In 2018, Luis Fernandez wrote “Disband, Disempower, and Disarm” about the Defund the Police movement and the first wave of the Black Lives Matter movement. It wasn’t until a few months ago that the article gained a large audience and Luis started doing interviews on mainstream media sites. In this episode, we talk about how this has affected Luis as well as how he thinks about his work as an academic and his role in social movements.
Luis was first a guest on this show in episode 6, Who made you President of the non-violent intervention? with his partner Mare. That episode includes a few incredible stories from their experience over the past few decades of being involved in movements of multiple kinds. Luis also speaks about his childhood in Nicaragua and how that shaped his perspective. If you haven’t listened to that episode or you want to refresh your memory, you can listen here: https://dogoodbegood.us/6-made-president-nonviolent-intervention/
Mentioned in this episode:
“Disband, Disempower, and Disarm” in Critical Criminology by Luis Fernandez
End of Policing by Alex Vitale
Economic podcast about Defund the Police
Article with interview with Luis in local paper
Article with interview with Luis in McGill Daily
00:00 Luis Fernandez: There’s lots of complications in being in movements because they can absorb all of your energy, all of your time, all of your emotions, your dedication.
00:18 S?: This is Do good, Be good, the show about helpful people and the challenges they face in trying to do good. Your host is Sharon Tewksbury-Bloom, a career do-gooder who also loves craft beer and a good hard tackling rugby. Sharon speaks to everyday people about why they do good and what it means to be good.
00:37 Sharon Tewksbury-Bloom: Hello, I’m your host Sharon Tewksbury-Bloom. And the other voice you heard at the top of the episode is our guest for today. Luis Fernandez. Luis was a guest on our show in the first season, episode six. During that episode, I actually interviewed him and his partner Mayer together about their decades of involvement in social movements. He shared some incredible stories about growing up in Nicaragua and some of the protests that he has witnessed in Mexico and Arizona. And Luis has participated in many movements, but he also studies movements as a professor of criminal justice at Northern Arizona University. And in 2018, he wrote a paper titled Disband, Disempower and Disarm, about the first wave of the Black Lives Matter movement and their call for the abolition of police. We talked about that some in today’s episode, and he can’t remember the title. [chuckle] So if you’re wondering what it is, it’s Disband, Disempower and Disarm. And I do have a link to it in the show notes.
01:41 ST: Just a couple of things I want you to know before I get started into the interview. First, I interviewed Luis on July 27th, outside in my backyard at more than 10 feet apart. The birds, especially the ravens, were very active that afternoon, so you will be able to hear them in the background. And although our conversation was basically two months ago now, the subject matter is just as true and relevant today. Also, I wanna let you know that the focus of our conversation is more about Luis’ career and his perspective, and it’s less about what the Defund the Police or Abolish the Police movement is actually about. I did that intentionally because Luis has already been interviewed several times by different news outlets who want an explanation of the movement and its arguments. In fact, he talks about that in his episode, I have linked to a few of those sources in the show notes for the episode. And I highly recommend that you read those or you go to other trusted sources to get more information about the Defund the Police and Black Lives Matter movement. But I do hope that our conversation adds another layer and further depth to the conversation and gives you a look inside Luis’ approach to his work. So thank you for listening to Do good, Be good. And here’s my conversation with Luis Fernandez.
03:07 LF: About two years ago, I co-authored a paper with a friend of mine, titled, I forget what it’s titled, something like Disband, Disarm, something… I should know, but I… I forget. And it’s about abolishing the police. We wrote it, I thought it was pretty good at the time, but there was nothing. You put it out into the world and nothing occurs, like six people referenced it and that was it. And nothing. I was like, “Alright, whatever that happens when you write something.” And then after this whole barrage of things that occurred and all the protest, it actually went viral, and lots of people began to read it. So all of a sudden, I entered the media again, and people were… So I’ve been doing about two interviews a week for the last couple of months.
03:54 ST: Yeah. And that’s definitely one thing I wanted to talk to you about. Yeah, I wanted to know how having a subject matter and a background in something that is now extremely relevant, and that a lot of people want to know a lot about, has affected you personally.
04:09 LF: Yeah, two things, one, that it was really interesting to watch this thing just catch, because it was about abolishing the police. But it was really much about describing the previous BLM movement and how they were engaging in this notion of abolishing the police, and to me it was very interesting, so I just wrote about it. And all of a sudden it comes… It blows up and everybody’s looking like, “We need to read something about this. What is this?” And there’s not a lot written about it, turns out that there’s an article and there’s a book and… Somebody else wrote a book, and… But there’s not very many. So then what I understand is that there was some national list, for activists’ list, and that it showed up in one of those, and then it just went like wildfire all through the US. So I was getting phone calls from friends saying, “Hey, my son had your article forward to by a stranger,” just saying… So that was just making the rounds and it was just ending up… I don’t know, just whatever, you know how it is, that stuff. How it just goes wherever it goes.
05:10 ST: So are you like the academic equivalent of the White Fragility book?
05:18 LF: Not quite, because that’s way bigger.
05:19 ST: Okay. [chuckle]
05:20 LF: So I think…
05:21 ST: It’s like, “Where on the scale of these book lists and reading lists that everyone’s sharing are you at?”
05:25 LF: Exactly, I would say, “Very low on that.” So in other words, it went viral, but small viral, not like, “Ga-boom viral.” I have a friend who wrote a book titled, The End of Policing. His name is Alex Vitale, very, very good book, that one went viral with a capital V. So he ended up on CNN, in The Guardian, and like everywhere. So this little paper was a little less… A little more… Which actually, to be honest with you, I’m okay with because the… What happens is a little intense.
05:55 ST: Well, you do hope that maybe you’re getting some self-selecting, that the people who have made it to your paper are maybe the ones who really are digging deep into the topic and want that greater context and that academic side of it.
06:09 LF: Yeah.
06:09 ST: But it also has been making… I’ve been seeing those lists and it’s also been helping me think about the importance of what you title something.
06:17 LF: Yeah.
06:17 ST: Like some of these titles are just so to the point that it’s like, “I want to be an anti-racist. How to be an anti-racist.” Great. Let’s get that book and start there.
06:28 LF: Exactly. And then I know, I should know the title. It’s… Oh, I’m not gonna remember it. But the title is really… It came out of things that the movement was demanding, the first BLM movement, and let’s call this one the second wave, the first wave, and I found it really curious, it’s like, “Wow, look, they’re actually focusing on police. That’s really, relatively new, from what I’ve seen, I haven’t seen it before,” and I just wrote it as an academic like, “Hey, look at this, you guys, this is curious.” And then of course, it blows up. But it was their terminology, not mine, it wasn’t my… So it was their terminology, and I put it in quotes, we put it in the title intentionally, because it’s like, “We’re not making this… This isn’t our language.” And then of course, that same language was revived and so it like, “Oh look, you’re prophetic.” It’s like, “No, I’m not. I was just echoing what people were saying, and then it turns out that everybody just picked up on what the movement was saying already,” so…
07:27 ST: How many years ago was that, the first wave of the BLM movement was, and that you also were writing this paper?
07:34 LF: I was trying to think. The paper was published in, I think, 2018. The first wave is, what, 2015, maybe? I can’t remember right now. Yeah, about 2015, when we see the Black Lives Matter movements, and they spread all over the place and all of that, maybe five, six years ago. And then it kinda settles down and then it comes back with a vengeance. So you asked me how this thing going small viral, how it changed, or how it affected my life. Well, it’s kinda interesting, because I… We wrote this, it goes all over the place, people start to read it, a friend of mine reads it and says, “Do you wanna be… Do you wanna do an interview on PBS for this particular thing?” And I was like, “Yeah, why not?” And then that shows up in the media, and then once you show up in the media in a relatively established place, it just all of a sudden, other reporters pick you up.
08:35 LF: So then what happened is that I’m speaking, I’m engaging in that, and all of a sudden, other reporters get to see this thing, they do a little research, see the paper, so they do an interview, which adds to it, which means that another… That my name shows up even sooner when they do a search, and then pretty soon I’m doing really weird little things like interviews with NPR in Montana or something, or BBC International. So since, I did an interview, it only showed up in Europe, it doesn’t show up… I don’t think I even saw where that ended up. So the way that it’s affected me is that I’ve had to be talking and developing ideas very quickly that as things are developing and then speaking with a variety of people, so those interviews, and thinking, and being required to speak quickly about these issues, allowed me to develop a set of talking points that I now can deliver really quickly.
09:31 ST: And so now I’m just gonna get geeky on the business side, and having worked for the university before and then started a business myself, and it’s a business that relies on intellectual property. Is this part… Do you consider it, or does the university consider it part of your work, as a staff member in NAU?
09:52 LF: Yeah, definitely. It’s part of being a public intellectual. So it’s part of a tradition in the social sciences in relation to what you do, is that you do research and then you speak to people and you engage with your ideas publicly. At the same time, it doesn’t count for a lot in relation to, for promotion or for evaluations from the faculty. You can count it, but it’s not counted a lot to be in the media, so it’s not rewarded heavily, it’s just something you can list on there, but it’s not that big of a deal. What it does do is that it creates… It gives you a certain kind of cultural capital, some cache, that it’s invisible… That it seems invisible. So all of a sudden, there’s a little bit more respect, and nobody ever says it, it’s never in writing, but as a social scientist, I’ve noticed it, and I was like, “Oh, I see how this works.” So there’s this unwritten rule that there’s this whole thing that is never… And nowhere in the writings of how you get evaluated or what’s expected of you, but if it actually… If it does occur, everything else actually counts more. So I was like, “Okay, so that’s how it works.”
10:57 ST: More people are throwing your name around.
11:00 LF: Exactly. You kinda get known, and there’s just a little weird, little academic… Academic economy, right? The economy, it doesn’t run on money necessarily… I mean, it does, and for some people they do that, but it runs on reputation and respect and legitimacy, and when you have those things, it gives you a little bit of that, and I found that to be the case.
11:21 ST: So would you be allowed to, would you have any desire to start… If you started a YouTube channel, for example.
11:29 LF: Yeah, that’s a good idea. The other part is that, having a public presence is a double-edged sword, and I understand that it sometimes is beneficial and it’s good to get ideas out. In certain moments, I have to take the… Sorry, it’s a bird, just kinda flew and threw something. Okay. Let me start that again.
11:52 ST: They’re very active.
11:54 LF: I know. It’s really funny. So let me start that again. I think that being in the media has a double-edged sword, it brings some things, and it’s important, it’s also important to put ideas out that are not out there. So when the whole police defunding thing came out, there are friends of mine that are engaging in that, but there weren’t very many. So it was like, “Okay, so I’m gonna have to speak out on this, because I actually understand it, I’ve been writing about it, I… So therefore, I’m gonna go out there and explain the concept and how it functions, for anybody who’s puzzled about it.” At the same time, when you speak in the things that I am interested in, it’s like playing with fire. So that means that there are… It’s usually very hot. By the time they start asking me, it means that it’s really hot, and that means that it draws particular kinds of attentions, and sometimes it’s not good attention. So it’ll be the right wing or the…
12:46 LF: The right wing will… If you get caught up into their circles and into their little thing and you get their attention, then you’re gonna get death threats and phone calls and emails and harassment and all those kinds of things that happen, that has happened to me, so I know [chuckle] that that occurs. And I also have seen it happen to many people. In fact, I’m engaging in a research project where we’re trying to document that happening, and we’ve interviewed about 25 faculty that has happened to. There’s a hesitancy for me to be like, yeah, we can do a YouTube channel. It’s like, yeah, but I do this, but I don’t wanna do too much of it. [chuckle]
13:19 ST: Right.
13:20 LF: Because I don’t wanna get picked up by the wrong audience.
13:25 ST: Yeah, and I think if you also maybe if you shift from being an expert who’s an academic who’s written about this and researched it, to being a YouTube personality who may also have the ability of whether or not you do to profit off of it, then that probably puts even more of a target on you.
13:48 LF: Yeah. I don’t know, when you said a YouTube personality, it made me think of the teenagers’ personalities. [chuckle]
13:53 ST: Yeah, exactly.
13:53 LF: I could see myself with dreadlocks or something, pretending to be a teenager. Sorry, it’s the comical view. The one thing that… I’m lucky that I have a job and I teach and I administer and I do that, and then part of my job, so parts percentages, 30% of my job is to think and write, that money allows me to have a living and make a living. So looking for other ways to earn money is not a big priority. And that’s just pure by luck, by the way, that is a complete privilege, luck. That could change, by the way. So I’m gonna keep in mind this idea of a YouTube channel.
14:32 ST: I guess part of what’s circling around this question for me for years, and particularly the last three years, is I’ve made the transition from working in non-profits and government to starting my own business, is like the interesting ethical and social questions around, okay, so you’re speaking out on something that matters, you’re able to explain it in a way that not very many people understand. It’s a high demand right now. People actually want this knowledge that you have. You certainly have an option to monetize that if you chose to.
15:09 LF: I’ve never even thought of it.
15:13 ST: And then how does that change the purpose and the meaningfulness and the righteousness, if you will, about… And then you’re in a unique situation where you are just helping to explain something that actually is the hard work of the people from the BLM movement. So it’s not even…
15:32 LF: Mine, exactly. I am aware. [chuckle]
15:34 ST: So then there’s that other layer of like, if you did choose to monetize it because you’re the one who’s getting all these requests to speak on it, then that’s a whole another layer of the ethics around that and everything else.
15:46 LF: Yeah, I mean, it’s funny because I was thinking… As you said that I was like, I’ve never even thought of it. But the reality is that I have thought of it, but not in those terms, meaning that… I mean, we live in a capitalist world and that’s the reality, right? That is the way that it’s structured, regardless of how we feel about it, that is… We have to exist in that world. In that particular world, in academia, it’s set up in such a way that it rewards me relatively okay, and by that relatively, I mean I’m not wealthy beyond means, but I’m not poor anymore. And I know because I was poor, I grew up poor. I know what poor feels like. I haven’t been poor for 15 years, thank goodness. [chuckle]
16:28 LF: So it allows me the freedom to not… The privilege, I guess I would say, not freedom. The privilege to not have to think about that. Meaning that I can engage in the things that I’m engaging, I am set up in a particular kind of way, I know that I gotta teach, I gotta be relatively good at that. I’ve gotta engage in all the things that are required in the university, and then I’ve got this other piece that I can then do that allows me to do this thing, and I don’t have to think of it in relation to making money because that is the thing that I provide almost like a service, as a public servant at the university. Part of what I do then is I should give all this other stuff for free. At the same time, I think I shouldn’t pretend like it doesn’t work this way in the sense that doing that stuff doesn’t reinforce and make my job more secure. [chuckle] So in a way, I am “monetizing” it, but I’m monetizing it differently than actually the money that comes out of that particular situation, rather the legitimacy that that particular gives me gives me more security on my job that is on a regular basis. That I’ve thought about, because I’m smart enough to not wanna be poor.
17:43 LF: Not smart, I mean I’m scared enough having been poor to not wanna be poor, to be like, “Okay, I need to make sure that I stay relatively secure.”
17:52 ST: Yeah, well, and part of why it comes to mind, particularly with this BLM movement, is that I know that a lot of people who had been speaking out on these issues, particularly people of color, were suddenly elevated into a spotlight when this hit mainstream media. And I heard from many people in my circles, it was mostly women of color who were talking about anti-racism and issues like that, and in context of BLM, and they were fighting these issues of like, “Wait a second.” [chuckle] In their case they were like, “This is not my job. I have another job. I just have been thinking about these issues for a long time because they personally matter to me and I’m a thoughtful person, and suddenly I’m being asked to even just tell friends or family, explain it to them.” And then there was this interesting dialogue that was happening around whether people should be paid for that, if you’re educating a whole group of friends and acquaintances about racism, and that’s not your job, then should you be compensated in some way or should you… It did sort of cycle in with how that gets monetized in different ways, or how people place value on it, and then, who gets value from that.
19:16 LF: Wow, I don’t even know where to begin with. That’s such a… I mean, because when movements arise and when people enter movements and sometimes leadership is thrust on them, the drives for that are often not personal. [chuckle] Meaning that they’re not about the individual. But that doesn’t mean that the individual needs to go away because you don’t have… You can’t pay rent, you can’t pay rent. And even if you’re engaging in let’s say a rent strike and you’re thinking, “Hey, we gotta engage in this because it’s the right thing to do.” You still gotta pay rent and you still gotta engage even, yeah. Yeah, I don’t know how to engage with that. Sorry, I’ve been involved in movements for a long time, for probably 20 years at this point and watching people engage in a variety of ways, and have been engaged sometimes full-time, and I’ve managed to survive partly because I was always in school and I was always… I could always grab the education, and as long as I was moving forward with that, I could carve out time to do this other thing, and still moving in this particular education direction, that was like my trick that I learned, but I was not very good at making money, but I was really good at thinking and writing and actually moving forward through… And moving through the educational institution, I was somehow… That came easy.
20:37 LF: So to me it was like, “Well, keep doing that because that seems easy compared to working at a job that requires… That’s much harder.” So I was like, “Okay, so keep doing that.” And in that, I was always able to carve time. I do have to say that when I was doing my dissertation, I had a fellowship that this… I won’t mention the group, gave me, that allowed me… That gave me money to survive for a year, gave me $10,000 and I could actually live on six. I had figured out that’s alright, I can live on six. I was 25, it’s like, “No problem, I can live.” I was a little older but yeah. And so, $10,000 is like what? I could live for a couple of years with this amount of money, and this was during the Iraq war, there was a mobilization and movement. And then I proceeded to not finish my dissertation because I was organizing in the movement almost full time, which I was also trying to study, because I was studying social movements.
21:33 LF: So it was kind of a study experience kind of thing, but in reality, I was actually totally immersed in it. And I was able to then do that, educate, be doing that, but be funded through it. I mean, they didn’t fund me to do that, they funded me to do my dissertation. The money runs out, of course, and the dissertation was still due. So then I had to take on some other jobs to finish and then stop. By the way, I have to stop being involved in movements, otherwise, I wouldn’t have finished my dissertation. Sorry, this is a long way of…
22:03 ST: No.
22:04 LF: Answering your question of saying, there’s lots of complications in being in movements because they can absorb all of your energy, all of your time, all of your emotions, your dedication, because most like… If you’re either engaging in an anti-war and you’re trying to stop a war, or you’re trying to stop the killing of young men by police, or you’re engaging in environmental issues, trying to stop a forest from being destroyed or whatever it is, it’s something that you’re doing because it’s deeply embedded in you and there’s a passion and a desire for justice.
22:40 LF: And you can find yourself in trouble because that generally doesn’t pay, regardless of what people think, there’s not like Soros isn’t given enough money for everybody to be able to live a life of organizing for the rest of their lives and driving cattle. I don’t know, whatever ridiculous thing people think. It’s actually the other way around. People are barely making it and they’re dedicated. So the question of whether they should be engaging that, whether they should be rewarded and supported, the answer is a 100%. The problem is, once you begin to think of it as a commodity, something that needs to be commoditized and then monetized, my guess is that things would get distorted very quickly, very, very quickly. I heard a podcast recently about a woman that… A young black woman that put out this things as a joke, but then it grew, where she said, “Hey, I’m a black person, and as a white person, you feel guilty, and your guilt doesn’t do anything. But you know what does something? I can’t pay my rent. So send me a check.” So it was a joke. They put this as a joke.
23:51 ST: Yeah, yeah, I heard that podcast. She was like, “Pay me and I will absolve you of your white guilt.”
23:54 LF: Exactly, that’s right. That’s what it was. “I will be your priest. I will absolve you.”
23:58 ST: Yeah, and she would literally go on and be like, “George Brown, you are absolved.”
24:03 LF: That’s right. And she would write something.
24:05 ST: Thank you for the $100.
24:05 LF: And I think the first few, she actually wrote it in xscript or something and sent it to them, and then eventually she ended up making a whole bunch of money, which is really funny. You know, like, “Hey, people wanna give you money? Okay, take it.” The other one was a little… There was another one though, where the young woman was… It’s another woman, I think, if I remember correctly, that I felt had a little more trouble with, because I think she was taking it more ser… The fact that it’s a joke makes me comfortable. [laughter] She was like, “Oh come… Oh yeah, do that.” But if you do this…
24:40 ST: Yeah, it’s like performance art, almost.
24:41 LF: Exactly. It’s like, “Yeah, this is… ” But there was another one that was like he was providing suggestions or something and it was very serious…
24:48 ST: Sort of coaching people through it.
24:50 LF: Yeah, I don’t know. I had a little more trouble with that because what she was saying, I was like, “Whoa, I’m not sure I’m agreeing with your analysis of race and how to deal with racism. So now, I’m a little more uncomfortable because I think you’re actually might be causing more trouble.” But yeah, so that’s my short answer.
25:08 ST: Yeah. Well… And I’ve thought about this probably more than most people, just because I started my career as a volunteer manager, so I’ve thought a lot about the value of work and why people volunteer and how people get value out of doing things voluntarily. And then, how that either is built up to feel more meaningful to them, or how it sours, and people get resentful when they feel like they’re being taken advantage of. And so, I’ve just sort of informally studied that for 15 years. And I haven’t been on the political or protest movement side of things, but there’s similarities, and there’s differences. But that similarity of the amount of time that you’re voluntarily giving to something and the passion that’s driving it and feeling like you wanna keep doing this thing, but at the same time, you do have to figure out how to also live at the same time as you’re trying to pursue that thing that’s so central to you.
26:12 LF: I think there’s a lot of commonalities, I think, as you’re… One of them is, like you said, the passion, because this is driven out of passion. And it’s driven out of care and connection with other human beings and wanting to do good. Whether you do good or not, that’s a different question, but the desire to do good in the world. So it’s driven by that. The differences might be that in movements there’s a little more anger, there’s a lot more adrenaline, [chuckle] a lot more. [chuckle] There is more confrontation, because movements are generally about conflict. They require… Not require, but one of the central components has to be some conflictual situation. Somebody has gotta be named as an enemy, somebody’s gotta be doing an injustice.
26:55 ST: And it’s generally also about, I think, a dismantling of the status quo. So there’s this change element that’s so central to it, but it’s also… I think, inherent in that is the potential to be uncomfortable. Because it’s like you’re taking what everybody grew up with, and you’re saying, “That’s not good enough,” or, “That’s not gonna stand any more, or there’s inherent inequality in it.” But that also means that… I mean, you grew up in that system too, so you’re hefting to dismantle something that, even if it’s unjust, there’s a little bit of safety in it, ’cause at least you know the system as you’re dismantling it.
27:30 LF: Absolutely. There’s a level of wanting to change the status quo, and change in general, often not knowing what that change looks like or where it goes. So often it’s just a demand for… Like a, “No, stop this.” It’s like, “What’s next?” And that’s what I get a lot, is like, “So tell us, what does a world… ” I get this question every single time. “Tell us, what does a world without police look like?” And it’s like, “I have no idea. I don’t… I’m telling you what people are demanding and what they’re engaging with.” But that’s probably similar to asking, prior to the Civil War, “What does the world look like without slavery?” It’s like, “I’m sure people couldn’t necessarily answer. How are we gonna restructure the economy without the slave?” I don’t know. The issue is that slavery’s wrong, so it’s gotta end. So don’t ask me to imagine the world. Here’s…
28:22 LF: And I think around policing is similar. So it’s kinda like, “What does the world look like without police?” I have no idea. “Can it exist?” I don’t… My guess is yes, because it existed… Because police are historical, so they started at a particular point, which means that they can end at another point. So… Which is anything that’s historical starts, and everything that’s historical ends. Now, what does the world look like after that? I can give you some clues and some thoughts, but I think that’s something that has to be developed by people. So in terms of movements, it’s the same. They give a no and people are like, “Well, what do we do next?” And people are like, “We don’t know,” and that causes enormous amount of anxiety. Because it’s like, “Wait, I don’t… ” Like you said, “At least the world with police, I understand. What is this other world?”
29:10 ST: Yeah, it reminds me of what I learned in just… On the micro-level of conflict resolution when I was learning about mediating when I was a supervisor. And I learned about basically how, if you are trying to resolve a conflict on a interpersonal level, you have to stay in the uncomfortable space where you’re still learning about all the pieces of the conflict, you’re still picking it apart and really making sure you understand it from all sides before you move to problem-solving, and that’s where so many conflicts don’t get resolved adequately, because people are so uncomfortable in the part where they have to pick apart all the things that make this situation difficult and see it from different perspectives, that they go, “But wait, I think we can solve this.” [chuckle] Like, “I think I can make it better for you. How about a raise?” [chuckle] They just quickly move to problem-solving. And then because they didn’t spend enough time in that tension, they missed a piece, and then they’ve put a Band-aid on it, but then people are like, “Oh,” now, two months later, they’re resentful, ’cause whatever that underlying piece was never got handled, because it never really saw the light of day.
30:24 LF: Yeah. As a manager, I use this. I do this a lot. I try to understand the complexity. And as a thinker, I think, I tend to… When I analyze things, I think in this way. Social movements don’t always work that way. Meaning that social movements often work almost the opposite, because… And they’re collective. So there’s a difference between interpersonal and really big forces of multiple people. I think interpersonally, that is the only way to work. [chuckle] Because otherwise, it’s… Oh, my God, you just have lots of problems, if you don’t resolve and not try to understand and try to map. At the movements, what they… Sometimes they tend to do, is they tend to bifurcate positions intentionally, strongly, and force you to take one side or the other; intentionally with no compromise.
31:17 LF: So again, just looking at the Abolitionist movement, the Slave Abolitionist movement, is a perfect example of this. So they come in, there’s debates within the Abolitionist movement, but some of the stronger positions come in and say, “Slavery is wrong under moral terms, under religious… ” They were religious people. “Under religious terms, this is a wrong thing that we have to oppose.” And then some people would be like, “Okay, that’s really good. But let’s just negotiate, and let’s figure out how to get the South and the North engage in some way so that we can,” and they’re like, “No, no, no, no, no. We can’t negotiate slavery.”
31:52 LF: It’s like, “Well, give it some time. Maybe if we could incrementally make these moves that incrementally we will eliminate slavery in 50 years, and like, “No, we cannot engage in this”. So they’re intentionally bifurcated and created a situation whereby you could not negotiate slavery. And that is a political position that I see in movements sometimes. So in relation to the policing, it’s like they kinda go, “Abolish the police? What does that mean? I don’t know.” It’s just what you need to do. You need to engage and it’s like, “How does that function?” “We don’t know, it’s just morally wrong.” And if they convince enough people, it starts to move. What I’ve been doing when I’ve been interviewed on this and talking about this, what I’ve been doing is explaining the logic. And then saying, “Let me explain to you the logic of why this occurs in this way, why they’re using this,” and I can quickly switch to the opposite side.
32:47 LF: So that means that I can switch to the opposite side and give you the logic of why you shouldn’t do this. And then it’ll be up to you, but I will need to show you that there are coherent internal arguments if you agree with the assumptions that each side is making, you’ll agree with the rest of the argument. But, see, now I’m doing what you were talking about in terms of the interpersonal, as an academic, I tend to do that, which is like, “Yeah, I’m not necessarily gonna push strongly for one position, even though I have a strong position inside, but what I need to do is make you understand that the radical position has a logic and a coherence to it, that it’s not insane.” It is logical, you’re just disagreeing, not with his insanity, you’re disagreeing with his fundamental assumptions.
33:36 ST: I’ve been getting carried away and I’m talking to you longer than I usually would, so I apologize for just absorbing all your time and taking us over. But thank you so much for your time and for letting me just go where my mind went. [laughter]
33:52 LF: It’s fun. I like talking about this. I’ve been doing a lot of this, and everybody’s always apologizing like, “We’re sorry, we’re taking your time.” It’s like, “You’re taking my time to talk about the one thing that I’ve obsessed over for the last 20 years? Do you think I’m gonna mind? No.” So.
34:08 ST: Yeah, convenient, but that’s what everyone wants to talk about right now.
34:11 LF: Exactly. And it’ll go away, by the way. It’s happened before. I felt this wave several times, so when movements arise, all of a sudden I’m interesting, and then when they decline, there’s many years where it’s like, “Whatever you’re doing is not very interesting”. But I know that it’s like… It’s a cycle.
34:28 ST: Thank you for listening to Do Good, Be Good. And thank you again, Luis, for coming and sharing your thoughts and your story. For show notes on all of the episodes, visit dogoodbegoodshow.com. I will have a new episode coming soon with Maggie Twomey. Maggie was actually my first ever guest on the show, and I’m really excited to have her back on years later. To subscribe to the podcast for free so that you get each episode as soon as it is released, just search for Do Good, Be Good in Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Music, or your podcast app of choice. This podcast was produced, recorded and edited by me, Sharon Tewksbury-Bloom. Music in this episode is Bathed In Fine Dust by Andy G Cohen, released under a Creative Commons Attribution International license and discovered in the Free Music Archive. Until next time, this is Sharon Tewksbury-Bloom, signing off. [music]