Behind the Curtain at TMM

A Nomadic TMM

Studio 4B

An unlit studio light is posted outside TMM's Studio 4B at NPR. Lee Hill, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Lee Hill, NPR

Now it can be told. We're out of our studio again.

I came back from a long stint on the road to find that our studio 4B console is somehow not working again. So we're nomads, again, wandering from studio to studio in the building. We don't know how long it will take to fix, but if you've noticed a slightly different "sound" to the program, the people are all the same, but the mics are different. We'll deal.

So, no big issues on the table today — just sex, race and money. Not necessarily in that order.

Money first.

The Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac bailout. Our Money Coach Alvin Hall is answering your questions. If you have questions about how the Fannie-Freddie bailout might affect you, he is happy to answer them. Submit them here on our blog, or call our comment line on (202) 342-3522.

On to Sex.

Sarah Palin and the whole Mommy wars thing seemed logical to discuss with the Mocha Moms, especially since one of the Mochas wrote a book about the issue. There are three issues on the table, really. One, of course, is the issue of Sarah Palin's qualifications. The second is the issue of her family responsibilities and how she balances those with work, and third is the question of her 17-year-old pregnant daughter, Bristol.

Let me say there was a real range of views on this and the diversity of views is helpful and interesting. And, to some, it will be (I can predict) infuriating.

And Race.

Spelman College President Beverly Tatum is arguing that schools are not diverse enough to teach kids what they need to know about other races, so schools have to get busy with it. A logical question might be ... how? With everything else they have to do, how are they supposed to be doing that also.

Tatum's take: you are either thinking globally, or you're looking for work.

What do you think? What should teachers teach about race? And how?

And, here's a note from a listener, Cheryl, in Atlanta. She talks about how news of Sarah Palin's daughter's pregnancy sparked conversations in her household:

My 8-year-old daughter did not know that you can have a baby without first being married. Thanks to the vice presidential nominee of the Republican Party, she does now. One night she listened from the kitchen as my husband watched the news. Suddenly, she piped up: "Daddy, I didn't know you can have a baby if you're not married."


Change the channel. It is just not in her world to see pregnant teens. We have assiduously paid attention to the Internet sites she and her brother can access. We have avoided video and computer games containing too much violence. Our children know next to nothing of rap music, hip-hop videos, or the celebrity culture (they missed Britney Spears' teen sister's pregnancy). I did not expect to find myself dodging newscasts in the same way I change the channel from shows that are too violent or too sexual. Yet that is exactly what occurred.

As all parents know, any moment can be a teaching moment. However, I did not expect that my ability to decide when and how to teach my child the realities and risks of premarital and teen sex would be impacted by the first woman to be named to a national ticket for the chief executive office of the United States. Regardless of all of the charged discussion around sexism and the mommy wars, the reality is that some of us now have some early explaining to do; Bristol Palin is not the only little girl growing up faster than her parents expected.

It is still true that this year we are teaching our children to engage in the electoral process and think about who should win and why. First the excitement of the campaign waged by Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton energized our discussions on issues. Then, I pointed out to them that Sen. McCain selected a woman as his running mate. My children reacted to the news pretty much the same way as my daughter did when, during the Olympics, I proudly pointed out that a woman was competing in Tae Kwon Do: "Duh, Mom."


"Of course a woman can do the job. Get over it."

The non-reaction to Palin's gender from my children focused me again on the issues that divide Obama-Biden and McCain-Palin. Whether a black or a woman is on the ticket, who do I, someone who is both black and a woman, agree with on the issues?

Like I said every moment is a teaching moment.

Thanks, Cheryl.

More tomorrow ...



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

First, I really enjoy your show. Keep up all the wonderful work.

The question on diversity in schools came up recently when I was talking to my parents about my daughter's preschool. We live in a upper middle class neighborhood in Cincinnati, OH. I was discussing how my daughter's friends were Omar, Khalil, Safa, Rami, etc and my parents remarked how far things have changed since they were in school.

My mom grew up in the Bronx in the 40's and 50's in a fully Jewish neighborhood. So much so, she says that the only non-jewish people she knew as kids were her teachers at school. Both my parent were products of the 60's (aka recoving hippies) who fully belived in the civil rights movement and the goal of racial intergration. My father grew up outside of Boston in a blue blood New England community and attended a prep-school.

My dad's comment about the school is that my children were living the ideals and hopes that they had talked so much about in the 60's. They had tried to help when I was growing up by being the sponser family for a little girl my sister's age who took the bus in from Hartford, CT every morning to our suburban schools but the schools were still 98% white. My daughter, on the other hand, is much more likely to make an inappropiate comment about someone's hair color than the color of their skin. Although, as a 3 year old, she's also likely to say something about their weight or ugly shoes too...

My response to my parents reaction was that although it seems that we have moved forward in may ways, the diversity does not include any crossing of socio-economic lines. The school (and in many ways we are also talking about the community in general) will accept expatriate's children - they have ipods and computers and play soccer too.

Part of my experience is due to the cost of preschool, but I don't think public schools are much different - my wife has taught in both the inner city and now the suburban schools where we live. Even in this conservative city, acceptance into the community is easier when everyone is a professional. We have a major international company in town that brings in may expat every year and they jump right into the suburban cities and schools. Add a single mom working 2 jobs at minimum wage and they will stick out and feel uncomfortable even if they are white.

Long story short - I wonder if the real conversation on diversity on schools is really based around socio-economic lines?

Sent by APoutasse | 5:12 PM | 9-9-2008

Yes, my children's Middle, Jr high, and high schools are all more diverse than mine a way. They are more heavily populated with African Americans. My schools, in suburban Chicago, had many first generation American-born European and Asian students. It was a common thing to have friends with last names which were Polish, Greek, Japanese, Korean, or Czechoslovakian. I could count on the fingers of one hand, however, the black students out of the 2,000 attendees at the High School.
Here,in west Tennessee, my children don't have near as many students in their graduating class. There is a fine balance of black and white students in the student body. Occasionally, there are others who move here with their parents - the "chinese" twins for instance. I have watched my children and I am have found that they mingle, unconcerned about race, religion, or musical preference, with others in the student body. They are indeed maturing in their understanding of who people are, and who they are themselves. I wish I had had that chance. But I wonder if the timing would have been right.

Sent by Nancy Paulhus | 5:16 PM | 9-9-2008

Gosh, Michel. I used to think you were a pretty fair reporter. Publicly, you always seemed balanced, even if your personal views didn't agree with what you were reporting. But today's hatchet job on Sarah Palin was beyond the pale.

"White trash?" I thought I had tuned in to the Tom Joyner show for a minute. God help Limbaugh, Hannity or any white, right-leaning host if they had said some of the smack, like your "Mocha Moms" were spouting, about Obama.

I think I'll just turn off "Tell Me More" from now on. I do believe I've heard enough.

Sent by Frumious | 5:18 PM | 9-9-2008

Early tomorrow morning, I'm being interviewed on my local NPR station about one of my books. My husband has cautioned me repeatedly to make sure that nothing I say strays into the area of politics. Since I assume my readers are roughly 30% liberal, 30% conservative, and the rest swing voters, he's quite right -- it wouldn't be wise to alienate any of them. But after listening to your show today, I can only say that the gloves are off. Your hen-party crucifixion of Sarah Palin was jaw-dropping -- I don't think I've ever been this enraged by a simple political-analysis discussion before.

As a woman, I was more deeply offended than I can put down on paper without resorting to the vernacular of the streets. After four decades of telling American women that the institution of family is a stone around their neck dragging them down and crushing their dreams, you now say that any woman with kids who doesn't stay home with them is irresponsible (BTW, so who's taking care of your toddlers today? Or Michelle Obama's while they are pounding the election pavement?). By the time you elitist "ladies" got around to calling her white trash, I was so furious my hands were literally shaking. Would your little cat conference have been so ebullient if one of your guests had called the Obama family "black trash?" And you seemed to be goading them along, instead of moderating. It was, frankly, disgusting.

I'm just one listener, and there isn't much I can do against a government organization as big as NPR, but this very program only reinforced a longstanding feeling I've had. I can say that I'll fight your federal funding wherever and whenever I get the chance, starting with a letter-writing campaign to my own congressman, one of the people who holds your fat purse strings.

When I heard Hilary Clinton speak, I was so proud; when I heard Sarah Palin, I was even prouder. But dear God, your show today made me ashamed to be a woman.

Sent by Alice | 5:23 PM | 9-9-2008

What a job the Mocha Moms did on Palin on the segment. I'm sure they ask of every politician how they can be parents and hold a job. I??m sure you would have said nothing if one of your guest pronounced a racially-charged word while talking about Obama, just like you said nothing about the white trash comment. Just like you would have said nothing if a guest disrespected New York instead of Alaska.

All in all, you and your guests today made Bill O'Reilly seem..., well, fair and balanced.

Sent by Ignacio | 7:45 PM | 9-9-2008

I just listened to the interview with the President of Spelman College and was very disapointed.
Where on your blog can we open up discussion of this piece?
Thank you,

Sent by achilles3 | 1:12 AM | 9-10-2008

I was struck by one of the Mocha Moms who mentioned that she may be inclined to vote for the McCain/Palin ticket because Palin offered a "realistic" view of working motherhood including its often accompanying "chao." I contrast that with the Obamas and the unrealistic standards and expectations that we place on people of color who have been taught that in order to compete, they had to be smarter, harder working, and generally reproach in both their professional and personal lives, than their white counterparts.

The Obamas are a prime example of this this unequally applied standard. While I agree with your guest that Palin does exemplify a slice of reality, I think that were she a woman of color her particular version of reality would be entirely disqualifying of her candidacy for vice president.

I look forward to the day when men and women of color are held to the same realistic standard that your guest so admires in the Palin nomination.

Sent by isis | 9:08 AM | 9-10-2008

I too was shocked and disgusted by the comments of Asra Nomani. Apparently, having children who enlist in the military, get pregnant and decide to have the child, or who are born with Down Syndrome makes a parent "white trash." Michel Martin's failure to censure her guest for racist and revolting comments implicates her in them as well. NPR has lost this listener, as well as a financial contributor to two public radio stations (WAMU and WETA).

Sent by Carrie Jackson | 11:53 AM | 9-10-2008

I had to go back and listen to the Mocha Moms show again to pick up on the "white trash" comment and the context. The person speaking lives in England and was saying she had to explain the comments she was hearing about the Palin situation that included that term and she expressed the opinion that she felt the term was racist.
The problem I have with people like Fruminous and Alice is that they are intolerate of other people's rights---in this case to free speech and opinions and they are vindictive towards those who don't agree with their narrow views. In a 17 minute program, they manage to wrongly assign blame for a term, but totally ignore the issues of Ms. Palin having her baby in a car, but not in a car seat, her position on abstinence only sex education, but having a teen daughter who is pregnant (how about leadership by example?),and tough choices between motherhood and career.

With people who deal in cult of personality and continously look for idols, its always about the emotions, not about the issues or the facts.

Sent by Glenda | 12:15 PM | 9-10-2008

Michelle, All,

On "Fashion Rocks 5" on CBS Tuesday night, do you think Lil' Wayne, Beyonce, Rhianna, Black Eyed Peas, Mariah Carey and others knew they were sharing the stage with guys who sang a song supporting racism & racial segregation?

"Sweet Home Alabama" was sung by Kid Rock and Lynyrd Skynyrd, both of whom have displayed Confederate flags onstage. though not this night. They sang "And the Governor is true", the reprise of the verse they left out that praises 1960s segregationist Governor George Wallace. Look up the lyrics, written by Lynyrd Skynyrd in response to Neil Young's "Southern Man".

In this year of the Obama campaign, I (a white guy) can't help but see this song on "Fashion Rocks" as coded racism. I'm especially disgusted that Kid Rock, from Detroit, is involved. Maybe Michelle should interview him and these Skynyrd boys about exactly what they mean to say.

Meanwhile, I boycott all advertisers of the local "Classic Rock" and "Oldies" station--Clear Channel, of course; DJ had "Ebonics" jokes on his website--that plays this damn song, despite its cool and catchy guitar riff.

Sent by Mike in Bay City, Michigan | 12:22 PM | 9-10-2008

Ms. Marin

Your comments to today were 100% accurate. I loved it and I am sending it to all of my friends and family.

Sent by Kimberly Coleman | 11:03 AM | 9-15-2008