Baratunde Thurston talks democracy, social justice, the 2020 presidential election and more

In an interview with theGrio, Baratunde Thurston shares his thoughts on contemporary subjects including the 2020 presidential election.

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Writer/comedian Baratunde Thurston joined theGrio for an Instagram Live conversation on current events including race, social justice and politics.

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“Look what we’ve been able to do with a knee on our neck. Look what we’ve been able to do with our hands tied behind our backs,” Thurston said.

Thurston shared his thoughts on the power of community and the impact the coronavirus pandemic may have on the election, especially for Black and minority voters.

Our communities are in a state of vulnerability at all times, but we’re in a state of thriving and surviving despite those conditions set to hold us back,” Thurston told theGrio’s Natasha Alford.

“We are here. That is the biggest thing. When you see the consistency of the effort to deny us life, liberty, and happiness, you can see that as ‘they really hate us.’ No, they think so much of us.”

WSJ The Future of Everything Festival
Esther Perel and Baratunde Thurston speak on stage at the WSJ The Future of Everything Festival at Spring Studios on May 10, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

The “How To Be Black” author identifies who he means by ‘they,’ naming the entities referenced by his use of the pronoun.

I want to be more specific. I think we are living, at least temporarily, in a one-party system in the United States of America because the Republican Party has signed on to an authoritarian want-to-be that is against everything in the Constitution,” he said.

“They want to go out and make it harder to vote in a system premised on people power.

As a Washington D.C. native, the host of How To Citizen with Baratunde shared his early awakening to the football team’s formerly racist name and logo.

I was born in D.C. in 1977, I was raised in the 1980s with a football team that should not have existed under its name. I came to realize that in the mid-90s, as a high school [student.] I thought, the indigenous communities say they’re not down with this, we shouldn’t be down with this,” he remembers.

Currently known as the Washington Football Team, Thurston says the change is a step forward, despite only happening at the threat of losing corporate sponsorship.

“Decades later and it’s changed. It took a global shipping company, FedEx, to say we cannot tolerate this anymore, we’re not willing to put our name next to that, we’re not going to put that on our stadium, so you’ve got to change it.”

He continues, explaining how direct action is an example of how power can be leveraged to create change, not just tweets and hashtags.

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A company like FedEx using its power, which in this case wasn’t a tweet, it was its relationship with the sporting team. It was his financial entanglement. It was its real estate presence to say, not in our name. Literally, we’re not feeling good about this dehumanization, and what do you know? The next day this is done.

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