MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Now it's time for our weekly visit to the Barbershop, where the guys talk about what's in the news and what's on their minds. Sitting in the chairs for a shapeup this week, our writer, Jimi Izrael, with us from Cleveland. Lawyer and National Review contributor Mario Loyola is with us from Austin, Texas. In St. Louis, Christopher Ave, political editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and in our Washington, D.C. studios, contributing editor for The Root, Corey Dade. Take it away, Jimi.
JIMI IZRAEL: Thanks, Michel. Super Mario, Ave - what's up, everybody?
COREY DADE: Bittersweet, bittersweet, my friend.
IZRAEL: Welcome to the shop. Yeah, no doubt. No doubt, but we're going to make it through, man.
MARTIN: That's it. That's what's up. That's right.
IZRAEL: Just the four of us, man. I got this shoulder right here for you, big brother.
MARTIN: Hey, what am I, chopped liver - what?
IZRAEL: Michel, you always get - you know you always get this shoulder. You know that. You know this.
MARTIN: Oh, well, thank you.
IZRAEL: All right, well, you know, let's get it started #blackeyedpeas. President Obama is on the record talking about acting white. And you can finally get some sleep. A young, native man asked at a My Brother's Keepers town hall meeting about how to succeed and still respect his own heritage. And so the president got personal. Drop that clip, please.
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PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: African-Americans in communities where I've worked - there's been a notion of acting white which sometimes is overstated. But there's an element of truth to it where, OK, if boys are reading too much, then, well, why are you doing that? Or why are you speaking so properly? And the notion that there's some authentic way of being black, that if you're going to black, you have to act a certain way and wear a certain kind of clothes, that, you know, that has to go.
IZRAEL: All right, well, you know, not to get all Frantz Fanon on you guys, but he said the oppressed people are always struggling to find some value on their proximity to the oppressor. That, you know, the more they fit into that conventional box, the more authentic they are perceived to be #wretchedoftheearth. Now me, personally, I say do you. And every day - or at least every other day - my blackness is called in question. You know, my dearly departed wife, I love you to death. But she used to say, you know, you might have to re-up your membership. Your membership is under consideration.
DADE: Wait, wait, wait - Jimi...
MARTIN: Well, that was because of the sarongs - that wasn't...
DADE: Jimi, you're black?
MARTIN: Oh, ouch.
IZRAEL: OK, C. Dade. Go ahead, go ahead, go ahead - the green-eyed-bandit's in the house. What's your take?
DADE: I mean, first and foremost, the president of the United States - leader of the free world - is addressing the challenge of code-switching that presses people of color. That is a pretty phenomenal thing. When he leaves office, that's something that's going to go away as somebody who's the president who has that power to elevate a conversation that has been a plague on the people of color in America since we got here. That's a pretty big thing.
Now, all that said, any black person who's educated or has pursued education and success has been questioned about their blackness by other black people since time immemorial. It goes with the territory. I think, you know, there are always haters, but the truth of matter is, the haters often conflate pursuit of excellence or trying to improve your station with leaving other black people behind. And what Obama is saying, and I think what we all probably will agree with, is you can pursue excellence, you can pursue education, a higher standard of living, et cetera, all those things and still have racial solidarity and still have a cultural solidarity.
IZRAEL: Let's make this clear - thank you for that, Corey Dade - but, you know, I've got to push back a little bit because my man, Fanon, he finessed it. And he said, you know, this is the colonial phenomena - this isn't necessarily am American phenomenal. This is everywhere that people have been enslaved and/or colonized.
DADE: Absolutely, absolutely.
IZRAEL: So let's go with that because I love this country. Christopher Ave, as a white guy, really, have you ever been accused of acting outside your race or culture?
CHRISTOPHER AVE: You know, I've got to say, I'm not cool enough to ever having been accused of acting outside my race. And I just - I'm sorry, there's too much white bread in this sandwich, if you know what I mean.
IZRAEL: Yo, yo, hey.
MARTIN: But let me - Christopher, though, let me ask you this, though. The fact that - I'm thinking about the fact that every group has an anti-intellectual cohort. I mean, anybody who's been to high school knows that there's people who are accused of being gunners. You know what I mean? In grad school, they call it a gunner. It's like, oh, you've got your hand up all the time. That's not racial. So the part that bothers me about this - why is this racialized all of the sudden that this becomes kind of a racial identity as opposed to just - there's anti-intellectualism exists everywhere?
AVE: No, I agree with that. And I'll tell you, I see it in my own family. My mother is from rural east Texas. My wife's family's from rural Oklahoma. My kids - they will look at me as we're driving to Oklahoma, and they'll say, Daddy, how come every time we go to Oklahoma, you say y'all? And it's true. It comes out. As my mama says, I come by it natural. I mean, it comes out of me when I'm on the road to rural America. So yeah, I agree. It's not all racial.
DADE: He get it from his mama.
IZRAEL: Christopher Ave - yeah, I was going to say, he gets it from his mama. Super Mario, mi hermano, you're a proud Republican and Latino. Do you get any grief for this - that?
MARIO LOYOLA: No. I - that's - the grief that I would get on that, it would probably come from somebody who is not a native speaker of Spanish, which I am. And so that's - there wouldn't be any good position to criticize me for not being Latino enough on political grounds when, culturally, I'm probably going to be more Latino than they are.
MARTIN: But what about that, though?
LOYOLA: And so that's - because that's a very - you have to go to an American...
MARTIN: I mean, is there, like, language hazing, though? I mean, have you ever had somebody - like, if you spoke - if somebody knew that you were of Latino heritage, and you spoke English to them - I have had Latino friends of mine say, well, people say what are you, too good to speak your language? What do you...
LOYOLA: That depends on what part of the country you're in. I mean, I - on the east coast, I've noticed that people love it - that native speakers of Spanish love it when you speak Spanish to them. And in Texas, you've got to be careful because a lot of the tejanos don't like it when you speak Spanish to them. I mean, you just sort of have to be culturally sensitive to the location where you are. When I arrive in Miami, and I don't speak English to anybody - even if they're blonde-haired, blue-eyed. I mean, everyone's Cuban in Miami, at least where my family is. And so you can just safely assume...
MARTIN: Do you feel, though, that the sort of impressions of - do you ever feel like you are bound by impressions of what you're supposed to be?
DADE: All righty.
MARTIN: Well, so - so there it is.
LOYOLA: I mean, I know - and in that sense, by the way, the president's message is a very valuable one for kids. I mean, hey - I took the president to be saying, you know, look, it's OK to be yourself. Don't buy into other people's stereotypes. You don't have to fit into anyone else's mold. And that's a very valuable message for the president to be saying. And, you know, he's really at his best when it comes to race because he really is able to see things from different people's point of view. And I almost can't believe it's the same person who spends the rest of the year saying really insulting and, frankly, unintelligent things about Republicans. But anyway.
IZRAEL: (Laughing) Oh, my God.
DADE: There it is.
MARTIN: (Laughing) You could be want you want to be, unless it's a Democrat.
IZRAEL: A backhanded compliment.
MARTIN: That's it.
MARTIN: If you're just joining us, we're having our weekly Barbershop roundtable. We're joined by writer Jimi Izrael, constitutional lawyer Mario Loyola, journalists Corey Dade and Christopher Ave. Back to you, Jimi
IZRAEL: Thanks, Michel. OK, well, check this out. New York City officials approved what's being called a poor door. That's right. It's a separate entrance that affordable housing residents will use in a luxury apartment building. Now, guess what - now, hold on. Now...
IZRAEL: Listen, listen. Listen up. Listen up. Listen up. Now, for those of us paying a pretty penny to live in a nice building, this might not be the worst idea I've heard come down the pike. See, in my building they might need, like, a Goth door because I get on the elevator where people dressed like Trent Rezner in long, dark, black, black, black trench coats - it makes me nervous. And I'm thinking about making a petition in my building for a Goth door cause you...But real talk, you don't know who's - who all is getting in your building. Next thing you know, there are people you're getting in your building with that might have lower - you know, lower money standards. They might be in your house, trying to see what you've got. And I don't know...
MARTIN: (Laughing) What?
IZRAEL: It might not - it might not be the worst idea. Super Mario, what do you think of the poor door?
LOYOLA: Well, I just love - I love this story because the progressives who regulate housing in New York City are so, oh, my God, it's segregated housing. This is like servants quarters; it's horrible. And I'm here to tell you that they have absolutely nobody but themselves. This is 100 percent...
MARTIN: Explain. Explain.
LOYOLA: The fault of...
LOYOLA: Because the Inclusionary Housing Program that's at the root of this is a tax incentive for big, new projects, of a certain percentage, of the project is affordable housing. So it's basically an economic penalty on people who don't do it that way. And then, in effect, that requires either separate buildings or segregated buildings because the people who are in affordable housing can't afford to pay for the gym, the sauna, the pool, the doorman. So you have to exclude them from those services, right? So in other words, you have to segregate them. And the entire problem starts with stuff like rent control that creates a scarcity of non-rent-control housing in New York City, which raises the price of non-rent-control housing, which is why the new construction in New York City is all luxury apartments. And it's a wonderful comeuppance for progressives who don't think before they pass an ordinance.
MARTIN: You know, that's interesting. Corey Dade - 'cause I've heard the same thing about San Francisco, where people say that the rent control is so tough. It's so, well, tilted toward renters, as opposed to owners, that actually renters hoard housing. They'd rather keep it empty than rent it and not be able to get rid of somebody or raise the rent. So I don't know. What do you make of that argument?
DADE: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, it's a problem in San Francisco. You see that also in Boston - not so much here in D.C. But I think there's a - I'd like to draw a distinction between rent control and the development that sort of community - the urban redevelopment tools that have brought affordable housing mixed with market - on-market housing and a poor door. Those two things don't go together. We've been doing, in major cities, major developments that include components for affordable housing in on-market properties for decades now. None of them have included a poor door. For me, this is more about New York being New York. For New York, they have become - New York has become this city of the rich versus the poor with the rich winning.
MARTIN: Well, I don't see that poor people are going to live in these houses. I mean, I think if you're talking about affordable housing in New York, it's going to be a nurse. It's going to be the person teaching your kids in kindergarten. It's going to be the firefighter who's going to put the fire out if, you know, God forbid your building...
DADE: Right. There's nothing that's...
MARTIN: And it's going to be the police officer guarding your street. That's who's going to be in affordable housing.
DADE: Right. Affordable is relative to the city, to the income of each profession but also in each city, the cost of living. But I think...
MARTIN: So basically this sounds like you agree with Mario, though. You're just saying this is a particularly crude approach, here. You're saying that it really is about kind of the regulation of the housing space, and this is a crude - this is kind of a crude result.
DADE: I don't look at this as housing policy. I look at this as a - yeah, to the extent I agree with Mario, I agree that this is sort of a bastardization of what has been effective housing in some ways.
DADE: I think this is just absurd.
MARTIN: All right. Christopher, quick thought from you?
AVE: Yeah. Well, I'll tell you what. It's horrible. It's insulting. And I'd be the first in line for that poor door because you double my salary, I'd still need it in New York City.
IZRAEL: All right.
MARTIN: All right, well, go ahead, Jimi.
IZRAEL: OK, well...
AVE: I'm there. I'm using it. I'm sorry.
MARTIN: You're using it?
AVE: Yeah, ain't too proud to beg. Ain't too proud to beg.
IZRAEL: Going in through the out door, out door.
DADE: He gets it natural.
IZRAEL: #Rasberryberet. So let's keep - let's go on.
IZRAEL: Always moving - we're talking about somebody who uses any door he wants. That's Donald Sterling. He's still trying to hold onto the LA Clippers after being on blast, my dude, for making - he's not my dude - don't do that. But he's a - this cat, he made some racist remarks. Until recently, Clippers coach Doc Rivers was kind of - kind of stepped around the whole question about whether Sterling should stay or go as owner. But now the interim CEO of the Clippers says Coach Rivers may walk if Sterling won't. Guys, you know, just about everybody but the pope is saying Sterling has to go. And me - so me and the pope, we're in good company. That's my dude. What - Christopher, what's your take?
AVE: Well, if you remember when this controversy first came out, I remember watching Doc Rivers face and the look of agony and the pain. I mean, here's a guy who's only been there a year. He's trying to make the team go. He's wondering if the team's even going to play. This tears at him. I think this guy's got integrity. And I'm with him. I mean, I think this is a completely appropriate thing to do. I think Sterling is the only one in the room, as you say, who doesn't understand it is time to go.
MARTIN: What about Mario? Mario, I don't think we've talked to you about Sterling. What do you think?
LOYOLA: Well, this is - yeah, right, my favorite topic. Well,
LOYOLA: No, look. I'm troubled by the principle that you can be banned by an organization for things you said in an illegal recording of a private conversation. You know, but on the other hand, I believe that private organizations should be able to exclude whomever they want for whatever reason they want.
LOYOLA: And it's wonderful to see so many progressives standing up for freedom of association over privacy rights 'cause you're not going to see that too often.
DADE: Whomp, whomp.
MARTIN: Whomp, whomp, whomp.
IZRAEL: Yeah, yeah. I mean, he...
MARTIN: Corey, go ahead. Corey, what do you think?
DADE: Look. I'm going to focus on - I've said plenty about Donald Sterling up here in the shop. But I'm going to focus on Doc Rivers. After Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs, Doc Rivers is the most respected coach in the NBA. If he decides that he's going to quit, that is huge. That would be, perhaps, one of the biggest moves of social protests in the history of professional sports in America. Let's - let's just not...
MARTIN: Isn't that like fundamental labor rights? You have a right to determine where your labor is used. If you have agents - you know, despite the fact that these are highly controlled workforces, unlike other places.
DADE: Yeah, but he's...
MARTIN: You can say, look, I don't want to work for you anymore.
DADE: Yeah, and that's - you know, he is under contract. But at the same time, he can walk away. I don't think that's going to happen. Let's just put that out there. I don't think it's going to happen. But I think it's good that Rivers is continuing to put this out there because it puts pressure the NBA to resolve this quickly, before the start of the season. They cannot afford for Sterling to still be in the league at the start of the season. And they certainly can't afford for Rivers, the most decorated coach behind Popovich, to leave.
MARTIN: They also - you know, also Chris Paul says he - it's reported that he has also said that he'll sit out if Sterling stays. Look, we just have a minute or so left. And I just have to ask you - I don't have to. I'm going to ask you about this spread sheet that went viral recently. A man reportedly sent his wife a list of all the times he tried to initiate romance and all of the reasons she said no, from being tired to watching her favorite television program. Christopher, you really wanted to talk about this. That's because?
AVE: Yeah. I think this is clearly - this is clearly a triumph for STEM and for technological education or popularity. It's been shared billions of times across the world. So I'm all for it.
MARTIN: You're all for...
AVE: No. It's ridiculous. You've got have a conversation. Don't post - don't send your spouse an email with an attachment of a spreadsheet - my gosh.
MARTIN: Corey, you and your friends had a field day with this on Facebook.
AVE: (Laughing) Exactly.
MARTIN: Which you don't think we read, but we did.
DADE: Man, it was...
MARTIN: You forget that we're Facebook friends. And yes, I know what you were saying. So why don't you just spill it?
DADE: All I can say is what was interesting is shortly thereafter, another woman, a separate woman, did the same thing. She posted a spreadsheet of the times when her husband said no, and consequently, they're divorced.
MARTIN: Oh, dear - just that quick?
DADE: Yeah. So I think - I think as entertaining as it is, it isn't worth its salt, to go that route, I'm just going to say.
IZRAEL: Well, well.
MARTIN: Go ahead. Mario, you're not married. So I don't know, maybe this is probably not part of your life. But what - any...
MARTIN: Go ahead, Jimi. Go ahead, Jimi. You want...
IZRAEL: I was going to say, well, Michel, you knew my wife. And I didn't get enough sleep to even think about doing any kind of Excel sheet, so...
MARTIN: Oh, yes. She was juicy.
IZRAEL: Team Izrael. That's how we got down.
MARTIN: She was definitely juicy.
LOYOLA: Ay, caramba.
MARTIN: I know, right? Mario, you got any final thoughts here? You have any advice for this gentleman who seems to be having some difficulties?
LOYOLA: Yeah. I'm under the general impression that women really like romance and that it makes them very happy. So if your chica is not in a romantic mood, you're probably not doing something right.
DADE: You're doing it wrong.
LOYOLA: That's it.
MARTIN: All right, good. We're having a little Wisdom Watch and Barbershop all in one. OK. Jimi Izrael is a writer. You can find his blog at jimiizrael.com. Christopher Ave is the political editor at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Corey Dade is a contributing editor for The Root. He runs their political blog The Take. And Mario Loyola is a constitutional lawyer and columnist for the National Review. Thank you all so much.
MARTIN: And remember, if you can't get enough Barbershop on the radio, look for our Barbershop podcast. That's in the iTunes Store or at npr.org. Be sure to tune into the Barbershop next Friday, where the guys join us live for the studio audience. We do not want to miss that. That's our program for today. I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News and the African-American Public Radio Consortium. Let's talk more on Monday. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.