“It’s so obvious in the US that the big thing that has shaped the entire history of this nation is fuckin’ racism. Specifically…I don’t feel like I’m making a moral statement here, you can just look at the history. Like, there was not industrial capitalism until 1850, but there was slavery for a lot longer than that.”
Hannah Howard is a senior developer and tech generalist with over 15 years experience in programming and other technical fields. Prior to programming, Hannah worked for 10 years in the non-profit sector in Los Angeles, specializing in LGBT advocacy and community organizing. Hannah returned to coding in 2012, and brings her passion and experience from community organizing to helping new programmers get up to speed on technical topics.
Kim Crayton: Hello, everyone. And welcome to today’s episode of the #CauseAScene podcast. Today’s guest is Hannah Howard; pronouns she / her. Hannah, would you please introduce yourself to the audience?
Hannah Howard: Hi, everyone. I’m Hannah. I’m a—I don’t know—a developer person in the world of tech. And then before I was a tech person, I was involved in various forms of activist work for about 12… 10 to 15 years? Yeah. [Laughs] Yeah, so that’s me.
Kim: Alright, so two questions I always start with is: why is it important to cause a scene? And how are you causing a scene?
Hannah: Sure. Yeah. So I was thinking about this before we talked, and to me, when I think of causing a scene, I think I’m the person in the room who says the thing that is true, but no one wants to say, you know? And then everyone gets uncomfortable, right? And I think that, that’s really—when I think about any kind of changing culture type work—there’s a kind of work which I think is valuable and has a time and place, which is like, sort of like reinforcing type of thing where you’re like, “I’m gonna make you feel better about your diversity if you do a few changes and you start…” like, you know, it’s that give and take stuff. But then that only works if there’s also the moment where the actual thing is said and people are made to feel uncomfortable and made to feel like they have something they need to do, ’cause otherwise you’re never gonna get anyone to do anything. Yeah, so that’s my take on why it’s important to cause a scene.
In terms of how I’m causing a scene? Well, these days, I have a slightly interesting position. I’m working in a ridiculous… I have a client—I work for a consulting company and I have a client who is building something that… I’ve rarely worked on anything in tech where I felt like this could be the future, you know, where it’s like, “This might actually change some things!” This is—they’re trying to rewrite the underlying protocols of the Internet. It’s really weird stuff. In the moment I’m in the mix of it, ’cause I was just like, somebody needs to be in the mix because this [inaudible]. I mean, the next phase of the Internet is unfortunately being built by folx who look pretty similar to the last phase. [Kim laughs]
And I’m not even that different, but I was like, “I wanna be in here!” And I have; it’s been taking a long time because I really felt like I needed to build some cred, but I’m trying in little ways to start to say things that actually lay out what’s going on there. I don’t know, that’s the latest thing. And then the other—the main thing I do, on a regular basis, is I give away a bunch of my salary, and I try to get other people to do it, because I think if you are in tech and you are not from some form of generational poverty, I don’t think you have any business hanging onto your entire salary. So, yeah, that’s my take. Which might be a strong take, but yeah. [Laughs]
Kim: OK, because we’re gonna talk about it. So first of all, I want to talk to you about why were you hesitant when you said “activist work?” [Laughs]
Hannah: Oh, oh, yeah. [Laughs] So, I was involved in a lot of things. Some of it was like, you know, I for five years tried to build a nonprofit in Los Angeles for trans folx of color and tried to help get that off the ground. But then I was also at one point in—I mean, my politics were very far left, and I was in a full-on revolutionary vanguard party for a bit. I don’t know if that term makes any sense, but it’s like a group of people who meet frequently and make decisions with each other about how they think the revolution’s gonna come about. I didn’t do, you know, I wasn’t involved in, I mean, I wasn’t actually throwing Molotov cocktails or anything, but, you know, pretty far…
Yeah. And there’s a lot of stuff that’s just sorta like… There was like, you know, I also do action—I kind of enjoy direct action type stuff, like trying to shut down traffic for a reason or another—I’ve done a fair amount of that. I don’t know if that falls under activist work. That’s why I like—I don’t know what the category is that doesn’t sound like, “Oh, you’re… whatever.” [Laughs]
Kim: It’s whatever, it’s basically… So to me, I just, I just saw your hesitation, and I was like, I wonder what was behind that.
Hannah: Yeah, yeah.
Kim: Because you just brought up some—so you brought up some interesting things. So I really feel you on this incremental change thing. I have been—and if nothing about this pandemic has shown me—it is that the time for incremental change, to slowly move people out of their comfort zone, has passed.
Kim: It is time for some people to really get uncomfortable. And unfortunately, many are gonna have to experience some pain before…
Hannah: Yeah, I mean, I went through that, it’s fairly unavoidable at this point.
Kim: Yeah. Exactly. And people need to embrace that instead of running away from it, ’cause we can’t—there is no going back. This pendulum has swung so far. Where we see the outcomes—finally—of white supremacy finally impacting white people that we have to, we gotta come up… the pendulum has to come somewhere, it is so far—I don’t even want to say left or right—because I personally don’t see much difference in a lot of it. It’s all white supremacy to me.
Hannah: For sure, for sure.
Kim: So that means that fundamentally, the people who lead are gonna have to be different than the people who are leading now. And that’s gonna be a huge pushback because of the power that people get from leading. And I love—and we’re gonna talk about that—but I also wanna talk about why you give your salary, ’cause I wanna thank you for being a #CauseAScene Podcast sponsor. And this is from somebody who told me on the show, she rarely listens to the show. So it’s, for you, it’s not even about, “Oh, I’m getting something.” You’re just giving because you feel that this is something you need to give.
Hannah: Yeah, yeah. I mean, for me, it’s sort of—this is a little ridiculous—but I just feel that if you look at our tax code—circa around the time of Reagan—changed massively so that people who have a certain income don’t get taxed the way they used to. And so I just, as a part of my—and also, just honestly—so one, I just feel like I’m paying the taxes I’m not paying, you know?
But then the other is that, I mean, I—as a result of being trans and as a result of—I transitioned out of tech; I transitioned almost 20 years ago. And I had 12 years of just being a super, like, a mess of a trans person, you know, trying to get through the world before I got into tech. And so my community—which is Los Angeles—you know, Los Angeles is obviously a very economically and very racially diverse city. And so the trans community here is very diverse. And I just was like, I dunno, I’m in contact with a lot of my friends who are not—most of my friendship circles are not techies. And so I just see what folx are going through, and I just feel like this is not OK. You can’t just have people, I don’t know, like GoFundMe-ing their how they’re gonna pay rent or get food. You know?
Hannah: Obviously, that’s very prevalent right now, but, I mean, I don’t know, at least in the world I’m in it seems like…
Kim: And it’s so funny because people have asked—so the sponsorship for #CauseAScene community is $100 commitment a month—and people have asked, why don’t I do $50, why don’t I do $25? And it’s because this space has people who can spend that kind of money and the people who can’t, I don’t want their money. I don’t want somebody who—’cause the people who can fund this work are the people—let’s be honest—who’re doing the least amount of on-the-ground, as you say, direct action. So the very least you can do is fund this work. Hosting has gone up because we’ve gotten popular. All these things cost money, and I push back on, “But you can get more…” No, I don’t want—for the first time, I want people with privilege to pay for some shit. I really want them to understand that you are helping to support a community that needs your support.
Hannah: Yeah, yeah. I mean my experience in givin’ away money and then trying to get other folx to give away money—and from a practical standpoint, I don’t think it’s probably effective to shame people—but from a certain standpoint, I am constantly shocked when I ask for money that, honestly, it’s usually people with less who give it.
Kim: YES. And that’s, you’re absolutely—and that’s why I don’t do it, because I have people like, “Oh, I can’t give that, can I…?” No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. You can buy me a book, go to my Amazon wish list and buy me a book. Or go to the website and get some merchandise. I do not want you… and this is the thing, it was an intentional—again, everything I do is strategic—it was an intentional strategy to get people who could, who piss away money on sushi, piss away money on Uber and Lyfts, piss away—I mean, you don’t even see $100 comin’ outta your pocket—to give to something that supports a larger community, ’cause it’s something. And so, no, I just so agree with you that the people who can give the least are always giving the most.
Hannah: Yeah, yeah. I mean, yes, I just, I don’t know, it’s like reality. I will say, you know, like, something, part of the reason I chose to support you, and I don’t watch the—I don’t listen to the podcast that much, but I follow you on Twitter and I heard you give talks, and when you talk about everything you do is strategic, right? When I was listening to you—I don’t know your full background, but you strike me as someone who’s been thinking about these issues for decades, right? [Kim laughs]
And I love a lot of the tech folx who are trying to make a change, but a lot of them are folx who are in their job and were just feelin’ kinda like, I mean, feeling crappy because they had a marginalized identity and trying to figure out what to do about it. But they don’t, they haven’t been trying to, they haven’t been thinking about these, like, “How do I actually make change happen?” You know? And then, and they’re very quickly thrust into sort of being like these tech diversity leaders because they speak up once, and then it’s like, “Oh, well this person’s speaking up,” you know?
Kim: Yes. Exactly, exactly. So they get this—yes, they either willingly go or they’re pulled into a space that they know nothing about.
Hannah: Yeah, yeah, that’s not what… yeah.
Kim: You’re not listenin’ to that. You are—and these, and also, I don’t think people understand that the level of responsibility comes with being on a platform and being verified.
Hannah: Sure, yeah.
Kim: And people just say whatever they want. I come from a background of educating, of learning, of teaching, and so I recognize that there’s a level of responsibility that I have with learners. That when I say something, I have to really have thought about what I say. I remember when I first started in this space, I used to fight a lot of other people’s battles, ’cause they get into—and at this point, I’m like, “No, no, no, I’m not doing that anymore. That’s not a part of my strategy.” [Laughs]
Hannah: Right, right.
Kim: I mean, and people get so pissed ’cause of when I’m quote-tweeting something, they’re like, “You’re not gonna answer me directly?” Bitch, you are part of the lesson. Why would I engage the lesson? This is not for me or for you, it’s for people who follow.
Hannah: Totally, totally.
Kim: And so it’s very strategic in that way. I’m like, “No, I’m not…” So that’s my direct action. And it’s so interesting that you, as a white person, has—like you said—like standing in front of traffic. I wouldn’t do that direct action because I know that wouldn’t be safe for me. And so it’s so interesting, it’s like I tell people all the time, you can—there are places in here that you can feel. And if it’s just giving money out of your pocket every month, then do that.
Like we have a whole #CauseAScene team of volunteers. I have a website team, I have a podcast team, I have a design team, of all white volunteers, sayin’, “Hey!” You want to make sure this thing does something and it has the impact and is growing, and that’s the work, and I just don’t—yeah, I do get it—I was about to say I don’t get why people don’t, [Laughs] but I do. I do.
There’s so many people… well, one thing about whiteness, though—and this is where we’ll get into your… the reason I asked you on the podcast was a tweet that you made—but one thing about whiteness is—which is totally different from marginalized groups—whiteness is designed to think about itself as an individual. And that is gonna be the undoing, or where a lot of the pain for white folx is gonna come as we move to a more inclusive, diverse space, is because marginalized groups have learned that we cannot survive without our whole community.
And just like, you know, although you’re white, you’re also in the trans community, which understands we cannot survive unless we work together. And unless you’re at a margin, at some kind of marginalized intersection, many white people not gonna—they’re gonna get this the hard way, and they’re gonna think it’s about them and it’s personal. And it’s not. This is about for the first time you’re being impacted in ways that other communities have always been impacted. And that’s what’s been interesting, and kind of funny, and kind of pissed off to see on Twitter, are just people just like, “Oh my god, this is just… this pandemic thing is so bad!” Oh wow, yeah it is. But who’s dying? Who’s dying? You know, kind of thing.
So I wanted to read you—read the tweet. So it was on December—not December, lord have mercy—April 1st…
Hannah: It seems that way.
Kim: Exactly, exactly. April 1st. And Hannah’s tweet says:
I deeply appreciate that we have terms like “white feminism” to recognize that feminism absent and integration of race is basically useless. But I would argue most leftism in political discourse is “white leftism,” and it’s basically useless as well.
And then you get into… you say the next, like you maybe have heard…
Hannah: Sometimes I write too quickly.
Kim: No, no, no, no, no. I do the same thing, so don’t worry about it. It’s gon’ be OK. They know that I stumble on this thing.
Like you maybe have heard your white feminist phase like Susan B. Anthony was kind of, oh, racist. [Laughs] But have you checked out how Karl Marx felt about Black people? Yeah, do that before you meme him again.
So talk to me about—because you are speaking my language. When I saw that, I was like, “This is my language! This is a white person, a white female, talking specifically—’cause that’s what I need more white people to do—I need more people to talk specifically about race. This ducking and dodging and making everything about class is a problem.
Hannah: Oh, yeah, yeah. No. I mean, yeah. I agree.
Kim: So tell me, so talk to me about why you thought it necessary to tweet about that, and what responses did you get?
Hannah: Yeah, so I will say I’ve been—like this, right now, is kind of feeling like a moment for me personally where a lot of… like, I’m reconsidering a lot of political ideas that I’ve held for a long time. But more… what did I wanna… oh OK. I mean, the thing that’s really still—I’ve been on the left left for a really long time, right? Like I told you, 10 years ago, I was in an actual revolutionary party. And, in the last few years—mostly since you know, whatever Bernie Sanders ran his run—the number of people who identify as being on the left has gone way up, right?
But the thing that has, like, that frickin’ drives me nuts being on the left is this sort of religious belief in, like, capitalism is the root of everything. And I don’t mean to say that capitalism—I am not a believer in it as a good system, and I think it’s pretty… probably at some point, we need to find somethin’ better—but I find that, like, how can you put this above everything else, when if you look at the raw history of the US, at least—I don’t know if I’m speaking for the whole world—but I mean, it’s so obvious in the US that the big thing that has shaped the entire history of this nation is fuckin’ racism. I mean, I don’t feel like I’m making a moral statement here. It’s like you can look the history.
Kim: It’s factual, exactly!
Hannah: Yeah, like there was not industrial capitalism until what, like 1850? But there was slavery for a lot longer than that.
Hannah: …1850, but there was slavery for a lot longer than that. Yeah, I mean, it’s a very dark history. And I kept thinking about how—so I don’t, I’m not a huge believer in just feminism across the board—and I think it’s done a very crappy job of responding, I think—particularly white feminists have done a terrible job of responding to women of color feminists pointing out the bullshit that is going on. But there’s a history there that goes on and it goes back like 40 years, right? So, you know, probably Audrey Lorde and even before that. And so at least it’s like a discourse that we have and we—not a discourse—you know, it’s like you can talk about it. You can say, “Oh, white feminism.” And you know what that means, right?
Kim: Yeah, the label means something.
Hannah: And some people will be like, “Oh, that’s not fair.”
Kim: But the label means something.
Hannah: But there’s no way to say that about a lot of these leftists, you know, there’s no way to say, “This is just not OK.”
Kim: And exact—and that has been my argument from the… So first of all, I want to thank you because I completely—I don’t think that there is anything inherently wrong with capitalism as a theory. It has been implemented all over the world as racist. That is the problem. And even if you look at socialism, it’s racist. Even if you look at communism, it’s racist; so I don’t get how—I get it, because that’s people who don’t care about history. They want to swap one racist system out for another. Well, as a Black person, they’re all gonna impact me. So no, no, you don’t get the switch one racist system out for another.
So one of the things that I’m working on is a book, “Redefining Capitalism without White Supremacy.” And these are the questions I’m asking ’cause when you talk about Karl Marx, I look back and I look at, who’s the father of economics, is Adam Smith. And there was a choice, a conscious decision, to root our economy in slavery. So it wasn’t—so people wanna act like it just happened. No, Adam Smith wrote two books: “The Moral Sentiment” and “Wealth of the Nation” [correction: “Wealth of Nations”] and in both of those books he talks about moral and ethical capitalism. And he actually talked about how slavery—’cause “Wealth of a Nation” was in 1776—people, do you know what happened in the US in 1776? We got our independence.
So that means that Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, all these people knew about, knew about what Adam Smith was writing about. And he talks about—he was an abolitionist—so he talks about this. And he talks about how, you know, the issues of slavery were a moral impediment to capitalism. So people want to act like, “Oh, this is just, you know, it’s just…” No, no, no, no, no, no, no. If you look just at the definition of capitalism, can we go back to that? Can we get, make it—like you said—can we… before you say “Throw out capitalism!” let’s say, “Can there be an antiracist version of capitalism that prioritizes the most vulnerable?”
And I think we can do that, because we’re seeing even on the microscopic level where there are companies who are building out of stakeholder value instead of just shareholder value. They’re thinking about who works for them, who partners with them, who buys from them and then who invests with them. There is a whole different languaging that we need to talk about. And stop saying as if capitalism is the thing, because going back to your thing about leftists, I can tell you—and I said this and I will continue to say it—because of Sanders’s refusal to talk about race, I do not see him fundamentally as being—and because he has a history of not being able to build coalitions—I see him fundamentally as being no different from Trump.
And I know people don’t like when I say that, but his policies will cause harm to the most vulnerable, period, because he refuses to have those conversations about what impacts us. If you’re not a fully antiracist candidate, you are not a candidate for me. So that includes Biden. So I don’t know why people think, just think because I have these kinds of critiques about Sanders that I fall into Biden. No! Black people took this damn race from y’all because they saw what was coming. They saw, OK, it’s time to prioritize, to do harm reduction here.
And the thing that’s gonna—’cause when you have constituents of people who believe in turning over tables and they come from the most privileged group… I don’t want to hear about a whole bunch of white dudes that look like Trump supporters talkin’ about flippin’ tables when the tables won’t get flipped on top of them. They would get flipped on top of me. And this is why I keep—when I ask people, “Hey, what is the implementation strategy for Medicare for All?” No one can tell. They want to keep sendin’ me talkin’ points from the website. That ain’t what the fuck I asked for. Talkin’ points from the website is not gonna… what is the plan? You want to have a revolution, you want to flip tables? What is the plan not to harm the people who’re already harmed?
If you know that the Senate and the Supreme Court is stacked the way it is, what is the implementation day one of how we’re gonna get this shit through? You don’t have that, you can’t communicate that to me, I don’t have—I can’t get with that. It’s just—I don’t have the privilege as a Black woman to have these fantasies. I don’t. And so that’s what Black older voters saw. They were like, “Bullshit. We got hoses turned on us. We got dogs turned on us. People told us where we couldn’t sit and ride, and where to eat, and where to get water. So, no, I don’t believe that Miss Thing, who talks about how liberal and progressive she is in her yoga class, is actually gonna vote for this shit. So no, we’re not gonna have this.”
This election is about harm prevention, and if you can’t get with that, I don’t understand. To me, that is the fundamental issue I have with the far left. It’s like, “Oh, OK, yeah, yeah.” I see a bunch of privileged individuals who are not thinking about how your flippin’ the table without a fucking strategy is gonna gonna impact the people who are least able to survive this shit.
Hannah: Right. Yeah. Yeah! You know, I think about what you said at the beginning about white people being harmed by white supremacy for the first time. And I feel like a lot of these folx—I mean, I don’t wanna pretend that they’re not; they are being harmed in some way by the system that we built. But I feel like the response comes from someone who like, yeah, it’s their first time being on the shit end of the stick. [Kim laughs] You know, and they’re like, “This is bullshit!”
Kim: And they’re whining and we’re looking at ’em like, “Shit. Welcome to the club!” [Laughs]
Hannah: Yeah, I know! No, I mean; yeah, it’s interesting, ’cause like…
Kim: So how would you—how do you handle that? As somebody who’s been on the far left, who’s been actively in groups like that, and you see white leftism. What is your answer to that? How do you…
Hannah: Yeah. I mean, honestly, I spend a lot of time trying to figure out who I can get to move out of that camp of like being the… taking that kind of totally narrow and honestly clueless kind of position and trying to figure out like… I mean, I talk to a lot of people. I tweet a lot about it. And the thing is, I feel like, it’s interesting, because I do… I mean, on my Facebook—I don’t really share my Facebook with most tech people, ’cause all my friends are like pre-tech—and it’s kind of a scene. So I have this thing that I was basically, for several—like for the whole campaign, going back maybe a year before now—I’ve been periodically just tweeting like, “Fuck Bernie Sanders.”
Kim: Oh wow. OK.
Hannah: And it just says that; I don’t say anything else. And I just see how people react, you know, and people got real pissed, like a lot of people. You know, I will say I think my friend group is—I don’t wanna talk of old leftists as different, but I think there was a little bit of a shift because people who are—particularly baby boomer generation leftists—and I don’t mean people who were radical in the 60s and then went and lived their nice lives. But there’s a small group of people who, they did that in the 60s, and then they kept doing it, and they made real, serious sacrifices, and went and worked in factories for years, thinkin’ that was gonna change stuff. Those folx, that strain, 10 years ago, those folx were still shaping a lot of things, and because they came out of the actual civil rights movement and then the Black Power movement, I think they had a little more consciousness around some of the stuff, so I feel like as a result, just—a small result—I feel like some of them are more receptive, because they’ve been doing this for a long time.
But it’s interesting, because at first people were really hostile to whenever I would tweet that, or post with Facebook, whatever. And I got a lot of pushback and a lot of people were—literally, people were like, “I can’t go on your page anymore.” And I was trying to—I didn’t want to explain it because I didn’t want—but eventually did. I was like, “I need you to understand. I’m not saying I hate everything about this person or like that, or he’s not, you know, whatever he’s trying to do. What I’m trying to point out is that he’s not—you got to get off this idol shit with him.”
Kim: Oh, my god. Yes, that’s my whole point. I’m like, “A revolution is a coalition, not a personality.” Y’all have to stop doing this shit! Yes!
Hannah: Yeah. So that was the first thing. And then I was like, “I want you know, every time I tweet this, I tweet it because I…” this switched a little bit, but at some point I was like, I’m gonna stop doing it randomly. But I’m gonna do it every time I hear about a prominent woman of color on Twitter getting harassed by Bernie people.
Hannah: And I did it, and I would do it, and it was funny, at some point…
Kim: You must have been tweeting a lot because that shit has been… [Laughs]
Hannah: Yeah, yeah. I mean, Roxane Gay, and you know, I don’t know, my friend Sonia, who’s just like a tech person. It’s like all these people—and I have one friend who was a surrogate for Warren. She’s this woman named Ashlee Marie Preston, I believe.
Kim: Yeah, I know her. Mhm. I follow her, yes.
Hannah: So, you know, she got just ripped to shreds by—and she’s someone I know relatively closely. So I was like listening to her as this stuff happened, and it was weeks upon weeks of just raw harassment. And I was just… after that, I was really pissed, and I was kind of not nice with people sometimes, because it was just not OK.
Kim: And then, so another issue I have with that campaign was… OK, so, the fact that, as you said, these Black women were getting harassed and no one from that campaign would say, “This is inappropriate.” But also, the thing that I—there was an opportunity—I’m glad you brought that up about the older, left people who actually stayed in, ’cause I got so sick of seeing that one damn picture of him gettin’ arrested. Yeah, that does not make a civil rights icon. And yet, he had an opportunity—I think to me, as an educator, he had an obligation.
Kim: As an educator, particularly somebody who loved high school students, loved high school students and undergrad students, he had an obligation and a responsibility to… if you’re gonna—since he was appealing to younger people, there was an opportunity to help teach them how to work against systems of oppression that did not harm the most vulnerable. And to me, he failed on every level of that. Because, as a educator, when I’m working with that group, oh my god, they have so much energy. But I also understand, and this is science, that the frontal cortex is not really developed until age 25. So that means your risk—the ability of young people under 25 to understand risk and measure risk is not as developed as later. That’s just, that’s just how the brain works. So this is not an indictment of younger people.
And so when I was working with them, I had to have that in mind when I talked about strategy, when I talked about, “Hey, you’re doing this thing, I know you don’t see it as a long term issue, but let me show you how this can affect you long term,” kind of thing. Or, “Here are some choices, here are some consequences. Which one do you want?” You know, that kind of thing. Or, how to… he had a perfect opportunity to get—particularly when you’re talkin’ about these, the young marginalized people who’re in his space—how to get them to a place where you don’t disrespect the people who’ve done the hard work. You acknowledge it and acknowledge that there still needs to be change. But you don’t shit on your elders, who’ve actually gotten you to where the fuck you are. You don’t do that. You can be your Millennial and your Gen Z only because these people did what they did.
And so that’s a huge opportunity that I saw that was just problematic. And one of the things that I say is, in five years, what I’m definitely gonna see with these young Black women who were in this camp—because he never talked about race, and this is a group of people whose parents never really talked to them about race—what’s gonna happen is they’re going to see themselves going into the workplace for the first time and having heard, “We have to give 110%,” but no one talkin’ about why they have to give 110%, “Because you’re Black, and this dadada.” They’re gonna see that Chad and Karen are gettin’ promotions. They’re going to see them getting stuff that they’re not qualified for, and they can’t, and they’re not gonna understand why. And there’s gonna be a frustration. And there’s gonna be an internalized self esteem issue because they’re gonna be like, “Well it’s about me.” It’s not about you. It’s about the system, and you’ve done nothing to help dismantle the system.
We all need to be working in the same way, but if we can’t acknowledge that there’s a system there, if the only thing you wanna talk about is poor people—poor white people are doing so much better in this pandemic than poor Black—I mean, than even the wealthiest Black person. So we gotta stop skirtin’ around this shit, and let’s talk about it. And to me—so when you say that the far, that the left, that—to me the progressive part is no longer progressive anymore. Most Democrats believe in some form of universal health care. Most Democrats believe what used to be the progressive movement. If the progressive movement, as I said before, is not about being antiracist, it’s not progressive to me.
Hannah: Yeah, totally. I mean, you’re right. Yeah, it’s not. It’s not.
Kim: So for me, the far left, if you’re not antiracist, all it is is anarchy and it’s, and you have no, what is your real revolution? What is it?
Hannah: Yeah, ’cause like, I feel at this point—and I try not to say this too loud—but I feel like I’m glad that he’s done this second time and he won’t run again, right? Most likely, hopefully. Because I feel like there needs to be, the air needs to open up for other ways of looking at this stuff.
Kim: And other leaders. There definitely needs to be somebody else and some other people—a coalition, not one person, but a coalition of individuals.
Hannah: Yeah. And so… oh! I was thinking about my experience in 2016 and 2020. ‘Cause I will say, in 2016 I was for most of camp—for the all of the campaign, I was for Bernie in 2016. Because when he first appeared, you know, I’ve been this left person for a long time. I hadn’t ever expected someone to show up and be like, “I’m a socialist. Let’s do this. I’m running for president.” So it was really exciting. And I remember when, over the course of that campaign, a couple things happened.
First there were—the moment when the Black Lives Matter activists got up on stage of that conference and shut him down, right? And I was like, “You know what, he’s from Vermont, I’ma give him, I’ma see how he does with this.” Right? And I was waiting, and I kept thinking, “OK, he’s gonna evolve. He’s gonna evolve. Now that he’s out of Vermont, now people are doing this thing.” Oh no, he’s not. He’s totally not.
And then meanwhile, the other thing that happened is, there’re a lot of folx that I’m in a community with—who I really like—who are not left wing. And I found myself arguing with—when I looked at, I don’t know, when I look at the, when I watch the Democratic Party Convention and they do those audience shots, it’s an interesting feeling for me ’cause I’m like, “Whoa, this party looks like the party that I want to be in the mix with.” Because it’s super diverse in the convention delegates. And often the leadership is not; but the reality is the Democratic Party is, for better or worse, historical reasons, it has pretty deep roots in communities of color in the last 50 years, right? Not always, obviously.
And at some point I was like—so when I look at, like in 2016, the way a lot of voters in the South went for Hillary Clinton—I was looking at that and I was like, “You know what? I, maybe the folx—I don’t live in the South. I don’t really know what’s going on there, right? I don’t know, I certainly don’t know what it’s like to be Black in the South.” But these are the folx that I wanna be in a political movement with. And if they don’t believe in this—they don’t believe, or they don’t think it’s the right way to advocate, to believe in this socialist stuff—I’d rather do that than be in coalition with these people who are throwing chairs in Nevada. I don’t know if you remember that, when… ’cause I see these white people on the video and they’re just mad as heck and they’re throwing chairs, and, I’m like, “These don’t feel like my people.”
Hannah: …they’re just mad as heck and they’re throwing chairs, and, I’m like, “These don’t feel like my people. These don’t feel like the people I wanna be building the movement with,” and I found myself… So after that, it was sort of a little bit of an evolution for me on politics. And I feel like that’s one of the things that—to me it’s like if you get the right people together and you’re like, “We’re gonna try to figure out what’s gonna solve all of our problems as the most, as either the most marginalized people or the people who actually give a shit about those folx.” You can figure out the programs and the ideology, and tactics along the way. And I mean, also as a person who is a long-time socialist and who has looked at a lot of the history, I don’t know that I believe in capitalism, but I don’t know that I believe in the USSR-style socialism; this isn’t working. I mean, I feel like—and I know this is a really uncomfortable thing for a lot of people—I feel OK saying, “I don’t know what the right system is. We’ll figure it out.”
Kim: Yes! Yes, that’s my whole point. That’s my—I was like, “No one ever tried to talk about antiracist capitalism. Let’s try it. Let’s do some research and see what—before we say that one thing,”—because again, fundamentally all of it, even when you look at Sweden and Denmark, they’re having problems now because there’s so many immigrants who want there. So they’re being… so it’s like all of it is rooted in anti-Blackness and racism. All of it. Globally. I mean, even in a pandemic, you have Chinese people in China pissed off because, I guess, they’re gonna open their—they’ve been talking about opening the country up to Africans.
And so you seeing all the anti-Black rhetoric that has been underneath the surface is coming out. So until we, globally, deal with this, I don’t care whose system it is, we will continue to have white supremacy as the default and everybody else getting harmed. And I can tell you I have also been questioning as well, because it’s like we’re in a time where we have—what we knew about these parties or with things that people historically told us—yeah, we understand that things that people historically told us were either incorrect, were either outright lies, incomplete, all these other things. So now we’re filling in the blanks.
So I’m going to tell you, you Hannah are what I would like to see people doing. The people who aren’t questioning are the people I have an issue with; because now you have access to way more information than we have before. And if that’s not changing in some ways, how you function on this earth, then you and I can’t have a conversation where we’re gonna go, because I’m telling you everything that impacts me, every system we have fundamentally is designed to harm me. If you’re not willing to have that conversation or even entertain that, there’s no conversation.
Hannah: Yeah, yeah. No, no, I mean totally.
Kim: You can sit with a person like—I can sit with a person like you, and we can unpack this all day because we’re trying to learn, you know, we’re trying to figure out what this stuff means.
Hannah: You know, part of it is I try to figure out how to get people to have that moment. One thing I like—I do like to point out the Western Europe countries, partly because when you actually look at it, a lot of—well first of all, nowadays, when people talk about socialism, they’re really in the Western Europe, which is interesting to me, because at one point they weren’t. I mean, like them or not, the old leftists were the Cuba and China and basically all these, like Venezuela, and Bolivia, and now everyone talks about Sweden. And I can’t say I’ve been to Sweden, so I don’t really know. But I will say that my—if you look at historically, it is not easy to build a multiracial society. It’s genuinely really hard. The US Is obviously a freakin’ mess; it’s probably had some of the most experience doing it, even though it’s done it really terribly. And you look at these countries that have had these relatively nice socialist stuff, it’s all…
Hannah: …racial homogeneity. And the thing that no one will mention; it’s built on stolen wealth.
Kim: Just because you didn’t have slaves actually on your land! You all fucking benefited from the shit.
Hannah: Yeah! I mean, you brought imperialism! You know, fuckin’ Britain! Britain gets away with nowadays being the cute little Harry Potter… but they were the ones before the US was.
Kim: Oh, my word. Yes. Yes! And that’s the thing, it’s like—and let’s be honest, the majority of people, even though you were politically savvy, even if you were reevaluating your far leftism—most white people really did not get, understand, or even give a shit about race until the 2016 election. That’s when most white folx were like, “Wait a minute. Whoa, whoa. Aren’t we over this yet? Wait a minute, we still got this issue?” Yeah buddy, that eight years of that Black man pissed off a whole bunch of people. [Laughs]
Hannah: Yeah, yeah.
Kim: And so, and this is why I keep telling—this is not an indictment against Sanders. This is not an endorsement for Biden. This is not something against… ABC. It is the fact that fundamentally all over the world, anti-Blackness and white supremacy is the default, period. I don’t care what country it is. I was—someone introduced me to a podcast, and it was talking about how Brazil after the slaves, they had this idea of you just gonna mix everybody up. You just—we’re not gonna talk about it, you know, it’s gonna be everywhere. And even then, they had to come back with a new program because they realized that the Blacks, were not—the closer you are to white, the more opportunities you have, and then the Black people—so they implemented a program to get Blacks—they go through an interview process, and if you’re Black you go to another interview process, and you would get more opportunities and jobs and stuff.
And they found out they had to come up with some really strict rules, because what they found, what they saw, the data proved that white-passing people were using this and not the Black people. Because the Black people thought there was something wrong, you know, I can’t say that, but white-passing people always—and we see it with affirmative action, we see it in every opportunity that is created for the marginalized—white folx figure out a way to game the system.
Hannah: Yeah, yeah. No, I mean, yeah. It was interesting when the stuff—I don’t know, that was like in the middle of the campaign, because I was vaguely supporting Warren—when this stuff about her native ancestry came out. But there was that big letter that those folx wrote, and I didn’t fully realise…
Kim: You’re talking about from the Native communities?
Hannah: Yeah, no. Well, I will just say that I did not realize that there was this whole sort of epidemic—I just learned through this, to some extent—of programs intended for Native communities that were going to white people claiming to be…
Kim: Historic. It is historic. And that’s the thing that just gets me because—and then the dismissal from her campaign people as if we’ve dealt with it. No, no, no. You’ve dealt with it when that community you’ve harmed says you’ve dealt with it, not before. Oh, yeah, I had that conversation before, because that was my—of the progressive folx—she was the person I would have been behind. I could not get around that, because as a Black person who is part Cherokee, I have never used that on any application because I have no direct contact with that community. And I’m—and so I know, as a Black person, I shouldn’t have used that, and for her to use it just because of her stories? I don’t give a damn. I have stories. I have all that. And we still—no one in my family has ever used that heritage to get anything.
And that is a thing. It’s like, white people have used—whiteness will figure out a way to use—I have a friend who told me she’s part—I forgot what Native American, what she is indigenous—but she has absolutely no connection, and her father encouraged her to use it to get in college, and she didn’t though. This is the same thing with affirmative action. It is always when white people get to use—when we use it, it’s a social—it’s welfare; it’s welfare, the state, you know, we’re on welfare—but when white people use it, it’s a leg up, it’s that little thing. It’s like, “No! That wasn’t meant for you. That was not meant for you!”
Hannah: Yeah, yeah. I think, you know, you look at the last 60 years. And yes, there has been this—I mean, on a national scale—this is pretty far rightward push to dismantle a lot of social programs and whatnot, and obviously that’s now affecting white people, and they’re pissed off about it, but it’s interesting to me that no one has solved the problem, which is that the reason they were able to dismantle welfare; the reason they were able to roll back various, you know, a lot of public spending on stuff; the reason that they were… I mean, is because they were able to play on these stereotypes around basically people of color, specifically Black people. And basically the reality is, white people were relatively—if you go back to the—I mean, all the things that supposedly Bernie Sanders wants, they’re not that far away from what—for white people—the governmental system was in the 1950s.
Kim: Yup. Exactly. That’s why they want to go back. Well, I don’t want to go back because there was nothing for me to go back to. [Laughs]
Hannah: Yeah, yeah, yeah, right? Yeah, and that’s the thing; it’s interesting, because you said, “Oh, well Bernie’s like Trump,” and I was like, “Ooh, I don’t know if I can go quite there,” but in the sense that his vision is a different form of a nostalgic vision for white people.
Kim: That’s what—I know, they’re talking about… I don’t think he would be profiting and all that other stuff. But from what I can see from his rhetoric and his followers, they will cause harm. So in their attempts or efforts to flip tables, because they refuse to talk about race, I—people like me will get harmed. I don’t see any difference. I don’t—white people have the luxury of looking at shades of grey, you know, like, “Oh, he wouldn’t be that bad.” That’s why I don’t talk about how racist you are. Your ass is racist. We’re not doing gradiations of racist, you know?
And so that’s what I mean by that. And I’m glad you brought that up, because I know people are gonna be like, “Ehh!” but I don’t give a fuck, because if you’re not talking fundament—and the only reason that Biden kinda gets a pass for me, is because he has so many Black people in his… that are pulling the strings and have made this shit happen for him? He will be a fucking fool to get up there and do somethin’—he would be a total fool to sell out Black people when he gets to where he is.
Kim: But I’m not going to say he won’t do it, because whiteness prioritises… [Laughs]
Hannah: Yeah, I was gonna say, I don’t know him that well to say he won’t do that thing.
Kim: No, I’m just sayin’ he’d be a fucking fool. Now, I ain’t gonna say he won’t do it, because white people prioritizing whiteness is always the default. And it would be an interesting—he would have some interesting shit to deal with if that’s the case. But like, he’s gonna be problematic as fuck as well.
Hannah: Yeah. I don’t know, it’s interesting when people talk about, “He’s gonna do a return to normalcy,” right? And that’s the thing that’s most…
Kim: That’s what white people want. That’s what white people want. And “normal” for us causes harm. I don’t want normal. I don’t—I’m not looking for normal. Mm-mm. So that’s the part that gets me when I say about the—I’m glad you can help me tease this out—about the Sanders thing and the similarity to Trump, is because these white folx that follow him who want to flip the table, want to go back to something when they were not uncomfortable. We can’t go backwards. You need to get used to being uncomfortable so that we can all move forward.
Hannah: Yeah. I guess the one thing I will say about being a leftist for a long time and studying a lot of stuff is that it became clear to me at some point that getting to whatever it is; like a leftist vision where the wealth has already distributed—globally; not in the US, globally—that’s gonna be complicated. It’s gonna be hard, and…
Kim: That would actually cause violence.
Hannah: Oh, yeah. So when people talk about—I find that if you look at a lot of the Sanders folx; similar thing with Occupy—who’re talking about, “Oh, I wanna have a middle class lifestyle again,” you have to remember: that middle class lifestyle? That’s global 1%.
Kim: Yes, exactly!
Hannah: That 20th century, mid-60s—50s, 60s, and 70s—where there was a large—white middle class mostly, you know, like reality—it was a little bit of a historical aberration, especially in the sense that it was built off of taking raw materials out of…
Kim: Out of other countries, exactly. And making those countries dependent on you because now you’ve stolen all their shit. Yup. [Laughs]
Hannah: So I mean, I don’t know… like I said, I don’t think I’m personally… I’m not ready to—you know I haven’t read, I need to read Adam Smith, because I want to know more. I know the basics, but I don’t…
Kim: Oh, I’m enjoying this research because it’s like, “Oh my god, this white dude in 1700s was talking about—first of all, his first book was about morality. Now he, you know, he’s a white dude and my thing is, OK, that’s what the country was—I mean, that’s what the world was then. It’s 2020; can we use those same principles to imagine something better, that does not—because that was at the root of his thing; the root of his arguments were about the average, the normal person. It wasn’t about—it was not about corporations. So, it’ll be interesting as I move forward and tryna to figure out where this stuff lies, but I can tell you, a lot of this COVID-19 stuff is actually—it’s showing up. I mean, it’s just like blaring, of why I say, and you say, that all of this is based in racism. It is so clear. You can’t run away from this.
Hannah: It’s interesting to me—I’m always surprised by how many—I don’t know, why people can’t make, so many are unable to make the—just the cognitive leap, which seems pretty fact-based, to be like, “You know what? Oh, racism’s kind of the main thing underneath what’s going on.”
Kim: But that—I challenge that statement only because to you it’s fact-based, to me it’s fact-based; but when you think about how much of a person’s identity is tied into whiteness that they do not own, because when you talk about—just to say, call somebody white, they get upset. You don’t have a problem wit’ callin’ me Black. You never asked me what kind of Black I am. But when I say you’re white, oh my god, I’ve just cursed you out. It will fundamentally—for many of these people to fundamentally sit down with this after not having been in another marginalisation, if that’s the… cis, hetero, you know, cis-gendered Christian—that is gonna fundamentally cause them to question so much about what they’ve learned, what they know, what they believe. And many people—I mean, even if you take all the racism part out—how many people are willing to go on that kind of journey—period—in their lives?
Hannah: Yeah. Yeah, that’s true.
Kim: I mean, think about it. I started investigating, you know, saying some shit back at—I remember, literally at 27—deciding, hey, something ain’t right with the world. And it wasn’t even about the racism thing; it was me just trying to say, “I’m not happy. Why am I not happy? Let me figure this thing out,” kind of thing. Most people don’t even take that route. I see the pushback. And so that’s why I go into the education mode and say, I meet people where they are—as long as they come at me respectfully, and having done some homework and are willing to do some work—I’m with you. It’s the ones—but yeah, I get it. I tell people, I wouldn’t want to be a white dude right now for nothing. Y’all have had the world handed to you, and now everybody’s questioning everything you believe, you have been taught about yourself. That has to fuck up your psyche. That has to be such a disturbing… [Laughs]
Hannah: Yeah, I know. I mean, it’s like what’s up for them?
Kim: Yeah, exactly. [Laughs]
Hannah: Vote for Trump? [Laughs]
Kim: The whole—it has to be a whole, “So not only am I not special, but—and, not but—not only am I not special, and all the privileges that I have, someone gave ’em to me because they took ’em from somebody else? What?”
Hannah: Right? Yeah. Right, and this, “I think I’m really talented and uniquely good at something, and I’m not actually that. I’m not.”
Kim: No you’re not. Especially when you bring in somebody who’s had to work hard just to get in the table, they are coding—they are whatever—circles around your ass, and you’re really for the first time, realizing you’re mediocre? That has to be a real mindfuck. [Laughs]
Hannah: Yeah. No, I mean, it’s… well, I’ll have to admit this is—I think some of my views, in reality, are shaped by the fact that for the first, I guess it would be 20 years of my life? I mean, I was always identified as trans, but the reality was I hadn’t transitioned, and people were viewing me as a white dude. You know, and not only that; I grew up pretty much upper class. That’s why I always say not even upper-middle, because—I mean, it wasn’t like some Carnegie shit—but like, my parents were both lawyers, right? And so to me, there’s no upper middle class, ’cause that’s some bullshit. [Kim laughs] And so I grew up with, where people were like… One of the more shocking things to me about transition was the change in perception of ability.
Kim: Oh! I’ve heard that from so many people who’ve transitioned to female. I’ve heard that so many times, that they were rocking an’ rolling as a white man, and then when they became a white woman, it’s like, “Oh, you don’t have the same skills.” [Laughs]
Hannah: Right? Yes! Totally! And yeah, I guess it was shocking. And I mean also, in reality, on the you—you know, it’s funny, because I was just saying, “Oh, it’s no big cognitive leap,” but the reality is it took me—I mean, like most white people—getting called out a bajillion times, and still—and one of the best things that ever happened to me was to stop trying to get to the point of not getting called out.
Hannah: Because it’s this moment of like, “Oh, this is gonna be how I am for the rest of my life.”
Hannah: I was raised for the first 20 years of my life—well, for my whole life—but particularly the time when I was not aware enough and conscious enough to know what was being taught to me, right? You know, that this is what I was learning, was that, in reality—I think it’s important to say the belief out loud—people were taught: I am superior ’cause I am a white person.
Kim: Yes. Thank you for saying that. Thank you for saying that, ’cause so many people act like that fuckin’ shit doesn’t exist, and then gaslight everybody else. [Laughs]
Hannah: Yeah. You know, and in fairness, it’s not like they were saying you were part of the master race or some bullshit, but they were teaching it in one way or another. They were teaching it in the fake histories, and that’s still like, it’s raw to me. I learned about—it’s like teaching kids about Santa Claus—I learned about that—because I’m from California—we learned all about the California missions for like, a whole unit. And it was all the great architecture, and all these various people… whatever his name is, Junípero Serra, he’s this Catholic guy. And we went to visit them, and they never—I mean, they passing mention that these were basically Native slaughterhouses. And it’s just like, but you’re teaching people lies! You’re just teaching them lies! And then you get to be an adult and someone says, “Actually, it’s all lies.” And you’re like, “No it’s not.”
Kim: Exactly. Exactly. So that’s why I get it. Because again, I tell you whiteness gets to be the hero or the victim, it never gets to be the villain. So it is easy to say, “No, no, no, no. Even if you believe it, then I’m a victim now. I didn’t do it.” So it’s a whole system—and this is why I say white supremacy’s a parasite that’s now eating its host—nobody escapes it without being harmed. Nobody escapes this without being harmed.
Hannah: Yeah. Yeah.
Kim: So what would you like to say in your final moments on the show?
Hannah: Oh my goodness. Oh, oof. I mean, I don’t know, I hope: a) that ’cause we’re in really crazy—whoa, not crazy; I apologise for using that word—very messed up times—that’s the word I’m looking for—and I feel like, I hope that: a) people are not complacent because that’s not, you know, that white tech thing that says I don’t need to give away my money, I don’t need to do anything, you know, that is not OK; but I also hope that, at the same time, people maintain curiosity, like an okayness with not feeling like they have the answers…
Kim: Yes, yes, yes. ‘Cause we’re all learnin’ this shit. We’re all learnin’. This is all new to everybody. [Laughs]
Hannah: Yeah, and so I feel like you can be committed, and you can be open, and you’re for real on both those things, then we can… I don’t know, that’s what we hopefully need for the time being.
Kim: Well, thank you so much. This has been a refreshing conversation. Again, some guests I know who I want on, and some of ’em I just see something in something they’ve read or shared and I’m like, “Oh, I wanna have that conversation.” [Hannah laughs] And so that’s one of these moments, I just like, “Hey, Hannah! I like this tweet!” [Laughs]
Hannah: No, totally! I was like, “Oh my god, yay!” [Laughs]
Kim: So thank you so much for coming on the show.
Hannah: Yeah, yeah. And thank you! Thank you so much, this was a wonderful—I’m really glad we got to spend this hour chatting.
Kim: Have a wonderful day.
Hannah: Yeah, you too.