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Hi, this is Hillary Clinton, host of the new podcast, You and Me both, there's a lot to be anxious and worried about right now, and it's made so much worse by the fact that we can't be together. So I find myself on the phone a lot, talking with friends, experts, really anyone who can help make some sense of these challenging times. These conversations have been a lifeline for me.
And now I hope they will be for you to please listen to you and me both on the I Heart radio app, Apple podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. Hi, I'm a judge, and this is the deciding decade. Throughout this summer, we've seen a reckoning about how to face one of our country's deepest, harshest truths, how pervasive racism has dominated so much of our past and continues to shape so much of our present, we've seen George Floyd murdered, Jacob Blake shot, Brianna Taylor robbed of her life.
We've seen communities of color disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. America is staring at our reality of discrimination and bias directly in the face. And it's past time for all of us, especially white Americans, to address it. So where do we go from here? The answer, of course, is complicated. But my guest today talks about how we need really for the first time in this country to take a step back and examine the effects that slavery, institutional racism and discrimination have had on black Americans and still have on our country's laws and policies.
We need to do this as a way to heal and as a catalyst for progress. I draw a lot of hope from the thought of what could happen if we were to do this together over the decade ahead with the leadership of people like my guest today. Congresswoman Barbara Lee is a progressive leader and a pathbreaking individual who has made an enormous difference in the United States Congress and in the progressive movement, continuing to speak to issues that are going to shape our time.
She's been an effective public servant who's led on a number of issues and is not afraid to take an unpopular position. In fact, she was the only member of Congress to vote against the authorization of military force after the September 11th attacks. She's also one of America's most distinctive voices on racial justice and equity. Some of the answers we're searching for right this moment have to do with challenges she's been speaking to for a long time. How do we face our deepest, harshest truths?
How do we heal? How can we move forward together? Congresswoman Lee, thanks so much for joining us and what I know is a busy time. Oh, yeah. Now I'm really happy to be with you. Nice seeing you again. And time I learn how to pronounce your last name. Judge right.
That's right. Doesn't roll off the tongue, but you got it just right. Thanks for joining us.
I bet I miss you on that stage. I thought you did great. Well, thank you. Can't wait to hear what you have. Thank you.
It almost feels like another lifetime ago, doesn't it? Just this calendar year when we were all running for president, who could have guessed how the states.
Yeah, and November is the turning point, I think. I think either we go forward or we go backwards in this country on all issues. This is a defining moment, I think, for the United States. I think so, too. We have to recognize that.
I think that's right. And part of what we're doing in this podcast is a series of conversations about exactly that, not just what do we need to do in this moment, but how does this moment shape the years that are coming ahead? And that's one of the reasons why I was so eager to talk to you, because your career, your activism and your legislation has, I think, always taken that long view into account. And it's something I'm really eager to explore.
But before we get into politics and policy, something else I wanted to ask you about. You were born in El Paso, Texas. Yeah, I'm very curious about what El Paso was like during your childhood double life.
Well, first of all, I love El Paso. And the more I go there as an adult, the more I really recognize the beauty of the people, the grit and the toughness of the people and the fact that we have so many challenges as African-Americans and Quixtar. My mother was born in El Paso. My grandfather and his father were born in Galveston, Texas. And that was where two years later we learned that we were freed as slaves. Right.
And that Juneteenth. Yeah, and that's Juneteenth. And so El Paso, my grandfather migrated to he thought he would achieve a better opportunity there. He had finished college and he became the first black letter carrier in El Paso, Texas, and he spoke fluent Spanish. So that's why I'm so committed to the Postal Service and preserving the US Postal Service as a public entity, because in addition to how important it is for the country, in a general sense, it was the primary means to the middle class for African Americans.
And so we lived in El Paso, Texas, with my grandfather and grandmother, my mother and my dad, who was in the military. So my mother had mad him because she was working at Fort Bliss, the first African-American woman to work. Is that right? Yeah, she she's one of the first 12 students to integrate the University of Texas at El Paso. But I got to tell you about when I was born and this left a mark on me that I will never forget and really describes why I fight for justice for women.
So she went out to the hospital and she needed a C-section. They wouldn't admit her because she was black. My grandmother. And again, going back to the Confederacy, the black women were raped by the heads of households. So my great grandmother had been raped by the guy she worked for. And so out of that came to girls. My grandmother and my great aunt, they looked like they were white. And so my grandmother, she had to demand that my mother get in the hospital because she said that was her daughter.
They looked at my mother and they looked at my grandma and they couldn't quite figure it out. So I thought my grandmother was white. So they let her in and she needed a C-section, but they left her in the hall on the gurney and my mother became unconscious and she almost died. No one attended to her at all. Nobody. Finally, someone came up and saw that she was delirious and really needed attention. And they didn't know what to do.
They could not do a C-section then it was just too dangerous. And so they took her into the emergency room and they barely got me here because they had to use forceps to deliver me. My mother almost died and I almost didn't get here. So that kind of tells you a story.
So when we talk about years later, we talk about this maternal mortality gap that is clearly a consequence of systemic racism.
This is not theoretical for, you know, it's there's nothing but it's a shame and disgrace that we have gone back to the records that show twenty five years to where we were. So, no, this is not new to me. And that's why when we decided to form our black maternal health caucus, I immediately joined because my life almost was taken from me or I almost was not granted life. And that was because my mother was black and because I was black.
But my mother and grandfather, dad decided that they weren't going to participate in anything that was segregated anymore. So they sent us to Catholic school.
So the Catholic school was integrated in the public school was not.
Yeah, yeah. But integrated into black students, me and my sister. I want to ask you also about what I think was a formative experience. Most have been working on truly Chisholm's campaign for president. I think many of us are aware that she was the first black woman to run for president. But in researching for this podcast, I was not aware that she was the first black candidate for major party man or woman and the first woman, black or white or otherwise, to run for president is Democrat.
I look back on that campaign, Shirley Chisholm, now context. I was a student at Mills College and all women's college in Oakland, California, and I had a class in government and we had a class assignment to work in a political campaign. Then it was McGovern, Humphrey, Muskie, and I told my teacher flatmate, Dr. Fran Mullins, I'll never forget. I said, I have never flown to class before. But for me, I said, these guys don't reflect any of the issues and they don't stand for anything that I care about or believe in or me as a young black woman on welfare raising two kids.
Because you were a single mother while attending college at Mills.
I was a single mother. Yeah. But I was also president of the Black Student Union. At the same time, I invited Congresswoman Chisholm as the first African-American woman elected to Congress to go speak to the student union. I had no idea she was running for president. And so after she spoke, I met her and talked with her big Afro jeans, t shirt to little kids, and she spoke fluent Spanish. She talked about immigrant rights. She talked about reducing and eliminating poverty.
She was against the Vietnam War. She was an educator, talked about child care, every issue that I cared about and talked about in her speech. And I went up to her later and I said, Mrs. Chisholm, I have this class I'm about to flunk and I'm also wearing a campaign. Maybe I'll reconsider. So she took me to task and she said to me and she always called me to her last month of life on this earth, little girl, you have got to get on the inside and shake things up if you believe in what you are pushing and saying.
And she said you've got to register to vote. I said, no way. I don't believe just like many young people now, I do not believe in this two party system because the Democrats haven't done anything. And the Republicans say, why should I be party to that craziness? That's irrelevant. So what about that?
Right now, a lot of advocates and activists are in the street protesting systemic racism, responding to police violence. And I've seen that tension that I think a lot of us are saying this is exactly why we need to vote. And a lot of advocates and activists are saying this isn't just about elections, which is, of course, true. But I think sometimes frustrated or impatient with the idea that this has to lead to a political process. How do you reconcile those things?
It sounds like it's not a new conversation from your perspective does not lead me in them.
I mean, because I was exactly there and it was really part of this class. I mean, I love it. Here is a black woman running for president and I've got to do that. So I went back and she told me the register to vote, you've got to help me. I said, well, who do I call? How do I get involved? She said, I don't have a lot of national money in my local organizers and believe it, me or so, I went back to class.
I contacted some friends, and we ended up organizing the Shirley Chisholm presidential Northern California primary out of my class at Mills College. I got an A in the class and I went on to Miami as a Shirley Chisholm delegate and we took about eight percent of the vote in Alameda County. And Shirley Chisholm became a close friend and I traveled with her. I didn't work for her formally, but I was one of her key Northern California fundraisers and volunteers. And I got to know her really well.
And then I went on to work for my beloved Ron Dellums, and I got a chance to be with Shirley Chisholm and here in Washington, D.C., while working for Rod. And I saw how she had to fight like as a black woman just to get on the rules committee. They put her on the Agriculture Committee and she wanted to get on labor. So she made a heck of a lot out of a poor urban gardens for food security and nutrition.
So I saw her take racism and sexism and turn it around and make it into something she wanted. And like she told me, she says, you can't go along to get along if you're a black woman. And she said, and you've got to get in and not go along with these rules. She said they weren't meant for you. You've got to go in and change the rules of the game and shake things up. And that's what she did every step of the way.
She pushed back. I mean, you had every member of Congress on her side. She was crazy. Sam, why Shirley doing that? She's pushing the envelope. She's not a team player. She's the she was very independent. I mean, I remember when she went down to see George Wallace when he was shot in the hospital. I was so upset. I said, I'm on leave this campaign. You know, the segregationists.
No, wait a minute. She went to visit George Wallace, the segregationist who campaigned on segregation in the hospital.
Oh, yeah. This is a story I've never really told too many people except Peggy Wallace. Kennedy is a Democrat and we become close friends. When Shirley and Shirley took me to task about that, she said Barbara, she said he's going to be paralyzed. You've got to show. Some humanity, he is a segregationist, you never know, you might be able to change someone's heart, she says, so get off it. I mean, she really and I was ready to leave the camp and she went down and saw George Wallace last year.
Peggy Wallace Kennedy, when I was in Alabama with John Lewis, told me, she says, Barbara, I was there with Daddy when Shirley Chisholm came to visit him. And I want you to know she was the one that convinced him to apologize. Now a little too late. That's extraordinary. And so she said later she was able he was able to call some Southern I will call him what they are guys and get them to vote for certain issues that Shirley Chisholm was champion.
And that was all because of that one visit. And that gives me hope. Hey, it's Bobby Bones, executive producer of Make It Up as we Go, the brand new podcast from Audio Up and I Heart Radio brought to you exclusively by Unilever's Noor and Magnum Brands. The story follows a songwriter's journey as well as the songs themselves and how they make it to country radio from executive producer Miranda Lambert and creators Scarlett Burg and Jared Goosestep. A story inspired by the competitive world of Nashville writing rooms featuring original music by Scarlett Burke, director and executive producer, featuring some of the biggest names in country, including Nicole Guy and everything now nowadays and.
Now it's feeling like one day on Saturday might make it up as we go only on the podcast network in association with audio of media created by Scarlett Burke and Jared Goosestep. A very important part of many faith traditions is this idea of redemption, I do this idea that it's never too late and you can't give up on anybody.
Do you think that idea is harder to make good on now, especially for progressives or anybody confronting what we're up against as a country, the climate of hate, the resurgence of different forms of white nationalism, and the awareness that many things that never went away in the first place, including some of the same fights that were fought 50 years ago. What does that done to your level of faith in the possibility of redemption and conversion and change?
I, I believe in redemption and conversion and change, but I also believe that white supremacy is driving this White House and this government and white nationalism. And so if we don't deal with it, I talk about my commission. Yes. The truth, racial healing and transformation. If I if I don't believe in in that I shouldn't be doing what I'm doing, I get tired of and a lot of my colleagues get tired of telling white folks what to do now.
But I think when you look at systemic racism, this is the moment to make sure people understand that covid-19 is not disproportionately impacting black people. It just didn't happen. Health disparities have always been here. It didn't just happen that African-American men and women are disproportionately killed and murdered by police officers. It's always been here. It didn't just happen that the wealth gap in the wage gap and the lack of affordable housing and unequal education, all of that is connected to slavery to one years ago.
Already countries after atrocities, human rights, atrocities after genocide, they all have a truth and sometimes reconciliation. Sometimes we're calling ours a racial healing and transformation. There's nothing to reconcile this country.
I wanted to ask you about this. So one of the best examples or one of the best known examples for the kind of process you're describing is famously the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that came together in South Africa responding to apartheid. But you've pointed out that this word reconciliation doesn't apply in the same way here. And I'd love to ask you to unpack that a little bit and explain what why is reconciliation not the right word for what needs to happen or what needs to happen, especially with regard to the black perspective?
Well, because what is there to when you have reconciliation, you have to have a process because I won't say compromise, but consensus coming together. Both sides have a valid point. There's no back to slavery and there's no valid point to systemic racism and the genocide of the Native Americans. What's the counterpoint to that? What do you reconcile with land was stolen from native people? What do you reconcile when two hundred and fifty some years of slavery of Africans on this continent is nothing to reconcile?
So we decided that once we have this truth telling moment in a public way, because we don't have a body historical context for systemic racism, then it's a day of reckoning we have to have in this country like other countries have. And then you klinz, you move towards some form of process of healing. Then you look at the policies, programs, funding priorities, systems in the private and public sector that perpetuate systemic racism and you transform those out of the core and their DNA being systemic racism to one of justice.
And I look at everything and a racial lens. Is this going to perpetuate systemic racism or is it going to help dismantle it while the rest of the country and the elected officials have to start doing that? They have to start looking at their votes and they have to know what systemic racism is. Listen, I come from a very progressive community, Berkeley and Oakland, and my friends and constituents called me up after they saw images of black people dying of color disproportionately and didn't quite understand it.
How can this be so, man, don't you know what systemic racism is? But I thought we had dealt with all the laws. I'd say, wait a minute, wait a minute. We have not dealt with or had you when you get married, you were taught about the history of slavery, what happened, OK? And you then have lynching. You have a system of lynching. You have a system of Jim Crow. You have the black code, you have segregation.
You know, it wasn't until nineteen sixty eight when black people could buy a house and if they were discriminated against, they had no recourse to fair housing laws passed. This is recent.
This is an I that this is not about a far off historical story. This is something that's living with us. Yeah.
So these are chains of slavery that have to be broken. You mentioned follow up. And I think this is so important because this is such a powerful model. But there was an article by Sison, KMC among on some of the shortcomings of the South African experience. I just want to read you a couple of the things that the author said, because I think they raised this question of how do you make sure we actually get to where we need to get what?
One of the comments in the article is, Twenty three years after the transition to democracy, the author writes, The wider systemic racial and economic inequalities that have kept most black South Africans poor while preserving the wealth and privilege most white South Africans enjoyed under apartheid remain firmly in place. The article also went on to say a genuine truth and reconciliation process, and that's the vocabulary they use for the South African Commission. A genuine process would have aimed to address not just serious human rights violations, but also the socioeconomic effects of apartheid.
So what does it mean? How do these two things fit together? The conversation about some kind of truth and healing process and the conversation about whether we call it reparations, proactive economic change. How do those things fit together? And do we have to go through the truth process before we can get to the reckoning process?
You absolutely have to go through the truth telling process. Otherwise you're tinkering around the edges when you set policies and make decisions for people. And you oftentimes it's subconscious that they end up being very racist decisions. So you have to have the truth tellers so people know when they are aware of what they're doing, especially those in leadership. But at the community level, you know, there have been thirty five of these. Dr. Gilchrist four has been doing this with the Kellogg Foundation for years.
And it's really powerful. And what we have to do is make sure that whatever comes out of it, reparations. Yes. Addressing how you repair the damage in terms of site or as is home ownership. How do you do that? There's some catch up and we got to do. You can't. Right. How do you address equal education for African-American, black and brown students? Well, there's a lot we have to do to shatter the unequal education barriers and the systems and build a new educational system.
No one says it can be done overnight. We've got to start somewhere. And so I think if there's by it and that's why the commission has to be a tight commission, that's got to listen to people from all around the country and what happened to their ancestors? Why were they not able to ever purchase a home? What was with the various what was it in the HUD regulations or the the banking rules that kept them from acquiring? Well, OK.
And so we start deconstructing all of that. And you can only do that by telling the truth and not cover it up. And so we have to learn from South Africa. We have to learn. There have been 40 some countries, some of them have been very slow. And so we have to look at Rwanda. We have to look at a lot of what has taken place within the context of this country and do our own thing here, because you have so many violations of human rights that are still with us and black people are still we.
Right? I mean, we're still out there, you know, to for the soul of this country. And it's not only for African-Americans, it's for you. It's for everybody to reckon with what unfortunately we saw with the murder of Mr. Floyd. Everybody's got to reckon with that.
I want to ask you about that idea of everybody, because I think part of what I've been reflecting on a lot as somebody who's a political figure, who's white, who thinks of myself as progressive, is I think there's a lot of us who are involved in the different systems, whether it's in a role in government or in the economy or some other way. Think of racism as something that is over there, that there are some people the George Wallace is the kind of nakedly, openly racist people that we see.
That's where all the racism is. And it makes it a lot easier for anybody else who is white to say, well, obviously I'm against that and I'm against them. And they have to change. But it's very easy to to skip over why I have to change. And so I wonder, as somebody who's from a progressive district, who engages with a lot of well-intentioned white progressives who probably started calling you more than usual after the murder of George Wilson, who are trying to be part of the solution, but have maybe up until now thought of racism as something that could only be part of the heart of an altogether bad person.
What thoughts do you have on the right way to come to terms with how even very progressive people who would say we detest racism are still mixed up in it, have inhaled it precisely because it is, as you said, systemic?
Yeah, a lot of white people don't really understand it. And I my district is very progressive and and I work with progressive organizations. And I'm I am a progressive African-American woman. Racial equality is never seen as an issue. And I have to beat the drum every time I'm in these meetings of white progressives talking about economic inequality, I said, well, you got to add racial inequality. I, I beat the drum on that in the Progressive Caucus and I've had to do that for twenty one years.
And beginning is. Have to regulate. We have to all do that, and that's why this mission going back to that aumann them even at local levels before the National Guard is put into place is so important because you've got to deconstruct this stuff. White supremacy is embedded in everything. Look at gentrification. You know, I make people engaged in displacement, you know, good people. They may not think what they're doing is is racist, but it is because it's disproportionately impacting African-Americans and people of color, people who are saying, oh, you got to go to ASBA and have a relationship with SBA before you can come to this bank to get a loan to get Europe that systemic racism because black people don't have those relationships with SBA nor with the bank.
And so, come on, these are most liberal people sometimes saying, why can't you get that loan? And you know what I mean. So you have to pull out. I can give you chapter and verse of how this economic system is filled with bad breath and good people don't even recognize it. So now I'm dealing with trying to get these Confederate statues out of the Capitol. And a lot of my colleagues don't even know that these Confederate leaders were trying to preserve slavery, committing acts of treason and didn't want to see my ancestors freed.
They don't even know that. I have to explain. I mean, members of Black Caucus, we deconstruct this with people.
And as a veteran, I've been marveling at the process of many people thinking for the first time about the fact that military installations are named after men who took up arms against the United States of America, traitors, people who fought against the United States.
Right. And, you know, being from a military family. What what that means for how many people know that?
I'm saying we have to it's a massive and you can help tremendously in your community and throughout the country with people who don't quite get it. They need to understand this and how deep it goes and how it's reflected. It's nothing personal. You know, I always try to say don't don't take this as I'm calling you a racist. Understand that slavery was a government sanctioned institution. It's the government policies and probably your ancestors were involved in some of that. But that's not about us trying to get anything out of you.
This is about deconstructing those policies and join us to do that and a collective responsibility to to fix things that were created by policy, right?
That's right. We're having a conversation right now, I think, about what it means to love America, and I wonder if you could take us back to what it must have felt like at a time when many would, I think, question the patriotism of anyone who is not on board with where the Bush administration was at the time to be the lone vote against the authorization for the use of force after 9/11. And then this year, the bill to repeal that very same authorization for military force passed with two hundred and thirty six votes.
That's right. And at the time, you didn't say that the United States shouldn't have any kind of option for a military response. What we said was in granting these overly broad powers, the Congress failed its responsibility to understand the dimensions of its declaration. And I was thinking about how in two thousand one, I'm not sure I could have guessed that I would have wound up serving in Afghanistan 13 years later. But I certainly could not have guessed that almost 20 years later, our country would be debating still how to get out of that conflict.
And that that very authorization that you were the lone vote against in 2001 would pass by a House majority in twenty twenty more than anything. I wonder what watching that 20 year arc of change has done for your view of how change happens and how people shift in their perspective. And I wonder as we think about how 20 years from now might be different or even how 10 years from now might be different from now. What lessons do you think that has to teach us about how change happens?
Well, the arc of justice may be long, but it bends towards justice. This is a marathon we're in. I mean, this is our lap of the race and we have to run it with vigor because we have to pass the baton. Right. And that's how I view it. And so I knew it then that that would set the stage for perpetual war. It was 60 words, and all it did was give any president. And I dealt with Barack Obama around this.
Every president has been there. It was a blank check to use force in perpetuity without coming to Congress. And that's what has happened. I mean, it was hard because of the moment. I mean, my chief of staff, it was on green on Flight three, coming in to the Capitol. I'm sitting at the Capitol. I have to evacuate. So believe you me, it was it was heavy duty. And the people who died and who now are ill and have disabilities as a result of that, that's what stays on my mind, you know.
So that was the hard part. People suffering and dying as a result of these terrible attacks. And for me, you know, as a person of faith, I have to say my prayers, do it and stand this scripture. Any things that you just stand I mean, I'm paraphrasing that when all hell breaks out around you and you put on the full armor of God and you just stand, well, that's what I had to do. And I knew one of these days if I kept being persistent, my dad was in the military or as far as call me said that was the right vote.
Do not send our troops in harm's way unless you know what you're doing. What the exit strategy, where they're going. I mean, if you read that 60 word authorization, it was so broad as crazy.
In fact, one of the reasons the repeal was so important was because it seemed that same authorization could be interpreted to allow for war against Iran as well.
And let me tell, it's been used in about 19 countries. It's been used everywhere in the world. It's been used for even domestic spying in our own country. So it's overly broad. We got to get it off the books. So it was really hard because I have to have security. You talk about being called a traitor. You know, I said I thought peace was patriotic first and then secondly, it was scary to me to see how many people came out with attacks trying to kill me.
And I mean, it was it was awful, really. There were threats on your life at the time. Oh, yeah. I had to have security 24/7, even flying back and forth at my house in California, here in D.C. and people have been prosecuted. I mean, it was bad. And so the thing is, the right to dissent is central to our democracy. Whether you agree or not, people have that right and should if they think their government is not doing the right thing.
But to me, when I signed that there was sixty thousand emails and their emails and phone calls and letters. So I have them archive. If anyone wants to see, you can go to Mills'. But you know what? On the other hand, there was so many, like Bishop Tutu and Coretta Scott King, people from all around the world and sent me notes and told me that was the right vote, that they stood with me, just don't back down.
And so that was, on the other hand, as so many people whose names I will never meet, and then another woman in my shoes right outside of my district, she wrote me a letter and she said, you know, I hated you. I was one of those that called you all kinds of names and one little girl. And she said, look, it's not a lot, but I'm sending you a check for. She said, because now I understand that I have kids and this has been going on for 20 years and that this is she just went on and from a hatred to a campaign.
That's right. And so those kind of moments really warm my heart because I know people now really get it and understand you just have to stand and just wait and be strong and be solid in your position constitutionally. I knew I was right. It was just that, you know, everybody wants to be unified with George Bush to retaliate right away. I mean, it was like, take a moment. This was three days after the country was in mourning.
And I'm a psychiatric social worker by profession. Psychology, one on one says you don't make these hard decisions while you're grieving. I mean, come on. So, you know, I had to pull from every bit of my being to be able to do that and stand and debate whoever came up to me to try to criticize about that.
So you could say the nation is grieving now, grieving over police killings, grieving, of course, over the mounting death toll of covid-19. And yet we also have decisions that have to be made soon. What do you think is important for the moral compass of the country right now that we were making decisions that, in my view, are probably going to decide what the rest of this decade and maybe the rest of this century looks like?
Yeah, the one thing you do is focus on voting, registering people to vote, beat back all the voter suppression that's taking place and organize and mobilize to get people to the polls. We have to do that. Everybody can be part of this transformation and getting rid of this occupant of the White House, that has to happen. This white supremacy agenda has been promoted by Steve Bannon and Steve Miller and Glaucus. They're living up to the white supremacist agenda and people have to understand that.
And so one thing they can do right now in the midst of our grieving and anger and so many people are exhausted behind this is please both please organize. Please don't let people stay at home if they can vote absentee, stay at home. But I mean, we've got to get our voting system such where the choice is there either vote in a safe place with the proper protocols or vote at home. Don't let the election go by. That's the one thing I'm encouraging and urging people to do to regain the soul of this country.
We've got to do that.
There's one more question that I wanted to put to you. This is about the subject of trust. I've been thinking about trust. I've been writing about trust. And certainly the democratic process depends on trusting that we can make change. You've spoken about the incredible faith in particularly the black activists have had in the capacity of the system we live in, in the country that we live in to change. I'm wondering at a moment when Americans more than ever say they don't trust the government to do the right thing, when Americans don't necessarily trust each other to do the right thing.
And yet we are going to need a level of trust in each other and in our ability to get things done with good government if we want any chance of dealing with these issues that confront our country. What do you think are the most important things that make it possible for people to trust each other and for that social and political trust to grow? And is there any advice that you have for those who are maybe a little skeptical of whether the inside, so to speak, the process, the political process is really a place to make change?
Well, I'm one of those persons who have a hard time with trust, so I'm glad you're writing about it. I always have, because so often people you go into relationships or into activities based on trust and they'll blow it every time. And I get to the point where I am not going to trust this. So trust is extremely important on a personal level, and I struggle with that. And everyone will tell you I don't get too close because of that trust factor.
So we've got to get through that, though, because we don't have to agree with each other. But you have to be honest, and I think honesty is key in developing trust, and that's why I've gone back to my commission. Truth is truth telling time. You've got to be truthful to people. And at the government level, all of what Trump does. I don't trust, you know, in terms of what's going to happen to people and people who don't trust their government.
I mean, look at COINTELPRO. I was part of that FBI, J. Edgar Hoover back and on black activism. You should see my file is this thick.
COINTELPRO, the FBI files that were built up around black activity to cause confusion with black groups caused people to kill each other, had FBI agents posing as party members. I mean, it was awful. I see that possibility now. So I don't trust the Department of Justice, you know, so I have to watch what they're doing. They have this unit called black extremist activists or something where they're and we've met with them many times. And it's scary what I know about what they're doing.
And we're trying to stop them. But I don't trust the Department of Justice. And so skepticism is good because there's so many things that are going on that aren't honest. So you have to get in there and work hard to change those institutions, to build that trust. Otherwise, you're going to keep distrust and you may have good reason to distrust your government, because under this administration especially, they're doing bad things. So get in there, vote, let's change it.
And that's how we do that.
And now's our chance like never before. It is the decisions that are made.
So this is a hard time for everybody. But let's take this time and use it in a way to bring people together and to talk about ideas and how we move forward in this country.
And I think we should seize the moment just by way of conclusion. If a little girl is born in a hospital in El Paso today, if we get this right, what's the biggest way her life will be different from ours? Would we have to make sure of for her to live a better life?
Yeah, we have to make sure that girls have equal opportunity to every part of the society and to the world's blessings and benefits. We have to make sure that girls are treated equally because I don't want any little girl to have to go through what I went through. And so for little girls, I want to make sure that the playing field not only is level, but that they are able to soar. And that's our job, is to create a life in a world where they can so where they have access to technology and to engineering and to math and to everything that this world in this country offers them.
And right now they don't, especially if you're poor and if you're a person of color, you don't have those opportunities because the system is rigged and is stacked against you. So I want the system to be such that it supports little girls who are born today to be who they want to be.
That was such a powerful conversation. I hope you found Congresswoman Barbara Lee as captivating as I did, learning about her story from growing up in segregated El Paso to leading in the United States Congress. She spent a lifetime facing issues that are newly central to how America is thinking about our future. And her idea for a truth commission here in the United States is one I think we're going to be talking about and hearing about more and more in the months and years to come.
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