Today’s feminist movement has a glaring blind spot, and paradoxically, it is women. Mainstream feminists rarely talk about meeting basic needs as a feminist issue, argues Mikki Kendall, but food insecurity, access to quality education, safe neighborhoods, a living wage, and medical care are all feminist issues. All too often, however, the focus is not on basic survival for the many, but on increasing privilege for the few. That feminists refuse to prioritize these issues has only exacerbated the age-old problem of both internecine discord and women who rebuff at carrying the title. Moreover, prominent white feminists broadly suffer from their own myopia with regard to how things like race, class, sexual orientation, and ability intersect with gender. How can we stand in solidarity as a movement, Kendall asks, when there is the distinct likelihood that some women are oppressing others? In her searing collection of essays, Mikki Kendall takes aim at the legitimacy of the modern feminist movement, arguing that it has chronically failed to address the needs of all but a few women. Drawing on her own experiences with hunger, violence, and hypersexualization, along with incisive commentary on politics, pop culture, the stigma of mental health, and more, Hood Feminism delivers an irrefutable indictment of a movement in flux. An unforgettable debut, Kendall has written a ferocious clarion call to all would-be feminists to live out the true mandate of the movement in thought and in deed. Drop In with Mikki Kendall to find out how you can be part of a movement that includes all.
Mikki Kendall is a writer, diversity consultant, and occasional feminist; she has appeared on the BBC, NPR, The Daily Show, PBS, Good Morning America, MSNBC, Al Jazeera, WBEZ, and Showtime, and discusses race, feminism, police violence, tech, and pop culture at institutions and universities across the country. She is the author of the New York Times-bestselling HOOD FEMINISM (recipient of the Chicago Review of Books Award and named a best book of the year by BBC, Bustle, and TIME). She is also the author of AMAZONS, ABOLITIONISTS, AND ACTIVISTS, a graphic novel illustrated by A. D’Amico. Her essays can be found at TIME, the New York Times, The Guardian, the Washington Post, Essence, Vogue, The Boston Globe, NBC, and a host of other sites.Leave a comment for radio show guests
What’s the story behind the story? We’ll find out on Dropping In. Our guests are today’s original thinkers, conversations that spark new ways of seeing what’s going on. We bring it all to the table, diverse perspectives, controversy, loving and singular voices. Magically, stories reveal the common threads that link us, experience the joys, the fist pumps, the detours, and the hard one truth of those who blazed the trail so that we might do the same. And now, here’s your host, Diane Dewey.
Diane: Welcome to Dropping In, everyone. It’s Memorial Day weekend and the unofficial start to summer, a time when some of us seek to empty our minds led to the Hills. There’s another alternative and that’s to push our Horizons to new places. Our guest today, Mikki Kendall, has written a book called Hood Feminism, Notes From The Women That A Movement Forgot and that will ricochet off all your previous assumptions and conveniences of thought about race, privilege, and gender politics. We leave the theoretical ideological perch and live right in the hood to learn about its needs once and two overlooked dreams. Hood Feminism is to be read and acted upon by women everywhere and their partners. We’re privileged to speak with you today, Mikki.
Mikki: Thank you for having me.
Diane: I think that you are going to be not just a pioneer at the moment, but for the distance, because you have relied on direct observation. You’ve set aside the preconceived narratives that we’re supposed to listen to and found your own. Congratulations on that.
Mikki: Thank you.
Diane: I’ll give our listeners just a brief rundown. Hood Feminism, a potent and electrifying critique of today’s feminist movement, announcing a fresh new voice in black feminism. In her searing collection of essays, Mikki Kendall aims at the legitimacy of the modern feminist movement, arguing that it has chronically failed to address the needs of all but a few women. Drawing on her own experiences with hunger, violence, and hyper sexualization along with incisive commentary on politics, pop culture, the stigma of mental health, and more.
Hood Feminism delivers an irrefutable indictment of a movement in flux. It’s an unforgettable debut. Kendall has written a ferocious clarion call to all would-be feminists to live out the true mandate of the movement in thought and deed. It’s the best book of 2020 by Bussell, BBC, and Time, the New York Times bestseller, a Washington Post notable book of 2020. Mikki, 2020, in some ways, the pandemic mimics the fear, paranoia, medical concerns, and safety concerns that women of color experience daily. In your view, as it made us more empathic, is the massive success of your book a signal that we are tuning in? Or what does success mean to you?
Mikki: I think in some ways, the book’s success is because it resonates with the people who already have this experience and the people who are beginning to have this experience. One of the interesting things about the last year which had been traumatic in a setting is how many people suddenly had to realize that people they knew didn’t believe that they had a right to exist. We kept seeing all of these weird sand fictions of science come up.
The math doesn’t work. The virus isn’t real. All of these things. Meanwhile, it was real. People were dying. I think for a lot of people who have maybe been able to exist in a bubble. The bubble will pop by 2020. A lot of social safety nets that people thought they would need. They needed it and they weren’t there.
Diane: Exactly. It exposed that absence. I think also a denial of medicine, denial of science, and denial of existence. It’s something that people of color, Indigenous people, women have contended with for a very long time. When it went in the face of white folks, we were horrified. How can you deny this? But it is something that has plagued neighborhoods, communities of color, and of LGBTQIA where there was just this denial that these needs could be real, that the need for acknowledgment and basic services. How did you come to a point where you started to positively identify that it was on the ground, hands-on services, and accessibility that people needed contrary to what was the popular belief?
Mikki: So, there’s this sort of weird respectability-based idea that if you do the right things, you’ll never need help. I was a single mom. I lived in the projects. And if you hear that part of the story, you hear, “You got pregnant. He left, blah, blah, blah.” We met in the military. We were married. We got divorced because he couldn’t keep his hands to himself or anything else to himself. He was from a good home. I grew up in East Texas. The whole mythos that we sort of build-up, that other people leave their kids but not responsible white men. This is true. It can happen to any community.
What was interesting was that in the aftermath, people were quick to tell me I couldn’t succeed. I was going to fail. I am a person fueled in some ways by spite. If you tell me that I cannot do a thing, it is almost guaranteed. I’m going to try harder than ever to do it just to prove you wrong. But also, along the way, I’m applying for programs. I’m hearing people in some cases who run those programs like food stamps, medical cards, all of that say, “Well, why don’t you just drop out and go work at McDonald’s?” I, to this day, cannot tell you what good dropping out of college is for me or my child.
Mikki: I paid more back in taxes than I ever got from the system. All of these things could happen to anyone. I was a veteran. I was a married mother and a veteran. I needed a hand getting back on my feet after a divorce. So, why do we then think that somehow magically, if you make the right choices on this page, you will then never have to face a problem? Anything can happen. Natural disasters can happen. We saw that with Texas, for instance. A lot of those people had jobs. They own their own homes. It didn’t matter about how our grade failed.
Diane: Going back to New Orleans, before that, we’re replete with no lack of examples. I wonder about this idea. I love that you’re motivated by spite and this impetus of people telling you that you’re limited to the scope. It’s great if we get a minimum wage increase but the point is not to work at McDonald’s. That is beside the point. You were catapulted by this sense of proving people wrong.
You talk also about people who may feel that way but become despairing in the absence of support mechanisms. You had a grandmother. You had certain people that held you to countable, held your toes to the fire. When you don’t have these kinds of support, or you don’t believe you have access, or you don’t believe you’re deserving of access, doesn’t that open the gateway to mental health issues and survival issues?
Mikki: This is one of the places of privilege. Being a veteran comes into play. If someone’s going to say that’s not a privilege, you earn that. But still, the access to mental health care to free medical care are things that make a person like me possible. I had loving family members. I have amazing friends. All of these things. But a lot of times, we create obstacles for communities, for people in those communities, and then we blame them for not being able to overcome all the obstacles.
I could tell you I did it by myself and it was just that but there are various points where I saw a therapist. There are various points. I didn’t have to pay for it because I’m a mother. There are various points where I did despair, where I did think that I wasn’t going to make it and I had a friend to call all of these things. If we normalize the idea that everyone had a right to access mental health care, everyone had a right to access a basic support system, we would all be doing so much better as a society.
Crime rates go down. All of the things we say we’re concerned with. People who are not having to figure out how to get to their next meal at every single moment do better than people who are stuck in survival mode. You make very different decisions when you have good choices in front of you than when all you have in front of you are bad choices.
Diane: Right. I go back to the idea of vulnerability. There’s a real vulnerability like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. If you don’t have basic security and safety, that’s number one, you really can’t get beyond that without tripping and falling again, constantly getting back. It’s a very tenuous hold. Yet, here is the stereotype. One of the many that you dismantle in Hood Feminism is that of the strong black one.
The woman who is tough maybe for her good and maybe because of the distance that black women and people of color had to come, there is a reticence to ask for help. There’s a reticence to seem vulnerable, to seem anything but strong because let’s face it. You need to seem strong in a certain way to be on the hood in the streets. There’s a kind of conundrum to it. At some point, you opened yourself up. I wonder if you feel that holding yourself out as an example of someone who did that, helps others feel that they can do that without relinquishing power.
Mikki: I did not intend to hold myself out as an example but I found out. One of the messages I do get more consistently than we ever thought possible is from young women who thank me for being open and public about being poor, about needing out, about not being perfect. I don’t want to say it’s odd but it feels odd to have someone thank you for telling the truth about yourself. Because what they get from it is that it’s okay for them to reach out for help, to fall to not make all the right choices, to not be perfect.
I was just telling my story but I think we sometimes expect people to be perfect in their poverty, to be exemplary to deserve assistance, or help, or to be seen as worthwhile. That’s just impossible. I see a lot of people suddenly realizing there’s no shame in needing help but I want people to take that away from this book. There’s nothing wrong with needing to ask for help. You should be able to get help. The problem is that you need help. The problem is that you’re in a situation where you don’t have all the resources you need.
Diane: The lethal word is deserved because we all deserve it. It’s a birth, right? It’s not a matter of being perfect, having done the right things. Imperfection is part of the province of being human but it’s relegated to wide privilege so that the concept of forgiveness, the Judeo-Christian concept of forgiveness applies. You can goof up, you can get forgiveness, you can move on but not if you’re a person of color, then you’re blamed.
So, there’s this very double standard. You’re held to a different set of standards in the first place. Where’s the room for second chances? Where’s the room for all the things that white people enjoy the ability to move on. Part of that is incarceration. We’ll get to that in a moment. You also have come out, Mikki, as you were saying that you were a survivor of a physically abusive relationship.
This also feels extremely important to me. Removing the sense of shame of being a survivor, that poverty is shameful, we should be doing better because there’s a judgment there, all of these things are endemic in the self-concept of people of color. You have a lot of work ahead of you in something that you may be just started. Do you have that sense that this is a movement?
Mikki: I think that in many ways I am joining an existing movement towards better mental health, towards acknowledging basic humanity amongst ourselves and with each other between communities. I think also there’s something in being validated that you deserve to exist, right? You deserve to have access to the opportunity and all of these things.
Yes, I guess we could call it a movement but I think sometimes it is just what should have been happening, the messaging you should have been getting all along. I’m having a lot of conversations with young women in particular who realize this thing that I thought should be true. It is true. I do deserve it. I’m not going to argue my humanity with people anymore. I’m going to focus on what I need to do.
Diane: Right. How valuable is that? Honestly, it’s like excavating a pre-original thing that was there before all the shit happened and the history compounded what was happening. We bought into those narratives of proprietorship of black lives. It’s like uncovering something. It’s like going on digging to get to a basic fundamental sense of agency. It is worth it, deserves as a person. It is stark when the tagline of our day is Black Lives Matter. That should be such a redundant point. How can we be declaring this now? It’s necessary for women. There’s that part of a recess. We just have a minute before we have to take a break.
When we come back, Mikki, I am going to put you on the spot which is you have to answer for a lot of things that I don’t think belong to you. One of them is, how does the disparity of wealth that we’re experiencing now lend itself to fueling some of the disadvantages and inaccessibility that people of color are experiencing and women, in particular? Don’t go away. We’re going to take a break now. We’ll come back with Mikki Kendall on Hood Feminism, Notes From The Women That A Movement Forgot. We’ll be right back after this brief message.
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Diane: Welcome back, everyone. We’re here with Mikki Kendall, author of Hood Feminism. We’re tackling a subject that is hard to wrap our minds around but the disparity of wealth threatens to divide the haves and the have nots in our world even further. We already know that women make a fraction of the income that men do and that women of color make a fraction of what women make. This disparity is ongoing and it is exacerbated by the increased wage and income disparity. What do you see, Mikki? What are the ramifications of this in terms of keeping alive the necessary conversations about services that are needed that are necessary?
Mikki: One of the things that people have skimmed over in the pandemic is we’ve talked somewhat about women leaving the workforce. We tend to have these articles where it’s generally women in a household where there’s another income, whether their income is higher or they are in a multi-generational household with family members who have the money, whatever. What we don’t talk about are the women who can’t afford to leave the workforce and also can’t afford childcare.
Those women are largely going to be women of color. They are also going to be some low-income white women in that group. We are seeing now this push to limit access to reproductive rights. We want to stop abortion. We want to stop this. We want to stop that. People can’t afford to have kids. The declining birth rate doesn’t have a mythical explanation. The declining birth rate is that kids are expensive. My oldest just graduated from college. College alone has a six-figure bill.
Never mind the raising until 18. For a lot of people, that gas means I’m not going to become a parent. To be honest, I don’t know if my story could happen now in the same way. At the time I left my ex, my rent was $450 or so a month. I was able to make that habit. I don’t know if you can find an apartment now for $450 a month anywhere in America, at least not one you would want to inhabit.
I know the child care costs around 150 a week when my kids were little. Right now, it’s more like 6800 a week, where the wage has not changed though it is wage. The minimum wage conversation keeps being about getting it up to 15. A living wage is probably closer to 20 or 22 but I was making $7 an hour in the ‘90s. It wasn’t enough money then but I could kind of make it work.
I don’t know what you do with a 7–8-dollar wave now. We look at people, especially people in communities, where there is generational wealth and we don’t understand why they’re not doing better, why they’re not doing more. There’s no money to do better. There’s no money to do more. Part of closing the wealth gap fundamentally is addressing things like wages, is addressing things like raising the income limits on programs whether it’s food stamps or housing assistance to match inflation, to match what things cost.
Diane: Right. The difference between a minimum wage and a living wage. A living page is different. That’s one of the aspects of what you’re saying and child care, which has notoriously fallen in some settings, particularly suburban settings or wealthy urban settings. Child care has fallen to women of color to manage for white women.
There’s an additional aspect thereof, “Well, I can’t have my child if I’m taking care of somebody else’s child.” I just saw it. I was just in Brooklyn and it was stark. Child care is what I would call a predictable element of the feminist platform. There are lots of others in Hood Feminism that are less predictable and need to be tackled. To me, one of them is the corporate prison system.
The system of incarcerating people of color and the decriminalization of some of the offenses that get people of color there such as sex work, such as minor drug offenses which other segments of the population are being paid off by their expensive attorneys. There are other aspects of feminism than just the direct hits that come to women. You uncovered a lot of these. Talk to us about some of the other aspects that you think are critical at this stage.
Mikki: One of the things, especially if we’re talking about the prison industrial complex, is that we incarcerate more people in America than almost any other country in the world. We incarcerate them free of things in which there is no particular victim. I don’t care if your 19-year-old has a baggie of weed. I just don’t. Depending upon the state meter does that state right.
If you’re in the wrong state and the wrong race and you catch the wrong tab, you might be going to jail. We’ve also seen officers on video planting drugs on people and all of these other abuses. We’ve created a system where we reward people for abusing some communities. This is where I think feminism comes into play and where I feel like it fails is that we will then talk about feminist issues like child care and wages and all of these things.
Those are all important but we sort of skim over what happens to the women in communities where they can be arrested for sex work even if no sex work is occurring.
We don’t talk about why we think sex work is terrible in some communities but in others, you can become a celebrity for being a sex worker. We’ve seen several. We change how we talk about them. We have weed sommeliers now.
We have an entire channel that has, “Here’s how you cook with marijuana.” Playing outside by side with some people getting long federal sentences for marijuana. I think we are not talking enough about who you are dictating in a general race in class, but race and gender dictate your class. And then that class dictates your safety in this system. You can be doing the same thing.
They call it adultification as a black girl in fifth grade, as a white girl in fifth grade in the same classroom. And only one of you is likely to be punished in ways that may alter the course of your future. You can both get in the same fight. You can even get in a fight with each other. The black girl is more likely to be the one that we see on camera being assaulted by a school resource officer. The black girl is more likely to be the one in handcuffs. This extends to young black men.
This extends to young Latino, non-binary kids, and all of these groups where because of their identity, their behavior is more likely to be criminalized. If their behavior is more likely to be criminalized, their community is more likely to suffer. They are more likely because so many of them are being treated in this way to end up in the prison pipeline, the school to prison pipeline. That can start as early as possible. We see this with a six-year-old in a handcuff.
Diane: The despicable, the power differential, the abuse of power. These are so jarring that I start to reach for some understanding of how all this happened. If you don’t mind, I came across an article. The criminalization of marijuana as you say, you don’t care if some kid has a bag on the street and we certainly don’t care if it’s a white kid. So, what we are talking about here is that we care if it’s a black kid.
The article is called Legalize It All: How to Win the War on Drugs? This is from 2016 by a guy called Dan Baum. He went to visit John Ehrlichman who was part of the Richard Nixon Troika of the Watergate Scandal. He survived that somehow. Baum says, “I started to ask Ehrlichman a series of earnest, wonky questions that he impatiently waved away. “You want to know what this was all about?” he asked with the bluntness of a man who, after public disgrace and a stretch in federal prison, had little left to protect.
“The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. Do you understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course, we did.”
This is a quote. The dimension of that is pretty horrifying because the disruption to the community is real. The disruption to families is real. Can we step back? Can we decriminalize some of these offenses and change up the rules? In other countries, it’s very different. Sex workers are protected. Sex workers have medical care. Do you see us being able to move in a direction where we have decriminalization?
Mikki: I think it is a direction we could move in but we have to choose to mean what we say. When we say separation of Church and state, we have to stop assuming that one, two, or three religion’s morality should dictate the behaviors of 300 plus million people who may or may not belong to any of those things. I know that right now, someone is going, “But the Bible says…” I get it but not everyone believes in that book, not everyone adheres to that book.
I think sometimes in America we sort of do this weird default where we start talking about being a Christian country and all of these other things. And then we use that to justify some of the least Christian behaviors possible. I read the version of the Bible where Jesus was throwing the money lenders out of the temple and he welcomed the sex workers. I don’t know what book the other people have been reading. I think that as a country and as a culture, we should be normalizing the idea that the parts of the Bible you wanted to bring in shouldn’t just be the ones that let you hurt people.
It should be the ones where we make sure everyone has access to medical care, education, food, to all of their needs being met so that we could call ourselves a Christian country. Now, we just use it as an excuse. If we did those things, not that sex work would go away, that drug use or whatever would go away. If we change the way we think about these things, we would stop thinking it’s normal to lock people away for years for things we perceive as moral failing.
Diane: Exactly. What is the emergent destiny of someone who comes out of prison? It does not raise the outlook. You try to get a job after you’ve had a prison sentence. Try to build a family again. There are social ramifications. I think the fact that you talk about it in this quintessential way related to Christianity is brilliant also because Christianity has gotten hijacked by the far right. There’s a whole like an umbrella that a lot of these transgressions against people’s rights are now falling under. You are in the field. Do you think that feminism is ready to embrace some of these causes?
Mikki: I think it is. I think there are aspects of feminism that are not a different journey for a lot of people to be on. I think a lot, especially younger people, obtain Gen X, some boomers, a lot of Gen Z, Gen Alpha. Even some silent generation-era feminists are looking around. They’re seeing the world that ignoring these things has wrought and none of us wants to keep this one eye without. I would hope we would all be open to making things better for the future.
Diane: Absolutely. There’s not much time left either if you’re the silent generation. If we’re going to do something, we have to do it soon. Your book goes a long way in talking out of the ideological perch and into the realities of getting involved. What are some of the ways that you think we can do that, Mikki? What do you say to people? We just have a couple of minutes.
Mikki: This is the most basic. It’s not just the show up to vote part. It’s after the voting. Push your politicians. Push them to create the programs, to fund the existing program, to make sure that we have created some pathway out of the mess that we are currently in. And then, to be blunt, especially for silent-generation and boomers, it’s your politicians. It is your compatriots. We’re still running congress. Don’t listen to you.
Diane: Absolutely. There’s a real disparity there. You have an extraordinary resume. You are currently headed to Sabbatical. Is that correct?
Mikki: Yes. I am going to take a few months off to work on my next book.
Diane: Okay. Are we anticipating nonfiction, fiction, incorporation of some of the same themes?
Mikki: It is nonfiction. It is some of the same things. One of the things I want to talk about is the generational differences and breaking that down by rate because I don’t think we talk about generation in a way that recognizes the history that was going on at the same time. It’s easy to say something like, “Okay, boomer.” And ignore that boomers were living through Jim Crow laws.
Diane: Exactly. When you talk about being nice, that was a way of acclimating to a previous generation. Okay, we’re done with being nice, maybe now. That’s a good thing. I think it’s great if you’re going to contextualize some of these judgments that get made unfairly, perhaps. We’ve got to take a break. We’re going to come back with Mikki Kendall on Hood Feminism, Notes From The Women That A Movement Forgot, published by Viking Press. It’s a bestseller. You can still get your hands on it from wherever books are sold. Don’t go away. We’ll be right back with Mikki Kendall.
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Diane: Welcome back, everyone. We’re here with Mikki Kendall. She’s a writer, diversity consultant, and occasional feminist. She’s appeared on BBC, and PR, The Daily Show, PBS, Good Morning America, MSNBC, Al Gezira, WBEZ, and Showtime. She discusses race, feminism, police violence, tech and pop culture at institutions and universities across the country. She’s the author of The New York Times Bestselling Book, Hood Feminism.
The recipient of the Chicago Review of Books Award and named the Best Book of the Year by BBC, Bustle, and Time. She is also the author of Amazon’s Abolitionists and Activists, a graphic novel illustrated by A D’Amico. Her essays can be found in Time, The New York Times, The Guardian, The Washington Post, Essence, Vogue, The Boston Globe, NBC, and a host of other sites.
Mikki, we are supposedly winding down from the pandemic and another colliding force that we might let up and develop a false sense of security. We see great iconic women of color in positions like the Biden administration, like Amanda Gorman AT, the inauguration. On the cover of magazines, we have Williams, Alicia Keys. Does it make people take their foot off the gas and sort of think, “Okay, we’ve got this solved now.”? How do we offset that?
Mikki: I think that it does. I don’t know if people remember the narrative when Obama was first elected. It was, “We’re post-racial now. Racism is over. It’s done.” About that, as it turned out, not so much. I think sometimes when we see progress, we think that that’s enough but we can’t undo getting to a place that took hundreds of years to get to in a few decades.
I’m going to point something out now. It will awkwardly enter history into this but it’s the truth. Slavery ends technically in the 1960s but we still got Asian Exclusion, Jim Crow, Japanese Internment, the boarding schools, and all of these things in the years that follow. Technically, if we’re going to say America gave up discrimination in its laws, that happened in the early arts as we started to realize that the war on drugs has been a war in communities of color. It’s not been long enough for us to fix it yet since it was happening and was normalized and codified as a good policy.
America is going to need probably a generation or to actively work to correct its mistakes, to make things better. I don’t expect to see a more perfect union in my lifetime. It’d be great if it happened but that’s not what I expect to see in my lifetime. I expect to work towards getting to the goal, those promises held in the lifetime that follow me because we’re not constantly pushing back, we’ve seen how easy it was to backslide.
Diane: Absolutely. I think, too, that you make a good point. It’s an evolution in thinking and consistent effort. Look at the obstacles we face now. Look at the amount of pushback to defying racism. Look at the justifications that there are for violence from the police force. Lack of understanding about mental health issues. I think we’re just scratching the surface.
It’s a little too early to feel self-congratulatory. I think that your book is going to give some oomph to the idea that these problems are alive and well and, in some cases, getting worse. Are we seeing more social services? There’s been a shift politically. Are we seeing more social services? Are we seeing more accessibility, in your view?
Mikki: I think we’re seeing progress towards those things because there’s been this shift politically. There’s a new budget that’s a proposal, that’s been unveiled, or is being unveiled today. We’re starting to see with the child payments and that kind of thing a recognition that we can’t keep thinking all bootstraps. If you just use your boot trap, which for the record, could only lift afoot, if they even sold boots with trapped anymore, not even style, the grief. We’re starting to recognize that as a culture, we have to take care of each other or else we’re going to fail.
Diane: That’s right. That’s why all of these other discriminations and aggressions and microaggressions are all interconnected. I think the bootstrap is insidious. You brought it out brilliantly in your book, this idea that we’re going to do this by ourselves, this idea of resilience in communities of color. Look at resilience.
Look at the ability to bounce back. This is something that is doing more harm than good because the irony is that the accessibility for marginalized people who cover resilience and the convenience of thought that this resilience is triumphant over something is like a falsehood right. We can’t afford to rely on the few that get out and those that are left behind fall back even farther. Isn’t that part of the narrative?
Mikki: Yes. One of the things about that narrative that’s so peculiar is that planted communities of color and say they can be resilient and then it becomes a crisis when the problem leads to communities of color. We said this with Opioids, for instance. Here’s the thing. Whatever is a crisis in the community of color will become a crisis for every other community. Whatever social services, public safety net, all of these things that we decide, you don’t need, we don’t need, your people are lazy, we’re framing it.
The bell rings for everyone because most Americans are not as well off. I’m now talking about even white Americans who think they’re temporarily embarrassed millionaires. You’re not that well off. You’re a missed paycheck or two away from homelessness, maybe four or five, one natural disaster, one medical crisis away. So, you should not be thinking in terms of, “I don’t need it. Those people are taking unfairly.” You should be thinking that if it could happen to them, it could happen to me. If you’re at a moment where you have more than enough, you should be looking to share more than enough because somebody may need to share with you at some point.
Exceptionalism and individualism are not how a society function. It’s not a healthy one. Everyone gets wherever they are with help even if you say, “I pulled myself up by my bootstraps. My grandfather came here with nothing.” Whatever story in your head, in execution, there was a neighbor that helped. There were friends. There were family members. There was someone who gave that person a job who gave them a break on the rent, or groceries, or whatever because that’s actually how communities, especially low-income communities make it. There’s a constant stream of neighbors helping neighbors.
Diane: Exactly. When you think about the rugged individualism involved in the patriarchy, it is a disease. It takes a lot for individuals to immigrate to this country. Some of them immigrate straight to prison because we are incarcerating massive numbers of immigrants. I think you’re talking about kind of a macro view of interconnectivity that’s something we are needing to embrace in a very real way. It’s a nonbinary view.
It’s a sharing of resources. It’s allowing people of privilege to feel scared. I think that that is one of the real offsets of the pandemic, allowing people who eternally felt completely comfortable and complacent to feel scared and say, “Oh, my God. We have to help one another.” Those crises are just going to continue to manifest as our Earth gets sick and tired of everything.
Too many of us, too much, this disparity of wealth will not be going to work. It’s almost as though the extremes are happening but let’s hold up this end of the extreme, the sharing extreme. The one that says, “Yeah, we are all in this together.” I have heard people say, “No, we’re not in Covid together.” There’s a lot of work to be done, Mikki. I’m very glad you’re in this battle. How do you continue to bring forth other unheard voices in your work?
Mikki: One of the things I try to do is if it is a topic I don’t know about and someone reached out to me about it, I am the person who will refer them to someone who does know more than me. But also, I think that we have to be willing to listen. We have to be willing to admit that we don’t know everything, that we don’t have all the answers for problems we’re not facing. And that the people who are facing the problem may be the experts on what they need. They generally are.
One of the things about this fight and us being in it together is recognizing that we don’t all have to have the same need or even the same goal to work towards fixing the problems together. I don’t necessarily expect us all to be best buddies, to like each other all the time, or any of those things. But you should want everyone to be able to eat a full meal. You should want everyone to be housed, everyone to have access to education, everyone to be able to live through this without losing everything. If people think, “Well, I have what I need. Those other people have to figure it out.”
You have what you need right now. You have what you need this time. That may not be true for the entirety of your life. Statistically speaking, for most people, there will be a crisis where you fall and you need help getting back up. You should want the help to be there when you don’t need it for people who are not you. If you do need it, it is there for you, too. You don’t have to be altruistic. I will appeal to your self-interest. I don’t care why you’re doing the right thing. I care that you’re doing the right thing.
Diane: And releasing the idea of otherness, facing the fact that there’s otherness in ourselves, facing the fact that we’re all vulnerable. I think these are huge, Mikki Kendall. I’m so glad that you joined us today on Dropping In to talk about Hood Feminism, Notes From The Women That A Movement Forgot. It goes a far way beyond that, doesn’t it? It’s really about humanity and getting some new definitions on board that will enable us to take one another’s hands and thrive, hopefully. I appreciate you being with us. Thanks for joining us today. It’s been a pleasure.
Mikki: Thank you. I enjoyed this.
Diane: Good. I think it’s the good beginning of a conversation and good to be in the dialogue. I also want to thank our engineers, Matt Weidner and Aaron Keller, our executive producer, Robert Chileno, and most of all, our listeners. Remember to stay safe and get involved until next week. Thank you for dropping in.
Thank you so much for dropping in. Please join Diane Dewey again next Friday at eight A.M. Pacific Time and 11 A.M. Eastern Time on the Voice America Variety Channel. We’ll see you then.