Back in the day, it seemed like folks could disagree on a lot of things, but still find ways to coexist. People didn’t always insist on their relationships being contingent upon harmonious politics or beliefs. Things have changed. In today’s polarized society, it can feel nearly impossible to find common ground with folks who don’t share our views on big issues, especially when those folks are the people closest to us. For many families, political beliefs, racism, gender discrimination, and other hot button topics can cause personal rifts that can tear a family apart. In this episode, we discuss how to have healthy disagreements with family members when diverging views on big issues make basic conversations extremely difficult.
When we began this podcast in June of 2020, we brainstormed a lot about what we wanted to do with the show and how we wanted to go about it. Among the many topics and formats we discussed, one idea in particular has consistently been on the “we definitely need to do that” list. We wanted to record short personal monologues from each of us that could be released in between full episodes, partly as a way to keep our content coming regularly, but also as a way to think more thoroughly about the lessons we’ve each learned throughout the course of our lives. After all, the show is about finding the truth, and what better way to search for it than to start from within.
Well, without further adieu, Dialectic Peoples Presents Bits of Truth. The first release in this series of monologues is a personal reflection about the September 11th attacks, precisely twenty years later to the day. As the speaker on the first piece, I admit that I had some trepidation about delving into such a heavily charged topic. Arguably, much of modern American political polarization (and certainly the overarching era anti-terror geopolitics) stems from this single fateful event. The moment the planes crashed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and crash landed in Shanksville, PA, the paradigm shifted – American empire was challenged directly through shocking violence, and it responded by launching two decades of war on terror.
Now, in 2021, in the immediate aftermath of the Unites States withdrawal from Afghanistan – with arguably very little to show for it – one might consider the events of the past two decades, and wonder aloud: what was the point of all this? Have we learned anything from twenty years of war?
September 11th was a wake-up call for the world. For me personally, it was a lynchpin moment in my own political awakening. Have a listen to the first part of Bits of Truth, and hear my story and reflection on the meaning of September 11th.
– Brandon Lewis
Episode 14: Motherhood
Just a few days after Mother’s Day, we had the distinct honor of bringing in a very special guest on the Dialectic Peoples podcast – my wonderful mother, Roxanne Lewis. It’s a beautiful, honest and personal conversation about how my own upbringing by my mother and her mother – two strong and loving women who worked very hard to raise me, take care of me, and turn me into the man I am today. We talked about the trials of raising a child as a single mother, keeping family close despite great physical distance and spiritual differences. As you’ll hear, Roxanne is diligent, kind, forgiving and wise woman.
Mom, thank you for joining us on this episode, but more importanly, thank everything you’ve done for me. You are an amazing mother and grandmother. We love you always.
I would like to dedicate this episode to the memory of my maternal grandmother, Marilyn Lewis, raised both my mother and me as a single mom. She was an unbelievably patient, generous, compassionate and faithful woman.
I would also like to dedicate this episode to the memory of my paternal grandfather, Alfred Middleton, who was the hero I needed him to be when I needed him most.
In our 12th episode, Kuku and Brandon have a discussion about one of the most important aspects of each of their lives – fatherhood. In the discussion, we attempt to define the role of a father as it evolves over a lifetime, and what we hope to achieve for our families. In our talk, there is a great deal of introspection and reflection on each of our experiences with our own fathers, as well as how those experiences shape the way we approach being fathers to our own children.
This is the first episode in an unlimited series on fatherhood, and we will be revisiting the topic many more times in the near future.
Episode 11: Represent, Represent!
In our eleventh episode we discuss the issue of representation in media and culture. The case in point for our conversation is the Danish dubbing of the Disney Pixar film Soul, released in 2020. The main character in Soul is Joe Gardner, a black jazz musician and music teacher from Brooklyn, NY. As is the standard for animated films from Disney, the film has been dubbed in several other languages. While the original version of Soul stars Jamie Foxx in the lead role, in Denmark, the voice actor cast as Joe Gardner for the Danish dubbing is Nikolaj Lie Kaas, one of the most well known Danish actors of his generation. Kaas is also white.
There has been some controversy regarding the casting of Lie Kaas to voice the role of a Black character, and rightfully so. As we discuss on this episode of Dialectic Peoples, representation matters. Why should the first black main character of a Pixar film be voiced by a white actor? Why not give the opportunity to represent a black voice to a black actor, regardless of language? Are performers of color in Denmark or elsewhere in Europe simply not good enough? Not famous enough? Not available?
While one unfamiliar with Denmark might think that it’s a question of availability, the assumption that there aren’t any qualified actors of color to voice the roles of characters of color in European languages is flatly wrong. Denmark, as well as other nations in the EU have plenty of talented performers of color. The question of their prestige or familiarity with audiences is not a matter talent or skill, but rather of opportunity. The casting agencies responsible for putting white actors to work dubbing the voices of black characters could have offered an opportunity to an actor of color – there were plenty available, if the not proven by the diversity (although minimal) in the casting of minor roles for the Danish dubbing of the film. Dialectic Peoples very own Kuku Agami and his older brother Al Agami both played minor roles in the Danish dub.
Ultimately, while Kaas did give a capable performance, his casting in the role of a Black character is evidence of a lack of representation in the entertainment industry in Denmark. In such a rare instance, where a black character is front and center in an animated feature film from none other than Disney, the chance for an actor of color to have a leading role could have been a star-making performance. Unfortunately that opportunity was missed. However, there is an opportunity to at least open the conversation about representation in the Danish context, and we are not letting it go to waste.
Listen to Episode 11: Represent, Represent! to hear the full discussion. Stick around for our second Q&A session, where we also discuss questions from our audience on the topic.
Dialectic Peoples is available on all major podcast platforms. Listen here.
Episode 10: Beyond COVID
Covid-19 has shut down or imposed restrictions on society and our way of life as we know it. But these same measures taken to save lives may also be endangering lives, and may lead to unforeseen or predicted consequences.
Inequality is on a rise, there has been an increase in mental health issues, and school closures, leading to an even greater gap between the haves and the have nots.
And last but not least we discuss the short term effects and long term consequences of social distancing both as individuals and society as a whole.
Beyond COVID Q&A Session
At the end of this episode, we also recorded our first Dialectic Peoples Q&A session. We spent time discussing answers to questions about the episode topic from our listeners. We got some great questions from our listeners, which led to an excellent bonus conversation. Thank you so much to everyone who submitted a question, and by all means keep them coming! Check out the Q&A below:
Episode 8: Back to Reality
In our eighth episode, we discuss the results of the American Presidential election, and the post election antics of the current administration. While the votes have been counted and the results are clear, the current President has not accepted the reality of his loss, let alone admitted any of his administration’s glaring failures. However, reality is sinking in for the rest of the world, which begs the question: what happens next?
Episode 7: Electoral Hopes
Today is Election Day in the United States of America. Millions of voters across the country will cast their ballots to vote for the next president in one of the most important elections in American history. To say that this election and the incumbent are unprecedented would be a spectacular understatement. There has never been a president quite like Donald Trump, and America has not faced simultaneous crises as it does now for over a century. The world is watching, awaiting the result of this election with intense anticipation. The stakes could not be higher; as Joe Biden’s campaign slogan states, it is a “battle for the soul” of America. Whether Biden becomes the next president, or Trump is re-elected, the consequences of this day will be felt everywhere, not only in America but around the world.
As an American living in Denmark, there is a sense of hope that I cling to from afar, that my countrymen will choose a leader who can unite them. I hope that they will come together and try to heal the social wounds torn open by a tumultuous year of racial unrest, economic devastation, and a pandemic that has left more than 200,000 dead and shows no signs of relenting. Yet, if past is prologue, there is simply no way to know what will happen until the votes are counted – the electoral votes that is, because the popular vote is not necessarily what will decide this election.
If that sounds absurd, that is only because it is absurd. The American electoral system is as complex as it is undemocratic. The electoral college has undermined the voters nationwide, leaving the election in the hands of the congressional electors, many of whom overrepresent a minority, and underrepresent the majority. Gerrymandering has tilted the balance of congressional districts to favor the Republican Party. The system is totally out of balance, and it has stolen the power of the people to make their voices heard at the ballot box.
If the country is ever to truly heal, it must undergo massive structural changes – eliminating undemocratic processes such as the electoral college and gerrymandering. Whether or not that will happen is ultimately up to the people that the American electorate allows to be in power. We the people have the right to choose our government, and on this election day and the days to follow, I hold hope that my fellow Americans will not let their votes go uncounted or their voices unheard.
This episode of Dialectic Peoples is as close as we will get to an “election special.” While Kuku was away this time, Eja and I did our best to dig into the election and the American system, and understand what is truly at stake. I talked about my own political consciousness and give my take on what has made America so polarized. There’s a lot to discuss, so let’s get into it. Enjoy the show, and stay tuned for our “post election” coverage as well.
Episode 5: Follow The Money
In Episode 5, we talk about the motives, intentions and economic incentives in so-called “antiracism” and activism in the rapidly evolving debate on racial justice. So many people are desperate to know what they can do to not be racist. Brands and organizations have gone out of their way to appear as positive actors in a precarious racial discourse. Books about systemic racism, such as Robin D’Angelo’s White Fragility have been selling out of bookstores in recent months.
It has become morally hazardous to be perceived as racist in any way, and while widespread intolerance of racism important, that cannot be the only driving factor for trying to be antiracist. Actually fighting against racism through productive dialogue and responsible behavior is vastly more important that just appearing to do so.
Episode 4: Words Matter
Words can inspire great deeds, heroic actions, and confidence in us all as individuals but also as groups within society, and within society itself.
They can motivate us to do the right thing in the face of massive resistance, and help us find the strength needed to overcome any challenges.
We can choose to use words inclusively, to build bridges, and influence the lives of our fellow human beings in a positive manner, create understanding, and common ground where it may have been extinguished or absent.
The opposite is also true and throughout history, we have seen how words have been used to justify and legitimize vicious, and barbaric acts of violence, murder, and systemic oppression denying certain groups in society, equal opportunities, and or other basic human rights based on their gender, religion or ethnicity.
Ever since the murder of George Floyd, one of the words we have been unable to escape and rightly so is Racism.
It has been used often, defined, and explained but yet it still seems to be willfully misunderstood.
Is the lack of consensus or the “misunderstanding” simply based on ignorance or the immense complexities of the term Systemic Racism? Is it a collective, societal denial, a refusal to acknowledge society’s actions, and the consequence thereof, thereby absolving anyone of blame or the shame? Or is the pushback, a counteraction, by malevolent forces in society who are not willing to relinquish their privileges so that others may share those exact same privileges, or do all of these reasons intersect.
Whatever the answer, words matter!
They are our tools and they have been weaponized in this struggle. They can help us move forward or keep us in an endless loop that keeps reproducing the same outcomes.