Tiffany Cross on Roe, Resistance and What Comes Next

Please note: This transcript has been automatically generated.

Brittany Packnett Cunningham: Hey, y’all it’s Brittany. Well, I’m fully back into work mode since my leave. Like I’m back to doing all 5.11 of my jobs. And let me tell you, I have 5.11 them. But parenting, if you want and choose to do it is absolutely 10 outta 10 would recommend. Like it is very lit to have someone who just smiles at you, just because you’re there.

I really feel like I hung the moon every time he looks at me and giggles. He loves the way I sing Stevie Nick’s “Edge of Seventeen.” He gets very excited for our morning dance parties and is becoming quite excellent at being off of all of his oxygen support. He also loves to fart at inopportune times and clear the room, but that is a different topic for a different day.

These last three months he’s been home and I’ve been on leave have flown because I was having the absolute time of my life. The absolute, most sleepless, confounding, confusing, beautiful time of my life. But now that I’m back at work, all of my anxieties have set in. My friend asked me the other day if I feel like myself yet.

And I felt so relieved when she did, because I could finally look at somebody in the eye who wasn’t my therapist or my husband, and say, truthfully, no, I’m doing my best to prayerfully see this new adventure as an opportunity to become. And yet, I spent 37 years becoming the woman I am before I became a mom.

And well, I miss that chick. She was funny and well traveled and intense, and this knew me is fantastic. At least I think so. Cuz frankly, I don’t know her all the way yet. I feel wobbly. I feel foreign to myself, this body, this brain, I know I’ve been transformed. I just haven’t fully made sense of how yet. Suffice it to say I’m on a new journey.

And I thought it would be all about learning feeding habits and baby proofing and tummy time, but it’s actually about who I have to be in the world for him, for me, for my community. It’s about trying my damnedest to be that person with full clarity and without apology, I am UNDISTRACTED, and I hope you are too.

On the show today, I’ll be talking to my MSNBC colleague, Tiffany Cross about changing the narrative of fear around our liberation, the opportunities that the democratic party is leaving on the table, and what the work is now that Roe has been overturned. 

Tiffany Cross: Suburban white women can do organizing right in your community. I mean, that is grassroots organizing, cuz you’re talking to your friends, you’re talking to the grandmother who has questionable views. You’re talking to your sister-in-law, who, you know, says things like, well, they’re racists against whites, you know, like you have to disrupt some of these narratives and confront some of these ugly conversations because we do it all the time. And it might be uncomfortable, but we’ve been uncomfortable a long time.

Brittany: That’s coming up. But first it’s the news.

While millions of Americans were out barbecuing and shooting off fireworks last weekend, and apparently still today in my neighborhood, geez.  WNBA star Brittney Griner sat in a jail cell in Russia. Just like she has for the last 142 days, Griner was detained in Russia right the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine. She was arrested at the Moscow airport after being accused of having cannabis oil in her suitcase.

On Monday, she sent a handwritten plea for help, a request to not be forgotten to President Biden himself. Russian officials have ordered Griner to remain in custody until her trial, which began last week, plays out. Despite the U.S. charge that she’s been wrongfully detained, many people say that this will be a sham trial.

Her wife Cherelle says that she’s learned that Griner is transported to and from court in a very, very tiny cage. And that drive is around five hours. 

Cherelle Griner: She’s in a position where she could be harmed by any and everything I do. So, um, it’s a, it’s a thin line to walk in initially, you know, I was told we’re gonna try and handle this behind scenes and you know, let’s not raise her value and, you know, stay quiet.

And, you know, I did that and, and, and respectfully that does not work. 

Brittany: In Griner’s letter the basketball star pleads with the president to not forget her and other American detainees writing: Please do all you can to bring us. I voted for the first time in 2020 and I voted for you. I believe in you. I still have so much good to do with my freedom that you can help restore 

The U.S. government says it’s doing all it can to bring her home, but Cherelle doubts their claim, and she’s trying to bring as much visibility to the case as possible  So each of us can help with that. Keep Brittney’s name on your social feeds and in your conversations and visit to support the cause. Y’all know there’s no way LeBron James would still be languishing in that cell or even be forced to play overseas to begin with due to those misogynistic salary inequities WNBA stars face.

Brittney Griner, we see you. We have not forgotten you and we will not forget you. You have been deeply wronged. You deserve justice. And we are BG.

Y’all know it has been a very bleak few weeks in the judicial branch between the overturning of Roe v. Wade the court working to strip the Environmental Protection Agency of its power, and the loosening of gun laws. The Supreme Court has been on one. There’s been a lot of righteous noise about these high profile rulings, but I wanna draw our attention to a decision that may have gotten lost for some of us, but that has equally devastating implications. 

Last Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the state of Oklahoma in its bid to prosecute Victor Castro-Huerta for child neglect. Now Castro-Huerta is not indigenous, but the child he’s charged with neglecting is and lives on the Cherokee nation reservation.

What makes this ruling so significant is that in the past crimes like these have been handled by the federal government, not at the state level. An act of Congress is required to give states authority over anything on tribal land, but not anymore. According to the Supreme Court, by allowing the state to prosecute Castro-Huerta, the court is overturning nearly 200 years of tribal sovereignty.

According to legal scholar Mary Catherine Nael, who is a member of the Cherokee nation herself, quote, The court’s decision not only contradicts the plain language in the United States Constitution and prior court precedent, it also significantly jeopardizes the safety and welfare of native women and children who live on tribal lands. Nothing is more colonial and harmful than telling native women and children that they will not be protected by their own tribal nations, but rather must seek refuge in the courts of the states that have historically, and to this day sought to exterminate them. 

America has long failed to honor its treaty obligations with the original inhabitants and heirs to this land. And now they’re going for the most basic fundamental pieces. Tribal sovereignty can’t exist without judicial autonomy and without it we’re opening the door to a more colonial United States and a less free indigenous community.

Let’s end on a more hopeful note. Simone Biles, mental health warrior and gymnast extraordinaire, is being awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom today. An expert in history making and record setting herself, Biles is officially the youngest recipient ever of this esteemed honor. The award places her among legends like Diana Ross; Meryl Streep; Stevland Hardaway, aka, Stevie Wonder, the goat; and friend of the pod, Gloria Steinem. 

And it’s great that the government is saluting Biles and her resounding cultural impact. She deserves. The thing is, in the midst of all of this Biles, along with around a hundred other gymnasts have simultaneously been suing the FBI for its failure to properly investigate the U.S. gymnastic team’s former doctor Larry Nassar. Nassar was of course convicted of sexual assault and other charges after more than 200 gymnasts charged that he abused them. Biles and her teammates at USA Gymnastics alerted the FBI to the violence back in 2015, but that organization failed to act for over a year.

So we are incredibly happy for Simone Biles. We are also incredibly frustrated for her. The same government that acknowledges her with the highest possible civilian honor, also fails to vindicate her against the man who assaulted her and many other U.S. gymnasts. Let’s back up those honors with action and hold the FBI accountable

Coming up, I’ll be talking to the brilliant Tiffany Cross host of The Cross Connection on MSNBC right after this short break.

And we are back. So I would never trade my life pre-baby M for now. But you know, sometimes when you’re up in the middle of the night doing a feeding, you reminisce a little bit. And I often think about this vacation I went on last summer with some of my best girlfriends, the group chat capital G capital C, cuz everybody got one it’s a little bit ratchet and it’s a little bit political.

It’s a lot of bit encouraging and it’s always funny. And last July we got together in real life to talk and enjoy each other. 

Tiffany: The conversations we had were so soul warming, funny, and ratchet. And you need all three of those sometimes, you know, you need all three of those sometimes.

Brittany: That is my dear friend, Tiffany Cross, the host of The Cross Connection on MSNBC.

She was on that incredible trip and in those amazing conversations. 

Tiffany: And it was just joyful.

Brittany: It was.

Tiffany: And joy is an act of defiance in this space sometimes. And we need that, so. 

Brittany: I got to tap into that joy again last week when I talked to Tiffany at an event we at The Meteor held in Washington, DC in front of a real live audience, first time since the podcast started, and now I get to share it with you. Tiffany co-founded a must-read newsletter that I miss so much “The Beat DC” to track politics from a Black, Indigenous, person of color perspective. She’s been a DC bureau chief, a labor organizer, and a fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy school.

Her book Say it Louder! Black Voters, White narratives, and Saving Our Democracy was released in July of 2020, and could not have come at a more prescient time. 

Brittany: Thank you so much. Oh my God. We back outside. This is lovely. Thank you. So listen, like before we really dive into the heavy stuff, The Cross Connection has been on the air for over a year now.

You are breaking records. You are building a coalition of diverse voices that have never been seen together before on television. You have people’s group chats popping every time you post a picture because people text me and they’re like, do you know Tiffany Cross for real? Cuz she’s fine. Can you pass her my number?

Tiffany: And I’m like, why you ain’t pass the number though? 

Brittany: I gotta, I gotta vet ‘em, sis. I gotta vet ‘em. But my question truly is like, how does it feel to be the peoples champ?

Tiffany: Uh, well, thank you. Well, that means a lot coming from you, but first let me just say it’s so good to see you. 

Brittany: It’s good to see you. 

Tiffany: I’m just honored and humbled that somebody would think I’m the people’s champ. I mean, really, because I think the difference is a lot of us have been having these conversations for a very long time, but this is the first time our fellow countrymen are hearing a lot of these perspectives. 

I think there are a lot of folks in the rising majority who say, yeah, like you say, what I’m thinking, you know, this is what we talk about at my kitchen table and, you know, at the barbershop.

And so I take that responsibility very seriously. I’m also not trying to just reflect everyone’s outrage. I wanna make sure that we’re always informing as much as we are opining, because we’re gonna put journalism first. Uh, and I think coming out of the 2016 cycle where there was so much misinformation and intentional disinformation directed towards our community specifically, it had such credo because the mainstream news media outlets acted as though we didn’t exist.

So if the only time you saw rage about a 12-year-old child being shot by a police officer was in an internet meme. Or the only time you saw someone reflect your pain about Sandra Bland was in a Facebook post, then of course, that was gonna have more credo than a 24-hour news cycle who summarily dismissed our lived experience because they thought, man, Donald Trump was elected. I can’t. We gotta pay more attention to white people. And just completely dismissed. 

Brittany: Everybody wanted to read hillbilly LG and stuff. That was the new audience. 

Tiffany: Right. Exactly.

Brittany: Y’all know what I mean.

Tiffany: And so I’ve tried to unapologetically center voices of the rising majority because we are the global majority, the rising majority in the country.

And it’s not for, I’m quick to say, this is not a show for people of color. This is a show that centers people of color. And if we’re to have intellectual curiosity about our fellow countrymen, everybody ought tune in. This is the same way that I center Black voices, I do API voices, as well, Latino voices, and our Indigenous brothers and sisters, as well.

And we also have, you know, guests on who are not of color. But we are asking them questions that center the rising majority of the country. So, I take it as a serious responsibility. I’m grateful cuz they wouldn’t let me do it if nobody watched. So we’re the highest show on the weekend, which is great, a great honor and much like my sister Joy Reid was before me.

So I have big shoes to fill. I’m still climbing. 

Brittany: Okay, so let’s get into it. One of the things I appreciate that you’ve been doing on Cross Connection, especially as we’ve been seeing Supreme Court decision after decision is really contextualizing this and connecting the dots for people. Obviously, everybody in this room has the overturning of Roe v. Wade on their mind, especially one Renee Bracey Sherman.

Renee, you have been in the fight for a long time. You were the first one in front of the Supreme Court screaming and yelling and making sure that folks were getting it done. You can hear her this season on the podcast with Gloria Stein. I’m grateful to you for everything you’re doing. So I know this is on everybody’s mind.

One of the things you’ve been doing on your show, Tiffany, like I said, is to really connect the dots. So let’s step back from Roe, just for a second, and really tell us what kind of court we are looking at right now. Because this is not the kind of court we’ve always had in this country. 

Tiffany: Yeah. Well, we’re looking at a court where it was normalized and almost celebrated to have the Supreme Court nominee talk about how much he likes beer.

And to present himself as a victim and then to get a large following of millions of people to also champion his victimhood. It’s an activist court. They’re legislating from the bench. You know, I think part of my frustration and our collective frustration is we have first hand experience with what it looks like to have our rights denied.

It’s our birthright, as soon as we’re born we’re weaned on the knees of people who. My mother wasn’t born at a time where she could sit anywhere on the bus. This is very recent history for us. And so when we see these things happening in 2015, we are waving our hands in the air, hair on fire. Like, please stop. 

The danger in this court I believe is because people were very quick to celebrate Justice Kentanji Brown Jackson, praise the Lord. But she’s not changing the ideological makeup of the court. So. Really just going to be a voice of a woman who will routinely be overruled. When we talk about Roe, there’s many challenges there, but I also think we have to keep our eye on what’s coming.

This court will rule on how to decide election results. This court will rule on affirmative action issues. This court rule on death penalty issues. There’s a wide swath. It feels like, not to be not hopeful, but it feels like we’re witnessing in real time this serious finale of America. So when they said it’s a Republic if you can keep it.

To me, it looks like the answer is no, we cannot keep it. And I think that is what we’ve seen. It is the continuing dumbing down of the American electorate. And, you know, there are a lot of people who watch a network that I would consider a propaganda network. 

Brittany: Cuz it is.

Tiffany: Yes, but the fact that they are the number one rated cable news network that people tune into ought to give you the chills, because they’re not only cable news viewers, they’re active voters. And so you have this entire group of people, they have a network telling them they’re the victims. And they have a network telling them that a country they neither built nor discovered is theirs exclusively.

And they believe it inherently. And when we try to explain, hey, it’s not even you individually, we’re not even mad at you individually. We like the Jay-Z line. We’re not looking at you, we’re looking past you. This is systemic. Nobody’s attacking you. If y’all are losing, I promise we’re not winning. And so when we present this information to people in a way that is digestible, I’m intentional not to code switch on my show.

I don’t wanna sound like some, you know, high brow pedantic, academic, but just putting things in simple terms that people can understand, process, and be angry about. I’m not necessarily interested in debating with the ignorant, but I do want to inspire the less or under informed.

Brittany: So here we are five days from a decision that had been broadcast before it came, but they didn’t hurt any less once it got here, the decision to overturn Roe, of course, we know that there are states where it is still legal to get abortion care. We know that medical abortion is still available in the form of the abortion pill.

If you or anyone that you know is in need of abortion care, you need to visit  And if you or anyone you know is interested in making sure that people can get abortion care, you need to go to and put your money down and make sure that that can still happen. We know that my home state of Missouri decided to lead the pack in making sure that that trigger law went into effect right away. 

Obviously, Black women, brown women, Indigenous women, gender queer folks, poor folks, disabled people. We are going to get the brunt end of this stick, but walk us through what that means and looks like specifically. 

Tiffany:  Yeah, I would say to your point that we are overly policed and overly criminalized. An example of that before the ruling came down is a woman outside of Jackson, Mississippi who gave birth at home.

She had three children and was pregnant with a fourth and she gave birth at home and the baby was a stillborn and she was prosecuted. She was found not guilty, but for two years, she was entangled in a very unforgiving criminal justice system where they scrubbed her phone. And this was all legal. They looked at her phone to see if she had Googled plan B pill to see what her research was like.

This is an impoverished woman who didn’t want a fourth baby with three kids already at home and was being prosecuted by a legal system in Mississippi with some of the worst rates across child education, healthcare, et cetera, Black mortality rates. Exactly. 

And you know, I know people keep saying we’re in Gilead and you know, one of my producers made this really excellent point that we’ve been in Gilead before many of us come on, because when you talk about raping women, impregnating them, stealing their children.

Brittany: Say it.

Tiffany: Selling them off. 

Brittany: Say it. 

Tiffany: While you take care of somebody else’s kids, you know how deep down in your humanity you have to be as a woman and a mother to live and do that and not murder every single person in your sight?

Brittany: Come on.

Tiffany: That story has already been told through the enslaved woman. 

Brittany: Yeah.

Tiffany: And so, as we imagine this narrative, we know all too intimately this is not an imagined world. This is something that’s really gonna happen. And you’re going to start to see,  because even if you cross state lines to get to a safe haven, safe harbor. New York is leading the way on that as well.

You can still be prosecuted in your home state, number one. You can also face consequences. All these companies who are saying that they’re gonna provide abortion care. Well, whose campaign did you contribute to? Did you fund the campaigns of people who were leading on the state level or the federal level, abortion bands, number one. 

Number two. What does that look like for women? So I’ve now gotta go to my boss and explain that I’m pregnant and I need an abortion? Which is nobody’s business. And three, this still positions us to ask for permission to have an abortion. Can I please have time off to go get an abortion? So none of these solutions are really helpful and I think we have to start holding the private sector accountable because I’m telling you, they put a lot of these people in office. 

Brittany: They surely do. Amen and amen. Let’s talk about electoral justice to your point. We know that as people, thanks once again, to this Supreme Court, they’re so great that we have as people, even less power to have a say in who represents us, they’ve just done a number on voting rights. They’ve ok’d gerrymandering. What is the next step, right? 

Because we’re talking about the challenges that we know keep coming and then we hear from people vote. Now I wanna get into that messaging in a second, but like, what is the next step? Because it doesn’t actually seem like that voting booth has the power that we were promised it does. 

Tiffany: Yeah. That, so that’s the frustration. And that’s probably our biggest challenge. First I have to say, this is everybody’s responsibility, but this is also a young person’s game, you know, because young people have the most to lose here. And so when I look at some of the voting turnout numbers, it is frighteningly level. In the primaries from Georgia to Pennsylvania, et cetera.

I think, with all due respect to our president, he operates from a point of assuming that these are inherently good people. He operates from the Senate of 1975. We know all too well what these people are capable of. We have the blood of the ancestors and the bruises of our mothers to know these are not inherently good people.

And. I just thought of the mantra “when they go low, we go high.” It is really time to fight. That is organizing, that’s taking it to the streets, that’s showing up at offices, that’s making noise. That is, we’ll talk about voting, but it really is voting from the state level to the local level to the federal level. It’s organizing, it’s writing a check. A hundred dollars check if you can. 

But if everybody does something, nobody has to do a lot. And I ask that very question of everybody on my show, people at home are frustrated, what can they do? And the commonality that I hear from viewers and just, you know, people I meet is they’re exhausted and people who don’t start their mornings reading eight newspapers and, you know, watching three different cable news networks to see what’s happening.

They’re unplugged. Yeah, because they’re like, I’m just trying to keep my mortgage paid. And you guys said this every year: Is this the election that matters? This is one our lies on the line. We risk life and limb during COVID to go out and vote and we gave the federal government over to the Democrats and what have we gotten?

But there are things like a lot of people don’t know about the bipartisan infrastructure bill. But it’s like, if I can’t tangibly touch that in my life tomorrow, I feel disconnected from it. So a part of it is also making sure our fellow people are informed and sharing responsibly. 

Brittany: But okay there is, I would agree with you, an information gap.

There’s also a fight gap. Right? Because I find myself frustrated when the same solution I have is the same solution that an elected official has is if we have the same job. We don’t have the same job. I voted for you to do it. 

Right? What’s your plan? Right? And public servants derive their power from the people. Right?

So to your point, as the people, it is our job to make our will known. What then is the pathway to make sure that they hear us and then act on that? 

Tiffany: Well, you know, I did labor organizing for some years and it really was grassroots. But I think sometimes people think grassroots is, you know, in the rural areas or, you know, in the street corners. Grassroots is your community, suburban white women can do grassroots organizing right in your community.

Brittany: Say that one more time. 

Tiffany: Suburban white women can do organizing right in your community. I mean, that is grassroots organizing, cuz you’re talking to your friends, you’re talking the grandmother who has questionable views, you’re talking to your sister-in-law, who, you know, says things like, well, they’re racists against whites, you know, like, you have to disrupt some of these narratives and confront some of these ugly conversations because we do it all the time. And it might be uncomfortable, but we’ve been uncomfortable a long time.

So it’s time for everybody to get a little comfortable, making everybody uncomfortable, to make sure that we are taking an active role in this democracy. But I’m telling you, I think I think after November, after the midterms it’s gonna get real real for a lot of people.

Brittany: Say more.

Tiffany: Well, I’m concerned. I don’t think people understand enough about this midterm cycle outside the belt. The beltway is a little different. But I think outside this place. I spend a lot of time in New York and LA, and I’m telling you in LA, I mean, there are conversations I have where people are like it’s an election year, like, who’s running? Like, what are you?

Brittany: Oh, Yikes. 

Tiffany: Right. So information is a very big deal and making sure that people are aware of what’s happening. And, but people have there’s some responsibility too, but there are a lot of campaigns, the API community is the fastest growing community in the country. 

Brittany: That’s right. 

Tiffany: Very rarely do campaigns focus on the API community. For the first time Latino voters have eclipsed Black voters, not in terms of registered voters, but in eligible voters, but who’s talking to the Latino community and you hear Democrats saying I can appeal to those red state voters.

I can win those swing voters. It’s like, well, hey, how about you talk to me about how you can win me? Before worrying about how you can reach across the aisle to somebody whose opinion and interest go against my very humanity. And we don’t have that in the democratic party. And I think we need more of it.

Brittany: Amen. Yeah. On the other side of what we were just talking about, are there races, conversations that you’re excited about this cycle that you feel like can help set some better conditions? 

Tiffany: Well, I grew up in Atlanta, so I’m very focused on the four-time father Herschel Walker and Rafael Bock face off.

Brittany: That was shade. If you didn’t catch it. 

Tiffany: I’m very focused on Stacey Abrams and her race after what she did for this country. 

Brittany: That’s right. 

Tiffany: Very focused. I, you know, I think Val Demings has a rough time, but it’s Florida. You know, and so Marco Rubio, a Trump acolyte seems to maintain his lead in the polling, but you know, we’ll see.

But those two races are chief among them. Obviously, you know, a lot of the other folks are focused on Pennsylvania. And I think John Fetterman has a shot. But I think Georgia is important because it says something about the south. The south is only red until it ain’t. And it just takes people, enough people believing in us that we can do it because when you it’s, like, if you put in a group chat, hey, let’s everybody meet for drinks tonight at seven and then slowly but surely it’s like, oh, I can’t, I got the kids.

And then somebody else like, yeah, I can’t make it either. So well damn, y’all more in the whole vibe, you know, like now everybody nobody’s going, I’m not going either. That’s how it is in politics sometimes. Oh, well, he can’t win, so I’m not gonna donate. Yeah. I’m not gonna organize. I’m not gonna door knock.

And that kind of blows because if you believe and inspire enough then we are the majority in this country. None of these beliefs reflect the majority of Americans. So we’re angry enough and inspired enough, certainly we ought to be able to set this country back on its rightful course, I would argue.

But I just haven’t seen a lot of evidence of that. 

Brittany: One of the things we saw come out of really the last couple election cycles, right is the mantra “Listen to Black women.” And at first I was like, yeah, obviously, duh, we know America better than she knows herself. And we’ve been telling everyone what’s coming for a very long time.

And we heard that mantra, especially in 2020 when Georgia flipped and folks were thanking people like Stacey Abrams and our good girlfriend, LaTosha Brown and others. We heard that in the election cycle before. What does that mean exactly though, right now, especially given how quick folks are to say that and then not heed our warnings?

Tiffany: Very frustrating. I had a panel of white women on my show. I wanted to talk to only white women to talk about how we moved this country forward together to talk about why this particular voting block, the numbers show, you know, voted more for Trump the second time around. White women voters in Georgia, outpaced people to vote for Brian Kemp, an anti-abortion advocate.

So I wanted to have that conversation. And what Lucy Caldwell, one of our, my favorite guest was, she’s was a Republican now she’s libertarian, but she speaks very honest. So I just love having her on the show because she gives it to you straight, no chaser. And she said to me, honestly, Tiffany, it ain’t bad to be a white girl.

It doesn’t matter who’s in office, we’re gonna be alright. It’s’ everybody else who’s bad. And until we start thinking of ourselves, like everybody else it’s going to be a hard argument to make. I rock with her though cuz she was honest and it was very true. I was like, that is a very good point. 

This is all kind of abstract if you don’t have a direct, I mean, abortion is different, but all the other. Black Lives Matter policy, everybody was fine to put a Black Lives Matter sign in the window, but you wanna talk about changing policy? Wait, wait, wait.

Brittany: You’re talking about defunding the police, right? 

Tiffany: Yeah. Right and what that means and what that looks like.

So, you know, I think if we are to be each other’s allies it can’t just be an ally when it’s convenient or when it’s comfortable. It’s kind of like when something bad happens and you’re out in public and maybe some white person comes and they’re like, get out the way I’m in line before you, and then it happens and you’re standing there humiliated and angry.

And you know, like here we go again. And afterwards there are all these other white people who come up and they’re like, I just can’t believe what I saw that is inappropriate. And I don’t like it one bit. And it’s like, well, thank you. But really what you could have done is in the moment, say to that person, hey, we don’t tolerate that kind of behavior here. And you get outta here.

When you do it afterwards, it’s like, thank you for your empathy, but I want you in this fight with me side by side. When I look to my left and my right, I would’ve locked arms with you and know I got your back and you got mine. And again, I haven’t seen a lot of evidence of that.

I have personally in my life a time or two, but not by the masses. 

Brittany: She said a time or two.

Tiffany: I have, but not by the masses. And I think we need to see more. 

Brittany: Okay. So let’s keep pulling this thread though, it’s about to get sticky. Okay. 

Tiffany: Okay. So, let’s do it. 

Brittany: So sometimes when I see people shouting the phrase “Listen to Black women. Follow Black women.”

What I actually hear in their voice is “Listen to Black women, follow Black women because I expect them to do all the work. And therefore y’all like, y’all got it, you’re the geniuses. Please, come save us. Right? That was everybody’s favorite phrase. Are you noticing the same? 

Tiffany: I think with the abortion ruling that it’s been a little different, but I do think there are a lot of communities, not just white women, but I think because Black women have saved this democracy more times than I can remember, or recount here. That a lot of communities look to Black women to see how do we even do this? So there is a sect of people who are like I’m gonna sit back here and wait for y’all to fix this and then I’ll come back outside. But there are also people who are like, I don’t even know where to begin, but Black women seem to have it figured out. And what do I do? 

Those are the people, the people who are sitting there are a lost cause. Like I just, I, it’s not my ministry to talk to them. You know, it truly isn’t. But the people who are saying, I wanna be in this fight, I just don’t even know how to do it. I think those, there is an avenue there to create allyship there. But yeah, Black women, I think we save ourselves and everybody else benefits.

We’re not necessarily out here hanging American flags, it means something different for us, you know, but damn sure we’re the biggest patriots of the country, for sure.

Brittany: Yeah. Yeah. Okay. So I’m gonna get even stickier. 

Tiffany: Let’s do it.

Brittany: Sometimes as Black women, we can be vaulted to our own detriment.

Here’s what I mean by that. Our good sister, Ayanna Pressley says all the time, representation matters, but righteous representation is better. Right? And I don’t wanna operate in a world where only by virtue of my identity, am I supposed to be some kind of magical Negro that has figured it all out and therefore can teach everybody else, because I will tell you over the last six years, my politic has shifted greatly.

Partially because I’ve read a bunch of other Black women who I was wasn’t reading before, partially because I’ve been listening to a bunch of Black queer folks I didn’t know before. Right? Partially because I was listening to some revolutionary folks across the globe that I wasn’t familiar with before.

So what will it look like sister to sister for us to decide to continue to push our own politic and understanding and knowledge? 

Tiffany: So, you know, you and I have been in the fire together a time or two for expressing our sentiment. And when we have a certain idea, I think we are a similar mindset where we are not fearful of it.

There are a set of Black people who are so used to filtering their every thought and move through the filter of what white folks will allow that we can be perceived as ingrates and troublemaker. Where we have somehow penetrated our mind where it’s okay for gun rights advocates to unapologetically show up and militia and hold guns in, you know, their hands and over my dead body.

It’s okay for the Christian right to make a fuss about, you know, stem cell research. Evangelicals can go out and make these demands, but how dare you, Black folks? Go ask the good Mr. Charlie who’s been good to us for all this time. Let us sit, let us sit wherever you want on the bus and y’all expect to drive the bus now. 

And it’s hard to explain that to people outside the community. There are a group of Black people who feel that way, who are voters, who look at like, just shhh, don’t ask for all that. 

Brittany: Who are are fearful, right?

Tiffany: It’s fear. You can’t be mad at them. 

Brittany: Yeah. It comes from a real place.

Tiffany: It’s fear. These are, and I don’t say this to be funny, but I mean, it’s a phrase we say all the time, these are the very people who Harriet would have said no love, you gotta stay on the plantation. Cuz you’re scared to go to freedom.

You’re not even ready. We can’t risk you getting scared and running off and telling everybody the plan. So you have to stay. And I think as our politics shift, we will see more of that. We have to remember for those of us of a certain age, Obama’s presidency was major.

It was Earth shattering. It opened and expanded what was possible in this country. For a lot of younger folks,. Obama was the floor, not the ceiling. They’re like we saw what you did, what’s next? And I don’t think a lot of people are ready to receive that message cuz they’re still in the space of being fearful and grateful for crumbs.

Well, ready or not, here they come, right?  

Brittany: Yeah. Amen and amen. I’m curious what you think about today’s continued resistance in the media space to platforms that are run by progressive Black women and gen gender queer folks who are challenging some of those notions that we know make mainstream media comfortable.

Tiffany: It is a highly frustrating problem. I can’t even tell you how often still to this day that I will tune in and see a discussion on Latino voters and not a single Latino voter is in sight. You know, Cesar Conde who’s the chair of the NBC News Group has an unapologetic plan to make sure the newsroom looks like America.

And 50% of all hires will be women and people of color. And eventually he wants the newsroom to look like that. But there are still, you know, challenges to overcome because when you hire a bunch of people, if every, all the diversity is at the bottom, then they’re not in a decision making position.

It’s also a sacrifice. I know that because of the conversations I have on the show that I am putting a cap on how far I’m going to go. There is a limit to my success in this landscape that is not run by folks who have decision making power who value my perspective all the time. But let me just say I would rather do that and be a voice and advocate for my people than sit and smile in the face of bullshit and get to host “The Today Show.” You can keep it. 

Brittany: But so here we are in this moment in our girlfriend’s group chat, you gave us a bit of a poll a couple of days ago because you were still trying to figure out how to search for hope and inspiration. And so you asked us, how are you all finding hope? I’m curious to know after all of your informal polling.

Tiffany: Yes. 

Brittany: What have you centered on as, as your strategy to practice hope? Because Miriam Kava reminds us that hope is a discipline.

Tiffany: So I asked what’s keeping you ladies hopeful and your answers are always helpful. 

Brittany: I told her I’ve been praying cuz that’s all I got. 

Tiffany: But that’s a lot. But also just having a safe space to have those conversations.

You know, that gives me hope that I can show up to a group chat room full of women who understand me, but the person gives me the hope most often who is like one of the few people can just make me cry just by talking to me regular LaTosha brown. 

Brittany: I know you’re gonna say it. Yeah. 

Tiffany: I mean, she is just the best of us. She didn’t get in this space to be in the public eye. She never waits for someone to ask her to do anything, she just jumps in the fight and goes. She’s the embodiment of love. I mean, we’re all, you know, somewhat close in age so this isn’t, you know, because LaTosha’s, older or anything, but she has that matriarchal spirit. 

And so I was trying to describe her to somebody who didn’t know her, and I was like, I can’t explain it, but she sings beautifully. And when I’m around her, I just wanna lay my head in her bosom. I think I might have done that before. 

Brittany: Right. She makes you feel like that. She’s like, come come.

Tiffany: But when she talks about. I cried when she first told this story, I’m not gonna cry tonight, but she talks about, when we talk about losing hope and lacking imagination, and LaTosha said, I’m gonna tell you the story of an enslaved woman. And I’m gonna take you a hundred years in. 

Her grandmother was a slave. Her mother was a slave. Her daughter’s gonna be a slave and her granddaughter’s gonna be a slave. And like she said, she said, these women had their babies ripped from them and stolen while they nursed this white woman’s baby. While the husband was raping them, getting beat by these people, the humanity beat out of us.

And she said that woman could imagine a world in which we would one day be free. She never lost hope. We cannot lose hope. Then I feel ashamed for losing hope. Then I’m like, let’s get out there and fight. LaTosha, like what are we gonna do? Give us our marching orders. I am ready. But that story alone makes me ask how, how dare you ever even be tired?

We have a right to be tired, but it makes me feel like think about what the people before you went through. It was a lot worse than what society looks like today. I don’t wanna pretend that we haven’t made progress. Today does not look like 1965. It’s incremental and we’re fighting some of the battles revisiting some of the battles.

And if we can move the needle that much after 400 plus years of oppression in what I would call a nightmare for so many of our people. I just, I have to have hope cuz they had hope.

Brittany: Tiffany, thank you so much. 

Tiffany: Thank you, Britt. 

Brittany: For this conversation. Thank you for everything that you do. Tune into The Cross Connection every Saturday. Make sure you pick up Say it Louder! if you haven’t. 

I am Brittany Packnet Cunningham, your host of UNDISTRACTED. Thank you to all of you for showing us your beautiful faces and being in community tonight.

Make sure that wherever you are going back to that you do whatever you can do to make sure we all get free. Thanks y’all. Have a great night. 

Imagine a world where being an outspoken Black woman who makes sure her airwaves are filled with an accurate reflection of America, uncompromisingly daring to platform the truth and unflinchingly, challenging us to live out our ideas.

Imagine a world where being that woman doesn’t keep you from doing whatever you want in the world. It actually wins you the seat. Like Tiffany, many of us have long known that the life paths we’ve chosen and the truths we’ve chosen to tell could cost us. But the exciting part is that together we are building a world where that gains reward, not punishment.

I don’t want us to have to be daring just to tell the truth. It should be the standard. Journalists and public thinkers shouldn’t have to be brave to call it out because our entire function is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. If you’re not willing to do that, then by all means, make space for somebody who will.

But if you know, like I know that that is actually the only way to live. Get in. We’re gonna go tear some shit up.

That’s it for today, but never, ever for tomorrow.


UNDISTRACTED is a production of The Meteor and Pineapple Street Studios. 

Our lead producer is Rachel Ward.

 Our associate producers are Alexis Moore and Marialexa Kavenaugh.

 Thanks always to Treasure Brooks, Hannis Brown, Davy Sumner, and Raj Makhija.

Our executive producers at The Meteor are Cindi Leive and myself, and our executive producers at Pineapple are Jenna Weiss-Berman and Max Linsky. 

You can follow me at @MsPackyetti on all social media and our amazing team @TheMeteor.

Subscribe to UNDISTRACTED and rate and review y’all us on Apple podcasts and most places you check out your favorite podcasts. 

Thanks for listening. Thanks for being. And thanks for doing.  I’m Brittany Packnett Cunningham.

 Let’s go get free, y’all.