Be A Good Ancestor with Stacey Abrams

Published October 12, 2018.

Aminatou: Welcome to Call Your Girlfriend. Ann: A podcast for long-distance besties everywhere. Aminatou: I'm Aminatou Sow. Ann: And I'm Ann Friedman. Aminatou: You and I, we're a little down today. I feel like a lot of people are also down and feeling defeated. It's okay to take some time out and to feel like you need time to recharge because there are actually people who do the work day-in and day-out and I got to talk to one of those people. Stacey Abrams is on the show today. Ann: Ugh, shero. Aminatou: Oh my god, shero. She is running for governor of Georgia and if she wins she's going to be the first black woman governor in America. [Theme Song] (1:38) Aminatou: Hi Ann Friedman. Ann: I would ask how you're doing over there but . . . Aminatou: I mean you can hear it in my voice, it's going. [Laughs] That's how I'm doing. Ann: Yeah. Yes. That is also how I feel and it's going is basically how I feel. [Laughs] Aminatou: It's going. Well let's do some announcements. Ann: Oh, great idea. Aminatou: We are hitting the road very soon to go on tour for Call Your Girlfriend. Ann: Wait, what? Aminatou: The podcast that you're listening to right now. We're going on the Shine Theory tour. Tickets are on sale at Be a good friend and tell your friends about it and we can't wait to see you on the road. Ann: Oh god, it's so true. Also we can't sell all these tickets with our listeners alone. We need our listeners to evangelize and bring a buddy. That is God's honest truth. Aminatou: That's right. That's right. Ann: So evangelize a little bit and bring a friend, especially if you are feeling like we're feeling now. I feel like it's going to be . . . I'm actually getting more excited by the day to be in a room with a bunch of people who are really grappling with what is happening in this moment. Aminatou: Can't wait. [Laughs] Another announcement is that this is a great time to get your flu shot. Millennials apparently are not getting flu shots. Don't be a disgusting person. Get a flu shot. It is better for all of us, and set an example. Be a good citizen. Get your flu shot. Ann: Vaccination. Put your beliefs about vaccination into practice. Aminatou: I know! Ann: Do we have other announcements? I mean it's right around now is all the voter registration deadlines. That's an important announcement. Some of them will have already passed by the time you're listening to this but in a lot of states now is the time that you need to be signed up if you are going to be voting in the midterms which duh, you should obviously be voting in these upcoming elections. Aminatou: Right. Ann: So that's an important piece of business. Aminatou: And also this is a good time to start making a voting day plan with all your friends. It's such a more useful question to say like "How and when are you voting?" rather than "Are you voting at all?" And so if you have friends in the neighborhood, are you all going to walk together? Are you doing it before work? After work? Make a plan now because we are less than 40 days away. (4:00) Ann: And also if you vote by mail which is what Gina and I are doing in California because we're going to be on the road for this tour fill in the ballot and get it in right away. Don't wait for the deadline for vote by mail. Do it early. Do it often. I sometimes like to even get together with friends and fill out the vote by mail ballot so you can talk about the issues in real time. Love that. So if you are not a vote on election day kind of person you can still plan this and take care of it. Aminatou: Perfect. Ann: That's actually a really good segue to today's show. Aminatou: Whew, what are we mad about today? Ann: We're mad about everything. Like there is nothing I am not mad about right now. Aminatou: [Laughs] Ann: But also mad and sad in alternating waves, so yeah. Aminatou: I mean we now have like two predators on the Supreme Court of the United States. Ann: Yeah, what percentage predator is that? What's two divided by nine? [Laughs] I'm doing the math on my calculator right now. Aminatou: It's 22%, girl. Ann: Our Supreme Court is 22% predator right now. Like that is a real . . . Aminatou: That we know. That we know. Ann: It's true. 22% confirmed predator. Maybe we can put it that way, like publicly confirmed predator. Aminatou: Yeah, publicly confirmed predator. I'm so mad about this. I'm so mad about it. During the entire Kavanaugh confirmation you have women pulling out all of their pain receipts. We relive this every time we're in this moment when a powerful man is accused of assault, women share their stories, it is deeply painful, and in moments like this we're made to feel that it doesn't matter. But I'm resisting that. Telling our stories matters a lot. Dr. Ford coming forward and telling her story changed the world and I'm really clinging on to the fact that the truth is our light and whether it is in our lifetimes or not we are going to be vindicated. (5:55) Ann: Yeah, and I mean I think that last part of what you just said, the whether or not it's in our lifetimes, I think that part of it is what I am really coming to terms with. The enormity of how long it's going to take to undo the damage that has been done and is currently being done. And I think I'm really -- I'm trying to live in a place of lots of different things happening at different levels so like, you know, I hope that everyone who came forward and told a story about their trauma is really feeling the benefits as you say of letting in some light and the truth and not feeling the horrible smack in the face that is this predator getting confirmed to the Supreme Court anyway. You know, I know these things are not distinct things that happen, it's one or the other; like it's usually both and. I'm really trying to live in the long game is what I'm trying to say. Aminatou: Did you read the Michelle Alexander op-ed in the New York Times a couple of weeks ago? Ann: I did. Aminatou: The We Are Not the Resistance. The point she makes that we are not the ones pushing against change, you know? The presidency and this moment, they're the ones that are getting left behind, and they're the resistance. The country is actually changing. I alternate between believing and not believing that but I am clinging onto it because it really does feel that way in these moments where you have mass protest. We're like wow, the country is here. Why do our elites and the people in power not get that? And I mean you know why they don't get it. Ann: Yeah, and you know, I'm glad that you brought this up because this column which thank goddess for Michelle Alexander as a New York Times op-ed columnist but she points out a thing that I thought about a lot just after the election that I'd kind of forgotten about which is that resistance by nature is a reactive state of mind and it's not about . . . like if you were kind of adopting the posture of resistance it's like how do we resist this horrible nomination? How do we resist this policy that is imprisoning immigrant kids? How do we resist this policy that is marginalizing trans people even further? Instead of being like how do we push for the world that we want to see? And maybe because I'm an obsessive words person this really matters to me and the distinction when it comes time to take action is not that important but this is one of those points that I think I'm so grateful to her for bringing up again. Like it's not just resisting to or reacting to the things that all of these people are doing in power; it's saying okay, how are we actively building the world that we want to see? (8:42) Aminatou: Exactly. And she also writes so eloquently about the -- like it centers it in American history when she says the whole of American history can be described as a struggle between those who truly embrace the revolutionary idea of freedom, equality, and justice for all and those who resisted it. And Rebecca Traister writes a lot about this in her book actually, in Good and Mad, about how the founders' fury, that scene is revolutionary and the rest of us who we actually did believe those words and we want it to apply to us, we're seen as these counter-cultural forces. Ann: Agitators, yeah. Aminatou: Yes, agitators. There was something about that that made me feel better because it does make you feel a little, you know, I don't know, dispossessed? I just cannot imagine that the entire country is like a basket of deplorables, you know what I mean? Ann: Right. Aminatou: Like I don't feel that in my life and I don't believe that even though that's how it bears out in elections time and time again. [Laughs] Ann: Right. (9:45) Aminatou: It is worth remembering that we're ruled by this tyranny of the minority. So that feels good. The reminder about time to -- you're right, what Gina calls geological time of change. Ann: Get yourself a producer that thinks in geologic time. [Laughs] Aminatou: I know! You know, it's so real. Like before we logged on I was talking to you about suffrage and how long the battle for suffrage took, right? And just how all these women who signed up to fight for suffrage, none of them lived to see the 19th amendment be ratified. And then if you think about the 90 years that it took to do that into the voting rights act, that's another what, 40? 50 years? And so that's very humbling to me because, I don't know, I want instant gratification now. I be out here protesting. I want results now. Ann: [Laughs] Who doesn't? You're a human being. Yeah. Aminatou: Right? Yeah. I want results now. I just gave you my Saturday. Results! [Laughter] And it turns out that that's not how protest works. That's not how freedom works. That's not how -- you know, that's not how any of this works. And also probably our whole . . . like freedom is also not a static state, you know? We're always going to want more and need more and I think what I am really feeling is this dread of oh, this is a perpetual state of being, this rinse/repeat protest situation. Ann: Yeah. I interviewed Alicia Garza last year and she did not use this exact metaphor but she talked about how things really shifted for her -- I'm sorry, Alicia Garza is one of the co-founders of the Black Lives Matter movement and a long, long-time organizer on multiple different causes and levels, like interlocking oppression. She's unlocking them all, right? And her thing is like I really saw a shift in how I thought about what progress is or what meaningful action is when I thought about myself as one step in this really long chain of people working for change over generations. And so my goal is not make the world that I want to see in my lifetime; my goal is make sure that I'm upholding the kind of relay race that is going on through time, and that is my role, to keep going and carry this forward to the next person and the next person. And I've picked up this baton from Grace Lee Boggs or other civil rights leaders who were not alive in my lifetime but I know that I'm part of this chain. And I feel emotional even just like recounting it but I think that that is the frame. That's the only frame to get up and keep doing this. (12:25) Aminatou: Right. It's like being a feminist and being an activist means that you've got to be a good ancestor, you know? Ann: Right? Oh my god, I love that. Be a good ancestor. Aminatou: I did not make that up. Hold on. I'll quote it exactly. Ann: I was about to be how are you so brilliant off the cuff? Aminatou: I did not make that up. It's from this Marian Wright Edelman quote where she says "Be a good ancestor. Stand for something bigger than yourself. Add value to the earth during your sojourn." That like, you know . . . that shit is real. Ann: [Laughs] Aminatou: It is real to say stand up for something that you might not reap the benefits of but you're doing it for the people who come after you. Like that's real. Ann: Right. So yeah, there's the long game, and I think too there are short game things that are part of the long game. This is why we harp on things like midterm elections or like writing your representatives. And so yeah, so it all fits together. It's like, you know, if you don't get out to vote in this midterm is it the end of the long game? No, but also why would you sit out this important moment in the relay race, you know? [Laughs] Aminatou: So everything is not lost. We're a little -- you and I, we're a little down today. I feel like a lot of people are also down and feeling defeated. It's okay to take some time out and to feel like you need time to recharge because there are actually people who do the work day in and day out and I got to talk to one of those people. Stacey Abrams is on the show today. Ann: Ugh, shero. (14:00) Aminatou: Oh my god, shero. She is running for governor of Georgia and if she wins she's going to be the first black woman governor in America. 2018, we're still having these firsts. So she is like a relentless force of positivity and goodness and she is just really grounded in her own story and the history of America and she is ambitious. She is qualified. I don't . . . if you have never heard Stacey Abrams speak before you are in for a treat and I hope that after you listen to her talk you will reach out to the people that you know in Georgia to help out because guess what? We all know somebody from Georgia. Thank you Atlanta. It's true. Ann: Board the train. Follow her on social media which is something I do not regret doing. Send her a little cash. Send her some support. Yes. Aminatou: Here's Stacey. [Interview Starts] Aminatou: Hello Stacey Abrams. Thank you for coming on Call Your Girlfriend. Stacey: It is my honor. Thanks for having me. Aminatou: You are running a really tough race and you're kicking ass right now. This is exciting. Stacey: [Laughs] Thank you. I'm very happy. We have a lot of work to do and I am cautious but optimistic that we are headed in the right direction. We just have to make sure everybody remembers I can only do so much. We need people to actually come out and vote. Aminatou: You know, it's not lost on me that you are poised to become the first woman -- the first African-American governor. That historically is very heavy. How do you feel about that? Stacey: It's a deep honor and I start there. Being positioned to open doors for others to be the first but not the last to change what the face of leadership looks like, but it's also an opportunity to talk about the barriers that a lot of us face, to push through conversations that are sometimes considered awkward or uncomfortable or not necessary. And by being able to lean on this moment of history I can raise conversations about money, about family, about challenges that we face with our siblings and our communities that a lot of others either haven't experienced or haven't felt comfortable talking about. (16:28) Aminatou: You talk a lot about your family and your personal biography and how so much of your political beliefs are rooted in that which I wonder if you could tell us exactly how they come into play in your politics. Stacey: So I'm the second of six kids. My mom and my dad are both originally from Hattiesburg, Mississippi where they were both very involved in the civil rights movement but were both very poor. I mean my dad likes to say he was from the wrong side of the tracks; my mom was from the wrong side of the wrong side of the tracks. Aminatou: [Laughs] Stacey: And so they were both sort of in that space of not having a lot. My mother's family was really much more destitute. My father's family actually did okay. His parents worked for the college in the community but they were always on the edge. They weren't the traditional -- they were black lower middle class, not middle class middle class. And I think part of that led to my parents' very deep commitment to education because they knew education was transformative but it was also about making sure that we understood that we were responsible for those around us, that service was critical. And when I talk about why I'm doing what I do, you know, I'm always brought back to how I was raised that this is what you do. (17:50) But the reality is incredible parents and opportunity does not diminish the struggles. My parents were working poor. Our family was. My mom was a college librarian who sometimes made less money than the janitor who cleaned the college. My dad is dyslexic and wasn't able to get a job in an office even though he had a college degree from a very good college in Mississippi and so they still struggled. My younger brother is an amazing man and he is part of five brothers and sisters who -- there are six of us altogether who've had real successes but he struggles with drug addiction and with mental health issues and with incarceration. I have been responsible for my family's finances. My mom and my dad are Methodist ministers now who my mom lost her church in Hurricane Katrina or at least it was damaged and they couldn't pay her a full salary and so I've been financially responsible for my parents since 2005. Aminatou: Wow. Stacey: And all of these things are things that are internal and personal and private but when I decided to run for governor I asked my family for permission to tell their stories because you want a governor who understands why criminal justice reform and prisoner reentry is so important. You want a governor who understands that the stigma attached to mental health is unnecessary and my brother's not a bad person and he isn't crazy. There's this notion and narrative in our communities that it's yes or no as opposed to there's a spectrum of challenge that we should address and that mental health is just as important as your physical health and that personal finances and personal debt are not a signal of irresponsibility; it's a signal of capacity and challenges and responsibility. Aminatou: Right, like I saw a couple of attack ads or whatever that were really hitting you on the fact you have student debt. And I thought about that where I was like oh, actually I wish more politicians would talk about the fact they are in debt. You are somebody who has a tremendous amount of education so it's not an accident that you have student debt. (20:00) Stacey: Absolutely not. I've been fortunate to attend some incredible schools. I went to Spelman College. I went to the University of Texas at Austin. I went to Yale Law School. Extraordinary schools and none of them were cheap. Texas was probably the least-expensive because I was on a fellowship but even then I had financial obligations that meant that I worked. I worked in college. I worked in grad school. I worked in law school. And I'd never seen that as an issue; it's just part of what you do. But student debt can be crippling. I've been able to manage it but there are so many who can't and I want to be the governor who understands that we need debt-free college so that people can actually not only take advantage of education but they're not afraid of it, they aren't scared away from it. Or they don't make bad choices about the kinds of education they get because they don't want to go into debt. Aminatou: Hmm. I finished reading your book Minority Leader and it's great and one of the things I think that really sets it apart from this other kind of leadership book from somebody who's running for office is usually this kind of advice comes from people who are really privileged and so sometimes the advice feels not relatable or it's not lost on you that this person had way more power than you. But I was wondering if you could speak to why you wanted to write this book specifically. Stacey: I started out writing what I was thinking of as the leadership book. I was giving speeches and talks and having conversations with folks who saw where I was positioned. They saw that I was a minority leader, that I was a business leader. I was doing good things in the civics space and I was giving advice so I thought I might as well write it down. (21:48) And so the original goal was to write a leadership book but my agent said you're going to have to tell your own story because people aren't going to just hear this advice if they don't have context. And, you know, what's been very different about my experience running for office is I'm much more private than this campaign has allowed and so sort of my first foray into being more open was writing Minority Leader because my agent was right, there's no -- my agent and my editor. There's no way to tell someone how to overcome barriers if you can't acknowledge the reality of those barriers. So there's a whole chapter on money because for those of us who are not to the manor born money plays a big part in everything. It has been used by some as a reason for me not to know, that my ambition is not permissible until I am financially independent. And for a lot of us financial independence will only come when we have good leaders who understand the challenges. And even the very notion of ambition. There are a lot of folks who push back on the bigness of my goals. There's a more precise term but really that's what they're chafing at. And for me I wanted to write about it, about how we dare to want to be more. But for those of us who do not come from privilege we've got to work at it, and it's not just working at it to have it; it's working at it to figure out how to get it. And that's why the book is really designed to walk you through exercises, probably the only memoir that comes with homework because I want people . . . [Laughs] Aminatou: A lot of homework but very good homework. Stacey: But yeah, the point is I don't want people to simply read about my story and think oh, that's wonderful but it doesn't matter to me or it doesn't relate to my life. I want people to know this is replicable. I'm not special in this way. I've got extraordinary parents and I've had an amazing life but there are real concrete things that you can do to harness your own capacity. And I think the best kind of leadership is leadership that says "I want more of you to join me, not hold me up and see me as special because I've done this." It's "Hold me up and use me as a beacon so you can get here too because I want company." (24:00) Aminatou: I love that. You talk a lot about this idea that, you know, being an outsider is not a permanent impediment to success and it's really -- like 1) it's really fascinating to think about you as somebody who is seen as a political outsider but is, you know, you've actually infiltrated this world and you're doing really well. And I'm keeping every finger and toe crossed that, you know, we will get to the other side of this. But I'm curious about how you feel about that term outsider because I think for so many of us that is the first barrier and it is the strongest barrier to entry. Stacey: It is disingenuous for those of us who are not part of the normative understanding of American experience to say we're not outsiders. Essentially everything we see, everything we do pivots around the white male experience. For good or ill there's no value judgment, it just is. They get credit for creating the US. They get credit for lots of things and so everything begins there. It is the one community that is judged independently of each other, not always a collective experience. That said I don't think it's good or bad and we often stop and start the conversation there and that's irrelevant to me. I believe in acknowledging what is and then figuring out what can be. And so this is what is, therefore the rest of us for conversations of power, conversations of access, we don't start there therefore we are on the outside of that thing. But that's okay because then the next conversation is how do we still get what they've got? Because what they have is opportunity. What they have is success. And not everyone who has that phenotype has that, but the reality is regardless of whether the barrier or the obstacle is based on race or gender or sexual orientation or region or language, yeah, it's going to be hard but if you . . . there are ways to circumvent it. There are ways, sort of guerilla-style warfare, to undermine what is. I see it as a beginning so I understand the landscape but the goal then is to figure out okay, how do you chart your own course? Unless we acknowledge where we start then we spend all of our time fighting against shadows instead of building what we want. (26:25) Aminatou: How do you not get completely beat down every day by this though? Stacey: [Laughs] Because you get beaten down when you are fighting -- shadow boxing is exhausting because you're flailing and you're working and there is no progress. I have found that when you acknowledge it, acknowledging means you know it's there. Accepting it means there's no way around it. I don't accept anything. I acknowledge everything. So I acknowledge that I am not seen as the person folks would pick out of a lineup for who would be the next governor of Georgia and in fact there are a lot of folks who did not see this as my opportunity. I acknowledged that, and if I'd stopped there, if I'd accepted it, then I would still be the Democratic leader in the house hopeful that in the next 10 to 20 years something would change. But by acknowledging it it meant that I then knew I would have to cultivate different types of relationships and different types of support, that I couldn't go to the powers that be to get what I needed, which is why I built a cadre of folks, young people that I've worked with for the past decade. I did that work in a different way. When I wasn't able to get capital for my small business when my business partner and I lost our business we acknowledged that one of the challenges we had was that men weren't going to loan us that money because they didn't understand women doing manufacturing so we created a new company, a [0:27:53] company, so that we could get money to women and people of color who could not have it. We'd actually do it for everybody but we have an incredibly strong presence for women and people of color who need access to capital. (28:05) I acknowledged the barrier but then we went around it and we created our own entity that solved the problem that others wouldn't solve for us and we've now created a strong and thriving business that's helped create or retain thousands of jobs because of that. And we can do that in every facet of our lives: business, politics, personal lives. It's about acknowledging what is and then finding your way to get around it or get through it. Aminatou: I love that. [Music and Ads] (32:38) Aminatou: Obviously you've spoken about this a lot and black women in all industries talk about this all the time about just how much harder we have to work to succeed. I love the way that you have framed it as the fact that your mission is to become the rule instead of the exception. Stacey: Yep. Aminatou: To lean into that part of yourself. Stacey: And that again goes back to deciding that the normative experience may be what we have now but we can write a new story. That's the other piece. I accept history. My parents both studied African-American history. My dad actually did his bachelors in history. I love understanding history, but history is what happened. We can create the next set of stories. And for women and women of color in particular and for black women specifically we are responsible always for telling our story and there's a moment that's happening right now and you can see it with Ayanna Pressley but you can also see it with Barbara Lee who is thinking about running for leadership in Congress. You can see it with folks across this country who are realizing that we can write our own narratives and that as demography changes so too does history. And so let's start thinking about the history we want to tell. (33:58) I didn't just run for office. When I became Democratic leader I hired people who did not look like those who'd come before me. I had the most diverse office. In fact one of my colleagues, a Republican, once commented "I know who works for you." And he was saying it kind of tongue-in-cheek. And he said "Yeah, it looks like the model UN" and I'm like that's a great thing. Aminatou: Yes. [Laughs] Stacey: I had a Palestinian woman who was my executive assistant. My chief of staff was African-American. The head of my constituent services was Latino. Head of communications was Korean. These are important things because I need people to see what opportunity looks like. It's not enough to talk about it. But then the next step, especially for women of color who've attained any degree of power even if not a lot, small things like changing what leadership looks like. Also changing what staffing looks like. Those are things we can do and I want to be the rule. I want people to think yes, I've got to do this. I've got to use my small -- Atlas said "Give me a place to stand and I can rule the world." I want every one of us to believe the small place where we stand allows us to dramatically alter what is because we can make the decision of who we hire. We can make the decision of who we -- if you're a candidate, who you hire as your consultant or campaign manager. We can decide to shop in a different place than we used to, that we're going to be the person who tries this new thing and as much as we complain we are responsible for writing that new story. Aminatou: Speaking of writing you have -- I feel like you've had a million jobs but you are also . . . you've written like eight romance novels. Stacey: I have indeed. Aminatou: And they're very sexy I will say. [Laughs] And so first of all more romance novelists should run for office. That's just a thing. So your pseudonym is Selena Montgomery for anyone who wants to check it out. Stacey: It is. Aminatou: I'm just wondering if you can tell us a bit more about how writing specifically, and also maybe writing romance novels specifically, how that has been helpful to you as you're running for office right now. (36:10) Stacey: Running for office is about telling voters a story about what's possible. That's essentially it. People want to know if they elect you, if they hire you, what will be different. And that's a narrative. You're telling them a story. You're painting a picture. And so as a writer I try my best to paint the most vivid, real, and accessible picture possible. My romance novels were great practice. I mean telling love stories is as old as time and the romance genre is very, very well-populated. It is the most widely-read genre of book I believe in the world. That said I had to tell new stories. I had to tell stories for me about women of color. All my heroines are African-American, I have one that is African-American and Latina, but I wanted to tell stories that reflected things that I wanted to know about. So some -- I had a heroine who's an ethnobotanist and another who was a chemical physicist, one that was a grifter. So I like to explore the range. Aminatou: [Laughs] Stacey: I had a lawyer. And each of the books I really wanted to talk about issues that matter to me but part of storytelling is there are only a few actual stories to be told. The issue is how well do you tell it and do you tell it in a way that people feel that it's real and possible? And I want to put into context that yes, my books are romance novels. I am not 50 Shades of Grey, so anybody who thinks it's going to be that salacious you're going to be very disappointed but they are very . . . Aminatou: Right. (37:45) Stacey: They are very romantic and sexy. Aminatou: I mean I think people will not be disappointed. They're quite steamy. [Laughs] Stacey: Yes. Yes. But for me the storytelling piece is in how do you tell a story that has been told thousands of times a day and do it in a way that feels fresh and different? And for me that means excavating parts of my experience but also parts of other people that I know to figure out what are the impediments? I mean the notion of a romance novel, you meet, you dislike each other, you find ways to like each other, you fall in love, then you find ways to stay together. Politics, it's always about trying to make sure that when you are moving policy forward that people want what you have. They're going to disagree with how you get there but you want them to stay with you until you can get it done. And so sometimes it's much easier to do that with a heroine and a charismatic hero than it is in politics but I find writing to be a very effective way of crafting stories. And the same thing is true -- I mean look, I also write articles on tax policy and it's not nearly as sexy as my other novels but, you know, whether I'm writing about tax policy or writing memoir and leadership or writing romance for me it's about telling a story that makes people believe that there's something in it for them and that there's real possibility. Aminatou: Can you talk a little bit more about some of the specific policies that as governor of Georgia would have national repercussions if you win? Stacey: Governors are the leaders of the incubation of most social policy. Mass incarceration started with the governors of California. Stand your ground started with the governor of Florida. The erosion of the social safety net started with the governor of Wisconsin. And the one I point to here in Georgia is Jim Crowe never had a federal law, it was all state laws. And so I want to reverse-engineer what have often been terrible, horrific policies that have eroded the safety and capacity of our communities. I want to continue pushing criminal justice reform, decriminalizing being poor, treating juveniles as juveniles, but also improving the relationship we have with law enforcement because public safety and criminal justice reform go hand-in-hand. (40:10) I want to expand Medicaid in Georgia. We have the highest maternal mortality rate in the nation and if you're an African-American woman you are more likely to die giving birth or within the first year than any other place in the country. That's ridiculous. I want to tackle affordable housing conversations and education from cradle to career meaning once you get here we're responsible for you so I want early childhood learning, especially for those disadvantaged children who are often outside of our educational system until they start kindergarten and then they're so far behind they rarely catch up. And so let's talk about how we address education policies and not from this vantage point of "Oh, can we afford it?" but from the perspective that we can't afford not to. We either pay for it when they're young or we pay for it when they're older and I would much rather invest in a child's success than a young adult's incarceration. Aminatou: You know I think that for a lot of us who do not live in the south, like I will confess this about myself even though we are both UT alums -- I don't consider Texas the south though -- there is this very pernicious stereotype that liberal policy does not happen there or there's not big liberal leadership there and progressive leadership specifically. And 1) your campaign exposes that as a complete lie, you know? Which makes me really excited because we get to look at different places for models of progress and really for models of resistance and for resilience. And so I would love to hear you talk more about Georgia as a progressive leader. (41:45) Stacey: Absolutely. Georgia is one of the most diverse states in the nation and it's certainly the most diverse in the deep south. The deep south usually is comprised of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia. Florida and Georgia are southernish but they're so different in their ways the deep south is really those four core states. We are roughly 53% white non-Hispanic, 47% people of color, and that means there have been dramatic changes in how we think about what needs to happen. As a progressive leader I talk about criminal justice reform but I also talk about gun safety legislation. I grew up learning how to shoot. My Great Grandmother Moomoo taught me how to shoot a shotgun and I know that you can respect the second amendment and still believe in responsible gun ownership meaning background checks, eliminating access to assault rifles, waiting periods, and doing the things you need to do to make sure people are safe. I defend reproductive health. My parents are ministers and I grew up with a faith tradition that tells me that it is my responsibility to protect the vulnerable and to make certain that women have the right to protect their bodies and to make decisions about their lives. And that it is not the role of the state to intervene. I come from a place of -- you know, from a state and a community where faith traditions are very much embedded in how we think about possibility and that's why I'm such a bullish defender of the LGBTQ community. I'm an ally. I'm not a member of that community but I know that my rights as an African-American, as a woman, are not secure until I've secured the civil rights of all. And so there will be no stauncher a defender of LGBTQ writes in the governor's mansion than me. And the thing about it is Georgia is a huge state. We're the eighth largest state in the nation, the ninth largest economy, ten-and-a-half million people. We have the nation's largest airport. We are the number one place to film outside of L.A. in the US and we are -- we have the fourth largest port in the country. Those are things that affect everyone and so social policies matter but so do economic policies. That's why I'm pushing for Medicaid expansion, why I want to invest in small businesses, especially minority- and women-owned small businesses because those are the anchors of our community and we have to recognize that progressive policies mean not only talking about business but talking about economic mobility. That's why I want to do a childcare tax credit. That's why I want to do an earned income tax credit because poverty is economically inefficient. It is also immoral and it is a solvable problem in the deep south and if Georgia tackles this problem in a real and aggressive way we can lead the nation in how we address these issues. (44:35) Aminatou: What are concrete ways that those of us who are not in Georgia can help and to really bolster the campaign that you're running right now? Stacey: First of all I would love to have folks follow me on Twitter, on Instagram, on Snapchat, on Facebook. My handles are very simple, it's Stacey Abrams. Messaging matters. When people hear folks talking about my campaign they get excited and when they get excited they engage. And you may not realize it but almost everyone I've ever met knows somebody in Georgia so I need your help. Aminatou: This is accurate. [Laughs] Stacey: And if you don't know someone in Georgia I promise you you will come through our airport and you will meet someone there so please use your social media platform to talk about it. And it doesn't matter if you have 50 followers or 5,000 or 500,000. It matters when people hear about me, when they hear about my message. When they hear that other people believe it's possible it energizes their sense of the possible. Number two, I need folks to donate. We are running against an opponent who has spent millions of dollars trying to diminish my humanity, trying to suggest that because I want to make certain we don't have mass incarceration or the fact that I want women to control their reproductive choice that there's something outside of the mainstream and it's not outside the mainstream. It is very much the mainstream, but I've got to be able to compete with him but also run our campaign. And so contributions, no matter how much they are, they are extraordinarily important. (46:08) And then the third is we'd love to have folks who want to actually mobilize to help us. That means you can go to, you can send an email and we will tell you how you can volunteer for the campaign. And for anyone who wants to know more you can learn more about me and learn more about the campaign at And for those who want to read my book I do have a book that came out in April called Minority Leader: Leading From the Outside and Creating Real Change. We'd love to have your support there too. Aminatou: On the hardest day of the campaign when you're just like "I need to be hiding in a hole, I can't believe I'm doing this, these people don't fucking deserve me," who are the people that you call? Stacey: I call my siblings. I have an amazing network. My brothers and sisters are extraordinary. My parents are amazing people. My dad and my mom are 69 and they actually brought a caravan from Mississippi to Georgia to go knock on doors for me a few months ago when I wasn't there. I was traveling to another part of the state and they wanted to do it. I have some incredible friends that I've had for years who know me and know why I'm doing this. And then I have a lot of fictional friends I like. I watch a lot of television and I read a lot of books. [Laughs] Aminatou: Ooh, what are you watching on TV right now? Stacey: So The Good Place is back and it's one of my favorite shows. Aminatou: Yes. Stacey: I love Supernatural and Blackish and I watch a lot of syndicated shows, so I've cycled through Leverage which is one of my favorite shows on syndication and now I'm watching Burn Notice again because I like the sort of Robin Hood notions that those shows do. And then my brothers and sisters and I, we have a book club, so I picked the book for the month. It's called Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse and so we're reading that. Yeah, those are things that help ground me and keep me sane and help remind me why I'm doing what I do. (48:05) Aminatou: Now I'm going to ask you the very hard question that we ask every politician that comes on the show. Stacey: Okay. Aminatou: It's the make-or-break question. Stacey: Okay. Aminatou: What is your favorite snack? Stacey: I love Pringles. Aminatou: Oh wow. You know we've never gotten a Pringles answer before. What flavor? Stacey: Yes. There is a flavor that apparently no one else notices but me, it's cheddar and sour cream and onion. Aminatou: What? Stacey: And so it's in a light -- yeah, it's in a light blue tube but yeah, it's cheddar sour cream and onion. It's so tasty. And it's a combination of all the best flavors in the very nice, stackable Pringles. That is my go-to snack. I love Pringles. My doctor is hearing this and having a bit of a conniption but I don't care because Pringles are awesome. Aminatou: [Laughs] The doctor can handle it. Stacey: Yes. Aminatou: Once you're president of the universe . . . Stacey: There you go. Aminatou: You can deal with that. Stacey, thank you so much for joining us today. I'm so glad that you make room for women to talk about their ambition in this very unapologetic kind of way and that you make room for people to not have shame about their stories and be very authentic and we're rooting for you. You can come back any time and we're really looking forward to watching you run this race. Stacey: You are amazing. Thank you so much for having me and it has been my honor and my delight. [Interview Ends] Ann: Oh my god, thank you Stacey. Aminatou: Right? Stacey. Stacey for president of the galaxy please. I don't know why they're running her for governor, it's not enough. We need her for everything. It's just really cool to know that our bench is deep and is good. There are so many people to show up for in the midterms that you can be really excited about to represent you around the country. (49:52) Ann: Right. Like if you don't think there is a lot to be excited about in terms of the pipeline then you are not paying attention. This is -- Stacey is one of a drove of really impressive incredible women who I really hope we elect in a couple months. In a couple months? Oh my god, in one month. Aminatou: In one month. Fingers crossed. If you're listening to this get a flu shot, triple-check that you're registered to vote, and ask your friends what their election day plan is. Ann: I love that. Yeah, and support Stacey and someone else like her. Pick a few candidates you want to really get behind. Relay race it. Be a good ancestor. Aminatou: Be a good ancestor. That's what we're going for now. Put it on the to-do list. Ann: Ugh, all right, I will . . . Aminatou: See you soon, boo-boo. Ann: I will see you IRL very soon and also on the Internet. Aminatou: I know, see you on the road. Bye! You can find us many places on the Internet, on our website, you can download the show anywhere you listen to your favs, or on Apple Podcasts where we would love it if you left us a review. You can email us at We're on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook at @callyrgf. You can even leave us a short and sweet voicemail at 714-681-2943. That's 714-681-CYGF. Our theme song is by Robyn. Original music is composed by Carolyn Pennypacker Riggs. Our logos are by Kenesha Sneed. Our associate producer is Destry Maria Sibley. This podcast is produced by Gina Delvac.