'Shop Talk': Dissecting R&B Star Chris Brown's Meltdown

The latest census figures showing Hispanic population growth and singer Chris Brown's anger issues are two topics under discussion in this week's "Barbershop" conversation. Guest host Jacki Lyden is joined by author Jimi Izrael, civil rights attorney Arsalan Iftikhar and columnists Ruben Navarrette and Jeff Yang.

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JACKI LYDEN, host:

I'm Jacki Lyden, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Michel Martin is away.

And it's time for the weekly visit to the Barbershop, where the guys talk about what's in the news and what's on their minds. And sitting in their chairs this week are author, Jimi Izrael; civil rights attorney and editor Arsalan Iftikhar; syndicated columnist, Ruben Navarrette; and Asian pop columnist, Jeff Yang. Hello everybody.

Mr. RUBEN NAVARRETTE (Columnist): Hey, hey, hey.

Mr. JIMI IZRAEL (Author) Hey Jacki.

LYDEN: Jimi Izrael...

Mr. IZRAEL: How you doing?

LYDEN: I'm doing fine.

Mr. Izrael: Oh, yeah.

LYDEN: It's a privilege to be here with you all.

Mr. IZRAEL: Welcome to the shop.

LYDEN: Oh, thank you so much. This is great. So, Jimi...

Mr. IZRAEL: Okay. And - hey, and everybody else, fellows, how we doing, welcome to the shop.

Unidentified Man #1: All right.

Unidentified Man #2: Good, man.

Mr. IZRAEL: Yeah. Yeah. We made that work.

Unidentified Man #3: Jimi, I gotta say, we do tend to get a little giddy, a little boyish when Jacki's around, I just got to say that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #3: I don't know what it is.

LYDEN: I'll keep up with you, I promise.

Mr. IZRAEL: Okay. Well...

LYDEN: So, Jimi, you want to lead us off?

Mr. IZRAEL: Yeah. Let's get thing started talking about the changing look of America. Now, the U.S. Census Bureau released final results of the 2010 count yesterday. And a brief titled Race and Ethnicity confirms what many of us already new. Minorities are on the rise, and blacks are moving out of the cities, rather than, you know, just hanging out and moving on up, Jacki.

LYDEN: And, Jimi, we saw three trends that we want to hear more about, and they're fascinating. First, Hispanics are counted for more than half of all U.S. population growth in the last decade.

Second, African-Americans are, as you say, moving out of metropolitan cities in large numbers, and many of them are headed south after historic migrations up north decades ago.

And then, third, Asian and Hispanic populations grew at the same rate. So as you say, something we knew, we sensed, but now some numbers confirming that the day when non-Hispanic whites will be the minority in the U.S. is coming up even sooner than expected.

Mr. IZRAEL: Indeed it is. Now, Ruben, let's start with the Hispanic population.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Yeah.

Mr. IZRAEL: You wrote a piece about this. Now, what's your take on the numbers and the growth of the Hispanic population? Now there's 50 million in this country.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Yeah. Over 50 million people...

Mr. IZRAEL: Over.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: ...against the backdrop - yeah - against the backdrop of just over 300 million people in the country. You're talking about 17 percent of the population. A significant thing happened about seven, eight years ago. It was said that Latinos would outnumber African-Americans to become sort of the number one largest minority in the country, whatever that means. And it was supposed to happen in 2010, but it happened in 2003.

And the reason that's important is because the trends for Hispanic growth have really been blowing the demographers away. They can't keep track of it. And so, they keep saying that they'll be like this benchmark where they used to say by 2050, 25 percent of the country would be Hispanic. And then now by that time it'll be more like 30, almost 35 percent in some cases. So that's an important trend, the fact that it's growing so fast.

The other trend is that it's popping up in very interesting places, you know. The number one growth states for - the top growth states are places like Georgia and Louisiana and Arkansas, a lot in the south, a lot in the Midwest. And less in traditional places like Texas and California. Even though they're growing fast in those places, really, it's much more interesting to look at North Carolina and those kinds of states and see what's happening in Alabama, and the changes that are going on there.

And the other thing that's really interesting is obviously it's a very young population. It's a population that's 80 percent English dominant or bilingual. The perception is that we all speak Spanish exclusively, that's not true. It's got a - there's a great presence in English, and it's a very dynamic population. So it's going to be an interesting thing to watch.

My final thought on this is just that this is as important a transformation of the country of what we used to be to what we're going to be as when we went from being a mostly protestant country to being now a mostly Catholic country. And yet, despite all the panic 100 years ago that that would happen, you know, civilization went on, the country didn't fall, and likewise we'll get through this, you know.

I mean, give me your hand, I'll walk you through it. It'll be fine. It'll be good, you know. We mean you no harm. That's my headline today. We mean you no harm.

(Soundbite of laughter)

LYDEN: We come in peace.

Mr. IZRAEL: Right.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Se habla Espanol. We're cool.

Mr. IZRAEL: Right. A-Train, how might the increase of legal Hispanics in the U.S. affect immigration laws?

Mr. ARSALAN IFTIKHAR (Civil Rights Attorney): I think that's a very good question, Jimi. You know, obviously, you know, we're seeing an increased, you know, diversification of, you know, ethnic minorities here in the United States, and which I think is a wonderful trend, obviously. You know, going back to the fact that, you know, we are an immigrant nation. And so this is sort of the browning of America, if you will.

But, you know, I think most importantly what we're going to start to see, you know, with the numbers and statistics that Ruben gave was increased political clout for minorities within the American political and legal system. And I think that that's very important, you know, as we move forward towards things like, you know, comprehensive immigration reform, and basically any other domestic or foreign policy issues, you know, dealing with the legislative and executive branches of the United States.

And so, you know, it's very heartening for me to see that, you know, minority groups that have traditionally been underrepresented within our American political system, with their growing demographic numbers, are going to see an increase in political clout in the decades to come, as well.

LYDEN: And, of course, we're talking about minorities who ultimately will not be minorities.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Right.

LYDEN: You know, I started my NPR career in Chicago, and I was looking at some of this information and thinking about, for example, blues coming up from the Delta. There's been some fantastic books, Isabel Wilkerson's book about migration to Chicago. What about, Jimi, cities like that - Chicago, L.A., New York - African-American populations moving out? Jimi, will they - how will they look different, be different?

Mr. IZRAEL: Well, yeah. I mean, I think in time, it'll even out. But here in Cleveland, you know, we're experiencing that kind of a migration, or I should say drain. A lot of brown faces are actually leaving town. And a lot of that has to do with the foreclosure crisis that has displaced a lot of people and pushed them to outlying suburbs.

But I think in time, I think it'll all even back out. But at the end of the I mean, but what's also happening, that there's rumors - and rumors in the black community = that it's really popping down South, and a lot of people are headed to the Atlanta, also known as the new black Mecca. And then when they get there, they're finding the same help wanted signs they saw when they left wherever they were from. So, you know, once that reality sets in that, you know, it's bad everywhere, then it'll even out in different places. But, you know, these things are cyclical. What are you going to do?

LYDEN: At least you'll have better weather.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Well, and you've got a Lebron James flight in Cleveland, too.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. NAVARRETTE: That was the start of the trend right there, baby.

LYDEN: Jeff Yang...

Mr. IZRAEL: Yeah, and we see how he ended up, right?

(Soundbite of laughter)

LYDEN: Let's get Jeff in here.

Mr. YANG: Yeah.

LYDEN: Jeff, the New York City region has, as what you said, the highest black population in the U.S. If you couple that with the Asian population shifting out, tell me how these trends are changing American cities, where we've seen so many Asian newcomers.

Mr. YANG: Well, you know, obviously, the rate of increase in the Asian-American population is also, you know, as you noted, you know, kind of out of proportion with people's expectations. So, you know, people talk about the browning of America and, you know, unfortunately, you get these sort of the same creepy stories about the yellowing of America - which always sounds worse, somehow. I think, you know, browning at least sounds kind of delicious and crispy, or something like that.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Barbecue.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. YANG: Yellowing is never good. So, you know, the interesting thing is the Asian-American population is growing very fast in part because our numbers are relatively small. We've, you know, gone from around 3, 4 percent to now around 5 percent. But we are more visible in a lot of the kind of larger metropolitan areas because we're very focused, very concentrated.

California, for instance, about a third of all Asian-Americans are there, and we now make about 13 percent of the state of California. So there's a very, very kind of, you know, obvious presence of Asian-Americans, especially in places like the Bay Area, for instance, one out of every three people is Asian-American.

LYDEN: Talk to me about this word ethnoburb, which I think was coined by an academic to define what's happening in the greater metropolitan area to California and other - Californian cities and others.

Mr. YANG: Yeah. You know, it's really interesting, because when we think about ethnic enclaves historically, you know, you think of places that people have to be because, you know, they can't speak the language, because they're - they need certain services that are clustered together by definition. But ethnoburbs are essentially enclaves of choice. It's like places where people speak languages other than English because they choose to, not because they have to, and because they don't want you to know what they're saying, maybe.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. YANG: So, you know, these ethnoburbs are suburban areas that have become gravitational clusters for Asian-American immigrants, in some cases Latino immigrants. They've generally been much more, you know, sort of high on the socioeconomic ladder, you know, affluent and upscale, as opposed to more working class. And we've seen a lot of them grow up in Southern California. In the San Gabriel Valley, you know, they have what's sometime referred to as the jade necklace - seven or eight towns, all of which have great schools and lots of fairly wealthy Asian-American families.

And then also in Northern California you see, you know, places like the Cupertino, places where there's a lot of high-tech and educational, again, you know, emphasis, where Asian-Americans have gone. And it's not, again, because of need, but by choice.

LYDEN: Well...

Mr. NAVARRETTE: You know, Jimi, one important point about the overall, taking all the groups, there's always a tendency to sort of talk about the groups individually. But taken as a whole...

Mr. IZRAEL: Mm-hmm.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: ...the big story, as Jacki mentioned before, is you're going to hit this time. You're going to hit this point in America, in the United States, in 20 years or 25 years - and the demographers aren't really sure, because it keeps fluctuating. But somewhere around the year 2035, you're going to hit this tipping point where whites are now the minority, the statistical minority in this country, and it's going to be a huge thing. And it's already sort of happening in some places, and the writing's on the wall.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Right.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: And the reason this is important is because if you think right now that some of our resistance to the Muslim population we talk about with Arsalan and others, we talked about, the concerns that the Birthers have about Barack Obama and the concerns of changing America...

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Right.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: ...if you think the immigration debate with Latinos isn't all wrapped up in this, you're kidding yourself.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Absolutely.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Already, people understand what it's going to be like, and they fear for their children and what it's going to be like for their children to grow up in a time where whites are the minority. And it's already feeding, right now, this kind of ugly nativism that brings all these non-white people together. You know, it's that we all have the same folks who are concerned. If they are concerned with you, they're also concerned with me. And they...

Mr. IZRAEL: Right.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: The reason is because we share that one common trait, that we're not white.

Mr. YANG: You know, I actually...

Mr. IZRAEL: Wow. Yeah, you know, Baldwin said it best. You know, they'll come for you in the morning, but they'll come for us in the night. Straight up.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Oh, yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. IZRAEL: So...

Mr. NAVARRETTE: You know, that's got to be coupled, too, with this larger sense that, you know, it's not just about America. It's about the world, right? You know, we're looking at a world in which the majority of the world, much more than 50 percent has been non-white for ever, right? Only now, those people are getting powerful and rich, and their economies are expanding. And, you know, you look at things like the last political elections, people running against China. They were not running against their opponents. And that's only going to continue, as well.

LYDEN: Okay. That was Ruben Navarrette. And if you're just joining us, you're listening to our weekly Barbershop segment. And we're joined by author Jimi Izrael, civil rights attorney Arsalan Iftikhar, syndicated columnist Ruben Navarrette and Asian pop columnist Jeff Yang.

Back to you, Jimi.

Mr. IZRAEL: Jacki, thank you.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. IZRAEL: All right. Well "Good Morning...

LYDEN: A-Train? We've got A-Train for Arsalan, over there. Okay.

Mr. IZRAEL: For sure.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: That how we roll.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. IZRAEL: Right. So it's like this, "Good Morning America" has some hot interviews as of late from Charlie Sheen, winning, to Chris Brown whining. Now, he deflected some questions about the 2009 domestic violence incident involving his former girlfriend, pop star Rihanna, and sang a song from his new album, then apparently flipped out in the dressing room afterwards, busting a window and causing a ruckus.

Jacki, we got some tape lying around, don't we?

LYDEN: I hope so.

Mr. IZRAEL: Don't throw anything. Just...

LYDEN: I hope so. No.

Mr. IZRAEL: Okay. Okay. Let's...

LYDEN: All right. Let's hit it. We sure do. Here is ABC host Robin Roberts asking him about the incident.

Ms. ROBIN ROBERTS (Anchor, "Good Morning America"): But you can understand how some people, you know, what - that it was very serious what you went through...

Mr. CHRIS BROWN (R&B singer): Yeah.

Ms. ROBERTS: ...and what happened and what - and even the judge, though, afterwards, said that you had served your time...

Mr. BROWN: Mm-hmm.

Ms. ROBERTS: ...as far as the community service and that and moving on.

Mr. BROWN: Yeah.

Ms. ROBERTS: But have been able to? How have you been able to do that?

Mr. BROWN: I've been focusing on this album, you know? I think this album is what, you know, I want people to hear and want people to really get into. So definitely this album is what I want them to talk about and not the stuff that happened two years ago.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. IZRAEL: Wow.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Oh, man.

Mr. IZRAEL: Wow.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Come on, man.

Mr. IZRAEL: Wow. Thanks for that, Jacki.

LYDEN: He's in denial?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. IZRAEL: You know, well, I think everybody in the Barbershop knows how I feel about this, because I have a son and I have a daughter. And I'm also a grown man who's been in my share of relationships. And sadly, I've seen this play out in real life, where people - when I saw this happening, when it was happening, I was like, you know, to me, it looked like two people who used violence to communicate, because there were reports flying around that she had started the incident. And when this kind of thing happens, it always makes me uncomfortable to comment on, because I've seen it. I've seen it happen, and I wasn't there.

And for me, it was all, I wanted to leave it alone. I didn't want to discuss it. I didn't want to look. It was like a bad car accident. And here we go a couple years later, and this young man hasn't learned to cope with what happened - his role in what happened. And I think it's all sad and pathetic. But what do you guys think about this?

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Well, well...

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Indifferent. Yeah.

Mr. IZRAEL: You know, I mean hold on a second, I don't feel sorry for him. Let me be clear about that. It's just, you know, I don't want to hear anymore about it. It's like a, it's a nonstory, as far as I'm concerned.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Yeah.

Mr. IZRAEL: I think it's between Rihanna and Chris, especially when Rihanna is trying to have...

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Well...

Mr. IZRAEL: ...report hold on - reportedly was trying to have a restraining order against Chris Brown lifted so they could be cool. So I mean as far as - I mean, like I said, I've seen this play out in real life, where you've got the Bickersons, where they hate each other one moment, and the next moment they're all on top of each other. And I would much rather just tell Chris Brown to play his music, tell Rihanna to play her music and be about that, because I don't want to hear about the domestics again, ever again in life. Go ahead, Jeff.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. YANG: I don't know. I mean, I feel like, you know, there's a long history of, you know, even in just R&B music, these kind of toxic relationships and stemming back to, you know, Ike Turner, David Ruffin, James Brown and everything. I feel like when you ignore these things and just say okay, we're going to keep it in the closet, then what happens is that somebody in that closet gets a beat down. And I'm just not I'm not sure that, especially given this latest incident, I mean, the guy has clearly some anger management issues he's got to address, you know.

Mr. IZRAEL: Well...

Mr. YANG: Impulse control issues. He's got to get - I think he should go off scene and try to address those before, you know, before something bad happens again.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: You know, and this is Arsalan. You know, the bottle of peroxide that he poured on his head has apparently seeped through into his brain because, you know, there...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Right. Oh, no.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: ...are a few things, here. First of all, you know, he didn't just hit Rihanna. He made Rihanna look like Buster Douglas. I mean, you know, that was some...

LYDEN: Buster. Buster.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Yeah. I mean, that was some serious stuff. And what I found the most amusing was, you know, the fact that he said oh, well, you know, I didn't know that, you know, "Good Morning America" was going to ask me about these questions. That's like Michael Vick going on "Oprah" and not, you know, being expecting to, you know, ask...

LYDEN: Hear about the dogs.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Hear about the dogs.

LYDEN: Mm-hmm.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: And, you know, it's a I'm just, you know, I'm spinning the world's smallest turntable for Chris Brown right now, so...

(Soundbite of laughter)

LYDEN: I think...

Mr. NAVARRETTE: I don't think - I think this was inappropriate for Robin Roberts to go there. It's been two years. I think that he has aired this out. He aired this out Oprah. Remember, when he did that whole thing with Oprah. And I think that this was - looking at this from a journalistic point of view, I think this is Robin Roberts trying to ask a question that gets him in a gotcha moment, because other journalists would do the same. And I don't justify what he did, but at some point, it's been two years and it's been aired out. And I think he was right to sort of say, really? Really? Seriously? You want to talk about this, again? So...

LYDEN: Well...

Mr. IZRAEL: Yeah, he should have fronted her on like that, on real on live television, like really? Is that what we're talking about two years later?

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Yeah.

Mr. IZRAEL: You know, that's what he should have done.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Well...

LYDEN: Okay. Well, we're going to have to leave that and say goodbye.

Ruben Navarrette is a syndicated columnist who writes for the Washington Post Writers Group, and he was with us in San Diego. Jimi Izrael is a freelance journalist and author of the book, "The Denzel Principle." And he joined us from member station WCPN in Cleveland. Jeff Yang is the Asian pop columnist with the San Francisco Chronicle. He was in New York today at the New York bureau. And Arsalan Iftikhar, right here, a civil rights attorney and founder of muslimguy.com, in the studio with me.

This was great. I hope I can come back again some time.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Peace.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. NAVARRETTE: All right. Take care.

LYDEN: Thanks, all.

Mr. IZRAEL: Yup, yup.

LYDEN: That's our program for today. I'm Jacki Lyden. It's TELL ME MORE, from NPR News. Michel Martin comes back on Monday.

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