Supreme Court Rules On Trump’s Tax Records, SDUSD District Elections Ballot Measure, Mental Health Diversion Funding And Parallels Between 1973 Film And Today’s BLM Movement
KPBS Midday Edition / July 9, 2020
J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE AP
The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled President Trump isn't "categorically immune" from having his financial records released to a New York grand jury, but pushed back against congressional subpoenas. Plus, the San Diego City Council clears the way for district-only elections for San Diego Unified School District Board. Voters will have a say in November. Also, the county Board of Supervisors approved funding for a mental health diversion program that provides treatment options for people with untreated mental illnesses who might otherwise face jail and criminal charges. And, with the county looking to change how it handles mental health crises, Palomar Health opened the first purpose-built crisis stabilization unit in San Diego County to take pressure off emergency rooms. Finally, today’s frustration and anger over racial injustice has been brewing for centuries and those feelings were masterfully conveyed in the 1973 film, “The Spook Who Sat By The Door," based on Sam Greenlee's book.
Speaker 1: 00:00 Governor Newsome today said it's time to focus on the fire. Season ahead.
Speaker 2: 00:04 We refer to this time of season peak wildfire season.
Speaker 1: 00:09 I'm Alison st. John with Maureen Kavanaugh. It's KPBS midday edition
Speaker 3: 00:25 The implication of Supreme court rulings today on the president's taxes. Nobody's going to see any tax returns before the November barring incredibly unpredictable fast trip through the courts. Colleges react to new federal rules that affect thousands of international students and San Diego County tries to find new ways to deal with those facing mental health crises. That's all ahead on mid-air edition.
Speaker 1: 00:50 Speaking in front of a black Hawk helicopter recently acquired by Cal fire, California. Governor governor Newsome today outlined the state's multimillion dollar investment in firefighting this year, he said five of the state's worst wildfire seasons on record have occurred in the last 10 years. And the state needs to adapt to hotter temperatures due to climate change.
Speaker 2: 01:08 The hots are getting hotter. The dryers are getting dryer. The wets are getting wetter. Uh, you may call that climate change. You may call that global warming. Uh, but one thing we know, uh, is our approach to dealing with wildfires has to change and adapt with an, a climate that is changing.
Speaker 1: 01:29 The number of fires has dramatically increased. The governor said, but they are better contained. And the state's goal now is to limit fires to under 10 acres each in spite of a budget deficit of $54 billion, the state will budget for 12 new helicopters in the next few years, innovative fire tracking technology and 172 new full time staff for Cal fire, Cal fire director. Tom Porter said we are now in peak fire season and he called on residents to be alert and call in suspicious activity. He said, the state has already seen 45 incidents of arson. This year, Mark Ghilarducci head of California's office of emergency services said COVID-19 will complicate the wildfire response. And so there are plans to use motels for evacuations to allow for social distancing. He urged residents to prepare, get a plan and be familiar with evacuation, route options. Governor Newsome said, residents should work on their backyards this weekend in preparation for the fire season ahead,
Speaker 4: 02:32 The Supreme court has rejected Trump administration arguments to block the release of his tax returns, but it is still unlikely that voters will see those documents. Anytime soon, the high court sent both cases, one regarding congressional subpoenas for the tax returns and the other, a subpoena from a New York district attorney back to lower courts for further litigation. But there are many interesting aspects to these rulings, including wrote them who agreed and the constitutional principles they affirm. Plus on this last day of a Corona virus, delayed Supreme court term, the justices also decreed that half of Oklahoma is a native American reservation. Joining me is Glenn Smith, a Supreme court expert, and professor of constitutional law at California Western school of law and Glenn. Welcome.
Speaker 5: 03:22 Thank you very much.
Speaker 4: 03:23 Now, can you give us some quick background on the cases Trump V vans and Trump V Mays, ours?
Speaker 5: 03:30 Yes. They're both cases where for a state criminal investigation, by a grand jury, in the case of advanced case and three congressional committees, in the case of the [inaudible] case, they're both efforts to get the president's tax returns and other personal financial information. That's in the hands of third parties. And in both cases, the administration imposed a very muscular argument of absolute presidential immunity or very strong presidential protection. And in Vance, they were completely routed and it was kind of a mixed decision in the, in the congressional cases.
Speaker 4: 04:10 So it was that immunity argument that made by Trump and his lawyers in both cases that had many people concerned about the expanding power of the presidency. What exactly was that assertion in the New York case? Trump V Vance,
Speaker 5: 04:25 Oh, in the New York case, first of all, they said that just no president can have his records personal or otherwise subpoenaed while he's in office. So it was a across the board, uh, the court called it categorical argument that the president is uniquely immune from state grand jury proceedings. And the court rejected that saying that was inconsistent with 200 years of of law. They also said in the alternative that, okay, even if the president is not categorically excluded, a higher standard should be used, we should borrow from the Nixon tapes case of Watergate and borrow the standard that requires a very specific showing of need. And the court rejected that as well.
Speaker 4: 05:06 Was there a similar claim made by the president about the congressional subpoena?
Speaker 5: 05:10 There were, there were similar, they're not word identical, but similarly the president claimed that because of his unique status, uh, that his personal records just weren't available at all to the Congress. Only, only justice Thomas went for that argument, but they also argued that the precedent, you know, given that the Congress is often in the hands of enemies of the president, or at least let's say rivals that it would subject the president, uh, harassment. And it would distract him from his duties and stigmatize him in the eyes of other world leaders, et cetera. So they made similar sort of institutional arguments that the institution of the presidency deserves a special protection against congressional subpoenas. What happens with both
Speaker 4: 05:58 Cases now?
Speaker 5: 05:59 Well, they both, as you said, go back to court. In the case of the Vance case, the court has cleared away the administration extra arguments given that Trump was president, but the court left him in the posture of any other recipient of a subpoena who can make claims if the subpoena is too broad or that it invades his privacy or those kinds of things. So the lower courts dealing with the grand jury subpoena will I'm sure hear a whole bunch of arguments from president Trump's lawyers that he like any other subpoena recipient is having his rights interfered with. In the case of the challenge from the congressional committees, it goes back to the lower courts in DC and in New York. Basically what the court did in the congressional case is say, the administration's argument goes too far, but the house, his argument doesn't protect the president enough. So we're sending this back to the lower courts to consider four criteria that they have come up with in this case. So bottom line, as you said, nobody's going to see any tax returns before November barring an incredibly unpredictable fast trip through the courts.
Speaker 4: 07:15 Both of these opinions were voted seven to two with chief justice, John Roberts writing the decision and the liberal justices joined with Kavanaugh and Gorsuch. Now is all or any of that surprising?
Speaker 5: 07:28 Well, I was afraid that the court would not show its finest colors. Uh, at this point I thought that justice Roberts probably would be a fifth vote to be modulating and moderate on this, but I didn't know about Kevin on Gorsuch. So it's surprising in one sense, it's not surprising in another, it's very important for the court when it gets involved, especially in a big fight between the president and the Congress, the two big elected institutions that the court is the third branch of it's very important that the court speak, I think, with as unified a voice as it can get. So I'm not surprised that the court seems to have tried mightily here to speak with a greater consensus
Speaker 4: 08:15 Is the most important aspect of these cases that they have seemed to affirm the separation of powers.
Speaker 5: 08:21 Yes, not only do they affirm the separation of powers, but I think they affirmed that the president of nine States is not above the law. As, uh, as the court specifically said in one of the, in one of the majority opinions, that's a really important theme now to send, not only for this president, but any president to realize that you know, that the normal rules that govern how you're expected to participate in state court proceedings or how you're expected to interact with the coordinate brands of the Congress, uh, apply. And some of the administration arguments went very far, uh, away from that principle. And I'm, so I'm really glad that the court brought us back to that.
Speaker 4: 09:06 Now, one last word about this rather surprising term, uh, the Supreme court has been delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic. That's why we're getting decisions in July. They came down with a decision in McGirt V Oklahoma. Now this case was brought by a man convicted of rape, but he claimed his trial in state court was illegal because the offense happened on tribal land and he should have been tried in federal court. What did the state and federal government claim and what should the Supreme court decide?
Speaker 5: 09:40 Well, both the state and the federal government claimed that in fact, that he was not on tribal land or that the claim to tribal autonomy was questionable in light of a series of congressional statutes and actions. So they basically said this wasn't really tribal land. Therefore the defendant could be tried and convicted and, uh, under Oklahoma state law, uh, justice Gorsuch writing an opinion that again, may surprise people that think Gorsuch is this always a conservative, et cetera. And what's he doing aligning with liberals. But I think what justice Gorsuch did here is what he also did in the title seven gay lesbian, transgender case is he said, I need really strong statutory evidence to show that Congress wanted to undermine the tribal claim. And I don't have that here.
Speaker 4: 10:26 And so where does this leave, Oklahoma
Speaker 5: 10:29 Where this leaves Oklahoma is that the court highest court in the land has emphasized that the original grant of tribal land is valid and continues. I'm unfortunately not enough of an expert in Indian law. I know what the implications of that are in terms of state versus Indian law, but basically this leaves the tribes with their original broad grant of land rights compared to the shrunken claim that the government tried to achieve.
Speaker 4: 11:00 I've been speaking with Glen Smith professor of constitutional law at California, Western school of law. And Glen, thank you so much.
Speaker 5: 11:08 You're very welcome. Thank you for your interest.
Speaker 6: 11:14 [inaudible]
Speaker 4: 11:17 A new Trump administration policy would force international college students out of the country. If they don't attend in person classes. This fall critics see it as a way to force colleges to reopen during the COVID pandemic and the San Diego city council has approved a ballot measure that could change the way San Diego school board members are elected. Joining me is KPBS education reporter Joe Hong show. Welcome. Thanks for having me now tell us about this change in Trump administration policy, because it affects international college students across the country and specifically thousands right here in San Diego. Tell us more about it.
Speaker 7: 11:58 Yeah. So the new role that was announced pretty suddenly this Monday, uh, came out of immigration and customs enforcement. And basically it says that international students on a student visa who are enrolled only in online courses for this fall will either have to sign up for an in person class or transfer to another university where they'll be able to do so or leave the United States.
Speaker 4: 12:24 And how are schools reacting to this sudden announcement? So,
Speaker 7: 12:28 Uh, the UC and the S and the CSU systems are currently working to figure out ways to support their international students. Um, I spoke with dual se Durado at UC San Diego. She is the director of the international students office, and she said, the university still has time to figure out what they're going to do for their students.
Speaker 8: 12:52 Our quarter doesn't begin until late September. So there's still some time in terms of the university, really trying to assess, you know, what enrollment looks like. And then, you know, what course offerings may need to be adjusted.
Speaker 4: 13:08 And you say, critics are seeing this as a way to force colleges to reopen during the COVID pandemic. Why is that criticism being made?
Speaker 7: 13:16 Yeah, so I think in the past week, we've seen the Trump administration try to strong arm, not just universities, but also schools into reopening as a first step to reopening the economy. Because for a lot of a lot of parents, especially reopening schools and colleges is it is going to be a first step to getting the economy rolling again. And by forcing universities tend to offering in-person instruction for international students. This is sort of like a step to full to forcing them to fully reopen, I guess.
Speaker 4: 13:51 So what is the advice that school administrators are giving international students right now?
Speaker 7: 13:56 Right. So school administrative administrators right now are, are fairly calm, they're concerned, but they're calm. And they're asking international students not to panic, not to suddenly make changes to their academic schedule. They're definitely telling students not to make plans to leave the country, because it seems like the universities will sort of be able to work with students and figure out a way to keep students in the country and going to class.
Speaker 4: 14:26 Let's move on to this ballot measure about San Diego unified school board elections, how our school board members elected now, Joe, and how would this measure change that
Speaker 7: 14:38 New unified school district is, is divided up into five smaller sub districts. And in the primaries school board candidates run only in their sub districts and only voters who live in those sub districts can vote for them, but in the November general election, um, it, it turns into a citywide election. So you have voters from different sub districts voting for all the candidates. And what this measure would do is it would keep the November general election to a by district license. So no more at large election.
Speaker 4: 15:09 The idea apparently is that district elections would give lesser known candidates a better chance. Why is that?
Speaker 7: 15:17 It comes down to the, the price of running a campaign and keeping an election scaled down to, uh, a subdistrict. It would, you know, you're campaigning to about 10 times fewer voters than you would be if you're campaigning throughout the city. And so it would allow people who are intimidated by the price tag of, uh, running to run for school board.
Speaker 4: 15:42 And there's also the claim that it would improve the diversity on the San Diego unified school board. Is there a lack of diversity now among the trustees on the school board?
Speaker 7: 15:52 I think the school board could do a better job of representing the student population. So right now you have two out of five school board members are, uh, older white gentlemen, and you have one Latino school board member and you have one member from the LGBTQ community and one African American board member that doesn't really reflect the student population 50% or so of the students at San Diego unified are Latino. Um, about 25% are white. So maybe by reducing the, the barrier to entry into running for school board. Yeah. It might encourage individuals from, I guess, more marginalized communities to represent the communities.
Speaker 4: 16:36 Would this measure have any impact at all on the current races for the school board?
Speaker 7: 16:41 So, no, um, this, this ballot measure is on the same ballot as the current school board members or at this current school board candidates. And if it passes, it would go into effect in the next school board election in 2022,
Speaker 4: 16:55 I've been speaking with KPBS education reporter, Joe Hong and Joe. Thank you. Thank you.
Speaker 1: 17:02 You're listening to KPBS Monday edition. I'm Alison st. John with Maureen Covena San Diego County is seeking to make a sea change in how it handles those in mental health crises. Mental health issues are putting a strain on healthcare providers and on the criminal justice system. And those experiencing mental health challenges are often left without the help they need Palomar health. One of North county's largest healthcare providers has just opened the first purpose-built crisis stabilization unit in San Diego County. It's part of a strategy to take the pressure off emergency rooms and hopefully be a more effective way of helping people in crisis who were, this is Diane Hanson, who is the CEO of Panama health. Diane, thank you so much for being with us.
Speaker 4: 17:44 Thank you. It's a pleasure to be here.
Speaker 1: 17:47 So now what kind of patients is this stabilization unit designed to help and what makes it different from previous treatment options?
Speaker 9: 17:54 I think what's great about this facility is that it will treat those individuals who don't necessarily need to be in an inpatient setting. They just need a place, a healing environment that's calm and, um, less restricted that can allow them to get back to their normal sense of self. So it's a, it's an outpatient facility that will allow them to restabilize and, um, and return to their life in a much faster fashion.
Speaker 1: 18:26 How has your emergency room at Palomar been effected by the growing number of people coming in with mental health crises, especially since tri city closed their crisis stabilization unit. A couple of years ago,
Speaker 9: 18:38 We've seen a significant increase in, uh, the behavioral health and mental health population within our emergency rooms at both of our locations. And this treatment, what we've found has really helped not only get people in the right level of care and the right place and environment, but, um, it does also free up space within our emergency rooms, because again, we're putting them in the right setting to get the most important treatment for them specifically, without them being intermingled with other patients in the emergency room that might have a medical acute need. Uh, these individuals need to be in a much less restrictive environment, you know, with more sensory integration and to have, uh, folks that are there to treat them with the right skillset in the right way.
Speaker 1: 19:30 I saw a figure that psychiatric services had too. The demand for them went up by almost 40% recently, is that accurate?
Speaker 9: 19:37 That is accurate. That is accurate. And I will tell you one thing that hasn't changed in this pandemic, you know, we all know we're in unprecedented times, but the one thing that hasn't changed for us while other volumes were decreasing, uh, our mental health and behavior health patient population actually stayed the same or increased a little. And I do expect that we will see more mental health needs in the future associated with the pandemic. So for us to get this facility up and online right now is really timely. I think with the environment we're in,
Speaker 1: 20:11 No, this is the, the, the first purpose built crisis stabilization unit in San Diego County. It was specially designed. Uh, I see pictures of it, make it, uh, look like a very large empty room with recliners rather than beds. Why, why is this a good design for the purpose?
Speaker 9: 20:26 Well, I did mention early on that, you know, we're really looking for this patient population to be in a less restrictive environment, right? With more sensory integration and, and quite honestly help to reduce the stigma around, you know, mental health needs. I think, you know, we've come a long way probably in the past five years, mental health and, and de-stigmatizing, you know, the, the needs, but I think there's so much more we can do. I think this environment helps to encourage that
Speaker 1: 20:56 The idea is that they wouldn't be in this unit for more than 24 hours. Right. So it's a fairly short term stay, but I noticed that there's no room dividers, no privacy. I mean, does that help when you're in an emotional crisis?
Speaker 9: 21:08 Yes, actually it does. So we, the patients that come into this facility stay anywhere from three hours to 24 hours. The average is about 18. And we do have rooms within the facility where if individuals, you know, are having more of an acute crisis, they can go in and, and essentially isolate themselves. So we do have the capability within this environment who also provide kind of that next level of quiet and healing environment. But the idea is that we want them to be in a place that, um, that is open and gives them an ability to, to be in a, in a more normalized environment, unless they need that next level of, of care. If there is a need for an additional, you know, um, and maybe an inpatient stay or a referral to an inpatient stay at another facility that will also occur. I think that the great thing about this facility and the intent of this program is, you know, to, to connect and reconnect consumers, to community resources and, and families and other support services.
Speaker 9: 22:20 We want to make sure that they're getting the followup care that they need. We want to make sure that they're staying connected to, you know, to their, the care that they need and, and whether it's, you know, there's medication needs or those kinds of things, whatever that follow up plan of care is, we want to make sure that we're ha we're helping them continue to be connected to that. You know, I will say if a patient does require after coming to stay in this facility or in this program, if they do require an inpatient stay, we also have an inpatient behavioral health programs. And if we can't offer that service to them, we will do our best to find that next level of care for them.
Speaker 1: 22:58 And finally, how many people can you, uh, treat there and how many people do you think you need to be able to treat there? What sort of demand is there for this kind of treatment?
Speaker 9: 23:07 So I will tell you right now, we do have a crisis stabilization unit located at the downtown campus. I will say we did as of last week, we moved everyone into the new facility, but we had eight recliners in that facility and they were pretty full most, most often I will. And we now have 16 chairs within this new facility. So I believe we're going to find that the demand for this type of service is pretty significant. We've seen the importance of this within our community. We've seen the benefits to the patients. We've seen the benefits to our emergency rooms, you know, personally with, um, you know, freeing up, uh, you know, some, some additional capacity within the emergency room. We've also seen, you know, that there are less readmissions to the hospital that, um, a rapid crisis intervention, um, can reduce the severity of the crisis and then shorten the time to stabilization too. So I think there's a lot of benefits from a program like this, and we're just excited that, you know, we have the opportunity to offer this, not just to North County, but to anyone within the County that, um, that might need these services.
Speaker 8: 24:21 We've been speaking with Diane Hanson, who is the CEO of Panama health in Escondido. Diane, thank you.
Speaker 9: 24:27 And thank you. I appreciate the time.
Speaker 8: 24:34 Here's another sign that San Diego is working to turn the ship around and the way we approach mental health on Tuesday County supervisors authorized over $3 million for a program that would expand community-based treatment for those otherwise headed into the criminal justice system. It hopes to reduce the number of people who end up in jail when what they really need is help joining us as chief, deputy da, Rachel Solove, who presented this program to the board of supervisors this week. Thanks for joining us, Rachel. You're welcome. My pleasure. So tell us, how is this program different from the counties existing behavioral health court? So this is very similar to the county's behavioral health court. It's built upon the same premise, but what's different about it is that it falls under the newly enacted mental health diversion laws. So instead of being a condition of probation post plea, this is going to be pre pleased.
Speaker 8: 25:24 So it does not require someone to plead guilty to enter into the program. Additionally, this is up to two years, whereas the regular B health behavioral health court program is approximately three years. And why is this an important step? Why did you work so hard to get this through? So this is a really important step in an exciting program, because what it does is it really provides more access to people that maybe don't have the resources when the diversion law went into effect back in July of 2018, since that's been in effect. What we have seen in practice is that oftentimes, um, individuals who come into the criminal justice system who have financial resources, who can afford their own attorneys, they have good insurance, they can afford to pay for doctors to create robust treatment plans, um, that become appealing to the court and to all the other partners in the justice system, because they provide a level of structure and security. And what we found is that sometimes those individuals that don't have those resources were not able to provide such good treatment plans and therefore their access to diversion, um, was decreased. So it's really exciting that what this helps us do is provide an Avenue for individuals who maybe are under insured or uninsured to get into these
Speaker 1: 26:43 And who would be eligible for it. And who would not, perhaps, I mean, we're talking different kinds of crimes here, right? So, um, the diversion law is, is variable
Speaker 8: 26:53 Broad. There are some exclusions, some very serious offenses like murder and rape, the very violent and, and worst of the worst crimes are excluded statutorily from this. Um, pretty much everything else is allowed for consideration. The judge still has discretion as to whether or not to let someone in there are three diagnoses, which are also statutorily excluded. So if someone has antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, or pedophilia, um, they are not eligible for this program.
Speaker 1: 27:25 No, the program includes what they're seeing, what they're calling assertive community treatment. What exactly is that? Right? So that is a very high level of robust
Speaker 8: 27:34 Care and treatment that is provided it's it's provided in the County now. So we just sort of tapped into that program for this diversion track of behavioral health court. And what that includes is among other things that includes the therapy, the counseling, the treatment, the medication, also the wraparound services and case management, some life skills, trainings, and medication management assistance with getting in line for benefits, getting all that stuff lined up and also community linkages, because our goal is always to set people up so that when that period of supervision is over, they're able to provide for themselves. Uh, and, and a big part of that is, is linking them to the community where they're going to seek out treatment, where they're going to get their medications from, uh, when they're no longer being told by the court to do so.
Speaker 1: 28:24 And for someone who does complete the program, how would it change the charges that they initially faced? So for someone that completes the program, the charges are
Speaker 8: 28:33 It's missed and it is sealed. And so, um, it it's essentially like it never happened. Uh, there are some circumstances where it, it is, um, discoverable, so to speak. Um, but for the most part, it's completely sealed. Like it never happened, and it's not a conviction because they didn't plead guilty. So it will not show up as a conviction on their record.
Speaker 1: 28:54 So there's a housing available now for up to 30 people. What do you estimate that the actual need is
Speaker 8: 29:02 Eight is probably greater than, than 30 people, but what we found, uh, one of the things that has made behavioral health court so successful is that it provides for that housing component, which, um, allows for, uh, the stability and the ability to get treatment and the ability to focus on that treatment. And so it was really important and critical in this program that it provides for housing as well. Now this is not the only way that someone can get diversion in the County. So someone that perhaps does not need that high level of care can still get diversion outside of this program. But this program really is able, um, give that opportunity for diversion, for the people that maybe have a much more serious mental illness, uh, issues, mental health issues, and also perhaps, um, more serious crimes.
Speaker 4: 29:54 Do you anticipate any pushback from the communities where the centers are being set up? That's always possible?
Speaker 8: 30:01 Uh, you know, but what the, the nice thing about this program is that it is plugged into the already existing behavioral health court. So it will really just parallel that and utilize a lot of the same resources. So hopefully that won't happen, but that is a possibility, and it's something that we have faced in trying to site the community based crisis stabilization centers that we're trying to stand up, uh, and some other programs as well. So this, this program we're talking about as part of a much larger mental health reform effort at the County. Talk to us a little bit about that. Yes, definitely. Back in 2018 district attorney summer seven brought together about 200 stakeholders in two different symposiums, um, people from diverse backgrounds and experiences, and we mapped the intersection of, um, mental health and criminal justice. So we looked at where individuals with mental health issues, uh, come into the criminal justice system.
Speaker 8: 30:58 And we looked at what the current resources were for the County. And then more importantly, we looked at what the gaps were and then we prioritize those. And from that came the blueprint for mental health reform, which documented the work that these stakeholders did. And it contains several important recommendations on how we transform this. Our ultimate goal is to keep people from coming into contact with the criminal justice system to begin with, but then if they do, we're looking for ways that we can more humanely treat them, recognizing their, their mental health issues and how we can try to set them up to live successful lives.
Speaker 4: 31:37 We've been speaking with chief deputy da, Rachel Solof. Thank you so much, Rachel. Thank you. This is KPBS mid day edition. I'm Maureen Kavanaugh author David Walker. We'll have the black Panther party, a graphic novel released in January KPBS, arts reporter, Beth haka. Mondo asked him to suggest a film to watch that might provide insights into the current black lives matter protests. The film is the spook who sat by the door, and it also ties into the legacy of the black Panthers.
Speaker 10: 32:09 David, I wanted to talk to you now because I feel like with the protests that have been coming up, films can give people a really good context for what's going on and a better understanding of what these protests mean in a larger picture. It's interesting to me that there haven't been really that many films that address the black Panthers as of the actual center piece of the film. Why do you think that is?
Speaker 11: 32:44 Well, I think the reason there hasn't been that many films dealing with the black Panthers. It's, it's pretty complex. I think part of it is that a lot of people still see them as being very controversial. And I think that that it's more, that they're misunderstood than controversial. And I think that it comes down to the fact that if you were to write a story, if you're writing a, I guess for lack of a better term, a traditional narrative of the black Panther party that cast them in the role of the good guys. Well then the bad guys are the United States government and, and it's, and we're talking about a level of corruption on a governmental level of both federal state and municipal that it's kind of mind boggling when you really think about it. It's not as mind boggling now because we're seeing some of these things play out on, on the news on a daily basis, the acts of police brutality, the coverups that are going on, the lack of transparency, all this was going on in, you know, in the sixties.
Speaker 11: 33:44 And, and before that. And since then, but I think that in terms of popular entertainment, it's difficult for a lot of people to get down with. How do we show that? I don't think there's a problem with it. I would love to do it, but I honestly think that that's part of it. I think that part of the problem, dealing with things like systemic racism is that it forces people to take a look at their own culpability. It's not just systemic racism, it's also sexism and homophobia and all the other forms of oppression. Once you acknowledge it, you have to look at your own culpability. And sometimes that culpability is, is merely inaction or apathy. And nobody wants to, nobody wants to face that
Speaker 10: 34:29 One film that kind of addresses the idea of the black Panthers and a film that has been just unfairly overlooked is the spook who sat by the door. And this is a film. Most people may know the director, but not as a director. I've in Dixon was very well known for being on Hogan's heroes. And he directed this movie based on the Sam Greenlee book. Tell me a little bit about the film in terms of what you think makes it important.
Speaker 11: 35:00 You know, the plot in a nutshell is about the first black agent in the CIA he's hired as a sort of token gesture. And after several years working for the CIA, he leaves to take a job as a social worker in Chicago. But what he's really doing is he's forming his own like black militant army with the goal of overthrowing the U S government and starting to sort of rebel army. It's one of my favorite books of all time. It's one of my favorite movies of all time. Some people are terrified by it. Some people are offended by this, this notion of this need to overthrow the government. And I think that part of what's so fascinating to me about this, the movie, the story in general is that it addresses the level of frustration and, and anger and, um, and all these pent up feelings that a lot of black folks have in that, no matter how hard you try, nothing really gets done.
Speaker 11: 36:03 You know, it's, it's you see a lot of people posting stuff online now it's like, okay, well, you know, Martin Luther King preached nonviolence and he got killed for it. And Malcolm X preached preach self-defense even if it meant violence and he got killed for it. And what do you want from us as black folks that we have to do in order for you to realize that we want freedom? You know, we want equality and, and this movie is all about that. There's a quote, Martin Luther King has a quote that says something to the effect of, you know, a riot is the cry of the unheard or something like that. And that's a lot of what that is at its core. That's what the movie is about. The movie is about that. Okay, well, you haven't given us what we've politely asked for. What's guaranteed to us supposedly in the constitution, and now we're going to make you give it to us one way or the other. You're either going to have to kill us, or you're going to have to give it to us.
Speaker 12: 36:58 Hang on brothers and sisters, liberation is near and just a few minutes at precisely three o'clock. We will demolish the lavish offices of the mayor of white Chicago, because we don't have them there. Even if they do kind of vote several times to elect him every four years, remember brothers, his spot lies about an assassination attempt on a mayor, which will appear in the white press. That this time we blew the mayor's office at night, when he was at home to announce the beginning of our wall of liberation, I dedicate this program to the national guard, but we're fresh out of hillbilly music. And according to the press and television, God spends all his time playing basketball with the kids and helping old ladies cross the street. But we know better don't we, we know about that 14 year old girl, the trigger happy guardsmen shot last night, and the people that are beat up in a black business, did it start don't we
Speaker 11: 37:57 Context in terms of when it was coming out? It's interesting because like I said, the movie came out in 73 and you know, this is 73 is, is sort of the peak year of the, the blaxploitation movement. There's a lot of films coming out there were being marketed directly to a black audience. And a lot of these were films that in a lot of ways, almost pacified the audience, they were, they were sort of these revenge fantasies more than they were a call to action. And, and especially by 73, had it, it had become that way. And the spook who sat by the door isn't really like those other movies. It's, it's not, it does feel more like a call to arms than anything else. This is not about hate white folks. It's about love and freedom enough to die or kill for it if necessary that you're going to need more than hate to sustain you when this thing begins.
Speaker 11: 38:49 And part of the reason the FBI worked to suppress it was, you know, there was always this fear of the quote unquote race war, and it was always this fear that something would instigate black people to finally rise up and take arms and, and declare war against the white man. And that's been this fear, this, this white fear in America, since before America was America, when it was still, you know, part of the British colonies. And I think that that, that terrifies people so much, and especially when it's placed in a context of, Oh yeah, they're justified if people, it's interesting because people forget that if you look at say star Wars, star Wars is a movie about rebellion. You know, it's a, it's a movie about a group of rebels rising up against an oppressive state and an oppressive system. And we, in some regards we glorify the rebels, but then another times we, we vilified and it all depends on how the narrative serves our ideological needs. And I think that the fear of, of a movie like spooky sat by the doors, it doesn't feed the needs of the power structure. It calls the power structure to task and it says, uh, yeah, we need to burn it down.
Speaker 10: 40:08 Well, it's interesting too, because a lot of the early scenes in the CIA, it really attacks the CIA for this tokenism. Yeah.
Speaker 13: 40:16 That concludes our oral examination. And let me congratulate you on being the first Negro officer and the central intelligence agency, we've programmed your aptitudes into our computer personnel system or to be our new top secret reproduction center section chief
Speaker 11: 40:33 He's in the third, sub-basement running the Xerox machine and, and, and Dan Freeman, that's the character's name is he, he plays that part so well, he plays that docile. Um, and you know, spook is a term for CIA agents. It's, it's an old slang term. And so the title, you know, basically is at some point, Dan was moved from the copy room up to the front room of the CIA so that when people would come in senators and Congress, people would come in, the first thing they would see is a black person, right? And so he became the spook who sat by the door and it's, and it's just fascinating because there's things that, you know, as, as he's building the army and as he's, they're planning their attacks, there's things that he says a black man with a mop tray or a broom in his hand can go damnit anywhere in this country.
Speaker 11: 41:28 And a smiling black man is invisible because nobody questions you, if you, you know, if you're a janitor and it's just fascinating because there's so many things that are said that are kind of be sort of painful truths. And one of the things that happens in the movie, and I think this is really interesting is as there, as the government is trying to figure out who's behind these, these acts of terrorism, they assume that it's, it must be communist infiltrators, right? That, that it has to be the commies doing it because there's cause black people aren't organized enough. They're not smart enough to do this.
Speaker 14: 42:06 Yep. BIS is it's the most sophisticated on the ground movement in the Western hemisphere, but work of an expert and expertise is white. Man's monopoly, Ryan Dawes, but I am an expert. I spent five years fucking into becoming an expert
Speaker 11: 42:21 And it recalls in 68, the, the Connor commission, which was put together by president Johnson, issued the Kerner commission report on, on racial unrest in the U S and it essentially spelled out everything that we see happening right now today in contemporary 20, 20 America. And initially Johnson, president Johnson discounted all of it. And he, and he thought that somehow the communists were involved in this realization that America was a racially unjust nation. And what the spooky sat by the door gets at is that America will look for any sort of excuse to not have to look directly at racism, racial oppression, down to the cause of it. And down to the reaction of it, you know, it's like, we, we really couldn't have done this. So someone else must have done this. And your responses is unwarranted because so therefore you must be being agitated by it, by whether it's communists or, or someone else. And the film really touches upon things that are being said now, you know, movie came out in 73, so it's, it's, you know, over 40 years old and it's still relevant. It's like, there's, there's nothing in that movie that you can't look on the news and see happening right now.
Speaker 4: 43:45 All right. Well, I want to thank you very much.
Speaker 11: 43:47 Thank you. It was good talking to you. Stay safe and healthy and be well.
Speaker 4: 43:52 That was author David. Walker's speaking with Beth Mondo. You can listen to her full interview with additional film recommendations on her cinema junkie podcast available at kpbs.org/cinema junkie.