System Check with Melissa Harris-Perry and Dorian Warren podcast

10: Political Violence Is No Anomaly in American History

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Georgia made history this week: The state elected a Black Senator on Tuesday for the first time ever. Rev. Raphael Warnock, a Morehouse graduate who serves as senior pastor of the storied Ebenezer Baptist Church once pastored by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., will be representing Georgia in the Senate as soon as the results are certified. Along with the win of his fellow Georgian, Jon Ossoff, the Senate will effectively be in Democratic hands, as will the House and the Presidency.

Sadly, a different kind of history was also made this week, when an angry, violent, mob of mostly white Trump supporters broke into the Capitol on Wednesday, smashing windows, destroying private offices and violating public spaces. With encouragement from the man occupying the highest office in the land, the mob forced our elected representatives to flee the House and Senate floors as they were undertaking the constitutionally mandated certification of the 2020 presidential election. The people who perpetrated this attack against our democracy were fueled by misinformation, much of it coming from the President himself: That dead people had voted, that voting machines had somehow switched votes, that the election was rigged and widespread fraud had handed Biden the presidency. But they were also acting on another kind of misinformation, another kind of lie—a lie that erases the genius and the contributions of Black people, a lie that ignores the fact that it was Black hands that made America what it is, that unpaid Black labor built the very buildings that serve as the seat of our democracy. They were fueled by the lie that is white supremacy.

If we are to move beyond the gridlock that has been our political fate for years, we need to face up to this lie embedded deep within our entire public life. On this week’s show, your hosts Melissa Harris-Perry and Dorian Warren undertake a system check of the very foundation of our politics.

Our guest and guide this week is Hasan Kwame Jeffries, associate professor of history at The Ohio State University where he teaches courses on the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements. He reminds us that the violence we saw at the Capitol this week is not an anomaly—in fact, political violence is what birthed this nation. The American Revolution, the Civil War, the brutal suppression of Reconstruction and the stiff resistance to the Civil Rights Movement, political violence has long been used to perpetuate white supremacy in this country. And too often, Black agency and emancipation has been bartered away to avoid further political violence. But Prof. Jeffries points us toward a way to hold people—whether they’re the people who stormed the Capitol or the politicians who egged them on—accountable for their political violence, and a way to recognizing and honoring the full contributions that Black Americans have made to our republic.

Our final word this week goes to Professor Blair Kelley, Associate Professor of History at North Carolina State University. System Check listeners will remember Prof. Kelley from episode 2, in which she gave us a deeply personal perspective on voter suppression—this week, she reminds us of all the working class Black folks who have asserted their right to participate in a political system that more often than not thwarted and devalued their input. It is our task to honor their legacy.

System Checklist Transforming analysis into action, the System Check Team gives listeners three action items this week:


As always, we welcome your additions to our Checklist! Use our Twitter and Facebook pages to add your comments, suggested actions, and organizations to support. And if you like the show, subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts for new episodes every Friday.

System Check is a project of The Nation magazine, hosted by Melissa Harris-Perry and Dorian Warren and produced by Sophia Steinert-Evoy. Support for System Check comes from Omidyar Network, a social change venture that is reimagining how capitalism should work. Learn more about their efforts to recenter our economy around individuals, community, and societal well-being at Omidyar.com. Our executive producer is Frank Reynolds. Our theme music is by Brooklyn-based artist and producer Jachary.

Subscribe to The Nation to support all of our podcasts: thenation.com/systemchecksubs.

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  • System Check with Melissa Harris-Perry and Dorian Warren podcast

    10: Political Violence Is No Anomaly in American History

    35:17

    Georgia made history this week: The state elected a Black Senator on Tuesday for the first time ever. Rev. Raphael Warnock, a Morehouse graduate who serves as senior pastor of the storied Ebenezer Baptist Church once pastored by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., will be representing Georgia in the Senate as soon as the results are certified. Along with the win of his fellow Georgian, Jon Ossoff, the Senate will effectively be in Democratic hands, as will the House and the Presidency. Sadly, a different kind of history was also made this week, when an angry, violent, mob of mostly white Trump supporters broke into the Capitol on Wednesday, smashing windows, destroying private offices and violating public spaces. With encouragement from the man occupying the highest office in the land, the mob forced our elected representatives to flee the House and Senate floors as they were undertaking the constitutionally mandated certification of the 2020 presidential election. The people who perpetrated this attack against our democracy were fueled by misinformation, much of it coming from the President himself: That dead people had voted, that voting machines had somehow switched votes, that the election was rigged and widespread fraud had handed Biden the presidency. But they were also acting on another kind of misinformation, another kind of lie—a lie that erases the genius and the contributions of Black people, a lie that ignores the fact that it was Black hands that made America what it is, that unpaid Black labor built the very buildings that serve as the seat of our democracy. They were fueled by the lie that is white supremacy. If we are to move beyond the gridlock that has been our political fate for years, we need to face up to this lie embedded deep within our entire public life. On this week’s show, your hosts Melissa Harris-Perry and Dorian Warren undertake a system check of the very foundation of our politics. Our guest and guide this week is Hasan Kwame Jeffries, associate professor of history at The Ohio State University where he teaches courses on the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements. He reminds us that the violence we saw at the Capitol this week is not an anomaly—in fact, political violence is what birthed this nation. The American Revolution, the Civil War, the brutal suppression of Reconstruction and the stiff resistance to the Civil Rights Movement, political violence has long been used to perpetuate white supremacy in this country. And too often, Black agency and emancipation has been bartered away to avoid further political violence. But Prof. Jeffries points us toward a way to hold people—whether they’re the people who stormed the Capitol or the politicians who egged them on—accountable for their political violence, and a way to recognizing and honoring the full contributions that Black Americans have made to our republic. Our final word this week goes to Professor Blair Kelley, Associate Professor of History at North Carolina State University. System Check listeners will remember Prof. Kelley from episode 2, in which she gave us a deeply personal perspective on voter suppression—this week, she reminds us of all the working class Black folks who have asserted their right to participate in a political system that more often than not thwarted and devalued their input. It is our task to honor their legacy. System Checklist Transforming analysis into action, the System Check Team gives listeners three action items this week: Take Action: The politicians who aided and abetted this week’s assault on democracy must be held accountable. Prof. Hasan Kwame Jeffries’s brother, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, is one of a chorus of politicians who came out today demanding President Trump’s removal from office. Add your name as a co-signer of Rep. Cori Bush’s bill to investigate and expel members of congress who fomented the storming of the Capitol, and help shift the balance of power in the Senate, that most unequal of institutions, by telling your representatives to make Washington, DC the 51st state. Get Informed: How do we fight misinformation? By educating ourselves. This week’s political violence didn’t come out of nowhere, it’s a clear response to the progressive political gains made this year, facilitated by the work of Black women from Stacey Abrams all the way back to Fannie Lour Hamer. Check out Prof. Jeffries’s moving TedTalk, mentioned in today’s show. Listen to Rev. Raphael Warnock’s speech after his defeat of Sen. Kelly Loeffler to learn how the son of a woman who picked someone else’s cotton could become a US Senator. Watch: And while you’re at it, treat yourself to Elizabeth Alexander’s full reading of “Praise Song for the Day” at the 2009 inauguration of Barack Obama. As always, we welcome your additions to our Checklist! Use our Twitter and Facebook pages to add your comments, suggested actions, and organizations to support. And if you like the show, subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts for new episodes every Friday. System Check is a project of The Nation magazine, hosted by Melissa Harris-Perry and Dorian Warren and produced by Sophia Steinert-Evoy. Support for System Check comes from Omidyar Network, a social change venture that is reimagining how capitalism should work. Learn more about their efforts to recenter our economy around individuals, community, and societal well-being at Omidyar.com. Our executive producer is Frank Reynolds. Our theme music is by Brooklyn-based artist and producer Jachary. Subscribe to The Nation to support all of our podcasts: thenation.com/systemchecksubs.
  • System Check with Melissa Harris-Perry and Dorian Warren podcast

    9: The System Check Book Club

    1:09:09

    This week on System Check we are saying farewell to 2020 and hello to 2021 with our first System Check Book Club. Your hosts Melissa and Dorian first aired this Book Club as a Live Event on YouTube and Facebook just in time for holiday reading. While the original show was over two hours long, for our podcast this week we decided to share with you some of the highlights from the live event. First up is Maria Hinojosa, journalist , storyteller and founder of Futuro Media Group. She is the host and executive producer of the brilliant and informative weekly NPR show Latino USA, and anchor of the Emmy Award-winning talk show Maria Hinojosa: One-on-One. Her latest book, Once I Was You: a Memoir of Love and Hate in a Torn America was published by Atria Books and received well-earned, rave reviews this fall. We talk with her about the system of immigration, particularly the cruel and harmful practices of family separation of young immigrant children from their parents, the role of state agents who insist they are simply “doing their job” as well as those brave enough to resist, and the personal origins of her book title. Next we speak with Rumaan Alam, author of the gripping, searing and suspenseful novel Leave The World Behind. With bylines in many places including The Nation, Alam’s fictional characters in his third novel feel as though they are grappling with the dystopia of their new domestic lives, revealing deep-seated racism, and coping with the death-dealing consequences of environmental and political disaster. Sound familiar? Leave the World Behind was a finalist for this year’s National Book Award and has already been optioned by Netflix. Although written in 2018 and 2019, it seems like the year 2020 released the lived experience version of this novel. Up next is a powerful, brutal, and insightful new book by New York Times best-selling author Scott Farris. Freedom on Trial: The First Post Civil-War Battle Over Civil Rights and Voter Suppression tells the story of the federal government prosecution of the South Carolina Ku Klux Klan in the early 1870s. Farris talks with us about the system of citizenship—and the contested meanings of the 14th and 15th Amendments during the Reconstruction period, the role of radical Republicans in the fight for racial justice, and the specific role of Farris’s own great grandfather in this overlooked historical saga of the KKK. Our colleague John Nichols, National Affairs Correspondent for The Nation, joins us next to discuss his latest book, The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party: The Enduring Legacy of Henry Wallace’s Anti-Fascist, Anti-Racist Politics. In the book, John reveals the legacy of former Vice President Henry Wallace, who warned of the persisting “Danger of American Fascism” and urged the Democratic Party to reject imperialism in favor of a genuinely progressive future. It is a message, Nichols says, the Democratic party needs to heed now. Nichols brings the often forgotten visionary, politician, activist and philanthropist Wallace to the fore of mid-century American politics, charting the untraveled paths he envisioned for the Democratic Party, including a post-war peace that was rooted in human dignity and justice abroad and domestically. And John answers the question: does the Democratic Party today have a soul to fight for? Our final selection for this week’s episode offers a very different way of thinking about systems. Although this book is about one man—athlete, artist, philosopher, and activist, Paul Robeson—it isn’t so much a biography as an exploration of Robeson as a system, a technology, an element and vibration. Intrigued? Tune in to hear Shana Redmond, Professor of Musicology and African American Studies at UCLA, and author of Everything Man: The Form and Function of Paul Robeson, as she talks with our hosts about this extraordinary book, including how Robeson was to Henry Wallace in 1948 as Killa Mike was to Bernie Sanders in 2020. A very special thanks to all of our authors that joined us for first System Check Book Club, as well as all of our partners for the live event including: The Anna Julia Cooper Center, Community Change Action, The New York Public Library, Tattered Cover Bookstore, and of course the home of System Check The Nation. Like System Check? Follow us on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts for new episodes every Friday. System Check is a project of The Nation magazine, hosted by Melissa Harris-Perry and Dorian Warren and produced by Sophia Steinert-Evoy. Support for System Check comes from Omidyar Network, a social change venture that is reimagining how capitalism should work. Learn more about their efforts to recenter our economy around individuals, community, and societal well-being at Omidyar.com. Our executive producer is Frank Reynolds. Our theme music is by Brooklyn-based artist and producer Jachary. Subscribe to The Nation to support all of our podcasts: thenation.com/systemchecksubs.
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    8: Could This Pandemic End Up Making Our Healthcare System Stronger?

    43:23

    President-elect Joe Biden has made history: This week, he announced that Rep. Deb Haaland would be his pick for head of the Interior Department, the first Native American person ever to a Cabinet-level position, making Biden’s Cabinet the most diverse in history. This kind of representation is important, but it’s not enough, because far from Washington, Native Americans are dying at disproportionate rates from the Coronavirus pandemic. In October, the death rate from Covid-19 on the Navajo Nation was higher than in any state. In South Dakota, the Cheyenne River Lakota reservation is fighting to keep roadblocks up to prevent the spread of the virus, despite the order from the state’s governor to take them down. And Neshoba County, Mississippi, home of the Mississippi Band of the Choctaw, had the highest rate of death per capita in the entire of Mississippi due to coronavirus, devastating the tribe. Neshoba: If that rings a bell, it’s probably because it was at the Neshoba County Fair in 1980 that then-candidate Ronald Reagan launched his campaign for the Presidency on the platform of “state’s rights,” ushering in four decades of neoliberal policies that have devalued and gutted many of the core functions of government meant to protect us from...deadly epidemics. On this week’s System Check, Melissa and Dorian follow up on last week’s episode to explore the system of finding a cure for the coronavirus epidemic that has killed more than 300,000 Americans so far. Finding a vaccine, for sure a scientific feat of epic proportions, is hopeful news. And while necessary, it is not sufficient to understand and transform the systems that have resulted in mind-numbing mass death. We have to push ourselves to also ask the questions: what are the systems that created and sustained the crisis? And how can we bring about a dramatic change not just of the system of science or the system of public health, but rather of the whole ecosystem that made this pandemic possible? We offer a few plausible answers found at the intersection of science, social science and activism. For insight into these intersecting systems, Melissa and Dorian talk to Gregg Gonsalves, Assistant Professor of Epidemiology and Associate Professor of Law at Yale University, to help us think about the Covid-19 pandemic beyond a clinical perspective. And he offers ideas about how to build our social immunity to defeat the virus, and the vast inequalities that make it deadlier for far too many. We then check-in with Alondra Nelson, president of the Social Science Research Council and the Harold F. Linder Professor in the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton, New Jersey. She tells us about the creation of the Coronavirus Syllabus, and the necessary efforts to mobilize science and social science for the public good. And she reminds us that the solutions to this pandemic are not only biological and clinical, but also require communities of social and human sciences working collaboratively to tackle exclusion, exploitation, and inequality. The missing piece, and one too often left out of public health conversations, is grassroots organizing. That’s why our final word this week comes from Lenice Emmanuel, Executive Director of the Alabama Institute for Social Justice. She reminds us that activism is what system change looks like on the ground, and that what Black people in the South and everyone vulnerable and marginalized across our country need are systems that allow them to thrive. And yes, childcare and coinage. System Checklist Transforming analysis into action, the System Check Team gives listeners three action items this week: Mask Up: We said it last week and we’ll say it again: With vaccines rolling out, there is light at the end of this tunnel. But we’re far from the end of the pandemic, and your actions now could save the lives of people in your community, maybe even people in your own home. Educate yourself: The Coronavirus Syllabus that Alondra Nelson highlights in this week’s episode is a cross-disciplinary treasure trove of research about the virus, a humane list of music and literature about past pandemics, and helpful syllabi and teaching resources for educating young people about this difficult time in our history. Dig in! RSVP: Lastly, you’re invited to the first ever System Check Book Club. This Saturday, December 19, at 5pm Eastern, join Melissa and Dorian for a live video event—they’ll be talking the authors of some of their favorite books from this year, and looking ahead to titles to watch out for in 2021. Register here for this free event. As always, we welcome your additions to our Checklist! Use our Twitter and Facebook pages to add your comments, suggested actions, and organizations to support. And if you like the show, subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts for new episodes every Friday. System Check is a project of The Nation magazine, hosted by Melissa Harris-Perry and Dorian Warren and produced by Sophia Steinert-Evoy. Support for System Check comes from Omidyar Network, a social change venture that is reimagining how capitalism should work. Learn more about their efforts to recenter our economy around individuals, community, and societal well-being at Omidyar.com. Our executive producer is Frank Reynolds. Our theme music is by Brooklyn-based artist and producer Jachary. Subscribe to The Nation to support all of our podcasts: thenation.com/systemchecksubs.
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    7: The Pandemic Didn’t Have to Be This Bad

    38:16

    Defund. That one word has motivated thousands across the country to take to the streets this year to end police violence against Black Americans, and it has also become the punching bag for some Democratic politicians to explain their electoral misfortunes this cycle. But that word, defund, also explains why the United States surpassed 3,000 deaths from Covid-19 in a single day for the first time this week. That staggering number—just one day’s toll from Covid-19—surpasses the number of Americans who died on 9/11. The federal government’s response to those attacks in 2001 was to spend $6 trillion dollars to address a so-called “national security emergency.” But when it comes to the national public health emergency brought on by Covid-19 that is the equivalent of 9/11 daily? We’ve seen nothing near the same urgency or funding from the highest levels of the federal government. Instead, the decades-long defunding and disinvestment from our public health system that has allowed the pandemic to become an uncontrolled disaster continues. On this week’s System Check, your hosts Melissa Harris-Perry and Dorian Warren explore the Covid-19 pandemic in the first of a two-part series that looks under the hood of our public health system. More than 286,000 people have died from Covid-19, but this week President-elect Biden announced his top-level health care team and an FDA panel voted to approve the emergency use of new vaccines. What the new administration will inherit—and need to reconstruct—is a hollowed-out federal government and public health infrastructure, the result not only of decisions and incompetence of the current lame-duck Administration, but of decades of disinvestment. To understand how our system of public health is vital to the entire body politic, Melissa and Dorian check-in with Dr. Monica McLemore, Associate Professor of Family Health Care Nursing at the University of California, San Francisco where she is an affiliated scientist with Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health, and a member of the Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health. Reframing the conversation of health away from a private, individualistic clinical model and toward a comprehensive, collective public health model, Professor McLemore told us, has meaningful consequences for resource allocation and, of course, for lives lost or lives saved. When the public health system is working well, its work tends to be invisible, but as Professor McLemore explains, we all might be living with Covid-19 for a long time, even with the promise of vaccines. Your hosts then check in with—and get a final word from—Dr. Chris Pernell, a Board-certified preventive medicine and public health physician based in Newark, New Jersey. Dr. Pernell reminds us of the necessity of well-functioning public health systems in creating healthy individuals, families, and communities. Sharing a truly personal story of how the deadly coronavirus went beyond her practice to affect her loved ones at home, she reminds us of the power of storytelling to create a more just, equitable, and accountable system of public health. System Checklist Transforming analysis into action, the System Check Team gives listeners three action items this week: Mask Up. Protect yourself, your loved ones, and your community by wearing a mask, and continuing to follow trusted guidelines around social distancing and other preventative steps to stop the spread of Covid-19. Stay informed with the latest updates from The Nation, on everything from whether and how you’ll be able to get vaccinated, to how messaging alone is not enough to fix our public health crisis, to analysis on the Biden Administration’s appointments and personnel, to ideas around creating a Coronavirus Commission modeled after the 9/11 Commission. Get active and stay engaged! Continue to keep your eyes on Georgia and support efforts on the ground to expand democracy and sustain voter mobilization in the run-off election for the state’s two Senate seats on January 5, 2021 which will determine control of the Senate. The outcome of this race will determine just how bold and progressive the federal government’s response will be to the crisis in our public health system. It will also determine the national response to the other intertwined crises--especially of the system of poverty and other systems of injustice that continue to marginalize far too many. As always, we welcome your additions to our Checklist! Use our Twitter and Facebook pages to add your comments, suggested actions, and organizations to support. And if you like the show, subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts for new episodes every Friday. System Check is a project of The Nation magazine, hosted by Melissa Harris-Perry and Dorian Warren and produced by Sophia Steinert-Evoy. Support for System Check comes from Omidyar Network, a social change venture that is reimagining how capitalism should work. Learn more about their efforts to recenter our economy around individuals, community, and societal well-being at Omidyar.com. Our executive producer is Frank Reynolds. Our theme music is by Brooklyn-based artist and producer Jachary. Subscribe to The Nation to support all of our podcasts: thenation.com/podcastsubscribe.
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    6: There Is No Room to Mess Up This Presidential Transition

    35:02

    Seventy-eight: That’s the number of days between the Presidential election and the Presidential inauguration. Much needs to be accomplished in those days for the peaceful transition of power. The stakes are higher than you think, and there are life-and-death implications for the lives of millions of Americans affected by our system of the transfer of power. On this week’s System Check, your hosts Melissa Harris-Perry and Dorian Warren explain how the next administration will come to be, and the impact it will have on all our lives. We start with some history: The 1963 Presidential Transition Act, to be exact. This little known legislation helps smooth over some of the uncertainties and vulnerabilities that comes with the transition of power—but given the threats Trump and his administration pose against the usual transition process, our democracy is in a more fragile state than you might think. In the next couple of weeks, thousands of appointments need to be made, important work needs to take place to prepare for governance, and vital information needs to be passed along to new personnel.  To figure out how this has all worked in years passed—and what makes 2020 different—Melissa and Dorian turn to a few experts and leaders who understand the intricacies of this system. Max Stier, President and CEO of Partnership for Public Service, a non-partisan organization that runs the Center for Presidential Transition, discusses why presidential transitions matter to the system of American democracy. John King, CEO of The EducationTrust and former Secretary of Education under President Obama, checks in to talk to System Check about how presidential transitions are vulnerable periods in democracies, and alerts us to the internal and external threats to the nation—and each and every one of us—of an intentionally broken system of transition.  We then get a final word from Julian Castro, 2020 presidential candidate and former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the Obama Administration. He reminds and helps us imagine what a successful system of peaceful transfer of power looks like, especially for those millions of civil servants who do the daily work of governing.   System Checklist Transforming analysis into action, our hosts give listeners three action items this week:  First, educate yourself about the presidential transition process: Read about the 1963 Presidential Transition Act to understand our system of the transfer of executive power. And check out Transition Lab—it’s a whole podcast about presidential transitions, by Partnership for Public Service’s Center for Presidential Transition. They know their stuff. Get informed about the ways the Trump administration is undermining the usual transition process—The Nation’s Jeet Heer laid out all the ways this transition is not normal.  Get active: The presidential transition is just the start. Once Biden and Harris are in office, progressives will still have our work cut out for us fighting for the policies we believe in, and undoing four years of Trump’s reckless administration. Research an issue you care about, find a group that organizes around that issue, and get involved. As always, we welcome your additions to our Checklist! Use our Twitter and Facebook pages to add your comments, suggested actions, and organizations to support. And if you like the show, subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts for new episodes every Friday. System Check is a project of The Nation magazine, hosted by Melissa Harris-Perry and Dorian Warren and produced by Sophia Steinert-Evoy. Support for System Check comes from Omidyar Network, a social change venture that is reimagining how capitalism should work. Learn more about their efforts to recenter our economy around individuals, community, and societal well-being at Omidyar.com. Our executive producer is Frank Reynolds. Our theme music is by Brooklyn-based artist and producer Jachary. Subscribe to The Nation to support all of our podcasts: thenation.com/podcastsubscribe.
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    5: It’s Time America Abolished Poverty

    40:23

    There are a lot of jobs we as a country don’t value. Think farm work, child care, service jobs—these low-wage, often racialized and gendered jobs form the backbone of our economy, but if you’ve worked in any of these fields, you know how hard it can be to make ends meet on these jobs. Three of Dorian Warren’s grandparents were janitors, another job that doesn’t get its due. But they were also proud members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and through their work and their union they learned a vital lesson. If we want to improve working conditions for these undervalued jobs, you can either upgrade the workers, or you can upgrade the jobs—or you can do both. Upgrading and transforming jobs, especially dangerous and poverty-level jobs in growing sectors like care work, is a critically important strategy precisely because of the historically devalued nature of this labor. But it takes power—the collective power of workers joining together with communities—to redesign the system of bad, poverty-level jobs into good jobs. On this week’s show, Melissa Harris-Perry and Dorian Warren follow up on last week’s episode to answer the question: How can we eradicate poverty in America? It's not just about jobs, and the answers are common sense, but radical: To end poverty, we need to meet people’s real needs, like food, or diapers, or childcare, but we also need to disrupt and reform the systems that keep people in poverty, and we need to give people the power to smash through the structures holding them back. For insight on how to get to a poverty-free America, Melissa and Dorian turn to experts leading campaigns and organizations fighting against the system of poverty. Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, co-director of the Kairos Center and national co-director of the Poor People’s Campaign, joins to discuss how abolishing poverty is a moral imperative—and it makes good policy sense as well, leading to stronger organizing possibilities for all working Americans. Next up, Mary Kay Henry, President of SEIU, joins to talk about the role of multi-racial worker power in disrupting the system of poverty. Henry talks to Melissa and Dorian in-depth about the innovative “Fight for $15 and a Union” campaign SEIU helped launched in 2012, and the transformative power of workers setting the terms of their own fights. We then check-in with—and give the final word to—two guests on the ground in North Carolina doing the work to fulfill the immediate needs of those living in poverty and struggling to make ends meet. We talk to Eric Aft, CEO of the Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina, who talks to us about “feeding the line and shortening the line” for the over 200,000 individuals his organization and its partners serve yearly. And Melissa and Dorian talk with Michelle Old, Executive Director of the North Carolina Diaper Bank, about how having access to diapers and what she calls “dignity items” is a vital necessity for babies, children and families to thrive. System Checklist  During the Covid-19 pandemic millions of Americans have fallen more deeply into poverty. Alleviating poverty in America requires political will, investment, and a strategy to win. During the past two weeks our System Check guests have identified two key issues that keep people poor: lack of cash and lack of power. This week’s System Checklist highlights a political agenda that addresses both. Raise the minimum wage. The last time Congress raised the federal minimum wage was 2007! We know that this meager $7.25 / hour minimum hasn't kept pace with cost of living. Right now there is nowhere in the country where a full time, minimum wage worker can afford rent on a two bedroom apartment. We must raise the minimum wage. Join the Fight for 15. Universal Health Care. Unexpected medical bills cause 40% of individual bankruptcies. Universal health care acknowledges that healthcare is a basic, human right and unlinks health and wealth. With access to affordable, available health care, families can spend their income on housing, food, and other necessities, while avoiding the medical bill caused spiral into poverty. Join the majority of Americans --support universal health care. Universal Childcare. One year of child care costs more than one year of tuition at most states’ four-year public colleges. Families need safe, accessible, affordable child care. We can alleviate poverty and change the trajectory of life for millions of American children with a substantial investment in childcare and early childhood education. Read this report from The Economic Policy Institute calling for “An Ambitious National Investment in America’s Children” and sign up to join Childcare Changemakers to enlist in the campaign for universal and equitable childcare for all families. Guaranteed Basic Income. Last week we heard from Aisha Nyandoro as she described the ways guaranteed basic income from The Magnolia’s Mother’s Trust has affected the lives of Black mothers living in poverty in Mississippi. A Stockton, California, guaranteed income program has also ignited the interest around the country. If lack of cash is the core feature of poverty, then let’s get cash to the people. Learn about and support the work of the Economic Security Project.  Ensure Workers’ Right to Organize. Workers must have the right to organize in order to have a seat at the table of power. The power to negotiate wages and conditions of work is tied directly to the ability to organize and unionize. It’s time to update our outdated labor laws to adapt to our 21st century economy. Check out the campaigns of Jobs with Justice and Sign the Pledge to advance workers’ rights to organize. As always, we welcome your additions to our Checklist! Use our Twitter and Facebook pages to add your comments, suggested actions, and organizations to support. And if you like the show, subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts for new episodes every Friday. System Check is a project of The Nation magazine, hosted by Melissa Harris-Perry and Dorian Warren and produced by Sophia Steinert-Evoy. Support for System Check comes from Omidyar Network, a social change venture that is reimagining how capitalism should work. Learn more about their efforts to recenter our economy around individuals, community, and societal well-being at Omidyar.com. Our executive producer is Frank Reynolds. Our theme music is by Brooklyn-based artist and producer Jachary. Subscribe to The Nation to support all of our podcasts: thenation.com/podcastsubscribe.
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    4: Why Are People Poor?

    33:19

    This week, your co-hosts Melissa Harris-Perry and Dorian Warren get personal. Melissa’s Grandma Rosa lived and worked in poverty in the Jim Crow south. She was a seamstress who suffered from arthritis, and she made tremendous personal sacrifices to ensure her twin sons, William and Wesley, could go to college and create a legacy of achievement and activism. Her story is inspiring, but why did she have to make the choice between personal comfort and her children’s future? Dorian’s grandmother also grew up poor on the south side of Chicago. Born in the midst of the 1919 Race Riot and growing up during the Great Depression, she taught him to “earn a nickel, save 2 cents,” proving that while she certainly needed more money, she did not need the kind of “financial literacy” programs that many think tanks and philanthropies put forward as a solution to poverty. These were resilient, forward-thinking women—but they still struggled with poverty. That leads Melissa and Dorian to ask the guiding question for this episode: “Why are people poor?” Why does the richest country in the world still tolerate millions of our neighbors living in poverty? And why is it so rare to hear—in the media, in the boardrooms of philanthropies, in the halls of power in Washington, D.C.—from the people who are experiencing poverty? To answer all these questions and more, we turn to our experts. Aisha Nyandoro, Chief Executive Officer of Springboard To Opportunities talked with System Check about the Magnolia Mother’s Trust. The Trust is the first guaranteed income project in the country to focus explicitly on racial and gender justice. Magnolia Mother's Trust gives $1,000 a month, with no strings attached, to extremely low income black women living in federally subsidized affordable housing. Nyandoro began the program in 2018 as a small pilot with just 20 women in Jackson, Mississippi. Today there are 110 women receiving $1,000 a month for a full year, and the results are pretty amazing. This week’s Final Word is offered by Tiana Gaines-Turner. Despite working as the Housing Stabilization Specialist at Eddie’s House in Philadelphia, this wife and mom still struggles with poverty, housing instability and food insecurity. In her final word this week, Gaines-Turner explains why she and others in her community should be at the policy-making table. “Nothing about us, without us” is her lesson for System Check. We hope that after listening to our guests this week, you feel inspired to transform analysis into action. Here is this week’s System Checklist. Fight for 15: Set a monthly reminder on your calendar—let’s say the 15th of every month, or any day that works for you. Each month, on that date, call or email your senators and your representative in Congress. Urge them to increase the federal minimum wage to $15/ hour. Get your family, friends, and social media contacts involved. Let them know, “Every month, on the 15th, we are going to demand 15!” Make sure you follow and support the Fight for 15. Give Locally: Take a small step to make an immediate impact in your local community. If you have the financial resources, set up a recurring monthly contribution to your community foodbank. As little as $10 a month can make a big difference. While you are at it, find out if your employer will match your contribution. Many companies will double, or even triple, charitable contributions made by their employees. Act Locally: If you are ready, consider taking an even bigger step in your local community. Find ways to get involved with families who are experiencing poverty, hunger or homelessness. Contact your local department of social services, your United Way, the homeless liaison at your local school, or your religious organization to find out where the need is in your community to identify how your time and talents can contribute to a more fair and just system. Water the Grassroots: If you’re really ready to commit to this work, join a local grassroots community organization fighting to upend the system of poverty on which our country, and especially the 1%, depend. Join or support efforts to unionize. Support collective efforts in your workplace, support friends and family who are organizing, and vote for candidates and policies that give workers more voice and power. Make a personal pledge to “show up” in solidarity for someone else’s fight at least 5 times in 2021--whether a town hall, a digital rally, or contacting your local elected officials, especially for folks who are struggling to make ends meet in the midst of a disastrous health and economic crisis. As always, we welcome your additions to our Checklist! Use our Twitter and Facebook pages to add your comments, suggested actions, and organizations to support. And if you like the show, subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts for new episodes every Friday. System Check is a project of The Nation magazine, hosted by Melissa Harris-Perry and Dorian Warren and produced by Sophia Steinert-Evoy. Support for System Check comes from Omidyar Network, a social change venture that is reimagining how capitalism should work. Learn more about their efforts to recenter our economy around individuals, community, and societal well-being at Omidyar.com. Our executive producer is Frank Reynolds. DD Guttenplan is Editor of The Nation, Erin O’Mara is President of The Nation. Our theme music is by Brooklyn-based artist and producer Jachary.  Subscribe to The Nation to support all of our podcasts: thenation.com/podcastsubscribe.
  • System Check with Melissa Harris-Perry and Dorian Warren podcast

    3: How Georgia Turned Blue

    48:56

    When Stacey Abrams won the Democratic primary in Georgia’s gubernatorial election two years ago, System Check hosts Melissa Harris-Perry and Dorian Warren wrote an article for Time Magazine, saying, “If Abrams can win the general election and become the first black woman governor in U.S. history, in a Southern state that sits in the heart of the old Confederacy, it will be a powerful symbol of the capacity of black women to be the face — and not just the backbone or helpmate — of American politics.” It turns out, Abrams did not have to win the Governor’s mansion to bring about this change, she has been able to revolutionize the Democratic Party and the state of Georgia even without the electoral victory. Georgia has a brutal racial history: Slavery, Jim Crow, racial violence, and massive voter suppression all are party of Georgia’s story. That history isn’t going away overnight—the Center for Public Integrity called Georgia a “hotbed for voter suppression” just last month, warning that voter purges and other suppressive tactics could help sway this year’s presidential election. But in the end, it was Stacey Abrams, and the deep grassroots organizing that she has been building for nearly a decade, that made the crucial difference in 2020. Georgia went blue for the first time in more than 25 years, and now holds the balance of national power in its hands as both Georgia Senate races head to runoff elections on January 5, 2021. How did Abrams—and the countless activists, organizers, door-knockers and phone-callers her work has touched—bring about this monumental realignment in American politics? On this week’s episode of System Check, your hosts Melissa Harris-Perry and Dorian Warren dig into the dual realities of Georgia’s history, highlighting both the enduring marks of white supremacy and the resilient movements for racial justice woven into the state’s fabric. They talk to the grassroots organizers whose years of organizing, mobilizing, and strategy have created new models of system change. Nse Ufot, Executive Director of the New Georgia Project Action Fund has spent years working to expand democracy by registering nearly 1 million eligible but unregistered African American, Latinx, and Asian American Georgians. She tells us why music, food, and childcare—and drag shows—are important tools of organizing. Georgia is the epicenter of the New South, and the racial makeup is no longer confined to the Black/white paradigm. Genny Castillo, Regional Engagement Director, Southern Economic Advancement Project, and Aisha Yaqoob Mahmood, Director of the Asian American Advocacy Fund of Georgia, tell Melissa and Dorian what the state’s changing demographics mean for the future of politics in Georgia, and across the country. Tune in to find out why Genny wants you read pages 63 to 65 in Stacey Abrams first book, Lead from the Outside, and why Aisha’s dad invited Stacey Abrams to his daughter’s wedding. This week’s final word goes to Renee Montgomery: A star of the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream, Montgomery stunned sports fans this summer when she announced she would sit out the 2020 season to concentrate her energies on the voter mobilization efforts in Georgia. And she isn’t done yet: after all the runoff elections are still 8 weeks away. System Checklist Transforming analysis into action, our hosts give listeners three action items this week. First, help us make a playlist inspired by the work Georgia has already done and the work Georgia is tasked with doing between now and the January 5, 2021 runoffs. Think of this as a sonic organizing tool to remind the people of Georgia they are not alone, Georgia is on ALL our minds as we try to save and strengthen American democracy. Share your choices to our Twitter and our Facebook. Use the hashtag #SystemCheckPlaylist Second, even if you are not in Georgia, you can experience the wise counsel and learn the key strategies of Stacey Abrams by checking out her two best selling political strategy books Lead from the Outside: How to Build Your Future and Make Real Change and Our Time Is Now: Power, Purpose, and the Fight for a Fair America. Read them, give them as gifts, follow the advice. Lastly, remember that election 2020 is not over. Contribute your time, talent and treasure in whatever ways you can to the efforts to expand democracy and sustain voter mobilization in Georgia! Look for the organizers and organizations doing the work in your neighborhood, your community, your state. Find out how you can get involved and make a difference in your own backyard, then send us a note on social media and let us know about the amazing work you are doing to check the systems that affect your life. As always, we welcome your additions to our Checklist! Use our Twitter and Facebook pages to add your comments, suggested actions, and organizations to support. And if you like the show, subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts for new episodes every Friday. System Check is a project of The Nation magazine, hosted by Melissa Harris-Perry and Dorian Warren and produced by Sophia Steinert-Evoy. Support for System Check comes from Omidyar Network, a social change venture that is reimagining how capitalism should work. Learn more about their efforts to recenter our economy around individuals, community, and societal well-being at Omidyar.com. Our executive producer is Frank Reynolds. DD Guttenplan is Editor of The Nation, Erin O’Mara is President of The Nation. Our theme music is by Brooklyn-based artist and producer Jachary. Subscribe to The Nation to support all of our podcasts: thenation.com/podcastsubscribe.
  • System Check with Melissa Harris-Perry and Dorian Warren podcast

    2: White Supremacy Is Baked Into Our Electoral System

    42:44

    How did we get here? How did we get to the end of a week in which Americans cast 160 million votes, the highest number ever in a general election and the highest voter turnout among eligible citizens in over a hundred years, a week in which one candidate received almost 4 million votes more than the other one, and we still don’t know who our next president is? Last week on System Check, your hosts Melissa Harris-Perry and Dorian Warren dug into all the different ways this country makes it hard for people to cast their ballot. But it’s one thing to vote—on this week’s show, they explain why it’s a whole other thing to get that vote to matter. It’s time for a system check on how your vote gets counted. Any conversation about representation in our democracy has to start at the foundationally unequal institution of the electoral college. Rashad Robinson, President of Color of Change and Spokesperson for Color of Change PAC, joins us to discuss how barriers to casting and counting the votes of Black Americans have been “baked in” to our political system. Next up, Kristen Clarke, President and Executive Director of the National Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law, weighs in on the Republican strategy to nominate and confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. Is it a coincidence that Barrett has just been confirmed to the court—one leg of the conservative movement’s “three-legged stool” of countermajoritarian rule—just in time to strike down the will of the majority of voters? Our history is important, and can the dark periods in our past can help guide us through our struggles today. Professor Blair Kelley of North Carolina State University offers both a deeply historical and personal perspective on voter suppression, grounded in her family’s own experiences during slavery, reconstruction, and in the Jim Crow South. Just as racism helps explain the particular ways in which our institutions were formed, it also provides a cudgel for those in power, and those who feel threatened by equality, today. The Nation’s own Sports Editor, Dave Zirin, joined us on our Election Night live coverage and reminds us of a single key insight to help make sense of the election results. And Cristina Beltran of NYU, author of Cruelty as Citizenship: How Migrant Suffering Sustains White Democracy, joined us to help us think about how “white domination” is in fact, a civic experience for non-white voters hoping to cast a vote and have it count. But it wouldn’t be a System Check if we didn’t talk about the ways we can get out of our current mess. The Nation’s Strikes Correspondent, Jane McAlevey, talked to us about the intersection of a movement moment with a presidential election, and the necessity of non-violent, direct action. And two Members of Congress join us to talk about what is to be done once the votes are counted: Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal instructs us on a path forward that centers intersectionality, and Congressional Black Caucus Chair Rep. Karen Bass reminds us of the necessity of outside pressure on all elected officials (Bass, like so many progressive champions, won her reelection bid this week). Finally, Dreamer Astrid Silva of Dream Big Nevada has the last word this week as she talks to us about what this election means for millions like her who are unable to vote, whose fates hinge on the final vote count, but who remain hopeful, no matter the outcome. Looking to turn all this analysis into action? We give listeners three action items this week: Demand Twitter and Facebook suspend Trump’s accounts for spreading lies and misinformation about the election. Support the runoffs and help us do the work to ensure every vote is counted. Listen to our 5-hour Election Night Livestream for cogent, real-time analysis with an array of insightful voices, from scholars to grassroots organizers on the ground. As always, we welcome your additions to our Checklist! Use our Twitter and Facebook pages to add your comments, suggested actions, and organizations to support. And if you like the show, subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts for new episodes every Friday. System Check is a project of The Nation magazine, hosted by Melissa Harris-Perry and Dorian Warren and produced by Sophia Steinert-Evoy. Support for System Check comes from Omidyar Network, a social change venture that is reimagining how capitalism should work. Learn more about their efforts to recenter our economy around individuals, community, and societal well-being at Omidyar.com. Our executive producer is Frank Reynolds. DD Guttenplan is Editor of The Nation, Erin O’Mara is President of The Nation. Our theme music is by Brooklyn-based artist and producer Jachary. 
  • System Check with Melissa Harris-Perry and Dorian Warren podcast

    1: Every Vote Must Count

    49:03

    Welcome to System Check. On this podcast, we’re going to break down the big, unwieldy, seemingly immovable systems that structure our politics and our lives. In the ten episodes in this season, we will delve into the history of these systems, and along with our guests, we will seek ways to move beyond or redesign these systems. In our first episode, your hosts Dorian Warren and Melissa Harris-Perry are focusing on the system at the top of everyone’s minds: Voting. More than 75 million Americans have already cast a ballot, but election watchers are warning that long lines, false information, and purposeful barriers may deter many Americans from exercising their right to vote. America’s convoluted voting system is deeply and purposely unfair to many Americans, especially African Americans, Spanish-speakers, caregivers, and those with the least education and the fewest financial resources. It’s time for a system check. Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund joins us to consider the long history of voter suppression in the United States and to outline how state laws, federal court decisions, and digital misinformation continue to depress voter turnout. After listening to this interview, we know you will want to learn more. Check out Sherrilyn Ifill, Civil Rights Superhero by Melissa Harris-Perry (Glamour, October 13, 2020); Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t know his civil rights history by Sherrilyn Ifill (Washington Post, October 17, 2019) and the testimony of Sherrilyn Ifill, before the United States House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary Hearing on H.R. 1, the “For the People Act of 2019 (January 29, 2019). Also in this episode, co-host Melissa Harris-Perry delivers the weekly “System Analysis” with a surprising take on the rationality of voting. She concludes by drawing on the wisdom of Professor Lani Guinier. legal scholar and a champion of voting rights and racial justice. Twenty years ago, as the 2000 election between Vice President Al Gore and Governor George W. Bush descended into a chad-hanging fiasco, Lani Guinier wrote Making Every Vote Count for The Nation. Her analysis remains relevant today. In the second half of the episode, we talk to Alicia Garza, co-founder of #BlackLivesMatter, founder of the Black Futures Lab, co-founder of Super Majority, host of her own podcast, Lady Don’t Take No, and author of the new book, The Purpose of Power: How We Come Together When We Fall Apart. Alicia Garza is insightful, impactful, and vulnerable in this interview you will not want to miss! Transforming analysis into action, we give listeners three action items this week: Read Alicia Garza’s The Purpose of Power: How We Come Together When We Fall Apart. If you haven’t already voted—VOTE! Not sure if you’re registered? You can check here.  If you or anyone you know encounters difficulties while trying to vote, call Election Protection: 1-866-OUR VOTE Be sure to keep listening until the end of the episode, because organizer Linda Sutton of Democracy North Carolina has an inspiring final word this week. As always, we welcome your additions to our Checklist! Use our Twitter and Facebook pages to add your comments, suggested actions, and organizations to support. And if you like the show, subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts for new episodes every Friday. System Check is a project of The Nation, hosted by Melissa Harris-Perry and Dorian Warren and produced by Sophia Steinert-Evoy. Our executive producer is Frank Reynolds. DD Guttenplan is Editor of The Nation, Erin O’Mara is President of The Nation. Our theme music is by Brooklyn-based artist and producer Jachary. Special thanks this week to our guests Sherrilyn Ifill and Alicia Garza. Support for System Check comes from Omidyar Network, a social change venture that is reimagining how capitalism should work. Learn more about their efforts to recenter our economy around individuals, community, and societal well-being at Omidyar.com.

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