[I wanted to rebroadcast this episode before the 2020 U.S. Presidential election because of the racist comments from Jared Kushner “that Black Americans have to want to be successful” because there are many who believe this narrative. This interview documents the personal story of someone with the lived experiences of how the systems, institutions, and policies rooted in white supremacy are designed to elevate whiteness while promoting anti-Blackness. Because knowledge is power and ignorance is no longer an excuse for causing harm.]
“People just need to stop being afraid of repercussions when they speak up. You’re gonna get repercussions when you don’t speak up.”
Ayani Good, is a retired IL attorney, high school administrator, and university-level educator (Chicago, IL and Sewanee, TN). Her legal practice was concentrated in the area of nonprofit corporation law. She is an active board member of organizations in Chicago, IL and Durban, South Africa. Ayani has over 20 years of training and development experience, curriculum development, program management and evaluation and grants writing.
She is a member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority,Inc. and is an advocate of social justice and human rights issues
Kim: Hello everyone, and welcome to today’s episode of the #CauseAScene Podcast. My guest today is Ayani Good, and I brought her on—as you guys know, I’m a historian and a researcher—and I want to give some background context to a lot of… you know what? I’m not gonna say anything else. Ayani, introduce yourself to the audience.
Ayani Good: [Laughs] Hello. I’m Ayani Good, and happy to be invited to Kim’s podcast and ready to get started whenever she’s ready to get started.
Kim: All right. So I’d like to ask you two things, two questions that I always ask everyone. And it is: why is it important to cause a scene, and how are you causing a scene?
Ayani: OK, first of all, what I consider “cause a scene” to be has had a negative connotation in the past. You know, kids acting out in the grocery store, they’re causing a scene; two drunks arguing outside the bar, they’re causing a scene. But what I like to do is shift the paradigm and say you cause a scene to bring attention to items, practices, people that need to be addressed and/or corrected. So I don’t see “cause a scene” as the negative definition that it actually has, which is to draw bad attention to somethin’. So right off the bat, I don’t see it as a negative, I see it as you bring attention to somethin’ that needs to have attention brought to it.
The second question… [nervous laugh] wow. As you may or may not know, my sister was on the staff of Dr. Martin Luther King at Southern Christian Leadership Council, and I used to hang with her and with the staff members. When I was in school, I’d go down to the office on Auburn Avenue in Atlanta and do my homework and stuff, so things were happening around me, but I didn’t really give significance to—that was her job. You know, interestin’ people goin’ in and out. I didn’t pay much attention to it.
But what I did get from her is my sense of social justice, my sense of advocatin’ for those who cannot advocate for themselves as well as advocatin’ for myself, which is harder to do. So I’ve grown up by having a sense of—well, for my teenage years—I’ve grown up from having a sense of if I see somethin’ wrong, I’m gonna speak to it, I’m gonna act on it, let the chips fall where they may. And that’s what—so causin’ a scene, I’ll just give you two very recent examples of what would be considered my causin’ a scene.
The first one occurred back in the spring—I’m in Macon, Georgia—and back in the spring they were having expos for seniors where you go and you have talks about, you know, identity theft and just things that are pertinent to seniors. I’m 71, so I’m in that category. And there was one gentleman there, an Asian gentleman representin’ an organization that I don’t remember the name of, but he had these little fans. They were these little, they looked like little Frisbees, but they were fans and the unique part about it was you could ball ’em up and put ’em in a little container that was about the size of an old fashioned change purse.
So it was a very popular item; everybody wanted one of those. [Inaudible] I went up and got one, and some people came behind me and he said, “Well, I don’t have any more of the pouches for them to go into so you can get the fan.” Well, the novelty of the fan was having a little pouch so people went and sat back down. As I was taking a break—they gave us a couple of breaks—and as I was taking a break, I happened to meander over to this table and he had more of the fans plus the containers out on the table. He was passin’ ’em out. So yeah, I didn’t think much about it.
Fast forward to October. We had another senior expo in one of Robin’s [transcription uncertain; possibly a place name], and the same organization was there and the same man was there representin’. This time the novelty item was sort of a back massager, little plastic back massager, and you know, people were gettin’ excited about it. I went up and got one, sent people at my table to get one. And when they got up there—my table’s about 20 feet from his exhibit booth, so I had a pretty clear, direct line of sight to what he was doin’—so people from my table went up to get the back scratcher and he told ’em he didn’t have any more. So OK, well you don’t have any more, you don’t have any more.
So they went windin’ around the other exhibits and pickin’ up giveaways. And I’m sittin’ there because I had everything I wanted. And this same gentleman comes from behind his booth, comes up to near the table where I’m sitting, grabs this old white man by the arm, says, “I can give you everything that I have,” walked him over to his table, went up under the table into a box and gave the man one of everything that everybody else had gotten plus the back scratcher that he said he had run out of. So I’m ticked off by this time I’m like, “Mm, OK.” So I sent my tablemates up there, said he got some more. He again told them he didn’t have any more.
So I’m sittin’ at the table, I’m fumin’. And I’m like, “I gotta address this.” My tablemates were saying, “No, let it go. It’s not important.” I’m like, “It is important, because this is the second time I’ve witnessed the same man doing the same kind of stuff.” So they pretty much convinced me not to go up and confront him, which was my plan. I couldn’t wait ’til I got home—I had already pulled up the organization on Facebook—I couldn’t wait ’til I got home. I sent them a message, I explained the situation. And I told ’em, “You’re a organization that is supposed to be in the business of caring for senior citizens and people who are disabled. And this is what I witnessed at your exhibit booth.”
I got an immediate response that, “Oh, we’re so sorry. But we only bring a certain amount of things to the exhibits, and when you run out, we run out. And let me know which things they were, and we can mail you some.”
I immediately said, “Thank you for your response, but that’s not the point. The point is, this gentleman was tellin’ people of color that he didn’t have any more of the items. He blatantly lied, because I saw him go up under the table and give this white man one of everything that he said he was out of. And that’s not fair.” I said, “We’re seniors, but we’re not stupid. We’re not children. If you run out of stuff, you run out of stuff. It is what it is. But he lied, and I don’t want you to send me anything. I’m here to advocate for those who were pissed off and were complainin’ about it. And were asking me not to say anything, but I can’t not say anything.”
So their response was that they were going to look at their promotional practices, and if I saw them again at another exhibit, bring it to their attention. So that’s just one of the things that I did. Minor little plastic thing, probably could have got it at Oriental Trading or the Dollar Store or whatever, but the point of the matter was he blatantly lied and he blatantly disrespected a group of people who were there for services.
Kim: We’ll get into your second story. What I want to talk to you about, this idea of Black families being quote unquote “broken up” or “absentee Black father” is because of Blackness itself. It’s because there’s a lack in our, maybe DNA, in our commitment to relationships, all these things; but it’s always pointed at Black folx that our families are quote unquote “broken,” that our communities are quote unquote “shit.”
I wanted you to talk about—’cause I did a long thread on Twitter about some of the facts, some of the things that I’ve heard when I worked… so I worked in Cabrini-Green projects in Chicago, and anybody who knows, they’re not there anymore, but it was one of the most most notorious projects in the United States. When I got the job, I was a youth worker, I was terrified of going into that community because of everything I’ve seen on the media, everything I heard about that community. But once I got in that community, what I realized, it was just Black folx livin’ their lives, they’re families, they’re tryin’ to survive, tryin’ to be resilient in a situation, in an environment that most people could not survive in.
So I was having conversations—they got to know me, they got to trust me—and I was just startin’ to have conversations with some of the people there, and they started telling me some things that I was just like, blew my mind. And I’ve had conversations with you about these same things. So can you walk us through how public housing in the United States was a catalyst in dismantling and destroying and harming the Black family?
Ayani: OK. And I can only speak to my experience on it. Just a little background: I was born in Ohio, our family’s status was pretty upper middle class. My dad worked, my mom was a stay at home mom. She was also an abused wife. And so we left Ohio and moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where my maternal grandmother and her sisters were living. There was an immediate culture shock because here we are going from having basically everything we needed or wanted to coming south to having basically nothing. We were in poverty. My mom didn’t have a job. We were living from relative to relative that didn’t really want us there. I mean, she had three children, so to open up your home that’s already overcrowded to a woman with three children was pretty traumatic.
Finally, through my grandmother’s connections or whatever, we were approved to live in housing projects. So we got assigned to those projects called Herndon Homes—which, of course, all the projects in Atlanta have been torn down, so it no longer exists. So we moved into Herndon Homes. Our apartment was up over the office, so we had a two bedroom, had a upstairs downstairs. I mean, it was pretty OK, when you’ve gone from sharin’ a bed with two of your siblings to having a bedroom where each of you had a bed was was really earth-shattering in those days.
So my mom got a job through my grandmother working for white people as a maid. She was making $7 a day. Our rent was $45 a month, which at times we couldn’t even make that. We had to borrow to make that. But life in the projects was almost like—when I look back on it—it was almost like life in a prison. Although we did have outdoor spaces, we could roam freely throughout the projects. But basically we were cut off from residential areas where they would have single family housin’ by two major highways. So we were enclosed within those two main streets.
Rules and regulations were many, and swift retaliation would happen if you broke those rules. One of ’em was, kids couldn’t play on the grass. Well, you got a lot of families with a lot of children; where are they gonna play? There were a couple of playgrounds; they weren’t very convenient to where we lived. So children had to go there.
Employment. Mothers that were in the projects could work. Any fathers that were there were either disabled or unemployed or under-employed, and they were allowed to remain with their families. And I say allowed to, because if you were single, you were not permitted to have a boyfriend or a husband. They would have—I didn’t witness it, but I was told that that would be midnight raids—so they would come… somebody in the projects would say, “Oh, Miss so-and-so really isn’t single. She has a husband or she has a boyfriend, and he comes over and he spends the weekends.” So Friday night around midnight, when Mr. Jones would come to visit his family, the management would stage a inspection. And they had keys, so they just come in. And they would see if Mr. Jones was indeed in the house.
Kim: OK, so I’ma stop… OK. I’ma stop you right there. So what—you just hit me with somethin’. So… OK, and I want you to listen to this, people, I really want you to listen to this, because as we unpack a system of white supremacy and racism in the United States, what Ayani is saying is, to families who had nowhere to go, were given what they thought was a lifeline, a clean place to go. Because back in the day, they were nice spaces, from what I heard.
Kim: They were well kept…
Ayani: They were.
Kim: …they were nice places. And I’m gonna tease out some things. So first of all—because I know this from Cabrini—how they did this was they put everything you needed right there. So the school was right there, your grocery store was right there, your church was right there. And the fact that you’re telling me that there were highways that basically segregated you from the rest of the community is the same thing that I saw in projects in Chicago. I had students—they weren’t students… after school program or whatever—they were—so Cabrini Green, unlike a lot of the projects in Atlanta, I mean, in Chicago—was very close to million dollar buildings, multi-million dollar real estate.
Ayani: It was right across the street.
Kim: Yes. From multimillion dollar real estate. But these kids never went there. They never… when I was workin’ with these these young people, weekly we would go to the movie theater that was five blocks away, that was on the one of the most expensive streets in the United States, and these kids never went there. So it’s like this—so I’m teasin’ this out—so you’re confined by boundaries and mental barriers not to even go out of this space, and then you’re saying that these people had fuckin’ keys that could go in your place anytime they wanted?
Ayani: Yes, ma’am.
Kim: Without notice.
Ayani: And we didn’t have grocery stores; we had little Mom and Pop stores. We might… I remember one fast food place, maybe on each side of the perimeter of the projects. But we had to go outside or downtown—’cause we were in walking distance of downtown Atlanta. It was a world of difference. We had to go down there to what was called the municipal market, which is like a farmer’s market. So we didn’t have grocery stores. We had to go out of the area to get to a grocery store.
Kim: So again, ’cause we talk about—and I’m bringin’ this up ’cause we talk about this a lot now in 2018—food deserts. What they’re callin’ food deserts.
Ayani: Food deserts, yes.
Kim: So… but I’m still… so, [sighs] OK, ’cause this… and I’m bringin’ this home because so many—as a Black person, I didn’t know this until I asked questions—and so many white people or people… I’m not even gonna say white people, because everybody in the United States, immigrant, whatever, everybody comes to the United States with an idea of, “I am anything but Black.” Everybody is thriving to be anything but Black. And the anti-Blackness indoctrination is so deep that there is this belief, this ingrained… I mean, no one questions the inadequacies or the ineptitude of Blackness, yet there were governmental policies and procedures in place that violated the humanity of people.
Kim: And I’m hitting on this, guys, so you get, so you can understand what I’m sayin’. Because I’m actually getting pretty touched about this, because how would you feel in your home, had someone just walked in with a key?
Ayani: At midnight.
Kim: It doesn’t even matter to me what time. Because it speaks to again, how Black people have been just disregarded and treated as animals, as property, as not valuable, until we are valuable until you can make money off us. [Frustrated sigh]
So I was listenin’ to a video, and this woman was—and I’m gonna share this in the show notes—she was sayin’ how she was a family of 12, she was a child of a family of 12, and the public housing people came to her mother and father and said, “We will let you into this public housing thing as long as your husband leaves the state.” Then her parents had to sit back and have a conversation about that, and they decided to go into the public housing projects.
So I wanna back that up again, because then you’re thinking—’cause I know somebody’s out there thinking, “Well why did they have 12 kids, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah if they were too poor?” I need you to see that these systems have been put into place that Black males were underemployed, unemployed, they could not provide. And who are you, and particularly in this day and age, when everybody is thinkin’ about Roe vs. Wade, that Black people can’t have the families that they wanna have? We have TV shows of people with 19 kids.
And so I’m hopin’ I’m drawing these parallels to you so you can start challenging the narratives you have internalized, either intentionally or not, about Blackness in the United States. And globally, ’cause anywhere there was colonization, anywhere there were Christian missionaries, this same rhetoric, this same understanding has been carried around the world.
So you can go back to your story, but it just hit me the fact that we’re discouraged—oh my god, now this has just hit me—you were discouraged, Black people were discouraged from having families when all whiteness was encouraged to have families, to have a family bond. Think about that. Think about the—what’s the word I’m looking for? not the juxtaposition, but I guess that could be—of Black families being told, “We’ll give you this if the man of the house, that person who could, if he had the opportunity to be fully employed, could benefit the family, no, he has to leave.” But on the other hand, we’re telling white people to go to the suburbs, have this, your family is most important. I need you to think about that. I need you to visualize that. Because this is the history that the United States is built on.
Ayani: There were families that had a large amount of children—there were only three of us—so there were families that didn’t have a large amount of children. The people next door to us were an elderly couple who had adopted a little boy who was disabled, so they were able to get in.
Just some of the other rules about employment—now, my mom worked as a maid, so it was OK, because she had to pay the $45 in my rent—but some of the things that came along with it was—my mom has always been very well dressed. When we were in Ohio, she worked in a dress shop. So she had style. The people that she worked for would give her very nice, expensive clothes. Her maid uniforms—when she walked up to the bus stop every morning, her uniform was starched and ironed and she looked good. She would go out in the evenin’ when she came home—she was a member of the Elks Club—she would go out on Thursday, that was when they had their lodge meeting, and she’d have on somethin’ nice.
You best believe on Friday morning somebody had contacted the office, “Why is she wearin’ such expensive clothes? She doesn’t need to be here. She’s got money.” And so they would bring my mother in and have her go through her income with them and make sure that her income is what it’s supposed to be; you know, $7 a day ain’t a hell of a lot. But they wanted to make sure that she was still makin’ that $7 a day.
And the thing that got to me was that the other people who were just as stressed and just as marginalized as we were, were telling—we had people who would go to the office and tell on people. “So-and-so had a man there the other night.” “So-and-so’s daughter is pregnant.” Well, if your daughter got pregnant, either the daughter had to move out and get her own apartment, or you had to move with your daughter, or your rent went up to market rate. Well, if it’s going up the market rate, why live in the projects?
So those were some of the other kinds of rules that we had to deal with: don’t dress nicely because they think you got money comin’ in from somewhere that you’re not reporting.
Kim: And that reminds me of another story about the phone—how back in the day, the phone was actually connected to the wall, you couldn’t detach it. So any level of normalcy, they would have to hide the phone when these individuals came into the house.
Ayani: We were allowed to have a phone by the end. That was in the 50s, so they had moved on, so we could have a phone, we could have appliances. We could have a washer. We had outside clothesline, so you didn’t need a dryer; you could take your clothes outside, no matter how far you had to walk, and hang ’em on the line. We could have television.
Kim: But this is the fact… I just wanna…
Ayani: I know, “we could have.”
Kim: Exactly! The fact that there’s a list of things that you could—that somebody’s telling you that could have. Again, white people, I need you to hear this! The federal government—’cause this is federal government housing—were telling families what they could and could not have.
Ayani: Yep. And there was a yearly inspection that they would tell you about. You know, “This is when your inspection is gonna be.” So they would come in and they would check to see what you had. They would check to see how clean up the property was, you know, that you keep your apartment clean. They would go through my mother’s drawers, dresser drawers, to make sure there were no male clothing items in there, because that would mean that she had somebody over there that spent the night or somethin’.
These were things that we were used to. We get the letter, your inspection is dotta-dotta-dotta date. Mom would make sure we cleaned out the cabinet. I mean, we’d do all kinda thing. We didn’t have a whole lot, but that the apartment would be sparklin’ anyway, because that was kind of person my mother was, but it would be super sparklin’ because we knew they were coming in and inspect. And inspect they did. They came in with their little clipboards and their little notes, and their little notes from the last inspection to make sure nothin’ had changed. And we went through this every year. If you were found to not be followin’ the rules, you got evicted. They didn’t care where you went.
Ayani: They didn’t care where you went. There wasn’t such—I don’t remember them givin’ any notices. It was just, “You got 10 days to get out. Your daughter is pregnant, where’s she gonna live when she have the baby? She can’t live wit’ you, because you’re only approved for such-and-such amount of people in your apartment.” So that’s the stereo[type] of the welfare queen with the women havin’ babies so they can get an apartment, that was based on some kind of truth, because when a teenage daughter got pregnant, she had to get her own apartment. And so a lot of them got their own apartments. And so you have young women, teenagers, with their own apartments because they couldn’t stay with their families.
Kim: And the family who was available to take care of them, help them take care of the baby, all of this stuff. And I thank you for coming on and for being so candid because I’m gonna hit this home again and again because I’m so sick of the “lazy Black” narrative. I’m so sick of the level of anti-Blackness that permeates our culture. It is, “Oh, it’s OK to do blackface.” It is, “Oh, they got shot, they must have done something wrong. Why are they runnin’ from the cops?” “Why this?” “Why that?”
And it’s a reason why I’m no longer in school because it’s… no matter—Black women are the most educated and degreed people in the United States, and yet we’re still aren’t making what the average white woman is makin’ without a degree. Or definitely the white man. And I’m just tired of the levels of anti-Blackness in other people of color, amongst ourselves; there’s so much internalized white supremacy and anti-Blackness among Black people.
We just really need to talk about this, because we did not create this. And so what this system does is it points a finger at us as the marginalized, as the victims. As in any other community, you point the finger at trans individuals, you point the finger at the LGBTQ community, you point the finger at people with disabilities, and say they are the reason that they’re in these situations. And it’s not. There has been a systematic paring down of Blackness that is baked into our federal policies, our state policies, our local policy. We see it in Georgia with the recent election. If it were not for Stacey Abrams and the work she did before running for governor about voter suppression, we would never hear about this because it’s been goin’ on for so long.
Ayani: And it’s the same thing that—when my sister was with Dr. King—that’s the same thing that they worked to dismantle, and it’s still happenin’. And that was back in the 60s.
Kim: And this is the thing, and so I tell people I’m very happy that Trump’s president—you can get mad at me all you want to—but what is done for the first time is make white people very uncomfortable. For the first time you havin’ to face what everybody else has been livin’ with, because if it wasn’t so bad for you, you wouldn’t care. And I’m just gonna be—you would not care, because if you had cared, you would have done something before this. But you were comfortable livin’ in your bubble. You never challenged anything. You never evaluated anything. You never evaluate your whiteness. And again, I’m gonna say—’cause it may be coming off that I hate white people—I do not hate white people. I do not. But I’m tired of you pointin’ the fingers at marginalized groups and sayin’ it’s our fault that we’re in the situations that we’re in, when there have been generations, centuries of bullshit piled upon us. And you’ve benefited from it.
Ayani: I wanted to touch on two things: the law enforcement aspect of living in the projects, and also what is now our current food stamp program.
Kim: Please do.
Ayani: Law enforcement. Of course, in Atlanta, you only had a few African Americans who were allowed to join the police force, but they were only allowed to patrol in Black areas. So in the projects we had Black police officers and they were members of the community. People knew them. The relationships were very cordial. My nickname growing up was Shakespeare because I was always reading. And I would sit on my front porch and read comic books, and we had this one police officer who patrolled, who would come by, sit on the porch with me, and read with me. He was a role model for the kids in the projects. We knew that if nobody else had our back, that he would get some help to us if we need it.
The other part of that was what later became a burgeoning gang scene. We had quote unquote “thugs” in the projects. Let me tell you how that work. I would go to the corner store, which was about three blocks away at 11 o’clock at night to get a dill pickle. I would pass by groups of guys hanging on the corner. Doo-wop. That’s where a lot of the doo-wop singers came in, the rhythm and blues age. “Here comes Shakespeare. Where you going, Shakespeare?” “Going to the store.” They holler up the street, “Ya’ll make sure Shakespeare get what she need and get back home safely.” They would watch me all the way until I got back home. “G’on in the house, now Shakespeare.” These were the precursors to the gang members. It was a community because we had to have each other to survive.
So the second part is what’s now the food stamp…
Kim: OK, I wanna hold off on the food stamp, because I want to speak to that too, because even in Cabrini—and that was in 2000 when I was there—it was the same thing. Now the gangs were much more violent by that point, but if there was something that was about to happen, they would—I worked at a after school program—they would come by and say, “Hey, this is about to happen at six o’clock. You need to get these kids out of here now.” So that community, it was still there. They were still taking care of us.
Even when I was teaching at high school and we were out on—the school was overcrowded and we were out in the trailers—and when there was—and this was in a suburb of Atlanta when there was a year when they were displacing all these, tearing down these projects. And so you had all these various gang members now, instead of in their areas, coming against each other or having to live in the same space with each other. They would actually, they knew that—and I was certified special needs teacher—so they knew that my students were special needs, so I had a relationship with them. If something’s goin’ down, before it goes down, make sure you come tell Miss Crayton so we can get out of here. That is what our community has always been. So I just wanted to put that out there.
Ayani: And I was assistant principal of an alternative high school in Chicago, and we had about seven gangs represented in that school. We never had a gang incident, as Kim was saying, they would come, “Miss Good, they’re getting ready, summin’s gonna kick off after school. You might want to get the kids out early.” We would call the police. They would sit out front so the kids could have safe passage; because our kids came from all over the city. They weren’t just neighborhood kids. And those kids would get home safely. All of the staff would get home safely. Whatever popped off popped off, but they kept us safe.
I remember goin’ somewhere one Sunday, and I was on the main street where the gangs hang out, and I saw these this group of kids pilin’ into this car, about seven or eight—so I knew they were up to no good—about seven or eight of them pilin’ up into this car. They were all hyped up. I walked past. They rolled the window down, “Hey, Miss Good. How you doing?” And I’m like, “OK.” So they knew who I was. They respected who I was. I don’t know what they got, ’cause I told ’em to stay out of trouble, which was probably not heeded at the time, but they had that respect for people who were tryin’ to do well.
The same in the projects; if they knew that you were goin’ to school—which I was in school—if they knew you were tryin’ to do somethin’, they made sure that nothin’ happened to you. Nothin’ happened to you. I could be out all times of the night by myself. Nothin’ ever happened to me because they were there—I knew they were out there.
Kim: Yeah. Exactly. [Laughs]
Ayani: They were watchin’ me. They were watchin’ me.
Kim: But go ‘head and tell your second story.
Ayani: OK. So back in the day, we had this thing called government commodities—and you’ll hear people wax nostalgic about the government cheese, which I hated, but they claim it makes the best macaroni and cheese in the world.
So you would get your notice to go down to wherever it was, the office, sort of like DCFS [Department of Children and Family Services], and go get your commodities for the month. So you got cheese—those big blocks of cheese—you got canned chicken, you got all sorts of things, which I guess why I’m such a finicky eater now, because I don’t eat half of the stuff that they were givin’ us. But that’s what people survived on because we didn’t have grocery stores in the area. We had fresh fruit, fresh vegetables? Get outta here. If it wasn’t in the can, we didn’t have it unless we had to go outside the neighborhood.
So now when I hear people talking about food stamp programs—then they went to the paper food stamps where they were different colors, the dollar denominations. So you went from that, and yeah, people sold them. People sold ’em so they could get stuff that food stamps wouldn’t allow ’em to buy.
Now you have the card, you have the EBT [Electronic Benefit Transfer] card. And I get so tired of people saying, “Well, I was in line in the grocery store and XYZ had a basket full of stuff and steak and lobster and was paying with the food stamp card.” As many people—and I have known hundreds who have been on food stamps—I have never once been in the grocery store behind one of ’em was buyin’ steak and lobster. And if they were buyin’ steak and lobster, why can’t they buy steak and lobster? Why can’t they buy chips for their kids? You know, they buy stuff, fast food items, because they can’t afford the fresh items, they can’t afford the fresh vegetables and fresh fruit.
But I get so tired of people dumpin’ on people who are food stamp recipients because they don’t buy the right kind of food; that if you’re poor, you should only eat certain kinda food.
Kim: But that right there is privileged and elitist in itself. “The right kinda food.”
Kim: And particularly when we live in a society where you can feed a family at McDonald’s much cheaper than you can feed a family at a grocery store.
Kim: Especially if you… now I’m not talkin’ about just gettin’ the groceries. You gotta get to the grocery store, you gotta get home to the grocery store, you gotta… all these other things.
Kim: That is so elitist and so privileged of people to say. And I get it. I used to think that. I used to think, “Why are they spendin’ all this money?”—’cause again, high school teacher—these kids comin’ in drinkin’—the first thing in the morning—they drinkin’ chips and juice, some red-dyed summin or other; it has absolutely no nutritional value. Why they’re doin’ that, because it’s cheaper to have that, and buy that in bulk, than it is to buy what you might call quote unquote “real food.”
Kim: It is about, at some point in some people’s lives, it’s about just putting food in their child’s or their mouths, in their stomachs.
Ayani: And then why do some people sell? They sell their food stamps because number one, if you’re a female, you cannot buy feminine hygiene products on food stamps. You can’t buy toilet paper wi’ food stamps. So if the only thing you have comin’ in is food stamps, how are you gonna get those necessities?
Kim: Oh, that’s a very good point. That is a very good point. Again…
Ayani: There’s a whole list of things that you can buy. You can buy cold sandwiches from Kroger or whatever, but you can’t buy hot food, you can’t buy anything hot. It’s just… it seems so arbitrary.
Kim: But it isn’t. It’s goin’ back again to treating people like they’re property, like they’re inhumane.
Ayani: Children. They can’t make decisions for themselves on what their kids should eat.
Kim: Yeah, yeah. Instead, of—and then it goes back to just like you just said… oh my god, you just hit it for me—because it goes back to blamin’ the victim instead of understandin’ that this is a system problem. This is not about… this is—oh my god—this is so about… and this is what gets me when people wanna talk about racism. They love the definition of racism that’s in the Webster’s dictionary, which is about a person, a person doing something intentionally to discriminate. When we talk about racism today…
Kim: …it’s a systemic—the person is just the effect. I mean, yeah, the cause. The new definition of racism talks about the effect on people’s lives, the effect of racism on groups of people. This is what when I talk about marginalization, it’s not people, it’s not about marginalizing—marginalization is not about one person. It’s not about the individual. It’s about how these systems oppress and impact groups, communities of individuals.
Ayani: I can’t buy diapers on food stamps. I can’t get toilet paper, I can’t get sanitary napkins or tampons. And the WIC program [Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children] started because they wanted—Women, Infants and Children—because they wanted babies to have healthy food. So there are certain products that are like fresh foods and stuff like that, that if you’re a mother on WIC, you can get those kinds of things because they know that those are necessary, but if you’re just a normal food stamp recipient, those things weren’t earmarked for you. You get what you get.
Kim: And then it speaks to—so this episode is coming after Virginia Eubanks’ episode when she’s talkin’… her book “Automating Inequality”, and we talked about welfare. And I really wanted to have this conversation right after hers because she talks about—she was in welfare, social justice—and she talks about, they were talkin’ about the technical stuff, and these women in this community weren’t using—they had the computer lab set up—and these women weren’t usin’ it, so there’s an assumption that, “Oh, that they’re just afraid of technology, they’re not impacted by technology.” And this one individual said, “No, our lives are consumed wit technology. It’s being used against us.” So we’re gonna talk about that EBT card. So now the person who is your social worker or caseworker can now see—evaluate—everything you’ve purchased.
Ayani: Yes ma’am.
Kim: No one should have that damn much surveillance over you. Where is the ACL-whatever. What is it?
Ayani: ACLU. [American Civil Liberties Union]
Kim: Yeah. Where are they with this stuff? We have been surveilling the poor—and this is white poor, Black poor, Latinx poor, Asian poor, all of them—we have been surveilling the poor for so long, and so when Virginia said she was doin’ the research, she thought it started back when, you know the 90s, and she was like, “No, it went farther.” But she’s like, “OK, it had to start in the 80s.” She’s like, “No, oh my god, it started…” And so then it was like we’ve been surveilling the poor, using their data against them as weapons against them from when these programs started. And now it’s so much easier because now it’s a part of the computer system.
Ayani: Right. And if you apply for food stamps, Medicaid office automatically gets your information, IRS [Internal Revenue Service] automatically gets your information. If you get any income that has to be reported to IRS, that information immediately goes back to the food stamp office. And so everybody knows what everybody has. And we were on welfare where we were livin’ in the projects, and my mom would have to go and visit the welfare office and bring them up to date on what she was doin’. And of course she always got comments because she was very nicely dressed.
When we finally moved outta the projects and moved into a regular apartment, and eventually—my mother only had a ninth grade education—but somehow or nother this same sister who worked with Dr. King got her on as a data entry clerk with the state of Georgia. So she goes down to the welfare office, “I have a job, I don’t need…”—it took her forever for them to take her off the welfare roll. They did not want to take her off.
Ayani: I don’t know if they had quotas or what, but it took ’em forever to say I don’t need this anymore.
Kim: Because her being on the welfare rolls and havin’ the income, that could have negatively impacted her, right?
Ayani: Right. She had to initiate, “Take me off.” “Well, we gonna keep you on anotha 30…” “Take me off.” I mean, we would make a joke about it. I’m like, “Wow, I didn’t know you had to fight to get off welfare. I know you had to struggle to get on some time, but I didn’t realize you had to fight to get off it.” But it took us some months to be able to get off welfare. And she was so glad when she did.
Kim: Wow… I just I just think about—because everybody wants to talk about how Russia, and I’m not minimizing these situations, but you know how the Soviet Union, or communism… North Korea, how they surveil; China, how they surveil; during World War Two with Germany and Italy. We’re doin’ this in our country every single day to people, and no one’s raising arms about it.
So when I just laugh when people talk about, “Oh, we’re now fascist.” Do you not know what we’ve been… what you’ve… But again, let me stop. It’s only been people of color, particularly Black people who had to deal with this; so no, I guess you don’t care, or didn’t know what was going on to families for generations, and it did not… and now, because you get to see it, or now it’s impacting you, it’s fascism.
This is how Black people have survived in the United States since slavery. [Laughs] We’ve been given the shit end of the stick at every turn. And we—if the plan had worked out, I guess how it should—we shouldn’t, I mean, when I think about it, we shouldn’t really exist right now. We have overcome so many barriers on so many levels. So we’re talkin’ about welfare and public housin’, which is on the federal level; we’re talkin’ about voter suppression that was Jim Crow and all of that on the state level; then we’re talkin’ about just local stuff; then we’re talkin’ about how the family dynamics… we’ve had it coming and going for centuries.
Ayani: And let us not leave out the medical field.
Kim: Oh, yes, please. Yes.
Ayani: My second cause a scene incident involved the medical field. I go to a doctor, and they want to—and I’m a senior citizen, so we’re supposed to sit there and listen to the doctor and get prescribed all kinda medicine. Well, I haven’t always been a senior citizen, and I’m very educated, and I’m very well read, and I’m a researcher. So they wanted to give me—high cholesterol runs in our family, there is hereditary impact of cholesterol in our family—so they want to give me these drugs called statins—there’re different names, but statin, S-T-A-T-I-N, is on the end of it. Well, I went and researched and it said that there was some very bad side effects of statins, so I’m like, “No, I’m not gonna these.”
So I go to the doctor. “Well, your cholesterol is high.” “Yeah it always is.” “Your blood pressure is fine.” “Yeah, thank you.” “So, we’re gonna give you this whatever-whatever-statin.” And I’m like, “No, you’re not.” “Well, that’s the best thing, that is the only thing that lowers cholesterol.” “Well, hey, mine won’t get lower because you’re not gonna give it to me.” So because I go to the clinic—they have a supervisin’ physician, so he brings in, the resident brings in the top gun. “Oh, this is the best thing for cholesterol and it guards against strokes.” And I’m like, “No, not gonna take ’em.” So every time I go to the clinic, the first thing they talk about is the statins and the cholesterol.
So the last time I went, I had done some research, you know, just just in case. First thing out of their mouth is the statins. I said, “Let me inform you of some recent research that says that statins are contra-indicated for persons of African American ethnicity because they’ve never been tested on ’em, because every medicine is tested on other ethnic groups other than African Americans. We don’t have the same reactions to statins as white people, as for an example, and they’re saying do not prescribe these, or be very careful and prescribing these statins to African Americans.” So I tell him that. “Oh, well, anybody could do research. They could get on Google.” I said, “Johns Hopkins University, June 2018, put out this recent study,” and I quoted him chapter and verse what the study said, and it was like, oh, so this isn’t one of these elderly women that we can just say, “Oh, you need this,” and you say, “Yessuh, doctor,” and get a prescription.
Kim: Exactly! And it happens because they underestimate us. See, this is why I stopped fuckin’ goin’ to school. I don’t care how many damn degrees I have, how many initials I put on the back of my name; I’m always gonna be questioned about my intellect, my ability, my all of that. It’s always gonna come into question. We’re seein’ it now—I’ve been havin’ a conversation with a friend—because we’re seeing now—only because they have platforms, only because they have millions of fans—how Black women have been dying or been adversely… or been harmed just giving birth, just giving frickin’ birth. We’re only hearing about this in 2018 because Beyoncé and Serena [Williams] and now—I can’t think of her name… another rapper, female—just had a trauma in her delivery.
But think about all the generations of women who’ve died, because none of these things have been tested on us. No one has researched the health of Black people. And then I’m gonna drop—I’m glad you brought that up, ’cause I’ma drop this in the show notes—that Black women were actually experimented on because, one—that’s another issue—there’s this this fallacy that we don’t feel pain, or feel pain in the same levels as white people, so we’re least likely to be given any pain relief or be believed about pain.
Ayani: I was gonna say, they don’t even want to listen to you about pain. But I cause a scene every time I go to my doctor.
Kim: Well, good.
Ayani: I have my research and I have my mouth. And you’re not gonna shut me down. And you could say, “I’m not gonna treat you,” but that’s that’s fine too.
Kim: Yeah, exactly. And this is what this whole cause a scene movement is about. It’s about us not—as long as I got a microphone and a Twitter account or whoever, and a Internet connection, I have the same access to the world that traditionally I’ve been excluded from.
Kim: This has been a very enlightening conversation. I know, listeners, it seems like we’ve been all over the place. I could bring on a litany of people and talk about anti-Blackness, because you really need to understand and break down, when you have these questions in your mind, when you see something, and we have all these videos of these white women attacking Black people and people of color—this is why I say white people are racist by by definition. You don’t have to like it; I don’t give a shit. But what you do have to do if this is important to you to change this system is, you—at this point—you need to demonstrate to me, are you actively working to be antiracist, or are you on the spectrum of white supremacy?
Ayani: And you have to have me come back, Kim, because I haven’t even addressed the educational system…
Kim: Oh my god.
Ayani: …and my career experiences. [Laughs]
Kim: All right, so we’ll definitely have to have a part two with Ayani Good. So are there any last words that you have?
Ayani: Just that people just need to stop being afraid of repercussions when they speak out. You gonna get repercussions when you don’t speak up. So I might as well—like Dr. King—you go and you get beat up, but you still make ya point. I’m gonna make my point. I’d rather make my point and get beat up for it then sit back and let stuff happen to me or to other people who don’t feel that they have a voice. As long as I can speak, I’m gonna speak. I’m gonna speak against injustice, and I’m gonna be for my community. It’s just second nature to me to wanna speak out against injustice. And I’m gonna keep doing it. I’m gonna keep on—as the spiritual song [Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Round], “I’m gonna keep on marching.” I’m gonna keep on marching. I’m gonna keep on preaching. I’m gonna keep on doing everything I do until they lay my body in the cold ground. That’s just it.
Kim: That’s deep, because I wanna—thank you for that—because I wanna say, this is why white liberals are a pain in my ass, and why white feminists are pain in my ass; you’re not willin’ to give up your privilege so that we can all get there together. We don’t get there together, we don’t get there at all. Thank you so much, Ayani Good, and have a wonderful day.
Ayani: Thank you. Bye bye.
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Originally posted on August 19, 2018 I will begin this post as I begin each talk, with a list of my credentials because there’s always
There are many reasons that businesses succeed or fail but in an Information Age economy, one looms bright. The reason organizations like Amazon and Walmart