EPISODE ELEVEN: TASHANDRA POULLARD & NAVEED SHAH
Tashandra Poullard and Naveed Shah are United States Military veterans. Tasha served in the marines while Naveed served in the army. They are now both advocates for military reform and progressive politics. Naveed and Tasha share their reactions to the violent insurrection that took place at the Capitol on January 6th and the fact that some of the individuals involved have ties to the United States military. Naveed and Tasha also share their experiences with racism while deployed and their hope for the future for other BIPOC service people.
people, veterans, military, naveed, tasha, country, serve, happened, racism, color, marching, feel, insurrection, service, sailor, ship, black, working, folks, soldier
Naveed Shah, Alison Hall, Tasha Poullard
Alison Hall 00:10
You're listening to between headlines. I'm Alison Hall. For this week's episode of between headlines I spoke with Naveed Shah and to shaundra. Vuillard Naveed and Tasha are veterans Naveed is a veteran of the US military. While Tasha is a Navy veteran Naveed and Tasha are both activists who work with an organization called common defense. common defense is a large grassroots organization of progressive veterans fighting for social, economic and environmental justice and bringing veterans issues to the forefront of political discussion. After the violent insurrection that took place on the Capitol earlier this month, news reports started emerging that some of the individuals involved in the capital breach were either active service people or veterans. Of course, the focus turned to these extremists and how they may have become involved in this undemocratic effort. Admittedly, I was browsing Twitter and I saw a tweet from someone named Alex McCoy at common defense. He mentioned that the media was focusing on these extremist veterans and service people and not focusing on the vets who are people of color and who's experienced serving their country may have been tainted by dealing with extremists. I'm all for examining what stories are being talked about and the ones that are being overlooked. So I've reached out to common defense and was introduced to both Naveed and Tasha and I am so glad that I did. Naveed and Tasha are incredible. They share their experiences that are unique to them, but unfortunately sound not unique in the experience of people of color in the United States Armed Forces. Tasha is a black woman who served in the Navy and traveled all over the world. She shares her experience being on a mostly white ship filled with white men, and her reaction to the insurrection and what needs to be done to weed out extremism not only the military, but society. Tasha is also a journalist, producer and writer who was passionate about amplifying underrepresented voices while the VA shares his experience as a Muslim American in the armed forces and the racism he experienced while being deployed abroad in Iraq. And avete has been working toward furthering veterans issues and progressive politics for 10 years. In 2016. He was invited to sit next to Michelle Obama during the State of the Union, in recognition of his work on Veterans issues. I learned so much from Naveed and Tasha. And I really appreciate them sharing their deeply personal stories and the work that they are doing to create a better future for the country they have served and the diverse groups of people that make up the armed forces. Now onto my chat with Naveed, and Tasha. Just tell me a little bit about yourself and your experience serving How long did you serve? Where did you go?
Tasha Poullard 03:13
I served 10 years in the US Navy, as what's called a cryptologic technicians operator was stationed on board the USS Fletcher, dd 992, out of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and we went to roughly I'd say 20 different countries, all throughout the Asian Pacific. So I've been to Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, you name it. Hong Kong, been there done that. My service was very interesting. When I first reported on board to the USS Fletcher, I was the only African American female that was lower enlisted. So the majority of my entire division was white males. And we had a white female Chief Petty Officer and a white female Lieutenant that was in charge our division officer. And I remember the first day I reported on board, they were asking me all these questions that was really kind of confusing to me, the intaking person that was helping me check in, had told them that I didn't want to be there, and that I wasn't ready to serve on a ship. Now of course, being a young woman, it's new to me. So I'm afraid. And I expressed that to him because of the things that I've heard from tailhook and many other incidents that were reported in the news. So my thing was, I just want to make sure I'm safe. And then I'm working with people that have my back. Well, they took it as I was lazy, and didn't want to work and didn't want to contribute to the division. So when I started getting in trouble, was roughly after about two weeks of me being there, because really, they'd already had a perception of me, without me even opening my mouth. And I'm the type of woman that I have a very strong physical demeanor. So people take it as defensive. It's not That is just my defense mechanism from me being attacked by what I think is someone who doesn't appreciate me or like me. So I wouldn't really talk too much. And because of that, rumors spread it that you know, she's not approachable. She's angry and aggressive that that stereotypical black female trope that many people will promote a black woman, it follows you into military service. And I remember one day one of my petty officers asked me, What do you like to be called Black or African American? And it took me by surprise, because I'm like, What does it matter what we're all sailors just called me, Seaman video, or whatever the case may be, because I by Tasha, for short. So I didn't understand what was the meaning of that. And why even approached me with that, as time marched on, they would express some views that were very controversial to me. Some of them, let me know that they had some racist views of who I was, and my service. So we had a situation when they I want to say we were in Juba Lee, if I'm not mistaken. And sometimes ships are more alongside each other on the piers. And there was a ship more next to us, and they had to cross our quarterdeck to get to theirs. While we were on the Liberty bus on the way back to the ship, before we pulled out the next morning, and there was a white sailor on the ship, that on the other ship from us that did not like the fact that he was on the boat with a bunch of African Americans. So while he's in the Liberty bus, he begins to make some comments, some very disparaging remarks about people of color, and some of my shipmates hurt, which, of course, that was to get their attention to get something started, make a long story short, before he could even cross the brow to get to the other side where his ship was, he turns back to all of us and calls us all the N word. And it caught us by surprise, because we're looking like you didn't think you would experience something like that overseas while in the military on top of that, but it turned into a physical altercation with him and another sailor on my ship. And the sailor on my ship, who happens to be African American, came very close to getting kicked out of the Navy because he fought this young man. But this young man was being very verbally aggressive and physically aggressive, all throughout the night. But the the focus was on my friend who happened to be black.
Alison Hall 07:24
And was he disciplined in any way the person who initiated in this horrible way,
Tasha Poullard 07:29
I think he may have gotten what we call restriction where they restrict you to the ship, and they reduce your pay for a short period of time. But I don't think he was in any real danger of being separated from active duty, like my friend was who engaged in the physical altercation with him. And there have been several instances where I've seen preferential treatment given to white sailors and in some cases, white Marines, who've demonstrated racist behavior and nothing's really ever come of it, nothing's happened to them. Everything from some who've tried to sexually harass or sexually assault black females to someone who would become very physically aggressive to lower enlisted that had no choice or no say, in the matter.
Alison Hall 08:13
Wow. I mean, I imagine just how difficult that was for you, especially starting off that way, you're signing up for something incredibly intense, you've worked so hard, and to have your journey begin in that way, must have been incredibly difficult.
Tasha Poullard 08:31
Well, it was, I'm not gonna say it wasn't expected. Because I grew up in Texas, I'm from Texas. So I've dealt with racism all my life, I recognize it when I see it. I think for me to go through the training that I went through in the Navy, which is very classified and sophisticated training, and then to get to my first duty station. And the belief was that I lacked the intelligence needed to be there. You wouldn't even make it to your duty station if you didn't pass the classes, because you couldn't demonstrate competency in your job. And I was questioned in every aspect of my job, everything that I did, any mistakes that I made as a young person trying to find my way through life, and through military service was constantly under scrutiny. And what really got me was that I had a black female Chief Petty Officer that took over for the white female Chief Petty Officer. And some of the attacks started to intensify, because now they're angry that you got this black woman in a position of authority, and I can't take it out on you. But I got this little seam in his third class Petty Officer right here, that whatever anger I have towards her, I can sure give it to you because what you're gonna do to me, I'll grant you, you know, and don't get me wrong. I wasn't the best sailor I had a lot of growing up to do. I lived a very sheltered life as a young woman. So joining the military was that opportunity for me to expand who I am, and grow into my own identity and walk into my own truth. But it was with some egg shells that I had to walk on to walk around white mill supremacy and patriarchy as well as racism that's supported at all.
Alison Hall 10:08
nivi. Tell me about your experience. I know you can't sum it up in one sentence, but if you could start to dry,
Naveed Shah 10:16
sure, so I joined the army right out of high school, and went into the service thinking that I would be able to serve my country, because I had wanted to ever since 911. And I would also be able to gain some valuable experience that could use for work and possibly go to school, you know, so for all the right reasons, and I went in, very optimistic coming from a place where I live in Northern Virginia, outside outside of DC. It's a very diverse community. You know, those people from all walks of life, I'm an immigrant myself, many of my friends were immigrants, and many of them were first generation Americans. So I went into it with, you know, with a very open mind. And so when I got there, to training, and I saw some of the folks who were in, I definitely encountered some apprehension. People will see my name tag and think, what is this guy doing here, but one of the first people I've ever met in, in training was actually a Muslim chaplain, who was in Fort Jackson, South Carolina, whose name I can't remember right now. But you know, that was the one of the first experiences I had were made me feel like welcome and part of the community because I didn't even know what a chaplain was letting you know, right before that. And then to find out that not only does the army have chaplains, but they also have Muslim chaplains and Jewish chaplains, and Hindu chaplains as chaplains. And even that it was a very inclusive and welcoming group to be a part of that source. So I thought, but as I, you know, spent more time in service and got to know more people and encountered more more troops, especially at Fort once I got to Fort Hood, Texas, I realized that things were, you know, not great all the time, there was definitely a couple of instances or encounters where people took my name took my background, my religion, to mean something completely differently than what I thought were people who would use terms that were, you know, derogatory terms, like Haji or, or terrorist or sand and word and things like that, that, that they would say, in a way that, you know, we're joking with you or your buddy. But like a lot of things really hurt. And it really stuck stuck out. And it would always start out small. Where was one guy making a weird comment, or saying something like that, but then those kind of things would snowball, where if if the initial comment wasn't nipped in the bud, then it would suddenly it would become a norm, it would become a habit to say those things. And I was really lucky in that regard that I had good leadership where, you know, Lieutenant who heard somebody say that to me one time, and I kind of laughed and let it roll off my off my shoulder or whatever, and didn't let it bother me. But he pulled that person aside and said, hey, that's not the way we talked to our soldiers. We're not we're not going to do that here. And you know, so I was really lucky in that regard. But then in November of 2009, I was deployed to Iraq, and the Fort Hood shooting happened. And so, you know, that was an instance of a Muslim army. I think he was a psychiatrist, actually. Or maybe you were the chaplain, I can't remember. But, you know, he did that shooting. And suddenly, it felt like the spotlight was on me all over again. You know, if To me, it felt almost like not like the same way I felt after 911 because that was when 911 happened. I was in eighth grade. You know, here in Northern Virginia, some of my classmates had parents, who were either in the military or civilian to work with the Pentagon. And so they, you know, we were all very scared for after that happened. But then there was definitely some stigma that came with it. And I felt like the same way after that after 911 or after the photo shooting happened, because all of a sudden, the spotlight was on on me again, as a Muslim soldier. And there were media outlets who were reaching out, asking to do interviews because I had happened to be on the phone with my wife at the time talking to her when the shooting happened. And she said the sirens are going off, there's locking down the bass. And I just, at the time, just published a quick blog post that took off about it. I said What's going on? I don't even know what's happening right now. And the next morning when I woke up and blown up and the Washington Post's wanted me to write something for him about it. And at them for a moment, I was like, ready to just jump in feet first and say, Okay, let's let me you know, use my voice use myself. Power, what little power I have here to speak out against this? And my, my commanding officer at the time? Very smart guy said, Are you sure you want to do this? Because you don't have to, we don't have to respond to any of these requests, we can leave it alone and leave you alone. And I didn't understand that. I said, Why? Why would I knew that? Sir? What what would Why wouldn't I use my voice and, and speak up about this easily, because the backlash could be pretty bad. And I, of course, being a, I think I was 21. At the time, 22. I was very kind of reckless, like, what, well, what's the worst that can happen? And what I found out, the worst that could happen was that other than there were people out there who saw that, and they put me on some website like Jihad watch or something like that, as they thought I was gonna be an insider, just like the shooter at Fort Hood, they targeted my family, they, you know, all types of threats online and, and things like that, that were really bad. But the worst of it really was other troops in Iraq who you know, would see that name tag and see, and they might have read about the stories, or they might even have just heard about the shooting and knew this Muslim guide, Muslim soldier did it. And here's another Muslim soldier who's sitting next to me is armed with an M 16. And ammo shoot, you know, somebody told my NCIC, my staff sergeant that, hey, maybe we should take the firing out of his weapon, just in case, you know, and this is interact, like, I might need that for myself, also for defense, but it, you know, those are the kind of things that where it starts out small like that, and that's, I keep talking about the snowball effect, but it's just those little things that just add up to the point where people feel comfortable enough calling to call you names, to question your loyalty, right to do all those types of things that are building up to the point where it's okay, all of a sudden to say, Well, you know, this Muslim soldier doesn't belong in this in our American army. Right? Even though I consider myself an American. First, I'm a citizen like, and, you know, I was a child, but many immigrants have to work twice as hard to become to earn their citizenship than anyone who's just born here. So I felt like we had done and paid our dues. But in a lot of ways, it felt like every day, you had to, you know, buy your right to be an American again. So that was a really tough time. Yeah.
Alison Hall 17:36
It sounds really tough it Naveed for you I mean, in Iraq, you're you're sacrificing so much, you're away from your family, you're working so hard under extreme conditions in danger. And then you're getting not just the lack of support from your fellow troops, but like outright racism and, and bullying. It sounds like with extreme racial undertones or overtones. Did you ever just want to quit and go home? Is that even an option?
Naveed Shah 18:07
Yeah. So I, I again, I was really lucky in my core unit that I was around, were really great. And I still I'm still friends with many of them today. I actually just spoke to my staff sergeant last night. And they were really great about trying to insulate me from that kind of outside pressure. But in those instances where I had to go out and do my job, I couldn't stay on base all the time. I couldn't stay with my team all the time. I had to go out and do that work. And while I was out there, just yeah, it did get to me. And there was a point, I think about 10 months in where I was, I told my boss all day, look, what am I even doing here? You guys can do this mission without me. Let me go home early. And I've lobbied hard. I was like, Look, just let me let me get out of here. Because I, I was genuinely concerned. I was like, something's gonna happen. You know, someone's gonna push me to react to them aggressively or someone is just going to attack me, or something's gonna go wrong. And so I was put lobbying pretty hard. But, you know, again, that time my NCIC, my, my LLC, my team, really, the leadership team really came around and said, Look, we're going to help you, we're going to help, we're going to have the team who was still back at home in Fort Hood to help your wife and take and help her with the baby and get her make sure she's safe. So you don't worry about her. Because I like these people know where I live, even though it's on base housing. Again, if there's I'm hearing this from other troops, what's going to stop them showing up at my house when I'm not there. So they have said they're going to help take care of her, then they said that they will help alleviate some of the burden on me so that I wouldn't have to feel like obligated to go out with, you know, units and or troops that I didn't know. So that I would at least have some comfort in knowing that most of these guys are falling under our chain of command. And if they even if they harbor some ill will they still know They have to answer to someone's boss if if anything were to go wrong, so yeah, it was tough. And then I definitely wanted to come home. But at the end of the day, I'm really glad I did. And it just felt like, again, going to Iraq was kind of the culmination of why I'd signed up for the service in the first place. So I was really glad to do it. And I think that that year was one of the hardest of my life, but I wouldn't, I wouldn't have changed it for anything.
Alison Hall 20:29
For both of you, you're here, you're speaking out about your experiences and some of the more negative and difficult things that you have been through while serving. I mean, that just must be a lot in itself reliving those experiences, and sharing and opening yourself up again, to maybe people who still feel that way, or who are going to reach out to you. Why is it important for both of you to keep telling your stories, and I know, you're both working towards furthering veteran issues. Why,
Tasha Poullard 21:04
for me, I want all the other women in service women of color, from all walks of life to understand that what you're going through, is nothing new. There are those of us who've gone through it before you and some who've gone before me that have gone through worse. And that we're here for you, there is a community of veterans that are progressive, that stand for the things that you stand for in regards to equality in regards to uplifting women, minorities, immigrants, you name it, as well as standing for same gender loving, non gender conforming LGBTQ plus members of the armed services. Because my thing is, I've been given platforms to speak on and speak positively, to combat the negatives of how not just how black women are seen in society, but how we're seeing in the military in uniform. Because just because you put that uniform on, it doesn't mean that you're not working with people who still have those preconceived notions, who they think you are based upon the color of your skin, the regulations that black women fall into in regards to your looks, your physical build, how your uniform fits you how your hair looks, if it's natural, if it's processed, how you talk, everything is always used against you as an assessment to validate your worth, and the honor and integrity of your service. I've worked with white men who have done things that were completely crazy, I'm talking about renting cars, blowing it up, and then pushing it off a cliff. And then they come back to the ship, and everybody laughed about it. But I drive my car without a license because I'm in the process of getting my permit to take a sailor to the hospital for an operation. And I'm getting ready to face the captain. Now mind you, these two white men just burned a vehicle a rental vehicle and push it off a cliff in Hawaii. And it's funny, but me I'm wrong. it you know, the differential treatment that you get as a person of color, as an immigrant, as a woman has always been prevalent. And it always will be because it is a system of racism, and patriarchy that runs that machine that we all have the nuts and bolts in. So I want them to see that. I made it. I served honorably, and I don't take it back, I come from a long line of service members on both sides of my family, every generation has said had someone serving in the military. So it's possible that you can still serve your country and still be proud of who you are.
Naveed Shah 23:40
You know, to me, I think one of the most important things to remember is that representation matters. It's enormously important. I was in 2008. I had been in the army for about a year. And I had voted for the first time and the first my first presidential election as well. And, you know, this guy got President Obama got elected. And, to me, it was a mind blowing moment in history, because suddenly this guy who had a weird name like mine, was the president of the United States. And it made me feel like not only could I have a my kids could do anything, they dreamt up some of that before his election would not have, you know, would not have thought possible, you know, definitely not. So anything that my parents would have thought would be possible. And so that's why I feel like it's really important for us to even though these experiences are painful, to dredge up again, but to talk about them and name the enemy here because there are soldiers just like me that 1819 years old right now, who are having to face similar things, unfortunately, and hopefully us speaking out here and using my voice will give them the opportunity to use theirs and allow them to see that While these things are happening to them, it feels like there's nothing you can do about it. But it's not right. And you don't have to suffer through it alone. And that's just like Tasha said, that's what we're here for is to show them that there is a community of veterans who have served. And there is going to be a long line of us, who will hopefully be looking out for each other this way.
Alison Hall 25:21
As I'm sure you guys know, nearly 20% of the people who have so far been charged with writing at the Capitol, a part of that insurrection. were either active members of the military, or veterans. When you heard about that, What went through your minds? Were you surprised?
Tasha Poullard 25:42
No. When I was at Fort Meade, there was a group of men, some soldiers that I've worked with there, who they proudly had their Confederate flags. For me, someone coming from the state of Texas when I see that that immediately reads racism, because I've had crosses burned in my yard by people wearing the same flag, you know, and this is 1996 97. This was in 1945 62. So when I see that, that's blatantly displayed to me, who you are and what you stand for. And I know they say, Oh, that's Southern pride. But see, my people were oppressed under that flag. That flag was used to discriminate against my family, when the Ku Klux Klan marched down the street, and my mother had to hide, because they didn't know what was going to happen to them. When they're listening to them drive the trucks up and down the road at night, telling them inwards, get in the house, that flag is flying in the back. So when I see that, I know who you are, I recognize that. And the FBI has been warning the United States government for many years dating back all the way to 2006. That ghost skins or people that are infiltrating law enforcement in the armed forces, who are white supremacists have been prevalent, not just from 2006. But dating all the way back to the initial start of this country. To the start of law enforcement. The display patrols gave birth to law enforcement in this country. So I wasn't surprised to see it. I've been doing research on this. I'm a journalist myself, I write on racism for the campanelle out of Mills College in Oakland, California. I knew about it. And I was waiting to see when they were going to actually report it
Alison Hall 27:25
up what was your reaction?
Naveed Shah 27:28
Yeah, so hearing about this is hearing about the fact that so many military veterans were involved in in the insurrection was definitely scary. Because these folks do have training and experience that makes them more dangerous than the average Joe, on the street. However, I do want to temper this just by saying that 20% of those charges only 27 veterans so far, I'm sure there were more, you know, there, they were definitely part of it. And there are definitely veteran or military adjacent groups like the oathkeepers and others who planned and plotted and were part of this insurrection. However, most military veterans that I know, and I have experienced with are more faithful to the Constitution than to any one party or person, they are more principled, they are more civically engaged. And so I want to be cautious of creating this fear around veterans being extremists. It's just not the case. That being said, it is scary. And I definitely saw signs of this when I was in the military as well, that there are folks who want to specifically use their training, and they feel like the million American needs a paramilitary force, or, you know, to push these conservative values that they held. And that is dangerous. And I think that's something that that so far our law enforcement agencies have not taken seriously. And that is the most dangerous part, you know, after again, after 911. I think it was the NYPD who did surveillance on mosques in five states around New York, you know, not even in New York City. But in New Jersey and Connecticut and elsewhere. The NBA found nothing, but they did that because they were afraid of Muslim extremism. And in that same vein, they should be more afraid of these homegrown extremists who are more focused on, you know, violence as a means to an end. Because to them, they see this as and because the law enforcement is not focused on them. They see that as a easy way an easy path for them that they can get away with this stuff. Because they are righteous in their beliefs. And that's the scariest part is folks who feel like they can get away with it because they're above the law. And so Have the 100. And so I think the real problem here is that only 100 something folks have been charged so far in relation to the insurrection, I think back in June of 2020, during the Black Lives Matter protests after, you know, when that was going on, I think DC had arrested more than 300 people in that month, just for those Black Lives Matter protests, and more than half of them, I believe, were just for curfew violations. So and now the FBI and the Justice Department is saying that we're not sure if we're gonna be able to charge everybody would trust passing in the capital. Why not? They were trespassing in the capital, one thing, charge them everybody whether they had a criminal record or not knew they were in the wrong, you can just wander into a place and walk out scot free. Next time, they might not, you know, they might walk in and decide they don't want to leave so peacefully. So we need to uphold our norms, uphold our rule of law, and ensure that everybody veterans or civilians or whoever knows that this is what this country is based on. And as far as veterans go, specifically, the military needs to do a much better job of tamping down on that, again, when I went in, I had to go through a security clearance process because my job required it, I had to be interviewed by an agent who sat down with me and asked me if I had any ties to any foreign nationals. I said, Well, other than my entire family, no, I didn't, all right. But I had to go through that process and explain everything and make sure they made sure that I was not going to be a threat. And then they need to do the same thing to folks now who are in the military, especially folks who are going to be dealing with sensitive data, but also folks, we're going to be learning anybody who really is going to be learning how to hold a weapon, and use it and know, and, you know, squad, infantry tactics, those folks were around the Capitol, and you can see them in some of the videos. And it might look simple, that they were just, you know, walking through the crowd, but they had gotten a hold of the vice president or the Speaker of the House, that would have been a true insurrection. Because who knows what could have happened. And so the military that, you know, God, and the Department of Veterans Affairs, whoever else needs to get involved and tamping down on this kind of extremism in the ranks, needs to do it sooner rather than later.
Alison Hall 32:27
Did you guys see the sentiment lots of people when it was happening, or days after we're saying, you know, this is the type of stuff that happens across the world and in third world countries and places where we are sent to protect democracy? This is not America, this should not be happening here. What did you make of that sentiment?
Tasha Poullard 32:49
Well, for me, it was hogwash, because that is America. When you when you talk about the lynchings, of people of color, when you talk about the voter suppression and how they stood at the voting polls, to make sure that people couldn't vote, when you talk about them going into churches and burning down churches, and again, lynching people to picnics, the history of it, that is America, that has always been America, that's the foundation of who we are. I think the shock for many of them, was the idea of hearing the word terrorist, be mentioned in the picture of a white man flesh, and not somebody that looks like Naveed or looks like me. So now you're being put in the same category is the people that you call them over there. So I laughed at it, because I'm like, What do you think they did? When they came in and they stole land from the Native Americans? They didn't walk up to him and be like, Well, can we have this? They took it through terrorist actions, when they enslaved people in this country. They enslaved them through terrorism. And I will say this, that people who believe in white supremacy and racism, wrote the book on terrorism, you've always been the terrorist, you have used the military, in many cases, to terrorize other countries. It's just that now you have being associate what you associate with being a person of color.
Naveed Shah 34:12
Yeah, and I totally agree with what I just said, too, that this situation really, I think, brought to the forefront of the American psyche that this is not something that just only happens elsewhere, all over the world, this can happen right here at home. And that these folks when they're doing this, and they were, you know, conducting the insurrection, they were seeking out marching through the halls saying hang Mike Pence, they're they're acting not unlike, you know, these folks that they don't want to be associated with and other third world countries, but the fact of the matter is that in those third world countries that they they're thinking of, a lot of times those people are as well informed on their issues as we are here and they will We're under the influence of disinformation here. And this kind of disinformation campaigns become so dangerous because of exactly what happened where people took this this narrative and ran with it and completely the wrong direction.
Alison Hall 35:17
Where do we go from here? You are both working towards progressive veteran issues. There's a new administration, what do you hope this the country sees from this moment? And this last month, where you know, all of these issues have been, have come to the forefront and are in your face with this violent insurrection? Where do we go from here?
Naveed Shah 35:45
So I think where we go from here is, hopefully people realize that not only are people upset with the way the country is run, or who is running the country, but that civic engagement and all levels of government is the solution to this, right, it's not marching in the capital. At that point, it's too late. Right. So you, you have already let your government fail, and all their mechanisms, and you feel like that's your only outlet. That means something went drastically wrong. And that's why I feel like these progressive issues that we're all fighting for, should be everybody's issues, right? When you're when you're talking about abortion, the solution to less abortions is not to ban abortion, just to make it so that women feel like they can bring a child into this world and be able to care for the for the child and be able to educate the child and be able to head to clothe a child, and not have to worry about losing their entire livelihood over it. Right. So So when we're fighting for progressive issues, we're we're really hoping that people see that we're fighting for them, whether they're fighting against us or not, people have a tendency to vote against their interests. And we're hoping to show them that, you know, a tax cut for the 1% for the Trump tax cut, did not help them at all. And hopefully, that bill and your see and understand that when we have folks in Congress who are fighting for people to get a small stipend to help them get through this pandemic. That's not, you know, taking someone else's money and giving it to you, that's our government providing for its citizens, right, we as a society, have progressed in many ways to reach the point where we are not a third world country, we can see that there are people in this country who are suffering and that we have the means and the resources to provide for them. And hopefully, people will be able to see that we can do this, you know, and still be able to have a functioning democracy in a country where people have the opportunity to excel and by also not have the opportunity to fall into, you know, abject poverty. And that's what's really at this point, the only thing separating us from some of these third world countries that people look down upon
Alison Hall 37:59
Tasha, where do you think we go from here?
Tasha Poullard 38:01
I think for me, one of the things that black lives matter was protesting was defunding the police. And when we talk about defunding, we're not talking about taking away all funds to where they cannot be an active policing force in the United States of America. But think about who was at the Capitol. Many of them were law enforcement. These are people who are ex military, who are now cops that have access to military grade weapons that are storming the Capitol. So when we talk about defunding the police, we have to talk about dealing with the racism that is rooted in law enforcement that now has access to military grade weapons, they should they decide they want to cause not just an insurrection, but another war on our streets, American streets, they can, because they've been granted that access. So this entire situation, put the issue of the 1033 program out there in front. Not only that it put the issue of white supremacy in the ranks of law enforcement in the ranks of the military, out in front. And most importantly, is is making America actually sit down and think about its racist roots. And I don't want to seem like I'm just trying to Badger that that message. But I need that message to sink in for a second. Because for the longest we have denied it. We just watched a man die with a knee on his neck for eight minutes straight. And then to watch these people believe that they can go into the Capitol and stormy and not facing the consequences. And they look just like the police officer that put his knee on that man's neck. It shows you where we as a country have not dealt with the racist roots that gave birth to who we are. So hopefully in going forward from here, there's no longer gaslighting. When people of color talk about racism, there's no longer deflection from the message that we're showing that look we're not saying shoot They're like you shoot black people when they protest. We're just saying, don't shoot us like you don't shoot them, when you open up barricades and let them march in and march out, like nothing happened. Because you look at them and you see yourself as a law enforcement officer and have sympathy for them, but then you hate me. Because you don't understand why I'm marching. Give me a break. So now hopefully, this is putting all that on the forefront, to where we can have honest conversations about what's really going on in this country, and the systemic oppression of people of color.
Alison Hall 40:36
Absolutely. David, you're nodding your head a lot. Do you have anything to add to that? Yeah,
Naveed Shah 40:39
I do want to also mention too. So, you know, we started out talking about extremism in the ranks. And this is something again, that has been overlooked so much in the military, because the military focuses on things that really don't make sense to people outside the military, that they're worried about your uniform, they're worried about, you know, walking on the grass, right? They're worried about things that make it really make us laugh when you think about it. But, you know, the fact is that these extremist groups do start out in their infancy, at least in the military. And people take that they take the things they learn, they take the rhetoric of the people around them, but the people that were around me who were calling me names and felt like they were insulated enough that they could get away with that. And they take that out. And that's where you get veterans who feel like they can go attack the capital of the United States while Congress is in session, and try to kidnap the Speaker of the House in the first place and the Vice President. So those are the issues that really need to be addressed. And like Tasha said, also, we're not that far removed. People think they'll say that all slavery ended 150 years ago. Yeah. But the Civil Rights Act was passed only 55 years ago, right. The Vice President of the United States, Camilla Harris, had to be bused to a separate school, right, because of her race. It this didn't end with slavery. And it didn't end with the Civil Rights Act. And it didn't end with the 1994 crime bill. And it didn't end with Trayvon or Tamir. Right, these things are happening daily, right. And so when my son was 12, is walking to the bus stop every day. I'm thinking about those things now. Right? So these are not this is not America's past that we're reckoning with. This is America's past, present and potentially our future unless we do something about it. And that's where I'm at with it.
Alison Hall 42:37
Just today, or recently, for when this podcast airs, the administration repealed the transgender military ban. What did you guys think of that?
Tasha Poullard 42:48
This is a plus. It's a bonus, because I have so many friends that I served with, who classified themselves as trans who lived life is trans individuals. And I think that our LGBTQ plus, same gender loving non gender conforming brothers and sisters should be able to serve honorably, regardless of their orientation, regardless of how they identify themselves, or how they live their lives, because that's their personal business. But if you're still an honorable person that respects this country and upholds the Constitution, none of that should even matter. The only thing that matters is how you conduct yourself, and how you respect your fellow American.
Naveed Shah 43:29
I think the numbers vary depending on which study you read, but I believe it's somewhere between 30 to 60% of Americans aren't even eligible to serve in the military. Out of the ones who are eligible to serve in the military, only a very small fraction, a handful actually volunteer to serve the military. And out of those who volunteer is still only as even a smaller fraction of those, make it through training to actually wear the uniform and become a soldier, sailor, airman, or marine. And so for somebody to go through all of that, and get there. And then for the military to say, You're not eligible to serve because of your gender identity. That's just wrong. Right? These are people who are courageous and brave and strong, I might, you said three things all mean the same thing. But they volunteered for this when nobody else would. So we should be thankful that there are people who are still willing to do that, despite everything that the LGBTQ community has to go through in this country still. So I think it's fantastic that the Biden ministration has repealed the trans ban that Trump instilled. However, there's still work to be done on that front as well, that there needs to be comprehensive reform on those issues. Because we can't just say you're welcome to serve and then also the not be prepared to serve the community. And that's not only for the VOD, while they're in the service but also for the Department of Veterans Affairs when they get out to be able to be prepared. To provide them with the health care and service, the services that they earn when they're in service. So exciting, very happy that this has happened today, hoping to see more from the administration while they have the chance to make a right.
Alison Hall 45:13
Each of you retired from the military, you started working on progressive issues and reform and you seem to be working tirelessly towards making things better, both for veterans but and society. You went from serving your country, in one way in a more literal sense, with both the military and with the Marines now to serving your country in a more activist, political way? That's a lot of serving. I mean, just tell me, why is it so important to you and tell me about what you're working on?
Tasha Poullard 45:52
As you both know, we were working with common defense. Currently, I would like to bring forth a media platform that serves to give information that combats the disinformation that is out there in regards to politics, policies, certain politicians, and political news, because I'm a journalist, as I told you, I'm the chief news editor for the campaign, Neil, out of Mills College. And I've always been attracted to radio, TV, print, photo journalism, because that's something that I grew up with. In my house, we watched the news, we were always informed. And I noticed the biggest thing we have in this country when it in regards to ignorance and racism is misinformation. So as long as the truth is always prevalent, and available to those who can access it, you can start combating some of the myths beliefs that people have about our immigrant brothers and sisters, for example, in in the black community, they don't think that the issues of immigration affect black people. And I have to constantly remind them, some of those brothers and sisters in the cages at the borders, they're Afro Latino, some of them come from the continent of Africa, and lived in Central and South America, and now trying to get to the United States seeking asylum. So you got brothers from the continent that are coming here and being stuck in cages like animals, same thing throughout the afro Caribbean countries. So to educate not just the world, but mostly my people, so that they're more informed and can make more informed decisions on who to vote for how to vote, what issues are most important to us, and affect everybody's communities as a collective in the United States, is something that I'm working on. And I also do a lot of documentary work as well. I'm working on a documentary called sex and a single black woman. And it focuses on the the disenfranchisement and how it's affected black love and relationships. So my biggest thing is communication, bringing forth that information for people to not only come together as one, but heal from the the generational epigenetic curses of enslavement, of oppression, and apartheid.
Naveed Shah 48:04
You know, I started out working on Veterans issues in a non partisan way. And I did that for a number of years, I realized that there was many, many times where I would be across the table from a congressman, who would inevitably say something along the lines of well, I'll support this legislation, if you'll support me for reelection. And I'm sitting there thinking like, this is not a partisan issue. We don't want to get involved in your election, veterans issues should not be a partisan issue. And I found more often than not, it was one side of the of the aisle that was, you know, making politics out of things than the other. And so that's when I made the jump to to, you know, progressive politics instead, and came to come defense. Because, for me, we want I want to affect change, for all the same, many of the same reasons that Tasha said, You know, I feel like many of the issues that Americans face can be kind of turned on their head when the veteran narrative is brought into it, or the military narrative is brought into it because we have such a reverence, and rightfully so for our military here in America. But when, you know, folks on the conservative side of the aisle talk about things like food stamps, for example, they say that people who are on food stamps are lazy, and they don't want to work and they don't deserve our help. Well, the fact of the matter is 25% of military families are on food stamps. So are we saying they're they're lazy, they don't want to work? Or are we should we really, really be looking at the fact that wages have been stagnant for the past 30 years, and that people are working harder than they ever had before. They're still not able to feed their families. Right? And so when you bring that narrative into it, suddenly everything changes for people, like hopefully they realize that things are very different than the narrative that they've been feeding. They just need hope they just need us, folks like us a common defense to tell them the story that that there has been right in front of their face, but they just haven't seen it yet.
Alison Hall 50:09
For each of you, what is it that's most important for you to convey? Maybe it's correcting something that you feel is often spoken about in the media about your experience about what it might be like to be a person of color in the military or in the Marines? What do you want people to know?
Tasha Poullard 50:30
That is a loaded question. Because it's quite a bit. For me, as an advocate for black people throughout the African diaspora, my focus is Black Lives Matter. And when I say Black Lives Matter, I mean, all black lives because now we're at the point where we gotta throw it out there, not just heterosexual black males, black women, trans LGBTQ, plus, disabled, mentally challenged, poor, you name it, veteran, you name it. So that's, that's what I want to progress forward.
Naveed Shah 51:08
Yeah, in that same vein, I think my biggest thing that I want to see change is I want people who are from all walks of life, whether they are, you know, born here, or whether they're immigrants, whether, you know, their parents came here, whatever, that we are all part of the fabric that makes up America. And we cannot keep othering people, we cannot keep saying that this person is not good enough, or this person is not welcome here, or we need to build up a border wall to keep these people out. You know, there are 1000s of deported veterans whose stories might never get told, unless we are able to find them and tell their stories. And so for a country that holds these ideals up on a pedestal, we are failing to live live up to them. And so that's what needs to change for me is that we need to recognize that what was written 200 something years ago, that all men are created equal, is a dream that we're still fighting for to this day.
Alison Hall 52:14
Navy. Tasha, thank you so much. Thank you for opening up to me sharing your stories. Thank you for your service, the service that you served, abroad and at home and that you continue to do in your everyday life through both of your careers and your missions. I appreciate it so much.
Tasha Poullard 52:33
Thank you for having me.
Naveed Shah 52:34
Thank you so much. Yeah, thank you so much for doing this is wonderful. Yeah, of course. I
Alison Hall 52:40
mean, it's just I think it's just so important to be talking about this. And I mean, I originally saw a tweet from Alex McCoy at common defense. And he literally just called out the media and said, you know, look, we're getting a lot of requests for being connected to right wing extremist veterans. And nobody's asking for the perspectives of people of color in the military who may be served with these people. Come on, guys. And I saw that tweet. And like, it's just, it's true. Why are we focusing on that negative when there are people like you guys doing this incredible work to make change and using your own experiences? It's courageous and incredible. And I just, I really, really appreciate it.
Tasha Poullard 53:25
Well, when they see veteran they don't think us they don't see you don't see me. They see the world war two veteran, or the white guy with the service dog? No. This is that tunity to pretty much women
Naveed Shah 53:40
and minorities are the fastest growing segment of the veteran population right now. Largely for the many the reasons we talked about, you know, it gives you the ability, the military service gives you the opportunity to change your life for the better. And so we're hoping that people still are able to see that that you can make your life better by joining the military and it's not just full of extremists. On white supremacists. There are many many more good people who are willing to fight for you.