DeRay Mckesson - Tackling Racism Through the Black Lives Matter Movement

January 26, 2016 - DeRay Mckesson 01/26/2016 Views: 15,163

DeRay Mckesson explains how he went from being a high school teacher to a Black Lives Matter activist and discusses the unique challenges African Americans face with police. (6:50)

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Please welcome DeRay Mckesson!

-♪ -(cheering, applause)

Oh. Thank you so muchfor being here, sir.

-It's good to be here.-I have a little thing I, uh...

-Oh! I love it! -I've seen youwearing that everywhere you go.

You know, I wear it every day.It's a good vest.

Is yours bulletproof, though?

I can't give away the secret.

That is... it's a good color.

It's a nice color.What do you think? Yeah?

-It fits you well. I love it.-I think I'm ready for this.

-Yeah?-I think I'm ready.

Thank you for...Oh, I look good.

Oh, look at that.Oh, that's nice.

You can't be vain in the vest,can't be vain in the vest.

-Oh, you got to be humble in...-Humble in the vest.

-How do I look in this vest?-(laughter)

-You look ready, you look ready.-DeRay, thank you so much

-for joining me. Um...-It's good to be here.

let's start right at the top.I've seen you everywhere.

People have seen youon social media,

people see you on TV,on the news.

Who is DeRay Mckesson?Let's start there.

Who is DeRay Mckesson,

and how did you get intowhat you're doing now?

Yeah, I'm just one of manyprotestors in the movement

who are focusedon ending police violence

and making sure that we presssystems to be good for people.

In terms of how I got here,I was sitting on my couch

on August 16, 2014,

and I saw the...what was happening

around the movement on Twitter,and I literally got in my car

and drove nine hours,ended up in St. Louis,

and joined the rest ofthe people out there fighting.

Wait, so you saw a thing on Twitter

and then you actually joined in,physically?

Yeah, yeah.Twitter is everything.

-I love Twitter. -You know,you could just hashtag.

-(laughs): Yes.-You could have just been, like,

#BlackLivesMatter, and thenyou could have chilled at home.

You know, we didn't knowthe hashtag BlackLivesMatter

in those days-- at the beginningit was #MikeBrown and Ferguson.

And then we learned this hashtaga little bit later.

But it was huge for everybodyto mobilize on,

and Twitter's beena phenomenal platform

to amplify the voicesof people of color

and bringing us together,'s good.

What I found interestingabout your story is...

you say you were sittingon the couch, but, I mean,

-you were a teacher, you know?-I was.

And I feel like nowyou are still playing that role.

-You're trying to teach.-Oh, thank you.

A lot of the timethe message gets lost

in the argument: black, white.

What are you tryingto teach people?

So, I think aboutthe whole first eight months

of the movement was abouthelping people understand

the issue of police violence

was much closer to themthan they thought.

You know, people thoughtthat something was wrong

in St. Louisand the death of Mike Brown

and Kajieme Powell--people didn't yet understand

that there was a crisisacross America.

And it was the deathof Walter Scott, Sandra Bland,

Freddie Graythat helped people get

that there's a crisis,that the police have killed

around 60 people so far, 2016 alone.

That we got to figure out howto do something about policing.

And also that, like,blackness is really complex,

so these conversationsabout identity,

um... and all these other issuesin blackness

that we need to work on as well.

Here's what's difficult--a lot of the time

you bring up Black Lives Matter,and then immediately

someone goes,"Well, white lives matter."

And then someone else goes,"Well, all lives...

all lives matter."

How do you respond to that?

You know,it's one of the most interesting

distraction techniquesthat we've seen in...

that we've seen come upwhen we talk about the movement.

-Yeah. -You know, if you wereat a breast cancer rally

and somebody yells, like,"Colon cancer matters!"

Like, we're not saying, like,breast cancer doesn't matter.

We're not saying colon cancerdoesn't matter...

Let's just take a momentand think

-about how weird that guy is.-(laughter)

-Sorry. Carry on.-We're not saying that

other lives don't matter--what we are saying is that

there's something uniqueabout the trauma

that black people haveexperienced in this country,

especially around policing,and we need to call that out.

But now, some people will say,yes, black people have

more incidentswith the police, but,

as far as I've seen on Facebook,black people commit more crime,

and that's why black peopleface the police more

and black people havea higher rate of criminality,

and that's whythey're in jail more,

so I don't understandwhat your argument is.

Yeah, you know,we've actually...

there's no correlation there

between community violenceand police violence.

What the police will tell you

is that they arewhere the crime is.

And they're notaround Wall Street, right?

-And they're not... they'realso not in... -Oh!

-Oh!-You know? It's real. It's true.

-(whooping, applause)-Oh...!

-But, uh... but they're also...-Oh, that was nice.

but they're also not...The data, actually,

doesn't show that to be true.

Um... and there'sa disproportionate...

the police aredisproportionately violent

in communities of color,whether there's

any community violence thereor not.

And there have been phenomenalactivists around the country

who are working to end communityviolence.

I think about peoplein Chicago, Baltimore,

so many other cities where thatis an issue that's present.

You get people, then,saying, okay, I see you.

60 people killed by the police.

How many more people-- black--

are killedby other black people?

Why aren't you running around

saying Black Lives Matterto them?

Yeah, so we believe...we do believe

all black lives matter, right?

The police areagents of a state,

and they have the... they havethe power to kill people,

and that is not the same thingas private citizens.

So we're not saying one issueis more important,

what we are saying isthat we need to focus on...

we are focusing on this issueof police violence

because it's state-sanctionedviolence.

And what we've seenis that those officers

aren't even held accountablein any type of way at all,

whereas there aremany mechanisms

to hold private citizensaccountable.

When looking at the police,I went to the...

to the Web site,and it was fascinating...

-Campaign Zero?-Yeah, Campaign Zero.

You had ten steps...

in, uh, combatingor ending police violence

-and brutality towardsblack people. -Yeah.

Do people knowabout this just ten steps?

-I... Stop it.-Anything?

Have you told people about this?

There is, you

But what we're trying to dois help people understand

that it's a complex solution

that rangesfrom independent investigators

to body cameras to, uh,

making sure police unioncontracts are fair...

to also use-of-force policies

and making surethat they are transparent.

So it's a complex solution,

but we wanted to map it all outin these ten buckets

so we can get to zero killingsby the police.

And now, can white peoplealso go to the Web sites?

Or is that, like, a...No, because, you know,

a lot of the time you seethese conversations being had,

and I know this personally,you get white people going,

"I don't knowhow I deal with..."

Sometimes peopleare afraid to even become

part of the conversationbecause they're afraid

of the backlashof someone saying to them,

"You don't knowwhat this is like,"

"Why are you getting involved?We don't need that."

Is this a movement that requiresother races to get involved,

more especially, white people,or is this something

that black peoplehave to do on their own?

Yeah, so this is a movementthat invites everybody

to figure how they wantto fight in the work.

And so white people should feellike this is their work, too,

and so many other races.

We know thatonce black people get free,

when we end the oppressionthat black people face,

that it'll open up space forso many other people as well.

So people should feel themselvesas a part of the movement,

because we won't win alone.

You're wearing an Apple watchand talking about oppression,

and we're gonna talkmore about this...

-That is so shady. Shady.-If you're watching this...

on... (laughing)

-Shady!-If you're watching this on TV,

this is where it's gonna end,but we're gonna continue

on the Web and on the app.

DeRay Mckesson, everybody.

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