Emmy Award Winning Geraldine Moriba on Extremism and the Potential for Redemption

Jennifer Brown | |

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Award winning journalist, filmmaker, and multiplatform program developer Geraldine Moriba joins the program to discuss Sounds Like Hate, her new podcast powered by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The podcast explores the dangers and peril of everyday people who engage in extremism, and ways to disengage them from a life of hatred. Geraldine also discusses a tool that helps to measure the diversity of representation in media.

In this episode you’ll discover:

  • Your diversity story is both what you can see and what you can’t see (9:00)
  • Gatekeepers, chance, and fortune behind a meteoric career (15:00)
  • How culture creates a lasting strategy for effective change (20:00)
  • Using AI to collect the data of gender representation in media (23:00)
  • Why podcasting and audio is so effective for telling changemaking stories (32:00)
  • Uncovering White extremism through the Sounds Like Hate podcast (37:00)
  • Trust versus Care (41:00)
  • The power of belonging that encourages people into oppressive circumstances (44:00)
  • The danger of images as personifications and indoctrinations of hate (53:00)

Listen in now, or read on for the transcript of our conversation:

JENNIFER BROWN: Geraldine, welcome to The Will To Change.

GERALDINE MORIBA: Thank you.

JENNIFER BROWN: I’m so glad to have you here. We’re having a Geraldine week as we were just talking about, we’re going to, or we already did by the time listeners are listening to this episode, we will have released your guesting on the community call that we do every week, which we’ve been airing over the summer. That was more of a conversation about your time in directing diversity, equity and inclusion in very large global media companies. And also, we did kind of a deep dive into your work in AI particular to representation in media and in cable news and specifically.

So, we might touch on that again, for those of you who missed the community call just to contextualize all of Geraldine’s work, which is wide ranging. But today I really hope to dive more deeply into your new podcast, which is called Sounds Like Hate which you are co-hosting with your colleague and in partnership with the Southern Poverty Law Center. So I’m really excited to go deeper into it. It has quickly become one of my favorite podcasts and one that I’m really recommending to everybody in my circle. So I hope that…

GERALDINE MORIBA: Oh, thank you.

JENNIFER BROWN: Oh yeah, for sure.

GERALDINE MORIBA: Thank you.

JENNIFER BROWN: Yeah, sure. Geraldine. So tell us a little bit more about you personally. I always like to invite our guests to share their diversity story, whatever that means to you, wherever you’d like to take that. People sometimes talk about childhood or influences or how they identify and how they came to terms of how they identify and using their voice in the world. So wherever you would like to take that I’d like to just invite you to ground us in who you are and how you got here.

GERALDINE MORIBA: So, that’s such a great question to start with, a way we identify is certainly the way we present ourselves to the world. But in thinking about this question, I think what I’d like to do is talk about what you can’t see. Obviously, I am of African descent. Obviously, I’m female, at least gender presenting female. And obviously, they’re just things you can see, my phenotype, my height, my eye color, and so on. What you can’t see is that I’m an immigrant and I’m the child of an immigrant. What you can’t see is that being Canadian originally meant that I could come to America and immediately assimilate and blend and not stand out.

My accent is a little bit ambiguous and people do guess at it. And it’s ambiguous because it’s got Americanisms, I’ve lived here for three decades now, but also it’s ambiguous because I grew up in Canada where the accent is slightly more British sounding than the American accent. And then on top of that, my parents are from the Caribbean. My parents are Jamaican. So when you combine a Jamaican influence and a Canadian influence, and American influence, you get kind of an ambiguous accent like mine, but it’s not ambiguous enough that I stand out as other.

So, my entire professional life in the United States, I’ve been able to blend culturally with some ease because Canadians are invisible immigrants. I’ve even seen statistics that show there are more undocumented Canadians living in America than any other nation and nobody’s screaming, “Get those Canadians out,” because we assimilate so easily, we blend and we’re invisible that way. So I think that as far as my identity goes, I think that’s the one in this conversation that I just wanted to mention.

JENNIFER BROWN: And then how do you refer to yourself, your blackness in the American context? I’m so curious sort of how … I know that a lot of people wrestle with the multiple identities of what comes with that and visible and invisible, right? So like how do you then see yourself in the context of the American context of the way that we talk about this?

GERALDINE MORIBA: I’m very wary of dividing ourselves. I absolutely recognize that there are cultural differences between black Americans, if you were born here and you have generations of history in this nation versus someone who immigrated this generation or one or two generations ago. I’m going to admit that there are cultural differences. However, we are all black and in the eyes of injustice, all the injustices in this country and all the ways that we have been allotted to disadvantaged positions and the structural systems that are stacked against us, I’m black.

No one is making a distinction between whether or not I immigrated, whether or not my family is Canadian or Caribbean or West Indian or African or European or wherever Brazilian, what kind of black I am. People look at me and see a black woman. So I identify as black. I’m black American.

JENNIFER BROWN: Thank you for explaining that. So as such, you had a meteoric career. That’s easy for me to say because that’s what I see, but I know that the struggles and the trials and tribulations and all of the ceilings you have cracked and broken through, and I wonder what would you like to share about building what you have professionally seeking your path and how you could be most of service in this world and work from so deeply, I think your passion, right?

But I’m sure and I know from the little I know about you, we’ve gotten to know each other, the thinking I’m going to be one thing, changing into this other field, becoming a journalist like you are now. Take us back to those early days of finding your voice professionally, and some of the things that you think are most important in your journey to highlight for us.

GERALDINE MORIBA: Well, first of all, I don’t think I’ve had a meteoric … Say it for me? I’m tongue tied right now.

JENNIFER BROWN: Meteoric.

GERALDINE MORIBA: Meteoric, meteoric, meteoric. It sounds so strange with the COVID pandemic situation.

JENNIFER BROWN: Yes. Blame everything on that.

GERALDINE MORIBA: Yeah, everything.

JENNIFER BROWN: Everything.

GERALDINE MORIBA: Weight gain, everything.

JENNIFER BROWN: Oh, everything.

GERALDINE MORIBA: I don’t think I’ve had a meteoric career. I think that I’ve stuck to it. I am the kind of person who, if you tell me I can’t do something, I want to know why, and I want to figure out if I really want this, how to achieve it. I’m just a really curious person. I think that I would have found opportunities to grow and satisfy that curiosity if I had gone in a completely different career direction. When I got to university, I was studying straight sciences and wanted to go into science or medicine or research or something like that.

And then I had a gap year and in that gap year, I just traveled and saw the world in a different way. And it was that experience that made me reorient myself and start thinking about other options. I think that my success is all relative. I think that my success has been afforded because of my work ethic, my preparedness, and what I deliver. But it’s also, there’s a lot of what happens in our lives that’s related to chance. And there’s a lot of what happens in our life that’s related to a gatekeeper saying, “Okay, this one gets in, and this one gets in.”

I’m not going to be dishonest and say what I’ve accomplished has been purely because of my talent and ability. What I’ve accomplished has happened because I built relationships through the course of my career with people who recognize and are willing to say, “Yes, she is good. She’s able to do this. I trust her.” And unfortunately, for so many people who are black in America, those opportunities are not afforded because the higher you climb, the fewer opportunities there are, of course.

So I’ve been fortunate. I don’t think that I am any more exceptional than so many of my black colleagues. I’ve seen over the years, the attrition rate, the rate of people dropping out of the industry that I’m in, just continue to maintain this really high level, because so often you get to the point where you wait and wait and wait, and you work so hard and you think the next opportunity is going to come, and it doesn’t. That many of my colleagues, my professional, talented colleagues over the years have left the field. So I’m fortunate. I do work really hard and I will outwork the next person. And I’m very meticulous and thorough in my journalism, but so are so many of my colleagues who never get the opportunity to demonstrate their own talent.

JENNIFER BROWN: It’s maddening that that is true, and I know something that both you and I are dedicated to trying to fix, but will not fix in our lifetime of course. But it reminds me of sort of the dual goals.

GERALDINE MORIBA: Well, we might.

JENNIFER BROWN: We might, really?

GERALDINE MORIBA: Hopefully, yeah.

JENNIFER BROWN: We have to be hopeful.

GERALDINE MORIBA: Yeah, absolutely. I think that what we’re seeing in 2020 is change. What we’re seeing in 2020 is incredibly hopeful. What we’re seeing is a demonstration of an acknowledgement that there’s a problem that has to be addressed. And because the first step to change is admitting you need to change, and that’s happening. So I am hopeful that we will see across the American landscape, not just in media, my space, but in other industries as well, start to see much more egalitarian methods in figuring out who gets promoted, who gets to be CEO. It’ll become less of a club that is exclusively, almost exclusively for white men.

JENNIFER BROWN: Right. Yeah. What do you think … I mean, you led both, so you were a journalist and you were also leading diversity, equity and inclusion efforts internally, at CNN, I know for one. What do you think is the most effective way to create a lasting strategy to change those outcomes in real ways? I’m asked this question all the time, right? I think I know what you’re going to say, because you did share it on our community call and I thought it was an excellent point, but if you could pull one lever to make this reality happen and to last, what would that be?

GERALDINE MORIBA: Well, I think it’s culture. I think that everything is based on culture. It’s based on what we believe, what we hold to be true. I think you can put all of the mechanisms you want to in place, and then you have to leave it to the hands of the people who make decisions. And if you have a culture that really holds equity high as a pillar of goals that we should be aiming for, then it is far more likely that you will see change happen, positive change. And culture means the way that people communicate with each other in whichever shop or space that you’re in, workspace.

It’s about who gets selected for choice assignments, who gets promoted. It’s about salaries. It’s about the process of hiring and the process of retaining people. It’s also about the very small everyday interactions. It’s about who the senior leaders have lunch with, who the senior leaders say hello to when they walk into their office or their workspace. It’s about how we communicate with each other every day and whether or not we’re seen. That is culture. I think that to me is the most important lever.

JENNIFER BROWN: Yeah. I couldn’t agree more. It’s little things. It’s big things. It’s private things that are done or not done in private. It’s sharing of power. It’s acknowledgement that social and professional capital really fuel the system. And that some of us aren’t privy to that power, don’t have it. Other people that look like us don’t traditionally have it. And so there’s like a rebalancing of that that I really envision as something that would make a huge difference.

I thought what you were going to say was representation, Geraldine, because I was thinking about your amazing work fueled by AI, the project you worked on and are working on that is analyzing the gender of the faces we see in cable news. Because I also think that representation is so critical to achieve, and it is achieved through those kinds of cultural attributes you just described.

But it’s also like, let’s look at the data about who is literally missing from the equation and what is our starting point, and then how can we concretely make a commitment to changing that? I was shocked with some of the stuff you shared about the findings of how representation in cable news on this front hasn’t changed in years, nor has it changed in the corporate world either in a meaningful way, right? So we’re not figuring out something, like something is not sticking.

GERALDINE MORIBA: Yeah. That’s why in answering your question, I do think the most important lever is culture. The culture changes representation. We will put people in token positions, we’ll say, “Well, we’ve got one of this, and one of this, and one of that.” What happens is we don’t see a culture change and everybody goes ahead as normal and goes through their motion, because what that doesn’t change is the culture. So I do think the first thing you reset is what the core company organizational values are. When you reset that to a dial that is focused on equity, then what starts to happen is you start to see representation change.

So, yeah, I’m working on a tool right now with a fabulous team at Stanford University and the Brown Institute at Columbia University. It’s a tool that measures face time and as well as text analysis, and the idea behind this is to figure out representation quite honestly, who is seen on screen on cable news, and who’s not seen. And by counting those things, you can figure out who gets represented, like whose stories told.

And of course this tool can, by counting who’s on screen, you can also measure editorial decisions as well. So it’s called the Cable TV News Analyzer, and because of access that we were granted to a decade’s worth of cable news, so CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News, through the internet archives in San Francisco, we’ve been able to, for instance, measure screen time of gender. What we’ve found is across the last 10 years, across the decade, there is a gender imbalance for screen time.

There are more men on screen across the board, not just certain years or certain times of the year, like continuously more men receive screen time than women. And again, this is being done in a binary way because artificial intelligence tools are not sophisticated enough to identify all of the gender differences that we have. So unfortunately, it has a big limitation and that’s what it is. But in that prism of a binary measurement, cable TV news has more male identifying or male presenting faces on screen than female presenting faces.

If we’re trying to accomplish gender equity, then we have a problem. But you can change what you can count. So there are ways to count. You can also count other things. You can count individuals and what their screen time representation is. We can compare the screen time of the two presidential hopefuls, for two people running for the election right now in 2020. We can compare Biden to Trump on any given day. And so I think that a, you need to have a culture that permits these kinds of measurements in your organizational space, but b, you also have to count.

It’s one thing just to say you have a feeling that the product you’re creating, or the service you’re creating has no bias or has a bias, but it’s another thing to be able to measure it. Artificial intelligence today can give us measurements in ways we were never able to collect as rapidly or as thoroughly.

JENNIFER BROWN: Yeah, thank goodness. I mean, the data is going to go a long way. I mean, but then the commitment, to your point, is going to need to come along with it, which is the … If we change the data, we change the representation, I think we’ve got to then have the culture, like to your point earlier, the culture needs to support that, right? To make it lasting and not just a token effort.

GERALDINE MORIBA: Yeah.

JENNIFER BROWN: Not just a checkbox.

GERALDINE MORIBA: Yeah, and I want to add, because if I was listening to this, I’d be wondering, well, what about race? Okay, you’re counting gender. What about race and ethnicity? And to that, I want the listeners to understand that artificial intelligence does not effectively accurately measure a rate that is yet where it needs to be. I have a lighter complexion for a black person. And when I’ve tested myself, it rates me as any number of races, because the way we as human beings ascribe people to these really ridiculous concepts of racial categories, a computer doesn’t do that.

We are training an algorithm to identify people that way. So as a result, computers make mistakes, algorithms make mistakes, and we can’t effectively identify race with an algorithm. However, what you can do in your corporation is tag. So if you’re a media company and every day, you are booking a new guest or telling another story, and you do, that’s what we do. We put people on screen. In your data, you are already tagging all of the people who are on screen by their name, by their address, by their location and by their gender.

We can also tag by race and ethnicity. So if you’re starting to tag your data that you’re entering, as you’re entering it, then you start to get a representation of who’s on screen racially. And right now that information is not captured. And that information can’t be accurately shared with a general algorithm. There’s a lot of research that shows race is not being accounted for accurately by video visual algorithms.

JENNIFER BROWN: That’s such a pressing issue. Thank you for elaborating that. And I think, correct me if I’m wrong Geraldine, but the whole question of gender identity is another one where we can do a better job of collecting data on how people identify, and doing a similar thing.

GERALDINE MORIBA: Yeah. Absolutely. Absolutely. So we start collecting data and use how people want to be identified themselves. So if you collect race and gender by the self identifications of the people who are on screen, then you end up with a much more accurate data point.

JENNIFER BROWN: Yeah, absolutely. Well, thank you for elaborating on that. And I encourage everyone to check out the Cable TV News Analyzer, the Stanford Cable TV News Analyzer, right? That’s what it’s called.

GERALDINE MORIBA: Yes. Yes.

JENNIFER BROWN: Great, great. Check it out. Play with it. It’s open source I think you shared. Thank you so much for working on that in addition to everything else you’re doing. And speaking of that, I do want to talk about your new podcast and tell me like, I think this is your first podcast where you have a hand in creating and you are hosting it. This is probably something that’s perhaps a new experience for you.

But tell me what has been particularly … What stands out for you in terms of the podcast medium as you tell the story of hate groups in America today, and people who have left those groups and those communities. But what has the podcasting experience been like for you and what has it taught you as somebody that has seen media through so many different prisms?

GERALDINE MORIBA: So I started my career in radio. I started my career in public radio in Canada, CBC Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. I worked for an incredibly wonderful, really great show called As It Happens. That show is still on the air. And it’s available in different markets in the United States as well. I started my … Producer, which means I worked in a space where you have to tell stories only with the air.

So you’re telling stories that people listen to, there are no visual cues. So in telling these stories, you have to tell them in a way that people can imagine and visualize what they’re hearing, so they can understand it. So it’s just a fun medium to work in. And it’s great to be back in the space. I’m returning in so many ways to the place where I started my career at with audio. Over the years I have made many, many, many documentaries with film and video.

So what I’ve done with this podcast, that’s called Sounds Like Hate is create an audio documentary. So I’m taking my skills and experience from my audio beginnings and my skill and experience from working in video documentaries and combining them. What this audio documentary series does is tease out the complexity of motivation and the denial of hate. We’re looking at extremism. At the heart of this project are people who’ve become extremists. Why they commit these terrible, terrible acts of hate, whether they’re small or large, they’re all terrible. And then why they change because sometimes they do change.

So it’s about the darkest aspects of humanity. When we lie, when we spread misinformation deliberately, when we manipulate situations and stories to lead people in dangerous directions. But it’s also about the goodness that we have in ourselves and each other and the goodness in people who want to help other people and the desire to protect the most vulnerable members of our communities.

So for me, this podcast is incredibly exciting because Sounds Like Hate, it pushes and pulls at stereotypes. It challenges our firmly held beliefs and it stirs you. It will force you to think more deeply about these issues, especially in 2020. And it will force you to look for answers. And hopefully ultimately, if it helps a few more people to act in more socially beneficial ways, then I will feel like I’ve accomplished something with this podcast.

JENNIFER BROWN: I’m so glad that you’ve tackled this topic and in the way that you’re doing it, you’re right. It is super challenging to our assumptions and stereotypes, and you start by highlighting a woman’s story, Samantha in the white supremacy.

GERALDINE MORIBA: Samantha.

JENNIFER BROWN: Yeah. So tell me, like, how did you choose to focus on this? How did you find somebody with Samantha’s story? Because that was, wow. You talk about a needle in a haystack. How did you sort of enter this world, find her, realize that she was the kind of person that you could really like, tease apart her both experience inside, and then her escape from it, right? You have this, it’s an incredible arc, I think, for the listener to this journey that you take us on and it humanizes her a lot.

But she did this terrible thing. And then to hear a woman talk about the role that is played by women in this movement is… I shouldn’t have been surprised by it, but I was really yet again reminded of the fact that misogyny, sexism, toxic relationships exist everywhere, not surprising. But I guess I didn’t see that coming either. So tell us about Samantha, how you connected with her and maybe what you appreciated about her as somebody to really give all this airtime to as a teacher.

GERALDINE MORIBA: So the first question you asked me in this conversation today is how I identify myself in the framework of diversity, how I identify myself and my response was, I want to point out what’s not obvious. And what wasn’t obvious is the fact that I’m an immigrant. In doing this podcast series, it was really important to me and to my colleague, my partner on this podcast, Jamila Paksima, to focus on what people don’t see.

So we do see in news reporting today, and it’s good that we’re hearing these stories because it’s always been there, but we ignored it. But it’s good that we’re now reporting on these acts of extremism by white supremacists in this country who, by any way you count it, are creating the highest number of domestic terrorist acts in America. And it’s really important that that reporting is being done.

But that reporting tells the story of white male extremists. What we don’t tell are the stories of the women who are also extremists, because the reality in America is that white women have always been a part of white extremism. They’ve always been a part of the alt-right. They’ve always been a part of any hate group you can think of from the KKK, to groups today. And they fought very, very hard. And the reason is they fought very, very hard over generations to protect the power and benefits that are awarded to their race, to their whiteness.

And so the first two episodes of this series of Sounds Like Hate, we call it Getting Out. And it’s the story of one woman, Samantha, who joined a violent Neo Nazi movement through a group of people who try to dress up and disguise their hate in very mainstream ways. And it’s about how she became radicalized and whether or not it can be done. I knew at the very beginning, the kind of story I was looking for, and I cast a wide net, talked to a lot of sources and one of them introduced me to Samantha.

And that’s how I met her. I knew what I was looking for. I wanted to tell the story of women who are extremists, as opposed to the predictable one, but necessary one, which are men who are extremists. I wanted to start with a woman’s story, and that’s what led me ultimately to Samantha.

JENNIFER BROWN: You made a comment in our community call. I asked you about building trust with Samantha. And you said something like, actually, I wouldn’t say … You reframed it for me, and the question of trust.

GERALDINE MORIBA: I did.

JENNIFER BROWN: Yeah, I loved that. I wondered if you could elaborate on, if it wasn’t exactly trust you built with her, or what was it? How were you in relationship with her in service of the storytelling?

GERALDINE MORIBA: Sure. So after we spoke in our previous conversation, I actually called Samantha and said to her, I want you to know what I said, and she laughed and said she agreed, right? Here’s the thing. Samantha made a choice that brought her into this really dangerous and destructive space and as white nationalism and white power. And she consciously joined a white power group. She also got out, she also consciously decided she did not want to be a part of this anymore, but the thing is, and this is just my opinion and my fear, somebody who is willing to step into that space, like any addiction, might be willing like walk away, might do it again, or might still have a lingering doubt about their new direction, or might still hold onto those very small pieces of that hate that they once identified by.

And so for that reason, it is very, very difficult for me to trust Samantha for the same reason it’s difficult for her to totally trust me because she’s been taught all the things I want are bad for white people. All the equity that I push for and you push for as well, the things we are aiming to achieve in this country, Samantha once believed would lead to the downfall or the demise of white power and white people. And because she held that belief once upon a time, it’s possible that there’s a part of her that still thinks about that. It’s quite likely in fact.

So to ask me whether or not I trust her, the answer is no, but I care about Samantha. I really genuinely 100% care about her. And it happened right at the beginning. I care about her. I want her to do well. We still have a relationship based on the fact that I am a journalist and she’s a person I told a story about. And I hope to eventually update her story, but I’m also a human being and I do care. I care about her wellness and I care about why she got into this and her vulnerabilities and whether or not she’ll be able to stay away from these types of evil, to be honest, just these extremists Neo Nazi beliefs and people.

JENNIFER BROWN: I know I won’t give too much away, but just the act of leaving comes with a lot of risk and you go into that, so there’s a tremendous courage there. I love it’s so consistent Geraldine with the kind of person you are that you care about her, that you can sit there and have these conversations with somebody that would have wished you ill will and worse and participated in that. It’s chilling and profound. And it’s, I think, sort of this, like, tremendous demonstration of grace which always just, it takes my breath away. And it’s very beautiful that you two can be dialoguing for our benefit so that we can see this, I think, role modeled to see this bridge being crossed by the two of you.

I wanted to ask you that sort of lack of belonging that people feel that is leading to sort of the seeking out of community, even a community like this. What did this tell you that goes beyond white supremacy about just in general our isolation, sort of our world and how we are struggling to belong and who is relatively struggling to belong the most or feel not left behind?

It’s something that, boy, living in this year, right? This year has been such a deep lesson and painful lesson around those of us who feel we’re falling behind or not a part or not taken care of, or not loved and appreciated or seen or heard or acknowledged. That’s really like the foundation that leads to these groups I think. What did it make you reflect on in terms of our crisis of belonging?

GERALDINE MORIBA: Well, we can look specifically at Samantha’s story. Samantha joined this group because she thought she was in love with somebody who he himself had joined a group and it was a white power group. She felt like it was pulling his attention away from her and his affection and his time. So she decided to get his attention and to help their relationship because her sense of belonging was so connected emotionally to how he perceived her. She decided to explore this group and it was over a Christmas holiday.

And what happened was, I think it was the holidays 2016, in a matter of days between Christmas and New Years, she was hooked. She was onboard 100%. And what happened without saying too much is Samantha got this sense of belonging, the sense of being one of us immediately. She is of German ancestry, and in the white power, white supremacy ideology, women who are of childbearing age and who are the right kind of white people are put on a pedestal and encouraged to have babies and encouraged to join and to be a part of the system.

It’s a very twisted, dangerous way to look at womanhood, and Samantha bought it and was hooked and suddenly was getting all this attention and it took no time. It happened quite rapidly. And so the thing is these groups weigh a woman’s worth based on these white supremacy measures it’s whether or not they can have children. They’re literally called breeders. If there’s nothing more offensive, I don’t know, but they’re called breeders and they have white baby challenges, but they’re also measured by their ability to help white men do the things they want to do in these extremist groups.

So they plan the picnics before a cross burning, or they create the language and the propaganda that men share. They do the artwork that goes into the logos and the gifs that you see on the internet. They cook the meals. What they also do is supply the money. They work and they give their money to these groups and these men for all the same reasons that Samantha went down this rabbit hole in pursuit of an individual and what she found was belonging. And yeah, it’s belonging in so many ways that brings these people into these oppressive circumstances.

I should also add my story, this podcast, our story Sounds Like Hate, what you learn when you’re looking at white supremacy through a woman’s lens is just about all the forms of oppression and the violent outcomes that happens to these women, the violence that’s a part of the culture of these white power activists that include women. That women are not doing the violent crime, they’re driving the cars, they’re setting up secret societies and they’re helping people disguise themselves who are in the movement.

But because there’s such a warped description of a woman’s value, what happens is it not only helps define and limit a woman’s sense of self worth, but there’s a lot of psychological abuse that happens and a lot of sexual violence that happens against women who are in these movements and name calling, and just very negative interaction demanding physical intimacy when somebody doesn’t want it and rape to the extreme. For Samantha, it was witnessing these acts and this culture going back to the concept of culture of organizations, it was these acts that made her ultimately decide she had to get out.

And now it’s really important to say, and I hope people listen to this podcast because it’s so detailed. She’s so candid and forthcoming in telling her story. But today, now that she’s on the outside and she is going to be for a very long time, and most likely the rest of her life working on deconstructing these beliefs that were planted, these seeds that were planted, but she’s also using her experience and this knowledge that she has to help other women. Her mission today is to help other women who are in extremist groups get out, help them realize that it’s cult-like what’s happening to them and that has happened to them and that there’s another way to live.

JENNIFER BROWN: Thank God she’s … There’s a lot of work to be done. Would you like to just mention the upcoming episodes quickly, the kinds of stories you’re going to be featuring?

GERALDINE MORIBA: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you for asking me to do that. So the next two episodes are about a school called Randolph Union High School. It’s in Vermont and it’s a school where we’re on the ground, as the story, the battle is erupting and it’s over two things, whether or not to hang a black lives matter flag at the school and the school is 95% white. But also whether or not to remove a beloved mascot that they’ve had at the school since the 1940s called the Galloping Ghost. Sorry for coughing.

JENNIFER BROWN: No. Great.

GERALDINE MORIBA: The Galloping Ghost, the school’s mascot, resembles a KKK Knight on a horse. There’s no way you can look at this Galloping Ghost and not immediately realize that it is the personification of a hooded Klansmen. And it’s been there. It’s been in the school. It’s on every clock in the school, and there are dozens and dozens of clocks, but every room you walk into, you see the Galloping Ghost, it’s on their clothing, it’s on their backpacks.

And then in their gym and their school auditorium is a Galloping Ghost that’s about 17 feet high on one wall, which means everybody, every day sees this image, that’s the personification of hate. And so the school is, just when we arrived, trying to address it and figure out how do we help these kids who are increasingly in this particular community, starting to express signs of white supremacy. There are kids who are walking down the hallway and giving each other Nazis salutes.

They are seeing Confederate flags on the things that the kids wear to school and on their computers. They’re hearing language that is racist. And they’re seeing graffiti in the bathrooms and things like that. So the school is trying to address all of that. And part of it is what to do about the Galloping Ghost and whether or not to fly the black lives matter flag, and how do we create dialogues about all of these things with the students and their families and a larger community in a way that doesn’t create a deeper divide, but still keeps us whole as a community and educates around these issues.

JENNIFER BROWN: Oh my goodness, Geraldine, I can scarcely wait to give that a listen.

GERALDINE MORIBA: I should say it comes out this week.

JENNIFER BROWN: That’s right. That’s right.

GERALDINE MORIBA: You can hear it this week. Yeah, yeah.

JENNIFER BROWN: Oh my goodness. I feel like we’re going to need to have you back on the podcast a couple of episodes further in and to debrief all of those in the way that we’ve debriefed Samantha’s story, which was so, so cool to get the view behind the scenes from you and your experience of making sure the story is told and that we see beneath the surface and the way that you’re so committed to and so good at. I really appreciate your work. Is there anywhere else we can point people to besides, so Sounds Like Hate is the name of the podcast. How can people support your work more generally? Is there anything you’d like to provide us with so that we can follow you, support you, spread the word, et cetera?

GERALDINE MORIBA: So, Jennifer, I want to say thank you for the work you’re doing. It’s incredibly encouraging to see that we are creating spaces to have these conversations. So I want to thank you, first of all. And yeah, thank you also for asking what people can do. There are a couple of things. One is subscribe to Sounds Like Hate, because these algorithms that measure how many downloads and how many listens there are matter. It matters in the placement of our podcast and who gets to hear it if it pops up in somebody’s feeds. So definitely subscribe, please listen.

And if somebody who themselves is struggling with extremism, if you have a loved one, a family member, a friend who is going in a direction that you know is dangerous and wrong, reach out to an organization called Life After Hate. There are other organizations, but I know this one is very effective and they will give you advice, but also they can speak to the person you care so deeply about and hopefully help them on the journey of getting out of extremism.

JENNIFER BROWN: Thank you. Life After Hate, we’ll include that in the show notes, Geraldine, and I’m just appreciating you so much today and you are the right person to be doing this, and we need a lot more of you. But in the meantime, you are shining a light on something we have yet to really dig deeply enough into and understand as a country and that is very much urgent right now, more than ever, I would say it’s always been urgent, but you’re really elevating something to our attention that needs to be cleansed, like so much else that we’re learning right now.

And reconciled somehow like you just said, like, how can we come to a place of love for our fellow human particularly for this next generation? So I’m really looking forward to hearing about the students and how they are wrestling with this in the school perspective. But thank you so much for doing your work. I look forward to continuing these conversations and having you back on the podcast.

GERALDINE MORIBA: I can’t wait. I can’t wait. Thank you, Jennifer, so much.

JENNIFER BROWN: Thank you, Geraldine.

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