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Press Pass with Jamil Smith: 'People Are Past Hope and Change'

In this week's edition of Press Pass, Chuck Todd speaks with Jamil Smith, the Senior Editor at The New Republic. They discuss Smith's new podcast, which focuses on uncomfortable discussions about race and gender.
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The political conversation regarding race, gender, and sex in America tends to put the public on edge, but Jamil Smith isn’t shying away from controversial debates in his new podcast ‘Intersection.’

The Senior Editor at The New Republic launched his podcast in the hope that “people will get a better and clearer version of what America is actually like.”

Smith said the first step in representing the public’s true identities is by structuring public policy in a way that includes and respects all American identities equally.

“You see the problem that intersectionalilty tries to confront, a lot of policy is just focused on a single identity. Policies to combat gender bias, policies to combat racism,” Smith said. “Actually all of these things are intertwined.”

As Smith points out, the Supreme Court’s recent victory in striking down gay marriage bans across the country has helped gays and lesbians gain respect. But those who also fall into that category and identify as African American may still feel injustice following the Court’s decision to strike down portions of the Voting Rights Act.

The best way to prevent this problem, according to Smith, is by drafting legislation that takes the time to consider all identities. Smith says that the uniformity of the Black Lives Matter movement is an example of an intersectional-driven group.

“The [founders] said, ‘Look, black lives matter but not only do black lives matter, but black trans lives matter, black poor lives matter, black working lives matter, black single mom lives matter, all these different things are part of the movement,” Smith said.

How the media covers controversial topics, like Black Lives Matter, typically come under fire for promoting identity politics that reinforce racial or gender divides. But Smith says the argument is just an excuse for those who do not want to see progress.

“What I think we need to do as journalists is really bring those issues to the people in a more constructive way so that people can understand why talking about race is not racist,” Smith said. “The people want to understand the underlying issues.”

That is why Smith believes that Black Lives Matter movement is smart for protesting at presidential campaign strops this early in the campaign season. As the 2016 election unfolds, intersectional issues continue to gain traction and rhetoric from candidates. But Smith said that presidential candidates, both Democratic and Republican, need to move beyond “empty rhetoric” to truly resonate.

“People are past hope and change in this election. They want policy,” Smith said.

Not only is Smith hoping that the fanfare, controversy, and politicking come to an end in 2016, but he hopes a new president in the White House will give 44 the time to come on his “perfect podcast.”

“That is going to be the more interesting Barack Obama,” Smith said. “I would love to talk to the president about his concept of intersectionality. About the ways in which he weaves the different aspects of his job in terms of identities and all the identities that are affected by his job and how he weaves that into his policy.”