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LATEST UPDATES: Racial Justice | Tracking COVID-19 (coronavirus)

Community Pushes Back Against New Closures, COVID-19 Discrimination Affects People Of Color More, New COVID-Related Layoffs Possible And Military Recruiting In Pandemic Age

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The San Diego County Board of Supervisors meets to consider a proposed "Racial Justice and Law Enforcement Realignment Policy Package," June 23, 2020.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY

New COVID-19 shut downs reverberate through the business community, but San Diego County stands firm behind the decision to pull back Plus, a USC study shows that racial minorities bear the brunt of COVID-related discrimination. Also, with the rollbacks on reopenings, more people are expected to be out of work. And, recruiting young people to join the military has gotten difficult with coronavirus restrictions. And the Army is looking for new ways to recruit online. Finally, a new novel by Oceanside native Brit Bennet reveals what it’s like to be defined by the color of your skin.

Speaker 1: 00:00 Governing a nuisance says COVID resources are being allocated across the state.

Speaker 2: 00:04 We've been looking to procure strategies in a very strategic and mindful way of where those deserts of support work.

Speaker 1: 00:11 I'm Maureen Cavenaugh with Alison st. John. This is KPBS midday edition

Speaker 1: 00:24 Asians, top the list of Americans of facing Corona virus discrimination, because there's a stigma, you know, century law over a century long stigma of Asian theme disease carriers. If they wear a mask, which is what we're all being asked to do, they're seen as having a disease rather than seeing as caring for the common good San Diego's renewed restaurant restrictions could produce another wave of layoffs. And we'll hear from a San Diego writer who's novel. The vanishing half will soon be a series on HBO. That's a head on mid day edition. Governor Gavin Newsom focused on preparedness and his COVID-19 update today. He says that since March the procurement of hospital capacity, medical professionals and equipment, including millions of procedure masks has put the state in a good position to confront a spike in COVID-19 infections.

Speaker 2: 01:17 Well, we've had to decompress our system by over 500 patients. Why we have protocols and processes of where to send those patients. When we move them out of County, that we know that we have agreements in, for example, San Diego County and LA County, including here in Northern California, where a few of the patients went up, uh, to UCF and San Francisco and other parts of the state. So it's a remarkably dynamic system.

Speaker 1: 01:43 He emphasized that part of the medical surge capacity is the ability to move equipment and medical support around the state. For instance, to support hard hit areas like Imperial County. What do the rising number of positive COVID cases in San Diego really mean? And do they justify a new business shut down. Those were the questions being asked Tuesday as San Diego County public health officer, dr. Wilma Wooten presented a COVID update to the County board of supervisors. The supervisors were supportive of Wootton and her conclusions not. So for some members of the public who pushed back on new business restrictions, the supervisors also approved $17 million in grants to local businesses and we'll study options on how to spend an additional $48 million in federal COVID relief funds journey me as KPBS health reporter, Taran mento, who attended the meeting remotely yesterday. Thanks Maureen. Two supervisors acknowledged that dr. Wooten has the toughest job in the County right now. What were some of the new numbers she brought to the meeting yesterday,

Speaker 3: 02:50 She announced 578 people tested positive for the virus. That's the second highest single day. Uh, we've seen related to new and that 12 more people died, but the jump in deaths was somewhat expected. There's often a lag and reporting them. Plus the holiday weekend may have delayed the reporting, those deaths even further.

Speaker 1: 03:09 Is there any change in the demographics of people being infected and where they are picking up the virus?

Speaker 3: 03:15 Almost half of the positives reported in the latter half of June were among those aged 20 to 39 years old. And people in this age range are increasingly making up a larger percentage of our total cases and reports of community outbreaks are pointing back to where they may be picking it up. You know, Wooten said during her presentation, there were 21 outbreaks in the last seven days. And two thirds were tied back to two bar slash restaurants, which I do want to point out that my colleague at the UT Paul Cison did clarify from the County that of this not bars alone. These are restaurants with bars embedded in them.

Speaker 1: 03:51 What is the 14 day positivity rate now for San Diego?

Speaker 3: 03:56 It's 5.9%. And we've seen that increase, uh, pretty steadily from, from three to four. Just that three to 4%, just a couple of weeks ago

Speaker 1: 04:04 Has the spike in cases. And the positivity rate led to a similar spike in deaths and hospitalizations in San Diego. Officials

Speaker 3: 04:13 Have said a few times now that hospitalizations death are lagging indicators. First you'll see cases surge as we have over the last couple of weeks, but then the uptick in hospitalizations and deaths comes a bit later. We're starting to see that increase early in the pandemic, about 130 to 150 people admitted to the hospital each week, that dip down to about 80 to a hundred. And now we're seeing that creep up again two weeks ago, almost 130 new hospitalizations last week, almost 160 hospitalizations, kind of similar, but a little bit different with deaths. We saw peaks about 40 deaths reported in one week, back in late April and late may. Then we saw that drop down and now we're seeing it creep back up to last week was 26 deaths reported in a week.

Speaker 1: 04:57 Now some of the public comment from people who phoned into the meeting were strongly against dr. Wootins conclusions and the new restrictions on indoor dining and other measures. Would you say that was the overwhelming majority of the public comments at yesterday's meeting?

Speaker 3: 05:13 There were quite a few people who were very angry and, and, you know, and several accused health officials specifically butWhen of twisting the numbers to, to fit their agenda. But, you know, others were upset that they had invested in these safety measures that their businesses have been adhering to the public health orders, but they still have to shut down because other people may have not been following the rules. And, you know, a lot of people were angry about the latest round of restrictions, which did come down from the state supervisor, Kristin gas bar, even pointed that out in our comments and sort of defended Wooten that these latest decisions weren't up to her, um, in several workers from affected industries called in and said they were worried about their safety. Um, you know, a nurse called in that restrictions are important to protect medical workers and healthcare system, senior citizen called in and said that, you know, his life mattered too. And he hoped people would, would do something as simple as wearing masks to protect vulnerable residents like him.

Speaker 1: 06:06 Supervisors backed up dr. Wooten, but also voted to bring in an outside epidemiologist to weigh in on the county's COVID numbers. That seems like a contradiction. So what was the reasoning behind that?

Speaker 3: 06:19 A supervisor Kristen gas bar proposed bringing in an outside party to look at our data and do a high and an in depth analysis. And the supervisor, Nathan flincher pointed out that this seems like a contradiction when they expressed support early on for Wuhan. You know, he said the board gave it support to her and her team, but was voting to, you know, look into hiring someone else for an independent analysis of her team's data. So we made that statement, but there wasn't much response. They just move forward, took the vote and it passed four to one with him voting against. And this, this would be for this staff to look into hiring someone and bring back what it would cost. This does not mean that they are actually going to hire somebody that'll be discussed likely at the next meeting next month,

Speaker 1: 07:02 Besides the public comment and the support for dr. Wooten, uh, there was also an approval of $17 million in grants approved by the board yesterday for businesses and an additional 48 million in the pipeline from the federal cares program. How are the supervisors thinking of using that money?

Speaker 3: 07:23 So $17 million is going to go to support businesses that can show that they were affected. They are facing financial hardship because of Kobe, couple of requirements. They gotta be a hundred or fewer employees actually headquartered in San Diego and have been open for at least a year. But then the other, um, the cares act funding about 48 million, um, supervisor Nathan Fletcher proposed. We spend these on, uh, daycares and testing in schools and food services specifically, he wants 25 million to help daycare providers get back up and running. And this is how he explained how that could be spent.

Speaker 4: 07:57 This will be available to cover costs, including, but not limited to staffing supplies, business resilience, mortgage, and rental assistance, or capital improvements related to outdoor areas.

Speaker 3: 08:08 There was also, you know, the Fletcher wanted to propose a proposed 5 million for testing and schools, and then the other 18.8 million to support food services like food banks or meal programs for seniors, um, and possibly some of that funding to be considered for testing at the border. But the motion was just to direct County staff to, to propose a spending plan that would accomplish these things. That'll come back before the board in August, and it could look a little bit different in terms of specifics and exact amounts.

Speaker 1: 08:34 And finally, Taran talked to us about the apparent log jam in testing in San Diego, the testing centers are being swamped,

Speaker 3: 08:42 Right? We're seeing, you know, when, uh, the County reports, all of these new cases, there's often an asterick about, uh, with all of the total amounts of tests that it includes batches of prior tests. And we've seen that a lot of these days. And so some of these testing centers are getting backed up. They have so many people seeking testing, so that's a great thing. We want more people to get tested, but the turnaround time is just kind of getting longer and longer and that's resulting in a delay of some results coming in. And so they're batched with other day's results.

Speaker 5: 09:13 Okay. Then I've been speaking with KPBS health reporter and Manto Taran. Thank you very much.

Speaker 3: 09:18 Thanks Maureen

Speaker 5: 09:24 Research into COVID related discrimination reveals that Asian Americans are two and a half times more likely to experience harassment than whites followed by blacks and Latinos. The center for economic research at the university of Southern California in Los Angeles has been tracking incidence of discrimination since the covert pandemic began and has documented some disturbing trends. Joining us is the author of the study yang Lu, who is research scientist with the center for economic research. Thanks for joining us yang. Thank you for having us and Natalia Molina, who is professor of American studies and ethnicity at USC. She studies the intersection of disease and race. Thanks for being with us here. So Yan, first of all, tell us more about this survey, which is based on a survey of 7,000 people across the country. What question with this particular survey were you hoping to answer?

Speaker 6: 10:16 Well, it says already Marsh, we've been surveying a nationally representative sample of more than 7,000 people that as you mentioned, and tracking their experience and perception to meet the pandemic. Um, so in this particular study, um, we asked respondents if people thinking they might have the coronavirus acted as if they were afraid of them. So I don't know, harassed them, treated them with less courtesy and respect or gave them poor service at restaurants or stores. So we consider those kind of, um, experience would be indication of discrimination against people who are thought to have COVID-19 even if they weren't actually affected. So we see that this rate of discrimination actually peaking April at about one 10th of the population and has declined afterward and Asian Americans, as you mentioned are the first racial, ethnic groups who had experienced substantial, uh, discrimination and followed by African American and Latino.

Speaker 5: 11:10 So just to make this real for us, could you give us some specific examples of this kind of discrimination that were reported? So I think survey,

Speaker 6: 11:17 We specifically ask about their, um, daily experience that, um, attribute to the Cobain. It, that includes whether they see other, they feel other people act it if, as they were afraid of them, if they actually be threatened or harassed by other people, because other people think they may have Kobe. And if other people treat them with less carcass and respect, um, well, and gave them poor service at the restaurant, those stores. So those are the question we directly ask for respondents in the study itself. We also try to find the linkage between, um, like those there's parents to other potential drivers of this. So the Asian, um, racial ethnicity is one of them. And then people who wear a face mask, actually more likely to experience this discrimination as well.

Speaker 7: 12:03 I could add to that as well. You know, I think one of the things that we're seeing is the ways in which social media helps spread these examples. And so I think one of the, the violent aspects about this kind of discrimination is that people are just going about their everyday lives. As you mentioned, you know, they're walking their dog, they're standing on a quarter, waiting for a bus or a reporter is waiting to interview someone and they're objects of slurs. They haven't heard maybe since grade school, that child used against them, but now adults are using it in one of the most recent examples was a tech CEO in San Francisco who is eating his dinner at a fancy restaurant in the Bay area is almost done with this meal. And it's just so appalled by Filipino family, eating their own meals, singing happy birthday to their aunt, not interfering with his life at all, that he has to go off on a tirade asking them to leave the country. Uh, and so this is, I think part of the violence is that people are either going about their daily lives or they're doing what they're being asked to do, which is wear a mask, be protective of others. But because there's a stigma, you know, century long, over a century, long stigma of Asians being disease carriers, if they wear a mask, which is what we're all being asked to do, they're seen as having a disease rather than seeing as caring for the common good.

Speaker 5: 13:34 The survey shows that Asian Americans have experienced the worst prejudice, but why do you think other racial minorities are being subjected to COVID related discrimination?

Speaker 6: 13:43 So, one observation we had in the study is, um, when the discrimination kind of arose from March to April, um, this is particularly salient for, or, um, pronounced for African Americans at the time while there was like a lot of media coverage on African-Americans, like there are disproportionate vulnerability to Kobe. So this increase of discrimination actually temporal rainiest plea actually coincides with that media coverage. So it seems like while there could be a link between like a minority group, they might be more, um, impacted by that had more house consequences. What would, they might be more effected by the Colgate and people do take that message. And they would actually, that could be a potential driver of the, of the discrimination

Speaker 5: 14:34 Masks have indeed been a flashpoint haven't they have a lot of controversy, but Natalia, do you see them becoming, um, perhaps less of a focus of hurtful comments than before? I mean, perhaps they've been masking a deeper prejudice.

Speaker 7: 14:48 Yes. Uh, I mean, I think what we're seeing is the, that these tie rates are unleashed and they call on these, uh, racial scripts from, you know, many years ago, such as, you know, Asians as disease carriers. We see how uneven the emission is. So for example, as the study shows, Asians are more discriminated against for worrying mass versus, uh, African Americans who are being told to take off mass because they are, they are criminalized in the way that they're thought of racially. So yo case of African Americans going into Walmart with masks on, and you know, that the Walmart employee asking them to leave. So we see how it is an unleashing of this discrimination, but it is also playing on past racial stereotypes.

Speaker 5: 15:37 Do you think Natalia, that these kinds of attitudes can actually hurt our chances of stopping the spread of the virus?

Speaker 7: 15:43 Absolutely. I've spoken to people on, you know, not through a sustained study, like my colleagues, but you know, my neighbors, my friends, and then talking about, uh, points. And even when this was starting, you know, do you wear a mask on the Metro or not now we're under state, you know, now living in California, we're asked to wear a mask in public, but as we're seeing, you know, it's such a political flashpoint that it's still not seen as a symbol of protecting the common good. It is still paint plain on these past racial stereotypes.

Speaker 6: 16:15 Another thing that we see in our study, um, is that, um, this kind of discrimination is associated with, um, more symptoms of anxiety and depression. And in the past literature, we've seen examples, for example, in 2003 SARS outbreak, we see like people who experienced such a discrimination are less likely to go to the, um, kind of seek for help with the extra needed, for example, if they're infected or if they suspect they're infected. So there could be this discrimination is, well, there is I think, CBO, CDC, and also who have called to stop this, um, discrimination. Part of the reason is, is actually against the disease control itself.

Speaker 5: 16:54 Has there been any evidence that this kind of discrimination is, is reducing, um, as we learn more about the virus or not.

Speaker 6: 17:01 So we do see a downward trend since April. So in the April time, I think the rate of discrimination is about one in 10 people. So it's tightly drops down a little bit until early June, um, to about 7%, but at the same time we see, um, so this is sort of like one of the things I want to study more is we see in recent, in the recent times, especially in the past month or two, um, we see among Asian group and Hispanics, there is a, like they have for them, there's more of a fluctuation. So the rate has like kind of a tendency to go up again. So I'm really interested in understanding why, although the overall trend is going down, but some of the group might be impacted for other reasons that might rise again. I would also add to that, that while, um,

Speaker 7: 17:46 Our focus on, uh, racial incidents, you know, that as you know, according to the research from this study might show a dip. We're also seeing the way that it's being placed out, played out in other ways, uh, structural ways, such as the implementation of laws. So we just learned this week that visas are going to be denied to foreign students. We know that the majority of those students are Asian. We know then that, that, while it doesn't call out a specific racial or ethnic group or nationality or country, we know it's another way of banning Asians from our country. And in that sense, discriminatory and going to be less questioned because, um, by, by many people, not all people, but, uh, people that are believing in this rhetoric of, you know, anti-Asian rhetoric cause of COVID are also going to be likely to accept these kinds of immigration restrictions that are seen as race neutral on the face of it. But in practice are clearly anti-Asian

Speaker 5: 18:48 Here in California. Natalia advocates are pushing governor Newsome to, to, to boost funding, to fight bias. And so they want to add a cultural representative on the governance covert taskforce. How do you think those proposals would make a difference?

Speaker 7: 19:02 I kinda can't believe there is, um, you know, science is not objective. Science has never been objective Scientia. We may have data and we may study viruses, but then how we interpret that data, how we apply it, uh, how we see, you know, people wondering, can I go get a vaccine? We need someone that knows that communities are scared of, of science that they've had negative past experience with doctors with clinics. You know, the study has shown that people are going to be afraid to go seek healthcare, and that might affect people's. Uh, our, our, our infection rates, which affects all of us. There's a long history of distrust with communities of color and science and medical experts. And so we need someone to show that the social and cultural impact of that and how, even if we have a cure, will we must understand how this is also going to play into it.

Speaker 5: 19:59 Well, I'd like to thank both of you very much for talking to us about these issues. We've been speaking with yang Lu is research scientist with the center for economic research at USC. Thank you, yang. Thank you for having me and Natalia Molina, who is a professor of American studies and ethnicity at USC. Thank you, Natalia. Thank you. This is KPBS mid day edition. I'm Maureen Kavanaugh with Alison st. John. Some businesses in San Diego are feeling the pain of the reopening rollback more than others. Tuesday was the first day of closures for indoor operations at restaurants, tasting rooms, movie theaters, and museums. The closures were in response to a spike in COVID positive patients that got San Diego placed on the state's COVID-19 watch list. The indoor operations ban is supposed to last only for the next

Speaker 1: 20:48 Three weeks, but some San Diego businesses are wondering if they can last that long. Joining me is KPBS reporter, Matt Hoffman and Matt. Welcome. Hey, Maureen, you spoke with a restaurant owner who was just getting used to the previous restrictions on bars and restaurants, and now has to go back to take out who did you speak with?

Speaker 8: 21:09 Yeah, I spoke to Eric Christianson. Who's the owner of guava beach bar and grill it's right there in mission beach, right off of mission Boulevard. So a very, very busy area, obviously area that relies on a lot of tourists. So especially right now with the lack of tourists, they are definitely hurting. Um, but yeah, you know, just getting used to the previous restrictions in terms of having to close early at 10:00 PM, um, and limiting guests in there, you know, requiring mass at everything. And he said that they were making it work. He said that his dining was down maybe about 25 to 30%. And keep in mind, this is like a, a brew pub bar kind of Tiki themed margaritas and stuff like that. Um, so very like mission beachy, I guess you could say, right? Just like a block from the beach. Um, and the owner, Eric Christianson says, you know, it's been, it's been tough, but they've been making it work. I mean, they're dying in with these restrictions was down 25, 30% in recent weeks, which is doable. But when he says take out just isn't really doable.

Speaker 1: 21:57 So the business can't survive with just takeout,

Speaker 8: 22:00 Right? He says, he'll be down about 80%. And he says, basically, you know, if he's not, if he can't get some tables out in front of his restaurant, so he doesn't have a patio or a parking lot. So it's hard for him to put tables out there and get customers to do some outdoor dining. And, you know, basically he was saying, look, if I can't get any tables out in front, I might just have to shut down for these three weeks and sort of weather the storm because it just might not make sense. Now he did say he has a lot of food in his cooler, so he definitely wants to get rid of that. Um, but it just might not make sense to stay open if he can't get tables out in front.

Speaker 1: 22:28 So mayor Faulkner's executive order yesterday fast-tracking approval for restaurants to be able to operate outside dining areas, you know, on the street may or may not help some restaurants like guava beach bar and grill. So what about the staff at this restaurant?

Speaker 8: 22:46 Yeah. You know, I'm obviously the owner, Eric, he said that, you know, once this went to effect, they had zero customers for dining and they could do any outdoor dining. Um, so he had to already cut his servers, basically cutting his staff down. Here's the owner talking about just what they're having to go through in terms of laying off staff right now.

Speaker 9: 23:00 Yeah. My staff sat down at least, you know, cut by 50% now. And so then you got to figure out who wants to work. Who's going to go back on unemployment. You know what, that 650 buck incentive in there per week. You know, a lot of staff, I was fortunate. My staff is great. They all wanted to get back to work, but I don't blame them. You know, trying to figure out these new changes and doing takeout only that's that what we were designed to do. We're not a take out place where for in house dining, you know, it's about the experience sitting down, enjoying our service and our food and our drinks,

Speaker 1: 23:29 Matt, should we expect to see layoffs across the County because of the new closures?

Speaker 8: 23:34 Yeah. You know, I talked to the San Diego workforce partnership and I'm keeping my earlier at the beginning of this pandemic restaurants for dying and they were shut down, two bars were closed. Um, and the workforce partnership businesses don't have report layoffs to them, but they said specifically for the restaurant bar industry, they got about 18,000 layoff notices around April and March when this was first happening. And they're expecting to see layoffs again, you know, but not necessarily at the level they were seeing before. Here's Rachel Marie Farland with the San Diego workforce partnership.

Speaker 10: 24:02 I don't know that it will be necessarily as significant as the first, um, the first round of layoffs that happened in San Diego because it's not across the board as far as closures are concerned, but it'll be significant again, um, in three weeks. And it's not nothing, especially to restaurants that are trying to stay open businesses that are trying desperately to stay open as well. And for the workers that are impacted,

Speaker 1: 24:24 The closure is expected to be lifted in three weeks. So, okay. It'll still be July. It'll still be summertime. Could restaurants, like Wawirra still recoup their losses.

Speaker 8: 24:35 No, it's going to be interesting because places like WABA beach bar and grill July is their busiest month. I mean, the owner was telling me like 300% more sales though, too in July then they'll do like in February. Um, and a lot of that's based on the tourist economy. So are they going to be able to recoup their losses? Probably not this year. I mean, for a lot of these businesses by the beach, the summer months can make or break their businesses. So this year might be a loss for a lot of these businesses, especially not having a lot of these tourists in the area.

Speaker 1: 25:01 And just to round out the picture, the owner you spoke with Eric Christiansen has personal knowledge about how infectious this virus is. It doesn't matter.

Speaker 8: 25:10 Yeah. He actually contracted the Corona virus himself and unfortunately he did pass it along to his young daughter and his wife. So now he's worried about them. He himself has recovered, but here's a story about how he contracted the virus or how he got it from a friend.

Speaker 9: 25:24 You know, I'll have to be honest. I let my guard down. I had a meeting with a friend of mine and, you know, we did a couple bro hugs cause I hadn't seen him for a while. And uh, we sat and chatted for about a half hour that evening. He felt ill. He got tested the next day. Uh, I got his results the following day and he reached out to me and said, Hey man, you've been one of the people that I was, uh, unfortunately, you know, exposed. And uh, so I went and got tested the next day. He got my results the following day and I tested positive and I pretty much knew cause I woke up with a fever and a headache and all the signs and symptoms and you know, it wasn't that bad for me. I'm very lucky and fortunate so that, uh, you know, after four or five days of a fever, I started feeling better. And then you just kind of navigate, there were some stomach issues and things. So, uh, you know, fatigue and whatnot and residual things. But after about, you know, seven or eight days, I'd been fever free for long enough. And I actually was able to come off quarantine yesterday for the first day. So

Speaker 8: 26:14 Yeah. Now, uh, Christianson says, you know, look, that was just a slip up on his part. He's been following all the rules and he didn't think that that just one interaction would get him the virus. It did. He just wants people to know that, look it is contagious. And to just take all the precautions, you can work with them when they say, Hey, you have to have a mass to come in. Um, just, just work with them.

Speaker 1: 26:31 Okay. Then I've been speaking with KPBS reporter, Matt Hoffman, Matt. Thank you. Thanks Maureen Army recruiters typically look future soldiers

Speaker 11: 26:44 At high schools and career fairs, but COVID-19 has forced the service to scale back face to face interactions. And the pandemic has revealed gaps in the Army's digital outreach strategy. Last week, it held its first ever virtual recruiting event held to help make up the difference. Carson frame reports for the American Homefront project. As the coronavirus pandemic bloomed this spring, the army reduced staff at many brick and mortar recruiting stations across the country. Recruiters took their work remote, but lost out on some of the major recruitment opportunities that normally boost their numbers. That last moment before a senior leaves their high school, typically we're there. We're helping them support, uh, finding them different avenues. However, we didn't have that moment. This year, staff Sergeant Kara Wilson recruits from a 2,600 square mile patch of West Texas with its hub in El Paso. She and her team have had to build an online recruiting environment to reach those same young people, apps like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat have proven the most effective and Wilson's design new campaigns for each, but she's had help.

Speaker 11: 27:49 I have teenagers at home. So they have kind of schooled me on many of these platforms, um, which allows me to get after the generation Zs, Wilson says one of her best attempts was a 45 minute Instagram live Q and a about what it's like to be an army soldier. She promoted it for weeks and posted a countdown to her feet. More than 300 people tuned in the idea was her 14 year old daughters. She said, you know, mom, I'm, I'm your kid. She was raised in the army, but she said, other people just see you as like a soldier. So what if you did a meeting with somebody else, maybe a friend of yours in the army and you guys did like a question answer thing. And I thought, wow, that's awesome. Online fitness challenges, e-sports tournaments and video testimonials or other ways army recruiters have tried to grab the attention of young people online.

Speaker 11: 28:36 Even before the pandemic hit. The army was working to incorporate more digital outreach into its marketing, but it wasn't doing it especially well. According to Emma Moore, a researcher with the military veterans and society program at the center for new American security, the digital engagement was showing gains. But I would say from probably most other private company and marketing measures, it's been ad hoc. The army is not set up to be incredibly flexible and responsive to changing their narrative or their marketing campaign. That's a disadvantage in the digital space where apps and communication platforms quickly evolve. The army has backed off it's top down approach to recruiting and has given local recruiters more authority to design their own social media campaigns. Like the Instagram event that Wilson held general Frank Muth heads, army recruiting,

Speaker 2: 29:24 Especially with technology there's innovations happening every day. And we've gotta be able to not be so much a hierarchal organization that just validates the systems you put into place, but be a network.

Speaker 11: 29:37 Things are starting to look up numbers wise for army recruiting. Since the pandemic began, Muth says there was an initial dip following the issuance of stay at home orders. But that interest from young people is slowly taking back up. He adds that virtual outreach is here to stay and that about 90% of the recruiting process can be done online.

Speaker 2: 29:55 And I think at the end of the day, what we'll find is that we may be able to reduce some of our recruiting force and reduce some of their brick and mortar. Maybe not, uh, you know, not use the brick and mortar anymore, cause it still has a place, but maybe it doesn't need to be as big

Speaker 11: 30:09 Ruth says the pandemic's full impact on recruitment is unclear, but he guesses that if unemployment hasn't gone down by fall, the army will see a bump in people wanting to join I'm Carson frame in San Antonio. This story was produced by the American Homefront project, a public media collaboration that reports on American military life and veterans funding comes from the corporation for public broadcasting.

Speaker 5: 30:32 You're listening to KPBS Monday edition I'm Alison st. John with Maureen Kavanaugh, a new novel by an Oceanside native reveals through its story. The personal experience of what it's like to be defined by the color of your skin. The vanishing half by New York times bestselling author, Brett Bennett is about twin sisters, Stella and Deseret who looked so alike that the seamstress who makes their funeral dresses cannot tell them apart. They both go through the trauma of watching their black father die in a lynching by white men, but after they run away from home, they reinvent themselves in totally different ways. Just recently HBO won the right to adapt the story to the screen. Joining us is the author of the vanishing half Brett Bennett. Thanks for being with us, Brett. Thanks for having me. So now the timing of the publication of you, because it's interesting with so much focus now, not just on police brutality, but on the racial divide in general, what do you hope we readers take from this story that might help us face that divide? Yeah, I think the timing

Speaker 10: 31:34 It's surreal and the way that you said. Um, I didn't expect that when this book came out that people would be eager to read her out race, race, racial identity, and racism and these different ways. So I hope that the book, you know, gives you, uh, a good, uh, reading experience, a nice emotional reading experience, but also hope that it allows you a new lens of thinking about identity in a way that is maybe a little bit more complicated than the ways that we often think about identities.

Speaker 5: 31:59 Now you grew up in Oceanside, but you write really fluently as though you grew up, uh, in, uh, st. Landry parish, Louisiana. So how did you get such a good sense of the characters that you write about there?

Speaker 10: 32:12 Thanks. Um, I, when my, my mom is from Louisiana, um, my dad's from Los Angeles and I grew up in Oceanside, as you said. Um, so I think in a lot of ways I was kind of writing towards my parents in this book. Um, particularly my mom, I was writing in the direction of, of her memories of growing up in rural Louisiana and just her experiences and that the stories that she had shared with me.

Speaker 5: 32:31 So talk a bit about the, the underlying premise of the book, the enormous effect, the color of your skin has on the choices that you can make and talk about some of the key choices that these twin sisters make that result in the becoming such different people.

Speaker 10: 32:46 The look is I think about that, that very question that you just sort of brought up this idea of choice, um, and the ways that we can make sometimes small choices that end up having really large ramifications in our lives. Um, and this book in the case of Stella, she's a character who chooses eventually to live her life as a white woman. And that's a choice that she kind of stumbles into, um, she's mistaken for white and in a moment and she just kind of goes with it. So I was always really interested in the idea of, of racial passing and kind of the implications of that. How does that change you? Has it changed your children or the rest of the family? How does this one choice have huge ramifications for, for generations to come?

Speaker 5: 33:26 So both of these twins have very light skin and that's what gives the book such an interesting premise that they can make choices here and stellar builds this completely new life for herself. Now, the idea of, of creating your own, uh, your own identity is linked to the idea of being, you know, a free person, which is at the root of what being an American means, but is something lost. Do you think in choosing to, to deny your heritage like Stella chose to do

Speaker 10: 33:52 Well? I think that, you know, a lot of stories about passing often focus on the kind of opportunism of it, the idea of what characters stand to gain by choosing to be somebody else. But for me, what really became interesting about Stella was, was that question of what is she losing by choosing to be somebody else she gains access and power and status and wealth, and a degree of freedom that she did not have previously as a black woman growing up in the Jim Crow South. But at the same time, she does lose a sense of, of her own past. You loses her family. She loses a sense of community and identity and culture. And I found that really compelling to think about what she is actually leaving behind and this choice to be a new person.

Speaker 5: 34:35 So how do you think that shows will resonate with today's readers? I should make the point that your story takes place in the 1960s and seventies. Right?

Speaker 10: 34:43 Right, right. Um, you know, I think that I wanted to, to write sort of toward the past, but from a 21st century perspective. And for me, what became also really interesting is this idea of what is a story about passing look like if we assume that identity is already something that's fluid, uh, if we assume that you can identify in different types of ways throughout your life, um, that you can see yourself one way that other people can see you a completely different way. Like if we take that fluidity for granted, what does this story really look like? And I think that that's maybe what will make this book feel a little bit different for a contemporary reader than a more traditional, um, or a sort of, uh, a story written in the past, in the way of something like now Larsen's passing or even imitation of life. I think it's different from those stories in that way.

Speaker 5: 35:29 Do you think things have changed since the sixties that perhaps the rewards of standing in your black heritage are greater now? Yeah.

Speaker 10: 35:36 I, I think things have changed a lot. I, I, you know, I think for Stella she's, I didn't think of her as so much as a character who, who wanted to be white and so far that she wanted kind of the protections that whiteness affords you, that that felt more important. I think to her, this idea that she wants to feel safe and she wants to feel secure. And those are things that she felt like she could only obtain by being white. So I think that now I think of a character like Stella, she would have, uh, different opportunities and different avenues available to her, um, that this character would have had back in the sixties,

Speaker 5: 36:09 But it still raises some very relevant questions for today. Um, you know, it relates to anybody who's trying to define themselves, I guess. And you don't make judges about which of the girls made the better choice do you, but is there a message in the book, do you think about the consequences of these choices?

Speaker 10: 36:27 I don't, I didn't think of it in that way. Um, I think again, a lot of passing stories often are very moralizing where the character who passes is punished at the end for doing so. And I'm just not interested in moralizing and fiction as a reader or as a writer, really. So I knew that I didn't want to punish Stella and I didn't want to reward Deseret. I didn't want to issue some type of judgment like that. I really was more interested in what the, what the ramifications are of these choices and how it changes these people, um, based on the choices they make, how their lives changed as a result of that.

Speaker 5: 36:58 Were you thinking of a particular reader when you wrote this book Brit?

Speaker 10: 37:03 Uh, I don't, I don't know that I was. Um, but I, you know, I, I think that I, I wanted just to write towards these questions that were interested interesting to me of, you know, the real big question at the center of the book for me is how do we become who we are? And I think that's kind of a universal question.

Speaker 5: 37:19 Exactly. Right. That's that's what struck me was it could relate to anybody struggling to define themselves. And you, so interestingly, take it into the next generation, the daughters of the twins, uh, who somehow carry the trauma of the violence done to their grandfather, even though one of them was never even told about it. Do you think we underestimate the amount of racial trauma that we carry on us regardless of our upbringing?

Speaker 10: 37:46 I think so. Um, I think one of the things that I was interested in for, for, for that string of the story, it was kind of this question of generational trauma. Um, and you know, that, you know, they have study, they do studies that show that, you know, genetically, that people who've experienced these degrees of trauma, that their body's almost changed, like at a cellular level. There's something that changes in them almost physically. And that was always a really interesting idea for me. Um, as a writer to think about how, as, you know, as children, we inherit things from our parents that we may have no way of ever understanding. We may have no context for it, but we still inherit how they were brought up and how they were treated. And there was something to me, so interesting about that gap between how we understand our parents and, and what we actually inherit from them.

Speaker 5: 38:31 Mm. Now, HBO plans to turn this story into a TV, how much will you be involved in that?

Speaker 10: 38:38 Well, I won't be writing. I will be involved as an executive producer, so I'll be weighing in on the, on the creative decisions. And I'm really excited to see what writers that they bring on board and all the creative people who will be involved in bringing it to life. What do you hope

Speaker 5: 38:52 That audiences will take away from that? From the onscreen version?

Speaker 10: 38:56 You know, I just hope always, I'm hoping that people have a big emotional experience. I love reading and watching things that make me feel something deeply that make me cry. They make me laugh. That makes me think more complexly about some, some topics. So if it allows people to have that big emotional feeling and also think a little bit more deeply about identity, then I would be really thrilled to see that.

Speaker 5: 39:18 Well, Brett, good luck. And thanks so much for joining us. Thanks. We've been speaking with Brett Bennett, the author of the vanishing half Skipping the summer vacation this year. Doesn't mean you can't experience new places today. We're headed to another location on the California report. Magazine's virtual road trip for your ears. It's a music venue with a mysterious name, storied past, and some of the best live jazz you could ever hope to find, but also happens to sit just a few steps from the Pacific ocean in half moon Bay reporter Ryan Levi introduces us to the Bach, dancing and dynamite society.

Speaker 12: 40:00 It's a Sunday afternoon and I'm sitting in a cozy concert room in half moon Bay with a few hundred other folks. We can see the sunset streaming through the stained glass window. We can hear the ocean just outside the door. And on the small stage in front of us, hollow West is

Speaker 13: 40:20 [inaudible].

Speaker 12: 40:22 It all started with a guy named Pete Douglas. He was a beatnik beach rat who moved to half moon Bay in 1957 with his wife, Patricia. They bought an old beer joint where they lived and hosted impromptu jam sessions. He loved jazz. This is his daughter, Barbara Rishi, who runs the place now. I mean, he grew up in Hermosa beach in the LA area. He was sort of a child of the big bands. He loved to dance. One day in the early sixties, Douglas was dancing with some friends and listening to some Bach. And so one of his friends went down to the beach and started lighting dynamite. I don't know why

Speaker 12: 41:00 As the dynamite blew and they kept on dancing to Bach. One of Douglass's friends said this must be the Bach, dancing and dynamite society. And sure enough, one of my dad's attorney's friends who was there that way, he said, yeah, let's incorporate this thing with an official name and organization in tow Douglas built a two story house onto the beer joint and to move the jam sessions right into his family's living room, he would set up a temporary stage and then we would swing the couch around, right up to the stage. And so the people that first got here were the luckiest because they could just sit right in the, and watch, you know, hear the music Douglas eventually added on a performance space next door with room for just under 200 seats and a small stage pianist. Bill Evans recorded a live album here in 1973. Wood paneled walls are lined with photos of jazz greats that have performed here like Bobby Hutcherson, Carmen McRae. I fell in love with you. The first time I looked into them, their eyes you'd stand gets

Speaker 13: 42:09 [inaudible]

Speaker 12: 42:10 And today Paulo West. Bye

Speaker 14: 42:20 [inaudible].

Speaker 12: 42:21 I literally can't remember a performance. I didn't really enjoy. Rob Malenka has been coming to the box since he first moved out here from Boston in 1978. Today he's got a bottle of wine that he's sharing with his wife, Julie cower. One of the perks of the Bach is you can bring your own food and alcohol. The experience is just makes you happy to be alive. I don't know how else to say it, but cower says it's not just the music and the libations that keep them coming back to the Bach. We meet the nicest people here it's just welcoming and a wonderful vibe of the group. And I think sitting around here, you can feel it too. And then there's the view. I find Kevin Daniels out on the second floor deck, looking out over the ocean with his wife to watch the sunset and be listening to jazz here. I can't imagine any place on the planet. That's quite like where we are right now. It's the kind of place that regulars like Julie cower kind of hope stays a hidden gem should never come here. No one should ever come here, but putting on about 30 shows a year, isn't cheap. So finding more regulars could be the key to keeping the box filled with music for years to come for the California report. I'm Ryan Levy in half moon Bay, Baltimore.

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KPBS Midday Edition

KPBS Midday Edition is a daily talk show hosted by Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon, keeping San Diegans in the know on everything from politics to the arts.