American Plague, feat. Jamil Smith
Rebecca talks to Jamil Smith about his latest column for Rolling Stone, “American Plague”; the George Floyd protests, the movement to end policing as we know it, this moment as a reminder of why we need more diversity in the media, and more. Subscribe to Off-Kilter on iTunes.
Political strategist Patrisse Cullors, the founder of Reform LA Jails and one of the co-originators of the Black Lives Matter movement, told Rolling Stone after Derek Chauvin’s arrest for the murder of George Floyd: “In order to have true accountability we must defund the police and redirect those dollars to a national health care system. We have prioritized an economy of violence and terror over an economy of care.”
Over the past two weeks, fueled by protests and uprisings in hundreds of cities across the U.S. and around the world spurred by the police murder of George Floyd, the U.S. has begun having perhaps the most serious national conversation in our history about ending policing as we know it. Earlier this week, the Minneapolis City Council took the landmark step of announcing it was disbanding the Minneapolis Police Department, announcing the city would begin work to recreate community-led systems of public safety. “Our commitment is to do what’s necessary to keep every single member of our community safe and to tell the truth: that the Minneapolis Police are not doing that,” city councilmember Lisa Bender said at a rally. “Our commitment is to end our city’s toxic relationship with the Minneapolis Police Department, to end policing as we know it, and to recreate systems of public safety that actually keep us safe.” At least 16 cities and counting have now proposed or announced measures to divest at least some funding from their police departments.
Meanwhile, many are urging us to consider the broader underpinnings and understand racism as a public health crisis, of which policy brutality and killings are but one symptom. As Rolling Stone writer Jamil Smith put it in a recent essay titled “American Plague”: “If we are to examine what and who killed George Floyd, we have to talk about racism, America’s pre-existing condition. It is a cultural pandemic that has been steadily killing this country and, indeed, rotting away the very idea of America since chattel slavery began more than 400 years ago.” Rebecca sat down with him virtually a few days ago to talk about his essay, the George Floyd protests, the movement to end policing as we know it, racism as a cultural pandemic in the era of COVID, this moment as a reminder of why we need more diversity in the media, and more. Let’s take a listen:
This episode’s guest:
- Jamil Smith, senior writer at Rolling Stone (@JamilSmith)
- Read Jamil’s full piece: “American Plague”
- Here are some helpful explainers on what defunding the police means and where it’s happening, via Citylab, The Cut, Vox, and the New York Times
REBECCA VALLAS (HOST): Welcome to Off-Kilter, the show about poverty, inequality, and everything they intersect with, powered by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. I’m Rebecca Vallas. Political strategist Patrisse Cullors, founder of Reform LA Jails and one of the co-originators of the Black Lives Matter movement, recently told Rolling Stone after Derek Chauvin’s arrest for the murder of George Floyd, quote, “In order to have true accountability, we must defund the police and redirect those dollars to a national healthcare system. We’ve prioritized an economy of violence and terror over an economy of care” Over the past two weeks, fueled by protests and uprisings in hundreds of cities across the U.S. and around the world, spurred by the police murder of George Floyd, the U.S. has begun having perhaps the most serious national conversation in our history about ending policing as we know it.
Earlier this week, the Minneapolis City Council took the landmark step of announcing it was disbanding the Minneapolis Police Department, announcing the city would begin work to recreate community-led systems of public safety. “Our commitment is to do what’s necessary to keep every single member of our community safe and to tell the truth, that the Minneapolis police are not doing that,” city councilmember Lisa Bender said at a rally announcing the changes. “Our commitment,” she continued, “is to end this city’s toxic relationship with the Minneapolis Police Department, to end policing as we know it, and to recreate systems of public safety that actually keep us safe.” At least 16 cities and counting have now proposed or announced measures to divest at least some funding from their police departments and to explore community-led systems of safety.
Meanwhile, many are urging us to consider the broader underpinnings and understand racism as a public health crisis, of which police brutality and killings are but one symptom. As Rolling Stone writer Jamil Smith put it in a recent essay titled American Plague, “If we are to examine what and who killed George Lloyd, we have to talk about racism, America’s pre-existing condition. It’s a cultural pandemic,” he puts it, “that has been steadily killing this country and indeed rotting away the very idea of America since chattel slavery began more than 400 years ago.” I sat down with Jamil virtually a few days ago to talk about his essay, American Plague, the George Floyd protests, the movement to end policing as we know it, racism as a cultural pandemic in the era of COVID, and much, much more. Let’s take a listen.
Jamil, thanks so much for taking the time to come back on the show.
JAMIL SMITH: Thank you for having me.
VALLAS: So, just to dive right in, your most recent column for Rolling Stone, which I quoted from up top, it’s called American Plague, it essentially makes the case that police violence is a public health crisis and that it’s fueled by the mother of all pre-existing conditions: the long history of racism in the U.S. You’re not the only one making this kind of public health crisis observation. But you note that as with the rising COVID-19 death toll, which is widely considered to be a vast undercount of the number of lives being claimed by the virus, and disproportionately black lives, you note, “The true casualties of police violence are incalculable, and in large part because of the attendant fear and mental health impacts of periods like the one we’re living through right now.” Talk about why we need to understand police violence and the racism underpinning it as a multi-layered public health crisis, particularly in a moment where we’re also living through a pandemic.
SMITH: Well, Rebecca, I think it’s important to do that, because it would be foolish for us to assume that the only reason that so many people are on the streets in all 50 states and in more than 13 countries around the world is simply because George Floyd was murdered, simply because Breonna Taylor was murdered. If we’re just talking about police violence as the trigger for this outrage, well, there is an argument for that. But if we can really look at it as a layered problem, we have to understand that even police violence by itself is not so simple as police firing their guns at black people indiscriminately or using their batons a little bit more freely, or as the case may be, their left knees to crush our vocal cords in our windpipes. We have to understand this is a societal problem, as an economic problem, and as a public health problem, look, especially during a coronavirus pandemic that is disproportionately infecting and killing African Americans.
So, if we look at this country as more than just the 270+ years since the Declaration of Independence, we have to understand it as, you know, 400-now-plus years since chattel slavery was inaugurated. And we have to say, look, racism, in a way, was the original sin of this country. And it was introduced, really, as kind of a cancer to the American experiment. And we have to look at how that cancer has spread throughout our institutions, and not merely look at it as a symptom that’s reflected only in individual thought and action. We can’t simply look at it as, “OK, this guy said the N-word. And therefore, that’s racism. That’s identifiable racism.” We have to learn. And I think the crowds on the streets of America and around the world are showing evidence that we are learning that racism is not simply when someone drops an N-bomb. Racism is not simply evidenced when an officer kills a black man or black woman.
Racism is something that is pervasive throughout our society. And it has been in ways that we don’t see, in ways that are felt silently, in ways that kill us quietly. And we need to understand that and be outraged about that as much as we are when we see videos of George Floyd that disgust us, that we have to turn away from to save our emotional health, but we can’t turn away from for fear that injustice will march on. It simply, in the state of America, is at a tipping point, I think. You know, we will see if any action [laughs] will result from this. But right now, in terms of policy, but right now, we see that the country has had enough of this on a level that we probably have not seen in quite a while. It is different this time.
VALLAS: And as you describe the sort of misunderstandings, misperceptions about what the word “racism” means, about what the notion of racism is, one of the observations that you make in your most recent piece for Rolling Stone really flies in the face of a lot of the ways that many people have been talking about Derek Chauvin, which is as sort of a cold-blooded killer. You observe an even more disturbing likelihood, which is that he simply didn’t care whether George Floyd died or lived, as you put it. It only, the video, which shows him pressing the life out of Floyd, only underscores the irrelevance, as you put it, of intention when committing a racist act. You don’t have to hate people, as you put it. Racism means that you likely don’t consider them to be people in the first place. That dehumanization in so many ways, or lack of full humanity, really does seem to be at the core of what is fueling these protests. That’s a big piece of what you’re arguing here.
SMITH: Yes. One of the most disturbing things, and I hadn’t even noticed it the first time I watched the video. And being in the business that I’m in, in journalism, it is an unfortunate consequence that because I have to make sure I get the facts correct, I have to watch these videos. And I often have to watch them several times over. I hadn’t caught, the first time I’d watched it, the fact Derek Chauvin had his hands in his pockets. I’d been so focused on listening to George Floyd scream for his mother, yell for his breath, and then finally go silent while this man still left his knee on his neck, unnecessarily, I might add. I mean, George Floyd was, you know, I’m about 5’11”, 220. You know, George Floyd was maybe a little bit taller, probably a little bit lighter. [laughs uncomfortably] The idea that three guys needed to hold him down seems absurd, and it contributes — well, actually, I should go back — it shows in full color the myth of the sort of black superhuman, you know, this idea that somehow he had superhuman strength that needed to be treated with such brute force. This idea that Tamir Rice is 12 years old and is viewed as 20 by bystanders and by police alike. This idea that we are somehow older or more grown or more threatening than we actually are, inherently because of our skin, this inherent dangerousness that has been argued in court, by the way, to help justify our convictions and our sentencing. That notion was in full display. And how dangerous could he have been if you have your hands in your pockets while you got your knee on his neck?
Just the entire lie behind racism was exposed in the behavior of this murder. And I think, you know, we’re going to have to see. They’re going to make arguments that George Floyd was a bad guy and that he was violent and that he was resisting arrest and that he was doing all the wrong things and that he had this coming. We should, we need to be prepared for that. It’s going to happen. So, we just need to understand that, despite all of our outrage on the streets and despite all of our outrage on the pages that we’re all publishing, we need to get ready for this. The counterpunch is being prepared, not merely by the president, but by the folks who are defending this action. You know, they can say that they’re honoring George Floyd all they want, but they’re showing it in their actions that they defend the state power that killed him.
VALLAS: Well, and adding another and incredibly troubling layer of racism as a pre-existing condition specifically in the George Floyd case itself, you actually point out that before — and this, I don’t think, got nearly as much attention as it deserved — before arresting or charging any of the other three former officers for their complicity in George Floyd’s death, and as the prosecutor was moving forward with initial charges against Derek Chauvin, there was actually this moment of time where the prosecutor was effectively blaming George Floyd’s own health problems as what had led to his death or at least contributed to his death. It felt incredibly similar to so many of the people using disability and health disparities as a smokescreen for the disproportionate rate at which coronavirus is claiming black lives versus white lives. And yet again, here we were seeing it as a smokescreen for the police brutality that ended George Floyd’s life. And yet again, in ways that bring up the racial disparities we see in health in this country, all of which is, again, connected to the structural racism that you are diagnosing as a public health crisis. There’s so many layers here, and I wanted to give you an opportunity to comment on that piece, given that it’s such an important comparison, I think, between the current protests and also some of the bad takes around the health disparities we’ve seen in COVID deaths.
SMITH: Yes, it’s unfortunate that people do not learn the cardinal rule [laughs] of presenting your opinions in public, which is that know what you don’t know. And I try to follow that as much as I possibly can, and I’ll do the same in responding to this. I’ve read many of the tapes because I’ve been busy reporting. And I feel like folks, if they are…. So, I’ll respond more generally. I feel like if people are introducing assumptions about black comorbidity or the fact that there’s a death gap in terms of our comparison to our white neighbors and all these various things, I think that if we’re not asking experts, if we’re not asking doctors, if we’re not talking to the proper folks who have these expertise, then honestly, I think we really aren’t doing our jobs, [laughs] and we just need to be doing the reporting. We need to not go off half-cocked.
The key for us, especially journalists in a moment like this, is to keep our heads. We have to, even those of us writing opinion, we have to make sure that we, to some degree, internalize the anger that we feel. We don’t go off half-cocked because there are people — Let me rephrase. The entire purpose of an opinion columnist, I feel like, is to inspire debate with intelligent and thorough and reported information, and perspective. If you are not presenting perspective and information that is valid, then you’re going to skew a debate in completely the wrong direction, and you are doing your job irresponsibly. Now, have I gotten everything right I’ve ever put in a column? Obviously not. No one’s perfect. But have I been reckless? No, certainly not. And I think there are some people being reckless, and I think that it’s unfortunate.
I think, honestly, [sighs] right now, I think what’s happening we’re seeing the consequence of the lack of media diversity in our business. We’re having a lot of people having to do a lot of very quick catch-up work on learning how to write about race and racism, which are two very different things. You hear those terms interchanged a lot. There’s a column in today’s Washington Post from Condoleezza Rice talking about talking about race. Well, yes, we can talk about race, but we need to talk about racism. [chuckles] That’s the problem here, OK? Racism is the problem. And race is a social construct. We need to talk about racism and how that is infecting this country. And to me, when you start talking about race, you start getting into this sort of amorphous conversation that just ends up making white people feel better at the end of the day and doesn’t really advance the goals for black progress. You know, at the end of the day, this is not about making white people feel better. At the end of the day, this is about making white people feel uncomfortable. Because that is what’s required for any kind of realistic solutions that are going to save black lives to be introduced, to be furthered, to be considered, to be realized.
White people —
VALLAS: Well, and since you’re —
SMITH: Yeah, go ahead.
VALLAS: Oh, no, no. Go ahead, Jamil. Please finish your thought, but I want to go white discomfort. [chuckles]
SMITH: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, to me…. There are a lot of white people, admirably, who are on the streets and who are online who understand this moment as a time for them to be uncomfortable and a time to make other white people uncomfortable. And I’m happy to see that. We need more.
VALLAS: I really want to dig into this, because I have to say, you’re talking a little bit about some of the bad takes out there. What I’m about to say next is not specific to media coverage, but it definitely infuses some of it and some of those bad takes but is a broader thing. And that is that many people — and I want to say in particular here, many white people — are really fixated right now on the small share of the protesters, whatever share it is, who are looting, who are engaging in property destruction, even though it has come to light that much of it is actually being committed by people who are infiltrating the protests for reasons that have nothing to do with George Floyd’s death. But as the moment has continued, as these protests have continued, the crossing the line into violence is a point of fixation for a great many white people right now. And while some have been harkening back to the famous Martin Luther King quote that riots are the voices of the unheard, and some have lifted up — Actually, there’s a seminal study on looting from 1968 by Dynes and Quarantelli, which is also coming out and being kind of re-lifted up. That it observed famously that, “The looting that takes place in these situations is usually interpreted as evidence of human depravity.” Those words seem as true today as they did in some ways in 1968.
But the sentiments, particularly among those that MLK termed “the white moderate,” seems to be that if only protesters would just be peaceful, they’d be fine with it, right? But that looting, property destruction, this is what crosses the line, as though destruction of property is somehow a greater evil that needs to be contained than the destruction of black lives. And you point out, I want to lift up a passage from your piece, “It is a testament to how much of America needs repair, that throughout its history, violence has been so key to attaining progress and unity.” You write, “What we see in the current unrest are the learned lessons from a long history of revolution in this country, people who understand that virtually no rights have been secured without either committing violence or inciting it against their own bodies.” I want to give you an opportunity to sort of speak to that straw man, which is not very straw, that white moderate who’s saying, “Meh, but these people are crossing the line.”
SMITH: [sighs] I mean, first things first. The oppressor has no right, no leeway to demand how the people who are oppressed should demand concessions, plain and simple. We have a quintessential example of this that’s been presented for us within the last four years in Colin Kaepernick. We tried the nonviolent, symbolic way of expressing dissent. All the man did was get on a knee. [laughs] And what happened? He was demonized, willfully misinterpreted, lied about, and his career was destroyed by collusion amongst the 32 owners and general managers of the National Football League. And I say that as a former National Football League employee, OK, mind you. He was tossed out of the league for protesting for black life. And the league is afraid to sign him because they fear their angry white fans, plain and simple.
So, when I hear people say, “Hey, if you just protest less violently or with less anger or more nicely, then things can happen.” Well, that’s been tried, [chuckles] you know. But we have seen in history that progress isn’t made until violence happens one way or another, whether or not it is violence being perpetrated by protesters or if it’s violence being perpetrated onto protesters by the state. We did not see advance towards the Civil Rights Act until we saw Bloody Sunday on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. We did not see the kind of advance towards the other kinds of civil rights gains without black bodies essentially being offered up as sacrifice. Now, that is an unfortunate reality of this country, but it is very true! We didn’t win the liberty of this country from Britain without sacrifice. It was called a revolution for a reason. I mean, it’s astounding how people forget these things. Like how much damage did the Boston Tea Party cause? It’s not just black people who have done this for black rights. It is white people who have done this too and for good reason! So, let’s not ignore history here. Let’s not be willfully obtuse when we discuss these things.
If Colin Kaepernick were able to resume his career or had not had his career interrupted and had been allowed to protest peacefully, and policy had been inspired by that nonviolent protest, as opposed to, say, violent protest, then maybe somebody would have a case, you know? Say, “Hey, I was inspired by seeing this nonviolent protest as opposed to this other way people have been doing it. I’m going to reward this way of doing things. I’m inspired.” I mean, I guess! It’s not exactly an endorsement of that person’s particular values, that they only are against racism when the person who’s being oppressed is [laughs] speaking up nonviolently. But it is…because nonviolent protest is a testament to the values of the protester, not of the person being protested against. To me, it is about, it’s about time that folks really, really get it into their heads that the rioting or the uprising that we’re seeing, whether or not people are just expressing anger or they are being opportunistic, OK, that’s not the point. The real violence that’s happening, and we’re seeing it on the streets, is being exacerbated by the police who are trying to defend the status quo: their ability to brutalize and to go out and do the kinds of things that we saw happen to George Floyd, to Breonna Taylor and to Sean Bell and countless others that we’ve seen over the last several years. They want to be able to keep doing this without the kind of accountability that they should receive. Otherwise, they should be in a moment of humility right now.
They should be saying, “Hey! Wow, that moment right there? That’s going too far. Like, we need to reform. We need to change our culture. Folks, you know, if you’re here to protest nonviolently, obviously, we got to police. We got to keep things safe. But if you’re going to protest nonviolently, we’re not going to mess with you. We’re not going to touch you. We’re not going to you know, we’re not gonna do anything. If you’re here to be nonviolent and protest and yell at us, hey, we got it coming,” OK? It should be a moment of humility for law enforcement in this country right now. Instead, it’s just the opposite. They are being more aggressive, and they’ve been encouraged by our president, who has openly encouraged police violence and brutality. There’s a reason we’re here right now in this moment, seeing police brutalize people on the streets. They’re defending their right to do this when cameras are not on them.
VALLAS: And then in so many ways, it’s impossible to view this moment as anything other than the police proving the point of the protests, right, as the videos abound of just horrible incidents of police brutality being committed at protests against police brutality, right?
VALLAS: I mean, it sort of feels like it’s a point that needs to be made as the police become Exhibit A of the thing they’re trying to defend their right to do with impunity.
I spoke recently with a sociologist at the University of Maryland who has — he’s also a Fellow at the Brookings Institute — he has studied police and policing for many years, Rashawn Ray. And one of the ideas that he has put forth is changing actually some of how we handle the payouts, the civilian payouts that often result, or that sometimes result, from police brutality and police-involved killings. There are a lot of different policy solutions out there that people are pointing to. Training is, of course, being brought back up. But at the same time — and this is part of what starts to make this moment, as you said, I think feel different than what we’ve seen before — a central call in this moment has become the notion of defunding the police. This is an idea that until very recently was considered, I would say by most people, to be fairly extreme or kind of a fringe idea, sometimes maybe going hand in hand with calls for prison abolition, another idea that I should note is no longer quite as extreme to many as it once was. And I bring up this call for defunding the police because you really do look at what you termed the addiction of cities to a system of policing that needs to be entirely reconsidered as not just a policy problem, but also something that really causes you, as a reporter, to want to follow the money and to think about how is that playing a role in some of the culture or the incentives or the things that are allowing racism to kill people at the hands of the police in 2020 in these numbers.
And I want to lift up the words of political strategist Patrisse Cullors, because you actually quote her in this, in your piece.
VALLAS: She notes, “In order to have true accountability, we must defund the police and direct those dollars to a national healthcare system. We have prioritized an economy of violence and terror over an economy of care.” Patrisse Cullors, of course, being one of the co-founders of the Black Lives Matter movement. Talk a little bit about this move, this call to defund the police. And is this something that actually starts to feel like a real idea as part of this movement and a real policy response that might start to get serious attention?
SMITH: I’m going to quote the reporting of my esteemed colleague, Tessa Stuart, who has a wonderful explainer online at RollingStone.com about defunding the police, because I feel like there’s been a lot of intellectual dishonesty going around, even amongst the press, about this very concept. The word “defund the police,” people act as if that means we’re going to fire, every cop tomorrow and just take all the money that we’ve put towards police and just throw it to the wind! And we’re just going to let people run amok in the streets [laughs] without cops. It’s going to be like that scene in Robocop where the cops go on strike, and everyone’s just going [bleep] in Detroit. That’s not what it means. Defunding the police, she writes, does not mean stripping the department entirely of its budget or abolishing it all together. It’s about scaling police budgets back and reallocating those resources to other agencies. The concept is simple. When cities start investing in community services, they reduce the need to call police in instances when police officers’ specific skill isn’t required.
I mean, plain and simple, you have here in Los Angeles so many cases in which police officers respond to calls involving people who are not criminals, but you have people who are mentally ill. And they don’t have the training to handle those kinds of calls. Who would be better in that situation, a police officer or someone who’s trained? A social worker, a psychologist. You know, this is something that people just need, we need to rethink how we do things in this society and understand that it’s possible to reorient how we enforce laws and understand that if someone may be quote-unquote “breaking a law,” it doesn’t make them necessarily inherently criminal. And that we don’t need to cast them out of our society. It doesn’t mean that they should be in prison. It means that they may be breaking a law. They may be committing a criminal act. But there are different ways for us to be handling that person, for us to deal with the justice for that person. And if we don’t understand that now, after George Floyd allegedly spending a counterfeit $20 bill in the midst of a pandemic that has broken on our economy and suffers the death penalty on the street for it, when are we going to get this? When are we going to understand that the police are doing too much/, [laughs] OK? And there is a better way for us to do this job, for us to do this.
If we see a George Floyd who, by the way, we just learned was asymptomatic for the novel coronavirus, if we see him, this man who was sick and had some other comorbidities, that, to me, proves that they should’ve been handling him more gently. If black folks are apparently more prone to die in the handling of police. If we’ve got all these heart problems and diseases and things like that are affecting our ability to survive, well, doesn’t that mean the police probably should handle us with a little bit more care? I mean, it seems to me that that should be the assumption, is like, well, you know, this gentleman may have a comorbidity. Maybe we should not press on his chest. [chuckles] Maybe we should not put our knee into his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, nearly 3 of which were after he had already lost consciousness and stopped responding. What we have here is not something that can be reformed with mere changes in practices here. We have to change the way we do things in this society on a fundamental level, OK? It’s not going to be fixed with some training, with some community policing, some police starting an athletic league, OK? This is not, we’re past that point. We tried that, OK? It’s about taking these resources that we throw into policing, it’s $100 billion a year nationwide, and we talk about putting those resources into communities where they can be better used. Period. End of story.
VALLAS: Jamil, in the last couple of minutes that I have with you, and I wish I had a lot longer because there’s about eight different other questions I had that I wanted to ask you. So I guess that means I’m going to be looking forward to talking to you again at some point soon. But in the last couple minutes that we do have, do you have any particular message for your colleagues in the media right now as they strive to use their platforms to move us towards progress and to help people have the right takeaways from this moment? Rather than a lot of the, you know, we were talking before about sort of bad takes and at a greater level, coverage that can actually have incredibly harmful consequences in terms of impeding progress or contributing to misinformation. I’m curious because you are really someone who is, you were describing this before, incredibly thoughtful in your approach to covering very challenging issues. Would love to sort of close on that note, given that a lot of the people who listen to this show are actually folks out there in the media.
SMITH: Yeah. Listen, I’m hardly an expert when it comes to doing the work of journalism. There are a lot of folks out here who are a lot more experienced than I am, you know, who are, frankly, better at this job. So, I bring to this a large degree of humility. I just hope that we all do the job of representing the varied perspectives honestly and accurately. And if we are in the business of presenting our own perspectives in the press, that we do so with sensitivity to not merely other sides or try to “both sides” everything, but to underrepresented folks, people who have not had as much of a voice in public discourse. And we try to helpful [audio drops] be seen not merely as statistics or tragedies that we denote on anniversaries, but as human beings who lived lives, who had families, who laughed and had very human moments like we all do. And I think that we don’t do that, so that folks who have privilege or folks who oppress us can suddenly be awakened. We do that to honor them. We do that for us. We do that for the sake of really fulfilling, I think, what is the purpose of this American project: that we all be equal. And there are some people, including, I think, this president and this administration, the people who follow him slavishly, who are not interested in furthering the dreams and aspirations of the American project. They’re interested in having it serve their aims.
The real patriots are ones on the street protesting for the state to honor and to protect and to recognize the value of everyone’s life. If people actually believed that all lives matter, they would see that. But they don’t. So, let’s talk about what we can accurately represent, and let’s not both sides the issue. Let’s speak honestly about what’s actually happening and tell the truth.
VALLAS: A great place to end this conversation. And Jamil, I so appreciate your time, especially amidst so much just day-to-day with the incredible painfulness and challenging nature of this moment on a personal level and a professional level for you. I appreciate you taking time for Off-Kilter. I appreciate this fantastic piece and your voice in this moment so much. So, thank you so much for taking the time.
Jamil Smith is a senior writer at Rolling Stone. His most recent piece is called American Plague: Racism, our untreated pre-existing condition, is killing both black people and the nation itself. You can, of course, find it on our syllabus page on Medium. And Jamil, just thank you so much for taking the time.
SMITH: Thank you very much, Rebecca. I really appreciate being on today.
VALLAS: And that does it for this episode of Off-Kilter, the show about poverty, inequality, and everything they intersect with, powered by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. I’m Rebecca Vallas. The show is produced by Will Urquhart. Transcripts are courtesy of Cheryl Green. Find us on the airwaves on the We Act Radio Network and the Progressive Voices Network, and say hi and send us your show pitches on Twitter @OffKilterShow. And of course, find us anytime on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. See you next time.