Re-Imagination Nation, We Imagine US
Episode 2: Heather McGhee, Manuel Pastor
Table of contents
In our second episode, we learn about solidarity economics with members of SCoRE (Solidarity Council on Racial Equity). Author Heather McGhee talks with Maria about her cross-country journey challenging zero-sum game ideas that progress for some must come at the expense of others. Then, sociology professor Manuel Pastor discusses models for a more inclusive economy designed so that we can all prosper together.
Maria Hinojosa (00:00:00):
So, yeah, so Manuel, so Manuel, join me in this other world. You actually, Oh, you’re hitting your record button. Did you hit your record button? Yeah. Okay. So when you think about the future, when you write about it as an academic for you, it’s all about how the future can get better and there can be more equity. And a lot of people don’t necessarily see that they see the future and they see people of color and they see this very dark place. So can you paint that picture of what Manuel Pastor’s on the other side of the looking glass? What does that look like? That society?
Manuel Pastor (00:00:51):
Well first to explain my optimism I am the son of an immigrant who came to the United States in the 1930s with papers that were imperfect and was given a chance to legalize during World War Two. When he was given a choice between being deported or joining the US army, I come from a working class family that held values of solidarity has been strong and I’d come from a generation that helped to end the Vietnam War and move the Civil Rights movement and the Chicano rights movement. The Latino rights movement forward, I come from a place where we’ve seen in California, a tremendous ability to go from an era of Xenophobia and hate in the early 1990s to a state that’s leading on addressing climate change on protecting immigrants and on raising the minimum wage. So I feel like my life, my own life story and my political life story teach me that change is possible.
Manuel Pastor (00:02:23):
It’s not inevitable. And it means that we need to be struggling at all times to get forward. And in fact, the history of the United States is a history of struggle of people being frozen out from rights and opportunity fighting to make their way in and fighting to broaden the circle of caring. So my optimism is not rooted in naivete it’s rooted in my own life. It’s rooted in my political history it’s rooted in my sense of what is been possible over the course of the work that I’ve been able to contribute to. I’ll say two more things about that. I am sometimes asked you didn’t quite ask this. If I wake up in 10 years from now, 15 years from now, 20 years from now, and it’s the world I want, what does that world look like? What is the first thing I do when I get up in the morning?
Manuel Pastor (00:03:34):
And I always answer that question 15, 20 years from now, the first thing I’m going to do is get up and figure out what protest I need to go to, because I know that there’s going to be another injustice that I need to tackle. I didn’t know, 25 years ago that I would be a staunch defender of the right of transgender people. I didn’t know that I would be understanding the role of the differently abled and understanding the intersection of racism and sexism. With that, I didn’t know what I’d be struggling against, in order to move to a more perfect union to a beloved community. So I think when sometimes people think about their personal utopia, the vision, is of an endpoint or things are good mine is where things have gotten better and we know what else we need to struggle against.
Manuel Pastor (00:04:32):
That said, what I am hoping that we see in a decade from now is a considerably shrunken criminal justice system and mass deincarceration that we see a system that treats immigrants, regardless of status, like the human beings that they are and creates the opportunities for people to survive and to thrive. And I’m hoping that we see an economy where mutuality is the norm and not individual self-interest where we understand that people are at the center of our economy and we’ve made it possible for people to live, to survive, to thrive and to contribute. And that I think is really one of the most fundamental challenges. When we talk in the solidarity council on racial equity, about what solidarity means for racial equity. I know we can talk more about it. That it means listening to each other, walk in each other’s shoes, understanding the centrality of anti-black racism in creating the contours for the immigrant experience in the United States, understanding the fear that our current system of immigration strikes into the heart of terrorized immigrant communities, but we’re not going to solve any of that. Unless we also have a solidarity economy that is that we’ve got an economy that functions to make sure that people can survive, make sure that shortages that need not exist, cease to exist. And that we begin to think out of abundance rather than out of scarcity, because when we do, we can make it to see each other as a part of our human family and not as groups and individuals, we need to struggle against in a competitive system to make sure that we get what we need.
Maria Hinojosa (00:06:44):
Okay, cool. I want to stay with your dad for a little bit. Can you just tell a little, describe him? What did he look like? What was that like for him to, you know, be faced with that choice of, you know, you got to go to war. If you want to stay in this country, he’s going to have to, you know, potentially be killed or kill someone. And, and how you saw that and how that, or how you understood those stories that he told you about himself and what that kind of represents for your capacity to be that, that dreamer.
Manuel Pastor (00:07:23):
I should’ve known that Maria Hinojosa would go there. But I love to go there. You know, it’s interesting when my dad made the choice between being deported or joining the US army and going to fight in Europe, he really couldn’t figure out what to do. So he gave a penny to my cousin Carlitos who flipped it, and that is how the decision was made. And the risks that he then took. But I’ll say a few words more about him that I think really capture why for me, he’s a, a guiding light and a hero. First this is a guy who had a sixth grade education. He dropped out in sixth grade to go work. And yet he was the smartest person I ever met. He literally the way he manifested it was by they building cars or taking apart houses.
Manuel Pastor (00:08:30):
He literally thought there was nothing so difficult he couldn’t figure it out. And he was deeply interested in politics and in the world. And that taught me something really important Maria. It taught me the confidence as a working class Latino. My mom had dropped out in 10th grade when we only had two books in our house, it taught me and intellectual confidence that I could figure out the world and be good at school because my dad taught me that you could figure anything out. It also taught me that intelligence resides not often where people think it is. You can go to universities and speak to full professors who have not an ounce of common sense, or you can remember that an formerly undocumented immigrant without a whole lot of formal education is actually really smart. And it created for me a particular audience too. All my life
Manuel Pastor (00:09:33):
I’ve thought if I cannot explain it to my dad, it probably doesn’t make sense. If I cannot reach him, then I have failed in my job as a communicator. So he taught me a lot about that. There’s one other story i’ll tell. And there’s so many that I could that I think taught me something really important and very relevant to this discussion. In the middle of the 1960s. I must’ve been about 10 or 11 years old, and my dad had moved from being a janitor to repairing industrial air conditioners, a move that kind of took us from being poor into the working class. And he had an industrial accident in which a lung collapsed and three quarters of the lung had to be sliced away. And he recovered at home. His company tried to screw him from the workers’ compensation.
Manuel Pastor (00:10:48):
And while he was recovering, our family went back to that poor stuff, that poor stuff where there’s not enough food in the refrigerator, that poor experience where one week my dad gathered all of our toys and went to go sell them to be able to make groceries. When he got cleared to go back to work, his union was on strike. And while there was no money in the house, not a lot of food. My dad decided not to go back to work, but to go to the picket line and to strike with his fellow workers and to stay out on that strike until it got settled. And we might’ve been a little hungry, but we were a whole lot proud about that example of solidarity. So I think I got, I hope from my dad courage. He went through some very difficult experiences. I hope I got from my dad a sense that you can figure things out. And that intelligence resides with common people. And I hope I got out of my dad that you need to act out of solidarity with other people. And then when you do that, when you call out to your own better angels, he will raise everyone around you. I loved him a lot.
Maria Hinojosa (00:12:19):
What was it about him in particular that gave you this sense of imagination? I mean, I love this notion that he could do anything, but there was something else that he was planting in you, which was not only like I can do it, I can, I can make so I can figure something out, but actually that capacity to imagine, to be a liberation dreamer.
Manuel Pastor (00:12:47):
Well, I’ll say a word about that tells a story. You know, when I turned 16 in California every 16 year old immediately wants a car. So when I was about 15 and a half, my dad came home with a car and a beautiful 1957 Chevrolet. He said, this is a great car. The only problem is it doesn’t run everything about it was broken. So he and I spent the next six months completely tearing the car apart, completely fixing it up. I mean, rebuilt, the engine rebuilt the transmission, rebuilt the rear end. I can’t go into all the details. I wound up understanding how that car worked and valuing the work that he and I put into it about nine months to a year after driving that car around. I totaled that in a wreck, a 16 year old bad driving my dad picked me up and the car was considered totaled.
Manuel Pastor (00:13:50):
He was certainly upset with me at squandering what we had done together. But then for the next two or three months, Maria, he took me around from junkyard to junkyard, collecting all the pieces we needed to reassemble the car. He stripped it completely down. The frame was bent. I was not supposed to be able to do this, heated it back up, straightened out the frame, reassembled the car to being a beautiful car. And what my dad taught me with that was forgiveness that you could make the biggest mistake and that you could be forgiven and loved and be able to go on. That was an incredibly important lesson because, you know, in our work social justice we often make mistakes as we are stumbling forward. We don’t know the right words to talk about an issue that’s been brand new to us.
Manuel Pastor (00:14:45):
For example, trans rights may be something that might be new. We not, if we don’t spend a lot of time with immigrants know, how to speak about that in a respectful and understanding way, if you haven’t been deeply involved in solidarity with Black folks on issues of anti-black racism, you can stumble when you speak, but how do we create forgiveness for ourselves and for others to be able to move ahead? And then I think to honor my mom for a minute, who was a tough scrappy grew up in Spanish Harlem I know you would have loved her. She spoke Spanish at a velocity that was incredible. As you know, if you’re in Spanish, Harlem, and also cursed like a truck driver in both English and Spanish, it was incredible bilingual atrocities. So wonderfully vibrant woman wonderfully strong woman. And I think that both she and my dad just gave me a sense of possibility and a sense of obligation that you have an opportunity to give back. And that is what you should do. I’m not sure I completely answered your question, but that’s what your question made me think of.
Maria Hinojosa (00:16:16):
Lovely. We love it. This is a little bit more technical. If there was something that you could change in society that you believe would deliver racial equity, what would, what would that thing be
Manuel Pastor (00:16:36):
When I get that question… And again, you didn’t quite say it this way, but some will say, well, we can, what’s the, the one thing you would change? And I almost always say, I would try to persuade people to stop thinking there’s one thing. So that we know that it’s not just education, that if we get better education to young folks of color that they’re still gonna be living in places that have got challenges with regard to environmental justice and environmental problems, that they’re still going to have parents who are over incarcerated. And they’re still gonna have parents who’ve got uncertain immigration status, and they’re still going to be if they’re LGBTQ, in a world in which that’s not as accepted as it ought to be. And so to me, the big word is very common now, but I think it’s been part of the way I’ve thought for a long time intersectionality.
Manuel Pastor (00:17:37):
Then we need to understand that we need to move the needle on so many things at the same time. That we need to move the needle on education. We need to meet, move the needle on anti bias. We need to move the needle on employment opportunities. We need to move the needle on de-incarcerating. We need to move the needle on immigration reform. We need to move the needle on climate change. We need to need those, the needle on so many things at the same time, that may seem big and daunting, but it just makes it more fun to think about all the challenges that we’ve got.
Maria Hinojosa (00:18:15):
Okay. so you talked about your mom and your dad. Is there someone else that you met, I’m sure that kind of encapsulated for you? Somebody who fought for racial justice, racial equity and became symbolic for you. Is there somebody beyond mom and dad?
Manuel Pastor (00:18:38):
Yeah. I’ll talk about two people who are linked say Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta. I met Cesar when I was young. Because I was you’ll recall this. I was an urban organizer for the United farm workers, meaning that I was a student, but I was helping to organize boycotts against grapes and, you know, different, bad wine companies, et cetera. Although what happened was that the UFW found out about the stories about my dad helping me learn about cars and they turned me into a mechanic. So I spent most of my time fixing UFW cars changing their oil you know, sparkplugs fixing things that were going wrong because they had these old crappy cars. And I was became basically a UFW mechanic. But as a result of that student organizing and my mechanical skills, I got to meet Cesar Chavez.
Manuel Pastor (00:19:45):
He came in and talked with a group of about 20 of us and God, I felt like I was with Jesus Christ, someone who seems so pure of spirit, such a strong example. So inspiring that changed my life, but another person who I didn’t meet in that era, but I’ve met and spent quite a bit of time with in a way over the last 10 to 15 years has been Dolores Huerta. And I know that you’ve met her too. And I would say that the most striking thing to me about Dolores Huerta is the following thing. If I was Dolores Huerta, I’d spend a lot of time talking about, Hey, I’m Dolores Huerta. And I would talk about like the really cool things I did with United farm workers and the really cool things I’ve done in my life. But you spend time with her.
Manuel Pastor (00:20:40):
That’s not what she does. She arrives. And she always talks about the next struggle. She doesn’t want to talk about what she’s done. She wants to talk about the census. She wants to talk about voting rights. She wants to talk about high school organizing. She wants to talk about what’s on the cutting edge and she will never let you talk about her. She will constantly deflect the tension so that she can talk about the next issue that you want people to organize into. And my God! Isn’t that inspiring? So she continues to change my life by reminding me that it’s important that those of us who have attained some position of respect within the Academy or within movements or within media have to make sure, que, no se creo muy muy. That we don’t, you know, this se creo muy muy means you believe yourself to be very, very you’re conceited that we instead need to see ourselves as those servants that we can be those people who can open up doors to others, and those who should be looking forward to the next struggles and to the next heroes that we need to highlight.
Manuel Pastor (00:22:02):
Dolores Huerta continues to change my life.
Maria Hinojosa (00:22:07):
So I have to tell you my Cesar Chavez story. One, we ended up boycotting grapes, Mexicans in Chicago, because of the activism like of people like you, that then reached Chicago. You know, we were near the university of Chicago. I mean, and we boycotted grapes. I mean, I didn’t eat grapes for decades, essentially. But one day it was the year 1980, aver, was the late 1980s. And it was the New York city Halloween day parade, which, you know, now it’s like a massive parade. Well, you know, who knows what after post pandemic, but before it was a little bit like, kind of scrappy, there were like a lot of, and so I was kind of going around trying to find the parade. It was going slinking through, I was near union square park. And all of a sudden this guy walks by who looks just like Caesar Chavez. And I was like Caesar. And he said, yeah. And I said, what are you doing here? And he said, I love the Halloween day parade. It was Cesar Chavez walking around New York city as part of the Halloween day parade evening, Halloween evening parade. So that’s my Cesar Chavez story. My Dolores Huerta story is that is. That Dolores is not only does everything that you said, but then she’ll deliver the speech. And when everybody is like, Hey, let’s go out and do something. She’s like, okay. And then Dolores stays out partying until four o’clock in the moring.
Manuel Pastor (00:23:54):
She’s a lively person. I’ll tell one story about Dolores probably is not for you podcast, but I’ve been, you’ll see why in a minute. Do you know that film that just came out on her a couple of years ago, they were about to have its premiere in San Diego and Dolores reached out to her staff and said, would I come and speak at the premiere of the film? And I said you know, gosh, I’d love to, but that day I couldn’t because there was something else going on. I forget what it was important enough to say no to Dolores Huerta two days later Dolores Huerta’s staff calls and says Dolores is willing to change the date of the premier, if you will come and talk. And I was like, FUCK! That Like, that’s like royalty, right? That’s like, okay, okay. Let’s figure out a day. We’re going to make this happen. And I literally had to like zoom down in a plane to barely make it in to get my little speech before thing. But I made that I made that stuff happened
Maria Hinojosa (00:25:05):
Interestingly, and this is, I’m not where I was planning on going, but in the Dolores Huerta film, something that happened, something happens where it’s a very intimate moment between her daughter and her, and her daughter, the daughter of a revolutionary proud Brown woman basically says that she wanted to get a nose job that in high school, that was what she wanted. And how Dolores kind of responded to that. And just thinking about the fact that even if you have a mom that is a, bad-ass the issue of self hatred and invisibility has real consequences. How, how do you figure that we’re going to manage that in the future? Because so much of, you know, so much of what’s happened is because we have never had control of the narrative. We don’t have control of the narrative. The images are not under our control. So how do you imagine in the future managing that side? How does that look?
Manuel Pastor (00:26:07):
So, you know, it’s a real issue. And I think that part of it is reaching in and understanding own experiences. You know, when I was a kid growing up in a high school, I took Spanish classes. And I always would go through when I was done with an exam and go back and Mark a few answers wrong because I didn’t want to be the kid whose Spanish skills came from his family. That level of self hate of internalized racism of wanting to disown part
Manuel Pastor (00:26:44):
Of who you are is a shameful thing to speak about. But just like I was talking about, I’ve learned to forgive myself to learn that I was scarred by a society. You know, the other day I was in a meeting was after the January 6th assault on the Capitol and all the anti-immigrant hysteria that was part of that. And someone in the meeting said about immigrants, you know, they hate us. And I said, they hate our children. And that hate of how America is changing, does create the opportunity for people to feel some degree of their own self-loathing and lack of self competence. And I think you’re right, that when you don’t see people on television in films being successful to demonstrate that it’s okay to be Latino and that you will be successful and articulate and a star and creative, et cetera, that it creates damage for folks.
Manuel Pastor (00:27:59):
So to me, the first thing is to reach in and understand our own stories and our own self-doubts and lift those up, and make sure that people know about them so that they can feel like there’s a sense sometimes of an imposter syndrome, for example, is not something that’s unique to them. And something that should be thought about as their lack of self-confidence versus someone else’s tremendous confidence. Then I think we do need to change the stories and the storytellers so that people can see themselves in books like the book you just finished and begin to understand who they are and who they can be, and to not just do that in art and literature but to do that in college professors and doctors, and every kind of profession that we change, who is leading one last piece of this that I think is incredibly important is that we need to inculcate in everyone that every kind of work is dignified and deserves respect.
Manuel Pastor (00:29:30):
It’s not just the doctors and the lawyers and the professors and the media personalities. Those janitors, those daycare workers, those agricultural workers, those meat packers, those truck drivers, those grocery store clerks that we’ve begun to realize are absolutely essential workers. We need to be delivering people, the respect and dignity they deserve for the contributions they’re making. And we need to pay them accordingly. If you are growing up Latino and working class or poor in the United States, and you see that your parents are not awarded dignity and respect that the work that they do, that they are terrorized by an immigration system that doesn’t see them as being fully human. You’re going to have self doubts about yourself, who you are and who you can become. We need to treat everyone decently. And when we do their children who be able to imagine themselves in a fuller blossoming of their potential.
Maria Hinojosa (00:30:57):
Yeah. So Manuel, you have lived through a lot of different movements in the state of California, right? I’m wondering, which is one of them that kind of sticks with you in terms of being really successful in this fight for equity. Something that you can actually a movement that you can actually say, Oh my God, we, we couldn’t have imagined that these small steps that we were taking would lead to this.
Manuel Pastor (00:31:26):
So many, I’ve been lucky to be on the ringside seat as an ally a supporter a researcher writing about it. But you know, the struggles in the mid 1990s for a living wage at a municipal level at a city level, I mean the first big fight occurred actually in Baltimore. But one of the really important ones happened in Los Angeles. And it immediately impacted only about 4,500 workers, but it established the concept of a living wage that is that you should pay people a wage that was decent, that they could live at. And that struggle led to you know, fights for minimum wage hikes at city and County levels, and eventually led to an agreement in the state of California to raise our minimum wage in the state up to $15 an hour, let’s catch up America, let’s catch up. The other set of struggles that I’ve been really inspired by are the environmental justice struggles.
Manuel Pastor (00:32:37):
You know when I started working with environmental justice groups in the middle of the 1990s, gosh, I am dating myself. You know, it was a lot of scrappy groups that people did not pay that much attention to. And these were communities that were, you know, exposed to toxics, exposed to contamination from freeways and all sorts of health hazards, et cetera. And what they managed to do was to take these individual struggles against hazards in their communities, and begin to link it up to an analysis about a larger system that disproportionately placed hazards, freeways and negative amenities in communities of color and low income communities. And now California is a state that has more environmental justice laws than any other state. We’ve got a climate change approach that includes investing 40% of the proceeds from cap and trade in communities that are environmentally overexposed and socially vulnerable for doing air monitoring.
Manuel Pastor (00:33:52):
And it’s not like EJ groups are getting everything that they want, but the progress in the state is incredible. And they’ve been able to influence national level decision-making. Similarly, the immigrant rights groups in this country. Remember we had Prop 187, we had a proposition passed by California voters overwhelmingly that’s sought to strip, every possible service, including education away from undocumented immigrants. And 25 years later, we’ve got driver’s licenses for undocumented folks. We’ve got Medi-Cal, which is our version of Medicaid being extended to undocumented children, and now to undocumented elderly. And we had in 2017, the state legislature pass something called a California values act. Think about those words, California values that basically said the state should not cooperate with immigration and customs enforcement at deporting undocumented Californians. So I’ve been blessed to see an arc of tremendous change from really small things like a living wage fight in the city of LA to really big things like raising the minimum wage, protecting care workers, protecting immigrants and lifting up environmental justice. There is hope, America.
Maria Hinojosa (00:35:24):
So, yeah, and, and it, and it seems to depend a lot on the state of California, which is cool.
Manuel Pastor (00:35:32):
California is America just sooner
Maria Hinojosa (00:35:36):
Sad. Sadly, my brother Raul wins. I was like, no, it’s not! New York is that! And he was like, no. And so, you know, okay,
Manuel Pastor (00:35:42):
Little family tension, but a little family tention.
Maria Hinojosa (00:35:45):
So Manuel if you can talk a little bit more about kind of California as you know, not exactly, but like more of the promised land, like the re-imagined like what is possible. And I’m thinking about the fact that you also have written about the Black Korean Alliance that you’ve witnessed something in terms of creating those those alliances that are really historic and can change th th the, the course of history and the future. So can you talk a little bit more about, again, California as the future, as this re-imagined space, and also the importance of thinking about alliances with the Asian population, which as you know, in California is huge. In the rest of the country they’re not really kind of thinking that. It makes me think in the same way as prop 187 people weren’t really thinking that Mexicans were going to be everywhere, which they are so share some thoughts on that.
Manuel Pastor (00:36:46):
Well, a couple of things, one is people who don’t understand that America is changing everywhere are not paying attention to the statistics. It is true that the victory in Georgia, in which two of the most liberal senators that are going to be in the Senate got elected in a runoff election. Yes, it was driven by black women, organizers and black voters, but it was also driven by a huge swing in the Asian population, both the growth in a higher level of civic engagement and a leaning toward a liberal or progressive kind of view. It was driven by Latinos in that state as well, who joined up as part of that emerging new majority to make a difference. And it was due as well to young voters who basically are not putting up with this old intolerance any longer. They want a society that both celebrates diversity and resists racism and tries to change things in a more positive direction.
Manuel Pastor (00:37:55):
And actually also suburbanites who are just frustrated with the toxic stew of xenophobia and basically elitist economic policy that the Republican party has been selling. So that’s, that’s the next America and it’s happening everywhere and it’s happening in places people don’t expect. You look at the political change that took place in Arizona. That’s the result of a lot of young people, particularly Latinos organizing. And this is part of the California story as well. You know, it’s not just that our demography changed in between 80 and 2000. That demographic change in California is demographic change America is going through between 2000 and 2050. It was also some really conscious organizing to, try to take advantage of the demographic change to try to create a new California electorate that could actually change the political circumstances. And this gets to the question that you’re also asking part of the conscious work of that was beginning to build relationships between groups of color. Often in the rest of the country
Manuel Pastor (00:39:18):
When people think about issues of race and racism, think about whites and black people or whites and people who are not white, but in California, you can’t think that way. And so, you know, from the latter part of the 1980s, again, I continue to date myself. I was part of one of the co-founders of a group that emerged in the later last years of the 1980s founded by Stewart Kwoh who eventually went on to lead Asian Americans advancing justice and Mark Ridley-Thomas, who at that time was head of the Southern Christian leadership conference, and eventually became the city council person and eventually a state Senator and a an accounting supervisor from South LA. Part of the group called the new majority task force that was trying to bring together African-Americans Latinos and Asian Pacific Islanders, civic leaders, and urban planners just at the time that Los Angeles was moving to a new majority, meaning demographically people of color were collectively a majority.
Manuel Pastor (00:40:37):
And we knew that for those different groups to act together, they needed to create honest dialogues with each other, and they needed to stand in solidarity with one another. And that to do that, that meant that Latinos had to understand the black struggle for civic and human rights in the United States. And hold that story as our own, to make struggling against anti black racism, both in the society as a whole and within our own communities. And you know, that that is present that we would need to lift that up. If we were to truly build ties with black Americans and that we would need to understand the situation of Asian Americans and the ways in which, even though some Asian Americans are doing well, economically they’re permanently othered and marginalized in our society, instead of we would need to understand those struggles as well. But then when we build those ties together, what is important is not just forming a new majority demographically, but there’s something really interesting.
Manuel Pastor (00:42:00):
If you think of yourself as a minority, it’s a term I never use. You react to what other people are proposing. There the majority, we’re the minority. You should react. If you think of yourself as a majority, you propose, you suggest what the world should look like, not how you want it to tweak someone else’s vision of that world. So to me, this idea of thinking about a new majority, both demographically, but also including young people, progressive people of whatever color or whatever community that, that new majority thinking leads us to propose a better society instead of proposing modest tweaks to the injustices that we currently face. So,
Maria Hinojosa (00:42:54):
You know, there are a lot of people like me who are like, that sounds cool. Like, I’m like, I’m down. I want to see that. I want to see what that looks like. I’m not afraid as I’ve written. You know, I’m not, I’m not afraid when I hear people speaking a language that I don’t understand, because I don’t immediately think they’re talking bad about me because I do the same thing and we’re not right. So I’m not. And I, and I, I’ve always been fascinated by people in this country who are wrapped in fear. Of course, we have now lived this in the most brutal way possible, right? Their fear. How do we talk about this future that we want to reimagine where racial equity is for reals? How do we talk about it? How do you deal with the fact that there are a lot of people who are going to respond to that and get worried and respond with fear?
Manuel Pastor (00:43:51):
Well, a couple of things, first, is we need to recognize that the fear of change exists everywhere. There’s a great joke told by the comic Paul Rodriguez where he talks about being in an elevator in downtown LA and the elevator door opens up and a bunch of people walk in and they’re speaking in Chinese, he doesn’t understand a word of it. He’s getting increasingly nervous. The door opens up. He starts to exit, and he turns around and looks at the group. And he says, you know what, here in the United States now speak Spanish. Which of course speaks to some degree of change. But I think that one that’s really important to understand is something that our mutual friend, Angela Glover Blackwell one said and has always stuck with me. And it is that Bull Connor, the famous Alabama lawman, who from Birmingham, who set fire hoses and attack dogs on young black protestors who were arguing for their civil rights.
Manuel Pastor (00:45:00):
He never changed his mind. He didn’t come around other people in the South did, and we need to do something that I think is really challenging. One is to have open hearts, but at the same time to have hard heads to understand that there is a group of people that we can reach. There’s a group of people that we can tell stories to write a book like Heroes for People to Read put out podcasts, put out movies that help people see the other and lose their fear, create opportunities for people to engage through faith communities through working together. I’ve always said that one of the best things to help people lose their fear of immigrants is to drag them to a naturalization ceremony, because you begin to re remember that you don’t become American by race or religion. You become American by subscribing to a particular set of values.
Manuel Pastor (00:46:15):
And at the same time, to not be naive. There are some people who are not going to come around. And as much as we talk about building up community power, we also need to strip away some people’s power over our lives. I was heartened in President Biden’s inauguration speech about two things. In talking about change, he said, “when there’s enough of us change happens,” he didn’t say all of us. He said enough of us. When you reach enough people of good will change can happen. But he also said that we need to understand that white supremacy and domestic terrorism must end. He declared war on those who would limit other people’s power. So we need to do both things at the same time. We need to widen the circle of caring, what our mutual friend, John Powell talks about. Understand how do we make sure that people include everyone and who they consider to belong.
Manuel Pastor (00:47:36):
We also need to understand that we can’t have racist police, we just need to regulate that out of existence. We can’t have an agency like ICE, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, terrorizing communities. We need to abolish ICE and come up with a different set of immigration rules and whatever enforcement makes some kind of sense. We need to have firm strategies that limit power over people’s lives. We need to have a wealth tax so that rich people can’t have disproportionate influence in our politics in our society. We need to get the money out of politics. So that average citizens and average residents are the ones who change the terrain of politics. So open your heart, include as many people as possible. Tell stories that bring people in and then have a strategy to build community power and limit the power of others who would seek to limit community power.
Maria Hinojosa (00:48:54):
Manuel Pastor (00:48:56):
It’s a tough thing for Americans because we’re not used to moving two ideas in our head at the same time.
Maria Hinojosa (00:49:03):
It’s really interesting Manuel, because obviously you’ve been watching what what has been going on in terms of the Wall Street moment where Wall Street is just like, what the FUCK? And it’s like, well, people learn. Anyway. we’re, we’re wrapping up here. I want to think about okay. We have two last questions.
Manuel Pastor (00:49:26):
You see how much fun it is to be with you Maria?
Maria Hinojosa (00:49:30):
Ay! Ay tan lindo! Um we have a good time. Come on. You’re you’re, you’re just not cracking as many jokes as you usually do, but that’s okay. That’s okay. The funny professor so Manuel, can you tell a story a little bit about how we understand how undocumented people give so much? Right. somebody recently, I don’t even know how they got my email, but they were just kind of out of the blue, and they were like, you know, I see what you’re saying on Twitter. Everything is great, except there’s the thing is, is that, you know, all these immigrants come here and they become immediately dependent on this state. And therefore it’s a real drain. And I’m like, what are you talking about, bro? Like that doesn’t exist. Immigrants, don’t come here and suddenly just start getting help from the state that it just doesn’t, even if you’re a refugee, you know, it’s a very limited amount of time. But anyway, so kind of paint the picture of whether it’s a person who is working all of these hours, who’s paying in basically helping the American economy is getting nothing out of it. And how we’re, how we imagine dealing with that in this re-imagined future.
Manuel Pastor (00:50:41):
You know I wrote a report in 2012 with some colleagues when we thought that comprehensive immigration reform was on the horizon. And as you know, it got discussed in 2013, a bill actually came overwhelmingly out of the Senate and went to go die in the house where apparently that’s where all good things under the Republicans went to die. But we wrote this report and I like to think it’s a good report. But the best thing about the report was the title. And it was what’s at stake for the state, the state of California, undocumented Californians, immigration reform and the future of the golden state. And the best part was that thing undocumented Californians, because what we began to make people clear about was that currently folks who are undocumented, who live in California about two thirds of them have been in the country for a decade or longer. That they are matched by an equal number of U.S. born and lawful permanent resident, family members who live with them. Because these immigrants are now so deeply embedded in our businesses, in our communities, in our family formation.
Manuel Pastor (00:52:13):
The cool thing was the California endowment, a major foundation here in California picked up a little bit on the report, but definitely on the title. And they created a billboard campaign about undocumented Californians in which they listed the contributions that they made to the economy to taxes, to finances and everything else. And there were both billboards and those little bill ports that our bus stations. Now I know most academics, their biggest moment in the sun might be, you know, a book prize or my last book actually got reviewed on the front page of the New York review of books. That’s really great. But my proudest moment was hanging out at a bus stop. Seeing undocumented Californians being celebrated and watching minds being changed, like getting out the information in this very visceral way in which people can linger and understand the data. You know, what’s going on in the United States is that a lot of people who are the most scared about immigrants, don’t actually live near immigrants.
Manuel Pastor (00:53:37):
They’re just kind of concerned about what might happen if immigrants were to come there. I mean, if you think about the level of freakout, for example, in West Virginia, there’s not a lot of Mexicans rushing to West Virginia, going coal mining. That’s an industry of the future. That’s where we should be working. But that population is freaked out about immigrants. So I think we need to understand that change happens as a result of three things, facts, feelings, and force. Facts. It’s something that I’m involved in. We generate new knowledge. We show that immigrants are contributors. We show that they do the essential work. We show through data that the more immigrants you’ve got, the less crime, the more undocumented immigrants, you have a whole lot less crime. And certainly that undocumented immigrants aren’t tapping into social welfare programs. But we need to change people’s feelings. We need billboard campaigns.
Manuel Pastor (00:54:55):
We need stories. We need books. We need TV shows. We need one-on-one outreach through faith based communities and community organizing. And finally we need force. And by force, I don’t mean kind of brutally forcing somebody to change their mind. I mean, creating the social movements that build power, creating the policies that make it possible for people to survive and creating the institutional network, which means that it’s not just lone academics, screaming out a few facts, that it’s not just lone storytellers telling a few compelling stories, but that institutionally there’s been change in the publishing industry. Institutionally there’s been change in Hollywood. Institutionally, there’s been change in the Academy so that the kinds of stories I’m telling the kind of stories you’re telling become more commonplace.
Maria Hinojosa (00:56:10):
Hell yes. So by the way, entire team really it’s Manuel is all, it was all Manuel that made us end up doing this. It was Manuel that said, Hey, get Maria to do this. She’s got Futuro. They can do it. Manuel was the one who did it. So this is all because of you. We’re having a great time and amazing team of journalists who I’m working with. So I’m really, really lucky to be doing this work. Thank you.
Manuel Pastor (00:56:38):
I knew you’d put it together. And I really wanted it. I mean, you know, when we talk about communications often, what people think about doing is hiring some firm in DC that will test a bunch of messages and see whether they work to move people to more solidarity. Those aren’t the stories we need to tell. We need to go to the grassroots and we need to go to journalists who have worked with the grassroots and asked the question, what stories actually resonate with people, what are real and authentic stories that move people where we can see the epiphany is occurring. And Maria, I knew you would do it. And I knew you would find a talented group of journalists, overwhelmingly people of color to be able to tell those stories. It’s happening. Thanks for validating my faith in you.
Maria Hinojosa (00:57:27):
I had to, I had to step up. Okay. So finally we are intrigued: Is there a musician that you listen to that brings you kind of joy and that symbolizes the possibilities of the future? How do you get into that space of like, Oh my God, there’s joy, possibility music, future something you want to share with us.
Manuel Pastor (00:57:53):
Gosh, there’s so many that I listen to. I’m inspired by Kendrick Lamar, who I think is the kind of Poet Laureate of the United States or ought to be in terms of what Kendrick speaks to. And at the same time, reminding us to be humble I’m deeply inspired by Anderson Paak who is as I’ve said before, he’s black, Korean and all LA who is managing to fuse RNB and hip hop and something into this sort of Sonic sound of hope that I think is incredible. I’m inspired by J-Balvin. And the sort of sense of possibility that’s in that music, but I’ll tell you the musician that I’m the most inspired by my son Joaquin. So formed a band called James Supercave which does great psychedelic Rock, psychedelic Pop. When you ask what that is a critic once described it as RadioHead washed with Bowie and Morrissey pretty much describes it sort of melodic rock with that Bowie beat and then Morrissey plaintiff wail of of pain that kind of appeals to Chicanos the world over. It’s beautiful music. And it’s got sometimes a political edge to it. Sometimes a love edge to it, certainly a celebration of diversity. For example, a video that they’ve done called “Something to Lose” that weaves together. Three love stories with one of them being two men which is just a beautiful, beautiful video, but the reason Maria I’m the most inspired by it is the following: when Joaquin was 18 and getting ready to go to college, he got accepted to go to the theater school at UCLA.
Manuel Pastor (01:00:28):
And at one point I was in a conversation with them, very male conversation, meaning when we’re looking at each other and we’re looking at a sunset, so we could be really intimate. And I asked him the question. I said, Joaquin, you’re going to theater school. Why? I mean, what’s up with that? I mean, that’s not exactly going to be like necessarily a high-income life choice. Why? And he said, you know, I want to make things of beauty with my friends. And then when he was doing theater and film, he was trying to make things of beauty with his friends. And when he does his music, it’s about a thing of beauty given to the world that he makes in solidarity with his friends. When I think about the world that we’re trying to create with our social justice activism, we are trying to create a thing of beauty, a world of beauty, a world of acceptance diversity and provision with our friends, working together with our friends. It will make it possible, but it’s also working together with our friends that makes us better friends and better humans. When you work in solidarity, you learn to be a human that practices solidarity
Maria Hinojosa (01:02:10):
Love it, making a thing of beauty with, and for our friends.
Manuel Pastor (01:02:16):
And I managed to sneak in a plug for my kid’s music,
Maria Hinojosa (01:02:20):
Always important. All right team. Usually they jump on to just make sure everything’s okay. I don’t know. Where were they? Oh, there they are. Hi, Diane. I didn’t know that you were Diane is all the way in Barcelona. Yeah. Great. All right, well thank you, Manuel. That was great. Fantastic. That was wonderful. Yeah. Love your dad’s story too. That was just adorable.
Speaker 2 (01:02:51):
Was asking about it.
Manuel Pastor (01:02:53):
Yeah. I love that. Love that story.
Manuel Pastor (01:02:56):
I love the guy. He passed away a decade ago, but I can’t think of better, I don’t wanna I’d everybody had their shortcomings, but when he passed away, I remember writing that a lot of men have complicated relationships with their dads. I didn’t, he loved me. I loved him and we told each other that every chance we had
Maria Hinojosa (01:03:27):
God. And, and you also could take apart and put together a car with someone that I don’t know.
Manuel Pastor (01:03:33):
That’s some really useful skills. That’s seriously. I know who to call it also prevents you from being screwed at the mechanic. Like I said, I used to make that up.
Gregory Branch (01:03:46):
I think anyway, bilingual atrocities, I’m going to take that out and use that again. I’ll make sure I attribute it to you. I loved it. That was great.
Manuel Pastor (01:03:58):
Someone should said if you could send me an email about where to send us and of course as you know, it will probably be like a Google burst or something because I’m sure it’s way too big. It was an hour without stopping. Yeah.
Maria Hinojosa (01:04:12):
We’ll make sure you get all that information. Manuel. Thank you so much. Good talking to on a full moon Eve. So enjoy the full moon tonight. Okay.
Manuel Pastor (01:04:21):
And on Monday or the next time, this was a serious move from it.
Maria Hinojosa (01:04:25):
Yeah. Funnier next time. Thank you. Gracias, Manuel!
Speaker 4 (01:04:32):
Senior Podcast Producer
Senior Project Editor & Researcher
Senior Video Producer
Senior Digital Producer
Senior Supervising Producer
Post Production Supervising Producer
Animated Series, We Imagine US
Episode 3: “Mercy’s Story”
We Imagine…. Us, Episode 3 features Mercy Watkins, the beloved daughter of Albert ‘Bumpy’ Watkins, a Black widower who was formerly incarcerated and the late Audrey Watkins, a Vietnamese-American nursing student. Mercy and Bumpy star in the 6-part companion podcast, The Long Way Around. It’s the year 2037, and Mercy is a 31-year-old, single mother reminiscing about a fateful journey she took as a 16-year-old with her father
Animated Series, We Imagine US
Episode 2: “Claressa’s Story”
Episode 2 features Claressa Brown, a Black environmental justice activist and college student who appears in the 6-part companion podcast, The Long Way Around. Claressa envisions a world that reflects environmental and racial justice as she travels to Lake Charles, Louisiana while listening to a podcast interview featuring the author of “The Sum of Us” and Board Chair of the racial justice organization, Color of Change, Heather McGhee.
Animated Series, We Imagine US
Episode 1: “Anahí’s Story”
Episode 1 features Anahí Echevarría Gutiérrez Barrios, a Guatemalan-American union organizer who appears in the 6-part companion podcast, The Long Way Around. As she travels to Houston, Texas to buy an engagement ring for her beloved Lucille, Anahí envisions a more equitable society as she listens to a ‘Re-Imagination Nation Podcast’ interview with award-winning journalist and Futuro Media Group Founder, Maria Hinojosa, and the Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony award-winning musician and activist, John Legend.
The Long Way Around, We Imagine US
Episode 6: Renew
Bumpy and Mercy finally make up their minds about where they want to settle in Minnesota and rebuild their lives. However, a late-night party, Bumpy’s lingering health issues, a well-meaning neighbor and overzealous cops all combine to challenge the fragile future they have built.
The Long Way Around, We Imagine US
Episode 5: Repair
Stranded in Illinois, Bumpy and Mercy’s situation begins to unravel. As the father and daughter debate their next steps —as well as speak with other passengers about the future— a road forward seems even more uncertain than ever.
The Long Way Around, We Imagine US
Episode 4: Rebound/Re-bond
With the altercation with the cops binding them to each other in a whole new way, Mercy and Bumpy explore New Orleans and Memphis while trying to decide where to settle in Minnesota. They’ve almost reached a decision when an accident derails their plans.