[AAS21 Podcast] Episode #3: Activism and Risk in the Face of Trump

Thursday, Dec 8, 2016

 

Podcast Transcript:

[Music 00:00 –00:11]

Eddie Glaude: Hi. I'm Eddie Glaude I'm the chair of the department of African-American studies, and welcome to the [00:00:15] African-American Studies podcast. Today I'm joined by Asanni York, Senior in the School Public Policy and a certificate student in the Department of African American Studies, and Destiny Crockett, a senior in the English Department and also [00:00:30] a certificate student in ah, the Department of African-American Studies. We've gathered today to talk about the election and what it means for this generation to conceive of themselves, to understand themselves [00:00:45] as somehow growing up, continuing to grow up under a Trump presidency.

So, let's, let's begin our conversation. So Destiny what were your initial reactions when you realized that Trump [00:01:00] had won?

Destiny Crockett: Sure. So my original thought wasn’t that I was surprised or shocked. Ahm, I didn’t necessarily think Hillary Clinton was going to win. I didn’t think Trump was going to win. I really [00:01:15] didn’t know. I didn’t necessarily trust the polls that said Clinton was going to win. So I guess like my original reaction was what now, in so far as black organizing. So what does it mean to organize under a Trump presidency, especially after the movement [00:01:30] for Black Lives has been going on for the past two years.  And so we've already sort of thought of ourselves as living in a state of law and order in a police state. One in which violence is the [inaudible 00:01:40] and experience for black people. And so what does that mean to… even though we've been working against it [00:01:45] in a lot of different ways during this movement. So suddenly have or even more of it and to feel like some of our work or much of our work is undone. Whether that's actually true or not, I'm not sure, but at least to feel like it's undone.

Eddie: Asanni, what were your reactions?

Asanni York: I mean much of same. I mean, I wasn’t shocked. [00:02:00]. Part of me wanted to believe that we could expect something decent from the large majority, whatever that majority might be, but I wasn’t shocked at all, you know. White supremacy is always going to show its ugly head [00:02:15] I think in these times. And so, especially after having a black president and having people feel that this president was responsible for whatever societal ills might exist at the moment. Not that I agree with that, or at least not that I agree with all of that. That said, [00:02:30] I wasn’t shocked, but just largely like Destiny said, just thinking about what it looks like moving forward to continue this fight. Because this fight is going to have to continue, I just don’t know what it looks like now.

Eddie: So let's just talk a little bit about the kind of juxtaposition of Trump and Obama, [00:02:45] since you brought him up. When Obama was elected, I mean how old were you all when? [laughs]

Destiny: I was thirteen.

Asanni: Yeah.

Eddie: You were thirteen years old--

Asanni: Yeah.

Eddie: --when Obama became president of the United States, so in some ways, you've come of age politically [00:03:00] ah, with a black family in the white house? I mean you know, the image of Obama, President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama and Sasha and Malia. I have kind of been you know, a part and parcel of your political [00:03:15] maturity. Ahm, you've also come of age in a time of at least visually extraordinary violence. Right. So you think about the spate of ah...of [00:03:30] police murders, ah, ah, and you've organized ah, ah, in light of this  and now you find yourselves as you kind of, in your last year at Princeton having to imagine what it means to be activists, [00:03:45] what it means to imagine your lives in the context of Trump. Talk a little bit about that juxtaposition of coming of age politically with President Obama and now realizing who is in front of you.

Destiny: Sure. [00:04:00] So I think, well first I want to challenge the idea sort of that it's a stark juxtaposition.

Eddie: Right. [Laughs]

Destiny: So like I think a lot about education, education reform. And as you know when I came into Princeton that was really--

Eddie: Right.

Destiny: --what I was all about.

Eddie: Right.

Destiny: Ahm, education, and justice specifically for black children [00:04:15] and I have been reading a lot about Trump's plans for school choice and they look very similar to President Obama's plans in 2008. They also look similar to a lot of President Obama's ideas on what school choice and what education for impoverished [00:04:30] people, mostly black people, black people, and brown people look like. Ahm, so I have been thinking about sort of what it means to believe that we have a bigoted president-elect now, which we definitely do. I don’t think that's debatable, but also what it means. I think that we’re sort of on these difference spectrums [00:04:45] politically in so far as what justice can look like. Ahm, when in the cases of the poorest black folks, the black folks in the neighborhoods that I'm most concerned about that might not always be the case. I think it would definitely be worse than President Obama…[00:05:00] than Obama's presidency, but I don’t think that the juxtaposition are as stark as I originally thought they were.

Asanni: Right.

Eddie: So what about your side?

Asanni: Well, I agree with all of that too... I think, when I think about like the Obama administration, especially the last couple of years and when the movement of black… for black lives [00:05:15] kind of took off and how he largely didn’t agree with most of the tactics, and he largely talked about how he tried to police them in various ways. Tell them I'm policing, telling them they needed to not be so wild and ruthless and things like that. You know, and not necessarily taking the active stance against police brutality [00:05:30] in my opinion. I don’t really see…I don’t see much of it. I do see much a difference in Donald Trump and I do think of much of a difference along the lines of I think that he's going to be more violence. He's going to condone the violence, I think. [00:05:45]. At least that's what I think. But I don’t see, I guess, Obama has like strong allegiance to the Democratic party as being necessarily much better as what…of Trump presidency worldwide.

Eddie: But you would, you would concede though that there is going to be a new policing regime, right?

Destiny: Yes.

Asanni: Oh yeah. Absolutely.

Eddie: I mean, they're going to affect the police [00:06:00] is-- They're going…I mean you think about police unions, they endorsed--

Asanni: Absolutely.

Eddie: --Donald Trump, and so you do… So the context of what it, of what it means to engage in activist work, to challenge police. That context is dramatically different [00:06:15] now, would you agree?

Destiny: Yes. I mean, not only will there be more police under, I guess like an embolden law and order state, but there also will be emboldened police officers who now before maybe thought that President Obama didn’t [00:06:30] fully disagree with their actions or maybe did. It was kind of unclear, but now they know that president-elect Trump will sort of support their actions, and they will be even further incentivize to kill black people. [00:06:45]

Eddie: So, so let's shift to Princeton. This place. And you two have been really important voices on this campus, trying to in some ways push it, to, [00:07:00] to, to be more, hos…hospitable is not quite the word. To be ah, more inclusive. That isn’t… that's not even quite the word. Right? For students to feel a sense of possession [00:07:15] of this place. I think that that's it. Right.

Asanni: Right.

Eddie: Right. It's not about you know, them being inclusive or making you feel at home…

Asanni: Right.

Eddie: It's just you claiming a sense of possession of Princeton, and so you've had to… You've engaged in that struggle. [00:07:30]. Both of you were central in the student takeover of, of, of the…the president's office. Talk a little bit about that and what do you think is you know, before us. Right. Talk a little bit about that [00:07:45] moment.

Asanni: Well, Princeton in my opinion kind of, is not… It exists within like a larger society, right. And so everything that manifests itself outside of Princeton, and I think largely those same factors, those same things manifest themselves inside of Princeton. [00:08:00]. And with Princeton administration largely only focusing on this right to free speech and this neo-liberal approach where we have to always talk about things.  Let's talk, let's debate, let's talk, let's talk without actually coming up with some concrete plan for change. [00:08:15]. I don’t know what it looks like moving forward. If anything I think it probably looks the same unless there are going to be people coming behind us who are trying to continue to fight that we [00:08:25] con-- that we started or at least that started in the last few years. Ahm, [00:08:30] it's largely just going to be this administration saying, "Let's talk about it. Let's set a space so the Trump supporters can talk about why they supported Trump, and let's talk about why Hillary support… And let a space exist for Hillary supporters and let's all privilege everyone's oppressive opinions." [00:08:45]

Eddie: And you don’t think that's a good thing?

Asanni: I don't think it accomplishes anything. What is… what is there to talk about at this point? What exactly are we talking about? I don’t really see what we're talking about. We already know he's a racist, he sexist, he's homophobic. He appointed someone who believes in gay conversion therapy as his vice president. [00:09:00]. We already talked about this. I don’t know what we really need to talk about at this point. Like, let's make concrete steps to protect like the undocumented citi-- the undocumented students. Right. Let's make concrete steps to protect them, other minorities on this campus. Like, let's do that instead of just holding [00:09:15] spaces from four-thirty to six talking about why Trump might be a big hit. Like I don’t know what we are still talking about at this point.

Eddie: So you think Princeton should be a sanctuary space?

Asanni: Yeah. Absolutely, absolutely.

Eddie: Yeah. What do you think? What are you thinking about Princeton [00:09:30] in the age of Trump?

Destiny: Sure. So I'm thinking about what we sort of call intellectual like open-mindedness which people on this campus, in particular, have conflated with free speech, with constitution of free speech. And I' thinking about sort of, [00:09:45] what it means to consider oneself on this campus in particular, open-minded to different political ideologies but not necessarily be able to differentiate a difference in political ideology. And what like we imagined the United States to be versus 00:10:00] what it means to be sexist or racist, or homophobic. And so that's what I'm thinking about. I'm also hoping that as young scholars, we can sort of imagine… use our political imaginations as [inaudible 00:10:12] taught us to do a couple weeks ago when [00:10:15] he visited here.

And think about what this means outside of just Trump versus Clinton, versus time and to think about how we should sort of go forth in operating in order to make the United States a more just place, in order for us as [00:10:30] citizens of the world who are students to operate with the love ethic, ahm, and to think about justice and all of our actions. But ahm, that's my hope. I'm not necessarily optimistic, just because of my experiences on campus [00:10:45]. And I'm being told that sort of racism is just a political ideology and that I just happen to be against racism but other people just happen to be okay with that. And all of those opinions are valid and as long as we all have scholars to cite, to back up our [00:11:00] opinions then they're all correct and they all hold equal weight.

Eddie: Okay. But you… okay. I understand that, right. But you would value, right, an open -- and I'm just trying to figure out how to make the counter-argument. [00:11:15]. You do value kind of open space where the exchange of ideas and people don’t have to hold the same positions, right?

Destiny: Right. I do.

Eddie: But, but there is something about this free speech stuff that bothers you? That gets under your craw. [00:11:30]. I heard it in you as well as Asanni. Because we know president Eisgruber has, has kind of made free speech a part of almost all of his responses to the activism on campus and even to the election of Trump. We saw that recently as well.

Asanni: Right.

Destiny: Yeah. I mean, I just think [00:11:45] we all have different opinions on what an open space means. So an open space to me doesn’t mean you can call me the N word and that's okay because we are open and we can all say what we want to say. It doesn’t mean you can cite sources from a century ago that says that black [00:12:00] people are intellectually inferior somehow or biologically inferior, and that's okay. So I think an open space doesn’t question the humanity of the folks who are in the space and whether they deserve to be in the space. Ahm, yeah.

Asanni: Yeah. I feel the exact same way, [00:12:15] and then after we establish this space, what comes next? Because at Princeton it's always about creating a space but not actually using the privilege that Princeton gives us to do something with whatever we learned in that space. A lot of times these spaces are created and then these black people come into these spaces and telling people [00:12:30] why they have these messed ideologies around whatever; race, sexism, homophobia, whatever. And then even if people don’t change their opinions people leave this place, leave Princeton without knowing anything about racism, sexism, homophobia and then they go out and end up looking like [inaudible 00:12:45]. And it's like I don’t understand why at Princeton we believe that we can afford so many students the privilege of having a Princeton degree and everything that comes with it and not instill in them a sense that they need to use that in order to go out and better the lives of people who don’t get those same privileges. I don’t think that's fair. [00:13:00]. So all we do is talk about the space and space and space, and I'm at the point where space is… whether we have these spaces or not, what comes after that. I think that that's what I would like to focus on and I think that's what Princeton needs to focus on, but they don’t. They just want to set up a space for intellectual debate, and they [00:13:15] think that that's the end all, be all when it's not.

Eddie: So we've talked about you know, the challenges here at Princeton, we've talked about the kind of possible challenges that confront us under a Trump presidency. What do you think activism is going to look like? I mean, [00:13:30] we all know, right, that we've witnessed in some ways kind of ideological differentiation within Black Lives Matter or the Movement for Black Lives. Even that distinction, right, reflects a kind of maturation, reflects contestation. We've begun, [00:13:45] we saw even in the context of the election, right, different kinds of political ideologies animating those who participated in Black Lives Matter, those who identified themselves with the Movement for Black Lives Matter policy platform. [00:14:00]. People who endorsed Hillary Clinton, people who ah, called for more expansive conception or idea of politics. And this is all expected, right, as the movement matures, so what do you think ah, lies [00:14:15] ahead for black activists like yourselves? I mean, you guys founded the Black Justice League here at Princeton, or help found it and now you know, you know what has happened to it, ahm, and its challenges, right. So, talk [00:14:30] a little bit about what you see it in the future or in the immediate future?

Asanni: I think that this should have happened during the Obama administration, but especially now more than ever we have to critically rethink what it means to be an activist. Simply having a seat at the table is not activism. Just because you get to meet president [00:14:45] Obama, just because you meet Donald Trump and his advisers don’t mean that you're an activist. Like that's not activism to me. What are the tangible results that we're seeing? And I'm not saying that results are going to come overnight, but what are the results that we're seeing? You posting pictures on Instagram and Twitter, it's not activism. [00:15:00]. I'm ready for people to actually produce some substantial change, and I'm not saying that you know, a seat at the table is… that can be bad, but I think that we have to look at what the system upholds.

And so, while, while [00:15:15] you might be at the table, what is that actually doing? If it's not producing change for the poor people back in the hood then I'm trying to figure out what exactly is activism is? If this is putting money in your pockets and that money is not going back to the victims of police-- families of the victims of police brutality, then that's not activism, [00:15:30], that's just you coming up in this capitalist system. And I don’t really care about that type of activism, so I think that we need to fundamentally challenge what we think of activism and who we think of as leading this movement, because right now it just seems like once you get a seat at the table, [00:15:45] that's it. Like when was the last time that people trended somebody who got killed by, killed by the police?

Somebody getting killed every twenty-eight hours. I ain’t see no name yesterday. I ain’t see no name the day before that, and today we trended Philando Castile because the police [00:16:00] officer just got charged. That's, that's all we're happy about? We're happy that somebody got charged because we've seen a lot of people get charged and they go away like nothing happened to them. So I think that we need to fundamentally reconsider what exactly activism looks like under [00:16:15] this administration, or we just going to keep getting the same results. And I think that that means stepping away from allegiance to either one of these parties. Ahm, especially the democratic party that has shown us in more than one way that they don’t actually care about black people. Like [00:16:30] that's what, that's what I'm thinking.

Destiny: Sure. So I'm agreeing about… I agree with the fact that's sort of like neo-liberal activism, right. These seats at the table, these dialogues are not only ineffective, but they’re going to be virtually impossible with the Trump [00:16:45] presidency. So, whereas before I disagreed with them, now I just don’t see how they will happen. Who wants to be on president Trump's' taskforce for policing? So, I'm thinking about how that will be ineffective but I'm also thinking about how it will be more dangerous to call [00:17:00] yourself an activist or how we probably are going to lose a lot of activists but also a lot of new ones are probably going to develop during this time. So while police officers are emboldened, there are also folks, including folks on this campus and other campuses around the country who are emboldened [00:17:15] to enact violence on black bodies. So, ahm, I think we'll have to rethink what it means to be activists because we'll have to rethink what it means to… for the immediacy of violence to be more present.

Eddie: So there're going to be more risk? [00:17:30]

Asanni: Yes.

Destiny: Yeah.

Eddie: And the level of risk will sift out who's real serious and who's not in the [inaudible 00:17:36]

Destiny: Yeah. But when was the last time people-- black people gave up just because there was risk?

Eddie: Right.

Destiny: So I think there will be activists but I just, I just don’t think it will be the same ones that we have necessarily been seeing, [00:17:45] which I don’t think is a bad thing.

Eddie: Right.

Destiny: Ahm, I just think that the level of risk means people who have a lot more to lose are going to step back.

Asanni: And I'm also thinking about like activism on the ground, right, so like protests in the street, and I'm thinking about on Facebook and on Twitter [00:18:00] and all these articles coming up from white people and allies talking about how they, I don’t know, are trying to utilize their guilt for something good. So what does that look like from the…

Eddie: Safety pins and [crosstalk 00:18:11]

Asanni: Right. Safety pins and all that useless stuff that is not helping anybody but assuage [00:18:15] their guilt. I'm trying to figure out what looks like in real time, so why people who want to feel guilty? If you want to feel guilty how about you go get in the streets with these black protesters and when these police officers are out here with tear gas and trying to come at these black folks because you know they don’t care about black lives, but they care about yours, [00:18:30] you need to be in the front. And I'm not saying to center yourself, but I'm saying you need to be putting yourself on the line for these black lives the way that you say that you do when you put the safety pin on your shirt. Because I don’t really care about the safety pin, I'm caring about the lives of my black brothers and sisters, and gender non-conforming folks. And trans-folks [00:18:45] out here that are out here every day for the last couple of days, and then before that for the last couple of weeks, who are getting tear gassed and getting hit with pellet guns and stuff like that.

And white people were just sitting on the sidelines talking about, "I wish I knew how I could help." You do know how you could help. We've told [00:19:00] you multiple times how you could help, but your guilt is not enough. We don’t care about that. So that's also what I'm thinking about.

Eddie: So we have some really difficult days ahead? Ahm, and you have, [00:19:15] both of you have dedicated a lot of your time here at Princeton studying ahm, you know the history of, of not only African Americans in the United States, but across the diaspora. Ahm, what [00:19:30] do you think your study in African American studies, your certificates, your degrees, what do you think? How do you think it will help you as you move into the next phase of your activism, the next phase of your lives? [00:19:45]

Asanni: Well, I always say that like the -- all of the classes that I've really enjoyed at Princeton outside like they were my AS classes and my GSS classes, they are the classes that--

Eddie: GSS?

Asanni: It's Gender, Sexuality Studies. Those are the classes that actually talked about history from the opposites, all right. Not from the side of the winner or this side of the white people, or this side of men. But like the side of those who were oppressed by these systems, and so it's largely taught me just to question everything. Ahm, when I again, [00:20:15] going back to what activism looks like, these classes taught me not to, not to think that just because I got a picture with the president that there's substantial change in some community back, in [inaudible 00:20:27] or in Atlanta like you know what I'm saying like these classes taught me that even being around professors like Monie Parie, Robb Benjamin, taught me to question even what, even activists, ahm…their like motives behind what they are doing. Also being around people like Destiny, and obviously other people in BJL, taught me how to question [00:20:45] everything. Just constantly question them, because I think a lot of times we just look at somebody and give them authority and we think that that's it. They're the end-all, be-all to the conversation, they know what they're talking about. They know what they’re doing. He met with the president. He met with the advisor, he met with the senators so we know them. Or we know that what [00:21:00] he's doing is correct. And I think that just being here has taught me that that's just not the case.

Destiny: Sure. So I think that being a student in the department of African and American studies has definitely taught me [00:21:15] sort of to, in moments like these when I'm trying to figure out what to do when we as a collective are trying to figure out what to do, that this is not the first time the black folks have seen terror. This is not the first time the black folks have been afraid and this is not the first time the black folks have organized it. Unfortunately, this won't be the last movement in which black folks will have to organize on a mass level. And so it's taught me that there are people who came before us who have written, who have told us what they're experiences were who have written stories, and poems, and essays who have created art. And there are also will be people who will sit in these seats after us. And so I think that's would have been the biggest lesson that um, my studies have imparted to me, but also the significance of storytelling in the black tradition. 

(22:01)

So as an English major who probably just like the work of black women writers in the 20th century at my work, I always think about how important it is to think about the interiority of Black people and to think of who is telling these stories and how the stories are being told. Um and so I think in the Trump presidency, in a time when we have seen and we are seeing the resurfacing of the myth of, for instance, like the Wolfer Queen or the Cry Kid, or any of these other myths that we're about to see sort of resurfacing um, to think about the fact that the stories of folks on the ground, the stories of The Women Who Raised Me, the stories of folks like The Women Who Raised Me will always matter, will always be didactic for us and will always sort of predict what kind of terror um is to come.

Eddie: Both of you are taking courses right now um particularly focused on-- on one particular figure, right? Whether it's James Baldwin or-- or Lorraine Hansberry, um two-- two artist who were extraordinarily insightful 

(23:01)

in-- in their understanding of this place, right? Um what-- what-- what might um Lorraine say to us in this moment given-- given what you've been reading so far, Destiny?

Destiny: Um well I think, should I first say that she told us so [laughter], but I mean she will say that and so would Baldwin.

Eddie: Uh-huh.

Destiny: But I think also, she would consistently ask us to not have this sort of idea of like the black-- the white working class as these folks who are lost and who don't-- maybe don't mean to be racist but who-- who are economically disenfranchised, and she would tell us that the American Dream or the idea of the American Dream is a myth, is a hoax, is accessible to some and not accessible to others but we already knew that. And she would also tell us that to get the Amer-- American Dream, which means to be able to move from one neighborhood to the next neighborhood, 

(24:00)

or from school to school or from whatever to whatever um is mostly about economics, but that we shouldn't necessarily privilege economic ascendancy which is a lot of what the conversations about this election had been.

Eddie: Say more about that. What do you mean economic ascendancy? We've been privileging economic ascendancy?

Destiny: Oh, we've been privileging sort of like we've talked about the white working class as these people who didn't necessarily-- maybe didn't know that they were voting for a bigot but used to have job security and don't have job security now and so when Trump says he wants to make America great again, he wants to make America white again but also that they will be middle class again um or that they will have job security again, or that they will be able to send their kids to college again.

Eddie: Okay.

Destiny: And be able to participate in the American Dream. And for Black folks, we already really knew that we couldn't participate in the American Dream in the way that Donald Trump sort of presented.

Eddie: Then some would say you are obviously-- you two are obviously participating in the American Dream. You are at Princeton, you're from-- 

(25:00)

you're from Atlanta, you're from outside of Saint Louis.

Destiny: I'm from Saint Lo-- 

Eddie: Saint Louis [laughter]?

Destiny: In Saint Louis. I'm from Saint Louis.

Eddie: Okay correct me. Correct me. Right [laughter]. Atlanta. You from Atlanta? Are you from Atlanta or are you--?

Asanni: At-- Atlanta. Atlanta.

Eddie: Okay because you know you have to ask these [laughter] questions, right? So some people will say you know this is-- you're uh living the American Dream. You're the exception, right? So how would you respond to that? I mean I'm just-- this is just riffing off the course. We got to get your-- your response about both of them. What do you-- what do you mean black people aren't living--? Look at me, I'm a professor at Princeton. We are sitting here at Princeton having this conversation.

Destiny: Sure. And so what I was about to say was that I think Lorraine Hansberry would tell us that sort of access to what we think of as the American Dream is not enough and is not liberation.

Eddie: Mm. Okay.

Destiny: And I already have as much more access as Hansberry did [laughter] so that is sort of the extent of that but I mean doesn't Professor Perry also always like to quote Fannie Lou Hamer when she says 

(26:01)

we didn't come for two-- no two seats when all of us is tired?

Eddie: Mm-hmm.

Destiny: So like my mama's still tired, my grandma's still tired, my uncle's still tired and the kids who went to the high school that I did in Saint Louis Public Schools in which there was nobody after me who went to Princeton and nobody before me who did or who could even imagine that as a possibility. They're still tired, too so.

Eddie: Yes. What about you, Asanni?

Asanni: Well so I'm in the Baldwin--

Eddie: Baldwin?

Asanni: I'm in the Baldwin seminar.

Eddie: Both of you are in the Baldwin seminar, right?

Asanni: We are. We are. Um, I think he would say a couple of things. Again to start off how Destiny started off, you realize-- I ain't-- I ain't really too shocked about this and none of you all should be either. Um I think that he would tell us that both sides of the fence need to do some real-- the real hard work of being introspective. Um white people, you all got to start looking deep inside yourselves and figure out how you contributed to this and how you did so in many ways. It's not just the matter of 'I voted for Trump', but why. And it's not just for economic reasons as Destiny said, but why? What are the fears that you have about yourself that you project onto others, especially black folks 

(27:01)

and other people of color? What about that led you to be the person you are today? But on the other side of that, he would tell black people we need to be introspective, too, I think. I think that he want-- he would like us and not just, like we want to say this is about all people, to be introspective along the lines of like masculinity, and even though I don't agree with everything he said about masculinity, I think he will at least like us to be introspective about it. I think that he would like us to question ideas around homophobia and things like that, and also and figure out how we also might have contributed to this place. And I don't-- and I-- to us getting to this place, I think. Um I think he will say it's not about Trump. It's not about Trump. It's not about him because it's not about necessarily-- it's not about him as a person because all he do was capitalize off of these fears that people wouldn't even-- that white people wouldn't even be introspective about. I think that he would say this is really about the system in general, that we refu-- that we are-- that we, in more ways than one have an allegiance to that we need to question. Um and he would-- and this sounds corny, but he would 

(28:01)

then conclude with this idea of love, right? But lo-- and what does love looks like and I'm still grappling with that. And as you can see, 'cause like I said-- like I caused a stir.

Eddie: You called-- 

Asanni: Caused a stir.

Eddie: Remember, love is a political force, right? 

Asanni: I guess.

Eddie: We're still trying to figure that out, right?

Asanni: I guess so [laughter].

Eddie: Still grappling with it, right?

Asanni: But I think he would tell us that we have to love one another, and I don't know what that looks like, but he would say that, and that the love won't have to be a political force and that this love would have to be radically different than what we think of as love, but again, I still don't know what that looks like.

Eddie: Yeah. Yeah. So we find ourselves here in this moment uh where we began, right, with this conversation. What do you-- what would you want to say to the student of color who's thinking about coming to Princeton right now? Because they're going to be here over the next four years. They're going to be-- I mean look--

Asanni: Mm.

Eddie: You guys came, right four years ago. Now you're-- you're experiencing this-- about to experience this dreadful rit--ritual of Spring called 'thesis', [laughter] writing that thesis--

Asanni: Right. Right.

Eddie: --here at Princeton. 

(29:01)

Some of you are even-- one of you are-- you are even writing it with me.

Asanni: Mm-hmm.

Eddie: Asanni that is [laughter]. So what would you-- what advice would you have to-- to that young person of color who's about to make his or her way to-- their way to-- to Princeton?

Asanni: I mean I think that I would till them the same thing I told the Black students who were coming here for preview um last year and every year before that, is that you largely have to educate yourself first before you can speak, but then once you speak, you need to keep speaking. I think that--

Eddie: Hmm.

Asanni: --when you get to Princeton, every-- there's every reason for you not to speak. All your friends that you might make uncomfortable or that you might lose because you decided to speak out against something um I don't know, the fact that this administration moves very slowly and they actively try to stop progress from happening, especially in regards to people of color. I think there are a lot of factors that would discourage someone from doing this work,

(30:01)

but the work has to continue because BJL was not the first time that--

Eddie: And BJL again is--

Asanni: BJL is the Black Justice League. We were not the first people to ever talk about these issues, and I pray that we are not the last. And I pray that we are not the last to fight on the side that we fought for for these issues and leads. Um there's always going to be some type of obstacle and I think that black students are always going to have to speak up but we can't not have them speak up, I think.

Eddie: Mm-hmm. So they have to find their voice?

Asanni: They have to. I think it's important. I think that activism works differently for a lot of people. Some I'm not going to say the way that you should do it, but I think that we need to partake in it and I hope and I pray that more people engage in it, engage in the right side of history, as I like to call it.

Eddie: Mm-hmm. Destiny?

Destiny: Sure. Well, I think my first thing would be sort of just out of love not to be blindsided by racism and white supremacy on this campus and the way it operates in this particular very elite space. So sometimes I question when maybe a person

(31:01)

says something that is very racist or does something that's very racist in camp-- on campus in public. And the question is why would they do that, and I think the question for Black students in particular who come here should be why would they not be? Why would they not do that? Why would they not be racist? And so I say that mostly as self-protective, but also to recognize that this is a White Supremacy space. Many universities across the country, but particularly very elite ones like Princeton are White Supremacy spaces. And what that means is that they operate-- operate in a particular way um. One of the ways is very-- they're every-- they were very sort of polite racism. Their niceties, what they necessarily call you in their words. So I wasn't being 'racist', or I'm being very 'civil' so I'm not being 'racist'. And so I say sort of be warned for that, but also to re-- recommends um, the fallacies of neo-liberal protest--

Eddie: Mm-hmm.

Destiny: And to also be warned about dialogues and the violence that takes place in these dialogues but also just the vapidity of these dialogues. And so I'd say 

(32:01)

to kind of hit their ground running, oh, and taking advantage of all the resources that they have for you. I'm very critical of Princeton, but I also did not come from a place in which I was allotted the resources that I'm now allotted now that I am at Princeton, and so I earned my right to be here, my ancestors earned my right to be here. I take advantage of the resources that are for me, but I also am heavily critical of it and I'm trying to find ways to be critical of it that does not sort of suck me in to neoliberalism. So that's my advice, I guess for students of color who come here. 

And but also if you don't necessarily want to engage in dialogues about racism or sexism or homophobia, if you don't want to challenge these systems, then to sort of reconsider if you want to be here or not because this is not-- this isn't really the kind of place in which you can be sort of complacent um in your blackness, which I think a lot of folks are after the protest. It was a lot of people who 

(33:01)

felt that they were complacent in their blackness, or probably just trying to survive and just trying to live and not necessarily disrupt the status quo and found that in the moment in which those protests occurred and people were asking "What do you think about the protest?" "What do you think about the black-- the protest?" Since we are all Black and we all apparently think the same, they couldn't necessarily be complacent. And so some people had to sort of take up space in conversations that they didn't see themselves taking space in when they first came in to Princeton. So you got to be ready for that.

Eddie: Yeah, I remember-- I remember in the context of-- of the struggle that you guys engaged in, um the difficult conversations you are having across campus as other students of color uh questioned uh your tactics and-- and we should let our listeners know that you two were critical voices and leaders in the student movement that led to the takeover of the President's Office where you demanded that they remove the name of Woodrow Wilson from the Woodrow Wilson School to Public Policy as well as in one of the uh, dorms, 

(34:02)

the iconography of Wood Wilson that was questioned. You also uh many people don't know, you guys ask for other things as well.

Asanni: A lot of other things.

Eddie: A lot of other things ranging from faculty training to some other-- what are some of the other--?

Asanni: Advocating that every student had to take a class that made them question issues of race, gender, sexuality, stuff like that. Systems of oppression prior to the incident, we were advocating for the African American Studies Department to become a department.

Eddie: Right.

Asanni: Um what else? Oh, affinity-- black affinity spaces uh on campus.

Destiny: Including affinity housing.

Asanni: Right.

Destiny: Uh, so you should be able to take advantage of all the resources Princeton has, but you shouldn't have to live next door to racists if you don't want to.

Asanni: Exactly.

Eddie: So I mean this was huge!

Destiny: Yeah.

Asanni: Right.

Eddie: And you guys did some-- you did some serious work. I mean it landed on the-- on-- in the New York Times and I remember folks uh coming around, and I remember how-- I remember looking at your pained faces as you had to-- to navigate 

(35:01)

and negotiate all sorts of-- of tensions. Looking back on it, what do you think about-- I mean it's hard to ask whether or not you-- do you think it was a success. That's a crazy question. What-- what do you think came of what you've-- what you did? What you, in your community, did? Our community did?

Asanni: Well, do I think it was a success? I think that that term--

Eddie: No, I didn't say a success, right you know.

Asanni: Right. More than successful, I guess.

Eddie: Right, yes.

Destiny: What came of it.

Eddie: Yeah.

Eddie and Asanni: What came of it.

Eddie: Right.

Asanni: I mean Princeton is now at least it's going to the board of trustees that people had to take a class that examines systems of oppression both within this country and abroad. So like the way that you're not in the United States might perpetuate these issues abroad um and it's, at least from the article, it was presented as if it was going to pass, so I think that that's-- and even though the article didn't credit BJL, and not that we need to be credited, I mean we know where they got that idea from. Um so that's a good thing I think and even though uh competency training for faculty and staff 

(36:02)

is not mandatory, it's now available widely for every department, so I think that that's also a good thing. Woodrow Wilson still being white supremacist just like this school, but um I do think-- so the conversation is up. We started it, and now they're trying to rename other buildings, but that's just like typical Princeton tactics I think. Um and they're trying to I guess address i-- the iconography I guess of other different buildings. So I don't know. I think there's something that came from and--

Eddie: You made a difference.

Asanni: Something.

Destiny: Yeah, I think White students in Princeton know they're white now, [laughter] I think. I do. I think 'cause um Professor Painter wrote-- recently wrote an article about what it means to be white in a Trump presidency, but I think sort of what it means to be white on Princeton's campus, I think people came in thinking that they were the default. They weren't white, they weren't raced, they were just human and everybody else was just a different kind of human than they were, but I think white Princetonians know they're white. I think people think a little bit more critically 

(37:01)

whether they're want-- where I want them to be, where I think they should be or not, they think a little bit more critically about race, that doesn't mean the folks aren't racist, that means folks are maybe more afraid to come off as racist um which is still problematic, but it means that so-- maybe some black students can be a little bit safer in classrooms and in other spaces. So I think that came of it. I think more money for dialogues and for conferences and for all those things came off it which I don't think is good enough. I don't ever think money is good enough, but I think like conferences and different talks that we have had, I don't necessarily-- that are-- have been student-sponsored um or student-led, I don't necessarily think the university would have otherwise like put as much energy into making that possible. Yeah.

Eddie: I think the beautiful thing about it is that she-- you-- you two and-- and--and so many others now represent you are Princeton, whether they-- whether they embrace it or not. You are Princeton. Um and I think you've left an extraordinary imprint on the campus. Let me ask you this question, though. 

(38:01)

Trump is here, we started with that. Um what do you dream for-- for what's next? I mean what are the-- what-- what are you hoping for, right, and what-- I mean because you will be-- it's on you, you know. We-- we-- I mean all of these four years you've been studying you know uh, African American-- you take African American History, you've taken the courses with Josh Guild and Professor Tara Hunter and you've been reading about movements in the past and-- and the struggles that African Americans and-- and-- and-- and people of color around the globe have experienced, but you are squarely in it. It is a moment that is, in some ways, familiar and wholly unprecedented. And it's a moment that you, you in so--so many ways will-- will-- will-- will define. So dream a little bit. What do you think we need to be doing and what do you hope for?

Destiny: I think my wildest dreams are for black children, 

(39:02)

young black children to be able to learn safely at-- at will. And so when I say 'my wildest dreams', I say that because I don't necessarily think, according to what I've learned in Professor Guild's class that we've sort of had a time in which black children could learn safely and well, and I don't just mean in schools, I mean outside of schools. I dream of a post-presidential election conversation in which black parents don't have to say "Okay. So here. So look, like this is how you walk down the street. This is how you do this. This is how you do that. They're going to tell you this, but this is actually what your history is." I dream that-- I dream of us not having to do that for black children to know that they are safe, that they are loved, that they are valuable. And not just because-- not just that they're valuable in this sort of 'Black is Beautiful' way to make us feel a little bit less sad about white supremacy, that they are valuable and-- and important. So that's what I dream. How we get there, I'm not sure how we get there under a-- a Trump presidency, I'm not necessarily sure about that, either. I know it will be a lot more difficult. I know it feels further off and further off and 

(40:01)

less realistic than it ever was before. Um but that's still my dream.

Asanni: Yeah, second all that. Um I'm thinking about like when you first asked the question. I'm thinking about like tangible results um and not saying that any of that is not tangible, 'cause it is, obviously. But I think-- I'm thinking about like-- like the undocumented folks that he's trying to rally out, right? I'm thinking about like issues with the LGBT community across race um that might come up because of this election. I'm thinking about like what's going to happen to people who identifies as Muslim and those who don't but look like it. I'm thinking about all of that and just hoping that-- well, knowing in reality that there is something that's going to happen. It's probably not going to be good, but hoping that we come up on dispute losses as possible. I don't know what that looks like. I don't know how to stop that with the Republican Congress and two bigots leading them. I don't know what that looks like. I don't know what it looks like with two bigots leading more bigots. I don't know what that looks like. 

(41:01)

Um but just sitting back and hoping about everything that-- hoping for everything that Destiny said, but also just those things as well. Um hoping that we come up on dispute losses as possible.

Eddie: Yeah. You know, the late Stuart Hall talked about conjunctural moments, moments of crisis um that had everything to do with the contradictions of material conditions that open up space for us to think about right, the most vulnerable among us. 

Asanni: Mm-hmm.

Eddie: But these crises are always moments of possibilities and the question for us is how do we stand at the bridge? Well, I just want to thank you all for taking the time to stop by and have a conversation with us today about what it means to imagine oneself as a student-activist in the age of Trump. 

So I would like to thank Destiny Crockett and Asanni York for joining us today. Additionally, I want to thank-- give a special thanks to Courtney Bryan for providing the music to this podcast. To the staff of the Department of African American Studies here at Princeton, our office manager April Peters, our event coordinator Dion Worthy, 

(42:01)

our social media specialist Allison Bland, and our technical specialist in audio engineer Elio Leo.   .

Remember, you can find this podcast and more by visiting our website: aas.princeton.edu. Until next time.

[music]

[end]

 

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