lying, he adds. “That's for news reporters.”
Biden might not be able to do much to directly combat COVID, but he could remind us what real leadership looks like. He could invite reporters to Zoom in and show us how a real president responds to questions. He could bring on actual experts to explain the latest news.
“Chuck Todd is not the only person who can book a doctor,” says Touré.
Here’s the role Biden should play: ‘empathetic chief’
Danielle agrees that Biden’s conspicuous absence is a missed opportunity.
“It seems, Touré, so goddamn simple,” she says. “Knowing that the current administration does not care about the underserved or the economically vulnerable, let Joe Biden act as our president. Let him be that empathetic chief.”
Daniele thinks Biden should draw on his experience in the Obama administration, dealing with H1N1 and Ebola and explain the steps he would take now, as well as the steps he’d take on day one of a Biden presidency.
He should take a page from Elizabeth Warren and “offer us the plans,” she adds.
Touré would like to see Biden go a step further. While he will likely get 80 to 90 percent of the Black vote, “there are many ways that he can earn it,” he says.
“I understand that COVID has completely changed the race, and it’s harder to get that media oxygen right now,” he explains. “But the stage that we're in now will not last forever. As Joe goes on into the summer … he should talk about testing specifically for Black communities, where it needs to be even more aggressive.”
Testing, testing, testing … where we need it most
A focus on testing the communities that need it most would demonstrate Biden’s awareness of the pandemic’s impact on us –– and its roots in systemic racism, Touré says.
“Because don't you think that, as a country, we would be able to learn and understand more about this virus –– if we were to actually take testing to the community that has been ravaged by it?” Danielle asks.
She thinks Biden should suggest that, instead of mandating that meatpackers churn out Chicken McNuggets, the Fords and the GMs of the world should manufacture testing kits.
“There are ways that the presidency, and the federal government, can be used that Biden knows good and goddamn well, from his 30 friggin-million-year career,” says Danielle.
“He knows how it works.”
Reach out to real small businesses
Our hosts agree that Black communities also need our government to step up SBA loans. Right now, minority-owned businesses aren’t getting them, “and it’s going to be devastating,” Touré says.
“It’s akin to a white mob going into Tulsa, Oklahoma and burning down Black Wall Street,” Danielle says. “That happened, and it is happening right now.”
Meanwhile, huge corporations and well-endowed educational institutions like Harvard University are propped up with “tens of millions of dollars as if they are small businesses,” she adds, “Because this administration put in loopholes big enough for Donald Trump to fit his fat ass through.”
Banks in communities of color have always been neglected, she points out –– just one of the systemic obstacles to building wealth.
Danielle thinks there’s opportunity in the midst of the pandemic to finally combat those obstacles –– “an opportunity to seed these businesses,” she says. “A majority of this country is employed by small businesses –– actual small businesses with roughly less than 100 employees.”
Black women, she notes, are the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs in the nation. “We’re denying them the ability to stay financially sound during this time. What do you think that our communities are going to look like after this if we don't pay attention?”
End America’s other endless war (on drugs)
Touré has one more request for Biden.
“To me, the policy that has been most damaging to us is the war on drugs,” he says. “And I'm not just talking about the decriminalization of marijuana. I'm talking about the entire apparatus … which exists in multiple realms … the way the police, the prosecutors, and the prisons approach us.”
Biden could atone for the disastrous crime bill he authored by helping dismantle the war on drugs, with its “horrific, traumatic impact on Black and Brown communities. But there's also a lot of money to be made bringing in tax dollars by legalizing marijuana, which many states have already done.”
Danielle is on board, but with a huge caveat.
“I'm gonna be real. I’d like a fucking moratorium on white people being able to open weed boutiques until all Black people and Brown people who are still incarcerated on dime-bag and low-level drug offenses are out of jail.”
CBD shops abound in Manhattan –– “but I'm thinking to myself, how many brothers and sisters are sitting in Rikers [Island Prison Complex] right now because they were stopped and frisked and harassed and thrown up against the wall and some weed came out of their pockets?” she asks.
Meanwhile, “the Karens and Beckys and Susans of the world are making bank.”
#BlackAF and binge-worthy as hell
This week, Danielle actually did her homework and binged the Netflix series of the moment. No, not “Tiger King.” We’re talking “#blackAF.”
Created by, and starring, Kenya Barris, best known for ABC’s “black-ish,” the show is a meta-sitcom framed through the lens of a mockumentary (drawing parallels to “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”)
Barris plays a successful, albeit neurotic, TV showrunner and father of six. He and his wife (played by Rashida Jones) are rich, self-absorbed –– and despite their flaws, deeply funny.
“The show is so utterly refreshing,” says Touré.
In the first episode, Kenya talks about the “white gaze” –– the lens through which Black people tend to see themselves, which is based on the perception of white people.
Every episode title is a variation on because of slavery — what Kenya’s character calls his “north star” –– “the root and the soil from which everything in Black culture comes,” Touré says. “We are not beyond it. We will never get beyond it.”
Critics of “#blackAF” might not relate to the show’s depiction of immense wealth.
“I feel like a lot of people came to the show like guns out, because they're like, that's not my vision of what is black as fuck,” says Touré. “Just because … they're not in the ‘hood … doesn't mean they’re not? Hell yes, they are.”
“I think that, unfortunately, for people in the Black community … the more successful you become, the less of you you see,” Danielle says.
Watch it. Tell us what you think. If there’s still a country next week.
You know what to do: Pray about it.`
Get your weekly rundown of the presidential election from a Black progressive point of view on democracy-ish. Consider Danielle Moodie and Touré as your tour guides, flight attendants and/or therapists as we move through this dumpster fire of an election cycle — together!