Lionel Shriver and DeRay Mckesson: Writers on Q&A | Q&A

This program is live captioned by
Red Bee Media. Good evening and welcome to Q&A. I’m
Tony Jones. Tonight in collaboration with the Melbourne Writers Festival,
Antidote at the Sydney Opera House and the Centre for Independent
Studies, we’re joined by Steve Coll, screenwriter, broadcaster and social
media campaigner Benjamin Law, American novelist Lionel Schriver,
Black Lives Matter and civil rights aboutivist DeRay Mckesson and the
author Ruby Hamad. Please welcome our panel. Thank you very much. Q&A
is live in eastern Australia on ABC TV, iview and News Raid our first
question now. — Radio. Our first question now. Thank you. Lionel
Schriver, in 2016 you spoke about the left’s embris of identity
politics and gottia hypersensitivity and it led to the appeal of Trump,
“For people who have had it up to their eyeballs being told what they
can and cannot say.” Shortly afterwards he was then eexpected
President. Do you think the liberal left particularly in the US has
recognised and accepted that Trump’s popularity can be partially
attributed to a backlash against this tribalism based on group
identity? Or has Trump’s appalling behaviour over the past 2.5 years
only the left to fight harder using the same tactics that failed them at
the 2016 election? Lionel Schriver There’s something about in the way
you asked that question, I think you just answered it, which is the
latter, right. One of the worst things about the Trump
Administration is the effect it’s had on the left. It hasn’t sobered
them up in the slightest. And instead has driven the language to
become evermore shrill. And I’ve actually found the people who are
the best commentators on Trump, who are opposed to him in every way but
do so with the greatest effcasty, is the folks who are moderate, in fact
understated, who use dryness, a light touch, reserve, because that’s
what he can’t fight. He thrives on invective, he thrives on name
calling, that’s what his idea of what politics is. And I’m afraid
that the left who are to a greater degree have fallen into that trap.
Fatally so do you think from their point of view, with an election
coming up next year? I think they have never taken any responsibility
for his election. An op-ed and a subsequent little book, he didn’t
completely blame the left for Trump and I think that’s simplistic, but
they certainly take some blame for being so extreme and so bossy and so
alienating, not just the right, but the centre of the US, that they did
help the Trump campaign along? Let’s go back to that quote of yours,
Lione “People have had it up to the eyebulls of being told what they can
and cannot say.” Which is one of the reasons they turned to Trump. One of
the main things they were told they couldn’t talk about is immigration.
And that is one of the reasons that Trump was elected. The suppression
of a discussion about immigration, its pros and cons, and it is one of
the reasons that people got fed up. Because there’s only one standard
view of immigration in the US that’s acceptable, it’s the most wonderful
thing in the world, and anyone who says that even mass immigration
uncontrolled, illegal immigration, that there’s anything wrong with it
whatsoever is a racist. And that’s just stopping the discussion at the
get-go. And when you’re repressive of that conversation, it actually
drives people to more extremes. Let me go to DeRay Mckesson. Do you
think the left in a sense left Trump off the hook to take the last part
of that question? No. You think about the election, remember more
people voted against Trump than voted for him. We can’t forget that.
This is not this election that suddenly all these people came out
and voted in droves for him at the cust of everybody else. There’s no
way to talk about the election in 2016 without talking about voter
suppression. It wasn’t as if the left was so volatile that people
suddenly didn’t vote. It was at the right suppressed the votes. What
does it mean when they’re purging a million votes in one state and
knocking people off the rollsen high numbers? There’s no way to talk
about what happened in 2016 what talking about that. I am shocked, I
think we were all shocked the Trump voters existed long before Trump was
there, the white supremacy was really a voting base that people
didn’t think would vote like that but they did. I struggle with the
idea people can’t talk about immigration. People have been
talking about immigration for a long time. What you think about what
Trump is dog, it’s a dangerous idea to lump all that in this motion of
mass immigration. Trump is literally putting kids in cages. More people
are detain in the history or any agency that’s ever been like ICE.
The Trump Administration now, they just passed a rule that will allow
immigration judges, the Attorney-General to make decisions
on any case that’s pending in immigration court. We’ve never sewn
that happen before. They’ll be able to wipe-out the cases at the
Attorney-General level. That’s a wild thing. Don’t think people
couldn’t talk about it. I do think people believe there should bow a
fair process. Steve Coll, what — be a fair process today. Steve Coll,
what do you think? The Trump Administration has invented a
narrative about immigration which is political and populist, it is
familiar from American history but it’s not really aligned with what’s
happening at the border, the rets of crossing during the Trump
Administration have for the most part been down or normal compared to
the decade before. What’s different is the narrative of enforcement and
detention and the rhetorical effort to build a wall that even his own
Republican Party won’t fund. The Republican Party used to be a party
of seeking to win over the Latino vote in the US and often were able
to win 40% or 45% of it. And President Trump’s strategy is to go
in a completely different direction. That’s what 2020 will be about. You
see it now. It’s very loud, very divisive and it’s only beginning.
You heard Lionel’s view of the left and the way they’re playing their
card at the moment. It could lose them the election in her view, what
do you think? Look, the President’s quite unpopular, considering the
economy is booming and we’re basically at full employment. His
approval ratings are about 40%. Those are the kind of ratings that
can win an election historically at this point in the cycle. The
question is who are the Democrats going to nominate and what issues
will they run on? They took the House back in 2018 by nominating the
most part in swing districts, military veterans, formnertelligence
officers and a disciplined campaign. They talked about healthcare. I
don’t know whether the presidential campaign will be as disciplined or
as focused on the so-called kitchen table issues that really drive
American voters who decide these elections. And certainly in the
States that he flipped last time, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan.
African American turnout is critical but so are suburban women and so are
the issues that involve economic security and healthcare is at the
heart of that. If the Democrats run on those issues that they did in
2018 I think they’ve got a fighting chance. I don’t see a candidate
right now who will pull all of that together. Ben, pick up on the core
of that question which was there’s a suppression of, or the idea is a
suppression of free speech that is to say identity politics somehow got
in the way and a lot of people were very angry about that and voted for
Trump as a result? I think your question is really interesting
because it can be applied to the Australian conversation, the notions
of freedom of speech, identity politics. If anything I’d like to
tease out we’re talking about when we talk about identity politics
recollection, when we’re talking about tribalism. What some might
perceive as tribalism, other people see as community. What are the lines
between those two things? When we talk about identity politics, I
mean, often I do find a lot of really valid conversation dismissed
as identity politics because they’re reactions to racism, homophobia and
sexism. At what point do you think this is a valid conversation in
response to things? I find myself talking about my race and my
sexuality quite a bit. I don’t particularly want to. I have other
things I’d prefer to discuss and talk about but sometimes I have to
bring it up because I feel it’s been enforced on me. The same-sex
marriage postal survey was a very clear example of that. That forced
people to come out and talk about their sexuality and gender identity
and often share stories that are incredibly painful just so people
could see their humanity reflected somehow. So there is labour involved
in that conversation. It’s not that people necessarily always want to
have it. The idea of, you brought up the word shrill as well and I wonder
at what point does justified anger become shrill? These are questions
I’m not sure I have the answers to. Ruby, we’ll hear from you and then
go on. I’m intrigued by this idea that it’s the left that needs to
take responsibility. I think absolutely the Democratic Party has
to take some responsibility for the campaign they ran and for the way
they ran their primaries, they’re the losing side, but what are we
talking about when we’re talking about the left? What are we talking
about when we’re talking about not being able to say things? I think
we’re skirting very politely around the issue but I think what we’re
talking about is are people of colour talking about racism making
white people more racist and voting for a racist President? Yep. Go on.
When I talked about identity politics, it is perfectly acceptable
to refer… Hang on a second, we will get a microphone to you. I was
hearing you but I’m sure the audience wasn’t. I refer to identity
politics I think it’s perfectly and reasonable when talking about
sexuality and race, that it’s appropriate to bring that up. What
concerns me about identity politics is that we seem to be elevating the
group identity as the core of a person’s argument as opposed to the
ideas that are being raised. What I often find is if you’re not female,
you can’t talk about female issues. If you’re not on the autism
spectrum, it would be inappropriate to have an opinion on autism
spectrum issues. I happen to be on the autism spectrum, so I raised
that. That’s what I mean by it. Identical take it as a comment but
you’re anticipating our next question which I’ll go to straight
away. Thank you. In the midst of callout culture, modern authors have
become subject to proliferating prohibitions regarding the content
of their fictional works. With one of the primary justifications for
this censorship, being that writers do not have the authority to
represent perspectives that are not theirs. Does the battle between
insensitivity and oversensitivity in the realm of fiction invite a
greater attitude of ignorance and division by promoting the idea that
we can never aptly empathise with the world that is not a mirror image
of our own? This is effectively a of your speech tomorrow night. Go ahead
and anticipate it? I’ve been very public on this point. Fiction
writers, their whole job is to try to imagine being different people.
And therefore to say that you are not allowed to project yourself in
to the minds of characters who have a different race or gender or sexual
preference than your own, it is not only limiting for the author, it is
also, means that the fiction is going to be very narrow and it
creates a kind of weird literary apartheid between two covers. It’s
ant thetical to the whole nature of the purpose of fiction, which aside
to entertain is also to enlighten, to invite the reader into new worlds
and to new experience. And I’m generally just unhappy with this
whole attitude of the ownership of your culture and the protection of
your experience and a kind of possessiveness about it. None of us
have very long on this earth. And we need to share with each other as
much as possible and that includes imaginetively projecting —
imaginatively projecting ourselves into each other’s experience which
is as a reader or a writer. Where do you see the threat coming when you
talk about this? Only yesterday, ahead of your speech, you warned
about the dangers of cultural cowardice, a movement on control and
silence and obedience. What is that movement and where is it coming
from? A lot of it is coming from universities but it’s spread into
the mainstream culture. And I think one of the biggest problems is
sensorship — self-censorship. Where are the rules coming from? Something
of a history. They seem to be emanating from but sprouting up on
social media. I think the real problem is letting people who invent
these rules dictate things. You don’t have to take these rules
seriously. They’re not written in law, right. Ultimately they’re just
suggestions that you can ignore. I think it’s important to break down
the barriers between people and cultures. We have been celebrating
multiculturalism for decades. This is really antithetical to that
movement which was ultimately very productive. It’s about a co-mingling
rather than a separation. And that’s my biggest problem with identity
politics is the way it divides people and separates people from
each other and often pits groups of people against each other. Before I
move on to the other pannests and I will quickly, but you seem to be
saying that the logical conclusion of this is theection of fiction, the
end of the novel and all that would be available to a writer is memoir?
Absolutely. The groups that we are broken in to seem to be getting
narrower and narrower. If you take this to a logical conclusion, if I
am not allows to write from a man’s perspective or from an Australian’s
perspective, because I’m not Australian, eventually you narrow it
done and I’m just writing about 5 foot 2 American women who were born
in North Carolina. (LAUGHTER) Benjamin Law, what do you think?
You’ve written characters and written characters for your own
family in television but there are characters who are not Chinese
Australian. Sure. I’ve written characters who are white
middle-class women, that’s not necessarily my experience. On the
very core of what you’re saying I fundamentally agree with, it’s not
just thecraft of a writer but the obligation of a write, especially a
fiction writer, to extent that muscle of empathy which is why we
turn to fiction. We not only turn to fiction to see lives that aren’t
like ours but lives we can reflect ourselves in, even though we have
nothing in common with them to share that humanity. I have to say part of
this conversation needs to be contextualised because I’m getting
part of what has galvanised you is hearing things like shriver’s speech
at the Brisbane Writers Festival — Lionel Schriver’s speech at the
Brisbane Writers Festival. I’m a fan of a lot of Lionel’s work,
especially essays. Keep talking. But the speech itself, though, was
interesting because in part not wholly it was in a response to a
Washington Post review to one of your novels. And that review wasn’t
necessarily about cultural appropriation. That reviewer felt
that you had written a character of colour poorly. One of the reasons I
resorted to that was just to fill out the speech. Let me explain.
There were very few examples at that time – this was in 2016, of the
cultural appropriation taboo being applied to fiction. One of the
things that’s very interesting to me is how broadly it has been applied
to fiction in the year since. I was desperate for some kind of example.
The cultural appropriation conversation is an important one. I
think it was separate in terms of the response of what the Washington
Post was pointing out in your work. The whole conversation about
cultural appropriation exists because it acknowledges that there’s
been a long history in performance, in television, in literature,
basically across the arts, where people have been spoken about but
not engaged in the work, where people have been marginalised within
publishing on the stage, and felt they had their stories represented
by other people. And that is kind of a form of historical dehumanising.
I’m not of the camp where I say you shouldn’t write about people who
aren’t you. What I am saying is that we need to be coninousants of the
history — coginousant of the history, of yellow face, black face,
of minstrel shows, because that was the original sins that spurred the
conversation in the first place. I need to throw around to the rest of
the panel. Let’s hear from DeRay Mckesson first of all. I actually
went back and had a look at a Tony Morrison interview recently, sadly
departed Nobel Prize Winner. She said, “I can write about white
people. White people can write about black people. Anything can happen in
a novel. There are no boundaries there.” Do you agree with that
general proposition? It is sad she is gone. I think the spirit of that
is right and we are reminding people that the history of publishing is a
white people telling stories about everybody. That is what publishing
was for so long. And it was white authors saying they were the most
oritative and the most able to write about everybody’s culture. I think
this response is saying that people are smart enough to write about
themselves. We trust people to write their own narratives and their own
stories and we want to empower people to write, not only
understanding identity as an intellectual exercise, I’m
entelectually inhabiting this other experience, but I know it because I
lived it. That’s where this comes from. I think there’s a difference
between appropriation and appreciation. It is about centring
your own experience as you inhabit another body or another life.
Appreciate is saying, “I’m learning in this moment too. I’m growing and
pushing myself as I explore something else. I think that is the
challenge that we see. We think of identity politics back to you and
all politics as identity politics and there’s no way you engage in
what power looks like without thinking about yourself as a man or
somebody who has a range of identities. That is like actually
what it is. We hear a dog whistle and a command. We hear people saying
it’s not that identity doesn’t matter but it’s any idea that’s not
mine doesn’t matter. That’s what we hear when we hear that phrase.
Because there’s no way should you not enter into conversations mindful
of the way your lived experiences factor into the world around you.
What Toni Morrison said and what made her really mad was when critics
said, “You should write about white people too and the confrontation
between and black people. That’s the real you should be writing about.”
It made her really mad. In other writings, she’s like, “Black people
are the best people to write about white people because we had to
survive all of them. We had to raise your kids. We built the We did all
of it. We are — country. We did all of it. We are more able to write
about you because we had to survive.” There is something to that
again. They’re writers who can inhabit other people’s lives. I
don’t want you to write about a gay black man as an intellectual
experience. I wants somebody to has lived it to write about it. It is
only white authors who feel the authority to write about everybody
else’s culture as if they are the voice. I’ll go back to Lionel to
respond to that. What do you think? That’s a fair point isn’t it? I
think it’s important to distinguish the cultural appropriation
conversation from the diversity one. And that is little by little
publishing has become more inclusive and has broadened both the audience
and the authors that it promotes and that’s all to the good, everyone
benefits from that. And therefore we don’t, we don’t have to defend each
other’s experience. We can just trade information. So, sometimes
this conversation is misinterpreted as preserving the white privilege to
butt into your business. But it’s more that I want us all to but in to
each other’s business. And I am very pleased that publishing is becoming.
I have got to ask you. White privilege in… It’s just a word I’m
tired of. I’m tired of racism. Are you so provoked by the idea you
shouldn’t do it. You’re going to put more, let’s say people of colour,
into your novels? Well, my new novel has two secondary black characters.
And I’m not sure I did it exactly to defy my critics, but I certainly
didn’t stop myself, right. I included these characters because
they were an important part of my story and they needed to be black
for a reason. And I’m not going to tell you what happens. But it was
interesting having to overcome a little interior reluctance, a
little, “You’re going to get yourself into trouble.” Because
right now, just because of this conversation and the sensitivities
of the time, any white novelist who includes characters of other races
is aware that those characters are going to be subject to super
scrutiny. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s of course, it isn’t.
But it — it’s not, of course, it isn’t. But it creates such
reluctance that my colleagues may think berts of it. I wants to hear
from Ruby. What’s your perspective? Firstly, I conquer with all who have
spoken so far that — concur with all who have spoken so far that you
don’t have to be part of a certain group to be able to say something or
try to write from that perspective. I do think there needs to be a
respect for the power of representation. And, yes, white
people have had centuries of being, as you said, the voice, and speaking
for and about everyone else. When I say the respect for the
representation is those representations served a purpose. It
wasn’t just for the fun of it. It wasn’t just because they could do
it. It was part of the way in which power dominates and controls. Angry
black women were represented and still are angry because it’s a way
of invalidating their opinions and invalidating their oppression
because if a black woman and this applies to brown women as well, to
get angry at the way she’s being treated and angser a health response
to sustain this treatment. But because it’s considered an part of
her, it’s completely invalidated. That’s just her being a normal
irrational angry self. We don’t need to listen to her, which is going to
make her more angry. I’ll give a quick example, I think it was a
1929, you can fact check this later, the Mexican Government issued an
embargo on US cultural products that contained representations of
Mexicans and other Latin Americans because the representations were so
derogatory, depicting Mexicans as criminals, Mexican women as sirens
and easy and with no, promiscuous with no morals, so these were so
dominant in the films and in pop culture that there was this total
embargo because that was all part of the domination, the control of
Mexico, in the wake of the Mexican and American role. To bring you to
the point, do you have any objection to a white like Lionel Schriver
writing — writer like Lionel Schriver writing about black
characters in her novels? In one word, no. Let’s stop there. This is
a good opportunity. Because the critsome of Lionel’s character was
that it was a — criticism of Lionel’s character was that it was a
black woman, who ended up getting dementia and put on her leash by her
white husband’s family and drove her around on a leash. Have you read the
book? I have not. I got this from your speech. I did get this from…
That was taken outs of context. In the circumstances I dare say you
would have put her on a leash too. Fair enough. If black women lived
and white people as well lived in a vacuum devoid of context, but the
context is 400 years of slavery and segregation and lynching and I would
like… The context was like chapter 12. I mean the cultural and the
social and political context in which you wrote your novel and you
wrote this character. Now we are all in ways we don’t realise, we are
impacted by our environment. We are impacted by this history and these
centuries of representations and of violence. Ruby, can I give you a
counterexample? The Handmaiden’s Tale is a book about women who
belong to a certain task that are only there to create children for
the upper cast in the society. I don’t think anyone is saying of the
author that you shouldn’t do that because that demeans women, they’re
actually saying, “Oh, my God, this reflects on our society.” Could you
not conceive of that happening? I will ask Lionel, was that your
intention? Were you attempting to draw or to highlight the way in
which black women and black people have been degraded and the violence
that has been… No. At this particular point in the novel it
didn’t matter she was black, what mattered was that she was demented.
She didn’t know where she was. She would wander off. The family has
been cast out of their house. New York City is falling apart. They’re
going to an encampment in Prospect Park and they need to be able to
control her for her own good or she will disappear and probably be
murdered. Why? I think we could get very deep into the plot and that
might… Does that make you want to read the book? Not a bad way to try
and sell your book on a program like this. I’ll move on because we have
questions across a range of subjects. My question is for Steve
Coll. How do you see an independent professional press remaining
relevant in a context of mead fragmentation, social media,
polarisisation and increasingly blurred lines between news and
opinion? That’s a good question. I think the most powerful answer is to
keep doing investigative reporting, that changes societies, and that
exposes corruption and causes ministers who are abusing their
power to resign. That’s the hard-core of journalism, that
distinguishes it from opinion and essay. It’s reporting. It’s about
getting to the bottom of things. Using public records and accessing
whistleblowers, being the court of last resort for people who have been
failed by their institutions. Obviously the press in the US is
under assault by the President, who calls us enemies of the people and
it’s created an atmosphere of incitement which is very disturbing.
Has that accelerated the fragmentation that we’re talking
about? It has strengthened the press. The New York Times? The
Washington Post. It’s strengthened student at Columbia Journalism
School. They know why we’re in the public square and what our job is.
For all of the attacks on the press in the US and in some ways global
we’re in a renaissance of investigative reporting. The #MeToo
movement wouldn’t have happened without investigative reporting.
Think about the abuses in the Catholic Church. Because
institutions failed. The prosecutors failed. The police failed.
Journalism stepped in. Listened. Verified. Published. And things
changed. So that is where, and that credibility in our country, despite
the polarisation which is very severe, it is working in red states
as well as blue states. People want power held to account. They want
abuses stopped. And a free press is an indispensable part of that
system. Ben, what do you think? I think it’s a really good thing to
bring up. The whole idea of Trump actually going out attacking the
press, it really does feel like the first steps towards an autocratic
regime. When you start calling journalists enemies of the state, I
mean, that should send chills down your spine. I guess Trump has said
so many things by now, he’s really kind of drilling complacency into
people. And just building on what you said before, in the Australian
context, we largely, I think surveys have shown we largely distrust
politicians. Understandable. But there is sort of a growing distrust
of the media in some quarters as well. But I would impress on you all
that the media in Australia is diversifying and quite strong and
what happened with say Cardinal Pell wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t
for journalists like Louise Milligan. We are lucky to have that
mechanism here. Steve, is it clearly going in the direction of
strengthening, the media? The digital platforms are changing
everything. With the New York Times, which has become immeasurably
strengthened into the digital space very cleverly? There’s an enormous
economic disruption that has damaged newsrooms across the country. It is
most damaging in the heartland of the country where voters are left
without professional newsrooms reporting on their local
governments, on their state capitals, where I imagine there’s a
golden age of corruption we don’t even know about in some of these
places. There is the collapse of the local news business model that used
to be based in newspapers. On the coasts, at the national news outlets
like The Times and The Post, the digital revolution has become
rewarding. Subscribers are engaging and paying for the news and those
newsrooms are substantially. But it’s unhealthy in that it is located
on the two coasts. And not in the heart of the country. There may be a
way for local news organisations to copy some of the strategies that The
Times imposed and succeeded with but we’re nowhere near stabilisation,
never mind growing back into streng Black Lives Matter obviously
requires public attention. How does the media play into the whole
protest movement that grew up from that, from the early days? Let me
preface it by saying I agree the media is stronger and more important
than it has been in a long time. The media was slow to call a spade a
spade. Trump did a whole lot before they said it was racist. The kids in
cages wasn’t racist? What does it take for you to think something is
racism? People played with Trump and let him get away with a lot before
he got serious. They entertained this idea of both sides for a long
time. When Trump in Charlottesville saying it is people on both sides,
the news kept reporting that like the President said it. I think the
people were not good guys. I think this is an easy call to make. Now
the press is a little more hardline. The ticker tapes on CNN is like
Trump is lying about these five things. You knew that wasn’t true
but it took him a long time to get there. That is really, we can’t not
call it out. They would do both sides around issues of race but when
somebody walked into a newsroom and killed newspaper people, somebody
walked in and threatened newspaper people, killed them, the news didn’t
participate on both sides. They didn’t put anybody who believed the
news was the enemy, those people weren’t on TV, they weren’t getting
profiles. But people who believed in white supremacy were getting full
glamour shot features. The reason they didn’t have people that walked
into a newsroom is they understood that it created dangerous
environments and it was sad they did not have that same energy around
issues of race. With the movement… Did the media get it when these
protests started or got really big in Ferguson, back in I think 2014?
Yeah. And you’ve got Obama as the President then. What happened, did
the media understand what this was all about or was it such a confined
area where it was happening that they didn’t really see the core of
it? I think in the States the media is a bit slow about race in general.
They were slow then. Thankfully we had Twitter and Twitter was really
important to us. Missouri would have tried to convince you we didn’t
exist. For 400 days and in the beginning. How many people are we
talking about? There were big protests and the police used
vehicles, they used tear gas. The police were violent. That’s what I’m
saying. I’m saying we weren’t violent. The police were violent. We
were only in the street because the police killed people. We were in the
street for 400 days. It was a long 400 days. If not for Twitter, they
would have declared that Missouri didn’t exist. You didn’t see any
aerial footage of the protests. They killed Mike Brown on August 9 and 10
people very quickly after, they killed another kid nine days later.
It was wild. When we think about the issue in the States, of all the
people killed by a stranger in the US is killed boy a police officer.
It is bad. People say why am I making this about race, I’m
reminding them race is making it about me. I didn’t do this. We’re in
the street because we had to be. In 2014 it feels like so long ago but
in 2014 there was no Twitter video, no livestreaming and no Pair scope
or Facebook Live. We were making these 6-second video clips and
putting them on the internet. That was how we mobilised thousands of
people. The media picked up. On CNN, a lot of reporters saying we were
being dramatic about the tear gas. And they got tear gas and it was
great. Told you were tear gassing — told you they were tear gassing
people. We tried to tell you they were tear gassing people and you
didn’t care. It took that. You think about Chris Hayes, his show started
right when the protests started and in St Louis toile illegal to stand
still in August and October. When you’re in the street you have to
keep moving all the time? If you saw us marching, it was because we had
to. If you stood still, you were arrested. The reporters, we forced
the reporters to walk, the police would let the reporters stand still.
I said, “No. We all have to walk.” Chris Hayes was out there and I
remember someone saying to him you don’t get to write about us and not
walk. We had to walk all day long and all night. It was that energy
that changed everything. This was the first time black people were
more afraid of being killed by a police officer than by community
violence. The police have killed more people since the protests, not
less. It’s been hard going. The media was slow. One other key
question for you about this. We were talking about the kind of violence
of society generally, about racism and the pressure that it puts people
under and I’m thinking about you at the core of this demonstration. And
the death threats started very early. Have they kept going? How
many death threats have you had and what is your life like having to
live with this constant fear that someone’s going to kill you? Try not
to count them. Don’t do that. But movie theatre was evacuated because
someone said they would kill me. Someone was banned from twitter
because they said they would kill me. Somebody called, the same thing
happened to me, someone called the phone company, posed as me, my
social security number was dumped on the internet, they got my SIM card
changed over the phone and reset all my passwords and logged into
account. I have been seen by five police officers in two states and
one pending case because they are saying that, this got hit by a rock
one night when was outside and I could be held civilly responsible
for that. The reason I still do this is because I think we’ll win. Those
people want us to be too afraid to do the work. The goal is to make us
too afraid to come outside again. Of all the people killed in — a lot of
people in the streets are killed by police officers. We spend a lot of
time in the laws. Any investigation of an officer that lasts more than a
year can never result in discipline regardless of the outcome. Those
thins don’t make sense E. Thank you for that. I will move on because we
have quite a few. from another perspective. A video from Canberra.
The protests in Hong Kong have now been going on for three months. With
the police response becoming increasingly violent and the
protests spreading to countries like Australia, is the Government going
to stand up for human rights and condemn the Hong Kong Government and
call for free and fair elections? If not, does the panel believe we are
now too reliant on trade with Kleina to stand up for its human rights
abuses, both on the mainland and in Hong Kong? Benjamin, we’ll start
with you. Yeah. This is kind of a personal question for me because my
family’s in Hong Kong, my cousins, aunties, uncles. When we watch the
footage on the news, sometimes Australians can feel like it’s a bit
of a remote issue over there. But it’s very much an Australian issue,
just as the questioner said, because it is coming to Australia. We are
seeing violence play out on university campuses. We are sewing
art galleries cancel events that showcase Chinese artists and
dissidents without giving much of an explanation. We have got an
Australian citizen who is currently detained by China. What’s been
really upsetting is that particular writer was told by an investigations
officer when he was being interrogated that Australia was
dependent on China for its trade and economy. Canberra won’t help you let
alone rescue you. When I hear that, I wonder if that’s right. And that’s
something that I think Australians are going to have to confront. We’re
going to have to have a lot more nuance in our conversation about
China. We have to understand the differences between Hong Kong,
China, Taiwan. We have to understand the Communist, the People’s
Communist Party of China. We have seen the alt with which police are
acting — brutality with which police are acting on protesters.
They are beating up civilians just catching the train, sometimes
indiscriminately. Because Australia’s economy is so married to
China and has arguably, our whole story has been married to China for
over 200 years now, we have to kind of now question the terms on which
that marriage continues I think. I’ll hear from Ruby. I agree, the
images are shocking but what I, I get concerned about when we have
this idea that we have to say something and we have to do
something. Put our trade aside and stand up for human rights. How much
is our condemnation going to be worth and if we can step back a
little and see yourselves maybe from China’s perspective and I’m not
going to equate our own human rights abuses on the same level
necessarily, and sometimes they can be comparable, given the colonial
history of this country, but is China going to necessarily listen
and think that we have the moral highground, given how the Indigenous
population is still treated and incarceration rates? There’s an
inquest, all of last week, on going into the death of an Aboriginal
woman in custody, arrested for public drunkenness, allegedly, given
the way in which we sequest asylum seekers in offshore detention as if
they are a little contagion to our society that we have to be protected
from these threats to our way of life. How much is our condemnation
worth in that sense? Why would another government think that we
should be listened to because we’re setting such a fine example? Guess,
I’m not saying it’s all exactly the same. There are obviously nuances
there. But that’s just what I think we have to sometimes see yourselves
from other people’s eyes. I don’t think the problem is really a
question of moral authority. It’s much more pragmatic than that. Yep.
I agree. Australia and other countries of course would have to
hurt China in a practical way. I think they’re perfectly capable of
ignoring moral criticism. They certainly, with the Uruzgans,
they’ve been — they’ve been ignoring them and I think Hong Kong
has the capacity to become a real test of the West because if there is
another Tiananmen Square-style event there, what are we going to do? And
I anticipate probably kind of nothing. Because we’re already too
integrated with China, too dependent on China. China has so much US debt.
You would have to be able to make real economic sacrifices on your own
behalf. And I wonder. I want to hear from your perspective, I’m looking
at these protesters in Hong Kong. You must feel some sort of sympathy,
given what you’ve been through? How does it look? They’re having to
carry umbrellas because of overhead surveillance cameras, cover their
faces because they’re terrified of being identified by the Chinese
security services. The protesters themselves are getting a little more
violent. But the response to them is getting much more violent. Not
necessarily sympathy as much as solidarity. And I think that people
aren’t even talking about this. Two million people out of roughly seven
million people is a lot of people. It’s a lot of people in the street.
When you think about the sheer scale of what it means, two million, I was
talking to the organisers yesterday, how did you move two million people?
A strategy, moving two million people is a big strategy. I do think
countries can step in and say, “We’re watching.” I think about what
it meant for us in St Louis that people, Amnesty came down and it put
the government on edge to know people were collecting data and
evidence. They have been genius. I don’t know if you saw the police are
using, but blue dye in the water cannon to mark the protesters. They
were prepared for it. They were ready. They had changes of clothes.
If you’ve ever been tear gassed – hopefully it hasn’t happened to you
– but tear gas canisters are very hot. They’re just hot. What they’re
doing which is brilliant they had people whose roll is to pour water
on the canister. And it dissipates it and that is brilliant. If
anything I’m proud of them and I’m in awe. I was talking to an
organisers and asked what was the difference with this protest? She
said Facebook Live has been the difference. There’s older people in
Hong Kong who are seeing it happening in real time. And they’re
like, “This is real.” Everything they’d seen before had been heavily
edited. Two million out of seven million is a win. I’ll go to Steve.
On the mainland, they’re not getting anywhere near that kind of coverage,
Facebook Live does not exist there. They’re not getting live feeds
unless they have some way of getting around the Great Wall of China as
they call it. What are the unique problems for reporters in China at
the moment? Well, they just threw out a Wall Street Journal reporter
for writing about a family member of the President. And they keep
reporters on renewable visas that are essentially a form of coercion.
Usually I think a year at a time. A friend of mine was thrown out for
reporting on them. Certainly in the cities, the sophisticated Chinese
know how to work around it. What is extraordinary about this is the
resilience and the breadth of this protest. We have been covering in
protests in Hong Kong periodically for a number of years now. But the
determination, the resilience and the risk-taking and the strength of
this protest, it is one of the most extraordinary events in the world
right now. I do think it’s right that a very easy and yet meaningful
response for western governments is to tell China we’re watching. If you
do go in you’ll pay a price. It may be right to be cynical about what
price would actually be paid if they did but the warning is still
effective right now. China wants to take advantage of their American
retreat into the world of the Trump Administration. It to be credible
across the world with the entire membership of the United Nations.
That’s parts of why they’re kind of self-restrained right now is they
don’t want to have to pay the price in global opinion. We should raise
that price as high as we possibly can. Another question now. Sort of
on this — subject. Australian Chinese arrived four generations ago
on the goldfields and that’s 150 years of history. Then South-East
Asians came in the ’80s and mainland Chinese flowed in over the past 20
years. Out of the one million here already, where does the truer
loyalties lie? Has mainstream media created doubt? Benjamin? It’s a
really good question. Chinese Australian history goes back even
further. The first Chinese documented immigrant to come to this
countries arrived 201 years ago. And that was before the gold rush. There
were Chinese market forces at play that drove Australia’s first taste
of globalisation through a trade of sea cucumber through Arnhem Land
with mocasens in Indonesia. The Chinese and presence in this country
laz been going on for quite a long time which is why I find it so
interesting where I’m sure, people like me, are constantly still asked
where do we come from and do you feel more Chinese or more
Australian? Your loyalties are always questioned. I think more to
the extent than say a second generation German immigrant to this
country. You go up to Darwin, Far North Queensland, you get even
thicker accents like mine up there with the Chinese face too. We’ve
been part of the tapestry for so long. One of the reasons we made
this 2-part documentary series for the ABC was to reframe not just
Australian Chinese history but Australian history. Chinese history
has always been at the core of this nation. You’re absolutely right,
whether it is our interference with the real estate market or
interference with the baby milk formula market or anything else,
suspicion is always cast on us, even though you can’t go and participate
in this. Do you feel it’s a real thing, the question has been raised,
but do you feel that is real? When we made the documentary, what was
interesting to me was that I realised that I was born in this
spot/warm patch between — sweet spot/warm patch between anti-Chinese
xenophobia, the white Australia policy, that thrusted this country
into Federation, was because of a fear of the Chinese specifically.
And that white Australia policy lasted right up essentially until
the mid 1970s. I came along in the 1980s. And by the time I go to high
school Pauline Hanson is out there saying I don’t assimilate to this
country and I form gangs which sounds kind of cool but I never
really got to that point. So we’ve had a long history of anti-Asian
racism and I think that does accounts for why our loyalties are
still questioned in this country. I’ll leave it with you that one. We
have another question now. Thank you. So my question is to Ruby. A
white woman being Asian, white supremacy, and has been well
documented in the USA, where the white woman making oplarge majority
of Trump’s supporter base, but how has this idea of white woman heard
manifested in contemporary Australia and how can we talk about something
like that without ignoring the fact that most women of colour are also
settlers, living here on Aboriginal land? Ruby? Thank you. Good 2-part
question. So I think the first part is why womanhood has manifested here
in a very similar way to the US. Different but similar origins, as
European settler colonies and white women in all that time were
subordinated to white men but yet they were white. So they’re a part
of the privileged class or the ruling class. So they’ve played this
kind of dual role where they were held up as these paragons of virtue
and innocence that had to be protected and protected from the
Indigenous and slave populations and, yet, at the same time, kind of
incapable of ruling because they’re not up on the same level as white
men. And obviously since that time they’ve resisted that framing of
themselves, there’s been white women that have taken it on, they want to
look in the Australian context, obviously an example, Pauline Hanson
I think plays that sort of role very well, where she flips between being
a victim who is always having to deal with so much from the men in
her party that she hires, and then to being quite forceful and angry.
And so and then obviously that sort of manifests in all sort of
different strata of society. Can I try and boil down this answer? Are
you making the case that white women in colonial societies in Australia,
the US and other places have been let off the hook by history, that
the men have been blamed for all the bad things but you seem to be
claiming that the white women in these societies are not equally to
blame but heavily to blame? Yep. Look, it’s a really strong way of
putting it. I know that was in the title of the article I wrote. I
didn’t write the title. What I’m trying to say is that we need to
interrogate that history and the way in which the history still impacts
us today in order to understand not only the oppression of woman of
colour and all people of colour, but why white women seem to be making
gains in some arenas and not in others. And the first thing, what
sort of sprang to my mind because in the research of writing this book is
violence against women is not decreasing. So you would think as
white women are more power and more representation, that would sorts of
even out all across the board, that their lives would improve in all
areas. Doesn’t that rather suggest the feminist argument, the discourse
around women being chattels, women being in particularly colonial,
women being forced into a situation is closer to the mark? I don’t think
that they were, I think it’s quite, it’s quite disrespectful,
particularly of black women in America and Indigenous women here to
say that white women were chattels in the same way and degraded in
quite the same way, that blam women were, because white women did have a
choice whether to come here or not. They did come and settle. And they
had a lot more freedom. More choice than a prisoner, a convict? We’re
talking about groups and history. There is always exceptions and
nuances. As a ruling class, white women had choice and a certain level
of autonomy that was not allowed for Indigenous men and special women of
colour. Now I’ve lost the train of my thought. The second part of the
question. What I do want to say is one of the sort of the big eye
openers for me in the research that I did in this book is I think a
massive part of the reason why white women are still not believed when
they talk about their experiences of sexual and assault and of violence
at the hands of white men is that throughout history white women have
been regarded as a protected class to be protected only from men of
colour. Only from the sexual deviancy of black men and when
settlers came brown men. The second part of your question, it’s very
important. We’re going to run out of time. I’m so sorry. I want to hear
other perspectives. You were about to jump in, Lionel. I am hoping that
it is not your purpose to set in the modern day white women against
minority women and in the contest of who has been more oppressed. That’s
one of my main problems with this way of thinking, the identity
politics thing. Is that kind of rivalry which I don’t think… This
is very important. And I know, I’m sorry to take up other people’s
time, I can’t let that stand. If there’s a rivalry or a division in
feminism, a division in our society, it’s not caused by people of colour
because we’re talking about our oppression, it’s because we’re
talking about our experiences. I’m not saying that minority women are
causing it, but it’s a way of thinking and I don’t find it very
productive. It’s based on history and our experiences. I will stop you
just there. DeRay Mckesson, what do you think? Is there a sense in which
white women in the US have been let off the hook when it comes to the
long history of racism? I hear this idea of nobody wins when we play the
oppression Olympics. That is not a winning game. I will say that there
is something particularly around whiteness that we aren’t honest. The
history of whiteness is the history of exploitation and domination. I
didn’t invent that. When we think about white women specifically you
think about the new research has come out about white female slave
honours. There is a narrative white women on plantations were these
passive bystanders while the men were inflicting all this damage. The
new research actually suggests white women explicitly participated every
facet in the institution of slavery. They were intimately involved in the
persecution of people, intimately involved in the perpetuation and the
defence of the institution. There is something about naming the history
and it is this idea of not letting people off the hook in the way we
talk about the historical record. 53% of white women voted for Trump
and that’s not something we ignore, that hat happened. There is
something about being honest. When we talk about truth and
reconciliation and we are reminded the truth has to and before the
reconciliation and a lot of people want to do all this reconciliation
work without dealing with the truth first. The final word to Lionel.
Well, I agree with all that, right? And I’m always glad of points of
agreement. We are living in a time of unnecessary polarisation and one
of the things I’ve enjoyed about this particular panel is that it’s
been cullegeal, I think. — cullegial, I think. A perfect place
for us to leave this particular panel. We’re a little over time.
Thank you to Steve Coll, Benjamin Law, Lionel Schriver, DeRay Mckesson
and Ruby Hamad. Thank you very much. You can continue the discussion on
Facebook and Twitter. Next week on Q&A, Western Australia Greens
Senator and passion disability advocate Jordon Steele-John, Greg
Sheridan, Zed Seselja, Western Australia Labor MP Anne Aly and the
Grattan Institute’s Danielle Wood. Last week I speculated the audience
for Sky News after dark was perhaps 5,000. I asked Sky to fact check
that and they did. So they claim that more than 60,000 viewers tune
in at night, so I hereby turn over the issue to any other interested
fact checkers. Until next Monday. Goodnight.

21 thoughts on “Lionel Shriver and DeRay Mckesson: Writers on Q&A | Q&A

  1. Another week, another hour of marxist filth from the ABC. Tony Jones was a real dog with that "correction" about Sky News right at the end. Sky probably still has more viewers than ABC24.

  2. What new wars has President Trump started since being office? In fact as far as I know he has avoided a couple that Hilary would have gladly started according to her pre election rhetoric. The US economy is buoyant since Trump has held the crown. The Left is like a cut snake wiggling in the media because he will not follow their Leftist Social Marxism agenda. Let's hope that the Chief gets elected in 2020 for another prosperous 4 years and so he can get the wall completed amongst many other fabulous MAGA initiatives.

  3. Why didn't they mention the five white police officers that were killed by Black Lives Matter during the Obama administration.

  4. Qanda is quite possibly the most sorry excuse for a panel show (and that's saying something) that is so far up its own behind on its self perceived intellectualism. And the worst thing about it is that it's publicly subsidised.

  5. So the answer to the second question is that if you want to hear "your" stories, write your stories and make them interesting enough for people to read them. The problem minorities can't seem to understand they are facing in societies like Australia is that they are minorities. If hearing stories from a certain perspective is so important to people of that perspective, don't expect a huge audience when you only make up a small percentage of the possible audience. It's what annoys me about that "Oscars so white" thing in Hollywood.White is the biggest racial group and Hollywood studios are businesses, so if part of what makes someone pay to see art is seeing reflections of themselves then it would be smart business to reflect to the majority.

  6. 36:10 – How is "kids in cages" immediately racism? I don't understand how they get to these conclusions of racism from something like that. The only people crossing the border illegally are a different race to Trump. They don't know if he would do it to white kids, because white kids aren't crossing the border illegally in these numbers.

  7. If aliens are monitoring our solar system for intelligent life, we can only hope they perceive this transmission as a joke .
    What really hurts is we know it is not . Would anybody pay for this junk .

  8. Hamad made 2 references to the Atlantic Slave trade that lasted 400 years but not one word about the far worse Muslim Slave trade that lasted from 632 to the mid 1960s. Why does the ABC give a platform to such hypocritical Muslims. Must be because they cannot be accused of being Islamophobic, a term invented by Islamofascists to deflect attention away from Islamic intentions.

  9. I love this show as comedy
    And rarely is commonsense heard.
    Its always victim mentality.
    2020 is lost to dems because they are not connected to reality

  10. Who pushed the Russia gate story and Trump as the ""Manchurian candidate "" ? The reporters and the talking heads on CNN and MSNBC !! All those newspapers literally ganged up against this President and published some of the most outlandish lies to disqualify him as the commander in chief !!Strangely enough he won the Presidency quite easily with the electoral college votes .
    He would have won the popular vote if many illegal migrants living in bankrupt California were given the green light and encouraged to vote by the Democrats holding the real power in that state .

  11. 8:08 "Who are the Democrates going to nominate?" the best bet for the Democrates would be Andrew Yang who is running on a non-ideological platform of solving the problems that got Trump elected in the first place, i.e the automation of 4million jobs in the swing states that Trump needed to win & did.

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