Spotlight Interview with Justin Giboney: Racism Today
Carmen and Justin Giboney, political strategist and founder of the AND Campaign, recently had a conversation about what it means to be actively anti-racist and why that is important for Christians. Listen in to this vital conversation and learn where racism is appearing today, how racism from the past continues to affect our African American brothers and sisters, and how we will know when we are making progress?
Carmen LaBerge: Hi, I’m Carmen LaBerge. Thanks for listening to the podcast of Mornings with Carmen LaBerge.
Carmen LaBerge: Today is the day the Lord has made. This is Mornings with Carmen. I’m Carmen LaBerge. I want to actually jump right into my conversation with Justin Giboney from the AND Campaign. You can follow him on Twitter @JustinEGiboney, because I have so much I want to talk with him about.
Carmen LaBerge: So, Justin, welcome.
Justin Giboney: Hey. How’s it going, Carmen? Glad to be here.
Carmen LaBerge: It’s going great. First of all, happy almost Father’s Day. You guys have a new baby. I think that you’re probably smiling, and so I would like to hear about him.
Justin Giboney: Yeah. He’s Crew Isaiah Giboney. He was born two weeks ago, and so we are just really excited about him. He’s our third boy, and just bringing us a lot of joy and sleepless nights.
Carmen LaBerge: Well, thank you for being with us. We really appreciate it, and a shout out to your wife, and just love to your family.
Justin Giboney: Thank you.
Carmen LaBerge: So, the democrats. We’ve got a couple of governors now who are democrats who are signing what I would consider very pro-life legislation. Talk with us about whether or not there’s room in the democratic party for people who are pro-life.
Justin Giboney: Well, there certainly has to be room for people who are pro-life, because you’re looking at a situation where about 30% of democrats are pro-life. Now, the difference is a lot of democrats don’t make that their primary issue, so whereas you have an establishment that really has to decide whether they want to be a party of the people, or a party of interest groups.
Justin Giboney: When you go to Louisiana, places like that, democrats are standing up for the people that they represent, rather than this more kind of elite cosmopolitan set.
Carmen LaBerge: Okay. You’re going to have to unpack that a little bit, because I think I understand what you’re saying, so, that in Louisiana, there are folks who elected a democrat governor, and so there are folks, obviously, who are of a mindset that would be more aligned with what we might … see, this is where I think it’s challenging.
Carmen LaBerge: Because, on the national level, those people may not align at all with what is going on at maybe the very top level, or top line headlines related to the democratic party. But in Louisiana, what it means to be a democrat is still pro-life. Is that what you’re saying? Am I kind of sussing that out correctly?
Justin Giboney: Yeah. Louisiana is one of the only states where there are just a lot of pro-life democrats, and not pro-life democrats that say, “Yeah, I’m pro-life, personally,” but do something else when it comes to policy.
Justin Giboney: They really stand up and say, “No, we’re going to enforce some pro-life policy.” In a lot of ways, I mean, Louisiana just in general is a lot different than the rest of the country in many ways, but in that way in particular, the democrats have really stood up and said, “This isn’t really a republican or democrat issue. It’s a life issue, and we’re going to stand for what’s right.”
Carmen LaBerge: I think that we’re going to have an opportunity to talk about this subject matter over the course of the 2020 cycle, so let’s set that one aside, and when we come back, I’m noting in my own calendar that I missed talking about something on the 31st of May, and that was the mark of an anniversary in American history that I imagine most Americans have never heard of.
Carmen LaBerge: And it was something that took place in Tulsa, Oklahoma, 98 years ago, so in 1921, and when we come back, Justin Giboney and I are going to talk about that event in American history, and how it affects who we are right now. I’m Carmen LaBerge. We’ll be right back.
Carmen LaBerge: Justin Giboney is here from the AND campaign. Justin is an African American man and I am not, and he is one of the people who I like to talk with, because I think he understands that I have a heart desire to not only understand the viewpoint and the experience of my African American brothers and sisters, but I have an interest in changing the cultural conversation that we’re having about this issue, because I think that it is insidious, and I think that it infects everything about our relationships, and the culture in which we live.
Carmen LaBerge: And so, as a person who desires to see the culture changed, I desire to see the conversation about race and racism and racialization change as well, and so Justin and I are going to wade into some territory that’s going to very likely be uncomfortable for lots of people, and so let me just go ahead and say it’s important for us to get comfortable with uncomfortable conversations if, in fact, we want to change the culture of which we are a part.
Carmen LaBerge: Otherwise, we just sort of go along with the flow already in place, so this week, actually last week, on May the 31st of 1921 marked an anniversary in American history that I am pretty sure most Americans have never even heard of.
Carmen LaBerge: It was an event that took place in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I’m wondering, Justin, if you can tell us that story?
Justin Giboney: Sure. To be more specific, yes, it was in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and a district of Tulsa, Oklahoma, called Greenwood. Greenwood was known as the Black Wall Street during the early 20th century because there were so many African American businesses, and thriving African Americans in that area, it stood out among other places in the country as a place where there were just a lot of very entrepreneurial spirit, and African Americans doing really well and in ways that they weren’t able to do so in other places.
Justin Giboney: And I believe in 1921, there was the Tulsa riot, where, allegedly, and many believe this was pretext, but allegedly there was a sexual assault. Many in the white community went to Greenwood. I think 26 Black residents were murdered, and they basically just burned the place down, and so it was never rebuilt, and all the things, businesses, and the leadership there, that legacy was taken away.
Carmen LaBerge: I read this piece in The Washington Post that puts these numbers. More than 300 Black people were killed over these Tulsa, they’re describing as, Tulsa race massacre. More than 10,000 Black people were left homeless. 40 blocks were burned to the ground.
Carmen LaBerge: Survivors recounted Black bodies loaded onto trains, dumped off of bridges, and tossed into mass graves. I think we’re talking about something in American history that almost no one knows about, and so one of the things that we’ve talked about here, Justin, is the Tienanmen Square event that took place 30 years ago, that we are acknowledging today, and we’re looking at that, and we’re seeing there’s this effort, there’s this culture-wide effort in China, to get people to forget that that ever happened.
Carmen LaBerge: Literally, to whitewash over it, and I think that there are events in American history that are equally as horrific, and yet we don’t even know these things about our own history. I’m thinking about the awakening that literally came upon my mom when, late in life, she learned what we had done in terms of Japanese interment in California, related to our involvement in World War 2.
Carmen LaBerge: And she was shocked and surprised. I think that many people are trying to get people to forget the Holocaust, but there is stuff in American history, right here, that we actively try to suppress and get people to forget, or re-remember, or remember differently, or redefine as something other than what it really is.
Carmen LaBerge: Tell us, from an African American perspective, why it is important for people to non-defensively, dispassionately study American history, particularly when it comes to this subject matter.
Justin Giboney: Yeah. Number one, because it affects what’s going on today, and so it’s easy to dismiss the disparities that we see. It’s easy to point the finger and blame others if you really don’t know the history, and how the history impacts what’s going on today. For instance, when you talk about this riot in Black Wall Street.
Justin Giboney: Not only does this set African Americans back, and take away an example that they would have that would give them hope, but it sets them back economically, but it sends a broader message, which probably has a longer impact, which is to say that no matter how hard you try, or no matter what you do, you will not get ahead, and even when you do good things, it will be destroyed.
Justin Giboney: Things like that last for over generations, right? You have this economic impact, but you also have this deep, almost spiritual impact, where people are made to feel that they just can’t succeed, and everything they do will be destroyed, or knocked back. Those things have very serious consequences. The other reason that it’s important to understand is that the number one means of exclusion, or reason for exclusion, when it comes to African Americans throughout American history, has been race.
Justin Giboney: And so, when we talk about a colorblind society, and all those things, they’re just not realistic, because they don’t take into consideration how much race played a role in people not getting what they deserved, and in African American soldiers not being able to take advantage of the GI Bill, like others did, when it comes to redlining and all these things, we can’t ignore those things and act like they didn’t happen, and the first thing we have to do is actually know they happened and be aware of what’s going on.
Carmen LaBerge: Okay. When we start talking down the list of what’s happening today, let me just, if folks are not aware, alert you to some things happening today, because this is not like this is ancient history. This is not just things that happened 100 years ago. These are real people, affected by genuine … it’s not just systemic, it’s personal racism, today.
Carmen LaBerge: In Starkville, Mississippi, at a KOA camp, if you haven’t seen this yet, there is … I mean, you can Google. It’s a white woman pulling a gun on a young African American couple, and the things that she is saying to them are the kinds of things that she would say to a dog.
Carmen LaBerge: There is a teacher in the Bronx who thought that it was appropriate for students in that classroom to reenact a slave sale, this is 2019, in the Bronx. This is not … maybe you’re saying, “Oh, well, 2019 in Starkville, Mississippi, maybe I’m not surprised that a white woman would pull a gun on a young African American couple, who simply stopped for a picnic at a KOA campsite. But I should be surprised that in the Bronx there was a mock slave sale where African American students were bought and sold by white students.”
Carmen LaBerge: I got to tell you, if you think that we do not live in a racialized culture, you are not paying attention to reality. This is not ancient history. This is the lived experience of Black people in America today, and it’s the lived experience of Black people because it’s the lived experience of white people.
Carmen LaBerge: And so, if we are going to be brothers and sisters in Christ, if we’re going to be people who absolutely don’t just recognize that we are equally created in the image of God, equally redeemed in Jesus Christ by his one blood, and equally, equally citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, if we don’t recognize that we have a shared history here in America that makes it very difficult for us as Christians to demonstrate to the culture those gospel realities, then we have to do the hard learning first.
Carmen LaBerge: And we have to do so in a way that’s non-defensive, and humble, and doesn’t take it personally in terms of … I mean, I think African Americans, they can take it personally. I don’t think, as white people, we can take it personally. I think we have to say, “There are things here for me to learn. There are things here for me to recognize were not a part of my educational experience, and there are things that I have to learn now, in order that I can be a culture change agent, and actually anti-racist, anti-racist in the culture of today.”
Carmen LaBerge: Justin Giboney and I are going to continue this difficult, uncomfortable conversation when we come back.
Carmen LaBerge: Okay, so thank you to those of you who are communicating with me on the text line. Thank you to Oscar, thank you to Maria. That number is 877-933-2484. You can always communicate with me your comments, your thoughts, your questions. It is your way of participating right now. Again, you can text me at 877-933-2484.
Carmen LaBerge: Continuing my conversation with Justin Giboney from the AND Campaign, Justin, a couple of comments here on the text line that you will acknowledge and appreciate are part of the learning experience in all of this. These are conversations that you and I have had over the course of time, and they’re conversations that have to be had.
Carmen LaBerge: There’s the comment that what I’m saying is about having white people hated, and feeling guilty. All white people are not racist, that there’s this change in definition of prejudice and power equaling racism. Now, you and I understand what this individual is talking about, and trying to distinguish personal acts of racism, versus that which really is a part of the water that we swim in here in America.
Carmen LaBerge: It’s the air we breathe, and then Maria is acknowledging … in fact, this is so astute. My guess is that Maria has an experience here. Maria is saying people say they see black and white people the same. That’s that colorblindness conversation. But they should not see black and white people the same. White people were never slaves. They were never murdered because of their skin color.
Carmen LaBerge: Trauma is something that is in the DNA of black people, and so talk with us, if you will, first of all, let’s just affirm that Oscar and Maria are both engaging this conversation in the way that we would hope. This is the struggle we would hope that people are engaging in, delving into this material. I used the term anti-racist.
Carmen LaBerge: Talk with us about what it means for white people to be actively anti-racist today.
Justin Giboney: Right. I’m glad you brought that up, and number one, well-stated in your monologue before the break, I think it shows that you really have been listening, and it shows where your heart is, and I appreciate that comment. A lot of times, people go around and say, “Well, I’m not racist. I’m not doing things that are racist.” And that’s good. I agree with the person who said that all white people aren’t racist.
Justin Giboney: I agree with that. I think when we talk about being anti-racist, it’s saying not being racist isn’t enough. Right? Because you could sit in your house all day not saying anything to anybody, and say, “Well, I’m not racist. I haven’t done anything racist.” But love, as a biblical understanding of love, is active. It’s substantive, and so being anti-racist is actively going out and fighting against racism, and I think that’s what people are asking for.
Justin Giboney: When we step into this conversation about race, one of the things I always tell people to do is not come into this conversation from a point of self defense. Right? Trying to make sure that you’re not blamed, and no one can point the finger at you and your people.
Justin Giboney: Christians can never go into any conversation like that, because we all are fallen. We all can be blamed for something. I think we have to go into the race conversation with a view of, more of a posture, of self examination. Ready to say, “What can I do better? Because God has sent me here to help people.”
Justin Giboney: If we go in trying to make sure people can’t point the finger at us, we’re going to be in trouble, because, if you think about it, when Jesus talked to people, how many people left Jesus with a clear narrative? A clean narrative that made them feel like they were doing everything they were supposed to do. Nobody. As we enter into these conversations, we have to be humble enough to say, “Maybe I am wrong. Maybe there’s something I’m not doing right. Let me listen, first.”
Justin Giboney: But I think our carnal instinct is to protect ourselves to say, “No, don’t blame me. It’s not my fault.” That’s just the wrong way to go about it, and on the other side, we have to be aspirational, we have to be patient enough to give people the opportunity, if their heart’s in the right place, to understand, and also to understand that things can go too far, as well.
Justin Giboney: That we are all people, we all suffer, and so we don’t want to go to the point where we’re being identitarian, and everything is based on someone’s identity, but based on the history of this country, there is a difference, and so colorblindness isn’t helpful.
Carmen LaBerge: Okay. We have a question from a listener that I think is actually a really … it hadn’t occurred to me to ask you this, and I think it would be helpful to know. How will we know we’re making progress? What is the measurement to know that we are making progress on this topic?
Justin Giboney: I think one, on a personal level, is relationships. Have you built new relationships with people from other cultures, and people that you can say, “Look, I care about them. They come over. We actually have a real relationship, and I’m hearing them.” Am I really having those conversations?
Justin Giboney: And then another, on a more practical level, is just looking at disparities. When we see disparities in education, are some of those disparities getting better? Those are some things you can look at on a personal level, and on a more practical, societal level, to tell that there’s been some change.
Carmen LaBerge: When we talk about disparities, Justin, education is, I think, an easy place to point, because it’s measurable, and kids are actually easy to test. They’re in an environment where we can actually measure some of those things. I’m also aware of this article that, I mean, again, it’s a part of our history.
Carmen LaBerge: This article about Chicago. Right? That these families, these Black families in Chicago, were actually cheated out of what would now be billions of dollars of inherited wealth because of the way that housing … this is a housing conversation. There’s a conversation here about politics, and power, and economics.
Carmen LaBerge: When we talk about where people live, you know, is that a disparity? Is that an example that we could point to and say, you know, once we’re actually living with each other. Not just in relationships, and not just seeing improvement in terms of the disparities in education, but when we’re actually living with each other, and maybe worshiping with each other, are those measureables that you would point to?
Justin Giboney: Yeah, those can certainly be measureables, and again, because they go to relationship. They go to proximity. How closely are we together? And I think I haven’t read the particular article that you’re referring to, but I would imagine what was happening was, if there was a certain area where there was a high population of Black people, it was undervalued, and so the houses, when you sold your house or whatever, it wasn’t valued as highly as it would be for something that was comparable in another neighborhood.
Justin Giboney: And so what that did, again, was hurt the ability of African Americans to build generational wealth, and we know that generational wealth can carry you a long way. We haven’t had that opportunity in a lot of ways, and that makes a clear difference, and goes to the disparities that we were talking about earlier.
Carmen LaBerge: All right. I’ll send you the article. We’re going to continue this conversation. You know that I appreciate your patience with me, and I think that that is another part of this process is that we have to enter it non-defensively. We have to have listening ears. We have to have a heart’s desire to learn, and we have to be patient in walking with one another.
Carmen LaBerge: And I’ve made a new friend. His name is Anthony, here in Nashville, and one of the things that he told me recently, Justin, is that being Black in America is exhausting.
Justin Giboney: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Carmen LaBerge: And so-
Justin Giboney: Yeah, it … go ahead.
Carmen LaBerge: No, go ahead.
Justin Giboney: Yeah, no, it certainly can be. It can be exhausting, and so that’s why we need to have patience with people, but a sense of urgency on the issues, because it can be exhausting, but everyone has sufferings, and we just have to look at one another as people, and recognize the human dignity of that, which will compel us, along with our biblical convictions, to act for our neighbor.
Carmen LaBerge: Okay. I love that. Patient with people, but urgent on policies. I’m going to focus on that thought here for a little while. Justin Giboney, thank you so much. You guys can find him at the AND Campaign. You can follow him on Twitter @JustinEGiboney. We’ll talk with you again soon, and have a happy father’s day.
Justin Giboney: Take care, Carmen. I appreciate it.
More Resources on this topic: