© 2017 MARA

S2EP8 - JACOB & MAURICE - KNEELING DURING THE ANTHEM

TRANSCRIPT

 

Samia:  This is Make America Relate Again, presented by Better Angels Media. I’m Samia Mounts.

 

Let's begin this week's show with some shout-outs!

 

Joe Turner Lin posted a 5-star review on iTunes, saying, "I'm only a few episodes in and this podcast has already made me understand and appreciate ‘the other side’ so much better than before. If you are looking for an antidote to today's toxic political climate, have a listen to this podcast." Thanks Joe, your comments are much appreciated! 

 

Eric England shared the last two weeks’ episodes on Facebook, saying, "This podcast contains a lot of triggering issues, as one would expect for a discussion about abortion. I think it's an awesome example of how people who see the issue differently, can interact civilly and have productive relationships. If after reading or listening, you feel this is the type of interaction more people need to consider, be exposed to, etc, please share the podcast with others.

 

“It is also possible to have very civil conversations about immigration. Now, these guys are good friends that don't mind occasionally swearing on a podcast, but that's not a huge deal when you see how people who approach issues from very different perspectives are able to get along while talking about contentious topics.”

 

Yes, those two definitely shared my tendency towards cursing in casual speech, but it was never used in anger or hostility. Thanks for sharing, Eric!

 

Jan Gartenberg posted on Facebook, "Do you have an hour to listen to this? It might give you some hope." Thanks Jan! And if your name is actually pronounced Yan, thanks Yan! I’m so sorry. I didn't hear back from you about that before I made this intro happen, but thank you. 

 

This week on the show, we're tackling a subject that has recently come into our news headlines again. Now that the NFL preseason has begun. That's right, we're here to talk about football players kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial injustice in the United States. For this conversation, I've brought together two American expats, based here in Seoul Korea. Jacob is a disillusioned conservative from the American upper Midwest. He's what he likes to call a “next generation conservative, openminded but skeptical.” He's a US army veteran who served our country for six years, and he holds a graduate degree in Eastern Philosophy from a Korean University. 

 

Maurice is a Seoul-based English teacher and actor, and a former football player. He's also a black man, so this issue is deeply personal for him. They have completely different views on this really polarizing topic. Let's see how they manage to relate to each other. 

 

MUSIC

 

Samia:  Jacob and Maurice, welcome to Make America Relate Again.

 

Maurice:  Hello. 

 

Jacob:  Hey, thank you very much. 

 

Maurice:  Thanks for having us. 

 

Samia:  Absolutely, I'm so glad to have you both here. Why don't you both introduce yourselves to the listeners so they know your voices and a little bit about you? Maurice, let's start with you. 

 

Maurice:  Alright. My name is of course Maurice, I'm from Memphis, Tennessee, born and raised. I've been living in Korea for almost four years now. I live in Seoul as an actor and an English teacher, and my political views come from more of a, in this topic, athlete’s perspective. For me, more personal as far as my background is concerned and how I was raised, and I've also really haven’t indulged in politics, per se, but I think my perspective comes from a more personal view rather than political view. 

 

Samia:  Well, we like to say that personal is politic in feminist circles, so I think that's really valid. Jacob, let's hear from you.

 

Jacob:  Yeah, I am Jacob. I am from Fargo, North Dakota, I live in Seongnam just outside of Seoul. I have been living in Korea for the past 13 years. My political views... I guess you could say I was raised in a pretty typical Republican home with Christian parents, but they weren't particularly to the right or, you know, there wasn't an agenda in my upbringing or anything. And then I entered the military when I was 17. And I think that during that time I've generally become a more conservative person. I've been a little bit fed up with where the Republican Party has been for a while, and so I am a Trump voter and I do plan on voting for him again. So in a sense I don't consider myself a conventional Republican, necessarily. I’m all about the changes happening right now. 

 

Samia:  Alright. So we're here today to talk about the specific issue of NFL players kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial inequality in America. I want you both to feel free to take that starting issue and go out into all the many branches of it within politics, because it is really a symbol. It's one small part of the issue that has just gotten a lot of media attention and I think is worth talking about. So Jacob, let's continue on with you, what's your take on this?

 

Jacob:  Well, of course, I believe everyone has a right to express themselves. I think it's a basic right that we should all enjoy, and I believe it's also very true that the men who fought and died under the US flag did fight for our rights to protest. However, I think it's generally against the decorum and what is proper when we have the flag come out like that. So I think that while this is legal, the NFL should probably stop it from happening with their financial power and regulations, because frankly, a lot of people do find it to be disrespectful. I understand that many people do say that, oh, this isn't about... We're not disrespecting America, but at the same time I'm not sure how genuine that statement necessarily is. Of course, I think it's true that some people really do view it purely as a form of protest. But I tend to be a little bit more skeptical of that everyone doing it has that kind of perspective. So I'm mostly just concerned with, I think that the gesture itself is kind of just over a personal line that I have about rendering honors and respect to the flag. 

 

Samia:  Okay, and Maurice?

 

Maurice:  I definitely agree with you about how everyone is doing it and I feel like that it's not necessarily everyone's agenda. I do feel like that there are key players - of course, Colin Kaepernick, Malcolm Jenkins, who plays for the Philadelphia Eagles - and these are people who are sincerely, I believe, are trying to make a stand and use their platform for good. But the thing that really bothers me is that the NFL really doesn't respect the players, in my opinion. And treating them as mere employees rather than… In my opinion, I think they should treat them as business partners because the players have a huge part of the profit that the NFL makes. The recent rule that has been recently dismissed due to the NFL PA not agreeing to the terms - the owners completely ignored the players’ voices. They consulted amongst themselves and two of the owners actually disagreed with the rule that was just recently dismissed, but-

 

Samia:  Do you mean the rule that the NFL proposed of a suspension and a fine for any player who kneels during the national anthem?

 

Maurice:  Right. The rule where you can either be outside and stand or you have to be inside the locker room.

 

Samia:  In the locker room.

 

Maurice:  Right. 

 

Samia:  What I read recently was not that the rule had been dismissed but that it hasn't been placed into enforcement because the players filed a grievance. Did you see some other news on that?

 

Maurice:  No. That's as far as what I know about this rule, but again, my main concern was, why did the owners not include the players? And why did the two owners that disagreed with this rule - it wasn't spoken about to the public? So everything just seems, they want to keep things behind closed doors, they don't want to cause an uproar, and they ultimately don't want to lose fans and lose profit. 

 

Samia:  Yeah, I think for the owners it does come down to it's a business for them and they know that a lot of their fans are conservatives who may find this form of protest disrespectful, as Jacob does. Maurice, do you find this form of protest disrespectful to the flag, to our active duty service members and our veterans?

 

Maurice:  No, I don't. 

 

Samia:  And why?

 

Maurice:  Athletes for a long time have used their platform to allow people to be aware of what's going on. If it's in a form of peace, then I think that's perfectly okay. Unfortunately, we have a hard time talking about things that we've been ignoring for a very long time. Of course, racial injustice, police brutality, which is why Colin Kaepernick who started the whole protest and kneeled - that was his reason. First of all, I want to say I definitely respect all military men and-

 

Samia:  And women. 

 

Maurice:  And women of course. 

 

Samia:  Thank you. 

 

Maurice:  Yes, I was going to say that, sorry. Taking that oath - it's a really big thing and I really appreciate that. 

 

Jacob:  Thank you for saying that. I appreciate that. Yeah, thank you. 

 

Maurice:  Yeah. But my question is, why does everyone feel like when there's a situation that needs to be talked about and when this situation arises, it feels like we have to just not talk about it and not just simply be aware of what's going on. I have always looked at it as a human problem. Regardless of what race you are or what background you have or what political view, to see something that's wrong and not address it. I feel like that's a major problem. So why, when someone peacefully protests for something that I think is a human problem, why is that a problem?

 

Jacob:  Okay. Well, I would say that you have a very good point in the sense that I think our society isn't talking enough about the problem and when we do talk about the problem we always talk about it from our very different entrenched positions. So it seems like there isn't any progress. I would say one of the issues though is that when we take the protest into this area, it doesn't actually bring people out to talk about it in a more agreeable, central manner where people are ready to actually relate to each other. It kind of just puts us much more down our conservative and liberal lines. So as a result, I think it's not succeeding at what it's meant to do. But I do have to say that that's a very good point, that I think in a way our media has failed us and we haven't been able to develop a good dialogue between the left and the right and between black and white on this issue, and more importantly as well, I guess to kind of... And I hope I don't change the topic too much. 

 

Samia:  It's a conversation, you can change the topic all you want. There's no rules here. Other than be nice to each other.

 

Jacob:  I think about the media a lot these days, because it seems we have Fox News that is always doing from a very conservative perspective, and then you have other outlets doing a liberal perspective. And there isn't ever really an emphasis on having a middle ground, person-to-person news show or discussion show. Because every show that claims to do that ends up being three liberals attacking a conservative or three conservatives attacking a liberal. And so none of this is reall ... And they care about ratings, right? They don't actually care about advancing the dialogue. So the media has kind of set us up for failure in a public discussion, and as a result, this is kind of where we are. 

 

Maurice:  I definitely agree with the media twisting and turning the stories to separate and divide, but I do also think that our leaders are doing a poor job of bringing everyone together. Donald Trump, our president, just does a poor job of bringing people together, and also Roger Goodell, who I think took a situation that could have brought players, the military, everyone together in such a beautiful way, but yet he just conformed and didn't make the right decisions, and now it's complete chaos. And Donald Trump has been somewhat of a ringleader in this, and it feels like everyone responds to what he's going to say versus what we should actually be doing. 

 

Samia:  President Trump tweeted yesterday, "The NFL players are at it again, taking a knee when they should be standing proudly for the national anthem. Numerous players from different teams wanted to show their ‘outrage’ at something that most of them are unable to define." For me, that's just hugely disrespectful to what the players are protesting, because since the beginning, Colin Kaepernick began it with a very explicit definition for why he was kneeling, what he was protesting. It was very well defined. It was police brutality against black people in America and racial injustice, racial inequality. It does seem like Trump is willfully ignoring the problem, which is what Maurice was suggesting, as more of a widespread issue. Jacob, do you feel that Trump is contributing to the problem with these kinds of tweets?

 

Jacob:  That's a tough question, but I would come at it this way. I would say that Trump likes to speak to his base and he isn't a saint, he's obviously not a saint. I didn't vote for him because of the fact that I ever thought of him as a uniter, right? And I think that as a result of just what's been happening - sometimes I say over the last 10 years, but then I think about it more and I say 20 years, and I think about it more and I say 30, and ou get the point, it goes on and on - maybe we've never actually been a truly united nation, and it's kind of impossible for us to get to that point. We just have this romantic history where we remember ourselves in these moments of goodness. But even when we were at our best, in World War II, for example, which some people might say, that was a time when segregation was still in full swing. So I kind of think it's almost too much of an expectation to think that he would be able to unite people. They said that Obama was a uniter, but at the same time, as a conservative, I didn't feel united at all. I guess you could say I've given up on the dream of a politician who unites Americans. And I don't want to shift things too much, but it also kind of emphasizes, like, identity politics has polarized us and brought us to much different positions, where instead of like, when you look at the 2000 election you've got some... It's kind of bland. You've got Bush and Gore, neither of them takes truly radically different positions from each other. And then in the 2016 election it's like, night and day with Trump and Clinton, and we almost even had him running against Sanders where we'd have basically quite a clash of this really classic right wing populism versus Bernie Sanders, more European socialism. So basically like America has become much more divided, and I would excuse Trump in this by saying he's playing to his base, and that maybe it's too much to expect of anyone to unite America, right?

 

Maurice:  I disagree. I feel like one of the main things of being a president is after it's all said and done with the elections, is to say, okay guys, enough is enough. Let's move and progress forward in some type of efficient way, and just to appeal to your audience and say things to make them happy - I just feel like that's... It's not a good way to go. 

 

Samia:  Trump also tweeted in the last 24 hours, "The riots in Charlottesville a year ago resulted in senseless death and division. We must come together as a nation. I condemn all types of racism and acts of violence. Peace to all Americans." So he is a taking a nod towards this. A lot of liberals find it hypocritical, considering his comments after the Charlottesville riots last year, where he said there were good people on both sides, and a lot of liberals take issue with saying there were good peoples on the Nazi side. 

 

Jacob:  On the Charlottesville thing, I think there was what, wasn't there like three… I want to say there were 3000 conservatives. And of course there were Nazis, I mean that's an absolute fact. But I think there were legitimate conservatives there as well, who you know aren't the splinter right. Maybe that's a little too far off. 

 

Samia:  The rally was a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville. It wasn't a like a conservative Unite the Right - I mean, Unite the Right might have been a title they used, but it wasn't like all conservatives. It was a white nationalist rally. That was the point of it. It was sponsored by a white nationalist organization. They went for all the permits and everything. So it's not that easy to justify the “there were good people on both sides” thing. 

 

Jacob:  I would say in response to that, at that point they were even talking about how Jared, I think they guy's name was Jared Kessler, I think he became a proud boy, right? And kind of the big proud boy schtick is we are like in - well, sometimes they call this the “Alt Light.” They're not like white nationalists, but they are very conservative, like an alternative to mainstream Republicans and they were involved. So that's why I balk at the point of saying that it's like purely a white nationalist rally. But I feel like I am splitting hairs here and we don't have to dwell on that. 

 

Samia:  So do we all agree here in this room that there's a problem with racial inequality and racial injustice in the United States?

 

Maurice:  I like to think we both agree. As this conversation is going, I see it keeps getting away from that topic. And I feel like we honestly and sincerely do care for one another. To say that-

 

Jacob:  Correct.

 

Maurice: -you know, I'm just going to give up and I have lost hope for the American dream… I do understand, a part of it, I understand what you mean, but if we're going to continue to think that way, then sometimes it's like, what's the point of having this discussion then? If you feel that way, then you're pretty much just saying, let's just be separated and live in one country and just deal with each other that way. Which I feel like is impossible.

 

Samia:  Are you saying separated along the lines of left and right political ideologies?

 

Maurice:  Politically, racially sometimes, and religion, too, as well, yeah.

 

Jacob:  I would that it's obviously true that there is inequality in America. And I would not even stop at saying there is also issues where black Americans get less justice because of... I would not say it is systematic on some federal level, right? But there are areas where I have no doubt that being black and poor puts you in a very disadvantaged position. So yeah, I think I generally agree on that, that there is inequality. And back to kind of the topic, I haven't given up on the idea of the American dream and making America great again and making America relate again, all of that. But I think, well, I don't know how to get there and one of the issues is I think is we both end up with an opinion, like oh, we can just do that, just give up what you believe and come with me, and vice versa right? And no one's actually going to do that. So, I would say this, one of the things, though, that as I have paid attention to the Black Lives Matter movement and what to some of the Black Lives Matter protest organizers and such have been saying. One of the things they consistently seem to say is that white Americans don't understand what it's like to be black Americans, and that's why it results in so many of us not understanding police violence issues. And honestly, I think that that is a good point, and the only problem with that point, though, is that while it's very true, it actually isn't very helpful, because it just points out a giant obstacle. I think we can break it down further, and obviously, a poor white southerner and a rich white person who grew up in New York City would have not much in common. And the same parallels exist within black or Asian or Mexican communities right? So, I guess though it's kind of recognizing that I don't know what it's like at all to be in the situation of a black American who grows up in a very poor neighborhood. It is helpful in the sense of like I can make that admission.

 

Maurice:  Well, I was just going to comment on that, about what you said. I think that, when I hear black people say white people don't understand what it means to be black, I do agree that we shouldn't be saying that. We should be saying, "Hey, this is what it's like to be black." And we've been trying to do that for a very long time. And there's a group of people who are just ignoring our story. For me, growing up, I wasn't poor, but we definitely struggled and I was definitely a part of the system of not having a father in my life and my mother got severely sick in my teenage years. She graduated from high school but she wasn't educated, and she didn't go to college or any university. So that tremendously affected our lives as well. And so it was pretty much just her and me and my two younger sisters just barely getting by, and as I got older, I started to see how it was a system that created this. And granted, there is some responsibility that must be upheld with our own people. I'm not going to say that it's all along the system or “the Man.” We have to definitely take responsibility of our own people, but looking back on my mother's past, my father's past, they had some very hard lives, and it wasn't just because of themselves. It was because of the systematic oppression of things were at that time. And so it-

 

Samia:  Can you give some specific examples?

 

Maurice:  I don't know a lot in detail, especially about my father, who grew up really poor. He had seven brothers and sisters - he had seven brothers and I think two sisters, huge family. And he was kicked out at early age, at the age of 14. So he has had this mentality, this survival, lone wolf mentality for a very long time, and that made him into a, frankly said, somewhat of a cruel person that doesn't really acknowledges people in the way they should be.

 

Samia:  But what are some examples of the way systemic racial oppression has affected your family and your growing up?

 

Maurice:  I would definitely say the educational aspect and the schools that I went to. I felt like the school systems definitely let me down on providing…f I want to say leadership and guidance for mainly black people who struggled with homes who probably had no fathers or families that have been affected by not living healthy lives, which was my mom's condition. It was just a situation of not being educated enough in order to have a prosperous life. Yeah.

 

Samia:  And why the lack of education? I ask this because there's a lot of, when you're talking about personal stories, it's very easy to miss the grander connections between why we see so many African American families that for generations have dealt with extreme hardship, lack of opportunity, lack of education, poverty, missing fathers, incarcerated fathers, incarcerated mothers. And why this is so much more central to the black American experience than it is in general for white Americans. Of course this isn't the experience for all Black Americans, but it's so much more in such greater numbers than for white Americans, disproportionate to the actual ratio of the population, that when we talk about personal stories, it's like well, you know, yeah, my dad he had a hard life in a big family and no money, and that sucked. But why? But why did it start out that way? And what I'm trying to do is connect it to the grander historical arc of these are ripple effects, brought on by Black Americans being enslaved for hundreds of years, being treated as second class citizens, Jim Crow laws and segregation, the enormously painful struggle of the civil rights movement. And it's not as if all these stuff is just, poof, we've got new laws and it's over now and everyone's better. We still see the effects of it today. So that's kind of why I'm asking these questions. 

 

Maurice:  I guess it's hard for me to tie it to those situations because just lack of knowledge of my family in general, but-

 

Samia:  But you obviously feel like those forces had something to do it?

 

Maurice:  Yeah, most definitely. Most definitely. It's really hard for me to connect it directly and explain it in detail, but I do feel like these situations have had some type of effect on my life and how it's molded me and shaped me today. 

 

Jacob:  I think it's definitely very true that all of those events that had happened before segregation and everything that preceded it. Everything before the Civil Rights Act, that had a massive effect on the culture and the development and even the most basic living standards of black Americans. And it does have a massive ripple effect. I think it would be impossible to deny that. And it's really hard to say this in a way that doesn't make you sound like a jerk, but I will try. My kind of idea about it has always been that, yes, I agree that we should have programs. Really, I want us to have the most effective programs as possible to improve education in areas that need it, to make intercity schools, to make any poor performing school district a lot better. I think, I've always believed in the scholarship programs and everything that is meant to change that. But I think, sometimes, some of the problems, it's like if you're learning how to play an instrument. It's like to actually get to the point of playing it well, it requires - sometimes, a teacher can't teach these things. It's like while society can give money to the problem, like issues involving fatherlessness and stuff, these happen within the culture, and it's a cultural issue that has to be addressed within black culture. Of course, it sounds quite condescending-

 

Samia:  It sounds like you're charging the victims with the responsibility of healing the damage done to them.

 

Jacob:  Right. And I have to admit, it does sound like that, but to draw another parallel, it's like if you're born into a bad situation, while external help can exist, a lot of the change does come from within. And that's why a lot of former alcoholics talk about how they're a former alcoholic all the time, because it is a dramatic personal shift that they had to make for themselves. And so while we can do a lot of things, a lot of the main issues that still have a significant portion of black Americans facing generational poverty, some of those are profound cultural changes that did form back when black Americans were oppressed, but it's not something that necessarily we can fix with a government program, right?

 

Maurice:  I disagree. I mean, I feel like in many ways, black and brown people, minorities, are still oppressed in ways that are not as obvious as it used to be.

 

Samia:  I'll throw you a couple of figures. Hold that thought. In 2015, African-Americans and Hispanics, 56% of all incarcerated people that year, they are not 56% of the population if you take it and expand the ratios. That seems crazy to me. Black and brown Americans are incarcerated at such higher levels than white Americans. And I don't think it's because they're committing more crimes.

 

Maurice:  I was just about to say that prison reform and these laws that need to be addressed… For example, Kalief Browder’s story, a 16-year-old black kid who was falsely accused for stealing a backpack and spent three years in prison. One of the reasons why that his story was ignored is because of New York's prison law. It's what they call the Ready Rule. Yes, the Ready Rule, which says in order for a prosecutor to have a trial, everything, every asset of the trial must be there and included on that day. If it's not, then it can just get prolonged. So every time where Kalief had a court date, and there wasn't... For example, the witness wasn't there, or they had lack of evidence, the judge would just say, “All right. We’re going to wait until next week, or next time, or next month.” And so Kalief, who was, while in prison, in Riker’s Island-

 

Samia:  Three years, they kept him there.

 

Maurice:  Three years, and tortured, starved, and beaten by prisoners and guard, he didn't know when exactly he was going to get out. It was like they were just playing with his life, and it was all because of the way the system was set up. It's just unbelievable how from the most powerful to the very guard that watches your door has control over your life. Once you're in that system, once you're in the prison system, there is no way out. He got out due to, finally, the judges who were against him finally admitting that they didn't have a witness, that they didn't have sufficient evidence to prosecute him, they finally let him go after more than three years. Now, you have a torn, emotionally, physically torn teenager out in the world. How can you find your place in that, in the world? How could you return back as a citizen of this country? So…yeah.

 

Samia:  Kalief Browder ended up committing suicide two years after being released from Riker’s Island, and the original crime that he was accused of having committed was stealing a backpack.

 

Jacob:  His story is extremely tragic. And I think a lot of these individual stories as well, they can happen to people of any race. It's an issue with the American justice system. I will say that, yes, I would not deny that black and Hispanic Americans are disproportionately impacted by these sorts of scenarios where you have an ineffective justice system, and it's just happening in one district. For instance, I grew up in Fargo, North Dakota, where some years, there wouldn't even be a single murder. This is a town of 100,000 people. As a result, when there really were issues of abuse of children, or any kind of crime, the police can actually devote the proper amount of attention to it and take care of the situation. So I kind of think the issues that are systemic, sometimes, are affected by a specific district. If you look at Chicago right now, for instance, they have a really high... It's making the news a lot that they have such a high homicide rate. But one of the things that a lot of people don't talk about is they have something like a 20% homicide clearance rate, which is far lower than a place like New York City, which has been tackling the crime problem. And one of the reasons why a place like Chicago has difficulty with the homicide clearance rate is because a lot of the black community there isn't that cooperative with police. They have these ideas about not snitching, etc. It's kind of like these ingrained - these cultural traits that make it into certain neighborhoods and become normalized, I think, those have a far more devastating effect on the culture and the society as a whole, right? And those are the problems to be addressed.

 

Maurice:  Well, I think those are problems are deeply rooted in police brutality and targeting blacks and browns. It just didn't get to the point where black people said in these communities, “We're not going to cooperate with them because we just don't want to.” There has been a systemic approach towards how the police handles black and brown people.

 

Samia:  It doesn't exactly foster trust.

 

Maurice:  Right, right, exactly. It creates a police state. And it feels like that you are, instead of protected, it seems like you're pretty much organized as if like you're animals and told what to do instead of having a prosperous community and having a good relationship with police.

 

Samia:  And the concept of implicit bias, which is underlying subconscious racism that results in more black and brown people being targeted by police, being accused of things by police, being suspected, being arrested, and being incarcerated, that's not just a problem of the police. Black and brown people get the cops called on them for getting into their own cars, for walking across their own yards, for being on the street on the phone. There are multiple stories of black and brown people having the cops called on them for doing totally normal things where there was nothing wrong. And sometimes, those people end up dead, shot by a cop, because they were so flabbergasted as to why they were being approached by a police officer with their gun out when all they were doing was getting into their car. You know, that's not an experience that's really normal for white Americans, but it's pretty normal for black Americans.

 

Maurice:  Yeah. I think, over the years, politicians and police chiefs have cultivated a culture where in these areas, where a majority of black and brown people live, that it is a dangerous area, and these areas need to be contained. And so you have rules or laws like the stop-and-frisk in New York, where for no apparent reason, you can just be stopped and frisked, just because you look like the person that they're looking for, or-

 

Samia:  Teenagers, constantly, were getting stopped and frisked. They put a stop to stop-and-frisk at this point, but-

 

Maurice:  I mean, like that-

 

Samia:  What does that do to the psychology of a teenager to have that happen every day going home from school?

 

Maurice:  Right. I mean, I wouldn't trust any police if that was the case.

 

Samia:  Yeah. So we have, actually, found a lot of common ground here. We agree that there is racial inequality. We agree that that's a problem. We agree that the media hasn't exactly made it better, has maybe made it worse. We agree that there’s more our leaders and politicians could do. Let's bring this back around and wrap up, because it's getting hot as hell in this studio right now, by coming back to Colin Kaepernick and the other NFL players who feel that the best way to use their platform as professional athletes is to peacefully protest by kneeling, not sitting, but kneeling, during the national anthem as a statement against these problems that we've now spent the better part of an hour talking about. I can understand why you feel it's disrespectful and maybe there's better ways to protest, Jacob, especially as a veteran yourself. The players have been very clear that they don't mean it as any disrespect to our veterans. I, also, obviously, am very much aligned with how you feel about this, Morris. They have the right to use their platform to try to do some good. Maybe there is a more effective way that they could do that. Let's come to some final thoughts here and see what we've all gotten out of this conversation. Go ahead, Jacob.

Jacob:  I'm very grateful for this conversation. I felt it was really excellent. I had a great time doing it. My final thoughts on it would be in the military, one of the things that was always stressed for us was showing our respect and showing decorum. Another important aspect of the military is that it's very often correctly portrayed as one of America's best institutions, partly because it brings together black, white, Asian people, people of all races, all religions, all backgrounds. And it has us working together as a unit, accomplishing missions for our country. I've always thought so many Americans who are black, and of minorities, and who are white, have all died fighting for that flag. So one of the best things we can do is just come together as a nation when it's out, and render our honor together in a uniform fashion, and that it's not really a time for protest. But aside from that final point, I would like to say thank you very much, Maurice. I appreciate your stories and our discussion. It was a great time. Thank you, also, very much, Samia.

 

Samia:  Thanks, Jacob. Maurice?

 

Maurice:  I do want to say thank you to you as well, and humbly mentioning issues that people tend to disagree with, and I felt like you did a really good job of just acknowledging. And I really appreciate that. I think that's where it should start when it comes to specifically black people being upset with white people and not understanding our story. Going back to the NFL, as an athlete, I've always felt like there was a bigger purpose rather than just tossing the football, and tackling someone, and doing that for everyone's entertainment. Throughout our times, we haven't been respecting the athletes, especially the black athlete, and not giving them as much props as we should. Athletes put their bodies on the lines as well, for the sake of everyone's entertainment. And just because you're making millions of dollars doesn't mean that an athlete can ignore these situations that are happening right now. In fact, to these on the opposite spectrum of someone who is facing police brutality versus an NFL athlete who makes millions of dollars and stays in nice neighborhoods and whatnot - that spectrum allows athletes to see, especially people who look like them, problems a lot more. So if I have a stage or a platform in order to just get people to say, “Hey, we should probably talk about this,” because it's not really... I mean, yes, it's fun to get together, and watch the football game on Sundays, but to just sit up there and ignore and we turn on the TV and someone else has died for some unjust reason, it's like, where's our natural human instinct to just say that's a problem? And I feel like athletes, now, they finally have this strong push to voice their opinions no matter what. And I truly hope that the owners of these teams really respect the athletes and not just treat them as mere employees but rather as partners, and get together and make solutions, rather than just divide.

 

Samia:  Well, whatever your opinion on football players kneeling during the anthem is, these protests definitely have gotten people talking, and that is a good thing. Thank you both for coming to the table ready to listen, and respect each other, and be kind to each other in spite of your disagreements. I've really enjoyed this conversation. Thanks so much for being on the show.

 

Jacob:  Thank you.

 

Maurice:  Thank you.

 

MUSIC 

 

Samia:  Maurice and Jacob both messaged me after their session saying it had given them a lot to think about, and led to some pretty cool self-discovery, and shifted perspectives. Maurice wrote, “Having the conversation today made me ask myself some great questions. So it's been a self-discovery for me, as well as a good opportunity to speak about something important.” And Jacob wrote, “The talk was incredibly useful for getting on the same page as someone from across the aisle. Especially after the show, I realized how much our differences can be irrelevant and how much we see eye to eye.”

 

The two got on so well that they ended up going to two different coffee shops after the session without me to keep talking. And at my request, they recorded parts of their conversation using a cellphone. After this episode ends, keep listening for those extra conversations. Think of it as a bonus treat.

 

In the first clip, our engineer Garan joined in on the conversation. In the second, it's just Maurice and Jacob. The sound quality of these conversation snippets is obviously not fantastic, but I was so heartened that they had taken it upon themselves to do this that I wanted to share.

 

If you're loving the show, and you haven't already left a 5-star review on iTunes or shared on social media, please do. New reviews and social media shares will get personal shout-outs on the show. Just make sure to tag Make America Relate Again on Facebook or @RelatePodcast on Twitter. These shares and reviews help so much with getting the message of depolarization into more people's ears. For a transcript of this episode and additional resources, go to MakeAmericaRelatePodcast.com. And for more information on Better Angels, so that you can start helping with the work of depolarizing America, go to Better-Angels.org.

 

Thanks to the Hive and Garan Fitzgerald for recording this conversation, YBM Recording Studio for recording my intro and outro segments, Dani Valdizan for creating the theme music, and Christopher Gilroy for mixing and editing this episode. This is Make America Relate Again. Stay tuned after the music for your bonus conversation snippets between Jacob and Maurice, and I’ll see you next week.

 

MUSIC

 

Maurice:  That conversation, it is my first time speaking in an organized fashion like that. It's really hard to get all the things that you want to say. For me, I feel like, with me, if I didn't address what I feel like every black person is saying, I feel like I would’ve somehow failed or something like that, but that there's also my own perception of how things are played out. I felt like I was trying to, first, mention how black people felt, and my perspective, which is having more new concepts and ideas about, first of all, race, in which I think it should be nonexistent. It totally divides us. It gives us perceptions of what we think we are, and those things are really false, because this conversation just proved that no matter title you put on yourself or what side you want to be on, that we all have these common goals. For me, what’s the point of saying, “I'm this or I’m that,” if we ultimately have these same goals.

 

Jacob:  A really interesting point I heard about that, one of my friends, he grew up in Korea. His father is a black US serviceman. His mother was Korean. So he’s always felt trapped between every kind of world that there is. He grew up in Korea and everything. And his big interest in all of his life was punk music, rock music, etc. And his philosophy on this, he goes, he thinks that a lot of companies, they like advertising to people in these clear groups. They like people consuming things in these clear groups. And so they like that race exists because they're like, “Oh, we make our money by selling this to white people or this to black people. This is for X, Y, Z, etc.” So as a result, people invest in their own images, and businesses invest in those images. And we all end up becoming stereotypes. We feel like if we're not being the stereotype that we're somehow being a traitor.

 

Maurice:  Right, right, because for me to come into this and totally agree, 100% agree with the things that you were saying about how just getting up on mankind and just accepting it for what it is, I felt like it contradicts so much of what black people always say or are trying to convey. That conundrum, that push and pull is really difficult. I felt that during that conversation.

 

Jacob:  Yeah. I guess one of the things that I think really makes a lot of white conservatives angry is the term white privilege. I think what angers them is because (A), there's a lot of truth to it; and (B), it's really accusatory. You know what I mean? It makes everyone feel really on edge.

 

Maurice: Yes.

 

Jacob: You feel like, in a way, because it questions whether or not you deserve some of the things you have, but you clearly feel like you've earned it. Then, also, it just feels like you're getting singled out for the first time and accused of the collective kind of failure. It's-

 

Maurice:  It's the first time that everyone has pointed a finger back at white people. Now, it's like how do we deal with this? I think, that's where we are, as minorities, that message is wrong to say like, “Why - you’re taking advantage?” No one is going to respond in a positive way if you tell someone, “Hey, you're fucking wrong.” Don't get me wrong. There is a time and a place for that. But if you keep just pointing a finger and not trying to find a higher way to go, then it's just going to be fucking chaos.

 

Jacob: Right, right.

 

Maurice: Everyone wants to be understood and accepted in very nice in huggable ways. Let's try to figure out how we can do that. Let's start wording things a little bit better.  It's one of the things I feel like Donald Trump, he should do better. It's not what he's saying. It's how he's saying it is really, I think, hurts him. With that, he focuses... I think he does that because he focuses on short goals that benefit him and the people that support him. But in the long run hurts the entire country as a whole. It goes back to him just... One of the reasons why I didn't vote for him was because his points of views are so singular and so pointing towards him. The people who support him don't actually see that.

 

Jacob:  Right. I think he's... I don't like saying that someone’s forced him into a position, but I feel like since the whole media seems to be against him, he's always trying to use Twitter as a way around the media. It ends up becoming a situation where he's only speaking to his base, and it becomes really divisive. Yeah, it's a very, very valid criticism, but it's hard for me to fully condemn him because it feels like it's the future of politics. It's not the future that we want, right?

 

Maurice:  Right.

 

Jacob:  It's the future we have.

 

Maurice:  I'm always careful especially around my black friends at saying that Trump is needed. They hate that. The reason why he's needed, in my opinion, is to get us talking, that's one; to cripple the idea of what we think is politics today because, like you said, it needs to go into a new direction. I think people just have a hard time of actually accepting who he is. People have known Trump for a long time. People who don't support him, why are they surprised? I think if we would... I don't know how to... If we responded in a... It's hard to say. It's hard to say. I can't come up with it right now.

 

Garan:  Something I've been saying a lot is that, yeah, like you said, we knew who Trump was before he got elected. Why are we surprised? Why is all the news coverage like, “Oh my gosh, he said something that wasn't right or wasn't true.” I'm like, “I mean, why don't we focus on what he should be saying rather?” Get to the point of what the conversation should be. If he's finding it wrong, find the correct because, okay, he's President, but nobody is surprised by who Trump is. Nobody should be, because he's been out there for decades in the public eye pushing himself out there. I mean, I don't like what he says, because he says everything pretty awfully. I don't agree with his policies, blah, blah, blah, but the constant surprise is exhausting. It's like, how are you surprised? How could you not have seen this coming? Okay, we get it, he's awful, blah, blah, blah. Let's get to what should be happening. Let's talk about alternatives to what he's suggesting.

 

Maurice:  And I - I hope that wasn't cutting you off - but that's our answer. That's when we start talking to each other rather than depending on leaders, per se, to make decisions for us. This goes for any politician, whether it be Clinton, Obama. Why be surprised to the way politicians behave? Unless you start focusing on what's actually going on, because solutions would happen a lot faster if we just talk instead of looking at them in order to provide us for things that we seek and desire.

 

Jacob:  Right. I think that Trump knows how to manipulate the media to get what he wants out of it, and that if the media changed its tone, he would have to change his tone. It would be a new kind of negotiation for him. In a really weird sense, you could say that when Trump is acting out in this way, and he's speaking to, largely, a white middle American voting base, and it's like if this gets established as, all right, they're willing to behave as a voting bloc, they're willing to engage in these kinds of tactics, and maybe none of us should engage in any of these tactics. It becomes one of scenarios where if everyone kind of realizes that identity politics gets us nowhere, then maybe identity politics would go away. At this point, it's a really complex topic. I think one of the reasons why Trump is so popular is because a lot of people felt picked on as white middle Americans, how they were to blame for systemic racism, and they're portrayed as always ignorant or always X, Y, and Z. They just wanted to vote for somebody who would punch back more than anything else.

 

Maurice:  I see. Yeah, I see. That goes to me saying that we are accusing... When you say white people, it makes you feel like, well, it's not everyone. It's not-

 

Jacob:  True.

 

Maurice:  Yeah. I would totally get that if someone was saying, like, you are the reason for my my oppression. I would be like, “Hey, you know, chill.” But I think, and this is the hard part is, collectively, white people just have to say, “You know what? All right. We get it. We notice it,” and that message has to be conveyed sincerely, instead of saying the way I'm saying it, which is like, “Oh, okay. We get it.” It has to be on a more public scale. It has to be… That's one of the only ways that we can move forward and stop pointing a finger and stop being so upset with each other for not understanding. Like the conversation we just had, one of the first things you were mentioning is, just acknowledging. Just acknowledging what's going on and what has happened. So I really appreciate that.

 

Jacob:  Oh. It was very excellent. Thank you very much again.

 

Maurice:  No. No problem, no problem.

 

Garan:  That was a handshake for you listening at home.

 

[laughter]

 

[transition]

 

Jacob:  But yeah, it's always felt like the big thing is, “Well, it's not my family.” A lot of… especially people from American North, they try to get out of the situation by saying, “Well, my family immigrated here after the Civil War. We've just lived in Wisconsin or Minnesota and minded our own business.” It's objectively true, but it's also… I feel like people shouldn't try to wiggle out of the history that way.

 

Maurice:  Right.

 

Jacob:  Just because your grandpa came here on a boat from Norway doesn't mean you, as a white American, had absolutely nothing to do with American history. Right?

 

Maurice:  Right, right.

 

Jacob:  It's not like these people are clamoring to be like, “Well, I'll take all the burdens of Norwegian history,” right?

 

Maurice:  Right.

 

Jacob:  They need to acknowledge that, yeah, America was a country that they came to where black people were segregated in the American South, and it wasn't exactly like the Norwegian and German immigrants were marching for their rights in the American North or anything.

 

Maurice:  Right.

 

Jacob:  I think we rightfully needed to have a little bit of guilt about this, but yeah, it's a very complex topic.

 

Maurice:  You know, you look throughout history, the groups of people who have oppressed others, for example, Germans. They, I think have done an exceptional job of saying, “Hey, we fucked up.” And that has allowed everyone to see Germans as, “All right. Okay, you guys are human. You're cool.”

 

Jacob:  Right.

 

Maurice:  Right?

 

Jacob:  Yeah.

 

Maurice:  Versus like Japanese, for example, too, right? When the comfort women situation that was going on. And also there was a lack of a very piss-poor effort on the Park Geunhye decision, just accepting the money and not really exposing what the actual situation was. But for a long time, still even now, I'm talking to Koreans like Japanese just be like, would just say, “That happened and… ” or either they have no idea, and if they just look at it and they completely sweep it under the rug and they just expect you to be like, “Well, hey, it happened. So let's just move on.”

 

Jacob:  Right. One of the things that I think we do too much is we say, “Well, this stuff had happened to everybody,” and it's like it's kind of true. At one point, Rome conquered the Germans and the Celts and stuff. But it's like those aspects of history have been entirely erased. It was probably pretty terrible to be the second class citizen, you know, Gaul, in modern day France, but French people, they just have no memory of that. So we can't actually just say, “Well, it happened to everyone. Suck it up,” because it doesn't… The only reason why we're not complaining about that now is because it really was like 500 or 1000 or 2000 years ago. When something's this recent, we really should be more understanding.

 

Maurice:  Right. I think it's the way that things are still happening now, and it's quite dormant. For example, the prison reform laws, it's just so obvious that it - and it's not obvious at the same time - in reality, it's modern day slavery.

 

Jacob:  The unpaid labor and everything?

 

Maurice:  Right, right. Of course, of course, and just pretty much picking slaves out of these poverty-stricken neighborhoods. It's so obvious, but I feel like in America, that cycle from, obviously, being open to racism and slavery and all these oppressive times, to now like, “Yeah, we still have these ways, but let's cover it up with commercial capitalism or the whole nationalism versus patriotism. Let's cover it up with that and make everything look good and pretty,” but it's actually still about using people and gaining and building off the backs of others.

 

Jacob:  Right. There’s actually been people who've argued that… Oh, jeez! What was I going to say? That what we have now, in some ways, is potentially worse than the slavery that existed before, in the sense that a slave was like an investment. If your slave broke his leg, you actually had to give a shit about this and make sure he got better, or you're going to have to go buy another one. But nowadays it's like a lot of labor is so immediately replaceable. Right?

 

Maurice:  Mm-hmm (affirmative).

 

Jacob:  And no one has invested in each other.

 

Maurice:  Right, right.

 

Jacob:  A little bit broader into the capitalist idea of things, but yeah. And I had also heard something where the average, like the relative price of a slave in the 19th century would be the modern day equivalent to $40,000. But now there's actually… Like if you go to places where they actually are still selling… where slavery still exists, or if you go to places where this forced prostitution exists, it's much cheaper now. So it's kind of weird, capitalist society maybe even made labor cheaper. Right?

 

Maurice:  Right, right.

 

Jacob:  But I had a question for you. It might be a little bit personal. So one of my friends, he grew up without a father and he said that because of that, he had a lot of confidence issues, and he felt like, really big empty spaces in his life that affected him greatly. And he retreated into video games and he related worse to people. He said it's a lot of issues that come from that. I'd heard it said before that one of the reasons why gang violence can be a problem, etc, is people are like, are not actually taught how to be men, and they look for surrogate fathers, so to speak.

 

Maurice:  Right, right.

 

Jacob:  So, in a weird sense, I think a lot of it can be a cultural problem. That's like a conservative point usually, but I think there's some merit to that.

 

Maurice:  Right.

 

Jacob:  What do you think about that?

 

Maurice:  Yeah. I felt like I didn't convey that message enough or clearly when I wanted to bring up my family and how me not having a father ties in with the systematic oppression that's been going on. And to answer your question, and to make sure I understand your question, do you want to know how my life has been affected without having a father?

 

Jacob:  Yeah, and also do you think that it's a really big impact on your community?

 

Maurice:  Of course. Most definitely. Actually, not only me, but my entire generation. My cousins grew up without fathers, and when you include generations and setting your future generation up for success, not having a father and not having a complete household definitely diminish the future generations. So if you have this going on, or generation after generation after generation, and it's because of systematic ways of oppression, for example… Let me give some examples. Housing, and segregating black people into an area where there is no resources for you to, for example, have a grocery store and have-

 

Jacob:  Right.

 

Maurice:  …healthy choices to eat, or functional schools that have updated resources: a good library, technology available, facilities. So many other things, I'm trying to get from the top of my head right now, but if you have a lack of these things, and including not having a father, then there will always be this huge void and always this huge what if. Even with football, I felt like I had this big dream. I was gonna to play in the league and whatnot. A very ambitious high school kid. But because I didn't have a father really affected my chances and my opportunities, because to have a single parent in the home, right? It completely… It's nearly impossible for a parent sometimes to support their kid and fully allow them to pursue their goals.

 

Jacob:  Right. Oh yeah. The dual income thing is a really big advantage, because, for instance, my parents are together. They've been together for forever. They've saved up all these resources their whole life. I can be in Korea, and be like, “If something weird happens, I have financial backing around, someone's going to help me out,” right?

 

Maurice:  Right.

 

Jacob:  My friend grew up without a father. He's like, his mother is still on a single income and he sends money back to her, well, fine. So it feels like just having the financial stability of the dual income can be literally…mobilize you to move around the world without fear, and easily, versus not being able to do that. Right?

 

Maurice:  Well, that's one of the things that I think that has affected black people in a lot of ways. The financial aspect of it has definitely in the past crippled black people, and maybe your friend, he has some experience with not being able to pursue something that he truly loved and just have to conform to some type of lifestyle that really isn't beneficial for him, spiritually or passionately or whatever. And he gains resentment, he gains anger. There’s social issues that he has to overcome. And a lot of times, you know, you don't know how to be a man.

 

Jacob:  Right, right.

 

Maurice:  Your mom can't teach you how to be a man. I know my points are everywhere, but the main thing I want to get to is the whole village concept. You look at every nationality in America; Koreans, Chinese, people from the Middle East, Indians, they all have everything together. They keep it within the family, right? So if you have a broken family, it definitely cripples, again, the whole village and breaks down that power of being able to have some type of generational power and say-so, and the whole spectrum of things in the entire country.

 

Jacob:  Yeah. The whole thing about teaching you to be a man, it's sometimes really important to understand. I think how it involves… I felt really free as a kid, but I had these obvious stop signs, and those were actually good, because I'm like, “Oh, I can get away with drinking with my buddies,” dadadadada, “But I know that if I ever did this, my dad's going to kill me.” Right?

 

Maurice:  Right, right.

 

Jacob:  I could get away with putting on boxing gloves with my friends and punching each other, just sort of, whatever. But if I ever was like, “I'm going to go fist-fight somebody,” my dad would have me locked in my bedroom for a month. You know?

 

Maurice:  Right, right.

 

Jacob:  So it's like, because you've got two parents and you've also got this role model, like, “Hey, go have a beer with your friends,” or you've got like this clear idea of a limitation. And if you grow up without that, and you grow up with a mother who already has to invest so much of her time providing and doesn't have the good energy for that, you can lie to her easily. You'd just be out and you will live this life where you can get into a lot more trouble. You know what I mean?

 

Maurice:  Right, right.

 

Jacob:  I guess also you have resentment more, because it's such a weird situation.

 

Maurice:  You have a lot of black men who are seeking for comfort in the wrong places, and this maybe goes back to Chicago, for example, which is one of the cities that has a lot of gang violence. A lot of these, if you look at their homes, they're broken, and they're broken financially, spiritually, in so many ways. And so I understand people's concern about like, for example, why are black men killing each other, for example? Why are you pissed at when a policeman kills someone, when you are killing your own people? But it stems from, again, the whole village aspect, and America has systematically broken the black people's village, if you will.

 

Jacob:  Oh, yeah.

 

Maurice:  We've been through this rebuilding process for many years.

 

Jacob:  And it takes more even-

 

Maurice:  Right, right.

 

Jacob:  Because it's like a cycle, right?

 

Maurice:  Right, right.

 

Jacob:  And it's amazing, because I know middle class girls who grew up very well, but then their parents got divorced, and it's clear that they have behavioral, daddy issues. Right?

 

Maurice:  Right, right.

 

Jacob:  And so, if people get screwed up by this even when they're the majority ethnicity and they're living comfortably, and their dad is still kind of around them, people still are screwed up by that, obviously, people are going to feel… They're going to fall into another vicious cycle when they grow up in a much worse, like, if you're not wealthy and you are living hand-to-mouth and you are missing a parent, that can be just devastating. And how do you fix that easily? Because I guess a lot of the behaviors bleed into each other and you kind of learn from imitation, right?

 

Maurice:  Right.

 

Jacob:  And so you kind of like, “Well, I have to do these things because that's what my father did and his life is okay.” If you don't really have that in the community around you is… And another thing I wanted to say, you can see it even in like, every kid idolizes the gangster rapper, the Red Bull, etc, because it's a lot cooler to do that than to be the guy who's had the business. Right?

 

Maurice:  Yeah, and it's usually the only thing that they're seeing, too.

 

Jacob:  Yes, yes. So then if you're from a bad neighborhood, and you don't have a father in your life, and you don't have a lot of restraints, and the thing that immediately feels [inaudible], the obvious sex, money, power, and you just want the clearest path to it, and you don't have… No one at the age of 15 has the ability to be like, “This is not sustainable.” Right?

 

Maurice:  Right, right.

 

Jacob:  So if you get out the street, and then you don't have a good, positive influence, you really are just going to be running wild.

 

Maurice:  Right, right. And I think people think about it short-term too much, and not thinking about generation-wise, how that can affect a group of people. I don't want a part of that situation, and I look back on my life and the ways I’ve had to navigate to get to where I am now, I feel like there has been a lot of luck. I'm made a lot of fuckin' mistakes. Mistakes that probably would have been really detrimental to my passions and whatnot.

 

Jacob:  Oh, yeah?

 

Maurice:  But somehow, someway, I've been able to get out of these circumstances. One of the ways is not - I think we had the conversation back at the studio, or no, no, it was at Starbucks - was not abiding to the push and pull of what different people want from me. It's pretty much code-switching, right?

 

Jacob:  Yeah.

 

Maurice:  It is. Code-switching is you're pretty much acting differently around a certain group of people in order to be accepted.

 

Jacob:  Yeah. Okay, yeah.

 

Maurice:  So if I'm in high school, for example, and I'm with my black friends, my language changes, like the way I speak or the way… And then I hang out with, I don't know, my white friends or something like that, everything changes. So everyone is expecting something out of me, but I've learned to actually do the opposite and absorb it and use it as a means of survival. That has made me more aware of everyone in general. That's why I say my perspective comes from more personal rather than political, because I'm more interested in the human condition and the way they think, rather than these values and these rules and/or laws that are made to conform us into certain ways of thinking, which ultimately divides us.

 

Jacob:  Yeah, the code-switching observation is really great, because I think we all have that. But I think that, from my observation, the black community could become much more extreme, because I just have this really basic, suburban, white code switches I do, right?

 

Maurice:  Right, right.

 

Jacob:  These are my friends who like metal music, these are… It's all like slight changes here and there. But because there's this gap in the culture, it can be like a pretty big code switch, so to speak.

 

Maurice:  Right.

 

Jacob:  Right? Wow, this is pretty mind-blowing.

 

Maurice:  Did you grow up with majority, it was only white people?

 

Jacob:  Oh, yeah.

 

Maurice:  Yeah, right.

 

Jacob:  And part of North Dakota, when I… And it's still pretty much the same. It's like 95, 96% white, and the people who were white were largely Native American, or very new immigrants. I think in my high school, we had one African American person, but we had maybe 10 to 15 immigrants from like, Sudan and whatnot. So, in a really… I guess it's like we were very isolated from the experiences of African American people.

 

Maurice:  Right. I was going to say some people can look at it in a different way, and I think you've probably looked at it from a different perspective of not, for a better lack of words, having a true American experience of having every type of person and culture surrounding you. But do you think that living in Montana and just having one group of people mainly affected you negatively, or did it want you to really explore someone else's point of view?

 

Jacob:  I would say it totally made me want to explore things, and it's one of those reasons that I think I also have a lot of friends from back home who really wanted go to Asia, or go to university in California or wherever, right?

 

Maurice:  Right.

 

Jacob:  And in a sense, that's really good, but it does keep you rather sheltered than when you finally do see some of the reality. It can be probably more jarring than it is for other people, and you kind of… There's a weird ignorance in your late teens, early 20s, where one of the things that I think drives a lot of middle Americans crazy is when they get picked on for saying, “Well, where are you… Originally, where are you from?”

 

Maurice:  “What are you?”

 

Jacob:  Yeah, but sometimes they don't understand that it's really just some naive person from Iowa trying to be nice. You know what I mean?

 

Maurice:  Yeah, right.

 

Jacob:  And I think maybe I've learned that much more, because I live in Korea, I also now am like, “Yeah, let's not be mean to this people.” These people are really from nowhere, and you're the one non-Korean person they'll talk to this year. But it's also like, well, now that I've been the non-Korean person that they talk to, it sometimes feels too performative and you also feel like you are just their experience. You are their American experience.

 

Maurice:  Right.

 

Jacob:  And when you are there, I've felt it before, like, “Oh, shit. I now am speaking on behalf of white people.” Do you know what I mean?

 

Maurice:  Right, right.

 

Jacob:  And sometimes it's like, “This is not bad, because this is an intelligent person and I don't feel that bad about this.” Sometimes you’re like, this person does not really get what's going on, and I feel like shit because I don't want to be that performing, you know.

 

Maurice:  But for me, I'm not offended whatsoever. I have a good understanding of who I am, and I have a pretty good understanding of accepting the way people think. And I was thinking about this as I was coming to this area, like, “Do I have affection for people who truly hate me, and is that right?” And I'm not saying that you do-

 

Jacob:  Yeah, sure.

 

Maurice:  But when it comes to people having different opinions, sometimes whether they realize it or not, it comes from a very nasty place sometimes. And I think sometimes people have a way of saying something in a… Saying a bad thing in a very good way these days to-

 

Jacob:  Some people are liars.

 

Maurice:  Yeah, right.

 

Jacob:  They will act in a sense and they'll… But in reality, then you have a moment where you're like, “Wow! They're trying to get me to actually say these things so that I prove to them that I'm shitbag or something.”

 

Maurice:  Right.

 

Jacob:  It's weird as fuck. Once when I was back in the army, me and some guys went out and we were drinking a lot. We ended up getting into a fight. I had a black eye, and someone pointed out, “Oh, the reason that this Korean guy that is here isn't upset by this and isn't bothered by this, is it confirms the stereotypes about dumb drunk foreigners,” right?

 

Maurice:  Right, right.

 

Jacob:  So it's like this weird moment where you're like, “Oh, shit. The only reason this is kind of cool is because it beat something really negative into him.”

 

Maurice:  Yeah, and that is our problem: the negative energy that we so call hate, we feed off of it so much more than actually looking at the positive side of things. And although I do hear you when you say like, giving up on people and coming together, some of the words that you're saying makes me do believe that you still have some little inkling of faith for people. And I think that just comes from understanding. That's where I think it simply comes from.

 

Jacob:  Well, I do feel a bit more hopeful after our conversation.

 

Maurice:  Right, right.

 

Jacob:  Yeah. I feel more positive, but I do have to admit that I've gotten kind of stuck, and I guess part of it was I did grow up in a rather isolated community, and I realized how different my community is.

 

Maurice:  Yeah, right.

 

Jacob:  And maybe it doesn't have to be all bad. Sometimes different communities need different answers for their problems. So maybe to some degree the answer we're looking for is not shutting each other out, but being like, “Look, maybe we need some different laws and different standards here than there, and that's how we address those problems and address these problems.”

 

Maurice:  Yeah. Shit's definitely outdated.

 

Jacob:  Right, right. I knew some Native Americans who very… They were from a broken community where alcohol was not something they could handle very well and it destroyed them.

 

Maurice:  Prime example of the village.

 

Jacob:  Yes. And so when I heard that in Australia, I talked with an Australian who was very liberal. Like, “I heard that they have all these communities for Aboriginals where alcohol isn't allowed. What do you think about that?” Because my perspective as an American, it's like, “You can't take away people's basic freedom to buy a beer.”

 

Maurice:  Right, right.

 

Jacob:  But they were actually like, “No, no, no. It's really good, and it's going to have a positive effect.” And it still kind of irks me because I want to go buy a beer, but part of me has to understand the society's been really screwed up by alcohol. Maybe to some degree it’s what is needed.

 

Maurice:  Right. That reminds me of some… I get really upset when people in the military try to tell me how I should be representing my country, because I think all of us, although we give America a lot of shit, we deep down love the country. And that's why we criticize it so much, is like… And that's why we care, and that's why we're talking about it. But for anyone to tell me how I should be protesting or how I should be saying anything about my country, it's just absurd.

 

Jacob:  Yeah, I want to hear your point.

 

Maurice:  Right, right.

 

Jacob:  That's a good stopping point perhaps. Wow, it's been a good day for that stuff.