A Special Juneteenth Conversation About Race


This morning, in honor of Juneteenth, we invited a pair of important voices onto the show to have a conversation about race.

It's not a conversation we have everyday. But it's a conversation we're having more now than maybe ever before.

Ryan McCollum is a political consultant and social media provocateur from Western Mass.

Kim DeShields is a comedian and activist from Western Mass. She and Zito have worked together lots over the years, but this was a more serious conversation.

In this special podcast, Zito and Suzanne sit down with Ryan and Kim to discuss racism, the Black Lives Matter movement, and breaking the pattern of systemic racism.

The recent murder of George Floyd has sparked worldwide protests and calls for change.

DeShields and McCollum discuss why his murder marked a turning point.

"I don’t think I’ve ever watched somebody murdered from beginning to end." DeShields continues, "It was just infuriating and heartbreaking all at the same time, and I just feel like everybody just looked at that and thought, 'Oh my God.'"

"It was almost a perfect storm," DeShields admits, "because we’re in a pandemic so there were no distractions, nobody could focus on anything else like going to work or anything, you just had to sit there and take that in. And I just feel like globally, people were disgusted by it and sick of it and you know, just finished."

McCollum agrees, adding, "I think a lot of people thought to themselves, whatever color they were, 'hey, that could've happened to me' or 'that could never happen to me because I'm white.'"

How do we sustain this drive and turn it into actual change moving forward?

"I do think that people do need to realize that systematic racism isn't just about the police," McCollum warns, "and if we reform the police and ban chokeholds, that we all can’t just go back to thinking that everything is going to be good."

Demonstrators calling to defund the Minneapolis Police Department march on University Avenue on June 6, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo: Getty Images North America)

In the wake of Floyd's murder, there have been calls to defund the police. DeShields and McCollum shed light on what defunding the police looks like.

"People [are] scared like 'what's going to happen when I run into a problem' and 'who am I going to call,'" DeShields explains, "but when you're having, you know, certain problems the police don't need to be the ones coming." DeShields suggests that different issues require different approaches. "We need to... maybe assign a social worker."

McCollum shares that defunding the police also considers reallocating those funds elsewhere.

Instead of acquiring a second tank, for example, "we should take that $200,000 for that second tank and give it to behavior health networks that could actually help police officers know how to deal with folks with mental health issues. Or even… go along to calls where there is a mental health issue."

"Police reform, when it comes to reforming how they deal with folks, how they're trained, and how they're funded, seems like a phrase that people can jump onto.... It’s what that reform actually is."

So what can white people do to better educate themselves?

DeShields and McCollum both recommend the book "White Fragility" by Robin DiAngelo.

"It challenges white people to look at racism as not a good-bad binary and so they don't think, 'Hey, I'm not racist so racism isn't a problem for me.' It shows it on a continuum and how racism is almost like plaque that builds up on your teeth, and every now and then, you gotta get rid of the plaque."

DeShields also warns against performative allyship and weaponizing whiteness.

"Social media influencers running out to protest with a sign just to be photographed there... because it's sort of trendy right now."

"That’s not real allyship," DeShields continues. "Just putting things on your wall is not enough."

What is really needed right now is action.

"I just hope people do something," DeShields appeals.

"Even if you're upset about it, if you don’t do anything, you're complicit. That means... racism is not a dealbreaker for you."

"White people - if they don't do something, we can't do it by ourselves. We have done it peacefully, we have done it in every way we possibly can do it and it hasn't changed. We're talking about that same thing that's been discussed for eons. If white people do not do something, this is not going to stop."

Being "not racist" isn't enough.

McCollum says it's time to be anti-racist. "When somebody does something that's racist or says something that's racist, it's now time to call that person out. And it's going to be uncomfortable, it should feel uncomfortable."

Listen to the full podcast below.

Looking for more resources to educate yourself and become a better ally?

This list from Self.com is loaded. Check out the videos below with 5 tips for being a better ally and the trailer for a powerful documentary out now.

As a bonus, here's some books that can be eye opening. "White Fragility" by Robin DiAngelo is mentioned more than once in the pod. This list is from Goodreads is helpful as well. And if you are wondering how to start a conversation with your kids about race, these books we found on Yahoo News come highly recommended.

Ready to take it a step further? Real support is needed and encouraged. Here are some organizations that support racial equality and social justice.

Thumbnail Photo: Getty Images Europe

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