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Race, Equity, and Criminal Justice Reform with Glenn E. Martin
Episode 2519th May 2022 • Conversation with the Rabbi • Rabbi Michael Beyo | PHX.fm
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Rabbi Michael Beyo and Dr. Adrian McIntyre talk with Glenn E. Martin about race and racism, antisemitism, equity, and criminal justice reform in America.

For two decades, Glenn E. Martin successfully conceptualized, created and directed a handful of national multi-million dollar organizations in the non-profit sector. Glenn has occupied the important leadership role of "visionary," while developing a strong track record in the more pragmatic aspects of building and running successful organizations, including fundraising, operations, administration and communications.

Before launching both GEMrealestate and GEMtrainers, multi-state real estate investment company and a successful non-profit consultancy, respectively, Glenn founded and served as President of JustLeadershipUSA for three years, an organization he built as a tribute to his son Joshua, dedicated to cutting the U.S. correctional population in half by 2030. For almost 20 years, since leaving prison, he's been a part of the vanguard of successful reform advocates in America.

His leadership has been recognized with multiple honors, including the 2016 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award, the 2017 Brooke Astor Award, and the 2014 Echoing Green Fellowship. He is also a Founding Member of the Council on Criminal Justice.

Prior to founding JustLeadershipUSA, Glenn was the Vice President of The Fortune Society, where he founded and led the David Rothenberg Center for Public Policy. He also served as the Co-Director of the National HIRE Network at the Legal Action Center, and co-founded the Education from the Inside Out Coalition. He's also the founder and visionary behind the #CLOSErikers campaign in NYC.

Glenn has served as a public speaker and has been a media guest appearing on national news outlets such as NPR, MSNBC, Fox News, CNN, Al Jazeera and CSPAN.

Conversation with the Rabbi is a project of the East Valley Jewish Community Center, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, neighborhood organization that has served individuals and families inclusive of all races, religions, and cultures since 1972. Visit us online at https://www.evjcc.org

The Conversation with the Rabbi podcast is supported by a grant from Arizona Humanities, National Endowment for the Humanities, and the federal American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act.

The show is recorded and produced in the studio of PHX.fm, the leading independent B2B podcast network in Phoenix, Arizona. Learn more at https://phx.fm

Transcripts

Announcer:

From PHX.fm, this is Conversation with the Rabbi, featuring open, honest dialogue and sometimes unconventional perspectives on the world we all share.

Adrian McIntyre:

Welcome to another Conversation with the Rabbi. I'm Adrian McIntyre. Our guest for this conversation is Glenn E. Martin. He's the President of GEMtrainers, a longtime advocate for criminal justice reform, and a leader of leaders who's really explored ways of helping his community and others find their own leadership, grow their organizations, and their businesses. I'm really excited for this conversation because we're going to touch on some things that are probably not easy for any of us to talk about, as we do here on the show. I'm looking forward to it. Our host, of course, is Rabbi Michael Beyo, CEO of the East Valley Jewish Community Center. Hi, Rabbi.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Hello, Adrian. How are you? And thank you Glenn for being with us today.

Glenn Martin:

Hey Rabbi, I'm glad to be here.

Adrian McIntyre:

As we were talking before we pressed the record button, this is a conversation that could be very impactful for the three of us and for our audience. Because what's on the table is what it is to be a man, what it is to be a leader, what it is to be Black, what it is to be Jewish, what it is to be anti-racist, any number of combinations of things that are both problematic and potentially uplifting. And yet none of these topics are easy. None of these topics are the kind of thing that fits into a soundbite. Glenn, why don't you start this off by just telling a bit of your story. There are folks who may be familiar with you given the prominence you've had in the media. And I'm sure there are folks who have never heard of you and don't understand why these topics are so important to you. Can you give us a little thumbnail of your backstory and what brought you to this point?

Glenn Martin:

Sure. I appreciate that opportunity. I am a middle-aged Black man living in Harlem, New York. I have another home in Savannah, Georgia, very deliberate for me to have a home in the deep south and one here in the Northeast. But I grew up, I was born in Brooklyn ... Brooklyn, New York, ... and then spent the first nine years or so in the Caribbean small island called Grenada. If you've been around long enough, then you know that it's actually a small island that America invaded in 1984. That's a different story. I came back to Bedford–Stuyvesant in Brooklyn when I was nine years old. And back then they called it "do or die Bed-Stuy." Today it's hugely gentrified, great place to live if you will. I grew up in tough streets of Brooklyn during the crack epidemic. Older brother, younger brother, single parent, Caribbean Black woman, father's white, never came to America, stayed in the Caribbean. Family is from Australia and London. And my older brother got out of it. He went into the military at a very young age, the age of 17. Changed his entire trajectory. He ultimately became a federal corrections officer and US Marshal, which he is now still. And then my younger brother and I both actually went to prison. I served six years in prison in New York for armed robbery in my early twenties. And that just was a game changer for me, but probably not in the way your audience might imagine. While I was in prison, the corrections counselor said to me, "you should go to college." And it was the first time anyone had ever said that to me. I took advantage of the opportunity, was shipped about 10 hours away from home, and earned a quality two-year liberal arts degree including philosophy, psychology, sociology, all the other things you would imagine, but most importantly, the experience of fellowship and the other things that come with going to college. I then came out and thought I was just going to look for a job like any other person on parole. I visited 50 plus employers in less than 30 days and just kept getting turned down based on the criminal record and quickly realized that even in a racist country like America, criminal record just easily serves as a surrogate for race-based discrimination, whether intentional or not. I then landed at an advocacy organization, at a nonprofit public interest law firm, and the rest of that is sort of history. I think we'll touch on it during this conversation. But after that, I invested 20 years, 20 years of criminal justice reform advocacy, the ups, the downs, the Kennedys, the John Legends, the Desmond Tutus, all the amazing people I've met along the way, and all of the sort of roller coaster-like opportunities and painful moments that I've experienced, which, again, hopefully we'll touch on some of that during today's discussion.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Glenn, first of all, thank you very much for being here. I am sure that you just gave us a little bit of your history, and it's so fascinating to be able to speak to somebody with your experience. Explain to me, as an immigrant to this country, what is the fight for criminal justice reform? Why don’t we hear these types of cries in other countries? What is it about America, specifically the United States, that according to you needs criminal justice reform and explain to me what that is all about.

Glenn Martin:

Sure. Thanks for that question. We love to punish each other in America. We -- particularly over the last four to five decades -- have become an extremely punitive country. Some of it was in response to things like the crack epidemic. Some of it was in response to an increase in crime that actually happened alongside part of that crack epidemic. And part of it is that the crack epidemic affected a very specific community, communities of color, Black communities here in this country, and systems of oppression are durable. And while people try to dismantle them, they reinvent themselves right in front of your eyes. And so in this country, we've gone from slavery to Black codes, to Jim Crow, to mass incarceration, to collateral consequences, which is what comes out of mass incarceration. So there's always some system in place to continue to oppress certain groups of people in this country, particularly people of color, more specifically Black communities in many cases. And so what we've ended up with is 70 million Americans having a criminal record on file. So does it only affect Black communities? No. In fact, I would argue that there's so much in common between poor white communities, particularly the very communities that are represented in the people who stormed the capital in terms of how the criminal justice system is used as a way to control people and not just prisons. People often go right to prisons, but we also have 5.5 million people under other forms of supervision, whether it's electronic monitoring, parole, probation, you name it. And so it's become this very oppressive thing in this country that unlike slavery where people have actually eventually made a pretty good moral argument. Of course there was a business argument to end it, but there was also a moral argument. I find that here it's extremely difficult to help Americans understand that there's actually a moral argument to not having so many people experience the kind of punitiveness that we offer here as a country in response to not just crime, but to poverty, homelessness, lack of healthcare, lack of education, you name it. Our criminal justice system has become a surrogate for these failed systems. And then lastly, people often just look at the criminal justice system as the thing meeting out the punishment. But we have everyone in this country gets sentenced to a life sentence because we have all these other systems that are also meeting out punishment. So if you have a criminal record, you can't vote. If you have a criminal record, you can't get access to education. If you have a criminal record, you can't work here. You can't get this certification. You can't get this license. Anyway, that is a door into the conversation, hopefully about our criminal justice system.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

In Israel, criminals that are in jail do vote.

Glenn Martin:

That's fascinating.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

And as you just mentioned here in this country, criminals that are in jail don't vote. And my understanding is it also after they go out of jail, they still cannot vote.

Glenn Martin:

With the exception of Maine and Vermont, two of the Blackest states in America. That was sarcasm, obviously. Yeah, but in this country, I never understood. We have this ceremony. It's called sentencing where people are knocked down a few notches. It's like you're no longer us. You're going off to some facility. You're going to be isolated. You're going to work on yourself. You're going to rehabilitate. And so you're no longer like us. And we take away all of these different things, whether it's your clothing, your right to vote, you name it. But guess what? We don't have an equal opportunity to bring people back to tell people you're back now, and you are one of us and we're welcoming you back. And a big part of that is the institutional racism tied into our criminal justice system.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

So let me ask you two different questions. One, is it seems to me that in the argument of whether a jail or a sentencing is there to be punitive or to be how you say to bring back the person from their misbehavior back into society. You say that in America, it's all about punitive. They punish you. They punish you. And there is no system to help you come back into society. And at the same time, you are linking this to, as you said before, the USA is a racist country. Tell me, please, in what specific ways you have encountered racism.

Glenn Martin:

Wow. That's a really good question. I think one of the first times I remember at a very early age encountering racism was I had a great job at the Javits Convention Center here in New York. And I was working for a food service company. I ended up at the title of manager after doing a good job as a cashier. I remember the managers, the other managers, the white managers, coming in at 8 a.m. and leaving at 3 p.m., getting paid a third more than I was getting paid supervising less people. All of these different things that if you looked at us, you might say, oh, there's a lot of equality going on. There's a Black person in leadership, but there was no equity. And in this country, we don't want to have a conversation about equity because equity is about making things right, about recognizing that if you have a 400-year head start, you probably need to do a little bit more to make things right for people of color and not just promote us into positions. But I remember standing in the laundry room one day where we would process the aprons and so on. And I walked in on two white managers, and they didn't know I was standing behind them. And the guy who was in the coat room, the coat check guy, I had him counting the organization's silverware, thousands and thousands of pieces of forks, knives, spoons, you name it. And these two managers were looking at each other and they were joking and laughing. And, again, they didn't know I was standing there, and one said to the other, I can't believe he asked this nigger to count the silverware. By the end of the day, we won't have any silverware. And that was just like, I mean, that's sort of down South racism. I mean, I have a home in Georgia now, so I hear that frequently. But in the Northeast, we don't have that kind of racism. Racism in the Northeast is diet white supremacy. You don't hear it up close. And so that's a moment I remember at a young age of 19 where it was just clear that I'm standing in a room with two white men who use the word nigger when they think no one's listening.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

I think that it's very difficult for any person to fully understand the experiences of another person. I will never be able to fully understand your experiences just like I will never be able to fully understand my wife's experiences and vice versa. And one thing that has helped me to nonetheless try to understand as much as possible what is racism was when I was able to internalize in my mind antisemitism. Sometimes I as a clearly identifiable Jew, I pick up on the way that people look at me, how people talk to me, how people don't talk to me or how people behave with me. And I call that sometimes it's proper to call that antisemitism because of comments, because of behavior, et cetera. And that is when I said, okay, I can now a little bit understand what it means for a Black person, because what they experience is in a certain way what I experience being identifiably Jewish, just I experience it from the antisemitism perspective, and they probably experience it from the racist experience. So that has helped me to understand that even if sometimes I don't see racism, but that's not about what I see. Just like when people say, oh, they're not antisemites. No, no. I say, no, no trust me. I can smell an antisemite and probably for you, it's the same. You can tell somebody's racist because you develop certain skills from when you're a little child on understanding how people talk to you, how people refer to you, et cetera. So that is what has helped me to try to understand racism in this country. On top of it, I want to discuss a little bit what we talked earlier about unfortunately there is a lot of tension between certain segment of the Jewish community with certain segment of the Black community in this country. And if we go back historically, the Jewish community was instrumental in the civil rights movement, and then I don't know what happened. I'm not historian on civil rights, but I do know that there are tensions, especially in certain specific cities, in certain specific neighborhoods. And at the same time, we share so much. It's two communities. We share so much more than what divides us. I will finish my comment, and then I will love to hear from you. I don't know how people look at me, whether they see me as a white man or not. I don't identify as being a white man. I identify as being a Jewish man, an Italian Jewish man, an Italian Israeli American Jewish man. I don't identify with being white. Mostly, because first of all, the white racists don't want me there. Not that I want to be there, but they don't call me white. And being Jewish with my personal background, my half of my family comes from the Middle East and half of my family comes from Europe. I am a mishmash of places and countries. I've said a few things. What do you say?

Glenn Martin:

Yeah, thank you for that, Rabbi. So, look, I believe everyone's racist -- let me start there -- myself included. In fact, just yesterday, I was really upset about a former colleague who had picked up the phone and called one of my current clients and disparaged me to that client and caused a lot of turmoil in my working relationship with that client. I decided as a person who can afford to do that these days to sue her. And I mentioned something on Twitter about that except I used the word Jewish when I described her. And one of my Jewish friends went into my direct messages on Twitter and said, "hey, why'd you call her Jewish? You could have left that out." And I really had to ask myself, why did I call her Jewish? What is it about her being Jewish that I thought added any value to the conversation about her being a jerk, which is really what I'm upset about? I believe everyone's racist, and I believe everyone just has to own that and be honest about it and be willing to have difficult conversations about it. That's why I'm so excited to actually be here today. So I own that. I own that. And not only do I own that, but you reminded me of a moment where I was going to college in prison and I was in a sociology class because when you grow up in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, during the riots that happened there between the Jewish community and the Black community, some people might remember this in your audience. As a Black person who lives under what felt like a tremendous amount of poverty and oppression and everything else that came with living in Crown Heights at that time, you come up with a narrative that allows you to survive. And the narrative sounds a lot like this: white people don't give a damn about us and that's why we're here. White people are oppressing us. White people love us in this situation. They enjoy white supremacy. They don't want to give us an out. So, okay, that allowed me to survive. That allowed me to be okay with living in the middle of poverty, living in the middle of oppression. I go to prison, I'm sitting in a sociology class and a film comes up, a documentary film, so actual footage, and I'm watching this, and it's about the Holocaust. And it's the first time I've been interested in sitting in a seat and just listening closely to the Holocaust. It's not like I was naïve and never heard of it, but this gave me a chance to really focus. Prison will do that for you. And at the end of the film, this bulldozer pulls up to this mountain of dead, naked human bodies and shovels them into a hole in the ground. And it was just such a moment for me to crack through the narrative of “those other people who are trying to oppress me,” and it just created just even a door opening, just a sliver that I was very interested and curious about what was on the other side of it. And so I try to continue to lean into that curiosity recognizing, as you said, that I don't know what it's like to be a white American. I don't know what it's like to be a Jewish American. I'm always looking for analogs. And so for me thinking about white privilege, white power, white supremacy in this country, I'm always trying to figure out what's the analog that'll give you there, Glenn, because for me it just feels like you're Black and oppressed. I think about women quite often. I think about that as an analog, I have a tremendous amount of power over women. Maybe not as much of white women, but still generally over women because I'm a man in a world where men have a tremendous amount of privilege. And so whenever I feel myself exercising that privilege and looking through issues of feminism and womanism through the lens of my sort of maleness, if you will, I try to find that humility and say, wait a minute, what is it that you may be doing here without even opening your mouth? You talked about how just the way people look at you. And I had a woman say to me once, I had a terrible experience around women a few years ago, I'm sure we'll get into it in this interview at some point. And I decided to just sit and talk to a couple hundred women in addition to my own therapist. And one woman said to me, well, you've led all these organizations, you've built all these institutions. When you're in a room and there's 10 people there and you having a conference and the conference line is not open, who do you ask to open the conference line, a man or a woman? And I just sat there like, oh, shit, I would just ask a woman. I wouldn't even think twice. The assumption is that the woman in the room is going to open the conference line even if she's the freakin' chief of staff or whatever, more powerful than anyone else in the room. And so I've tried to look through the lens of my own power and my own privilege to understand how other people move through the world, but also to create space for conversations about racism. If you don't create space for it, if it's all about accusations, if it's all about your racists and that's the end of the story, then I'm going to live and die in a country where things are not going to change much, and I feel much more responsible to the next generation to get it right.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

But why aren't there conversations about race in this country? Why it seems to me that in America you are not allowed to talk about race? You are allowed to talk about equality, you're allowed to talk about equity, but the word, the R word, you're not allowed to talk about it. And I don't understand. I don't understand. I would like to add something, and it will go however it will go. You've talked about equity. If my understanding of what equity means, it means that we should all have the same and equal results.

Glenn Martin:

Sort of.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Then explain to me what you mean by equity.

Glenn Martin:

Sure. So equality is like, let's give everyone the same thing. Let's make sure that everyone who is an assistant manager gets paid a hundred grand a year. Equity is, wait a minute, are they any Black people who've made it into that band? Are they any Black assistant managers? So equity is recognizing that because we haven't been feared for a long time, we can't just look at whether all the assistant managers are getting paid the same amount, we need to look at whether we've created avenues for people of color to end up in those leadership positions. That's an example.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

But let me ask you a question. You said earlier that there is a lot of commonality in this country between a poor white person maybe that comes from some trailer community and also a Black young person that comes from an inner city. They both struggle with a lot of similar things. If they both end up in the same company, why, if I understand correctly what you're saying, could the Black person be given more attention or understanding where he came from and the struggle that he to overcome to get to where he is in order to create those venue avenues for others to follow through, but we don't look also at these coworkers that went through the same struggles?

Glenn Martin:

Yeah, so I love that you said that because I totally disagree with you. Essentially let's go back to the conversation about the two managers that said, I can't believe he let that nigger count the silverware, right? So we have to be honest that people like that exist in our world, that people like that tend to be people of privilege who make decisions that affect the lives of other people. So people of color are up against people like that in leadership. And you really can't quantify how much that's gotten in the way of the trajectory of people of color. So let's say that, and that is something that white poor people would not face in the same way. There may be other struggles. If you're Jewish, if you're Irish, if you're Italian, there may be other struggles. And I don't want to minimize that, but we have to recognize that there is systemic racism in all of our systems because of what I said earlier about how systems don't go away, they evolve. The other thing I would say is the idea that, okay, so equity and equality that's the conversation I feel like we're having. You cannot have a 400-year head start and then tell me, okay, go, we're both starting at the same place. You just can't. I mean, I invest in real estate now. I own a multimillion-dollar real estate company that I've built over the last few years. I am in a different position than most of my Black counterparts. Having said that, I'm not under the illusion that I'm a person of wealth and power at all. I just have money. And there's a huge difference there. For me to take care of my family, a million dollars for me is very different than a million dollars for a white person who's been in this country, who's benefited from systemic racism in this country. And people have a hard time admitting to that the same way when women say I get paid 80 cents an hour for every dollar you get paid. And I'm like, well, I didn't do that. I pay women the right amount. That's not a fair response. A fair response is, yeah, you're absolutely right. And I need to figure out how to create some equity for you and for other women in this company. It's complicated.

Adrian McIntyre:

Let me just jump in here and try to frame something up that I think will give the three of us a chance to take another pass at the same subject. So it occurs to me as an anthropologist who was trained in the human sciences, including sociology, has studied the history of race and class relations in this country and overseas, it occurs to me that none of that has given me any advantage in doing something about an unfair and unjust world. And this is the thing that I wanted to say that gets the three of us reflecting on this. Every human being by virtue of being human is born into a set of interlocking differences, ways in which they're the same with some folks and ways in which they're different from other folks. Those differences tend to get sorted into big buckets like race, class, gender, sexuality, religion. You know the buckets. We all know the buckets. We have to check boxes on forms sometimes to put ourselves in certain buckets. Why? Because someone decided those are meaningful. As an anthropologist, as a human scientist, I could tell you that almost none of those buckets are inherently meaningful. We could have that conversation. That's something anthropologists, especially in the Boasian tradition, have been trying to do since the 1920s, trying to decenter the idea that race is even a valid category of human difference at all, beyond the linguistic and power structures that we have created together. Okay, fine. Now let's talk about the fact that there are three of us in this conversation who are men. We have all of that. What does it mean to be a man? It doesn't mean the same thing to me as it does to you, as it does to some of our other friends. What does it mean to be a father? Well, that doesn't mean the same thing to me as it does to Rabbi Beyo, as it does to Glenn Martin. So at the same time, then we got leadership. We're now in positions of authority and influence to a certain extent, and there's expectations put on us in those things. So if a conversation were to start with the acknowledgement that we're all trapped by systems of language, power relations, social structures, that none of us invented, maybe we don't want, but some of us benefit from unequally and benefit in different ways, depending on where we are. When I'm in one situation, I benefit from being white in a way that's not obvious to me but is very real. In another situation I benefit from being a man in a way that's not always obvious to me is it probably should be but is very real. I've lived and worked in over 30 countries. In every single one of them, I have benefited from being an American in ways I may not like as I work to undo some of America's imperial impact in the Middle East, where I spent more than a decade of my life. But still benefits me every border that I cross, I bring a passport that gives me access it doesn't give to other people. So that's just me. For every single one of us and everyone listening to this, I think the challenge is that most of those layers of identity are invisible unless they're working against us, which quite frankly, for some of us, including, let's say the white liberals in a very problematic way, they're almost never working against us. So it's very easy for us to start having these conversations about justice inequality and to teach sociology of race relations classes and to be untroubled in the way that I think we really need to be troubled by what we're talking about, which is the world we're all born into in the same way, but differently. I have a bad habit of going really high-level in the middle of these conversations, but it occurs to me we can't talk about any one of these things without the others. None of them are easy, and the three of us and everyone listening is situated differently in these systems, and structures, and rules, and laws … and, man, if this isn't a thorny problem at every level.

Glenn Martin:

I would add a couple of things to that. I appreciate that. That's really helpful to further ground the conversation. I mean, being a fair skinned Black man, for instance, has given me a tremendous amount of privilege. I can't tell you how many times I've been pulled over by police officers with darker skin friends in the car, and they get their asses kicked sometimes more than me, sometimes without me. And so I've actually seen how even being a fair-skinned Black man, I've also seen how being a fair-skinned Black man has gotten me on stages at Harvard and Yale and Columbia and Princeton when I know darker-skinned men who are more articulate and thoughtful and deeper on these issues than I could ever hope to be. So I also am always thinking about even my privilege within a race, to be honest. I think what you're saying is helpful for me to further ground the conversation, but I do think we live in a country with a narrative around individualism. That means that as soon as people open the door to a conversation about race, what they hear is you are racist. I think people should just own it and say, yes, I am, and let's talk about that. But instead, people get offended. It is offensive to people, and it just shuts the door to a meaningful conversation about what's next. How do we create some equity given that you have benefited from a tremendous amount of privilege? I don't know the answer to that. I don't know the answer. I just know that we should keep talking.

Adrian McIntyre:

You're exactly right, Glenn. The problem lies -- and the solution probably lies -- somewhere in that framework, which is we can't talk about these impersonal forces without having a personal reaction. And we can't deal with ourselves as persons individually and together without talking about the impersonal forces. So, yes, a hundred percent. You point out white privilege to a white person, and you get an incredibly vicious backlash. "How dare you. Don't you know ... ?" I've seen this with my own mother who was born in poverty on a dirt floor on a farm in South Dakota and who fought her way up through a family that ... terrible things happened ... and is absolutely 100% privileged in the way she is today. When her own graduate students -- she teaches psychology at the university level -- when her own graduate students pointed out her white privilege, she became apoplectic. "Don't you know where I came from?" And I'm like, "mom, that's exactly the wrong answer."

Glenn Martin:

Right.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

What I still don't understand and maybe even disagree is that throughout history everybody can point to somebody else or a different group and say you have been more privileged than my group. Everybody can do it to each other, and so that's why I am still stuck on this notion of equity.

Glenn Martin:

Yes.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Because just unfortunately the Black community has suffered in this country, there are other communities that have suffered equally, or more, or less. And again, it's not a competition of suffering, but it seems to me that for some people it is a competition of suffering.

Glenn Martin:

I would say a chattel slavery is particularly egregious.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

I'm sorry?

Glenn Martin:

Chattel slavery.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

I don't know that word.

Glenn Martin:

The sort of slavery we had in America. People shackled under boats being transported across an ocean.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Okay.

Glenn Martin:

That sort of oppression, that sort of suffering, again, not competing suffering, but it is particularly egregious.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Absolutely.

Glenn Martin:

Especially when it doesn't come with acknowledgement and apology and reparations. I'm not a fan of traditional reparations, the idea that everyone gets a check and we're done, but I am a fan of truth telling. I am a fan of owning it. I mean, I went to Cambodia a couple of years ago, and I went to the killing fields and I was able to watch the bones of dead children emerging up from the soil including their jewelry and other things up against a tree where kids were murdered by slamming their heads into the tree. As painful as it was to stand there, I was just so proud of a country that was willing to own the horrible things that they had done to their own people. And to apologize for it and to say, we're going to keep it on display so that we never repeat it, that has not happened in this country. So people are holding onto their trauma. It's multigenerational. It's not easy to be like, Glenn Martin, you're a millionaire now, you're good. Move on. Yes, I may be. But guess what? My parents don't have any money to retire on because they've been poor their whole lives because they've worked for wealthy people, because they haven't had access to education. I mean, I can go on and on. And is it a conversation about my suffering versus your suffering? Part of it probably is, but I would also push for a conversation about truth and reconciliation. That's what I think hasn't happened here.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

A conversation about truth and reconciliation similar to what happened in South Africa, I think that you will see me side by side with you. Yes. I truly believe that we should have those conversations.

Glenn Martin:

But not reparations.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

I'm not even saying that. Maybe even reparations. Maybe yes, it's okay. Again, that's not my problem. I have no problem with the concept that there should also be reparations. I'm not an expert enough to understand the economics of it or how that will be played out. I have no problem with that. It doesn't bother me at all. What I don't understand and that is where we maybe disagree is that you are saying that because of the suffering and because of the late start, therefore, something should happen. It is as if I were to come and say because of 2000 years of antisemitism, therefore, the non-Jewish society owes me something. No, nobody owes me a damn thing.

Adrian McIntyre:

Well, let's talk about this for a second; I think this is very interesting. Rabbi, you and I have had many, many conversations and gotten to know each other a little bit, and this is something I think would be useful, because I don't know the answer to this. I think you and I agree that antisemitism is so deeply ingrained in the fabric of Europe that the unique experiences there make it very hard to unwind.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

One hundred percent. Western society is built upon Christianity, which is built upon the concept that I, as a member of the Jewish people, killed God. You cannot run away from that. Every art piece, every educational book, everything is based upon that concept.

Adrian McIntyre:

We've had fascinating conversations on this program for example with David Serero, a Moroccan Jewish American opera performer, who has tried to unwind some of the antisemitic representations in classic works of Shakespeare and things. But as a premise, antisemitism is so deeply ingrained in the fabric of what we now call Western civilization, which started in Europe and was then exported other places.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

That's why parenthetically I never use the term Judeo-Christian values. It's two very different types of ...

Adrian McIntyre:

Again, referencing another wonderful conversation we had on this show with Azra Hussain that actually Judeo-Muslim values are much closer aligned than most people realize.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Absolutely.

Adrian McIntyre:

Anyhow, we don't often use the phrase structural anti-Semitism. I don't hear that a lot, but I think it would be accurate to mean this set of prejudices, let's call them racist ideas, have become enshrined in certain established practices both in Europe and other places.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

There are definitely current countries and where current countries that there was a structural antisemitism. For example, I am the CEO of the Jewish community center. The JCC movement started because Jews were not allowed to enter and to become members of the YMCA. That is structural antisemitism. Various colleges including Harvard and Yale and Emery, et cetera, did not accept Jews till very recently or relatively recently. That's structural racism. There was structural racism in this country where if you did not come to work on Saturday, you had to look for a different job on Sunday morning.

Glenn Martin:

Sorry, let me jump in here because I don't want to forget my thought. We have to remember that we are in a capitalist country here in America, a capitalist democracy, and success is very closely tethered to resources. Listening to you about the definition for many Europeans about the role Jews have played in killing their God, I feel the parallel for me is that there is a very ingrained conversation about the inferiority of Black people in America, and that has gotten in the way of access to resources. I benefit from the fact that my name is Glenn Martin. When I purchase homes, I literally don't travel to the place where I'm purchasing them. Why? Because I don't want them to see my Black face. I want them to say Glenn Martin. Yeah, sell them that home. Do whatever you would do for anyone named Glen Martin. And so I just want to point out that in a country like America where your privilege is also closely tied to your resources, if people don't start from the start line, what you're essentially saying to me, if you're not doing anything around equity, you're essentially saying to me, hopefully in the next few hundred years you will catch up to me. My people have had free labor from your people for hundreds of years when this country started. But now everything's okay. You get the chance to catch up. That's too simplistic.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

But we don't live in theories.

Glenn Martin:

We don't live in theories. I can give you concrete versions of this.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

And the slavery, it's a horrible crime. Just like the Holocaust was horrible crime. And maybe the Black community in America needs reparations. I'm not an expert in that. And as I said, I have no problem if that is the right thing to do, that's the right thing to do. Just like Jews that went through the Holocaust received reparation from Germany in Austria. Again, if that's the right thing to do, that's the right thing to do. What I don't understand is the sentence that says this group of people had a head start; therefore, I need to catch up to them. The crown, the Windsor family in England, had a head start over you, me and Adrian all combined. So what does that mean? That we are now going to demand that we reach their level of success and power and wealth. The Kennedys had a head start over me. I came to this country with nothing, nothing. Everything that I created, I created by working hard. Nobody gave me anything.

Glenn Martin:

But you didn't come in the hull of a slave ship.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

But neither did you.

Glenn Martin:

Touché. Neither did I. But actually if you look at the history of the Caribbean, my white father ended up in the Caribbean. Why? Because his grandparents were there because of sugar cane to have slaves pick sugar cane for them.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Okay, I can also tell you about my grandparents working in concentration camps. Again, that's not the point, it's not about my grandparents. It's about you and me, and how do we create a better society?

Adrian McIntyre:

Let me just say, this is a perfect moment to reflect on what we were talking about a few moments ago, which is these conversations have to become personal and at the same time can't devolve to that because at the end of the day, we all have to be able to say, well, my this and my that, my mom, my grandparent, it's just how we have to do it. We can't think outside of our embeddedness in these things as individuals and families as well as groups and beyond. As an observer of what's playing out here in this conversation, it's very clear to me that a white supremacist society has created places where it's okay to be a high performing Black person, clearly sports and music and entertainment film. We love our Denzel Washingtons and Jay-Zs and LeBrons. It's okay. That's a good spot for you to be a high performer. Here's the question. I hear from Glenn, an aspiration to equality and equity and a level playing field across all domains of life, and I wonder, and I don't know the answer, I wonder if I'm hearing from Rabbi Beyo a willingness to stay separate that's actually part of the Jewish experience in a way that's not part of the Black experience. Thoughts on that?

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

I don't know by what you mean by staying separate.

Adrian McIntyre:

A community that relates to itself as a different separate community. A people who have moved through history and across geography and at some level is not trying to say, hey, we want to be equal. Now, again, I don't know. This could be the most ignorant thing that's ever been said on the show. I have no idea.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

I think that there is a difference between equality of rights and equality of responsibility. And then there is my aspiration to catch up to somebody because they did not experience the suffering that I experienced. That is something that I don't understand.

Glenn Martin:

Go ahead, finish your thought, Rabbi.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

So I completely would like to see more conversations like the one that we are having. I would love to be able to have a truth and reconciliation in this country. Maybe that is what is needed. And if you as an educated, intelligent, successful Black person tell me that this country did not publicly and educationally come to terms and apologized or in other way, honor, not honor the slavery. You know what I mean? The suffering. Then maybe that's what we should do. I'm all there with you side-by-side on that. My only thing that I don't understand and maybe even disagree is the "therefore" that you are putting after. That is something that I am struggling with.

Glenn Martin:

I would ask you why. Is it because you think of this as a zero-sum game. This is a country ...

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

No. No, because unfortunately network systems as Adrian said earlier, we all come... I always like to say whenever I teach history, specifically Jewish history, that whoever is here on this world alive today down the line some of their forefathers or fore mothers killed somebody. Because if we go enough back, we lived in tribal societies that you had to kill or be killed whether it is in a war or in a raid or whatever. Nobody can claim that they come from a pristine line of a person that never did nothing wrong to another human being. We all come from somebody down the line because otherwise we would not be here.

Adrian McIntyre:

And we wouldn't be human.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Right. And it is not a zero-sum game. But I recognize that I cannot give to my kids what somebody that has been in this country for 400 years without any antisemitism and without any racism and without any problem, let's say the perfect, so to speak perfect, puritan wasp from new England or whatever that accumulated wealth over 400 years. I cannot give that to my kids.

Glenn Martin:

But if you just set foot on this country last week as a white man, you are doing better than a Black man who has been here for 10 generations.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Explain to me how, because I did come to this country just last week.

Glenn Martin:

I would argue that you have more privilege than a Black man who's been here in this country for his whole life.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Explain to me.

Glenn Martin:

I think of a story. I think of one day I was lobbying in New York with a colleague of mine, lawyer, Columbia educated, Jewish woman. We walk into a restaurant in upstate New York. Upstate New York is the deep south of New York in some places. I said, oh my God, do you notice something? And she said, what? I said, I'm the only Black person in here, and there's like 50 people in here. She's like, yeah, wow. I did feel that. I'm the only Jewish person here. And I got to admit part of me was like, well, just don't tell anybody that. I cannot not be Black in the morning, and whatever comes with being Black is forced upon me by virtue of the fact that I cannot not be who I am. And how can that acknowledgement that there is going to be different treatment? You said you experience it as a Jewish man, Jews have actually afforded me more chances at equity than anyone else to be quite honest because of the whole never again, coming out of the Holocaust, never again. We won't see people suffer. We won't see people enslaved, especially Black people. We're going to be there for them. So Jewish people have created huge opportunities for equities for me including the Kennedy family. I've hung out at the Kennedy compound. I've been on platforms in front of their supporters, their believers. They have helped me raise money. To me, those are the things that I'm talking about. It would take me a lifetime to get anywhere near where the Kennedys are to get that sort of platform. But the Kennedys said, you know what, we're going to give you that platform. We're going to bring you to our compound. That's equity.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

That's great that they have done that, but they did not have to. They did it because they chose to do it.

Glenn Martin:

They did it because they chose to do it. I think this country owes people of color more examples of that. At the very least, they owe us truth and reconciliation and some form of reparations.

Adrian McIntyre:

Here's what I think is so important. And we're not going to tie this up in a neat bow. We're just not. And yet here we are three thoughtful, educated men differently situated with different privileges, different challenges, different histories and yet we're trying to figure something out together. Rabbi asked earlier, why isn't racism talked about more in America? And my thought was, well, it's talked about all the time. It's just not talked about well, and with a commitment that I hear in this conversation to try to think through this tough stuff and engage with each other. We don't have time today to do some of these things. But for example, I would be very interested and willing to have a conversation about some of the problematic aspects of white anti-racists trying to be allies and failing to do it because of the continued ways in which we perpetuate our own blind spots. I think that's a valid conversation. I think the conversation about the historical and present relationships between the Black community and the Jewish community, especially the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community are deeply important and need to be understood. I think broader conversations about policing, which unfortunately we didn't touch on much at all, but which I know Glenn, you have a lot of really passionate things to say about, and which here in Phoenix to this very day, we are dealing with in a very real way. There's so much. How do we end a conversation like this one and move forward towards something meaningful? I'd love to hear from each of you. What are you taking away from our exchange today? What do you still see needs to happen in the future? Obviously, that's an infinite laundry list. How does this conversation sit with you? What are you taking away? What's next, Glenn?

Glenn Martin:

Thanks for the question. So I'm committed to just being as honest as possible in these conversations, and in the middle of this conversation, there was so many moments where I felt my emotions well up and I'm thinking, oh my God, the Rabbi's freaking racist and I'm not going to get him to understand this. He doesn't understand that if I go outside, there's still a chance that a police officer is going to kill me. We're not starting from the start line. So all of that was coming up for me. And yet I kept saying to myself, okay, recognize it, feel it, experience it and then think about the outcome you're trying to produce here. And just keep going with the conversation. Just keep flowing, come up with more examples, recognize that this is not the end of a conversation. It's the beginning of one. And that sort of commitment I think most people don't have, and I think this country doesn't promote it. We're in the middle of cancel culture. We're in the middle of lionizing our heroes and romanticizing our historical heroes in a way that doesn't create space for two people, three people to have a conversation and actually get it wrong in the middle of the conversation every once in a while and just continue to go and continue to operate through love and generosity and grace, which is where I tried to come from in this conversation. It's something I'm committed to. It took me decades of my life to get here. I started out first two decades saying I hate Jews. I live in Crown Heights, and they have beautiful homes and we don't, they don't care about us and they don't talk about us. That's where my journey started. I'm in a totally different place. This conversation hopefully is evidence of that. But I think care, compassion, grace, those sorts of things that I've learned over the decades allow for me to create space to have these conversations. And I think we should be challenging more and more people to approach these conversations from that space.

Adrian McIntyre:

Rabbi Beyo?

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

I had one answer to give before Glenn's last sentences, and I have a different answer after his last thought. I'll try to mix the both together. This is one of the first times in my life that I was able to have a fairly open conversation from my point of view, being able to talk about this subject with a Black person. So I'm grateful for that opportunity. And I am grateful for the fact that I have heard and I have listened. It's very important. It's very important to hear and listen to the other person and ultimately to be able to learn something. I understand where Glenn is coming from when we talk about equity because what is interesting is that we probably agree on so much more, but for some reason we are stuck on that particular subject. We could have continued and developed an entire conversation about all the topics where we agree and how we should work together in order to make our communities better because we agree on A and we agree on B. And there was even a point where Glenn said, oh, but you're not okay with reparations? And I said, no, I'm even okay with that. I have no problem. I am sure that he was not expecting that answer.

Glenn Martin:

I wasn't.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

I am sure that Glenn was expecting me to say, oh no, you don't deserve. Who am I to say that you don't deserve reparations? If you deserve reparations, again, I'm not an expert on how that would work. I have no problem with that. If we need to fix a wrong, we need to fix a wrong. So what I come out of it is that we have much more in common than what we disagree on. Glenn said at a certain point, he felt as if I am a racist. I would've framed that differently. I would've framed at a certain point I felt that Glenn did not fully understand what I am saying. And so I think that we also needed for our own internal conversations that we have, I have a problem with people with Jews that are the first time that they have a conversation with non-Jews, that the non-Jews are something that they disagree. They blame, "oh, he's an antisemite." Just because you disagree with me in something doesn't mean you're an antisemite. So I hope that Glenn and others understand that just because we disagree on certain issues does not make one a racist because the term racist has implications.

Glenn Martin:

I agree.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Just like the term antisemite has implications. And just because you mentioned earlier that you in your tweet called somebody a Jew, fine, whatever. That does not necessarily make you an antisemite. Maybe it makes you somebody that in a moment of anger or frustration tweeted something silly, stupid, regretful, inappropriate. Move on.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Just like if I were to say something that is wrong or whatever, that does not make me necessarily a racist.

Glenn Martin:

You're right.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

I think that we should have more of these conversations. I think that we agree on many more things that we disagree. And, yes, we disagree on certain things. But I think that the level of disagreement that came out from this conversation with Glenn is a disagreement among people that want to understand each other, and they want to find a way to better our communities and our societies. It's not a disagreement on principle just because you are saying something, and I'm saying something. That is what I am perceiving from our conversation.

Glenn Martin:

I appreciate that. And I hope you recognize that my vulnerability about what was going on in my mind was an opening to what you just shared with me.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And I think that I wish that more people felt comfortable having these sort of conversations.

Glenn Martin:

Me too.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Where we can converse without feeling insulted. And if we slip and we say something that is inappropriate, then we recognize it. We say, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean it in that way."

Glenn Martin:

That's right.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

But ultimately we're both part of this country. We both want this country to succeed. We want our communities to do better. I think that maybe the difference between you and I when it comes to the issue of equity is what is the best way to move forward.

Glenn Martin:

I agree. We're on the same page about that. And I've always been the sort of leader that believes that the most important moment to speak your mind and to say things out loud is when your knees are shaking, and these conversations are never easy. I'd be disingenuous to tell people that they are, but I find that these are the most relevant ones. And what really resonated with me just now was how people like us come together, and then we find where we agree and we sort of ignore everything else as opposed to saying, let's talk it out. We may not get it right, but let's talk it out. That to me, makes this conversation feel distinctly different than many of the ones that are happening around this country that feel more surface to me.

Adrian McIntyre:

My commitment to this show as co-host is that we can have the messy conversations where flawed human beings can come together despite our flaws. And in fact, because of our flaws, try to work together to create a better world. Thank you both for your commitment to doing that.

Glenn Martin:

Thank you.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Thank you. I just wanted to mention something that maybe for a different conversation, if you will accept to come. Within the Jewish world, unfortunately many groups within the Jewish world are racist also among Jews. So within the Jewish world I am the Black person. Because you were mentioning earlier that you cannot take away your Blackness. Inside the Jewish world there is strong racism against Sephardi Jews, Jews from the Middle East, Jews that their complexion is a little bit more olive like mine.

Glenn Martin:

Yes.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Jews that have a certain background. So in a different conversation, maybe one day if you will agree, we can talk about that. And there we will find an entire different world where we agree on where just like you cannot take away your Blackness, I cannot, and I don't want to, take away my heritage, my Sephardiness. But here in America, especially here in America, people think that the Jews all come from Western and Eastern Europe not recognizing that you have at least the same number of Jews that come from Middle East countries and they'd like to listen to Umm Kulthum and Farid al-Atrash rather than Beethoven.

Glenn Martin:

Right. I would love to have that conversation. And in some ways I think there would be a lot of irony in the middle of it because I had a white grandmother on my father's side who on her deathbed said, I don't want to meet those Black grandchildren. So I've never met her. She went to her grave without meeting me because I'm Black solely. At the same token, I did say within the Black community, my fair skin gives me a tremendous amount of privilege. There are a lot of dark-skinned people who look at me and say, "you don't speak for me, bro. Like you are not even dark enough to speak for me." And so I think that would be a fascinating conversation. I'm up for it.

Adrian McIntyre:

Glenn, this was wonderful. You've been very generous with your time and your vulnerability, and I'm grateful for the two of you honoring our commitment to not shy away from something, just to paper it over and make a nice palatable let's call it what it is vanilla conversation, right? Thank you both.

Glenn Martin:

Yeah, no, this is great. I do interviews all the time and, trust me, I approach them with six or seven talking points, and I work my way through and I go back about my business. This was not that sort of conversation, and I appreciate it.

Adrian McIntyre:

Glenn Martin is the president of GEMtrainers, the founder of GEM Real Estate. He has a long-time history of advocacy with regards to the criminal justice system and his current commitments to helping Black communities, Black leaders, nonprofit leaders of all varieties succeed in building organizations that do well and help others at the same time. Glenn Martin, thank you so much for joining us for this conversation.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Thank you very much.

Glenn Martin:

So good to be here. Thanks for the opportunity.

Adrian McIntyre:

If you enjoyed today's show, please subscribe to Conversation with the Rabbi on your favorite podcast app. You can also find the latest episodes online at ConversationWithTheRabbi.com. From all of us here at PHX.fm, I'm Adrian McIntyre. Thanks for listening, and please join us for the next Conversation with the Rabbi.