Lessons from History

Subscribe to Lemonada Premium for Bonus Content

Michael and Pele talk about their feelings about over-policing in black and brown communities. They speak with Flint Taylor, Chicago civil rights attorney and author of The Torture Machine, to explore the history of police violence in America, as well as the impacts of that history on the present day.


[00:01] Michael Bennett: Do you ever look around and start to think, man, the world’s full of assholes? And how did they turn out to be such assholes? Well, you know where that starts, right? Childhood. It starts when you start stealing cookies. You start lying about cartoons and you pee in the bed. Lemonada Media has a podcast called Good Kids: How Not to Raise an Asshole. If you or anyone you know is at risk of raising an asshole, Good Kids is the podcast for you. Pele and I were also guests on the show. We talked about raising our daughters with empathy. Check out Good Kids: How Not to Raise An Asshole. How do we do this as people? Fewer assholes, people. Thank you. Please: less assholes and more great people. 


[01:05] Michael Bennett: On today’s episode, we’re discussing a crucial topic in America right now. A very, very controversial thing. On one side of it, policing is necessary. And the other side of it, over-policing is unnecessary, especially in black and brown communities. We have three kids, and all three of our daughters are growing up in this world. And we want to know how can we tell our kids to do what’s right in this world when it’s so hard because we know that they’re going to be over-policed. At the same time, I don’t think that people really are mad about policing, because the first thing when something happens, people call 911. But people don’t feel safe sometimes because they just feel because of the color of their skin, they’re going to get over-policed. And we grew up in Houston, we grew up in all types of different areas. And we’ve seen so many different things. We find it to be very true in a lot of these communities. How do you feel about over-policing and our community? Do you feel like sometimes in black and brown communities we’re over-policed? And sometimes when crimes happen, we get accused of it before people even know. This is America. This is America, people, you supposed to be innocent until proven guilty. And sometimes when you’re black and brown, you’re proven guilty until you’re proven innocent.


[02:27] Pele Bennett: Right. I think that our experiences are so different from other communities, meaning white communities. And I think sometimes when someone asks us questions on something they did and we go back and say, oh, we could never do that. Like, one of our friends recently was talking about medicine and she was telling a story that she was working with someone. And she asked him to put it in its pocket for a moment because she was seeing effects on the body. And I was like, what? And she said that the person she did it to, she was surprised that he said, I can’t do this. And she was like, why? And this was a black male, white female. And I said, oh, yeah. I was like, even I can’t do that. And she was looking at me like, even you? Because I am neither white or black. And I was like, yeah. I was like, if I’m in the grocery store and I’m even on my cell phone, I personally will not put my cell phone in and out of my own purse that’s on my body because I don’t want to give the wrong impression that I’m putting something in my pocket. Because I think our experiences are so different that I also feel that we have to share stories so that people not can relate because they can’t, but so they can try to understand it and then put themselves in that. Then that changes their perspective on what that looks like for them.


[03:38] Michael Bennett:  Yeah, I think if you grew up in our neighborhoods, you just have a different experience. It sometimes is hard to explain to people, you know, because they just haven’t had that experience. So they don’t have the empathy for it. And they seem like, “there they go, crying wolf again.” But we’re not really crying wolf. This is our story. This is our history. The African-American communities have a long history with policing. You know, it has been around for a long period of time and a lot of it even after the Civil War, a lot of things have happened — Jim Crow, civil rights. All these different things that have happened before have led us to a place where black people just don’t trust the police. When we come to Rodney King or Trayvon Martin or Michael Brown, there’s things that have happened over a while and it just has built this trust situation between people who are needed within the community. Policing is needed in the community and the people are needed in the community. But at the same time, we’re just bumping heads and sometimes people don’t understand what has led to that type of effect. You know, in some neighborhoods, in white neighborhoods, everybody knows everybody. In the black neighborhoods, in brown neighborhoods, the police aren’t usually the people from the neighborhood. So they don’t have a sense of community with the people. 


[04:45] Pele Bennett: They’re not in the community. They’re not talking with people, knowing their names, knowing who they are. But the system is worked around that, too, specifically police, black and brown. They have to police those areas like we’re saying. And it is over-policing them. 


[05:00] Michael Bennett: And I think people just become so numb to things that have happened now. Like if you see a police shooting, they say, “oh, another black man.” People just don’t really — like they just kind of just skip over it. 


[05:17] Pele Bennett: I feel that is true to a sense. But I also think that there’s like some fire under it where I feel like people are outraged. And that’s why people are coming together now to speak on these issues of policing and police brutality, different issues. I feel like people are having a stance of togetherness to be able to put their voice together and speak up. And I think that fire is going to start to burn and the flame is going to get bigger.


[05:44] Michael Bennett: Yeah. I worry, though. I worry that what’s really going to happen in the future as far policing, the situation within these communities, how much is going to really change if we don’t realize that race does play a key. In The New Jim Crow, she talks about it a lot, Michelle Alexander, about how people have biases, unconscious biases. And I think a lot of times police don’t really want to believe. Like white police automatically, sometimes they have a bias on this. Like when they see a person, they see a white woman, they’ve been called to something. They don’t feel the threat as much as they feel from a black male or a Mexican male or even a black woman. They feel a bigger threat from them. Instead of just seeing the person as a human being. 


[06:30] Pele Bennett: Right. And there is a stereotype and a label. But I do think that’s where that comes in, a red lining. So like our communities aren’t over-policed due to red lining. So it’s like a history that goes back, you know, within different amendments that started from there. And I think like using the 13th Amendment as the example, you know, saying that that freed people, but it really didn’t. There’s so much history, I think, that goes so far back to how they grouped police and how the system works for people is that I guess a lack of it. It’s not for the people.

[07:02] Michael Bennett: I think it’s just one of those things where we have to be able to de-escalate a lot of the issues that de-escalate the problems. And I think this because, like I said, when they see a black or brown person, they feel threat before they feel that they should de-escalate the situation. 


[07:16] Pele Bennett: And that’s where fear comes in. So fear is taking over the body and you’re reacting differently than when you would, you know, with your own mind almost. But I think the way that they’re — I don’t want to say programmed, but I guess how they’re trained, that sets them up for failure for us. 


[07:33] Michael Bennett: I also think after spending so much time with different families who’ve been affected by police brutality, or just violence in general, it’s just really hard to — because when we see on TV, we’re really arguing about the point who was right? Police do that. But we don’t really talk about the issues with the families who are left over with that trauma. There’s so many families and traumas when you know, a mother doesn’t have a daughter anymore.


[08:01] Pele Bennett: But we have seen different cases where the community comes behind the family. 


[08:04] Michael Bennett: Yeah, I know the community comes behind of family, but at the same time, like that pain that the family has is unbearable. It’s left up to the system, the court system to figure out was it justifiable or unjustifiable. But to me, death is never justifiable in these situations. And I feel that a lot of times these families are really affected and nobody really ever talks about the trauma that’s left in the family. We usually debate the morality of the police and the morality of the person versus the individual and their family. And what is the family left with from the trauma. A son has to watch his mother’s death get debated. I think that weighs a lot on a young person when they have to sit and really think about those kind of things.


[08:54] Pele Bennett: I think it goes on the entire family. To the spouse, the partner, the children, the relatives. And it definitely lingers, too, like outside. Their friends. You know, their classmates, people in the neighborhood, like it starts to affect the community. Do you think going into 2020, coming from 2019, of voices that have been projected louder than before and people behind them, it will continue to grow by 2020? 


[09:29] Michael Bennett: Today, we’re talking to Flint Taylor, Chicago’s civil rights lawyer, author of Torture Machine, to explore the historical context from where we are as a country on this topic of police, racism and violence in America today. Hello, Flint. How are you doing today? 


[09:46] Flint Taylor: I’m doing well. I’m really pleased to be with you. 


[09:49] Michael Bennett: Flint, first thing, I need to ask. Is it true that you’re white? 


[09:54] Flint Taylor: Yes. and your book did not make me uncomfortable.

[09:59] Michael Bennett: Why, you being a white male — and people would think that white males have everything in America, which they do. The founding fathers were white. But at the same time, why have you taken, you know, this battle when you don’t really have to take on this battle? What made you come to this situation as being a white male to want to be able to change the policing system for black and brown people in America? What made you want to do that? 


[10:22] Flint Taylor: Well, it happened, you know, many, many years ago, over 50 years ago, when I was young and a law student and I was coming up in the late ‘60s when so much was happening in this country with regard to the war in Vietnam, with regard to the Panthers, and the Young Lords. All of the things that were happening. I was getting introduced to law through some young lawyers and law students who were trying to change things, who were dealing with social justice issues, and, in fact, were representing Fred Hampton and the Black Panther Party here in Chicago. And that was eye-opening to me. And it turned me to want to approach and fight against racial injustice, against the war in Vietnam. And then as I got more immersed in meeting Fred Hampton and his family and the Panthers and dealing with cases that were arising here in Chicago with regard to the police and violence against the Panthers, Fred Hampton was assassinated. And as our client, I ended up in his apartment only hours after Hampton was murdered, along with Mark Clark, another Panther leader. And from that moment onward, I think it galvanized my feeling that we needed to deal with issues of racism and police violence. And it’s kind of pushed me onward from case-to-case and issue-to-issue in terms of white supremacy and racial violence and trying to fight against it. 


[11:53] Michael Bennett: That scene, though, the way it is described in the book, the assassination of Fred Hampton, him being in the bed, he never reached for the weapon. They made it seem that he reached for the weapon, he tried to do all this stuff. It was an assassination. How many bullets were riddled within that house did you see on the scene?


[12:12] Flint Taylor: Well, when we went there, as I talk about in the first chapter of my book, after the shock of it all, what it became clear it was was a murder scene. The police had left it open either because they were afraid that as dawn came, the community would be outraged, which, of course, it was. And also, they had an arrogance, an arrogance of law enforcement at that time, that they would be able to say the Panthers were engaged in a shoot-out with them and the media would accept that and people would accept that and they would have a feather in their political cap. But there were over 90, 90 to 100 bullets fired. You could see that from the walls. It was a small apartment on the west side of Chicago. And it looked like Swiss cheese, the walls looked like they had been riddled not only by shotgun fire and handgun fire, but also by machine gun fire. And as we lined up those bullet holes, we saw that they all came in the directions from the police towards where the Panthers were sleeping. And you raise the question about how Fred was asleep in his bed. And he would have been the first to defend the apartment. He did not say anything that he would not do. And so it became clear as we worked on the case and investigated that he had to have been drugged. 

[13:37] Flint Taylor: And it turned out that an independent toxicologist found there was a great deal of Seconal in his system. And, of course, Fred did not use drugs. There was an informant by the name of William O’Neal, an FBI informant, it was later revealed, who was in that apartment. So two and two added up to four in terms of they had not only assassinated him in his bed, but they had made sure that he wouldn’t fight back. And that’s why when we walked in there, we saw a bloody mattress where he had been shot and killed. And then a large pool of blood on the floor next to where the bed was, where they dragged his body off the bed after he was dead as a trophy to the police violence. 


[14:26] Pele Bennett: I actually want to go a little backwards, because for those listening who may not know, can you just give us a little summary of the work that Fred Hampton and Mark Clark were doing? But also significance of the impact of their work? 


[14:37] Flint Taylor: Yes, they were — the Panthers generally, and Fred Hampton in particular, as a very charismatic young leader — and he was only 21 at the time he was assassinated. But he was a remarkable, remarkable young leader. I had the pleasure and the honor of meeting him and hearing him speak. I brought him to our law school to speak. I was there in a church on the west side when he was released from prison. And he came back and talked about the beat of the people that he heard when he was in prison. And you couldn’t hear Fred and not be taken. Not only by his personality and his leadership, but also what he was saying. And what they were saying and what they were doing was forging a Rainbow Coalition. The original Rainbow Coalition here in Chicago. With the Young Lords, the Puerto Rican Revolutionary Organization, with the Young Patriots, which was a white organization, an appellation organization in the city. Rising Up Angry, another SDS. And also trying to forge relationships with the very powerful street organizations or street gangs, the Blackstone Rangers and others, in the city of Chicago. And that’s what made his being such a charismatic leader, and his ability and the Panthers attempts to forge these relationships in coalitions was what made him so threatening to not only the local police, but also to the FBI in Washington. [


[16:11] Michael Bennett: Yes. So you believe because he was connected, just not the issue of black people, but the issue of humanity. So I think that was the real reason why he became such a threat. Because I feel like that was the reason that Martin Luther King became a bigger threat when he started talking about the war in Vietnam, and the war on poor people. And I think that’s really where I feel like what you’re saying is that that’s really why he was killed, because he was bringing everybody together. He was more than just these Chicago neighborhoods. He was going to be a world-wide type of voice. I think they just wanted to nip that in the bud before it became so big they couldn’t really capture.


[16:47] Flint Taylor: Definitely. Definitely. That’s an important point. As you say, Dr. King, when he became more radicalized and spoke about the war in Vietnam, that was when they started to really target him as one of the Black Messiahs that the COINTELPRO from Washington and the FBI had created. And Fred Hampton fit into that COINTELPRO mode, into the targeting that the FBI had done and was doing with people like Malcolm X, with people like Stokely Carmichael, Dr. King, Rap Brown. Those were people that were targeted in the documents that the COINTELPRO program focused on. And then, of course, as the Panthers came along and as Fred Hampton came along, they became the main target of the FBI. 


[17:43] Flint Taylor: And the other part — and as you say, the Panthers had a 10-point program. And we can look at that program now and understand how threatening that was to the power structure, from defending themselves against police brutality, to not fighting in the Vietnam War, to dealing with prisons, to dealing with the breakfast for children. All of the different issues that they were raising are pertinent to today’s society as well. And that’s what’s so remarkable about the Panthers. And the legacy is not only the terrible assassination of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, pursuant to the FBI’s COINTEL program, but also what the Panthers stood for as we see in the 10-point program.


[18:32] Michael Bennett: But it is interesting because a lot of people don’t know about that part, about him being drugged, which would make more sense now that I think about it, because how could he stay down if he was hearing all these bullet shots, he had no chance to move. There’s no way that he could have stayed down. And it just makes it feel worse because at 21 years old and has so much potential, it’s just sad. 


[21:51] Flint Taylor: It’s tragic, but he lives as not only a martyr, but as a symbol here in this city. And I think more and more across the country as people learn more about what happened to the Panthers and what happened to Fred Hampton in particular. And they learn more about the COINTELPRO program and what it was all about. And you asked me what it was that got me involved and I attempted to give you the initial, you know, piece about it. But as we went on, I worked on that case with my partner, Jeff Haas, who wrote the book on the assassination of Fred Hampton  for 13 years. And during that 13 years — and you can imagine, I like to tell lawyers and law students when I talk to them, well, my first trial was 18 months. Because as a young lawyer, we went on trial in the mid ‘70s in federal court in the Fred Hampton damage case. We couldn’t prosecute, but we could sue them under the Civil Rights Acts. And we did. And we fought that case for 18 months in trial. And during that 18 months, we were able to uncover this evidence that I’ve been mentioning. I don’t just say lightly that Fred Hampton was assassinated by the government. What we had and what we uncovered was a trilogy of evidence that proved that. The first piece of that evidence was a floor plan that the informant, William O’Neal, sketched of the apartment where Fred Hampton was murdered. And that floor plan was very specific. And Mark, specifically where Fred Hampton and his fiance, who was eight and a half months pregnant, would be sleeping. That was the first piece of the trilogy. We uncovered bad evidence and it was shown that that floor plan was given from the FBI and its COINTELPRO program to the state’s attorney of Cook County, whose police are the ones who executed the raid. The second prong of that trilogy, or triangle, as it were, of police assassination, was a document that was dated December 3rd 1969, the day before the raid. And that document was headed COINTELPRO. It was part of that COINTELPRO series of documents that were secret. And it claimed impending raid to be an FBI counterintelligence project or program. That’s part two. And part three, which we uncovered in the midst of the trial, was a document that we called the bonus document.

[24:30] Flint Taylor: And this was a document buried in O’Neal FBI informant files. And it was actually two documents. Several days after the raid, the FBI here in Chicago asked Hoover and his people in Washington for a $300 bonus for O’Neal because he made the raid a success. It was a Judas bonus. Thirty pieces of silver, $300 for O’Neal. And, of course, Hoover’s people readily approved that bonus. And I’d like to tell you what William O’Neal was doing when that bonus was approved by and sent to him. He was serving as a pallbearer in Fred Hampton’s funeral. That was just such a shocking piece of information. But that is the triangle, the trilogy that proves that unlike Dr. King, where they certainly had the intent and were trying to disrupt him, there was no direct connection between James Earl Ray and the FBI. And when we look at Malcolm X, as much as the FBI was attempting to disrupt and destroy his organization, there’s no direct link between the FBI and his assassination. Here we have the trilogy that proves that a young, charismatic Black Panther leader who was on his way to national leadership and who was bringing people together in this city and would have been bringing people together nationally, was, in fact, assassinated as part of the COINTELPRO program.


[26:15] Pele Bennett: How did the Chicago Police Department then, the relationship they had within the community and how they policed, has that changed to today of 2020 and everything that’s happened in between?


[26:27] Flint Taylor: The book that I just published through Haymarket, great publisher as you all know, is called The Torture Machine: Racism and Police Violence in Chicago. And it starts out with the Fred Hampton case, of course, as it’s such a big part of my life and a big part of the history of police violence in the city of Chicago. But it goes on to tell the history of police violence in Chicago, particularly in terms of the work that we all have done together with community organizations and wonderful clients, leaders over the years. And The Torture Machine was about and is about it — it’s got a dual meaning. The torture machine, as is depicted on the cover of the book, is a black box. It’s a black box with a generator, a field generator that they used in Vietnam, that can generate electricity, and has wires on it and alligator clips. And starting in the early ‘70s, a commander in a Chicago Police Department — he started out as a detective and ended up as a commander — by the name of John Birge, was torturing African-American suspects into giving confessions. 


[27:46] Flint Taylor” And he was torturing them along with a gang of officers working with him with this box, also with other medieval torture devices like what they call submarino, or dry submarino. So putting plastic bags or typewriter covers over men’s heads, simulating suffocation. Mock executions, putting guns in their mouths, to their heads, playing fake Russian roulette with the. And beating them with rubber hoses and other devices. All the while, you know, accusing them of crimes and using racial epithets against them. It turns out there was a pattern and practice of torture going on, first on the south side of Chicago and then later moved to the west side, under the command of this officer named Jon Burge. And for the next 30, 35 years, my office and I have been fighting these cases. And it started out as one case. But through an anonymous police source who we later called Deep Badge, we found out that there were many others who had been tortured, and who the officers were that were in Burge’s gang. 

[29:09] Flint Taylor: And so for the next 30, 35 years, we’ve been fighting various cases in the federal courts and in the state courts to obtain freedom and new trials for the men who were sent to death row and to the penitentiary. And also civil damages for those who have been exonerated and who were tortured. And ultimately — and this is something that I think is something that should be known across the country and is something that activists and lawyers can attempt to emulate in one form or another — we — and I used we, in the very collective sense — were able to obtain reparations. Reparations for the survivors of police torture in the city of Chicago and their families. And reparations were not only was money awards to men who otherwise had no legal claim to them, but also such things as a memorial to the torture survivors, a teaching — and this is, I think, very, very important — teaching the torture history to eighth and 10th graders in the Chicago public schools. A center for torture survivors and othe  survivors of police violence on the southwest side of Chicago. College education in the city colleges for the families and for the survivors of police torture. All of that was self-consciously called reparations. And the mayor then, the infamous Rahm Emanuel, and the city council ultimately signed off on it. And the mayor made an actual public apology as well to the men. And so that stands as a remarkable accomplishment of the movement here. And in terms of changing the narrative of police torture in this city, which started out as this commander, Burge, allegedly committing police brutality against a black convicted cop killer, to now where the narrative is that there was systemic police torture, that it was racist, that upwards of 125 men, almost entirely African-American, were tortured under this regime, and that the highest political and police officials, including particularly then-chief prosecutor Richard Daley, went on a course to be the mayor of the city of Chicago for 20 years, was actually implicated in these crimes in terms of knowing about it, not prosecuting and covering up. So that’s the narrative as it stands now. 


[31:51] Michael Bennett: Quick question. It can be kind of controversial. Does it make your job harder seeing how much violence there is in Chicago, with the murders and things like that that have happened at a rapid pace in Chicago. Does it make your job harder? What does it feel like? 


[32:08] Flint Taylor: Well, it’s very disturbing, obviously, that our young people in this city and across the country, particularly young people of color, are killing each other. Sometimes it seems totally randomly. But it’s used — in terms of the police, the police have very little, if any, interest in solving those kinds of crimes. They use it as a political lever, but I think the statistics in terms of the police solving crimes in this city is like under 20 percent. And part of that is because people in the community don’t trust the police. So even though they may know information about a killing, they’re not going to go to the police, because they don’t trust what may happen. They don’t trust the fact — I mean, they know about the Burge era. They know about how black, young black people are railroaded into the penitentiary. And that continues even though they don’t use electric shock here anymore. They certainly still sweat young kids into giving false confessions and run them through the criminal justice system as best they can.


[33:15] Flint Taylor: So that issue, yes, it makes it more difficult because people try to say the police — well, you can’t attack the police because they have to investigate these crimes. They try to throw it back on the victims. They try to throw it back on the community. But in fact, you know, here in the city, and I’m sure you’ve seen it across the country, there are movements to abolish the police. There was a fight here against the new cop academy that they wanted to build, and they’re going to build, saying take that money and invested in the community, invested into mental health clinics and invest it into the schools rather than to build a new training academy that’s going to 21st century-ize the police and their tactics of surveillance. So, yeah, it’s a real issue. Don’t get me wrong. It’s really important to try to get at the causes of the violence in the communities, but that doesn’t undercut the realities of dealing with the police.


[34:22] Pele Bennett: Can you share some advice, I guess, for people who don’t live in Chicago necessarily, but for people who are listening that want to support these different issues that are happening in their own community, and also support your work. How can they get on the ground and help out? 


[34:40] Flint Taylor: Well, in some ways, we really — and I feel this very strongly, I have a young daughter who’s now a lawyer herself. She’s a federal public defender in the South. The young people really — we need to turn to them. Whether it’s the students in Florida, the students and young people here in Chicago who were fighting against the cop academy. You know, it’s interesting, we talked about the Rainbow Coalition, but for reparations, there was a rainbow-like coalition camp that came together to fight politically on the ground for the reparations, which never would have happened if not for that movement. And it was an inter-generational movement. It was an interracial movement. And the kind of creative actions that those people and young people in that movement took was very inspiring to us old-timers. So in some ways, my feeling is we need to turn to the young people for the solutions, for the struggles, for the creative ways that they’re approaching everything from environmental justice to racist brutality. But on the other hand, we need to say to our younger people: you need to listen to the elders. You need to look at some of this history. You need to look at the history of police torture in Chicago, of the murder of Fred Hampton. And look at some other of the victories, the victories such as obtaining reparations. 


[36:10] Michael Bennett: You know, a lot of young people think they made all this new stuff up. They listen to records and stuff, like, people have listened to records for a long time. But I think you’re right that young people don’t want to listen to old people. But that is a part of all historical things, is that the elders are important because they hold the story and they hold the truth to the past, so we don’t make the same mistakes. At the same time, the young people are the future and have new ideas. So I do think  we ought to be able to collaborate together to make sure that we can make a change. 


[39:27] Do you ever feel like — since you were so close to Fred Hampton and the murder and everything like that, do you ever feel obligated to keep this fight on? And then by seeing that, does that spirit always take over you and keep you going? Because you know what people before you sacrificed? 


[39:44] Flint Taylor: Well, that’s a good question. You know what I found — and of course, I only knew Fred Hampton for a minute — but I became close to his family, to his mother, who was a remarkable woman, to his brother, who kept the legacy of Fred going over the years, to his father. So they were my second family. I’m from back east. I have a wonderful family, or did back there. But my second mother was Iberia Hampton. So, yes, I got tremendous amount of strength, not only from the spirit of Fred Hampton, not only from the family of Fred Hampton, but also from many of my other clients who were survivors of police torture, for example. Who, for example, maybe spent 25 years behind bars for crimes that they did not commit. And the organizations as well. It’s just so many remarkable people that have been involved and continue to be involved in the struggle that give me support on those days when perhaps maybe it would be easier just to roll over and go back to sleep rather than to get up and try to deal with the kinds of things that we continue to try to fight.


[41:00] Michael Bennett: We always could play his little game. We call like little 10 questions. Yes or no questions. But this is simple stuff, though. 


[41:10] Pele Bennett: Chicago pizza or a New York pizza?


[41:15] Flint Taylor: Oh, you gotta go with Chicago pizza. Well, the deep dish pizza, have you had the deep dish? 


[41:23] Michael Bennett: It’s too much! 


[41:24] Flint Taylor: It is a little too much. 


[41:26] Michael Bennett: Every time I eat in Chicago pizza I’m like, oh, my God. Because my brother lived in Chicago for like six years. It’s just too thick. I prefer New York myself. 


[41:42] Flint Taylor: Your brother played for the Bears, right? 


[41:45] Michael Bennett: Yeah, he loved Chicago. But it’s too cold over there for me. Kanye West or Chance the Rapper? I don’t know if you listen to rap music. Kanye West has had an impact over time, but Chance the Rapper —


[41:58] Yeah, I have to go with Chance. He’s from Chicago. I have to admit, as an old-timer, I’m not completely up on rap itself. But Chance seems to have a good message. And he also has contributed quite a bit of money to the Chicago public schools. I enjoyed him when he was on Saturday Night Live the other day. So, yeah, and Kanye just makes me want to throw up when he puts that red hat on. 


[42:35] Pele Bennett: He’s choking on that. 


[42:38] Michael Bennett: A good book or a great movie? 

[42:41] Flint Taylor: Ah. Well, that — I could go for either of those. One book that really is remarkable, I don’t know if you are aware of is, Alfred Woodfox’s book called Solitary, which is about his 40 years as one of the Angola Three down in New Orleans. I mean, actually in Louisiana. And I had the pleasure and honor to meet him as a former Black Panther. He was a Black Panther in prison in Angola. And he spent 40 years in segregation. So that book is right at the top of my list. 


[43:18] Pele Bennett: All right. How about a staycation or a vacation?


[43:23] Flint Taylor: Being from the east, we like to go back to Maine every year. So we go to the ocean and to the lakes up there. So I guess you’d have to say a vacation, even though we don’t get a whole lot of time to do it.


[43:41] Michael Bennett: IPhone or Android?


[43:44] Flint Taylor: Well, I had an Android, but now I have an iPhone, thanks to my daughter and wife. 


[43:50] Michael Bennett: When you get a text from the iPhone and it’s that green message. It just makes you so upset.


[43:59] Pele Bennett: It’s like, why is it not blue? So how about a one answer? Do you drink alcohol and what is your favorite? 


[44:09] Flint Taylor: Oh, I’m a beer drinker. I like kind of the ales. Different ales.


[44:19] Michael Bennett: So is the Maine lobster better or the Massachusetts lobster? 


[44:26] Flint Taylor: Oh, we got to go with Maine lobster on that. 


[44:28] Michael Bennett: Well, I just wanna thank you for coming on today. And once again, plug your book one more time so people who are listening can find your book. 


[44:35] Flint Taylor: Sure. I it’s The Torture Machine: Racism and Police Violence in Chicago, and it’s by Haymarket. 


[44:43] Pele Bennett: Thank you so much. And thank you for the work that you do. 


[44:45] Flint Taylor: Well, thank you. And thank you for the work that you do as well. And I hope we can connect again.


[44:57] Michael Bennett: It’s that time of the week that we do our little pro tip. 


[45:13] Michael Bennett: I guess the pro tip this week: how do people advocate for something that doesn’t really involve them, but still want to have a voice and be able to make an impact within their communities or wherever they are?


[45:26] Pele Bennett: Actually, I think that’s a difficult one because I think that each person would be different to why they feel they have to help, you know, or advocate for something. Because the majority of the time you do see people doing something that’s personal to them or something they’ve struggled with, been through, something that touches them in a different way. I think that I would say it’s empathy. That they see a problem and they know they can help maybe not find a solution, have a solution, but they can help towards a solution, whatever that may look like. But at least building those stepping stones to get towards the goal. And I think that’s where empathy comes in, where you see that and you feel for it and you know that you can participate somehow in how to resolve something.


[46:11] Michael Bennett: Yeah, I will say number one should be empathy, or actually you could argue — should education come first or empathy? But I think educating yourself on the social issue and understanding — because of what you have education, you can build up empathy, I guess, because now you can understand the history behind it.


[46:32] Pele Bennett: But is it a human trait to have an emotion first before you’re wanting to do something? Because I think obviously it goes hand-in-hand. You know, if you’re feeling a certain way about something, you should educate yourself on it, because you do need to know the ins and outs. But then if you are educated on something, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to feel that you need to do something. 


[47:05] Michael Bennett: I’ll feel like the two things that each person should have is empathy and education.I think both of those are two main things that you have to have to find some reason to want to put yourself out there, because I feel like the empathy part is the spiritual part, it’s the journey that you experience and do all these different things. But then the education allows you to be socially active in front of other people, because I feel like sometimes people get hindered or have an opinion, especially when you feel like you’re not educated enough to have a rebuttal when somebody brings up something. So you don’t have the fear of having other people have opinions about you. So I feel that if you have education about it. It makes you a lot easier to go out in public and speak about it. 


[47:55] Pele Bennett: But then also the work that you’re doing is it’s more thoughtful and more strategically planned out than you just being like, I’m mad and angry! I need to go, you know, and rescue, help, do all this. Like that might not be the best way. So I agree that you need to learn about what you’re doing. Find resources, look for people that are maybe already in the field to get a better understanding on what it is that you’d need to be doing in the first place. 


[48:19] Michael Bennett: Yes. So once you educate yourself, people, and educate yourself on these issues, you have to be ready for the backlash. Because there’s gonna be opinions. Because we are talking about something that everybody is aware of, but nobody is talking about. There’s a reason why nobody’s talking about it. Because they’d rather just stick to the world and not taking a blue pill or red pill in The Matrix to be awakened, because it’s really hard to be in woke culture, as people say.


[48:59] Michael Bennett: You have to be ready for the things that come with that. Because everybody’s been sleeping and they don’t want to talk about these issues. And now you’re bringing this issue up. So you have to be ready for other people’s opinion. And it could be from family. It could be from your following on Instagram. It could be at the workplace. It could be anywhere. People don’t want you to have those social opinions. So I believe that you have to be ready for the backlash because everything’s not going to be peaches and cream. There’s going to be a certain set of people who are like a part of the culture who are like, yeah, good job. There’s gonna be people who hate you and be like, why the fuck are you bringing that up?


[49:34] Pele Bennett: But then also educating them at the same time. You know, because sometimes with those opinions, and people attacking you, and that is hands-down gonna come. It’s gonna come a lot. It’s gonna come hard. And I think that you have to educate someone at the same time as you have those conversations. But at the same time, you also have to agree to disagree. And you have to keep pushing for what your message and what your purpose within that fight is. You can’t let that affect you in so many ways because you will have so many people coming in different areas. 


[50:12] Michael Bennett: I feel because you’re in a position of privilege, you can talk about something that you don’t have to experience, that other people who feel like their privilege, they don’t want you to have that feeling because it’s like bringing the reflection, bringing a light on them to show that they have privilege. So you have to be ready for your own people, or your own peers to start to dissect in you, your character, everything about you. Because they don’t want you to have that. So it takes a lot of bravery to have a voice like Flint Taylor’s, or somebody who’s from the other side, because people are just going to be like, why are you doing this? Like, we know we have privilege, don’t tell other people we’re privileged. 


[50:51] Pele Bennett: But he is acknowledging that. And I think sometimes when someone is on the other side of that issue, when they acknowledge or hold themselves accountable in those areas and wants to do good, then why not like let them go, let them flourish, let them spread their wings in that area. Because at the end of the day, it’s all for the same purpose, the same vision, the same game plan. You know, I think sometimes you got to realize that people can be on the same team. 


[51:20] Michael Bennett: So as somebody who’s bringing attention to something, everybody’s not gonna be at the same place you are at the same time. So you have to be patient with them and learn how to build those bridges and be able to share your information in a way that doesn’t come out so angry that they become an enemy. I think you want to build a supporter or ally within that. So I guess our three things are empathy, education and patience. 

[51:48] Michael Bennett: Next week, we’re talking about Coronavirus. No, no, not Bud Light, but the Coronavirus, people. What we should do to prepare. And should we be panicking for the pandemic? Or should we be relaxing and let the government take care of it? I don’t know. Find out. Listen to Mouthpeace. 


[52:09] Michael Bennett: Please subscribe to us or like us on anything that you’re listening to. Apple, Stitcher, Spotify, whatever you’re listening to get away from your family, whoever you don’t want to be around. And make sure you rate us or give us a comment. Even though we don’t give a fuck about your comments, give us a comment. Mouthpeace is a production of Lemonada Media, which you can find online on all social platforms @LemonadaMedia. You can follow me on social media, @MosesBread72. I love bread, and biblically, I always thought I was Moses.


[52:39] Pele Bennett: And you can follow me on Instagram at @pelepels. Mouthpeace with Michael and Pele Bennett is executive produced by us, the Bennetts. Our Lemonada Media executive producer is Eli Kramer, and our producer is Genevieve Garrity. Our assistant producer is Claire Jones and our audio is edited by Brian Castillo. Thank you to our ad sales and distribution partners at Westwood One, and to all of our sponsors for making this show possible. 


Spoil Your Inbox

Pods, news, special deals… oh my.