Black Sorority Member Speaks Out On Step Show Upset

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Tell Me More host Michel Martin and Lee Hill, the program's "digital media guy," comb through listener feedback and offer important news updates to recent conversations heard on the program. This week, hear reaction to a stepping showdown, where a predominantly white sorority step team won a major competition and how that angered members of black Greek-lettered fraternities and sororities. Also, the community organization ACORN may have just been exonerated from a 2009 sting operation, where employees were caught on video apparently advising a couple posing as a prostitute and pimp to lie about their work and fudge their earnings.

MICHEL MARTIN, host:

And now its time for Backtalk, where we lift the curtain on whats happening in the TELL ME MORE blogosphere and get a chance to hear from you, our listeners. Lee Hill, our digital media guy, is here with us, as usual. Hi, Lee. Whats up?

LEE HILL: Hey, Michel. Well, lots of people are still talking about how a sorority with a predominantly white step team wowed the crowd and won the 2010 Sprite Stepping Competition. Now, traditionally, stepping has been one of the signature activities of black fraternities and sororities. But, Michel, before we go on, I want folks to hear the wining ladies of Zeta Tau Alpha.

Unidentified Group: ZTA's a roaring (unintelligible).

(Soundbite of stomping, cheering)

HILL: Now, TELL ME MOREs Teshima Walker is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha. Thats the nation's oldest Greek-lettered sorority founded by black women. And she wrote about the fact that many people are angry about the Zetas win, but Teshima actually gave them kudos for their performance. And she said her own sorority members who also participated just werent as good. Now there were some who agreed with Teshima, but here is someone who certainly did not. I caught up with blogger Kimba(ph), a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, as well.

KIMBA: I think they did a good job, but it had been a group of black girls, they probably would not have won - you know, the soft bigotry of low expectations. Now, that said, I also think it's sad. I have no problem with white people stepping if they come up with the steps themselves. Its typical of black people to have something marketable and just give it away.

MARTIN: Thanks, Kimba. Now, to tell you how closely this hits home, Kimba is actually a relative of Teshima. So Thanksgiving's going to be very interesting this year.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: But, Lee, what Kimba was referring to is the fact that the Zetas, who actually have been stepping for some 16 years at that chapter - so this is not exactly new for them - were initially coached by members of the sorority to which she and Teshima belong. Thats Alpha Kappa Alpha. Now we should also mention that later, the folks at Sprite said that there was a scoring error during the competition. The Zetas now have to share the first place title with the Alphas, who came in second, but the Coca-Cola Company decided to award both teams the full $100,000 prize.

So moving on, yesterday, we talked to the New York sociologist LHeureux Lewis about a concept he describes as black male privilege.

Dr. R. LHEUREUX LEWIS (Sociology, City University of New York): We are absolutely used to talking about African-American men in crisis and we can talk about this crisis so much that we miss the ways in which black men are oppressed and can also serve as oppressors.

MARTIN: Now one of our listeners, Omar Leye(ph), took issue with that argument. He wrote that Mr. Lewis comments caused me to have great anxiety at work. As a black male, I feel that his views belittle the struggle and inequities of the black male. Black men are at a profound disadvantage of the modern living system. The assessment of the relationship structure was offensive because while some men do take advantage of being a scarcity in our community, this is not a racially unique phenomenon.

So, we thank you, Omar Leye, for checking in with us. Now, TELL ME MORE regular contributor, Lester Spence, whos also a professor at Johns Hopkins University, responded to Mr. Lewis argument. You can find that on our blog. Lee, any updates?

LEE: Just one, Michel. A Brooklyn district attorneys office found that ACORN employees caught on video apparently advising a couple posing as a prostitute and pimp to lie about their work and fudge their earnings in order to get a mortgage did not commit a crime. Last year, we reported how the sting operation led Congress to call for an end to the community organizations federal funding.

MARTIN: Thank you, Lee.

LEE: Thank you, Michel.

MARTIN: And remember, with TELL ME MORE, the conversation never ends. To tell us more, you can call our comment line at 202-842-3522. Again: 202-842-3522. Please remember to leave your name. You can also log on to our Web site, just go to npr.org, click on programs, then on TELL ME MORE and blog it out.

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