LOS ANGELES - This week, after nearly three weeks of protests in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, changes of all shapes and sizes started to take place in America.
From newly announced police reforms at the state and national levels to the removal of Confederate portraits in the halls of Congress, from a prominent Senator passing the baton in the race for Vice President to the possible return of an NFL QB, America’s institutions, and those who run them, are responding to the cries for change.
Elex Michaelson breaks down these changes, and more, as he’s joined on The Issue Is by California Attorney General Xavier Bacerra, author and activist Kimberly Jones, and commentator and journalist LZ Granderson.
The conversation begins with California’s Attorney General, Xavier Becerra, who this week announced a series of sweeping police reforms that he advises all law enforcement in the Golden State to adopt.
Included in those guidelines were nine use-of-force reforms, including the banning of chokeholds, proportionality between the force used and the threat presented, the use of verbal warnings before force, and comprehensive reporting.
Despite advising plenty of new restrictions on officers, Becerra said the proposals have been met quite positively by the law enforcement officials he has spoken with.
“Many of these agencies have already adopted some of these things, but they are not statewide,” Becerra said. “I think California is further along than most parts of the country, but these are all common sense, they’re all based upon best practices and research, and I think most people in our communities would say ‘you mean, we don’t already do those things.’”
But as Becerra says his proposals have been met with open arms by legislators and law enforcement, many of the thousands of protestors who have taken to the streets in recent weeks to oppose racial injustice and police brutality have been calling for more, namely the curbing of powerful police unions and the defunding of police altogether.
On the union issue, Becerra said the way to give voters and Californians confidence in their institutions is by removing political contributions from the equation.
“I think there’s too much money in the entire political system altogether,” Becerra said. “The more we can get money out of politics, the better off we’ll all be.”
As others have proposed, the Attorney General said he would also be open to an outside prosecutor who can handles police-involved cases, removing any questions about the close working relationship between officers, their unions, and the DA’s office.
Responding to calls to #DefundThePolice, Becerra pushed back on the idea that people want to dismantle law enforcement, saying he believes that what people actually want are smart policing and investments in communities that in turn prevent the need for police to need to go in at all.
From policing, the conversation shifted to Coronavirus, specifically Governor Gavin Newsom’s recent statewide order requiring the use of face coverings in public spaces. This, as the number of confirmed cases in the Golden State has started to increase again, with a record 2,126 new cases on Wednesday of this week alone.
Michaelson asked Becerra how the order would be enforced. Becerra said he understands the need for, and supports, the Governor’s order, but that enforcement is a real question.
“Do we have police officers patrolling the streets looking for folks who aren’t wearing masks, or do we have them doing things that prevent other, more serious, types of crime,” Becerra asked. “It’s very tough to give you a real precise answer.”
Additionally, he added that Californians have a moral obligation, as well as a legal one, to follow the rules in order to keep their neighbors and families safe. He said that’s a cause of great concern to him, especially as he worries about the health and well-being of his family during the pandemic.
“I have an 86 year old mother who lives with me,” Becerra said.”I am going to make sure I’m following the rules. If I do something that makes it so my mother contracts the virus, I’m never going to forgive myself.”
The conversation wrapped up with a focus on the immigrant story, especially as the Supreme Court ruled this week that the Trump administration could not overturn the Obama-era Executive Order that created the DACA program. At least, he could not overturn it in the way he had tried.
Becerra said the court’s decision was essentially an indictment of the way President Trump does business, SCOTUS sending a clear signal that no one, not even the President, is above the law.
On a more personal note, Becerra also spoke of his own experience as the child of two immigrant parents, discussing the struggles and discrimination his parents faced throughout their lives, and the joy he felt being able to introduce them to President Clinton, a true demonstration of how far they had come.
“I’m an optimist, it’s probably because I’m the son of immigrants and it runs in my DNA,” he said “The promise of America is that it let’s you punch above your assigned weight class…. that’s the beauty of this country.”
After California’s top law enforcement official, Michaelson was next joined by author and activist Kimberly Jones and commentator and journalist LZ Granderson to discuss the broader issue of race and the Black experience in America.
As Friday was Juneteenth, the commemoration of the 1865 end of slavery, Michaelson began by asking Jones about the significance of the date, and about her belief that the nation should be better educated about its occurrence.
The most important thing we can recognize is that Black history is American history, we are all nationals of this country, so we need the full breadth of what has happened int this country to develop where we are in this nation,” Jones said, stressing that the whiteness of history books and school curriculums has left a societal confusion about the feelings of African Americans in America.
But beyond the ongoing protests, this Juneteenth also came at a time when the debate over Confederate statues and monuments has been reignited in a major way. In the past few weeks, statues of Confederate leaders, as well as Founding Fathers, have been toppled, legislation has been proposed in the Senate to rename military bases carrying the name of Confederate generals, and in the halls of The House of Representatives, Speaker Nancy Pelosi had the portraits of four former Speakers removed due to their Confederate pasts.
What does Granderson make of the move and how Americans should view that history?
“It’s important to know there’s a difference between remembering and honoring,” Granderson said. “We should certainly remember our history, but typically we save monuments and statues and buildings being named after people that we are honoring.”
He continued, asking why Americans are spending so much time honoring those who he said did not love America, who rebelled against it, and who worshipped a flag that according to history was about protecting slavery and white supremacy.
From the divisive politics of the past, the conversation next turned to the current political race. This, as on Thursday, Senator Amy Klobuchar announced she had pulled her name from consideration for Joe Biden’s running mate, saying she believes the moment is right for that title to go to a woman of color.
So, who should Biden pick?
“I haven’t the slightest idea, I don’t even know if he needs to pick a woman of color,” Granderson said. “Whoever he picks needs a worldview in which they look at this conversation of police reform and criminal justice and they take it seriously, and they take it with a long lens.”
Jones agreed, saying that what is really important is the running mate’s actual politics. If pressed though, Jones said she does like Stacey Abrams, who she said she believes could push the narrative further.
Jones was less enthused on CA Senator Kamala Harris.
Also of political importance this week, the aforementioned Supreme Court decisions, namely Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, which ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act protects the LGBTQ community from workplace discrimination.
“First and foremost, I was very disappointed to know that we’re still at this place,” Granderson said, noting that he is happy with the ruling. “We’re still at the place where the Supreme Court has to decide the dignity of Americans, we’re still there… The reality is, that still, in most of the country, you can be kicked out of your apartment for being openly LGBTQ, so there’s still a lot of work to be done on that part.”
The conversation wrapped up with Jones and Granderson offering their general thoughts on this moment in American history, and where the nation goes from here.
Granderson started, discussing his experience covering the combined marches of LA Pride and Black Lives Matter. He said it was the first time he had seen the Pride Flag next to the signs for Black Lives Matter, and that the experience warmed his heart.
“Where do we go from here? I think we keep on this path of unity, where people are beginning to see that we’re not each other’s enemies, but that if we just love each other and treat each other with respect, if we uplift each other, that we’re a much better society and we’re closer to the promise of America.”
Jones said that now that people have made noise and made their voices heard, now is the time to get organized and vote, namely for candidates that have their best interests at heart.
The Issue Is: with Elex Michaelson is California's only statewide political show. For showtimes and more information, go to TheIssueIsShow.com.