Janelle Jolley 0:13
Hey, hey! Welcome to What's Left To Do. I'm your host, Janelle. For those who know the force that is Claire, it probably will make sense to learn that she was born to parents that studied the French Revolution, among other things. Let's listen to see how her life unfolded from France to Hong Kong to the US. You are not able to, very similar black people, you are not able to talk about yourself starting with you, you have to, you had to, walk us through the history. Which, I'm black, so, yes, that is- I completely understand that, and that's how it should be. So you started with your grandparents and their story. Help me understand how that led to the beginning of your life, the direction of your life, how you grew up, and your story.
I was actually born in France.
Janelle Jolley 1:13
Janelle Jolley 1:15
How did that happen?
My parents were studying there. They met at university in Hong Kong, and then they went to France for their PhDs.
Janelle Jolley 1:26
Okay, hold on. Your dad's- we were talking before about your maternal grandparents.
Janelle Jolley 1:31
Your dad's parents, I presume, also fled the mainland for Hong Kong?
I don't have any stories of my paternal grandparents fleeing, so I think they were in Hong Kong for longer
Janelle Jolley 1:42
They may have emigrated, like-
Janelle Jolley 1:44
Earlier. I don't know the details.
Janelle Jolley 1:48
Okay. But they met at uni in Hong Kong, and then?
Yeah. And I will also preface by saying that my dad also grew up in utter poverty himself.
Janelle Jolley 1:59
In Hong Kong?
In Hong Kong. He was hungry growing up and never had enough to eat. And he always reminded me of that all the time. But anyway, so they met in uni in Hong Kong, they went to France and to Paris to get their PhDs. My dad studying French philosophy and my mom-
Janelle Jolley 2:19
And French food, I'm sure.
And my mom, the French Revolution.
Janelle Jolley 2:25
Janelle Jolley 2:27
And I was born middle of that. Well, it took my dad 10 years to write his thesis. When I was born, they didn't have much money. They, I believe, took me to daycare. There's government run public daycare.
Janelle Jolley 2:43
Don't remind me. It makes me so angry when I looked at what the fuckin' French have.
It was wonderful. Like all of woman there were very professional, you know, knew what they were doing. Would teach my mom how to-
Janelle Jolley 2:52
A croissant everyday after naptime.
That, I don't remember. I have some distinct memories, like, really early childhood memories that nobody else could have told me because my parents weren't there, of being in daycare. And when- because it's a government run daycare system, the tuition is sliding scale. And when I first went there, I think I was like two months old? Like, I was very young. My parents were at the lowest income level, so it was free. And then by the time I left, which was when I was three, because in French kindergarten starts- in France, kindergarten starts at three years old, and there are three years of kindergarten before you go into first grade.
Janelle Jolley 3:35
Yeah. By the time I left, they were paying the regular tuition, which is like a very affordable, you know, tuition. So I grew up in...outside of Paris until I was seven. And we lived in a, kind of, working class neighborhood with a lot of immigrants. Like, I remember my-
Janelle Jolley 3:58
What kind of immigrants?
There were- well, I would just say that...my school, the friends in my school, you know, very, very diverse. Some Asian immigrants, some Arabic immigrants, like people who spoke Arabic, I don't know what country they were from. You know, some black families. But it was like, everybody had work. It was very, you know, pretty safe environment for families to raise kids. But, yeah, very, very diverse. And we didn't have too much, but I had- I never felt like I...well, you know, I always had enough to eat.
Janelle Jolley 4:42
I love eating. So I was always everybody else's favorite kid because I would eat all the other moms' food. But I remember we didn't have a VHS player. And everybody had a VHS player at the time, it was, you know, the 90s, you know. And my parents didn't. So that was the one thing as a kid, I would be like, "There's that. Can we get that?" My mom was like, "No, we can't play it," ya know? But otherwise, I lived a pretty...I lived a very happy life, actually, when I was in France. I really loved school.
Janelle Jolley 5:26
Did you- were- describe your early childhood in France. Did you learn- did you speak French at- like, what languages did you learn how to speak first? Like, were you able to play on the street with other kids? Were you, you know, was, I don't know, were you taken by the breezy nonchalance of the French life? Describe that for us.
I was a very happy child. I spoke Cantonese at home with my parents and spoke French at school. But I started going to daycare at two months, or something, so I was exposed to both language pretty much-
Janelle Jolley 6:05
Immediately. I did not learn English until much later. And, you know, had a- we had good relationships with our neighbors. I had a best friend from kindergarten, like the first year of kindergarten we met, and then we've been best friends. And so her parents became really good friends with my parents and when we would go on playdates all the time. And-
Janelle Jolley 6:16
Was she Chinese, or?
No, she was white, French. And her parents were very artistic. Her mom is a film editor and her dad was a musician. And so-
Janelle Jolley 6:51
Yeah, artsy parents. And we got along really well and our parents got along really well. So we hung out a lot. And we also, you know, we didn't have much materially. Like, I didn't have that many toys or stuff, or any things like that. So I spent a lot of my time drawing on the back of my parents dissertation drafts.
Janelle Jolley 7:17
Ya know, cuz they had a ton of drafts.
Janelle Jolley 7:19
You know, a lot of paper. And so I would have my markers and I would spend a ton of time drawing, which explains why I think I'm now an artist.
Janelle Jolley 7:29
You're an artist. Yeah, that's right.
Because I didn't really- I had to use a lot of creativity. And then my friend, Dalia is her name, she also did, you know, her family was not materialistic. So when we played, we did a lot of role playing and making up our own stories, and we'd read comic books.
Janelle Jolley 7:48
Did you have- were they- do you think the other children around you, looking back, were materialistic? Like, "I have Barbies. I have, lalala," or were, like, was that just not the kind of millea you grew up in?
I think, not really. Like, I think some of my friends had more toys, but in general it was a lot less materialistic than the US. I remember there was a black friend Chloe, who lived a few floors down from the building, that apartment complex I was living in. Like, I'd go down to her birthday, and she would have more toys. But still, it was like...it was definitely not nearly as materialistic as when I later moved to Hong Kong. And I can get into that later.
Janelle Jolley 8:42
Sure, sure, sure. It was just you born in France? Or was your- I think you have a sibling. Were they born in France, as well?
It was just me. So I grew up mostly as a single child because my sister wasn't born until I was 11.
Janelle Jolley 8:53
So I basically, yeah, grew up as a single child. And I had also good relations with my next door neighbors, because they would come pick me up from school a lot when my parents were busy, had work and stuff.
Janelle Jolley 9:08
So would you describe your community as, like- would you describe the community you grew up in in France as warm, loving and communal?
Janelle Jolley 9:16
And my, so my dad, the last few years we were in Paris, or-
Janelle Jolley 9:26
Outside of Paris.
Outside of Paris. My dad had a hard time finding a job, a stable job. He was working as a freelance journalist for a while. And so he ended up going to London to work at the BBC. And that was kind of hard, because, you know, for two years, basically, it was just me and my mom.
Janelle Jolley 9:46
But my mom would get these museum passes in Paris, and so I spend a lot of weekends in the museums, and I loved it. You know, I would just go to the Egyptian section of the Luvre and just draw from like all of the statues and all that. So, because of that, my family ended up deciding to move back to Hong Kong.
Janelle Jolley 10:16
Because of your dad's inability, or difficulty, in finding consistent work?
Yeah, and having to do long distance. It was just not working very well.
Janelle Jolley 10:24
So they they ended up- and also, my grandfather passed away. My father's father passed away when we were in France, and that also was another prompt for him to feel like, "Okay, time to go back to Hong Kong."
Janelle Jolley 10:42
Gotcha. Where you sad to leave France?
I was very sad to leave France. And school in Hong Kong sucked in comparison.
Janelle Jolley 10:51
What do you mean?
So in France, it's very much, like, learning is fun. School is, at least for me, school was fun. Like, teachers were nice. They make learning an interesting, interactive activity. Hong Kong is very much like-
Janelle Jolley 11:09
Yeah, well, it's like cram as much information there, you memorize a lot of stuff, a ton of homework. I had exams four times a year as a first grader.
Janelle Jolley 11:22
Yes. So, it was so stressful. My vision is horrible now. Like, the first few years when I was in Hong Kong, my prescription would get worse by one unit every six months.
Janelle Jolley 11:37
So I needed new glasses every six months.
Janelle Jolley 11:39
Cuz your eyes were straining from studying-
Yeah. I was really stressed.
Janelle Jolley 11:42
And it was just, you know, doing homework until 10pm-
Janelle Jolley 11:46
Oh my god.
As, like, a seven or eight year old, you know? So I hated it. You know, I guess I still dealt with it. And there was a lot of family in Hong Kong. So it was, you know, just different environment. Onto the materialism, I remember distinctly my cousin would come over on the weekends, on my dad's side. So they, actually, both of them came from families of six siblings, or six surviving siblings. So I have a ton of extended family, a ton of cousins. My cousin would come over and he'd be, like, "What, you don't have a new toy since last week?" And I'm like-
Janelle Jolley 11:47
Since last week?
I'm like, "Why would I get to have a new toy since last week?" And he's like, "I get a new toy every week." And it was just like... and it's funny, because I remember, even at that point, instead of feeling jealous, I was thinking to myself, "You spoiled brat."
Janelle Jolley 12:42
"Don't be coming over here talking to me crazy, a new toy since last week- hell no! I get new toys at Christmas and the beginning of the school year, shut the fuck up."
Exactly. So, yeah. So it was a very different mentality.
Janelle Jolley 12:57
Oh, and I grew up without a TV.
Janelle Jolley 13:00
Even when you went back to Hong Kong?
Actually, we did have a TV when we were in France, it was a very small one that my parents would put the news on. So I was not interested in watching it ever. They actually- we only watch one program called Thalassa, which is like a ocean, kind of sea world, like under the sea sort of program.
Janelle Jolley 13:20
Nature program. That was the only program I'd watch on TV. And then they just had news. And for them, it helped them at the beginning to learn French and all that. But then when we moved back to Hong Kong, we didn't have a TV. So I just... I learned to play piano, I drew and painted and, you know...
Janelle Jolley 13:27
Delved into your art when you weren't being ambushed, not ambushed, but-
Janelle Jolley 13:50
Onslaught of homework. I'm wildly gesticulating right now.
I wonder whether it's because I experienced the two very different school systems? When I was flipping through my- I have this book of records from all my school years, where I can keep certificates and all that. In there, for first grade, I wrote down, "What do you want want to be when you grow up?" In first grade I said I wanted to be an artist and a teacher.
Janelle Jolley 14:23
Oh, you did it.
And I did it. And for a while I was teaching, but I remember- cuz I... for still, for a while before my sister was born, I was a single child. I'd say I didn't have as much of a regular community. My parents would work a lot later after we moved back to Hong Kong. And so I was kind of had to entertain myself.
Janelle Jolley 14:26
Like a latchkey kid?
I basically entertained myself by playing teacher sometimes?
Janelle Jolley 14:54
I would, like, create homework for myself.
Janelle Jolley 14:58
That is consummate Claire. Oh my gosh.
And then after my- although, after my sister was born, everything kind of changed, and I became a little mom, and I had a fantastic time being a little mom.
Janelle Jolley 15:19
To your sister?
Yeah, I loved taking care of her and playing with her and, yeah.
Janelle Jolley 15:26
Well, how would you describe, now as an adult, how would you describe your family's class standing when you were in France versus when you were in Hong Kong? Like, how would you describe yeach of those?
Yeah, I mean, when we were in France, were definitely working class, but, you know, very stable working class. Like, I wasn't worried about, you know, food or-
Janelle Jolley 15:51
Or housing. In Hong Kong, we were more middle class. Especially as my sister grew older, my parents ended up getting tenure positions.
Janelle Jolley 16:05
So your parents were professors, when they moved back to Hong Kong?
Yeah, they had some temporary positions. My mom worked on a book for public housing in Hong Kong, which I lost a copy of in the mail, and I'm really upset. I need to find a copy. But eventually they, you know, they became professors. And, you know, eventually, by the time I was in high school, I think? Middle or high school, they got tenure. And so then, you know, we were very much comfortable middle class. But they were always- oh, I should, like, I need to backtrack. They were always politically very astute. And-
Janelle Jolley 16:54
Tell me what you mean by that.
I actually went to my first protest right before I turned one. During the Tiananmen Square Massacre, in Paris, basically, my parents were active in a community of Hong Kong, you know, there was a community of Hong Kongers in Paris, and they organized marches in support of the students that were on a hunger strike in Tiananmen Square. And then, of course, you know, the tanks rolled in, and all that. But, so, I don't actually remember any of it. But my dad keeps telling me like, "You participated in your first protest in a stroller." And so after we got back to Hong Kong, we would go to yearly protests. We would-
Janelle Jolley 16:55
In commemeration of Tiananmen Square?
Yeah, we would- every year on June 4, we would go to the vigils at Victoria Park in Hong Kong to commemorate the Tiananmen Square Massacre. And then on July 1- I think that was, like...I think-I can't remember when was the first year we went, but definitely, in 2003, when they were trying to establish the first national security legislation, we participated in that. July 1 is the day of the handover. It's like the Hong Kong SAR, a Special Administrative Region establishment day. So we go on these big marches. And every year, like, these would be things. Like, July June 4, and July 1 were just in the calendar, we go march.
Janelle Jolley 18:42
And because my parents came from more working class background, my dad, especially. My mom, by the time she was in high school, my grandma's business was, you know, doing well, so they were able to buy a TV by the time she was in high school. So that was a big deal at that time. But my dad grew up, like, really poor. And so my dad would keep reminding me how he grew up, so I was very conscious of how lucky I was and how-
Janelle Jolley 19:18
How did- in what way did you, now as an adult, in what ways do you think you felt lucky as a child because of those stories that your dad told?
I mean, I've felt grateful that I could eat what I want to eat, you know? That I lived a rather comfortable life, you know?
Janelle Jolley 19:38
You didn't have to work in order to help the family survive. Was that a part of it?
Exactly. Yeah. And my parents were always very willing to spend money on education. And, actually, that's probably the thing that they spent most money on, on me and my sister, is education. My parents also let me have piano lessons because I said I wanted to learn piano. And thinking back I was like, "Wow, that must have been a big purchase for them," for them to buy a piano.
Janelle Jolley 20:11
Like, pianos are expensive.
Janelle Jolley 20:13
Yeah, they are certainly not cheap. Uh-huh.
So they were willing to invest in that. So, yeah, I'd say like, I grew up being, you know, comfortable and aware that I was lucky.
Janelle Jolley 20:31
Did you- how would you describe your parents' politics while you were growing up, using contemporary language?
I'd say my dad was always a little more radical, but they're definitely very progressive. I don't know if they would...it's hard to call yourself a leftist in Hong Kong, because if you call yourself a leftist, then it's like pro-
Janelle Jolley 21:05
Mainland China. So, but my dad's professor in Paris, like, before his PhD, he and his wife were part of the Communist Party in France, and they were actually involved in the underground resistance against the Nazis and helping to protect Jews.
Janelle Jolley 21:27
I think that they're, you know, that definitely progressive leaning in terms of their...
Janelle Jolley 21:34
Social, economic ideology. Politically, it gets more complicated in the context of Hong Kong.
Janelle Jolley 21:42
Gotcha. So, but let's, just so that the mostly American listeners, except for Simon, "Hi, Simon," would understand their politic. If you were if you were able to transpose your parents on to the American political landscape, how would they be understood?
I mean, when...
Janelle Jolley 22:03
Or put them into the American political landscape.
Yeah, actually, maybe to contextualize, like, since Bernie, since 2015, I have obviously got super involved in Bernie. My dad was like, "Of course," you know, "That makes total logical sense." My mom was hesitant in 2015-2016, because she doesn't really follow American politics closely.
Janelle Jolley 22:17
Because they don't live here.
They don't live here.
Janelle Jolley 22:32
Okay. We'll get to that point.
Yeah. And she sees Hillary Clinton on the news all the time, because she was Secretary of State and when you're international, you know, when you're another country, the Secretary of State is always on TV. You know... but by 2020, or 2019, they were both like... my mom actually encouraged me to work on the Bernie campaign.
Janelle Jolley 22:57
Right on. Okay.
Janelle Jolley 22:59
We'll get there.
Get to that later.
Janelle Jolley 23:01
I guess, talk to me about your teen years, since we're up to that point. Like, what is life like for you, did you, you know, sneak and dye your hair blonde just to rib your parents?
No. My mom said that I never was a teenager. I think I went from childhood, and then my sister was born and I became an adult. So I... yeah, I was basically being a little mom. I did start getting politically conscious. I remember 911, and then the war in Afghanistan. And when Bush was talking about starting the war in Iraq-
Janelle Jolley 23:19
How old were you around this time?
Janelle Jolley 23:51
Around 911, or?
The Iraq War, when the Iraq War was-
Janelle Jolley 23:56
And I actually started talking to my classmates, and I was like, "Let's write a letter from our class to President George W. Bush and tell him to not go to war with Iraq."
Janelle Jolley 24:12
How did you understand that time as a teenager in Hong Kong? Like, how did you understand those events, that time? Like, try and remember back and think of how you thought about it, what your reactions were to this- like, take me to that time.
911 was horrifying. Like, I remember- so we didn't have a TV at our apartment, but we lived close to my uncle in the same building as my uncle who is, like, the floor above. And basically, I think my aunt called us, like, "Come up here now," you know, "A plane just drove into the World Trade Center." So we went up and wached the TV, and, I don't know, we were shocked. But then I just remember, you know, seeing images of the war in Afghanistan in the newspapers, and the horrors of it. And I also started being kind of environmentally conscious. And just felt like war was a horrible thing. And why are we going to war?
Janelle Jolley 25:27
When you say, "we," what did you mean?
I guess, the US. I mean, I don't think I've really had much of a conscious relationship of, like, what is the relationship between Hong Kong and the US? But, I guess I always see myself more of a global citizen. And so I didn't feel...I felt like I had a responsibility to the world, you know? And I think I still feel that in some ways, which is why I do the work that I do, even though I'm not a US citizen, you know?
Janelle Jolley 26:13
Oh, I didn't know you weren't a citizen.
Janelle Jolley 26:14
But I guess that makes sense.
Yeah. And so, yeah, I was just like, "We shouldn't go to war." And so I worked with my classmates to write a letter, and then more and more of my classmates wanted to get in on the letter. And so it kind of became a piecemeal, really poorly written a letter that we sent to the White House. We never got a response, so it's okay.
Janelle Jolley 26:39
Sure. Sure, sure. But you felt compelled to...you felt prompted to action that, even though, you know, I'm a teenager in Hong Kong and I'm, you know, an ocean away, this doesn't seem good. Like what, you know, 911 seemed scary, even though I'm not in America, that just seems scary. And then the resulting aggressions after that, that seems like something we shouldn't be doing.
Yeah. I just remember seeing images in newspapers of, you know, Afghan women and children-
Janelle Jolley 27:14
Like, in rubble, you know?
Janelle Jolley 27:16
Yeah, that's right.
Just heart wrenching.
Janelle Jolley 27:19
And then I was also getting more environmentally conscious at that time. Like, the air pollution in Hong Kong started getting really bad because of the industry in Gwangju, like, and Guangdong, like, and China really building up, and so a lot of pollution blowing down into Hong Kong. And then the area- so I lived on top of a hill. It's funny because it's like, in a way, pretty luxurious because most people in Hong Kong are in these giant 40 story buildings and we actually lived in a six story building on top of a hill. It was nice because it was next to a funeral parlor and there was a crematorium nearby as well, and Hong Kong people are very superstitious-
Janelle Jolley 28:18
And so it was deemed as not a very-
Janelle Jolley 28:22
Good place to live.
A good place to live. So we lived there and I would walk down the hill to the bus stop and to go to school. And for a while it was this beautiful hillside with greenery and I would wait, you know, next to this little woods, you know, for the bus. But then by the time... I don't even remember when. I think it was late middle school or early high school, they just started to completely just removing the entire forest.
Janelle Jolley 28:58
And they later on built a highway, but I got to enjoy the time when it just became a giant construction zone.
Janelle Jolley 29:06
And waiting for the bus there instead of next to a lovely wooded area. And so I started also becoming more environmentally conscious at that time. And so I started doing artwork that was anti-war. I remember distinctly, that was either late middle school or early high school, when I took this Chinese New Year treats box that had two layers, and I kind of had one side, it opened up into a left and right top box had one side representing war and destruction. And then the other side was, you know, a nest and nature and life, and linking the two together, the bottom was, like, through art, you know?
Janelle Jolley 30:03
Mm, deep. That's deep.
Yeah, so, and then I did paintings about lik...I did a painting called A Sunny Day In Hong Kong, where it's all gray because of air pollution, you know?
Janelle Jolley 30:18
Oh! Did you have an understanding of politics outside of being horrified at the war and your burgeoning, you know, environmentalism? Like, what was- did you have a politics in addition to that, or outside of that?
I mean, in the awareness of, like, Hong Kong politics. But I would say, I didn't really have politics regarding US politics.
Janelle Jolley 30:42
And I didn't really have that much of a class analysis at that time.
Janelle Jolley 30:48
Really? Even though there's such, again, from what I understand, which may not be accurate since you grew up there. But you didn't have a- you didn't have a sense or an opinion on the stark divide between, like, the haves and the have-nots in Hong Kong?
I mean, I-
Janelle Jolley 31:06
It's pretty stark.
I think I was aware, and I was aware that there were people who lived in really poor conditions in Hong Kong. And that, you know, I was really lucky. So it gets a little complex, because I also, you know, I was aware, and I'm trying to figure out, like, when things happened in my consciousness. But, like, I was aware, for example, that, you know, mainland Chinese people would come down to Hong Kong and buy apartments in cash.
Janelle Jolley 31:44
And so housing was really difficult for Hong Kong people. I think by late high school I was aware of that kind of stuff. I don't think I really analyzed it in a very conscious-
Janelle Jolley 32:01
You know, capital- "This is because of capitalism," like, I don't think I had that analysis, but I was definitely aware of, you know, inequalities and how it affected people's lives.
Janelle Jolley 32:14
Did you have a perspective, or a context, or a consciousness, or a language around the migrant labor... the sheer amount of migrant labor that is, like, that kind of makes a lot of Hong Kong work?
Well, definitely- so, for those who don't know, in Hong Kong... Hong Kong is a weird place. Work comes first, so people work like crazy. They don't spend time with their families. And then there's a really large labor force of migrant workers from Southeast Asia and the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia; women who come to Hong Kong and work as basically domestic maids. Like, live-in maids. Actually, my family had one, too. And it's very common for-
Janelle Jolley 33:15
For families in Hong Kong to have at least one. The really rich people have multiple. And because otherwise, there's no public childcare system. So you know, what are you going to do? Like you're going to- and the workplace doesn't...account for your time with your family, so you're working, you know, 12 hours a day. And so you need somebody to take care of the kids, the family. And these migrant workers are being paid very low wages. There are basically minimum wage ordinances around it, but- and these migrant workers are live in with their employer, so they- the employer is supposed to provide all of their daily necessities, except for Sundays when they get the day off.
Janelle Jolley 34:08
Wow. Just one day a week?
Janelle Jolley 34:10
One day a week off. And so theoretically, their wages only...you know, they only needed to spend their own money on Sundays. Everything, you know, else should be covered. And many of them send money back to their families. It's- actually, like, every helper that we've had is always the oldest of the siblings, and she's just, you know, sending money back for the rest of the family. And, you know, my family has always treated our helper really well. But-
Janelle Jolley 34:46
That's what you all refer to them as, helpers?
Janelle Jolley 34:49
Janelle Jolley 34:51
Sure, sure, sure.
Sometimes, yeah, people say maids. There are families that treat them horribly and treat them as servants. And, you know, there have been a lot of incidences of assaults-
Janelle Jolley 35:08
On helpers. But, anyway, I was definitely a very aware of that, that class and race-
Janelle Jolley 35:18
Janelle Jolley 35:20
Interesting. So did you, when it was time, did- before we get to college, what did you...did your parents have a goal for you in terms of your life? Like, what was your- did you have an understanding of your parents' dream for you growing up?
Well, they were unlike the traditional Asian parents because they went to France and studied philosophy and history, that are not subjects that make you money. So they were always, like, do what you want.
Janelle Jolley 35:55
Oh wow! You got that freedom?
Yeah. And that's also why they were very encouraging of the arts. You know, they let me you know, learn piano, they- I actually started taking painting lessons when I was 12. And so, they were very encouraging. So, when I was applying for college, actually, I kind of, it was... I never visited any schools, you know, cuz I was in Hong Kong and I applied to schools in the UK and in the US. I applied to a bunch of liberal arts colleges, not really knowing what I was doing. And my mom- so my mom, actually, she runs a general education program. And so she's really into developing the whole human, you know, and that educational philosophy. And so, I applied to Hampshire College, Smith College and a bunch of other places. I applied to Yale, too. I didn't get in because I asked my interviewer what she thought of George Bush. I mean, I don't know that that's the reason why I didn't get in-
Janelle Jolley 37:08
No, it probably was the reason that you didn't get in.
But I did do that and then I saw the expression on her face, and she was like, "You know, with Yale, unlike Brown, my friends at Brown, who are all liberals, at Yale, it's a very politically diverse place."
Janelle Jolley 37:23
Oh, fuck off.
So, anyway, I had no idea at that time, like, the US politic.
Janelle Jolley 37:29
Yeah, sure. I mean, how were you supposed to know? And why wouldn't that be a salient question to ask when, you know, where the whole, not the whole world, but a lot of the world, is involved in this fucking massacre of the Middle East?
Yeah. I just knew that George Bush went to Yale, so I wanted to ask what Yale felt about George Bush. But she didn't like that question.
Janelle Jolley 37:47
No, she did not appreciate that.
But anyway, like Hampshire College, is this small, progressive, leftist, experimental liberal arts college.
Janelle Jolley 37:59
Where is that?
It's in western Massachusetts.
Janelle Jolley 38:02
And it's actually part of the five college consortium with Smith College. And UMass Amherst, Amherst College, Mount Holyoke.
Janelle Jolley 38:12
So it's not a Seven Sisters?
No, it's like five colleges. So the Seven Sisters is all women's college.
Janelle Jolley 38:19
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Five Colleges Consortium is, like-
Janelle Jolley 38:22
A Massachusetts thing.
Yeah, geographically, all in the same area. And there are, like, free buses that run between the schools and you get into one, you can take classes in the other ones. That's where- that's how I met my husband. Or, he was hanging out in my school. But anyway, Hampshire is this really experimental education kind of place. And my mom- and I got a scholarship from them. And my mom was like, "Wow, you applied to this jem without knowing it." Because I was, like...I saw that they had a huge amount of students involved in the visual and performing arts. And I was like, "Oh, that sounds great." I forget now, it's like 56% of students in visual or performing arts, or something, and most schools', like, 7 or 8%, you know? So, I ended up going there. I loved it. It was-
Janelle Jolley 39:16
So you got a full ride as an international student?
Not a full ride. So it was, like it was a partial scholarship.
Janelle Jolley 39:21
Okay. So in- and your parents were able to handle the rest of the cost? Or you had to-
Janelle Jolley 39:26
Take out loans?
They saved up, like, as soon as they were able to start saving money, they started saving money for college. For my schooling, my and my sister schooling. That was number one priority for them.
Janelle Jolley 39:39
And what was the experience like going from living in Hong Kong to living in Western Mass with all of these, you know, weird freaks?
It was a huge shock.
Janelle Jolley 39:49
Sure. Tell me about- describe how. Like, what are some of the funny stories, or interesting stories you remember?
I was cautious, so I brought a sleeping bag with me.
Janelle Jolley 39:59
What the fuck did you bring a sleeping bag for, Claire?
Because I didn't know what was expected. And for two weeks-
Janelle Jolley 40:05
You didn't think we had beds in America?
Well, I didn't have sheets when I got there and there were no sheets at the school. And the nearest mall was not walkable. You had to drive and no one had cars; I didn't have a car. And so for two weeks, I had no sheets and no pillow. And I was so happy that I brought a sleeping bag with me, because I had to sleep in my sleeping bag on the mattress.
Janelle Jolley 40:29
But, you know, I didn't know what to expect and they didn't make it clear. Like, I think in the US people know that you have to bring sheets and a pillow, but I didn't know that, you know?
Janelle Jolley 40:41
Did your parents come with you to move you in?
My dad came with me. But he-
Janelle Jolley 40:45
He didn't know.
He couldn't drive. He doesn't- you know?
Janelle Jolley 40:48
So I, you know, grew up in Paris and Hong Kong, like no one drives. My parents don't know how to drive, you know?
Janelle Jolley 40:53
Janelle Jolley 40:54
It's public transit.
Yeah, public transit is amazing in Hong Kong and in Paris. Like, actually reliable the train comes every two minutes, you know, like, there was that. And then there was going from Hong Kong, which is socially pretty conservative place, to the hippie school, you know?
Janelle Jolley 41:15
You gon' have to park right there for a second because I know some wild stories. You can pick what, but I'm going to press it till we get to a good hit. Like, did you wake up one morning and it was, like, a nude breakfast on the quad? Like?
Like, more, kinda... I know it's nothing to a lot of other people, but imagine a girl that has never talked about sex, you know, her entire life up until that point.
Janelle Jolley 41:41
Janelle Jolley 41:44
Go ahead, go ahead. This about to get good.
You know, they're, like, playing "Never had I ever-"
Janelle Jolley 41:50
And you're like, "I have never ever never-"
So, like, I don't know, like an hour into the game, all my fingers were still up because it all just...everybody was, like, "Have you done it with a teacher before? Have you done it in a public bathroom?" Like, all these things. And I was just in shock.
Janelle Jolley 42:14
Wait, wait. So you didn't date as a mini adult, not teenager-teenager in Hong Kong?
I did not.
Janelle Jolley 42:22
I wasn't- I was just not really interested in any of the guys at my school. Like, I had friends, you know. I had friends I would hang out with some of them. But, like, I was not interested-
Janelle Jolley 42:34
You weren't, like, making eyes- you weren't making eyes at the fellows. You weren't trying to, like...
I mean, I had a couple crushes at certain points, but I-
Janelle Jolley 42:43
But very innocent, like-
Yeah. And I knew logically that they weren't the right fit. I just like, "Oh, he looks attractive, but I- we're not gonna be a good fit." So I never actually dated anyone.
Janelle Jolley 43:00
But you get to Hippie Ville and yo hand still up, "I ain't never done it with a teacher. I ain't never done it in a bathroom, in a park, in the dark."
And I'm like, "I don't even know all of you," like, "I just met all of you," you know? And then, so the worst part was, like, halfway through, somebody says, "Well Claire, you're doing really well here." And I was just like, "I've never had boyfriend?" You know? And there are girls saying all like, "What? He wasn't my teacher, but he was cute," you know?
Janelle Jolley 43:34
Absolutely not. Slow down, Miss Thing. Okay.
That was a huge shock. That was a huge shock.
Janelle Jolley 43:40
How, on that tip, cuz this is always interesting, I mean, you don't have to answer if you don't want to, but how long did it take for you to get comfortable with the relative liberal sexual environment at college versus like, what you'd come from? Or, like, did it take a long time? Or was it like, by Christmas, "Yeah girl, all my fingers' down."
Well, then I started dating. I actually met my current husband first weekend of college.
Janelle Jolley 44:08
She's like, "It's me and you. I gotta work on this game. Let's go"
I wasn't, you know, in any rush. But he spotted me at a house party, or dorm party, sat next to me. We talked about Hong Kong-China politics the entire first evening, you know. And then two weeks later, he was on campus again and I decided we had to talk- I had to ask him about George Bush and where he stood on George Bush.
Janelle Jolley 44:38
That's exactly right, sir.
And we were, like, we were...we loved talking. Like, we would just talk for hours. And so... then the rest is history, I guess.
Janelle Jolley 44:51
So he's the only person you dated since being here?
Janelle Jolley 44:57
Oh, okay. Listen, if it works, it works.
And, I mean, I guess I was still not... I still didn't engage in talking about my own sex life. I was also part of an acapella group and there were a few people there who loved talking about- okay, the application to the acapella group is, if you were...an animal...I don't remember the phrasing, but basically, like, if you had to have sex as an animal-
Janelle Jolley 45:30
I don't have time.
What animal would it be?
Janelle Jolley 45:33
Why is that relevant?
To the acapella group! It was a question there. So anyway, I felt very uncomfortable with that.
Janelle Jolley 45:40
But, so there were some members there that loved talking about- it would be like, "I just go laid last night." And I'm like, zip.
Janelle Jolley 45:47
Right.Y'all ain't got to know all my business! And I don't need to know yours. We're here to sing. I don't need to know about your lusty lyrical life.
Janelle Jolley 45:57
Ew! Yeah, okay.
So, I mean, I still, like... I got used to hearing about it, I just didn't really participate in it.
Janelle Jolley 46:05
You didn't participate. Yeah. Right. My business is my business!
Janelle Jolley 46:08
Thank you! We can talk about George W. Bush, actually. Your college experience in the US, how did that continue to develop, mold, shape your outlook politically? Or your political understanding, or your politic, or however you want to answer that question?
So Hampshire is definitely a very left place.
Janelle Jolley 46:33
Left or liberal?
Janelle Jolley 46:36
James Baldwin taught at Hampshire.
Janelle Jolley 46:40
Like, we were...yeah, like, I definitely remember taking my classes in the first year of my college and just talking about the US interventions in Central and South America, and all that. So it's left. It's critical of U.S.-
Janelle Jolley 47:00
Yeah, imperialism. Everything like that. But it was kind of a crash course for me, because I knew nothing about Latin American history when I came here. Well, I mean, I knew...like we talked about the Cuban Missile Crisis, you know?
Janelle Jolley 47:18
Like, in high school. But I knew nothing about the US. interventions and-
Janelle Jolley 47:26
Yeah, coups and the rest of the Americas until I went to college. But I guess a lot of Americans don't either.
Janelle Jolley 47:34
Yep, ding ding ding. That part. Uh-huh.
But, yeah. I'd say, though, that I still didn't really develop an acute understanding of American politics, in terms of, like, Republican Party. I knew the Republican Party was worse than Democratic Party-
Janelle Jolley 47:51
Because you knew George W. Bush was a Republican.
Yeah. My husband was a Ralph Nader supporter.
Janelle Jolley 47:59
We actually went to see Ralph Nader in 2008? Was that 2008? Yeah, it must have been 2008 when he was running for president. I was...I think I was just taking everything in. And I remember that I liked hearing Obama talk, like he was impressive.
Janelle Jolley 48:26
But I didn't really have strong opinions about that election at all.
Janelle Jolley 48:32
I was like, in a bubble and like, trying to... absorb things.
Janelle Jolley 48:42
Was your bubble...and we're talking 2008. Was your bubble critical of Obama, or just completely focused on something not the hype of the 2008 election? That's an airplane.
I will say, actually, so I went to study abroad back in France during the 2008 general election. So I would say I was not even really plugged into all that was going on in the U.S. that much until Obama got elected. And I remember distinctly, the day after, getting out of the subway and this African dude, just screaming, running down the escalator. And there was just, all of a sudden, like, it was- it- I remember the person who was running the program saying, all of a sudden it went to being him being ashamed of being an American, to thinking- feeling like it was cool to be an American.
Janelle Jolley 49:43
Wait, the- wait, who was ashamed?
THe person who was running our study abroad.
Janelle Jolley 49:47
Oh, okay. Gotcha.
You know, like, being somebody living in Europe.
Janelle Jolley 49:51
Oh, I see.
Previously they were ashamed of being an American, and then when Obama got elected, you know-
Janelle Jolley 49:57
It switched for him.
Janelle Jolley 49:58
And then I would say that for the remainder of my college years, I did not follow American politics very closely.
Janelle Jolley 50:11
I think that after I graduated, I started paying more attention. So I stayed for a year because my visa allowed for one more year.
Janelle Jolley 50:24
You stayed for another year and still went to school, or you just hung out around campus?
Jut hung out. Not around campus, but nearby.
Janelle Jolley 50:29
I lived in North Hampton, Massachusetts, which is where Smith college is, so it's kind of like a lesbian town. It's really-
Janelle Jolley 50:38
And by this time you're okay with it, because you done been through it with the acapella group.
It's so nice! It's like San Francisco, but less pretentious. And like a small town, you know?
Janelle Jolley 50:50
Lesi northeastern town.
Yeah, it was really nice. But anyway, I was- like, I started to watch Democracy Now. And I- that's when, actually, when I- 2010 was when I first heard about Bernie, when he did his eight hour filibuster on the Senate floor to speak against the Bush era tax cuts. And that's when I heard about Bernie. And I was like, "Oh, this is a cool guy." Like, that's awesome. And I think at that point, I was, like... yeah, I was aware that he voted against the Iraq War.
Janelle Jolley 51:25
Which we've all fuckin that's not even a litmus test 2020, which drove me crazy. It's like, Oh, we've completely forgotten...forgotten about that. Okay, cool.
I knew that, you know, the US love going to war. I was against that. I knew that, you know, interfere- like to interfere with other governments. I didn't really know...I guess I didn't really know the extent of how bad the Democratic Party was?
Janelle Jolley 52:00
Because your initial understanding was, like, Republicans, real bad, George W. Bush, but you hadn't...you hadn't yet developed a thoughtful or deep critique of the Democratic Party?
I guess, also, I just didn't follow it closely enough. Like, I knew Bernie was cool. And I think I remember Barbara Lee being the only one who voted against the Afghanistan war.
Janelle Jolley 52:27
In Congress. But I guess I didn't know enough about, like, the Democratic Party, who was involved, like, you know? I mean, I think by later on, I definitely heard about Obama's immigration policies. But I would say at that point, 2010, I knew that the US government was not great.
Janelle Jolley 53:00
That's putting it very mildly.
But then, yeah, I just- I think I just didn't know enough about the Democratic Party, how things work-
Janelle Jolley 53:07
Janelle Jolley 53:09
Gotcha. So, what year did you graduate college?
It was 2010.
Janelle Jolley 53:14
2010, you graduate college, you spend an extra year in Lesbian Town, USA, where Smith college is in Massachusetts, and then what were you doing with yourself during that time? Were you working? Were you-
I was teaching at a high school, a Waldorf school.
Janelle Jolley 53:31
Oh, a fancy school!
Yeah. I was teaching art classes there two days a week. And then I was working in a art supply store.
Janelle Jolley 53:41
Oh, right on.
It was- I loved that year. It was so great because I was basically working three days a week, I think, at the art supply store? Three or four- I think so. Three or four days a week at the art supply store. And then two days a week teaching art, but then it's basically half days because I'm only teaching one course. So I still had time to work on my own art. Rent was dirt cheap.
Janelle Jolley 54:09
We were probably in...thinking back, like a illegally dangerous apartment that was not up to code. We were living in the attic and there was definitely no fire exit. If there was a fire we would have been dead.
Janelle Jolley 54:23
But our rent was $300 a month and that was split between me and my then boyfriend, now husband.
Janelle Jolley 54:31
So even though I wasn't making a lot of money-
Janelle Jolley 54:34
And you were living in a deathtrap.
Yeah. I was really happy. I mean, I had housemates and there, you know, at certain points housemate issues, but, like-
Janelle Jolley 54:42
But it wasn't super tight. Like, you could make your rent, you could buy your food. You could either pay for a car or a bus ticket around, you were able to pay for art supplies. You had time to do your art. Like, things were good. You didn't want for anything.
Yeah. I biked around and there were buses. Yeah.
Janelle Jolley 54:59
So it was fine.
Janelle Jolley 55:01
It was just a cool, chill year.
Janelle Jolley 55:03
It was great.
Janelle Jolley 55:05
Hm! Was your then boyfriend, now husband, was he still in school?
He was finishing, yeah. He was finishing- he was, like, double major, try to take on too much. And he was doing lab work. So his year was maybe not as good as mine.
Janelle Jolley 55:21
Sure. But you was chilling.
But, yeah, we weren't- we both enjoyed really living in Northhampton and just, yeah.
Janelle Jolley 55:28
Okay. All right. And so where did you...what did you end up doing after that? Like, how did you go from- how did you go from a $300 death trap to living in a, you know, probably $3,000 a month not death trap in San Francisco? Like, what was your- how did you make your way out here? Or, what were you doing in between?
So, yeah, I actually went back to Hong Kong because my visa was expiring. I was like, "I can't stay in the US." You know, in order to get a work visa, your employer has to prove that they can't hire somebody local to do that work, and I was just teaching. They weren't going to do that.
Janelle Jolley 56:05
And working at an art supply store. So I went back. I was there for maybe about a little over six months, when my boyfriend joined me there.
Janelle Jolley 56:18
In Hong Kong?
In Hong Kong.
Janelle Jolley 56:19
Oh, that's so sweet!
Yeah. He ended up going back and forth because his mother was ill at certain points, and then his job wanted him back. He was like- he was gonna take a job in Hong Kong, but the salaries are so low in Hong Kong. Taxes are a lot lower, but salaries are also a lot lower. So if you take a Hong Kong salary but you have to pay us taxes, there's gonna be nothing left in your paycheck.
Janelle Jolley 56:43
Wow, wow, wow.
So he ended up staying with a US company and working remotely for a little bit, but he had to go back and forth. For me, I taught French for a little bit at the Australian attraction school. And then, I was like a teaching assistant there, but I was basically teaching, because there were four different levels in one classroom. And then I became the artist in residence, one of the artists in residencies at the school that I had gone to before. It was, you know, a private international school. And I was there for almost two years, a year and a half? And then we got married, and-
Janelle Jolley 57:28
In Hong Kong?
In Hong Kong. And we thought that- we did some research into how to get back to the US. And we thought that getting married in Hong Kong would be faster than me trying to apply for a fiance visa in the US. This was around the time of the government shutdown, and all the stuff. It ended up taking a year and a half, after we got married and started the visa application process.
Janelle Jolley 57:55
For you to get a marriage visa?
Yeah, to be able to get here. Like, to be able to take a plane to the US and not get turned back at the border.
Janelle Jolley 58:02
Oh, okay. So you're saying- I just want to make sure I'm understanding this. You're saying you got married in Hong Kong because you thought, per your research, you're like, "Okay, this will be easier or quicker than me first getting a fiance visa and then getting a marriage visa in the US."
Like, basically, yeah, the fiance visa would allow us to get into the country and then get married here. But for, you know, looking at the research, it seemed like the fiance visa might take a long time. So we thought that it would be faster to get married first and then apply for me to be able to come to the U.S.
Janelle Jolley 58:37
I see. But it took a year and a half for that to happen.
Yeah, yeah. And I actually resigned from my job because I was like, "Well, it's the end of the school year. That makes sense. Like, I don't want to- I probably will be going in the fall, and I don't want to go mid school year. So, you know, I'll just resign." But then it took another year- it wasn't until the fall after that, that I finally got my visa. And so I actually was there through most of the Umbrella Movement in 2014. And so saw a lot of what was happening. And that was the same time as the Black Lives Matter protests of that time. And by that time, I think-
Janelle Jolley 58:48
Yeah, in Ferguson. And I was actually seeing a lot of parallels.
Janelle Jolley 59:25
Huh. Explain to me what you mean.
Well, people are out on the streets, you know, trying to get their voices heard. For the most part when, you know, people are let alone, the protests are rather peaceful. And then the police shows up and uses brute force, riot gear, tear gas, pepper spray, and then it gets, you know, things get violent and the media portrays the protesters as violent. And, you know, the government saying like, "You guys are lawbreakers. You're doing illegal things."
Janelle Jolley 1:00:00
Yeah. And then we're like, "But we're protesting a legal system that doesn't work for us," you know? The law is not just that's why we're out here. So yeah, I was seeing a lot of those connections between Hong Kong and what was going on in the US.
Janelle Jolley 1:00:20
Mm, interesting. And you-
What is interesting too, is that I saw, you know, 2019 going into 2020 coincided with the second wave of Black Lives Matter protests, too. And so I was, again, seeing all these connections. I would say that I don't think I really had a deep, deep understanding of black history and the experience until... I mean, I knew about slavery, but in terms of the, just the systemic racism that happened between the supposed end of slavery to today? I didn't really have a really good understanding of it until after college.
Janelle Jolley 1:01:06
What did you- what was it pre-college? In your own words- don't censor yourself. What was it pre-college and what- how did that change? And what was it post-college?
Janelle Jolley 1:01:17
Was it just kind of a generally amorphous understanding?
Yeah, it's just like, "Oh, there was racism, and there was slavery, and then there's racism, but then...and-"
Janelle Jolley 1:01:27
And both those things are bad.
Janelle Jolley 1:01:30
And that's bad.
Yeah, exactly. But I, yeah. I think probably- I think the first wave of Black Lives Matter movement led me to really understand how fucked up the system is. And-
Janelle Jolley 1:01:44
In your words, tell us how you understand how fucked up the system is?
Well, the, you know, the criminal justice system. Like, obviously, black people being incarcerated at much higher rates. You know, housing, segregation. You know, Jim Crow. I didn't really understand what Jim Crow was until later, you know, even after, you know, slavery was abolished. I think, also...yeah, I started watching more. I think I watched 12 Years a Slave and it was just so... the emotional impact was a lot deeper. And then just, you know, basically, segregation, and then into today's, just, system that is made to keep black people out. So, I would say that by late 2014/2015, you know, I had a better understanding at that time. In 20- so, I moved to San Francisco. We were in the Boston area for nine months, and then we got evicted. Basically, the landlord sold our apartment. And we were just like, "Okay, what now?" My husband was hating his job, wanted something different. We came and visited his brother out here. And we're like, "Whoa, San Francisco is so cool, so beautiful." And this naive two of us were like, "We're gonna move out here, because why not? We don't like where we are, we got evicted." And we actually got evicted. Like, we were told by the landlord, he was selling the apartment while we were visiting here. And so we're just like, "Let's just move here." And then a few months later, his brother's roommate was leaving. And so we're like, "Perfect," like, "We're gonna move here, you know, there's a room open. And we'll stay here for a few months before we find, you know, a place of our own." And we never did.
Janelle Jolley 1:04:03
A few months turned into a few years.
Over the past few years, there have been a lot of elderly Asians being attacked.
Janelle Jolley 1:04:11
And just, you know... it ranges from hate crime, to what can be classified as hate crime, explicitly, like, you know, racially motivated, to just, you know, robberies and assaults. But there have been a number of really high profile cases. And actually, there was just one about a week ago.
Janelle Jolley 1:04:33
Yeah, I just saw someone talking about that on Twitter.
Yeah. Of, just, elderly Asian getting brutally assaulted. And so the community feels really unsafe. And when I brought that up, we got backlash. We got a lot of backlash. And people were like, "Oh, you know, we're just going after Chesa." You know, one of the questions a person had was like, you know, "What is Chesa doing about it," who is the district attorney. And of course, you know, his office has its own limitations. But I was like, I think, you know, his office could probably do more to reach out to the Chinese community. And they have been doing a lot more recently. And I mean, he's only been in office for a little over a year.
Janelle Jolley 1:05:17
And they're going after him. The moderates are trying to get him get him recalled.
Oh, yeah. But I was like, you know, you need to do very direct outreach to the community, otherwise, that narrative is gonna take over.
Janelle Jolley 1:05:31
But we even got a lot of backlash within progressives saying, like, we're going after him, like, oh, how much of this is just people on Next Door complaining about, you know, car break ins and, you know-
Janelle Jolley 1:05:46
Yeah. I mean, there has been a increase in home invasion. And there have been people who have been trying to say, basically, "Well, you know, there hasn't been an increase in hate crime in the Chinese community," like, "They're basically just overreacting," and blah, blah. And-
Janelle Jolley 1:06:17
That's not helpful-
That's really not helpful. You know, whether there is an increase in hate crime or not, which is in itself is difficult to quantify, because a lot of these are not being classified as hate crimes, because they're robberies and, assaults and robberies. It's also just not helpful for the- if you want the community to come along with you, because they have a legitimate concern, you know? Like, these things actually happened. And, you know, like, 80, something year old grandma being beaten to a pulp and left next to trash cans, bleeding, choking in her own blood is very different from somebody complaining about their packages being stolen on Next Door, you know?
Janelle Jolley 1:07:03
Right, right. The magnitude of the situations are very different.
Janelle Jolley 1:07:06
And if you let the... if you let the 80 year old grandmother being beaten thing, if you minimize that for long enough, then the community's gonna completely shut you out and not listen to anything you have to say, because you had nothing to say when we were dying.
Janelle Jolley 1:07:22
That sounds like- ahh! Here we go. That sounds...there are parallels to that and other communities in this country that are not Asian communities, so I'm trying to generalize as much as you're saying.
This is, you know, obviously happening while we're talking about defunding the police, and a lot of people in the Asian community are very wary of that, because they feel like, you know, they're not safe. But the thing is, having more police officers isn't gonna necessarily reduce that kind of crime, because you're not going to have a police officer on every single block. Nobody wants that.
Janelle Jolley 1:08:01
And also, if you're going to- and I don't know if- I don't know how this would be done, and I don't know, because I'm not as intimately familiar with this community as you, but would it not be beneficial to help- to do the work of helping them understand that there are there are economic predicates to what is animating their fear around crime? You understand what I'm saying?
Yeah, absolutely. I think a lot of people just want to jump to the easy conclusion. I mean, okay, the pandemic has made things a lot worse for a lot of people. But it's only making already existing systemic problems worse.
Janelle Jolley 1:08:41
Like, these problems have been around-
Janelle Jolley 1:08:43
They've been there.
For so long.
Janelle Jolley 1:08:45
And the reason there's crime here, you know, is, like, there are communities that have been completely decimated for generations.
Janelle Jolley 1:08:56
Janelle Jolley 1:08:57
You know, a stimulus check is not going to solve the problem.
Janelle Jolley 1:09:01
Right, right, right. And I don't mean to restrict the... remedy to a stimulus check. I think it- the remedy is in a broad, persistent, redistributive economic agenda. Because again, there are...I'm a materialist- there are economic antecedents to all of the ills and inequities that we experience, and if you are going to reduce or eliminate them, you cannot have people living on their knees.
Janelle Jolley 1:09:40
That's, so it's- so it's difficult...it's that easy, and it's that hard.
Well, yeah, I mean, it's kind of...it's like, "Duh," that's the society we need to build.
Janelle Jolley 1:09:50
But then, you know, how do we get there?
Janelle Jolley 1:09:52
How do we get there? Right.
And it's, you know, everything from stopping the incarceration of black and brown bodies, because we have have generations of families that have suffered with, you know, the consequences of incarceration. It's, you know, having an education system that actually invests in poor communities of color, because, you know, we all know that rich white neighborhoods get better schools and poor black and brown neighborhoods get worse schools. It's, you know, having stable income for, you know, everyone, health care for everyone, you know, having all of these things, you know, that are, you know, should be no brainers but, you know, we don't and we have been for centuries, you know, been exacerbating these inequities. And so, you know, how do we fix it now? Like, how do we step by step go to fix it?
Janelle Jolley 1:11:00
That's a big question. And it's not- it's a big question, which is why I started this fuckin' podcast- it's a big question and it doesn't have just one answer. So, I'm not looking for you to like, "Here's the PRD for rebuilding society," like, no, that's not how it works. But, so what are what are some- what are some- what could be some of the answers? You said, community organizing. I- yes, that makes sense. What are some of- in the coda to the community organizing piece is understanding the various communities within the, you know, geographical community you live in. Understanding- being able to speak to them in terms that they understand about concerns that- about concerns that they have, in order to be able to mobilize them to some, you know, collective action to better those circumstances/our circumstances. So, yes, that makes sense. What are some other ways that people can think about continuing on the...continuing on the work that would push us toward and beyond even a Sanders agenda?
I mean, for people who are already kind of doing the organizing, I think, building coalitions is very-
Janelle Jolley 1:12:32
Tell people what you mean when you say that.
So, the left is horribly splintered. We are always arguing with each other, we always...let disagreements build into bigger, bigger disagreements. We argue about methodology, you know, we argue about, you know, "You shouldn't be doing this, this is the better way of doing things." There are lots of different organizations that focus on different things, you know, and we really...need to be thinking about how we advocate for things, whether it's electorally or, you know, whether it's a candidate or ballot measure, or just, you know, policy or community work that will benefit everyone, the entire community, and we need to make them see the connection. So for instance, let's talk, you know, say safety, because we talked about that as an example. Like, we need- it's easy to say this, but...a lot easier said than done. But we- I think, you know, there needs to be more interaction between the Chinese community and the Black community and the the Latinx community. Like, right now, there's a lot of animosity, especially in San Francisco, between those communities. And if we're able to bring these different communities together and explain like, "This is how the system isn't working for any of us, and this is how-"
Janelle Jolley 1:14:29
For any of you. Yeah.
We're all better off, you know, then we can get work done. Because it's like, well, if we arrest more-
Janelle Jolley 1:14:42
Black and Brown people, we're continuing this broken carceral system that continues to tear families apart, that is going to continue crime, and that's going to, you know, continue.
Janelle Jolley 1:14:56
Exactly, and so-
Janelle Jolley 1:14:58
That's going to redound to no one's benefit.
And it's what needs to be done. It's not- I don't have the solution on how to do it. And I know organizations that have- are starting to do that work. And I've been, you know, talking to them more and want to see what we can do to help. But, I mean, I think it just starts with creating space for people to listen to each other and hear what their experiences are.
Janelle Jolley 1:15:30
Don't be so precious about your corner of the left or progressive world, put your ego down, we're all, you know- I was gonna say something really inappropriate. We're all trying to work towards something better- watch yourself, Janelle. So, like, maybe take- one concrete step that you can take is working with people that on paper, you think that maybe you don't want to. Not in an abusive way, like this person, you know, "I'm gonna, you know, go befriend, you know, some proud boys," not like that, but just like, "Okay, I believe- I want to work towards social housing- increasing, establishing and expanding social housing in California and this-" insert the fill in the blank, this group that has that as one of their central foci, "Though I take issue with maybe their name or who they've endorsed in the past or whatever, like, I'm going to throw my hat in with them and work with them along these lines, because this is a collective long term project and I can't be so precious or provincial, about, you know, my brand of leftism."
Precisely. Especially when, you know, a lot of folks share common goals. We just have different methodology, work with different groups and communities, and so, you know-
Janelle Jolley 1:16:51
Yeah. Like you said, you can't be so precious. One thing, and I know this is really difficult and I kind of, you know, notice this over the past, well, years of organizing so far is, I want us to be better at listening to each other. And I want us to be better at trying to step in other people's shoes, because I've seen so much infighting...in the left, within the left, with each other. And just people fighting, people assuming that the other person has bad intentions, people canceling, you know, each other when they've done something wrong. Because we are all, like- you know, you've heard the Berniecrats bylaws, but the reason why I wrote those bylaws is that we should be approaching organizing as a constant learning space. And...
Janelle Jolley 1:18:04
Yeah. Yeah. And not demanding- not demanding some amorphous ideal of perfection. Like, there is, like, even- there's room for people to be human and fallible and fuck up. And to demand perfection, or to hold someone to this ideal of, you know, being without sin, that doesn't leave space for someone to grow, get better course correct. Yeah.
Yeah, exactly. Like, "Great, everybody has been now, you know, amputated. And, like, we can't-" you know? We're just so completely destroying each other, and I've seen that on so many different occasions.
Janelle Jolley 1:18:52
Yeah, that's right.
And, you know, creating space where we can have healthy discussions and be critical of things and be critical of each other without...feeling like we're attacking each other, you know? Because there's, like, on one hand, you know, we want to be creating a safe space for people where people feel comfortable. On the other hand, I don't want to be like, "Oh, you know, no criticism allowed." Like, you know-
Janelle Jolley 1:19:23
Of course you should be able to withstand a little bit of criticism, even from people, you know, that you think you are of like mind with. Like, that's not going to kill you. And actually, it probably will sharpen- it'll sharpen you.
Janelle Jolley 1:19:35
So, like, let's calm down with that.
Exactly. So it's on both sides. It's like, you know, let's...enter conversation in good faith, be respectful for each other, and don't take everything personally, you know?
Janelle Jolley 1:19:50
That's right! That's right! Don't take everything so personally. And, I mean, we all have our days and, you know, whatever. And we can end up sliding into that, but, like, not everything is violence directed toward you. Sometimes, you know, sometimes people just are just talking and and they're not-
They're not thinking.
Janelle Jolley 1:20:09
They're not thinking, they have- they don't have any malicious intent behind it.
Or they don't know your experience. They don't understand that something is triggering to you because they've never experienced what you've experienced, you know?
Janelle Jolley 1:20:17
That's right. But that- but then you don't have to then paint that person to be Satan.
Janelle Jolley 1:20:21
It's like, relax. I'm still hollering at the mental images of home girl and that sleeping bag and being scandalized during Never Had I Ever when she first got to college. Poor Claire. Okay, episode two is up tomorrow, where we learn how she made the near seamless transition from artist to organizer. Okay, bye