Couldn’t make out to Facing Race 2012? Or want to share your experience there? We’re posting the full 70-minute videos of our three plenaries discussions at the gathering. You can follow along and find other stories from the event in our Facing Race 2012 hot topic.
In this plenary, Futuro Media Group’s Carolina Gonzalez leads a conversation with our own editorial director Kai Wright, political commentator Sally Kohn, the National Congress on American Indians’s Jacqueline Pata, The Advancement Project’s Judith Browne Dianis, and Jesus Gonzalez of Make the Road New York. Together, they discuss the political challenges that lie between election years–when the governing gets done.
A note on audio: since this is a recording of a live event in front of a real audience, there are a few quirks with sound quality. We’re working to get text transcripts available of this and the rest of our plenaries – stay tuned! [Update: Transcript below.]
Carolina Gonzalez: Good morning everybody. I actually don’t have a speech prepared. The only thing I would say is that, I, you know, welcome all of you. God there is a lot of you out there. And you do all look really, really great. My job is actually, to facilitate the conversations. I’m going to, I know that I feel personally, I don’t know about you, but I do feel like I should appear with my dark glasses still. Not because it’s early in the morning, but because I’m still basically quite hung-over from the elections. The fact that all of you still want to be talking about this when I just wanted to trolling to bed, for a couple of weeks, is really quite admirable. So, all I’m really going to say is, I can’t wait to hear, what are panelist for our study plenary are going to say, because, I do think that we all came out of the election, yes, have hung over, but, the way that you hung-over after a really god party, where you just, you know, you wake up the next day, and your head is banging, and just crying. But you want talk about what happened the night before, who said some outrageous thing? Who hooked up with whom? Who did the most ridiculous thing that they’re not going to remember this morning? And I think that’s the kind of conversation that we want to have now, and have it in good fun, and, but with clear eyes, and plan for what comes next.
I just really want to thank Rinku and all the staff at Colorlines and ARC for inviting me. I am not Mariana Rosa. And I will take one 30 second self-promotion thing for those of you who are not familiar with The Show Latino USA, it is the only Latino-centered national public radio program, and existence right now, which I cannot, every time I say that, it’s really quite amazing that, there are others, there should be a bunch of us. And, we are produced out of Harlem, in New York City, by the Futuro Media Company which is woman-owned, woman of color-owned, nonprofit. And, most of our stuff are people of color, so our staff is smaller than you out there, but looks a lot like everybody out there, and all our contributors look a lot like a lot of you out there. And I think, and, this program has been around for 20 years, right about now. And the fact that we’ve been doing this work for 20 years, much like ARC, and Colorlines have been doing this work for a very long time. We’ve been, we knew that this is what it was, and what it was going to look like, and now we’re ready to take the next step.
So, I think what is going to be good about taking this time for this plenary is that, because we’re always under run, and we’re always trying to figure out, okay what do we do next? What do we next? What do we do next? This campaign is over; let’s think about the next campaign. I think what’s going to be good, is to take a moment, to really reflect, and really just take that one deep breath, the deep breath that is going to give us the oxygen for what we need. We’re going to talk a lot about, about maps, about numbers, about plans, about energy. So, I would like to bring up the plenary panel now. That would be Kai Wright, Sally Kohn, Jacqueline Pata, Judith Browne Dianis, and Jesus Gonzalez, if you could come up. Come on into my salita. my galleria.
And as they come up, and settle in, I’m going to say, little bit, just a quick, little bit about each of them. Some of, which you will have read in your program, if you took it; if you took a time to read it. So, starting from out, and coming in, Kai Wright is the editorial director of Colorlines. Com, he’s a fellow at the… [Applause] that’s right, our sister media outlet. He’s a fellow the Nation Institute, he’s author of three books on race, sexuality, and African American history, and just, by the way has a fabulous radio voice. He’s been on our show; he does have fabulous radio voice.
Next in is a Sally Kohn, who is a writer, activist and kickass TV commentator, she, you can find her online at Salon, on TV you can find her in all kinds of odd places, and you can find her writing in Washington Post, and writing Us Today, political , and
Time Magazine, and all kinds of other places.
Next to her, is Jackie Pata, she is the executive director of the National Congress of American Indians, which is the oldest and largest American Indian, and Alaska Native organization in the country. She was a Deputy Assistant Secretary for Native American Programs under Clinton, and she’s on the executive board of leadership conference on civil and human rights.
Next to her, is Jesus Gonzales, no relation, he is the political director at Make the Road by Walking, and actually, use to be Brooklyn, but now you guys are more like city wide, right? And he is, he’s been working on a lot of campaigns around paid sick leave, try to get some of the legislation pass in New York State, and he is from Bushwick Brooklyn, representing.
Next to Jesus is last, but not least, Judith Browne Dianis, who is the co-director of the Advancement Project ,and has way too long over resume for me to get into here, let’s just leave it , the fact that she have quite extensive civil right
legislation experience in, around voting, education, housing, and employment. So, that’s who is going to talking with you today.
So, let me just say that, we’re not going to have , [applause] we’re not going to have these long introductions, unfortunately I know that some of you are itching to interact with the panel but we’re not going to actually have Q&A, in this particular session. Yes, sorry, and I will warn our panelists that in the spirit of sharing space, and you know everybody having open voice, I will cut you off if you go too long. So, just know that, so warned. So, as a way of introduction of each person, actually want everybody to go down, and talk for like 30 seconds or less about either their first, or most memorable experience related to voting. I’m actually going to start here, and go back out.
Judith Browne Dianis: So, difficult, but, look as my first time voting, I’ve actually voted for Jesse Jackson, so, that was cool. But I have to say, probably this year… oh, they can’t hear me. Probably this year, can you hear me now? No.
Carolina Gonzalez: You want to come up further? Wait, here we go. Sounds like it came online.
Judith Browne Dianis: Yes.
Carolina Gonzalez: Yes?
Judith Browne Dianis: Probably, no.
Carolina Gonzalez: There we go; there we go, all right.
Judith Browne Dianis: Probably this year, was the most, the one that probably has the most impression on my minds because, I early voted in Maryland. I went with my 10 year old daughter, and we got to the building on the Sunday, and the line was wrapped around the library, which meant about 5 blocks, of waiting time. And I said, “It’s kind of cold! We can do this on Monday.” And my 10 year old said, “No, let’s do it today.” And I as voting rights lawyer who’s been fighting this voting suppression said, “I guess I got to wait.” Because if 10 year old, I was like I have to show, right? And, 7 hours, 7 hours to vote. And it was a wonderful experience; outrageous wait-time, but wonderful experience, because it was a community. And people took care of each other, people helped clothe us, because we were not dressed appropriately, and we talk to politics, in a line. And black folks were, pissed off about voter suppression, and said, ” We’re going to stay, and we’re going to vote, and no one’s going to take our vote away.” [applause]
Carolina Gonzalez: That’s great. Jesus.
Jesus Gonzalez: I have to say it was about my second time voting, I was voting for myself, which was a little crazy for me because, obviously before running at that time. It was last year, and so go with my parents, it was really surreal experience, and then, also I run in the district that was the lowest voter to turn out in New York State.
Carolina Gonzalez: What you run for, by the way?
Jesus Gonzalez: I run for State Assembly last year, in a special election. It was awesome, in so many ways. I lost by a slim margin. But one of the things is, I mean two, besides going to vote with my parents, there was this other experience, where I went to go knock on doors. This is the first time that community has really been engaged electorally. And so this woman goes, “Go away!” when I knock on the door, and she’s like, “I’m voting for Mr. Jesus.” And she had no clue that I was at the door. [laugh]
That is a winning campaign slogan if I ever heard one: Vote for Jesus.
Jesus Gonzalez: And then, the other time was, I was walking up to block, and I said what’s up to some young brothers, and I went up to this assembly in the school, and this young brother goes up, and he’s like, “Man, I tell you the truth, I was going to rob that dude.” And he points at me.
And he was like.” I thought he had money, he was in the suit, and he came over, and he starts to talk some real stuff.” And then he expressed that it was his first time voting, his first time voting was for me, and I was just like, awesome.
Jacqueline Pata: When I thought about this question I was like:” Yes, it would be like one of the times I was at home, in Alaska, try to give out my vote. And from the vote beginning is always working at voting activism. Marching in the streets and doing all those kind of things. But actually like Judith, my was this time. And the reason being is because I was in Virginia and in Fairfax City Virginia of all places and I, you know, in a line that’s not very long, after I heard
about Maryland and everybody else, because all is very organized right. And, there were, an elderly lady came in, she was Asian, and they, people were, directing traffic there, and they said, “You’re not at the right precinct. You need to go to this and this precinct down this way.” You could tell that she had somebody else that was there bringing her to vote, and she couldn’t quite understand. And so, their proceded to tell her, then another young man look like he was a very first time voting. You know they are going to the line, and say, “Is this the right precint, is this right precinct?” And he goes, “No, no, your precinct is not here.” And by the third time they’re asking somebody else is this the right precinct. I said,” Excuse me, I’m not really sure that you have to turn away from the voting in this precinct.” And that they could clearly, if unavailable, unable to go to another precinct, be able to vote. My husband was like, looking down, and he’s like: “Great, here we go. Please Jackie don’t start another fight.” And I’m trying to be tolerant, and it just wasn’t happening. And so, she said, “Well, I’m think you’re wrong.” And I said, ” Well, I don’t believe that I’m wrong, but if you…” Carolina Gonzales: Did you call the election board? Because that’s what I would have done.
Jacqueline Pata: Well, I said, so they brought in the , you know, the states of voting person, and everybody else to come and talk to me, and everybody in line looking who’s that lady, questing all these issues? But, what really was the bottom line, was for me, and was, this is this year. This is in Fairfax, Virginia; this is in where everybody is. So, voter suppression isn’t just, you know in the small communities, villages or the tribal communities, it’s where we live.
Carolina Gonzales: Great. Sally.
Sally Kohn: My most memorable voting related incident, it isn’t incident, was in 2004. I and a bunch of friends, I wasn’t in, you know, I wasn’t in a Fox News then, or anything, I was still community organizer. Bunch of friends, like I’m sure lot of you, got in car and decide we’re going to go do something good, try to help John Kerry who nobody really liked, but we thought he needed help, and boy, did he. Anyway. Me and bunch of friends, almost all from the Hawaii, got the van, and went to Ohio. In the Ohio, there was:” Yes, Ohio.” Okay, especially this year:” Yes, Ohio, all right.” And there was a Kerry office set up in the middle of, you know, 98 percent black district. Run entirely by, white people, right? And one of the, we can go on about this, you
all know the story but, one of the volunteers, involved volunteers was late 20-something like myself at that time, young woman who had a T-shirt on, and it said, “Get your laws off F-ing body”.
I didn’t say F-ing, but you know what that is. And one of the other people in the office…
Kai Wright: You can swear.
I can say fucking up here, okay.
Carolina Gonzales: Sally?!
The whole plenary just change, all right. So she has her t-shirt on right? And she’s getting like she’s try to get out and vote, right?
One of the other people in the office is this 18 year old, young black man from the community; he’s the only person from the community in the office, the only person, right?
And he asks her, I sort of witnessed this while I was stuffing envelopes or whatever, he asks her, “What does your t-shirt mean?” And she gets instantly defensive, well I mean you know, whatever, I mean I remember that, I was that like young angry feminist, at some point she kind of does that
like how, you know, and whatever, and he didn’t understand, and he’s like why she said that? What you mean about the law? Their conversation was just like, here are two people who are on the same side and just talking passed each other, right? And, here are people, well many people, myself included, you know try to come help political process. You know, like totally parachuting into the community, not leaving any infrastructure, not supporting him, not supporting authentic indigenous leadership, and here’s a guy who literally left the office, because of this interchange; his first experience voting, these folks in his home. And he left the experience, because he just couldn’t, they just talk passed each other, and it wasn’t about the politics, and wasn’t about believes, it was actually about culture, it was actually about community, it was about our ideas, of who belongs, or doesn’t belong, and how do we talk to each other, and it just became such a microcosm for me of how we do political work, beyond elections frankly. That is, stuck with me ever since; shameful.
Carolina Gonzalez: Okay, the anchor, the anchor of this relay race.
Kai Wright: Well, first off, good morning everybody, from the Colorlines team, thanks for coming, and joining us. You know, one of the occupational hazards of journalism is, that you’re often alone in some place in a foreign hotel, on election night. And, so, mine is sort of about an arc, you know. 2004 I was also in Ohio, and I, at the end of the night I was literally on a dark highway between Ohio and New York.
Carolina Gonzalez: Are you having mic issues too?
Kai Wright: No? Well, I’m just going to shout. I’m told that I’m really loud at the first instance.
Carolina Gonzalez: Just annunciate and project.
Kai Wright: All right.
Carolina Gonzalez: [inaudible] from your diaphragm. Sit up straight.
Kai Wright: In 2004, I was literally on a dark highway, between Ohio, and New York City, as the election finished, and all of my friends in the community were in some place, mourning, what was going on, and I was by myself. And, 2008, I was in Richmond, Virginia, and I was, you know, I was going from polling place to polling place, and just overwhelmed, by the wonderful community that Judith just talking about. Seeing folks, who look like me, and look like the community I am from, literally standing along the highway. There was a polling place, and it was raining in Richmond that morning, and people had lined up so far out of this church that they were standing along a four-lane highway, waiting for an opportunity to vote. And, in the rain, and again, I was separated from my community, and so, this year, I was able to go to the polls, in my own community, in Bed-Stuy in Brooklyn, that’s right, rep! And it was just, I was so happy to finally because now I’m editor. Somebody else was off; poor Brentin and Aura, and other reporters are off by themselves. And I was able to vote in my own community, and it just was so moving to be there. And to see my neighbor show up, and debate whether it was Verizon’s fault that the line was long, and just have this moment to be together publicly. For me it’s that ARC arriving in, at my own community.
Carolina Gonzalez: That’s great, I mean, I actually have a confession to make. I am a witness to a better of actual voter fraud. This…
Kai Wright: We don’t want to hear about this.
Carolina Gonzalez: Just wait, just wait, and just wait. So, my, about the week before elections, my parents live in Florida, so they were, you know, I’m talking to my dad, and he says, “I did the early voting thing.” And I was like, “Okay great.” I was like:” Just checking, for the moreno, right?” The brown man.
He goes, “Yes.” And I said: What did my mother do?” And my mother and my father have certainly different perspectives on politics. So, I said, “What did my mother do?” And he was like,” I had her vote for the moreno too.” And I was like,” Okay, I didn’t hear that, but yes, good. And by the way, if you want to go vote again, on actual election, go ahead and do that.” But, anyway, don’t rat me out people, don’t rat me out. Don’t rat me out.
Judith Browne Dianis: This is how rumors get started.
Kai Wright: This is how it’s started, True the Vote is here somewhere.
Carolina Gonzalez: For the record, my father legitimately voted, my mother legitimately voted, and they’ve been citizens for quite a while, this is all a joke, joke, joke, and joke. Okay, come on and help me out, please. Diana, help me out. So, let’s get to the meet now, now that we all get to know each other a little bit better around voting. Let’s get to the meet. So, I think one of the questions, one of the ways thinking about the questions for me, opening up this brought discussion about what just happened and what it means is: Did we win? Did we win? Because, there’s two parts of that question. There is who’s the “we”? And what does winning mean? If you guys could, if you all, each could address that question and just think about and discuss with us, what are the things that stuck out the most to you
about this “we,” and this “winning.” If there was such a thing. Whoever wants to start first, just jump right in.
Kai Wright: Just go on Sally.
No, I’m not; I’m not going to say.
Kai Wright: Well, I’ll say.
Carolina Gonzalez: What do you mean, yes, right, you don’t have anything to say?
Kai Wright: I think, you know, I’m struck by Rinku’s remarks, about the “we”. I think that, it is the most striking to all of the commentators on this, everybody has watched this election that, there’s a new understanding of “we” in this country, and the political system is, has been slow to catch up with that understanding. I think what is perhaps most striking about this elections to me, is the way in which the political system is know the signal. There is a new “we.” And we’re going to have to adapt to that. Now, did we win? I guess, I’m, believer in, you know, I kind of think in the Frederick Douglas way about it, I, and you know. This country is a project. There is a gap between what is a quite revolutionary founding document and reality. And, I think that it is probably a forever project, on closing that gap, so I don’t, think in terms of win and loss. The point is: Are we moving? And I think there is a lot of ways in which we’ve moved in this election.
Judith Browne Dianis: I think that, hopefully I’m working, that we won because we have changed the narrative in this country, around what this country is about, who makes up this country. We are changing what it means to be American, for so long, who is American was defined by race. It still is, but we have kind a change the trajectory of that discussion. You know, who gets to be American? And now, folks are questioning this. We had staff meeting recently, and I told folks that I think the one of the reasons that we won, is because we are starting to see the death of white power, the death of, and what I say that not to be offensive to any of my white friends and allies. I’m talking about the structures of oppression in this country; that we are starting to see that; that when we came together, we could stop voter suppression. It backfired, temporarily, it backfired. But we’re starting to see, that I actually think winning, is in a fact that people are scared of us. I love that. That in fact people are taking note and saying, “Uh, oh, the country is changing, they’re pissed, they are scared, they’re anxious.” You know, I think this is about mourning process when you go through mourning, you go through the denial, and you go through anger, we’re starting to see that anger. But what’s on the other side of this could be a beautiful thing. It could actually be with this country is all about. And, so, I’m excited, because I think we are winning because we put ourselves on the track to aware we as a progressive community want and need to be.
I agree about “we,” I do think that “we” has made it statement, and that’s really clear. I think, and I also think that the “we” has a lot of power, and we got to claim that, and we got to continue to work it. Because, I don’t, I guess I’m concerned because as much as I wanted to, after the victory, and the all excitement due to elections, I’m not seeing members of congress that we, you know that need to come to that common place, to be able to deal the challenges that we’re facing right now. And I’m surprise that, for example, you know the Republicans, are still in that denial stage, and haven’t really felt the pressure that they need to feel from the “we” who I believe won.
Carolina Gonzalez: And also, I mean, I think one of the things that we notice is that , we
started having, and
I think other journalist have this experience too, we would have, republicans
going and say, you know:” We don’t like the Republican Party, either they’re not representing us, they’re
too…” And this is a real thing, this is a real thing, so, it is, there is that other part of the “we” that hasn’t really spoken, and also needs to speak.
Sally Kohn: I mean look personally I’m perfectly fine if Republican Party wants to stay in denial, for another a couple of election cycles, it’s okay, you know, I mean, if they want to keep like hoping, if we just can continue to foment you know, anger on my white male voters, that, maybe it work out this time. As, you know, let’s see demographic trends entirely, slipping away from them. You know, my worry… it’s a complicated question right? Which is why, I mean, my worry is that we won, but we won decisively around identity. I’m not clear that we won, in terms of ideology. So, you know, it wasn’t that complicated. No, what I mean, right like, it was in a fact that we steel even having. Look, the president, clearly somewhere along the way he picked some votes in a backbone, because he’s like, looking like a guy who’s actually going to fight for some stuff this time, right? But the fact is that we still have this conversation about the deficit, we still having this conversation about the austerity still sort of figuring, thinking of we have this little tiny pie that we have to start cutting from, you know, as opposed to looking at how can grow and expand opportunity for all. You know, that conversation did not die. That ideology did not die in this election. And I don’t know if I see any prospects of that going the way anytime soon, I think that has actually more to do with us, as activists, and conversation we’re pushing, less about we have to be moving conversation away from just cutting in deficit, and toward opportunity and expanding up to.
Kai Wright: I mean the part of the problem is, if it’s some of its baked in, due the mistakes of Obama’s, of the Obama administration’s first term, right? You know this deficit conversation is baked in. There is a certain level of financial reform, it’s baked in, and there have already deported, an enormous number of people, so from policy perspective, we start in a bit of a hole. I think it will be interesting to see what happens whether or not the Republican Party comes out of,
comes out of its denial space and it is interesting , and I do see, an emboldened sense amongst some in the Republican Party that I think is important for policy-making, because like it or not we have two-party system. And to degree that, they won’t show up, in a way, that allows other to even be the policy conversation.
We can’t move anything. I leave to decide what should happen electorally but I would love to see, somebody on the other side of, and then be able to sit down, so that we could make some actual policy. We’re understanding that we start from a hole, from because the mistakes of the first term.
Carolina Gonzalez: Actually, I’m going to have pause for a second. For the folks in the back that the sound is not coming through very well, I’m going to do what I do in every teaching class, it’s like, do not sit on the back, come to the front, there is always so much that we can project, we’re working on making sure that sound reaches all the corners of the room, but if any of you are having trouble hearing, the speakers right now. Just make friends with people who are closer to the front, right? All right, and I’m sorry. Jesus?
Jesus Gonzalez: So, I think that is, real chatter(?) like, Obama makes harder in so many ways that we talk about, the fact that under his administration, more people have been deported, than under any other administration. I feel like, it makes it complex, I feel like, he has our scholars, and our community pitting themselves against each other, because he’s not delivering to our communities. I feel like we talk about “we”, like during the debates, and I voted for Obama. During the debates he was talking about the middle class. I was like,” What about my parents, who like earn under 24,000 dollars a year? What about the folks on my block, who don’t go to the hospital? How does this health care reform impact them?” And so, I just feel like, he was focusing in on the middle class, and I was just like, “Man, what about us?” So I feel like, when we talked about this victory, obviously, it was tremendous victory because, I know for me, I feel like, it rekindled this sense of optimism, and hope for some kind of change, and it also leaves the space to have some good policy victories in his last term. What the impact of that, that results of that, after that, we’ll all see, but I think that, you know, would we be out there marching if Romney was president, and there were drone attacks? We’re just like, I just feel like, the folks are, it’s more complex, right? And, so, I just feel like, when, I was just speaking to a class, young men’s group, and it was like, “Man, he has no choice, he has to be like that.” Like he doesn’t have control, like the first black, every other president had control on whether or not we go to war, but now because, it’s Obama, he has no control from to be way he is. And I just feel like, you know, I think that our responsibility is a hold each other accountable. Have to make sure that people live, and I feel like our fear, our fear is like, I think that underlying thing is like, he’s a brother, he’s from our community, he’s representing our community, and the fear is to publically criticize people from our community, right? Because obviously this people like, there is enough criticism out there, like even judge him like he’s American, right? So, something that other president never had to go through, right? We just need to be, make sure that we, we’re countable to our communities, and hold each other accountable. And so, I just feel like, yes it was a victory, I don’t know, how I would react if Romney won. But, yes we have a lot of work to do, and whether or not it was a victory for us all, is questionable.
Carolina Gonzalez: So, following up on that, [applause], if we’re thinking about, you know, I think it’s always a good point to bring up, when there is this very clear burning hot common enemy, and it’s really easy to organize.
Jesus Gonzalez: Yes.
Carolina Gonzalez: Super easy to organize, when the guy that, the guy, and his administration is somebody that is, in some way one of us, and I mean yet, he’s doing drone strikes, deportations, and etc., etc., etc., and then it gets a little harder, gets a little harder. And we’re already have gone through this through 4 years, so, now that we get, deep breath, second go around, what kind of, how do we sustain that energy? What kinds of things are you most optimistic and pessimistic about in terms of, you know, sustaining the second half of the marathon? What do you most looking forward to doing in a next 4 years? Or what does you just most, “man, can I just roll back to bed, and wake up in 4 years, and, deal with that?”
Kai Wright: I don’t yet see the road to jobs. And, you know, as Jesus pointing out, you know, I mean, 25 percent of black American lives in poverty. And we have, I mean if you, we are we, but we are many “wes”. And let’s be clear if you look at what has happened to black America since 2001, since the recession of 2001, and you look at, from jobs, to poverty to hunger, to death, it has been a steady, and relentless economic drilling, and we have yet to see, any prescription that is going to deal with that. And ironically the president has the great plan that we deal with that, his infrastructure plan, which we increasingly need as we start having, as New York City becomes the gulf, and we start living in a very different world due to climate change. There’s existing and greater infrastructure need, and that, that would create a whole other jobs, and would going along way torch dealing some of the promise of black community economically. But there is not very, there is not a clear plan yet. Our political road to that kind of federal spending that is going to be required, to interrupt, what is can only be described as a depression, in majority black cities, and that I remain quite pessimistic about.
And let’s say for our community is just, likely jobs, and economy are still number one, just like everybody else who care about it. Our systemic unemployment makes it even harder, and for the president what we need is kind around which I have to stay for Indian country, he was fabulous, it was the first and only president that actually indoors Indian country in the way he did, and allowed us in the door steps, to be able to be at the table, around national policy. So we’ve got included, and you know, Obamacare, and for the first time major pieces of legislation, but for us is this recognition of our political subdivision different and just that minority, this recognition of our trust relationship, what gives us those economic tools. So, all the other governments in the country get to have things like taxes and financing that can stimulate economic opportunities. For any of countries we still don’t have that opportunity. So, we don’t have governmental parity even in our pension programs, and other things. We don’t have governmental parity. We also want to be able to have that recognition so that we can deal with; you know we’re getting ready for World Conference on Indigenous People in 2014. So we want to be able to make sure that this president actually makes that statement that tribes are equitable governments in this country. And that puts us as people, at the more equal playing ground to use resources like job enhancement tools, energy development tools, that other governments get to use.
Carolina Gonzalez: Jacqueline, actually can we just pause for the second, because I know that, you know even that somebody who has actually looked into, and try to become educated and lot of these issues. Can you talk for a quick second about what are some of the obstacles or issues around achieving these parity, and really having mate of communities, and mate of nations been recognized and treated equality.
You know, I think partly because we always had, you know first we’ve got conqueror thing happening, so we’ve got conqueror coming over to Americans, and they always want to have that suppression. So, got to keep us in our right little territory, in our right little areas, and then on top of that we want to be able to say we get to make as government, the federal government, we can to make all the decisions regarding your sovereignty. And we recognized you’re sovereign, we have that in a constitution, and that’s great but, we want to make all the decision about your economic, your commerce and also by your social programs and your along law enforcement So, today in reality what that means, because I know you won’t go through my whole history lesson here, but what that really means is like, violence against. We’re fighting for the ability in our tribal communities, in our tribal courts, like other governmental courts, to actually be able to prosecute, a perpetrator who is not Indian. If the nonnative comes to our community violates our women, abuses our children, guess what? We don’t get the deal with it in our courts. We got to find another venue for doing that, and so many times it goes away. That’s what it means in reality about governmental parity to us.
Carolina Gonzalez: Okay.
Sally Kohn: Can I just, hello, hi, I’m just talking to my chest. Just on this like you know, some larger like, “What’s next? What’s happening?” You know, my anxiety, it’s an intimate room, I’ll share, is, the first time we actually didn’t help elect president Obama. We didn’t, we voted for him right, but I mean in terms of actual political muscle in infrastructure the left, right, as a whole, and it’s different parts, weren’t really that essential and in fact that president and his administration and sort of unprecedented ways spent the first term keeping the institutional left at arm’s length. And there is this way in which, I find this to be a really useful framework. You know the right, the Democrats and Republicans both fear their base, but they fear their base in really different ways. The republicans fear their base as in,”We better do what they want or else…” Right? Democrats don’t fear us that way. They’re like, they fear us like as, “We don’t want to get close to them and look like we’re, you know with them.” Right? They don’t feel accountable to us. They don’t feel like if they don’t do stuff for us they’re going to pay a price. There is no, the best analogy is in fact the Tea Party, I mean I’m sorry, and I’m think dying right now, and good on them for that, god speed, but you know, but even still like, look we have a long history of racial and gender justice movements in this country, and economic justice movements in this country, and even still our ability to exert political power in a real concrete sense, but in terms of electing people, and holding their feet to the fire, was literally eclipsed in just a few years, by, you know, small band, of you know, ragtag Tea Party people, right?
Kai Wright: Enormously well-funded rag-tag.
Sally Kohn: It’s enormous all, etc., etc., etc., etc., etc. but like come on, right, and that has something to do more with this deeper political orientation, about the Democratic party, always wanting to, you know, sort of, seem centrist, always wanted to run, you know, well, I’m not going to do favors for the that side or whatever. And, I think somehow again, I don’t know if that’s going to change in second term. I don’t think temperamentally he’s going to change on his own, and his only going to change if we change, and we become a force for not just having his back, but pushing his back up against the wall frankly, when it needs to be.
Judith Browne Dianis: So, governor, governor Deval Patrick in his speech in the DNC convention said the Democratic Party better get a backbone. And that was serious, I mean for him to had keynote speech, and have said that. What that means for us, is that, yes I’m very proud, we have a black man in White House, but we need to start holding him accountable. We cannot continue a love fest with someone who does not take care of our interests. We cannot continue to have a love fest with a party that does not really care about us. When then comes time for redistricting, we see that what happens in the Democratic Party, is that white democrat is better than a person of color democrat when they divide up the political pie. And so when we see the discussion around comprehensive immigration reform starting, we should know, that yes, Hannity has said he’s changed his mind and that there are other Republicans who are starting to change their minds, because they feel enlightened by demographic shifts, but we have to make sure, that the party that is supposed to be on our side, doesn’t cave to get to the middle. And we can’t do that, if we are quiet, and we are hugging him, and we are praising him. And I’m telling you this because I know what happens to leaders that tries to hold this administration accountable. They don’t like it, he said no drama, and he meant that. But it’s incumbent upon us to decide that we will take him on, because if we take them on, we can start moving them, left, left, left, because there is another election. And so, when 2014 comes, we need to show in force, what we mean by holding them accountable. We got turn out more numbers; we can’t let 2014 look like 2010.We just can’t. And so, I just think that, you know, there’s, I have, you know, not
the whole optimism about the policy agenda, unless the people in this room and everyone that we know, decides that we’re going to do something differently in this second administration.
Jesus Gonzalez: I’m excited to help figure out, how to keep up the momentum. What was interesting is that this time institutions did kick into play to elect our president. You know, for our organization in New York City was able to register 11,000 new registrants, and in Pennsylvania, 7,000 in 2 months, and he won Pennsylvania. And I feel like thinking about how to organize those folks is really awesome, and like, gives me encouragement, like gives me
sense of encouragement to think that we’re going to be able to hold a president accountable when they comes down to immigration reform. Obama needs to think about new funding streams to balance the economy and not renew the Bush tax cuts, needs to pass marriage equality, needs to be accountable to our communities, I think that, this time around, I’m really excited, and enthusiastic to see those things pass.
Jacqueline Pata: I have one thing.
Carolina Gonzalez: Yes, yes, go ahead.
Jacqueline Pata: I’ve been thinking about this a lot too, because I totally agree we’ve got to hold them accountable, and you are seeing people being elected are more center now, you know. Like it was a great win for us, It wasn’t, Nate Silver didn’t predict it but for us it was a great win, but he moved himself away from the party, so that he could get elected. So you can see, people are coming to center. But what I was thinking is that, we still had this political challenging congress, and nothing has getting done, and we still have the sides so polarized that, you know, it’s hard for them to moving things together. I actually really believe that it’s the people, it’s the American people, who are going to change politics for the future. It is not going to be the politicians. And if we let the politicians, rely upon on them to solve our problems, we’re in trouble. The 99 percenters did a great job, getting the people engaged about their issues, but we didn’t sustain that. And we have to, if we got to deal with the economy, we got to take personal responsibility just like we take personal responsibility for climate change, and we do our recycling, we got to take personal responsibility for the economy. And we got to figure out what that means for us, because, we’re going to be the change artists. I don’t believe that politicians are going to be it.
Carolina Gonzalez: Great, did you want to say something Kai?
Kai Wright: Yes, I want, it’s struck me in talking about, you know from the Tea Party to how to whether the Tea Party is dying or not, and how, what’s going on at the national and federal level. One of the things that’s really, really strike me talking about the 2014 election, is what happened in the 2010 election, and what it means for us today. I cannot tell you, it almost got to the point on Colorlines, where you got to through in a boiler plate paragraph, well thanks to the 2010 elections, and sweeping the state legislators, from Tea Party republicans, the following has happened. If you’re from reproductive rights, to immigration reform, to voting rights very clearly, the amount of damaging discussion, and policy-making that took place from the states, as a consequence of that election is just striking. And, I think, we would do well to right now be a conversation about how to have the energy at 2014, and at state-level races that we have around national-level races. And, again, it particularly stood out for us in covering voting rights in the course of this year and how much these states, these Tea Party republicans change laws to muss up early voting, and registration, and who gets to be a poll watcher, and all of this…
Carolina Gonzalez: Let’s get into those issues a little bit more, right, so one of the, probably the big story around voting this year was what’s going to happen with early voting, provisional ballots, with all these voter ID laws, with all these different things that were happening around, access to the vote, access to the vote. So we are going to talk about that in a little more detail because I think it’s very important that if we are going to map out, you know, where do we go January 1st 2013, where do we go election day 2014, we maybe pull back a little bit and look at exactly what did happened. So let’s talk a little bit about numbers and efforts and what, you know, little bit more of the nitty gritty, so maybe you want to talk about the voting rights projects?
Kai Wright: Indeed, so we, amongst the things that we did at Colorlines in looking at this election, we have said, “Well there’s a lot of ways to invest your time as a news organization you can imbed reporters with each campaign, and tell you what they said today, you can put a lot of money in polling and say who is winning or who’s losing. Its very clear to us, and a lot of folks in this work, that’s really starting in 2000 through today, there has just been, well really frankly starting at beginning of the country but from 2000 till today there has been a steady and intensifying battle, an effort lead by, let’s be clear, the Republican party to roll back a generations worth of work in expanding access democracy. In dealing with the realities we have been talking about this morning, about changing the face of America and the new “we”, and the Republican Party had really clear strategy, either we were going to peel of some, we are going to peel of what we can, hopefully we can convince black people to be homophobic, turned out that wasn’t true, and hopefully we can, and hopefully, we forget, but Bush’s first term was supposed to be an opportunity for immigration reform, but the xenophobia that swept the country after 9/11 made that impossible for the Republicans, so they were left with suppression and they have been doing that in a very aggressive way over the last, now, 12 years. So when we decided to cover this election, we decided to partner with the folks in Advancement Project, Judith, Color of Change, get ourselves invested and informed about this sort of thing. And with our good friends at the Nation magazine who, I hopefully, I hear they, its my other home as well, and just pour a lot of resources into being spread out at the State level. One of the things we did was, you know, you hear, a particularly in this conversation, but in all political conversations there’s a lot of, God bless them, there’s a lot of white man talking about politics, and about communities, and so what we wanted to be able to do was to have people who are in the fields fighting for their own rights, talking about voting rights. So one of the things we wanted to be able to do is recognize some of those folks here, we recruited with, the help of Advancement Project and The Color of Change, 15 community journalists who are people in some of the places where this was happening, a number of them are here with us today. If any of, if you are in the room today if you’ll stand please, if you are one of the Colorlines community journalist so that we can recognize your amazing work. A number of them flew in from the West Coast late last night so they may not be able… So they’ll be opportunities to talk to them and the reporters on the project, Brentin Mock, and, yeah lets get Brentin a round of applause, and Aura Bogado at the workshop following this on voting rights, but we to wanted quickly show a video that came out of this because, I think, what happens is, and Judith can talk about this in more detail, what is happened is there’s sort of a climate change debate going on inside the debate over democracy, right, there’s this assertion of, absent all the proof to the contrary, that there is such thing as a voter fraud, but absent your parents, that there is such thing as voter fraud and it has required the good folks at Advancement Project and good folks in the advocacy community to spend a lot of time and energy debating whether or not the sky is blue. And that becomes confusing deliberately to a lot of folks and our shot of video on the election day, that I think we want to show, that’s at a polling place in Colorado, that strips away some of this complicated debate about whether or not there is voter fraud and reveals what they are actually talking about. So, I think the video speaks for itself. Can we cue that up?
Kai Wright: So because Aura shot that video on Election Day and it just, you know, it boils down the point that the idea is to make it sound more complicated that it is by spending an enormous amount of time and money on generating harassment legal actions basically, and gumming up the conversation. To make it about law, when in fact it’s about trying to keep people of color from exercising democracy. And so, we were really proud to have the help of our community journalists to be able to do that, we were really proud, I am open we can, probably Judith can talk about it in more detail, we will be talking about it in the workshop that follows this plenary. But I think that it’s, it was the crucial issue to me in this election, was our access to the polls and I think that it’s going to be the crucial issues in elections for a bit to come.
Sally Kohn: Can I just add, people don’t know. Just yesterday, this is not like isolated incident, yesterday the head of the GOP, the head or Republican Party in Maine said like the same thing. Like he watched this, it was like: “I know what I should say, that sounds great, I have to say that.” He is like, “Where do all these black people come from? We don’t know them. Where do they live? There’s dozens of them and I don’t know them. ” Judith Browne Dianis: Dozens, there’s dozens, that’s all they have in Maine a dozen but they were all voting.
Kai Wright: He literally said, “We don’t know them.”
Sally Kohn: Yeah, we don’t know them. You know it’s funny, I hear that and I think the problem is you, but anyway go on.
Judith Browne Dianis: So as I said before I have a 10 year old daughter and so if we are playing UNO and she gets down to, and I get down to the last card, she’s got 10 cards in her hands, she decides to change the rules on me. So that when I put down the card, the second card, like I can’t just pull my hand up and say, “Uno!” I had to have said it when I put the one down. She changes the rules, right, because she sees the win coming. So that’s what Republican legislators did, so they decided that the only way to win was to change the rules. So 2010 they took over and then they said the first thing they got to, in Texas that was an emergency legislation, to have voter ID laws. Rick Perry said, “It’s an emergency.” First thing he wanted to deal with, you know, you got bad finances, budget problems, no, no, no, it’s this voting thing. And so it was all built around years of them talking about voter fraud, right, so this wasn’t new to us that this was happening but, you know, they had figured out that they could, like, just say, you know, “There’s rampant voter fraud.” It’s the Fox News thing, “They say it.” You don’t do that, but the rest of them, “They say” that there’s voter fraud, that there were buses of Samoans bused into some place, somewhere, and they disappeared just like a UFO. And…
Carolina Gonzalez: Wow, I want see that movie.
Sally Kohn: Incredible, they are everywhere.
Judith Browne Dianis: Right.
Kai Wright: It’s those Black Panthers there so…
Sally Kohn: Show hands, how many new Black Panthers in the room.
Kai Wright: Because you all are cheating and stealing.
Judith Browne Dianis: Right, so they created a narrative that continued on, that became the battle cry for 2011 and 2012 to pass these really restrictive laws that made it harder to register and harder to vote. And so as we saw that happening across the country, you know, groups, democracy groups, civil rights organizations, civic engagement groups, really the progressive community, really rallied around fighting back. And we actually did some messaging, Advancement Project worked with the Brennan Center and we did some messaging so that we knew how to talk about this because their narrative change, they were first saying rampant voter fraud and then we started pushing back on that, right, like, “Where’s the evidence?” You know, I always say: “I have more evidence on Santa Claus than you do on voter fraud.” And so we started pushing back and as we pushed back they stopped that and changed to, “We are preventing fraud.” Right? And so our narrative became, “You are not preventing fraud, you are preventing voting.” And so we kept, you know, they kept trying to move off because they kept getting beat at their game. But they were trying to pass these laws, we, 34 states took up the restrictive one, at the end of the day 9 states actually passed it, we were able to stop those, most of those from being implemented, Advancement Project fraud litigation, our team. So along with groups like ACLU, the Lawyer’s Committee, we all did like incredible legal work to stop these things from happening. But, as we saw, the GOP was pretty relentless and so you have people like, so Florida they cut back early voting from 14 to 8 days, we saw the long lines in Miami-Dade, we have people waiting for 8 hours in line, in many polling places for early voting, Souls to the Polls got switched to one Sunday before and that Saturday, you know, was called Operation Lemonade, because they have decided that we are going to make lemonade. Get it? And then in other places, Ohio, you know, the secretary of state Ohio is crazy. You know, it was like he, in fact he didn’t even care what the court said, he said, “I don’t care what you said, I am doing it my way.” And so he keeps getting slammed down, even in fact a few days ago we got an court order in case that we field around provisional ballots, because the provisional ballot if you file it in the wrong precinct and, like, places like Cleveland have several line, you get in the wrong line you file in a wrong precinct it doesn’t get counted, we filed a law suit so that it would get counted up ticket for president, state wide, so we won the case, you know, here this guy at the eleventh hour comes up with a form for the voter to fill out with their provisional ballot, so if they make an error it gets thrown out, so the court calls him back in after election day I said, “That’s not what you said you were going to do. Why…?” and, I mean, the court is like upset but this guy doesn’t care. So we have to understand that this changing demographics thing that we love is really driving them insane and, but they are smart too, right? So insanity leads to invention and so all of these laws are being created to actually change, make sure, that the power piece that I talked about before gets embedded. And so I think the challenge for us is to not forget, the challenge for us is to make sure that the voter suppression that we stopped, and I am telling you, it was a temporary stop, in Pennsylvania where we won the case they are going to keep moving forward with that ID law. And we know that 21 million Americans don’t have photo ID and so we are going to have to continue this, for Advancement Project that means you all need to sign up at right to vote at advancementproject.org to get on our list, to join the revival of the voting rights movement because we a have got to have a constitutional amendment for our right to vote that standardizes it, that makes courts respect it, that makes states respect it, it should be a federal level issue, not a local issue, we have 13,000 election jurisdictions in this country that run elections 13,000 different ways and we have to stop that. And so the challenge for us is to not forget to be involved, to continue this, the medias are off of it, the day after election day I got cancelled on every show I have scheduled for, because they said, “There is no voter suppression, we don’t need to talk to you anymore.” So that means it’s on us, and I hope that you will continue to fight with us on these issues that the state and national level.
Kai Wright: And this is, I mean, this I such an important play. Is the canceling you, because there is now a mean, there is now a conversation developing, “Oh, it was all blown out of the proportion.” Which is like saying, “When I am in a Hurricane and I got an umbrella so it’s not raining.” And because of all the work that was done we, absent all the work that was done we would be looking at this video and not laughing.
Sally Kohn: That’s right.
Kai Wright: There would be very different conversation today.
Sally Kohn: Right.
Kai Wright: Had the election been close enough Colorado, or Ohio, or Florida for them to do what they planned to do or if all of this work that was done between two 2010 and 2000 and that is going to have to be done…
Judith Browne Dianis: And we also just need to understand at the foundation of this conversation is around whether or not voting is a right or a privilege, and there are people that want to make sure that it’s a privilege, so that means going back to whether or not you own land, whether or not you can pay a poll tax, whether or not you can read, and there are those that think that poor people shouldn’t vote because that’s like giving them burglary tools, Matthew Vadum? Look him up, ok, Matthew Vadum? Says that, you know, this is about the Obama gifts, the entitlements, and that you are going to vote yourself to entitlements and welfare. That young people shouldn’t vote because they don’t know anything yet. So we need to understand that this is about all of us and whether or not we are going to have a say in what happens in this country.
Carolina Gonzalez: So very quickly, sorry, I will get to you Sally, so very quickly what did learn about, I mean I hate dividing up vote, you know, our grand voting public to these little constituencies but, you know, very quickly what did we learn? And let’s try to do this like snappy and quick. What did we learn about all these different constituencies, what did we learn about the varieties of the African-American vote, the varieties of Latino vote, the varieties of the Native American vote, the varieties of the lady votes, you know, LGBT, Asian-Americans, some thoughts?
Jacqueline Pata: I would think, what we have learned was, one, we had to message about our democracy right, the constitutional right, the larger race piece didn’t resonate well with our groups, we also learned that early voting didn’t always protect our votes, Montana, early voting was for 8 days, everybody, everyplace else but on the reservation you only got one day, what we learned was that the long lines across the country means that we got to be prepared and be really stay on top of this because we are going to see election reform, we are going to have electronic ballots, we are going to be able to have different kind of mail-in voting across places what we don’t currently have and that means its always a place for us in that change environment that we’ve got to monitor, we saw what happened in Alaska, the redistricting totally changed the face of the legislature, it doesn’t look like Alaska anymore, 20 percent Alaska Natives don’t look like 20 percent of Alaska Natives or even 17 percent, or 15 percent in the state legislature.
Carolina Gonzalez: Jesus? You have been a little quiet.
Jesus Gonzalez: I think that for both parties Latino vote was a priority, 71 percent of Latino voters voted for Obama…
Carolina Gonzalez: It’s actually 75.
Jesus Gonzalez: 75 percent, thank you, voted for Obama and, I mean, I think that there’s, you know, a dire need for immigration reform and a crave to hold president accountable, although it doesn’t just impact Latino community. Right? But I think, also young people did come out to vote, I don’t know the same statistic but on a local tip I think that there was some discouragement because folks are in discontent with how the representation has been last 4 years, but I also feel like people still came up and supported them. And so that’s, yeah, Latino, I think Latino vote was a determining factor in this election.
Carolina Gonzalez: And, you know, and Asian-American voter, you know, everybody keeps talking about the Latino votes and that has to do a lot with numbers, people don’t talk quite as much about the Asian-American vote but the Asian-American vote percentage was even higher, I think it was like 76 percent. So… Any other thoughts from folks, on these different sub-constituencies of votes, if we can speak about them identity-wise?
Kai Wright: I think we learned that, two thing, one that we cannot take for granted our access to democracy and that people will go to any extent to resolve something, to challenge something that we thought was resolved in 1965 and that that notwithstanding, that black people are not prepared to just sit back. It stood out, one of the stories that struck me the most over the course of the election season was, in Pennsylvania, when some of the Republican leaders started saying that the reason people don’t want to get voter IDs is because they are lazy, that they are too lazy to go get an ID.
Carolina Gonzalez: Black people lazy? I have never heard that before.
Kai Wright: You know? And that all these blacks and immigrants and poor folks, y’all just lazy. And so what was one of the things that was really empowering to me and really moving to me was to see that, you know, our folks stood in line for 8 hours despite you and you efforts to keep us out of democracy. So… We learned we’re not lazy.
Sally Kohn: Although…
Carolina Gonzalez: One of the things that, I am sorry Sally…
Sally Kohn: No, no, I also do think though going forward, obviously something worth working on, you know, having to wait in line 6,7 hours to vote that is modern-day poll tax, I mean there are people who cannot afford to wait in line, who cannot get that time off who cannot… That is not encouraging democracy participation you know, I have never liked being put in position of having to speak for white people, I feel very, you know, tokenized.
Carolina Gonzalez: Oh come on…
Sally Kohn: But there are a lot of white people out there who are scared right now, not the people in this room, I think they are cool, but if you see any out there, like, when go back home, you know, proceed with caution, don’t hug them or anything, you know, maybe just give them a little pat on the back, like, you know, “I know its been hard, y’all had power for centuries and centuries, thought that was going to continue.” You know? I think a lot is being made of that, sort of white anxiety, which, I will say, I optimistically think is overblown because I think the Republican Party has systematically stoked that. But I think a lot, you know, there are, in fact, a lot of more folks out there who actually are, like, pissed at their party, that their party is so behind on gay marriage, and on immigration, and on… Right? So I actually think that hopefully what we are seeing is a shift in our understanding, and so white people’s understanding of the world around them where they see that there is more promise and potential and joy for them, a better life for them and for their kids and for their future in the new America than in the old America. I think we have to help them get there. I just want to say, like, because this was down conversation until this point let’s, like, not forget something, if you all don’t know this, for the first time in history the Democratic caucus in Congress will not be a majority white men. We got a long way to go, but that is, we are getting close to a country where our leaders represent our voters truly and that is really something, we should celebrate.
Judith Browne Dianis: And, I mean, and the all the women that got elected to Congress, I mean, you know, the vaginal probe, you know, you just mention vaginal probe to women you are done, you are totally done. So perhaps they will reinvent that again in 2 years to get us to turn out in large numbers but I think that clearly helped a lot of us have clarity around where we stood.
Carolina Gonzalez: Alright, so I know, I hopefully lot of this has gotten you with, you know, riled up to ask more questions and have more discussion and, you know, fight out a lot of how we are going to do this. I think one word that came up a lot is fear, you know, our fears of course, our allies fears, the fears of the people that are on the opposite side from us, and I think, maybe, one of the things we do really need to start thinking about, and this is scary, is to not think from fear, is to not plan from fear, to not act from fear, and that is going to be a challenge. So I really want to thank this fabulous, fabulous panel…
Jesus Gonzalez: Just really quick.
Carolina Gonzalez: Ok. Jesus get the last word. We are going just keep punning on his name, Jesus gets the last word.
Jesus Gonzalez: I just feel like don’t take actions based of your anger, you should be angry, right, but take, let your action be rooted in the love for your people and I feel like, because I know some of this stuff, and also don’t be afraid to talk about race because its real, it’s in our face all the time and don’t put it on the back burner, like I think we have a great opportunity, especially over this weekend to talk about this stuff, so let’s get this weekend popping you all, thank you so much.
Carolina Gonzalez: Thank you so much Sally, Jackie, Jesus, and Judith. Thank you very much.