Episode 2: Jessica Murrey from W!cked Saints Studios

As fate would have it, we recorded Jessica's first episode just a few days before George Floyd was killed and our nation erupted into chaos. Because of her background and unique insights, we felt it was important to invite Jessica back to share her feelings about the ongoing crisis, and provide some helpful tools for addressing topics of racial injustice with those in our own communities.

We must acknowledge injustice if any progress is to be made.

Whatever happens, 2020 will go down in history as a real turning point in the United States of America. The Covid-19 Pandemic and all its consequences, incredible political divisions, dramatic income disparity, and many other factors created a powder keg - setting the stage for an emotional and sometimes violent explosion in the wake of the tragic killing of George Floyd. If we're ever going to get through this, we must do so together. We must have tough conversations with those in our community who might disagree with us, and acknowledge some difficult truths. And, we must remember to focus on solving the entrenched problems we face, rather than demonizing those who may have opposing beliefs and perspectives.

As fate would have it, we recorded Jessica's first episode just a few days before George Floyd was killed and our nation erupted into chaos. Because of her background and unique insights, we felt it was important to invite Jessica back to share her feelings about the ongoing crisis, and provide some helpful tools for addressing topics of racial injustice with those in our own communities.

In this episode, Jessica shares her thoughts and feelings around the racial tensions so prevalent today, and gives powerful recommendations for ways each of us can begin to generate empathy and understanding with those who might disagree with us, so our communities might finally begin to heal.

Key Questions and Takeaways:

  • We need each other - especially those who disagree with us - if any of our important social challenges are going to be solved.
  • Acknowledgement of wrongdoing is an essential part of any conflict resolution effort.

Support

Jessica

's Work:

W!cked Saints Studios is looking for angel investors to help fund its development and be a part of its growth! If you're interested in learning more about their work, creating innovative mobile games to teach young people about activism and self-efficacy, please click the button below or email Jessica directly at jmurrey@sfcg.org.

Learn more about W!cked Saints Studios

Episode Transcript:

CAUSE AND PURPOSE – EPISODE 2 – JESSICA MURREY

[TEASE CLIP]

JESSICA MURREY

You don't go to a breast cancer rally and yell, all cancer matters. You're focusing on a distinct group of people that are treated like their lives do not matter. The hashtags really like black lives matter, too. Asking people I'm like, do you believe black lives matter? Can you say yes to that? If you can't even say black lives matter without being, but so do you are, but without a “but” or a “Yeah, but,” that's a problem for me because my kids are black and I need you to believe that their life matters.

HOST – NARRATOR

Welcome to Cause and Purpose, the show about leaders, innovators and change agents, working on the front lines to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges. I’m Mike Spear, and thank you for joining us for part two of Jessica Murrey’s podcast. We recorded our first episode just a few days before George Flloyd was killed and our nation erupted into chaos. It’s been a powerful, emotional, confusing and transformative time for many of us. Given her background and expertise, we felt it was important to have Jessica back and speak more specifically about what’s going on in the world today.

JESSICA MURREY

I was calling it the racial reckoning, but I don't know if that's the correct thing. So right before it was right before anything happened with George Floyd.

MIKE SPEAR

Jessica, there’s a lot to cover here, but lets start simply. When you first heard about what happened and started seeing news of the protests and violence, what were your first reactions?

JESSICA MURREY

So I first saw the video, I think, his face was blurred out and I saw it a little bit and I, and I had a lot of this is going to sound terrible, but I had a big presentation. I was doing this next morning. And so I was like, like, okay, this is horrible that I like, got to get this thing in. It was an interview for our colleagues in Yemen and Afghanistan around how cold it was affecting them. And that itself was just a really heavy, heavy conversation to fully understand, you know, the COVID affects in a place where it already is the worst humanitarian crisis in the world and to hear the suffering that was happening there. So that was already heavy. And then finally I finished that and I'm like, okay, like, let's see what's going on.

And I sat down and I watched the whole video. It hit me so hard. Just, I was done for the rest of the day. I can do, I can do anything else. And I went over to my grandma's house and she just looks at my face and she's like, are you okay? And I just break down, sobbing. I somehow managed to sleep a little bit, wake up the next morning at 5:00 AM. And I look on Instagram. The first thing I see is the precinct in Minnesota on fire. Then the next thing I see is a tweet from our top office, talking about these thugs, and on the looting starts, the shooting starts. I, and that's when like the dam broke for me. And the thing is, is like, I'm pretty, I'm not a super sensitive person. And I think part of it's because my work, you have to keep things a little bit distant. So normally things like this don't destroy me, but this completely wiped me out. I could not stop crying all day long. I think there's a couple of reasons for that. And I went back and watched the video again the nine minutes. And there's a couple things that were significant about how George Floyd died. One was that it was by his neck and it was in broad daylight. And it was by someone sworn to protect him. There's so much racial trauma around lynching.

Many of us have had grandparents who have seen it, but I've experienced it. And the way that the video was shot was it almost felt like you were in a crowd watching this public execution. A lot of times we're told in the black community that we, that people are fearful, right? Like they shot out of fear. That's why somebody got killed. But when you see the look on his face, there was no fear there. It was, it was completely casual. His hand was in his pocket. He almost looked smug. People were screaming at him. He didn't take his knee off his neck, even, you know, and he say, what was it? Almost nine minutes. But even when the paramedic came to check his pulse, he still didn't take his knee off. And we now know that George Florida died probably about four minutes into that.

So you just have watched a man die. There was just no excuse for someone being face down handcuffed no longer struggling, and for that to happen. The other part of it that was upsetting was that the tweet about the thugs, which is like a very racially charged word. And then you start looting, we start shooting because what I thought I was like, man, like we've put up with so much for so long. You know, we marched, kneeled, did stuff for years, no one would listen. And then, and this is like, and we're talking generations of oppression, of successful towns being wiped out of lynchings of all this horrible stuff, of red line districts.

And then we get to a point where we snap and then people can kind of turn around and say, look, see, black people are scary. They are more aggressive. They are more criminal. There are more violent. This is what happened. This is why you're scared and you should be scared of them. And I believe this assumption of criminality, this assumption of aggression is a lethal assumption for people of color, especially black men. And so, to just see that, like this is going to be the cycle. I thought this was just going to be it again where it's like, this is what happens. Like they're going to blame all this looting on black people being more criminal and more aggressive and more violent. That's how it felt in that moment. See, I'm so upset. I'm so mad. I'm so angry. And, but I'm also supposed to be the peace builder, right?

Like I'm the one that presents both sides of things that makes people listen and hear in a really good way that doesn't make them feel bad. I just have so much rage and it's not going to be what people want to hear. I started posting and started doing these postings on Facebook and the first one was, I'm not okay. I'm not okay. This happened. And I'm grieving. The black community is grieving right now. If we lash out, we all have different ways of dealing with grief. Give us a break right now. So like, I'm happy to talk with you maybe tomorrow or the next day, but like give us a break. Cause this is really hard. This stirs up all the trauma that we have experienced every generation. So just like, I'm not okay. The response to that was hugely overwhelming positive. And so then, you know, I started looking back at some more of our peace building training that we've done in the past. And I know for reconciliation to happen anywhere in the world, first, there has to be an acknowledgement of pain and acknowledgement of wrongdoing. That part of peace building was so important right here. Cause this was a moment not to show both sides. And this was a moment to acknowledge the pain of the present and everything that led up to this present and to acknowledge the wrongdoing.

Because that's, that is the only way that we'll have reconciliation. That's the only way that we'll be able to start the, the healing process. And so then I went on to write an article that started with first steps that basically you can do as a non-black ally or just a non-black person, the first things that you can do to get us to a place where we can start to heal and actually build something better and fix what's been broken.

MIKE SPEAR

When you wrote that article, I'm just wondering what the inspiration was specifically. Cause you could have handled it a bunch of ways. Was it in some ways as everybody was coming out of the woodwork and saying, how do you know, what do I do know? Just, it was easier to point them to that than to answer everybody individually or like what was the real impetus for that article and what did it cover?

JESSICA MURREY

Honestly, it was because as I say before, like I live in a mostly white area and through the way that I was writing about this stuff, I saw that it was resonating with people from all sides of the aisle. That they were writing me expressing how, sorry they were and asking what they could do, asking how they could help. And there's certain things that I do when I'm talking, especially to a white community, around things of race. There's certain words I avoid because of triggers. You’ll notice I don't use racist or racism in the article. The same thing is privileged. I usually try to stay away from those words because there's certain words that mean different things to different people.

And so I know there's this whole thing, like, man, if someone's a racist call a racist, a racist call, spade a spade. But what I've found is I usually try to find different words to express my meaning because I need that person to understand what I'm saying. And if the word racist is a mental block that then causes them to stop reading, then that word is not effective and it's not useful to me. This message resonated. And my colleagues at Search for Common Ground where like you were black, you were the one experiencing this. Like we're going to yield space to you to write whatever you need to write.

JESSICA MURREY

And we support you 100%. The piece starts with acknowledge the pain and wrongdoing talking about, you know, the grief that's going on in the African American community right now and how that's a starting place for healing. It's like first she just needed like, stop, stop talking, stop talking about the looting, stop talking about everything else. Just take time to acknowledge the pain and be present. And then the second part was just to listen and lean in. So this is an opportunity to really listen to black people to other people of color about their experiences and to go the extra mile of lenient. So that means to learn. So if you don't know about red lines, about black codes, about Tulsa massacre, if you don't know about any of this stuff that we're saying, now's the time to go get educated.

Go watch “13th amendment” on Netflix. The third was to recognize your bias. This is a place where a lot of people like to use the word racist or racism. You know, you're a racist, you think this. And I think a lot of people think racist means that you have hate in your heart. So I like to talk about bias because every single one of us has bias. We all have bias. We all see someone and assume certain things about them. And that's something that needs to be addressed. And especially since the assumptions, when it comes to black skin, is criminality and aggression. And so therefore people feel threatened by just the fact that you have black skin and that's dangerous for us. It's dangerous for my husband. It’s dangerous for my son when he grows up.

Also talked about race-based stress. And I think this is something that is important that's often missed is, is that if you are white or black or whatever you are in, since George Floyd was killed, you've probably been experiencing race-based stress. That means that you are constantly aware of your color. So minorities are constantly aware of the color of their skin. So you have to think twice about the you the words you use, your tone of voice, your what you're wearing. Even just your presence in a room can completely change the dynamics in the room. So you are always aware of your race as long as you're in public. And it's stressful. You have to think twice about everything. It's stressful. When you are white in this country, anyways, you don't have to think about your color every time you go to the grocery store or everything to purchase something every second at work.

And so you're not used to it. And so when it's presented to you, it's stressful and it's uncomfortable. And people react to it in different ways. Some people feel really guilty. Some people feel shame, some people get defensive, some people get aggressive and resentful. So one just like acknowledging that you're going through race-based stress, it's tiring. It's hard. And acknowledging what that is, I think is important. I think it's also useful in identifying bias. So if you sit down someplace and a person of color comes in, you feel a certain way instead of getting defensive and being like, well it's because what they're wearing or that like, you know, whatever reason you creating your head, actually sit and try to feel what you're feeling. Are you feeling fear? Is it suspicion? Are you uncomfortable for some reason? Why is that? And I think that's a way that we can start addressing our own bias so that it can actually be fixed.

My fourth point was basically re-imagine peace and justice. So peace and justice are actually needed together. And so peace is not passive and justice is not vengeance. Stopping the unrest. Like that's actually not true peace. That's negative peace. That's suppression. And so true. Peace only comes when there is justice for everybody also talking about the vengeance side of things, you know, I completely understand why people are so mad and rioting or looting or whatever terms are using to describe it happen. Like, it might not be the correct reaction, but to me it's a human reaction. Unfortunately, the consequences of that will always fall on the people of color. They will be the ones that are getting blamed. Even though we saw video that like even sometimes most of the time it was not black people doing it. They are the ones going to get blamed. The system is still broken. They're the ones going to be going through the system. And at the end of the day, it's our kids that will still be considered violent and criminal and aggressive. And finally, the last thing was just how to be a champion, you know, not just yield space, but really lift up diverse voices and leadership and give that space. Instead of trying to come up with solutions yourself, like actually collaborate with black people, with people of color, to try to come up with something together.

MIKE SPEAR

I've been reflecting a lot to hear the signal through the noise with this particular state of the world that we're in. There are a lot of important things happening and a lot of people speaking up and there's a lot of violence, there's a lot of distraction and things. I was very aware at this point of a pretty clear message being sent by people who deserve to have their voices heard, but also a lot of, even just messaging from other groups that are using this as a way to further their own aims that are outside of where in some cases directly opposed to what's going on. In what ways have you seen that happening?

JESSICA MURREY

Oh man. I'm like, what ways have I not seen it happening? Sometimes I think there are good intentions that don't go well, like with the whole, you know, feeling like you have people's back. And so encouraging them to do that. I think we have seen arise and extremist groups that, you know, is now being reported that a lot of the looting was an agitators going out to do this. And so I've seen videos of police officers actually taking a stand, listening to protestors, putting down there, you know, riot gear and walking and marching with them. And, you know, like doing some like holding signs, like I'm going to be part of the change and doing some of that stuff for the first time in my life. I'm seeing some of the other side of, you know, police officers beating white protesters who seem to be pretty peaceful. And so there's also this crazy dynamic that is happening, that we're seeing some things that might need to be changed in the culture around protecting each other versus protecting citizens and like how we can, you know, do that better. I'm also, you know, I'm concerned that this conversation is going to go very political before the acknowledgement of pain and wrongdoing is completely fulfilled.

MIKE SPEAR

That’s an interesting point – Why is it potentially so harmful?

JESSICA MURREY

This is the perfect time to address the systemic racism in this country will care about it. Let's talk about how we start fixing it. There's a lot of solutions that can help whether it's working with the police or even just communities around health and education and leadership and companies and all of that is great. I'm worried that this is quickly going to turn to an argument on politics of defund the police or not defund the police. And I'm already seeing that as just like, this is what people are choosing to fight. So they're ignoring the wrong that's been happening and they're ignoring the real problems of racism in this country. And they're just going to focus on that and that is going to be the battleground.

MIKE SPEAR

Yeah. I think, I think that's right on. I mean, and even just outside of this particular context. When something happens, it has a lot of obvious emotion to it and this and this does and, rightly so. I think there can be an instinct just to run around, take action, take action, take action. And it sometimes like, what is the most meaningful thing to do gets lost? How do you cut through the noise and make sure that we're bringing, you know, even though worst critics, counter protestors, people that are doing looting just to make the core protesters look bad, like, how do you engage those people and bring them into the tent? Because to your point at the end of the day, we need them to make any meaningful change.

JESSICA MURREY

Yeah. And it's such a good question. And I think it's something that we need to be thinking about right now is how to bring people that are on the fence, have them fall on the right side of that fence and not push them over to a more, more views. So, you know, when it comes to the people that are, that are alluding and agitating protesters to make them look that and to make this whole movement look bad, like I would consider them more extremists. That's going to take a lot of work. Cause now you have to look a pull, push, and pull back as of extremism. And there are ways to engage them, but that's, that's a longer discussion. I've been focusing more on the people that are on the fence, conservatives and Trump supporters. I've been having a lot of conversations with them over the last few weeks we talked and we listened to each other and I think it's hard cause it's, you know, I don't have a hundred percent success rate, but it's actually overall very positive.

And I think it's hard because here you have on the liberal side of things, liberals tend to mock folks that are conservative or don't have these views. And so they get called ignorant, they get called uneducated they get called racist. Like these are, these are terms that they're hearing all the time from the opposition. And so here you have something like this, come in where most of the population is actually ignorant to and uneducated on how the black community has been treated and the disparities and everything like that. And for so long, black lives matter has been so political. It's been like, if you're on the left, you say black lives matter. If you're on the right, like you say, all lives matter. And finally there's a better understanding of what black lives matter actually means.

You don't go to a breast cancer rally and yell, all cancer matters. You're focusing on a distinct group of people that are treated like their lives do not matter. And they're treated as expendable. And they're often killed and beaten without much fuss made the hashtags really like black lives matter too, you know, asking people I'm like, okay, do you believe black lives matter? Can you say yes to that? And we're getting to a place where we're getting closer. And for me, like, that's a problem. Like if you can't even say black lives matter without being, but so do you are, but without a but or a “Yeah, but,” going in there, like that's a problem for me because my kids are black and I need you to believe that their life matters. And so this is a conversation that I've been having with conservatives and Trump supporters and the, and it's overwhelmingly been like, I do believe you matter.

Yesterday, I was talking with a man that goes to our church. Who's been conservative his whole life. He doesn't have a lot of contact with the black community. And he's just like, like you're saying, he's like, there's just so much noise going on. And I know what I listened to a slanted, but I can't listen to the other side. Cause it makes me so mad with all the names are calling me and all the assumptions. And he's like, I just need to cut through the noise. I'm like truly try to understand what's happening. And so those are the people that we need to stop mocking and making fun of and being really snarky with and start figuring out how do we bring them in? But I said, you know, like I believe that Trump listens to his base and listens to you. And I think this is a perfect opportunity to disrupt this narrative that conservatives are racist. Like this isn't, this is a great opportunity for you guys to, you know, really make your voice no. And on this kind of thing and stand up for this cause they will care if you care. And so that's kind of the approach that I've been taking instead of trying to just like despair on these people and remind them of how terrible or wrong they've been in, in the past.

MIKE SPEAR

A lot of these issues certainly left, right politics, certainly people's own racial bias. A lot of it's wrapped up in identity to a very large degree, which is part of why I think things like travel and meeting people that you wouldn't meet and having conversations with people that you wouldn't normally have, it just inherently breeds so much more understanding and helps us shift your, your opinion way more than calling somebody ignorant or racist.

JESSICA MURREY

No, but you're totally right. We're demonizing each other is what's happening. And instead of seeing like the people that I talked to that are Trump supporters are lovely, wonderful people that have love in their hearts and I'm seeing them as a person and it's important and it's not about politics. It's about people and that's the way that we need to present it. It's like, this is not a political issue. This is an issue about people and about humanity and about human suffering and doing what's right. Cause it, like you're saying with identity, it's like, there's a loyalty thing there, right? Like you don't want to be disloyal. You don't want to step outside the lines and it encouraging people that it's okay, that it's actually growth. It's not like you're being a hypocrite. It's not that you are being disloyal. It's just, you're growing and we're expanding and it's, and it's a good thing. And we should reward people for doing that and we should celebrate people for doing that. Because there's so many different topics that we're all arguing about. And in reality, there's very few of us that are actually truly experts in those things. And so there's so much that we don't know that we should just take time to understand and meeting people that are different and talking with them is a great way to do that.

MIKE SPEAR

We've talked a little bit about the generational memory of lynching. The fact that George Floyd was this fixated, you know, the knee on the neck, as well as I think the autopsy showed the compression on his back and lungs. Yes. Can you unpack this I can't breathe mantra is his phrase that's out there. I feel like certainly in the case of George Floyd, you know, it's a, there's a very literal connection, but it seems to me that it's sort of been part of the sort of sphere of awareness around injustice and the justice department for a long time, regardless of if somebody was, you know, diet as a result of being tazed or shot or whatever it is, there seems to be an, I can't breathe meme sort of throughout, is it just the lynching thing or is it all, you know, is it tied to something else? And they're part of the reason I'm thinking of it is that, you know, the words that we're using are very connected to our breath.

JESSICA MURREY

Yes. And so interesting. The thing that ties me, like of course the lunging is a, is the first reaction and that trigger that, that trigger of all that trauma, that racial trauma is, is absolutely true. I think also it's just the pleading of it is what I personally see it as it's for so long, the black community has been pleading has been saying, this is happening in our communities. We were getting beat, we were getting killed and no one has believed this. And I think that's the most painful thing about this whole thing. And then why I started with acknowledge the pain is it's so painful to not be believed. I am, as a black person am expected to present my trauma to you and my experiences where I have been discriminated against and my family has, and my husband has, and our parents have and present them to you.

And then you get to look and examine and see if they're legitimate or not. Or if you can think of some other reason why people treated us that way, we were probably doing something wrong. We are probably doing something bad so that not being believed and being expected to continually relive and explain and still not be believed like that is so painful. And so on this, like I can't breathe. It's like it was nine minutes where he was on his neck. How long was he pleading? I can't breathe. Other people of color in the crowd are saying he can't breathe. And they did not listen. Whether they didn't believe that anything, it was important, whatever case it didn't listen. And I think that's what this whole thing comes down to is for generations longer, you know? It's, you know, people thought it stopped the slavery and then they thought it stopped the civil rights. And, and this thing has been going on for years, for decades. This has been happening in the black community and no one believed us. And now there's film and still, still in the film, people find some reason, well, he should never resisted or, well, he should have said that he was reaching into his pocket. He shouldn't have jogged there or walk through there or whatever the case may be. It's so disheartening because these are the people that we need most. If we're going to build a safe society for us on our kids.

MIKE SPEAR

It's a very relatable idea. I think you see something similar in victims of sexual assault and rape.

JESSICA MURREY

Yes, absolutely.

MIKE SPEAR

There another group that, you know, has a similar problem of credibility, right? Yes. People make them, you know, back up what they're saying to an unreasonable degree, much more so than what someone like myself would experience on like a day to day basis that I've experienced not being believable, I've expressed something important and it sucks, but it's certainly not a part of my everyday experience.

JESSICA MURREY

Well, you know, an interesting thing is one of my colleagues was so he is white male. He lives in D C and right after the peaceful protesters were teargassed, he was telling me, he was like, you know, it's so crazy because for the first time in my life, I'm thinking twice about interacting with a police officer. And I'm, I'm nervous about it, about interactions with police officers. And I've never experienced that in my life. And I'm realizing this is what black men experience every day. Just the fact of like, you know, if someone were to rob your house, would you think twice about calling the cops? If you are black, most likely, and especially depending on what neighborhood you are, you would think twice about it. If you're white, that's, it doesn't even cross your mind. It's just like another example of, it's really hard to experience things that you haven't experienced.

MIKE SPEAR

Yeah. That's why some of the bias stuff is so important, I think is to be primed, to respond a certain way to a situation, whether you're conscious of it or not, it can totally dictate your actions. I just like to ask you, first of all, do you think it's different this time? And if so, what about whatever's going on with the current context? Like what about today makes it a better opportunity for reform that we've had in the past or what, what makes the whole thing different than it has been previously? Cause obviously it's not a new thing what's going on.

JESSICA MURREY  

Yes. So I think this has happened in the perfect storm and the perfect storm being right in the middle of COVID, you know, besides us all being cooped up COVID really exposed a lot of the disparities between black and whites. It exposed the disparities between black and white and in a really stark way that reminded us what it's like to be black in this country. And these kind of two different types of lives that people are living. I just read a New York times article that was talking about the median salary for a black family is $13,000. The median salary for a white family is $130,000. I mean, you have to think of how different that life is. And then you look at red line districts. And if you don't know what red line districts are it's was places kind of designated to people of color and were marked with red lines.

And so they did not receive housing loans and other things like the other places that were marked in other colors, you know, wealth in this country really starts with home ownership. And so a lot of our grandparents, my grandmother grew up in a red line district in Oregon, and most of these districts are put in the worst place of town there. They provide sewage with Pope where I, where the bad water is by electrical power, you all of that kind of stuff. It's so it's not the most healthy parts of town. What happens with the property taxes of those dilapidated buildings, they go to fund the schools. And so the schools are also poor in these areas. And so what you have with COVID, that's such a stark reminder of how different these lives live because it was South COVID is that black people were dying more from COVID not because of anything inherent because they were black.

They were dying because they had poor health and it poor health because of the lives they live. And we also saw that black people, the black community makes up a lot of the essential workers. And so they couldn't stay home and get on zoom. Like the rest of us were complaining about they had to be out there and they had to be exposed, even though they're dying more. The other part of that is, is that they also losing jobs. So the unemployment around black community, somehow they're essential workers, most essential workers. And somehow they're still the ones who lose their jobs first as well. And so it hit the black community in a really hard way. And so on top of having to survive, COVID you see this video with Amy Cooper, you have to survive being black where, you know she has her dog off leash, the Blackbird watcher asked to put the dog back on the leash.

She gets so upset about it. He films the whole thing and threatens to call the cops and tell her that a black man is threatening her. So here's a liberal white woman who knows her power. We're constantly telling ourselves that like, Hey, they just don't see it. Right. They just can't experience it. They don't know that there's no way for them to experience it. So that's why, that's why nothing has changed. This is why this has continued to go on, but you have that video. And it's like, clearly she knew exactly what she was doing. She knew exactly the power that she held. And then to follow that you have George who, which is like I said, a public lynching, I think it was just a perfect storm to snap. And it was interesting because I was talking with one of my friends who's on the conservative side of things and like most lovely, wonderful person.

And we're talking about this and she was being really honest with me. And she was like, you know, if this had just happened and then people are upset about it for a little bit. And then it went on out of that, like that was a horrible thing that, that, that happened. I'm still glad that cop was arrested and then like gone on with my day. But as soon as I saw Target burning, I was like, what is going on? It's just interesting that you know, this country has a history of protecting property and valuing property and validating wealth. And I didn't know this until recently, but like, even if you look into like the creation of please, like that was a mandate of like protecting wealth and in the South, they had slave patrols to capture runaway slaves. And so this time feels very different.

And I don't know what else it was, but people have come up out of the woodworks in ways that they had never have before my 82-year-old grandmother was like, I was talking to her, the one that grew up in the redline district. She's like, you see all these white people out here. She's like, it was like, they didn't know. And she feels super hopeful. She met Martin Luther King. She's been through a lot. And she said, this is the most hopeful she's ever felt. Cause she was like, look at all those white people out there marching for us. They made her feel really good. And so I do think this time is different.

MIKE SPEAR

I found the video. You mentioned really unsettling when I watched it. I, I think for me just to see somebody recognize they had leverage on somebody else and then like weaponize that in a really inappropriate way that had nothing to do with what was going on to me, it was like deeply alarming. And I would also say that I forget the, the name of the gentleman who is the birdwatcher, but I heard him on a radio show sometime after that. And he was being really magnanimous, just like, it's a thing that happened. And it was unfortunate, but I don't know that she needs to have her life ruined over this or be tagged as a racist for the rest of her life or whatever. And that's a really graceful big way to handle something that sure. In the moment, probably after it was, was very upsetting.

JESSICA MURREY

Yeah. Well, just imagine that, because in that situation one, he was a birdwatcher, which was like the most harmless thing you can probably possibly be.

MIKE SPEAR

So just conscious images of sweet old people.

JESSICA MURREY

Yeah. It's like the most nonthreatening thing. You can be as a birdwatcher. He just wanted to watch his birds and do it. He's a Harvard grad. And so the other problem of that is that they had to qualify him to make the story big. They had to be like, no, look, he's one of us. He's a Harvard grad he's makes this much money. He does email. But what if he wasn't? What if he was just a normal black person? What if he, you know, what, if he wash cars, what if he had a record? What if he wasn't all of that? Like what would, what would have happened to him? What could have happened if the police did come? So it's just also something to think about that other side of things like that time. He's very lucky. He like, I like, I'm also very privileged, so I'm light skinned I’m bi-racial. I grew up in Oh, white community. So I sound white. I went to white schools. I had all of those opportunities. And so I am privileged, which is why I think it's important that I talk about this and engage people in this way, because I'm not as threatening quotes. You can't see the air quotes because I'm on a podcast, but, and some of my brothers and sisters would be considered.

MIKE SPEAR

So let's talk about defund the police. The first time I saw that slogan, my reaction was, I don't know what that is, but it's probably not gonna go over well with a lot of people with sort of but I was like, I got to learn and figure out what they're actually trying to say so that I can decide to have a border against it, but can you unpack that the defund, the police stuff for us, because I think most people are still pretty confused about this.

JESSICA MURREY

So I had the first reaction as well, cause I'm in social change communication and I am very much like, okay, who do we need to ally with to get, to actually make some of these, make some of these changes? And so that was my first reaction, as well as I was like, well, like I don't think the Republican party is going to like that slogan. And I don't know if people can even get past the slogan to try to understand it. And if they even want to understand it. And I feel like it was more of a protest thing, like my rebellion against this is like, you should be funded. You know,

MIKE SPEAR

It's actually a really important idea. And I hate to have it be dismissed as like a catchy campaign sign somebody did.

JESSICA MURREY

Yes. And so my understanding of it is not so much like defund the police, but like, listen, listen, narrow their scope right now, police officers are expected to be social workers and psychologists and mental health well and mediators and do all of these things. And but they're not actually trained to do. And so one thing, could it be, you know, expand training. They only have, they have a short amount of time that they're actually trained to be police officers where like, Finland, you get like two years out to be one, you know, so that's one thing, but also just narrowing the scope of work. And so they just focus on crimes and criminals and then not expect it, you, everything else. And that you actually look at like public safety workers and, and some other things to input some more ownership on the community to focus on that. Because, like I said, if you think twice about calling the police, you don't trust them. And you think that they could possibly get hurt or something, your family could get hurt. If you call them, you're not going to call them and said, you're going to look to more to your community to come help you.

I think just getting more creative about how we engage the community. You know, I think it's important to have to recruit police officers from their own community and have them walk communities where they actually live. I do think that's important, but this defund the police thing, there's actually a lot of nuance to it. And so people should look into it more. Cause I know that the name is horrible, but the idea of narrowing scope and creating space for more experts to come in around those issues, I think it's worth looking at, and also maybe looking at some of these underlying causes that are causing some of these issues in these communities. And so like, how can we invest in education? How can we invest in job opportunities? You know, how can we invest and stop blight, you know, and things like this and these communities are also worth looking at. But I know it's hard for people to get past that messaging.

MIKE SPEAR

Yeah. Well, it is interesting to see some of the police captains come out now and say like how much, how many things that they're asked to do if they aren't really trained for it and not tasks for yeah. At the end of the day, once all is said and done and all these changes take place. Yeah. I suspect there'll be a, the police will actually be a lot happier and operate more efficiently if that ever actually goes through. But once it's done, because they'll be able to focus on the things that matter to them as an organization.

JESSICA MURREY

Yeah. I just think it'll be interesting time for us just to see what happens. You know, there's a few places are going to start at a local level and we can see how it works and a small scale. And if it actually works or if it helps. And I think that's again, which is like coming outside of our identity and just like, okay, let's look at some problems and solutions and if it doesn't work, then I am okay with that because my identity is not tied to that. Right. So if it doesn't work and something else works better, then let's do what works best instead of being so concerned about, you know, our party line and, and you know, this is my own personal me speaking personally, but I think let's look at it locally. Let's see how it works and then make adjustments and really just focus on solving the problem.

MIKE SPEAR

Yeah. I mean, getting away from the part where identity is tied to the, some of this language, like I do think it represents a huge opportunity just starting from scratch today. Like what do we want police to do? Like what, what is, what is the role of law enforcement that we want to see, forget the past, see, you see moving forward. Yeah. How do we empower them to do that really well? And then how do we bolster some of the other services that are underfunded now, like mental health, food programs, affordable housing, all these things that have a very real place, but just can't really operate because of the way the system is set up.

JESSICA MURREY

Yeah. I think that's perfect and beautiful. And that's how we can, you know, that's finding common ground and, and moving forward. And instead of it having a war two sides right. And left, let's try to fix the problem and fix our hearts in that way.

MIKE SPEAR

You know, if, if we go, we'll see if society goes for it. But if we do as a whole, I think it's an opportunity to create something that will make everybody happier versus having only worked for one side or the other.

JESSICA MURREY

Yeah. Because I have family members that are police officers and wonderful people and, you know, I'm, and I believe that the cops, the good cops that I know would probably appreciate more training in areas where they feel like they need it. And you know, like you said, like having a more defined scope of work, but they can do what they truly signed up to be a cop to do and to protect the community. I mean, that's what it comes down to. Right. Great. Cops want to protect people. And so like how do we give them the tools to do that?

MIKE SPEAR

And if we can align what it is with what the intent is of these people that sign up to serve, how can that not be a positive thing? Yeah. But what, what would you recommend people who are hearing this do themselves and they're in their communities at a no regulatory legal level to get involved. And if you have any that are top of minds, you know, what are some organizations to look at to help them do that?

JESSICA MURREY

I think it's so important to really seek to understand right now, two get educated on the history of things, the history of racism in this country, the history of police and system, starting to understand systems more and all that, both from like you're saying from like, it's a whole, it's a whole thing. It's housing affects health and the effects, you know, education affects police. Like these are all things that are, that are more holistic and are good to look into it. And so maybe you're not passionate about stuff around police, but maybe you're passionate about education. Maybe you're passionate about health. There are things in your community that you can look to try to champion that you are passionate about. And you have something to say. And even if it's creating space, even if you don't have something to say, right, it's creating space for somebody else of color to present their ideas.

I think that's huge. And that's important. I think having conversations with your friends who maybe just don't understand what's going on, don't understand why black lives matter, like why the terminology, you know, that like having those conversations are really important. A lot of the black community is they're tired. They don't want to have to relive their trauma. And so if you can get educated yourself and then be able to speak to it intelligently, that's being an ally and that's, and that's huge, you know, going back to your work and creating, you know, looking, you know, starting to ask questions, I'm seeing this within my own organization of how do we get more people of color and our leadership, how do we get more of a, their office? That kind of stuff is a great way to be a champion. I'm seeing a lot of people ask things like how do I raise anti-racist kids?

That's huge. You know, if you're a parent and started having these conversations around race. What happens is these kids of color end up being ignored and unseen. And so it's really important to, to acknowledge differences, but celebrate them. This is part of what we're doing with our interactive story game with wicked saints is we're not targeting kids. We're targeting teens and college students, but giving young people a way to practice being in these situations and practice what to actually do, and then experience those consequences in a really safe place. And then you're given things to do in real life. And so that's very much of what we're about. We want to tackle things like racism and xenophobia, and, you know, bullying goes both ways. Like a lot of Trump's supporters are being bullied right now. And so, you know, creating a nonpolitical space just to look at problems and look at issues and train young people and empower them and how to deal with conflict and how to deal with difference in a positive, constructive way that instead of trying to defeat the other side, like, think about how they can make them allies, but those are the dynamics within the game.

JESSICA MURREY

And so, you know, we're all trying to do our best right now with what we have to address the situation. And I think at the end of the day, it really comes down to being a welcoming space where it's safe for everybody to come. You know, whether you have questions, whether you're trying to find answers, whatever it is allowing, giving people that space to learn and to grow without fear of being mocked or being shamed but just celebrated for their willingness to grow and to, and to understand and to learn.

MIKE SPEAR

Very well said.

JESSICA MURREY: Thanks Mike.

MIKE SPEAR

OUTRO

HOST – NARRATOR

That wraps up our episode for today. Thanks again to our guest, Jessica Murrey, and thank you for listening. You can find more information about the show by going to our website, CauseandPurpose.com. We’ll include some additional context, show notes, and links to ways you can become an even bigger part of the solution.

We hope you’ll join us for our next episode with our guest Carla Fernandez. Carla is a dynamic leader and social entrepreneur. She’s been the creative force behind several famous cause marketing campaigns, and is the co-founder of The Dinner Party, an innovative nonprofit working to transform life after loss from an isolated experience to one marked by candid conversations and community support.

As you just heard, we need each other more than ever right now. And Carla’s work at The Dinner Party is a great follow-up to the conversation we had here today. We hope you’ll join us.

Cause and Purpose is production of Moonshot.co. On behalf of myself, Jessica Murrey and our entire team, thank you for listening and we look forward to speaking with you again soon.

[END]

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More about

Jessica

:

Jessica Murrey is an Emmy-Award winning storyteller and Racial Justice/Common Ground Activist. For the last seven years, Jess has worked as an international peacebuilder for the world's largest dedicated conflict resolution NGO, Search for Common Ground. She's trained young peacebuilders and activists in some of the most hostile places on earth in a methodology she’s developed for social change communication, messaging, storytelling, and gameplay that shift attitudes and behavior. Jess is the CEO and Co-founder of W!CKED SAiNTS Studios, a behavioral technology company that makes story games that are wickedly fun and actively good.

Credits:

Cause & Purpose is a production of Moonshot.co
Postproduction by Lisa Gray of Sound Mind Productions
Original Music by Justin Klump of Podcast Music and Sound
Image Credit: W!cked Saints Studios

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