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Here's Why Tessa Thompson & Lakeith Stanfield Think You Should Put Your Phone Down More

Culture & Entertainment

Sorry to Bother You is a science fiction comedy and the brainchild of Boots Riley. Written and directed by the rapper turned screenwriter and director, the film is a reflection of an American past, and also a satirical depiction of similar phenomenons we experience today, like capitalism, racism, and the need to play a role to get ahead in life. The setting may be in the 70s, but like most things, the more they change, the more they stay the same.

Lakeith Stanfield (Get Out, Atlanta) plays Cassius "Cash" Green, a down-on-his-luck brotha that eventually lands a telemarketing job and finds that the fastest way to success is to put on his "white voice"--raise your hand if you have one of those. Cassius takes the job to impress his girlfriend Detroit, played by Tessa Thompson (Dear White People, Creed). If you seen any of the trailers, you know it's definitely going to be funny af. Recently, the stars of Sorry To Bother You sat down exclusively with TheYBF to talk about the film, what they want fans to take away from the satirical comedy, and their own perceptions of the pitfalls of social media.

Stanfield says that he hopes viewers come into the theaters open-minded and find their own ways to relate to and understand the underlying message: the way to growth is through failure. Stanfield said:

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"My hope is that people come to the story with an open mind and are able to receive and retain whatever they feel personally...I can say what I took from Cassius, just reinstating the idea to remain steadfast and tenacious in your pursuit of not only higher and better things for yourself, but also a sense of self and identity in the world. And just be willing to fail so you can grow. So I hope people can see the parallels between those things."

Everyone has social media nowadays, and while we all have our own relationships with our social feeds, many of us are feeling the harmful effects of the forever churning news cycle. Thompson tells TheYBF.com that although there are some benefits to social media, the "clickbait culture" is causing a sort of disconnect from the real world.

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"In terms of dehumanization, social media is incredible for being able to disseminate information and create community, but I think we also get into a space where we're bombarded with images and we feel disconnected from the fact that they are happening [in actual] in this clickbait culture."

From police brutality, overt racism and gruesome violence, to the heart-wrenching realities of everyday people in America and around the world, some of us are becoming desensitized while others are experiencing real symptoms of PTSD. A recent study revealed that "Black Americans' mental health suffers from recurring exposure to police killings of unarmed black men and women."

There are also other costs associated with this continuous overexposure. According to Stanfield, we are adapting to these and other images at a rapid pace:

"I think if you show people images enough, human beings become comfortable with things after a while and we adapt...We've always had to adapt but now there's less censorship."

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This adaptation is like a double-edged sword. On one hand, with a carefully curated timeline, the images and messages you scroll through can have a measurably positive impact on your mental and spiritual health. On the other edge, it's almost impossible to escape the increasingly violent and disheartening news cycle that shows, oftentimes in graphic detail, the very real world we live in.

The internet is a place where you can literally be whoever you want to be and say almost anything without any real consequences. Stanfield himself has been the subject of his own post-and-delete moment that caused him to feel the wrath of those who felt he was being homophobic and insensitive, he now realizes that adaptation hasn't made people any less sensitive. He also advises that we all should put the phone down more.

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"But, the internet is also a place where you can be insensitive and that's OK because you're removed from the experience. So you can say and feel and do things that you wouldn't do in real life. So in a sense, it feels like people are becoming less sensitive but I don't think that's the case. People are more sensitive, but now we just have these avenues that we can explore and safely not have to come into contact with these things. So, I say spend less time on the internet everyday and get back on the ground."

Sorry to Bother You hits theater in limited release today, July 6 and nationwide on July 13.

*Featured image by Tinseltown / Shutterstock.com

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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